Simplify recipes? Who needs to do that?
Think about it. The PERFECT recipe. The one that one takes 5 minutes to prep, 15 minutes to cook, and leaves everyone in the family begging for more. Have you found it? Yeah…me either.
The truth is, there are very few recipes floating around in cookbooks, on websites, and on Pinterest that are perfect, exactly as written, for any one family. Between food preferences, dietary restrictions, and busy schedules, I’d venture to say that I can’t find one recipe that would suit our family if I made it start to finish according to plan. Instead, to make recipes work for our family, I usually use these tried-and-true tips to help simplify them to better suit our family.
1. Identify any non-negotiable ingredients that need to be swapped out.
Think allergies, ingredients that your family HATES, proteins that you’re bored of cooking, etc. Usually, you can leave one ingredient out altogether OR you can easily swap in a substitute.
Don’t eat dairy? Swap in almond milk. Your family hates mushrooms? No worries…don’t use them. Don’t love cilantro? Ruh-roh. Dealbreaker. I just broke up with you. 🙂
2. Simplify recipes by using spice BLENDS.
Rather than collecting 5 different spices for one recipe, scour the spice aisle to see if you can find a suitable blend of those spices. If it’s a dish with a bit of Mexican flair, look for adobo or taco seasoning. If you’re working with an Asian dish, consider a hoisin, teriyaki, ginger or similarly flavored sauce. Speaking of sauces…
3. Do you really need to make that sauce?
Probably not. Often the most time-consuming part of a recipe is the chopping of herbs and veggies to make the sauce or dressing that gives the meal its punch.
Instead of spending time on that part, take a peek at the grocery store to see if there is a similar sauce that you can buy. Keep an eye out for complicated ingredient lists, of course, because there can be some sketchy chemicals hanging out in those lists. But do consider whether a completely homemade meal is a realistic expectation for weeknight meals in your home.
4. Select a quicker cooking version of the protein or main ingredient.
You expect me to roast a chicken just so I can use said chicken for an enchilada filling? No thanks. I’ll happily snag that rotisserie chicken and use it once for the enchiladas and then again two days later for a quick grilled sandwich.
The grocery store is filled with high-quality convenient versions of a lot of ingredients that many recipes include. In fact, grocery store shortcuts are the heavy lifters when it comes to simplifying my family’s weeknight meals. If you want more details on the kinds of shortcuts I recommend, you can hop over and watch this free video. You can purchase already made meatballs, veggie mixes, and cooked chicken strips to help speed up prep and cook time.
5. Consider a cooking method that better suits your family.
Do your kiddos need a little outdoor time when they get home from school? And, do you detest feeling like you’re tied to the kitchen, away from the family? Then, consider grilling the meal so you can be outside with them. If you know you’ll be knee deep in helping with homework, consider cooking that stovetop recipe in the slow cooker.
Get comfortable with a couple of different cooking methods and you’ll be able to adapt most any recipe to fit your family’s needs.
Hopefully, these ideas will help you simplify recipes that look great, but that you may have otherwise tossed aside. If there’s a particular recipe that you LOVE but are having a hard time simplifying it to suit your family’s needs, share it in the comments and we’ll pitch in to help.