Bare Minimum Dinners: Recipes and Strategies for Doing Less in  the Kitchen (9780358434719): Helwig, Jenna: Books

This review is for Bare Minimum Dinners: Recipes and Strategies for Doing Less in the Kitchen by Jenna Helwig, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in September 2021. I received an e-ARC on NetGalley from the author and publisher in exchange for honest feedback.


Easy recipes and shortcuts to spend less time in the kitchen—with fewer ingredients, less cleanup, Instant Pot and slow cooker options, meals made in 30 minutes or less, and other smart strategies

Getting a home-cooked meal on the table every day is an admirable goal, but it shouldn’t get in the way of your life! In Bare Minimum Dinners, Jenna Helwig—food director at Real Simple magazine—shares delicious, easy recipes so you can spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying your meal…or doing whatever else you want! Chapters include: Bare Minimum Time (30 minutes or less); Bare Minimum Ingredients (7 ingredients or less, including salt and olive oil); Bare Minimum Hands-On Time (slow-cooker and Instant Pot meals); Bare Minimum Clean-Up (one-pot/sheet pan/skillet meals); and Bare Minimum Sides (super-simple vegetables, salads, and grains so you can feel good about serving healthy, well-rounded dinners). Throughout, Jenna offers helpful tips—for example, how to keep salad greens fresh and at the ready, easy substitutions, and suggested supermarket brands—as well as easy ideas for dressing up or rounding out your meal.

My Thoughts

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for a copy of this cookbook in exchange for honest feedback. I will be cross-posting this review to Goodreads, as well.

Cover: The cover is appealing. I like the modern font choices and the dishes displayed. They look easy but also tasty, which I would think is indicative of the contents of the cookbook. The back cover blurb boasts easy recipes with fewer ingredients, less clean up and utilization of modern tools like the Instant Pot. So, I am interested in seeing how this cookbook combines these elements and translates them into recipe ideas.

Design/Layout: The book is thematically divided into these sections — Bare Minimum Time (recipes ready in 30 minutes or less), Bare Minimum Ingredients (seven or less ingredients), Bare Minimum Clean Up (Single pot or pan), Bare Minimum Hands-On Time (instant pot or slow cooker), Bare Minimum Sides (easy add-ons). There are designators for vegetarian dishes, MVPs (which indicate they fit into multiple Bare Minimum categories).

The cookbook begins with telling you about the book, the equipment you’ll need to do the recipes, pantry items, meal planning, reducing food waste, and some of the author’s philosophies on food / cooking.

The recipes are a decent range with most of them being somewhat familiar to anyone who likes to cook. That is why I would suggest this cookbook to two audiences. First, I would suggest this book to newbie cooks. This is because 1) you get a good range of dishes that have a diverse skill set. I would suggest it also to 2) cooks of any skill set with certain aims in their kitchen, specifically: lowering food cost, lowering food waste, or lowering the time they spend in the kitchen.

As for the value for the money, I think that it comes with the thematic groupings and range of dishes. You can group them all together and save time looking for ideas and compiling them, printing them, whatever. When you’re looking to do the bare minimum, I suppose saving time in that regard will help.