Easy recipes for a busy mom


Cans, packages are key to simplicity

April 13, 2005|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN FOOD EDITOR

With a full-time job and two kids to chauffeur to school and sporting events, I couldn't resist picking up Jyl Steinback's The Busy Mom's Make It Quick Cookbook (Meredith, 2004, $19.95).

Steinback knows what it's like to be a busy mom. Her publicity materials describe her as "a personal trainer, lifestyle expert, motivational speaker and best-selling cookbook author."

Her trick to putting meals on the table is revealed in the book's subtitle: "300 Tasty Recipes Using Convenience Foods."

I made four recipes from her book and the only ingredient I picked up in the produce aisle was a bag of ready-mixed salad.

Whether it's appetizer, salad, side dish, main dish or dessert, most of the recipes in this book are made with 10 ingredients or fewer. Steinback is a big fan of diced canned tomatoes, nonfat shredded cheese and egg substitute.

Each recipe includes a shopping list and a difficulty rating, although you have to wonder about the usefulness of the rating guide because all but six recipes were described as "easy;" the others were rated "average."

Steinback's publicity materials say she is sometimes called America's Healthiest Mom, and she does include nutritional information with each recipe. But because she relies extensively on canned and packaged goods, the sodium content of many of the recipes is high.

Another factor to keep in mind is that while all of the recipes are supposed to take no more than 15 minutes of active work, many require a half-hour or more on the stove or in the oven, so the busy mom can't be assured of a quick dinner.

Nevertheless, readers who aren't particularly interested, or adept, in cooking will appreciate the simplicity of the recipes, the easy-to-follow instructions and the variety of kid-pleasing meals contained here.

Steinback revs up a spring salad with pineapple chunks, a bag of dried fruit and a honey-Dijon dressing. Her shrimp quesadillas take just minutes to make, thanks to frozen, precooked shrimp; shredded cheese; and diced tomatoes. And she dispenses with the usual shredded-cabbage accompaniment in her fish tacos, opting for frozen diced onions and more canned diced tomatoes.

Fish Tacos

Serves 6

1 tablespoon plus 1 cup nonfat chicken or vegetable broth (divided use)

1/2 cup frozen diced onions

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

two 14.5-ounce cans petit-cut diced tomatoes with green chiles, well drained

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 pounds halibut fillets

1 1/2 teaspoons bottled lime juice

six 98 percent fat-free flour tortillas

Spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; add 1 tablespoon broth and heat over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender.

Add drained tomatoes, remaining broth and cumin; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low. Add halibut; sprinkle with lime juice. Cook over low heat 15 minutes to 20 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove fish; cut into bite-size pieces.

Return fish to skillet and mix with other ingredients. Wrap tortillas in paper towels and microwave on high 30 seconds to 45 seconds per tortilla. Spread fish mixture down center of each tortilla, roll up and serve immediately.

Per serving: 273 calories; 3.3 grams fat; 30 grams carbohydrate; 29 grams protein; 36 milligrams cholesterol; 2 grams dietary fiber; 1,091 milligrams sodium

- Analysis from "The Busy Mom's Make It Quick Cookbook" by Jyl Steinback (Meredith, 2004, $19.95)

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