What’s for dinner? Something for one thrown together on the fly or an elaborate feast for a large family? Cooking can be overwhelming no matter what, especially if you’re already dealing with fatigue and/or limited mobility. Can’t we just order pizza?
Wait! Put that phone book away. A number of recent cookbooks show you how to prepare dinner in as little as five minutes, using a mere half dozen ingredients. All it requires is some advance planning and organization.
My three favorites:
30-Minute Meals 2, by Rachael Ray, Lake Isle Press, 2003, $11.53. Ray tends to stick to common ingredients and describes easy ways of approximating rather than measuring everything—e.g., a pinch of salt, a palmful of curry, a couple of glugs of olive oil once around the pan. One section, “Make Your Own Take-Out,” helps you prepare Mexican, Thai, and Indian favorites, as well as pastas, a dozen different burgers, and, yes, even pizza. Order through Amazon.com
5 Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook: Cooking Light, edited by Anne Chappell Cain, Oxmoor House, 1999, $23.07. Each recipe features a grocery list on the side, nutritional breakdown, and dessert and side-dish suggestions to complete the meal. My favorite was the fettuccine with blue cheese and artichoke sauce. Order through Amazon.com
A Flash in the Pan: Fast, Fabulous Recipes in a Single Skillet, Brooke Dojny and Melanie Barnard, Chronicle Books, 2003, $22.95. Using only a good skillet, you too can create delicious entrees that take 30 minutes or less to prepare. The book doesn’t stay open easily, so I stood it up in a bookrack while I made double-mustard chicken paillards (using crunchy whole mustard seeds, white wine, heavy cream, and honey mustard sauce). Delicious! Order through Amazon.com
Other books I've found useful include:
The Best of Cooking with 3 Ingredients, Ruthie Wornall, Cookbook Resources, 2003, $19.95. Published in a sturdy comb binding, this book stays open and offers 10-minute dinners, 10-minute party menus, and 5-minute crock-pot suppers. Wornall’s recipes are very simple and use many convenience foods like canned soups, packaged seasoning, mixes, and instant puddings. But watch out for the recipes that call for junk-food ingredients! Order through Amazon.com
Easy Gourmet-Style Cooking with 5 Ingredients, Deborah Anderson, Cookbook Resources, 2002, $19.95. Easy-to-follow instructions for intriguing recipes—but these don’t claim to take less than 30 minutes to prepare. Anderson includes chef's notes, tips, and optional ingredients to enhance the recipes. A favorite is broccoli Dijon. Order through Amazon.com
minutemeals Quick and Healthy Menus, Miriam Garron, ed., Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2003, $11.16. Contains recipes collected from minutemeals.com, which features 20-minute gourmet recipes. The book offers step-by-step sequences to prepare full meals, not just individual dishes. The key is having a game plan. Order through Amazon.com
The Can Opener Gourmet, Laura Karr, Hyperion, 2002, $13.22. Karr uses foods that come in cans and jars, including many baby foods that are already pureed, cutting down on time and effort to puree vegetables for soups and side dishes. Order through Amazon.com
For those who would like to take advantage of your good days to prepare meals for days when you're not feeling so energetic, I recommend these two books:
The Once-a-Week Cooking Plan, Joni Hilton, Three Rivers Press , 1999, $12.44. This book offers a 14-week plan that the author guarantees will save you 1020 hours a week. Set aside two to three hours on a day when you’re feeling good to chop all the onions or grate all the cheese you'll need. Then prepare several dishes at the same time for use all week. Order through Amazon.com
Once-a-Month Cooking, Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg, B&H Publishing Group, 2001, $10.39. Using a similar kind of organization as Hilton's book, Wilson and Lagerborg propose that you can cook once a month, or at most every two weeks. Includes shopping lists and specific instructions. Order through Amazon.com
Last but not least, I found one book specifically aimed at cooks with disabilities: The Disabled Gourmet, compiled in 1998 by Edwina Crites in conjunction with Campus Colleagues Club of Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California. Occupational therapists, a nurse, and an adaptive physical education teacher contributed suggestions to help people with disabilities be safe and successful in the kitchen, despite weakness, fatigue, unreliable hands, iffy balance, or low vision. (Amazon.com)