The number of Americans who cook has shrunk significantly in recent years. In 2002 when food company consultant Eddie Yoon surveyed Americans to find out their cooking habits, 15 percent said they loved to cook, while 35 percent were lukewarm and 50 percent hated to cook. By 2017, the number who loved to cook had fallen to 10 percent — a decline of one-third — while the number of those lukewarm about cooking had risen to 45 percent.
Yoon suggests one reason for this sharp decline is that many Americans feel intimidated by the cooking standards set by shows such as Iron Chef. An Impulse Research survey bears this out, showing that 28 percent of Americans stay away from the kitchen because they feel they can’t cook. This fear of cooking costs the average household $3,008 a year on the expense of dining out, Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicates, in addition to health problems brought on by poor eating habits.
But you don’t need to be Alton Brown to be able to cook a healthy, good-tasting meal for yourself. Many nutritious, delicious meals can be cooked with minimal equipment. Here are three easy healthy meals you can make with only a frying pan or skillet in 20 minutes or less.
1. Huevos Rancheros
One of the easiest breakfast meals to make in a skillet is eggs. If you’re in a hurry you can make scrambled eggs in just 10 minutes, or if you have 20 minutes and you want to spice up your breakfast a bit, try huevos rancheros. For four servings of huevos rancheros, you’ll need:
- 4, 6-inch corn tortillas
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1 cup of low-fat refried beans with green chilies
- 1 teaspoon of butter
- 4 eggs
- 8 slices of bacon
- 1 cup of shredded cheese
- optional 1/2 cup of salsa if you want a spicier dish
Start by heating the oil in your pan over medium-high heat and frying the tortillas one at a time until they’re crisp, removing them when done and placing them on paper towels to absorb the grease. While you’re doing that, combine the refried beans and butter in a microwavable dish and heat them separately.
Once your tortillas are done, fry your eggs over easy in the same pan, adding oil first if the tortillas used it up. Serve the tortillas on plates, topped with cheese, fried eggs, crumbled bacon — which you can fry in the same pan — and salsa if desired.
2. Stir Fry
You can make a virtually infinite variety of stir-fry dishes in a pan or skillet. Here’s an easy recipe for chicken teriyaki stir fry that takes about 15 minutes to make. For the teriyaki sauce, you’ll need:
- 1/2 cup of soy sauce (preferably low-sodium)
- 2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup of honey
- 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
- A pinch of red pepper flakes
- One tablespoon of corn starch
- 1/2 cup of water
For the stir fry, you’ll need:
- 2 cups of cooked, chopped chicken
- 10-ounce bag of stir fry vegetables (or you can select your own vegetables if you prefer)
- One tablespoon of canola oil
- cooked rice
- Optional additional soy sauce, sesame seeds and green onions
You may wish to begin cooking your rice separately before you start, or you can have it ready to reheat in a microwave. To make your teriyaki sauce, use a medium saucepan on medium-high heat to boil a mixture of your soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, honey, garlic powder and red pepper flakes. While it’s coming to a boil, whisk your water and cornstarch in a bowl, then add it to the boiling sauce and simmer about two minutes until thickened.
Set your sauce aside and begin making your stir fry. Heat your canola oil over high heat in a large skillet, add in your chopped chicken and sauté about one minute until brown. Then add your vegetables, and sauté about five minutes until warm and tender. Remove your skillet from heat, pour your teriyaki sauce over your stir-fry and toss to coat. Serve with your rice, topping with more soy sauce, sesame seeds and green onions if you prefer.
3. Salmon Burgers
Hamburgers are another easy meal you can making in a frying pan, or if you want a healthy and tasty alternative, try salmon burgers or salmon patties. To make four salmon burgers in about 10 minutes, you’ll need:
- 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 finely diced red bell pepper
- 1/4 finely diced red onion
- 2 drained 5-ounce cans of Alaskan salmon without skin or bones
- 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon of chili flakes
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of pepper
- 4 buns
- 4 lettuce leaves
- 4 slices of tomato
- 4 tablespoons of tartar sauce
Heat your bell pepper and red onion in one tablespoon of your olive oil over medium heat for about five minutes. While it’s cooking, use a large bowl to prepare your burger ingredients, adding your salmon, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic powder, chili flakes, dill, and salt and pepper. Then stir in your pepper and onion when you’re done. Form four equal-size burgers and use your remaining olive oil to cook them in your pan. Cook until thoroughly warmed and browned, for about five minutes, flipping once. Serve on buns with lettuce, tomatoes and tartar sauce.
These three recipes illustrate how easy it is to make a wide range of meals using just your frying pan or skillet. Once you’ve got these three dishes down, you’ll be able to expand on them with many variations of egg, stir-fry and burger recipes.
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