7 Things A Cookbook Author Always Keeps On Hand For Easy Weeknight Dinners

Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Volo.
I’ve spent years as a writer, editor, and recipe developer in the wellness space. Through my writing and wellness podcast, I’m lucky enough to be able to learn cooking and health secrets from the world’s best chefs and doctors. I like food that gives me energy and helps assuage my chronic anxiety, but I’m also — to be frank — a huge fan of the kind of food we all ate as kids (think macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, and a lot of sweets). While I have a “Fancy Food” section in my new cookbook, Healthier Together: Recipes For Two—Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships, you can more often find me noshing on the healthier versions of my comfort-food staples (Enchilada Lasagna or Orange Chicken, anyone?). My favorite type of weeknight cooking comes together quickly and tastes good enough that I won’t be tempted by the takeout menus that litter my doorstep. The good news? That magic combo is easier to achieve than you’d think, especially if you keep these ten ingredients on hand.
I’m a huge fan of what I call “the taco theory” — that is, that any number of disparate ingredients somehow feel intentional when folded into a tortilla to become a taco. On weeknights, I’ll often rifle through my fridge and freezer to find whatever veg I have on hand, saute it up with an onion, and then tuck it into a tortilla, topping it with copious amounts of hot sauce. Whatever type I buy, I store in the freezer, defrosting only the amount I need that night, to avoid spoilage.
Canned Chickpeas
Canned chickpeas, how do I love thee? On nights when I’m feeling snacky, I’ll often oven-bake an entire can of chickpeas with a good bit of sea salt, some avocado oil, and whatever seasonings I have on hand until they’re crispy, then munch that for dinner. I like Eden Organic chickpeas because they’re BPA free and pressure-cooked.
Sweet Potatoes
I’ll slice ‘em into planks, pop ‘em in the toaster, and top ‘em with almond butter, some hulled hemp hearts (for complete protein), and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt and cinnamon. I also love to whole roast one in the oven, then top it with a tangle of ripped, fresh herbs and tahini. 
Cauliflower Gnocchi
I know, I know — Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi is such an overhyped product, but it really has saved me innumerable times. The trick is to cook it properly — without the water that the package suggests, sauteed straight from frozen in a hot pan with a good amount of ghee, avocado, or high-quality olive oil. I love cooking it with garlic and kale until everything is crispy, then adding in a hit of lemon to finish for extra flavor and health benefits.
Frozen Broccoli
A lot of chefs avoid frozen ingredients because of their dreaded mush-factor, but I rely on them for nutrient-dense cooking. The trick is preparing it properly, and not expecting the same crispy texture you’d achieve with a fresh version. I love it in soup, pasta dishes or sauteed with some leftover rice or quinoa, some tamari, rice vinegar, and toasted sesame oil in a quick stir-fry.
Pastured Eggs
Tons of chefs come home from long days in the kitchen and whip up a quick scramble, and for good reason: eggs are fast to make and incredibly satiating. The trick to making it feel decadent and dinner-worthy? A super slow-cooked scramble. I warm some ghee or grass-fed butter in the pan on low, then add my beaten eggs and a pinch of salt. I stir constantly until pillowy, soft curds form, then top with a crack of black pepper and any fresh herbs I have on hand. 
Rotisserie Chicken
There’s a small butcher shop by my Brooklyn apartment that sells half and whole pasture-raised rotisserie chicken, and the smell alone is enough to lure me in from the sidewalk. When I get home, I shred the chicken, then pop the bones into my Instant Pot with some water, an onion, and salt for bone broth. The shredded chicken makes its way into pseudo-Thai satay lettuce wraps (with a quick dressing made from almond butter, tahini, garlic, sesame oil, and tamari) or a quick quesadilla with my freezer tortillas, some pastured cheddar, and a sprinkle of powdered garlic and onion (some of my favorite reliable flavor boosters).
Check out a few recipes that include some of my favorite weeknight ingredients, ahead.

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