COOKBOOK REVIEW Food Network Magazine Great Easy Meals: 250 Fun & Fast Recipes

By Food Network Magazine

Food Network Magazine Great Easy Meals: 250 Fun & Fast Recipes is available for purchase through our online store or at local bookstores. For more information on this cookbook please visit HarperCollins Canada 


Cookbook review written & photographed by

Put together by The Food Network, this cookbook (published by Hyperion, $24.99 USD) is a compilation of quick and easy dishes all geared towards busy weeknights when a lot of people find themselves reaching for takeout menus. Recipes offer a wide variety of options that are easily adaptable depending on dietary requirements or specific food cravings.

Helpful hints are scattered throughout the book, such as tossing cooked pasta with milk to prevent it from getting gummy. Works like a hot damn! However, if you purchase this book specifically because of the blurb on the cover that says it includes kitchen tips from Food Network stars, prepare to be disappointed. The insertions are not so much tips as personal trivia, which may be interesting to Food Network fans but is rather misguiding from the consumer’s perspective.

Side dish suggestions are often included at the bottom of recipes, allowing you to easily complete your meal. I tried a number of side dishes, including the Tomato-Basil Lima Beans, Bacon-Cheddar Mashed Potatoes, and Black Bean Salad. All of them were fantastic.

Not sure what to do with the leftovers? At the bottom of some of the recipes you will find a variety of tasty options, which are also designed to help you use up a particular ingredient that may have only called for a sparse amount.

If you are familiar with The Food Network Magazine, you will recognize the Mix & Match feature which offers a variety of different flavour options for the same basic recipe. For example; with chicken soup the book outlines a Mexican, Italian or Asian option outlined in a flowchart layout.

For those with more visual tendencies when it comes to preparing food, you will be happy to hear that there is a corresponding photo for each recipe. Even the index is arranged with a thumbnail pic of each dish. The overall layout and photographic elements are all bright and fresh, making you feel as if you’ve just stepped into a clean kitchen full of great light.

I really, really enjoyed reviewing this cookbook. Everything I tried turned out great, and I will definitely be keeping this one within easy reach for those busy weeknights. I appreciate the level of detail that went into the recipes as well as the overall layout. Highly recommend this one folks!

Chicken Korma

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 (lightening quick, great flavour)

For a copy of the recipe for Chicken Korma, please click here

THE TEST: Finding myself completely short on time but craving something exciting and healthy, I turned to this recipe. Thanks to the accompanying photograph, my expectations were high! The Chicken Korma just looked so warm and satisfying in the picture, full of great flavour all perched on top of a pita.

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The cooking process went ahead quickly and smoothly. Basically you sauté half an onion while puréeing the other half along with ginger, garlic, ground coriander and cumin. Let me tell ya the smell was fantastic, and only got better once the onion purée was added to the pan and reduced. You then add ground chicken (turkey would also work), plain yogurt, and finish by adding frozen peas, cilantro and cashew nuts. Honestly, this dish was ready in 30 minutes and my house smelled like I had been slaving away in the kitchen all day. Fantastic.

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Wanting to avoid gluten, I ended up serving this dish along with basmati rice which worked really well. Be sure to serve with the suggested extra yogurt and hot sauce, and if you’re a cashew fanatic like my children you might want to have extra nuts on hand to sprinkle on top.

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THE RESULTS: I loved this dish. In fact, subsequent to this test I’ve made it several times and each time have fallen a little bit more in love. The flavours are incredible, and far surpass the imagined depth of such few ingredients. The spices are perfect (feel free to add more or less depending on your personal preferences), the cilantro adds a lovely freshness to the whole dish, and the cashews provide great texture.

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My only quibble is in regards to the meat, which didn’t brown while cooking in so much liquid. My results looked nothing like the crispy, caramelized mixture pictured in the book which is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. Don’t get me wrong; I understand food styling needs occasionally demand that an ingredient be added/omitted for the sake of visual appeal. It’s just that I get disappointed when I drool over a photo, make the recipe based on this image I have in my head and it doesn’t turn out the same.

Next time I would try browning the chicken along with the onions and spices prior to adding the onion purée, giving the dish more robust flavour and providing the meat with more of a visual appeal. Not sure about you, but greyish meat doesn’t really turn my crank. 

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Croque Monsieur Mac & Cheese

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 (quick and easy, leftovers will be fought over!)

THE TEST: My husband has been obsessed with croque monsieur for the last few weeks, himself never having indulged in this famed grilled sandwich. I figured a mac & cheese version would help satisfy his cravings (or create new ones!)

I tend to view macaroni and cheese as a time consuming venture, probably because most of my usual recipes take the good part of a day to make. So imagine how happy I was to whip this puppy up in 20 minutes and have it be on the table in an additional 40 minutes. Yup – I was a happy camper. So were my hungry kids.

Tossing the cooked pasta in milk really helped cut out the gumminess factor, a helpful tip that was included as a side note. It definitely helped the noodles to retain a nice texture.

This recipe came together quickly and was fairly straightforward to make. Layers of béchamel drenched pasta with ham (I used black forest) are topped with cubed fresh bread and more cheese. I recommend experimenting with your choice of bread, making sure that no matter your flavour decision that the bread is a good quality loaf. Like an actual croque monsieur sandwich, the bread plays an important role in this dish and is not to be underestimated. The first time I used herbed focaccia, followed by a secondary attempt using a roasted garlic and Brie loaf. Both were fantastic.

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THE RESULTS: What I loved most about this recipe is its level of accuracy. Now this comment may seem strange, but how often can you really say that about a recipe? The suggested prep and cooking times were bang on, the listed ingredients resulted in the dish being perfectly seasoned, and even the proposed servings were accurate. It may seem like a little thing but as a lover of cookbooks I really appreciate such dedication to detail.

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While I happened to like the tang of Parmesan, Mr. Spock found the flavour too bitter after baking and would have preferred another milder, creamy cheese. The kids both gave this recipe thumbs up, and we will definitely be putting it into regular rotation around our house.

Turkey Picadillo Sandwiches

RATING: 4 out of 5 (healthy and tasty twist on Latin American classic)

THE TEST: This recipe is a fun twist on traditional picadillo; a Latin American dish typically made using ground beef. It comes together so easily I almost felt guilty. Almost.

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Ground turkey is sautéed with onion (shhh…don’t tell my onion hating three year-old) and garlic, along with a variety of spices that include bay, cumin, chili powder, and allspice. Near the end of cooking tomato paste, raisins and pimiento-stuffed olives are thrown in the mix before the whole thing is served sloppy joe style in a crusty bun with sliced avocados.

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THE RESULTS: This is the quintessential dish to make on a busy weeknight. Easy, quick, tasty and healthy. What’s not to love?

I enjoyed the combination of flavours which reminded me of a slow-cooked Moroccan stew. The turkey stood up to the strong flavoured ingredients in this dish, absorbing the spices nicely. The raisins provided a nice sweetness that complimented the salty olives, while the avocado added a mild creaminess to the sandwich.

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Mr. Spock suffers from a rare tastebud disability that prevents him from enjoying green olives. Black olives? No problem. He felt the green ones overpowered the dish. The kids devoured the bun and then reluctantly sampled the turkey, which they actually ended up liking. That being said, I still got the stink eye from my youngest who was able to detect the presence of onions.

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