While much of my cooking these days is done with my laptop on the counter instead of a cookbook, I will always prefer the paper copy over any electronic option. The weight of the book, the feel of the pages, the look of the pictures. These things can’t be replicated on a screen, in my old fashioned opinion.
At any given time, I have one cookbook on my nightstand, another on the coffee table, a few on my library hold list, and a stack in the kitchen. I buy most of my books from Amazon (or just add them to my wish list and let others buy them for me) because the prices are consistently lower than most bookstores.
So, in no particular order, here are the favorite titles on my shelf right now:
Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours by Kim Boyce
I love this book and everything I have made from it. If you enjoy baking (or know someone who does), and are interested in experimenting with different types of flours, this is the cookbook for you. The local author, Kim Boyce, is a down-to-earth, skilled pastry chef. This comes through in her beautifully photographed, thoughtfully written cookbook. I have attended two of her cooking demos as well as stopped by her NE Portland Bakery, Bakeshop, for a box of sweet treats. I am currently having t-shirts printed that read, “Kim Boyce’s #1 Fan!” Oh, not really. That would just be weird… right?
Frugal Living NW featured recipe: Ginger Peach Muffins
Another Northwest baker, Piper Davis, wrote this book featuring favorite sweet and savory recipes from her bakery, Grand Central. It includes great tutorials on making things like cinnamon rolls and pie crusts, as well as excellent photography, recipes, and tips.
A couple years ago, my husband and I went to a cooking and urban farming event held at the bakery’s Fremont location. Sitting in the middle of Grand Central’s huge kitchen, surrounded by fresh breads and pastries and listening to bakers talk about their techniques was pretty much heaven to me. Seriously, I just grinned like an idiot the entire time. This cookbook packages that same information, minus the incredible smells of baking bread (sorry).
Frugal Living NW featured recipe: All Butter Flaky Pie Dough
Rustic Fruit Desserts: Crumbles, Buckles, Cobblers, Pandowdies, and More by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson
This is an excellent cookbook, featuring different ways to bake with seasonal fruit. It is written by two Northwest authors and bakers who live in Portland, Oregon. These dessert recipes are perfectly tailored to the fruits and berries of the Northwest and arranged by season.
I also love that the majority of the book features basic baking ingredients, nothing fancy or fussy. Here are a few winter recipes: Pear Sauce Bundt Cake, Cranberry Buckle with Vanilla Crumb, or Carmelized Pear Bread Pudding. Yum.
Frugal Living NW featured recipe: Stone Fruit Tea Cake
I can’t say enough good things about these cookbooks (or her blog, 101 Cookbooks). Heidi Swanson creates incredible dishes using whole, natural ingredients. Her recipes are thoroughly tested and well-written, making them easy to replicate or adapt in your own kitchen.
When my husband and I shifted to a vegetable-based diet, her recipes were the building blocks of my new menu plans, giving us filling options bursting with flavor. These two books have changed the way I think about, shop for, and prepare food more than any other cookbooks I own. I am a huge fan of these books; my husband is a huge fan of the results.
The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods you can Stop Buying & Start Making by Alana Chernila
Alana Chernila blogs beautifully over at Eating From the Ground Up. I received this book as a gift and love it. She wrote the book that describes how I feel about cooking food from scratch. If you want to buy less processed food and cook more with whole ingredients, this would be a great book to add to your shelf.
“The Homemade Pantry was born of a tight budget, Alana’s love for sharing recipes with her farmers’ market customers, and a desire to enjoy a happy cooking and eating life with her young family. On a mission to kick their packaged-food habit, she learned that with a little determination, anything she could buy at the store could be made in her kitchen, and her homemade versions were more satisfying, easier to make than she expected, and tastier.” (Amazon)
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
A devoted Smitten Kitchen follower, after pre-ordering this and receiving an email saying it had finally shipped, I couldn’t wait for it to arrive on my doorstep. Then I stayed up way too late reading through a new section each night. My half-asleep husband would mumble something like, “Are you going to turn the light off soon?” to which I’d promise, “Just one more recipe!” Novels, shmovels. Give me a cookbook any day of the week.
Perelman’s stories and cooking notes read like a book, the photographs are good enough to eat, and her recipes (I’ve made 3 so far) are excellent.
Check out the new Smitten Kitchen Every Day cookbook as well!
My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey
At right around $20, this book has easily paid for itself in the years I have owned and baked from it. I no longer buy rustic, artisan-style loaves from the store because I can pull them out of my own oven for less than a dollar each. And that’s for a hefty 2.5 pound loaf! At a savings of $3-5 per loaf from what I would pay in the grocery store, this book paid for itself in about 5 loaves of bread. And I have baked way more than that.
So see? In the long run, owning this book and learning these methods have actually saved me money. My Bread also includes recipes for pizza, baguettes, focaccia, and more.
Frugal Living NW featured recipe: Basic No-Knead Bread
I’ve owned this book for about six years. It is a great kitchen resource when you need to know emergency substitutions, weight equivalents, basic recipes, or ingredient definitions. I even turn to this book before I check with my good buddy, Google.
This book would make an awesome wedding or graduation gift, great for anyone on your list who is setting up a home or learning how to cook. It is organized alphabetically, packed with tons of helpful information. There are no photographs but several helpful diagrams.
Okay, anything Ina Garten has written. I would happily pull up a stool to her huge kitchen island, watch her cook, and listen to her use adjectives like fabulous, wonderful, and fantastic all day long. Seriously, Ina, do you want to be friends? Until I hear back on that, I’ll just keep cooking from your books.
I own nearly all of Ina Garten’s cookbooks and use them on a regular basis. They contain my go-to Saturday pancake recipe and are the first ones I pull out when I want to create a menu for a special occasion. Any of her books would make a great addition to your cookbook shelf.
Amazon has the all of these cookbooks and thousands more in stock and ready to ship!
Looking for more gift ideas?
Baking Gift Guide — all the best gifts for the baker on your Christmas list!
Hostess Gift Guide — gifts for the host/hostess of your holiday parties OR the person on your list who loves to entertain!
Fantastic range of boards from best recipes and tips for frugal living to gardening and budgeting help.
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