Oh, the dreaded weeknight dinner. What should be an enjoyable experience with the family often devolves into a major stressfest. You've toiled away for hours at work -- not to mention all that traffic -- and now the last thing you want to worry about is having the time and energy to prepare a meal for your loved ones (especially if you're also helping school-age kids with homework). It's understandable that you may be inclined to throw in the towel (or dish cloth, if you will) and take advantage of alternative means to get food on the table.
But instead of wasting money on takeout or sacrificing quality by shoving a meal in the trusty old microwave, know that you have plenty of incredible quick and affordable home-cooked options that are sure to make you and the family happy. Just let these indispensable cookbooks below be your guide (and keep an eye out for our favorite upcoming weeknight cookbooks for fall).
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Weeknights with Giada by Giada Delaurentiis
Giada is one of the few chefs who's earned first-name only recognition and this New York Times bestseller which is packed with recipes that are as delicious as they are simple to make perfectly illustrates why she is so beloved. The Food Network star offers a variety of fast and flavorful options sure to satisfy the whole family. No surprise, you'll find plenty of Italian standouts such as pizza and sweet corn and basil lasagna -- but other international options abound from jalapeño and cherry tomato gazpacho to Asian quinoa with salmon.
Quick Cooking by Mary Berry
While she may no longer host The Great British Baking Show, Mary Berry has returned to the telly with a show all about quick cooking. This cookbook spinoff highlights her latest obsession with meals that are high on tastiness and low on stress. Featuring over 120 different recipes which tackle appetizers, entrees and, of course, desserts (upside-down rhubarb pudding, anyone?), Quick Cooking provides easy-to-follow blueprints to memorable weeknight dinners that can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.
Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi
The latest from noted author and chef Yotam Ottolenghi certainly lives up to its name. While Ottolenghi's 130 Middle Eastern-inspired options run the gamut from lamb and feta meatballs to fig and thyme clafoutis, each and every dish has three valuable elements in common: They can be prepared in 30 minutes or less, in one pot and with ingredients that are likely already in your pantry. It's no wonder the book was a recent James Beard Award finalist. (A box set combing this and Ottolenghi's Plenty More is coming this November if you can wait.)
Dinner in an Instant by Melissa Clark
Normally pressure isn't something you want to incorporate into your weeknight food prep but there is one key exception. Using an Cuban pork and coconut curry chicken. But if it's a late work night, don't despair. There are plenty of options that can be prepared in under 30 minutes.(or other similar pressure cookers) will help reduce precious cooking and cleaning time without sacrificing the quality of your family meal. Dinner in an Instant will help you make the most of these life-changing gadgets with 75 eclectic recipes courtesy of celebrated New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark. If you've got an hour or two to spare, the book includes recipes for set-it-and-forget flavor-bombs such as garlicky
Every Day is Saturday by Sarah Copeland
Wife, mother, Food Network veteran and award-winning author Sarah Copeland came to the realization that Saturday didn't have to be the only stress-free cooking day of the week. Featuring over 100 recipes paired with stunning photographs, Copeland's latest cookbook will help you keep the fam satisfied will simple, healthy eats every day for every meal whether it's drinks, snacks (how about lemon and honey tahini toast in only five minutes?) or a no-hassle taco spread. There are also equally casual recipes for pulling off potlucks, picnics and dinner parties, including tips on getting ahead of yourself (a good thing when it comes to meal planning and prepping).
Feeding a Family by Sarah Waldman
Whether you have a hungry baby or a hangry teenager, Feeding a Family has you covered with 100 recipes and 40 full meal ideas for weeknight feasting, busy schedules and exhausting work routines be damned (and even picky eaters will be swayed). The emphasis here is on healthy food that is fun, flavorful and seasonal from make-ahead summer skewers that are great for showcasing the last of the season's tomatoes and zucchini to one-pot slurpee noodle bowls ideal for those cold winter months ahead.
Milk Street: Tuesday Nights by Christopher Kimball
If your family is keen on global eats, let Milk Street be your culinary passport. Forget those boring weeknight stalwarts. While Chef Christoper Kimball doesn't shy away from the familiar favorites, there's always a twist: Meatballs are of the Vietnamese variety while chocolate pudding is given a nutty kick with the addition of tahini. With a number of options in the 30 minutes or less category, you're sure to get plenty of mileage out of this James Beard award winner. (And take note: There are two new Milk Street cookbooks coming out this fall that we're eagerly anticipating.)
This story was originally published on Chowhound.