chicken satay

Photo: Andrew Purcell

Q. I want to cook more adventurously, but I'm on a budget. Help!

A. Pick one cuisine to master; that way, you won't need to stock your pantry with a million items. I suggest Thai because it has such a varied range of flavors—sweet, salty, pungent—and calls for inexpensive ingredients like garlic, ginger, lime, a couple of fresh herbs. These grilled chicken skewers with a tangy coconut sauce are a great place to start.

Get the Recipe: Chicken Satay with Coconut-Lime Sauce and Jasmine Rice
roasted vegetables

Photo: Andrew Purcell

Q. I only have time to cook on the weekend, but I don't want to eat the same leftovers all week. What can I do to jazz them up?

A. I suggest roasting a big batch of hardy root vegetables, which can serve you well as a side the first night and then go on to be reborn in all kinds of ways—as the base of a vegetable soup or an addition to a crunchy arugula salad with pumpkin seeds. (For these recipes, plus other ideas for using roasted veggies, click here.)

Get the Recipe: Roasted Winter Root Vegetables

Photo: Andrew Purcell

Q. I fear my cooking is becoming a little...dull. I make the same things again and again (and they weren't that exciting in the first place). Suggestions?

A. You don't have to completely change the way you cook. Just take the dishes you make often and build on them. An easy way to do that is by adding a sauce—and my bacon-shallot vinaigrette is pretty fail-safe. Drizzle it over steak, pork tenderloin, or roast chicken, and you've taken an easy meal to new heights.

Get the Recipe: Warm Bacon and Shallot Vinaigrette

Photo: Andrew Purcell

Q. What's a Sunday family dinner dish that won't keep me at the stove for hours?

A. You can't go wrong with a big bowl of pasta—it's hearty but doesn't take a lot of effort. This penne dish has butternut squash and sausage, which cook in the same pan. And you can even split up tasks so your family can cook together. Best of all, the cream and butter in this dish give it a special-event feeling.

Get the Recipe: Penne With Sausage and Butternut Squash

Photo: Andrew Purcell

Q. What's something impressive I can make for guests that's secretly really easy?

A. I love this question! My answer is homemade ricotta. Making cheese sounds tricky, but it's just about mixing a few ingredients, draining them with cheesecloth, and waiting it out. Don't forget to tell everyone you made it yourself for maximum oohs and aahs—and definitely try it in these equally impressive homemade crepes, which are fantastic for dessert.

Get the Recipes: Crepes with Ricotta and Apricot Compote and Homemade Ricotta