These 5 every day cook books are essential for home cooks of every level. Consequently, these five cookbooks act as a “get to know my kitchen” introduction. Here, we eat simply, quickly and with as much flavor as possible. I aim for recipes that are nutritionally rich, seasonal and tasty for my growing family.
Whether it is your granny’s “Joy of Cooking” or an aesthetically pleasing copy of “Martha’s Stewart’s Cookie Perfection” , each homemaker has a bookmarked every day cookbook on which they lean heavily.
I just happen to have five… They are dependable, and inspiring: two things I need as a mom who loves to cook but often doesn’t know what to make.
Cooking wasn’t always as prevalent or pertinent in my life, that is, until I dove headfirst into bread. Bread baking became a close friend in my early 20’s. It was a good habit, a quick Italian dinner or a bubbling companion welcoming home after a day at the office.
My top five every day cook books include:
- A sourdough cookbook for everyday loaves, seasonal bakes and weekly bagels
- A cookbook that diversifies the genres of our meals, and gives me variety in the way I serve simple proteins
- A vegetarian cookbook, for help in incorporating more vegetables into our meals and flavorful, healthy sides to a protein
- A homesteading cookbook with essentials for baking, along with heritage bakes our grandmothers would be familiar with
- A cookbook for celebrating seasonality and fresh food
Why are cookbooks important for home cooks?
There is a time and place for the fun, new recipe or a pin to save a researched instructional. However, the more established you are as a cook, the more you find yourself creating your own weekly staples. For example, I make two loaves of honey oat bread weekly. At least once a week, we have pancakes of some sort. Quiche is another go-to breakfast item, with homemade butter crust. My son devours jambalaya, and it frequents our menu more than you would think. These are my essentials. So frequently are these recipes made, that these everyday cookbooks line my shelves with dog eared corners. No pinning or scrap paper notes needed.
1) “Artisan Sourdough Made Simple” by Emilie Raffa
“Artisan Sourdough Made Simple” was the first cookbook that found itself hovering on my countertops, often with a wooden spoon as place holder. I returned from an unexpected trip where I learned how to make sourdough from a lady I had met on Instagram. Yes, I asked a stranger on the internet to have me to their home, and they agreed. What? It was the best bread I had ever tasted, mostly because it was paired with ice coffee with the milk I had just strained from their goats.
But after that visit, I could not, would not, be able to go back to bagged grocery store bread. It wasn’t good, and it wasn’t necessary. My starter lasted about six months before I neglected it beyond forgiveness and it was time to start again from scratch.
Emilie’s book included a recipe on how to begin a sourdough starter, as well as slightly shorter fermentation period than I was used to. More time, and more bread – it was a win win. There were recipes with spelt, flaxseeds, dried fruits, rye and semolina. I could feel my confidence and curiosity growing as I tried each new seemingly complex recipe and achieved artisan results.
On rotation, I try to have a loaf of her ‘Everyday Sourdough’, ‘Sunday Morning Bagels’, and for a treat, the ‘Seeded Pumpkin Cranberry’ loaf. What we don’t eat immediately, I freeze for in-a-pinch dinner emergencies. This book is the beginning of a very important journey of incorporating regular homemade bread into your kitchen. It has become a very good, and very flour covered friend indeed.
2) “Half Baked Harvest: Super Simple” by Tieghan Gerard
Before bread, I learned a great deal of cooking basics from a talented college roommate. She had come to college equipped for dinners of homemade soups and pizzas. She was a blessing to girls who planned to eat tacos and salads for the next four years. After holidays, she greeted us with a fresh box of cookies and new ideas from her favorite food blogger.
The first cookbook, “Half Baked Harvest Cookbook”, was a real introduction on flavor with few ingredients. Tieghan takes basic ingredients, like sweet potatoes, and gives great instruction on how to elevate oven fries with spices like smoked paprika and garlic powder. It was an excellent lesson on attainable complex flavors. Her second cookbook, “Half Baked Harvest: Super Simple”, includes even more interesting pairings with simple essentials. She gives a straightforward recipe on everyday pizza dough, using only pantry essentials, and tops with a range of flavors.
A meal like the ‘Crispy Chicken Khao Soi Noodle Soup’ turns carrots, chicken and broth into a take-out treat. ‘Chicken Tinga Tacos’ transforms my leftover roasted chicken and red enchilada sauce into husband adoration. The power of flavor, I tell you!
One of my favorite things about food is how we can tie it to memories. This year, my son and I made ‘Coconut Carrot Cake’ on New Years Day and shared it with neighbors. The process was fun, the results were delicious and the shared memory of it was icing on the cake. Literally.
3) “The Love & Lemons Cookbook” by Jeanin Donofrio
The more you learn about cooking, the more you learn about food. And the more you learn about food, the more you learn about food quality. For me, the more I learned about food quality, the more I wanted to grow my own.
Unfortunately, this realization came while living in a 600 sq. ft. apartment in a very concrete filled city. But we had a south facing patio, and enough room to hold one rack of potted basil and oregano. Fortunately, it felt like enough of a start. Come four years later, we had only upgraded to an 800 sq. ft. apartment, and but become “potted plant fiends”. (I was not above weeding abandoned beds in our apartment community garden and planting kale in the dead of night.) Cherry tomatoes dangled over our patio wall and squirrels constantly fought to hide things with the jalapenos. Combined, Tuesday’s tacos were topped with homemade salsa, making it feel very worthwhile.
I stumbled upon Love & Lemons in a clearance bin, and instantly appreciated its organization. The cookbook is divided into sections with an individual focus on a single vegetable or fruit. Seasonal cooking becomes much simpler when there are recipes focused on the things you find at the farmer’s market. She gives a simple algorithm for recipe success: “Start with vegetables, choose a meal format, add supporting ingredients, sauce it up, spice and pay it forward.”
While the cookbook naturally caters to vegetarians, I find it easy to adapt by adding a protein as we like, or substituting vegetables to make recipes toddler friendly. Repeatedly, we have returned from a trip and had everything to throw together ‘Creamy Miso Brussels Sprout Fettuccine’. On one of the first crisp days of fall, my tastebuds request the tomatoey richness of ‘Carrot & Tomato Tagliatelle’. After long summer days outside, quick ‘Tomato Basil Grilled Cheese’ sandwiches fill us up and cools us down. If our summer veggie patch cooperates, I guarantee you’ll find this cookbook open on our counters when you stop by.
4) “The Prairie Homestead Cookbook” by Jill Winger
If you’ve dipped your toes into any homestead circle, I’m sure this author’s name comes by no surprise. Jill has been a forerunner in the modern homesteading movement – promoting entrepreneurship, community derived food independence and the simple lifestyle that comes from ability and education.
When it comes to food from scratch, I began to want tried and true recipes of just the basics – recipes from an older era with simpler ingredients and methods, still creating memories as “grandma’s best”. Knowing the basics, I felt like I could then add my own personal touch. Jill’s recipes were the launching point I needed.
It began to feel contradictory to buy fresh ground pork sausage and eggs from a local farm, grow my own spinach and throw it into a quiche with store bought crust. Now, my breakfast creation is complete with her all butter pie crust recipe, sure to grace the pie pan of many pumpkin pies to come as well.
If anything, cooking more simply made cooking faster with less thought. Jill’s “Brick Oven Pizza” recipe makes enough dough to make 4 medium size pizzas, which our small family of three does not need to take down on a Friday night. Instead, I have kept half of the dough in the fridge for another meal, future cinnamon rolls or to freeze as already made frozen pizzas. I certainly think her “Sky High Buttermilk Biscuits” are the easiest and most delicious biscuits I’ve ever tasted. Please, pair them with her “Old Fashioned Sausage Gravy”. I find myself ready to tackle the evening meal and excited to pair these essentials with what’s growing. “The Prairie Homestead Cookbook” is one I’ll be teaching from and passing down to my kids.
5) “Seasons on the Farm” by Shaye Elliott
As I have collected these every day cookbooks, there has been growth in my home cooking and my mindset toward what happens in the kitchen. There was a season of eating what was on the plate in front of me, and now, a more mature sense of responsibility towards my plate and those around me. I know that I have memories of rice crispy treats tied to warm summer camp evenings, and Hawaiian pizza on a windy beach in Oregon. There will always be cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning, and poppyseed cake on my birthday. But now, those cinnamon rolls might just be sourdough… (and brioche!).
“Seasons on the Farm” is my newest cookbook love, not necessarily for its rustic comfort foods, but because Shaye ties it to a season. She may argue that some recipes flow naturally from a particular season, and some are necessary for that season to be. I would agree.
As our son grows, I want as many delightful seasons to resonate in his memories. Past memories of wonderful moments can drive us to create more and share them.
So for us, there will be “Spring Egg Omelets” with our first herbs for a joyful first day of spring. Mugs of “Hot Chocolate” and “Homemade Marshmallows” will be for a gray, winter day that needs more comfort or cheer.
I hope this collection of cookbooks inspire you to peruse the bookstore shelves, or take out an old favorite on a special feeling day. Cookbooks will naturally paint themselves with our use – a toddlers butter smudge, coconut aminos from a late night stir fry or meringue from the first time you made souffles together. They are a delightful memory book to pass down, a pick-me-up in a rut and a launching space for growth in celebrating food with your family. Learn more about me and my ever exploratory kitchen HERE.
Do you have a cookbook that never leaves your countertop? Let me know in the comments!