Cooking a meal can be a relaxing and creative project. It can also become a chore that forces home cooks to slide into a rut of boredom or, worse, order expensive and less-than-nutritious meals.
Alyssa Brantley comes to the rescue with The ‘I Don’t Want to Cook’ Book, a collection of 100 easy and tempting recipes aimed at making this essential task quick and relatively painless on those days when the kitchen doesn’t feel like the place your happy
Brantley, creator of the blog Everydaymaven.com, relies on big flavors and what she calls “whole meals, half the time” to create dishes that will tempt the family without stressing the cook. She encourages home cooks to take advantage of healthy snacks like shredded cabbage, peeled garlic cloves and rotisserie chicken to eliminate prep time and improve dinnertime.
Brantley lives in Seattle but grew up in Philadelphia and is also a fan of Louisiana food.
“My parents were very interested in trying food from all over the country,” she said in a phone interview. “My mom explored many different cuisines and tastes.”
“I was in New Orleans for Jazz Fest. I’m familiar with the food and I really like the taste.”
A favorite ingredient: andouille sausage.
“Andouille has a lot of flavor and adds a lot of complexity to dishes,” she said.
“Something I started doing was different kinds of seafood stews for my family. I started making a short seafood stew with shrimp, andouille and corn. The seafood and corn on its own are tender and sweet,” she said. , and sausage adds that spicy, smoky flavor.
In fact, the most useful chapter in the cookbook may be the one on the main meal. “Dinners That Don’t Last All Day” uses simple, quick-cooking ingredients like shrimp, chicken, and fresh or frozen vegetables to put together complete dinners.
“This is how I cook,” said Brantley, mother of two sons, ages 12 and 7.
And, she said, “I love the flavor. Mediterranean food, East Asian food—those are some of the biggest flavor bombs.”
Ingredients are kept to a minimum. With a handful of spices and sauces to mix and match, cooks can have an arsenal of easy and varied recipes to whip up on a weeknight, she said.
But life is short, so don’t skip dessert. A five-minute chocolate mousse is Brantley’s favorite.
Shrimp and avocado salad with sweet corn
Save time and prep work by using frozen, uncooked, peeled and deveined shrimp and frozen sweet corn kernels. Toss them together and toss them with fresh avocado, red onion, basil and a simple lemon olive oil dressing for a great salad that’s practically easy. This recipe comes together in less than 15 minutes. Serves 3.
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound frozen, uncooked, peeled, deveined large shrimp
1 cup frozen yellow sweet corn kernels
½ medium red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
1 ounce (about 1 cup packed) thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 large avocado, peeled, cored and diced
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Leave it aside.
2. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add the shrimp and corn. Continue to cook for 3-4 minutes until the prawns are cooked and pink.
3. Immediately drain the shrimp and corn and add to the bowl with the oil mixture. Throw it on the coat.
4. Add the onion, basil and avocado to the shrimp mixture. Toss gently to combine and serve immediately.
Korean-Inspired Beef and Rice Bowls with Cucumbers and Kimchi
Combine a simple but flavorful Korean-inspired sauce, ground beef, rice, sliced cucumber, store-bought kimchi, and scallions for a quick and delicious meal that everyone will think it is better than eating. Save time by reheating leftover or frozen rice. If you’re feeling extra fancy, sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on top of the mince before serving. Prep time five minutes, cooking time 10 minutes. Serves 4.
FOR the sauce
¼ cup tamari
2 spoons of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon of sesame seeds
1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1. To make sauce: In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine all ingredients. Leave it aside.
FOR THE MEAT
1 tablespoon of avocado oil
1½ pounds 80% lean ground beef
3 cups cooked white rice, reheated
1 cup store-bought kimchi
1 large English cucumber, cut into ⅛-inch half moons
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2. To make the beef: Heat a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add oil and ground beef. Sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently and breaking up the beef with a spoon. wood or spatula, until most of the rose is gone.
3. Pour the sauce over the beef and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the meat is cooked.
4. Remove from the stove. Divide the rice, beef, kimchi, cucumber and onion among four bowls and serve.
5-Minute Chopped Chocolate Mousse
Use your stand mixer or hand mixer to make decadent chocolate mousse in five minutes. Be sure to sift in the cocoa powder and powdered sugar for the smoothest texture. If you prefer a dark chocolate flavor, increase the cocoa powder to 4 tablespoons and decrease the powdered sugar to 1⁄4 cup. This can be done up to 24 hours in advance. Great served with whipped cream on top. Serves four.
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
⅓ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1. Cool a large stainless steel bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer for 15 minutes.
2. After it has cooled, add the cream and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
3. Add the cocoa powder and sugar and beat for another 3 minutes until a soft dough begins to form.
4. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days until ready to serve.
Recipes excerpted from the book “I Don’t Want to Cook” by Alyssa Brantley. Copyright © 2022 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Photos by Kelly Smith. Used with permission.