Friday, March 27, 2015

Four Indispensable Cookbooks In Our House

I love to cook and in recent years I have become a cookbook fanatic. Anyone who has seen my Amazon wish list knows what I'm talking about. Before I had kids I rarely used cookbooks, preferring to find my recipes on the internet but since it's almost impossible to use my computer with my kids around I started switching to real life paper cookbooks. I have to say I'm glad I made the switch because the experience of sitting down and flipping through a real cookbook is much more satisfying than looking something up online (I still do online recipes on occasion but nothing beats thumbing through a dogeared copy of one of my favorite cooking manuals). In my scarce free time I love to pour over these books and mark recipes I want to try. I also aim to read through them every Sunday evening and plan the week's recipes so I can shop and cook more effectively. I also find that it's really fun cooking with kids out of a cookbook. Whenever I get the urge to bake I flip through my bread cookbooks with Echo and let her help select the recipe and then we cook together. It's a wonderful bonding experience for us and so much fun!

I'm building a great collection of fabulous books but I wanted to share with you some of my tried and true favorite, these are the books I go back to again and again and have consistently loved the recipes from. There are many more cookbooks I adore but these four are definitely my tops.

1. The Family Cooks: This is my newest of cookbook collection and I absolutely love it! Sometimes it can be a little overly healthy and preachy about that fact but if you can get past that it's really a great book full of amazing recipes and suggestions. The suggestions are really what I love most about it actually. As someone who loves to cook and experiment I love that this book gives you jumping off points and then encourages you to run with it. For example, my family's new favorite meal comes from this book and it is totally customizable. They call it nice nice brown rice but we usually just call them rice bowls. You cook up a big batch of brown rice and serve with little bowls of whatever fresh veggies you have on hand. We usually put out corn, edamame, cabbage, red bell peppers, blanched broccoli, chopped peanuts and shredded carrots. Everyone fills their bowl with rice and then adds whatever toppings they want. We also put out a variety of sauces like soy sauce, peanut satay sauce, sriracha and pad thai sauce and that way everyone can sauce it up to their individual tastes. It's amazing for families, especially if you have picky eaters, and is so easy to throw together. I also love that almost every recipe in this book has suggestions for what you kids can do to help you in the kitchen or ways to make the meal more kid friendly.

2. Keepers: This is another great cookbook geared towards families with small kids and offers great tips for shopping and cooking with children. The thing that amazes me about this book is that every time I make a recipe out of it I think "this dish is so good I would serve it at a dinner party". Not that I ever have dinner parties but it's nice to have an array of dishes that are good enough for company. The ingredient lists are short which is always nice for weeknight meals and the results are amazing, I would definitely say that each recipe is more than the sum of it's parts. It's also been the book I own that has taught me the most in terms of cooking technique (outside of my baking books) and that's something I'm pretty lacking in since I tend to be an intuitive cook and just make things up. I've found their tips on how to cook fish really helpful for example.

3. Moosewood Cookbook: I actually own three Moosewood cookbooks and I could decide which one I love most so I just put the original down here. In addition to this book I also have the Enchanted Broccoli Forest and Moosewood Low Fat Favorites. All three of these are wonderful options for vegetarian cooking and full of great ideas. For the past few years I have been moving my family towards a more plant based diet. We still do eat some meat but it's gotten to the point where I rarely cook it at home (except fish). For me it's an ethical issue and I try to limit my meat intake where I can. Luckily my family loves veggies, cheese, beans and grains so it's no problem for them. We made a lot of veggie curries and stir fries, soups and lately tons of salad. The Moosewood cookbook is full of great recipes and ideas for everything from brunch to dinner to snacks to sauces. I love that their recipes are never bland and are always full of flavor. This should be a staple for anyone who wants to cook vegetarian meals.

4. Artisan Bread In Five Minutes a Day: I have so many great bread baking books that it was hard to pick a favorite but this is the one that changed the way I cook the most and the one I use most often so that makes it the winner. It's important to note that when it says "five minutes a day" it means five minutes of active time. Any yeast leavened dough needs plenty of time to rise and rest so take that in to account. That being said, this books makes having delicious home made bread incredibly easy. My in-laws even told me it tasted like bread from a fancy bakery and that I could sell it! My secret dream is to run a bakery, maybe in my next life). This is a great book if you are new to making bread since it explains a lot of the reasons behind why you do certain things in bread making. The techniques they teach you are a little different than traditional methods but they are incredibly easy and a great starting point. I have a huge love of baking (bread, not so much desserts) and this makes it possible to have fresh bread often even with two little kids around. It's also a great activity to include young kids in as it is almost impossible to screw up. Echo regularly asks me if we can make bread dough today and loves helping me roll out pita bread or pizza dough (both of which you will find great recipes for in this book).

So these are my go to cookbooks and if you are looking for something to liven up your cooking I highly recommend that you check them out. What cookbooks do you use at home? Are there any that you can't live without? I'm always looking for good suggestions now that I am a cookbook addict!

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