It’s hard to keep track of all the popular TV cooking shows and all the chefs “poised to be the next big thing,” but Curtis Stone, star of TLC’s only cooking show, “Take Home Chef,” just might make it. Curtis is an Aussie and that, he claims, makes him naturally relaxed, born chilled-out. And he’s determined to pass on that enviable quality to his growing audience (too bad he can’t pass on his hunky good looks). Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone: Recipes to Put You in My Favorite Mood is his good-natured, confidence-inducing debut cookbook. Each of the 124 recipes is designed to be simple and flavor-packed. There’s nothing radical or revolutionary (both concepts quite antithetical to relaxation) about Curtis’ cooking—he believes in using quality, seasonal ingredients (well, who doesn’t nowadays) and prefers comfortable meals with his mates to fancy, five-star productions. What animates cuisine a la Curtis is his easy approach and his relaxed repertoire. With good header notes and detailed instructions, his recipes cover all the bases—breakfast, brunch and lunch, daily dinners, party pleasers, sides, sweets and some special “scrummy comfort food” to enjoy on the sofa. Skip the stress, keep it mellow. 

No more needless kneading
Yes, the staff of life, your daily bread, that divine crusty loaf, can be made without kneading. In Kneadlessly Simple: Fabulous, Fuss-Free, No-Knead Breads, baking expert, food journalist and award-winning cookbook author Nancy Baggett (a perfect name for a bread maker!) explains how her knead-less method works and how to use it to make artisan-quality, yeast-based treasures: savory, sweet, crunchy, comforting and tender. No gimmicks here, no mixer-manipulated dough: Nancy advocates the long, slow, cold-rise, a technique in which the dough actually kneads itself. This is not an improvised shortcut, but a carefully thought-out technique that eliminates the obstacles—inflexible time, mess (here it’s one bowl, one spoon), inexperience—to making fresh, wholesome, affordable bread in your kitchen. Nancy provides a thorough understanding of the method, plus troubleshooting tips. Make sure to read the steps through, plan the timing (many hours, all unattended, are involved) to fit your own schedule and you’re off, ready to fill your bread basket with boules, baguettes, cinnamon sticky buns, ciabatta, raisin pumpernickel, panettone, pain aux noix and streusel coffee cake, fill your home with their unbeatable aromas and your life with the wonder of no-fuss, no-knead bread.

Make it quick, keep it simple
Never an aficionado of the frozen fast-fix, Diana Henry, food columnist for London’s Sunday Telegraph, had come up with many quick recipes for weekday dinners. But when she had a baby to care for as well as a demanding job, she needed to trade “quick” for “effortless.” And baby or no, we can all do with a few more effortless dishes in our everyday roster. Diana has collected more than 150 recipes and many of her no-cook or almost-no-cook ideas for super-quick starters and desserts, including flavored creams and jazzed-up tubs of good purchased ice cream, in Pure Simple Cooking: Effortless Meals for Every Day. Chatty and companionable (the Brits are always so good at this), she offers serving suggestions and easily prepared variations for every course: with a shift of a few ingredients in the marinade, honey-glazed Pacific Lime Chicken takes on a Catalan accent; use tapenade instead of pistachios, raisins and Marsala to stuff a boneless leg of lamb and you’ve got two elegant entrées; roasted potatoes take on new life with the infused flavors of garlic and rosemary, balsamic vinegar and mushrooms, or orange juice and marmalade. From chops to fish, pasta, veggies and fruits, you’ll find that the simple can be memorable.

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