Photo: Colin Price

Every healthy home cook needs staples they can rely on. 

Arielle Weg
August 09, 2017

While experimenting with complicated recipes is fun for the weekend, some nights I get home late and need to lean on a comfortable meal without the recipe for guidance. My dream is to pull out the ingredients from my fridge, slice up the veggies, and throw it all together effortlessly without the blink of an eye. I want to set my laptop on the counter with a good TV show on, and make a healthy meal without having to meticulously follow a recipe.

Every healthy cook needs staple recipes in their back pocket for nights like that. It's time to finally toss the take-out menu, and memorize these 10 staples for evenings following a recipe just isn't on your to-do list. 

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

A Great Dressing

A drizzle of olive oil and lemon can only get you so far, and your bowl of fresh cut veggies needs to shine. Jazz up your salad dressing with chives and Dijon mustard for a super quick mix you'll use again and again. It's the easiest way to guarantee you'll eat more salads throughout the week.

View Recipe: Mustard-Chive Vinaigrette 

Photo: Greg Dupree

Basic Stock

When your kids are home sick or you just want to warm up on a cold winter night, old-school chicken noodle soup is the ultimate remedy. The key to a perfect soup is the perfect broth, and we have your winner. You'll never grab a carton at the store again.

View Recipe: Rich Brown Chicken Stock

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Perfect Pasta

Tons of last-minute meals start with a box of pasta and a can of tomatoes, but knowing how to spice it just right and add some color makes for a true next-level spaghetti and sauce. Keeping canned tomatoes is as easy as stockig up on jarred sauce, and the result tastes fresher and more delicious.

View Recipe: Mostly Veggie Pasta With Sausage

Easy Eggs

Take that carton of eggs out from the back of your fridge and learn this home cook's breakfast staple. You'll be the egg master in no time. Don't get stuck in a scrambled rut; I'm not exaggerating when I say you could eat eggs dozens of different ways without ever feeling bored.

View Recipe: Sweet Potato Home Fries With Eggs

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Fantastic Chicken

When pan-crisped chicken thighs hit the oven next to roasted broccoli and sauteed bell peppers and onions, the aroma is transformative. You'll turn to this 20-minute meal again and again. 

View Recipe: Chicken Thighs With Peperonata and Roasted Broccoli 

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Quick Meatless Main

It's never polite to assume the vegetarian you invited for dinner is content with nibbling on the sides. Make a simple stew that is so bright and tasty, even the carnivores at the table will ask for seconds. 

View Recipe: Skillet Ratatouille 

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Simple Salmon

The technique to achieve a crispy skin is vital for a flavorful bite, and the 5-ingredient sauce is perfect for a week when you don't have time to flip through cookbooks and experiment. 

View Recipe: Crispy Salmon Fillets with Sesame-Soy Drizzle 

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Dynamite Stir-Fry

Once you get the base of a stir-fry down, it's easy to mix and match whatever proteins and vegetables you have on hand. This go-to technique gets bonus points for being super fast, suitable for any busy weeknight.

View Recipe: Quick Mongolian Beef Stir-Fry

Photo: Gregg Dupree

Impressive Chicken Salad

Toss rotisserie chicken in with mayo and you technically have chicken salad, but the addition of hazelnuts, apples, and tarragon creates one you'll actually look forward to eating. While you make it, count up how much you'll save on lunch this week.

View Recipe: Tart Apple-Hazelnut Chicken Salad 

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

Fluffy Pancakes 

Sunday mornings are perfect for pancakes, but toss the boxed mix for the ultimate healthy alternative. 

View Recipe: Fluffiest Multigrain Pancakes With Almond Butter Drizzle