Spruce Up Classic Meals With 5 Ingredients or Less

Spruce Up Classic Meals With 5 Ingredients or Less

Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best — try these easy dishes, and you’ll see!

By adding just a few ingredients to the pantry basics — lemons, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper — you can make a truly tasty meal in minutes. Next time you’re looking to feed your family in a flash, get inspired by these five-ingredient-or-less recipe ideas, which, in addition to saving you time, are easy on the wallet.

Eggs are the breakfast go-to, yet there are plenty of ways to add a world of flavors to this morning staple. Scrambled eggs go south of the border when you tuck them into fresh corn tortillas and top with salsa or sliced avocado.

For a taste of Italy, crack eggs over canned tomatoes in an ovenproof skillet. Top with mozzarella cheese and bake in the oven until the whites are set, but the yolks are still runny. Feeling French? Try a one-pan mix of eggs, hash browns, spinach and Gruyere.

For a surefire hit that everyone loves, try your hand at homemade guacamole. All you need are the big three: ripe avocadoes, chopped white onions and chopped tomatoes. Add citrus (Lime is more authentic, but lemon juice will do in a pinch.) and salt to taste. Like it spicy? Toss in a couple of finely chopped jalapenos if you’ve got ’em or add a sprinkle of cayenne.

Looking for something heartier? Roast red and yellow peppers, add a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and serve with crusty bread for dipping.

Switch up your usual Romaine or iceberg with hearty escarole or Tuscan kale, and then balance the bitter greens with sweet orange segments and top with toasted walnuts, hazelnuts or pine nuts. Add a few shavings of a hard cheese like sharp cheddar or Pecorino Romano and make the flavors sing by tossing in this simple lemon-olive oil dressing: Combine the juice of half a lemon and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Season to taste.

Or skip the greens entirely and compose a salad of cannellini beans (canned are fine), chopped red onion and canned Italian tuna for a perfect main course salad.

Bread is like a blank canvas calling for an artist’s brush. Put a spin on the classic BLT by substituting the “B” with a “P” for prosciutto and switching the fresh tomato for a handful of sun-dried ones. Sautéed spinach and creamy mozzarella are perfect for the Pannini press. Or grab a baguette and stuff with canned tuna, black olives and capers for a simplified Provencal Pan Bagnat. More quick fillings: ham with sliced mango, roast turkey with fig preserves, and sliced pears with walnuts and Brie.


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Chicken thighs are one of the least expensive parts of the bird and can be transformed in a jiffy using really simple marinades and rubs. Try one of these pairs:

  • Honey and soy sauce
  • Lemon and chopped olives
  • Mustard and brown sugar
  • Balsamic vinegar and shallots
  • Curry powder and yogurt
  • Garlic and chopped herbs.

The list is endless, so feel free to experiment with flavors you love. Bake, grill or put on skewers and cook until skin is crisp and meat is tender.

There’s a reason everyone loves pasta — it cooks quickly and requires just a few ingredients to taste fabulous.

Try adding toasted breadcrumbs and roasted cauliflower to your next batch of spaghetti. Linguine pairs well with shrimp and asparagus, while a mix of sautéed mushrooms and chicken strips marry well to penne. More fantastic combos: artichokes, lemon and Parmigiano cheese, butternut squash and pancetta, and feta with zucchini and red onion.

Peas and Potatoes
If you stock a bag of frozen peas in the freezer, you’ll always have a colorful add-on to toss into salads and pasta. For a side dish, mix cooked peas (frozen or fresh English style) with small chunks of Parmigiano cheese and combine with a healthy dose of chopped mint. Finish with a quick pour of olive oil and season to taste.

You can also change it up by substituting peas with fava beans or fresh asparagus. Potatoes are another favorite side — try cubing cooked spuds and mixing with spicy mustard and a heaping pile of dill. Or you can combine mashed potatoes with juice from the pickle jar and a handful of chopped scallions for a zesty flavor.

Need something sweet? Poach pears in water mixed with cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar for an easy yet sophisticated dessert. Or stew up plums and peaches using the same flavors in early autumn. Spring strawberries or summer raspberries can be soaked in lemon juice and sugar and topped with fresh chopped mint. Eat your berries on their own, or pile on prepared pound or angel food cake. Yum!

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