3 Cookbooks to Save Time in the Kitchen

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

Latest posts by Brohgan Dieker (see all)

As much as I love to cook, I do have a few cookbooks which remain on the shelf gathering dust.

Here are some of my FAVORITES over the years! I own all of these suggestions, and I am recommending them to you!

Most of these I own a physical copy, but I’ve started buying the Kindle version instead! Why?

  1. With the invention of Pinterest, I am always cooking from my phone or my ipad. Why not keep my cookbooks there too?
  2. It saves space. I have a small kitchen!

The following post uses affiliate links, which means that at no added cost to you, I get a small percentage of every sale. This allows I do not endorse anything that I myself would not use. You can view my full disclosure policy HERE. Thank you!

These cookbooks have saved me tons of time in the kitchen!

  1. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fattening! Over 150 Ridiculously Easy Recipes for the Super Busy (affiliate)

Also available on Kindle. (affiliate)

Despite the buzzword laden title, this book could be found open on my kitchen counter from the years 2010-2013 (when I had finally memorized our favorite recipes by heart). The Mexi Mac-n-Cheese and the Scoopy Joes are still in rotation. The author, Devin Alexander, is both a nutritionist and a comfort food lover.

What I like:

  • It’s full of recipes for healthy comfort food! What’s not to love??
  • All of the recipes take less than 20 minutes to make, in my experience.
  • Ingredients are simple and commonly sold in most stores.

What I don’t like:

  • Not every recipe is pictured. That always bugs me a little.
  • Occasional use of processed ingredients. I’m fine with this once in a while, but I try to keep it fresh whenever possible.

Another book by her that I own and have used many times (but not as often, personal preference) is The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook (affiliate).

2. Dinner: The Playbook (affiliate)

Also available on Kindle. (affiliate)

I know, I keep recommending this book over and over! I reviewed it once already (bonus recipe!) But, as a busy parent, it is WORKING for me. It is the new book that lives on my countertop, and I have loved every recipe so far!

What I like:

  • It’s so strategic and easy to follow!
  • I really appreciate how this book is organized! It contains both quick and easy recipes and more challenging recipes. Each type are contained in their own section, so there’s no getting mixed up!
  • I just appreciate Jenny’s voice. She’s sarcastic yet encouraging, and it’s really keeping this dinnertime thing going on difficult/impossible evenings.

What I don’t like:

  • The pictures. I like that they’re included with every recipe, but they look like polaroids from the early 90’s. They’re not really mouth-watering to me. (I’m really just being super picky here! I genuinely like just about everything in this book.)

Another bonus book by Jenny Rosenstrach is Dinner: A Love Story (affiliate). This book is also working well for me right now, and it has a special place in my heart, but it’s just not getting used as often. I think it’s because of the way it is organized. The Gameplan is much more “down to business.”

3. The Southern Pantry Cookbook (affiliate)

Also available on Kindle. (affiliate)

This is another book that I use often (and reviewed here). This cookbook very much inspired my own FOREVER Grocery List, as it sticks to a pantry list of ingredients.

What I like:

  1. It has both simple, delicious dinner recipes AND special holiday recipes. I already know that I will be pulling it out around Christmas to make the Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bars for my family!
  2. The southern-style recipes are introducing my family to some new flavors and styles of food! I love when cookbooks inspire you to try new things!
  3. It reminds me of my grandma’s cooking.

What I don’t like:

  1. Not all the recipes are quick and easy. In fact, some take quite a bit of time.
  2. Many of the recipes are very much “stick to your ribs” style food. Definitely not diet friendly and intended to be enjoyed in moderation!

What did I miss?

Do you have a favorite time-saving cookbook that isn’t mentioned here? Mention it in the comments below!

When You Are Stuck In A Dinner Rut (Cookbook Review and BONUS Recipe!)

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker

Brohgan Dieker is dedicated to answering the "what's for dinner" question with healthy, quick recipes that can accommodate busy schedules. She is a devout Christian, a wife and mother, and a lover of words and books. She lives in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas and holds a degree in English from Kansas State University.
Brohgan Dieker

Latest posts by Brohgan Dieker (see all)

I have been stuck in a dinner rut recently.

It’s been bad.

Like, frozen pizza bad. (Which is soooo not my style.)


It didn’t help that the weather in Kansas went from warm pleasant spring to WINTER. Snow, ice, the whole tamale. Again. It was so hard to get motivated to cook new recipes when all I wanted was familiar comfort.

Then, when a warm, rainy spring day finally returned, I still reached for a familiar favorite: Summer Vegetable Ravioli Salad. I wanted to enjoy the lighter flavors that come with warmer weather but wasn’t willing to stretch far from my comfy regime.

I had just finished the recipe, but a TORNADO WARNING popped up unexpectedly.

If you’re not familiar, a tornado warning means go to your basement now because there’s literally a tornado swirling around in the sky and heading your direction. In this situation, if we have time, I head to my parent’s basement, about a mile away, because our current house is built on a slab foundation.

(If we don’t have time, two different neighbors with basements in our cul-de-sac have offered to shelter us. Or, we could get into an interior closet. We have lots of options.)

Anyway, to recap, I had just finished cooking a favorite recipe on a rainy spring day when I got word that a tornado had been spotted one town away and was heading my direction.

I grabbed the diaper bag, threw on shoes, and headed to the car while my husband strapped our son into his car seat. But then I had an idea. Why not bring dinner? I had made more than enough to share, and it was just sitting there completely ready in the pot getting cold.

So I hopped back inside toward the kitchen, but my feet were now wet. As soon as I touched the kitchen tile, whoop!

I fell.

Now, I’m lying on the floor. My first thought: oooouuuccch, I think I sprained my ankle. My second thought: thank God nobody saw me do that. My third thought: I am so glad I wasn’t holding dinner while I fell, because I’m still looking forward to eating that!

I grab dinner and hobble out the door as fast as I could (because remember, TORNADO!).

But, yeah, I totally sprained my ankle. A couple of days of ice followed by a doctor’s appointment, x-rays and the following instructions: rest, wear this little brace, and “no sports.”

So, aside from one memorable meal, the dinner rut continued.

THIS BOOK SAVED ME FROM MY DINNER RUT! (Affiliate link)

I had requested it at my local library weeks ago, and while I was laid up with hurt ankle and hurt pride. It was so inspiring! As soon as I was feeling up to going on a grocery run, I wrote out a meal plan, including three new-to-us recipes, and went shopping! 

And this recipe, Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash and Smoked Paprika, is an instant hit with my family. It’s going into my permanent rotation!

It reminded me of another favorite recipe of mine: Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta from CookingLight. But, as much as I LOVE that recipe, I never have enough time to make it on a week night. Believe me, I’ve tried!

Ingredients

  • 3 c chopped butternut squash (use frozen to save time!)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped (again, use frozen to save time, if you want!)
  • 2 tsp dried thyme (or leaves from 4 or 5 fresh thyme springs)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 lb any pasta
  • 1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  • fresh ricotta for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. in a baking dish lined with foil, toss together squash, onions, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper, and paprika. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender and browning around the edges.
  3. While the squash is in the oven, prepare the pasta per package directions, reserving 1/4 c of pasta water before draining.
  4. Return the drained pasta to the pot and toss with the squash.
  5. Add the Parmesan with half of the reserved pasta water to thin and evenly distribute the cheese. (Note: I have to admit, I was a doubter on this step. A sauce made with starchy water and cheese? Noooope. BUT, I stuck with it, and it turns out just fine in the end!!)
  6. Serve immediately, topped with ricotta and more Parmesan.



Cookbook Review: Southern Pantry Cookbook

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This review of The Southern Pantry Cookbook: 105 Recipes Already Hiding in Your Kitchen by Jennifer Chandler includes a FREEBIE RECIPE for Weeknight Red Beans and Rice! Don’t miss out!

I didn’t intend to buy this book. I was bored and flipping through cookbooks looking at the food photography was a way to pass the time while my husband shopped.

Now, I don’t impulse buy things.  I’m a thrifty person, and I normally think long and hard before I make a cookbook purchase. I read amazon reviews. I check my local library.  My cookbook shelf is reserved for a very select few permanent figures.

I bought this book upon first glance, and I’ve had ZERO regrets.

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This book has nestled in comfortably among its peers on the shelf, but it hasn’t stayed on the shelf for very long! It’s extremely useful.

For instance, this delicious Weeknight Red Beans and Rice dish only took 20 minutes in its entirety. So easy and yummy!

For instance, this delicious Weeknight Red Beans and Rice dish only took 20 minutes in its entirety. So easy and yummy!

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I have fallen in love with the idea of using existing pantry ingredients creatively.  I was already compiling the Non-Chef FOREVER Grocery List before this book–which will be ready early next week! Yay!

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Weeknight Red Beans and Rice

(Or, like this photo, black beans and rice, because that’s what I had on hand.)

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lb Andouille smoked sausage, sliced thinly
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cans red kidney beans, rinced and drained
  • 1 1/2 c chicken stock
  • 4 cups brown rice

Instructions

0. If you would rather use dried beans, put beans in water to the brim in a crockpot on low in the morning and allow beans to soak in water for 8 hours. While preparing dinner, rinse with water before adding .

1. Start cooking the rice per package instructions.

2. In a large stockpot or dutch oven, warm oil. Add the sausage, onion, green pepper, and cook for about 5 minutes or until onion is tender.

3. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in oregano, thyme, and bay leaf (or, if you were out of oregano and thyme like I was, substituting a tsp of Italian Seasoning mix was still absolutely yummy). Salt and pepper to taste, and add beans and stock.

4. Bring pot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Allow flavors to meld for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Discard the bay leaf, and serve beans over rice.

TIP: If you are watching your carb intake, I have read that you can substitute black soy beans, which have a lower carb and higher protein trade-off.  Also, give cauliflower rice a try! 🙂

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Cookbook Review: Breakfast for Dinner

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This week’s cookbook review is over Breakfast for Dinner: Recipes for Frittata Florentine, Huevos Rancheros, Sunny-Side-Up Burgers, and More! with a recipe for Huevos Rancheros Tacos!

I love breakfast so much! It’s what I ask for on my birthday, and it’s something I look forward to on Christmas. If, for some reason, I was allowed endless ingredients for only one food category on a dessert island, it would be breakfast foods.

I am no stranger to eating breakfast for dinner. I have cracked an egg over a pizza before.  I keep pancake mix in the cabinet primarily for when I need a quick weeknight meal or a late night snack for a crowd. I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to savory waffles (a secret board, of course, because it’s getting embarrassingly obsessive).

I took one look at the huavos rancheros tacos recipe, and immediately added it to the meal plan this week. (It doesn't hurt that my fridge was filled with eggs I found on sale for about 60 cents/dozen either.) These tacos were MESSY but in such a good way! If you’re not a fan of runny egg yoke, my husband, Adam, made some awesome cheddar garlic scrambled eggs to fill the rest of our tacos.

When you’re not morning people, breakfast doesn’t often happen before 10 am or so. After 6 pm is even better!

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I am LOVING this book! Lindsey Landis and Taylor Hackbarth came up with some very creative breakfast food spins.  Cornflake-crusted chicken tenders, mini pesto quiches, lemon poppy seed thumbprint cookies, dessert pancakes. I didn’t have time to make everything I wanted to this week!

I always appreciate a cookbook that has a full page picture of every recipe, too.

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I took one look at the huavos rancheros tacos recipe, and immediately added it to the meal plan this week. (It doesn’t hurt that my fridge was filled with eggs I found on sale for about 60 cents/dozen either.)

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Seriously, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, where have you been all my life? That little can of peppers is the real hero in the ranchero sauce!

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These tacos were MESSY but in such a good way! If you’re not a fan of runny egg yoke, my husband, Adam, made some awesome cheddar garlic scrambled eggs to fill the rest of our tacos. I’ve included the recipe below!

Ingredients

Ranchero Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 largejalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 1 (15 oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce + 1/2 tbsp sauce
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

Tacos:

  • 1 (15 oz) can of refried beans
  • 8 soft corn tortillas
  • 8 large eggs

Cheddar Garlic Scrambled Eggs:

  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 c cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in medium saucepan, add onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Cook for 3 minutes over medium heat until beginning to soften. Stir in tomatoes with their juices, chipotle, adobo sauce, and oregano. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. While the sauce simmers, heat refried beans per package instructions, either on stovetop or in microwave.
  3. Use olive oil to grease a skillet or a griddle. Arrange a single layer of 3-4 corn tortillas and crisp over a medium heat 1-2 minutes on each side, or until the edges are browning.
  4. After sauce has simmered, blend in a food processor until smooth.
  5. Cook the eggs last.  Sunny side up can be made four at a time in a covered skillet over a medium-high heat for 4 minutes (5 for firmer yokes).  Scrambled eggs can be made all at once: crack eggs into skillet over medium-high heat, add milk, and stir constantly. Add cheese and garlic when eggs are almost firm.
  6. Spread beans on the tortillas and top with eggs and ranchero sauce. Enjoy!

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Cookbook Review: The Veggie-lovers Sriracha Cookbook

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I have an extreme fondness for this cookbook: The Veggie-Lover’s Sriracha Cookbook: 50 Vegan “Rooster Sauce” Recipes that Pack a Punch. Why?

My mother owns it and cooks for me from it.

Mom and I both LOVE a kick in our veggies, so this pretty much knocks our socks off every time.  Props to the genius who gifted this to mom! (Anna, was it you?)

In a blink, it was done. Seriously, 5 minutes of occasionally stirring sauce on the stovetop; the peppers need a couple minutes under the broiler — and, done!

When I received a large number of chili peppers from my produce co-op this summer, my mom suggested the perfect recipe for me: Grilled Shishito Peppers with Sriracha Satay Sauce

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It started with a purple onion on a yellow cutting mat. I have an afinity for when opposites on the color wheel come together.

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In a blink, it was done. Seriously, 5 minutes of occasionally stirring sauce on the stovetop; the peppers need a couple minutes under the broiler — and, done!

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Just one of the many delicious recipes I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy because of this cookbook.

Ingredients

Sriracha Satay Sauce

  • 1 (14 oz) can of coconut milk
  • 1/2 c natural peanut butter, crunchy
  • 1/3 c Sriracha
  • 1/2 red onion, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp brown sugar

Grilled Peppers

  • 4/3 pound Shishito peppers
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions:

“To make the sauce, combine the coconut milk, peanut butter, Sriracha, onion, garlic, [soy sauce], and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a bubble and stir to incorporate the peanut butter. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate for at least an hour.”

I personally skipped the refrigerating step. I imagine it thickens the sauce?

“To prepare the peppers, preheat a grill, grill pan, or broiler to high heat. In a large bowl, toss the peppers with the oil until evenly coated. Spread the peppers in a single layer on the grill or boiler pan. Cook until the skin is lightly charred and blistered.”

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