We are always thrilled to find new cookbooks that make life easier for parents, especially because meal planning (and cooking and serving and cleaning and cajoling the kids to eat any of it in the first place) can be…well, not our favorite part of the day. But we’re doubly thrilled when that new cookbook is from our very own Cool Mom Eats editor Stacie Billis. Whoo!
The smart, encouraging, and beautifully presented Make it Easy: 120 Mix-and-Match Recipes to Cook from Scratch-with Smart Store-Bought Shortcuts When You Need Them is the right cookbook for busy parents at the right time. As in, I am busy and I have no time so…I guess I mean it’s the right cookbook for me, and those of you who know just what I’m talking about.
– Don’t find an awesome gift card giveaway just for our readers, below! –
Disclaimer: I am totally 100% biased here. Stacie is not only a friend and colleague, but she has a permanent speed-dial spot (or speed texting?) on my iPhone, for when I have questions about kitchen shortcuts and meal hacks for my own picky eaters.
What’s great is that Make it Easy feels like all of that in-person, one-on-one, mom-to-mom advice I am always seeking is now coming to life on the pages of this book.
Overall, I find the book to be well-organized. The 120 delicious but not intimidating recipes included are sorted by meal and occasion, though hey, I’m not beyond serving her Extra-Thick Peanut Butter Granola Bars as breakfast, not a snack. There’s a great variety of options, from stuff I know my finicky kids would eat, to recipes that push them just a little bit.
A really brilliant touch that really does make meal planning easier, is that under each recipe, you’ll find a quick list of suggestions for other go-with recipes in the book. So for example, if you’re feeling the Ziti with Corn and Roasted Tomatoes, it’s easy to find a smart salad or quick veggie side dish; or even try your hand at fresh homemade ricotta, if you’re up for it.
But hey, you can buy ricotta too. No guilt, no pressure.
Beyond the recipes, there are all kinds of really helpful sidebars and tips like 8 easy things every cook should know how to make well, and 10 “totally acceptable” no-cook dinner ideas. There’s even a comprehensive listing of all kinds of brands Stacie recommends that are organic and/or non-GMO, most of which are easily found in any supermarket.
And because I happen to like my cookbooks with photos, there are plenty here and they’re just gorgeous. Like, Instagram-ready gorgeous. Even so, they’re not as perfect and twee and overly staged as most cookbook photography, making them both accessible and inspiring.
All this plus the encouraging and sympathetic voice of the author definitely gives me the confidence to believe that my own Asian Steak Salad or Bacon Cheddar Waffles or Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream Shell might even turn out looking somewhat close to what Stacie has made.
(Though I’d settle for 50% as attractive.)
Mmm…homemade chocolate shell. I’m so trying this.
I want to clarify that this isn’t a book for amateur cooks, per se. While you may already have a homemade vinaigrette recipe you swear by, you may just find a clever new salad idea to help put it to use. Or some new healthy toppings beyond avocado for your morning toast. And though cooking bacon isn’t exactly brain surgery, her suggestion for Oven-Cooked Maple-Glazed Bacon amps up your repertoire with very little extra work.
The real appeal of this book is that as a busy mom herself — proficient though she may be in the kitchen — Stacie totally gets the reality of the lives of other busy parents. She knows we’re feeling guilty about our cereal-for-dinner nights, and frequent semi-homemade shortcuts, let alone the fact that most of us are not pickling our own anything.
How refreshing to be helped; not judged. Even if it’s admittedly my own insecurities that make me feel inadequate when I read some other food blogs or cookbooks.
I’ll put it this way: Stacie’s very first tip in the Make it Easy intro is to ignore any expert who guilts you into trying to do better for your family, as if it’s your fault that you can’t set aside three hours each night for dinner or spend $8/lb on organic red peppers.
“Screw that,” she says.
So yeah, right off the bat, yeah. You know this is a different kind of cookbook.
Find Make it Easy by Stacie Billis from our affiliate Amazon or your local indie bookseller.
Extra-Cool: Win it!
In celebration of the launch of Make it Easy, we’re giving away a big $250 gift card to Target — plus your very own copy of the book — to help you get your kitchen ready for all the new recipes you’re going to want to make.
Need a new slow cooker? A hand mixer? A set of glasses or flatware that actually matches? We’ve got one of you covered!
Visit Cool Mom Eats for all the details on entering. Each day this week you’ll find a new post with an exclusive recipe from the book starting with Stacie’s kid-pleasing Hummingbird Muffin recipe, then her Steak with Sweet + Sour Peppers recipe — and each post offers more chances to enter.