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Even novices in the kitchen can create delicious and simple meals without a cookbook. The key to cooking without a cookbook or a recipe is knowing what types of ingredients go together well. Once you learn this, it is simple to put together different ingredients to make different meals. The easiest dish to prepare this way is a skillet dish. In this article I will explain how to make several skillet dishes without having a recipe or cookbook handy.

Most skillet dishes consist of a meat/protein, a grain and a sauce base. Some also have vegetables or cheese, but these are extras, not the basics. Let's first look at the meat. This can be any type of meat you have on hand. It can be canned such as tuna, crab, chicken or beef. It can be leftover from a previous meal or extra meat that is in the freezer. The best meats for skillet dishes are ground beef, chicken or turkey breast, ham or any of the canned meats previously listed. Smoked or Polish sausage also works very well.

Now that you have decided on what meat to use, lets choose a grain. If you keep several varieties of pasta in your pantry it keep your dishes varied. Both white and brown rice are also a great choice. I prefer the quick-cook rice, but that is the personal choice of the cook. Seasoned rice or noodle mixes also can be used and sometimes can eliminate the use of an extra sauce base. The most versatile sauce base is canned condensed cream of mushroom soup. It goes well most meat and always works well with pasta or rice. Other condensed cream soups such as cream of chicken, celery or broccoli or cheese soup also work very well. Jarred or canned pasta sauces are also great choices. The new cheese and Alfredo sauces that are now on the market are delicious yet eliminate the work of preparing it from scratch. Gravy is also a great sauce base; jarred, canned, or dry mix packets all work well.

Now that we have an idea what to use, let's get cooking. First, choose your meat. If it isn't cooked, cut it into small pieces and brown it in a slightly greased skillet. If it is leftovers or canned meat, set it aside. Now start your grain. Pastas should be cooked separately then added to the meal while uncooked rice can be added to the sauce and meat. Then start heating your sauce. Add it directly to the meat. Or if you are using canned meat, combine the two and heat them together. If you choose to add any vegetables, now is the time to do so. Fresh, frozen or canned vegetables all work fine. If frozen or fresh vegetables are used along with fresh meat, you may want to cook them together before adding the sauce and grain. Season the dish according to your taste
Here are some basic recipes to get you thinking and cooking. There are numerous variations on these recipes, just use your imagination.

Crab Alfredo
1 can crabmeat
1 jar Alfredo sauce
Bow-tie pasta (or pasta of choice)
Garlic powder and dried basil

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. Heat sauce and crabmeat.
3. Season to taste
4. Add ½ Cup of pasta water to sauce as a thickener
5. Add drained and cooked pasta

1. Add frozen or fresh broccoli to the pasta and cook together (or a broccoli, cauliflower, carrot blend)
2. Add frozen or fresh peas to the pasta and diced fresh tomatoes to the sauce
3. Top with grated parmesan cheese

Chicken and Rice
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
½ - ¾ soup can of milk

1. Season chicken to taste and cut in to small cubes
2. Brown on a slightly greases skillet
3. Add cream of mushroom soup and milk, stir until well combined
4. Bring to a simmer, season to taste
5. Add rice
6. Continue to cook and stir until rice is done

1. Add frozen or fresh broccoli before adding the rice
2. Add cheese to soup or use cheese soup
3. Instead of rice use cooked egg noodles

Super Easy Beef Stroganoff
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
½ - ¾ soup can of milk
2 T sour cream (or more to taste)
Egg noodles

1. In a skillet brown ground beef and onion, drain fat
2. Meanwhile prepare noodles in a separate pot
3. Add soup, milk and sour cream to browned meat and onion
4. Season to taste
5. Add cooked, drained noodles

1. Eliminate soup, milk and sour cream replace with canned or jarred brown gravy

With these three basic recipes you can have several variations by changing the meat, grain or sauce to each one. Also adding cheeses and vegetables can make a meal seem completely different.