Thursday, December 20, 2012

Booklist: Top Picks and Recommendations

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Dear Reader,

If you are hunting for a last-second Christmas gift, or just in the mood to find some new literature for your shelves, here are my top cookery-book recommendations!  While I love all the books in my collection and many not listed here get used very frequently, these are the books I go to the most.  I keep these ones close to the kitchen, and their pages are oily, splattered, scribbled on and well-loved!

Click here to see a complete booklist of the cookery guides in my kitchen.  

Click here to read reviews I wrote for books we gave away in the past here on the blog, and for the San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review.  

Home Preserving, Canning, and DIY

Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving  A must-have guide for any homemaker.  Not only covering the rudiments of canning - explaining in detail and with illustrations how to both pressure can, and water-bath can - this book also address freezing and dehydrating, the other two most popular forms of food storage.  With recipes that have become our family favorites, and simple, straightforward instructions on everything from jerky to chutney to pickles to flash-frozen kale, this book is a staple for the kitchen shelf!  See the pickles we made here.

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It: And Other Cooking Projects  A favorite of mine, it has my most-well-loved recipe for lemon curd, an egg pasta I can hardly live without, and a collection of popsicle recipes that saw me through the hottest, sweatiest days of a post-partum summer!  I absolutely love this book, and every recipe I have tried from it has been an A+ winner.  And the sequel, which I don't yet own, is doubtless just as wonderful and beautiful: Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It: And Other Kitchen Projects

The America's Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook  An outstanding book that every DIYer, urban homesteader, home cook and processed-free-fan should absolutely own.  Read my full review here.  If you take anything home today, let it be this book.

Baking and Bread-Making

Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day  If you are one of those cooks like me who wasted untold bags of flour and yeast on bread that came out thick, heavy, ugly, and lumpy ... Welcome this book with open arms.  Regardless of your skill level, Reinhart will perfect and upgrade your bread, bun, pizza-dough, cinnamon-roll, biscuit, baguette and boule skills to the level of artisan.  I always wanted to eliminate store-bought bread items from our kitchen, but my bread wasn't nearly satisfactory and it always seemed so complicated a chore.  After this book came to our home (recommended by Miz Carmen), we stopped buying bread.  See a sample recipe here.  

King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking: Delicious Recipes Using Nutritious Whole Grains (King Arthur Flour Cookbooks)  Another recommendation from the Miz, this book is a winner.  It is my particular delight to choose a new item every few days to accompany our dinner, and this book wormed it's way right into the center of my heart.  I love it.  I love it.  Recipes for cookies, bread, cake, biscuits, all the usual plus more - and all using whole grains, delicious, wonderful, comforting, beautifully laid out and with two sections of photos.  See a sample recipe here, and here.  

Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie  My mom got me this book for Christmas and I almost cried the first time I made the crust and it turned out so exquisitely!  A beautiful, thorough compendium on PIE, this book is not only beautiful, but useful.  

The King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook: All the joy and variety of baking-the experience and tradition of America's most historic flour company (King Arthur Flour Cookbooks)  My second cookbook ever (the first was this, a book which I still own and LOVE the recipes from), this book has all the important recipes, variations, lessons, tips, tricks and even historical anecdotes for anything Flour that comes out of the kitchen, from doughnuts to butter cake to sourdough starter to waffles! This book is possibly (being one of the oldest in my collection and well-loved) one of the very messiest I own!

General Cooking Guides: All-Purpose In the Kitchen

The New Best Recipe: All-New Edition  Outstanding book covering all the basics of the kitchen: every cook should own this book.  Every recipe is a go-to, trustworthy and successful dish.  I have never had a flop from this book!  See a sample recipe here, sourced from a book that is a shorter selection of recipes from this one.  

Nourishing Traditions:  The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats  An excellent book for everybody learning to make their own yogurt, soak their own grains and brew their own medicine.  Read my full review here.  

The America's Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook: A Faster, Smarter Way to Cook Everything from America's Most Trusted Test Kitchen  This book is so much fun!  I love how the recipes in it can be whipped out in short order (but big flavor!), and it has been my saving grace more than a few times.  Read my full review here.

Soups, Stews, and Big Pots

Twelve Months of Monastery Soups  I cannot recommend this book strongly enough.  My older sister owned it growing up, and when I married Mr H I instantly went and bought this book (actually, I bought it just before we got married, so I wouldn't have to live a day without it).  Whenever I have a quick dinner I need, a long dinner I can start early, or a vegetable I am at a loss for, I flip through this very simple, spare book.  Lots of recipe, very little extra foofoo, it gets straight to the point.  All the soups have been winners, from Avocado Veloute to my age-old classic well-loved dearly-adored Caldo Verde!  See a sample recipe here.  

Recipes from the Root Cellar: 270 Fresh Ways to Enjoy Winter Vegetables  I accidentally left this book at my friends' house and she texted me how she was secretly glad I did!  When I came a few days later to pick it up, she said she was hastily trying to finish reading the entire thing!  Not only have I been stunned and boggled by the quality of the dishes in Chesman's repertoire, but I love her seasonal take on produce, especially useful to me since I prefer to cook with local and in-season foods.  Tackle turnips, love leeks, and krunch kale with all her fantastic recipes! 

Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever with More Than 400 Easy-to-Make Recipes  As you well know, this book has melted into my kitchen with such love that I can't even get it off my kitchen counter.  This is the best slow cooker book available! Read my full review here.  

Cooking Under Cover: One Pot Wonders -- A Treasury of Soups, Stews, Braises, and Casseroles  I "borrowed" this book from my mom three years ago.  Still "borrowing" it.  Can't let her "have" it back .. Ever!  I love how the recipes in this book all go into one pot, and come out like gourmet, way-too-much-work-went-into-this dazzlers.  Whenever I use a recipe from this book, I feel like a fancy chef (the book includes wine pairings, in case you are a fancy chef!) and I've never had anybody turn down a meal from this book, ever! 

Specialty Cooking: Sweets, Drinks, Entertaining

The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments  Don't let yourself head into another summer season without this ice-cream guide to see you through!  No longer can I eat store-bought ice cream (Dreyers?  Please ... spare me the sixty ingredients!), not after enjoying real ice cream.  The chocolate ice cream in this book?  So wicked, you can only eat a tiny bowl.  The cream cheese?  Ginger?  Lemon?  Tin Roof Sundae?  Stop me, please!  I love this book.  See a sample recipe here.  

Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust  This book is one of the newest in my collection, so I actually can't say it is splattered yet.  But I wanted to include it here because I truly enjoy all of Ina Garten's cooking so much.  I was introduced to her friendly cooking show when I was working as a hospice volunteer, and one of the patients I sat with wanted to watch her show many times.  I realized how easy her cooking was, how simple, straightforward, and fresh.  Using just a few quality ingredients, she was setting a table that looked out of this world!  Read my full review here. 

The Versatile Vita-Mix  You know why I wanted this book so badly (read why here!), and now that I have it I am loving every minute of it!   From smoothies to johnnycake, this book has been a family standby since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, and I am more than proud to have it join my collection now!

Homeopathy, Gardening, and Lifestyle

Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs and Food Supplements  This book isn't a doctor, but it can help pinpoint the causes of various malaises and offers solutions from the comfort of your home.  

The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!  An excellent guide for homesteaders today, this book will get you started on hog-raising and gardening!  Read my full review here.  

Vertical Vegetables and Fruit: Creative Gardening Techniques for Growing Up in Small Spaces  Read my full review here.

Culinary Reactions: The Everyday Chemistry of Cooking  An informative guide that will leave you better equipped for improvising, creating and experimenting with fewer flops in the kitchen!  Read my full review here.

World Cuisine

Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites  Great, simple recipes - all of them delicious; lots of color photographs! 

Where Flavor Was Born: Recipes and Culinary Travels Along the Indian Ocean Spice Route  This is a big fat book with lots of revolutionary (to the Westerners) and flavorful ways to use spices.  I enjoy international cooking for the simple reason that, while not only bringing new flavors and textures to my plate, it also expands my view of certain foods and helps shift paradigms in thinking about say, cinnamon or star anise.  

Ray's Boathouse: Seafood Secrets of the Pacific Northwest  A book from my native Washington state, this beautifully appointed book is a sophisticated treatise on preparing fresh salmon, crab, lobster and more.  

Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America's Farmers' Markets  What a gem this book is in my collection!  It has saved me more than once with an overful refrigerator of produce, while on the hunt for a new way to use some bountiful vegetable.  (Eggplant jam?  Summer squash pasta?) 

Italianissimo: Over 600 Great Recipes From Every Region of Italy  Actual italian recipes (think: not Olive Garden) with lots of pictures, although the pictures are not really my favorite part.  The best, fastest and easiest pizza crust I've seen yet is in this book; pizza bianca and acutal italian pizzas (no cheese!) will please everybody!

Gluten-Free, Vegan and Vegetarian Cooking

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule  Looking to do some vegan baking?  This miniature book has way too many recipes for its size!  Read my full review here.  

Raw Food/Real World: 100 Recipes to Get the Glow  Almond milk, smoothies, cashew cheese and other excellent ways to prepare raw and vegan food: use as a supplement to your already-nutritious diet, to learn some new ways to prepare vegetables and nuts, or if you are a raw foodie it will be an excellent all-purpose "cook" book! 

Fresh From The Vegetarian Slow Cooker: 200 Recipes for Healthy and Hearty One-Pot Meals that are Ready when You are  I love this book - and recommend it to anybody starting a vegetarian diet (or vegan, as any recipes not vegan have alternate ingredient options).  It was a chance find in a bookstore and I am glad I stumbled across it; soups, lasagne, even dessert and appetizers are included - and all of them with ordinary ingredients you can find in the grocery store.  

Gluten-Free Vegan Comfort Food: 125 Simple and Satisfying Recipes, from "Mac and Cheese" to Chocolate Cupcakes  Unglutenites rejoice - lots of recipe titles you will recognize but in exciting - gluten-free - new ways!   Read my full review here.

Mrs H

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