When this Portland, Oregon, reader began college four years ago, she had a lot to learn in the kitchen. "I was a neophyte cook," she says. "In fact, my stir-frying spoon once caught fire." With the guidance of Pink Plaid (a version of the Red Plaid) and a great deal of passion, she soon made her way through college not on burgers and pizza, as one might expect, but on Grilled Halibut with Blueberry Jam, couscous, spaghetti squash, and other healthy fare.
Snappy Asian Couscous: "Snappy" refers not only to the fresher-than-fresh flavor of this pretty side dish, but to its super-short preparation time as well. Try it alongside teriyaki-marinated grilled chicken for a healthy warm weather meal.
Roasted Vegetable-Basil Pasta: One trip to the garden or the farmers' market will provide you with nearly everything you need for this light, refreshing Italian-inspired salad. If you like, add a bit of chopped cooked chicken to make it a main dish meal.
Baked Breakfast Apples: Make an event out of a chilly winter weekend morning -- fill your kitchen with the enticing aroma of these fiber-filled fruits. Choose your favorite baking apple to create distinctive taste.
Fajitas: Lean beef and tender-crisp sautéed veggies make this Tex-Mex favorite an especially rewarding meal. Add your favorite salsa and take a big bite of the fiesta on your plate.
Halibut with Blueberry-Pepper Jam: Mild-flavored, firm textured halibut serves as a blank canvas, just waiting for creative touches. When topped with this full-flavored jam, it's an artfully delicious dinner dish.
"Anytime anybody is having a baby or getting married, they want me to host their shower because I prepare such delicious spreads," Crystal says, giving credit to her Pink Plaid cookbook, a gift from her sister. This London, Kentucky-based family photographer turns to cooking and baking as a form of self-expression. She's always looking to try new recipes or perfect old ones -- like the quintessential Southern biscuits her grandmother baked. "Cooking," Crystal says, "is how I show people how much I love and care for them."
Pumpkin-Pecan Bread: Autumnal in character -- but delicious year around -- this loaf of deep ochre deliciousness is even more wonderful when served with a schmear of rich cream cheese. Try it toasted, too.
Buttermilk-Brined Fried Chicken: Don't fret over the amount of salt in this brine -- it makes the chicken utterly divine. Be sure that when brining, you use a non-metal dish. Zipping plastic bags work wonderfully for brining as well.
Icy Cranberry Margaritas: Sure, these fantastic, frost sippers are a must for the holidays, but red is a good color in any season. Once you try these tangy cocktails, you'll find yourself whipping them up all through the year.
Cherry Cobbler: The only thing that could make this old-time, homey dish of comfort any better is a nice big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Do serve the cobbler still warm and cozy from the oven -- everybody will love you for it.
Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce: Thrifty cooks have transformed leftover bread into delightful puddings for centuries -- and won rave reviews for doing so. Cube and freeze less-than-fresh slices of bread until you have enough to make a batch. With this sensationally-rich sauce, you'll have a luxurious dessert for next to nothing.
For Sara Bennett, Red Plaid memories are sweet. She grew up watching her mother bake Red plaid cookies. Time spent in the kitchen creating cookies and other yummy foods is a tradition that she wants to pass on to her 13-month-old daughter Paige. Thanks to Red Plaid's breads and cookies -- especially its banana bread -- the stay-at-home Michigan mom has already earned a reputation as an excellent baker. Although cooking is more challenging for her, she depended on Red Plaid to hold her hand through her very first Thanksgiving feast -- a feast that was perfect right down to the gravy.
Banana Bread: There is no better destination for overly ripe bananas than this tender loaf. If you can control yourself, cool the bread, wrap it and let it stand overnight. Its flavors intensify as it rests.
Hot Fudge Sauce: Remember this recipe for the holidays -- a pretty jar of this rambunctiously rich chocolate makes a welcome gift for friends and neighbors.
Chocolate Cake: Sara made the Devil's Food Cake variation of this recipe for her daughter's very first birthday. That makes it pretty special!
Peanut Brittle: Families have been looking forward to this classic holiday candy for decades. It first appeared in the New Cookbook when Truman was president, and it's just as wonderful now.
Snickerdoodles: When we asked our Facebook friends to name their favorite holiday treat, Snickerdoodles won by a landslide. We adjusted the recipe in the 15th edition to be even better than before.
When she turns in an outstanding performance at work, Rachel Bredemus does't expect a promotion or raise. Instead, she receives a "Cook's Parade"-- her kitchen staff marching through the dining room with colanders on their heads, beating on pots and pans to appease the demands of an audience of 200 raucous young eaters. Rachel -- director of Camp Birchwood, a girls-only summer camp in northern Minnesota -- believes feeding campers well is just important as showing them a good time. And for 10 years, the Red Plaid cookbook has been a part of that effort. All of the recipes Rachel loved as a child came straight from the pages of Red Plaid, so when it was time for her to start feeding 200 children of her own, the cookbook paved the way. Red Plaid Sloppy Joes are a first night menu tradition. "When all of those hungry girls tumble out of the busses to smell our Sloppy Joes," she smiles," they know they've found a home away from home."
Multi-Grain Orange Kissed Waffles: Crisp, steamy waffles make such a special breakfast, and adding the zing of sunny citrus to this batter takes them right over the top.
Almond-Herbed Salmon:Succulent salmon adorned with a savory, crunchy topping like this one makes getting your Omega 3s something to look forward to.
Blueberry Raspberry Tart with Lemon Cream: Celebrate the late spring and early summer berry season by taking a trip to the Farmers' Market, and then share your "pickings" in this simple, but elegant dessert.
Mediterranean Chicken Pita Pockets: Got the Brown Bag Blues? Sing a different tune! Unwrap one of these savory sandwiches put your feet up and enjoy -- it's almost like having a picnic in your cubicle.
Whole Grain Chicken with Harvest Fruits and Veggies: Who says that enriching your diet with whole grains is like eating diced cardboard? These juicy, mouthwatering chicken breasts -- enhanced with naturally sweet fruits and veggies -- turn that notion on its head.