Cooking 101 (Week 5) Quick and Easy Menus, Recipes and Tips for Singles and Couples Healthy Meals in Less Than 30 Minutes

(FN1560, Reviewed June 2020)

Many people are pressed for time, but making a meal does not have to be a time-consuming task. With a few helpful tips, cooking a quick and healthful meal will be a breeze.

Lead Author
Lead Author:
Amy Hutchinson, Student Dietitian, NDSU Nutrition Education in the Community (class)
Other Authors

Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

Web only
Publication Sections

Quick tips

  • For a quick meal on the go, make a pita pocket sandwich. Simply stuff a pita with veggies and/or meat and be on your way.
  • To boil water faster, start with hot water and cover the saucepan with a lid.
  • If you have leftover cooked or grilled chicken, cut it up, place recipe- or meal-sized amounts in freezer bags, and freeze them for up to four months.
  • Cook extra pasta or rice. Drain and toss the pasta or rice with a little oil to prevent sticking. Place the desired amount in storage bags and either store in the fridge for up to five days or freeze for up to six months.
  • Hard-cook several eggs for a quick and easy addition of protein to any meal. Use hard-cooked eggs within one week.
  • Make your own frozen veggies. Chop, slice or dice fresh vegetables such as onions, bell peppers, carrots and celery. Arrange in a single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet, freeze until firm, place the desired amount into freezer bags and freeze for up to one month. They will be ready to use in your favorite recipes.
  • Check the number of servings a recipe makes. If the leftovers do not sound appealing, adjust the recipe size by half (if possible). Or if leftovers are welcome, double the batch and freeze the food in meal-sized portions.

What do you know already?

Many kitchens feature a wide assortment of tools and gadgets. Let’s test your knowledge of some kitchen tool trivia.

Pop Quiz

Select from the following answer choices: colander, peeler, chopper, paring knife, chef's knife, cutting wheel, whisk, blender, cutting board.

  1. Handy for vegetables and a slang name for a British constable
  2. Can be used to make decorative designs in pastry dough
  3. Knife more often used when peeling fruit or vegetables
  4. Many types such as balloon, French, flat, gravy, twirl or ball are available
  5. Used by Dr. Jonas Salk in his laboratory while he was working on the polio vaccine
  6. After many years of dormancy on a wooden type of this kitchen tool, salmonella can be "resurrected"
  7. Type of knife used for everything from cutting meat to slicing potatoes
  8. Also called a strainer
  9. Usually has a stainless steel blade and can be used for chopping vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts and chocolate

Answers: 1. Peeler; 2. Cutting wheel; 3. Paring knife; 4. Whisk; 5. Blender; 6. Cutting board; 7. Chef's knife; 8. Colander; 9. Chopper 

Kitchen tools

Having the correct tool for the job can make your cooking experience a pleasant one. With a few kitchen gadgets added to your collection, cooking quick and healthful meals will be a breeze.

Chopper: Nonelectric choppers are useful for handling small amounts of ingredients such as onions or peppers. It is a definite time-saver in the kitchen.

Cutting wheel: This is a small handheld tool with two cutting blades that can be used to finely chop or mince fresh herbs, garlic or small green onions.

Flexible cutting mat: These almost paper-thin mats allow for easy transfer of ingredients from the counter into a container or pan. Also, they do not take a lot of storage space.

Whisk: These come in a variety of sizes and are very useful for blending and whipping egg mixtures, sauces and lightweight batters.

Mini personal blender: You can make smoothies in a hurry. Some even are designed for the person on the go. You make the smoothie, flip the container over, detach it from the base, put the lid on it and you are out the door.

Apple corer/slicer: This handy tool makes eating apples or pears on the run easier.

Weekly Menu Planner – Week 5

*indicates recipe is provided

  • Whole-wheat toast with peanut butter
  • Banana
  • Fat-free milk
  • Spicy Chicken Chili*
  • Whole-wheat crackers
  • Fat-free milk
  • Apple, orange or pear
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Potato and Egg Scramble*
  • Strawberries
  • Fat-free milk
  • Deli ham and cheese bagel with lettuce and mayo
  • Apple or pear
  • Fat-free milk
  • Leftover Spicy Chili over spaghetti noodles
  • Side salad with dressing
  • Fat-free milk
  • Nonfat yogurt
  • Banana
  • Leftover Potato and Egg Scramble* on a bagel
  • Banana
  • Fat-free milk
  • Tuna and lettuce pita with mayo
  • Baby carrots
  • Fat-free milk
  • Ham sandwich on whole-wheat bread with lettuce and mayo
  • Baked Sweet Potato Fries (Cooking 101 - week 1)
  • Fat-free milk
  • Strawberries
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Cereal of choice
  • Banana or orange
  • Fat-free milk
  • Baked potato topped with leftover Chili*
  • Orange
  • Fat-free milk
  • Fruit Yogurt Smoothie*
  • Oatmeal
  • Hard-cooked egg
  • Orange
  • Fat-free milk
  • Apple slices with peanut butter
  • Whole-wheat toast with peanut butter
  • Strawberries
  • Fat-free milk
  • Chef salad with deli ham, egg, tomato and salad dressing
  • Apple
  • Fat-free milk
  • Tuna Melt*
  • Baby carrots
  • Fat-free milk
  • Cereal of choice with raisins
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Whole-wheat toast
  • Orange
  • Fat-free milk
  • Leftover Tuna Melt*
  • Side salad with dressing
  • Fat-free milk
  • Grilled ham and cheese
  • Apple
  • Fat-free milk
  • Whole-wheat crackers
  • Baby carrots

Grocery List

Read through the recipes and check your supplies to see what and how much you need. Adjust the list based on your supplies and preferences.


  • 1 box spaghetti, preferably whole-grain
  • 1 small package pita bread*
  • Whole-wheat crackers
  • 1 loaf whole-wheat bread*
  • 1 box of ready-to-eat cereal
  • Oatmeal

* To maintain freshness, store in freezer and thaw the amount you need.


  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 package ready-to-eat mixed greens
  • 1 package baby carrots
  • 4 Roma tomatoes (or substitute canned, chopped tomatoes)
  • 1 small white onion
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 pound red potatoes
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • 1 Russet potato


  • 1 whole fruits (bananas, apples, pears, oranges)
  • 1 pint strawberries (fresh or frozen)
  • Raisins or dried cranberries


  • 1 gallon (or more) fat-free milk
  • 1 package shredded cheddar cheese, low-fat
  • 1 package shredded mozzarella cheese, low-fat
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • 2 (6-ounce) containers flavored nonfat yogurt

Meat/other protein foods

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 dozen large eggs
  • ½ pound deli ham
  •  1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 (5-ounce) cans tuna (packed in water)

Canned/dry goods, etc.

  • Salsa of choice
  • Olive oil (or salad oil)
  • Tomato sauce
  • 1 jar peanut butter, preferably natural
  • 1 (15-ounce) can spicy chili beans
  • Mayonnaise made with olive/canola oil (small jar)
  • 1 package taco seasoning
  • Cooking spray
  • Salad dressing of choice
  • Lemon juice (small bottle)

 To save money, compare unit prices (price per ounce) on the store shelving.


Key to Abbreviations

tsp. = teaspoon
Tbsp. = tablespoon
c. = cup
oz. = ounces
pkg. = package
g = grams
mg = milligrams
lb. = pound

Tuna Melt

Figure 1

2 (5-oz.) cans chunk light tuna in water, drained
1 medium red onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. ground pepper
Salsa, to taste
4 slices whole-wheat bread, toasted
¼ c. finely shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat broiler. Toast bread. Combine tuna, onion, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salsa and pepper in a medium bowl. Spread one-fourth of tuna mixture on each slice of toast; top with cheese. Place on a baking sheet and broil until cheese is bubbling and golden brown, three to five minutes.

Makes four servings. Per serving: 250 calories, 7 g fat, 32 g protein, 21 g carbohydrate,
3 g fiber, 400 mg sodium

Spicy Chicken Chili

Figure 2

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 c. chopped tomatoes (or substitute canned chopped tomatoes)
1 c. chopped white onion
1 (15-oz.) can spicy chili beans
½ c. shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Spray a 12-inch skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Place the cubed chicken in the skillet for three to five minutes, stirring frequently, until light brown.

Stir in tomatoes, onion and beans, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook uncovered eight to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 F. Sprinkle with cheese if desired.

Makes four servings. Per serving (without cheese): 240 calories, 4 g fat, 28 g protein, 21 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 760 mg sodium

Potato and Egg Scramble

Figure 3

2 medium red potatoes (½ lb.), washed and cubed
3 large eggs
3 Tbsp. milk
1/8 tsp. pepper
½ tsp. salt
½ c. green onion, sliced
Salsa (optional)

Boil potatoes in a 2-quart saucepan covered for six to eight minutes or until tender; drain. In medium bowl, beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper; set aside. In skillet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, cook potatoes until light brown. Add onion and cook about one minute, stirring constantly. Add egg mixture. As the mixture begins to set at bottom and sides, gently lift cooked portions with spatula so that the uncooked portions flow to the bottom. Avoid constant stirring. Cook three to four minutes or until eggs are cooked throughout but still moist. Top with salsa, if desired.

Makes three servings. Per serving: 140 calories, 5 g fat, 8 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 280 mg sodium

Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie

Figure 4

1 c. fresh or frozen strawberries or fruit of choice
¾ c. skim milk
6 oz. fat-free or low-fat vanilla or other flavored yogurt

Place all ingredients in a blender. Cover and blend on high speed for 30 seconds or until smooth.

*Note: Adjust to desired thickness by adding milk or ice cubes.

Makes two servings. Per serving (with fat-free yogurt): 90 calories, 0 g fat, 7 g protein, 17 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 90 mg sodium

For more information, visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/food.  

For more information on this and other topics, see www.ndsu.edu/extension.