Learning how to cook can be a weird process. I grew up with a mom who rarely spent time in the kitchen. Her specialities were chocolate chip cookies, birthday cake and the occasional cheesy casserole. Dinner was a lot of which can should we open tonight?
So, of course, when I had kids, I swung to the complete opposite end of the spectrum. The yogurt and bread makers started seeing a lot action. I discovered new vegetables like butternut squash and that roasting them is genius. Getting over the ‘I have no idea what I’m doing here’ hump takes a bit of effort, but once you’re on the other side, life gets a whole lot easier. Recipes start to make sense, you’ll graduate to not needing them for your favorite dishes. Now I’m confident in my sans-recipe frittata and taco and guac skills.
19 Real Food Recipes Every Gal Should Know
After a few years of real food living, you realize your repertoire of recipes doesn’t have to be huge. Mine definitely wouldn’t even fill up a recipe book! Read on for our must-have recipe staples that should be in every gal’s healthy kitchen. From breakfast to dessert, you should probably know how to make these simple meals.
1. Tasty Green Smoothie
Use smoothies as a quick and easy way to get a dose of protein and fiber-rich veggies, both of which will keep your energy going. To make sure yours is actually healthy (and not a sugar bomb), start with the 13 staples in the modern girl’s smoothie and these 10 smoothie hacks.
The combinations are absolutely infinite (and often overwhelming) so this green smoothie guide is a good place to start. Right now we’re obsessed with this bedtime smoothie and this spring detox smoothie. And to avoid a giant kitchen mess in the morning, consider these make-ahead smoothie options.
2. Avocado toast
This one sounds pretty easy, right? And it is. But a few tips can take this from boring to fancy gourmet. Plus your body will love the good fats and antioxidants in avocado.
3. Nutritious Oatmeal (or Pudding)
A warm, comforting bowl of oatmeal will save a morning headed to chaos-central. We’re big fans of prepping it the night before and having a quick breakfast ready to go in the morning. There are infinite ways to top it! You can also forgo the oats and try chia pudding instead of oatmeal.
Try our apple butter ovenight oatmeal and other 4 fall recipes, or try our warm weather versions with blueberries and chia seeds. For chia pudding, just combine chia seeds with your favorite milk and toppings and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. For recipe ideas, we recommend this apple version, chocolate and chai or more recipes perfect for summer.
4. Clean the Fridge Frittata
A no-fail meal that has saved me many times! It’s an easy way to use up whatever veggies are left in your fridge. It tastes great warm and even better cold for breakfast.
Gwyneth taught me how to make the perfect frittata – I still follow these simple instructions each time and just change out the veggies and cheese according to what I have on hand.
Veggies, Sides + Snacks
5. Probiotic-Rich Fermented Foods
Making cultured veggies at home is a great way to make sure you get probiotics in your diet on the regular, and they’re surprisingly easy to make.
6. Roasted Vegetables
Ever wonder how to get your servings of vegetables in a day? Or how you’ll ever get your kids to like Brussels sprouts? My friends, roasting is the answer. It’s a magical process that somehow turns veggies like cauliflower, broccoli and sweet potato into treat-like status. I’m not even kidding.
7. Oh-So-Good Guacamole
Guacamole really should be its own food group. It’s perfect for afternoon snacking with veggie chips (see below) and it pairs well with easy Mexican meals like tacos.
My super simple method involves just mashed avocado, a sprinkle of kosher salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. I love cilantro in as well but kids tend to get thrown by green flecks. You can also hide other veggies in there, like in this sneaky asparagus guacamole recipe.
8. Baked Fries + Chips
Speaking of snacking, I hope you’re not still buying potato chips and dipping them in those weird jarred sauces! Swap those for easy baked chips and fries! They turn out deliciously crispy, and you can make them from various veggies.
We love these parmesan zucchini fries, but zucchini makes a great chip, too. Or try apple or radish chips, and if you really, really must have potatoes, be sure to bake them in the oven instead of deep frying.
9. Homemade Popcorn
Right now is a very good time to let go of that store bought popcorn and snack healthier. “It’s just corn”, you might say, but it’s really not just corn. Bagged popcorn or the one you buy from the theater is literally packed with salt, as well as tons of fat.
Make your own at home using coconut oil and a good pan and try different flavors until you find what you love.
10. Versatile Quinoa
Quinoa makes a great base for a ton of dishes! It tastes pretty neutral, so you can make a lot of stuff with it. You can have it for breakfast as an egg bake or granola, you can have it as a main dish with this pumpkin risotto and you can make pizza crust with it!
11. A Meal-Worthy Salad
Yes, salad can be an entire meal! And it’s probably one of the easiest thing to put together – you just chop stuff and throw it in a bowl! But everyone needs a little guidance, and you can get that from this no-fail plan to make the perfect salad.
12. Actually Tasty Chicken Breast
Nothing is quite as versatile or ubiquitous as chicken breast. But, oh my, it can taste so bland. Just thinking about a plain baked chicken breast with a side of steamed veggies makes me sad. Good news: there are lots of ways to spice things up and a tasty marinade is the first place to start.
Use a marinade, like this ginger one or this balsamic thyme one, to impart flavor. And pesto is awesome with chicken. Make your own pesto and try this slow cooker recipe with chicken, pesto and white beans.
13. A Hearty Vegetable Soup
It’s good to get into the habit of having a few meat-free meals each week. It’s good for you and the environment so a win win! And there’s nothing more comforting than a bowl of hot vegetable soup on a winter’s day. It’s an economical dish that can stretch for several meals, especially if you add in beans to fill you up. If your veggies aren’t at their prettiest, just remember that a puree is your friend.
If you’re short on time, try this make ahead soup. Otherwise, use fresh ingredients for a hearty white bean soup. Give your immersion blender a workout with this butternut pumpkin sage soup, this one with cauliflower and garlic, this tasty caramelized onion version or even some raw, cold versions for summer.
14. Good-For-You Fish
Fish is so good for us, with all those good fats and omega 3s. And it’s fast – it usually cooks in less than 15 minutes. I don’t know why we don’t eat it ALL the time!
15. Go-To Slow Cooker Stew
If you’re committed to real food, then you must make friends with your slow cooker. I love a homemade meal but I do not want to slave over it every night. Enter the slow cooker!
16. A Nourishing Meal Bowl
Bowls meals are perfect for those situations when you find yourself staring at the fridge with no clue what to make. It’s the end of the week and you’ve run out of ideas and all those leftovers are staring you. Enter the perfect solution: a meal bowl.
Bowls don’t really have a recipe – you just need a few simple nutritional guidelines to construct it with whatever you have left in your fridge.
17. Healthy Pasta
Pasta is super versatile and will save you whether you’re cooking for one or 12. Load up on the veggies and save the cream sauce for special occasions. And don’t forget you can always replace pasta with veggie noodles!
18. No-Guilt Chocolate Dessert
Thick, rich and full of deep, dark chocolate flavor, avocado mousse is actually good for you! Like, you can eat this every day and not feel the least bit guilty about it.
All you need is a blender, a few avocados, a splash of milk, a touch of maple syrup and vanilla to make this avocado chocolate mousse. Berries on top are optional, but they taste great with the pudding.
19. Fancy Fruit for Dessert
Fruit for dessert can sometimes feel like a bit of a let down. Where’s the chocolate?!? But just wait, you can totally make a killer crowd-pleasing dessert with fruit – there are so many options with sorbet, banana ice cream and popsicles. You won’t miss that chocolate one bit!
Ice cream from frozen bananas is creamy and delicious (and you can still add some chocolate on top if you must). Fruit granitas and sorbets are a cinch to make and comes in all kinds of tasty flavors, like strawberry mint and coconut lime. If you go with popsicles, you can make them spa style, super hydrating with hibiscus and watermelon, and even put vegetables inside.
What are your favorite healthy go-to recipes? I was going to include must-make drinks (think kombucha, a matcha latte, homemade energy drinks) but I’ll admit I ran out of steam and this post is forever long anyway. Next time!1