Cooking is an art form perfected only through practice. Even if you don’t know how to cook, a basic set of recipes is all you need to commence your culinary adventures. But that’s not to say your inaugural dishes shouldn’t be savory or exotic. Whether you know a few simple meals to get by or you need help boiling water, these easy recipes are flavorful and virtually foolproof.
The Classic Pizza Margherita
Made with few ingredients, the bright colors of a classic Pizza Margherita are a tasty homage to Italy’s flag. To make your own, start by preheating the oven to 500 degrees. Lay one prepackaged sheet of pizza dough out onto a lightly floured surface, using a rolling pin to flatten the dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Next, scoop 3 tablespoons of tomato sauce onto the dough and spread it almost to the edges with the back of a spoon. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, then place slices of mozzarella on top of the sauce. Finish with 5 basil leaves, roughly torn, and bake for 4-5 minutes until crispy.
Hummus is the original dip, enjoyed by families as far back as ancient Egypt. Though traditional recipes call for tahini, a sesame paste, you can make this low-cost appetizer with ingredients you may already have in your kitchen. In a food processor or blender, combine one can of rinsed and drained garbanzo beans, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of cumin. Add a bit of water from the can of beans until the hummus blends smooth and creamy, finishing with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with warm pita bread, pita chips, or fresh cut veggies.
Mini Breakfast Frittatas
Forget fast-food breakfasts. Once you’ve perfected these mini frittatas, you’ll think twice before heading for the drive-thru in the morning. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl, beat 6 eggs, 1/2 cup of milk, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 3/4 cup of crumbled goat cheese or queso fresco, a handful of roughly torn spinach, and 1/2 cup of chopped vegetables of your choice. Divide the batter evenly between cups, then top with cubed ham. Bake for 20-25 minutes until set in the middle. You can make these mini frittatas ahead of time and refrigerate for up to four days.
Chile Verde with Pork
Chile Verde is a savory sauce used in many traditional Mexican recipes. Made from green chiles and tomatillos, this green enchilada sauce can often be found in the Hispanic foods section of your local grocery store. Blend one 28-ounce can with 1 tomato, 2 tablespoons of chopped onion, and a handful of cilantro until liquified. Add jalapeño if you prefer a spicier sauce. Pour into a slow-cooker with 1 pound of pork shoulder cut into chunks, and set on high for 4-6 hours. Serve when tender with warm tortillas, rice and beans, or sour cream and tortilla chips.
Chocolate Banana Pudding
Traditional banana pudding recipes call for vanilla pudding, but this take on the classic dessert uses chocolate for a more decadent flavor. Start by layering the bottom of a casserole dish or individual cups with vanilla wafer cookies. Add a layer of sliced bananas and top with a generous dollop of prepared chocolate pudding, spreading it around to ensure it fills the gaps in between the fruit and cookies. Repeat the process until the cups are full, or until your pudding is the desired size. Refrigerate for five hours, or enjoy immediately if you prefer your cookies crunchy.
Broccoli Slaw Salad
This filling salad is delicious on its own or with a handful of shredded chicken for added protein. Chop 4 cups of broccoli florets, and toss in a bowl with 1/4 cup of dried cranberries, 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds, and coleslaw dressing to taste. Not only is this recipe simple, but it’s also easily adaptable. Add shredded carrots and red cabbage if you’re low on broccoli, or substitute kale and spinach as your greens of choice. Cauliflower, cashews, and tart apples also liven up this delectable dish.
Authentic Philly Cheesesteaks
This classic Philadelphia favorite is the perfect comfort food for those days when fresh ingredients are scarce. To get started, sauté 1/2 pound of sliced skirt steak seasoned with salt, pepper, and cumin for about two minutes. Next, spread a toasted Italian roll with mayonnaise and layer with the cooked steak, provolone cheese or 1/2 cup of Cheez-Whiz, 1/4 cup of grilled onions, and a handful of sliced, pickled jalapeños. Slice the sandwich in half and enjoy!
Basic Teriyaki Sauce
Sauces and gravies can be intimidating at first, but this simple teriyaki sauce is so versatile it will up your cooking game in no time. In a small pot, whisk 1/4 of cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup of water, and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch until smooth. Heat on medium-high until warm, then dissolve 4-5 tablespoons of honey in the mixture. When the sauce begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium and stir until it reaches your desired level of thickness. Use this delectable condiment as a marinade for grilled meats, in rice bowls with roasted vegetables or as a glaze for kebabs.
The cheesy goodness of quesadillas isn’t just for lunchtime. Beat an egg with 1 tablespoon of milk while sautéing a 1/4 cup of chopped chorizo, ham, sausage, bacon, or mushrooms in a nonstick skillet. Pour the egg into the pan after draining any excess fat and cook for two minutes, flipping once. Heat 1 flour tortilla on a griddle over medium heat and sprinkle with shredded cheddar or jack cheese. Feel free to add peppers or onions, if desired. Add the cooked egg and sprinkle with more shredded cheese, then cover with another flour tortilla. Flip the quesadilla over and cook until the cheese has melted and the tortillas are crispy. Finish by cutting into wedges and serving with salsa.
Apple Pie Bites
Craving apple pie but lacking in pastry-making skills? Enjoy the fruity sweetness of this beloved dessert using a few simple shortcuts. First, preheat your oven to 425 degrees, then mix 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon in a small bowl. Unroll 2 sheets of refrigerated pie crust onto a lightly floured surface. Brush the dough with 2 tablespoons of melted butter and sprinkle with all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar mixture, then cut into 1 inch-wide strips. Next, cut 2 apples into 8 wedges each. Wrap each wedge with a strip of dough, making sure the sugared side is against the apple. Brush the apple pie bites with one teaspoon of melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture. Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until golden brown, and enjoy.