Open thread: Favorite cookbooks

Thank god for the internet. It’s so convenient when looking up recipes and ingredients. But I also have a cookbook collection that I treasure. It numbers about fifty cookbooks that I have accumulated over the years, mostly since getting married in 2003. Admittedly I don’t cook from most of them. In fact, I read that most people cook a maximum of three recipes per cookbook. I won’t get rid of any of mine, even the ones I don’t use very often, because I love looking at pictures of beautiful food and thinking about eating. My current favorites that I use include:

1) Betty Crocker Cookbook (Bridal edition) — I received this as a wedding gift and I use it frequently. It has everything in it.

2) Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution — Useful and approachable recipes – geared towards people just starting out cooking at home. I especially like all the recipes for roasting meat and “veg” in the oven because that is my current obsession. Of course the fact that Jamie and I chatted by phone and he wrote a blurb for my book certainly doesn’t diminish my enthusiasm for his work. He inspires me.

3) The Family Dinner — Simply a great book. I love all the personal stories from real people and famous ones, too. We’re all doing the best for our families and it’s great to see people cooking and eating together as a family. I met Laurie David in person at BlogHer Food in Atlanta in May. We share a dual passion for changing food here in the US. I’m a big fan of hers.

4) Cooking for Isaiah — I love this cookbook. It was one of the first ones that I bought since going gluten free. Again, the recipes are readable and friendly. I haven’t been disappointed by any recipe I have tried. I like that she wrote a cookbook for her son — aren’t we cooking to feed someone? Just like lunch ladies, we feed people we care about.

5) Cooking from the Garden — My sister gave this to me last Christmas, but I didn’t crack it open until we started getting CSA boxes. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing with all those new vegetables. It’s been helpful as the recipes are short and easy.

For a more complete list, you can check out my Listmania list: Cookbooks I own, which only lists 40 books (the Listmania maximum). Luckily for my family I make holiday shopping easy — virtually any cookbook will make me happy (including old ones and homemade ones).

What are your favorite cookbooks? What do I need to add to my collection?

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27 thoughts on “Open thread: Favorite cookbooks

  1. I am a cookbook lover as well! My wedding gift fave was Marcella Hazen’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, my favorite vegetarian cookbook is Mollie Katzen’s The New Moosewood Cookbook, and my newest cookbook purchase is Alice Waters’ In the Green Kitchen. My guilty pleasure is taking cookbooks out of the library – a great way to find those magic “3” recipes!

  2. I have a collection of recipes that I have collected throughout the years from websites, packages, etc (i’m 20!) and some passed down from my mother that I have put into a binder. Its not a “real” cookbook, but definitely my go-to book when it comes to making meals here at home for myself and my parents. I also love my mothers vintage version of Betty Crocker cook books, they have everything anyone would ever need in them and the recipes are reliable. I keep my Jamie’s Italy in my kitchen at all times and I also love Giada’s first cook book! When in doubt though, Food Network has the best recipes anywhere.

  3. My family is large and scattered and not the best at keeping in touch. About 20 years ago before alot of my great-aunt and uncles died she had everyone submit the best/favorite recipes and had it published. All the children are given copies after college. So I may have 30-40 cookbooks and the internet but that one is the most dog eared and loved of them all 🙂

  4. It’s tough to narrow down my favorites to just a few, but I really like the cookbooks by Heidi Swanson at — great if you’re looking for simple and healthy ways to cook interesting veggies and whole grains. For special occasions and holidays, I always seem to find something new to try in the Ad Hoc cookbook by Thomas Keller.

  5. One of my new favorites is Cooking With Coconut Flour by Bruce Fife, ND. Excellent not only for the gluten-free crowd but also for the grain free crowd. 🙂

    Mostly, I haven’t found a lot of great cookbooks but recipes from here and there. I’m also finding a TON of great recipes online. I’m putting together my own “recipe book” with all the Gluten-Free/Paleo recipes that we are enjoying.

    Here is my favorite pancake recipe: These are SO good that my non-pancake loving son enjoys them. This is my favorite pot roast recipe. I love doing it in the crockpot.

    So many recipes to try, so little time!

  6. Some of my favorites are:
    How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman
    Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin
    America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
    A Spoonful of Ginger by Nina Simonds
    any of Deborah Madison’s cookbooks

    I was near-vegan for 10 years but am not now; however, I still use my vegetarian cookbooks more than others because the recipes are flavorful with or without added meat/poultry.

  7. “Moosewood Cooks at Home” is my current favorite. It’s a vegetarian cookbook (I’m not vegetarian, but we typically eat a vegetarian dinner 2-4 times a week), and has plenty of delicious, flavorful recipes that can be made in about 30 minutes. I’ve only had the book for about 2 years, but we’ve definitely found some family favorites in there.

  8. i’m like you. i have a ton of cookbooks that i hardly use anymore, thanks to the internet.

    since you like reading books more than cooking from them, you might like the 2 cookbooks published by maya angelou. she includes stories about her past as an introduction to each set of recipes. the books also have pictures of the food, so you get recipes, photos, and stories all together. the titles are “Hallelujah! The Welcome Table” and “Good Food All Day Long.” i only have “Hallelujah,” but i’m looking forward to buying the second one.

  9. Moosewood! I especially love Enchanted Broccoli Forest. It was handwritten and the pictures are drawings, with doodles all through it. And the recipes are fantastic!

  10. The Gluten-Free Vegan, by Susan O’Brien is a really easy to use, TASTY cookbook that is delicious even if you aren’t vegan.
    The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook, by Cybele Pascal is my go-to baking book now that I’m allergic to soy and gluten. It avoids a ton of common allergens and is really yummy (especially the homemade oreos!)

  11. Joy of Cooking (I think it’s the most recent edition) is the one I go to the most, so much that it’s shedding pages and a replacement copy is on my Christmas list. Also Joy late 60’s edition, and Biitman’s How to Cook Everything.

    But I have way too many cookbooks!!!! Whenever I’m in a used book store, the first section I visit is cookbooks. I especially enjoy cookbooks from previous generations. Not necessarily useful, but a lot of fun.

  12. The two cookbooks that we have worn our and recently replaced are: Better Homes and Gardens: Heritage Cookbook and The Frugal Gourmet: Our Immigrant Ancestors. Keep in mind we don’t follow the recipes, but rather modify them for modern times. Ideas are good… blind obedience to a recipe is not necessarily so.

  13. Just this morning I decided that if I had to choose one cookbook it would be America’s Test Kitchen’s Family Cookbook. It has replaced Joy of Cooking for me lately. The whole book is full of great tips and photos. The recipes are classic yet modern. It hasn’t failed me yet.

  14. My favorite cookbook is the hand-written one that my mom and I have been working on since I was 4 (aka as soon as I could write my letters. I had some “interesting” spellings in the first few dozen pages…)

    As far as commercially available cookbooks go, my tried-and-true cookbook is 500 Treasured Country Recipes from Martha Storey. It isn’t one of those cookbooks with 15 recipes for the same thing; it has one, maaaaaybe 2 recipes for all the basics. When I wanted to make a pumpkin pie from scratch, this was the first and only cookbook I turned to.

    I have a recent addiction to Recipes from the Root Cellar: 270 Fresh Ways to Enjoy Winter Vegetables as well… when the temperature drops below freezing, my root veggie cravings come out to play.

    When I’m in the mood to get in touch with my roots (not veggies!), I grab The New Armenian Kitchen off my shelf. It’s a church cookbook full of Armenian recipes. It also has the bog-standard Jello Salad Surprise recipes, but the Armenian food is worth it. 🙂

  15. I second the Molly Katzen and Moosewood nominations.

    Also, bet you’d enjoy any of the World Community Cookbooks. Simply in Season is one of my go-tos for figuring out what to do with the CSA box. It doesn’t have the pretty pictures of some of the ones on your list. But is one of my most worn.

  16. Our challenge with cookbooks is having a go-to list of *easy* recipes for work nights. I think a lot of crappy food happens because of a lack of time and good, easy recipes. Convenience food is designed to prey on this problem. One of my favorite food blogs is geared toward parents who need quick but healthy, yummy recipes.

    We get a ton of recipes from Debbie’s blog. Her “naptime cooking” cookbook, Parents Need to Eat, Too, is coming out soon! We already pre-ordered a copy.

    In addition to her blog and some other random recipe blogs, we also use the Cooks Illustrated/Cooks Country annual quick and healthy recipe collections. Maybe we’ll give the America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook that several of you mention a go–we don’t have it.

  17. My favorites are The Joy of Cooking (1997 version) and The Passionate Vegetarian by Crescent Dragonwagon. They are both really instructional, with information about different foods rather than just recipes for particular dishes. When I get my CSA box and need inspiration for what to make with, say, okra, I can go to either of these cookbooks, look in the vegetables section, okra subsection, and have a description of what kinds of cooking methods are appropriate along with several recipes to choose from. I often go off-recipe and improvise, but they are a good starting point.

    The drawings and descriptions in The Joy of Cooking are useful (like different kinds of squash, peppers, etc.), but The Passionate Vegetarian has a lot more soul.

  18. I have Jamie’s Kitchen and that’s a really good book. I also have Gluten Free Girl and the Chef and the BBQ bible very good books. Other books that I really like Jenni’s Splendid Ice Creams is one I just got this fall and I’ve made 5 ice creams from it so far. I have The Balti cook book from which I’ve made almost every recipe. I love the “Big Beautiful Cookbook” series. I have the Big Beautiful book of Mexico, the Big Beautiful book of Provence, the Big Beautiful book of China and the Big Beautiful book of the Mediterranean. These are great books the recipes are wonderful and the pictures are beautiful. I have Ratio which really helps convert things to gluten free. Also The Cooks Book has about everything you will ever need.

  19. After Jamie’s books, I would say my favorite is Simply in Season. The book makes cooking seasonally EASY. There are a both vegetarian and meat recipes, which I particularly enjoy. Every recipe I’ve made (about a dozen so far) has been excellent.

  20. I use the internet sometimes, cause I have had a few recipes turn out horrible. I don’t have many cook-books but I am making a cook-book scrapbook. I use my grandmothers 1950 something Good housekeeping cook-book for some things,

  21. My current 2 favorite cookbooks are Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison, and Real Food Real Easy by George Stella. The second one is a surprise even to me! But there are some homerun, simple American recipes that I make over and over again, most notably the sirloin chili and the cabbage-sausage soup.

  22. I love Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook. I’ve cooked at least half of the book’s recipes and everything has been delicious. I’m also quite partial to James Barber’s cookbooks (he’s now deceased but used to have a very entertaining cooking show in Canada.) His motto was: “Good cooking is like good sex – you do the best you can with what you’ve got.” He has lots of good, easy, no-fuss recipe ideas.

  23. My current favorite is The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper. I totally trust those ladies. I have made about a dozen recipes out of it, and everything has been AMAZING. Plus, it’s geared toward weeknight dinners. Most of them are from staples, plus a few seasonal ingredients. There are a number of variations for each recipe, so you can make it at different times of the year. Also, most of the recipes are doable in less than 1 hour.

  24. I will join the chorus for “Joy of Cooking.” There are many cookbooks I look at for pictures and to be inspired, but “Joy” is the only one I feel I need. So many of the things I taught myself to do in the kitchen, I did by using their recipes as a framework.

  25. I love the Martha Stewart Everyday Food cookbooks (Great Food Fast and Fresh Food Fast, I believe they are called). They are collections of favorites from her Everyday Food magazine, and they have so many great, quick, tasty, healthy recipes.

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