My life has been stupidly busy lately, but that doesn’t mean total internet silence! Here my friend Sarah tell us about a topic I know nothing about—cookbooks!
Hello, lovely readers! I am excited to be writing a blog post for Emily, but, let’s be honest, I’ve never been very good with introductions, so I am going to dive right in.
For me, cooking is therapeutic, sometimes challenging, and also a necessity (while I love going to restaurants, it’s just not an option every day). In college, my three most oft-”cooked” items were: Pasta Roni, quesadillas, and frozen pizza.
I realize this is not unusual college behavior, but once I graduated, I decided to learn how to cook more creatively and with more variety. From there, cooking became a hobby, especially during law school, because, well, I had to eat, so the time I spent cooking or baking became an enjoyable respite from the endless studying. (And, also, it led to such as dilemmas as: make banana bread or review for exams.)
Learning how to cook is easier these days, thanks to blogs, the Food Network and how-to videos on YouTube. I personally don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t google things like “how many ounces in a cup/how to make [insert trendy dish] that I found at [insert trendy restaurant]/corgi puppies. ANYWAY, despite this, I have learned so many dishes and techniques from cookbooks.
Maybe it is the nostalgia of looking at my mom’s cookbooks as a child, but I love having actual cookbooks on my bookshelf. I like tabbing my favorite recipes, flipping through looking at the pictures, and, most importantly, writing notes in the cookbooks. I like to note when something didn’t work in a recipe, when a substitute ingredient worked just fine, or when more or less of ingredient would have improved the recipe. This is really how you learn to cook – not by blindly following a recipe – but by testing, tasting, and improving.
So, let’s get to the good stuff. Below are some of my favorite cookbooks!
Cookbook You Must Own: Joy of Cooking
Joy of Cooking is the best cookbook because it has a large variety of recipes, all the way from the most basic – grilled cheese sandwich, scrambled eggs – to the complicated – croissants, braised bear (not a joke). But, it also has everything in between; everything a home cook should know how to make, like roast chicken, cake from scratch, fresh bread, and homemade sauces and condiments. Everyone that cooks at home should have Joy of Cooking as a reference.
Best Healthy Cookbook: Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen
Because I love to cook and bake, I naturally like to eat. Because of this, I try to eat somewhat healthy during the week, so that I can indulge more on the weekends at brunch or a new restaurant, and so that I can test out that pastry recipe I have been eying. Super Natural Every Day is my go-to cookbook. I make something from it almost every week. Some of my favorite recipes are the chickpea wraps, green lentil soup, and the bran muffins. And, brunch doesn’t always have to be unhealthy – the baked oatmeal is my favorite cold-weather breakfast. I first made this during a snow day when law school classes had been canceled, and so now I crave it when it is cold and snowy outside. There’s a sneak peek at the cookbook here.
Best Baking Cookbook – Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe and Joy the Baker Cookbook (tie)
I chose two cookbooks here because I think one is more for an experienced baker (Flour), while the other is for all skill levels (Joy the Baker Cookbook). Flipping through Flour makes me want to go on a baking spree – it has recipes for everything from homemade oreos and pop-tarts to chocolate eclairs and multi-layer cakes. It also teaches you how to make a variety of different kinds of pastry, bread & pie doughs. The recipes are slightly more complicated, but the instructions are super-detailed, which especially helped when I made a homemade caramel sauce for the first time (which was for the pineapple upside-down cake). Also, a number of the recipes call for equipment that not everyone has in their kitchen. Without a stand mixer, for example, some of the recipes might be off-limits (at least they were to me because I refused to knead dough by hand). But, if you want to put the time and effort into learning how to bake (which, in my opinion, is worth it), I definitely recommend this book.
On the other hand, Joy the Baker Cookbook has simple but delicious recipes, and any home baker could make most of the recipes. For example, the book has an easy no-roll pie crust recipe that makes pie crust a lot less daunting. The recipes are easy, but still delicious and creative. Favorites from this cookbook include the single serving melty chocolate cake and the banana bourbon bread pudding (I love boozy desserts!). The author also has a blog with a great recipe index.
Best Vegetarian/Vegan Cookbook: Vegan On the Cheap
My mom gave me this book one summer when I stopped eating meat. That was a few years ago, and even though I decided to go back to eating meat, I try to make as many meals without it as I can. This book has some easy and affordable recipes: indian-spiced lentil ragu with spinach and tomatoes, curried vegetable salad, and linguine with lentils and roasted butternut squash. And, if you don’t want to use the vegan mayo and cheese that is called for in some of the recipes, use the real stuff! Cooking is about customizing meals based on your tastes.
Best Cookbook Based on a Blog: The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
The number of cooking blogs out there is insane – seriously, everyone and their mom has a cooking blog. And, a lot of these blogs now have cookbooks. I have picked out one of my favorites, which I think really stands on its own as a cookbook. The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, first of all, has gorgeous food photography. This book tops the list solely for food styling, but luckily the recipes stand up to the photos. I haven’t had this cookbook for very long, so I haven’t tried as many of the recipes but I already have a few favorites. For Christmas dinner, I made the balsamic and beer-braised short ribs with parsnip puree, and I plan on trying the mushroom bourguignon in the next few weeks. This cookbook also has many breakfast and dessert recipes, ensuring that you will get multiple uses out of it!
Hopefully, these cookbooks will inspire to start a cookbook collection, or add on to an existing one. I love the idea of passing on and sharing cookbooks especially with handwritten notes inside – the recipes will have become your own and can continue on with your family and friends. What are some of your favorite cookbooks? Any categories that I got wrong or right? I would love to hear your recommendations!