3 recipes for busy families from Taste of Home


Those of us who grew up in homes where folded-and-stapled "cookbooks" with cardstock covers spilled from an overstuffed cabinet will understand the compliment here.

The new fourth edition "Taste of Home Cookbook: Busy Family Edition" imposes impressive order on what feels like the best recipes culled from church and grange cookbooks and potluck index cards, the comfort foods and the risky newcomers, the ooh-and-ahh party presentations and the I-need-dinner-fast workweek demands.

It is, in short, a workhorse of a cookbook.

This is a cookbook to buy for adult kids moving out on their own for the first time. Forget Googling ingredient substitutions and choosing recipes by browsing Pinterest for things that'll never look as good coming out of your oven.

This book gives home cooks a solid grounding in the how and why of kitchen basics (a primer on types of cheese and cuts of meat, choosing the proper knife, what recipe instructions mean by braising or deglazing, etc.) as well as a connection to cooks all across the country. Every recipe starts with a brief, friendly introduction from the contributing cook — the Facebook status update of the print world, if you will.

With more than 1,300 recipes and dozens of tips on safety and technique, "Taste of Home Cookbook: Busy Family Edition" will keep even inept cooks well-fed.

Handy colored flags call out recipes with special appeal — the ones that only require five ingredients, the ones that can be made in under 30 minutes, the ones that can be prepped in advance and frozen, and the ones that can stew all day in the slow cooker.

The visual dictionary of vegetables is perfect for novice cooks emerging from fast-food comas; every entry includes a picture of what you're looking for at the store as well as tips for recognizing freshness, storing properly and preparing in dishes.

In flipping through the review copy Taste of Home provided, I found appealing dishes on every page. Yes, some use shortcuts; a jar of pasta sauce here and a can of refrigerated pastry dough there might offend those who consider that cheating. But the cookbook promises a range of meals for busy families, and it delivers. You can always make notes in the margins to swap out commercially prepared ingredients for Nonna's marinara and Grandma's sour cream bread dough when you're ready to step up.

Choosing just three recipes to test and share was tough. I resisted the urge to turn immediately to the desserts and instead sampled some lesser-used areas in my own cookbook collection — namely, the vegetable-heavy recipes. If your family and co-workers are anything like mine, these will be surefire hits.

— Reach Mel Barber at

Gnocchi With White Beans

Juli Meyers, Hinesville, Georgia, Page 258

Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 package (16 ounces) potato gnocchi

1 can (15 ounces) white kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (14.5 ounces) Italian diced tomatoes, undrained

1 package (6 ounces) fresh baby spinach

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook and stir until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute.

Add gnocchi. Cook and stir 5 to 6 minutes or until golden brown.

Stir in beans, tomatoes, spinach and pepper. Heat through.

Sprinkle with cheeses, then cover and remove from heat. Let stand 3 to 4 minutes or until cheese is melted before serving.

Nutritional information: 1 cup equals 307 calories, 6 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 13 mg cholesterol, 789 mg sodium, 50 g carbohydrates, 6 g fiber and 13 g protein.

Broccoli Beef Braids

Penny Lapp, North Royalton, Ohio, Page A12

Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 16 (two loaves)

1 pound ground beef

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 cups frozen chopped broccoli

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tubes (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent rolls

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two baking sheets.

In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain.

Add the broccoli, cheese, sour cream, salt and pepper; heat through.

Unroll one tube of dough on a greased baking sheet. Seal the seams and perforations, forming a 12-by-8-inch rectangle.

Spread half of the beef mixture lengthwise down the center of the dough. On each side, cut 1-inch-wide strips about 3 inches into the center.

Starting at one end, fold alternating strips of dough at an angle across the filling. Seal the ends.

Repeat with the second tube of dough.

Bake both loaves 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Nutritional information per serving: 141 calories, 8 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 24 mg cholesterol, 201 mg sodium, 7 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber and 8 g protein.

Three-cheese Spinach Calzones

Marie Rizzio, Interlochen, Michigan, Page 276

Time: 20 minutes prep, 15 minutes baking

Servings: 4

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded fontina cheese

1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

3 green onions, chopped

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tube (13.8 ounces) refrigerated pizza crust

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon water

1 cup spaghetti sauce, warmed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients.

On a lightly floured surface, unroll the pizza crust and shape into an 11-inch square. Cut dough into four squares and transfer to a greased baking sheet.

Spoon the spinach mixture diagonally over half of each square to within 1/2-inch of the edges.

For each calzone, fold one corner over the filling to the opposite corner, forming a triangle. Press the edges with a fork to seal. Cut slits in the top.

Combine egg and water; brush over calzones.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with spaghetti sauce.

Nutritional information per serving: 1 calzone with 1/4 cup sauce has 549 calories, 22 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 109 mg cholesterol, 1,637 mg sodium, 59 g carbohydrates, 5 g fiber and 28 g protein.