With another year just around the corner, a few people have shared with me that cooking more at home is definitely on the resolution list. Just the process of preparation followed by a lot of dirty dishes leaves many opting for take-out or even a simple bowl of cereal after a long day’s work. It’s not that they don’t like to cook, they just simply don’t have enough energy during the weekdays.
In her new book, “The 8 x 8 Cookbook,” author and blogger Kathy Strahs has one simple weapon to make dinnertime easier with possible leftovers for the next day. Using an 8×8-inch square baking dish, Strahs shares her tried-and-true recipes that give a new meaning to the term “one-dish meals.”
“My husband and I brainstormed probably most of the recipes in the book in a day. Just the concepts of what we thought would be really good in an 8 x 8 dish. Dishes that would be family-friendly, dishes that you would like to have on an everyday basis and also you would feel comfortable serving if you had people coming over,” says the mother of two who lives in Northern California's Silicon Valley.
Testing the Waters
The Stanford grad spent a year refining the recipes with a testing crew of 35 family members and friends who prepared and provided feedback. “We call in with our own experiences and have different interpretations. The more times it was tested by different people it helped me refine the recipe.”
No stranger to publishing, Strahs started her blog, PaniniHappy.com, in 2008 shortly after giving birth to her first child and wanting to have a creative outlet of her own similar to the one she had working for an online publishing and advertising company. An episode of “Oprah’s Favorite Things,” gave her the idea of putting her culinary skills to the test with a panini press after it made Winfrey’s list and sold out everywhere. The niche blog went on to not only catch the eye of cooking and panini enthusiasts but also Harvard Common Press which published her first book, “The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook” in 2013. She also blogs on CookingOnTheSide.com and SunnyDaysGoodFood.com. Going for creativity and passion with her books and blogs, Strahs says, “For the first time in my life, I didn’t plan out where I thought things would go. I kind of decided to make game-time decisions. I certainly am thoughtful about the decisions I make but I don’t necessarily have to have it fully planned out and as a result, it has allowed me to take a few chances.” One of these chances also included starting her own publishing company, Burnt Cheese Press, which she published “The 8 x 8 Cookbook” under. The goal is to publish the work of others as well in the future.
Dinner in No Time
From the name to the number of recipes, Strahs was definitely careful when planning her latest book that uses an 8×8 square dish to create 64 timeless meals that are perfect for families, singles, potlucks, special occasions or when good food is needed. Shortcut chicken enchiladas, pan-roasted pork chops with apples and couscous, roasted hash browns with bacon and scallions, pumpkin cheesecake swirl blondies and balsamic cherries with graham cracker crumble are just a few that caught our eye initially.
Keeping with the theme, I came up with eight reasons why this book just made getting dinner on the table easier as well as delicious.
1. Clean-up is a breeze. No need to pull out a lot of pots and pans. At most, you’ll need a cutting board and knife for prepping and putting the ingredients into the square dish.
2. The recipes use ingredients that are easily accessible and can be picked up at your local grocery store.
3. By using the oven vs. the stovetop, many of the recipes are healthy. We’re thinking of the 3B Chicken (Brined, Breaded and Baked). These tender pieces of bird are oven-fried with crispy goodness.
4. Time. From the time you get home to the moment you eat, you’re looking at less than an hour for many of the recipes.
5. Leftovers may not be possible for families but if you are serving yourself and perhaps one other person, it is very likely you’ll have lunch the next day.
6. Variety. Who would have thought you could do all of this in one square dish that many of us buy for the purpose of baking brownies or cake. One pan can create dishes for all three mealtimes plus desserts. That is our kind of pan.
7. They are recipes that you can make for birthday celebrations, baby showers, holiday parties and more. Don’t just limit yourself to weeknights.
8. As with all recipes, you can easily adapt each one to really make them your own. They are also great for getting your own creative juices going to create your own square pan dishes.
The 8 x 8 Cookbook” is available online at www.BurntCheesePress.com.