Friday, December 21, 2012

My Favorite Cookbooks of 2012

First, let me state for the record that I realize I've been a slacker on this blog this month. I apologize, faithful readers. It's for a bunch of reasons -- lack of time, spending any free-time knitting gifts (or a hat for my son's Who costume for the kindergarten Grinch play), and simply enjoying the Christmas season with my family (we're making gingerbread cookies today). Honestly, it's been nice to take a break. Plus, taking a break has gotten me even more excited about this blog and its possibilities.

Okay. Excuses made. On to the post!

Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows of my love for cookbooks. I read them like novels. I love the pretty pictures. I love the possibilities. Lucky for me, 2012 has been a great year for cookbooks. I know I'm missing a few from my list (hopefully, I've either got this one or this one wrapped and under our Christmas tree right now) and I'm sure there are some out there I haven't even heard of (clue me in, please!), but I feel pretty good about this list.

That said, I meant to write this about my favorite cookbooks post sooner in case you wanted gift ideas, but...well...the excuses were made in the first paragraph. I guess you could still order one of these cookbooks (today is the last day for two-day shipping on Amazon for before-Christmas delivery) or you could hop over to a local bookstore (if you feel brave enough -- having worked retail for a few Christmas seasons, I know full well what shoppers face this close to Christmas).  Or, maybe you'll get a gift card for Christmas and you can pick one of these up after the holiday.

In no particular order (except for the last one which will be my #1 favorite of the year), here are my five favorite cookbooks of 2012.

5.  An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler
I'm cheating a little on this one because only the paperback version of this book came out this year (it was initially released in  hardcover last year), but I had to include it. I loved this book. It's not a traditional sort of cookbook --  no pictures, mostly prose with recipes thrown in here and there. But let me tell you, this book made the way I regard eating and cooking food so much more mindful. There's a thoughtfulness, a grace to the way she writes about the simplest things. At one point, she had me excited to boil a pot of water. Awesome. (For more on the book, you can read a full review I wrote a few months back here.)

4. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from my Frontier by Ree Drummond
I love PW.  I love her blog. I feel like I know her. I think if I saw her at the grocery store, I'd forget that she has no idea who I am, and start chatting with her about her family and the ranch like I'm a close friend. I absolutely loved her first cookbook - I've used it so often that the spine is broken, the pages are wavy and splattered, and some pages are starting to fall out. Everything I've made from that book has rocked (well, except the prune cake. Not my cup of tea, but I did try it). I say all that because I was chomping at the bit to get her newest cookbook this year. When I got it, I was so thrilled that it was thicker and had more recipes. So many options -- it even had a canning section (albeit, a really small canning section, but still!).  I have to come clean and say that I don't love it as much the first, but it is a great cookbook. Nothing complicated.  Lots of variety, something to please everyone.

3. Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round by Marisa McClellan
I love canning and I really like this book. No matter if you're a novice canner or if you've been canning for thirty years, this book has something to offer any canning enthusiast. I wrote all about it in full detail here.

2.  Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosentrach
We've heard over and over and over about the importance of family dinner. I completely agree that it's important on so many levels, that this simple act could help change the trajectory of society and our nation's families. In our busy world, it's a bit of a struggle for people (my family included) to sit at the table and have family dinner every night. So when I saw this book's title, I was immediately drawn to it. I mean isn't Dinner: A Love Story such a fantastic title?

This book is really cool in that it's a cookbook meets family memoir. I had fun reading through it, even though at times I felt like I couldn't relate very well to her experience. I felt like the author's complete opposite: she's a working mother (writing and editing magazines -- one of my dream jobs), Jewish, from the cool and busy New York City area, who unwinds with a martini in the evenings; me, a stay-at-home mom and Mormon girl, born, raised, and living in nice-but-sometimes-boring Utah, who's never so much as tasted a drop of an alcoholic beverage. In the end, though, our differences didn't really matter -- I still enjoyed reading her experiences, I appreciated and admired her goals, and I looked for ways to implement her ideas. Her and her husband's blog -- of the same title as the book -- has since become one of my favorites to read.

As you can see in the photo of my copy, I've got quite a few bookmarks -- and that's only in the first section of the book. So far, we've liked what we've made out of it. One recipe that stands out -- the chili recipe is amazing (hint: it has cinnamon in it. Whodathunk?). It's my new go-to chili recipe. It was the first thing I made from the book and I was converted.

And now, for my favorite cookbook of 2012.  I'd go as far to call it one of my favorite cookbooks I own.

Drum roll, please...

1. The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila 
I don't remember how I learned about or where I saw this cookbook, but the minute I did, I ordered it. I knew it would be right up my alley.

As I've written many times on this blog, I always prefer to make things from scratch, for the money-saving benefits as well as the health benefits. This book has recipes for everything I felt I had to buy processed. Take graham crackers, for instance. I had no clue how to make them, so I always bought them at the store (well, until we stopped eating hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup and then it was no graham crackers at all). This book has a recipe for them -- they're easy and delicious. With this book, I've also made Oreo-style cookies, marshmallows (this past summer, we made s'mores with homemade graham crackers and marshmallows - wow), hamburger buns (so easy!), granola, brown sugar, salad dressing, and yellow cake, to name a few.   And there are so many others things I need to try making: homemade Fig Newtons, mayonnaise, cheeses, Pop-Tarts, veggie burgers. There's even a recipe for a homemade Twinkie (with only ten or so ingredients instead of the 39 in the {now-defunct} store-bought variety).

There's something empowering about this book. I like not having to rely on certain processed foods. I like having control over what my family eats -- especially when it comes to my kids. I know what is (and what is not) going into their foods. It's just cool.  The book is laid-out very nicely. I love the photography. Each recipe has a short essay/blurb before it, which I always enjoy in a cookbook.  Get it. I can't recommend it enough.

2012 was definitely a good year in my kitchen and for my recipe repertoire.

Note: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

{Have you read/cooked from/bought any of these? Any cookbooks I overlooked? Suggestions are always welcome.}

(This post is linked up to Your Green Resource, Simple Lives Thursday and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.)

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