Simple recipes that I love to make over and over again

20 Simple, Classic Recipes I Love to Make Over and Over |  Smart and cheerful

Editor’s note: With the weather starting to get colder in this part of the world, many of us are now spending more time cooking in our kitchens. We’re sharing this post full of classic and simple recipes, originally published in May of 2019, as a bit of cooking inspiration for all the home chefs out there.

Learning to cook was one of my favorite creative outlets and self-care sources in my twenties and thirties. As my friends are becoming less interested in nights out at the bar and more in them Share stories about good food and wineIn my mid-twenties, learning to cook became a central focus. I think for most of those years I’ve been playing dress-up, trying to figure out what kind of adult I was, how I brought my friends into my house, and who I wanted to be a good human being.

My mom is a great baker and loves to cook, but that wasn’t something we spent time doing together. I didn’t learn much about cooking or meal prep as a kid, so I was basically a beginner the first time I picked up a frying pan.

Since many of you may be in a similar boat and may not know where to start, I thought it would be helpful to compile a list of my simplest used recipes that I return to over and over again. Ideally, these recipes will serve as a great basis for learning to cook and bake a variety of dishes. Not only will it teach you how to be a better cook, but it will also allow you to serve something you made with love and care to the people you host.


A picture of the comfort of cooking

Thomas Keeler (3 ingredients) grilled chicken

One of the hallmarks of any good restaurant is how good the grilled chicken is. What I like about starting with roast chicken as the first thing you learn how to cook is that you learn a lot about temperature and cause and effect (in terms of what you add to the bird), and how to properly prepare something so it cooks evenly – it’s a great way to get started as a beginner in the kitchen.

This roast chicken requires only 3 ingredients – 1 roasted chicken, salt and thyme leaves – so it’s really important to follow the instructions that Thomas Keller put together. Make sure you’re not creating too much steam in the oven (this prevents the chicken from getting crunchy) and that you’re brushing the chicken properly. Also understand that you may need more salt than you used to to get the chicken with the flavor you really want. I love serving the chicken with a bit of Dijon mustard, roasted potatoes, and a really great green salad.


Photo from the Food Network

Roasted winter vegetables by Ina Garten

This second recipe is also an easy way to understand the power of using your oven, and the fact that some ingredients can create amazing flavors. I chose the ingredients for winter vegetables because I believe that winter is the time when roasted vegetables really play a role in our kitchens. This recipe includes carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, squash, peppers, and some flat-leaf parsley.

What you really want from roasted veggies is a nice crunchy edge. To achieve this, it is important to coat the vegetables well in olive oil and bake until cooked through, turning only once, so that they end up with nice crunchy edges along the side.


Picture from Malabar tea room

Cake hearts and minds win

This is the best cake I know how to make. I learned about it from orange, which I bought his book, which is basically what I made for her wedding cake. It is made with the finest quality chocolate and contains lots of eggs. It’s one of those uniform dishes that everyone loves, and when you serve it up with a little bit of ice cream, everyone just stops and just rolls their eyes to the back of their heads and goes for a bit of chocolate bliss.

This is a very easy cake, although it looks great. It teaches you a little bit about even baking, looking at different textures for cakes, and knowing when to finish. Whether you’re looking to impress someone, have an important dessert-giving event, or just want to treat the people in your life, this is a great cake to consider to keep in your repertoire.


A picture of the wonderful table

olive oil cake

olive oil cake from Sunday dinner Is another cake that I make when I need to bring something nice for someone, or if I’m making a cake for brunch. This is a really simple and delicious olive oil cake that’s sweet enough to be a dessert, but also light and mild enough to be a great cake to serve for breakfast or with tea.


Photo courtesy of Bon Appetit


This is one of the first things I learned to do In my first single apartment. It was autumn, and I needed a really great comfort meal, and there was something so alluring about the ritual of constantly flipping the risotto. The end result is a simple flavor combination that really brings out the texture of the rice mixed with Parmesan cheese and butter. This dish is very simple and requires very little technique and care, so it’s a great way to start your own cooking ritual. It teaches you to love the process of cooking, rather than needing things to be quick and easy all the time.


picture of food 52

marcella hazan tomato sauce

This is a classic red sauce that I learned from my friend D. It’s a really basic recipe – basically all it’s made of are tomatoes. For this reason, it is really important to use the right tomatoes – high-quality canned plum tomatoes without salt or the addition of additional herbs. All you have to do is put 5 tablespoons of butter + 1 white onion cut in half and let it simmer for 45 minutes. The end result is the best red sauce you’ll ever have. I can guarantee that you will never want to buy a jar red sauce again.


Simple recipes that I love to make over and over |  Smart and cheerful
Photo by NYT Cooking

Mark Bateman’s no-knead bread

Mark Bittman’s No-Knead Bread recipe is so popular, I learned how to make bread. All you need is flour, a little yeast, some salt, olive oil and technique. This technique really creates a wonderfully crunchy bread with an array of air holes in it. The end result is a wonderful type of bread that is very luxurious but also easy to prepare – a great way to up your game and learn to enjoy the process of making bread by hand.


Simple recipes that I love to make over and over |  Smart and cheerful
Photo by Gimme Some Oven

Casio eBaby

Again, this is another one of those risotto-type dishes where it’s all about convenience and simplicity. Probably everyone has the ingredients you need to make a Casio e Baby. The title literally translates to cheese and pepper, which is basically everything on top of the dish. This recipe is another take on the technique, so it’s important to know how the ingredients work together, and then follow the instructions for a tee. If you haven’t had this dish before, order it at a great Italian restaurant to get a feel for the texture, then go home and make your own.


Photo from Rachel Ray Show

Jacques Torres Secret Chocolate Cookies

Every baker needs a great chocolate chip cookie recipe. Jacque Torres Secret Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe has been around for a really long time. It’s a great place to start in terms of upping your game when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. I know there are a lot of excellent cookie recipes in the game, so if there’s another recipe you’d really like to use with the best chocolate chip cookies, let me know in the comments!


Simple recipes that I love to make over and over |  Smart and cheerful
Photo from the Food Network

Ina Garten Mac and Cheese

I started with this Ina Garten recipe when I needed some really comfort food, and it’s a method I always come back to. It uses a béchamel sauce, which is easy to prepare, as well as a really good cheese.


Simple recipes that I love to make over and over |  Smart and cheerful
Photo by Damn Delicious

Steak with garlic butter

I’ve included a link here for a perfectly grilled steak, which comes with just a few ingredients. This recipe is another take on the technique—make sure you have the right pan at the right temperature, the steak is at the right temperature, and resist the urge to flip the steak before it’s ready.


Picture from 101 cookbooks

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad

This is the cabbage salad I use – it’s definitely a crowd pleaser. I’d bookmark it, try it, and keep it – you’ll never need another kale salad recipe again.


Photo of a couple cooks

Homemade salad dressing

It is really important to learn how to make a good bandage. I’d encourage you to swap out your clothes for flavored vinegar and don’t really feel the need to be more luxurious than that. Once you realize how easy it is to make a good salad dressing, you’ll never buy it from the jar again.


Simple recipes that I love to make over and over |  Smart and cheerful
Picture from Kookie and Kate


Frittatas are one of those things that look really tricky but are very easy to make. You can make it on Sunday, chop it up, and keep it for quick breakfasts all week long. Plus, the frittatas are really lovely and tall enough to serve as the main dish at brunch.


picture of food 52

sauteed greens

Knowing how to saute vegetables properly can change the way you bring vegetables to your plate. I’m a fan of swapping out a traditional salad for a vegetable stir-fry – this recipe is an excellent choice for that.


Simple recipes that I love to make over and over |  Smart and cheerful
Picture from Kitchen

The lightest and thinnest buttermilk pancakes

Knowing how to make curd pancakes (which aren’t out of a box!) is a skill that can come in handy more often than you can imagine. We’ve got a delicious recipe here for really fluffy pancakes. It’s a good option to have in your back pocket when you have guests, want an extra special morning on the weekends, or are simply looking to spend time in the kitchen with your kids or significant other (or yourself!).


Simple recipes that I love to make over and over |  Smart and cheerful
Photo by Foodie Crush

Cranberry cake

The blueberry pancakes from the Gwyneth cookbook are all good, absolutely delicious. This recipe calls for a little more sugar than other pancakes I’ve had, and it really packs a lot of blueberries. It’s a little messy but it’s a real treat.


image from the base

Grilled fish (without your kitchen stink)

For anyone who’s afraid of not being able to cook fish properly, I’ve included a link to a basic baked fish. I truly believe that learning how to cook your own fish will change the way you look at this food category at times understated. It is a healthy whole food group that you can consider introducing into your diet more frequently.


to imagineMail from Bon Appetit

Anatomy of a cheese plate

The link below will take you to five cheese dishes that you can blatantly copy. Keep this in your back pocket when you’re hosting an impromptu party and only have time to stop at one specialty grocery store or cheese shop. Bookmark this link, study it, and you’ll have a great resource for any future gatherings you host.


Simple recipes picture

Perfect boiled egg

Finally, this is a very simple recipe for how to boil an egg. You shouldn’t just aim to boil an egg to give up, which will leave you with a really tasteless chalky yolk. It’s good to know how to boil an egg properly, as hard-boiled eggs can be a really nice snack to keep in the fridge. And when the yolk is just done, but without overdoing it, it’s great.

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