Favourite Cookbooks of 2016

We had our first snowfall this week and instead of melting into slush, it stuck around to transform our world into a winter wonderland. Suffice it to say, I’ve had that song stuck in my head for the past four days.

There’s nothing quite like an abrupt switch from fall to winter to get one thinking about Christmas. Thinking about gingerbread and orange pomanders, cookie swaps and gift giving. Today, I’m here to help with the latter in the form of a cookbook-specific gift guide.

I’m not much help in recommending anything else, really, and so year after year, I give you my personal picks, in hope that a title will catch your eye – for yourself or a friend.

Last year I had so many favourite new cookbooks, that I had to split them up into Canadian and International titles. This year, I’m cramming everything into one post, so bear with me.

Favourite Cookbooks of 2016 || Simple Bites

My Favourite Cookbooks of 2016

I compiled my list this year with books that have inspired me in the kitchen and motivated me to learn more about cooking, baking, canning, and more. They have sparked research, initiated conversations on everything from Christmas pudding to preserving, and made. me. hungry!

In some cases, they’ve picked me up when I’ve been completely uninspired to make dinner and coaxed me back to the stove. Although they are new to my shelves, many of these cookbooks are already old friends.

Seven are Canadian, three are American and two are from the UK. This is a list of the cookbooks that grabbed and held my attention in 2016. They are incredibly unique, standing apart from the masses in an ever expanding world of cookbooks. Enjoy!

Make it Easy Cookbook Cover

Make it Easy by Stacie Billis.

Stacie’s cookbook gives home cooks a laid-back and flexible approach to family meals by using healthy store-bought shortcuts for maximum flexibility and full control. The recipes are solid; very clear and well-written. They are simple enough for beginner cooks and yet exciting enough to spark the interest of the advanced home cook.

The kids and I have been cooking from Make it Easy steadily since May – Greek-Style Kebabs, Everyday Waffles, Sweet and Salty Granola Cereal, Curried Cauliflower and Red Lentil Soup – just to name a few of our favourites. Most of all we loved the Lemon Ricotta Pound Cake, especially paired with our own roasted rhubarb. Make it Easy is staying within reach, that’s for sure.
Find Make It Easy: 120 Mix-and-Match Recipes to Cook from Scratch–with Smart Store-Bought Shortcuts When You Need Them on Amazon.com.

Oh She Glows Everyday Cookbook Cover

Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon.

To be honest, I haven’t delved into Angela’s new book as deeply as I would like, but I have read it cover to cover and absolutely love her fresh take on everyday vegan eats. The recipes are simple and easy to follow, thanks to Penguin’s stellar design, and the photos are bright and alluring.

Come January, after the holiday indulgences, this cookbook and I are going to get better acquainted.
Find Oh She Glows Every Day: Quick and Simply Satisfying Plant-based Recipes on Amazon.com.

 Vanilla Bean Baking Cookbook Cover

The Vanilla Bean Baking Book by Sarah Kieffer.

Sarah is a supremely talented baker and her first cookbook is absolutely stunning, filled with recipes for today’s baker, simple and modern, yet laced with nostalgia. It is quite exquisite, both in tone and beauty, for Sarah is also a gifted writer and photographer.

We wasted no time baking the Pumpkin Olive Oil Bread, and have bookmarked plenty more treats to include in our Christmas baking.
Find The Vanilla Bean Baking Book: Recipes for Irresistible Everyday Favorites and Reinvented Classics on Amazon.com.

Simple Cookbook Cover

Simple by Diana Henry.

Any cookbook that has ‘Eggs’, ‘Toast’ and ‘Pulses’ as categories is a win in my books. I could linger on these chapters and be perfectly content, but ‘Pasta’ calls, as does ‘Roasts’ and more. Diana Henry does it again with a cookbook to lure you back into the kitchen, if only for a simple plate of eggs and toast.

We loved her spicy Huevos Rotos (broken eggs) and have the Slow-Cooked Lamb with Pomegranates & Honey bookmarked for an upcoming Sunday Dinner. Also? An Espresso Loaf Cake with Burnt Butter & Coffee Icing. Yes. Please.

One small beef? Er, there are no beef recipes in the book.
Find Simple on Amazon.com.

Jamie Oliver's Christmas Cookbook Cover

Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook by Jamie Oliver.

Yes. This is the cookbook that I am reading far into the evening, and making menu plans and shopping list for the coming holiday month. Gosh, you all know I’m a big fan of Jamie (we’ve even met) so it should be no surprise that I am full of superlatives for his latest book. In my opinion, it is actually his best one yet.

This book is rich; it reads like a special holiday edition of your favourite food and lifestyle magazine, with page after page of luscious, over-the-top dishes interspersed with Christmas Jamie through the years. Being the hard core Anglophile that I am, I’ve book marked the British classics to make first: Roast Goose, Pigs in Blankets, Retro Trifle and Mince Pies.

Tiny complaint: Jamie’s Christmas has no breakfast or bunch recipes, and I am someone who likes a spread on the morning of the 25th. Jamie, what gives?
Find Jamie Oliver’s Christmas Cookbook on Amazon.com.

 Flapper Pie Cookbook Cover

Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky by Karlynn Johnston.

As someone who has never even heard of Flapper Pie, Karlynn’s cookbook felt like a reacquaintance with many of the long lost recipes of my Prairie heritage. Flipping through this beautiful book feels like strolling the church basement bake sale of your wildest dreams. Boozy Nanaimo Bars, Lemon-Lime Cheesecake Slice, Cherry Walnut Bourbon Buttermilk Pie, Salted Caramel Peanut Butter Cake…Apple Bacon Spice Fritters. Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky is over-the-top delicious and is sure to be treasured among Canadian families for generations to come.

The kids and I had fun making and decorating Karlynn’s Vanilla Birthday Cake Doughnuts (baked), and I will be making my very first Flapper Pie this Sunday. I can’t wait!
Find Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky: A Modern Baker’s Guide to Old-Fashioned Desserts on Amazon.com.

Purely Pumpkin Cookbook Cover

Purely Pumpkin by Allison Day.

I really buy very few ingredient specific cookbooks. Single subject, yes, such as slow cooking or canning, but generally I am not  a fan of an entire book based on one ingredient.  (Exceptions I can think of are Maple and The Perfect Egg) Leave it to Allison Day to win me over with her gorgeous pumpkin cookbook this fall.

Even though I loved her first book, Whole Bowls, I still cracked open Purely Pumpkin with just a smidgin of skepticism; however, I was smitten from the start. Perhaps it was the timing – I was so ready for fall flavours, hearty soups and, yes, pumpkin spice lattes – but more likely it was Allison’s creative flavour pairings, effortless writing and accessible recipes.

From those recipe I simmered Easy Lentil Soup with Greens and Pumpkin; sifted spices together for Homemade Pumpkin  Spice, and steamed milk for a Pumpkin Spice London Fog. I bookmarked a dozen more recipes, including a Gingerbread Pumpkin Cheesecake with a Pecan Oat Crust for the upcoming holidays.

Allison is definitely a young Canadian author to watch. She just announced her third book, Modern Lunch, to be published with Penguin Random House.
Find Purely Pumpkin: More Than 100 Seasonal Recipes to Share, Savor, and Warm Your Kitchen on Amazon.com.

Real Food Real Good Cookbook Cover

Real Food, Real Good by Michael Smith.

This cookbook is full of fantastic Monday-to-Friday cooking, which is such a specialty of Chef Michael’s. On a recent frigid Sunday, we happily tucked into bowls of his Root Vegetable Beef Stew, classic family fare and beloved by all. I love how this book has a nourishing alternative to so many family favourites. It’s a keeper!
Find Real Food, Real Good: Eat Well With Over 100 of My Simple, Wholesome Recipes on Amazon.com.

Out of the Orchard Cookbook Cover

Out of the Orchard by Julie Van Rosendaal.

Fruit desserts are my favourite, which was just one of the reasons I was so excited to get my hands on Julie’s new book. (We’ve loved all her other books, such as Gatherings and Spilling the Beans.) Of course this books provides inspiration for all sorts of cooking and baking with orchard fruit, not merely desserts.

Appetizers like Pear, Caramelized Onion & Brie Pizza, Sides such as Cider-Baked Beans with Peaches, and Mains like Braised Beef Shortribs with Cherries all capture the imagination. I began in the Preserves chapter with a spicy All-Fruit Mincemeat that is utterly delicious tucked into tarts.
Find Out of the Orchard: Recipes for Fresh Fruit from the Sunny Okanagan on Amazon.com.

The Spice Trekkers Cook at Home Cookbook Cover

The Spice Trekkers Cook at Home by Philippe and Ethné de Vienne.

Here’s another beautiful collection of recipes from Montreal spice expert and a truly special book at that. Recipes are nourishing and simple, based around techniques like Slow Roasting, Steaming, and Fermenting. Of course, The Spice Trekkers Cook at Home comes with a carefully curated spice kit to get you started on the recipes in the book. As if we needed any urging.

I made the Saffron Stuffed Dates first, tucking almonds into Deglet dates, then popping them into a jar and pouring cardamom and saffron-infused honey all over the top. The honey will preserve them for years, but I am sure they will be gone by Christmas.

I sat and read this new book from cover to cover the afternoon it arrived at my door. Any book from this husband and wife team is vibrant and colourful, but this book has a story behind it that really draws the reader in for a while. You’ll just have to crack the cover for yourself.
Find The Spice Trekkers Cook at Home on Amazon.com.

Batch cookbook review and giveaway | SimpleBites

Batch by Joel MacCharles and Dana Harrison.

‘Batch’ showcases seven different preserving techniques—waterbath canning, pressure canning, dehydrating, fermenting, cellaring, salting & smoking, and infusing—and takes readers on a trip to the market in twenty-five ingredients. If that sounds like fun, I can assure you it is.

The recipes in Batch can be done by people of all ages and all skill-sets. As the chief instigator for my family’s ‘preserving parties’, I love that this book supports my initiative to get the family and friends involved.

Among the many recipes I have made from Batch, the simple Carrot Sauerkraut with Red Cabbage as well as the vibrant BBQ Salmon with Blueberry-Ginger Sauce remain favourites.
Find Batch: Over 200 Recipes, Tips and Techniques for a Well Preserved Kitchen on Amazon.com.

 Molly on the Range Cookbook cover

Molly on the Range by Molly Yeh.

Molly’s book took me by surprise – in a good way! I love reading cookbooks like novels and Molly’s book crosses somewhat into the food memoir category. It’s remarkably funny and wonderfully witty, plus the recipes are loads of fun.

I have now been initiated into the world of Hotdish and Tater Tots after making Molly’s Chicken Pot Tot Hotdish, which my kids looooooved, by the way! I have quite a few recipes bookmarked, including a Squash and Ricotta Pizza with Sage and Arugula (yes, there’s a pizza chapter) and a Sesame Coffee Cake. Oh, and the famous Funfetti Cake, upon Clara’s instance.
Find Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm on Amazon.com.

Did you have a favourite cookbook this year?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. I *love* the new Skinnytaste cookbook. There’s an entire section on ‘bowls’ (and for someone who has celiac, bowls are so much easier than wraps’, which is what she transfers from) and ‘tacos’. Yes, Please! Used my $10 off amazon code on that one!

  2. When I got my copy of Simple, I messaged a fellow cookbook lover with ” there’s an entire chapter on toast!” I love cookbook lists. You’be got a few I haven’t seen yet – thank you!

  3. I’m absolutely smitten right now with Karlynn’s Flapper Pie and Blue Prairie Sky. I checked it out at the library, baked a couple recipes and now I’m going through a mourning period of having to return it for the next person in queue (a tell-tale sign that I need to purchase my own copy, pronto!). Despite living in the prairies for half my life, flapper pie was never in my vocabulary either, but it’s definitely on my to-bake list.

    Angela’s Oh She Glows Everyday is a nice follow-up to her previous book (which I adore). It is a little light on the entrees, but I love having a cookbook that provides healthier snack options to balance out all the cookies I’ve been enjoying.

  4. I bought the Small Victories cookbook for my friend, and am thumbing through it before I gift wrap it. I may have to get myself a copy.

  5. Love the book overview, I’ve got a few on my Christmas list! Just a word in Jamie’s defence…I think breakfast and brunch section is missing because traditionally people go to church service on Christmas day and they actually have a Christmas lunch and not dinner around 1-2 pm. I know!! I did it the first year we moved here as we had people over and it was such a rush to get everything done, so I after that I just gave up and said we are Canadians we do Christmas dinner!! 🙂

  6. I wanted to tell you I used your turkey recipe on Thursday. It was the fastest, easiest, moistest turkey I’ve ever made. My mom has asked me to share it with her when she hosts at Christmas!

  7. La Torontoise says:

    I have Diana’s Simple book and Jamie’s Christmas book – both are wonderful additions to what I already have. Experimented with quite a few recipes frok all books and they all worked extremely well: -)

    Jamie’s book made a wonderful pre-Christmas gift for a few women in my family!
    It’s on sale right now with Amazon.co.uk.

  8. I’m loving the fact that you chose SEVEN Canadian cookbooks! I recently purchased Oh She Glows, and I love it! To be honest, many of her recipes are similar to what I prepare on a daily basis – which obviously means that her cookbook really resonates with me AND I enjoy making the recipes. I just made one and posted it the other day on my Blog.

  9. I know they are not Canadian books, but I think Dorie’s Cookies (Dorie Greenspan) and Classic German Baking (Luisa Weiss) should be on your list. Also, Bake with Anna Olsen is superb – one of the best all-round baking books I’ve come across in a very long time.

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