Book Review: Cookbooks I Like

This is a picture of my kitchen counter on a Saturday morning. Cooking pancakes (one cooling on a plate for Pearl) and planning our meals for the coming week. We do our big grocery shop once a week, usually on Saturday mornings. I cook five or six of those meals. (I’m the one who is at home with the kids most days; Peter is a great cook but he just doesn’t arrive home in time to make dinner on weekdays.)

So, I don’t love cooking. But I do like to eat and I like to eat good food. Meal planning is the only way I can get a decent dinner on the table each night and it has taken a lot of stress out of cooking for me. I look at our week ahead and figure out which days need an easy meal, which days I might have time to cook something elaborate, which days we might be out. We’re fortunate not to have any dietary restrictions in our family but I do try to limit meat to one or two times a week. And as much as I love carbs (and the girls would happily eat pasta every night) I try and balance that out too.

All this to say, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favourite cookbooks. I prefer to have a real recipe to follow – if I find a recipe on-line I will write it out and keep it in my recipe box. Yes, I’m secretly 80-years-old. I like being able to follow along even when my hands are messy and I like to write notes on recipes I cook over and over again.

The Best of Bridge: The Family Slow Cooker

I’ve never cooked with any of the other Best of Bridge cookbooks (and there are about a hundred) but I bought this one while I was pregnant with Rose and it’s been quite good. It has a wide variety of recipes (not just chili and soup and the usual slow cooker items) including sauces and even some desserts. Many of the recipes require only a couple of hours in the slow cooker, which isn’t that convenient for anyone who works for 8 hours but they have come in handy for days when we’re out for the afternoon and arriving home right before dinner time.

Favourite recipes: Vegetarian Lasagna,

Yum & Yummer – Greta Podleski

I bought this on the recommendation of my sister-in-law who is one of the best cooks I know and taught me a lot about cooking. She’s also a working mom so I knew the book would be practical. Podleski’s recipes are straightforward but creative and rarely take a long time to prep.

Favourite recipes: Peanutty Sesame Noodle Bowl (Pearl loves the tofu in this one!), Maple-Curry Chicken

Half-Baked Harvest – Tieghan Gerard

This is a new cookbook acquisition for me so I haven’t cooked from the book itself yet but I’ve been following Gerard on instagram for a few months and have cooked several recipes from her website. I like the way she blends cultures and styles and comes up with some unexpected pairings. Her garlic naan bread recipe is fantastic and so much easier to make than I expected.

Favourite recipes: (all found on halfbakedharvest.com) Garlic Naan, Roasted Chicken Gyros

The School Year Survival Cookbook – Laura Keogh & Ceri Marsh

I bought this book on a whim, in a period of feeling overwhelmed by having to feed my children every day. Lunch time often turns into me putting a bunch of random, healthy-ish stuff on a plate and calling it a “snack plate” and then putting in front of my children. I hoped this cookbook would provide some inspiration, especially since it puts a heavy emphasis on meal planning. In that sense it has been helpful and I appreciate the inspiration it provides. I especially like that each recipe tells you how long it will take to prepare and cook. I find, in general, the recipes are a little bland. This is, no doubt, because it’s a cookbook geared towards parents and young children. I don’t find that my kids need to eat super bland foods nor do I wish to encourage a lack of culinary adventure. So I tend to add spices to most of the recipes and have had good luck doing so.

Favourite recipes: Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup; Kale, Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Frittata; Chili Chicken Burgers

The Oh She Glows Cookbook – Angela Liddon

We’re not vegans but, as I said, we are trying to eat less meat. So I appreciate this vegan cookbook as a way of getting meatless inspiration. I will confess that when a recipe calls for vegan butter or cashew cheese I substitute with regular ol’ dairy. But it’s great to have some inspiration on alternate forms of protein.

Favourite Recipes: Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchiladas, Baked Falafel Bites, Creamy Avocado Potato Salad

Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook – Audrey Alsterberg & Wanda Urbanowicz

Rebar is a Victoria, BC institution. It’s a funky, vegetarian restaurant in downtown Victoria, a city I lived in for eight years. The restaurant is great and the cookbook is fantastic. Again, a great resource for cooking without meat. (Fish is featured in some recipes.)

Favourite recipes: Saigon Salad, Yam and Pepita Quesadilla, Spring Fettucine

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook and Smitten Kitchen Everyday – Deb Perelman

I love these cookbooks and I love the Smitten Kitchen blog. I have great success with almost every recipe and these are ones my family keeps coming back to. Both cookbooks are great but I do prefer her first one which, I think, focuses slightly more on basics. My recipe box is filled with recipes from Smitten Kitchen. For that reason, I’ve divided up my favourites by where they are found.

Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Potato Frittata with Feta and Scallions, Tomato Scallion Shortcakes with Whipped Goat Cheese, Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette, Sweet Peas and Shells Alfredo, Sesame-Spiced Turkey Meatballs, Mustard Milanese with Arugula Fennel Salad,

Smitten Kitchen Everyday: Broccoli, Cheddar, and Wild Rice Fritters, Wild Mushroom Shepherd’s Pie, Spaghetti Pangrattato with Crispy Eggs, Quick Sausage, Kale and Crouton Saute,

Smitten Kitchen blog: Buttermilk Chicken, Garlic-Mustard Skewers, Whole Wheat Goldfish Crackers, Cornmeal-Fried Pork Chops with Goat Cheese Potatoes, Pasta Salad with Roasted Tomatoes, Sesame Noodles with Cucumber, Roast Chicken with Dijon Sauce, Mushroom Marsala Bake, Crisped Rice with Fried Eggs.

So, there you have it. Cookbooks our family uses and enjoys and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. Now please tell me your favourite cookbooks and recipes!

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11 thoughts on “Book Review: Cookbooks I Like”

  1. I think the snack play idea sounds just fine. One thing that is paralyzed me when it comes to eating food as I start to expect a fully actualized meal, when sometimes an apple and some carrots and some crackers and some cheese suffice. Fun fact: naan actually means bread. I just learned this recently when I read a post on Twitter that said every time an Indian reads the phrase naan bread, he or she dies a little inside. 😂

    1. Yes! Lunch especially can often just be a light meal (cheese and crackers and some veggies) so the snack plate idea does work well. I think I even knew that about the word naan! I’ll have to remember to stop saying bread bread!

  2. I love the Best of Bridge series, I have quite a few of them, but I’ll have to try this vegetarian lasagna recipe! The yum and yummer book is great too, love that one. I’ve gotten some great cook books from the Penguin Random House blogger program lately actually-the one pan books coming out now are great for us moms! Less dishes 🙂

    1. For some reason I associate Best of Bridge with older ladies and potlucks in church basements but maybe I need to reassess! And, yes, one pan recipes are great!

  3. I love cookbooks. But after buying some unsuccessful ones now they must be sampled through the library first. I’ve heard great things about Half Baked Harvest, so I that will be my next library request. A recent favourite cookbook is Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark. It’s a bit more meat focused than some of your suggestions here. Many of the dishes are 1 pan or close to it, and draws in many flavours in combinations I clearly don’t think of myself.

    1. I keep forgetting that I can get cookbooks at the library! Although I just checked and they don’t have the two I was interested in so I may have to find time to go in person. I’ve only recently started buying cookbooks because I found I was cooking the same things over and over again and was getting bored so a new cookbook makes it feel exciting again!

  4. I love cookbooks and can just read them from front to back like a novel. I used to buy a lot, but I had to make myself stop – I can only use so many! Still, every once in a while, I treat myself to a new one, so it’s good to have suggestions – there are just so many out there!
    I have both of Angela Liddon’s cookbooks for the same reason as you – I like to get new ideas – not because we’re vegan. I also have Looneyspoons, but Yum & Yummer looks good, too!

    1. I have a fantastically decadent chocolate cake recipe from the Looneyspoons cookbook but have never made anything else from it. I buy a cookbook once or twice a year, when I feel I need a little fresh inspiration!

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