The Ultimate One-and-Done Meal

I absolutely love one-dish meals. They’re simple and versatile, and they can be a great way to use up leftovers such as veggies, rice, or meat. I came across a one-dish meal that really interested me, but I didn’t like the way it was written. I tried it out anyway, and it turned out really good. I analyzed what the components of the recipe were, and I came up with my own version.

You start with three basic ingredients, all precooked. It doesn’t matter if they’re hot or cold; you can even cook them together as a one-pot thing if you want. The possibilities are endless. You can make different meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can even make a smaller portion for a snack if you want.

The ingredients are simple: some kind of protein, some kind of starch, and some kind of vegetable. To make one batch, you need four cups of each, and you can mix and match different kinds of protein, starch, or veg in that four cups. Potatoes, rice, and pasta all count as starches. You can mix up your starches if you want, so long as you have four cups total. I’m a big fan of rice/pasta combos, but I also like mixing up different grains. This recipe is a perfect way to try out grains that you may be unfamiliar with, such as quinoa (which is technically a seed) or farro. Beans and lentils can be used instead of meat for a totally vegetarian/vegan option as well. You might want to stay away from some of the more delicate kinds of fish, since they might fall apart or lose their texture during freezing, but shrimp is a good option.

This recipe is perfect for picky eaters (like Yours Truly!) because you can easily tailor the mixture to individual tastes. If you have someone with food allergies or sensitivities, you can opt for ingredients that they can safely eat. I would label things that are made for specific dietary needs differently from the things everyone else can eat, like with a different colored marker or something.

Seasoning is important, and it adds to the versatility of the dish. Want a Mexican-style meal? Just add some taco seasoning to the meat, starch, and veggies when you’re cooking them. Hungry for Italian? Add some basil and oregano. If you’re going to season each component with a similar flavor, go a bit easy on the salty and spicy flavors for each one, since you’ll be combining three different things all with seasonings added. You can always adjust the seasoning when you’ve mixed everything together. Follow this basic formula for endless combinations of simple, nutritious meals.

Protein: You can do any kind(s) of meat you want, or you can go veg and do beans, lentils, whatever you have a taste for. Meats that are ground, chopped, sliced, or shredded work best. Try a mixture of turkey and ham, or slice up some bratwursts and cook them. You could even do hot dogs if you wanted. Use a combination of ground beef and pork, or turkey and chicken. You can also make a mixture of eggs, bacon, sausage, and/or ham for a breakfast version. The possibilities are only limited by what you like.

Starch: As I said before, all kinds of potatoes count as your starch. So do grains. Potatoes should be cubed or diced, about bite-sized. Do a mixture of rice, quinoa, and barley. Farro makes a nice change from the norm. Be sure to follow the directions of how to cook unfamiliar grains; improperly cooked grains are no good! If you’re going to do brown rice, follow the directions in my post entitled “Foolproof Brown Rice.” Making brown rice in the microwave for 25-30 minutes is so much easier than slaving over the stove for 45-60 minutes!

Vegetables: Here’s where the versatility really happens. You can do literally any kinds of vegetables you want, including adding leftovers! Just remember that the total amount needs to be four cups, and everything needs to be cooked. You can roast them, grill them, steam them, whatever you want. I personally like to sauté mine in a bit of olive oil.

I hope this recipe inspires you to think of new ways to have inexpensive, simple meals at hand for the entire family. Let me know what you think below.

The Ultimate One and Done Meal

  • Servings: 12 cups
  • Print


4 cups cooked meat, any variety, chopped, shredded, sliced, or ground
4 cups cooked potatoes, sweet potatoes, pasta, and/or grains, any variety
4 cups cooked vegetables, chopped as needed
Seasonings to taste

Toss together all ingredients in large bowl; adjust seasonings to taste. Portion mixture into 1- or 2-cup servings in labeled and dated food storage containers with lids and freeze up to 6 months. To reheat, remove lid and cover with paper towel. If frozen, microwave on high power 3-4 minutes or until heated through, stirring once halfway through time. If thawed, microwave on high power 1-2 minutes or until heated through, stirring once halfway through time.

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