Kim's Six Go-To Kitchen Favorites

Alexandria, Va.: Over baked ziti last night my husband commented that he is impressed with the wide variety of dishes that I cook for us (we're newlyweds). He said his mom only had about seven recipes that she made over and over again. I told him I agreed -- my mom had about 10 recipes that were recycled, but those 10 recipes were the most delicious food I will ever taste. (Nothing's better than a mom's cooking).
I told him the reason I cook such a variety of dishes for him is simply because I'm looking for MY 10 favorite recipes that I can then cook over and over again in my sleep -- the ones that my kids will later say were the best food they'll ever have. So far, I've only discovered one of those recipes -- I'm still searching for the other nine.
So I'm curious. What's your favorite go-to, I'm-too-tired-to-crack-open-more-than-four-ingredients, recipe?

Red lentils are your friend. (Kim O'Donnel)

I love this reader's question. Even with all the recipe testing and kitchen experimentation, I too have a stable of recipes that I can cook over and again in my sleep, recipes that both Mister MA and I never tire of (and eventually, that he'll learn to imitate and master, she says crossing her fingers).

I've got at least a dozen of these gems up my sleeve, but the following six are pretty darn close to your four ingredients-requirement and all but one will put dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. Here, in alphabetical order, are some of my kitchen favorites:

Chile shrimp: This one, from Mark Bittman, is what Mister MA requests when he's having a bad day and needs the culinary equivalent of a bear hug. Usually I double the amounts of the sauce because I love lapping it up with rice the next day.
Total cooking time: About 27 minutes.

Fried rice is probably the leading contender in the dish-that-I-can-make-in-my-sleep category. We eat a lot of rice at Casa MA and if I've got leftover grains in the fridge, there's a good chance of that fried rice will be happening. One Saturday morning earlier this month, I whipped up a batch for breakfast and threw in leftover pineapple chunks which got even sweeter in the wok.
Total cooking time: About 19 minutes.

If you've got a blender or food processor and seven minutes to spare, you can make your very own hummus. On sultry summer eves, this is about all I want to eat, particularly when those best-when-raw summer vegetables are at their peak. And if friends drop by unannounced, this is the snack you whip up while your sweetie is mixing cocktails. Hummus recipe details.
Total cooking time: That's right, seven minutes.

A pot of red lentils, which are practically self-pureeing, is what soothes my soul after a day of concrete jungling. Don't worry if you don't have all the ingredients on hand, but I highly recommend the cumin seeds that are paired up with the sauteed onions; they take the dish to another level, and you'll thank me one day. I also love this dish for its portable, next-day lunch-ability. Your co-workers will be envious of your high-protein, low cal lunch.
Total cooking time: 35 minutes.

The secret is definitely in the sauce with this Viet-grilled chicken from cookbook author Andrea Nguyen. I don't know how I ever lived without this incredibly easy and uber-flavorful marinade that turns grilled chicken (and zucchini) into otherworldly morsels. Do double the amounts of the marinade and save half for dipping at the table. You won't regret it.
Total cooking time: About an hour, including grilling or roasting at 400 degrees.

At first, I was making this Mustardy Vinaigrette with tatsoi, as cookbook author Elizabeth Schneider suggests, but then I started playing with other quick-wilting greens, such as baby kale, chard and spinach, all of which are excellent seasonal stand-ins. This super-quick skillet vinaigrette is genius, turning greens into elegant restaurant-quality masterpieces.
Total cooking time: About 12 minutes.

Now it's your turn. What's your ultimate, can't-live-without, do-it-in-your-sleep dish for generations to come? Share with the class, please!

The last word from yesterday's chat:
For the reader with the burned pot syndrome: Fill the pan with water and bring to a boil. Then add dishwasher detergent (the granules) - I think it's Cascade. Sprinkle the bottom with the Cascade and slowly stir getting all the charred stuff off. Works EVERYTIME and my pans come out as clean as when I bought them.

Today's Eco-Bite:
Crop to Cup buys coffee beans directly from Ugandan family farms and reinvests 10 percent of its profits with the growers, ensuring fair trade and community development. In addition, CTC has created online message boards for farmers to interact directly with consumers. Retail distribution is currently limited to New York and Chicago, but online ordering is available for the rest of us.

By Kim ODonnel |  April 30, 2008; 9:58 AM ET Dinner Tonight
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Re: the EcoBite. Since you have readers around the country (around the world, from what I've seen posted), I'd encourage everyone to look into local purveyors of fair trade coffees. A lot of these benefit local organizations. For instance, one of ours supports a program the provides microloans to business startups. Others I know about support children's charities or other local good stuff. Keeps the money in the community, and reduces the need to expend fossil fuels to ship yet another package. (Yes, it got shipped to your local vendor, but you don't have to have it shipped to you if you buy locally). Just a thought. Lots of good ideas in these Ecotips, and they get me thinking about other similar ideas that are local (I don't live in D.C. area)

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 10:50 AM

A dish I can cook in my sleep --- Filipino Adobo: Combine in a pot about six bone-in chicken thighs, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup vinegar, 2 tbsp oyster sauce, 1 or 2 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper. Let boil at medium until the liquid has evaporated and the chicken starts to fry in its own fat. Brown a bit and then add water (depends on how much sauce you want). Simmer and scrape the brown bits. Serve over steamed rice. Or transfer to a serving dish. Add cold rice to the pot, season with a bit of salt. Heat through --- this is Adobo Fried Rice.

Posted by: Leah | April 30, 2008 12:12 PM

Pasta with Puttanesca Sauce: Coat skillet with olive oil, heat up, add diced tomatoes, sliced kalamata olives, capers, dried oregano and saute until tomatoes are cooked down. Mix into your cooked pasta. Can even fix it ahead and serve cold for a crowd.

Posted by: Favorite Fast Meal | April 30, 2008 12:26 PM

My go to is Pork Medallions with Olive-Caper Sauce from the June 2001 issue of Cooking Light, their recipes are free to all if you want to check it out at

Another fave at our house is a Mexican Black Beans and Rice originally from Linda's Kitchen, but I've cut the butter in half. From memory that is -- Bring the following to a simmer; a can black beans, 1 3/4 cups broth (veg or chicken),one chopped onion, 2 or 3 cloves of sliced garlic. Mix in a paste of 2 T butter, 2T flour (wheat if you like), 2t chili powder, 1t cumin. Cook until thickened. We make rice in our rice cooker with the delay timer so it is ready when I get home and serve with shredded monterey jack or cheddar cheese.

Baked Rigatoni from Giada's Everyday Italian is another fave but heavier. 1lb Rigatoni boiled for 5 minutes. Leave it very under cooked it cooks the rest of the way when you bake it in the sauce. Sauce - 4 cups bechamel (I make this in advance and freeze it) with 1 cup of shredded fontina, 1/2 lb proscuittol thick sliced then course chop. Mix sauce with pasta and put in a buttered baking dish. Cover with another 1 cup of shredded fontina and 4 Ts butter in pats or small cubes. Bake at 425 (I think) for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

The Pork and the Pasta are the kinds of meals where we make our plates in the kitchen and don't put the meal on the dinner table because if they are in front of us we eat it all well past the point of fullness.

Posted by: late to the party | April 30, 2008 12:48 PM

Tri Color Pasta With Greens is a household favorite
1 box tricolor rotini
1 lb kale
1 Tbs chopped garlic
3 sun dried tomatoes (the kind packed in oil), diced
1 Tbs olive oil
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled.

Boil the pasta as directed on the box. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large covered skillet. Add garlic and sundried tomatoes, saute until garlic is browned. Remove the stems and chop the kale into 1 inch pieces. Add kale and approximately 1/4 cup of water, toss to combine and cover. Cook until kale is wilted, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
Toss kale and pasta together in a large bowl with salt and pepper, top with crumbled feta.

Its really quick when you buy the bags of prechopped kale and the jars of precut sundried tomatoes.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 1:01 PM

pasta with tangy peanut sauce:
in the blender (or food processor), mix 1/4c peanut butter, 1/4 cup vinegar, 2 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp honey, and a pinch of cayenne. Blend until smooth, and add enough water to make it reasonably pourable.

We eat this over pasta or tofu, and like to add some fresh veggies (like bell peppers, but I will sometimes just toss in some raw baby spinach or green onions). This also works fine with Sunflower butter if you have someone who can't eat peanuts.

Posted by: reston, va | April 30, 2008 1:25 PM

My wife's favorite of my recipes is Sausage and Cabbage. This recipe was created by throwing together just about everything that the Joy of Cooking told me went with cabbage.

One lb (or more) smoked sausage chopped small
1 large head of cabbage chopped
1 or 2 onions chopped
1 or two tart apples chopped
lotsa garlic
caraway seed
black pepper
hot sauce to taste

Get the onions almost browned, add the galic, sausage, horseradish, apples and get them started. Add the cabbage and then the caraway, pepper, and hot sauce to taste. Cook until the cabbage is as done as you like.

Posted by: Gusto | April 30, 2008 1:56 PM

I mix brown rice, feta cheese, kalmata olives & green onions with a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Always a hit.

Posted by: Flynn | April 30, 2008 2:25 PM

This was an LA Times recipe that I altered to remove the alcohol (it had white wine in it originially). It also works with pork tenderloin or turkey tenderloin cut into medallions:
Chicken with apples and onions.

1 pkg skinless chicken breast pieces cut into 2" pieces
1 apple, peeled, cored, sliced
1 onion, peeled, sliced
1 carton of apple juice (juice box size)
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
In a frying pan with a lid, brown the chicken in the oil. Remove from pan.
Sweat the onion, add the apple.
Return chicken to pan with any juices from plate.
Mix apple juice, mustard, pepper. Pour over the chicken, onions, apples.
Cover and simmer until done (less than 10 minutes).
Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.

Posted by: Expat now repatriated | April 30, 2008 2:35 PM

Pesto is a dish that I can make in my sleep and it is one we make a lot in the summer and never get tired of eating because there is so much you can do with pesto. My fiance, friends and family members never seem to complain when there are leftovers to take home with them!

Posted by: Pesto | April 30, 2008 2:45 PM

A great topic -- I have been struggling to update my list of standbys for the past two years. I am trying to convert from less healthy recipes to things we don't have feel guilty about eating. Favorites that haven't made it include a ham and cheese cassarole, french onion dip (made with Lipton soup mix, non of the "healthy" mixes taste as good and I still have to try Kim's recipe for making it from scratch!) and beef stroganoff (yogurt does not work as a total substitute for the sour cream -- the temp. of the dish breaks it down too much). Things that are working: chicken stuffed with goat cheese instead of velveeta, arroz con pollo, spicy marinated chicken breasts, and tostadas (plain unfried whole wheat tortillas with the new TJs fat free salsa enhanced refried beans, spicy ground meat, guac, and a touch of cheese).

Kim, you actually are contributing to my arsenal of recipes worth making twice -- so far your walnut cookies have been a HUGE success and I was inspired by yesterday's chat to make the Guiness cake. The cake turned out great with just 45 minutes in the oven -- no need to use a spring form pan if you do line the bottom with parchment paper. Do you think it would stand up to some brown sugar and whole wheat flour substitutions?

Posted by: Kitchen Cat | April 30, 2008 2:52 PM

I LOVE all of these ideas! Keep'em coming,kids!
Kitchen Cat: You know what could be an interesting sugar sub for the Guinness Cake? Agave nectar. Use about 3/4 cup for every cup of sugar. I also think white wheat flour is worth trying here.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 30, 2008 3:04 PM

Lately I've gotten into (1) roasting chicken for Sunday supper. My favorite way is to butterfly the bird (saving the backbone and neck for stock) and roasting it atop large pieces of cut up veggies like potatoes, fennel, carrots, celery, onion, turnips, parsnips, etc. A salad or some lentils on the side and you've got a meal plus leftovers to reinvent.

Tonight we'll finish off the chicken in (2) Mexican chicken chilaquiles casserole, which really is the simplest chicken casserole in the world if you've got a bag of tortilla chips, some salsa and some cheese sitting around. Now that the warm weather is on its way, I'll be grilling the butterflied chicken under a brick, but I've got to have chicken for dinner on Sundays! And cooking a 6 or 7 pounder guarantees leftovers for at least a couple of days.

If I'm in a real hurry and it's (3) fish for dinner, I preheat the broiler, drizzle a little olive oil on the fillets, sprinkle with salt and pepper, finish with a smear of dijon mustard. Broil for up to 4 minutes when the mustard starts to look browned. This is best for thin fillets of white fish like tilapia or flounder. Serve with lemon wedges and if you want to garnish, roughly chop up some olives, capers, and parsley and call it done.

Posted by: Sean | April 30, 2008 3:10 PM

Actually, the Guinness cake has become one of my go-tos. I'm a baker, more than a cook, so I'm usually asked for a dessert at potlucks. I've NEVER seen a cake disappear so fast before - I think it lasted about 5 minutes once someone took the first bite. Haven't tried it with a chocolate stout yet - I've heard that the one from Boston is virtually impossible to get here, but I'm planning a trip to Alexandria to find some chocolate donut stout. The poster from yesterday asked about spicing things up a bit. I got a suggestion from a lady a Penzeys to try finely ground fresh pepper in chocolate, and I know that Chinese 5 spice can also be really nice. No idea on the quantities to add, but I've got lots of willing guinea pigs at work, so I will try some variations out on them.

Posted by: Pam | April 30, 2008 3:39 PM

One not so elegant yet delicious foodstuff that is a staple of my small kitchen is roasted chicken wings. I'm a lover of NC barbecue with it's vinegar flavor, so I marinate my wings (drummettes, wingettes, whatever) in balsamic vinegar and minced garlic. Then I baste them with any barbecue sauce or even salad dressing that I have sitting in my cabinet. Then I bake them for 10 minutes per side at 400, baste again and bake for 10 minutes per side at 450, then 500, then broil. After the final bake I rest them under foil for 5 minutes. It may take almost an hour to cook, but the wings come out sticky and they reheat in the microwave like a champ. And who doesn't love wings?

You can make this recipe with any kind of dry herbs added to the marinade, sprinkled on top of the wings while CAN'T screw this one up. (I think the secret is the baking, basting, and flipping.) Enjoy!

Posted by: Long Island, NY | April 30, 2008 3:52 PM

The simple dish I can make in my sleep is roasted cauliflower. (Or really any roasted vegetable.) It does take time, but it's not thinking or watching time.

Posted by: mollyjade | April 30, 2008 3:58 PM

Filipino Adobo (correction) --- you have to add a lot of crushed garlic. I forgot this one important ingredient.

Posted by: Leah | April 30, 2008 4:04 PM

I love the idea of agave nectar! I actually bought a bottle on a whim at WF (and the pantry disaster builds!) after reading about it in the chat and have since seen it at TJs. Since the recipe essentially dissolves the sugar in the beer syrup, the liquid state won't affect the consistency. I bet it might give the "frothy" icing a little interesting and life like color too and allow for a little less cream.

Posted by: KitchenCat | April 30, 2008 4:21 PM

i have bought the fish sause & i'm getting ready to try the marinade with chicken & then with squash. some of my favorite recipes i can only make certain times of the year
1. beef burgundy. winter time. this needs 3 hours in the oven so i don't ever cook it in the summer.
2. pesto. needs fresh basil so it's a summer time dish.
3. grilled squash.
4. black beans & rice.

Posted by: quark | April 30, 2008 4:58 PM

I'm working to develop an arsenal of recipes, too. Some recent additions:
*Ground turkey, penne, baby spinach, and parmigiano reggiano, seasoned with nutmeg.
*Soba noodles, tossed with edamame, carrots, scallions, red/orange/yellow peppers, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chili-garlic sauce (this is also good topped off with flank steak, and is tasty hot or cold).
*Orzo, peas, and feta cheese, seasoned with red wine vinegar and olive oil, often tasty with chicken.

As you can tell, I'm gravitating towards one-dish, one-pot, all-food-groups meals!

Posted by: gretchen | April 30, 2008 5:31 PM

Egg-lemon soup! The Joy of Cooking recipe takes 20 minutes start-to-finish and uses pantry staples.

From memory, it's 1/2 cup rice in 6 cups of broth (I use the "Better than Bouillon" from a jar), cook covered for 20 minutes until the rice is soft. Meanwhile mix 1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh is best) with two eggs. When the rice is done, turn off heat and slowly stir in the egg mixture. Season with pepper and chopped parsley.

You can also add chicken if you want to overload the protein -- just use a bit more broth and put in the raw chicken a few minutes before the rice is done.

Posted by: Jenny | April 30, 2008 6:01 PM

This is such a great topic! Our staple is chicken in wine sauce - saute thawed chicken breasts (dredged in flour/salt/pepper or not) in olive oil til brown on both sides. Add some mixture of wine and chicken broth to taste (about a half cup liquid per breast) and simmer mixture 'til chicken is cooked through. If desired, reduce sauce (minus chicken) and then remove from heat and swirl in a pat of butter. This basic formula allows endless variations - white wine, red wine, cheap-o cooking wines, vermouth - all have been tasty. I play with different herbs and different veggies added at different times (french-ish herbs + red wine + carrots + pearl onions + bacon fat instead of olive oil = coq au vin, for instance). Sauce is delicious over crusty bread (esp. when mushrooms involved), mashed potatoes, green beans, pasta, you name it. Usually this takes about a half hour to make, and it's great for cleaning out the fridge.

Posted by: M.L. | April 30, 2008 6:10 PM

tomato basil soup

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 8:41 PM

My favorites seem to evolve--my kids' tastes change, the seasons change, and I just get bored with something and quit making it for a while. Lately my kids have been requesting chicken & dumplings in the slow cooker, beef and broccoli with oyster sauce, homemade pizza, mac and cheese (from "scraps", as my daughter heard the word "scratch") and bean burritos. My favorites are slow roasted salmon (which is still only 20 minutes), crab cakes, and clams with white wine, shallots and linguine.

For the summer I grill a bunch of stuff and then have salads for a few days, incorporating the various ingredients. We usually have steak the night I grill, with a little herbed butter on top and some grilled vegis on the side, then we'll use the grilled chicken in a ceasar salad the next night, and have cold grilled pork chops with cole slaw the third. Salad Nicoise is another favorite, and it works surprisingly well for my kids because I just make the whole salad up for my partner and me, and then leave the ingredients separate for the kids.

I actually have a section of my recipe card collection where I keep my 'fast favorites' for quick reference. For most of the recipes, I don't actully have to look them up. But it's like my extended memory--as I get tired of one dish, I go back and find one I haven't used in a while. It's also good if I don't have time to make a grocery list. I just grab the cards I want and go to the store.

Posted by: seattlecookingmon | April 30, 2008 8:49 PM

One of our meals is something that I grew up with my mom making. We didn't have pizza delivery (rural life) so I grew up with homemade pizza. And we don't have pizza delivery where I live now either so I also make our pizza here too. It's not exactly fast, but when you've got the dough prepped (I make extra when I make it and freeze it) it's pretty simple to thaw, stretch and top. My husband always lights up when he walks in the door on Fridays and smells pizza. Not all Fridays are pizza Fridays but a lot of them are.

Another meal that I do seem to make a lot is enchiladas of some sort. It's never a real recipe, but whenever I have either leftovers from a roasted turkey or grilled beef or tacos they are usually made into enchiladas. My husband always comments on how much he likes them, and how much he eats too much when I make them.

Then there is what was my favorite birthday meal as a child - and I'm just waiting for the corn to be ready this year. It's what I used to call: CornChickyHotHotHot (You know how when your mom put your food down in front of you she'd tell you what it was and that it was hot... well that's how that started... ummm.. yeah...) It's just BBQ chicken and corn on the cob.

And one last meal, Sloppy Joes. I use chili sauce (the one in the ketchup aisle not the Asian one) instead of plain ketchup. And they can be served over whatever I happen to have on hand, whether it's rolls, toast, baked potatoes or pierogies (I keep a bag of Mrs. T's in the freezer - which are also great for quick meals). This is also another throw back to my mom I guess. It's something I grew up on, so I guess it's a comfort food for me. Huh, looking back over my list, I guess most of mine are what I grew up with in the first place.

Posted by: JJ | May 1, 2008 9:24 AM

Rice and black beans -- rice in the rice cooker, saute garlic and onions (and a chili pepper, if I have one), add a can of black beans, drained and rinsed, a can of rotel tomatoes, a chipotle in adobo sauce, cumin, smoked paprika, maybe more chili powder, depending on my mood, a dash of apple cider vinegar, and simmer until hot/rice is ready. Sometimes I add frozen corn, or spinach, depending on my mood. If I have cheese or sour cream or green onions, we'll add that on top.

This is a dish I'll make when I don't want think about dinner, or need to go to the store. And it's a complete meal in and of itself.

Posted by: Veggie in DC | May 1, 2008 10:49 AM

This is a great topic!

Our go-to favorites are also of the one-dish, all-food-groups variety. My husband LOVES my veggie chili. It's so forgiving and whatever you have on hand is good. I dump in onions, peppers, a few bags of small frozen veggies (anything works - zucchini, peas and carrots, soup veggies), two cans of kidney beans, two cans of chopped tomatoes, a bit of water or broth, and spice it up with chili powder, BBQ sauce, cumin, creole seasoning, cocoa powder (really), cinnamon, even curry powder or garam masala...anything you put in chili is going to turn out good. 40 minutes, or 5 min prep if you use the slow cooker.

Huevos rancheros is another too-lazy-to-cook meal - some frozen sliced peppers, some onion, eggs, cheese if you feel like it, tortillas, and ranchero sauce (I like Trader Joe's) and you're done. Maybe 10 minutes start to finish.

when I'm feeling lazy and eating just for myself, I love to eat pizza bagels and salad. This was one of my dad's special treats for us kids growing up and it is pure comfort food for me.

Posted by: LK | May 1, 2008 10:49 AM

One of my favorites is from Mollie Katzen (EBF or Moosewood, I forget which): saute dried basil, oregano, and pepper in olive oil, then add red/yellow/orange bell pepper strips and crushed/minced garlic, then add red wine/balsamic vinegar (the balsamic was my twist). Toss with linguine. Delicious.

Also, practically anything from _Pasta e Verdura_ by Jack Bishop.

Posted by: Christina | May 1, 2008 11:15 AM

Kim - I made your Vietnamese chicken before. It was some of the best grilled chicken I've ever had!

Posted by: MBinDC | May 1, 2008 4:37 PM

From Oz,

1. Roast Lamb spiked with garlic, rosemary and anchovies... This may sound weird I know... but the anchovy doesn't dominate lamb like it does a pizza. Just gives the lamb a much fuller flavour... This is from Stephanie Alexander...

2. Onion soup and Hoisin sauce. Caramelize onions... add chicken stock... and hoisin sauce to taste. Sweet soup with aniseed overtones.

3. Slow roasted Cherry tomatoes. Cut in half, put salt, herbs of choice, and olive oil over, put in preheated 200 celsius (sorry, I'm a metric kinda guy) and leave it in the oven to slow cook... Great in salads or with pasta...

Posted by: Chrispa | May 2, 2008 8:16 AM

KitchenCat: have you tried making the storganoff with fat free sour cream? It works for me.

Family Fave: this is the perfect time of year for it. Roasted asparagus with herbs or lemon pepper (make sure to use the salt free kind, many are mostly salt). Spray with olive oil amd roast in oven. Meanwhile, saute boneless chicken on top of stove in balsamic vinegrette. With asparagus plentiful, we usually eat this without a starch, but potatoes or baguette will go well. (For potatoes, peel - or scrub well - and cut into small pieces, 1 1/2 to 2 inches, put small amount of water into pan, bring to boil, simmer about 15 minutes until potatoes are fork-tender.) Meal can be on the table including prep time in about 30 minutes.

Posted by: DutchTreat | May 2, 2008 8:46 AM

In my sleep, in the mountains, any time at all. While boiling a half-pound of linguine, warm 1 can of tuna (drained) and 1 cup of peas (frozen; thawed or not) in olive oil &/or butter. Toss pasta and sauce together with parsley (fresh or dried) and black pepper. Eat on the couch (usually the two of us get through all of it) while admiring your remodeling job!

Posted by: jennifer | May 2, 2008 8:52 AM

Baked ziti: mix up whatever proportions you like of tomato sauce, ricotta, shredded mozz, and shredded parm (better than grated, which can disappear). Add a beaten egg and, if you like, spinach and/or ground meat.

Mix with semi-cooked pasta, cover, and bake in a 350 oven for about 35 minutes (depending on how much pasta you have--if you're making a small batch, start at about 20 minutes). When it's heated through, uncover, top with more mozz, and put back in the oven uncovered for 5-8 minutes.

Also: skirt steak marinated in Soy Vay teriyaki, grilled and served with rice and snow peas (you can drizzle a little more of the marinade over the rice and veggies too). YUM.

Posted by: katie | May 2, 2008 11:13 AM

I just caved on the stroganoff this week -- a craving thing. I made it with half non-fat yogurt and half reduced fat sour cream and called it a day.

For M.L., if you like mustard, you can turn that wine sauce into a nice "creamy" mustard sauce. I add a bit of chicken stock or water to the pan at the end, mix in a couple of spoonfuls (based on taste) of dijon mustard and then reduce the liquid down. At the last moment add your milk based product to make it creamy (be it cream, milk, or yogurt). My mom originally made this meal with pork chops when we were growing up. I love it with rice becuase the sauce is so tasty -- but we are "mustard people."

Posted by: KitchenCat | May 2, 2008 11:14 AM

My favorite standby is bowtie pasta with cubed pancetta and fresh arugula. You can get already cubed pancetta from Trader Joe's, crisp it up in a little olive oil. Add 1 clove chopped garlic once the pancetta is to desired doneness. Chop up some arugula (which we grow in our garden in the summer--yum!). When draining pasta, reserve pasta water. Toss pasta with pancetta/garlic and argula over low heat to wilt the arugula. Sprinkle generous amount of parmiggiano reggiano cheese and add pasta water to thicken. Total cooking time 15 minutes. Even my 2 and 3 1/2 year olds eat it.

Another definition of an old standby is something that husband can cook without my help or direction: breaded porkchops. The kids love their "chop chops"!

Posted by: EK | May 2, 2008 11:54 AM

Spaghetti caprese:
Chop up some garlic and cook it in a little extra virgin olive oil until soft but not brown. Add some diced ripe plum tomatoes, a little balsamic vinegar, some chopped fresh basil and a few chopped greek olives. Salt and pepper to taste, warm through until the basil starts to wilt and pour over the pasta. Toss with room-temperature grated fresh mozzarella.

Posted by: molama | May 2, 2008 1:33 PM

Favorite summer stand-bys:

Grilled chicken salad. Night before, put chicken breasts in a big ziploc with olive oil, cheap balsamic vinegar, and tarragon (if you're inspired, add garlic and whatever other herbs/spices you like). Slice Vidalia onions @ 1/2-1" thick and marinate. Next day: toss chicken on the grill; brush vidalias with oil and toss them on, too. When done, slice/chop.

While they're cooking, cook 1-2 strips of bacon until crisp; remove and shred. Toss all but @ 1 T of bacon fat. Add 1-2 t. sugar (to taste), tarragon, and cheap balsamic; stir for 30 seconds and remove from heat. Make salad (if I'm really lazy, I just open a bag of lettuce). Add chicken, onions, bacon, and dressing, and toss.

Another favorite is my southwest marinade on London broil -- it's basically a bunch of whatever you want to throw in, but always includes Worcestershire, lime juice, picante sauce, olive oil, a few smashed garlic cloves, cumin, red pepper, and an herb or two (thyme/oregano); if I have it on-hand, I'll toss in a shot of tequila. Marinate the night before, and 15 minutes on the grill.

Re: yogurt separating: I learned this trick from the "Galloping Gourmet," after he stopped galloping: if you whisk some arrowroot into the yogurt before you add it to the heat, it helps keep it from separating. Don't know how it would hold up to a long cook, but for things like making a finishing sauce, where you just add the yogurt at the end, works great.

Posted by: Laura | May 2, 2008 1:45 PM

I forgot: another big, very quick standby is spaghetti/fettucine carbonara. Boil noodles; cook bacon until crisp, remove/shred bacon. When noodles are done, put in bowl, and immediately add bacon, shredded parmesan, 1-2 egg yolks (depending on how much), and fresh-ground black pepper. Toss and serve.

Is also good with some basil thrown in, and you can saute some onions in with the bacon, if you'd like. Or if you want more bacony flavor, pull the noodles out 30 seconds shy of done, and finish them off in the pan with the bacon grease; add just a little water, and the parmesan will make a nice semi-sauce instead of just clumping on the noodles.

Posted by: Laura | May 2, 2008 1:54 PM

Roasted Corn Chowder -- Hard to get wrong, and even if you substitute canned/frozen niblets for real in-the-ear roasted corn its still a hit. Besides, it has bacon in it.

Brown some good, thick bacon (applewood/mesquite) in the bottom of a stock pot, add diced potatoes, onions, corn, broth (veg. or chicken), cover and cook until potatoes are tender, thicken with cream.

No substitutes!

Posted by: WDR | May 2, 2008 3:55 PM

Not quite a standby, but more of a signature dessert -- A pear & apple pie/tart with a bourbon sour cream filling. Take your basic apple pie recipe, substitute half pears. Look up the bourbon sour cream recipe (if memory serves correctly it is one cup sour cream, 1 egg, 1 cup sugar, bourbon to taste (2-3 oz.)) Works well in either a deep dish pie or 13" tart.

Damn, I'm getting hungry.

Posted by: WDR | May 2, 2008 4:05 PM

one of my favourites for the winter months when i am busy with school is my "hot pot": large dice kielbasa, potatoes, add sliced carrots and small mushrooms. toss in a cast iron skillet with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. stick in the oven for about an hour at 400. it's filling, balanced, andcomforting on cold nights.

Posted by: sarah | May 3, 2008 3:02 AM

We almost always have some homemade stock in the freezer. Soups are popular with our family year-round.

Does anyone have a recipe for bbq sauce without tomato products, orange or mango? I used to use Bad News Sauce, but it is no longer available and everything else seems to have a tomato base.

Posted by: Sholamith | May 3, 2008 11:45 AM

My all-time favorite quickie is spaghettini or shell pasta in tuna sauce. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil. Add tomatoes (good, canned plum-type), red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and simmer a few minutes. Add Italian tuna packed in olive oil, capers, basil, Gaeta or Kalamata olives and mashed anchovies and simmer another 5 minutes. (I think I remembered everything--I don't measure, but 1 16 oz can tomatoes to 1 6-oz can of tuna makes enough for 1/2 pound of pasta)

Posted by: maxie | May 3, 2008 11:57 AM

I agree with the other folks. This is a great topic! Here's a few recipes I keep coming back to over the

Mac & Cheese - made custard style. My kids love it (so do their parents).

Saag Paneer - made with spinach, methi leaves, and asofoteida. Served on rice? Yum!

Seared tuna steaks - coat with black pepper and sesame seeds and cook until seared on the outside. Slice and serve with salad.

Risotto - I adore this dish. The simple classic is nice and makes a wonderful canvas for other flavors.

Marinara/bolognese sauce - this one's a split decision. I can't count the number of batches of bolognese sauce I've made. It's rich and makes a number of meals. The downside being it's VERY rich
and takes a long time. Of late, I shifted over to marinara sauce. Ready within an hour and the only fat is a few tablespoons of olive oil. It also makes a sensational pizza.

Last, but not least: Ratatouille. I was a big fan of the classic dish before the movie and then turned into an obsessive fan. A relatively simple way to do this is use some left-over marinara sauce and thinly sliced eggplant and zucchini. My mandoline has been a lifesaver.


Posted by: Fairlington Blade | May 3, 2008 4:49 PM

Three "in my sleep" recipes that we love.

Peanut curry with shrimp or lamb or chicken, served over rice.

Roasted Red pepper pesto with crusty french bread. I toast the pine nuts and add a touch of balsamic vinegar, plus lemon juice, a handful of kalamati olives and a good parmeasan. Lighten with good fruity olive oil.

Hummus. Besides the usual I add apple cider (in season) or apple sauce to give it a lovely fruity flavor, Real peanut butter and toasted sesame oil for more flavor than tahini. Chopped cilatro and a bit of cumin.


Posted by: JoyousMN | May 4, 2008 1:41 AM

Eggplant with Pomegranate and Walnuts

This is beyond yummmy.
Cut a large eggplant into very thick slices.Salt the slices and let the bitter moisture comes out (1o mins.), then wipe off the salt. In a food processor coarsely grind a half-cup of walnuts with 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses and 3 of plain bread crumbs. Coat the eggplant with this paste and roast in a 300-degree oven for 45 minutes. The eggplant will be crisp on the outside and melted on the inside, with an incredible flavor!

Posted by: molama | May 4, 2008 1:02 PM

I really did enjoy reading this article on recipes. It was so interesting and I printed a great deal of it out to try myself.

A job well done.

Posted by: margaret barnhill | May 5, 2008 1:01 AM

I love eggplants in any shape and form. I will be trying this eggplant recipe tonite for sure but I dont have pomegranate molasses so what can I substitute it with? Can I try brown sugar instead?

Posted by: Suman, Orangeburg | May 8, 2008 12:25 PM

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