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Aug 29, 2014 08:11 PM

Cookbooks or recipes for jaded, time-constrained mom

So I'm a semi-stay-at-home mom to two young children and wife to a very busy, very hungry, very culinarily sophisticated overworked professional. In the next few months circumstances are about to take me out of the house much more than was the case in the past.

Over the past 7 years or so I have worked my way through what feels like everything Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, Waters' The Art of Simple Food, and Faith Willinger's Red White and Greens. I am well-versed in the art (or whatever you call it) of shopping at the farmers' market, buying good olive oil, and thereby making a fairly low-effort dinner. I enjoy that, and my husband enjoys eating the fruits (my kids are hit or miss), but I'm sick of it.

Can anyone recommend either fantastic cookbooks, or great recipes, that work for families on the go who are interested in Pollanist "eating real food" AND a bit bored with the whole roast-some-turnips-in-goose-fat-in-winter, make-an-heirloom-tomato-salad-in-summer scene? I've googled "make-ahead casseroles," and many of the results don't quite seem to fit with my sensibility. But things in the make-ahead casserole, slow cooker, and/or super-quick-meal (Rachael Ray I guess) genre are all what I need at this point.

I realize this call for help is annoyingly complex, but maybe someone out there gets it and is willing to spar some time to help. Thank you if so. :)

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  1. I am a skilled home cook. Did catering prep jobs during and after college for money. Had my brooklyn jewish dad teach me how to make pot stickers and their wrappers, from scratch, way before most of America even knew what potstickers WERE.

    That said, I work at home and sometimes it's relaxed, and sometimes - it's NUTTY. And I need easy food that is also good. This website has been such a help because yes, it's a crock pot - which means easy. But her daughter can't eat any gluten, which means she has everything from scratch. Which keeps it a lot purer.

    Have I made everything in there? No. But her split pea soup (I don't use the potato), the sloppy joe using turkey and there's a chicken cranberry mustard thing… They have become easy go to's that are tasty, real and good food.

    And sadly for my hips, her crock pot cheesecake rocks. Better than baking it in a water bath.

    2 Replies
    1. re: happybaker

      I'm also a fan of this website. I'm not interested in gluten free cooking (not opposed, just not a factor in my life), but she certainly keeps things interesting and tries things in a crock pot that would never even occur to me.

      1. re: happybaker

        I agree. There is a thai coconut soup on that site that is really good and other things I've tried have been tasty too.

      2. I'm surprised that Marcella's recipes aren't giving you all you're looking for. I could cook from them all the time.

        1. Maybe Ina Garten's books would fit. Here's a link to look at her titles

          1 Reply
          1. re: blue room

            I was going to suggest Ina as well. Back-to-Basics, Foolproof, At Home, Parties to name a few are great for inspiration and her recipes are all pretty solid.

            I am partial to her roasted veggie orzo. Its is endlessly adaptable and is great in any season.

            Her roasted shrimp cocktail has replaced my more traditional one.

          2. Not exactly what you need and definitely lacking in casserole/ slow cooker recipes but I'm still a big fan of Ina Garten. Her old book "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" is one of my favorites because her approach is so simple and it's easily (effortlessly?) adapted into Pollanist friendly food. Unfussy cooking, quality ingredients, and no long lists of obscure ingredients. As a vegetarian I skip everything except the vegetable dishes so I can't vouch for many of her mains but I love that almost everything is ready lightening fast. And the few things that take longer are usually roasted dishes that require minimal attention.

            Her recipe (do 3 ingredients and no cooking even constitute a recipe?) for sugar snap peas rocked my world and changed the way I approach food.

            Still, not what you're looking for I know but I recommend dusting off this old book and seeing if you can pull anything useful from it.

            And no one makes heirloom tomato salads in the summer anymore. You have to make heirloom tomato tarts instead. With bee pollen. Served on black slate. Geez.

            2 Replies
            1. re: PinkLynx

              May I ask the name of Ina Garten's sugar snap pea recipe so I can search for it? Or would you share the method? Thank you!

              1. re: Tara57

                Absolutely, it couldn't be easier. It's called "sugar snap peas with sesame". Three ingredients:

                1 lb. fresh sugar snap peas
                dark sesame oil
                black sesame seeds

                Remove stem and string from snap peas (depending on the peas sometimes I skip this) and toss with sesame oil and sesame seeds to taste. Serve room temp. (I like them cold too, and every now and then ever so lightly steamed.) That's it!

                I love sesame seeds so I usually have a few tablespoons of toasted seeds (black, or black and white mixed) in a jar in my refrigerator- they're perfect for this.

            2. They aren't fancy, but the Cooks Country magazines and books are generally pretty good and family friendly. They aren't as complicated and labor-intensive as Cooks Illustrated, and most recipes have make-ahead tips, let you know what can freeze or keep, and are pretty honest about what sort of time goes into the meal. They're also easy to use with "real" food - I don't recall any cream-of-something soups in there. If they use the odd "fake" food ingredient it sounds like you have enough experience to adjust to your own preferences. They might seem a little pedestrian after Hazan and Waters, but you can get some ideas at least. I also love CI's Slow Cooker Revolution - it's not all soups and stews. (I realize this post sounds like I may work for the ATK empire, but I'm just a true fan and use their books and magazines all the time. Stay off their mailing lists though - they are persistent.)