50+ Cooking Projects to Help Pass the Time

Updated: May 10, 2024

If you've got some extra time on your hands, we'll help you make the most of it! These cooking projects are worth the effort. Find tasty ways to prepare soups, roasts, appetizers and more.

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Nacho Triangles with Salsa-Ranch Dipping Sauce

These nacho bites are a fun fusion of Greek appetizers and flavors of the American Southwest. The simple dipping sauce is a perfect match—the ranch balances out the heat of the jalapeno and chipotle peppers—and takes the recipe to the next level. —Angela Spengler, Niceville, Florida
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Herb-Brined Cornish Game Hens

Instead of a turkey or a big roast, why not serve individual Cornish game hens for the holidays? They cook in a fraction of the time and they're guaranteed to impress all your guests. —Shannon Roum, Cudahy, Wisconsin
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Jim's Secret Family Recipe Ribs

For more than 30 years, my brother-in-law Jim kept his famous rib recipe a secret. When he finally shared it, we just had to pass it along because we loved it so much. This one's for you, Jim! —Vicki Young, Brighton, Colorado
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Easy Chicken Tetrazzini

This easy chicken tetrazzini is made with leftover cooked chicken and canned soup. It's the perfect recipe for busy weeknights because it's so easy to assemble. Once you pop the dish in the oven, you'll have time to take care of other things on your to-do list. —Martha Sue Stroud, Clarksville, Texas
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Crispy Sriracha Spring Rolls

While in the Bahamas, friends suggested a restaurant that served amazing chicken spring rolls. When I got home, I created my own version. Such a great appetizer to have waiting in the freezer! —Carla Mendres, Winnipeg, Manitoba
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Pressure Cooker Shredded Beef Burrito Filling

Create a taco or burrito bar! For a variation, I make beef and bean burritos by mixing a can of refried beans into 3 or 4 cups of cooked beef filling.—Hope Wasylenki, Gahanna, Ohio
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Mushroom and Sweet Potato Potpie

The last time I was in the U.S., I had an amazing mushroom and beer potpie at a small brewpub. It was so rich and comforting. I tried numerous versions when I got home and I think I've come pretty close! —Iben Ravn, Copenhagen, Denmark
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Instant Pot Brisket

A simple dry rub and beer come together to create a flavorful, mouthwateringly tender Instant Pot brisket. The cooking juices thicken into a rich gravy that tastes great spooned over the beef slices.
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Cheese-Stuffed Shells

When I was living in California, I tasted this rich cheesy pasta dish at a neighborhood Italian restaurant. I got the recipe and made a few changes to it in my own kitchen. I'm happy to share it with you. —Lori Mecca, Grants Pass, Oregon
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Inside-Out Stuffed Peppers

If you're craving stuffed bell peppers but short on time, this stuffed pepper casserole brings together all the beloved flavors of the classic dish in a quick, easy-to-make casserole that's perfect for busy weeknights.
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Nutty Oven-Fried Chicken

The pecans that give this dish its unique nutty flavor are plentiful in the South, and so is chicken. I love to make and serve this simple oven fried chicken dish because the chicken comes out moist, tasty and crispy. —Diane Hixon, Niceville, Florida
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Party Potatoes

These creamy, tasty potatoes can be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator until you're ready to pop them in the oven (I often do that). The garlic powder and chives add zip, and the shredded cheese adds color. —Sharon Mensing, Greenfield, Iowa
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Vegetable Beef Casserole

This easy one-dish recipe has been a family favorite ever since my husband's aunt handed it down to me decades ago. Try using whatever vegetables you have on hand. A simple salad goes nicely with this entree. —Evangeline Rew, Manassas, Virginia
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Sheet-Pan Lemon Garlic Chicken

Everyone needs an easy meal. Try this sheet-pan chicken with roasted potatoes for a simple and tasty meal guaranteed to please the whole family. If you use fresh lemon juice, garnish each serving with a little lemon zest for bright flavor. —Andrea Potischman, Menlo Park, California
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Pressure-Cooker Pot Roast Hash

I love to cook a Sunday-style pot roast for weeknights. Make it into pot roast hash for any day of the week. —Gina Jackson, Ogdensburg, New York
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Baked Spaghetti

This cheesy crowd-pleasing dish puts a different spin on spaghetti. The leftovers, if there are any, freeze well for a quick future meal. —Ruth Koberna, Brecksville, Ohio
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Chicken & Dumpling Casserole

This classic, savory casserole is one of my husband's favorites. He loves the fluffy dumplings with plenty of gravy. The basil adds just the right flavor and makes the whole house smell so good while this dish bakes. —Sue Mackey, Jackson, Wisconsin
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Chili for a Crowd

This chili for a crowd was handed down to me by my aunt, who said she got it from a "grizzled Montana mountain man." I added some zesty ingredients to come up with the final version. Hot food is something that my husband's family isn't accustomed to, so I adjust the spices for them. In fact, with a few simple alterations to the "heat" index, I can serve this chili to anyone. —Lisa Humphreys, Wasilla, Alaska
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Country Pork 'n' Sauerkraut

The secret ingredient in this recipe is the applesauce. When everything is cooked, you wouldn’t know it’s in there—yet the taste is just a bit sweeter. My mother and grandmother once ran a beanery for a train crew. That inspired a lot of my cooking. In fact, I adapted this recipe from one of theirs. Luckily for me, my husband likes to eat what I fix as much as I like to cook it! —Donna Hellendrung, Minneapolis, Minnesota
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Swiss Steak

I was really glad to find this recipe since it's a great way to use round steak and it picks up fabulous flavor from one of my favorite herbs - tarragon. I am a homemaker with three children and enjoy cooking tasty dinners like this one for my family. —Lorna Dickau, Vanderhoof, British Columbia
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Cheddar Chicken Potpie

Cheese soup is one of my favorites, but it’s a bit too rich for my husband’s taste. Now I make a variation of potpie we both enjoy. If I’m in a hurry, I’ll skip the crust, add extra milk and serve it as a chowder. —Sandra Cothran, Ridgeland, South Carolina
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New England Lamb Bake

This dish is hearty and perfect for warming up on a chilly winter evening. The aroma is almost as delightful as the dish itself. —Frank Grady, Fort Kent, Maine
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Chili Verde

This chile verde recipe is one of my family's favorites. We enjoy it any time of year, but it's especially good on a cool and rainy day. —Sherrie Scettrini, Salinas, California
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Pasties

Next time you need an easy, portable meal for a picnic or road trip, bake a batch of these handheld pasties. They also make a satiating and savory snack.
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Bavarian Pot Roast

Since all my grandparents were German, it's no wonder that so many Bavarian recipes have been handed down to me. Because the Midwest has such a large German population, I feel this recipe represents the area well. —Susan Robertson, Hamilton, Ohio
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Beef Noodle Casserole

This beef noodle casserole is perfect when there's a busy day coming up, because you can prepare it ahead of time. It's ideal for a potluck, too. The flavors blend together to create a delicious combination. —Grace Lema, Winton, California
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Zucchini Lasagna

When life gives you zucchini, make zucchini lasagna!
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Chicken and Rice Casserole

Everyone loves this dish—I consider it the best chicken and rice casserole recipe because it's a tasty combination of hearty and crunchy ingredients mixed in a creamy sauce. It's a time-tested classic. —Myrtle Matthews, Marietta, Georgia
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Church Supper Hot Dish

This recipe was in my mother's church cookbook, and now it's in my church cookbook! Apparently is was too good to miss a generation. I often make this dish to take along to potlucks...and it seems that if I don't, someone else will! It's hearty and so tasty! —Norma Turner, Haslett, Michigan
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Turkey Meat Loaf

This turkey meat loaf recipe isn’t just for dieters! It may be a healthy spin on a comfort food classic, but it’s as flavorful and juicy as the versions made with ground beef.
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BBQ Chicken and Apple Bread Pudding

To me, bread pudding is the epitome of comfort food and it's simply too good to reserve only for dessert. This sweet-and-savory twist on the classic is a delicious new way to enjoy an old favorite. —Shauna Havey, Roy, Utah
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Skillet Hasselback Sweet Potatoes

Treat your sweet-salty tooth! Sweet potatoes dressed with buttery, herby, garlicky goodness make for a stunning, delicious side dish. —Lauren Knoelke, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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Lemony Roasted Chicken and Potatoes

This one-dish meal tastes like it needs hours of hands-on time to put together, but it's just minutes to prep the simple ingredients. The meat juices cook the veggies to perfection. So easy. —Sherri Melotik Oak Creek, Wisconsin
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Rice Salad

Tasty and nutritious, this rice salad is the ideal lunch or dinner when you're craving something light.
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My Mother's Mac and Cheese

I remember my mother sending me to the store for 15 cents worth of cheese. The butcher would cut off a slice from a gigantic wheel covered with a wax-coated cloth. Mother would then blend that cheese into this tasty dish. Today, the memory of her cooking is like food for my soul. —Phyllis Burkland, Portland, Oregon
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Reuben and Rye Strata

This make-ahead dish is wonderful for brunch, lunch or supper, and it’s so easy to prepare. If you prefer it, substitute turkey pastrami for the corned beef. —Mary Louise Lever, Rome, Georgia
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Potato and Chorizo Casserole

I love the smoky flavor chorizo gives this dish, but I’ve also made it with Italian sausage and substituted an Italian blend cheese for the Mexican cheese. For a vegetarian option, you can use cream of mushroom soup and fresh mushrooms. —Ana Beteta, Aberdeen, Maryland
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Cranberry Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas

Whether canned or homemade, cranberry sauce delivers a healthy dose of vitamins to this dish. A little bit sweet, a little bit smoky, these enchiladas are a delightful way to use leftover chicken or turkey. —Julie Peterson, Crofton, Maryland
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Saturday Afternoon Oven Pot Roast

This pot roast will be a welcome sight and will leave your house smelling heavenly. If the cooking liquid evaporates quickly, add more broth to the Dutch oven. —Colleen Delawder, Herndon, Virginia
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Mini Meat Loaf Sheet-Pan Meal

I grew up with this meat loaf recipe, but I adapted it to mini meat loaves so that it would bake quicker. The sauce topping is always a hit. I added the potatoes and asparagus to make the meal complete. —Deanne Johnson, Reading, Pennsylvania
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Coastal Carolina Muffin-Tin Frittatas

Incorporating the flavors of a low country South Carolina crab boil, these tasty frittatas are easy to make and fun to eat. If you have leftover cooked potatoes (roasted or boiled), try dicing them and substituting them for the refrigerated shredded potatoes in this recipe. —Shannon Kohn, Summerville, South Carolina
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Cheddar-Butternut Squash Clafoutis

I came up with this savory version of the classic French dessert clafoutis and shared it for dinner with a salad. My friends loved it, but in the end I could have eaten the whole pan myself while dreaming of being in Paris with every scrumptious bite. —Joseph A. Sciascia, San Mateo, California
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Meatball Sliders

These meatball sliders feature pesto-filled meatballs, pasta sauce and two types of cheese, all baked inside Hawaiian sweet rolls. They're a pleasure to eat!
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Chicken & Broccoli Rabe Soup with Tortellini

With chicken, pasta and a bold tomato broth, this hearty and inviting soup is like a big comforting hug in a bowl! —Cynthia Gerken, Naples, Florida
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Ragin' Cajun Eggplant and Shrimp Skillet

We have a large summer garden where lots of produce lingers into fall. That’s when we harvest our onions, bell peppers, tomatoes and eggplant—some of the key ingredients of this dish. —Barbara Hahn, Park Hills, Missouri
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Farmhouse Pork and Apple Pie

I've always loved pork and apples together, and this recipe combines them nicely to create a comforting main dish. It calls for a bit of preparation, but my family and I agree the wonderful flavor is well worth the effort. —Suzanne Strocsher, Bothell, Washington
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Classic Beef Stew

This easy beef stew recipe is my favorite. The rich beef gravy helps the hearty flavor of the potatoes and carrots to come through. It's the perfect homemade dish for a blustery winter day. —Alberta McKay, Bartlesville, Oklahoma
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Cajun Corn Soup

I found this recipe years ago and substituted Cajun stewed tomatoes for a bolder taste. Now I prepare this dish for out-of-state guests who want to taste some Cajun food. Everyone who tries it gives it high marks. Plus, it's easy to prepare. —Sue Fontenot, Kinder, Louisiana
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Pressure Cooker Hearty Pork & Black Bean Nachos

My husband and I are both graduate students right now, so we don't have a lot of time to cook dinner. Our family loves coming home to this incredible nacho platter, and I love how easy it is to prepare. —Faith Stokes, Chickamauga, Georgia
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Oven Barbecued Chicken

Chicken and Sunday dinner belong together. During my married life on a dairy farm, I'd make this baked bbq chicken before church. — Esther Shank, Harrisonburg, Virginia