Seriously easy recipes + tips from friends who know

I recently asked some friends to share some of their easy (5 ingredients or close to it) go-to recipes and tips. We all have kids and need fast easy dinners with a minimum of ingredients and prep work (stuff you can make ahead and keep in the fridge for an easy heat-up-serve meal). All comments from the last month (and specifically this crispy tofu post) got deleted during a blog renovation so feel free to leave a link or comment here with your tip or recipe and check out The Forest Feast, Sunday Suppers, Small Plates & Sweet Treats and Wild Apple Journal.

I have to start with the best suggestion of all from Gemma Burgess,  “I have this amazing recipe called “” but it’s pretty complicated so maybe you guys should work up to it?”

And now for the rest:

Joanna Goddard:

“I have no recipes to add to the list, except to recommend Rao’s tomato sauce, which Erin Jang turned me onto. it’s $8 which seems insane for a jar of tomato sauce, but it is so far and above the regular stuff that it’s 100% worth it. we put it on rotini pasta, then put a little arugula and parmesan on the side and feel like geniuses.

Meanwhile, Abbey and Sharon were talking about slow cookers, and i thought i’d share this link.”
“RAO’S. The best!
 I’ve been making this sesame noodle dish these days (Miles’s favorite). It takes me 15 min to put it together.
It makes a giant bowl that you can keep in the fridge and eat cold or heat up in the microwave.”
SESAME NOODLES (recipe from Pioneer Woman)
1. Boil a box of spaghetti.
2. Make this sauce:
1/4 c soy sauce
2 T sugar
4 minced garlic cloves
2 T rice vinegar
3 T sesame oil
4 T canola oil
optional: 1/2 t sriracha / chili paste
(I hate extra dishes, so I combine this in the bottom of a giant mixing bowl.)
3. Throw cooked, drained spaghetti into the bowl with the sauce and mix.
4. Add sliced scallions, and eat it plain.
Or I add whatever leftover veggies I have in my fridge — it’s really good with stir-fried bok choy, asparagus and/or mushrooms.
And some chopped rotisserie chicken thrown in (BTW: if any of you live near Eataly in Madison Sq Park, their rotisserie chicken is insanely good, and ask them to cut it into 8ths for you and it makes dinner so easy).
“I actually just came back from Spain and I have to say my comfort food always roots back to things my mom used to make like lentil soup, squash and leek soup, braised chicken, Spanish tortilla…. I have some of those recipes on my blog.
  1. Lentil soup
  2. Tortilla
  3. Squash and leek soup
  4. Apple and yogurt cake (I have several variations but this is latest)”.
“My go to is Heidi Swanson’s Cilantro Pesto from her Ravioli Salad recipe (which is less of a salad and more of a meal). The whole ravioli dish is so good, but for something quick, I’m a fan of just making the pesto part, doubling the recipe and keeping it in the fridge to put on pasta, sandwiches, and chicken. You can freeze it too, so it makes a nice gift for families w new babies – or anyone who might not want it right away. If they like cilantro!

Whole ravioli dish recipe here.”

Just the Cilantro Pesto:
(serves 4-6)
a little less than 1/3 cup pepitas, toasted (I don’t usually toast)
1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves and stems
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fine-grain sea salt

Combine the pepitas, cilantro, Parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon juice and a splash of the olive oil and blend with an immersion blender (or in a food processor or standard blender) until smooth. Continue blending as you gradually drizzle in the remaining olive oil, until the pesto comes together into a vibrant green sauce. Taste and add salt or more lemon juice, if needed.

“I’ve been making a chicken pot pie for the last few weeks that has completely changed my whole life. use store-bought pie crust and a rotisserie chicken and it’s the simplest thing. even better the second and third day :).”

“Here are two of my weekly go-to’s – both pastas because I <3 carbs.

Very easy and not too many ingredients (which were some of the criteria we discussed):

Amanda Hesser’s Lemon Pasta (Lila’s absolute favorite – we have this like 2x/week and always stock creme fraiche in the fridge. Usually make it with regular lemons, not Meyer).”
“I make a baked macaroni & cheese that can feed us for a few days. I’ll send the recipe around (once I write it up). There’s also this great Kale salad mix (it has shredded Brussels sprouts, pumpkin seeds, and other greens, too) in a bag that I pick up at Costco — found in the walk-in refrigerator — that we eat at east once a week. You can add dried cranberries, raisins, pistachios, grilled chicken, grilled corn to it and it’s sooo good.
We also do “wraps” every once in a while where you grab tortillas (from Trader Joes — I think they are the best), cube grilled chicken breasts or shredded meat from a rotisserie bird, chopped lettuce, avocado, cherry tomatoes, shredded cheese, sour cream, and salsa. Put everything into small bowls and assemble as you like. Sometimes I also make some rice do my boys can it like a burrito bowl. It’s easy and good.”
“I almost never cook, but I make little snacks sometimes! Avocado toast is so simple and always delish. I just mash up an avocado on a sliced baguette, and drizzle olive oil, sea salt and crushed red peppers on top. Never fails ????.”
“Tried and true fav: Everyday Food’s vegetarian enchiladas.
I just discovered a new to me dish at our trader joe’s sample taste table, an even easier take on enchiladas without any effort:
Slice up ready made polenta into rounds, layer onto a baking pan. Pour over TJ’s enchilada sauce (this where the jar stuff comes in) and sprinkle on shredded cheese. Bake at 350, till cheese gets gooey and then DIG IN with fav tortilla chips. That’s it! It’s deceptively simple, but the flavors seem more complex than just three ingredients, and it’s really addictive.
I love homemade soups most of all. Maybe make them twice a week, sometimes more…
I just heat a giant pot with olive oil, throw in garlic and onions, then about 8 cups (totally eyeball it all) veg broth and chopped seasonal veggies, let it simmer till they soften. Blend with immersion blender and serve with a drizzle of oil on top. Usually there’s leftovers for lunch the next day, you can round it out by adding some bread from favorite bakery or a salad… so easy and healthy. Once you learn one homemade soup recipe, you pretty much learn them all… My standards for fall are lentil soup and potato and leek soup.
I discovered Giada’s take on french onion soup years ago and it’s a classic at our house- it’s really really good for dinner parties!  Easy and elegant served with a salad and favorite drink. “
 Now I’m hungry!”
“If only there were 3D food printers… (actually I am so freaked out by 3D printers)
Do you eat eggs Sam? If so, one of my favorite Trader Joes hacks is to sautee a bag of their frozen fire-roasted  peppers & onions, crack a few eggs to scramble, possibly mix in some spinach or whatever other veggies are in the fridge (or if I’m feeling decadent, pre-cooked bacon) and sprinkle with cheese. We usually eat ours on flour tortillas topped with avocado and sriracha. Those peppers are so good though, and a good starting point for quick soups, chilis, fajitas, etc.
My other favorite trick of late is to toss any and all veggies with a quick coat of coconut oil, garlic paste, and a splash of balsalmic and roast them hot and short so they are still a little crunchy. I serve with whatever pre-made protein looks best at the store and and make enough to have leftovers for salad the next day. We put them on greens and/or quinoa topped with feta and pickled onions (so easy) makes a delicious (and pretty!) salad. And then, obviously, I feel so smug about having a salad meal I indulge in treat after treat once the kids are in bed.
Or also we do roasted veggie and bean burritos.  But with this dressing, which I make in bulk and freeze in smaller portions—it makes the simplest meals so delicious. I cheat at fish tacos and buy frozen panko fish and then toss some shredded cabbage with this dressing and top with avocado and maybe cheese/pico/radish/ whatever.
Lastly, its kind of summery but Trader Joes pre-chopped mirepoix + bubbies pickle relish + greek yogurt + Lemon juice makes quick base for tuna or chicken salad, then you can add whatever mix-ins strike your fancy. (We usually do green apple and grapes, and then as is our family creed: top with avocado.).”
“We have lots of good quick recipes that we rely upon, but in particular — my mom was a big believer in yummy jars of sauces that you can dress up  (Trader Jo’s Thai curry sauce and Lee Kum Kee spicy bean sauce), and I’m really into this style of “cooking” as well!
For the Mapo Tofu, my mom (and we) make it with ground turkey and a lot of tofu and cabbage, which deviates from the jar’s instructions (and certainly from traditional Mapo Tofu preparation) but is very delicious.  Side note that Molly O’Neill wrote this great book with recipes of how people actually cook in America (called “One Big Table“), and my mom’s Mapo Tofu hack is actually included in that book, as is my dad’s Sichuan peppercorn rubbed tuna loin (which is great on a grill but tough in a NYC apartment).
For the TJ’s curry simmer sauce, it works great with any form of protein and basically any veggies as well.  I like shrimp, bamboo shoots, broccoli, onion, water chestnuts.  I think it has a lot of calories but you don’t need to use a ton of it for a good flavor. Now I’m starving!!”
“This is near and dear to my heart!  Here’s one of our fave recipes in this category:
It isn’t quite a “5 ingredient” recipe, but is mostly pantry staples.  I’ve made it with all “cheaty” ingredients (freeze-dried garlic, freeze-dried shallots instead of onion, bottled ginger, etc)  It has always turned out well, but I would recommend springing for the actual onion if you have one. =)
I usually end up using curry powder + additional curry paste, but it’s so hard to give advice on those kinds of things since the flavor will depend on what you have.
And definitely don’t skip the lime at the end – YUM!
Also, we’ve never used the jalapeno because of the kids.  Josh & Lela both adore this soup, so that feels like a win for me.  We serve it with the cilantro, and usually also with chips or crackers + avocado chunks (for the soup and for Nathan!). I hope you love it.”
Well if you made it to the end of this post you are no longer hungry and you are armed with lots of good ideas. Hope you try them. I’m excited.