Full disclosure: I work at an amazing kitchen store in Oregon (Kitchen Kaboodle- shameless plug) so I have an amazing kitchen and love cooking and baking. To be fair, my husband is a better cook than me, but he can’t bake, so it evens out. Because of my profession, I have amassed numerous cookbooks, and I recently whittled down my collection to only ones that I use…and then I bought two more.
Which is okay because I got rid of some, right?
If you love cookbooks, try these out!
When cookbook shopping I go for interesting covers, lots of photos, and good reviews online. When I first bring a cookbook home, I go through it and mark every recipe that sounds good to me. Being a picky eater, I’ve been happily surprised by how many recipes I have marked in these books!
And I’m here to taste test any recipes you make, provided they are mushroom and olive free.
Thirteen is a baker’s dozen, and baking is the best, so here are my thirteen favorite cookbooks:
1. Brilliant Food Tips and Cooking Tricks by David Joachim
Okay, this one does have a bunch of recipes, but more importantly it has everything you need to know to cook stuff successfully and not poison people! It’s alphabetical by food/ingredient, and we turn to this book all the time. It’s given us a foolproof method to hard boil eggs, and shown us how to butterfly a chicken. My mom gave me this book when I went off to college, and I recommend it to everyone I know, especially if they are just getting into cooking. There are no photos, but lots of explanatory illustrations.
This book is great. Not only does it have lots of excerpts from cozy mystery novels, but it also gave me one of my new favorite recipes: champagne cookies! Lots of cozy novels include recipes, and this compilation is awesome. Try Funeral Potatoes from “If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance” by Paige Shelton, or Individual Chicken Pot Pies from “Affairs of Steak” by Julie Hyzy. There are no photos or illustrations, but I’m okay with it, just this once.
3. Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by Tim Federle
Featuring drinks like A Cocktail of Two Cities and Gin Eyre, this book is a must-have for anyone who likes drinking, reading and puns. Needless to say, I love it. It includes great illustrations that combine the books being used and bar fixings, and each recipe includes a little synopsis of each book’s plot. Tequila Mockingbird has added a few classics to my TBR pile!
4. The Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking by Carolyn Keene
I’ll be honest: I actually have not used this cookbook. Sorry about lying there in the intro…But Nancy Drew is my hero, and I love her (I have the tattoo to prove it), so how could I not own this book? With recipes like Red Gate Farm Meatballs and 99 Steps French Toast, all girl detectives should have this cookbook handy. It’s got cute retro illustrations, but no photos, and I would have preferred if it had art from the classic books within.
5. So Jane: Crafts and Recipes for an Austen-Inspired Life by Hollie Keith
I love Jane Austen, and I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making crumpets for awhile now, so when I saw this book on sale at New Seasons, I bought it. This book has lots of cute crafts and recipes that are divided by Austen books: Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Emma, Mansfield Park, and Pride and Prejudice. This book has tons of photos and I love how all the instructions are laid out. Makes even the more daunting crafts seem doable. For the Austen fans out there, you could throw an awesome Austen party using this book!
6. Pasta by Hand: A Collection of Italy’s Regional Hand-Shaped Pasta by Jenn Louis
I LOVE PASTA. Do you love pasta? Yes? BUY THIS BOOK. A) It’s beautiful, and B) it’s full of fancy pastas that you can make at home! I love making fresh pasta- it always tastes better than store bought. Louis notes which region each recipe originates, and if that’s not enough, she signed the inside of my book with “Gluten is NOT the devil!” Sorry my dear, gluten-intolerant friends, but this book is not for you. This book has a beautiful full-page photo for almost every recipe, and I really enjoy the fonts used! That might sound weird, but some fonts are awful, and these are so clean and crisp….just writing about this book makes me want to shut my laptop and make some pasta!
7. Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese by Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord
Mac & Cheese is possibly the greatest of all comfort foods. For those who have never ventured beyond the pre-packaged Kraft version, this book will open your eyes to a whole new world of delicious possibilities. Try their Petit Basque with Roasted Garlic, Shallots, and Gemelli, or give their Stuffed Zucchini with San Andreas Sheep’s-Milk Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes, and Macaroni a whirl. This book has lots of big photos, and I appreciate that nearly every recipe is contained to one page. There is nothing more annoying than having to flip pages back and forth with your flour encrusted hands to make sure that the recipe really did call for 2 tablespoons of salt!
8. Sheet Pan Suppers: 120 Recipes for Simple, Surprising, Hands-Off Meals Straight from the Oven by Molly Gilbert
Sheet pan suppers had a recent buzz when California’s drought brought on water rationing. One sheet meals were a great option because you didn’t have to wash a ton of pots and pans afterwards, keeping your water usage down. Ranging from Breakfast Berry Cobbler to Crispy Chicken Strips and Biscuits, this cookbook has recipes for every meal. It’s got great photos, and the only way it could be improved would be if it was hardcover. Paperback cookbooks never lay flat enough for me, though I recently bought the OXO cookbook holder from Kitchen Kaboodle, and it both keeps my books open, while also protecting my recipes from grease splatters! I highly recommend that every home cook invest in one. (Bonus: It folds down and can be stored with your cookbooks when not in use!)
9. Lodge Cast Iron Nation: Great American Cooking from Coast to Coast compiled and edited by Pam Hoenig
Cast iron cooking is AWESOME. We season our cast iron skillets with bacon grease (because we are super healthy), and we also have several cast iron dutch ovens, from both Lodge and Le Creuset. Even though Lodge compiled this book, you can use any cast iron pans for these recipes. This book has Easy Dutch Oven Sourdough Bread, Shoyu Chicken (yum!) and even Baked Spaghetti. I love seeing where in the US these recipes were found, and beyond just recipes and wonderful photos, this book also includes family memories of cooking with cast iron, cooking secrets from chefs, and a really handy metric equivalents page for cooks outside of the US. Those are not always found in cookbooks, and I thought it was mighty nice of them to include it! (If you do cook with cast iron, invest in a chain metal scrubber for your pots and pans. It will loosen all the burned on food and bits without removing your seasoning! Try the Knapp Made CM Scrubber- you’ll love it).
10. Fireside Feasts and Snow Day Treats: Indulgent Comfort Food for Winter Eating and Entertaining from Ryland Peters & Small
Now that fall is officially here (I put an extra blanket on top of my comforter!), this book will be in heavy rotation at my tiny apartment. It is easily one of the fanciest looking cookbooks I own. I bought it at work basically the day it came in. You can make a Spiced Pear Truffle, Cheddar and Cider Fondue, Leek and Cheddar Mini Quiches, and Mashed Potato Pie with Bacon, Leeks and Cheese. I love leeks, what can I say? This book is gorgeous, and the delicious food photos are kept company by fall and winter photos. This book will immediately make you want to curl up by the fireplace and start planning a fancy, yet comforting, dinner party.
11. Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever with More Than 400 Easy-to-Make Recipes by Diane Phillips
Lots of people only use their slow cookers in the fall and winter, but that’s a shame! Slow cookers are great to use in the summer also! You don’t have to stand over a hot stove, or sweat near your heat-emitting oven. And when you don’t have air conditioning (my kingdom for central air!) you try to keep as cool as possible, especially when cooking. Most slow cooker cookbooks lack photos, but this one does have some nice full-page ones! It also has just one recipe per page, which I enjoy. My first slow cooker cookbook had 4-5 recipes per page and it was just overkill. Some of my favorites are the Creamy Loaded Baked-Potato Soup, Diner-Style Meat Loaf with Gravy, Bolognese Sauce, and Penne Lasagna. If you have a busy schedule, slow cookers are life savers. You can prep all your food before work, throw it in the slow cooker, set the timer, and it will finish cooking and still be warm by the time you get home. You can also use it to cook things as you sleep! Brilliant!
12. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
Smitten Kitchen is a fantastic food blog that I discovered after everyone else had, and it seems like ALL my friends own this cookbook and swear by it! While the recipes aren’t always super easy and fast, they always turn out delicious. I was first introduced to Smitten Kitchen when my friend Katie made brownies from the blog and brought them to San Francisco. They are, to this day, the best brownies I have ever had, and I now make them often for family and friends. This is one of my newest cookbooks, and though I have tons of fancy recipes marked, I have only gotten to try a few. Next up will be Perelman’s Leek Fritters with Garlic and Lemon, Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats, and Red Wine Velvet Cake with Whipped Mascarpone. Let’s just say that I definitely marked more recipes in the dessert section of this cookbook than any other part. I particularly like that many recipes include photos of the process. This way I can tell how wrong I am, judging by how much my food does (or doesn’t) look like hers! I wish the recipes were laid out so there would be less page-turning involved, but it’s a heavy hardcover book, so I can let that slide.
13. Cravings: Recipes for All the Food You Want to Eat by Chrissy Teigen
Last but not least is my newest, and currently my favorite, cookbook. I don’t normally go for celebrity cookbooks, but I love Chrissy Teigen’s Twitter, and her and John Legend are adorable, and this cookbook got CRAZY GOOD reviews on Amazon! So when Powell’s Friends and Family Sale happened, this was the first book in my cart. This has also been my most successful cookbook purchase. I have almost every page marked as something I want to try making and eating. It also has ridiculous photos of Teigen and Legend lying in bed eating hashbrowns, or posing by the pool eating chicken wings. Teigen’s mom is Thai, so there are lots of delicious Thai recipes in here. You also get a lot of Teigen’s personal voice, which I found hilarious, like this gem from Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage: “My Dough Terror is well documented- I get night sweats thinking about having to combine flour, water and salt into something that is actually edible.” This book has tons of photos, and I have already recommended it to all of my friends…and physically thrust it into the hands of everyone who has visited my home lately. You’ll all thank me later! A few recipes I have marked include Pot Pie Soup with Crust Crackers, Sweet and Salty Coconut Rice, Pepper’s Thai Beef Salad, and Cheesy Guacamole. That’s right, Cheesy Guacamole. Color me intrigued!
Do you love any of these books as well, or have others to suggest?
There are several more I would like to add to my collection someday, namely anything by Julia Child (my hero!) and the Pioneer Woman (my first food blog I ever discovered!). Tis the season to buy cookbooks for all of your friends and family! Amazon is always a great resource, but don’t forget your local bookstore, and your local kitchen store. They might even have some autographed copies you can snag!