A Dinnertime Survival Guide

By Sodergren, Rebecca | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), August 14, 2014 | Go to article overview

A Dinnertime Survival Guide


Sodergren, Rebecca, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


For many harried parents, the structure of this new cookbook is what will seem the most appealing.

It's not divided into chapters like "poultry," "sides" or "desserts."

The chapters are titled according to the pitfalls you encounter regularly in the kitchen:

"I Have Zero Time!"

"I Can't Afford Healthy Food."

"I'm Not a Short-Order Cook!"

"Nobody's Around to Eat It Anyway."

And perhaps the hands-down favorite: "Frankly, I Just Don't Feel Like It."

The book is "Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide" by Sally Kuzemchak, described on the cover as "Kid Wrangler. Mealtime Heroine. Nutrition Whiz."

She's actually a food blogger and busy mom of 6- and 10-year-old sons, plus a registered dietitian. So, as she says, she understands the desire to serve your kids healthy food, but she's also "all about reality," recognizing that time, budget and pickiness can all get in the way of the ideal.

Ms. Kuzemchak's biggest kitchen challenge is probably time, she said. She thinks most people face the same challenge, juggling soccer practices and play rehearsals, or parents' differing work schedules, or the 20 minutes they've got to cook and eat between activities. But the good news is that she's hit upon a number of quick, appetizing meals that please the whole family.

One of her family's favorites is "Rosemary Oven-Fried Chicken," which is coated in a panko and cashew combo and drizzled with honey before serving. That one is in the "I'm on a Diet, They're Not" chapter, so it might sound decadent, but at 248 calories per serving, it's not too bad.

"T-Riffic Tilapia Tacos," from the "I'm Not A Short-Order Cook!" chapter, turned her kids into fish-eaters, she said. Before, they'd always complained that fish was crumbly and too hard to eat, but put a mild fish inside a tortilla and voila - it becomes a kid- pleaser.

The "Frankly, I Just Don't Feel Like It" chapter includes sandwich and salad suggestions that can pass as dinner when you're totally uninspired.

We'd quibble with perhaps a couple of the suggested meals. For instance, I don't think I'd have put homemade pizza - including homemade dough - in the "I Can Barely Boil Water" chapter. If you can barely boil water, you're not yet ready to mess with yeast.

But many of the recipes sound tasty and feature unique ingredients, like the one we tried, Pistachio Pesto Pasta (see recipe).

Ms. Kuzemchak says she cooks from "Dinnertime Survival Guide" all the time - she's got a clean office copy and a dog-eared, spattered kitchen copy.

One of her favorite "cheats" is to serve breakfast for dinner, such as the Zesty Lemon Waffles in the book. They've got whole wheat flour and flaxseed, so they're reasonably healthy, and the whole family sends up a cheer when they hear breakfast is on the dinner menu.

The recipes are a mash-up of favorites from her own kitchen, recipes she tweaked from blogger friends, new recipes from the "Cooking Light" magazine staff, and archived "Cooking Light" recipes that had turned out to be reader favorites. All the recipes cycled through the Cooking Light test kitchen before publication.

And although Ms. Kuzemchak truly does like to cook, she acknowledges that her family still eats out or gets takeout about once a week. …

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