A quick glance at a recipe is usually all it takes to know how complicated it is going to be. it’s not so much the length of the directions that is telling — some recipe writers are a lot wordier than others — it’s the list of ingredients that tells the tale.
Generally speaking, the more ingredients a recipe contains, the more hands on time it’s going to take to put it together. That’s the whole idea behind things like cake mixes. Stirring together a box of mix, a couple of eggs and some liquid is almost always faster than starting from scratch and measuring out a bunch of ingredients.
There is, of course, the added benefit that the fewer ingredients needed, the more likely it is that you already have them on hand. Every ingredient in a list increases the likelihood of a store trip being needed to get a meal on the table.
If one of these short little recipes strikes your fancy and you make it a couple of times, the odds are good that you’ll have it more or less memorized and if you’re ever at the store and see there’s a good price on Italian sausage this week, you can grab a package with confidence, knowing you’ve got penne in the pantry, broccoli in the freezer and Parmesan in the fridge, and dinner can be ready a half hour after you get home.
How many ingredients is too many is pretty subjective. A recipe with a page-long list of ingredients might be perfectly enjoyable for a weekend afternoon and you’d like nothing better to spend a day in the kitchen but it’s going to be less appealing on a weeknight after a hard day’s work. Let’s just be arbitrary and say that 10 ingredients or more is a lot of work and our goal for quick and easy is five ingredients. We won’t count salt and pepper or olive oil because you’ve already got that or you’re going to the store before you cook anything. We also won’t count garnishes, since they are more or less optional. For our purposes, a crockpot is not a dealbreaker because though they by definition take a long time, they can cook unsupervised and a limited number of ingredients cuts down on the time it takes to get the crockpot fired up and slow-cooking.
So here are several recipes that use five ingredients or less, not counting salt, pepper, olive oil or garnishes. Several dinners, a brunch casserole and a dessert. Most are real recipes that use actual ingredients instead of mixes. Ranch pork chops does call for an envelope of Ranch dressing mix but it’s just too good to let that disqualify it. It also only uses one pan and includes potatoes and a veggie so it truly is a complete meal.
Check them out and see if there is anything you’d like to audition for a place on your regular rotation of meals.
Share your results with other readers by commenting on MtAiryNews.com and/or take a picture and email it to [email protected] Share how you liked the recipe or how you adapted it to your own needs and likes. Most importantly, let everyone know if you liked it well enough to make it again. Last but not least, share some of your favorite 5-ingredient meals.
Penne with Sausage and Broccoli
Makes 4-5 large servings. By the time the pasta water boils, you’re almost home with this one.
1 pound penne pasta
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 Italian sausages, casings removed
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb. frozen broccoli
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. salt
Thaw broccoli in microwave. Boil penne pasta in slightly salted water until al dente. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage to the pan and cook until lightly browned. While the sausage cooks use a wooden spoon or spatula to help break up the meat. Add the garlic and broccoli to the sauté pan, and cook for about 3 minutes until broccoli is softened but still crisp. Add the pasta, salt and Parmesan cheese to the pan and let cook for another 2 minutes or until cheese melts.
5-ingredient Pesto Pasta Salad
1 pound pasta
1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and roughly chopped
1 (6-ounce) jar basil pesto (about 3/4 cup)
1 ball fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
3 handfuls fresh arugula
Cook pasta in a large pot of generously-salted boiling water al dente, according to package instructions. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water for about 20-30 seconds until no longer hot.
In a large serving bowl, toss pasta with the remaining ingredients until combined. Serve immediately, or refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 3 days.
Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken
2 tbsp. lite soy sauce
2 tbsp. ketchup
2 tbsp. honey
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 chicken thighs, bone in skin on
Combine all the ingredients together in the slow cooker until well mixed. Lay the chicken skin side up in a single layer and cook on low for 6-7 hours. If your chicken isn’t browned on the top you can put it on a foil lined cookie sheet under a broiler for 2-3 minutes.
One pan Ranch Pork Chops and Veggies
4 (8-ounce) pork chops, bone-in, 3/4-inch to 1-inch thick
16 ounces baby red potatoes, halved
16 ounces green beans, trimmed
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 (1-ounce) package Ranch Seasoning and Salad Dressing Mix
3 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves
Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or coat with nonstick spray. Place pork chops, potatoes and green beans in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Ranch Seasoning and garlic; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place into oven and roast until the pork is completely cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 140°F. about 20-22 minutes. Then broil for 2-3 minutes, or until caramelized and slightly charred. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired. Cooking time will vary depending on the size and thickness of the pork chops and potatoes.
5 ingredient Sausage Hash Brown Casserole
2 lb. hot breakfast sausage
1 (30-32oz) bag frozen shredded hash browns
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups milk
½ tsp. pepper
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large skillet, cook sausage until no longer pink. Drain fat. Add hash browns to skillet and cook until lightly brown. Place hash browns in bottom of lightly greased 9×13-inch pan. Top with sausage and cheese. Whisk together eggs, salt, pepper and milk. Pour over hash brown mixture. (Cover and refrigerate at this point if baking later.) Bake for 35-40 minutes.
5-ingredient Easy Chili
This chili doesn’t have the depth of flavor that a more complicated “Low and Slow” recipe has but then again, it only takes a half hour, start to finish.
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 small white onion, diced
3 (15 oz.) cans diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 (15 oz.) cans beans, drained (black beans, kidney beans, a combo, or whatever you like)
2 tbsp. chili powder
Optional toppings: shredded cheese, chopped green onions, sour cream, cilantro, etc.
In a large stockpot, cook ground beef or turkey over medium-high heat until browned, stirring frequently. If using ground turkey, you may need to heat a tablespoon of olive oil beforehand to help cook and brown the turkey, and then add an additional tablespoon of oil to cook the onion. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked beef or turkey to a separate plate and set aside. Reserve 1 tablespoon of grease in the stockpot, and discard the rest. Add the onion to the stockpot and saute for 4-5 minutes, or until soft. Add remaining ingredients and the cooked beef or turkey to the stockpot, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve immediately, garnished with optional toppings if desired. Or, store in a sealed container for up to 3 days.
Chicken Wrapped in Bacon
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved horizontally
8 ounces crumbled blue cheese
6 ounces walnut halves
8 slices bacon
Preheat oven to 350°F. Pound chicken slices until they are even in thickness and about 1/4-inch thick. Spread blue cheese and walnuts on top of each chicken piece. Roll chicken breasts over filling. Place 2 bacon slices side by side on a work surface. Place each chicken roll at one end of bacon slices and roll bacon around chicken; secure with toothpicks. Repeat with remaining chicken rolls and bacon. Heat a skillet to medium-high heat and cook bacon-wrapped chicken rolls in the hot skillet until the bacon is browned and crisp, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken rolls to preheated oven; bake until chicken is no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, 25 to 35 minutes.
Creamy Chocolate Mousse Pie
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 (7 ounce) bar milk chocolate candy
1/2 cup milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 (9 inch) pie shell, baked
Heat marshmallows, chocolate candy, and milk in a saucepan over low heat until marshmallows and chocolate are melted, stirring constantly. Allow mixture to cool completely. Beat heavy cream in a large bowl until until stiff peaks form. Lift your beater or whisk straight up: the whipped cream will form sharp peaks. Gently fold cooled chocolate mixture in whipped cream until well mixed; pour into baked pie shell. Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.