Dinner is meant to be enjoyed after a long day away from home—it shouldn't cause stress or fuss. But for many, that's exactly what a home-cooked meal represents, especially on a work night. The prep work, the steps involved in following the recipe, the numerous amount of bowls, pots, and pans you use, and... worst of all, a sink full of dishes to clean.
However, I believe that with a little organization and planning ahead, enjoying meals made at home can be less about the fuss and more about convenience! Just plan out your week's worth of meals in advance with these two simple rules: stick to one-pot recipes only, and use recipes that involve common ingredients.
One-pot meals are the easiest way to have dinner on the table quickly, with no muss or fuss. There's less mess, so that means less clean-up time at the end of your meal. Additionally, one-pot recipes tend to be much less particular and involve fewer steps—which also cut down on your total time spent on dinner.
Using one pot to cook a meal is a great tip on its own. However, the hack that will make your life easier is to cook a variety of meals using common ingredients. Common ingredients across recipes both cuts down on shopping time and is cost-effective.
Regardless of what cuisine or recipe you may use, there is an extremely high chance that chicken stock is involved (unless you're vegetarian or vegan, of course). Chicken stock is the easiest way to inject your dishes with savory flavor.
We have an excellent, in-depth article that breaks down the ABCs of stock—from its history to its myriad variations and storage tips. I recommend checking it out if you've got the time (or love stock as much as I do).
- Don't Miss: How to Break Down a Whole Chicken Like a Pro
You'll find that the ingredients involved in making stock are often found in many other recipes (and certainly listed in most of the recipes below). That's right—even more common ingredients!
Aromatics like celery, onions, and carrots are a staple of almost every cuisine, earning them a permanent place of honor on your grocery list. If you're daunted by the fresh herbs you'll have to buy up front, it's also okay to use dried herbs—just use a third of the amount called for when substituting for fresh, since dried herbs are more potent than fresh ones.
While the article about chicken stock features a classic recipe, I'd like to share my own—which I personally make fresh each Sunday.
This will yield 3 quarts (12 cups), so make sure you have a pot big enough.
- 2 lbs. chicken wings with bones/skin, rinsed and patted dry
- ½ chicken (one breast, wing, drum stick) with bones/skin, rinsed and patted dry
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 2 small carrots, halved
- 4 celery ribs, halved
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
- 8 fresh parsley stems
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- Place the chicken wings and the rest of the ingredients in a large stockpot and pour enough cold water to cover the ingredients by at least 3 inches.
- Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and skim the scum that rises to the top. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2½ hours.
- Strain the stock and, while it cools, skim off the fat that rises to the top.
- Chill in the refrigerator overnight.
- Remove the fat that accumulates on the surface with a slotted spoon, then store in the fridge (or freezer!) until needed.
- Heat before reusing.
Once you make a batch of homemade chicken stock, you'll find that preparing a quantity this large is easier than it initially appears. On the plus side, it's enough stock for a week's worth of recipe use—plus a little extra for any other meals you may wish to cook.
The seven recipes featured below use just one pot, feature chicken stock (as well as ingredients involved in making said stock), and will feed 4-6 people. Also, each of these recipes is extremely storage-friendly—they freeze well for up to a month.
Don't forget to choose a pot, ideally a Dutch oven, that can be used for cooking on top of the stove as well as baking in the oven. One pot meals can truly mean only one pot if you have the right equipment!
Corn maque choux pairs well with crusty, buttered bread and a tossed salad. Although Martha Stewart's recipe calls for chicken broth, chicken stock can be used interchangeably (honestly, it tastes better anyway).
This recipe for tom kha gai is a crowd pleaser, due to its super-light consistency that still packs a punch of flavors.
Pro-tip: If you don't have lemongrass or galangal on hand, try using a tablespoon of prepared green or yellow curry paste. Prepared curry paste already contains lemongrass and galangal, as well as garlic and chili. Although the chilis do give the soup an added kick, this is the type of soup that loves to be spiced up.
This meal looks and tastes sinful, but it's really not! There's no meat in here: just hearty winter vegetables, soft penne pasta, and cheesy breadcrumbs. It's a tasty cold weather treat that's simple and delicious.
For one-pot purposes: be sure to cook your pasta in the pot first, then use it to roast the squash in the oven.
This recipe teaches you to cook the dried beans in a slow cooker, but for our purposes, you don't have to follow the recipe to a tee—follow the directions until it says to transfer the contents of the pot. Then, just keep the beans and remaining ingredients in pot and bring it up to a boil.
Once it boils, turn the heat down and let it simmer for 2-3 hours (or until the beans are tender). If too much liquid evaporates during the cooking process, just add enough stock and water to keep the beans covered. The end result is still a kitchen that smells like heaven, along with big flavors.
My chili con carne recipe is easy, and that's just the way I like it. This version is "cowboy style," which means that it omits beans and/or tomatoes. On this chuck wagon, the less ingredients, the better.
- 2 oz. dried, whole guajillo chiles, pasilla chiles, and ancho chiles (about 5 to 7 chiles total)
- 1½ tsp. ground cumin
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- salt to taste
- 5 Tbsp. olive oil, vegetable oil, or bacon grease
- 2½ lbs. boneless beef chuck, cut into 1-in. cubes
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 3 of chicken stock, plus one cup of water
- 2 Tbsp. masa harina (finely-ground dried corn treated with lime)
- Salt and pepper the raw meat and place on a paper towel.
- Heat the oil to medium high in a large soup pot, preferably cast iron, and sear the meat pieces on both sides to form a brown crust.
- Turn the heat down to low and add the garlic, dried chiles and cumin.
- Stir and scrape the bottom of the pot once and add ½ cup water, then stir and scrape again.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add 2½ cups of water and let the mixture simmer for 2 to 2½ hours, or until the meat is easily pierced by a fork. (Make sure you have enough water to cover the meat and chiles while stewing; add another cup of water if the water level gets too low.)
- After the meat is done, use a fine mesh colander to strain the liquid and meat mixture. This helps to remove most of the seeds from the dried chiles.
- Add the strained liquid and stewed meat back to the pot, then season to taste with more salt and pepper.
- Bring the chili up to a boil and add the masa harina, stirring it until the chili has thickened. Then, turn the heat off. Your chili is ready!
- Serve with toppings of your choice. Some suggestions include: diced tomatoes, grated cheddar cheese, crumbled Cotija cheese, diced jalapeños, sour cream, guacamole, chopped green onions, black olives, or tortilla chips.
Once you make this curry, you can transfer it to a bowl and use the same pot to make your rice. This recipe calls for any type of rice, but using fragrant jasmine rice in particular lifts this dish to flavor nirvana.
You can also substitute 1 tablespoon of prepared curry paste for the 2 tablespoons of curry powder called for in this recipe. (That's two recipes you've used curry paste for in one week!)
I saved the best for last: a bowl of chicken and dumplings never disappoints. It's a comfort food everyone loves, including kids. For a satisfying meal, try serving this recipe with a kale Caesar salad.
Cooking at home is all about saving time, saving money, and enjoying tasty meals. By planning your meals, organizing your ingredients, and using a few trusty kitchen hacks, you can make dinner efficiently, in one pot, every night of the week.
Do you have any favorite one-pot recipes you'd like to share with us? If so, let us know in the comments!