It's almost five o'clock — quick, what's for dinner? If you have kids (or, heck, any job at all) five o'clock is that witching hour when you either groan at the thought of supper plans, or start thinking about takeout. But this book, from the editors of the sadly defunct Cookie, aims to change that. They wanted to lift family dinner away from stress and logistics, and offer inspiration and help for making family-friendly, simple, yet truly delicious meals from scratch on busy nights. Sound terribly ambitious? It is, but they do a great job.
Here's a recipe, and a few more thoughts on this book, which is honestly just as good for busy singles as harried mommies.
I see many, many books every year that promise quicker, easier cooking. (Quick! Fast! 30-minute meals!) My tolerance of these books reached a limit long ago; they often feel dumbed-down and slightly disingenuous in their promises of ever-quicker meals.
This book, though, doesn't fall into that camp. It's a lavishly-illustrated, colorful, yet compact book separated into seven sections, which should give you an idea of its approach:
The Family Kitchen.
If I Could Just Make It To Wednesday...
I Want Something Simple, Fast And Hard to Screw Up.
I Want To Have a Family Dinner Where We All Eat the Same Meal.
Do Sandwiches Count?
I Want To Use What I Already Have.
Let's All Have a Playdate.
See how great those are? I ask those questions all the time, and I don't even have kids! The answers to those questions range from ultra-simple instructions and recipes for attractively-photographed flank steak and braised pork, to simple marinara, Swedish meatballs, and creamy chicken with shallots (pictured with a plastic kid's fork on the plate!).
The charm in this book is not necessarily original recipes. There are lots and lots of basics in here that you can find elsewhere. The advantage is having them all collected in one place for easy, inspiring access on a busy day. And for all their simplicity, these recipes do not talk down to the cook. They are bright, encouraging, and delicious to look at.
One of my favorite clusters of recipes comes in the "Hard to Screw Up" part of the book. There's whole-wheat spaghetti with fried onions and bread crumbs (hello! delicious!) followed by a great little section of "muffin-tin meals" — potato chip frittatas, and gorditas, for instance. Then we move into ice cube-tray sushi. (How fun!)
The book is chock-full of fun, simple, and delicious ideas like these that will appeal to moms, dads, kids, singles, and couples. This is a great little book for impromptu weeknight inspiration. I highly recommend it.
• Find the book: Time for Dinner: Strategies, Inspiration, and Recipes for Family Meals Every Night of the Week, by Pilar Guzmán, Jenny Rosenstrach, and Alanna Stang. Published by Chronicle Books (September 2010). $16.47 at Amazon.
One-Pot Coconut-Chicken Curry
Madras curry powder is a nice starter curry for kids—it’s mild but still has a good range of flavors.
1 pound chicken tenders
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons madras curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup coconut milk
1 large Granny Smith apple, cut into small chunks
assorted toppings: roasted cashews or peanuts, fresh mango chunks, toasted coconut, chopped scallions, raisins
active time: 25 minutes
total time: 30 minutes
1. Season the chicken with the salt; set aside. Over medium-high heat, warm the oil in a wide, shallow saucepan or small Dutch oven.
2. Sauté the onion, garlic, and ginger for 2 minutes. Add the curry powder, coriander, and cumin and cook, stirring, until fragrant, another minute or two.
3. Add the broth and coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes to thicken. Add the chicken and apple and cook for an additional 10 minutes or until cooked through. Serve with rice and whatever toppings you like.
Related: Weekend Cooking: How to Make Curry
(Images and recipe courtesy of Chronicle Books)