Monday, July 11, 2011

Top 10 Favorite Cookbooks

I have mentioned before that I love a good cookbook. Right now my baker's rack is filled with a variety of cookbooks, some very old and some fairly new. I have received many of my cookbooks as gifts, which I think is THE BEST GIFT, but I could use some new ones for my upcoming birthday. {Hint hint wink wink, honey}

If you are looking for a new cookbook, here are ten of my favorites:

1. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl.
If you don't already have this cookbook, run right over to Amazon or get in the car and drive to Barnes & Noble and get it! My sister-in-law gave me this book after our second child was born, and the stories and pictures provided many laughs. We love the Comfort Meatballs and our family's "Pizza Night" pizza crust is Ree Drummond's recipe. The.Best.Pizza Crust.Ever. Hands Down. My sister-in-law made the Mocha Brownies, and even my mom, a cooking extraordinaire, said they were the best brownies she'd ever eaten. Drummond's website also features many of her classic down home recipes. If you like hearty {not healthy} home cooking, then you need this cookbook!

2. The Whole Foods Market Cookbook. Given to me by the same wonderful sister-in-law, who knows my love of foods and cooking, this cookbook has provided several recipes that I make on a regular basis: the Sonoma Chicken Salad (always a hit at church potlucks and showers); Eight-Layer Tortilla Pie (everyone loves this one-dish meal); and Mashed Potatoes with Jalapenos & Cheddar (yum yum!). Plus, I love that all of the recipes are based on whole natural foods that are healthy and flavorful. Because of this cookbook, I have ventured out and tried ingredients like quinoa, couscous, and flax seeds.

3. Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.
My favorite Food Network cook is Ina Garten. Everything about her exudes classiness, something this family needs! :) Her recipes are practical but packed with flavor and perfect when having company over or just a night in with the family. We love her Cape Cod Chopped Salad, Company Pot Roast, Creamy Cheddar Grits (Note to self: I need to make those again soon!), and Baked Sweet Potato "Fries." I also appreciate the helpful tips she offers at the beginning of every chapter. Hospitality and being a good hostess are important to her, and Garten shares her secrets with us in her cookbook.

4. The Big Book of Potluck. My mom brought this cookbook back to me from Maine in 2003, and for many years, it set idly on my bookshelf. Recently, though, I was desperately searching for a pasta salad recipe, dusted this cookbook off, and fell in love. It has some wonderful salad recipes including a great Cobb Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Chicken & Pasta Salad, and, my favorite, the Big B Salad (with blacked chicken, butter lettuce, bacon, blue cheese, black beans, and buttermilk herb dressing). How can you ever go wrong with bacon? Also, there is just about every salad dressing recipe in here too. The homemade enchilada sauce recipe I make is from this cookbook. You will never go back to the canned stuff after making this!

5. Paula Deen's Kitchen Classics. When I'm looking to fix some Southern fare, I turn to Paula. I mean who else would give you the thumbs up for using a whole stick of butter in a recipe? There are too many recipes in here that I use frequently to mention all of them, but our favorites are the Honey Bars (a quick & easy dessert with ingredients you always have on hand), Artichoke & Spinach Dip, Barbecue Meatloaf, and Baked Spaghetti (a dish I regularly make for new mamas). Everything in her cookbook is easy to make and I usually have all the ingredients, which is definitely a plus for me.

The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook. I bought this cookbook from a Southern Living party {kinda like a Pampered Chef party but with home decor} and have never regretted my purchase. This baby gets pulled from the shelves at least two or three times a week simply because it has such a vast variety of recipes that have proven successful time and time again. A classic like the Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook, I started subscribing to the Southern Living magazine just to get more great recipes like the ones in this book. My favorites are the Sourdough Starter and Country Crust Sourdough Bread, Baking Powder Biscuits, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Bars, and Sweet & Sour Shrimp {I need to make this again soon, too!}.

7. Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook.
Everyone knows this classic cookbook by its red and white checked cover. It is what I call "The Bible of Cookbooks" because of the wealth of information included as well as over 1,200 recipes that are easy to prepare and delicious to eat. This is the perfect wedding gift or a present for a burgeoning new cook. I really appreciate the helpful labels on each recipe, designating if it is "Fast," "Low-Fat" or a "Family Favorite." Often times, these labels guide my decision on whether or not to prepare the recipe. Every recipe includes a nutritional analysis and easy to follow, step-by-step directions. This is the first cookbook I run to when I need to find a basic recipe like fudge frosting because I know it will be there and that it will be simple enough for me to do.

8. Serving up the Harvest: Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh Vegetables. I typically only pull out this cookbook during the gardening season when I have fresh produce coming out my ears and need some new ideas for ways to prepare or preserve it. This cookbook is organized by growing season beginning with asparagus in early spring and ending with winter squash & pumpkins in fall and winter and I love how for each crop, there is information on how to grow, sow, cultivate and harvest it as well as different basic methods to prepare it. Right now we are overrun with the cucumbers, so I am planning on making the Raita and Quick Crock Pickles from this cookbook.

9. Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home: Fast & Easy Recipes for Any Day. I picked this up on a desk outside a professor's office one day after hearing he was giving away free books. What a prize! I couldn't believe any one would give away a good cookbook, especially a Moosewood. Like The Whole Foods Market Cookbook, this cookbook has really challenged me to find and try out new, healthy, whole ingredients in my cooking. This Moosewood cookbook features only vegetarian meals but now that we do Meatless Wednesdays, I usually look here to find a recipe to try out when I do my menu planning for the week. We love the Muffin Madness and Multigrain Muffins recipes and make them pretty often these days. Also, when we have a garden full of fresh veggies, I like to make Pasta Tutto Giardino in which I can unload the whole garden. Super rich and delicious! One of my favorite features of this cookbook is its menu option: for each recipe, there is a recommended menu to accompany it. This makes meal planning much easier!

10. My cookbook collection.
I don't remember when I started this collection of recipes, but it is filled with clippings from newspapers and magazines as well as photo copies from other people's cookbooks and handwritten recipes from family and friends. It is simply a large photo album with recipes stuck inside photo pages and organized using divider tabs just like a cookbook. Right now it is in desperate need of reorganizing, and I probably need to start a new cookbook collection. But it is very handy when I need to find a good recipe like Grandma's Sugar Cookies.

What are some of your favorite cookbooks?
This post is linked to Top 10 Tuesday at Oh Amanda!

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