I’m sure you’re neck-deep in holiday preparations by this point, and if you’re more efficient than I am, you may also have all of your holiday shopping done. If you don’t, this post may help you out if one of the people on your list loves cooking or baking, or is just getting started with either.
I love cookbooks. I buy them far too often, and have more than I really know what to do with, but I truly love them. On any day, but especially cold, blustery winter days, I am just as likely to be sitting with a cup of tea and a cookbook as I am to be curled up with a novel. I tend to gravitate toward cookbooks that are more than just recipes. I love well-written cookbooks…the ones with the stories and memories behind the recipes. I also hold fast to the belief that cookbooks need to include beautiful photos and lots of them. I hate it when I find an intriguing new recipe, but don’t have a photo of what the finished product is supposed to look like. I also really like a cookbook that doesn’t tell me that I have to go out and buy super fancy or expensive equipment.
Four of the cookbooks on today’s list include lists of kitchen “essentials” – the tools, cooking vessels, and ingredients used in most of the recipes. None of these items are what I would call too fancy or too hard to get your hands on. They all make a case for buying good quality ingredients, but nothing that will break the bank or send you further than your local grocery store.
Each of these books can be found at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Many of them can be found in the larger grocery stores as well.
My Family Table – A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking
by John Besh
I love this cookbook because of what it’s really about. It’s a book that’s about the importance of cooking quality meals with quality ingredients and sharing them at family dinners. Although Besh is a renowned chef and owner of eight restaurants, he talks, at great length, about the importance of the long-lost art of the family dinner. Not the Sunday or weekend dinner that many families have chosen to accept because of busy schedules and crazy amounts of obligations outside of the home and family, but the nightly ritual of preparing quality food with and for the family. His weeknight meals are not fussy or time-consuming, and his recipe directions are concisely written and easy to follow — even for a novice. I plan on handing this cookbook to my husband and encouraging him to take a shot of one of the dinners in this book. This is a great gift for any cook, regardless of experience level.
Where Women Cook – Celebrate!
by Jo Packham & The Publishers of Somerset Studio
I love, love, love this book! It is full of gorgeous photos, delicious recipes, and the stories behind the food and the women who create the food. Each section of this book profiles a woman, an event, and the dishes served at the event. Many of the women whose food is profiled in this book are well-known food bloggers like Ree Drummond, Molly Wizenberg, and Angie Dudley. These women have all been profiled in my current favorite magazine Where Women Cook. If you’ve seen the magazine and loved it, you will adore this book. This is a book to give to the party planner in your life. It is full of both cooking and decorating ideas for a variety of occasions. It truly is a celebration of food and gathering with family and friends.
The Pioneer Woman
by Ree Drummond
I can’t say enough about this book. Of the books in this group, this is the least fussy and it is full of recipes that make enough to feed a crowd. Her cinnamon roll recipe, for example, makes 40 to 50 cinnamon rolls. I made them yesterday and she wasn’t kidding…in fact, my cinnamon roll total was 51. They are also, hands down, the most decadent and delicious cinnamon rolls I’ve ever tasted. They are also a cinch to make. They don’t require a great deal of hands on work, but they do require a lot of time. They are perfect for gift giving, and can be frozen after you’ve baked and iced them. This one recipe is a perfect reflection of all of the recipes in the book. These are the recipes you pull out when you really want to show people you love them. The best part of this book is that EVERY recipe includes photos for each step.
by Stacy Adimando
If you are looking for the perfect book for the cookie enthusiast in your life, look no more. This book is gold. The recipes are simple, the ingredients are basic, and there is a picture of each finished cookie so you know what your finished product is supposed to look like. The book is organized by cookie type – buttery cookies, chocolaty cookies, fancy cookies, fruity cookies, spicy cookies, and nutty and seedy cookies. I’ve vowed to bake my way through this book – cover to cover. So far, I’m about a third of the way through the buttery cookies and I don’t have a single complaint. One major plus (for me) where this book is concerned, is the fact that the author provided space on each recipe for you to make your own notes about changes, ideas, or results…I always write in my cookbooks, so this just made me happy!
The Cupcake Diaries
by Katherine Kallinis and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne
If you’ve seen DC Cupcakes on TLC, you’re familiar with the authors of this book. Sisters Katherine and Sophie are the co-owners of Georgetown Cupcake and are two of the many professional bakers responsible for the popularity of the cupcake. This book is both cookbook and what I would call love letter. Katherine and Sophie grew up baking with their grandmother. She shared her passion for baking with her granddaughters and they share theirs with the rest of us in this beautiful book. Of the books on the list, this is the fussiest, sometimes requiring ingredients that you’d need to order online or pick up at a craft or kitchen/baking supply store, but the results are worth it. These aren’t the kind of cupcakes that a home baker would create for a huge party or crowd. I would call these special occasion cupcakes…the ones you make for a small birthday party or holiday celebration with family and friends. Although some of the recipes require gourmet ingredients, the methods are simple and easy to follow. The thing I think I love most about this book is that it’s also incredibly motivational and uplifting. This is the book to give the young girl in your life who loves to bake. It’s a great read as well as a great cookbook. It’s a book that, I feel, is designed to build confidence and help you reflect about your own family’s food traditions.
If you do decide to give any of these as gifts, you could pair them with one of the “essentials” listed in the book, or a pan or batch of one of the featured recipes for a really special touch. For example, if you give The Cookiepedia, you might wrap it with a couple of cookie sheets and parchment paper or Silpat mats (what I use instead of parchment). If you choose to give someone The Cupcake Diaries, you could buy the recipient a cupcake/muffin pan and some cute cupcake liners. John Besh’s cookbook could be given with a roasting pan or some of his essential ingredients. Where Women Cook Celebrate! could be wrapped with a beautiful serving dish. Finally, Ree Drummond’s book could be paired with a cast iron dutch oven, or even something as simple as oven mitts and a kitchen towel or some of the utensils Ree uses to whip up her gorgeous dishes. Above all, don’t just give the book…pair it with something mentioned in the book to really inspire your recipient to get in the kitchen and make you something delicious!
Happy Holidays! Check back in the next few days for some more gift ideas for the cooking and baking enthusiasts in your life!