THE IDEA OF a cookbook full of quick, nutritious recipes for time-starved cooks is nothing new, but there's something so practical about "365 Easy One-Dish Meals" that you want to offer this new publication a permanent spot on your kitchen bookshelf.
Author Natalie Haughton seems to have put all the right ingredients together for a workable cookbook -- sound advice on kitchen equipment and food preparation; nutritionally balanced recipes; and an organized, easy-to-use format.
The 365 recipes are arranged in chapters according to the "dish" in which they are prepared -- dutch oven, skillet, casserole, slow cooker, microwave, wok, salad bowl, etc. Indeed, most people do have a preference in methods, depending on the amount of time they can devote to dinner on a particular evening.
In the name of efficiency, each recipe includes preparation time, cooking time and number of servings. But, unless you're particularly quick at cutting, chopping, slicing and crumbling, you'll never match the five- or ten-minute preparation time estimated for so many of the dishes.
There are recipes for the I-hate-to-cook folks, who like to wor with as few ingredients as possible, as well as suggestions for the more adventurous. Haughton is not afraid of trying the unusual -- like creating stove-top pizza, or mixing pineapple with everything from turkey to cucumbers to cauliflower.
Readers should beware that one-dish does not exactly mean inexpensive. If you want dinner in half an hour, you may have to pay a little more for it. Haughton makes liberal use of convenience foods, including canned and frozen vegetables and packaged rice mixes. After all that's what quick and easy is all about.
Most of the dishes in the book are geared to the evening meal, but there are a few egg-based recipes, including an intriguing Baked Stuffed French Toast.
"365 Easy One-Dish Meals" is probably most attractive in its usefulness. It's looseleaf-type binding allows the open book to lie flat for easy reference. It has an easy-clean cover, step-by-step directions and an excellent index. After all, if you're on a home-at-6, dinner-by-7 schedule, you need all the cooperation you can get.
Easy Chicken and Rice
1 cup converted rice
1 10 3/4 -ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup
1/3 cup dry sherry
2/3 cup water
1 16-ounce package frozen Italian-style vegetables
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
8 drops Worcestershire sauce
In a large skillet, combine rice, soup, sherry, water and frozen vegetables; mix well. Heat to boiling, stirring.
Arrange chicken breasts on top of rice mixture. Sprinkle each chicken breast with a couple drops of Worcestershire sauce. Spread with back of spoon; sprinkle with paprika.
Heat to boiling, reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Remove cover and stir rice mixture under and around chicken. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking, covered, 15 to 20 minutes, or until rice is tender.
Baked Stuffed French Toast
4 large slices sourdough bread, crusts removed, cubed
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, cut into cubes
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 to 3 tablespoons sifted powdered sugar
Maple syrup or apricot, blueberry or raspberry syrup
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place half the bread cubes in an ungreased 11x7-inch baking dish. Cover with cream cheese cubes, distributing evenly. Sprinkle with chopped apple. Top evenly with remaining bread cubes.
Beat together eggs, milk and cinnamon until well blended. Pour over bread mixture in dish. Bake about 35 minutes, or until set. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve with maple or a fruit syrup.
1 1/4 pounds boneless top sirloin, trimmed of fat
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup water
3/4 cup quick-cooking long-grain rice
1 pound fresh broccoli, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
With a sharp knife, cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices. In a medium bowl, mix together ginger, sugar, soy sauce and cornstarch. Add meat strips and toss to mix well. Let stand five to ten minutes.
In a ten-inch skillet, heat oil over high heat until hot. Add meat mixture. Cook, stirring, over high heat, until meat loses its redness, four to five minutes. Remove to a plate.
Add water, rice and broccoli to skillet and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer five to six minutes, or until broccoli is tender.
Return meat to skillet and heat to boiling, stirring often. Simmer, stirring, one minute.