Thanks to some talented and creative chefs, my husband's desire for great taste and mine for simple prep & clean-up don't have to clash when we go to our cookbooks. Check out our "top 5" and share your own recommendations.

Our Cooking Story

My husband loves to cook: he grows herbs and knows the difference between various seasonings and spices; he scours, Recipezaar, and subscribes to Taste of Home in his reader. Whatever it is, he's willing to cook it so long as it produces delicious results.

As for me, I stick to baking, which I find relaxing; homemade rice-a-roni-like mixes, which are ready in just minutes; and recipes which call for dumping a few ingredients in the crockpot and eating it several hours later.

Here are the only 5 cookbooks we have; our "must-haves" when it comes to simple ingredients, simple prep, and even simple clean-up! Though we have delicious cookbooks, we reference these paper copies constantly and highly recommend at least the first 4 on the list for every simple chef (don't worry, the resulting dishes & flavors are anything but simple). Share your favorite cookbooks in the comments.

Note: Unlike some lists I write, these ARE ranked in order of how useful they are / how often I reference them. My husband would rank # 5 as # 1, but I don't consider it truly simple or worth buying unless you know (or are!) a serious chef.

1. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day - I could write a whole post on this one, but let me just say this: a) I love baking, b) I even love kneading, but c) I don't have a lot of time for doing so. Enter Artisan Bread in 5, flour, yeast, water, and salt, and I get to give my husband the french, wheat, and even flatbreads he misses from back home without having to wash anything but a glass measuring cup, a plastic bowl, and a spoon. And it really does take just minutes. Simple.

2. The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook - As the book's subtitle says, it's not just white, brown, and wild rices; pilafs, risottos, polenta, chilis, soups, porridges, puddings, and more all come from simple recipes in this great buy. Of course, you'll need a rice cooker for this one, but if you use it for this book's recipes plus those you can find online, a rice cooker's really a bargain home appliance.

3. Top Secret Recipes books - We have the out-of-print "Classics," but I hear the others are just as good. Often called "copycat" recipes, we're often looking these up online: how do I make french fries like my favorite fast food chain? How about "The Soup Nazi"'s famous soups? Todd Wilbur, who authors the Top Secret Recipes books, puts out very complete collections of well-done imitation recipes, many of which allow us to make our favorites with 'normal' ingredients we can get here.

4. George Foreman Grill recipes - I haven't actually bought the cookbook, but the paper booklet that came with our grill has several tasty, simple, healthy recipes I cook again and again. We have the smaller grill, though with the popular removable plate grill currently $50 off on amazon (comes with a grill, griddle, waffle iron, sandwich maker, and baking plate), I'd sure like to upgrade!

5. On Cooking - Literally a textbook. 1440 pages. On sale for $80. It's linked if you're interested, but truly, this is the cookbook for the serious chef hobbyist. Nonetheless, my husband uses the book all the time, so I couldn't leave it out (plus, who's ever heard of a "top 4" list?). It is simple in its own way - diagrams and tutorials carefully explain how to use each cut of meat, herb, and piece of produce, so you won't be stuck with a "1 can of this, 2 packages of that" type recipe. If you want to understand the significance of each item you put in a dish and make recipes of your own, this may be your book. I have to admit to having read the baking chapter to get a better grasp on what goes on with the yeasts and leavenings and to troubleshoot some problems I had at our new high-altitude home. But let me repeat again... you'd better be serious about cooking for this one to be a good investment!

6, 7, 8, 9, 10? Your Turn!

What "simple" (in whatever way you define that word) cookbook do you reference all the time? Don't keep the secrets to yourself; let us know what we may be missing out on! Links to reviews of cookbooks on your blog are welcome as well. Just please, share!