Whether you’re cooking for two or cooking for nine (God bless you), mealtime can be stressful. Maybe you’re a meal prepping machine, maybe you fly by the seat of your pants 3 times a day 7 days a week. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of meal preparedness, it’s always important to know your basics.
What do I mean by basics? The magical world of “base recipes”! Filling your culinary toolbox with recipes and methods that you know by heart will make grocery shopping and cooking much more manageable.
What Are Base Recipes
Base recipes are simply, easy recipes that you know by heart and oftentimes have ingredients for on hand. In our house, they usually are comprised of a protein, a starch or grain, and a vegetable. For example, one of my base recipes is grilled chicken, brown rice, and steamed vegetables. I can take this base recipe and change it up in a multitude of ways:
- Lemon Pepper Grilled Chicken with Quinoa and Steamed Broccoli
- BBQ Grilled Chicken with White Rice and Corn on the Cob
- Teriyaki Grilled Chicken with White Rice and Steamed Asian Veggies
- Grilled Chicken Kabob with Onions and Peppers, side of Farro
And the list goes on! As long as I have chicken breast (in the fridge OR the freezer), vegetables (fresh OR frozen), and healthy grains on hand, I know without a shadow of a doubt I can whip up a yummy, healthy dinner in under a half hour. Base recipes don’t have to be stovetop, oven, or microwave meals. You can also easily create base recipes for your slow cooker or electric pressure cooker.
Alternating Your Protein
Once you find what kinds of base recipes work for your family, you can use those base recipes to make many types of meals by switching up your protein. Going off the list of meal ideas above, here are some ways we do this in our house:
- Lemon Pepper Salmon with Quinoa and Steamed Broccoli
- BBQ Boneless Pork Chops with White Rice and Corn on the Cob
- Teryaki Ground Turkey Lettuce Wraps with White Rice and Steamed Asian Veggies
- Grilled Shrimp Kabob with Onions and Peppers, side of Farro
Alternating Your Sides
Just like alternating your proteins, you can alternate your sides and grains/starches to make completely new meals! (Perhaps you’re someone who really enjoys pasta, this would be a great spot to switch out that pasta for a healthy alternative.) My go to healthy grains are quinoa, farro, and rice. It’s easy to memorize how to cook these so make sure you always have them on hand! For my sides, I almost always do steamed veggies. I buy bags of steamable veggies and veggie mixes from Aldi that take 5-6 minutes in the microwave. Top it with some sea salt and you’re good to go! If you’re not into steamed veggies, check out the easy recipe below to make a super yummy, high nutrient, sauteed side dish.
Sauteed Chopped Kale Side: One of my favorite shortcuts is to buy a bag of kale that’s already rinsed and chopped. For this side dish, you’ll need: 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 4 cups chopped kale, 1 cup shredded carrots, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1/3 cup chopped cashews (optional), salt, and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of EVOO in a pan over medium high heat for a couple minutes. Add in your kale and garlic. Stir until the kale is almost completely wilted and then add the shredded carrots and cashews. Stir for a few more minutes until the kale is completely wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!
Fool proof quinoa: Rinse one cup of quinoa and add it to a pot with two cups of chicken broth. Bring it to a boil, then cover the pot with a tight lid. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Presto! Perfect quinoa!
Practice Your Technique
Cooking may or may not come naturally to you. For help on finding base recipes that work for you and your family, I highly recommend practicing your techniques. You’ll need to know methods for cooking various proteins, starches, grains, and sides so you can make meals on the fly or plan out your grocery shopping more efficiently. My favorite way of practicing cooking techniques is to pick at least 2-3 new recipes to try each month. You can try more if you’re feeling feisty! Trying new recipes will not only help you learn various cooking methods, it will also help you find out what you and your family enjoy! Once you find some recipes that please the crowds, you’ll know what items are most helpful to have stocked in your fridge, freezer, and pantry.
Don’t Do Anything Crazy
Base recipes aren’t supposed to be where you experiment with making fresh Maine lobster for the first time. And frankly, it’s alright for your base recipes to feel a bit boring. I’m not always wowed at the meals I make but I do try to make sure they are healthy and sustain me until the next meal. Because, mamas, let’s be honest, sometimes you just have to get through the day. Am I right??
Finding New Recipes
For some recipe ideas to try out, you can follow me on Pinterest by clicking here or check out some of the blog posts below!