We’re obsessed with cookbooks and recipes, but knowing a few versatile dishes by heart makes cooking a lot more fun and can be priceless on busy nights. Here are some of our favorite go-to’s to get you started:
Broth, the kitchen workhorse that’s basically free:
Learn the basic formula for homemade chicken broth or veggie broth and say goodbye to food waste and hello to flavor. Homemade broth adds rich flavor to tons of sides like pilafs and steamed veggies, and of course, makes a great starter for soups.
Greens are gold:
By now, you’ve probably heard “eat your leafy greens” as many times as you’ve tied your shoes, and that’s fine for the salad lover in all of us. But the biggest nutritional boost comes from dark greens like collards, kale and spinach. Master cooking these without the mush and you’ll find them on your dinner table far more often than before. Here’s a basic greens recipe, and one with bacon and a little spice or fancied up with shallots. Make extra to mix into casseroles or omelets the next day. And once you’ve got the basics, move on to a customer favorite: Greens with Carrots, Feta Cheese and Brown Rice.
A few good salad dressings:
Homemade salad dressings are simple to make and often healthier (and tastier!) than the bottled stuff. Mastering good vinaigrette is priceless! Try classics like Buttermilk Ranch, Honey Mustard and Creamy Roquefort, or add something new to your arsenal with Sesame Garlic Dressing. Bonus: with just a few tweaks, these become great dips or marinades.
Basic roast chicken and a few fun variations:
For versatility and leftover yumminess, it’s tough to beat basic roast chicken. Have fun with marinades, seasonings and rubs, and be sure to use the oven time for a pan of roasted veggies or skillet of cheddar biscuits. For faster cooking times, try these variations that cut the whole chicken into pieces: Lemon-Herb Chicken and Peruvian-Style Roasted Chicken.
Having a couple casseroles in your mental recipe box makes weeknight meals a snap. Plus, they’re pretty forgiving in terms of measurements and ingredient combos. Once you’ve got the basics down, experiment with what’s in your pantry, fridge and spice cabinet. Start with favorites like Broccoli, Rice and Cheese Casserole, try an autumn twist using butternut squash and macaroni and impress breakfast guests with this savory sausage breakfast casserole. For a hearty dinner with a wholesome twist, try New King Ranch Casserole.
A couple party-ready dips and spreads:
Knowing how to whip up a homemade dip or spread can save you lots of money and needless ingredients typically associated with packaged dips. Leftovers make instant snacks and are great on sandwiches and in wraps, too. Go elegant with smoked salmon or garlicky goat cheese dip, get a little healthier with hummus or white bean spread, or embrace the ease of pimiento cheese and this dill-ightfully simple variation.
What recipes do you know by heart? Which are the handiest, and why? Tell me in the comments below.