The cheapest, fastest, and easiest way to get ahead in life is to know your way around the kitchen. It may seem to clash with my non-traditional views on gender roles, but I can say with confidence that food can save your ass, from time to time. Need a favor from a friend? Bribe her with banana bread. Looking to impress a guy on the fourth date? Whip up a fancy-looking pasta. Trying to save money or lose weight? Cook dinner at home on weeknights.
Whether you’re a seasoned chef, or prone to burning frozen pizza, I’ve put together a crash course in cooking guaranteed to up your confidence in the kitchen and please your palate. Work your way through the following recipes, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how simple preparing meals can be.
Sunday: Crock pot taco chili
I can’t promote the convenience of a Crock Pot enough. If you don’t have one, run, don’t walk, to the nearest thrift store — they have crock pots in droves for under ten dollars. And if you don’t subscribe to Skinnytaste, you’re missing out. Gina’s recipes are ALL fantastic, and skinny to boot!
Sundays are the perfect day to prepare a huge meal, bask in the scent of it simmering all day, then curl up with a big bowl in time for Sunday night TV. This crock pot taco chicken chili rivals the flavor of a Chipotle chicken burrito bowl, and couldn’t be easier to make. If you can open a can, you can make this hearty meal. After going back for seconds and thirds, pack up the leftovers for an entire week of healthy brown bag lunches. Get the recipe
Monday: Baked macaroni and cheese with broccoli
If you’re anything like me, you crave carbs on Mondays. I’ve got you covered with this mac and cheese, the BEST I’ve ever made. If you don’t own a casserole pan, feel free to substitute a cake pan.
This classic dish requires a lot of ingredients, but you should have some on hand. It also requires you to make a roux — a sauce blended using milk and flour. But don’t be intimidated. I believe in you.
Be sure to perfect this dish if you live with any picky eaters — I’ve yet to meet any man, woman or child that didn’t wolf down this recipe. Oh, and expect more leftovers. Get the recipe
Tuesday: Mediterranean quesadillas
Quesadillas are the non-cook’s best friend. They’re cheap, easy, and tough to screw up.
These divine quesadillas come together quickly, and you can easily leave out any ingredients you don’t have or don’t like, while retaining the fantastic flavor.
If you’re becoming partial to leftovers, freeze these for later consumption. Get the recipe
Wednesday: Scrambled egg tacos
Considering you already have tortillas in your fridge, why not build your own breakfast burrito? Mastering scrambled eggs is a key milestone along the way to becoming a proficient cook, so if you struggle to get fluffy eggs the first time around, don’t be discouraged. Eggs are cheap, so toss the burnt eggs and start over. Get the recipe
Thursday: Reese’s peanut butter banana bread
You should have plenty of leftovers to hold you over for dinner, so spend tonight trying your hand at baking. Bread is notoriously difficult to make, but this recipe is ridiculously easy, and so delicious you won’t want to share.
This is the perfect dessert to bring to a gathering, or to bribe someone. I once convinced a friend to help paint my house in exchange for this bread. Seriously.
The good news is after you have all the ingredients for this recipe, you’ll be in great shape to continue experimenting with baking. Get the recipe
Friday: Caprese grilled cheese
Jessica of How Sweet It Is should be tried for peddling indecent images. Her blog is bursting at the seams with food porn. Although many of her recipes require a bit more culinary skill than a beginner brings to the table (pun!), this grilled cheese is super simple, and sinfully delicious.
You can use any type of bread you have on hand, and substitute shredded mozzarella if needed. But don’t skip roasting the tomatoes, and be sure to use fresh basil. I preferred this sandwich sans balsamic, but give it a shot if you like bitter flavors. Get the recipe
Saturday: Chocolate chip banana pancakes
I love to celebrate the weekend with a decadent breakfast, and inviting friends over for a home brunch is a great alternative to eating out — who wants to wait forty five minutes for a table on a Saturday, anyway?
Chances are, if you made banana bread earlier this week, you’ll have most of the ingredients for these pancakes already. These cakes blow boxed pancake mix out of the water, and are unbelievably easy. You could eat these topped with fruit and skip the syrup, if you’re feeling especially well-behaved. Get the recipe
Hey, you’re done. You just cooked all week long. You can now shred chicken, make a roux, roast red peppers, scramble fluffy eggs, bake bread, make a balsamic reduction, and prepare perfect pancakes. I’d say that makes you a cook! Subscribe to all the blogs above to continue your journey in the kitchen.
What are your favorite sources for recipes? Tell me in the comments!