Here’s a handful of helpful “no-recipe” hacks, some of which are based on recipes in this special issue:

Mac and cheese made with Cashew Cream. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)
Better-than-a-box mac & cheese

Cashew Cream makes an easy substitute for traditional cheese sauce. Simply boil a half-cup of roughly chopped carrot (frozen is fine) with an equal amount of raw onion in just enough water to cover for 5 to 8 minutes or until soft. Drain off and reserve any excess water; put the carrot and onion in a blender with a cup of cashew cream. Blend on high until smooth; if the resulting sauce seems too thick, add the reserved cooking water (or fresh water) a teaspoon at a time to thin it. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a seasoning blend, such as Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, then mix with two cups of cooked macaroni. Eat as is, or top with panko bread crumbs and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

The “cheese” sauce is also tasty when mixed with a couple of spoonfuls of salsa for a quick queso-style dip for chips.

A fruit dip for snacking made with Cashew Cream. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)
Sweet cream fruit dip

When blended with honey or light agave syrup, Cashew Cream can be turned into a sweet and protein-rich snack, perfect for dipping slices of apples, pears or other fruit. Just sweeten a half-cup of Cashew Cream to taste, adding a dash of cinnamon — yes, it’s that easy. If you crave chocolate, mix in a teaspoon of cocoa powder in addition to the sweetener, or, in a pinch, substitute chocolate chips melted in the microwave or even hot cocoa mix; because the chips and mix are already sweetened, you won’t need to add honey or agave syrup.

Stir-fry beans

For a weeknight meal that’s faster and cheaper than ordering Chinese takeout, grab a cup of green beans from the freezer and toss them into a pan with a half-cup of Quick Stir-Fry Sauce , cooking over medium-high heat until the sauce has thickened slightly. Stir in a tablespoon of lemon juice (add a little fresh zest if you want to amp up the flavor even more) and freshly ground black pepper, then pour the beans and sauce over cooked rice. You can add the protein of your choice, such as cubed tofu or leftover chicken strips.

These blueberry-lemon scones start with Bisquick. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)
Blueberry-lemon drop scones

If you have a box of Bisquick, turn it into a brunch-worthy batch of scones in a matter of minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Start with 3 cups of the mix and½ cup of sugar, then cut a stick of cold butter into small pieces and use your fingers to blend everything together until the mix looks crumbly. Add ¾ cup of milk, a teaspoon each of vanilla extract and lemon zest, and a cup of frozen blueberries that have been tossed with a spoonful of Bisquick (this helps the berries keep their shape). Mix with a fork until just blended, then drop large spoonfuls of the batter (about ¼ cup each) onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with additional sugar, if you like, then bake for 12 to 15 minutes.

For a vegan version, substitute non-dairy butter and milk. Serve immediately; the scones can also be refrigerated for up to a week and frozen for up to two months.

Disks of cooked onion freeze well and can speed up weeknight meal prep. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)
Freezer onions

If you feel like planning ahead, chop two or three onions and saute them over low heat in a tablespoon of vegetable oil, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and lightly golden — 15 or 20 minutes. Scoop them by the tablespoonful onto a baking sheet and let the discs freeze until solid; transfer them from the baking sheet to a plastic freezer bag and then pop the bag back into the freezer.

When you need cooked onions for additional flavor in a soup or sauce, take out as many discs as you need and add them along with the other ingredients.