Cookbook delivers on fast and fresh

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Colorful zucchini and tomatoes top this flatbread and make for a very easy meal. Lisa Boykin Batts | Times
Colorful zucchini and tomatoes top this flatbread and make for a very easy meal. Lisa Boykin Batts | Times

My husband and I enjoy eating at home after a day at work. I try to plan ahead so I can get our supper started when I get home and we can eat together and talk about our day. Then it’s time to clean up and get to the evening walk that has become a highlight of the day.

Although I often rely on our favorite go-to recipes, I also enjoy trying new things and spend quite a bit of time reading recipes online or in cookbooks.

I have received several new cookbooks at work this spring and immediately was drawn to “The All New Fresh Food Fast” book from the editors of Cooking Light.

Cooking Light recipes appeal to me because I know I can count on them being healthy and innovative. This cookbook is no different, offering more than 200 recipes that have just a few ingredients or can be made in 15 minutes.

To accomplish the quick-to-the-table goal, the recipes use some store-bought products to make prep time quicker. For instance, you might see listed in the recipe ingredients rotisserie chicken, pre-packaged salad mixes, microwavable rice and packaged chicken meatballs.

I decided to try a few of the recipes and test myself against the clock. Using the stopwatch function on my phone, I timed myself as I made pumpkin spice oatmeal for breakfast one morning last week. The recipe uses quick-cooking steel oats, which I had in the pantry, and is made with almond milk. The almond milk was a first-time purchase for me and was the only ingredient I had to purchase for this recipe; I had everything else at home.

While the oatmeal cooked, I toasted a few pecans (my addition) and cut an apple into chunks. The apple was a variation on the red pear suggested in the recipe. I was stirring in the pumpkin — the last step — around the time the clock hit 15 minutes.

I don’t usually spend 15 minutes making breakfast on a workday, but I really did enjoy this delicious oatmeal and would make it again. I didn’t feel hungry for hours after breakfast.

On Sunday evening, I made another recipe, ricotta and zucchini flatbread. The cookbook photo for this beautiful recipe immediately caught my eye with its bright red tomatoes and green zucchini strips and basil.

I took my time making this dish, but I had it ready to go in the oven in 16 minutes — that included cutting the grape tomatoes and making ribbons with the zucchini using my cheese slicer.

The recipe is made with both ricotta cheese and goat cheese (another first for me.) The two cheeses get soft and warm as they quickly cook under the broiler.

This no-meat recipe is another keeper for me. I enjoy the easy of preparation, and I love the taste of the fresh zucchini and tomatoes. And it’s so pretty!

I also love that it’s spring, and my husband could go outside and pick some fresh basil for this dish. Later this season, maybe I can make the recipe with my own tomatoes as well.

These two recipes were definitely a success for me. The next recipe I plan to make from the book is spinach and meatball soup or maybe sheet pan fajitas.

I have really enjoyed thumbing through this book and planning meals. I recommend it for those of you who enjoy cooking but don’t want to spend hours preparing a meal.

“The All-New Fresh Food Fast” is listed at $25.99 but is less on online sites.

Ricotta and Zucchini Flatbread

This recipe is easy and delicious and is a good way to use seasonal vegetables.

2 whole wheat naan (about 8.8 ounces)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 1/2 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese

3/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 small zucchini, cut into thin ribbons, about 10 ounces (I used my cheese slicer to make the ribbons)

1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes halved (about 12 ounces)

1 ounce crumbed goat cheese (about 1/4 cup)

2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves (optional)

Preheat the broiler with the oven rack 5 inches from the heat. Brush the naan with 1 tablespoon oil; place on a baking sheet. Broil until lightly toasted, 1 minute per side.

Spread the ricotta over the warm naan. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Top with the zucchini, tomatoes and goat cheese. Return to the oven and broil just until the topping begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and, if desired, the basil. Cut each naan in half.

Note: I didn’t use as much zucchini and tomatoes as called for. I also didn’t drizzle oil over the finished flatbread. My flatbread also wasn’t whole wheat. The flatbread burns easily, so keep an eye on it.

“The All New Fresh Food Fast”