No-Recipe Recipes to Learn to Cook By

New to cooking or in a recipe rut? I thought I’d share a good ‘ole food blog with a compilation of easy dinner recipes to fit anyone’s budget, skill level, and palate!

Bowls:

I’m a huge fan of “one-bowl wonders” as you can generally squeeze all the balance and nutrition you need without having to think of additional side dishes to add: Peruse the sauce aisle at your favorite grocers for a simmer or cooking sauce. Next pop over to the meat or alternative meat department and pick a protein on sale that you think might work with the sauce you’ve found. Now, do you have any veggies getting old in your fridge, or a forgotten bag of broccoli in your freezer? If you don’t think what you currently have at home would work, find a seasonal veggie or two (hint: look for items on sale) to throw in with the sauce and protein. Lastly, make sure you have some form of carbohydrate to pair with it - maybe it would be fantastic over a bowl of pasta, rice, or dumplings, or on the side of some crusty bread or garlic naan (most of these carb options you can find in the freezer section to make even easier prep!) - and presto! You’ve got a yummy and balanced dish probably ready in 20 minutes or less.


Easy Fish Tacos:

Take some thawed-from-frozen tilapia fillets and sprinkle a blackened seasoning on all sides. Get a pan smoking hot on med-high heat with a drizzle of oil and slap those filets down and cook on each side for 2-4 minutes - if your pan is hot enough you might even get some crispy edges!

Serve up on some corn tortillas with chopped red cabbage, cilantro, and an easy spicy sauce of mayo or sour cream and sriracha, thinned out with a little water. Easy side dishes could include canned beans, corn, spanish rice, or a pickled cucumber and tomato salad.


Build a Better Salad:

When making a salad at home, my rule of thumb is to think about each ingredient and ask yourself: would I eat this by itself? If the answer is “nah, I’d rather not”, what could you do to enhance it?

For example - if you’re wanting to add chicken to your salad, instead of getting a plain baked chicken breast, why not buy a seasoned rotisserie chicken, or bake up a few frozen breaded chicken tenders. Instead of just throwing on some raw nuts, get some spiced or candied varieties to adorn your salad. Quick pickle some red onions in vinegar, a little olive oil, and a sprinkle of sugar for a slightly-sour punch.

If you’re eating a salad as a meal, ensure you’ve got a good amount of protein through foods like meat, beans, lentils, edamame or eggs, a source of fat through foods like cheese, hummus, avocado, nuts, and dressings, and a few servings of carbs through dried or fresh fruits, grains added to the salad like quinoa, rice, or farro, croutons, or add a side of crackers, chips or bread with a spread to have alongside your salad.


Salsa Eggs:

If you like a runny egg yolk, this is the easiest recipe for you! Pour a large jar of chunky salsa in a small skillet and heat over medium heat. Once it gets bubbly, use a spoon to make a few wells in the salsa and crack an egg into each well. Cover the skillet with a lid or some tin foil, and let sit for a few minutes - about 4 minutes will get you a thick and creamy, but still runny egg yolk. Serve this with toast to sop up the yolk, or some tortilla chips to munch on with the salsa. Some yummy additional side dishes would be yogurt layered with granola and jam, fresh fruit, bacon or breakfast sausage, or canned beans.


Crispy Skin Salmon:

Heat up a skillet on med-high heat with a drizzle of a neutral oil (like canola, vegetable, or olive oil). Season all sides of a skin-on salmon filet with salt and pepper, and once the skillet is hot, pan-fry the filet starting with the skin-on side. It will probably take 3-5 minutes per side to cook through, but just watch the skin side that it doesn’t burn. You’ll know the fish is done when it’s flaky and no longer pink in the center. Enjoy skin and all! If you’ve never tried a crispy fish skin, I would encourage you to keep an open mind and explore the texture and taste of the salty, melt-in-your mouth crisp!

Veggie sides could include sauteed spinach or squash, steamed broccoli with a sprinkle of cheese, or fresh arugula tossed with salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Carb sides could include a boxed or frozen rice dish like a mushroom risotto, roasted new potatoes, or a fruit salad.


Garlic-y Roasted Chicken Thighs:

This is a fix it and forget it kind of a dish. It’s a longer dish to bake, but so worth the wait! Preheat your oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit. Place some skin-on bone-in chicken thighs in a 13x9 baking dish and season with salt, pepper, and dried herbs from your pantry (rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, basil, or a combination of them would all work well!). Arrange the chicken skin-side up. Into the baking dish also goes a couple thinly sliced lemons, and 2-4 whole heads of garlic, cut in half, and placed cut-side down in the dish. Pour over a generous amount (we’re talkin’ at least ½ cup) of oil (I use olive oil, or a 50:50 mix of vegetable/canola oil and olive oil to save $$$), and toss everything together before baking it for 75-90 minutes, or until the internal temp of the chicken reads 165 degrees fahrenheit.

This must be served with a crusty country bread loaf so you can sop up that delicious lemon-y garlic-y oil at the bottom of the baking dish. I’d also serve this with some roasted potatoes (this kind you can buy could not be easier and are so yummy!) and a vegetable -- whatever you’ve got in the pantry, freezer, or fridge is probably going to work!


I hope these no-recipe recipes have provided some inspiration for your meal planning. If nothing else, I hope that by reading through these you’ve realized that a balanced and easy dish does not require more than a handful of ingredients, and no complicated kitchen tools or experienced skills. So go forth and make a mess in the kitchen! Let it be ok to overcook something -- you’re learning. Try something new and discover whether you like it or not. Enhance your cooking experience by turning up the music -- I love trying to match my music to the ethnicity of my dish (ex: New Orleans brass bands must be playing anytime I make a pot of gumbo). Rope a loved one into the kitchen to help you cook, or to offer you company and conversation -- especially your little kiddos. Eat your meal at a table, turn off other distractions and make conversation with those sitting with you - if you live by yourself, try to facetime with a friend also eating dinner, or keep the music going and zone in on the flavors and textures of your dish.


Leave a comment below if you try any of these recipes, or tag us on instagram @wcandnt with your favorite no-recipe recipe meals you make this week!


Happy Cooking!

Sarah Roth, RDN, LD


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