Great Food Fast: A Few Books for the Busy Cook

While take-out may be tasty' it can also shrink your savings while widening your waistline. Luckily, cooking doesn't have to be nearly as time-consuming as you think -- the newest crop of cookbooks is here to help you put dinner on the table fast and without fuss. Check out these great books for the busy cook.

You wouldn’t miss an episode of Top Chef, but the thought of crafting your own culinary delicacies simply makes your head spin. When you’re in the kitchen, you can hardly tell a spatula from a soup ladle. You’ve memorized the menus of all the takeout places in your neighborhood, but you can’t boil pasta without a cheat sheet.

OK, we’re projecting there. Maybe you’re more accomplished in the kitchen than we are – but even if you know how to cook, who’s got the time? Between work, family and all the little irritants of day-to-day life, it’s so much easier just to place an order at your favorite restaurant and bring your dinner home in a little brown bag.

While take-out may be tasty, it’s also costing quite a bit: Compare your usual $10 Pad Thai to a half-price homemade version. Making your own food also means that you’re in control of what you’re eating, which allows you to establish healthy eating habits and keep an eye on your calorie intake.

Cooking doesn’t have to be nearly as time-consuming as you think, either – the days of gourmet cooking a la Julia Child have long since passed, and the newest crop of cookbooks is here to help you put dinner on the table fast and without fuss. Without further adieu, here are a few great books for the busy cook.

30-Minute Meals, by Rachael Ray.
This famous Food Network star and talk show host seems to have a new cookbook out every month, but we still think her first effort is the best. In this book, she’ll teach you to whip up traditional Italian dishes and other simple and delicious meals in – you guessed it – 30 minutes. Available at Amazon.

Quick and Easy Recipes, by Mark Bittman.
If this author’s name sounds familiar, it’s no surprise – each week, he shares his culinary smarts with millions of New York Times readers. This book is a collection of 350 simple recipes that have appeared in his column over the years, written in a down-to-earth tone that even the most amateur cooks are sure to warm to. Available at Amazon.

Everyday Italian, by Giada de Laurentiis.
When you think Italian, do you think Olive Garden? If so, this fetching Food Network star will expand your horizons a bit. With simple, elegant recipes for classic Italian dishes like chicken piccata and wild mushroom risotto, this cookbook will show you there’s more to the Mediterranean than pasta and cheese. Available at Amazon.