Three Food Books You Should Own

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I love cookbooks. In fact, I was a strange child; I read cookbooks for fun. And copied recipes — for fun. Today, I’ve got a wonderful collection of well-worn books and recipe cards that I refer to, tweak, and enjoy.

Here are three cookbooks I love:

My copy of The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger is falling apart. I have used it so much over the last ten years when I got my first bread machine for a Christmas present. Truly, it has been a bread saver. When I first started using my bread machine, I had a few flops and was ready to throw in the towel, but my husband encouraged me to search out a cookbook on bread machines.

I parked myself in the cookbook section of a book store and browsed the selections. This is the one I settled on, and we’re all so glad I did. (Of course, I bought it for cheaper on Amazon.)

But it is actually worth its weight in gold. Not only does this cookbook hold a wealth of great bread machine recipes, but it also explains the science behind breadmaking and illustrates how bread machine baking is different from traditional bread baking. I find this information to be invaluable. It’s the front matter of the book, which some people ignore when referencing cookbooks.

Once I read this book from cover to cover, it changed how I looked at cookbooks. Now, when there’s a type of food I want to learn to make, I search out a cookbook on the topic and read the front matter very carefully. Usually, this is where the teaching happens. And you can learn so much that you aren’t reliant on the recipes themselves.

I tweak almost every recipe that crosses my path, often because I don’t have all the ingredients called for. This book has been my starting point for many a recipe. And since it taught me about bread, it’s given me the confidence to tweak away.

In the Know

Ok, another favorite is not a “cookbook” per se. But, it is a well-loved in these here parts. This well-worn book on my shelf is The Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst. I actually own the second edition which I bought fifteen years ago. It has been indispensable when I come across an unfamiliar ingredient or wonder how a certain vegetable should be stored.

Since we’re a family of foodies, it’s also been a source of dinner able conversation. Someone will ask about a food and where it came from or what it is. We get “the book” and learn together.

Sunday night we sat down to a meal of grilled chicken, couscous, and salad. And since couscous isn’t often on the table, it spurred some conversation. What is couscous, anyway? Thanks to The Food Lover’s Companion, we all know now that it is granular semolina.

A Newer Addition

A third book that I’ve recently added to my shelf is by my friend Erin Chase. Erin has put together a fabulous resource for those wanting to shave down their grocery budgets. Not only is every recipe in The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook marked with a price breakdown, but the front matter of this book is exceptional for the coaching it provides. Erin shows you how to start out couponing, matching to grocery sales, and meal planning.

Again, this is another cookbook that gives you tools for success, not just recipes.

What’s a favorite food book you’ve got on your shelf?

Don’t forget to pop over to Three Things You Should ….

About Jessica Fisher

I believe great meals don't have to be complicated or expensive. There's a better way, and it won't take all afternoon.

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  1. erika says:

    I’ve got to check out those books. They look wonderful!

    Without a doubt, my favorite food book is The More with Less Cookbook. I love all the different bread recipes, and have even ventured into other parts of the book. Plus, I think the philosophy behind the book is great.

    I also found, at a used book sale, this old Better Homes and Gardens Heritage Cookbook that goes through the history of American food – from the Native Americans through, like, the ’80s when it was printed. So much history and so many authentic recipes. I look through it every few months and plan historically- and geographically-based theme meals that I’ll never get around to cooking for the family.

  2. Nancy says:

    Like you, I read cookbooks as a young girl and I still read them like novels. I have quite a collection but the ones I always turn to are: the Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook; Cheap.Fast.Good. by Mills & Ross and allrecipes Dinner Tonight.

  3. Michelle P. says:

    We love the Better Home and Garden Cook Book, Fix-it-and-forget cook book, and Ball’s canning and preserving cook book!

  4. I also have quite the collection! I’m blogging my way through Simply in Season, so I’d say that’s at the top of my list right now.

  5. Ellen says:

    I really like my copy of “Family Feasts for $75 a Week.” by the author of Owlhaven. She has a lot of recipes for making your own sauces and mixes, and most of her recipes are from scratch with inexpensive ingredients and exotic flavors…

    • Ellen I also love that book. It has helped me save money and cook healthier for my family. I use the balsamic salad dressing all the time. The soup mixes are great as well.

  6. We must have been kindred spirits as children, ditto here!

    Ah, my three favorites, that’s a tough one. I love Food Companions as well, great reference book. My is tattered and very loved. To think of the other two, I had to stop for a minute and think of which ones have the most stains and notes, still a tough decision but here goes…. Jacques Pepin’s Complete Techniques, I love his method of teaching and he’s pretty cute! And last but not least, drum roll please….. Mastering the Art of French Cooking by my kitchen idol Julia Child. So here I thought I could limit it to three as you asked, but I have to toss in one more ~ Antoine’s Cookbook, from the fabulous little restaurant that opened in 1840 in my food favorite town of New Orleans. We cook a lot of wonderful seafood and I use it to refer to the classics for preparation. ~ Leslie

  7. Anna says:

    My husband teases me because I will read a cookbook for fun. At least I know I’m not the only one. I like to check cookbooks out of the library b/c I will usually only use a handful of the recipes, not the whole thing.
    One of my favorite cookbooks is Desperation Dinners by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. My sister gave it to me when I was pregnant with my first child over 10 years ago. It has been well used.
    I also like to get recipes from magazines. Taste of Home, and Quick Cooking (now called Simple and Delicious) are 2 of my favorite. I’m out of the country now, and can’t have a subscription, but they both have websites with numerous recipes.
    My favorite place to look for recipes online is (formerly recipezaar).

  8. susie says:

    i love 2 books:

    Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron; good for adults also, lots of recipes and discussion of food types, nutrition, how to prepare grains, beans, fruits, veggies, etc
    also teaches you how to make baby and toddler food

    Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld (Jerry Seinfeld’s wife); on how to sneak nutritious foods into regular recipes for kids and adults alike, and info on pre-preparing and freezing fuits and veggies

  9. Stacy says:

    I did the same as a child and still love to curl up with a good cookbook! Thanks for the new ideas!

  10. Amy says:

    These sound like great books. I have been wanting to check out $5 Dinner Mom. I really like Family Feasts for $75 a Week also! That book is wonderful and teaches you how to cook from scratch. Love it!

  11. I love my bread machine recipe book too….there are literally 100’s of recipes in it and tips for making great bread! I also have a series of cookbooks that are helpful with meal planning. They provide the recipe for the whole meal, i.e. meat, carb, and veggie so that it takes the hard work out of planning each dish seperately!

  12. Sara says:

    Hands-down – “How to Cook Eerything” by Mark Bittman. It is full of amazing recipes, tons of variations, and every one always turns out perfectly. I got this one for Christmas and it has replaced nearly all my other cookbooks already.

    …Except for the bread books by Peter Reinhardt – I am baking artisan quality bread in my tiny home kitchen. Love it.

  13. Nicole says:

    I love Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker . . . it was the first cookbook/recipes for slow cookers where I felt I learned how to master the slow cooker . . . largely because of the detailed explanation in the book. Like you said, I knew how to cook from reading that section! The other one I love is not a book but a series of magazines/books from Cuisine at Home. They have great step-by-step instructions and I love their weeknight meals and dinner for two books. I have so many other books I reference regularly … I guess the Cake Mix Doctor (all of them!) are invaluable for better than scratch cakes and the BEST frosting recipes!

  14. Alex Hall says:

    Those three sound great, but I’d have to say that my three favorite are: Cheap. Fast. Good., The Betty Crocker Cookbook, and Family Feasts for $75 a Week. All three of which I’d consider reference books as well. Who wants a cookbook that is only recipes? 🙂

  15. Oh, the shame… I never use cookbooks. I have a few recipes on index cards and print-outs from blogs but- other than that- I always cook on the fly. I’m the only one in my family like this and I have no idea where I got it from. You’ve mentioned that bread cookbook many times and, I must admit, it almost has me intrigued enough to get a bread machine! 😉 Thanks so much for linking up to Three Things Thursday!

  16. One of my favorite cook books is also a bread machine book, simply called The Bread Machine book! I got it on clearance a long time ago at Boarders for like $5.00. A great buy as I have used it a whole lot!

  17. Maya says:

    I join the list of cookbook readers!
    My 3 most used are:
    Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
    Once A Month Cooking
    Taste of Home Annual 1998 (just bc that is the year I have!)

    I really should get Erin’s $5 dinner book, looks good!

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