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15 minutes or less, 9 quick family meals.

Ultrasimple and flexible, these recipes provide quick meals for 2 to 4 people. Here we've taken three almost effortless dishes, each complete in about 15 minutes, and varied the short ingredient lists to make six more dishes. The advantage of these loosely structured recipes is that you can keep many of the ingredients on hand, in the cupboard, the refrigerator, and the freezer. Chances are, you'll find ways to improvise further. One dish is based on filled flour tortillas that you bake crisp and hot. The second is fish cakes, featuring any seafood from fresh crab to canned tuna. The last dish takes its cue from risotto, with pasta instead of rice cooking in flavorful liquid to make a thick, soothing soup.

Tortilla Packets with Spinach and Mozzarella Cheese

Use the microwave oven to thaw spinach quickly.

1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped

spinach, thawed

4 flour tortillas (7-in. diameter)

1 tablespoon olive oil 1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced 1/2 cup prepared spaghetti sauce Squeeze moisture from spinach; set spinach aside. Lay tortillas in a single layer in 2 ungreased baking pans (10- by 15-in. size); brush tops with oil. Place in a 500 [degrees] oven until tortillas are warm and more flexible, about 1 minute. Turn over tortillas. Working quickly, place equal portions of cheese, garlic, then spinach in center of each tortilla, mounding ingredients onto one another. Overlap opposite sides of each tortilla onto filling, then bring ends together to make closed packets (see photograph on page 212). Turn packets flap side down to hold shut and place well apart in 1 of the pans. Bake in a 500 [degrees] oven until tortillas are golden, about 6 minutes. Meanwhile, warm spaghetti sauce over direct heat or in a microwave oven. Spoon 2 tablespoons sauce per packet onto each of 2 to 4 dinner plates. Set tortilla packets into the sauce. Makes 2 to 4 servings. Per serving: 315 cal.; 16 g protein; 19 g fat; 22 g carbo.; 559 mg sodium; 44 mg chol.

Tortilla packets with pears and blue cheese. Follow directions for spinach and mozzarella packets, preceding, but omit spinach, garlic, and spaghetti sauce. Instead of oil, use melted butter or margarine. Instead of mozzarella use blue cheese such as cambozola or Bavarian blue, broken in chunks. Peel, core, and thinly slice 1 large ripe pear. Rub slices lightly with lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon) to slow darkening. Fill each packet with cheese and 1/8 of the pear slices; bake. Serve with remaining fruit and freshly ground pepper. Per serving: 326 cal.; 14 g protein; 21 g fat; 21 g carbo.; 961 mg sodium; 50 mg chol.

Enchilada packets. Follow directions for spinach and mozzarella packets, preceding, but omit spinach. Instead of mozzarella, use 3/4 pound sliced jack cheese. Instead of garlic, use 3 tablespoons minced onion. Use prepared enchilada sauce or salsa instead of spaghetti sauce. Per serving: 436 cal.; 23 g protein; 31 g fat; 17 g carbo.; 869 mg sodium; 74 mg chol.

Crab Cakes

1 large egg

1 slice white bread, crust trimmed off

and discarded, and bread

crumbled 1/2 pound shelled cooked or drained

canned crab

2 tablespoons minced bell pepper

2 tablespoons mayonnaise 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1 tablespoon salad oil

Seafood cocktail sauce With a fork, beat egg with bread crumbs to moisten evenly. Add crab, bell pepper, mayonnaise, and cayenne; stir vigorously to break up crab into flaky pieces. Pour oil into a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, spoon crab in 4 or 6 equal mounds into pan; flatten to make 1-inch-thick cakes. Cook until cakes are lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Turn the crab cakes over with a wide spatula and cook until bottoms are lightly browned, about 4 minutes longer. Offer cocktail sauce. Serves 2 or 3. --Diane Rodgers, Burlingame, Calif. Per serving: 228 cal; 18 g protein; 15 g fat; 3.9 g carbo.; 319 mg sodium; 173 mg chol.

Salmon cakes. Follow directions for crab cakes, preceding, but omit cayenne and seafood sauce. Instead of crab, use 1 can (7 1/2 oz.) salmon, drained, and add 1 teaspoon curry powder. Accompany with Major Grey chutney and lemon wedges. Per serving: 236 cal.; 15 g protein; 17 g fat; 4.3 g carbo.; 395 mg sodium; 120 mg chol.

Tuna cakes. Follow directions for crab cakes, preceding, but omit cayenne and seafood sauce. Instead of crab, use 1 can (6 1/2 oz.) tuna packed in water or oil, drained. Add 2 tablespoons drained capers and 1/2 teaspoon dry tarragon leaves or dry thyme leaves. Serve with seasoned rice vinegar or white wine vinegar. Per serving: 116 cal.; 19 g protein; 2.3 g fat; 3.6 g carbo.; 305 mg sodium; 115 mg chol.

Pasta Risotto with Asparagus

1 cup dry tiny pasta in rice, star, or

letter shapes

3 cups regular-strength chicken broth

2 cups 1-inch-long asparagus pieces

About 1/2 cup shredded parmesan

cheese In a 2- to 3-quart pan on high heat, bring pasta and broth to a boil. Reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, 5 minutes. Add the asparagus pieces and simmer until pasta absorbs much of the liquid and the mixture is like thick soup, 7 to 10 minutes; stir often to prevent sticking. Stir in 1/4 cup cheese. Serve pasta risotto in wide bowls; offer additional parmesan to add to taste. Makes about 4 cups, 2 or 3 servings. Per serving: 357 cal.; 19 g protein; 6.5 g fat; 55 g carbo.; 305 mg sodium; 11 mg chol.

Spaghetti risotto with peas. Follow directions for pasta risotto, preceding, but omit cheese. Use spaghetti broken into roughly 1/2-inch lengths instead of tiny pasta. After pasta has cooked 10 minutes, add 1 package (10 oz.) frozen petite peas instead of asparagus. When cooked, add 2 teaspoons Oriental sesame oil. Per serving: 242 cal.; 11 g protein; 5.3 g fat; 37 g carbo.; 181 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Tortellini risotto with green cabbage. Follow directions for pasta risotto, preceding, but omit the parmesan cheese. Use 1 package (9 oz.) fresh tortellini (refrigerated or frozen) instead of the tiny pasta, regular-strength beef broth instead of the chicken broth, and 3 cups finely shredded green cabbage instead of the asparagus pieces. Accompany with sour cream to add to taste. Per serving: 228 cal.; 15 g protein; 7.6 g fat; 40 g carbo.; 313 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.
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Title Annotation:recipes
Date:May 1, 1990
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