Cookbook Review: Homemade Convenience Foods by Marcia K. Washburn, reviewed by Molly Evert
I’m running a marathon right now. My day starts early and ends late as I homeschool our four boys, care for our baby girl, juggle football and Boy Scout schedules for all the boys, and try to keep up with the housework and cooking. In the fall, there are often nights when we don’t sit down to eat together until 8:30. I hate feeding my family additive-laden frozen pizza and chicken nuggets. A trip through the drive-thru is just as bad for their bodies, and it hurts my wallet, too!
When I heard that Marcia Washburn had developed a system to help busy moms get a homemade, nutritious dinner on the table in 15 minutes or less, I was intrigued! She raised five boys and understands that my sons will polish off the ingredients while I cook if I can’t get the meal done fast enough.
Marcia claims that by following her Homemade Convenience Foods system you will always have the ingredients on hand to prepare at least two dozen different menus. I read through her book in one sitting, eager to see if her program could give me some tools to feed my family lightning fast, healthy meals on a reasonable budget. I confess that I hoped that her system was some unheard of miracle which would help me get a gourmet 15-minute meal on the table without any advance prep work at all. I guess that was unrealistic. The truth is, I usually can’t even find all my ingredients in 15 minutes because my pantry, refrigerator and cupboards are so disorganized. Could Marcia’s book really come to my rescue? I was excited to find out!
Marcia provides several lists of common ingredients you’ll want to keep on hand in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry, and she gives ideas for prepping ingredients ahead of time in order to save time later during the busy weeknight crunch. Although I am a veteran in the kitchen, I still found several useful ideas and quick-to-make recipes in Homemade Convenience Foods. I spent a few hours shopping, organizing my pantry, and prepping my ingredients for the week, and then challenged myself to make a week’s worth of lunches and dinners in just 15 minutes or less. Game on!
So how did the challenge go? I think I did pretty good, and I give Marcia’s book a thumbs up. I tried to keep lunch prep to less than 15 minutes, though dinner prep sometimes took 20 or 30 minutes from start to table when I used my own recipes. I usually serve more than one course and I am cooking for seven every night, which may account for the extra time. Many of Marcia’s recipes truly came in at the 15-minute mark, and using her tips I was able to get many of my own family’s favorite recipes on the table more quickly than usual. Marcia’s tips were helpful, and even 30 minutes is an acceptable window for supper prep, in my opinion. I often don’t think about what to make for dinner until about 4:00 pm., and her quick-fix recipes and prep tips gave me a lot more options.
My family enjoyed several of the recipes Marcia included in her book. Better still, her systems and tips were easily adapted to my own tried and true recipes. Some of her recipes called for either homemade or frozen bread dough, which was a pleasant surprise for me, since I bake all our bread from scratch, and I will benefit from her ideas for streamlining my bread making process.
One reader will win a free copy of Marcia’s e-book Homemade Convenience Foods. To enter, please leave a comment about one of your cooking challenges. For an extra entry, leave a comment with one of your own quick-fix recipes (15 minutes prep or less). For a third entry, repost this on Facebook and leave a comment letting us know. This contest will end at midnight on November 15th. The winner will be drawn using Random.org from the comments we receive.
Marcia’s e-book normally retails for $5.99, but she is graciously offering our readers a $1 discount on the e-book edition if you purchase by November 15th. Homemade Convenience Foods is also available in a comb-bound print edition for $5.99 plus $2 shipping and handling. I received a digital copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review.