Sometimes the best part of cooking dinner is letting someone else cook it, but few of us have a live-in chef or can eat out every night. Whenever I need a break during the year, my favorite way to cook without cooking involves my Crock-Pot and a fabulous recipe from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger. In the summer, I make the Southern Barbecued pork to shred for sandwiches. In the fall, I fill it with onions, peppers and sausages for a hearty, spicy pasta topping or to slather on hoagie rolls. I’ll start a homemade Bolognese sauce on the stove-top and then transfer it to my slow cooker to simmer for the afternoon. One of my favorite winter recipes is the Red Wine Short Ribs of Beef—you get restaurant quality flavor at grocery store prices, and, when served with the starch of your choice and a salad, this meal will get you through many a chilly winter’s night. With recipes from around the world, this cookbook will satisfy even the pickiest eater at your dinner table, and will minimize your workload in the kitchen.
In these uncertain economic times, it’s nice to have the occasional indulgence to relieve the tedium of watching your 401k plummet. Whenever I’m at a loss, my go-to food is bacon. So when my mom gave me a copy of The Bacon Cookbook by James Villas, I was elated. The book begins with a brief history of this luscious pork product and useful health information for those of you who might be bacon-squeamish. (It’s trans fat free! A slice of bacon is healthier than a tablespoon of butter! ) Rationalizations aside, the recipes here will entice you to try something different with your bacon: How about bacon-wrapped figs stuffed with almonds in a port reduction. Instead of boring dinner rolls, serve bacon-Parmesan biscuits and you’ll never go back to Pillsbury again. Trust me, bacon will never let you down, and its many incarnations in this cookbook will keep you busy for years to come.
It’s a good thing I like to cook, because I got a pile of cookbooks when I got married. An immediate standout from the pack was Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentiis. What makes this book such an asset in my kitchen is its simplicity and its reliability. I don’t want to come home from work and slave for hours over a dinner that will get eaten in fifteen minutes (who does, really?), so on busy nights, Giada’s chicken parmesan is my salvation. Since the recipe doesn’t bread or over-fry the meat, the final product is light and satisfying at the same time. Most of the cook time is in the oven not on the stove top where I have to babysit it, so I can make the salad and get the garlic bread toasted while the chicken bastes itself in its own tomatoey-cheesy juices. The resulting meal is like a warm hug on the inside: I get a happy husband, and minimal clean-up. On other nights, I like to whip up Giada’s light and airy alfredo sauce to serve over pasta, and there’s an amazing recipe for osso buco that is so simple and impressive that it’ll cement your cooking prowess in the eyes of whomever you cook for. Who could ask for anything more?