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Sep 13, 2008 07:43 PM

Cookbook With Easy Everyday Meals? Suggestions?

I'm running out of ideas of what to make the family for dinner and was hoping you guys would be able to suggest a cookbook. I'm into more 'exotic' ethnic foods but my inlaws are pretty much used to plain Italian/American foods. I was hoping to find a book that might push their horizons a bit without boring me to tears. I need recipes that have easily available ingredents and don't require too much time/work. I'm tempted to try some of Rachael Rays books but I know most real cooks don't have much respect for her stuff. Any suggestions?

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  1. You may want to consider Cook's Illustrated's 30-Minute Meals. Tasty dishes for basic--as well as foodie--palates.

    6 Replies
    1. re: ducky

      I second this recommendation and I would also suggest this book called The Six O'Clock Scramble. Somebody bought it for me as a gift and I laughed at it, but I have to say, I use it. I work full time and have 2 small kids so time is of the essence. I wouldn't call it gourmet by any means and I wouldn't necessarily pull it out for special occasions, but overall the recipes are relatively healthy and the ingredients are extremely accessible. And most importantly, they are tasty. There are a few recipes that are in my regular rotation.

      1. re: valerie

        Hey, I bought this book and have NEVER cooked from it, though I love the idea of it. One of many in a fine tradition of cookbooks I never cook from. I would love to know some of your favorite recipes, if you wouldn't mind. Maybe I'll be inspired!

        Another cookbook I love the idea of but never cook from is Tara Duggan's "The Working Cook: Fast and Fresh Meals for Busy People"--Duggan writes a column "The Working Cook" for the SF Chronicle and a handful of her recipes are online at Even though she has "fresh" in the title, she still does call for some canned ingredients (beans, etc.). The recipes are all under 40 minutes from start to finish, though, many are faster than that, too. Many of the recipes have an international twist, such as tomatillo turkey tacos or Japanese noodles with crispy tofu.


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          Your second recommendation reminds me of a book I have that I've found fun/useful. Hands Off Cooking: Low Supervision, High-Flavor Meals for Busy People by Ann Martin Rolke. Not everything has been a huge hit, but a few things I just love, most especially the potato and chick pea curry.

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Like I said, I realize that it's not gourmet. But, like you, I have tons of cookbooks that I've never cooked from, so if I make 3 or 4 on a regular basis, that's a success!

            I'm at work now but I will look through it when I get home and get back to you (good thing I work so I have plenty of time to spend on CH!)

            1. re: valerie

              I'm looking at the book now (Six O'Clock Scramble) and here are some of the things that I have made more than once:

              Mapo Tofu -- I use ground turkey instead of pork
              Ravioli Lasagna -- don't really need a recipe for this, but it gave me the idea and my kids love it
              Baked Apricot Chicken -- sometimes I use a boneless turkey breast
              Celia's Honey Chicken

              A friend (the one who gave me the book) made the Baked Zucchini Pie and it was really good. Then I make it for a brunch and it didn't turn out so good. Not sure what happened there.

              I do also really like the Everyday Food website and go to it often for ideas and inspiration.

      2. Maybe "Taste of Home" cookbook would suit.

        1. About 7 years ago I got something called Gourmet Every Day when I renewed my subscription, and I do find that is a good go to book (although probably out of print - sorry). But their monthly column of the same name often has great stuff. Recent things I've made and enjoyed from that include curried shrimp with potatoes and peas and a polenta/cheese pie. I think you can do a search on epicurious too for those recipes.

          Another option is the martha stewart mag Everyday Food. Not over the top with exotic stuff, although I got a really nice moroccan chicken and sweet potato stew recipe from it (and easy, so so easy).

          11 Replies
          1. re: LulusMom

            I agree about Everyday Food Magazine. Not as crazy about the cookbook for some reason. I really recommend that you pick one up at the check out or get a few from the library and see what you think.
            Good luck!

            1. re: fern

              I will third the Everyday Food Magazine. I cannot recall an issue that did not have something I liked in it and always easy.

              1. re: GretchenS

                Yes, and now Emeril has a column every month... while not always a fan of his schtick on Emeril Live, I respect him as a cook and look forward to his recipes in Everyday Food. (I do love his Emeril Green show on Planet Green, however.)

              2. re: fern

                Interesting about the cookbook! I had considered buying it (instead of just keeping piles of torn out pages from the magazine clipped together), but this makes me think I should save my money. Thanks for the tip.

                1. re: LulusMom

                  I have the cookbook as well as tons of back issues of the mag. I much prefer the book. I own over 500 cookbooks and I love them all, but I find myself turning to this book all the time for ideas for quick mid week meals to help me get out of the rut I often find myself in when pressed for time and energy. So far every recipe I've made has been a hit with my family.

                  1. re: flourgirl

                    Could you mention a couple of your favorites? I know I started making sauteed grape tomatoes because of that magazine, and also garlic roasted broccoli. Both quick exciting weeknight sides! I find the recipes are often healthy as well.

                    1. re: foxy fairy

                      So far, I've made the pan fried shrimp with green curry cashew sauce, the greek style mini lamb burgers with yoghurt sauce and carrot salad, sauted chicken with mustard cream sauce, and the lamb chops with mint pepper sauce. They've all been really good, and I've added all of them to my rotation. Easy, fast, and delicious. Perfect for the work week nights!

                      1. re: flourgirl

                        flourgirl, do the recipes call for a lot of convenience foods or is it generally "from scratch" cooking? The recipes you mention do sound interesting!


                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                          I can't speak to the book, but the magazine's recipes are usually from scratch. I made some great carrot cake cupcakes from it a month or two ago (from scratch) and they only took about 10-15 minutes to throw together. One of our current favorites (from about a year ago in the mag) is a pasta with cauliflower. It doesn't sound especially exciting, but it really is good - the garlic, hot peppers and anchovy make it killer.

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            The recipes I made were all from scratch. There are little short cuts like using curry powder in the curry sauce, which I don't have a problem with in this kind of cookbook. I just leafed through the book again and so far the only convenience foods that I see are things like canned beans and broth. And I use canned beans and boxed broth all the time anyway so this doesn't bother me at all. But the rest of the ingredients are mostly just fresh meat and poultry, produce, dairy products, herbs and spices, rice, pasta and bread. I've also found that I'm starting to turn to this book as a source of recipes to use up stuff I have in the fridge to avoid wasting things.

                            1. re: flourgirl

                              Ok, you've inspired me to drag the book back out and read it with new eyes! I seem to remember that I didn't like the way it was set up but can't remember why. Need to take a look. Thanks for the push! I have way too many books I never use so it would be nice to put this one to use.

              3. I wouldn't discount Rachel Ray's books, they are very useful and you can still get her recipes from the FN website for free, so that's a bonus.

                I have a Vegetarian book from Williams-Sonoma. It has 30 meals and meals that only require 15 minute prep times. I think all of their books are like that but the best part is that they have tons of books, not just theirs but books by other cooks/chefs.

                I hope that helps as I am rebuilding my cookbook library for my personal chef business and I am particular about simple meals.

                Wendy Stewart
                Personal Trainer and Personal Chef

                3 Replies
                1. re: chef wendy

                  Although many of the recipes in many such cookbooks will be too elemental & commonplace to "push your family's food horizons" and to keep from "boring you to tears", I wonder if anything appropriate might be found in any of the many "community" (especially Junior League but also school, church, civic club, etc.) cookbooks which seem to be published everywhere. Know there are often recipe duplications in these various cookbooks, but I have found some interesting things in some of them. Although a commercial rather than organizational cookbook, the Savannah, GA, "The Pirates' House Cook Book" contains individually contributed as well as restaurant recipes, a number of which I have found quite appealing. Know this is not the type recipe you are seeking, but as a kid my aunt made an asparagus-English pea casserole which I loved and which later was one of several favorite recipes lost during a move. Over the years was surprised I never found this casserole recipe in any of these community cookbooks (or found anyone who made it) so was really pleased when finally found it in this "Pirates' House" cookbook several years ago. I also like, although again they may largely be too commonplace for your purposes, many of the recipes in the several Social Circle, GA, "Blue Willow Inn" cookbooks (which are again restaurant & individually contributed recipes). The recipes in the cookbooks I've mentioned primarily meet you "readily available ingredients" and "not too much time/work" specifications but may fall short on your "real cooks use" requirement. Good luck in your recipe search and in coming up with those new expansive (no pun intended) meals for your family.

                  1. re: chef wendy

                    I would discount the Rachael Ray books. I have 3 of them (gifts... from people who know I love to read and collect cookbooks). All 3 have few photos. No illustrations. And most importantly are very poorly organized and indexed. In general I don't care for her food, although there are some good recipes in there, but it certainly isn't a book I'd recommend based on the indexing, the writing of the recipes or the organization.

                    I do like most of the cook books associated with cook's illustrated.

                    1. re: Firegoat

                      I have one of RR's cookbooks, and I don't care for the layout and format. There are some tasty, quick recipes in there for busy nights. I can't seem to sit through one of here shows (on either FoodTV or her talk show).
                      Oddly enough, I really enjoy her magazine and recommend it to most people I know who ask for quick recipes for busy nights.

                  2. If you have the time, you might want to peruse some books at the library to see which books seem pretty simple. For example, I'd say that many of the recipes in Marcella Hazan's Essential's of Italian Cooking are not particularly time consuming - the key tends to be using great ingredients - though generally ones that aren't too hard to find.