Innovative Meals for the Busy Professionals

An introduction to the one-pot-dish 2.0 method, an agile cooking method focusing on delivering delicious meals fast

Photo by Krzysztof Hepner on Unsplash

Motivation

While I miss a lot of things about being at home 🏠, one thing that I miss on a daily basis is all the delicious Syrian food 😋 which my mom prepared every single day. Well, except on Sundays, where she took a break from the kitchen, and my dad unleashed his creativity while cooking untraditional dishes.

Since I moved to the US, I struggled with balancing work and life, or in other words, I struggled balancing cooking and life. In this article, I am going to teach you how to cook delicious healthy meals in less than 15 minutes. While I did not invent the one-pot-dish cooking method, I think I might have simplified it to cook almost anything you might be craving without any effort. Let us call this “one-pot-dish 2.0" method.

Are there any rules to the one-pot-dish 2.0 method?

There are no rules! Ignore all the rules and instructions you know about cooking. The one-pot-dish 2.0 method is an agile cooking method focusing on delivering delicious meals fast! Only you can judge whether you like the finished meal or not. You are the chef and the consumer.

When I started learning how to cook, I used to go to my mom to ask her for recipes. While she was super helpful and PATIENT when providing instructions, I always felt discouraged to attempt cooking. This is because, I am always missing an ingredient or two, and my mom will not approve any substitutions or simplifications. The beauty of the one-pot-dish 2.0 method that it is a freestyle no-recipe approach for cooking. Instead there are some tips, and we hope for the best 😂

What are the essentials to get started?

  • Sauté pan with lid 🍳
  • Knife 🔪
  • EVOO: extra virgin olive oil ❤️
  • Wildcard spices 🃏: salt, black pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. ‘Herbs of Italy” blend is another wild card. And occasionally, turmeric, and ginger
  • Wildcard sauces 🃏: tomato sauce, broth, and water

My one-pot-dish 2.0 method is simply a reverse engineering method. Here are the steps:

  1. Pick any dish you like: literally any dish and regardless if it is originally a one-pot-dish or not
  2. Think about major ingredients: do not bother with details, spices, etc.
  3. Substitute based on whatever is available: consider similar food with similar texture, flavor, or simply in the same food group
  4. Skip pasta, and rice (see pro tips below)
  5. Throw everything in the sauté pan, and add almost all wildcard spices
  6. Depends on your meat of choice; 1. cover the pan and slow cook everything (recommended for meat that needs to be well done, e.g. chicken) or 2. sauté/pan-fry everything (recommended for meat that does not need to be well done, e.g., beef, and salmon)
  7. Add wildcard sauce, or maybe not: if you covered the pan while cooking slowly you probably do not need to add a sauce except some water

Pro Tips:

  • Replace pasta with veggie pasta (e.g. zucchini pasta). The advantage here is you can cook the veggie pasta at the same time and in the same pan with other ingredients
  • If you added broth at the end, then you can also cook rice in the same pot. For 1 cup of rice, you need 1.25 of broth. Cover the pan, bring it to boiling point on high heat. Once it is boiling, lower the heat, and wait 10–15 mins for the rice to be fully cooked

What about portions?

Good question, I follow a common sense approach to portions, and I hope for the best 🙏

Pro Tips:

  • Eat your vegetables first, and throw leftover meat over a salad when preparing the next meal
  • You are what you eat: when buying canned food, opt for glass jars without artificial preservatives, and rinse your food multiple times before consuming
  • Make it a soup by tripling the amount of water and/or broth
  • Salt makes everything taste better. Make sure it is iodized salt
  • Save some space for a piece of fruit like an apple 🍎 , or a banana 🍌, or my favorite healthy dessert; Coconut Butter Stuffed Dates
Coconut Butter Stuffed Dates

Example — Stuffed Zucchini, Unstuffed…

Stuffed Zucchini

As you can see form the picture above, it is a very complicated Middle Eastern dish, that requires drilling vegetables (or whatever it is called 😂), then stuffing them with rice, beef, and spices, and finally slow cooking everything for an hour and a half. Full disclosure, my mom consider this an easy dish, probably because it is kind of a one-pot-dish, and she is a pro at drilling vegetables.

Now let us use the one-pot-dish 2.0 method to reverse engineer this dish:

  1. Major ingredients: zucchini, beef, rice, and garlic
  2. Substitute based on whatever is available: no need in this case, however, you can easily replace or mix and match zucchini with any vegetable you want (e.g., eggplant, red/green/yellow/orange pepper)
  3. Skip rice: simply it is healthier
  4. Cut zucchini, ground beef, and throw everything in the sauté pan, add EVOO, salt, black pepper, red pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder
  5. Sauté everything: if you have a meeting you can rush this step 😂 Seriously, it is safe because it is beef. However, if it was chicken, it should be fully cooked
  6. When cooked, add tomato sauce and “Herbs of Italy” blend

Since I chose tomato sauce, I could have cooked the rice on the side, but again it is simply healthier and equally delicious. I could have also substituted tomato sauce with beef/vegetable broth, and cooked rice in the same pot. The only limitation is your imagination.

As you can see in the picture below, I did not even bother about the shape of the meat balls or cutting the zucchini equally. Nor I cared about the quality of my pictures. All what matters here is the taste and the nutrition. Remember, you are the chef and the consumer. Do not let anyone discourages from feeding yourself!

Unstuffed Zucchini by George Zeinieh

Advanced example — Tuna Bowl

Obviously, this dish is inspired from a Chipotle bowl. Do not let the word “advanced” fouls you. It is an advanced dish, because we are skipping steps here 😂 And again, I do not care how much pretty my dish is, what matters is the taste and the nutrition!

Tuna Bowl by George Zeinieh

Here are the steps of this advanced extremely nutritious and delicious dish:

  1. Major ingredients: canned beans, canned tuna, tomato, lemon juice, and cilantro
  2. Throw everything in the sauté pan, and add water: for 1 cup of rice, you need 1.25 of water. Cover the pan, bring it to boiling point on high heat. Once it is boiling, lower the heat, and wait 10–15 minutes for the rice to be fully cooked
  • Note: you could easily replace canned tuna with raw tuna and cook it the same way with the exception of that you would need to add the rice and everything else 5–10 minutes after sautéing the raw tuna

Example — Whatever in the Fridge One Pot Dish

The name of this dish is self-explanatory, so I am only going to share the picture…

Example — Chicken Went Nuts

While you are mastering this method, do not go nuts, or maybe go nuts!

Chicken Went Nuts by George Zeinieh

Conclusion

Probably, my mom and your mom will not approve this 😂 But, they will definitely approve this over eating processed and junk/fast food. I am hopping by introducing you to the one-pot-dish 2.0 method, you will have the courage to face your fears of cooking. Remember that the only limitation is your imagination. And as you practice this method, you will develop a common sense of what ingredients work well together and what not. Over time, you will realize that you are actually inventing new healthy delicious dishes.

Appendix

Classic Chicken — Rice one pot dish

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George Zeinieh

George Zeinieh

A consultant by day, entrepreneur by night, engineer by education, designer at heart, innovator since childhood. I write on innovation, cars, and well being