Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chart Toppers: my top 10 favorite cookbooks {at the moment...}

Welcome to day three of Food Week on Laughing Through the Chaos - click the links below to catch up if you need to!

Later this week I'll be bustin' out some of my favorite recipes to share with you (some new, some old), so I thought it was only appropriate that we talk about cookbooks and other places I find my recipes before we actually check out the recipes themselves. Today it's all about the cookbooks. Tomorrow I'll share my favorite food blogs, websites, and iPod/iPhone apps related to food.

I broke all these bad boys up into categories in case you're looking for something specific. I received many of my cookbooks as gifts, some I bought online, and others were borrowed from friends or checked out from the library.

When it comes to buying cookbooks, I highly recommend checking out local used bookstores or checking online for the best deals. I'd say close to 90% of the time I buy books online, I buy them on Amazon.com because you can get used copies in good condition for super cheap. Another great site I bought books from in college is Half.com, where you'll also find great deals on books. Or, better than paying anything, go to your library and borrow the book, or ask friends if you can peruse their cookbook collections and borrow from them.You don't need to spend a bunch of money to get good ideas for recipes.

The most special cookbook I have was given to me by mom mom as a wedding gift. She compiled recipes that have been in our family for years, got recipes from Dennis's mom that were his favorites, and she had Dennis's sister illustrate it. I remember looking through it the first time, seeing some recipes and realizing it had been years since I'd eaten some of them, but they instantly brought back great memories of my child hood and the creative ways my mom would prepare foods for us. The book itself is something I'll always treasure, with many personal touches from my mom thrown in throughout the book. It's something that I will one day add to and share with Kaylee. I just couldn't include a post about cookbooks without mentioning it.

So, here are some of my favorite cookbooks, with little tidbits about why I love each of them.


Weight Watchers' Simply the Best : 250 Prizewinning Family RecipesWomenHeart's All Heart Family Cookbookby Lisa Lillien Hungry Girl 200 Under Paperback

by Kathy Kastan and Suzanne Banfield

This is a cookbook I checked out from the library. While I didn't find a bunch of recipes that I thought our family would particularly like, I would be tempted to buy this book just for all the reference material at the beginning. The whole first part of the book lists many, many heart healthy foods and discusses the health benefits of each. I learned so much in those pages.I was fascinated by how powerful a role our food choices play in our health. There are so many foods that have been shown to prevent diseases, so it was just more motivation to continue preparing healthy meals from scratch.

by Lisa Lillien

Hands down, this is the best cookbook ever. I am absolutely in LOVE with it, and there are still oh-so-many recipes I'm dying to try but still haven't had the chance to. Every recipe in this book is under 200 calories, and the Weight Watchers Points values are also listed on the Hungry Girl website for each recipe. This book has it all. Snacks, desserts, breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizers, drinks - holy bananas, it's phenomenal. Lisa takes everybody's favorites like french toast, cinnamon rolls, cookies and cakes, and changes them up to be healthy. You'd expect them to taste nasty with so few calories, but I am in awe of how delicious and decadent her recipes are. Kaylee is crazy about the banana pancakes from this book. I make a big batch and freeze them, and they make a really quick and healthy breakfast for her. If you pay full price for any cookbook, make it be this one.

One of my coworkers let me browse through this cookbook, and I found some absolutely amazing recipes. I've done Weight Watchers in the past, and really enjoyed some of the recipes on their website, so I had high expectations and I was not disappointed with what I found in this cookbook. Again - all sorts of things from muffins to cakes, fish, soups, poultry - something for everyone. All nutrition information is listed, and since it's Weight Watchers, you know all the recipes are healthy. All too often I look through cookbooks and only find a few recipes that seem worth trying, but not this one. This is one I hope to buy soon because it is filled with so many recipes that just sound amazing!

Crock Pot/Slow Cooker
Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow CookingFix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: Feasting with Your Slow Cooker
by Stephanie O'Dea

Ok, so I don't actually own this cookbook - YET, but I want it really, really bad. You may have heard of The Crockpot Lady. She used her crockpot every day for a year, and wrote a blog to chronicle the whole thing. This is a book filled with some of those recipes. Her blog is amazing, and she includes pictures of all the ingredients and the finished product. She's a mom, so you won't find any crazy, off-the-wall ingredients, and all of her recipes are gluten-free. On her website (http://crockpot365.blogspot.com), she talks about how she tries to limit the amount of sodium, fat, and processed foods that she and her family consume. This is another cookbook I know you wouldn't regret buying. Her stuff is deee-licious.

by Dawn J. Ranck and Phyllis Pellman Good

One of my aunts sent me this cookbook in 2005 after I'd written an email about the crock pot being my "new best friend." This book has over 800 crock pot recipes, submitted from people all over the country. Like many of my other favorite cookbooks, I love the incredible variety this one has! It's not just crock pot soups or pot roasts (although there are plenty of those recipes listed) - there's dessert, breakfast, appetizers, veggies, beverages and more. One other thing I love about the book is that there are so many variations on similar recipes that if you don't like one particular pot roast, you're bound to find another one that suits you better. There are also handy little crock pot tips throughout the entire book.
 Reference Cookbooks

Betty Crocker Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook Today (Betty Crocker Books)

Dennis's mom gave us our Betty Crocker cookbook shortly before we were married. This serves as one of the main cooking references in my kitchen. If I haven't heard of a specific method of cooking before (i.e. blanching), or if I decide to be all brave and try a new vegetable, but have no idea how to cook it, I bust out Big Betty. There are handy tables that list different methods for cooking veggies, tips on selecting good produce and suggestions about how to store foods properly. The back cover has a chart for emergency substitutions if you happen to be out of a vital ingredient. I use this cookbook primarily for reference, and not so much for recipes, but it's an invaluable reference book in my kitchen as is evidenced by the many food splatters that adorn its pages.


Miracle Foods For Kids: 25 Super-Nutritious Foods to Keep Your Children in Great HealthHealthy Meals for Babies and Toddlers

by Juliette Kellow and Sunil Vijayakar

This was a Christmas gift from my mom. I've always struggled with feeding Kaylee, and she's pretty tiny, so for the longest time I worried about whether she was getting enough nutrition and if I was choosing the right foods for her. It's so important to me that I instill healthy eating habits with her at a young age. My hope is that she'll develop a love for healthy foods including a variety of fruits and veggies. But, like many kids her age, she can be picky, and she's regularly practicing her ability to say things like, "I no yike it" before she's even tried it, so I have to get creative. This book is absolutely packed with healthy recipes, menu plans for different age groups, information on why kids need certain nutrients, how you can present the same foods in different ways to try and get your kids to eat them, and of course - recipes. The book focuses on "miracle foods" - things like blueberries, kiwifruit, eggs, yogurt, sweet potatoes, avocados, etc. The book discusses how these particular foods can help our kiddos protect themselves against future heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses, as well as the immediate benefits they offer, like helping to prevent things like constipation and anemia. I think all caregivers of children can benefit immensely from this book, and it would make a great gift for expectant or new moms as well.

by Valerie Barrett

This was another gift from my mom. This book is also filled with great resource information regarding allergies and intolerances, appropriate serving sizes for children, tips on cooking, freezing and reheating homemade baby food, and even ideas for for babies who are on vegetarian diets. The book is broken into age-appropriate recipes and meal ideas for babies and toddlers at each stage of their development. The photography in this book is gorgeous and sooo cute! The tiny little kid portions and utensils are just adorable. This is another fantastic resource for anyone with kids.


Smoothies & Ice Treats

Smoothies and Ice Treats
by Lindsay Barnes and Amy Shawgo

My mom got me this cookbook a few years back at Kohl's during one of my smoothie kicks - I definitely go in spurts with the smoothies. One of the authors, Lindsay, is also a nutritionist, so the first part of the book has some basic nutrition information and discusses the health benefits of several foods. The rest of the books has a crazy variety of smoothie recipes. I'm talking everything from smoothies for athletes, for stress management, for men, women, children, breakfast, lunch, dinner - even special occasion smoothies. Love this book.

Please leave a comment tell me what your favorite cookbook is!


Yvonne @ StoneGable said...

Sera, You have a wonderful blog. I am so happy to find you especially this post about cookbooks. I am a a foodie and love cookbooks. It is so hard to love to make delicious and interesting food and watch my weight! UGH! I am happy to see you included some cookbooks that are calorie and health conscience.

One cookbook I just love (and there are so many) is "It's Not YOur Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook". The recipes are fabulous, and taste like they were fussed over for hours.

Love your darling blog!

Sera said...

Yvonne - thanks for your sweet words! I hear you on the whole making yummy stuff that's actually healthy. That's why I love finding recipes that are full of flavor and don't taste nasty. I am going to check out the cookbook you suggested on Amazon - love that title!

Jenners said...

I was wondering if the Hungry Girl one was worthwhile.

And you should check out the "The Most Decadent Diet Ever" cookbook by Devin Alexander. Great stuff ... and I'm NOT a cookbook person at all.