A roast chicken that has been brined, notice shiny skin. Photos by Donna Turner Ruhlman

[Update 1/16: Winners have been chosen; their dishes are at the bottom of this post.]

Two and a half years ago, I wrote a post on staple meals because I’m fascinated by what people eat at home when they don’t want to think about what to make, what their go-to, middle-of-the-week meal is, because they are invariably quick, efficient, economical, and well, good enough to eat once a week forever. (I think they also tell us a lot about who we are).

The woman who has been cutting my hair for 12 years, three kids 16 and younger, husband not always at home, an “I don’t have a lot of time” mom. She makes chicken legs on a small rotisserie, and will do lamb or steak, with beans and rice.  Soup once a week with what’s in the fridge (lamb or chicken bones for the brown, with leftover, pasta, rice, veg). Fresh vegetables are hardest because of the prep time she told me.

For us, it’s a stir fry, or THE best all purpose meal, roast chicken. Roast chicken, baked potato and baked cauliflower with brown butter, all thrown into the oven at the same time and then, well, what to do? It takes an hour, what on earth to do with all that time? It’s up to you.

Afterward, I pick beans and boil them, though they can be roasted too, with whole cloves of garlic, cumin and red pepper.

Chicken that has been given an aggressive salting before roasting.

I like to hear about those special preparations for holidays or fancy dinner parties—the home-cured ham, the torchon au foie gras, the butter poached lobster with beets and leeks—but how we eat day to day, what we cook for our family in the middle of the week, is what interests me.

In order to learn more about what we eat, I’m asking again, with an incentive. Go try to buy my book Ruhlman’s Twenty on Amazon. Not to be had, alas (sold out, back in stock 2/22). But I’m giving away three copies here to those who describe their best staple meal in comments below. Please be more specific than “roast chicken” or “steak fajitas,” and list the entire menu, details of cooking or seasoning are welcome but not required. If you want to be in the drawing, leave an actual email (it won’t leave my site, promise) so that I can contact you if you’re one of the randomly chosen three. (I must add with my apologies that I can only ship within the US, customs and costs are too much; but feel free to comment anyway, I still want to know what you eat in India or England or Australia!) If you want to enter more than once, you may but it has to be a bonafide staple meal. Also, please note if it fits a special category: vegetarian, gluten-free, or vegan. Winners will be announced here and on Twitter via my account @ruhlman on Monday.

So: what’s for dinner?

Update 1/16: Comments for the giveaway are now closed.  Many thanks to all for making this such a fascinating ride through American dinner time.

The following winners have been chosen by Random.org:

Bradley January 16, 2012 at 7:38 am

As for a recipe I…
-sweat about half of a yellow onion diced.
-add some garlic and chili flake
-add 1 cup arborio or carnaroli
-stir and toast or risollet the rice
-add about 1/3 c wine
-reduce wine
-cover with stock
-cook over med high heat adding stock as needed throughout
-When the rice is done I add whatever I want: peas, mushrooms, radicchio, etc.
-I finish the rice with a lot of butter 3T or more and whatever cheese I have if any, I

I cook my rice on pretty high heat and I can crank it out in 25 minutes easy. I dont stir the hell out of it because I buy good rice and the starch is released as the rice is self agitated by the bubbling.

Judie B. January 12, 2012 at 11:03 am

Since my husband’s heart by-pass surgery, I try to serve fish twice a week. He loves spicy things,so I make up big batches of artichoke caponata and puttanesca and divide them up into small freezer containers. Depending on the fish purchased at the fish store, one of these sauces will be served with it ( usually halibut, grouper or swordfish) which has been grilled or pan sauteed. First, we always have a mixed green salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, red onion and beans (usually black) tossed with my home-made shallot/garlic vinaigrette. Veggies (whatever looked good at the store) cooked in the microwave are served on the side. The second fish we always have is salmon. My favorite way to prepare that is to coat it with a mixture of equal parts Dijon and maple syrup and then roll it in finely chopped pecans and pan saute. Michael, we love Cleveland; we used to live in Chagrin Falls.

Josh January 11, 2012 at 10:57 am

Our go-to meal: skirt steak tacos with caramelized onions. Only a handful of ingredients (skirt steak, chipotles, garlic, onions, tortillas), most of which we have on hand all the time. We make a marinade by blending the garlic and the chipotles en adobo. Let that sit on the steak for 15-20 minutes. Cook it quickly under a broiler, rest, cut against the grain. Meanwhile, caramelize a couple white onions. Serve it all with warm tortillas, good beer, and, if we’re feeling ambitious, homemade guacamole. It’s an awesome, simple meal.

The other go-to would be lemon pasta. We make a vinaigrette of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, parm, good olive oil. Cook whatever pasta we have on hand and toss it in the dressing.


If you liked this post on Staple Meals, check out these other links:

  • Stay at Stove Dad is a blog about dads who cook for their families written by John Donohue, a New Yorker editor, journalist, and sometime cartoonist.
  • Looking for some new recipes and interesting articles, have a look at Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen.
  • 2011 food trends shared by Food Tech Connect.

© 2012 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved


605 Wonderful responses to “Ruhlman’s Twenty Giveaway!
What’s Your Best Staple Meal?”

  • Drew Mankin

    A favorite midweek meal that I prepare for my family is Chicken Picatta. The dish is easily put together in a snap and the aromas that permeate from the kitchen get everyone’s jowls salivating. I start by creating my dredge mixture of half Italian bread crumbs, half AP flour, salt, and white pepper. I create a quick egg wash then I pound out three chicken breasts. I dredge the chicken breasts in the bread crumb mixture, then in the egg wash, and back one more time in the bread crumb mixture. I start a pot of boiling salted water for spaghetti noodles and start pan frying the chicken breasts on the stove top in a moderate amount of oil. After the chicken breasts are done I usually keep them warm in the oven while I finish the sauce on the stove top. Using the same pan I cooked the chicken breasts in minus the oil I add shallots and capers. After the shallots are translucent I add lemon, white wine, and chicken stock. I deglaze the pan, bring the mixture to a boil, and remove it from the heat at which time I finish the sauce with a couple of tablespoons of butter. Usually the Chicken Picatta is served over the spaghetti along with a small dinner salad. During the long work week the comforting feeling of briny capers, fried chicken, and pasta makes it so much easier to get back to the grind the next day not to mention a great night sleep.

  • Melissa Pritchett

    I grew up in Japan so my staple meal is usually something Japanese, my favorite is Oyako Donburi which is chicken and onions simmered in a savory soy and mirin sauce, add a beaten egg and some greens (like spinach just til it wilts) and pour over a steamy rice bowl. Ah, that’s heaven in a bowl! My hubby is Italian so my other staple meal is one steak grilled med-rare and sliced on top of arugula salad with sliced red onion and an Italian pesto dressing. He LOVES that and could probably eat it every night! He who says “Salad is what food eats!” I first made it because we couldn’t afford two steaks or much else so I bought one and sliced it up over salad to make it go further. Luckily our son loves both Italian and Japanese food!

  • Jamie

    My husband and I shop vegetarian, and although we always plan a few meals a week that are full of fresh vegetables, the end of the week usually finds us with empty crisper drawers. Enter the weekday fix: beans and chile and tortillas.

    For refritos, we boil the pinto beans ourselves. (Here’s what you do next: fry a diced onion until it’s soft, then add the cooked beans along with ground cumin, chile powder, and salt. Mash some of the beans, and add cooking liquid from the beans until you get the consistency you like.) Or for an even easier bean, cooked canned black beans in their liquid with ground cumin, salt, and a chipotle or two until the liquid has thickened.

    While the beans cook, make a red or green chile. (That can be as easy as buying a packet of dried red chile mix and making the directions on the packet, but we are nerds who get frozen Hatch chiles shipped to us from New Mexico. This is our grand solution to having vegetables on hand all the time. In that case, fry a diced onion in cumin seed, then whisk in 2 Tbs of flour, add chopped green chile to taste—we use about 1 cup of it—fire roasted crushed tomatoes, 1 cup or so of vegetable stock or water, oregano, and salt, and cook until bubbly and thickened.)

    Last, the tortillas, which we just buy and heat on a griddle. Whim dictates whether the final ingredients are assembled in smothered burrito form, or just piled into a bowl with tortillas on the side. If we’ve got things like queso or avocados, we will of course use them, but this is a meal that accommodates very bare larders.

    This staple isn’t just a question of ease and ingredients: since we grew up around Denver and Albuquerque but have since moved away, it also really functions as comfort food.

  • Irene

    Lentils and Sausages.
    Specifics: cook green (Puy) lentils in well salted water with aromatics: half or whole onion (not chopped), bay leaf, thyme. When cooked through (but still whole)……brown sausages in a dribble of olive oil. Once all sides are a nice color, add lentils (strained if necessary and aromatics removed, save cooking liquor if you want), a handful of cherry tomatoes and some chopped herbs (sage is great). Let it bubble away until the toms have popped. finish with a cube of veal stock (optional), taste for salt and a healthy drizzle of olive oil just before serving.

    Variations come from changing herbs, or adding wilt-worthy greens to the mix (like spinach), and from changing the sausages. I usually prepare 2X the lentils I will need for one night and freeze the other half so next time I don’t have to wait for the lentils to cook. If you have the lentils already ready this is a 20 minute one pot wonder.

  • Dan Kane

    Every Sunday I roast a chicken.This trend began after reading the Zuni Cafe Cookbook which i bought due to recommendations from this blog. The chicken is typically accompanied by sweet potato fries that are coated in paprika, cayenne pepper, and fresh rosemary from the garden. The chicken is served on baby spinach and many times I have Symon’s zucchini crudo on the side.

  • margaret christine perkins

    I raise chickens, and always have fresh veggies of some sort in the garden, so eggs or some type of egg dish is a staple go-to. Another one that I love is a dish I discovered in Jacque Pepin’s autobiography. Poached eggs are at the bottom of a bowl piled with whole grain pasta, ground black pepper, a few shavings of pecorino cheese and maybe some fresh chopped herbs. I think I’ll go make that NOW!

  • Michael Lyon

    If I want to make something up pretty quick I will make a roasted tomato marinara sauce and combine it with whatever pasta I have on hand and if I have some milk in the fridge I will make it “creamy”. Nice because all you really need are good canned tomatoes, garlic, onions and some dried herbs (and vodka)

  • burkie

    i really like a saltimbocca. it’s quick, simple, and provides one of the best bread-sopping sauces there is. i never use veal, though. i’ll pound down & then brown some chicken breast, or turkey cutlets, or pork loin medallion. the addition of some prosciutto, capers, lemon, stock, white wine, sage, butter–that’s some good eating.

  • T. Scott Johnson

    I try to mix things up a bit, since my lunches are usually pretty bland. But a dish that I’ve made a lot is polenta with a marinara sauce, fresh basil, and either sausage or a fried egg on top. To accompany it, a salad with fresh spinach, grape tomatoes, walnuts, shredded carrot, a balsamic vinaigrette and orange zest.

    Since the polenta is the most involved aspect of the dinner I usually mix up the salad and cook the sauce (and sausage, if that’s the choice of the night) first, waiting until the last minute to dress the salad. If I don’t have a batch of the sauce handy in my freezer, I find that a can of diced tomatoes, some salt, basil, pasted garlic, and a dash of sugar can get a decent sauce underway in less than 10 minutes.

    I vary between a mixture of milk and water or stock for my polenta, but I always finish it with a gratuitous helping of parmigiano, white pepper, and butter. If I opt for the fried egg finish, I can usually convince my girlfriend, Erin (who would eat a leather shoe if it had a fried egg on it) , to do the stirring for the polenta. I usually figure that between 30 and 40 minutes is enough time for a decent consistency.

    All told, I can usually get a dinner with a meagre amount of veggies and plenty of creamy happiness on the table in about an hour.

  • Pat L.

    my go to dinner are all fast easy to prepare maybe ten minutes fifteen tops one of my favorites is i put water on for instant chinese noodles whatever flavour looks good toss some frozen corn an good amount of butter salt pepper into frying pan put lid on give it a toss once in awhile throw some frozen shrimp or fish fillets in another pan with butter on high this i watch take top an bottom off head of garlic roll it in my hand to get the cloves toss them in season salt pepper couple dashs white wine vinegar fish is done take it an garlic out add milk or cream reduce it till it thickens by then noodles done pour fish/shrimp an sauce over them add corn its time to eat 🙂 the veg could be anything the noodles could be nuked potatos the fish could be beef or chicken with other seasonings but always with a sauce or gravy lol

  • Mary Reiten

    My go to meal is thin sliced (1/4 inch) pork chops, and roasted potatoes and broccoli with greek yogurt. Frankly, and thinly sliced meat, fish, mushroom or other cutlet will do and sometime I use salmon or chicken breast instead of pork chops. Simply salt and pepper them and fry them for a few minutes on each side until brown. But first you want to get the potatoes and broccoli in the oven. My oven’s sweet spot for high heat is 425 – I dont know if the temp actually is at 425, that’s just the setting that seems to work. While the oven is preheating I cut the potatoes into steak fries size and trim the broccoli down to florets. They go onto a jelly roll pan and I then toss them with olive oil, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper. They go into the oven for 20 minutes and I go have a glass of wine. After 20 minutes I turn them with a spatula and and set the time for another 20. During this last half of cooking I fry up the pork. Everything gets served with plain greek yogurt which in our house substitutes for sour cream.

  • John Webster

    My mother, of Italian descent, simply called it Italian Chicken and Potatoes. A whole roasted chicken washed well then added lots of salt in the cavity. She would rub the whole chicken with olive oil. Heavily sprinkle with salt and pepper, oregano, basil and parsley towards the end. She would cut up potatoes and add salt, pepper, olive oil and oregano. Roasted at 375 for and hour or so. I still make this dish today. It takes 5 minutes to prepare and is a breeze to make. The potatoes come out slightly crispy and “gummy” on the edges. Reminds me of my childhood and my mother. Everyone I’ve made this for think it is some type of complicated, multi-ingredient, multi-step recipe.

  • Jess

    Seriously basic staple meal: poached eggs over spicy black beans & tomatoes w/ a crumble of goat cheese. We always have black beans, always have tomatoes with chiles, always have eggs, and almost always have goat cheese. If the fridge is well-stocked, I’ll add some crisped bacon or chicken sausage, add some onion and cumin to the beans, throw some cilantro leaves on top….endless possibilities, 15 minutes.

  • Cory

    1 pkg top ramen
    1 handful of frozen mix vegetables(Highly recommend stir fry combination)
    1 Tbs of grated cheese.(Good old American Cheddar is good)
    1/2 teaspoon Herbs De Provence.

    Pour water in pot, add spices from Top Ramen pkg, break Top Ramen in half, and heat up the water. As soon as it starts boiling, throw in the frozen vegetables for 3 minutes. Drain water from noodles, and pour back in pot. Add Herbs De Provence, and cheese, stir until cheese is melted.
    Feel smug and secure and how amazed your friends at how tasty this 10 minute dish is.

  • Ohiogirl

    My brain dead meal is chicken in a pot – in the crockpot. No, the skin does not get crispy, but the meat is incredibly tender, the juice/soup intense. We’ll get two meals out of it straight and then I’ll take the remaining breast half and turn it into chicken pot pies with a biscuit crust – or cook it all with much more water and vegetables and turn it into true chicken soup.

    During the winter I do tons of soups – lentil vegetable, split pea – as they can boil on the stove with very little attention and give us – and our neighbors – food for days.

    During the summer I turn everything I can into a salad : )

  • james

    Not to be unoriginal but i probably make the roast chicken in the Bouchon cookbook 2-3x a month. Such a simple preparation that always comes out well. My wife and daughter have food allergies to wheat, dairy, and soy, so the chicken works with just salt, pepper, olive oil, and herbs. i’ll make a mashed potatoes seasoned with chicken stock, olive oil, salt, pepper, and parsley, and some kind of veg (usually green beans steamed in a steamer over the pot the potatoes are boiling in) then sauteed with shallots. In the summer when i have time i brine the chicken and roast it on the grill. Awesome!

  • Deborah

    chicken piccata–saute boneless thighs that have been tossed with a little seasoned flour till cooked, deglaze with white wine, add the juice of several lemons and a drained bottle of capers, always great and always welcome–the usual sides are couscous tossed with chopped herbs and pine nuts toasted in olive oil, and sauteed swiss chard both of which taste great when the pan sauce mixes with them.

  • Edwad

    My wife often claims, that was a great meal, you’ll never cook it again. But while I do like to experiment, at least three times a month I find myself making spaghetti. I sautee onion, celery, carrots (both sliced and grated), garlic, and mushrooms. Then add whole Cento San Marzano tomatoes, which I crush by hand. If I have fresh basil I use a bit of it along with oregano. I often add some ground beef which I brown, drain, and then add some cream to and simmer down. The pasta is normally spaghetti from Trader Joes. I usually make a slight variation or two, but for some reason I never get tired of this meal.

  • Andy Brooks

    I am a firefighter and this is a go to meal that I can throw together on any day at the station and make everyone happy. It is simply what we call hot spaghetti. Although it has bottled/premade sauce, and spaghetti may be a reoccurring theme here, I gotta go with it. I like to up the flavor factor of the sauce with my own additions. Super simple, super fast and the guys absolutely love it. I make large portions because they all can eat like horses. And the heat seems to make you want to eat more, maybe subconsciously telling your mouth “it abates the heat.”
    2 packs16 oz whole wheat spaghetti
    2-3 lbs ground beef
    2 Bottles Spaghetti sauce (****) Chunky garden style
    1 onion
    5-6 cloves garlic
    4 Habanero peppers (frozen)
    Salt/ pepper to taste
    Olive oil
    Loaf Italian Bread (if available)
    Start a big pot of water to cook the noodles. Chop the onions and garlic, cook onions in olive oil until translucent, toss in garlic and cook for couple more minutes. Add the ground beef and brown with onions and garlic (I drain the fat off the beef—need to keep my guys healthy). Finely chop the frozen habaneros (I have access to disposable gloves and strongly suggest using them) and add to the browned meat. Water should be boiling now, add the noodles. Add the (Spaghetti sauce) to the meat and let that cook while the spaghetti cooks. Should be heated and ready in about ten minutes if timed right—total time approx 20 minutes! Drain the spaghetti and add to the meat sauce. Serve and enjoy.
    We like to eat it with some Italian bread and lots of butter—the fat in the butter absorbs the heat (letting you eat more). I like the fact that the habaneros go virtually unnoticed as far as flavor, but the heat is so intense it raises the experience to another level. I have converted many to eating hot foods with this simple recipe, people who normally say “I don’t like hot food.” I hope someone gives this a try; you and your friends will enjoy it.

    • Andy Brooks

      I should add that 4 habaneros make the dish quite hot. Start with one to find your tolerance level.

  • Paule-Marie

    My go to meal is spaghetti sauce over pasta or rice – sometimes spaghetti squash. My Italian grandmother taught me to cook and it is so easy to make sauce without having to depend on the bottled stuff (though I do like the Clasico basil and tomato if I am really pressed for time and I doctor that up too). I will also throw a chicken vegie soup when I get home from work.

  • elly

    For us, I would say it’s chicken marsala. Whenever I ask my husband if he has any special requests for the week, he either says “I don’t know/care” or “chicken marsala.” Sigh. I make mine with double the mushrooms of normal marsala dishes, and also add a bit of sherry. I serve it with romano orzo pilaf (saute a small amount of onions & garlic in butter, add the orzo to toast up, cook it in chicken broth similar to rice, and then stir in a handful of pecorino romano. We always have it with a green vegetable, but that varies based on what’s in season. This last time we had it (a week ago, of course!) was with roasted brussels sprouts.

  • mpw280

    Grilled pork seasoned with Penzeys Bicentennial Rub, sweet chilies halved and grilled, sweet onions sliced thick and grilled then put in a heated flour tortilla with hot sauce with mexican style cheese and sour cream. Can be done on the stove top grill pan or on the outside grill depending on the weather. The pork grilled with the Bicentennial Rub is good with a salad as well, so we eat a lot of it. mpw

  • Dan

    I’m with @Melissa Pritchett on the donburi, but in our case the go-to meal is gyuudon. Thinly-sliced beef, shiitake, and onions simmered in soy sauce, dashi, and mirin over rice. My wife would divorce me if I ever stopped making it.

  • Robyn

    A roasted pork tenderloin in a sweet and spicy glaze. It’s so easy and fast on a weeknight but tastes restaurant quality. Preheat the oven to 350-400, depending on your oven. Then season a whole pork tenderloin with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, then sear it on all sides in a hot stainless steel or cast iron pan (make sure it’s oven safe). Then I put the pan with the pork in it directly in the oven for 20 min. or less– use a meat thermometer and pull it at about 135 degrees. This is the key! It is perfectly safe to eat pork cooked medium and it is SO much more juicy, tender and flavorful. It also makes it a super fast weeknight meal. The USDA even recently released a new temp guideline, though I still think it’s a bit high: http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/blogs/editor/2011/05/pork-temp.html Cooking to this temp happens in no time if you sear first. My other trick is I take the pork out and remove it to a plate, then put the skillet back on the stovetop over med. high heat. I add some balsamic vinegar and some kind of fancy jam (last time I used a Thai Plum Ginger jelly that I had on hand that had a nice kick of heat) and deglaze the pan, letting it reduce down to a glaze that I pour over the pork. If it tastes too intense or sweet I add a little water. Depending on what kind of jam or jelly I used I’ll add some red pepper flakes to spice it up. That’s it– I serve it alongside a simple salad, a baked potato, or if I have more time some garlic mashed potatoes. You can have this on the table in about 30 minutes.

  • Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie)

    My go to meal? That would be seafood or fish. Last night it was basa pan fried in butter with diced onions and sliced almonds right in the pan so they can toast at the same time. Serve with my home frozen charcoal grilled corn coblets. And some brown basmati rice scented with cinnamon.

  • Joanne

    I inherited a Romertopf clay baker and I am a big one pot meal fan. Walk in the door with a chicken in the grocery bag. It’s Romertopf chicken time! While the pot is soaking, chop up onions, carrots celery, a bag of frozen artichoke hearts and whatever is around. Some fresh or dried thyme. Salt and pepper a chicken inside and out. Nestle on top of of the veggies, maybe toss a quartered onion and garlic inside the cavity and more aromatics.

    I love that you don’t have to wait for the oven to preheat and waste energy. Toss the clay cooker into the cold oven and set to 425-450.

    Spend 45 minutes to tidy the kitchen and relax.

    I find that my chicken is nicely brown and has crispy skin when I remove the lid and the broth gently bubbling around the chicken. I still give it a little 10-15 blast of direct heat to crisp up the skin even more! Check internal temp, done!

    I have dinner and leftovers for a couple of meals or the base for a hearty soup for later in the week or I freeze the broth for later meals.

    This is just the basic recipe, there are lots of variations based on what you have in the fridge or pantry.

  • Kathleen O'Neill

    My staple meal is sauteed onions, an idaho potato and scrambled eggs. I own a catering coming outside of Detroit and work with food
    all week. There is nothing more satisfying than gently cooking a large onion in just the right amount of olive oil and then adding a diced Idaho potato. I have perfected this cooking ritual. The onion is starting to brown when i add the small diced potatoes. I give them a gentle stir and then walk away and open my mail. I get impatient watching that potato cook. I am back at the stove to pour two scrambled eggs over the onions and potatoe mixture and then it all comes together . It is just the right texture. Potato, eggs and onion…the perfect trio

  • Steve-Anna

    One day I was standing at the seafood counter at my favorite market, looking and feeling puny, and the seafood guy asked me what I wanted.

    “What fish do you think is the most like comfort food?” I asked.
    “Hands down, cod.”
    “How would you prepare it?”
    “Coat it in a little olive oil, salt and pepper, sprinkle with bread crumbs, or not, and add a little pat of butter on top. Bake it at 350 for about 15 minutes.”

    He picked out a nice cod filet for me, and I went straight home and made it like he told me to. I gave it a quick toast under the broiler at the end to brown the bread crumbs. It was almost as comforting as mac and cheese, only healthier!

    Since then, I’ve started adding yellow and red grape tomatoes (whole), and some asparagus. The veggies cook perfectly in time with the fish, adding color, citrus flavor and rounding out the meal. It takes all of 5 minutes to prep and 15 minutes to cook – the definition of an easy, go-to meal for me.

  • Terra

    Fried Rice! Infinitely adaptable, always seasonal, and flexible enough for vegetarian me, carnivore husband, and pescetarian son. I always make a little extra rice when I’ve actually planned a meal, and then cool and freeze it so we always have some ready to go. I can walk in the door from work and have this on the table in 15 minutes if I need to.

    I usually throw in the remnants from the veggie drawer – carrots, bits of leftover onion and bok choy, brussels sprouts or whatever. Sometimes I make it really gingery and dry, sometime with lots of garlic, soy and a little rice vinegar – I’ve even done it with mexican or greek flavors. Frozen veggies or canned bamboo and artichokes work well in a pinch, and I can separately heat whatever leftover proteins we have and toss them into individual bowls. The only thing I ever have to actually prep is the garlic and fresh ginger.

  • Michele Linkoski

    Best go to meal is portabella burgers. We saute onions and peppers with salt/pepper and olive oil. Remove from the pan and add sliced portabellas and worcestershire. Melt a little cheese and put on the bun with lettuce/tomato. A perfect, fast, no mess meal!! 🙂

  • Landon

    One of our staples is pasta with roasted potatoes, broccoli rabe and rosemary.

    Cut the potatoes (small red or yellow) into quarters and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and minced garlic. Cook in a 425-degree oven for 30 min. or so. Meanwhile, toss the broccoli rabe (although broccoli works as well) in olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. Add the broccoli rabe to the pan of potatoes. I usually just put it on top. Sprinkle fresh rosemary over the mixture. Roast for an addition 15 min. or so. I usually just look for the color I want on the broccoli rabe.
    On the stove, heat your water for the pasta. In a small pan, heat olive oil and minced garlic over medium heat. Just before the pasta is ready, add a sprig of rosemary to the oil but remove the sprig before serving. Mix the pasta with the potato/broccoli rabe and garlic rosemary oil. Top with Parmesan.

  • Alain Roy

    My go-to staple meal when I have a little bit of time is homemade pizza. I make it about once a week, though it is often on the weekend.

  • darius

    Ever since my Endocrinologist took me off all soy products (and soy additives) and has me choosing meats that are only grass-fed, my Go-To Meal is extremely mundane and would bore everyone to tears. Fortunately, I’m elderly and live alone!

    My Go-To is a grass-fed ground beef patty (the least expensive of the available grass-fed meats), jazzed up by whatever I can find in the house… mushrooms, shallots, blue cheese, chilies or whatever (even anchovy butter).

    To Go-With, in summers I throw any kind of sliced summer squash into a pan with shredded coconut and browned butter, with sliced garden tomatoes in a green salad on the side. In winter my sides tend to be a roasted a sweet potato, butternut squash or a quick steamed gluten-free grain, and a steamed green veggie, often green beans I’ve frozen from my garden, topped with herbs and/or a little Parmesan.

  • elisa petrini

    1) pork chops sauteed with garlic, sauerkraut, and hot pepper; baked sweet potato on the side
    2) squid with greens–cooks in minutes
    3) scallops, siiced on the horizontal, with pesto on the center, lightly sauteed in olive oil–takes minutes
    4) chicken livers broiled with soy sauce, cinnamon,and garlic or sauteed with garlic and peppers
    5) bean soup topped with toast scrubbed with a clove of garlic and parmesan cheese
    i always have a pot of brown rice and dishes of cooked veggies in the fridge to reheat quickly (cabbage sauteed with ginger and garlic; spicy peppers–1:1 jalapeno and bell pepper with tomato, garlic and basil) or eat cold (as in cauliflower salad with cream, red wine vinegar, cayenne, and basic or oregano)

  • Amanda

    Our go-to meal is fish in the pan with wild rice and greens. We keep frozen fish in the freezer at all times, and bluefish, salmon, or any whitefish will do. We also tend to cook a double portion of wild rice in the cooker when we have time, so that half can be frozen. After a quick defrost, the fish goes in teh pan after some shallots and garlic, then the rice when the fish is cooked, then something green– parsley or basil if it’s left over; greens from the CSA, or frozen spinach in a pinch. Thrown in some pine nuts, lemon and olive oil, and you’ve got a great one-pot meal.

  • Shiri

    A totally unsophisticated homemade franks and beans. I use Giada de Laurentiis’ recipe for “Italian Baked Beans” (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/italian-style-baked-beans-recipe/index.html) though I omit the beer and sub in free-range (organic if available) chicken stock. The balsamic and molasses really make it delicious. We always use uncured, preservative free hot dogs. I love it, my husband loves it, and my two year old shoves it in by the handful (with or without the meat). Usually do broccoli with olive oil and salt for the side.

  • Heather

    Growing up, we embraced our Polish and German heritage with a simple meal of kielbasa or Polish sausage and home fries. Living in Milwaukee, we could get delicious artisan sausage, so we rarely made ours from scratch except on holidays. The first time I made this meal for my husband was probably the day he decided I was worth marrying! At least a few times a month he requests this for his “comfort food.”

    To make, purchase the kielbasa or sausage of choice. I par-boil and then brown the sausages in the same pan as I cook the potatoes. For the potatoes, I slice on a mandolin for even cooking and brown in some oil and butter, seasoned simply with salt and pepper. Served with a favorite ketchup, it’s a filling and satisfying meal in about 30 minutes.

  • tyronebcookin

    Shake and Bake pork chops, macaroni and cheese (made with velveeta) and green beans…my mom used to make this for me and it was one of my favorite meals as a boy. I would make it for myself every now and then (just for good taste and memories) but now my wife likes to cook it for me because she knows its a favorite comfort food from childhood.

  • Sophie

    Huevos Rancheros, adapted to pantry contents.
    I buy pre-chopped onions (I know, but the ones from Trader Joes are so easy for a Tuesday at 5:30) and saute while I open the can of rotel tomatoes with green chiles.If I have any sweet peppers or zuchinni, I dice those and add to the sauteeing onions. Add the tomatoes and a tabelspoon of minced garlic (also bottled I admit many nights), stir and let all of the flavors meld and the excess tomato juice reduce. When the cooked salsa is thick, I add 3-4 eggs right into little holes that I make into the sauce. Cover and let simmer until the eggs are mostly cooked through. I heat low carb, high fiber tortillas in large pasta bowls in the microwave for 30 seconds, then put a good portion of the heated salsa with an egg or two (usally 1 for me and my toddler son, and 2 for my husband) then top with grated cheese (any kind, already shredded, crumbled feta, even mozzarella on occasion). If I have a nice avocado and cilantro in the fridge leftover from the weekend’s cooking, all the better!
    I can eat eggs 5 times a day, every day, but my husband mostly shuns them outside of breakfast. But this simple rendition of HR satisfies protein, carb and veggies and is warm and spicy, not to mention filling, cheap and quick! If I have leftover chicken or frozen shrimp and we need something more hearty, those are often added too!

  • Sophie

    I left out the spices I add to the simmering sauce! Cumin is a must, plus extra salt, pepper, chili powder, maybe a touch of oregano. Basically anything I would add to a chili:)

  • Lo-Retta

    1. Turkey burgers…ground turkey breast mixed with diced portabello mushroom, garlic and onion, egg white, generous amount of salt and black pepper….with a thin slice of swiss cheese melted over them….
    2. While cooking the burgers, brown some ground turkey and use for tacos later in the week.
    3. Hunk of meat, crock pot, apple cider vinegar, agave nectar, soy sauce, brown sugar, sirracha

  • Jenny

    Best staple meal – carbonara – I always have those ingredients on hand (hell I have enough food to feed our family for three months easy without going to the market – except for many milk and eggs).

  • Wendy

    I turn to the same staples my grandmother and great grandmother did, an Amish chicken corn soup complete with ribbles. My nana always called them ribbles, but they remind my husband and kids of little dumplings and the love them! I keep chicken stock on hand and usually use a roasted chicken that I can pick up at my grocery store in the deli. The soup is very easy. It is chicken stock, 6 diced, hard boiled eggs, a bag of frozen corn, celery and onions. Ribbles are made by beating one egg and adding enough flour to make a thick dough. The dough is dropped by very small amounts at a time into the simmering soup. Easy meal 30 minutes or less and always a crowd pleaser.

  • Matt

    In my I-don’t-care-about-my-diet youth, my staple diet was white rice, onion, minced garlic, ground beef or chicken breast and a brick of cheese. I’d fry it all up until the fat from the cheese and the starch from the rice was nice and crispy. Then I top it off with some canned black beans and rinsed in cold water and diced tomatoes as a counterpoint to the heated rice.

    Now, it’s usually quinoa, onion, garlic, one or two vegetables/legumes and just enough parm, romano or asiago to boost the flavor and add a hint of fat. No more meat (I’ve gone flexitarian), but I still top it off with cold black beans.


  • Wehaf

    I love to saute ground beef in olive oil, along with onions, garlic, bell peppers, tomatoes, sometimes carrots or spinach, and fresh basil. It’s delicious (you can add ground black pepper, thyme, oregano, or whatever spices you want), filling, ad extremely healthy. It makes great leftovers, too!

  • Madonna

    I have two. Because it is always quick. Baked fish with creme fraiche and two mustards with a salad, and my second is breakfast sunny-side up eggs with home fries, and sliced tomatoes, and toast soldiers.

  • Saffoula

    Greek-inspired baby back ribs (works well with lamb chops too), sauteed greens with garlic/olive oil/crushed red pepper flakes (or uncooked argula/spinach with olive oil/salt &pepper) and baked potatoes. For the ribs, season liberally with Lawry’s seasoned salt, pepper and dried oregano and let them sit out 1-2 hours before cooking. Preheat oven to 450. Broil ribs on high for about 8 minutes per side. Place ribs on a platter and squeeze the juice of 1 lemon all over. Tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut ribs up and serve on raw greens. Poor juices over meat. Serve extra lemon on the side. To kick start the potatoes, wash and microwave for about 9-10 minutes for 2. When meat is resting, finish in 350-375 oven.

  • Sarah Boede

    I always keep onions/peppers/mushrooms on hand. In fact, I can never remember how many are left in the fridge, so I tend to buy them more often that I need to. I started making this pasta dish when I was on a tight budget, but have continued to make it because I love it so much! I take a frying pan, and heat up 1/2″ of olive oil. To that I add chopped garlic (whatever’s on hand – a clove or the whole head) and two chopped onions. When they get soft, I add one boneless/skinless chicken breast, cut in cubes. Leftover rotisserie or whatever work too – I just add it at the end. When the chicken is half cooked, I add chopped green pepper & sliced mushrooms. Again – whatever is on hand. Lots of salt & pepper. When the chicken is cooked, if I have any dry white wine in the fridge, I finish the pan off with some vino. Everything it poured over a bed of pasta (linguine if available) and tossed. A rogue tomato might make it in the bowl as well, and topped with parm. Cheap/easy/garlickey – utterly delightful!

  • Suguna Vinodh

    Indian food
    Vegetarian most of the time.
    I am from south India and we eat vegetarian food most of the time. Meat in a lot of families is reserved only for Sunday lunch and it still is in most of the households in southern india. The go to food will be lentils with rice and a vegetable. Lentils is our way of getting protein as we don’t even consume eggs on a daily basis. We consume a lot of toor dal. It’s the pigeon pea. It would be interesting if I told u that almost all the households own a small pressure cooker or two. We always cook lentils in a pressure cooker as it saves time and is more economical as it also saves energy.
    The menu
    Tempered dal
    Pressure cook half a cup of dal in 2 cups of water. When the dal is getting ready,
    In 1 tbs of oil, temper quarter tsp each of mustard seeds,cumin seeds and turmeric. Add half a cup of onion and sautefor a couple of minutes until soft. Add a tomato, green chilli pepper and salt. Sauté for another couple of minutes. Add the cooked dal.
    Mix it with rice, add a tsp of melted butter on top and eat it with your hands. spoon is a taboo in our dining room.
    We always finish dinner with homemade yogurt mixed with rice.
    It’s supposed to be cooling. Rice would be served on a plate and yogurt would be served on top of rice. Mix it with your hands, lick the fingers and finish your meal……..
    Popadam or appalam as we call will be made once a week and stored in a plastic bag and would be served with each meal of lentils.

  • Peter

    For me, it’s got to be polenta. A three cheese polenta with a large salad is my go-to-dish on a busy night , but recently I have been doing a roasted mushroom polenta which works even better. I mix about a 1/2 pound of mushrooms, some shallots, olive oil salt and red pepper flakes and put them in a 475 oven for 20 minutes. I then make the polenta (I use milk and water in mine). When the mushrooms and the polenta are done, I mix about 1/2 cup of pecorino into the polenta, heat a skillet and quick fry some eggs sunny side up. I spoon the polenta into a bowl, cover with the mushrooms and some chopped chives, and then top with the runny egg. Salad fork and a spoon, and I am good to go in less than 30 minutes!

  • allen

    Gluten Free.
    I’m a good boy during the week so I can be bad on the weekend.
    I know the common theme is chicken, but mid week I am usually in a rush and go for the microwave at 4 min. max time.
    I quarter some brussel sprouts and add a few green beans and broccoli to a pyrex bowl, cover with water and microwave for 3 minutes. While that is heating I open a can of salmon (including bones and skin if it’s on) or tuna. Add some smoked almonds to a fold over sandwich bag and smash with w mason jar or wine bottle. Mince some garlic and zest a lemon.
    Drain the veggies, add a little brags faux soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, and a little sambal – toss, add flaked salmon or tuna and top with garlic, lemon zest, crushed smoked almonds, dried flaked seaweed,and maybe a few dried cranberries. It’s filling, healthy, flavorful and easy.

  • Ed

    All of the ideas posted so far are great and have given me new twists on how to do many of the meals we enjoy. Let me add another to the list:

    Meatloaf, Smashed Potatoes, Carrots and a salad.

    For the meatloaf, we throw together 1# ground beef, italian bread crumbs (if I don’t have any breadcrumbs I’ve saved from homemade bread in the freezer), garlic, s&p, italian herbs, egg, and dashes of worcestershire sauce and ketchup. In the oven it goes…

    In the pressure cooker, I bi-layer potatoes on the bottom insert, and carrots on the top and pressure cook them and use the natural release method.

    Salad is whatever greens and veggies are in the fridge. Dressing is the zest and juice of 1 lemon, 3 T mayo, 3 T olive oil, 1/2 cup grated Parm/Reggiano cheese, and freshly ground black pepper.

    Smash the potatoes w/butter, s&p, sour cream and GARLIC!

    Pull the meatloaf out and enjoy!

  • Anita

    Definitely vegetarian chili. The base recipe is all pantry staples: onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, canned tomatoes, frozen or canned corn, and canned beans. I use fresh corn in season, and throw in whatever else I have on hand and need to use up (often mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, and/or peas). The whole thing cooks in a half-hour, and it can sit on the stove until the rest of the meal is ready. If I have time, I make a pot of brown rice to go with the chili, but just as often we eat this with quinoa or couscous. It’s perfect with a little salad on the side and a little cheese to sprinkle on top of the chili. Best yet, this dinner works for both the adults and the kids in my household.

  • Ava Catau

    Portuguese Kale Soup

    It’s not a quick meal, but I make it on Sundays in the winter to enjoy throughout the week. It always tastes best the next day, and nothing is better than coming home form a long day’s work to a hot bowl of this hearty and delicious homemade soup.

    In a large stock pot, saute onions, garlic, and paprika in olive oil until caramelized. Add Portuguese chourico, any cheap cut of beef, and soaked dried beans, cover with water and simmer for hours until the beans and beef are tender. Add chopped potatoes, carrots, and lots and lots of collard greens. Once tender, turn off the heat and add a handful of orzo pasta.

  • Christy

    My staple meal during farmers market season is a roast chicken with all of the veggies in the pan as well. I make a quick compound butter, rub it under the skin. Rough chop a few potatoes, onions, summer squash, carrots, whatever I can find in my fridge. I put a quartered lemon in the cavity of the chicken, veggies all around. If there is any leftover compound butter, that goes with the veggies. Pour about a cup of homemade chicken stock in with everything, stick it in the oven and dinner is ready in about a hour. I serve it with pan juices instead of gravy. It is super easy, always looks fancy if we have company, and I only have one pan to wash afterward. I have a very bad knee and I love one pot or one pan meals.

  • Teslaca

    Omelets are a common, quick dinner around here. I always have eggs. I can use up leftover vegetables and cheese as fillings and make a quick side of salad with some bread.

    This was a great question to ask; I’ve enjoyed reading all the responses and got some great ideas from them!

  • Patrick Barnes

    Go to when we can’t think of anything for supper and it’s past 3PM:
    Boneless chicken breasts on the Weber Performer! Pound them a little with my Official Ruhlman Pounder. Dust with a little rub of choice and a quick grille over hot coals. Cast iron skillet on grille for onions and poblano pepeprs then the flour tortillas,also on the grille. Of course,quacamole. I keep a good suply of CBs in the freezer vacuum packed for quick defrost in the sink.

  • Hugo

    Mid week college survival food:
    Lightning Quick:
    Aglio e olio – Pasta with olive oil and garlic
    Cacio e pepe – Pasta with cheese and black pepper
    Spaghettini with garlic and lemon – (p204 from the Gourmet Project)

    Chicken piccata
    Chicken Teriyaki

    Insalata Caprese
    Ploughman’s Lunch

    Reasonably Quick:
    Rare Steak with pan sauce (wine, wooden spoon and salt).
    Rare Steak with butter

  • GoP

    Chili…homemade with tomato sauce as the base (to get extra good stuff in the kids) and lots of beans (non-authentic I know). Served with cheese and chopped onions. Warms you up and fills you up and super easy!

  • Edwin

    Smore, not the chocolate/marshmellow kind, its a Indonesian chicken dish.
    In stock pot, add a tblspn of canola oil med. heat, saute sliced onion until translucent. Add cut up chicken (bell pepper, carrots, tomato, any veggie on hand). Couple dashes of nutmeg or a few grinds of fresh on the micro plane, not to much. Add 4 tablspns of Kecap Manis (pronounced-Ket-chup Man-ees) you can buy at Amazon, I like the ABC brand med. sweet. Mix ingrediants in pot, set heat low to simmer, covered for 1 hour.
    While chicken is cooking put your rice in the rice cooker, or saucepan. I also blanch green beans, still has a little crisp. If you have kids, like I do, you’ll have peanut butter. Put about 4 tablspns of peanut butter in a small sauce pan, med low heat, add water – try to get a pancake batter consistancy. A few drops of soy sauce, add sugar (preferred brown) a t-spn at a time until peanut butter sweetens a bit, couple grinds of black pepper.
    Plate your chicken and rice, add sauce from chicken to rice. Place peanut butter sauce on steamed beans, and dont forget the Sambal, Indonesian chili paste. I hope you’ll like it.

  • Marina

    I was raised on seasonal food: plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables from May through November, and home preserves, sauerkraut, roots, grains, legumes, and potatoes in the cold months. Well, old habbits die hard. Even though it is hard to tell what time of the year it is in our supermarkets, out go-to meal would be still seasonal. This time of the years it is mushed potatoes and sauerkraut with diced onions on the top. We always have homemade sauerkraut in the house.
    If everyone is so hungry and doesn’t want to wait for the potatoes to cook, then we would have just the sauerkraut quikly warmed in a little oil. Meat eaters in my family may have sausage with it.
    In a summer time our go-to meal would be some new potatoes and any fresh vegetable salad, most often it’s cabbage and cucumber salad with fresh dill.
    So I have to say our staples are potatoes and cabbage (in any of it’s form).
    Thank you Michael for this great question!

  • cscook

    Sausage and greens: Saute any good link sausage (in a little oil if necessary) in a big skillet or a wok until brown and very crispy around the edges. I halve or quarter it if large to increase the surface area for crisping. Dump in LOTS of clean dry greens — spinach, chard, mesclun, whatever — and wilt it in the sausage fat just until it’s lost its rawness. Remove from heat and toss with a little bit of a robust vinaigrette. We usually use just oil and vinegar fortified with mustard and garlic, but all ingredients can be varied. Lots of greens per amount of sausage, but no measurements are necessary — you can gauge by eye. That’s one thing that makes it so easy. It’s different every time, and always good.

    We don’t usually bother with a starch. We just feel virtuous gorging on all the greens, which are wonderful like this.

  • Gayle

    Though I grew up on mostly Italian and Slovenian food for our staple meals, it’s the Lebanese half of my mom’s heritage (wow, can you tell all my immigrant great-grandparents ended up on Cleveland’s east side?!!??) I’ve been turning to for The Staple Meal since getting married last year. Sometimes I think my American Mutt husband married me for the food….
    Mujadra is our go-to when there’s no food in the house and/or we don’t feel like cooking. It’s “poor people food,” just rice and lentils and onions, but somehow together they are like magic. Thinly slice two yellow onions, heat about 1/4 cup or so olive oil in a dutch oven or your preferred pot equivalent and caramelize the hell out of them. Just let ’em go. Meanwhile, par-cook a cup of lentils (green or brown; de Puy if you’ve got ’em) in enough water to cover by an inch for 20 minutes or so. When the onions are sweet and brown and on the edge of burnt, it’s time for half a cup basmati rice and two cups of water. Scrape the goodness off the bottom of the pan, stir in the lentils, simmer covered until the rice is done. And I salt to taste as I go, but never pepper.
    I like it “Leb style” with lebneh and a squeeze of lemon. My husband likes feta on there. It goes equally well with red wine or beer. And tastes even better the next day or if there is hockey on TV.

    Oh, and as happy as I am for you that the book is doing so well that it’s sold out on Amazon (!!) I admit I am a little pouty I wasn’t quicker on the draw, so I hope this tickles your fancy.

  • Gayle

    Black beans and brown rice are a favorite staple for me and my husband. As with most things I cook, this is not open the can and dump them in a pot. I try to add as much flavor to this standby as possible and from time to time try different herbs or spices. The rice is always cooked in part organic chicken stock and filtered water. I believe both make a staple like brown rice a bit more flavorful. I drain most of the liquid off of the black beans and add some of the organic chicken stock along with crushed red pepper flakes and minced garlc. When serving we always add some crumbled goat cheese. This is a quick meal that takes very little effort, but is always satisfying after a long work day :).

  • Erin

    Minute steak and frites are a quick weeknight favorite in our household. First, I toss a few servings of frozen fries in the oven and pour myself a glass of red wine. While the fries are cooking, I make a sauce of melted butter, salt, dried parsley, and finely minced garlic. Next, I season the steaks liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Just before the fries are done, I sear the steaks for 60 seconds per side in a grill pan. Last, I toss the crispy fries with the butter sauce and top the steaks with crumbled roquefort. Not a light meal, to be sure, but a quick and satisfying combo after a long day!

  • Carri

    Summer, it is salad and steamed greens from the yard with grilled fish…salmon, rockfish, halibut…whatever we catch. Winter, it is a local angus chuck steak pounded senseless, seasoned well and grilled (or broiled if the wind is blowing too hard). Braised kale and baked squash on the side. Up here, it’s all about the season!

  • Darlene Carrigan

    Ideal mid week meal: arugula salad with shaved parmesan, pasta with tomato butter sauce, and pan fried rib eye steak.

    During the summer, I always can as many tomatoes as possible. Hopefully enough to last me through the year. One of my favorite mid-week meals is taking a quart of those tomatoes and making Marcella Hazan’s Tomato sauce with butter and onions ( recipe found here: http://www.food52.com/blog/2380_marcella_hazans_tomato_sauce_with_onion_and_butter)

    While the sauce is simmering for 45 minutes, I prepare the dressing for the arugula salad (1 minced shallot, 3T roasted walnut oil, 1T balsamic, salt, pepper, and 1t dijon) and take the rib eye out of the fridge and rest at room temp for 30 mins.

    At the 30 minute mark, I will start cooking the pasta as well as start the steaks (generously seasoned with salt and pepper). We usually enjoy the steak med. rare, which translate to 5 minutes on one side and 4 minutes on the other side, and allowed to rest for 10 minutes after taking off the skillet.

    Dress the pasta with sauce, toss the arugula with dressing and shaved parmesan, and slice the steak.

    This meals also translates to amazing leftovers! We can usually get 3 lunches from the leftovers. 2 lunches of pasta with tomato sauce, and 1 lunch of steak and arugula salad.

  • Warren Twocock

    Pork tenderloin with smashed potatoes and green veg is a staple in our house.

    Preheat oven to 375

    Trim the tenderloin and make a dozen or so slits inserting sliced raw garlic in the slits then rub the tenderloin with salt, pepper, dry mustard powder and fresh sage. Heat some olive oil and butter over medium high heat and sear the tenderloin then roast for 15-20 minutes until internal temp is 140 degrees and rest. Deglaze the pan with white wine or vegetable stock, slice the tenderloin and pour the pan sauce over.

    For the smashed potatoes boil small red skin potatoes until just tender then add salt, pepper, butter and fresh chopped herb of choice and “smash” with a spoon.

    The whole process takes less than 45 minutes and is a great any day meal.

    During the winter months I always roast a chicken once a week and use the leftovers for sandwiches, or with simple tomato sauce over pasta and I make a pot of soup for a quick mid week meal with salad and fresh rolls.

  • Tracy W.

    At least once a week I will grill up a nice strip steak on a big romaine salad. I use an organic pre-made steak rub on the strips, and a lovely aged balsamic, local honey, crumbled goat cheese and EVOO for the salad. Real simple but the family loves it.

  • Daniel B

    We eat burritos 2-4 times a month. We also have a simple pork chop recipe that is delicious and simple that we make at least once a month. I grew up on small farm and we still buy a side of beef every year from my uncle so we always have a freezer full of beef. As much as I love cooking a good meal from scratch these are two simple go to meals with all of the shortcuts necessary to make them simple on a weeknight.

    For burrito filling, saute 1# hamburger, add a bunch of taco seasoning, maybe a little red pepper to bump it up a little more, add 1 small can diced chiles, one small can sliced black olives, one can of re-fried beans and half a small can tomato paste. Chop some lettuce and a tomato, grate a little cheese, add some sour cream and salsa if we have it in the fridge and roll it all up in a flour tortilla. It’s nothing special, it’s not authentic in any way but it goes together in 15 minutes tops, it’s a complete meal and there’s always leftovers.

    For the pork chops, we dip them in milk and then bread crumbs, brown each side in a pan with some oil and then mix a package of Lipton onion soup mix with some water, pour it over the chops, cover with a lid and let simmer on low for as long as we want. While the pork chops are cooking we make a pot of rice and steam a veggie like broccoli or make a simple green salad. The posark chops come out tender and salty from the onion soup mix and the onion soup mix and water makes a great sauce to cover the rice and pork chops with. It’s delicious, it’s simple and if you buy a family pack of pork chops on sale it’s really cheap and it scales easy if guests come by.

  • sarah

    Quinoa and Eggs with Spanish Coleslaw

    Start with a spoonful of cooked quinoa and pile on –
    coleslaw ( shredded cabbage, roasted green chiles, lime juice, olive oil, salt, paprika, green onions)
    diced tomatoes
    grated cheese
    diced avocado
    and a couple fried eggs.
    Top with sour cream, hot sauce or salsa, and pumpkin seeds
    Yummy! 😀

  • Danielle Healy

    Turn the 2 largest burners on, one high, one medium, fill the spaghetti pot with hot water salt it place on high burner, take the frying pan set on medium burner and dice 1/2 lb bacon, fry off fairly well done, saving 1 to 2 tab fat. While 1lb pasta is cooking( anything works, I like a #12 spaghetti) and bacon is frying. dice 3 medium tomatoes, or drain 14 0z can of whole tomatoes, 1 1/2 c 1/2 and 1/2, or whipping cream or can of evaporated milk. (If using evaporated milk skip sugar) 1 tea fresh lemon, 1 tea sugar, 1/2 tea salt. 3 eggs yolks and 2 whole eggs whisk and add tomatoes, and seasonings, drain pasta, return to pan with saved bacon fat and 1 tea dry mustard, toss and add tomato mixture heat lightly until sauce thickens, i usually end up adding some more milk, cream or whatever is available toss together, this goes quick, remove form heat add 11/2 cup julienned romaine, toss and then add bacon. I can have this on the table in 30 minutes and it’s a winner BLT Pasta. This is also great boat food as you can use tins and omit the romaine but try not to it is great. Have some broccoli or not and your golden. Bon appetite

  • Chris

    Among the patterns I’m seeing in the comments, this one falls into the lentil group. It’s a variation on a dal recipe from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, and it stays in heavy rotation in our kitchen, since it’s easy, cheap, satisfying, and friendly to an empty fridge. It’s also vegetarian but could be easily made vegan by replacing the butter with oil.

    Boil 2 cups of chana dal in a pot for an hour with 9 cups water (or more if you like a soupier dal), 1 Tbs turmeric, 1 Tbs butter, and 1 Tbs salt. When the chana is almost cooked, fry a diced onion in another Tbs or 2 of butter along with 1.5 tsp black mustard seed and 2 tsp ground cumin. When the onion’s just beginning to brown, add a bunch of chopped cilantro and fry a minute more. Pour this delicious-smelling onion mixture into the dal. If you’ve got a bunch of spinach, tear it up and add it to the pot until it’s wilted. As far as taste goes, the dal can stand on its own without the greens, but it’s nice to use them if you’ve got them. Serve over basmati, and douse liberally with fresh lime juice. Hot sauce and yogurt are also nice accompaniments.

  • R. Saunders

    I think my staple meal is a Spanish tortilla(which has no relationship to corn tortillas from Mexico):

    Braise potatoes in oil in a medium saute pan, then half way through add minced or small dice onions.

    Do not allow potatoes to brown and over cook.

    When the potatoes and onions are cooked, removed from the heat and drain the oil. Allow to cool slightly. I would season the potatoes and onions here at this point.

    In separate bowl, whip up a half dozen eggs. Season the eggs in any way you want. I use salt, pepper, and Sri Racha or favorite hot sauce.

    At this point, you can improvise and add herbs or ham or bacon and cheese to the eggs, which I usually do.

    Slide the potatoes into the egg mixture. But do it gently so not to break up the potatoes, because you want the texture of the potato slices.

    Put everything in the pan and cook on a medium low heat until eggs set, but the center will probably be soft

    Traditionally, you are supposed to flip it and cook the other side, but I finish the tortilla in the oven, fritatta style.

    You can cut the tortilla into wedges and serve it with a small salad with a vinaigrette, or you can eat it in a Spanish omelet style and top with a spoonful of salsa or tomato sauce, cutting the fat with an acidic garnish.

  • Laurie

    I am a homeschool mom and there are nights when the kids and rest of the family need to go somewhere fast. If it has to be fast, I pull out the eggs, salsa and tortillas which I always try to keep on hand. Breakfast tacos are great for a quick dinner. I look to see which vegetables I can add (sauteed onion and pepper?) any cheese (cheddar or monterrey jack?) how about meat (bacon or sausage? These can be quick every time and use up things in the fridge. I like the speed, the family likes the fun in the variety and we have a complete meal in a few tacos with every food group accounted for.

  • Andy Nixon

    Simple, hammer out chicken breasts to slightly less than half inch thick. Run through beat egg and milk mixture and dredge in panko crumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Fry in oil till golden (4-5 min side)in another small bowl mix Dijon oil and basalmic and coat the inside of large bowl. Toss in arugula or baby greens and arugula. Take cutlet on plate and top with greens. Simple and really good. Goes great with a nice Pinot or white burgundy wine. Even my kids love this dish! (minus the wine of course…) this recipie was adapted from Tyler Florence, it always hits the spot.

  • Ying

    Ribeye steak, seasoned with sea salt and pepper on a sheet pan under the broiler. Trimmed asparagus or string beans and quartered baby potatoes lighted coated in olive oil, salt and pepper on sheet pan roasted. Great meal for one or a crowd.

  • rainey

    For me it’s grilled salmon. I could eat it 3 days a week! I preheat a cast iron griddle in a 475˚ oven while I season the fish and oil the fless and skin sides. Then I place it skin-side-down on the griddle and finish with a few minutes with the broiler on until it gets a nice char.

    I like it with rice pilaf and while the fish and rice do themselves I can grill some veggies.

  • Todd Enyart

    Pork chop, biscuit n’ sweet potato bake. This one is a staple in our kitchen as well as my all time favorite comfort food. I’m not exactly sure where my wife got the recipe, but God bless her and whoever came up with it. Preheat oven to 350. Brown some butter in a saute pan do up four 1″ chops for two minutes per side. Place the chops in the middle of a buttered 13×9 casserole. 2 or 3 decent sized yams/sweet potatoes, large chop (or a can if you wanna save time!) go on one side of the chops. As many biscuits as you can fit go on the other side. Ready made biscuits work just fine (another time saver.) Salt the chops and candy up the potatoes any way you like. We whip up a little cinnamon, mace and clove in some butter and maple syrup. If I’m doing the cooking some mini marshmallows go on top as well! All that goes into the oven, uncovered, for 25-30 min. or until the potatoes are heated through. I enjoy pretty much any green veggie served on the side.
    If you could turn a warm n’ loving hug at the end of a tough day into a meal I’m pretty sure this would be it.

  • Bradley

    I am a restaurant cook first and a home cook second. At home I often attempt to push my cooking, so on most of my days off I spend hours in the kitchen with a laptop, pen and paper, and I generally have to make two or three trips to the market in between because of last minute ideas. However, when I want to cook something simple at home for one reason or another, my go to is always risotto. I always have some Arborio and butter. As for stock I will use what I have and if I have none I make a flavorful broth from herbs, etc. The dish is so versatile, you can put leftovers in, it can be full of ingredients or maybe a simple garlic risotto. I’m just saying, risotto is so good for dinner, it makes a real carnivore forget to cook a protein.

  • Bradley

    As for a recipe I…
    -sweat about half of a yellow onion diced.
    -add some garlic and chili flake
    -add 1 cup arborio or carnaroli
    -stir and toast or risollet the rice
    -add about 1/3 c wine
    -reduce wine
    -cover with stock
    -cook over med high heat adding stock as needed throughout
    -When the rice is done I add whatever I want: peas, mushrooms, radicchio, etc.
    -I finish the rice with a lot of butter 3T or more and whatever cheese I have if any, I

    I cook my rice on pretty high heat and I can crank it out in 25 minutes easy. I dont stir the hell out of it because I buy good rice and the starch is released as the rice is self agitated by the bubbling.

  • Jen Blacker

    Every Tuesday I make some sort of fish, salmon, tilapia, or flounder. All of it fast. I throw rice in the rice cooker with some herbs. While that’s going I have time to quickly make lunches for the next day, make a salad, give my son a snack, and prepare the fish. I bake the salmon and tilapia, sometimes breading the tilapia. Flounder gets a quick dip in an egg wash then in potato flakes, then pan fried for a couple of minutes. This all together takes at most 30 minutes.

  • Jaime

    It comforting to know that my staple meals are similar to some other people’s staple meals – for me, there is no “I cook this every week”, but there are a couple, “Ground down by the events of the day, and yes, I do need to talk to food about this, but more importantly, also to couch” meals.

    My 10 minutes of effort meals –
    pasta pomodoro – pasta from my freezer from the last time I made a batch that I’ve been saving for just such an emergency, cubed white cheese of whatever variety is scagging about my fridge, fresh grated parm, minced garlic started in a cold pan with olive oil on ripping high heat for 30 seconds, to that add a couple of diced tomatoes and salt and pepper for another 30 – 45 seconds, pour the hot pasta and sauce on the cheese and toss to melt, add some fresh basil from my windowsill plant. I love this so much, I always make a double batch to have leftovers the next day.

    Breakfast tacos – also known in this house as the hangover cure, quick raw salsa of either tomatoes or tomatillos, whatever’s around, with onion, lime, garlic, cilantro, jalapeno (or srichacha, if I’m caught without peppers), Mexican chorizo in a shallow pan on medium, unstrained, a little butter to supplement, then ultra low heat, eggs and crema mixed together, scrambled runny, on corn tortillas, charred slightly right on the burner, cheese if it’s around.

  • Janet

    Pasta Puttanesca. I used Ellie Kreiger’s recipe. The sauce whips up in less than 10 minutes and the pasta water is heating while I make the sauce. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over a medium heat. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, 1/4 cup pitted chopped Spanish or Greek olives, 2 Tbsp capers, 1 tsp anchovy paste, 1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves or 1 tsp dried and 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper to the skillet, and saute for 2 minutes more. Add 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup chopped fresh arugula and simmer for 1 minute more, until the greens wilt slightly. When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the skilled, tossing it with the sauce to combine. Top with 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. I usually cook up a couple of Italian sausages (chicken or turkey or regular) and cut them up and serve in the sauce. Delicious and easy!

  • Greg

    One of my goto meals is my grandmother’s mushroom soup. 2# of mushrooms (portabella and shiitake usually) and 2 diced yellow onions sauteed in a dutch oven with a melted stick of butter (i’m working on reducing this part of the recipe!). After the onions and opaque and tender, I add 2 cans of low sodium cream of mushroom soup (concentrated), and mix it all up so it is smooth with no clumps and then add 3.5 quarts of water and make sure everything is mixed up smoothly. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and let simmer for 40-45 minutes, I sometimes add fresh dill to the soup at the saute stage and let that add to the flavor the whole time it is simmering.

    Serve it up – it warms us up, fills us and restores us. Just like mama intended! It also keeps well in the fridge and we portion it out for lunches to take to work for the week.

  • cleek

    so many…

    one of my favs is what we call “green pork” (but is really just chili verde).

    1lb cubed pork
    sliced onion
    1/2 cup Herdez salsa verde

    brown the pork with the onions, add salsa + 1/4 water, simmer for 30 mins. serve with rice.

    dead easy.

  • pidge

    Ribeye steak – broiled. Sauteed mushrooms(w/Worcestershire, brown mustard) – sometimes I make a pan sauce by adding 1/2 and 1/2 with a couple pats of cold butter off the heat. Salad. Done.

  • The Green Mamba

    Pan Seared Trout with Brown Rice & Salt & Pepper Asparagus

    1/2 trout filet from head end (salmon is also nice)
    1.5 cups Sweet Brown Rice (basically brown sushi rice, I prefer Kotashima Brand)
    1 bunch asparagus (pencil thickness works best)
    1 lemon
    olive oil
    Tony Chachere’s Original Cajun Seasoning
    Kosher Salt
    Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

    1. Load your electric rice cooker with rice and water. Follow rice maker instruction or just put your index finger on top of the rice in the cooker bowl and add water until it reaches the first joint from the tip of your finger.
    2. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
    3. Clean and snap asparagus. Lay them in a single layer on a ¼ sheet pan. Coat with olive oil, pinch of kosher salt, pinch of black pepper and toss briefly to coat.
    4. Rinse and thoroughly dry trout. Section into two finger width individual portions. Liberally sprinkle each portion with Tony Chachere’s, kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper. Gently rub the seasoning into the surface of the trout.
    5. Heat a cast iron comal/flat griddle or cast iron skillet on medium heat. When well-heated wipe a small amount of vegetable oil or high heat cooking spray on the cast iron.
    6. Put asparagus in oven.
    7. Turn on your vent hood or open a window to avoid setting off your smoke alarm.
    8. Place trout flesh side down (skin side up) onto the comal/griddle. Keep an eye on the sides of the trout filets. When the sides of the filets show them as 2/3 done turn them over and let them finish on their skin side. Turn off the heat on your comal/griddle and let the retained heat finish the cooking.
    9. When just al dente take the asparagus out of the oven and add the zest of one lemon, and the juice of half a lemon.
    10. Remove the trout from the heat when cooked to your preferred level of doneness. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon on it as you allow it to briefly rest for 1-2 minutes.
    Time = Approximately 15 minutes. The goal is to finish the meal when the rice cooker is done. Mine had a warming feature that gives me insurance if things take longer.

    Serves 4

    Nutritional Estimates Per Person

    Trout = 162 calories (7.2 grams fat)
    Brown Rice = 160 calories (2 grams fat)
    Asparagus = 16 calories (.5 grams of fat)
    Olive Oil = 30 calories (4 grams of fat)
    Lemon Juice = 2 calories (0 grams of fat)
    Total = 370 calories (13.7 grams of fat)
    19% of calories 63% of fat on the 2,000 calorie per day nutritional recommendation

    Easy. Fun. Yummy

  • Maryann

    Our go to meals are made from homemade bolognese sauce and homemade chicken stock. Frozen in quart containers they can be taken out and used for pasta dishes and Asian noodle dishes when ever dinner is time challenged.

  • Jill

    A little off topic…what’s always stayed in my memory is the antidote about the friend who refused to eat the roasted chicken cooked by his girlfriend because it hadn’t been trussed. Unbelievable. I’m sure that bed didn’t get a lot of action that night!

  • Robin

    I have 2 “go to” meals. I have to, depending on who is eating. My husband is a vegan, and the rest of us really enjoy our meat, fish etc.
    I offer up the vegan recipe!
    This dish is about what is ready in the cupboard, or fridge, so quantities really don’t matter; as long as there is enough cooking liquid.
    Vegan: fill an oven proof dish with the following:
    -brown rice (can add some barley, quinoa or other rice)
    -at least a cup of any type legumes (best if you have your own re-hydrated in fridge) tins work in a hurry too! anything … prefer lentils or black beans
    -salt, pepper, chili, any fresh herbs in the fridge to use up – parsley, cilantro, mint … any or all!
    cumin, fenugreek (if on hand) cinnamon, cardamom
    large chunks of onion, fresh garlic, tomato? zucchini? eggplant? broccoli? Really, whatever vegies need to be used in the fridge.
    Finally, cover with liquid mixture of veg stock, some tomato sauce / product needed, or just plain water if that is what you have. Add olive oil and mix well.
    – Cover and bake 350F for 45 mins. Serve with fresh salad.
    – Few minutes to throw it together, and it bakes by itself with no attention from you!

  • WilliamB

    Donburi – Japanese soupy omelette.

    This is the ultimate in fast food for me. It takes 10 min to make from start to finish, or 25 min if you need to cook the rice. To have both rice and donburi ready at the same time, don’t start cooking the donburi till the rice is resting.

    This is the basic version, for 2:
    1 c. rice (preferably medium-grain)
    1.5 c. water
    1/2 c. chicken stock or dashi
    1/4 c. soy sauce
    1/4 c. mirin
    1 onion, sliced
    4 eggs, beaten well

    1. Make rice: bring rice and water to a boil, cover, reduce to lowest simmer, simmer 15 min, then turn off heat and let rest (without removing cover) for 10 min.

    2. Simmer stock, soy sauce, mirin, and onion in a saute pan till onion is soft and translucent.

    3. Add eggs, mix up well. Cook over low heat, stirring every now and then, till eggs are done. This will be soupy, which is as it’s supposed to be.

    4. Serve over rice.

    A. Add whatever vegetables seem good to you. Slice them thin or chop small and add to step 2.
    B. Add whatever meat seems good to you. Slice it thin and small (say, the size of a quarter). Add after the onion is translucent, simmer till almost done, then go to step 3.


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