Photo: Yasmina Jacobs

A Buttery, Flaky "You Made This?!" Pastry
Homemade croissants don't require any special ingredients, equipment or degree in French viennoiserie—but they sure taste like you trained with the pros. All you need is time for the dough to rest and rise (start them in the evening, and they'll be ready for the next morning). This uncomplicated recipe walks you through each step and begins with combining yeast, warm milk and sugar with flour, butter and salt; then moves on to shaping the risen dough into crescents; and, finally, ends with baking the croissants until puffed-up and golden. Serve the croissants with jam and tea for a très Parisian late-morning meal or afternoon snack.

Get the recipe: Croissants

Photo: Jennifer May

A Classic Casserole with a Company-Worthy Upgrade
Whether you're faced with a potluck, a dinner party or a house full of family in town, this homespun "hotdish," an update on the famous chicken-wild rice combo, is a winner. Instead of the familiar canned-cream-soup base, though, it starts with a simple leek and celery sauce, which adds worlds more flavor. However, the topping, made from Ritz or Keebler Club crackers, is unchanged, so traditionalists (or anyone who loves that crunch) will be thrilled.

Get the recipe: Classic Chicken and Wild Rice Hotdish

Photo: iStock

A Weeknight Dinner with Weekend Taste
If you always save making a pot of homemade marinara for Sundays, here's a back-pocket version you can put into the workweek rotation. As this recipe explains, there are a couple of tricks to getting the best flavor: Use a wooden spoon to press down the garlic while it's warming in the olive oil to help release its flavor. And don't cook the sauce too long—a half hour, 35 minutes max, should be plenty of time for the sauce to thicken to ideal pasta-coating consistency.

Get the recipe: Simple Tomato Sauce

Photo: Yasmina Jacobs

An Unexpected Happy-Hour Nibble
Company's coming for cocktails, and you're getting ready to put out the usual cheese, crackers and charcuterie. Why not step things up with these crisp, flavorful just-a-little-bit-spicy cheese straws? They combine the crisp familiarity of breadsticks with the rich flavors of Parmesan and sharp cheddar, and beautifully complement wine, champagne or punch. Stand them up in a tall glass for a lovely presentation, surrounded by grapes or berries.

Get the recipe: Cheese Straws

Photo: Penny De Los Santos

A Cake That Kids, Grandparents and Everyone in Between Loves
Sometimes, even a birthday cake that seems uncomplicated has an ingredient list a mile long and directions that make you want to pull your hair out. Not this classic. To make the light and airy layer cake, you add the wet and dry ingredients together all at once, and beat the batter on high speed (two things many pros warn against). Trust this recipe, and you'll be rewarded with a moist, buttery—and can't-go-wrong—meal finale.

Get the recipe: Golden Vanilla Birthday Cake