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14 Easy Meal Upgrades For Impossibly Lazy Cooks

Transform boxed mac 'n' cheese – and more – with five ingredients or less. Mom would be so proud.

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a. Three-Ingredient Shepherd's Pie Topped with Ramen

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt /

Just add: Ground beef, onion, frozen peas.

Brown some ground beef, toss in chopped onions and peas, top with ramen – then stick everything in the broiler until the noodles are crisp. Get the recipe.

b. Ramen with Fresh Veggies & Egg

Just add: Egg, mushrooms, green onions, spinach. (Optional: Sriracha or chili paste.)

Give this dish a fancy finish by carefully cracking an egg into the hot broth and letting it poach. Or, even easier? Crack an egg, break the yolk, and slowly stir – you'll get instant egg ribbons, like in egg drop soup. Get the recipe.


a. Mac 'n' Cheese with Red Onion and Crispy Breadcrumbs

Just add: Butter, red onion, parsley, breadcrumbs.

While your mac 'n' cheese is cooking, saute some red onions in butter – then combine everything in an oven dish. Top with breadcrumbs and parsley and bake. Get the recipe.


b. Mac 'n' Cheese with Chicken, Chiles, and Salsa Verde

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt /

Just add: Shredded chicken, green chiles, salsa verde. (Optional toppings: scallions, cilantro.)

Canned green chiles and store-bought salsa verde make this dish incredibly easy to assemble. You can also add in some rotisserie chicken – just use what you need, and save the rest for leftovers. Get the recipe.

c. Chipotle Black Bean Mac 'n' Cheese

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt /

Just add: Black beans, chopped chipotles. (Optional toppings: scallions, cilantro.)

The black beans are full of protein, which totally justifies eating mac 'n' cheese more often than you already do. Get the recipe.

Here's the thing about frozen taquitos: It's all about the sauce.

Instantly dress up these store-bought staples by topping them with fresh salsa or dip – which can be made in the time it takes to defrost and cook taquitos in the oven.


b. Spicy Guacamole with Pineapple

Just add: Avocado, onion, cilantro, pineapple chunks, lime. (Optional, for some heat: chili – or your spice of choice.)

Sweet pineapple, creamy avocado, and a kick of heat? Yeah. Triple batch, please. Get the recipe.

c. Smoky Black Bean Dip with Lime

Just add: Black beans, lime, canned chipotle chiles, cotija cheese, cilantro.

The recipe pairs this dip with tortilla chips – but taquitos are even better. Pour canned black beans and chipotle chiles into a saucepan, heat them through, then blend in a processor until smooth. (Or mix by hand, and enjoy as a side.) Top with lime juice, cheese, and cilantro.


b. Quesadilla with Sauteed Kale & Cheddar

Just add: Kale, olive oil, garlic. (Optional: fresh herbs.)

Sneak some greens into your quesadilla by adding kale cooked in garlic and olive oil. The recipe makes these on a grill, but you can also use a stove top. Don't like kale? Spinach works, too – just don't cook it as long.

c. Teriyaki Chicken Quesadilla

Just add: Chicken breast (or rotisserie chicken), teriyaki sauce.

Coat the chicken with teriyaki sauce (the recipe calls for a homemade version – but store-bought works just as well), then shred it with two forks. Pile onto a tortilla, sprinkle with cheese, then cook until everything is perfectly melty.