This isn’t going to be a ‘Best of 2013’ cookbook list. The simple reason being that I haven’t cooked from, read through or lapped up every new cookbook that came out this year.
My particular list is compiled with books that have inspired me in the kitchen and homestead and motivated me to learn more about cooking, baking, canning, and more. They have sparked research, initiated conversations on everything from pudding to preserving, and made. me. hungry!
In some cases, they’ve picked me up when I’ve been completely uninspired to make dinner (oh, it happens) and coaxed me back to the stove. Although they are new to my shelves, many of these cookbooks are already old friends.
I was a judge for this year’s Taste Canada Cookbook Awards and that experience really taught me how to scrutinize a cookbook. Before my involvement, I could intuitively separate the solid cookbooks from the weaker ones, but now I’m also aware of how important elements such as the author’s voice, research, organization, originality and food safety play into my choices.
2013 was an epic year for cookbooks. For the home preserving enthusiast to the vegetarian on your holiday gift list, here is my inspired cookbook gift guide for 2013. Happy browsing. Happy cooking.
For the aspiring home preserver:
Saving the Season is the latest addition to my growing collection of DIY resources. I may not need any other cookbook of this genre as Kevin West’s guide to all things canning, pickling and preserving is well-rounded and thorough. Short on large styled photographs, but long on charming short essays and tutorials, Saving the Season has me excited to further expand my knowledge of preserving.
I love that this cookbook has inspirations for preserving year-round, not just during the summer months. First up for me? Apple jelly, preserved walnuts in maple syrup and brandy, and a big batch of vin de pamplemousse. Happy Holidays indeed!
For the beginner home cook:
Michael Smith’s Back to Basics stands out for its gorgeous photography, workable typography, and well-written recipes. Chef Michael’s warm voice draws the reader in and encourages them to get in the kitchen, play with flavors and have fun.
Recipes are simple, but crammed with flair. It’s a great cookbook to give to someone starting out on their culinary journey, and who may need a little coaching in the kitchen.
Find Back to Basics: 100 Simple Classic Recipes with a Twist on Amazon.
For the lunch lady at home:
In Weelicious Lunches Catherine really understands what appeals to kids and offers over 160 recipes for fresh and creative healthy lunches. Her tips on reinventing leftovers, strategies for picky eaters, and principles for a balanced lunch are all incredibly useful – both for school lunch and around the home.
I have two boys in school, and I pack a lunch for them five times a week. They both have different ‘tastes’ and things can get a little boring. Fortunately, this cookbook has sparked my creativity and the lunch boxes are coming home empty!
For the healthy living devotee:
In Absolutely Avocados, popular blogger, Gaby’s love of fresh ingredients and California cooking style comes through loud and clear. Her first cookbook features 80 recipes that the most novice of home cooks could pull off with success. Gaby writes with flair and it’s obvious she’s passionate about the subject.
I love that many recipes are healthier versions of their caloric counterparts such as the Avocado Lobster Roll and the – yep, that’s right – Avocado Chocolate Chip Cookies. Each recipe is a nudge to invite some friends over and get cooking. Bonus points for mouth-watering images by Matt Armendariz.
Find Absolutely Avocados on Amazon.
For the incurable snacker:
Classic Snacks Made from Scratch has DIY enthusiasts jumping for joy, myself included. Author Casey’s rock-solid writing keeps you hooked and the enticing photos of snacks, such as the perfectly frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts, will have you reaching for a pen for your ingredient list.
Classic Snacks draws you in with the promise of recreating some nostalgia in your own home. As a mum, I want to keep the kids happy, but I just can’t hand over junk food with a clear conscience. So it has been fun to jump into Casey’s cookbook and make some homemade versions of those brand-name treats.
For the happy home cook:
I wasn’t sure how Chef Lynn could top her first cookbook, Pitchin’ In, but she has gone all out with her latest, At Home with Lynn Crawford. Featuring 200 of her undeniably creative recipes, this cookbook is all about home cooking and makes me want to jump in the kitchen every time I open the cover.
Lynn gives us a fresh version of old classics such as Coq au Vin as well as plenty of fresh twists like her Bloody Mary Shrimp Salad. The book has a fantastic layout with easy to read recipes and gorgeous full-page photos.
Find At Home with Lynn Crawford: 200 of My Favourite Easy Recipes on Amazon.
For the lover of sweets:
If awards were given for most charming cookbook, Bakeless Sweets would take the prize. It’s seeped in nostalgia, yet is definitely reads as a cookbook for the modern girl. No-Bake Crème Brulé? Chai-White Chocolate Budino? Author Faith Durand delivers smart, sassy recipes perfect for any occasion.
Recipes are well written and easy to follow and the delectable, full-page photos are worth the price of the book alone. Who ever said pudding isn’t sexy? They obviously haven’t tried the sour cream pana cotta.
For the vegetarian:
Written, styled and photographed by the Swedish couple behind the blog Green Kitchen Stories, the beautiful cookbook Vegetarian Everyday is a colorful and creative ode to vegetables in every season. As parents to young Elsa, the authors are used to the ups and downs of cooking for little ones, so this is definitely a vegetarian cookbook the whole family can enjoy.
Find Vegetarian Everyday: Healthy Recipes from Our Green Kitchen on Amazon.
For the gluten-free/celiac household:
Gluten-Free Girl Every Day is the third book from Shauna James Ahern and decidedly my favorite, as family food is my passion. I love this cookbook’s healthy recipes that focus on seasonal fare – with a side of comfort and love.
Shauna’s writing is personal, open, and warm; I fell for the book as soon as she invited us to look in her cupboards – and tour the whole kitchen, really. Bonus? The photography and art direction are both knockouts, thanks to Penny De Los Santos behind the lens.
I doubt I have to say this, but Gluten Free Girl Every Day is not just a cookbook for those with a gluten-free lifestyle.
Find Gluten-Free Girl Every Day on Amazon.
For the hunter-gatherer:
Whole Larder Love is a visual feast for cooks, farmers, hunters, gardeners, and even urbanites looking to embrace country living, if only vicariously. Alongside gorgeous rustic recipes, the cookbook contains easy to follow tips and instructions for setting up a home garden, the best practices for hunting and fishing, how to identify and collect edible food growing in the wild, and the proper tools, gear, and resources to use. Love. it. all.
I’ve been so inspired by Rohan’s journey, and his cookbook continues to nudge me to get even more involved with the origins of the food I eat and educate myself about working toward a more environmentally sustainable food industry.
Find Whole Larder Love: Grow Gather Hunt Cook on Amazon.
For the spice adventurer:
The Golden Rules of Spices is the latest cookbook from Montreal Spice Trekkers, Philippe and Ethné de Vienne. It is a beautiful collection of 60 recipes, 20 spice blends, 6 whole spices and 4 Golden Rules. Yes, it’s a cookbook and spice kit set, with stories and recipes paired to each of the accompanying spices.
I’ve a bit of history with the de Viennes, enough to unequivocally vouch for the world-class quality of their spices and the warm humor in their sincere writings. This book will likely sell out before Christmas, so you’d better not wait long if you’d like to spice up your life.
For the literary lover:
Leave it to Julie to co-conceive the most original cookbook of the year, together with the über talented Pierre A. Lamielle. Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook is an illustrated cookbook that will delight and entertain both young and old alike. It contains the full text of the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll – a tale that was even quirkier than I remembered.
Julie’s recipes are sprinkled throughout the book, and I am pleased to say they include plenty of scones, sandwiches, cookies, and other delicacies well suited to tea time. This is one cookbook that will remain off the bookshelf until the boys and I have read and cooked our way through it.
Find Alice Eats: A Wonderland Cookbook on Amazon.
Disclaimer: Yes, this post contains Amazon affiliate links, which basically means that a small portion of the proceeds from books purchased through the links provided below goes to support this blog.
In case you’re interested, Amazon listed their best cookbooks of 2013. It’s another great list and congratulations to everyone mentioned.
Please share in the comments below: what cookbook (old or new) are you cooking from right now?