Mother’s intuition kicked in for Katie Lee Biegel well before she became a mom. How else to explain that the cookbook author and co-host of Food Network’s The Kitchen set about simplifying both her cooking and entertaining style before two major life changes — the global COVID-19 pandemic, and the birth of her first child, daughter Iris Marion — kicked in?
Call it mother’s intuition, a sixth sense, or simply a knack for being ahead of the curve, but Biegel birthed a baby — in the form of her latest cookbook, It’s Not Complicated: Simple Recipes for Every Day — that’s helpful not just to her, but every other new parent who loves to cook, eat, and entertain but suddenly finds themselves with less time for, well, time-consuming and fussy recipes.
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“I had almost entirely finished the manuscript before I was even pregnant,” she explains to SheKnows when asked about the prescient timing. “I’ve always liked to cook in an uncomplicated manner, and I’ve always liked to entertain and make food that takes really good but doesn’t take a lot of time, so I can have fun.”
Since becoming a mom last September, that desire for faster, easier, less-involved recipes has been amplified, she says. “I thought I liked fast recipes before, but now… even more! I just don’t have a lot of time for prep.”
For weeknight dinners with her husband, Ryan Biegel, that means simple but tasty one-pan dinners, and these days they’re favoring easy-to-throw-together veggie bowls. “We chop whatever veggies are in the fridge, cook a grain like farro or quinoa, add some kind of protein, and [Ryan] always makes pickled red onions,” she explains.
That simple approach has translated to her entertaining style, as well. Out, for example, are labor-intensive menus involving mains like the individual chicken pot pies she used to make, along with anything heavy on the chopping. “I just don’t really have time for that now,” she reasons. In its place: Her go-to BBQ Potato Chip Crusted Salmon recipe (see below!), deviled eggs, and green and farro salads. They’re dishes that can be prepped in advance, and in the summertime, especially, she says, “those cold and room-temperature dishes are your best friends.”
Another busy entertaining mom’s BFF: the store-bought dessert or appetizer. Biegel hits us right in our Ina Garten-store-bought-is-fine-loving hearts when she admits that her advice is to go ahead and just “buy some things” to make entertaining easier, “so you’re not spending a lot of time on every course.” (Virtual high fives to every celebrity chef who keeps it real like this!)
In fact, Biegel is full of unexpectedly easy pro-tips that have us madly taking notes. Her preferred tablescape these days is a simple table with a few bud vases of flowers and candles; she actually prefers a mismatched look. It’s one reason why she admits she never passes up a yard sale — although she also shops the sale section at Anthropologie. (Same, Katie, same!) Another favorite resource: “Social Studies is awesome, especially if you haven’t built a collection of nice dishes and linens,” she says. “They deliver a box of dishes, flower vases, linens, everything [you need], and put a guide in there for how to set the table. It’s one of my favorite things because it takes the guesswork out and you have the most Instagrammable table.”
With baby Iris’s first birthday fast approaching, we’ll just have to wait and see if Biegel sticks to the less-is-more approach when it comes to celebrating her girl’s big day this September, but the mama is already thinking about incorporating kid-friendly hacks into her entertaining approach, noting that while — like most of us — she hasn’t entertained much lately, she thinks having something for kids to do is key. “Even if it’s just bubbles… a little something for them to play with,” she says.
Hey, take it from fellow moms everywhere, Katie: Bubbles are easy — and highly Instagrammable, too!
Katie Lee Biegel’s BBQ Potato Chip–Crusted Salmon with Peach Salsa
“Salmon is my go-to for dinner parties. I buy a big piece of it and cook it whole, then serve it right on the pan and let everyone cut their own portion. For the longest time, I would season it with only chili powder and brown sugar, but I must’ve been feeling wild one day and decided to upgrade it with a crushed BBQ chip coating. I love the crunch that the chips add and the extra bit of tang that the BBQ sauce lends. The ripe peach salsa makes it totally next level. If you’re making it in the winter or don’t have access to ripe peaches, try it with mango instead.” — Katie Lee Biegel, It’s Not Complicated
For the salmon:
1½ pounds (680 g) skin-on center-cut salmon fillet
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons BBQ sauce
1 cup (135 g) crushed BBQ potato chips
¼ cup (55 g) packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon chili powder
6 scallions, white and light green parts, chopped
1 clove garlic
Zest of 1 lime (reserve the juice for the salsa)
For the salsa:
3 ripe yellow peaches, finely diced
½ red onion, finely diced
½ jalapeño, minced
¼ cup (10 g) minced fresh cilantro
Juice of ½ lime
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Make the salmon: Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the salmon in the center of the prepared baking sheet, skin side down. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Spread the BBQ sauce evenly on the flesh side of the salmon.
In a food processor, combine the BBQ chips, brown sugar, chili powder, scallions, garlic, and lime zest and pulse until combined and the consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Press the mixture onto the sauce on the flesh side of the salmon. Bake until the chip mixture is golden brown and crunchy, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the salsa: In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the salmon with the salsa. Yield: 4 servings. Active time: 15 minutes; Total time: 30 minutes
Reprinted from It’s Not Complicated: Simple Recipes for Every Day by Katie Lee Biegel. Photographs copyright © 2021 Lucy Schaeffer. Published by ABRAMS.