A Few Easy Meals
Friends! By request, I went through my recipe binder and am linking here some recipes that I think are beginner-friendly. The tools you need are: a good, sharp knife, a cutting board, a pot, a pan, maybe a baking sheet. Many of these call for a food processor; we got ours as a wedding present and use it at least once a week. I understand it’s not something everyone has, but I’m including them here in case you do.
These are vegetarian, or easily modified to be vegetarian. I actually think cooking vegetarian is good for beginners; plants are a lot harder to screw up irrevocably than meat. Over- or under-cooked vegetables won’t kill you and probably taste decent.
Three-Bean Chili. With instructions for making it in a slow-cooker or on the stovetop. Hearty, warming winter fare.
Tofu Tacos with Spinach, Goat Cheese, and Corn. We make these all the time. If you’re an omnivore with a tofu aversion, you could probably use ground turkey?
Butternut Squash and Black Bean Tacos. Another goat cheese taco, this one combines black beans and butternut squash, two of my favorites! Make sure you chop the squash small so it cooks fast enough. You can get the pre-cubed kind, but you probably want to cube it even smaller than they give it to you. I imagine you could use sweet potatoes, too. I leave out the cilantro because I hate it, and add a bit of guacamole sometimes. If you end up with more filling than tacos, you can just eat the rest as a chunky dip for tortilla chips, not that I’ve ever done that.
Roasted Green-Bean and Potato Salad. This is a good chop-it-all-up-and-throw-it-in-the-oven recipe. We leave out the meat, obviously, and add about eight ounces of chopped mushrooms instead (roasting them with the other vegetables).
Asparagus and Ricotta Pizza. A spring favorite. We make it as one big pizza instead of four little ones.
Parmesan-Crusted Grilled Cheese. Don’t let Martha sass you: you can just use pre-grated parmesan. Trader Joe’s has a good one that’s vegetarian, if you’re concerned about animal rennet in your cheese. This obviously isn’t a whole meal, but some store-bought chips would make it one.
Corn and Two-Bean Burgers. There’s that pre-chopped onion I warned you about. You can chop a regular one and use the rest later. Lately, instead of having these on a bun, we’ve been grilling them (indoors) and setting them on top of a bed of spinach, lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and a little ranch dressing. Delicious summer meal! (If you aren’t using the chipotle ketchup, put some cumin and cayenne in the burgers, otherwise they’re bland. Also, I use a potato masher to mash the beans, and they mash easier if you rinse them in VERY HOT water first.)
Fettuccine with Leeks, Corn, and Arugula. Another springtime favorite. If your store doesn’t have arugula, you can use baby spinach, which we’ve done. It’s not as bitter, but it works! Make sure you wash the leeks well; dirt hides in between those layers. It’s easier to chop, then wash.
Pasta with Kale and Walnut Pesto. This is a Tuesday-night, Sara-can-make-it-by-herself-practically-blindfolded-by-now dinner. Fuck turning on the oven just to roast walnuts, though; you can do them in a dry pan on the stove. After the pan cools, you can just wipe it out with a dishtowel and don’t even have to wash it. The walnuts burn FAST, though—as soon as they start to smell good, take them off the heat.
Spaghetti with Broccoli Cream Pesto. This is pretty easy, if you have a food processor. If you don’t have a steamer basket, you could probably boil the broccoli, or steam it in the microwave. You could start with frozen broccoli florets, that way they’re pre-chopped.
Roasted Acorn Squash Pasta. This is a favorite in October. The squash gets really soft and kind of melts into the pasta. If you don’t like kale, 1. what is wrong with you; 2. you could probably sub in spinach.
Creamy Barley with Tomatoes and Greens. This is a good winter meal, because you use canned tomatoes, and you can always get fresh spinach (or mustard leaves, which I am Not Into).
Farfalle with Zucchini and Prosciutto. We don’t make this as much anymore, because the prosciutto really does add something, but it’s good. I used to add a cup of thawed frozen peas, because I like peas in everything. It makes a LOT.
Quinoa and Bean Pilaf. We make this with one can of red beans and one can of black. Very filling and delicious.
Sausage and Kale Stew with Mashed Potatoes: A stick-to-your-ribs slow-cooker affair. You can use veggie sausage, it still comes out delicious.
BONUS all-purpose side dish: Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli and Onions. So good. It doesn’t take much to tip broccoli from “gross, tastes like eating a shrub” to “more, please.”