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Cookbook review: 'Good Cheap Eats' offers quick, low-cost, healthy recipes

"GOOD CHEAP EATS: Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less!),” by Jessica Fisher, Harvard Common Press, $17.95, 320 pages

“Good Cheap Eats: Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less!)” by Jessica Fisher is a collection of 200 easy-to-prepare, low-cost, healthy meals that can be on the table in about 30 minutes.

Instead of one-dish meals or more elaborate three-course meals, Fisher has paired dishes that complement each other to form meals. For example, vegetable couscous salad and spiced pita chips, or avocado BLT salt and cornbread waffles.

The book is easy to navigate and is illustrated with numerous color photos of many of the dishes. A short introductory chapter outlines the purpose and focus of the book.

Recipes are divided into nine sections with topics such as “Speedy Soups and Stews” and “Desserts on the Double.” Each section begins with its own table of contents, making it easy to find specific recipes. Sidebars containing cooking tips are scattered throughout the recipe sections. A page of measurement equivalents and an index conclude the book.

The book is full of great ideas for busy cooks wanting to serve nutritious meals in short order. The recipes are simple and easy to follow.

Fisher started her popular food blog Good Cheap Eats in 2009. She and her husband, Bryan, live in the San Diego area with their six children ages 7 to 18.

*****

VEGETABLE COUSCOUS SALAD and SPICED PITA CHIPS

Couscous and pitas have been natural partners since ancient times. They meet again here for a delicious meatless meal that comes together quickly. These recipes also pair well with all kinds of grilled meats.

Vegetable Couscous Salad

Serves: 4

Meatless, dairy-free, make-ahead

I first learned to cook with couscous when I worked for my university’s catering company. Previously, I’d never used the itty-bitty pasta. This salad is based on one that I made for the UCen many moons ago. It’s still a favorite at our house, two decades later.

1¼ cups hot water or vegetable broth

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil, or more to taste

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 cup whole-wheat couscous

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 medium cucumber, chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, cored and chopped

2 medium Roma tomatoes, chopped

½ cup pitted black olives

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

4 scallions, chopped

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Place the hot water or broth in a heatproof bowl and add the lemon juice, olive oil, curry powder and cumin. Add the couscous and stir to combine. Cover the dish completely with a lid or plate to allow it to cook. Let sit for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the couscous with a fork.

2. Add the chickpeas, cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes, olives, cilantro and scallions. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss the ingredients lightly to combine. Adjust the seasonings, adding more lemon juice, olive oil or spices as desired, and serve.

Make it ahead: The salad can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

— "Good Cheap Eats: Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less!)" by Jessica Fisher

*****

Spiced Pita Chips

Serves: 4

Meatless, dairy-free, make-ahead

My kids can eat a bag of commercial pita chips in about two seconds flat — and that’s allowing time for someone to complain that someone else got more. It’s not cost-effective to buy the commercial brand for something that disappears while my back is turned. As is so often the case, making your own is cheaper — and tastier. For a sweet version, you can substitute the olive oil with vegetable oil or melted butter and the spice mix with cinnamon-sugar.

1½ teaspoons garam masala

1½ teaspoons garlic powder

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

6 pita breads

Olive oil, for brushing

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. In a small bowl, combine the garam masala, garlic powder and salt.

3. Brush a pita bread with some olive oil, and sprinkle it with some of the spice mixture. Flip it over and repeat. Continue until all the pita breads are seasoned.

4. Cut the pitas into 8 wedges each and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned and crisp, about 10 minutes.

Make it ahead: Store cooled chips in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

— "Good Cheap Eats: Dinner in 30 Minutes (or Less!)" by Jessica Fisher

Rosemarie Howard lives in a 100-year-old house on Main Street in Springville, Utah. She enjoys creating multimedia projects. Her website is at dramaticdimensions.com.