MOST SERIOUS cuisine is made from scratch, with an eye toward healthfulness and good taste.
But this time we focused on convenience products, the kind cooks have come to rely on for everyday meals. The following recipes meet our standards of taste and good health, yet are quick and easy to prepare.
Polls show that cooks want meals that can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. We met that goal easily. Several of these recipes spend more time in the oven, but they ask no attention from the cook.
Spicy Mexican Black Bean Soup
1 hot chili pepper, such as jalapeno, seeded, optional
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed, drained
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) Mexican-style stewed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Yogurt or sour cream, optional
Mince the hot chili in a food processor or blender. Add the beans, tomatoes with their liquid, chicken broth and cilantro; puree. Transfer to a small pan or the microwave oven and heat. Serve with a spoonful of yogurt or sour cream, if desired. Serves four.
Thai-Style Cabbage and Noodle Saute
1 cup chicken broth, preferably low-sodium
1 package (3 ounces) Oriental flavor ramen noodle soup mix
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 package (16 ounces) fresh shredded cabbage with carrots
6 green onions, slivered
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon each: smooth peanut butter, light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
Heat the chicken broth to a simmer in a large skillet. Add the noodles and seasoning mix from the soup mix and cook until noodles are soft and most of liquid is absorbed, three to four minutes.
Add the oil and turn the heat to high. Add the cabbage and green onions. Cook until wilted, about two minutes. Stir in the vinegar, peanut butter, sugar and red pepper flakes. Cook 30 seconds longer. Remove from the heat and add the cilantro. Serves four.
Citrus Dessert Sauce
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
1 jar (7 1/2 ounces) marshmallow cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
Puree cream cheese with marshmallow cream and vanilla in a food processor. Add orange juice concentrate and mix until smooth. Serves four.