We here at SB Nation have been preparing for social isolation for years, in a way. We work all over the country (in fact, the world), and so have gotten quite good at feeding ourselves, thank you very much. To work remotely at an often fast-paced job, it helps to have a repertoire of cheap, easy, fast and most importantly good recipes at hand.
So without much further ado, here’s a look at how SB Nation likes to feed itself so that you can too. These recipes are sorted beginning from low effort* to high, so you can find exactly the meal you need for whatever your situation.
* Not including frozen pizzas and/or fistfuls of chips, which SB Nation also considers part of a healthy diet.
If you need something REALLY easy
Freshly meal service
OK, if you landed on this page looking for easy meals because you can’t or don’t like to cook, I am here for you. About a month before the pandemic hit, I tried out Freshly meal service. Freshly provides single-serving meals that heat up in the microwave in three minutes and I promise you that these actually taste good.
All of Freshly’s meals are gluten free, peanut free, and contain no refined sugars. They’re pretty healthy and my body honestly felt better after eating these meals for two weeks compared to what I typically eat. I promise no one paid me to write this, I just like these meals so much.
Freshly also has tons of meals options to choose from, and the app is so easy to use it’s almost fun. And the best part? No cooking. Just throw these in the microwave and you have a truly tasty meal. I put them on a plate afterwords just to make myself feel like I cooked.
I can’t advocate for it enough if this fits your lifestyle.
— Whitney Medworth
Just throw a bunch of stuff in an Instant Pot
Do you have zero patience for cooking? Do you like tender, pull-apart meats and poultry that falls off the bone? Do you appreciate the danger of using deadly atmospheric forces to imbue flavor to bland meats?
Hoooo buddy, then the Instant Pot is for you. It’s basically a pressure cooker/crock pot hybrid that can give you slow-cooked tenderness in one hour instead of six. Since my cooking philosophy boils down to “chop stuff, put it in a pot, stir occasionally,” this magic food cylinder quickly became a trusted ally in my battle against poorly cooked meals.
Here’s my go-to chicken burrito bowl recipe.
2 pounds chicken thighs (can be boneless or skinless, your call)
2 cans corn
2 cans black beans
2 cans diced tomatoes (adding some salsa here is optional. I throw a bunch of salsa verde and sour cream into the mix after everything’s cooked)
2 cans green chiles (the little ones)
1 white onion
Maybe some chopped bell peppers
A bunch of taco seasoning (or get creative)
Approximately 1/4 cup chicken broth
Start with the broth, then add the chicken to the pot. Coat the chicken liberally with seasoning. Add the vegetables. More seasoning. Stir the mix on top of the chicken. Then seal the lid and pressure cook on high for 12 minutes. It will take longer than that because the machine needs to heat up and then, later, release all the pressure that just made your chicken a juicy damn delight.
If you get the “burn” notice on the machine, transfer everything to a big pot, clean out the instant pot, and try again with more broth at the bottom of the cooking vessel. In the end, you should get chicken that shreds apart when you stir your finished product with a little force. Ladle that beautiful mess over rice (which you can also cook easily and masterfully in an Instant Pot), or in tortillas, or over tortilla chips.
Plus, it reheats well, so you can glean two to three meals for a three- or four-person household. Feel free to play around with the recipe, too. Add what you like. It’s incredibly hard to screw up with an Instant Pot.
— Christian D’Andrea
Simple, good salad dressing
This is the salad dressing that mom my made almost every day when I was growing up, and that I still make because I’m a creature of habit and somehow still haven’t gotten sick of it after 30-plus years.
Diced shallot (to taste, really. I like lots, but let’s say half a medium bulb)
Approximately 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (I eyeball)
A little more than that of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1/2 tablespoon (approximately) Dijon mustard
- Throw diced shallot at the bottom of your salad bowl. Pour balsamic on top. Sprinkle with salt. You can let this sit as you make the rest of your meal. The vinegar will dissolve the shallot and salt in the mean time.
- Whisk in olive oil and crack pepper on top. I do a bit more oil than vinegar, let’s say a 1.2:1 ratio, but really it’s to your taste; some people like the pucker. Throw lettuce in the bowl, mix, and hey look you have a salad. I like to mix in a big dollop of Dijon mustard into the dressing, too, which also helps bind the dressing to the lettuce.
— Louis Bien
If you want to feel like you cooked
Fooch’s spaghetti sauce
2 cans diced tomatoes (14.5 ounce cans — can cut in half for smaller serving)
2 to 3 cans tomato paste (6 ounce cans — depending on thickness you want)
Roughly 1/2 a green bell pepper, chopped
Roughly 1/2 a small yellow onion, chopped
6 to 10 cloves of garlic, minced (feel free to add more)
Some red wine or sherry
Mix of seasonings: Garlic powder, salt, black pepper, chili powder, red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning (can try whatever seasonings you’ve got)
- I don’t use precise measurements for the seasonings, the wine or the total amount of green peppers and onions. Pour enough olive oil to coat the bottom of your sauce pan. Heat it up on medium, then drop in the green peppers and onions. Simmer it a bit and then add in the garlic and let simmer a bit longer. Add the mix of seasonings, nothing too crazy in terms of amount. Don’t let the garlic burn.
- Add the diced tomatoes, paste and some wine/sherry and mix everything. Add some more of the seasonings. Mix it all together and once you see it bubble a little, turn the heat as low as possible while still keeping the burner on. Stir every 10 to 20 minutes. If I do one of each can, I cook the sauce for a little over two hours. If I cook two of each can, I cook the sauce 2.5 to three hours.
If you have meatballs, drop them in with about an hour left of cooking, and let them cook up in there.
— David Fucillo
A James-Fooch interlude
James: omg i had something planned to write but im reeling at fooch using 2-3 CANS of tomato paste in his red sauce
Fooch: James, worth noting they’re smaller cans. Let me get the oz total
James: i dont care the can size, david. that is too much paste
Fooch: not even a little bit
James: YOU MADE IT WORSE FOOCH.... 12-18 OUNCES OF PASTE ... that’s a either just unde or over a POUND of tomato paste
Fooch: I’m curious to see what kind of runny sauce you roll out there
James’ spaghetti sauce (AKA, the one not cooked up in a lab by a monster)
I had planned to share a unique recipe to separate myself from my colleagues, but after reading how much tomato paste Fooch puts in his sauce I felt an intervention was needed.
When I make a red sauce I like to make a lot of it. It freezes well, and when you put the time and effort in that this sauce requires, you deserve to be able to have some on-hand whenever you need it.
2 cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes (28 ounces each)
1 can of tomato paste (6 ounces)
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 yellow onion, diced
1 Parmesan cheese rind
2 cups fresh basil
Red pepper flakes
- Heat a Dutch oven, or heavy-bottomed large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil until it’s shimmering, but not smoking. You can use whatever you have on hand, but I prefer light olive oil for this because it has a higher smoke point. Add the onions and cook until they’re translucent (roughly three to four minutes). Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
- At this point you want to add the tomato paste and red pepper flakes. Stir continuously and watch for the paste to deepen in color. It’s likely you will have some stuck to the pan, and that’s OK — that’s good. Deglaze the pan with red wine, roughly one cup.
- Add the tomatoes, reduce the heat to medium-low, and put a lid on the pot — slightly ajar to let out steam. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Use a potato masher to break up the tomatoes, which at this point should have collapsed and mash easily. Stir the sauce together and add the rind of a piece of Parmesan cheese, which sounds fancy but you’ll have it from any decent hunk you buy. This is also the point when you can add any meat, should you so desire. Brown meatballs, Italian sausage or ground beef in a separate pan, add to the sauce. Simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes.
- Remove 10 to 12 leaves of fresh basil, chop and reserve them. Put what remains of your bunch of basil, stalk and all, into the pot and let the sauce simmer for another 15 minutes. Taste, add salt and pepper as needed. Remove the basil stalks and Parmesan rind, remove the sauce from the heat and add the remaining chopped basil just before plating.
If you find the sauce is too thick from reducing, reserve some pasta water from the noodles you’re cooking and use it to thin the sauce. Do not use stock or regular water.
— James Dator
Simple, good roast chicken
The New Best Recipe from America’s test kitchen is cheap, MASSIVE and has taught me a helluva lot about cooking. It doesn’t just list recipes, it explains how those recipes were created by telling the story of failed variations that came before, going into minute detail about almost every ingredient.
The recipe for roast chicken is the most abused page in my copy. Their version solves for a common problem: How do you get the white meat and the dark meat both tasting good on the same bird? Too often, you have to choose: perfect chicken breasts and underdone legs; juicy legs and dry, overdone breasts.
You don’t have to sacrifice anymore. This recipe works best with a v-rack, but if you don’t have one a simple pan will do fine. Just check out the alteration below.
3.5 to 4 pound whole chicken
2 tablespoons melted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
- Set oven to 375 degrees. While it preheats, pat chicken dry then brush the outside with butter. Season with lots of salt and pepper.
- Brush v-rack with vegetable oil and place it in a shallow roasting pan (you can line the pan with foil for easier clean-up). Place chicken wing-side up in the v-rack and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Then, flip the chicken so the other wing is up, and give it another 15 minutes in the oven.
- Turn the oven nob up to 450 degrees (no need to wait for the temperature to rise unless you know your oven is particularly slow) and place the chicken back in the oven breasts up. For a chicken on the smaller end, 20 to 25 minutes may be enough. On the bigger end, you may need 30 to 35 minutes. Thermometers are your friend: white meat should be at approximately 160 degrees when it’s done, while dark meat should be at 165 degrees.
- Once your chicken’s done, take it out of the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes, carve, and eat. I made this last night and can confirm that both the white meat and dark meat were damn juicy and delicious.
Total roasting time should be approximately the same, but you’ll want to roast the bird starting breast-side down for 20 minutes at 375 degrees. Then crank the nob to 450, flip the chicken so it’s breast-side up, and cook until done — another 30ish minutes for a smaller bird, 40ish minutes for a bigger bird. The skin probably won’t be as crispy, but you should still have a tasty roast chicken at the end of the process.
Butter, salt and pepper is all I need most of the time, but feel free to rub on whatever herbs and spices you’d like into the skin after you’ve buttered it. It’s hard to go overboard. Also shout out to Cervo’s in New York City. I used their Piri Piri rub on my last roast chicken the other day and it was :chefkiss:
— Louis Bien
Spinach-pecan pesto (vegan)
2 cups spinach
1/4 cup raw pecans
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 garlic cloves, depending on your taste
Salt and black pepper to taste
The biggest issue many of us have in isolation: How do I eat pasta differently for the seventh day in a row? And how do I make meals that don’t require 5,000 different ingredients, especially if grocery stores are out of stock?
You’re in luck. You can prepare my variation of this pesto as a marinade for chicken or as a pasta sauce.
- Toast raw pecans over low-medium heat until fragrant, then allow to cool.
- Food processor pecans, spinach, and garlic until minced.
- Slowly add olive oil until blended to your preferred consistency.
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Optional: My preferred way to eat this is sautéing onions or shallots in 1 tablespoon of butter or oil, adding shrimp, and tossing it altogether with the marinade and whole wheat pasta.
— Brittany Cheng
Vegetable fried rice
Serious Eats is one of my go-tos when I’m trying to cook something I’ve never done before, for two reasons. First, they don’t just explain how to make a dish, they get into why you take certain steps. Second, Serious Eats recipes understand that you, the humble home cook, may not have every preferred ingredient or piece of equipment available, and adjust when they can by showing you where you can substitute or change course in the recipe and still make something delicious.
Their guide for vegetable fried rice is no exception. You can make this with fresh rice or leftover rice. You can use a wok or a cast iron skillet. You can add meat or eggs if you like, but you also don’t have to. The result is delicious and comforting. I offer only these pieces of advice as you set out on your fried rice journey.
- Read the whole recipe through beforehand and do your prep work ahead of time (cut your onions, your carrots, and so on, and put them off to the side so they’re ready to go). You don’t want to be racing to chop things.
- Open a window and get your oven hood fan cranking. You’re gonna be working with very high heat and probably end up with some smoke.
- If you add a fried egg to yours, go ahead and add a second. You deserve it!
— Ryan Nanni
Sweet potato black bean tacos with guac (vegan)
1 sweet potato
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 an onion, chopped
Chopped Red pepper
Garlic salt, smoked paprika for taste
For the guac:
1 avocado, ripe
Red onion or shallot
2 cloves of garlic
As a runner I live on sweet potatoes. They’re packed with nutrients and taste great. What more do you need? Sweet potatoes are also incredibly versatile. They can be roasted, boiled or nuked and added to any dish. For a simple, and super healthy, alternative to regular old tacos, swap out the meat for a can of black beans and pack the tortilla with sweet potatoes.
- To microwave the sweet potato, rinse thoroughly and prick the exterior with a fork. Wrap the potato loosely in a wet paper towel and put in the microwave on high for six minutes, or until tender. (Many microwaves have a setting for potatoes. Use that if available.)
- Rinse and drain the black beans and set them aside. Chop the onion and pepper and drop them into a skillet over medium heat with a tablespoon of olive or canola oil, giving the onion a chance to caramelize. Add the black beans and flavor with a dash of garlic salt and smoked paprika. (You can use any spices you like. Get creative and funky.)
- Cook for about two to three minutes, or until tender.
- Guacamole is my go-to in almost every situation, but you can use any other topping you like. To make your own guac, slice an avocado and scoop out the filling into a bowl, mashing lightly with a fork. Add salt, onion and garlic along with the lime and stir until you get your desired consistency.
- Throw everything into a tortilla and enjoy.
— Paul Flannery
If you have some time on your hands (LOL) and want to go all-out
Homemade dumpling recipe
2 packages of dumpling wrappers
1/4 cup vegetable oil (no substitute)
1 1/4 pound ground meat (or vegetable filling of choice, such as cabbage and carrots)
1 egg (remove if allergic)
2 bunches of Chinese chives or scallions
3 tablespoons sesame oil (no substitute)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
Egg wash substitute, if allergic:
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Warning: Making dumplings usually takes me about three hours, but if you’re up for the task, it’s so rewarding. The hardest part about making dumplings is finding the wrappers. If you don’t live near an Asian grocery store, you can sometimes find them in Giant or Safeway, which carry Nasoya gyoza wrappers in the tofu section. Do not use wonton wrappers.
If you have two extra hours on your hands, you can make homemade wrappers by following these instructions by Woks of Life, whose pork-chive dumplings were the original version of my recipe.
- Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat, roughly seven minutes. Cool to room temperature. I can attest this does create a “nuttier” and deeper flavor.
- Mix the ingredients of the dumpling filling together. I use ground pork. You can stir-fry the mixed filling to sample the taste before assembly and make adjustments.
- Make egg wash or my egg-free substitute by whipping those ingredients.
- Assemble about 150-200 dumplings using 1 teaspoon to 1 1/2 tsp of meat per wrapper, using the wash to seal. Keep most of dumpling filling in the fridge and take portions out as needed.
- Line a baking pan with parchment paper and put dumplings on there. Stick batches into the freezer as you go. This freezes the dough so dumplings won’t stick to each other.
- After each batch spends 30 minutes in the freezer, they can be tossed into gallon freezer bags for storage.
To pan fry:
- Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil (vegetable, canola) to non-stick skillet over medium-high. Do not let oil burn.
- Arrange dumplings and cook for four minutes, or until the bottoms of the dumplings are light golden brown.
- Add 1/4 cup of water, immediately place lid over skillet, and turn to low to low-medium heat to steam for about four minutes.
- Remove lid and cook until the water is mostly evaporated.
- Bring salted water to a rapid boil.
- Cook dumplings in boiling water for about five to six minutes (add two to three minutes if they’re frozen) until they float. Stir occasionally.
— Brittany Cheng
Simple, good cassoulet
Cassoulet is my favorite dish in the world, and I’m on a mission to perfect it. The hardest part may be acquiring all the ingredients. You may need to visit a bougie grocery store to find duck confit and duck fat, for example. But once you have the goods, cooking cassoulet is a trial of patience more than anything.
Here’s my great, relatively simple recipe that I adapted from a French cookbook called Connaître la cuisine du sud-ouest by Francine Claustres. If you can read French or are willing to put in some effort translating, it has multiple variations of cassoulet, from Toulouse, to Carcassonne, to Castelnaudary and beyond. Trust me, once you try one cassoulet, you’ll want to try them all.
— Louis Bien