7 Easy meals and how to upgrade them into delicious dinners

Apr 23, 2015 at 3:30 p.m. ET

No matter how much you love cooking, everyone has those nights when they just don't feel like doing it. Suddenly, whipping up a batch of your famous chili or making lasagna is just too daunting a task, and you opt instead for your go-to lazy meal and a bottle of wine.

For me, that usually means a bowl of Top Ramen spruced up with Sriracha sauce, chopped green onions and cilantro. Because by adding a few extra ingredients, I can pretend like I actually cooked. Just let me have my delusions, OK?

Clearly I'm not the only one who wants a few shortcuts, because when user WebLlama asked Reddit for tips on ways to make their favorite simple foods even more delicious, there was plenty of advice to be given. Use one of these easy meal upgrades next time you can't deal with dinner.

1. Quesadillas


As one Redditor said: "Sometimes when we haven't shopped for groceries in a while we have quesadilla night and it's glorious." I couldn't agree more. Here are some tips to make them even better.

  • "People always ignore veggie options. Scallion, tomato, jalapeño, onion, etc."
  • "Make a pizzadia. Put butter in a pan, add tortilla, add spaghetti sauce then cheese then pepperoni. Another tortilla on top and flip when melted. It's amazing. Especially with ranch."
  • "Paprika on top of the cheese. Seriously, you will lose your mind and question why you haven't been doing it for years."
  • "My go-to house quesadilla is leftover chicken, bacon bits, red onion, and BBQ sauce. Seriously, try it."
  • "When you go to cook it, coat the frying pan lightly with melted duck fat. Crispier tort with a little of that duck-fat-flavor."
  • "How has no one mentioned breakfast quesadillas yet??"
  • Other notable additions: dark chocolate chips, guacamole (of course), a pinch of sugar, huitlacoche.

2. Grilled cheese

grilled cheese

It's hard to think that anything could be better than two slices of crisp, buttery bread with melted cheese inside, but I have to admit these upgrades sound pretty tasty.

  • "Try this... build your sammich as normal, but then garlic butter the outside and press it into some shredded parmesan. Cook as normal, but now there's a crispy cheese crust on the outside."
  • "Put a thin layer of mayonnaise on the outer side of the bread to give it a nice crust."
  • "Grilled cheese and pickles. Try it. It will change your life."
  • "I usually put a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on both of the inside breads. Gives the sandwich a little pop."
  • "I like to spread a little bit of Sriracha on the inside of the bread before grilling. It tastes like queso dip. mmmmmm."
  • Or make it taste like a chili relleno, as pictured above. Drool.

3. Ramen


Image: ABC Radio National/Flickr

As I've already confessed, I probably eat too much ramen. Maybe next time I'll have to give one of these tasty variations a try.

  • "Put a fried egg on it."
  • "Stir in peanut butter and sirriacha [sic] at the end."
  • "Scramble an egg and in the last minute of noodles cooking spoon dribble the egg in the broth, egg drop ramen."
  • "Try this sometime. Mix around powder with an egg and cook the noodles in water. Drain the noodles mix the egg in and fry it up like an omelette. Drizzle soy sauce and enjoy."
  • "Stir fried instant noodles. Stir fry onions, garlic, canned tuna, and scrambled egg, then add in boiled instant noodles and seasoning. Stir fry and mix a bit. Serve."

4. Mac and cheese

skillet mac and cheese

The blue box mac and cheese will always hold a special place in my heart. It's one of the easiest, most satisfying lazy meals you can make. But throw in a few of these additions, and you might have a new favorite way to eat it.

  • "Start with Kraft, because it's easy, cheap and delicious. Add any kind of Spanish cheese, like manchego, or similar dry white, shredded. And horseradish."
  • "I like adding a little high quality sausage in after the neon powder has been completely mixed in." (It won't be neon for long.)
  • "Get a can of jumbo lump crab or lobster meat, drain, add to mac and cheese."
  • "Thick bacon and artichoke hearts."
  • "Black pepper, half a can of tuna, a bit of extra salt (can be plain, garlic or seasoned) a small squirt of spicy mustard (horseradish could work as well) and a generous drizzle of Sriracha."
  • "Chopped roma tomatoes, cayenne, and peas. So easy, so yummy, and actually the veggies up the health factor a little."

5. Burgers

fritos pie burger

A nice, juicy burger certainly doesn't require anything extra, but if you're feeling adventurous, try one of these ideas.

  • "Gonna sound weird, but slather some chunky peanut butter on the top bun. Just cheese, PB, meat and bread."
  • "Add cheese curds instead of sliced cheese."
  • "Pineapple slice, basil and BBQ sauce."
  • "Put the chips in the burger. Make it crunchy."
  • "Mix ground beef with a few chopped scallions or green onion, one egg, breadcrumbs and Worcestershire sauce."

6. Pasta

one-pot pasta

The possibilities are endless when it comes to pasta. You can make it a one-pot meal, or you can easily amp up plain noodles. Try one of these flavorful upgrades to simple pasta dressed with garlic and olive oil.

  • "Add fennel seeds, dried thyme, red pepper flakes... If available add a fistful of spinach."
  • "Throw some finely grated parmesan and a few shakes of red pepper flakes on top of that and you've got one of my favorites."
  • "Add frozen peas or mixed veggies to the pot, about 5 minutes before the pasta's done."
  • "Throw in a few very finely chopped anchovies. Sounds gross, tastes amazing. Be sure to be very, very generous with the freshly grated Parmesan just before serving."
  • "I might also add a few minced anchovies and a big handful of breadcrumbs fried with the garlic, and stir in a bunch of minced flat-leaf parsley to finish."

7. Breakfast

hash brown egg muffins

Don't forget the most important meal of the day. As much as I love my bowl of Cheerios, it's always nice to have a hot breakfast every now and then, and it doesn't have to be complicated.

  • "For scrambled eggs, add about 1TB per egg of chive and onion cream cheese along with a pinch of salt and fresh ground pepper when you drop in the eggs. Makes them soft and creamy. Yum!"
  • "Buttermilk in the pancake batter."
  • "Put some Oreos in your pancake batter and thank me later."
  • "Eggs - add salsa! Straight out of the jar. Or add cheese and frozen veggies for a quick omelette."

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