Local author Amy Houts has ventured into a new world as she recently self-published her newest book, "Mealtime Magic: Delicious Dinners in Half the Time."
The cookbook highlights a plan that not only simplifies cooking daily meals, Houts says it saves time and money -- something many Americans don't have much of these days.
Houts, already an award-winning author and freelance writer, said that the idea has always been with her.
"I've been cooking this way for a long time," Houts said. "But I was kind of getting in a rut. I just wanted to figure out different meals to make it more interesting."
Her love for cooking began at a young age and inspired her to attend the Culinary Institue of America. When she decided that she did not want to be a professional chef, she realized that she could share her passion by writing about it.
The cooking strategy, which Houts developed over the years, involves intentionally planning meals with leftovers. Those leftovers are used the next two days to make completely different meals.
For instance, by cooking chicken breasts, you can have chicken enchiladas one night, chicken noodle soup the next, and chicken quesadillas the third.
The book includes ideas for side dishes, which are also available on Houts’ website, www.houtsandhome.com.
So in essence, the plan saves money by creating less food waste, which Houts says American households throw away an average of 240 pounds per year, an estimated $500.
According to Houts, the average American homemaker spends 175 hours in the kitchen per month, and she says her plan saves some of that time because at least some parts of each meal will already be prepared.
“I just thought that maybe other busy families could benefit from the idea,” Houts said. “It’s easy and quicker. I wanted to share what I’ve been doing all these years.
“And I’ve tested all of these recipes on our daughters, one of them is very picky, and they love it.”
This will be the 40th book that Houts has had published. Her works include books for children, some of which contain recipes and tips for getting children involved in the cooking process.
But this is the first book she has written that is self-published through her new company, Houts and Home Publishing, LLC.
She said that the reason for going solo was to have more creative control.
“I wanted a bigger role over some basic things,” Houts said. “Like the cover and how it was laid out. I also wanted to set the price for it to be a good buy.”
Houts lives just east of Maryville with her husband, Steve. Their two daughters, Emily Bush and Sarah Dettmer, are both grown and out of the house, but Houts still uses the meal plan.
Page 2 of 2 - She thinks that this style of cooking has many advantages, including nutrition.
“Eating at home is definitely more nutritious than eating out,” Houts said.
“You know what is in your food, and you can add nutritional value without losing flavor.”
The book does include some meatless meals, and has an extensive index for those who want to change things up a bit by mixing up some of the meals in the plan. There is even a section in each chapter for the reader to create their own three-day plans.
Guidelines for food safety and preservation are included, since some foods don’t keep as long as others.
The book is available for purchase at Houts’ website, www.houtsandhome.com, www.amazon.com, and at Hy-Vee in Maryville for $12.95. Her website is offering a summer special, with free shipping on orders of “Mealtime Magic.”
“The whole purpose is that I just want to share my ideas,” Houts said. “I really think that this will help people.”