Feeding a family is no joke. That one doesn’t eat raw tomatoes, this one hates chicken (unless it’s in nugget form) and that one over there won’t touch anything green. It’s improbable, if not impossible, to please everyone all at once, so instead of trying to address every little preference with one finished dish, opt for recipes that are easily adapted or deconstructed at the stove or the table. The 21 below are just those sorts — with a few guaranteed crowd-pleasers like pancakes and nachos thrown in — and they are cost-conscious to boot.
“The best white chicken chili out there,” wrote one reader about this mild-mannered dish from Sarah DiGregorio. It can be made in a slow cooker or on the stovetop, and it would work great with leftover roast turkey or chicken. Serve it alone, over rice or tucked into a tortilla.
Cozy, earthy and lightly sweet, this vegetarian 30-minute porridge made with leftover rice and cubed butternut squash from Hetty McKinnon is just the thing to warm everyone up on a chilly evening. One reader substituted sweet potato with happy results, and if you don’t like chile oil, try a drizzle of toasted sesame oil.
On evenings that call for breakfast for dinner (brinner!), may we suggest Samantha Seneviratne’s tender and sweet, yet crisp-edged banana pancakes? Do as my kids do: Roll up a sausage link in a pancake and dip it into a small saucer of warmed syrup for the ideal ratio of sweet to salty.
Spring onions are not in season, but feel free to substitute scallions, leeks or any member of the allium family in this sheet-pan wonder from Kay Chun. Be sure to prop the sausages on the potatoes and onions so the kielbasa crisp instead of steam.
“This was very tasty. My daughter described it as ‘baked taco ziti.’” We can’t think of a more inviting description, so sign us up for this cozy vegetarian pasta bake chock-full of caramelized onions, cumin, coriander and garlic from Melissa Clark.
Adasi is a Persian dish of simply cooked lentils that’s often eaten for breakfast in Iran, but you really can enjoy it all day long. Every version starts with lentils, salt and water, but Yasmin Fahr’s variation includes onion, cumin and turmeric. Eat it however you like, but Yasmin likes it best with a pat of softened butter stirred in and topped with fresh herbs.
Don’t you love that smug-happy feeling you get when you not only make a delicious meal but also use the sad, wilted vegetables in your fridge in the process? This adaptable noodle dish from Kay Chun is just that kind of recipe. If you can’t get your hands on frozen presteamed yakisoba noodles, cook dried noodles according to package instructions, then proceed with the recipe.
Recipe: Vegetable Yakisoba
These weeknight tacos from Kay Chun are made with fried eggs, roasted broccoli and potatoes for a very satisfying vegetarian dinner. Try using cauliflower in place of the broccoli, and sweet potatoes in place of the potatoes. Lay everything out on the table (except the eggs; fry those up as needed), and let your crew build their own tacos.
Here’s another clean-out-the-veggie-drawer recipe from Mark Bittman. It calls for one full pound of kale, but feel free to use a mixture of dark, leafy greens like escarole, chard, broccoli rabe or bok choy. Fresh herbs can get pricey and be tough to use up before they go bad, so use half a teaspoon dried thyme and 1 teaspoon rosemary in their place if you like.
This macaroni and cheese from Von Diaz works with almost any cheese you have on hand, and it skips the roux-making process, which is a typical (and fussy) step in most homemade mac and cheese recipes. If Spam is not your thing, substitute cubed deli ham or sliced kielbasa.
This 25-minute recipe from Ali Slagle gives off nostalgic fish stick vibes, with creamy tartar sauce adding flavor, keeping the fillets moist during cooking and helping the bread crumbs stick to the fish. Start roasting some green beans in the oven when you begin preparing the fish, they’ll be done when you slide the fish out of the oven.
Chicken and potatoes is a classic comfort food combination that never disappoints. In this sheet-pan meal, Ali Slagle uses store-bought shelf-stable gnocchi in place of the potatoes for a faster, more fun riff on the dish. The recipe calls for two packages of gnocchi, but one reader smartly used one package and one head of cauliflower cut into florets, and wrote that it worked like a charm.
As the name would suggest, this recipe was developed specifically for Thanksgiving leftovers, but it works just as well with leftover roasted chicken and cooked vegetables. It’s a cheesy delight.
Fried rice has the potential to make everyone happy because it works with any number of ingredients. Kay Chun’s version contains seasoned chunks of tofu, broccoli and scrambled egg, but use whatever leftover cooked meat or veggies you have on hand like cabbage, bell peppers and mushrooms.
Recipe: Tofu and Broccoli Fried Rice
These crispy bean patties from Yewande Komolafe are a delight to eat on their own or tucked into a soft roll. They work with any kind of bean, so no need to shop for anything special. For those who don’t like spicy foods, substitute tomato paste for the harissa.
This recipe from Eric Kim calls for 20 cloves of garlic, but fear not: They reduce and soften into a velvety and earthy sauce that is not at all overpowering. If you don’t have white pepper, use black, and if you don’t have chardonnay, or if you don’t want to cook with wine, chicken stock will do. One reader stirred spinach into the final dish for a little green, but you could also serve it alongside a crisp green salad.
Like a deconstructed lasagna Bolognese, Sarah Copeland’s quick pasta dish comes together in under an hour but tastes like it’s been simmering for hours thanks to plenty of sambal oelek. (Harissa or the adobo from a can of chipotles also works, or even tomato paste and a pinch of cayenne if you have spicy-averse diners.) The recipe calls for beef, but you can also use spicy Italian sausage, or ground pork or turkey.
This vegetarian noodle dish from Hetty McKinnon is inspired by wat tan hor, a Cantonese, Singaporean and Malaysian meat and fresh rice noodle dish that’s topped with a silky egg gravy. For more oomph, add slices of pan-fried tofu, or cauliflower or broccoli.
Recipe: Rice Noodles With Egg Drop Gravy
Garlicky shrimp are tucked in to squishy hot dog buns in this Kay Chun recipe that evokes beachfront seafood shacks and butter-soaked lobster rolls. This recipe works great with affordable frozen raw shrimp; just defrost first.
Recipe: Connecticut-Style Shrimp Rolls