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By the time my twins were 4 or 5, I'd learned that every mom needs a few go-to recipes. There wasn't much time for extensive meal-planning or fancy cooking, and I wasn't about to resort to KFC for take-out. But for a meal to stay on our extended play list, it has to be easy, nutritious, and of course, tasty.
I tried some of my mother's regulars. I experimented with a stack of Cooking Light magazines. But nothing quite stuck until my sister gave me RESCUING THE DINNER HOUR: EASY MEALS FOR BUSY PEOPLE by Peggy Glass. Now my copy practically opens to page 80, grilled marmalade chicken, all by itself.
The page is dotted with splatters of balsamic vinegar from all the times I've whipped up the marinade along with P.B.J.'s for my kids' lunchboxes. It takes minutes to trim the chicken breasts, mix the marinade (marmalade, brown sugar, mustard, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper), combine, and stick the lot in the fridge for the day.
That evening, while the grill's fired up, I sometimes follow the author's lead by adding grilled veggie skewers and French bread rounds as sides. (Every recipe is followed by a short, easy menu to complete it — pure genius!) Then again, this dish is equally good baked in the oven for 25 minutes.
When I'm in the mood for something less sweet, I flip back one page and make spiced chicken sticks. Another quick marinade — this time starring peanut butter, tomato paste, lemon juice, olive oil, plus herbs and spices — delivers plenty of flavor. And again, I've found you can either skewer and grill the chicken pieces, or simply bake them.
As if delivering family-pleasing recipes worthy of staying in the rotation wasn't enough, I think this cookbook actually eases guilt, too. Knowing that we ate well the night before, or that we'll have a "real" meal tomorrow, goes a long way when all we have time for is grilled cheese or waffles.