3 Simple Recipe Formulas for Quick Meals

I really enjoy cooking for my family. It helps me stay on top of everyone’s health and avoid the pitfalls of too many rounds of takeout. But coming up with three brand new recipes every single day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner isn’t realistic. Last I checked, my kitchen was not The Peach Pit and I’m not a short-order cook.

That’s why I keep these three recipe formulas in my back pocket for those days when I need to cook on autopilot. Whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, they all boil down to the same system: A base, a protein, fruits/veggies, and a fat to offer a complete meal, with optional extras. Use more of one thing, less of another — once you get the formula down, it’s easy to get a meal together quickly.

Breakfast Bars

A grab-and-go breakfast is perfect for busy schedules. I would love to say my family sits down every morning to a full spread complete with fresh-squeezed juice, but let’s be real here. Most mornings we’re all too distracted by what we need to get done to eat a big meal, let alone make small talk. This is where breakfast bars loaded with whole grains and dried fruit come in.

The Ingredients

  • Base: 3 cups rolled oats
  • Protein: 1/2 cup chopped almonds, walnuts, or cashews
  • Fruit: 1/2 cup dried cranberries, cherries, or goji berries
  • Fat: 1 cup smooth peanut butter or almond butter
  • Binder: 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
  • Extras: Chocolate chips, sunflower seeds, spices, a pinch of sea salt

The Method

  1. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the peanut butter and honey in a large bowl.
  3. Stir in all remaining ingredients. If it feels too dry after fully combining, add more peanut butter.
  4. Spoon mixture into baking pan and spread evenly. 
  5. Place another sheet of parchment paper on top and press down until smooth and flat.
  6. Refrigerate overnight and then cut into individual bars.

Simple Soup

Autumn is coming up, which means soup season for me. A soup is so satisfying on a cold day and one big pot makes for multiple lunches all week long. To bring a pot of soup together in no time, you just need stock, three to five veggies, a protein, and some dried spices you probably already have in your cupboard.

The Ingredients

  • Base: 2 quarts stock (chicken, beef, or veggie)
  • Protein: 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (skin removed) or 2 14-oz cans of cannellini beans
  • Veggies: 1 chopped yellow onion, 1 large chopped carrot, 2 finely chopped celery ribs, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 cup shredded kale leaves
  • Spices: 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 dried bay leaf
  • Fat: 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

The Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and saute until the veggies have softened.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  4. Add the shredded chicken or beans, stock, and spices, and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove the bat leaf, add the kale and cook for 3 more minutes uncovered, until it wilts.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with a piece of crusty bread or crackers.

Quick Stir-Fry

Who doesn’t love a good stir-fry? This is one of the first cooking methods many of us learn and for good reason. Make it spicy, make it sweet, go for the carbs or go veggie crazy. Once you get it down, you’ll never go hungry. It really comes down to one base, one protein, and three veggies of your choice to pull this dinner together quickly.

The Ingredients

  • Base: Brown rice or chow mein noodles
  • Protein: 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch cubes, 1 lb shrimp or 1 lb extra firm tofu
  • Veggies: 1 cup snap peas, 1 cup baby corn, 1 cup thinly sliced carrots  
  • Fat: 2 tbsp canola, sesame or coconut oil

The Method

  1. Prepare base according to package instructions.
  2. While the base cooks, heat oil in a large skillet or wok on medium-high.
  3. Add meat, seafood, or tofu and cook until brown on all sides.
  4. Add veggies and cook, stirring regularly, for 3-4 minutes until edges begin to brown.
  5. Toss with my Thai-inspired peanut sauce and cook for an additional 1 to 3 minutes to heat through.
  6. Top base with stir-fry mixture and enjoy!

What is your go-to type of recipe? Share your suggestions below.