What Recipes Are In Your Heavy Rotation?

A comment from reader Sarah S:

I'd love to read a post, or an ongoing series on what is currently in your heavy rotation.

Thanks for the idea! First, a quick explanation for newer readers on what "heavy rotation" actually means. From my post Seven Ways to Get Faster at Cooking, where I first used the phrase:

Heavy Rotation:
Build a short list of your cooking "hits"--recipes that are both popular with your family and that you can make quickly and easily. Then regularly rotate one or more of these hit recipes into your weekly menu. The key here: if you make the dish regularly you'll get faster and more efficient at making it until you can practically do it blindfolded.

I've found that if you have a short list of five or six truly easy-to-make "hits" and rotate one of them into your menu each week, you can use this system indefinitely without getting sick of any of the hit recipes. Believe me, that's a far cry from a typical radio station that plays the same song every three hours! Moreover, you will find that you get quicker and quicker in finding the ingredients in the store, keeping them handy at home, and preparing and scaling up the meal itself. If you double the batch size of your heavy rotation recipes, you can efficiently take care of 1/3 or more of your meals this way, depending on the size and appetite of your family.

If I might channel my inner Michael Pollan, we could boil this down to: Find easy recipes. Make them. Not too often.

Now, to answer Sarah's question. Right now, the recipes we've got on heavy rotation are:

1) Easy Lentil Soup (the last few times I've made this I've included four cups of homemade rich chicken stock, and this soup has turned out better than ever).
2) Hilariously Easy Slow Cooker Bean Stew
3) Black Beans and Rice
4) Homemade Burritos

What grabbed me about Sarah's comment was this: it made me realize that here at Casual Kitchen we have our own rotation of heavy rotation recipes. How meta! And there are specific commonalities to these heavy rotation collections beyond just their being easy-to-make recipes.

For example, usually our heavy rotation recipes include at least one highly scalable soup or stew (often vegetarian) that leaves us plenty of leftovers. We do this for a couple of reasons: First, when our key meal of the week is vegetarian, this often translates into big savings on our food costs--a central advantage of part-time vegetarianism. This simple tactic of building a heavy rotation around a double (or triple!) batch of vegetarian soup or stew probably saves us more time and money than anything else we do in the kitchen.

Second, we eat the leftovers of this scaled-up meal on alternate days with another recipe. Why alternate days? Well, while it's true that there's no easier way to get dinner on the table than reheating something you've already made, it's also true that eating the same thing for multiple days in a row gets... tiresome. Alternating leftovers solves this problem.

Another thought: we often have a crockpot recipe in our heavy rotation. This might be something like our Chipotle Crockpot Chile, Crockpot Beef Stew, or Easy Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew. All of these recipes are delicious, simple, and make a ton of extra food.

Finally, Black Beans and Rice tends to show up regularly in our heavy rotation just because it's hilariously easy and we never seem to get sick of it, ever.

So, readers, now it's your turn! Share a few of your family’s favorite, easiest recipes in the comments below, and feel free to include links back to your site. Let's help each other put delicious, easy home-cooked meals on our tables!

What recipes are in your heavy rotation?

Read Next: Fair Trade: Using Poverty To Sell... More

How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.


mw said...

Of course, it's very seasonal. Right now, in mid-winter, for this pesce-vegetarian, it's One-Pan Orecchiette with Chickpeas and Olives, Minestrone soup, Fish Stew, some kind of Seafood Casserole, Spinach Ravioli with Broccolini and Homemade Tomato Sauce, Curried Butternut Squash & Shrimp Soup. Other times of the year, egg dishes, salads, dishes with asparagus and fresh peas, various stir fries factor in more.

chacha1 said...

My rotation includes:
Chili w/ground bison;
"Spaghetti" (may use noodles or cabbage) w/Italian-style sausage;
Corn chowder w/sausage or fish;
No-tortilla soup (tomato-based vegetable soup with spices, charred corn etc) w/sausage;
Slow-cooker pork shoulder blade roast;
Stroganoff (generally with cabbage) w/sausage or ground bison or grass-fed ground beef;
and fairly regularly I throw some steaks under the broiler.
You may wonder "why so much sausage," well, the reason is we like animal protein, Aidell's and Open Nature make a good variety of tasty sausages, and they don't require an extra cooking step.

Melissa said...

I love all your heavy rotation. Beans FTW. I have so many, all cheap, quick, and easy:

Chili Cornbread Skillet
Skillet Chili Mac
Spicy Black Beans and Quinoa
Thai Red Curry Chicken
Skillet Sausage, Red Beans and Rice
Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry

And of course my breakfasts that I rotate through every week: baked oatmeal, egg bake (now with spinach, ham and homemade breakfast sausage), and chorizo and egg burritos.

Good to have a list of frugal, delicious standards!

Marcia said...

Crockpot BBQ or teriyaki chicken
Crockpot black bean soup or refried pinto beans (depends on which 10lb bag we currently have)
Roasted cauliflower as a side dish
Sauteed green beans and mushrooms as a side

I've cut back on grains a lot this last year, so I've had to find "new" heavy rotation recipes.

Really, it's a veggie and protein. And the main dish is generally something I cooked on the weekend. When we run out mid-week, it's veggie burgers or something like that.