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Home Cooking: How to use cookbooks to liven up weekday dinners

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson
Home Cooking

I’ve checked out armfuls of cookbooks from the Summit County Library in Breckenridge this summer. My reading habits did not go unnoticed.

A librarian said she had been looking for inspiration for weeknight meals and asked if I could offer some advice as she patted my latest stack of cookbooks.

I told her I had found inspiration in the pages of some of these cookbooks. Yes, there was a purpose to my prolific borrowing habits.



Not every cookbook provided inspiration, which is why I checked out so many every week. But when I found one I liked, I’d sit in my big, comfy chair with a notebook at my side and choose three or four recipes for dinners in the coming week. I would then write the name of each recipe on a page and create a grocery list underneath.

As a result, I was trying interesting new flavors while saving money on my weekly grocery bill because I was shopping with a purpose.



When I came home from work, I only had to consult my notebook, choose one of the four dinners I had selected and know the ingredients were already in the fridge. What a relief.

In today’s column I give you an example of how I took two recipes from Christopher Kimball’s “Milk Street” cookbook and made them my own.

The third recipe demonstrates another favorite weeknight strategy, which is to look at the ingredients I have on hand and then go hunting on the internet for a recipe. It’s as simple as typing in a few key ingredients and “recipe” and a list of options will appear.

Chickpea stew
Photo by Suzanne E. Anderson

Chickpea stew

Adapted from Christopher Kimball’s “Milk Street” cookbook.

In Kimball’s cookbook this stew was made with lentils. My cupboard was bare of lentils, but I did have chickpeas. Likewise, I had no ground Fennel seed, but I did have a sad little fennel bulb in the produce drawer. So I was off to the races. The bright yellow color you see in the photo is due to the ground turmeric.

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, diced
  • 4 tablespoons ginger, grated
  • 3 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground mustard seed
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 2 14-ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 bunch spinach, washed and ends trimmed
  • 1 lime, juiced

In a medium Dutch oven, saute vegetables in oil. Add water and coconut milk, and cook until vegetables are tender.

Process with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in beans and spinach, and cook on low for 10 minutes until beans are heated through and spinach is wilted.

Oven-fried chicken cutlets
Photo by Suzanne E. Anderson

Oven-fried chicken cutlets

Adapted from Christopher Kimball’s “Milk Street” cookbook.

Chicken cutlets are one of my favorite weekday dinners because they’re easy and delicious. I serve them with a simple green salad. Two recipes from “Milk Street” featured chicken cutlets with interesting seasonings: Shichimi togarashi and dukkah. While the “Milk Street” cutlets were fried, I baked mine in the oven.

  • 1 chicken breast per person
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 egg plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2-3 tablespoons seasoning of your choice: Shichimi togarashi, dukkah, Southwest or lemon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In three separate dishes add flour and cornstarch to one, egg and water (whisked together) to another, and panko breadcrumbs whisked together with the seasoning of choice in a third.

Pound each chicken breast into 1/2-inch thickness, and then dip each cutlet into flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Place on baking sheet.

Sprinkle each chicken breast with extra-virgin olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through, turning halfway through the cooking process.

Cheese-stuffed poblano peppers in tomato sauce
Photo by Suzanne E. Anderson

Cheese-stuffed poblano peppers in tomato sauce

I had two poblano peppers in my produce drawer that needed to be used. I might have made poblano pepper soup. But I love melted cheese. And so I went in search of a cheese-stuffed poblano pepper recipe that would remind me of chili rellenos. I found one and decided to make it mine by creating a quick and easy homemade tomato sauce for the peppers to bake in as the cheese melted. The result was heavenly for a cheese lover like me.

  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded quesadillo queso (or shredded cheddar cheese)
  • 1 14-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

Roast peppers for 20 minutes in a 300-degree oven. Remove, allow to cool. Then cut an opening in the pepper, gently remove seeds and ribs. Stuff with shredded cheese. Turn oven up to 350 degrees.

Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. In a small saucepan, add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, lime juice and seasonings. Allow to cook over medium heat until the onions are softened. Use an immersion blender to process until a chunky sauce is formed.

Pour sauce into the bottom of a baking dish, gently place the stuffed peppers in the middle of the sauce. Bake for 20 minutes until cheese is melted.

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Home Cooking” publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson taught herself to cook after college when she discovered dinner parties were a cure for loneliness. Her latest cookbook is “A Year in the Mountains Cookbook.” She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com.


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