So I felt lucky when before our last trip, we received Robin Takes 5: 500 Recipes, 5 Ingredients or Less, 500 Calories or Less (Andrews McMeel Publishing, Nov. 1, 2011). This tasty collection from Robin Miller, star of the Food Network's Quick Fix Meals, shows how to make delicious, healthy and fast meals with only a handful of ingredients.
A natural for my beach bag or busy days back home, this handy time-saver includes 500 recipes, each weighing in at 500 calories or less. Plus, thanks to Robin's background as a nutritionist, each one includes nutritional information and they're all sodium-conscious. Many selections include less than 500 milligrams of sodium and there's even a helpful icon that makes it simple to spot the lowest-sodium dishes.
Although geared to help you control both calories and sodium, the cookbook doesn't scrimp on flavor or variety. Robin shares recipes for everything from family friendly soups (like comforting Tomato with Parmesan Tuscan Bread) to guest-worthy desserts (Molten Lava Brownies, please!).
Of course, we went straight to the chapter on pizzas, zeroing in on the Caprese Pizza with Fresh Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella before moving on to the 380 entrees. The main dishes include everyday options such as Texas-Style Beef Chuck as well as gourmet choices (marked with another special icon) like Cashew-Crusted Chicken with Roasted Jalapeno-Mango Chutney that make entertaining easy.
And since each recipe needs only five or fewer ingredients, Robin Takes 5 is a cookbook we're sure to reach for time and again. This fun assortment of Robin's best ideas makes it a cinch to serve healthy, memorable meals without spending all your time in the kitchen.
Hungry for a taste of this uber-talented foodie's winning approach? Try these three mouthwatering recipes and check out her November schedule below. Robin could be conducting a cooking class near you.
■ Prep time: 10 minutes
■ Cooking time: 12 to 15 minutes
■ Suitable for Entertaining
These cheesy, garlicky pastry twists not only make a terrific side dish, but they're also absolutely perfect for entertaining. Robin likes to fill vases and pitchers with the sticks and arrange them on little tables during cocktail time.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Unroll the puff pastry onto a work surface and roll into a 1⁄8-inch thickness, making a large rectangle. Sprinkle the garlic powder all over the pastry and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sprinkle the cheese all over the pastry and press the cheese into the pastry.
Starting from the longer end, fold the pastry in half, covering the filling. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut the pastry into 16 strips (cut from the fold to where the edges meet). Use both hands to twist the pastry into long twists (don't worry if some cheese falls out). Transfer the twists to the prepared baking sheet and top with any shredded cheese that fell out.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the twists are puffed up and golden brown.
Nutrients per serving: Calories: 157; Fat: 10g; Saturated Fat: 5g; Cholesterol: 5mg;
Carbohydrate: 11g; Protein: 5g; Fiber: 0g; Sodium: 221mg
■ Prep time: 10 minutes
■ Cooking time: 25 to 30 minutes
■ Suitable for Entertaining
This dish is equally awesome made with strawberry preserves. Just make sure to buy the seedless preserves. By making several crosswise slices into the chicken breasts, you'll help the barbecue sauce to work its way into the center of the chicken, keeping it moist and adding flavor while the chicken cooks.
Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
Coat a shallow roasting pan with cooking spray. Arrange the chicken in the prepared pan and season the top with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use a sharp knife to make several 1/2-inch-deep slices crosswise into the chicken.
Whisk together the cherry preserves, mustard, liquid smoke and chili powder. Pour the mixture over the chicken.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, spooning the barbecue sauce over the chicken halfway through cooking.
Nutrients per serving: Calories: 361; Fat: 2g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 82mg;
Carbohydrate: 53g; Protein: 33g; Fiber: 0g; Sodium: 172mg
■ Prep time: 15 minutes
■ Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes
Robin calls these "as you wish" pies because each individual pie's filling can be different, though the pies all bake at once. In her house, "Luke fills his pie with fresh or frozen blueberries, Kyle chooses semisweet chocolate chips, I like apples and cinnamon, and Darrin likes them all!"
Each pie needs about 1/4 cup of filling, and that filling is up to you!
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Divide the piecrusts into 16 equal portions (8 portions per crust) and shape each portion in a ball. Press 8 of the balls into the bottom and all the way up the sides of the wells of a 12-cup muffin tin (4 cups will be empty).
Fill the crusts with the desired fillings.
Press the remaining 8 pieces into rounds large enough to cover the diameter of the muffin cup. Press the rounds over the fillings and pinch the crusts together to seal. Prick the tops with a fork. Brush the surface of the pies with the milk and sprinkle with the sugar.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the crusts are golden brown.
With raspberries - Nutrients per serving: Calories: 244; Fat: 14g; Saturated Fat: 5g;
Cholesterol: 0mg; Carbohydrate: 30g; Protein: 2g; Fiber: 2g; Sodium: 281mg
With apples - Nutrients per serving: Calories: 245; Fat: 14g; Saturated Fat: 5g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Carbohydrate: 30g; Protein: 2g; Fiber: 2g; Sodium: 281mg
With semisweet chocolate chips - Nutrients per serving: Calories: 430; Fat: 27g;
Saturated Fat: 12g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Carbohydrate: 53g; Protein: 4g; Fiber: 2g; Sodium: 286mg
All recipes from Robin Takes 5
Author: Robin Miller
Publisher: Andrews McMeal Publishing
Penned: Nov. 1, 2011
Other Works: Author of the best-selling cookbook, Quick Fix Meals, and star of the popular Food Network show: Quick Fix Meals with Robin Miller. Miller's recipes and nutrition features have also appeared on the TODAY Show, The Early Show, Good Morning America and Live! With Regis & Kelly as well as in Cooking Light, Health, Fitness and Woman's World.
Time Out: 401 pages
Available: $29.99 at Amazon and most book retailers
Robin's November Schedule
Nov. 7, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm - Cooking class
Central Market - 1425 E. Southlake Blvd., Southlake, TX 76092
817.310.5600 or www.centralmarket.com
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
Nov. 8, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm - Cooking class
Central Market - 4821 Broadway, San Antonio, TX 78209
210.368.8617 or www.centralmarket.com
Nov. 9, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm - Cooking class
Central Market - 3815 Westheimer, Houston, TX 77027
713.386.1700 or www.centralmarket.com
Nov. 10, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm - Cooking class
Central Market - 5750 E. Lovers Lane, Dallas, TX 75206
214.234.7000 or www.centralmarket.com