Weeknight CookingWhat to CookDinner, FasterNot Sad Desk LunchNot Recipes

The 10 Dishes to Know By Heart This Year

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If you can cook these ten dishes by heart, chances are you'll have fewer cookie dinners and all-coffee breakfasts. That's because these are the workhorses of the kitchen: They're the dishes that aren't all that complex to make but bend and flip into other dishes. That means they won't take that much time to prep and they'll stretch all week, if you know their ropes.

Here's how to master each of them (without a recipe, because who has a recipe memorized?):

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How to Make a Vinaigrette Without a Recipe
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How to Make a Vinaigrette Without a Recipe

Salad can be a meal: Take this to the grain salad that's coming up, or any lettuce, or any vegetable.

How to Make Any Kind of Baked Pasta (& Live a Happy Life)
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How to Make Any Kind of Baked Pasta (& Live a Happy Life)

Put any odds and ends you have in your fridge right here. With bubbling cheese and pasta involved, it's hard for this dish to be anything but comforting and soul soothing.

How to Roast a Chicken Without a Recipe
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How to Roast a Chicken Without a Recipe

What can't a roast chicken be? It can go into baked pasta, eggs, burritos, tacos, salad, eaten on its own. Its bones are the start of stock (see below).

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More: The search for the perfect roast chicken recipe. (Hint: There isn't one!)

How to Make Chicken Stock Without a Recipe
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How to Make Chicken Stock Without a Recipe

The key to making nearly every dish taste a little better, a little more homey? Homemade chicken stock. And since you're making roast chicken already, stock completes the loop.

How to Make Any Grain Salad in 4 Steps
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How to Make Any Grain Salad in 4 Steps

Never know another sad desk lunch.

More: More lunch inspiration.

How to Make Sautéed Greens Without a Recipe
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How to Make Sautéed Greens Without a Recipe

Greens can make friends with many main dishes (hey, roast chicken, again), but they can also be folded into other dishes: tacos, frittatas, pasta (regular or baked). They like to hang out with fried eggs and polenta, and even lentil soup (see below).

How to Make Lentil Soup Without a Recipe
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How to Make Lentil Soup Without a Recipe

Lentil soup is the one soup to have in the fridge all week (sorry, chicken noodle). That's because lentils are super inexpensive and good for you, and a soup made of them can bend to your preferences. Read up to learn more.

How to Make the Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich
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How to Make the Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I won't pretend that I don't come home from a day's work, ravenous, and need something to eat, like now. Here's that answer. It's one more ingredient than toast, but much more satisfying.

How to Make the Best Egg Sandwich Without a Recipe
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How to Make the Best Egg Sandwich Without a Recipe

In the same vein, sometimes you need breakfasts to come together quickly—but you also want breakfasts that are more like brunches for the weekend, snazzy and really really filling. An egg sandwich bends to your needs (and this one has instructions for keeping all the parts in the sandwich, instead of on your lap).

How to Make Muesli Without a Recipe
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How to Make Muesli Without a Recipe

This is the workhorse of life. It keeps forever, can be spiffed up every morning with new toppings (or not), and takes five minutes to put together. If you have a bowl of muesli every morning, there's no way your 2016 won't be a little better.

Tell us: What dishes can't you live without?