low-prep meals : ADHD

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After seeing posts by other people who struggle to cook if meal prep is too involved, I wanted to share some of my family’s go-to meals for nights when we want an easy or low-effort meal.

These are divided into three sections: ready to eat in 10, ready to eat in an hour (but low-prep, hands-off cooking), and ready to eat in 30.

Tips:

  • Make dishes you love or include ingredients you find exciting. It’s easier to cook when it doesn’t feel like a chore.

  • Make it easy–have a couple recipes you know and love and keep the ingredients for them on hand.

  • Frozen, dried, and canned foods can make it easy to cook without going to the store or worrying about food spoiling. (And canned beans + canned veggies is a fast route to soup.)

  • Use a meat thermometer. Food poisoning sucks, and meat that isn’t overcooked tastes much better.

Ready to Eat in 10

Most of these are less cooking than just assembling stuff that’s on hand.

scrambled eggs

  • 3 eggs

  • salt & pepper

  • 1-2 TB cream

  • butter or bacon fat

  1. Heat nonstick pan on medium-high to high (depending on how hot your range runs).

  2. Whisk eggs thoroughly with salt and pepper until completely combined. Whisk in cream.

  3. Add butter of bacon fat to pan. When completely melted and hot, pour eggs into pan. Push around constantly with spatula to form large curds. When eggs are mostly cooked but still somewhat wet/damp-looking, remove from heat. (Residual heat will continue to cook, so removing them before they look dry prevents overcooking.)

scrambled egg sandwich

tomato sandwich

  • buttered toast

  • sliced tomatoes

  • lots of salt and pepper

tomato sandwich #2

  • dry toast

  • pesto

  • sliced tomatoes

  • lots of salt and pepper

  • sliced fresh mozzarella

avocado toast

soft-boiled egg on toast

egg-in-a-hole

microwave-steamed vegetables

  • veg. of your choice, cooked until done

  • salt, butter, and favorite herbs or cheese and hot sauce

Ready to Eat in 1 Hour or Less, Hands-off Cooking

  1. Preheat oven to 350.

  2. Put brats in pan. Put in oven. Cook around 15-18 min., until internal temperature is 160F.

  3. Serve with brown mustard and sauerkraut. (On buns or with a microwaved vegetable.)

  • tender barbeque chicken

    • 3-4 chicken breasts

    • barbecue sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 375F

  2. Put chicken in 9 x 13″ pan. Add enough barbecue that chicken is not quite covered but will all be simmering in sauce while cooking.

  3. Cook until chicken is 165F. (We often start the chicken still slightly frozen, so I don’t know the exactly amount of time. Ours takes around 45 min. from slightly frozen; check fresh chicken sooner.)

  • pork chops

    • pork chops

    • butter

    • steak seasoning

    • salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

  2. Rub a little butter on a baking dish.

  3. Place pork chops in baking dish. Drop a little butter on top of them.

  4. Sprinkle pork chops with a little salt and pepper and steak seasoning.

  5. Bake until 145F.

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

  2. Cut onions into medium or large chunks.

  3. Trim and half brussels sprouts.

  4. Mix onions, brussels sprouts, and butternut squash. Toss with olive oil, garlic, herb blend, and salt and pepper until evenly coated.

  5. Place on baking half sheet (or two, if needed to not crowd the pan). Put sausage in large chunks on top.

  6. Bake until sausage is cooked to 160 and vegetables are tender with some browning. (Probably 18-25 min.)

*I’m usually in a hurry when I’m cooking, so I buy pre-minced garlic and keep it in the fridge.

  • baked potato or sweet potato
    These are a great meal or side. Just wash them, poke a few holes in them, and pop in the oven.

  • They’ll cook fine at nearly any temperature, so they can cook while you’re cooking some another part of the meal. I cook mine anywhere from 300F to 450F and just adjust the time a little longer or shorter. Great with butter (with or without herbs, spices, or hot sauce), meat, cheese, or sour cream.

  • roast vegetables

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. (Use the preheat time to chop the vegetables.)

  2. Toss vegetables with 2-4 TB olive oil, salt, and pepper. (You can add herbs, spices, or minced garlic if you like.)

  3. Put on one or two half sheet pans. Bake around 20 min., or until vegetable is tender with plenty of browning. (It’s also delicious to sprinkle some freshly grated parmesan over the vegetable after it comes out of the oven.) These make a great snack, meal, or side, warm or cold.

meatloaf

I use a recipe similar to this but use 1/3 ground pork to 2/3 ground beef.

Ready to Eat in 30 (or Less)

These recipes are done sooner but require more hands-on cook time.

Japanese-style curry

This one’s easy. Just loosely follow the directions on the back of the box. I always use extra vegetables and the whole block of curry.

  • 1 block of Japanese style curry

  • 1 lb. meat ground (sausage, ground beef, or chopped chicken are all good)

  • carrots

  • potatoes

  • onion

beans and toast

  • several cans of white beans, drained and rinsed* (I like cannellini.)

  • butter

  • flour* (amount equal or double the butter you’re using, depending on how thick you want your gravy)

  • dried herbs (I like an Italian herb blend for this, plus some extra rosemary, marjoram, oregano and basil.)

  • generous amount of freshly grated parmesan*

  • minced garlic

  • chicken broth

  • salt, to taste

  • splash of white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar, if you have it, or a splash of lemon juice

  • bread and butter for toast

  • optional: 1 lb frozen spinach, microwaved

  1. Put beans in a pan with enough chicken broth to make them fairly soupy (you’ll use some of this broth later). Add herbs and garlic and warm. Add warmed spinach, if using.

  2. Melt butter in small sauce pan. Add the flour and cook for several minutes to make a roux, stirring occasionally.

  3. When the roux smells nice and toasty and not raw, gradually whisk in extra broth from the beans, until the roux becomes first a thick paste and then a pourable gravy.

  4. Pour it into the beans and add the parmesan. Cook a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until roux has thickened broth into gravy and parmesan is melted in. (Make toast while this is cooking.)

  5. Serve beans over toast.

*I haven’t used exact amounts here because I usually cook beans from dry in a pressure cooker (1 lb. beans, ~7 C broth, 1/4-1/2 C parmesan, and a roux of 1/2 C butter to 1 C flour for a nice thick gravy, with everything else added to taste).

tacos

  • ground beef (I usually cook 2 lbs, to have enough for a couple of family meals.)

  • taco seasoning

  • taco shells

  • anything else you like on your tacos (beans, salsa, cheese, sour cream, lettuce)

  1. Brown the ground beef.

  2. Add taco seasoning and cook a little longer to let the flavors meld. (I just use however much it takes to make the meat taste the way I like it.)

beef and vegetables on rice

  • 1 lb. ground beef

  • onion

  • 2 C uncooked rice

  • 1 lb. bag of mixed frozen vegetables (I use peas, carrots, corn, and lima beans here.)

  • 1-2 TB Italian seasoning, or to taste

  • salt to taste

  • sharp cheddar

  • apple cider vinegar

  1. Put your rice in a rice cooker or a pot to cook, using the recommended amount of water for the variety of rice. (For a pot on the stove, leave the lid off and start on high heat. When the water is at a rolling boil, put a lid on and turn the heat to low or medium-low and let finish cooking, around 20 min.)

  2. Chop onion. Put in skillet with a tiny bit of butter or oil and sautee.

  3. When onion is translucent, add ground beef. Cook until browned.

  4. Stir in salt and Italian seasoning.

  5. Add vegetables. Cover skill with lid to speed up cooking of vegetables. Stir occasionally.

  6. When everything is heated through, serve over rice. Sprinkle with cheddar and a splash of cider vinegar.

steel-cut oats

This makes enough for a lot of leftovers or two or three family meals.

  • 2 C steel-cut oats

  • 6 C water

  • 2 C milk

  • pinch salt

  • 1 C sugar

  • 2-3 tsp. vanilla or other flavoring

  • dried or frozen fruit, if desired

  1. Put water, milk, and oats in a large pot on the stove. Turn on high heat and watch pot until nearly at a boil.

  2. Turn heat down to medium-low or low. Allow to cook 40-45 min.

  3. Add sugar, flavor, and fruit as desired. (If using dried fruit, add an extra cup of water.)

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