Cookbooks for Hapless Chefs

If I wanted food during my first year of college, I simply waltzed over to the school cafeteria and tucked in to the daily specials. Once and a while I luxuriously ordered a pizza from my dorm room just to shake things up. This idyllic existence lasted until I moved off campus my sophomore year. It was then that the terrible truth became fully clear. I could not even boil an egg. Blessed (or cursed) with a parent who was a kitchen genius, I did not take the time to learn any cookery myself.

Fast forward a few years (and a few meal disasters - thank goodness for smoke alarms, amiright?) and I flatter myself that I've got the adulting skill of feeding myself in the bag. I will never forget the frustrating learning curve nor the books (you knew there had to be books) that helped me learn the basics and beyond.

Get Cooking

The author of Get Cooking, Mollie Katzen, is responsible for teaching me some of my favorite recipes - which are still on my weekly rotation today. Katzen's recipes contain short ingredient lists (a must!) and very simple directions. Mollie Katzen also suggests several optional additions that the reader can choose to include in their recipe. I have difficulty with any deviation ('just throw something together' gives me hives), so I loved that someone else took the work out of being creative.

One Pot

One of the first things I discovered about myself in the kitchen is that I HATE doing dishes. I get irritated and sweaty as I labor through even the smallest dish pile. Imagine my relief when I found out that it is in fact possible to cook everything in a single pot and have a delicious meal at the end. One Pot features various pieces cookware that almost everyone owns (sheet pan, skillet, stock pot, etc) and devotes each chapter to making food in one dish.


I still get irritated when I come across certain glossy new cookbooks. On the cover stands a model-like cook in an immaculate dream kitchen, looking rested and refreshed. The writers of these cookbooks seem to believe I have hours to baste something or ample time to drive to three different stores in search of exotic ingredients. Yeah, no. I've got thirty motivated minutes after I get home before all I want to do is binge on Netflix. The authors of Keepers are both home cooks and they fully appreciate the challenge of trying to get an edible meal on the table in the midst of crazy busy lives. The recipes in this book are easy (hooray!), cook up quickly (within my 30 minutes timeline) and the authors give you ideas for using leftovers.

What cookbooks make your home cooking life easier?