Racing Rachael: Backyard Picnic

When I looked at this meal with its entrée, two sides AND dessert, I thought, "Rachael, honestly! All of this in 30 minutes? Did someone slip something in your bottle of EVOO?" And, yes, in my head Rachael Ray and I are on a first-name basis. Was she a little hopped up when she thought of this one, or am I just being a skeptic? We shall see.

The food: Honey Mustard and Red Onion Barbecued Chicken, Butter Bean Salad, Corn on the Cob with Chili and Lime, and Marshmallow-Nut Brownies.

This is a winning meal. The sauce for the chicken is a nice combination of sweet and tangy. I saved a little of it to serve on the side and couldn't help continually dipping my chicken into it. So good! I cooked the chicken on an outdoor grill as opposed to the griddle or grill pan suggested in the recipe to impart a little extra flavor.

The butter bean salad was a colorful, flavorful addition to the meal, although a bit heavy on the onion. The recipe in the cookbook called for ¼ of an onion, but I used the web recipe, which called for ½ of an onion. Next time, I'd definitely cut back. The salad had a nice contrast of textures from the soft beans and the crunchy peppers.

I'm a fresh corn lover, and this recipe was a welcome change from my usual butter-and-salt-doused cob. The tart lime and subtle heat of the chili powder was a little party in the mouth. For the brownies, I used Ghirardelli's Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix. In my opinion, this is the best (even better than most homemade brownies that I've had). So, the brownies were chewy, chocolate-y goodness, but I attribute that to the excellence of this mix. I couldn't really taste the peanut butter chips and the marshmallows turned a little crispy and didn't stick to the brownies.

The time: 38 minutes! I've got to hand it to Rachael. I thought completing this in less than an hour would be impossible, but it really was simple. My time also included running outside to flip the chicken several times. Had I cooked it on a grill pan, I probably could have shaved three minutes or so off of my time. Listen to me...I sound like I'm training for a marathon or something...

The verdict: This meal really was quick and easy and almost hit the 30-minute mark. The chicken, salad and corn will definitely be back on our table. And the brownies? Save yourself the extra time and just pop in the Ghirardelli's without the added goodies. You'll save a few calories and, I promise, they're delicious on their own. There was a bit of a mess to clean up, but not any more than is usually made when cooking dinner.

Ways to beat the clock: Use an indoor griddle, chop the onion for both the chicken's sauce and the salad at the same time, and again, leave those brownies alone. Also, instead of adding the lime, butter and chili powder to each ear of corn individually, I took the pot the corn was cooking in, drained the water and then added the corn toppings. I turned the stove back on low, melted the butter, incorporated the toppings and then threw the cobs back in. Roll them around a bit, and voila!

Happy (speedy) cooking!

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Carrie Applegate Jaeger