Secret Stage Top Fives: Home-Cooked Meals

"Just like Ma used to make." Pretty much sums up any good meal, right? When life has you down, sometimes all it takes to lift you back up is nice, well-cooked meal. Over the years, we've had plenty of meals that might make the list, and these are our top picks:


5. Mashed Potatoes and Gravy - "You can always taste the difference when they're home-made, too. Just writing this is making me hungry."

4. Enchiladas - "One of the very few Mexican style dishes that I enjoy, but when they're spicy and loaded with sour cream, I am so down."

3. Spaghetti and Meatballs - "This also has something to do with sauce, but my mother cans her own tomatoes and the sauce she makes is just the best. It's always just a bit better when she makes meatballs, too."

2. Cheesy Potatoes - "There could legitimately be death matches over who gets the last of these at our family gatherings. I could eat an entire bowl of them. They actually go perfect with my number one."

1. Ribs - "When my parents make Ribs I would always drop whatever I'm doing and get over there. My mom makes barbecue sauce that nobody can mimic."


5. Ramen - "No. Not the cheap shit you ate in college. GOOD ramen with egg, bok choy, chopped veggies, meat, and hearty broth. A hot soup full of substance always hits the spot and this is one of those meals you can make pretty quick/cheap without sacrificing any of the flavor."

4. BBQ - "There's nothing quite like a medium rare steak, pulled pork, or some juicy grilled chicken. Plus, my step dad is really good at cooking meat and baking bread. So sometimes, he'll make burgers with pretzel buns or a big rack of ribs when I come home. It's perfect on a nice summer day with a cold beer."

3. Shepard's Pie - "I love carbs. Bread, pasta, potatoes, etc. They're the best worst food items. So you take that, add in a hefty bit of meat and veg, and you have one of the most delicious things ever. They're usually served in a personal ramekin too, so you get this cute, tasty dinner pie all to yourself. It's great."

2. Pasta - "I took the easy way out here, but there are too many pasta dishes I love. Fettuccine Alfredo, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, mac and cheese. They're all too good to pick just one."

1. Fry Bread Tacos - "It's not your typical meal, but it's something that's been a family (and friend) favorite my whole life. My mom is half Native American, so she would come into mine and my sister's classrooms in elementary school to teach about the culture. She'd make berry fry bread for everyone and soon, she started making BIG batches of fry bread at home. She'd take half and cover them in cinnamon sugar, and the other half we'd put taco toppings on. Getting these now is a rarity, but it'll always be the best."


5. Chicken Alfredo Pasta Burritos - "One of my most recent discoveries, the Chicken Alfredo burrito is a sight to behold. Simply whip up a batch of your favorite pasta (any variation will do), roll it up in a tortilla, and fry the sucker. Carbo-heaven."

4. Baked Salmon and Baby Red Potatoes - "I really like fish (and don't get nearly enough of it in the Midwest), and when it's done the way my mom's side of the family does it, few things taste better. Pair it with those oily little potatoes. Don't skimp on that."

3. Enchiladas - "My mother makes really good Mexican food, for some reason. Almost all of those dishes are great, but her Enchiladas take the cake. I always eat like 6 of them. Nothing less."

2. Roasted Chicken and Potatoes with Gravy - "Easily one of the most traditional meals we'd have as a family; this one is a straight up classic. I don't know how someone figured out the perfect combination of spices and all of that junk, but thank goodness for that."

1. Macaroni and Cheese - "Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats the homemade Mac and Cheese that my mother and grandmother make. And that's all I have to say about that."


5. Altered Ramen Noodles – “Now I know Ramen doesn’t seem like home cooking, but since it was my dad that told me how to make it like this, I’m going to count it. Instead of using a lot of water to make a broth, I use just one cup of water. And after the noodles have boiled for ~3 minutes, the water has all been absorbed or boiled away. So instead of a soup, it is a noodle dish, and I quite like it like that. There was one time I had the powder left from a bag of super spicy pork rinds, so I made some pork flavoured noodles and poured the powder in and mixed into the noodles. It was spicy and really good.”

4. Mac & Cheese with Chopped-Up Hotdog – “It is funny, I used to throw a fit if two foods on my plate even touched. I didn’t even entertain the idea of putting hotdog bits in my mac & cheese. Yeah, I liked both, but put them together, I wouldn’t touch it. Now I love it. And unlike some people at Secret Stage, I follow the directions when I make the mac & cheese.”

3. Pasta of Any Kind – “I am pretty partial to alfredo with my pasta, but what goes in it can differ. Sometimes chicken, sometimes shrimp, sometimes just parmesan cheese. I do enjoy red sauce on occasion though. Like one time I made mozzarella filled meatballs from scratch. Those were good.”

2. Steak or Ribs Grilled by my Father - “He doesn’t do anything special with them, so I don’t know really why I like them so much. But anything he makes on the grill is fantastic. Suring my years eating dorm food, that was what I missed the most. They would even have steak or ribs on really special occasions, but they were never as good.”

1. Duck – “I’m not sure if it technically counts as home cooking since we only make it at Christmas, and not even every year. And I think that is why I like it so much, it is something special just because of how rarely I have it. If you haven’t had it, it is pretty much all dark meat. It is also quite juicy, almost to the point of being greasy, but delicious all the same.”


5. Crepes - "My mom used to make crepes once in a while and they were pretty good. They're one of those foods that are delicious for the first 10 bites, and then after that you're pretty much set for the next few months. She used to make pizza ones and Alfredo ones. I like the Alfredo ones but I didn't like that she put mushrooms in them."

4. Pizza - "Pizza was a winter meal I guess. My dad would only make it when it was really snowy outside. But he always made this really bomb spinach dip with it. We would experiment with a bunch of different ingredients on the pizzas which was fun. But my favorite was always Hawaiian with extra buttery crust."

3. Meat Loaf - "My grandma makes the best meat loaf. She bakes it with the ketchup on it and put a little bit of brown sugar in the ketchup. This was my favorite meal to eat whenever I would go to my grandparents house."

2. Chili - "Another meal that my dad used to make in the winter all the time. He would just put a bunch of random stuff in a pot and it always turned out really good. I loved that he put corn in the chili. And purple onions. That was probably my favorite part. Also covering everything in sour cream, that was really delicious too."

1. This Random Hispanic Dish My Mom Made - "I don't know what it is called but it was soooooo good. She would use shredded beef and cut it really small and mix it with onions, cilantro, tomatoes, and lime juice. Then she would make tortillas and retried black beans to put on them. Then you put green onions and Parmesan all over them. I used to wish that she would make it everyday. But it takes 2 days to do everything, and I'd probably get sick of it eventually."


5. Meatloaf - "Somehow, this one is even surprising to me. But I can tell you now, I wouldn't eat meatloaf if my mom didn't prepare it. This was a rare meal for us, but I sure didn't mind when it did come up as, what's for dinner."

4. Salad - "I know that sounds dumb. But my mom knew exactly what I liked (and didn't like) in my salad. And put plenty of dressing in there, which is how I still enjoy my salads. Plus she would actually mix up all the ingredients, where I feel most restarts just put it on top or even the side. She would make a huge bowl for me, and it pretty much served as its own meal. Ha"

3. Aunt Gloria's BBQ Ribs - "The first time I tried these, I was a little reluctant, as I'm a pretty picky eater. But once I had, ribs were on the menu for life. Something about how she prepared them, there were so tender, and practically fell off the bone. Haven't had ribs that measure up since."

2. Hamburger Helper - "this is far from extravagant, but it was always just right. No matter what type or style we decided on that night, the pot was empty at the end. Usually paired with classic Rice-A-Roni, this was a pretty usual, classic meal for my mom and I."

1. Tacos - "This is the one I have the most, now a days. Nothing really fancy about these either, but you really can't go wrong. It's the nice thing about the tacos, is there wasn't anything special about the preparation, so when I have them now, it still taste like home. And it's super easy, all you really have to do is cook the meat, and they are ready. I need another taco night soon!"


5. Pork Sausage with Sesame Sauce over Cabbage - " Since I have been eating healthy I have come up with so many good meals! This is one of my favorites because I enjoy Asian food."

4. Wine Sauce with Ground Meat over Broccoli - " This is one of the easy meals to make. Very filling and healthy!"

3. Pesto Chicken with Cabbage - " I have always been a fan of chicken with Pesto. Usually it's in a sandwich but this meal eliminates bread and makes it healthy!"

2. Spaghetti Squash with Mozzarella Cheese and Bacon - " This is one of my most favorite meals! It eliminates pasta and has bacon in it. Everyone loves bacon!"

1. Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats - " This is my favorite hands down! Spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta. It is better in my opinion and can be used many different ways. This meal tastes just like lasagna and is healthy!"