Author of The 8x8 Cookbook, Kathy Strahs, introduces us to her secret weapon for delicious, supereasy weeknight suppers.
The Dinner Puzzle You'll Actually Want To Solve
While cramming bone-in chicken breasts into an 8x8 pan might be a bit of a challenge, drumsticks fit perfectly; their elongated shape allows you to arrange them in a zigzag pattern that can accommodate plenty while still leaving the skin room to brown and crisp. Underneath the meat lie chopped carrots, turnips and red potatoes; the vegetables absorb the chicken's flavor, as well as the honey-balsamic dressing that gives this dish a deliciously sweet undertone.
Adding uncooked couscous to a baking dish may seem a bit unorthodox -- but it turns out to be a great way to infuse the North African staple with incredible richness when you pour a hot mixture of apple cider, mustard, cinnamon and thyme over the grains then arrange browned pork chops on top and cover with cooked onions and apples. Bake for 15 minutes and you'll have a juicy, fruit-enhanced meal.
The ingredients for this amped-up mac 'n' cheese keep beautifully in the pantry or freezer, so you can (almost) make it at a moment's notice. It starts with a package of fresh cheese tortellini (though you can also use dried), along with fresh or frozen peas and some lemon zest. Add a jar of Alfredo sauce thinned with water and bake the dish for 35 minutes. Then stir in a small handful of pancetta (which you can store in the freezer), sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top and bake for 10 minutes more, until the cheese is bubbling.
Taking the time to make homemade meatballs on a weeknight may seem a little luxurious, but they actually come together quickly -- and if you bake them, cleanup will be a breeze. Strahs' recipe is straightforward: It's a combination of ground beef and pork, plus egg, bread crumbs, grated Parmesan, garlic and some seasonings. She forms the mixture into balls, arranges them in four-by-four rows in her pan, then slides them into the oven for 15 minutes, which is just enough time to boil some pasta or toss a salad.
Stash cod fillets in your freezer and orzo in your pantry, and you'll never be too far away from a fresh and light supper (or lunch, even). You steam the fish over a bed of orzo that you've par-boiled in a separate pot, which keeps the fillets moist and flaky and gives the pasta just enough moisture to cook through. Gremolata, which is an impressive-sounding word for parsley, lemon, garlic and olive oil, adds some zesty flavor -- without adding another grocery-store run to your life.
Meatballs may have a reputation for being the anchors of a Sunday supper, but crisp, tender portions of ground beef <i>can</i> be had on a weeknight. The trick is to take the "ball" descriptor as a mere suggestion; instead of rolling the meat mixture into perfect rounds, drop it by the spoonful into a hot pan. No one's really going to care that the finished balls look more like 3-D pentagons; the point is, they're supremely tasty, especially next to a tangle of lightly sautéed Swiss chard. Put a pot of water on to boil before you start, and the pasta will be ready just as the last meatball is coming out of the pan (toss it with some olive oil and grated Parmesan before serving). <br><br><strong>Get the recipe: <a href="http://www.oprah.com/food/Mark-Bittmans-No-Roll-Meatballs-Recipe" target="_blank">Mark Bittman's No-Roll Meatballs</a></strong>