Happy New Year!
2020 is gonna be a good one. One of my resolutions is to spend more time with friends. It can be hard, when you have small babies, to find the time- and courage and brain space and energy haha!- to spend time with friends, but I think it’s easiest to just forget that ideal image in our heads of the perfectly clean and decorated house, and just invite people into our space and feed them. People that love you are there for your company (and food), not to inspect your baseboards. Let them in, feed them, and feel the love.
Anyway, here are a few of the meals I feed guests, or just us, when I want a meal that I know for certain is going to fill us up, taste amazing, and work every time. All of these are relatively easy and inexpensive, and perfect for a simple meal with loved ones.
BUFFALO CHICKEN NACHOS
Dete and I had the teen youth group from our church over for New Years Eve and I made a big pan of these. Is this a flattering photo of them? Not really. Will they blow your mind? YEP. Will they also leave you thirsty? Absolutely. Have a big pitcher of water at the ready. I’m quite proud to say that these are my very own culinary brainchild that I birthed once when I had chicken and wanted nachos. It’s not the most inventive recipe, and I’m sure there are plenty recipes more written out and more official than this on Pinterest, but if you need to know the specifics, but here’s how I made it-
chicken breast or thighs – boneless/skinless
marble or cheddar cheese
jalapeño ranch dressing – I use the Litehouse brand (or regular, or a cilantro lime sauce, or just sour cream. Up to you.)OR look up recipe for the chicken tacos below and use the amazing sauce in that blog post
- Throw some frozen chicken in the instapot, cover it in a little salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and lots and lots of buffalo sauce. This can also be done in the oven or crockpot, just google your preferred method. When the chicken is cooked, shred it up and make sure it’s sufficiently doused in buffalo sauce.
- Add tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and black beans to a baking pan or large cookie sheet, and heat in the oven at 375F until the cheese is melty and everything is warmed through.
- Add diced red onion, diced avocado, and jalapeño ranch, or whatever sauce you’re using, along with an extra drizzle of buffalo sauce.
Voila. Delicious and not so nutritious. You can add whatever toppings you’d like to these, of course. I’ve also made them as bowls, substituting the tortilla chips for a pile of rice and romaine lettuce, to make it even more satisfying and a little healthier. I prefer that to the nachos, but I had a picture of the nachos at the ready. Haha.
This is it – the ultimate comfort food (link here)This is one of those meals that you make for people and they think you’re a serious cook because it tastes so delicious. This recipe has you make the stroganoff on the stove and then slow cook it in the oven for a few hours, so it’s the perfect food for guests because all the work is done before they get there and you can have everything cleaned up and ready to pull out of the oven before your doorbell rings.
THAI VEGETABLE SOUP
This is my go-to vegan meal for when I feel like we need something cleansing but comforting. I base my soup loosely off this recipe, so know that you can add whatever you want to it. Snow peas, bok choy, and tons of lime and cilantro are a must for me, and sometimes I add shrimp. Just toss them in and let them boil for a few minutes at the end. Delish.
Possibly the easiest “recipe”on here and definitely the cheapest, these are SO GOOD. We have tried homemade pirogies, gourmet pirogies, more expensive freezer pirogies and nothing beats these cheap ones.
Here’s what you need:
- Boil up your pirogies as the box instructs
2. Dice up the onion and bacon, fry them both together up in lots of butter in a ceramic pot until the onion is nice and caramelized and the bacon pieces are crispy
3. Take the cooked perogies, toss them in with the fatty goodness in the ceramic pot until they get a bit of a crust, and plate it up hot
4. Take a big dollop of sour cream, put it on your plate , and absolutely COVER it in pepper and a little salt to dip the pierogis in
At least, that’s how we eat them. Some people fry up some sliced kielbasa instead of bacon. There is not one thing healthy or cleansing about this meal, but you could add a salad or veg on the side if you feel inclined.
SPICY ITALIAN SAUSAGE PASTA (SISP)
This is a recipe my mom made growing up, and when she made it for Dete once when he visited, he nicknamed it SISP and that’s what it’s been ever since. I don’t know what my mom does different, but hers is SO much better than mine, even when made the same way. Could be a difference in ingredient quality, could just be that unobtainable cooking gene she seems to have that makes everything taste better. Anyway, here it is. Even if it’s not my mom’s it’s still delish.
Here’s the basic recipe: Feel free to follow loosely. I don’t measure so there are no measurements but it’s simple enough that you’ll just know how much to add! Ratios aren’t super important in this recipe.
Good quality Italian sausage
2 cans diced tomatoes (can be the flavored ones, like cracked black pepper or garlic)
Spaghettini or angel hair pasta
Fresh parmesan cheese
- Heat up some olive oil in a ceramic pot, toss in a few cloves of crushed or diced garlic
2. After garlic is fragrant, toss in the Italian sausage and break apart into small chunks.
3. Allow to fry, then drain off the majority of the grease.
4. Add cans of tomatoes, including juice, then add diced jalapeño.
5. Use your discretion and add your choice of seasonings. I usually do salt, pepper, onion powder, fennel, basil, a little chili powder, and whatever else I’m feeling in the moment. You’ll know by the smell! This dish is super instinctual and ends up different each time it’s made and that’s okay!
6. Here’s the most important step: LET IT SIT. Turn the stove to simmer, cover the pot, and just let it cook for 45 minutes to 3 hours.
7. Add the cilantro, if using, about 15 minutes before serving.
8. Cook pasta according to package, but make sure it’s a thin diameter pasta, not regular spaghetti! I don’t know why this makes such a difference, but it does.
9. To plate, add the pasta and sauce, then cover in fresh parm and salt and pepper. So good.
WHITE CHICKEN CHILI
This is probably what I make most often from this list, and the thing I usually make when I’m cooking for someone I’ve never cooked for before (which can be intimidating for some reason). It’s easy and memorable and comforting and alllll the things you want a meal to be when you’re cooking for guests. I make the soup from this recipe, serve big bowls, then lay out all the toppings and let everyone choose what they want. These are our must have toppings: sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado, lots of lime, and cilantro. Then eat with tortilla chips. When I serve something like this, with all these these ingredients that each person serves themselves, I like to out all the toppings nicely on a board, in pretty bowls or even mugs so it feels a little bit like an occasion even if it’s super easy and casual or just the family.
CHICKEN AND AVOCADO TACOS
It’s probably becoming clear how often I have to buy lime, cilantro, and avocado at the store. We eat a lot of Mexican and Thai inspired food so I’m always buying these ingredients. Here’s one of my favorite ways to use them. Even if you don’t make these tacos, plllllease try the sauce in the recipe. It can be used on almost anything, including the buffalo chicken nachos above.
SHEET PAN SALMON
Okay, last one!! This is possibly my favorite meal ever. I crave salmon and roasted veggies like nothing else. There are SO many variations of how you can make this, like this one and this one. I usually do some sort of variation of this – salmon covered with a dill garlic butter, onion, and asparagus. Then just add rice or mashed potatoes and it’s a full meal that seems fancy but takes minimal effort. I’d eat this every night if I could and my rice hating husband wouldn’t mind. *insert drooling emoji*
Recently I made a variation of this with a limey glaze on the salmon, and added cumin and chili spiced black beans, avocado salsa, and rice just to switch it up. Salmon is so super versatile.
There they are! My favorite, semi-quick, pretty easy go-to recipes. Now go make one of these for someone you love and let me know – what id your number one most favorite recipe you make for loved ones??