Katie Lee Biegel Reveals Her Essential Cooking Hacks

The working mom, cookbook author, and TV star shares how to make delicious, healthy dishes without the fuss.

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Katie Lee Biegel Reveals Her Essential Cooking Hacks
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"Our lives are so complex. Cooking shouldn't be another thing to worry about," says Katie Lee Biegel, the author of It's Not Complicated (Buy It, $18, amazon.com). "You can cook a great meal that doesn't require a lot of effort."

With a 9-month-old daughter and a job co-hosting The Kitchen on the Food Network, Biegel knows how challenging it can be after a day at work, and holding a baby in one arm, to get dinner on the table. "Iris has definitely changed the way I cook and eat," she says, as her daughter coos in the background. "Even more now, I need simple and fast."

So she wrote the new cookbook to pare down the process. "I want people to feel empowered by cooking," says Biegel, "and to enjoy delicious dishes that make them happy." Here, Biegel breaks down her go-to meals, flavor makers, and hacks for making healthy cooking stress-free.

OK, it's dinnertime, and you need to come up with a meal fast. Where do you start?

"The key is to keep a well-stocked pantry and cook from it. I always turn to pasta when I don't know what to make. I love a quick recipe, like a lemon pasta or a spinach-artichoke pasta. Canned beans are another necessity. I put them on a salad for a boost of protein or mix them with some greens and add some chopped veggies for something a little heartier. Beans, pasta, and greens are your go-tos. With those things on hand, you can always make a quick dinner.

And don't forget ingredients that can switch up your flavors. I have Thai red curry paste, miso paste, canned tomatoes, capers, and anchovies in my pantry. I'll make a red curry with the paste and some coconut milk and marinate lamb chops in it. Another recipe I love in the book is carrot soup, which I add canned chipotles to. It gives the soup a totally different flavor."

Speaking of flavor, what are some other easy ways to add it?

"As I'm finishing a dish, I toss in a handful of fresh herbs. A squeeze of lemon brightens a dish. Finally, don't be afraid of salt. I'd say that's the No. 1 thing: Season your food, and taste it as you go. Dishes need more salt than you think they do."

Share some of your healthy-cooking hacks.

"Cooking three meals a day has been exhausting for all of us. Having that well-stocked pantry makes it much easier. It really helps to wash and prep my produce when I get it home so I can just grab it and use it. It will go bad faster when you do that, but I use it a lot more quickly if it's prepped. And now that the weather is warm, you can light up the grill and make your entire meal on it. It gives your dishes a different flavor." (

Summer vegetables are at their peak. How do you like to prepare them?

"I go to the farm stand, see what's available, and build a meal from there. If you start with fresh ingredients, you don't have to do much to them. I love ripe, juicy sliced tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and spicy sea salt. Or I'll take peaches at their peak and do a type of caprese salad with them — peaches, mozzarella, and basil. And I like to cut corn off the cob and sauté it with a little butter and some sesame seeds."

It's Not Complicated: Simple Recipes for Every Day

It's Not Complicated: Simple Recipes for Every Day
Amazon

What does a day of eating look like for you?

"Every morning I have a bowl of oatmeal with chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds. I add bananas, a lot of berries, a scoop of almond butter, and some almond milk. For lunch, I love to make a big salad. But I don't have time for all that chopping now. So when I need something fast and easy, I eat a Daily Harvest flatbread — I keep them in my freezer. For dinner, we usually make vegetables and a protein, like salmon or chicken. Last night, I seared some tofu and stir-fried asparagus and mushrooms and baked some sweet potatoes. We eat simply and try to load up on veggies and fruits."

Your own story proves that food really is love.

"One of the first things I made my husband, Ryan, when we were dating is my Roasted Chicken With Croutons. It may have been the reason he fell in love with me! Ryan and I love to talk about what we're going to eat. When we traveled, we would make our plans around food. Now we enjoy cooking together. Iris goes to bed at 6:30, and that's when he and I are in the kitchen. We cook, maybe have a glass of wine, and turn some music on. That's our wind-down time together." (These tips will help you use up the vino you don't drink during dinner.)

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