Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved cookbooks. As children, my sister and I would nestle on the sofa, The Encyclopedia of French Cooking opened between us, and we would turn it carefully, page by page, scrunching up our noses over the sautéed chicken livers and sighing over the Raspberry Charlotte and Grand Marnier soufflé. I didn’t know what Grand Marnier was, but I knew I wanted some.
My parents gave me my first cookbook when I was eleven. Pies. I think I made every pie in the book. It was the beginning of what has become a carefully chosen and beloved collection. I never tire of cookbooks. Even though digital recipes from blogs and websites are a huge inspiration and now a normal part of everyday life, I still love to flip through cookbooks, be they old favorites or new acquisitions.
Cookbooks make a fantastic gift for anyone who finds cooking a muse instead of a chore, but with so much selection out there, how does one choose a cookbook that will be used for years?
This following is a list of some of my absolute favorite and most useful cookbooks. I say ‘some’ with all honesty, as it was very hard to narrow the list down to ten, while keeping it diversified. Diversity is key, however, as the dear ones on our Christmas lists are all so different.
For the eco-conscious to the romantic recipient, here are my top ten cookbook recommendations to gift this year. A few are hot off the press and others have been around a tad longer, but are just too good to leave out.
1. For the frugal foodie
- Title: Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget
- Author: Amy McCoy
- Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Who doesn’t want to eat like a gourmet, but still stay within their monthly food budget? The Poor Girl Gourmet cookbook takes us on a low-budget, high-quality food adventure, but without an ounce of snob.
We’ve been blissfully eating from Amy’s friendly and comprehensive cookbook all summer long. Her Fish Cakes with Lemon-Dill sauce are in regular rotation on our menu plans, and Tangy Barbecue Sauce (several jars of which are stashed in my freezer) has forever changed my watered-down BBQ sauce paradigm.
2. For working mom (ie: every mom)
- Title: Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers
- Author: Pam Anderson
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Several years ago, I quit letting my background in fine dining dictate what I served guests during dinner parties and wouldn’t you know it, everyone started having more fun. Coincidentally, it happened around the same time as I became a mother. Spending hours on dinner details, while a stressed hubby jostles the baby is not the recipe to a happy family.
I also discovered that what makes guests most happy are simple meals with quality ingredients that are packed full of flavor; oh, like every recipe in Pam Anderson’s latest cookbook Perfect One-Dish Dinners. We’re already fans of the one-pot meal around here, but Pam’s cookbook opens up a whole new spectrum of ideas and inspiration.
You’ll want to entertain every night with this New York Times bestseller.
3. For the budding young chef
- Title: The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes
- Author: Amanda Grant
- Illustrator: Harriet Russell
- Publisher: Phaidon Press
Yippee! Finally here’s a cookbook for my kids with nary a sprinkle or mini-marshmallow in sight. Instead it is full of over forty well-balanced recipes that feature wholesome ingredients such as beans, fish and vegetables. All dishes are depicted with absolutely charming step-by-step illustrations that present cooking as fun – and it already holds the attention of my 5-year old.
At $13 on Amazon, The Silver Spoon for Children is a steal. There’s no question that this is the cookbook that will nurture every seed I have already planted in my boys and help inspire a lifetime love of cooking.
4. For the everyday gourmet
- Title: Gourmet Today: More than 1000 All-New Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen
- Author: Ruth Riechl
- Publisher: HMH
Everyone should have a cookbook in their repertoire that is the absolute last word on everything from apples to zucchini. When I was growing up, that book was Joy of Cooking; no matter what I was preparing, I knew I could always find a recipe there. But times have changed, and as Gourmet Today author, Ruth Riechl put it, “You aren’t eating the way you used to…the time had come for us to create a new cookbook, one dedicated to the way we are eating right now.”
Now, Gourmet Today is my resource for all things vegetarian, grilled, and much more. With recipes for ever occasion (and budget), this cookbook truly meets today’s needs.
5. For the health conscious
- Title: Lighthearted at Home: The Very Best of Anne Lindsay
- Author: Anne Lindsay
- Publisher: Wiley
For those of you who want a healthier version of the classic family comfort food, Canadian culinary icon, Anne Lindsay gives us over 500 recipes with a ‘lighter’ side to them in this new cookbook. Anne packs so much into this hefty hardcover book, with recipes from appetizers to desserts and everything in between. The hard part? I want to try everything!
Recipes are easy to read and follow, the photos are splendid, and the tips on healthy eating an added bonus. I particularly love the creative menu planning ideas, as I entertain often.
Lighthearted at Home is an extremely well-rounded cookbook and one you’ll want to buy and slip into your kids’ suitcase when they leave for college.
6. For the ‘sweetest’
- Title: Desserts 4 Today: Flavorful Desserts with Just Four Ingredients
- Author: Abby Dodge
- Publisher: Taunton Press
If you visited my home this past month, I apologize if I aggressively thrust renown baker Abby Dodge’s brand new book into your hands and babbled about how you have to read it and how Abby is an absolute genius.
It’s all true. This book houses a stellar collection of 125 desserts, each using only four ingredients. If that’s not simple enough for you, then I don’t know what is! We’re talking sophisticated, yet easy to make desserts for every occasion. If you know someone with a sweet tooth, then this is the book for them.
7. For the romantic
- Title: A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table
- Author: Molly Wizenberg
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Molly’s absorbing cookbook-memoir is one that you tuck under your arm and head outside with a glass of lemonade to read in peace. Once you have spread a quilt in the back yard and plopped down, prepared to be transported.
When hunger pangs finally force you to stir from your afternoon interlude, bring the book into the kitchen and dreamily prepare her father’s recipe for French Toast. It is perfect, as is A Homemade Life. This book was my favorite read last year, bar none, and the recipes are now staples around here, in particular, Molly’s buckwheat pancakes.
8. For the technical
- Title: The Zwilling J. A. Henckels Complete Book of Knife Skills
- Authors: Jeffrey Elliot & James P. DeWan
- Publisher: Robert Rose
Cut down on your meal prep time with this thorough guide to knife skills. From filleting a delicate fish to basic vegetable prep, this book has clear instructions on how to handle a knife, properly.
Favorite feature? The ring-binding makes it easy to lay the book flat on the countertop to follow along with the photos and instructions while you are practicing.
9. For the eco-conscious
- Title: The Ocean Wise Cookbook: Seafood Recipes That Are Good For The Planet
- Author: Edited by Jane Mundy
- Publisher: Whitecap
Do you know what ‘sustainable’ really means? How about which seafood species are properly managed? Do you know when frozen is sometimes the better choice? The Ocean Wise Cookbook gives clear instructions on which seafood and fish should be on your shopping list, and then provides a wealth of recipes for preparing them.
If sustainable is a way of life for you – or an aspiration, then The Ocean Wise Cookbook is the perfect addition to your bookshelf.
10. For the visual learner
- Title: What to Cook and How to Cook it
- Author: Jane Hornby
- Publisher: Phaidon Press
This cookbook is the next best thing to having a personal chef demonstrating right in your own kitchen. It really is the ultimate step-by-step illustrated cookbook – for adults; each recipe is depicted with clarity and demonstrated with as many as eight photos, leaving little room for question.
Recipes are classics: Cinnamon Buns, Barbecue Ribs, Apple Pie, Spaghetti Bolognese. You find all of your favorite comfort food between the covers of What to Cook and How to Cook it, and with such tantalizing visuals, you’ll be opening this cookbook frequently.
Which cookbook is on your radar for this Christmas?