A Month of Simple Cooking {A Few Favorite Recipes}


Cooking is my thing. Occasionally, I get bored or frustrated with the endlessness of it, as well as the tendency for my family to get a little too comfortable (READ: unappreciative) with my effort. But generally, I enjoy browsing Pinterest and cooking magazines for new recipes, visiting the fantastic specialty grocery stores we have available here in Cincinnati, and tweaking new recipes to our tastes.

That said, I wondered to myself recently – can I make a whole month of “old” recipes?


Recipes that I know by heart, that my mom use to make, that friends wrote down on the back of an envelope for me, that my family has enjoyed for years. Sure, why not? I present to you, my monthly meal plan of well-loved dishes that I can make from memory, along with a couple of recipes that, while old to me, may become new favorites at your house.

Week 1:

  • Ham loaf (a family meatloaf recipe that includes a can of Spam. DON’T JUDGE ME! It’s delicious) with mashed potatoes (done in the Instant Pot) and roasted broccoli.
  • Cheesy chicken and cheesy stuffing casserole with homemade applesauce from the freezer.
  • Grilled tuna melts with chips and fruit.
  • Broiled salmon on top of a salad, either a Caesar or some baby greens with blue cheese, candied pecans, fruit (grapes or mandarin oranges), and citrus vinaigrette.
  • Chili and cornbread.

Week 2:

  • Hibachi chicken with sauteed zucchini and onions and fried rice. This is not a terribly old favorite of ours, but it is so delicious that I make it frequently. I double or even triple the recipe because it makes excellent leftovers for lunch the next day.
  • Macaroni salad (see recipe below) with dill pickle spears and peanut butter on crackers. This is my mom’s recipe that she made a thousand times when I was a kid. It was her go-to when the coming week promised to be busy. The pickles and peanut butter on the side are exactly how I enjoyed it back then, too.

Macaroni Salad with Tuna
1 pound of cooked macaroni
2-3 cans tuna, drained (could use canned salmon or tiny shrimp instead)
1 small onion, diced
6 hard-boiled eggs, diced
½-1 cup of mayonnaise, depending on your preferred consistency
~¼ cup yellow mustard, again adjusted to your preference
Salt and pepper to taste
Stir everything together in a large bowl and chill. Add extra mayo if salad dries out a bit after chilling.

  • Sloppy Joes and macaroni and cheese. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll make the mac-n-cheese from scratch, but sometimes a box of Kraft hits the spot.
  • Easy chicken parmesan. I like to use the breaded chicken in the green bag from Aldi, a jar of sauce, parmesan and mozzarella cheese, and spaghetti noodles.
  • Cheeseburgers, French fries or tater tots (in the air fryer), carrots, and celery with ranch.

Week 3:

  • Chicken and green bean casserole (recipe below) with freezer applesauce. Yes, another chicken casserole. This casserole is a HUGE hit with my family. The amounts for all the ingredients are very rough – more or less chicken, more or less green beans – you get the idea.

Chicken and Green Bean Rice Casserole
1 large chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1 box Long Grain and Wild Rice, cooked as directed
2 cans green beans, drained
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup shredded cheddar
½ cup mayo
Combine all ingredients and place in casserole dish. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350.

  • Meatball subs with pan-roasted Brussels sprouts
  • Tacos (‘nuf said). I could make tacos every single week of the month using a different filling each time, and my family would never complain. They love ALL the tacos.
  • Salmon patties, baked potatoes, coleslaw.
  • Grilled cheese and tomato soup. I use Pioneer Woman’s recipe. It is only slightly more effort than opening a can and SO worth it.

Week 4:

  • French bread pizza.
  • Tater tot casserole. I have a “cracked out” chicken recipe and a ground beef recipe. Both are delicious. And yes, I usually serve it with freezer applesauce.
  • Chicken pockets and a tossed salad. These cheesy favorites come together quickly with leftover shredded chicken, cream cheese, seasonings, and canned crescent rolls.
  • Crockpot pulled pork sandwiches, store-bought macaroni salad, and braised greens from my freezer. Every few months, I make a huge pot of greens and freeze them in meal-size containers for days we need an easy vegetable side dish.
  • Quiche and muffins. I use the classic recipe from my red and white Betty Crocker cookbook with rolled crust I get from the store and muffin mix that comes in a bag. It is an easy and inexpensive way to use up bits of leftover meat and vegetables you have hanging out in the refrigerator.

What is your go-to family favorite recipe? Please share in the comments. Even though I have plenty of my own, I am always ready to try something new because I love cooking!


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