A certain TV personality made her reputation doing part of what Jessica Fisher promotes in Good Cheap Eats. The television star promoted making dinner in under thirty minutes — something my own mother did daily. My Mom got home from work at 5:30 p.m. and we ate at 6, Monday through Friday. Jessica Fisher proved herself as a value-for-money home chef in her fist book—Good Cheap Eats, Meals for Ten Dollars or Less.
In this book, Fisher takes savings a step further—she shows us how to save time as well as money. She combines the speed of the television person and my Mom’s skill of a crafty food shopper with a strict budget to offers recipes that are tasty and varied and mostly made from scratch. Fisher’s book is geared toward dinner, so don’t expect the standard organization,. Instead she divides the book into chapters by different sorts of supper entrees—quick casseroles, speedy soups (yes, soups that can be made in under 30 minutes!) and stews, “grilled fare in a flash” and other snappy mains, ranging from pizza to tacos to salads, flatbreads, and sautés and other stovetop specialties.
For the most part, while there is great variety in the tastes of the times, there are no overly strong flavors—the recipes seem very child friendly. She does diverge in one instance—dessert. Always nice to have a quick sweet homemade sweet to linger over at the table. After all, it is the prep time that is compress—so you can spend more time with the family enjoying the meal and each other.
When I opened the book, I expected an array of standards. Instead the recipes given here are grouping of tasty treats from many nationalities. I put my first marker on the recipe for “Hands Free Cashew Chicken” and the number of pink tabs multiplied from there. This book definitely meets my criteria of at least 10 I want to try immediately. The author explains that her children love Chinese food, but because of one child’s peanut allergy, the family has to avoid Chinese restaurants. For me the problem is MSG—I’m highly allergic to it so I prefer eating Chinese food at home. This cashew chicken recipe fits the bill—I will substitute low sodium soy sauce where she calls for normal, but I can’t wait to try it!
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Fisher’s experience as a food blogger has put her in constant contact with the public as she puts forth her philosophy. Of course it certainly helps that she practices what she preaches—as the mother of six children, you can bet her shopping list changes according to the supermarket specials of the week. In the introduction she notes what items should be kept in the pantry at all times and makes a small primer on labeling things for gluten free, dairy free and meatless. She has a make-ahead section and tells which recipes are freezer friendly for making an even quicker second mealtime from the effort put into one day’s meal. By the way, if you have her other cookbook, you will not find repetition in this one—there are 200 all-new recipes in this volume.
Although fresh is usually cheaper, Fisher recognizes that pre-prep is sometimes necessary when speed is the priority. She shares the items that she buys “pre-done” despite the slightly higher cost and explains why—minced ginger and garlic, and bagged spinach—are the ones she uses most often.
As we enter a time of year when farmer’s markets are closing up and we have less time due to holiday preparations, it’s good to have a book that saves both time and money in the kitchen.
Here is the one I am dying to try.
Hands Free Cashew Chicken, reprinted with permission from Good Cheap Eats, Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less)
1 pound chicken tenders
1 none ounce package of frozen snow peas
½ c cashews’4 scallions, chopped
½ c chicken broth
2 T soy sauce
2T dry sherry
1 T corn starch
1 T honey
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees,. Grease a 9 by 12 baking pan with nonstick cooking spray2, place chicken tenders in the pan.
Scatter the snow peas, cashews, scallions over the chicken
In a small bowl, combine, the broth, soy, sherry, cornstarch, honey , garlic sesame oil, and red pepper, Whisk to blend thoroughly. Pour mixture over the chicken and veggies in the pan’
Bake until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick and bubbly—about fifteen minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if you wish
Title | Good Cheap Eats; Dinner in 30 Minutes(or Less!)
Author | Jessica Fisher
Publisher | Harvard Common Press
Length | 320 pages
Cost | $17.95