Beef Ragout

(4 servings)

Many slow-cooker recipes require a lot of time for preparation: browning meat, finely mincing vegetables, then washing pots and pans before putting everything in the slow cooker. This one does not. We used precut stew meat, a jar of Rao's tomato sauce, coarsely chopped pepper and carrots, and the result was a nice thick sauce to put over pasta, couscous or slices of packaged polenta.

Adapted from Pillsbury Doughboy Slow Cooker Recipes (April 2003)

1/2 cup minced onion

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

1 pound stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

24-ounce jar tomato-based pasta sauce

In a 4- to 6-quart slow-cooker, layers the ingredients, starting with the onion, then the bell pepper, carrots and beef. Add pepper and pasta sauce. Cover and cook on low setting for 8 to 10 hours.

Divide the ragout evenly among individual shallow dishes and serve hot.

Per serving: 285 calories, 21 gm protein, 25 gm carbohydrates, 10 gm fat, 44 mg cholesterol, 3 gm saturated fat, 668 mg sodium, 5 gm dietary fiber

Mahogany Drumsticks

(4 servings)

Cooking drumsticks in this easy sauce keeps them moist and as flavorful as if they had been marinated all day. Serve with rice and microwaved broccoli.

Adapted from "Almost From Scratch: 600 Recipes for the New Convenience Cuisine" by Andrew Schloss (Simon & Schuster, June 2003).

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic (jarred or fresh)

2 teaspoons finely chopped or grated ginger (jarred or fresh)

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1/3 cup teriyaki sauce

1/3 cup water

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (may substitute 1 tablespoon cider or rice vinegar)

8 chicken drumsticks (about 2 pounds)

Place a large nonstick skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, crushed red pepper, teriyaki sauce, water and hoisin sauce and stir to combine. Arrange the drumsticks in a single layer in the sauce, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Turn the drumsticks and simmer, uncovered, turning the drumsticks occasionally, until cooked through and the sauce has reduced and thickened to a glaze, 10 to 15 minutes.

To serve, transfer the drumsticks to a plate and spoon the remaining glaze over the drumsticks.

Per serving (including skin): 664 calories, 62 gm protein, 8 gm carbohydrates, 41 gm fat, 277 mg cholesterol, 11 gm saturated fat, 1,304 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

Pork Chops With

Sour Cream and Dill

(4 servings)

Nail polish takes longer to dry than this dish takes to cook. Choose thin, boneless pork chops because they cook in about 5 minutes. After you transfer the chops to a plate and cover to keep warm, make a speedy sauce in the same pan.

You could saute some pre-sliced mushrooms and a handful of sliced onion if you want, but it's certainly delicious -- and faster -- with just the sour cream, a little white wine and seasoning. Serve with couscous and a salad.

4 thin-cut, boneless pork chops (about 11/3 to 11/2 pounds total)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil

1/3 cup sour cream

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 teaspoon onion powder, or to taste

1/3 teaspoon dried dill

Pat the chops dry and season both sides with salt and pepper to taste. Turn oven on low. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter with the oil. When the butter has melted and the foam subsides, add the chops and cook, turning once, until no trace of pink remains, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chops to a plate, cover and place in the oven to keep warm.

To the same skillet add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and place over low heat. When the butter has melted and the foam subsides, add the sour cream, wine, onion powder and dill and cook, stirring constantly, just until warmed through. Do not boil. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

To serve, pour the sauce over the chops and serve immediately.

Per serving: 368 calories, 38 gm protein, 1 gm carbohydrates, 22 gm fat, 117 mg cholesterol, 9 gm saturated fat, 156 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

Mustard-Glazed Salmon

(4 servings)

This versatile sauce works well on other firm fish, such as tuna, swordfish or catfish, as well as on chicken. Adapted from a recipe in the January/February issue of Everyday Food magazine.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 salmon fillets (about 6 ounces each), skin-on

Finely chopped fresh dill (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the oil, mustard, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper, or to taste.

Place the salmon, skin-side down, on a greased or foil-lined baking dish and spoon the mustard glaze evenly over each fillet. Transfer to the oven and bake just until the salmon flakes easily and is opaque throughout, 6 to 8 minutes. (To brown top of salmon, put under hot broiler for no more than a minute.)

Transfer the salmon to individual plates and, if desired, sprinkle with dill. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 305 calories, 34 gm protein, 1 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 94 mg cholesterol, 3 gm saturated fat, 161 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

Roast Halibut With Balsamic Glaze

(4 servings)

A quick soak in a simple marinade and then 10 to 15 minutes in the oven and you have a delicious dinner. Adapted from "Seriously Simple: Easy Recipes for Creative Cooks" by Diane Rossen Worthington (Chronicle, 2002).

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

11/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 pounds halibut fillets or steaks or other white, firm-fleshed fish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Place the fish in a large resealable bag or a shallow container and add the marinade. Turn to coat the fish. Close the bag or cover the container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.

Transfer the fish to a greased or foil-lined roasting pan and roast until the fish flakes easily and is opaque throughout, about 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 305 calories, 47 gm protein, 2 gm carbohydrates, 10 gm fat, 73 mg cholesterol, 1 gm saturated fat, 194 mg sodium, trace dietary fiber

-- Candy Sagon