To me, that's what eating is all about, and I'm challenging you to make an effort to embrace that experience, to stock your refrigerator with healthy foods, to make your kitchen a special place where friends and family gather, and to sit down and enjoy meals once again! This cookbook can help you make all of these things a reality and, in turn, improve the quality of your health and perhaps even your relationships.
I know that many people just don't have a lot of extra time to cook a meal, and I took that into consideration when choosing the dishes to include in this book. Sure, there are some recipes that will challenge your skills in the kitchen; in fact, there's a whole section devoted to recipes from some of the greatest chefs from across the world. But the majority of the recipes here take just 30 minutes or less, and they include ingredients that you likely already have in your kitchen or can easily find at your local grocery store. The perfect example is Rotisserie Chicken Salad with Oranges and Pistachios (page 77). It's so easy to pull together and takes just 20 minutes to make because you're starting with an already cooked chicken from your local supermarket. Plus, it offers a new way to serve a familiar dish: instead of pairing the chicken with the same old side dishes, you're creating a beautiful salad with juicy oranges and crunchy pistachios. And there are many more recipes just like this one!
This cookbook will help you get back on track in the kitchen, and still leave you with plenty of time to get through everything on your to-do list. But I know that time isn't your only concern when it comes to eating; many of us have also become very calorie-conscious. For those of you who are trying to maintain your weight or slim down, these recipes will also help you focus on the quality of your food instead of the quantity. When you use fresh, high-quality foods, you won't have to eat as much to get that taste payoff. You'll be satisfied with less food, which means you'll consume fewer calories each time you sit down to eat. If you're looking for another way to keep your calories in check, you might be interested in our meal plans, which start on page 269.
We've created three different plans, each of which offers six calorie levels (1,500, 1,600, 1,700, 1,800, 2,000, and 2,500 calories per day; as you know, calorie needs vary per person, and should be determined by how active you are and a variety of other factors). Putting together a perfectly balanced diet that provides all the vitamins and minerals you need each day without going over a certain calorie limit is like solving a complex puzzle. Don't worry: we've taken all the guesswork out of it with these meal plans.
Here's a quick preview of the meal plan options you can choose from. If you're really time-pressed, the "Quick and Easy" Meal Plan (page 293) will be a dream come true. This plan doesn't require a lot of cooking, and all the recipes in this section take no more than 20 minutes to prepare. On a typical day you'll have yogurt, fruit, and nuts for breakfast, a chicken wrap for lunch, and Cornmeal-Crusted Catfish with Spicy Slaw (page 145) for dinner (another 20-minute recipe).