Cooking weeknight meals can be challenging for busy families trying to balance work, school, and family, and believe me when I say our family is not immune to those challenges. Some days are so busy that it’s difficult to get us all together at the dinner table or even find time to cook. If you frequently find yourself in that situation and want ideas for quick, easy, and healthy meals at home, I have a few cookbooks to recommend.
One of my favorites is The Essential EatingWell Cookbook from EatingWell magazine. The book was published in 2004 and received a James Beard Foundation nomination in the Focus on Health category in 2005. The author, Patsy Jamieson, is a contributing editor to Eating Well and a graduate of La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris. I turn to the book when I feel fresh out of ideas for meals and have always been pleased with recipe results, many of which inspire further meal ideas. Each recipe includes prep time, start to finish time, make ahead tips, ease of preparation rank, and nutrition information. I’m also looking forward to the release of their next book, EatingWell 500-Calorie Dinners, which comes out in January.
One tasty and easy dish that we like is the Green Beans with Caramelized Red Onions. You can use fresh or frozen green beans, and the flavor is very good. It makes a tasty and healthy side dish that goes well with many meals.
Some of my other favorites include the Moroccan Chicken Soup, Margarita Shrimp Salad, and the Moroccan Chicken Kebabs.
Publisher: The Countryman Press
Another good choice is Emeril Lagasse’s new book, Emeril 20-40-60: Fresh Food Fast. The recipes are grouped by preparation time—20, 40, or 60 minutes—and focus on healthy and light dishes. Each section has recipes for soups, salads, appetizers, sandwiches, pasta, rice and beans, vegetables, seafood, poultry, meat, and desserts, so you don’t have to worry about variety. In the 20 Minutes or less section you’ll find recipes for Simple Italian Wedding Soup, Orange Fennel and Black Olive Salad, and Lamb T-Bones with Rosemary-Balsamic Butter Sauce, evidence that good food doesn’t have to take a long time to prepare.
One of my favorites is the Broccoli and Cheese Soup with the garlicky croutons floating on top. It is easy to make and takes only 35 minutes to prepare from start to finish. There are some delicious fish dishes such as the Salmon with Orange Butter sauce that will get many repeats in our house.
Publisher: Harper Studio
If someone in your family has been put on a heart healthy diet or if you just want to proactively change the way you cook and eat, the American Heart Association has a new book out called Healthy Family Meals. It’s full of ideas for simple meals and desserts that promote heart health, and each recipe includes serving and nutrition information. The Main Dishes chapter is divided into sections for Everyday Dinners, Busy Nights, Plan-Aheads, and Cook Once, Eat Twice, in which each dish makes enough to have leftovers for another meal. Each main dish also has a Make It a Meal tip with suggestions for what to include with the meal. The dishes are easy to prepare even for beginning cooks. For example, the Citrus Tilapia requires just 10 minutes of cooking time on a grill or grill pan, and the marinade ingredients are widely available and easy to prepare. There’s also a Kids section with a few ideas for easy healthy meals and snacks for children divided by age range. While I’ve found that most of the recipes in other parts of the book are already kid friendly, some of these recipes would be fun for kids-only meals.
You won’t find recipes with exotic ingredients you can only get through mail order, just standard ingredients available in farmers markets and grocery stores across the country, which is definitely family friendly.
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
[The Essential Eating Well Cookbook is from my personal collection. I received the other books from the publishers.]