‘Dinner Solved!’ cookbook author coming here for special event

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 1, 2015

By Deirdre Parker Smith


Katie Workman is a working mom whose first cookbook, “The Mom 100 Cookbook” made her a celebrity. Cooking Light magazine chose it as one of the best 100 books of the last 25 years.

Workman also writes The Mom 100 blog. And she is a guest on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” does a bi-weekly radio show and is the Cooking for Kids Expert on About.com.

No wonder she’s pressed for time to cook. She’s more like supermom.

In her spare time, she’s coming to Salisbury on Sept. 10 for a special event at Literary Bookpost that will include samples of her food, beer, wine, the cookbook and a signing. The event is 6-8 p.m. and requires advance ticket purchase by Sept. 8. Call 704-630-9788 for reservations.

Dinner is never easy with demanding work schedules, school days, after school sports or all the other events.

Workman provides 100 recipes in this book, filled with lush pictures and plenty of advice.

With each recipe, Workman uses her Fork in the Road option, symbolized with a fork in the text. The options include making some of the recipes spicier, vegetarian versions and riffs on a theme.

Her goal is to cook one meal, with sensible variations, rather than cooking something different for everyone in the family.

She helpfully mentions possible substitutions, either based on preference or the availability of food.

And she explains essential cooking tips, like how dried herbs measure up to fresh.

Sometimes the directions seem very long, but she’s taking baby steps in each one so even novice cooks can follow along.

Many recipes make a lot of food to satisfy families and leave a few leftovers.

She also makes suggestions on how to cut recipes in half for fewer servings.

The sections of the cookbook are a little different, taking cooks through the day from breakfast to sandwiches to sauces and basics. One chapter is “I Need A Big Fat Hug,” some of her favorite comfort foods.

Instead of elaborate desserts, she has a chapter on cookies — a must for families whose children come home and say, “Mom, I have to take 4 dozen cookies to school tomorrow.” The dessert chapter is short and sweet, with brownies, cupcakes and rice pudding.

Recognizing the varied tastes of a modern family, she makes it as easy as possible to vary a meal, by setting aside a few pieces of chicken without hot sauce, say, or substituting tofu for chicken.

She’s also got great substitution ideas.

How about a baked potato bar? Go beyond cheddar, bacon and sour cream to include any leftover grilled veggies and a favorite cheese. Go Tex-Mex with salsa, queso fresco and onions. How about a meatball-stuffed potato with tomato sauce and parmesan? And kids will go crazy for pizza stuffed potatoes, especially in families that are avoiding gluten.

Simple One-Skillet Chicken Alfredo Pasta can morph into all different personalities. Add sun dried tomatoes, chipotles in adobo, mushrooms, broccoli florets — you name it — to the basic recipe.

For the non-meat eaters, Workman’s awesome idea is pizza on a portobello mushroom. Only have button mushrooms? Stuff the caps with the same filling, also a great appetizer.

Overwhelmed by the choices? Workman provides a few menus at the end, combining her recipes. And there’s a helpful index.

This recipe will feed a large crowd. It takes a good deal of preparation, lots of chopping, measuring, cooking components. The result is very pretty, but it’s one of those recipes for a Sunday, with leftovers for Monday. It’s easy to halve the ingredients for a pie that will serve four hungry people or 6 with lighter appetites. No need for a side dish.

Chicken Vegetable Potpie Casserole

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

8 scallions or 1 large leak, white and light green parts, chopped

2 cups diced red or white potatoes

1 cup sliced carrots

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

4 cups roughly chopped broccoli florets and stems

Kosher or coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, preferably low-sodium

1 cup frozen or fresh peas

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (optional)

1 1/2 cups (an 8-ounce package) sliced mushrooms

1 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. crumbled dried rosemary

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream or half and half

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, optional

4 cups cubed raw chicken or turkey

1 refrigerated pie crust (half of a 15-ounce package)

1 large egg, beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a very large skillet, Dutch oven or wok over medium high heat. Add the garlic, scallions, potatoes, carrots and celery and saute to soften for 4 minutes. Add the broccoli, season with salt and pepper, and saute until the vegetables are coated with the onion mixture, 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup of the broth, stir, and cover. Simmer until all of the vegetables are crisp-tender and the liquid is mostly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the peas and the corn if using. Transfer the entire mixture to a shallow 4-quart casserole or a second very large deep ovenproof skillet and set aside. Return the first skillet to the stove.

3. Heat another 1 tablespoon olive oil in the pan over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and rosemary and saute until the mushrooms are golden brown, 5 minutes. Add them to the vegetable mixture and return the pan to the stove.

4. Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and whisk occasionally until it turns blond in color, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining 3 1/2 cups broth and bring to a simmer over high heat. Lower the heat back to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until the sauce has thickened, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the cream the the parsley, if using, and cook for 3 minutes more. Pour the sauce over the vegetable mixture and stir.

5. Fork in the Road option to use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and tofu, instead of chicken.

6. Wipe out the skillet, add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and heat it over medium high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and saute until the insides are still a little pink, 4 minutes. Toss with the vegetables.

7. Center the pie crust over the filling. Brush the top of the pastry with the egg and use a sharp knife to make several slits in the crust. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly, about 30 minutes. Spoon the casserole onto plates, making sure each serving has a piece of crust.

Make an easy dessert after all that chopping.

The story here is Workman’s friend always liked these brownies better than the version in “The Mom 100 Cookbook,” which had chocolate and cocoa powder. This mixes up in no time, and it, too, makes plenty.

One-Pot Cocoa Powder Brownies for Abby

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for buttering the baking pan

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

6 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. kosher or coarse salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 9- by 13-inch baking pan.

2. Melt the butter in a medium size saucepan over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar and cocoa powder. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing until the batter is completely smooth.

3. Fork in the Road is to make them into Rocky Road Brownies 30 minutes into the baking time.

4. Pour the batter into the baking pan, smoothing the top. Bake until a toothpick or a skewer inserted into the middle of the pan comes out almost clean, 35-40 minutes.

5. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan on a rack before cutting them into 24 squares.

For Rocky Road Brownies, take the pan out of the oven after 30-35 minutes of baking, when the brownies are almost done. Scatter evenly over the top 1 cup mini chocolate chips, 1 cup chopped walnuts, hazelnuts or pecans; and 2 cups mini marshmallows. Return the pan to the oven and bake another 3 to 5 minutes.