Cookbooks we have loved

My maternal grandma got a copy of The Old Fashioned Cookbook by Jan Carleton McBride for my father as a wedding present.  It’s full of wonderful American recipes from appetizer to dessert.  The cake section is especially amazing– I did not like cake at all before trying this book.  When my mom went to a low-fat diet, I was able to obtain ownership for our copy.

Another favorite from my parents’ is The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash. This fantastic book goes in and out of print all the time and has gone through a few editions and updates (now with microwave technology!). My parents would not part with theirs so we bought our own copy. If you belong to a CSA or have a garden of your own, you must get a copy of this book. It answers the question of, “What on earth are we going to do with all this X?” from basic preparation to elaborate recipes. And the recipes are delicious.

The New Laurel’s Kitchen book is fantastic if you’re trying to eat healthily and/or vegetarian. The recipes in it are creative and tasty, even though they only contain healthy stuff.  It’s a fun read too.  But very hippy-dippy.  What else would you expect from a cookbook coming out of a commune in the Berkeley area?  Additionally, if you want to bake with only whole grains, their bread book is not to be missed.  There are different techniques for baking with whole grain flour (which is “thirstier”) and The Laurel’s Bread Book covers them.

We’ve already talked about this duo of cookbooks from son Kevin and mother Nancy Mills. These are fantastic quick recipes for weeknights. We love them all.

The Cake Bible.  It is as advertised.

Baking with Julia. This cookbook encourages you to master a few basic recipes and use them with an array of different recipes. The weeks my partner spent mastering pie dough were wonderful indeed.

A new favorite that we’ve been going through, Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking.  It should be called, Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick, Easy, and Delicious Indian Cooking.  Also:  pretty sure it’s healthier than the stuff we get for take-out.

We have a few Best Recipe books, which are good go-to books when something isn’t in the Old-Fashioned Cookbook.  Our favorite is the Best Recipe Make-Ahead cookbook. It is great for making food in advance whether for a party, for someone with a new baby, or for yourself in the future.

What are your favorite cookbooks?

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45 Responses to “Cookbooks we have loved”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    Definitely new best recipe by cooks illustrated. Love the magazine too but I never seemed to make recipes from the mag…I just liked the pretty pictures and reading about the optimization experiments they’d do on recipes.

    Also love Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Coincidentally, I bought bread bible at the same time (brother to cake bible) and liked the apprentice book much better. Bread bible was resold.

  2. NoTrustFund Says:

    Oh how I love cookbooks! I love

    cookbook and 5 Spices for easy Indian.

    I gave my brother the new Smitten Kitchen cookbook a few months ago and it seemed great, I love her blog.

    Oh and I have the Vincent Price cookbook. It is out of print now so it’s an oldy. So fun to look through and best boglanasie sauce ever.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Who knew Vincent Price had a cookbook?

      Moosewood is a great vegetarian cookbook.

      Which Five Spices cookbook? (Powell’s is giving me 3 different choices)

      • NoTrustFund Says:

        Yes, who knew? Not sure how my family got it originally and then my parents bought me a copy a few years ago (not as expensive as it is now)

        Five spices by Ruta kahate

      • becca Says:

        I loves me some Moosewood. Got a copy as a teenager for my birthday in honor of my middle name (Bronwyn). There is a Bronwyn Schweigerdt who is associated with Moosewood (blogs as “fiber girl” these days, Google tells me). I *think* she is the one who was Bronwyn who was the nutritionist consultant for the first Moosewood book. She took my dad in and fed him when he was down and out, and so my middle name is for her.

        Also love the kid’s cook books by Katzen- Pretend Soup and Honest Pretzels. There’s a mac and cheese recipe in there that’s so easy I’ve stopped buying the frozen Amy’s kind. Also, the sauce works equally well for cauliflower and broccoli.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Oh man, I totally forgot our favorite kids’ cookbook these days:

    • saucyturtles Says:

      We got the Smitten Kitchen book for Christmas, and have made four or five things that have all turned out great, although they’ve required plenty of effort. It’s also fun to read.

  3. Veronica Says:

    I have several cookbooks, and enjoy reading them. As a single person, the one I go back to again and again is Jane Doerfer’s Going Single in the Kitchen: A Practical and Persuasive Cookbook for Anyone Living Alone. Good stuff.

  4. bogart Says:

    I have an old copy of Joy of Cooking, just because you never know what you might need to look up (and I don’t think full text is available via google books yet). But otherwise, my favorite (and pretty much only) cookbook is the internet (I lean toward simplyrecipes) where I can plug in things like ” ‘pork chops’ ‘orange juice’ ‘green onions’ parmesan” and get input on what I can do with what I’ve got on hand. That’s not the most challenging combination (of ingredients) but I’m still working my way into my morning coffee, so bear with me.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We also have the Joy of Cooking and pretty much only use it to look things up, especially when the internet disagrees on the temperature you’re supposed to cook something at.

    • darchole Says:

      My mother recently requested a new Joy of Cooking because her copy was basically falling apart. Then she said it was weird when the new one didn’t fall open to one recipe she used a lot.

  5. The frugal ecologist Says:

    I love cookbooks! My two favorites are laurels kitchen & Fannie farmer (FF is infinitely superior to joy of cooking). A new favorite is Afield, focused on processing & cooking local wild game and fish.

  6. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I don’t really have favorite cookbooks. I usually use the internets. But lately I’ve been pulling out the ones I DO have– The Food You Crave by Ellie Krager, and a couple of crockpot ones: Make it Slow, Cook it Fast and Lazy Day Cooking. I also have one called Extraordinary Meals from Ordinary Ingredients and I’ve been using that one too since my biggest issue with cookbooks is that I never have what they ask for. I bought my brother that Help! cookbook but have been eying it for me. Might throw that faster one and the Indian one on my wish list especially as cooking more asian/eastern inspired foods is on my Uberlist.


  7. graduateliving Says:

    Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I like his style, mostly because it feels like you don’t have to be a cooking genius to actually cook. I’ve made a number of things from his cookbook, some great and some not-so-great, but it’s really been a driving force in me trying new things.

  8. Cloud Says:

    I stumbled on Quick Fix Meals by Robin Miller at my library, and I liked it so much that I bought a copy. It has some really good meals that can be made within my magic 20-30 minute time frame.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Ooh, so many of those “quick” and “easy” cookbooks lie through their teeth. (Sure, quick AFTER you do all the food prep…)

      • Cloud Says:

        This one has recipes that actually can go from zero to the table in 30 minutes. It also has the usual “prep this ahead of time and then put it together in 15 mins” sort of thing, which I don’t tend to like and the “make this one meal and then here are some other recipes for the leftovers” thing, which also bugs me. But the truly quick recipes in this book are great! I’d say that about 1/3 of the recipes fit with how I usually cook.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Almost 100% of the Faster! recipes have worked for us (I think there was a rice and beans recipe we weren’t enamored of), and they’re very good on being realistic about the time involved. Similarly with the Help! book, though those are smaller servings (and for the amazing pork noodles… use thai chili sauce, not the rooster sauce… pain can still be delicious, but it is just as tasty without the pain).

  9. Holly@ClubThrifty Says:

    I need to check out the cookbooks for meals in 25 minutes or less. My kids are so impatient waiting for dinner!~ It’s not fun making dinner while everyone is crying =/

  10. chacha1 Says:

    I don’t use cookbooks much. My most-often-consulted is Better Homes & Gardens, you know the one with the Italian-restaurant red-checked cover, because it has easily-located basic preparation tips for almost everything. The recipes in it are mostly Midwestern Midcentury (i.e. not the way I cook), but the basic prep stuff is invaluable.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We have that cookbook! I don’t think we’ve actually used it, but I did read it cover to cover when I got a copy. Some of the recipes I had memorized (with slight variations) because um, I am Midwestern and midcentury lasts a lot longer in the Midwest. It’s been a LONG time since I made French onion dip or poured a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup over anything though.

    • bethh Says:

      ditto that – the red plaid BH&G is one of my go-to books for basic reference (cooking times) and also a great source for basic desserts like crumbles & crisps. Same with Joy of Cooking.

      My favorite entertainment cookbook is A Wolf in Chef’s Clothing – a very retro cartoony cookbook. It’s been reprinted but I have an original (minus the book jacket, unfortunately).

      [Ed: Apparently Powell's is also without the cover!]

    • Rosa Says:

      I have my mom’s edition (1974) and use it all the time (even though it turns out she never actually followed any of the recipes, so none of it is the food I remember from growing up.)

      People had given us Joy of Cooking but it never had the stuff I was trying to look up. I figure it’s a regional thing, East Coast vs. Midwest.

      I’m also a huge, huge fan of Lorna Sass’s book Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure. We use it (and our pressure cooker) 3 or 4 nights a week and I haven’t found a single recipe in it we don’t like. Not as big a fan of her non-vegetarian cookbooks, though.

  11. Linda Says:

    I have several Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks and always look at them first if I’m wanting a vegetarian or vegan recipe. Her recipes and explanations are awesome, and the books I have hefty and satisfying to lug around the kitchen. Otherwise, I often look up stuff through Internet searches these days when I am craving a fairly common dish; I usually look at several popular recipes and do a sort of mash-up on my own. (Not for baking or canning, though; those have to be followed very rigidly!) I’ve been referring to my more specialized books for non-standard recipes lately. For example, I have been making fermented foods like beet kvass and nutrient-dense things like bone broth. I get recipes for stuff like that from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Mmmm. As I get older I’ve come to appreciate those more nutrient-dense recipes. My depression-baby-SF-trained father is really into them, but it wasn’t until my DH took a cooking class that I realized how it’s not about saving money or even getting nutrients out, but about flavor. High class chefs make broth from scratch and their own pickles. (I’m still not crazy about kombucha.)

  12. plantingourpennies Says:

    This one by the Happy Herbivore is on my want list, as I have stolen some of her recipes from other sources on the web and they are excellent!

    But my go to reference for cooking old school things is the “New Doubleday cookbook”, which is like an encyclopedia and even has diagrams to show what parts of the animal different cuts of meat come from.

  13. Dr. Koshary Says:

    The only cookbook I can say that love is one of Claudia Roden’s.

    http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780375405068-0#product_details

    Some of the recipes are a little more work-intensive than I care for, but there are plenty of easy ones, too. A few of these recipes have sentimental resonances for me, which compounds the pleasure.

    I get a good bit of use out of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, too, but that’s actually an app on my smartphone, and I can’t say I love Bittman’s approach the same way I do Roden’s.

  14. rented life Says:

    Thanks for the Indian cook book suggestion. I want to get one but never knew what to get. I use my Betty Crocker cookie book a lot for holidays (as did my mom). Everything else is an assortment of recipes I’ve gathered over the years. Someone gave us a Rachel Ray book, which I hated because there’s no pictures. None.

  15. Rumpus Says:

    It’s not just a cookbook, but I like Alton Brown’s I’m Just Here for the Food: Version 2.0. His style of entertaining while informing makes it easy to learn the basics (and some advanced techniques) of cooking, and the few recipes I’ve tried have been good. I borrowed it from the library and was entertained enough to buy myself a copy.

    I think if I had good cookbooks of different types of food (i.e., Indian, Mexican, etc), that I could probably just plan out my week’s meals by picking a recipe from each. The Penzey’s catalog helps with that variety too.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We thought a perfect gift would be the Madhur Jaffrey Indian book with the spices most used in it from Penzey’s. But then Partner’s brother wasn’t sure if he liked Indian or not.

  16. zenmoo Says:

    I love ‘Yoshoku’ by Jane Lawson. It’s subtitle is ‘Japanese food western style’ and it’s a fantastic fusion recipe book. I figured once I’d checked it out of the library three times and cooked from it each time, I really needed to buy my own copy. My favourite recipes are ‘Mushroom and wakame broth’, Green tea noodle salad, salmon with citrus soy glaze, japanese hambaagaa with mushroom sauce and green beans with sesame miso dressing. I also like the green tea pannacotta. yum.

    For Indian (and other curries), I like Mridula Baljekar’s ‘Best-ever curry cookbook’.

    Best Ever Curry Cookbook
    by Mridula Baljekar
    Powells.com

    For baking, everything from Margaret Fulton’s ‘Baking’ has been delicious. It’s got a great mix of staples for everyday lunch-box baking and some real fancy pants stuff too. I only got it earlier this year as a birthday gift and it’s already very well used.

    For everyday, Donna Hay ‘The Instant Cook’ is good and I regularly save recipes from her magazine to evernote.

    My first ever cookbook ‘The australian women’s weekly Basic’ cookbook is now seriously dog-eared and food spattered. My mid-80’s version still has recipes for offal (like brains, kidneys & lambs fry) that seem to have been dropped from recent versions!

    For everyday other than Donna Hay, I tend to read cookbooks for recreation (usually from the library these days) and then cook stuff ‘inspired by’ rather than following a recipe exactly.

  17. Amy Says:

    There are two that I’ve liked that have not been mentioned yet. First, “The American Woman’s Cookbook” It’s more of a bible about all things food, I haven’t really tested many of the recipes. Although if I ever need to cook rabbit, I know where I can turn. Also, the Williams-Sonoma “The Weeknight Cook” has a lot of quick, tasty recipes. Some are easier to whip up in the time allotted than others, but we used this a lot a few years ago. Lately, as others have said, I just use the internet. There are so many great food blogs, I’d love to hear what everyone else’s favorites are. I frequent the Smitten Kitchen, Macheesmo, The Bitten Word and Annie’s Eats.


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