I love to cook. It sparks a ton of joy to me to make and eat yummy, healthful food. I love to make a wide variety of meals. This hasn’t always been true.
My friend Ann Takasaki helped me change my perspective about cooking several years ago. She said that when she was a young mother, she decided that since she would need to do it every day, cooking would be her hobby. It helped spark a joy in cooking for her.
That said, sometimes it feels like a huge thing to decide what to make, and maybe even huger what to buy at the grocery store. We can get overwhelmed by food blogs, instagram, and Pinterest recipes. It can be fun to try some of them and build a cooking repertoire, but most of the time, we need quick, easy, familiar food.
To help simplify this process, I like to keep a list of “Brainless Crowd Pleasers,” as Kendra Adachi from The Lazy Genius Podcast suggests. This is a list of meals that are easy for me to make and generally pleasing to most of the people eating them. (Things like tacos, hot dogs, spaghetti, etc.)
Most of my recipes come from Our Best Bites, or are things that don’t have a recipe. When I became an adult, I started to taste different things. I learned that I ate a very small variety growing up and wanted to expand that. I decided to make multiple versions of the same recipes until I found my favorites. I tried 4 kinds of broccoli cheese soup, for example, and several recipes for beef stroganoff. Every time I tried multiple recipes the “winning” recipe always came from Our Best Bites. I bought their first cookbook and cooked every single recipe in the book. I learned a ton of techniques for making a lower fat version of cream soups using cream cheese, how to peel a mango, that I really like black beans and mango, and more! I learned to cook from making the recipes in that book. Of course I bought their next two books and cooked those recipes too. I felt very comfortable in the kitchen after that.
Later, I ran into Kendra Adachi’s “The Lazy Genius” Podcast and ideas about cooking without a recipe. I was like, “What?!” She recommended Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, by Samin Nosrat, which I read on a road trip and learned a ton! It gave me courage to experiment with recipes more.
As I have cooked my way through the years, I add ideas to my “Brainless Crowd Pleasers” list. To make the list it needs to be a dinner recipe that we liked, and that feel easy for me to make because they don’t take up a ton of space in my brain. Your list will be different and that’s great too. I hope this list may help you get started.
Brainless Crowd Pleasers List
Beef soup with potatoes and carrots
Sheet pan Fajitas
Enchiladas (red with beef or green with chicken)
Breakfast burritos (eggs cheese and salsa in a tortilla)
Rice, meat, and veggies in a bowlPasta, cheese, and veggies in a bowl
Soup and bread
Biscuits and gravy
Sheet pan dinner (potatoes, sweet potatoes, sausage)
Salads with chicken
Hamburgers and fries
Thai peanut noodles
Macaroni and cheese (Annie’s or homemade)
Meat and potatoes with gravy
Creamy taquitos (freezer meal too)
Salmon and rice
Eggs and toast
Avocado toast with parmesan
French dip sandwiches
Beef with broccoli
Spicy turkey lettuce wraps
Pork with chimichurri (amazing!)
7 layer dip (Mexican or Greek)
Tandoori chicken with coconut rice
Pork with apples and onions
Broccoli cheese soup
Chili or frito chili pie or white chicken chili
French dip sandwiches
Korean bbq beef with rice and sugar snap peas
Cucumber tomato cheese salad
Mango quinoa salad (grain salad)
Change your life chicken (scales) with green salad and bread, pan of brownies
Greek feast: marinate boneless skinless chicken in lemon juice/olive oil/herbs/garlic, grilled, then sliced, serve with olives, feta, naan bread, hummus, taubouli, lentil salad, parsley, couscous, etc.
Black beans and rice
Lettuce wraps: ground turkey, cabbage, aminos, ginger, garlic, Sriracha, honey