Daily Archives: December 6, 2012

12 Favorite Cookbooks of 2012: My Year in Review

Some people will tell you that I like to cook. And they wouldn’t be lying. But even more than I like to cook, I love cookbooks themselves. I read them as novels, flipping the pages, looking at the glossy pictures, reading the explanations of each dish, perusing the ingredients for the new and the familiar. And I collect cookbooks, much to the dismay of my limited bookshelf space.

In addition to collecting cookbooks, I enjoy checking out the latest cookbooks from the library and finding old favorites to enjoy again. I am always searching through the new books added to the collection, as well as through blogs and social networking sites, for cookbooks to add to my holds list.

Here are my favorite cookbooks I discovered in 2012:

What Chefs Feed Their Kids: Recipes and Techniques for Cultivating a Love of Good Food by Fanae Aaron – So apparently, chefs feed their kids food. Real food. Not “food” in those special packages labeled especially for toddlers or whatever stage of life your offspring happens to be in right now. Also, to be the most successful at raising kids who will eat real food, including vegetables, you have to start them young. Makes sense though, right? You can’t expect an 11-year-old to all of a sudden love asparagus, if they haven’t been exposed to it when they were developing their taste buds. So cook for your kids and cook a variety of things. You’ll be surprised how much happier and healthier you all become.

The Science of Good Cooking: Master 50 Simple Concepts to Enjoy a Lifetime of Success in the Kitchen by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen and Guy Crosby – Especially for the kitchen scientist who not only wants to know what to do, but why they are doing it, and what is technically going on inside their food. Included are things like an explanation of the Maillard  reaction, why it’s a good thing, and how to make sure you achieve that brownness when cooking meat. That gray layer on your salmon? Eat it, it’s full of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids. They even used blue colored water to show how much is absorbed by the different kinds of potatoes as they cook. All this is to help you understand why cooking a certain way is going to achieve better results than another way. Also known as the “proof,” for those who need it.

Appetite for Life: The Thumbs-Up, No-Yucks Guide to Getting Your Kid to be a Great Eater: Including Over 100 Kid-Approved Recipes by Stacey Antine – You would think I had a picky eater in the household. I really don’t. With the exception of not liking cheese or things with a cream sauce, my son will eat most everything. Cooked and raw fish? No problem. Brussel sprouts and sautéed spinach? Bring it on! But I am always on the lookout for kid-centric cookbooks that can expand my cooking, and therefore, my son’s eating repertoire. And if it’s healthy food to boot, then why wouldn’t I try? Excuse me, I think I hear the baked coconut shrimp calling us!

Whatever Happened to Sunday Dinner?: A Year of Italian Menus with 250 Recipes That Celebrate Family by Lisa Caponigri – This book made me want to cook every Sunday for the rest of my life. I seriously wanted to adopt a huge Italian family and spend the entire day in the kitchen cooking, talking, laughing, and just being together with a group of people who all share the same passion for food and each other. You never know, I still might adopt that family. Let me know if you have any viable candidates.

The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making by Alana Chernila – Now, I’ve pretty much always known about homemade lemonade, jam, breadsticks, granola, and marshmallows. But the idea that you can make your own “pop-tarts” was a revelation. And with the Hostess company having their issues, a recipe for making “twinkies” at home is going to be such a relief to some people. What amused me most was that the recipes in this book are divided into “aisles” instead of chapters, just like the grocery store items they are replicating.

Ten Dollar Dinners: 140 Recipes and Tips to Elevate Simple, Fresh Meals Any Night of the Week by Melissa d’Arabian – I like a cookbook that has delicious, easy to prepare meals that are also looking out for my budget. I love the new and exotic, but most of the time I need to stick with the comforting and familiar, if only to make sure I don’t break the bank. And how could I not trust a person with a name like “Melissa”? This one is being added to my permanent collection for sure.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond – I love Ree. I love Ree in that “I wish I had your life and sort of hate you because I don’t” kind of way. But I also love that Ree is a fellow ginger who isn’t afraid to cook, eat and advocate for meals that aren’t low-fat, low-calorie, or low-taste. She cooks stick-to-your-ribs food. She makes comfort food in a gorgeous kitchen in a modern ranch setting with four beautiful kids and hunky cowboy for a husband. *Sigh*

Garlic: Over 75 Farm-Fresh Recipes – I am almost half Italian. I don’t think I could survive without garlic in my life. Pretty much everything I cook could start with garlic and more than half would end with it too. But because I prepare meals for someone who can’t stomach garlic (literally), I have had to learn to do without it. I must say that at times it KILLS me and there have been times where I have used it anyway. (Sorry, Dear!) So for me, this cookbook was more in the fantasy cooking genre. But, oh! What a lovely dream it was.

Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust by Ina Garten – By now you may have gotten the idea that I am more than slightly obsessed by some TV chefs and cookbook authors. And you wouldn’t be too far off in that assumption. Ina Garten is another person whose life I would like to try on for size. Not in the least because she and her hubby are just so gosh darn cute together. I have enjoyed Ina’s other cookbooks and this one is no different. I want to go home NOW and make every single thing in this book. Because they are “foolproof”, I think I actually could too.

Livwise: Easy Recipes for a Healthy, Happy Life by Olivia Newton-John – Have you SEEN Olivia Newton-John lately?!? She looks exactly the same as she did in 1979. How does she DO that? According to this, her first cookbook, she does it by exercising daily and eating well. Eating well means organic when possible, very little red meat and processed foods, whole grains, and lots of fruits and veggies. The food was tasty looking and seemed easy enough to make. Now, I wonder if I could actually do this too…

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman – Another cookbook author that began as a blog writer. Deb cooks in a small New York City kitchen. Really small. I mean s-m-all. But she gets the job done. You just know that every one of these dishes is going to be the very best example of its kind. They’re not terribly difficult and don’t require lots of fussy ingredients either. And each one comes with a story. Have I mentioned how much I love a good food story?

The Quintessential Quinoa Cookbook: Eat Great, Lose Weight, Feel Healthy by Wendy Polisi – Quinoa is my new favorite grain. But up until now I had only cooked it like rice and eaten it with salt, pepper, and butter. This cookbook opened my eyes to the possibilities and versatility that quinoa offers. This cookbook is another one that I may actually have to make room for on those overstuffed bookshelves at home. (Christmas present idea alert! Hint, hint!)

I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season, filled with all the family, friends, and food you can handle!
-Melissa M.

P.S. I am often asked, “If you could only have one cookbook, what would it be?” This is always my answer to that question.


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