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Simplicity is key.

Life can be difficult. It can even be daunting. When you come home from a hard day of wrangling penguins, the last thing you want to do is put together a meal with 27 different ingredients.

So you reach into the larder (does anyone even have a larder anymore? When’s the last time you saw the word “larder”?) and pull out a handful of ingredients. No more than five. And you make a meal, or at least a dish.

It may not be as complexly flavored as the one with 27 ingredients, but on the other hand, there is less to go wrong, too. It’s clean. Efficient. Simple.

Simplicity is key. And from such simplicity can come bold flavors.


Yield: 6 servings

2 1/2 pounds beef, chuck roast, top round or bottom round


2 cups red wine

1/2 onion, in lengthwise slices

1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1. Generously season beef on all sides with salt. Place meat in Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot with the wine, onion and thyme.

2. Bring to a boil, cover, lower temperature and cook at a low simmer, turning occasionally, until meat is cooked through, about 1 3/4 to 2 hours.

Per serving: 725 calories; 46 g fat; 18 g saturated fat; 189 mg cholesterol; 49 g protein; 5 g carbohydrate; 1 g sugar; no fiber; 995 mg sodium, 41 mg calcium. Nutrition analysis used beef, chuck roast, with no fat trimmed.


Yield: 4 servings

4 eggs

2 cups whole milk

3 tablespoons sugar

1 (2-inch) piece vanilla bean

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Separate the eggs. In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks just enough to break them up (reserve the whites for another use). Set a strainer over a different medium heat-proof bowl. Set a kettle of water on the stove to boil.

2. Pour milk and sugar into a heavy-bottomed pot. Slice the piece of vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the tiny seeds from each side into the milk mixture. Add the pieces of bean to the mixture, and heat the pot on medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. When the milk is hot, whisk a little bit of it at a time into the egg yolks. When you have added 1/4 of the milk to the yolks, pour the mixture back into the hot milk.

3. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens just enough to coat the back of a spoon; if you draw your finger across the coating on the spoon you will be able to see the trail it made. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat and quickly strain into the heatproof bowl.

4. Pour the custard equally into 4 ramekins and set the ramekins in a large baking pan. Place the pan in the oven and fill the pan with the boiling water at least halfway to the level of the custard, taking care not to spill water into the custards. Cook until the sides are set but the center of the custard is still loose and jiggly, about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the baked custards from the water to cool, then refrigerate.

Per serving: 186 calories; 9 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 198 mg cholesterol; 10 g protein; 16 g carbohydrate; 16 g sugar; no fiber; 124 mg sodium; 166 mg calcium. Nutrition analysis used large eggs.


Yield: 4 servings

1 tablespoon oil

1 bell pepper, any color, cut into strips

1/2 onion, cut into lengthwise strips

4 Italian sausages, pork or turkey

4 hoagie rolls or 1 baguette

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper pieces, onion and sausage. Cover and cook, occasionally turning the sausage and stirring the vegetables, until sausage is cooked and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes (or less, if using precooked sausage). If using pork sausage, drain off excess oil. Serve each sausage in 1 roll or 1/4 baguette, smothered in peppers and onions.

Per sandwich: 544 calories; 26 g fat; 8 g saturated fat; 40 mg cholesterol; 23 g protein; 54 g carbohydrate; 8 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 1317 mg sodium; 183 mg calcium. Nutrition analysis used canola oil.


Yield: 4 servings

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce

8 bone-in chicken thighs (21/2 pounds)

1 cup long-grain white rice

2 bunches baby bok choy, quartered

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a large bowl, combine the garlic and 1/4 cup of the teriyaki sauce. Add the chicken and marinate for 30 minutes.

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2. Meanwhile, cook the rice according to the package directions.

3. Roast the chicken on the prepared baking sheet, basting with the remaining 1/3 cup of teriyaki sauce , until cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Add the bok choy 10 minutes before the chicken is done. Serve over rice.

Per serving: 538 calories; 45 g fat; 6 g saturated fat; 199 mg cholesterol; 45 g protein; 39 g carbohydrate; 12 g sugar; 5 g fiber; 2,233 mg sodium; 477 mg calcium


Yield: 4 servings

4 tablespoons butter, divided

1/2 cup lemon-pepper panko bread crumbs

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 (1 1/2-pound) salmon fillet, cut into 4 serving pieces

Note: Can also be grilled over medium heat, covered.

1. In a small saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Mix with the bread crumbs. Place buttermilk in a shallow dish. Dip salmon in buttermilk and press crumb mixture evenly on top of salmon pieces.

2. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Place salmon, skin-side down, on pan, cover, and cook until fish flakes easily with a fork, about 10 to 14 minutes.

Per serving: 465 calories; 30 g fat; 11 g saturated fat; 123 mg cholesterol; 35 g protein; 11 g carbohydrate; 12 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 396 mg sodium; 74 mg calcium. Nutrition analysis used salted butter & 2 percent fat buttermilk.


Yield: 3 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped

2 cans white beans, rinsed and drained


In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or skillet, heat oil over medium heat and add garlic and rosemary. Cook just until garlic is soft, about 2 minutes. Add the beans, taste for salt and adjust if needed. Let the dish sit for a few minutes before serving to allow the flavors to marry.

Per serving: 415 calories; 10 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 22 g protein; 62 g carbohydrate; 4 g sugar; 14 g fiber; 570 mg sodium, 159 mg calcium. Nutrition analysis used 15.5-ounce canned beans.

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