Dear readers, forgive me for my short sabbatical from this blog. It wasn’t planned, between the trips to the pediatrician, pharmacy, and my general malaise over this hard job called being a mom, I let things slide. Going to sleep at 9:30 p.m. seemed more appealing than sitting down at my laptop.

But I haven’t forgotten about you readers, believe me, I haven’t. And if it means skipping a shower to write a blog entry, so be it.

I first bought “Everyday Food: Great Food Fast” as a newlywed. It’s not that I didn’t know how to cook, but when I did, it wasn’t rushed. I cooked for the sheer pleasure of cooking. And I realized that once I got married, and started cooking for two, I would need to plan meals and shorten my meal preparation times. (Once, as a newlywed, it took me four hours to make moussaka. Three years later, my husband is still asking me to make it again, but I haven’t.)

And so “Great Food Fast” saved me time, and time again. (Thank you Martha Stewart Living Magazine). I am so enamoured with the book I have dozens of ripped up Post-it notes sticking out from its pages. I’ve turned to it time and time again for the perfect roast chicken recipe, last-minute pasta ideas, and alternatives to tired chicken breast recipes.

I soon began taping all of the “Everyday Food” shows I could and I subscribed to the magazine.

When I heard there would be a second edition coming out from Everyday Food, called “Fresh Flavor Fast” Clarkson Potter) I was thrilled.

But I have to admit I was a bit non-plussed when I actually started leafing through the book. If you are a die-hard Everyday Food junkie like I am, you will already recognize many of these recipes from the magazine, or from the Martha Stewart website.

The advantage is that I was finally able to throw out (recycle, that is) the print-outs from the website.

Still, this is a recipe book I have turned to several times already. Every recipe is accompanied by a large full-colour photo, and every recipe includes the necessary information about prep time and total cooking time that makes it easy to decide whether you should flag it, or remember it for another time.

And this book offers a few new features such as recipes for breakfast, sandwiches and
pizza, and simple starters, as well as ideas for stretching leftovers and plenty of
mix-and-match side dishes. This makes it clear the publishers are listening, and realize not everyone has Martha Stewart’s patience, nor time, to make a fresh, four-course meal every night.

Quick and dirty reviews of the recipes I tried:

Lighter chicken potpie: This is a delicious recipe that is easier, and lighter, and healthier to eat than your typical diner version. But if you check the website comments, you’ll hear people suggesting you add more veggies, more herbs, something. And they’re right. I’ve made this recipe several times and I always add more thyme, experiment with other herbs, and improvize on the veggies I use. You should too.

Panko-crusted fish sticks with herb dipping sauce: Best fish sticks EVER. You can feel completely comfortable serving this to your kids, and even to last-minute company. Make it, eat it. Just don’t expect the fried crispy fish sticks that come out of a box. Some of them may be a bit more limp depending on what kind of fish you use, but unlike the frozen variety, the flavour will be fresh and delicious and much lower in sodium.

Parsnip fries: If you ask me, parsnips are the most underrated vegetable at the grocery store. Sure, they’re not much to look at it. But they are fragrant, they are delicious, and they will surprise your potato-loving taste buds every time. Yummers. Break out of your potato rut and try these.

So, should you buy this cookbook? Yes, it’s a good thing. Even if you are inclined to thumb through it at your friend’s house, or to borrow it from the library, it’s good value.

Not only is an extensive compendium of quick, delicious recipes, but you can keep it on your counter all year-round for step-by-step descriptions of skills like: peeling and deveining shrimp, pitting olives, and recipes for basic tomato sauce, pie dough, and pizza dough.

Keep reading for recipes from this book courtesy Random House.

Lamb Chops with Parsley Pesto
From Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast by Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Serves 4
prep time: 15 minutes
total time: 15 minutes

Pesto made with parsley and sharp Pecorino Romano cheese (and without nuts) makes a colorful topping for tender lamb chops. It could also be tossed with pasta, spread on sandwiches, or mixed with cream cheese for a dip to serve with crudités.

8 lamb loin chops (each 4 ounces and 1 inch thick)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup Parsley Pesto (recipe below)

Heat a large skillet over medium. Pat dry lamb with paper towels. Season chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Cook (in two batches, if necessary) 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium-rare. Serve immediately, topped with pesto

Parsley Pesto

2 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (2 ounces)
1 small garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for storing (optional)
Freshly ground pepper

In a food processor, finely chop parsley, cheese, and garlic. With the motor running, add oil in a slow, steady stream; season with pepper. Serve immediately, or transfer to an airtight container and cover with a thin layer of oil; refrigerate up to 4 days or freeze up to 3 months.
Makes 1/2 cup
freezing pesto
Pesto keeps very well in the freezer, so it’s worth making extra. Freeze it in small airtight containers, covered with a thin layer of olive oil. Defrost in the refrigerator before using.

Farfalle with Arugula and White Beans
From Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast by Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Serves 4
prep time: 10 minutes
total time: 25 minutes

Quickly wilted arugula, canned beans, and toasted walnuts add heft to this vegetarian main course. Try spinach in place of arugula and pine nuts instead of walnuts.

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
12 ounces farfalle
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 pound baby arugula
1 can (15 1/2 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup walnut pieces, toasted, for garnish

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil; add a generous amount of salt. Cook pasta until al dente according to package instructions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water; drain pasta.

2. Add 1 tablespoon butter and the garlic to the pot; cook over medium heat, stirring, until garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add arugula; toss just until wilted.

3. Add beans, pasta, and remaining 3 tablespoons butter; season with salt and pepper. Heat, tossing, until butter is melted and beans and pasta are warmed through, about 1 minute. Add enough reserved pasta water to create a thin sauce to coat pasta.

4. To serve, divide among shallow bowls, and garnish with walnuts.

Orange, Roasted Beet, and Arugula Salad
From Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast by Martha Stewart Living Magazine

The beet can be roasted up to a day in advance of serving the salad. Although the red beet contrasts nicely with the orange wedges, a golden or chioggia beet can be used instead.

Prep Time 15 Minutes Total Time 1 hour 15 minutes

1 large beet
2 navel oranges
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white- wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 bunches arugula, washed well and dried
5 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Wrap beet tightly in aluminum foil; place on a rimmed baking sheet. Cook until tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, 45 to 50 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel (see below) and cut into wedges.

2. Meanwhile, prepare oranges: Slice off both ends of each with a paring knife. Cut away the peel and white pith, following the curve of the fruit. Holding the fruit over a bowl, cut along membranes to release whole segments. Squeeze juice from the membranes into another bowl, and add any accumulated juice from the segments.

3. Add oil, vinegar, and mustard to orange juice; season with salt and pepper, and whisk to combine. Add arugula, and toss to coat with dressing. Divide the arugula among four plates. Top with beet wedges, orange segments, and goat cheese. Serve immediately.

TIP: Peeling Beets
Once the cooked beets are cool, rub off the skins, using paper towels to keep your hands from staining.

Serves 4 as a starter.

Excerpted from Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast by Martha Stewart Living Copyright © 2010 by Martha Stewart Living. Photo Copyright © 2010 by Kana Okada. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.