Simple recipes for first-time cooks

What to pack into a kid's lunch box? How about some quick and healthy recipes that are loaded with vegetables and make a yummy meal that your kids will love. These meals are so easy to fix that 'daddy' can also get them ready. They are nutritious too, so you can dig into them as well.

I feel for the average Indian males who lack a very basic life-skill. A number of my male friends/acquaintances cannot cook. Some argue that they don't need to cook since food is now being delivered at their doorstep or because they have a wife – their first argument falls flat when I swerve the discussion to nutrition, hygiene, empty calories, extra calories, unhealthy fats, Ajinomoto…I can go on, my list is long. And, the 'wifey' thing, that is a whole different topic, which I think, they 'regret' bringing into the discussion.

Cooking is a very basic survival skill. You may manage to survive on Maggi and raw foods, interspaced with 'ordered in food' for a couple of years, of your bachelor life, but soon enough, the signs of lifestyle diseases begin to pop-up on your medical reports (if you care to get a health check-up done) or when your morning rounds to the loo, become a problem.

You either have 'mummyji' come and live with you, so she can satisfy your belly with her yummy food, or hire someone to cook and in turn 'acclimatise' yourself to their routine and other problems, which only those who employ house help can relate to. You may also choose to get married. Yes, what better reason to find someone to start a family with, than this. Right! It is unbelievable, how many men I know got married because their parents thought that it was the only way they could get 'Ghar ka khana' (translated, it means, healthy, scrumptious, home cooked food, served with oodles of love).

Cooking does not have to be a gender thing, a task assigned to women. Having a baby is a gender thing because nature has equipped only women to do so. Cooking might be something that you don't like doing, but since it's essentially linked to survival, it's something that you must know. It's as simple as that – I mean you don't like getting down on your haunches, on a filthy road, to change a flat tyre, but you know how to do it and would do it, if need be.

So, let's get have you started, with some interesting, quick to fix, yet healthy meals that you can put together, without going through a culinary school. The dishes here are suited for the Indian palette and kept simple, so they aren't the authentic versions.

Pasta/macaroni in a jiffy

Pasta is a one-bowl meal that packs in nutrition. Pasta is made out of durum wheat semolina and is healthier than refined flours. What you add to the pasta decides how nutritious the dish becomes. I am providing basic steps; you can add or delete ingredients as per preference.

Ingredients for making healthy pasta

  • I packet (180 grams) of pasta
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 glasses of water
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Milk
  • Salt
  • Assorted veggies (carrots, peas, corn kernels, broccoli, beans, spinach, cabbage etc.
  • Cooked shredded chicken or cold cuts (optional)
  • Dry herbs or chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • Finely chopped garlic
  • Few sprigs of cilantro

Easy macaroni recipe


  • Bring water to a boil and add pasta, ½ tsp. salt and oil to it and throw in the veggies and the pasta
  • Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for 8 minutes until the pasta is done (I prefer it al dente, you can cook it longer if you want it cooked softer)
  • Strain the pasta and reserve the water (water can be used to knead dough or added frozen as a broth, to be used later
  • Add milk to the pasta and veggies
  • Throw in the cheese and chicken or cold cuts
  • Add herbs/chilli flakes/dried garlic and mix well
  • Garnish with finely chopped cilantro

Instant Uttappam

A healthy breakfast gives your day a great start. Here is a quick way to make uttapam. It makes a healthy and scrumptious breakfast and can also be packed in the kids' tiffin boxes.

Ingredients :

  • Semolina (rava/sooji) – 1 ½ cups
  • Curd – 1 cup
  • Chopped veggies (tomatoes, capsicums, onions, green chillies, cilantro, corn, spinach or whatever you have)
  • Salt – ½ tsp
  • Baking soda – ½ tsp
  • Water – ½ cup
  • Oil

Method :

  • Whip together curd, semolina and water and salt to make a thick batter the consistency of custard
  • Set aside for approx. half-an-hour
  • Add the baking soda
  • Heat a frying pan and smear a little oil on it, just a thin film, not much
  • Sprinkle some water on the heating tava. If it starts to sizzle the pan is hot enough to use
  • Use a ladle to spoon in some batter and spread it on the heated pan, forming a small, thick circle
  • Quickly drop the chopped veggies of choice on the batter and cover
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes, drizzle some oil in the veggies and flip the uttapam, cooking it for another 2-3 minutes

Serve with ketchup - yummy!

Easy-peasy Noodles

Noodles are the easiest to fix. They can be filling and wholesome meal. I prefer egg noodles made from durum wheat semolina, instead of rice noodles.

Easy-peasy noodles for kids tiffin box

Ingredients :

  • Noodles – 1 packet
  • Chopped veggies – carrots, beans, spring onion etc
  • Shredded chicken (optional)
  • Garlic – finely minced (as per taste)
  • Oil – ½ cup
  • Salt – a big pinch
  • Chilli sauce – (as per taste)
  • Soy sauce – ½ tsp

Method :

  • Boil the noodles as per instructions on the packet
  • Blanch veggies, by dunking them for a few minutes in boiling water
  • In a wok heat oil and add the minced garlic, chicken and fry, add the chilli sauce and soy sauce
  • Toss in the veggies stir them and add the noodles and toss well
  • Stir-fry on hot flame for 4-5 mins

Maggi cube for fried rice

Fried rice

This is an easy to prepare, nutritious and filling, one-pot meal. Make it as healthy as you want with your choice of veggies and meat.

Ingredients :

  • Rice – 1 cup cooked rice
  • Oil – ¼ cup
  • Garlic – chopped fine, as much or as little as you want
  • Spring onion - chopped
  • Spinach leaves - chopped
  • Carrots – diced
  • Peppers - chopped
  • Onion – sliced
  • Cabbage – chopped fine
  • Soy sauce
  • Red chilli sauce
  • Chilli vinegar
  • White pepper powder
  • Sugar – 1 tsp
  • Shredded chicken (optional)
  • Egg omelette (optional)
  • Maggi cube

Method :

  • Take a kadai and tip the oil into it
  • Add the garlic and let it sizzle in the oil
  • Add the chicken and fry until it changes colour
  • Throw in the veggies and stir fry them
  • Now pour in soy sauce, red chilli sauce and give it a good stir
  • Add white pepper powder and the sugar
  • Crumble and sprinkle the maggi cube
  • Add the rice and stir-fry everything, on high flame
  • Cut the omelette into strips and add, just before serving

If you find this cumbersome, you can try some sandwiches. They are easy to assemble and can be made healthy as well. There is so much that you can do with sandwiches to make them healthy. You can turn leftover food into delicious new dishes. Even overripe bananas can be used to make some tasty snacks. Cooking can be fun, because it allows you to innovate and experiment with different ingredients. If you like green mango chutney you'd love a watermelon rind chutney too. Imagine using watermelon rinds or potato peels into yummy dishes.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

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Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao04 Oct 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5

Good recipes were given in the article.
When I was in Vizag I used to cook myself. My Uncle taught me some vegetable recipes. In that, the fastest and the easiest is tomato curry. I will give here how to make it.
Cut 250 grams of tomatoes into pieces. You can make one tomato into 4 pieces. Then cut 2 onions into pieces. Take one spoon of masala powder and two spoons sugar. A little salt(1/4 to spoon)
Put on the gas stove. keep a vessel on the flame and add 2 or 3 spoons of oil into it. Don't increase the flame. Let it be in the sim mode only. Once the oil is hot add the tomato pieces and onion pieces and allow them to get cooked. In maximum 10 minutes, these will get cooked. Then add two spoons of sugar and1 spoon masala powder to the above mix. Mix all the items thoroughly and add a 1/4th spoon of salt. The curry is ready and it will be very tasty. We used to make this many times as making it is easy and takes less time only
However, I will try the other recipes mentioned in the article or advise my wife to try them.

Author: Juana05 Oct 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3

Thank you for sharing something from your bachelor days. It is a simple to make the recipe and I am sure must have tasted delicious.

What masala powder did you use? I think chilli powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder should work well, in this recipe. Adding a bit of jeera powder and or garam masala could also give your dish a nice flavour. Maybe, a few curry leaves and or coriander leaves for some extra zing!

I laid stress on one-pot meals which are complete in themselves. They do not require an accompaniment like chapatti or rice. They are a complete meal in themselves, wholesome and filling. I have ensured that they have a lot of healthy vegetables and some meat, for meat eaters. The idea is to make cooking quick and easy.

Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao05 Oct 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 3

Yes. The curry what I have described is to be taken with rice or chapathis. We used to cook rice with a rice cooker which is very easy. We used to complete the entire process within 30 minutes. First, start with a rice cooker. Simultaneously when rice is getting cooked we can start the curry on the other stove of a gas stove. I remember we were using garam masala only. the dish is very tasty for us.

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