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Cooking Easy After Work Meals

By Matthew Demmer

I can’t tell you how many times we get emails asking questions like: “Oh Gradspot, why am I pudgy and out of shape,” or “why am I so broke,” or “why can’t I convincingly reconcile Nagel’s argument for the veracity of epiphenomenal qualia with my natural inclinations

towards physicalism?” Easy, because you don’t know some very basic cooking methods which are healthier, cheaper, and even faster than dialing in. In no time, you’ll be rich again, thin again, and even more capable of parsing Ricoeur’s mnemonic fallacy than ever. Yes that’s right, the answer to all your problems lies in your kitchen. (For more ideas, check out Gradspot's Recipe of the Week.)


Recipes below deal with the main dish. To round out a meal, make a simple salad (using prewashed lettuce for speed) and pair with a fresh baguette, some Stove Top stuffing, or flavored couscous (I like Near East’s garlic and olive oil the best).

Broil Some Meat (a.k.a. stick in the oven)

Below our conventional oven (or occasionally within it) sits the secret to the fastest food west of the microwave. A broiler is like a grill, but the food is in an oven with the flame coming from the top. Unlike a grill, you don’t need to be outside. But like a grill, broilers seal in juices and leave a nice tasty crust.


  1. Turn oven dial to broil, making sure the broiler pan is inside so it will heat up.
  2. Season steak / pork chop / chicken breast generously on both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Place meat on broiler pan (it should sizzle).
  4. Wait 5-10 minutes (depending on type of meat and thickness).
  5. Flip meat and wait another 4-8 minutes.

Approximate time from start to finish: 30 minutes
Approximate cost: $10-$20 (depending on type of meat)

Additions and Permutations

  • Chicken – Pounding a chicken breast makes the meat tender and adding a simple marinade (olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs) will give it some extra flavor.
  • Pork Chop – Great with a fried egg on top.
  • Steak – Sirloin or Filet Mignon? Sirloin is fattier and therefore has more taste, but Filet is more tender.

Poach Some Fish (a.k.a. put in a pot with liquid)

Poaching consists of taking a piece of chicken or fish, putting it in a pot with a shallow layer of liquid, and turning the heat on high with the pot covered. Poaching keeps meat moist and can give a nice subtle flavor with the right ingredients, like white wine or chicken stock (bouillon cube melted in water) and some herbs.


  1. Take pot out of cabinet.
  2. Season fish/chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Pour enough chicken stock or wine in pot to cover 1/4 of meat.
  4. Put meat in pot.
  5. Turn heat on high and cover and wait 8-10 minutes.

Approximate time from start to finish: 20 minutes
Approximate cost: $10-$15 (depending on type of fish)

Additions and Permutations

  • Fish – poaching works great with salmon or any solid, flavorful fish.

Boil Some Noodles

Boiling isn’t great for meat, but it does work well for pasta and ramen noodles. To save on time and pots, just throw any vegetables you’d like to accompany your dinner with into the pot when only two minutes are remaining to cook the dish.


  1. Take pot out of cabinet.
  2. Fill with water and bring to a boil (that’s when the bubbles start appearing).
  3. Add pasta or ramen noodles.
  4. Add vegetables.
  5. Drain in a colander, add butter and Parmagiano Reggiano or ramen noodle flavor packet.

Approximate time from start to finish: 20 minutes
Approximate cost: $5

Additions and Permutations

  • Vegetables – Good blanchable vegetables include broccoli florets, cauliflower, snow peas, and green beans.
  • Bread Crumbs – For texture, toast some bread crumbs in the toaster oven and sprinkle on top of the pasta.

Open a Soup Can

These days, canned soup has gone way upscale from the time of Campbell’s. Options abound with organic varietals like Amy’s Soups leading the fore.


  1. Take pot out of cabinet.
  2. Open soup can.
  3. Pour in pot.
  4. Add water, milk, or nothing, as directed.
  5. Heat.

Approximate time from start to finish: 7 minutes
Approximate cost: $2

Additions and Permutations

  • My Favorite – The knock against Campbell’s soup aside, still one of my all-time favorite meals is Campbell’s tomato soup and grilled cheese.

Grill Some Cheese

  1. Take two slices of bread.
  2. Liberally butter one side of each.
  3. Unwrap two slices of American cheese (or cheddar, swiss, mozzarella) etc.
  4. Put frying pan on stove and turn to medium.
  5. Place one slice of bread butter-side down in pan.
  6. Top with cheese and other slice of bread butter side up.
  7. Fry until golden brown and cheese is slightly melted.
  8. Flip.
  9. Repeat.




Very clever post with so many useful cooking tips for those finding their way in the kitchen. One of my standby meals in college and post-graduation was a simple soup Greek orzo soup - http://mamasays.us/blog/2009/04/23/thrifty-thursday-greek-lemon-soup/ - ready in minutes with leftovers for another day.

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