By Gini Rainey
I think that one of the challenges in the kitchen these days is to be more productively efficient. I’m not sure if that is a bona fide descriptive phrase – but it should be. Without a doubt, as busy as most of us are, the time we spend cooking should be able to produce not just one, but perhaps two or more yummy meals. I have friends who swear their family will not eat leftovers – I nearly cry when I see them scraping out good food, or walking out of a restaurant with food on their plates. As far as I’m concerned, some dishes are even better the second or third day after they are prepared. Soup is an excellent example. It seems like the flavors meld together even more the longer they live together in the pot.
So, naturally the cookbook I’m letting you all in on today will help you find new ways to become the efficient producer of great meals that you’ve all dreamed about. “Robin to the Rescue,” by Robin Miller, the host of the Food Network’s show Quick Fix Meals, is a 314 page book was published by The Taunton Press in 2008. Filled with great ideas for quick and simple recipes for great home cooked meals, this book includes helpful hints that follow every recipe like “make it a meal kit,” “bank a batch,” “morph it,” and “have it your way.”
For example, if your family doesn’t run to the table for the second night of leftover soup, why not make a double batch of “Sweet Potato Soup with Smoked Cheddar & Chives,” put half of it into a sealable container and freeze for up to 3 months. Sometime during those 3 months, I bet you would love to pull that container out of the freezer, heat up the thawed soup in the microwave, make some garlic toast, and serve a yummy, easy-peasy meal in less time than it takes to set the table.
Robin scores major points with me with her “have it your way” suggestions. For instance, she suggests in the recipe for “Hazelnut-Crusted Pork Chops with Cherry-Port Sauce,” that if you would prefer to make it with chicken, it will make an excellent substitution for the pork chops. Or, if you are making the Warm Chicken-Cherry Waldorf in Romaine, which calls for poached chicken breasts, you can poach a double batch of chicken and store the extra in the freezer for up to 3 months. After all, you’ve already got the pot going, why not maximize the boiling water and get a jump on something for dinner like Chicken with Pistachio-Parsley Pesto?
Her “make it a meal kit” ideas are excellent ways to maximize your free time one day and parlay it into a great meal a couple days down the road when there’s a time crunch. A great, make ahead idea would be her recipe for Roasted Broccoli with Red Onion & Walnuts. Her plan is to cut up the broccoli and onions and retain in the fridge for up to 5 days. Then you can combine the walnuts, vinegar, honey and thyme and refrigerate until you’re ready to complete the dish. With only a 10 minute roasting time for the broccoli and onions, your dish will be ready to serve in just minutes and will taste amazing.
Making excellent use of pantry staples, here’s a great dish, 5 Ingredient Sweet-n-Sour Chicken, that cooks up fast and tastes great. In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown in oil, 1-1/4 pounds of skinless chicken breasts that have been cut into 1 inch pieces. Add one 11-ounce can of crushed pineapple in juice, 1/4 cup apricot preserves and 1/4 cup hoisin sauce and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauces thickens and reduces – about 5 minutes. Serve over rice. This is a recipe that you can bank a meal by cooking double and freezing half! Winner, winner, chicken dinner!