Cookbook Inspiration

I’ll admit this, I’m a nut for cookbooks. They’re adult picture books – and they make you salivate – what couldn’t you like?! While I have A LOT more than these pictured, these have to be my favorite.

The first cookbooks I purchased were the Ina Garten cookbook, the Jamie Oliver cookbook (Ok, can you blame me? It was called The Naked Chef!), and the All-American Cookie Book. I grew up watching Ina Garten, and all of her stuff looked so rich and spectacular – even if my sister called her a lush lol. My FAVORITE apple pie recipe I learned from Ina’s cookbook, and it became the biggest hit at my dad’s holiday parties. Jamie Oliver is masterful at making simple, healthy, flavorful dishes. And he wasn’t half bad to look at. Granted, the conversion from British cooking to American cooking (ingredient availability, measuring systems) isn’t always the easiest, but the cookbook was pretty straightforward. The best part of that book is oddly the homemade pasta and pasta sauce recipes. Nothing but fresh ingredients and simple recipes. There are even step-by-step photos for instructions for the toughest stuff. For the longest time, all of my friends got homemade cookie tins from me as Christmas presents. My parents hated it (imagine me destroying our kitchen for days at a time and sometimes into the night), but the friends loved it. And no, the tins didn’t just contain chocolate chip cookies. Variety, different recipes (sometimes even truffles!). So, needless to say, this cookie cookbook came in handy during this season. There are chocolate chip cookie recipes in the book, and some of your cookies like sugar and snickerdoodles. But there are also great ethnic cookies and crazy creative decorative ones. My favorite ones are the Chocolate-Raspberry Thumbprint ones, and those made an appearance every year in the cookie tins.

My friend Gin’s mom, Cam, gifted me the Gullah Home Cooking cookbook after she found out I cook and I collect cookbooks. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but this cookbook is gold. It has a recipe for – I kid you not – Roadkill. How many times have you been served roadkill or saw a recipe for roadkill? Classic! My parents gave me the Columbia Restaurant cookbook after they visited the restaurant one year. Apparently the best Latin cuisine out there. Haven’t been to the restaurant and haven’t cooked anything out of the book yet, but I’m sure it’s rockstar.

The Tyler Florence cookbook has a back story to it too. It was the very first gift a boyfriend gave to me – back in middle school. He gave me the cookbook and then we went to go see Tyler Florence at a book signing where he gave a little talk too. If you know me, you know that’s a pretty good gift. So, yes, one of my beloved treasures – a signed Tyler Florence cookbook. It’s got some pretty bang up recipes in it too…the pork chops with apples, lemon chicken, lasagna…I could go on. It’s definitely gotten broken in by me – evidenced by the splatters and drips.

My VERY VERY VERY favorite cookbook is my Better Homes and Garden “New” Cookbook. I’m sure it was new at some point, but it has definitely aged and seen better days since then. This was originally my mother’s cookbook, but I begged and pleaded for her old, torn up copy. The pages are falling out, some are faded or have countless layers of food caked on them, but it is my favorite book. It has recipes for all the necessities like baked chicken, pork roast, and even some outdated ones like Peach Melba. I learned how to make crepes using this beast. But the best part of this book is that it has every conversion you could think of, cooking times, and substitutions for anything you need. How long do soft-boiled eggs need? What if I don’t have baking soda? How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon? How long do I cook a pork roast for that is X number of pounds? This book will never fail you. And I know they have published better versions, but I like the authenticity of my Old Faithful.

The Southerner in me knows that the cookbook repertoire is not complete without a few truly southern eatin’ books. The Lady and Sons cookbook is a standard. Many of the recipes call for canned soup – which always make my stomach turn since the days of my grandmother thinking that all dinners should include canned soup (Ask my mom about growing up on Brownie Pie or SH*% on a Shingle). But, honestly, even with the canned soup, the recipes are traditionally southern and – I’ll admit here (and nowhere else) that the soup in the recipes is sometimes called for…and delicious…Pat Conroy is one of my much admired authors and he sticks generally to his southern roots in his writing. But little do people know – that he also published a cookbook, complete with little vignettes that explain the recipe. And the stories are equally  amazing compared to his novels. Not to mention the recipes – he’s not just an author, he’s a bonafide cook. His Corn Spoonbread and Stuffed Pork Chops never fail to impress. I’m not kidding. It’s all delicious – and bound to impress. And the stories that go along with it are more than worth it.

So what’s next on the list of must-haves? Lorraine Pascale is an amazing baker, so of course I need one of her books (another English cook, so conversions hopefully included!) called Baking Made Easy. Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child is a must-have and one I’ve been needing to add to my shelf for a long time. Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind by Vanessa Barajas is one that struck me too – not that I particularly care about eating paleo, but because anything that can make my overall diet/sweet tooth healthier should be considered…and well, I have a dirty mind too! Speaking my language! I know if I could convince DJ SnuggleMonster to like sweets or find some willing persons to pawn them off on, Food52 Baking: 60 Sensational Treats You Can Pull Off In a Snap would be on the list. I’ve given them a shout-out before on another Page about awesome foodie websites, but Thug Kitchen’s cookbook would be a great addition for healthier meals or when my strange vegetarian/vegan friends come visit. If you know me, you know that I’m a taco addict. There is a shirt from the company BuyMeBrunch that says “Holy Shit I Love Tacos” that I absolutely MUST HAVE. So…it’s not tough to figure out that Tacos: Recipes and Provocations is on my short list too. Just for kicks and giggles (and because I’ve been on a serious Vikings binge lately), The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson also strikes me. Imagine if you came over to your friend’s house for a dinner party and they served up Rose-Hip Soup and Pork Roasted with Prunes (ok, so maybe I wouldn’t tell MY guests that they were prunes). Total cool points. I’m sure I’ll add more to this list soon enough, but for now – that should be good, don’t you think?

The inspiration set - Cookbooks I Live By
The inspiration set – Cookbooks I Live By
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