LOS ANGELES (AP) — Weekday cooking is fast, frazzled and too often defrosted. Weekend cooking, at its best, is relaxed, fresh and tempting.
Daphne Oz seeks to close the gap in her new book, "The Happy Cook," with 125 recipes that she says are practical enough for Monday through Friday while still tasty and adaptable enough to satisfy a variety of eaters and food concerns.
For TV's "The Chew" co-host, cooking at its best is an act of love and personal fulfillment, something she learned from her mother and grandmother.
She marvels at their "ability to be happy cooks, to have fun in the kitchen, to see it as release and freedom and as a place that was about them having confidence, and being a little bit wild and crazy," said Oz, daughter of doctor-TV personality Mehmet Oz ("The Dr. Oz Show").
Her cookbook has recipes including 10-minute breakfast tacos; balsamic onion and pear grilled cheese sandwiches; sweet corn ravioli; cider-braised brisket; honey-lime chicken wings and — wait for it — chocolate dulce de leche layer cake.
Most call for a reasonable number of ingredients. Others require a fair amount of food prep but also rely on bottled or home-made condiments kept on hand. The photos, whether of nicely plated dishes or idyllic shots of Oz at home with her family, are definitely aspirational.
In an interview, Oz discussed the logistics of making enticing, healthy food while juggling home and work demands, and why she believes counting calories isn't the way to go.
Associated Press: How can parents manage weekday cooking, which might include catering to child and adult tastes, without running screaming from the kitchen?
Oz: Don't make a different meal for every person, but make buildable meals. And, I do this with my kids, try to expand their palates gently. I'll make a basic lentil soup, which is still pretty advanced, with garlic and sweet potatoes and spices. And then make a spicy chili cumin oil for my husband and me to drizzle on top. It feels like an adult meal and a child's meal and doesn't cost me anything extra (in time).
AP: With fresh ingredients, especially veggies, there is potentially daunting chopping involved.
Oz: Having been to culinary school, the single greatest asset I learned there was how to cut and chop properly. It's an investment of money that will save you hours of time down the road, and hopefully some cut fingers. ... I would say even if you start small, start with one element of the meal that you make from scratch that night, and it will make a big difference nutritionally. Even more than that, I think it sets the tone for your family coming together and having a meal together.
AP: Are you concerned the cookbook might be pigeon-holed as suited to those with time and money to spare and easy access to fresh food?
Oz: I looked at all the things I was making on a regular basis and a lot of times I simplified. ... I tried to pay close attention to the reality that no one wants to go out and shop 20 ingredients for every meal they're gonna make. And let's not focus on specialty ingredients, but those homemade flavor-boosters you keep on hand that don't cost you much but that will really elevate your meals. I've tried to strive to make it not something just for the affluent, or people who have a grocery store around the block everywhere they go.
AP: The recipes don't include calorie counts or other nutritional information. Was that a deliberate choice?
Oz: It was. (As a college student trying to lose weight) I tried every diet under the sun and none of them worked but, more importantly, they were robbing me of my love of food. ... Once I got to a healthy place where I could know what would make me feel great and let me indulge when I needed to, I never wanted to go back to a place where I was exclusively thinking about a numbers game. ... My goal with these recipes is that you don't have to think about the numbers because the quality of it and the quantity I'm advising you to eat is something that can easily be part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Lynn Elber can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.