Chris Kimball's Inspirations

Cooking meals can be difficult when you're juggling the demands of a job and family. But cookbook author Chris Kimball says that, with a little planning, preparing meals can be simple and delicious.

In his latest book, "The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook," he has over 1,000 recipes, everything from salads to pies.

"In our experience," he writes, "cooking comes down to three things: method, ingredients, and equipment. (And of course, recipes that work.)"

Kimball believes the keys to kitchen success also require the following:

  1. Read the recipe carefully. Read before you start so that you are adequately prepared.
  2. Be prepared: Pull all the ingredients/tools you need BEFORE you start cooking, so that you know you have everything you need.
  3. Follow the directions: Be sure to prepare the food as instructed in the ingredient list. Food that is uniformly and properly cut will not only cool at the same rate, but will also be more visually appealing.
  4. Pre-heat your oven. Most ovens need at least 15 minutes to preheat fully. So plan accordingly. If you don't pre-heat your oven properly, your food will spend more time in the oven and, therefore, your food may be dry and overcooked.
  5. Keep substitutions to a minimum. There are certain substitutions that are acceptable but, in general, try to use the ingredients called for in the recipe.
  6. Monitor the dish as it cooks. The cooking times in our recipes are meant as guidelines only. It is important to follow the visual clues provided in the recipe because there are always variations in ingredients and equipment.

He shares the following recipes for The Early Show series Culinary Inspirations.

Emergency Chocolate Cake:
(Makes one 8-inch square cake)
(Serves 9)

Ingredients :
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar (for serving; optional)


  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat an 8-inch square cake pan with vegetable oil spray.
  2. Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, and baking soda together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, water and vanilla together. Stir the mayonnaise mixture into the flour mixture until combined.
  3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
  4. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack, 1 to 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve straight from the pan or turn the cake out onto a serving platter and dust with the confectioners' sugar (if desired).

To make ahead:
After the cake has cooled, it can be wrapped tightly in a plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Click on page 2 for Skillet Lasagna and Oven "Grilled" Cheese for a Crowd recipes.