Cookbook review: Modern strategies for an ongoing dinner dilemma

"The 'I Don't Want To Cook' Book: 100 Tasty, Healthy, Low-Prep Recipes for When You Just Don't Want to Cook" by Alyssa Brantley (Adams Media, $18.99)

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"The 'I Don't Want To Cook' Book: 100 Tasty, Healthy, Low-Prep Recipes for When You Just Don't Want to Cook" by Alyssa Brantley (Adams Media, $18.99)

“The ‘I Don’t Want to Cook’ Book: 100 Tasty, Healthy, Low-Prep Recipes for When You Just Don’t Want to Cook” by Alyssa Brantley (Adams Media, $18.99)

In 1960, Peg Bracken created quite a stir with the publication of her “I Hate to Cook Book,” a revolutionary counternarrative to stereotypical magazine images of happy homemakers cheerfully toiling over full-course family feasts. With sharp humor and quickie recipes such as Stayabed Stew and Cancan Casserole, she tapped into the frustrations of busy women everywhere who found cooking more exhausting than exciting, and produced one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time.

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Tastes may have changed, but the quest for kitchen shortcuts shows no signs of abating. Advice abounds from contemporary food writers across the media landscape.

Alyssa Brantley, the Seattle-based founder of the popular food blog EverydayMaven.com, lays out one of the more useful strategies in “The ‘I Don’t Want to Cook’ Book: 100 Tasty, Healthy, Low-Prep Recipes for When You Just Don’t Want to Cook” (Adams Media, $18.99).

The contents of this concise and attractively packaged little volume live up to the promises of its lengthy title. Recipes cover every meal plus dessert with an emphasis on fresh, wholesome ingredients, while taking advantage of a handful of certain minimally processed conveniences: bagged shredded cabbage, high-quality bottled pasta sauce, canned seasoned black beans, store-bought kimchi. She offers time-saving tricks such as freezing gingerroot and grating — skin and all — with a microplane directly from the freezer, keeping butter on the counter for easier spreading, and lining baking pans with parchment for easy clean-up.

Other than slicing an onion, there’s no knife work required for Creamy Paprika Chicken Skillet with Spinach and Tomatoes — a deliciously complex-tasting dish that owes its creaminess to coconut milk and is ready in half an hour. Pressure Cooker Pulled Pork provides the makings for future meals of tacos and barbecue sandwiches. And White Bean Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugula makes a near-instant hearty lunch or light dinner.

Should you suddenly crave something sweet, whip up a Maple Vanilla Microwave Mug Cake, or pull out the chocolate chips and mini marshmallows for Baked S’Mores Dip with Graham Crackers.

You just might come around to believing cooking can actually be fun.

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.

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