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12 Favorite Cookbooks that I Actually Use

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Looking for easy, family-friendly cookbooks with tasty recipes? Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks or books about food that I use regularly. Add one to your collection and chuck five that you never cook from. 

12 Favorite Cookbooks that I Actually Use - Looking for easy, family-friendly cookbooks with tasty recipes? Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks or books about food that I use regularly. Add one to your collection and chuck five that you never cook from.

Cookbooks have always been some of my favorite books to read. Just for fun. Even if I wasn’t cooking. Even if I couldn’t eat.

It’s true. I broke my jaw in college (bicycle accident). I couldn’t chew for six weeks. Yet I read cookbooks that whole time. My roommates thought I was nuts. Didn’t that bother me to read about food I couldn’t have? Nope. I was enjoying good food in my head and planning for when I could have it again!

It used to be that I wanted all. the. cookbooks. Now I realize that our family’s favorite meals are the ones that have meaning attached to them, I don’t need every cookbook in the world. I need what we will use and remember.

I will always remember eating Pork Medallions on my 20th anniversary in the back yard while fires ravaged the county. This bruschetta has a special place in our hearts because we enjoyed it in France. Christmas isn’t Christmas without a homemade Buche de Noel cake. Memories make the meal. Or at least give power to a recipe. And a cookbook.

I don’t need a lot of cookbooks. In fact, thanks to your advice about my kitchen clutter, I chucked five from my cookbook shelf that I never use and I moved ten to the library that I want to keep for reference but don’t want gumming up the works.

I need reliable cookbooks that I love and that fit our family’s flavor profile. Since I read a whole cookbook from cover to cover, being able to resonate with the author and relate to her point of view definitely moves the book onto my favorites list.

Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks and other books about food. They are books that teach you to cook, books that work for novices as well as experienced cooks, books that I think are worth the money. These are the books that I keep, that get worn and torn, that get read over and over — and most importantly, that I use.

Note: Amazon is currently offering 25% off ONE BOOK when you use the coupon code BOOKDEAL25. The code will be good until Sunday, December 14, 2014 at midnight. Get more details here.

12 Favorite Cookbooks that I Actually Use - Looking for easy, family-friendly cookbooks with tasty recipes? Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks or books about food that I use regularly. Add one to your collection and chuck five that you never cook from. 12 Favorite Cookbooks that I Actually Use - Looking for easy, family-friendly cookbooks with tasty recipes? Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks or books about food that I use regularly. Add one to your collection and chuck five that you never cook from. 12 Favorite Cookbooks that I Actually Use - Looking for easy, family-friendly cookbooks with tasty recipes? Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks or books about food that I use regularly. Add one to your collection and chuck five that you never cook from.

Susan Branch Cookbooks

Vineyard Seasons and The Heart of the Home Cookbook are probably the first cookbooks I ever owned. I discovered Susan Branch‘s books while living in France, believe it or not. I was immediately drawn to the whimsical illustrations. Once I got home, I found the set for sale at Costco and snatched it up. I have cooked and cooked from these books as well as her follow up book, The Summer Book.

12 Favorite Cookbooks that I Actually Use - Looking for easy, family-friendly cookbooks with tasty recipes? Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks or books about food that I use regularly. Add one to your collection and chuck five that you never cook from.

 A Feast of Soups

I received A Feast of Soups at a bridal shower over 20 years ago. I owe the base of my soup-making knowledge to Jacqueline Heriteau. I honestly don’t make many of her soups on a regular basis, but the soup-making instruction that she offers is priceless. It’s got a cheeseball cover and slightly dated ingredients lists, but it sets a foundation for you to be able to make whatever kind of soup you like.

12 Favorite Cookbooks that I Actually Use - Looking for easy, family-friendly cookbooks with tasty recipes? Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks or books about food that I use regularly. Add one to your collection and chuck five that you never cook from.

The New Food Lover’s Companion

I bought my first copy of the Food Lover’s Companion as a newlywed. It is ratty and stained because we’ve used it so much. Sometimes it just sits on our kitchen table at suppertime as we discuss the history of food and the origin of certain ingredients. It’s like an encyclopedia of food that our family has really enjoyed learning from. We are loving The New Food Lover’s Companion that I received to review awhile back.

12 Favorite Cookbooks that I Actually Use - Looking for easy, family-friendly cookbooks with tasty recipes? Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks or books about food that I use regularly. Add one to your collection and chuck five that you never cook from.

The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook

I bought The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger fourteen years ago this Christmas. My husband had bought me my first bread machine, and I was bummed that my first attempts at good bread had failed. He urged me to find a book about it, and so I did. This is the authority on bread machine baking. My copy is falling apart because it is probably my very favorite cookbook ever.

Interesting trivia: My editor edited this book. My publishing company published this book, my very favorite cookbook. Coincidence? I think not. #matchmadeinheaven

12 Favorite Cookbooks that I Actually Use - Looking for easy, family-friendly cookbooks with tasty recipes? Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks or books about food that I use regularly. Add one to your collection and chuck five that you never cook from.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

When I am not using my bread machine to make bread, I’ve turned to Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. While it doesn’t make the best bread ever, it is delicious for how easy it is. The method is simple and helps us save money on groceries. If we had enough room in our fridge for the ginormous amount of dough we would need to feed our large family, we would probably make it more often.

12 Favorite Cookbooks that I Actually Use - Looking for easy, family-friendly cookbooks with tasty recipes? Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks or books about food that I use regularly. Add one to your collection and chuck five that you never cook from.

Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook

It may seem self-serving to add your own cookbook to a list of favorite books, but honestly? Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook is full of our family’s very favorite recipes in the whole wide world. It’s like a family cookbook that made it into print. I didn’t know that I’d go on to write other cookbooks, so this is all the standards that I’ve relied on over the years as well as some new ones. We love this book at our house. I hope you do, too.

12 Favorite Cookbooks that I Actually Use - Looking for easy, family-friendly cookbooks with tasty recipes? Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks or books about food that I use regularly. Add one to your collection and chuck five that you never cook from.

The Kitchen Counter Cooking School

I had already read Kathleen Flinn‘s first book, a memoir called The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, and was familiar with her experience in France studying at the Cordon Bleu. It is a good read, but The Kitchen Counter Cooking School is even better! My! how I love this book. It’s not a cookbook as much as it is a narrative about food and learning to cook. I reread it every year — and have had my older kids read it.

Note: I did paperclip shut the Red Velvet Dinners section because it isn’t completely family-friendly.

12 Favorite Cookbooks that I Actually Use - Looking for easy, family-friendly cookbooks with tasty recipes? Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks or books about food that I use regularly. Add one to your collection and chuck five that you never cook from.

Best 100 Juices for Kids

Honestly? If you don’t stand by your own recipes and rank them as your favorites, how can you hope that others will buy them. The kids and I wrote Best 100 Juices for Kids about a year and a half ago — and it was so much fun! The goal was to develop healthier alternatives to sodas, sports drinks, and bottled juices — and to do it without processed sweeteners. We had a great time developing recipes and now have a huge collection of juice, smoothie, sports drink, and popsicle recipes to rely on.

12 Favorite Cookbooks that I Actually Use - Looking for easy, family-friendly cookbooks with tasty recipes? Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks or books about food that I use regularly. Add one to your collection and chuck five that you never cook from.

The Bonne Femme Cookbook

The Bonne Femme Cookbook is such a great read! Author Wini Moranville and I share a similar past: we were both exchange students in France and we both have a deep abiding affection for the little town of Collioure in the southwest corner of France. This book encapsulates the French style of cooking at home. The recipes are delicious and very doable in America. Plus, the stories and anecdotes of life in France will please any francophile.

12 Favorite Cookbooks that I Actually Use - Looking for easy, family-friendly cookbooks with tasty recipes? Here are my 12 favorite cookbooks or books about food that I use regularly. Add one to your collection and chuck five that you never cook from.

Good Cheap Eats

Again with the FishMama cookbooks? Yes. Sorry. But, they honestly hold my favorite recipes. {said in a mild whine} I got an email back in September from a reader accusing me of shamelessly plugging my newest book. Honestly? I love this book. I gave blood, sweat, and tears to birth this book. I cook from Good Cheap Eats almost daily and stand by every recipe. I recommend it because I like the recipes in it and I think it will give you value.

I believe that about all the books in this list. They are honestly my favorites. If I had to get rid of most of the cookbooks I own, these are the keepers.

What are YOUR favorite cookbooks?

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Comments

  1. I’m glad you included your cookbooks in your list. Why would I trust a cook who didn’t like their own cookbook. This just makes me want to get them. Thanks for your list!

  2. Yes, you may “plug” your own cookbook(s). But you created them. Your hard work made them happen. You should be proud of not only yourself, but your books, too. And really, what’s the point of writing a book (cook or otherwise) if you don’t tell other people about it? An author writes in order to be read. At least when it’s published writing. I’ve loved and read both of your blogs since the early days and, I am proud to see what you’ve accomplished! So kudos to you. If you ask me (which I realize you didn’t, but…), plug away.

    Also, great list 🙂 I am especially interested in checking out the Bonne Femme cookbook.

  3. I’ve got Made Ahead Freezer Meals too! And Good Cheap Eats of course 😉 I also use “Budget Bytes” by Beth Moncel and 10 Dollar Dinners by Melissa D’arabian. Those are the four I use the most.

  4. I got Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion as a wedding present. Very thick book, but an absolute gem when you are wondering how to cook a particular food, or what ingredients go well together. I also have her Kitchen Garden Companion.
    And I love Beth Hensperger’s Bread Bible – I have become brave enough to try adapting some of her regular recipes for the bread machine.
    Maggie’s Christmas by Maggie Beer is getting a workout this Christmas. Great seasonal recipes that make the most of local produce.
    I’m also enjoying Mexican with the Mexican Slow Cooker Book – some great flavours there, and finding out about new ingredients.
    Also, a little bird might be bringing me Good Cheap Eats for Christmas. Yay!

  5. I love Susan Branch’s books. I’ve owned them for years. They’ve survived every single cookbook purge I’ve done. I make her Sweet Potato Casserole (without nuts) and Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes for Thanksgiving and Christmaa every year.

  6. I love cookbooks, and cooking magazines, and blogs about cooking! I received The Joy of Cooking as a wedding gift, and I have frequently used recipes from it. It is a good resource on various cooking techniques, too. I have also checked out The Fannie Farmer Cookbook from the library and enjoyed reading parts of it. I love to read the stories and anecdotes in cookbooks. And I think that the reader who thought you were shamelessly plugging your cookbook (Seriously?!?) has not tried any of your fabulous recipes or the $70 menu plans! I’m hoping to get Good Cheap Eats for Christmas. =)

  7. I love your Make Ahead Freezer Cookbook. I use it often. It makes freezer food actually taste good. I use my America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks regularly. Their stuff always turns out. I also love my old Fannie Farmer and Joy of Cooking Cookbooks. The Better Homes & Gardens red checked cookbook I got for my wedding 21 yrs ago also sees frequent action. Of course I have many more cookbooks and I really should just get rid of them, but every time I try to do that I just can’t make myself do it. I’m a chucker when it comes to other things, but not cookbooks. I’m just like you. I read cookbooks for fun. I always check out a huge pile of cookbooks at the library when I visit. I rarely ever make anything from these books–I just love reading them.

    • Melissa–I also have a red checked Better Homes and Gardens that’s about 23 years old, and mine has seen some action,too. When my mom went to Heaven a few years ago, I brought back her 1951 Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. I have many memories of mom using those recipes!

    • You’re the second to mention Fannie Farmer. I’m going to need to check it out.

  8. If I had to choose one book that I would never part with, it would be The All New All Purpose Joy of Cooking. It has everything, basics, more sophisticated cuisine, international recipes. Everything works, everything is delicious. Mine is tattered!!! But I love cookbooks to only have one!!

    • I gave away an older edition of JOC. Gonna have to check this one out. Do you find that it helps with making French items too?

      • The new version is different from the older one! Not even comparable. I find that their techniques are quite authentic, for instance, the ratatouille recipe. Lots of French women throw the veggies in a put and stew them but the JOC explains how to cook them separately and then together, creating a dish much better than what I had previously tried here! I love their chicken recipes, too. And desserts… and the sauces, like Thousand Island dressing that I made for the first time last summer.

  9. You might ask friends and families to keep their eyes open while thrift store shopping for:
    More with Less Cookbook Suggestions By Mennonites on How to Eat Better and Consume Less of the World’s Limited Food Resources Spiral-bound – 1979 by Doris Janzen Longacre (Author)
    Amazon has it this morning for over $90.! I wouldn’t/couldn’t pay that for it, but I return to it a lot. I also tend to lean towards recipe collections put together by organizations as fund raisers. Face it, those cooks know each other and are putting their best food forward!

  10. I find it pathetic that someone criticized you. You should have told them that when they write a cookbook then they can come back and tell you what to do. People are so rude. Loved this list. Thanks for some new suggestions 🙂

  11. I love my old Kathleen’s Bake Shop Cookbook by Kathleen King. Ms. King, who now operates Tate’s Bake Shop, is famous for her chocolate chip cookies. I think that she lost the rights to the Kathleen’s Bake Shop name.

  12. I LOVE your Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook & Good Cheap Eats, I use both of them at least once a week! (Just made Mac and Ham and Cheese Casserole last night!) Also The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook I got on your recommendation and it is in my favorites, too!! My other favorites are all three Pioneer Woman cookbooks and the various The Amish Cook cookbooks. They are written by an Old Order Amish woman (& later her daughter after the original author passed) and compiled from her newspaper columns. My mom’s side of the family is Amish/Mennonite so I enjoy these books a lot. I also read cookbooks like they are novels, and just recently started to purge some of mine seeing as I use the same ones over and over again, yet I had an entire bookshelf full, lol.

  13. Jessica, Thanks so much for telling us about Susan Branch. I love her blog and just bought 2 books. I can’t wait for them to come. I use your books all the time. I also use The Cake Mix Doctor books. She just wrote a new one with lots of great dinner ideas. Keep up the great work. Oh by the way I probley have over 300 cookbooks. I read them all the time live novels.

  14. I refuse to buy cookbooks as I want real recipes from real people. I have my Red Betty Crocker from when I got married that I do use . . .some. Most are from school & church cookbooks of people I know and know I like their food. I have a few Taste of Home Magazines that I’ve pulled many a recipe. I used Jonni McCoy’s Miserly Moms book quiet a bit earlier in our family when budget was tighter. But my issue about cookbooks is actually what led me to your site. The more recipes of yours I tried the more I liked. There are a few recipes I’ve adapted for personal preferences, but most everything I’ve tried, the fam votes thumbs up. So, when your NYM cookbook came out I had didn’t think twice about buying it. Your juice one is on my wish list, but I won’t use that as much so that is for later. I haven’t done a whole lot with GCE but love the layout/helpfulness and what i’ve tried so far—again, that was put on pre-order right away. In the digital age I’m more inclined to go online or get recipes from friends rather than clutter my space with books I won’t use. And seriously, the nerve. To say you shouldn’t promote YOUR cookbook on YOUR OWN blogs? 😉

  15. We wore out the More With Less cookbook I had gotten as a wedding present in 87. So my six kids replaced it with a 25th anniversary edition, which is still available on Amazon for about $15.00. My original wouldn’t be worth a mint, though, at the end of its working life I was keeping it in a plastic bag because we had worn the pages out of the binding. Also wore the pages out of my red, three ring Betty Crocker, which as à new cook I found easier to use that Better Homes and Gardens.

  16. I adore River Cottage Veg Everyday so much, I can’t even lend it to someone – I just can’t be without it! I honestly don’t think I knew how to cook vegies before this book. It has totally changed the way we eat.

  17. The cookbook I love the MOST on my shelf, and turn to most often, is How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. Hands-down my favorite.

  18. Who wouldn’t promote their own cookbooks?!? You should stand behind your recipes. If you don’t believe in yourself no one else will. I wouldn’t have seen your cookbooks if it wasn’t for this post, and they are going on my wish list.

    I of course find recipes online, but love to have books written by those who I follow online. You have lots to be proud of!

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