Summer was a disappointing time for cookbooks, especially at Costco. They typically have a few books here and there that sneak their way into my cart but this summer their selection was really lackluster. No name chefs with weird ingredients and not many pictures made me feel uninspired and therefore my stash of cookbooks—and our checkout total—stayed pretty small. Then the weather got cooler and the leaves started to change color. Apple spice everything was everywhere, women started wearing leggings and boots, and men stopped shaving. It was officially fall!
Little known fact: fall is when a lot of cookbooks are released, specifically October. As if we needed another reason to love this season!
So as I was perusing the samples one day I thought I’d take a lap around the cookbook table. I went in with low expectations and then BAM! I was hit in the face (or should I stay stomach?) with stacks of glorious, wonderful books that were currently on my Amazon wishlist just waiting for a moment of weakness when I’d buy them all. I stood there and paged through each and every one, bouncing the baby on one hip and opening a giant bag of veggie straws to keep the 4 year old quiet in the cart. My heart raced as I saw book after beautiful book that I wanted…no, needed!
If I only had these cookbooks my dinners would be unforgettable! Our stomachs would be full, our children would learn to love wholesome foods, our friends would beg to join us for breakfast, lunch and dinner—all because of these books! It took very little rationalizing in my head to decide that a big ‘ole pile needed to come home with me. So now, without further adieu, I’d like to share my thoughts on a few of my favorites!
To begin: The Queen Bees
Martha Stewart and Ina Garten. Mic drop, fade to black. Do I really need to say more?!
Martha Stewart is second on my list of people I wish I could be. Joanna Gaines is number one—Martha would be first if it wasn’t for that whole “insider trading criminal” thing and her weird relationship with Snoop Dog. *shakes head* I love Martha’s newest cookbooks Appetizers and Vegetables. The recipes are pretty easy without a billion ingredients and while some of them may be new to you, everything can basically be found at Hyvee. She really focuses on quality of ingredients (buy organic sweet potatoes…you’ll cry the first time you try them) so you don’t have to MAKE a lot of flavor, it’s already there with what you’re already using. Full disclosure: Vegetables is not a vegetarian cookbook but rather a vegetable-focused cookbook. The vegetables are the stars of the show but there a lot of recipes that have some sort of meat in them. If you’re looking for a vegetarian cookbook though, she has Meatless which I definitely recommend (I haven’t seen it at Costco yet).
Ina Garten is another all-star of mine. I’m not a fan of her cooking show but her recipes are SO. GOOD. I tried about an infinity+1 recipes for Beef Stew and just could not find one that I liked. Enter her newest cookbook: Cooking for Jeffery. Jackpot! It was amazing! Technically the recipe was Lamb Stew with Spring vegetables but I used beef and made it in the fall--rebel, I know. Costco carries a lot of her cookbooks now, including my favorites Cooking for Jeffery and Make It Ahead. Her books are filled with lots of warm, comforting flavors covered in gravies and butter. She’s homemade, not healthy if you know what I mean! Besides the stew I got rave reviews from the butternut squash hummus in her Appetizers section. If you make it, don’t forget to pick up one of those jumbo bags of naan (by the salsas and guacamole) to serve with it!!
If you could only have one cookbook…
Just the thought makes me cringe. BUT If I really had to choose only one cookbook to save from the burning fire, I would have to choose The Complete Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook. This cookbook is insane, especially for the price. EVERY recipe, ingredient testing, and equipment rating from 9 seasons. You heard me, 9! There is also a picture with every single recipe. It reminds me of a Grandma’s secret recipe book. Seriously think of any dish…there will be a recipe for it in there. There is also a ton of great information on what kitchen gear and brands to buy. If someone had given me this book as a wedding present maybe I wouldn’t have spent my first year of marriage burning Rice-a-roni every night! There is a bigger, textbook-like book there too which I have yet to check out. Cook’s Country had more pictures so it was a no brainer to get that one first.
If you’re a serious Cookbook-ie (like Foodie but for cookbooks? Maybe it’s a thing…)
Danielle Walker from Against All Grain just released a new cookbook called Celebrations. Now, I may be partial to it because I had the incredible experience of being on her Launch Team for the cookbook. I was on Instagram at the right time and she put up a message that she needed 150 people to recipe test and hype her new book before it was released. I was lucky number 89 and received the book about a month early and got to cook a bunch of her recipes for a media blitz she was doing. For those of you who don’t know, Danielle Walker is paleo and writes recipes that are gluten, dairy and refined sugar free. Most recipes use nut flours in place of white or wheat flour and there is a ton of coconut everything. If you are new to this way of cooking and eating, I would recommend getting her first book Against All Grain or Meals Made Simple. Celebrations is a great addition to her other two books but it is heavy on the baked goods (cookies, cakes, pastries, etc.) because that’s what a lot of grain and dairy free individuals miss at get-togethers. There are a lot of really great savory dishes too, but not as many as in Against All Grain or Meals Made Simple. I think Celebrations is a great cookbook for someone growing a collection, not necessarily starting one.
Dump and Mix:
Costco is carrying almost all of the Six Sister’s Stuff cookbooks. I kept Six Sister’s Stuff and Dinner Made Easy. Their recipes have lots of cream-of chicken/celery/onion and packets of onion soup mix but I think they’re good to have in your back pocket for days when you need something super easy. They also have craft ideas, cleaning to-do lists, and kid’s snack ideas. Their baked goods are pretty famous too—feel free to make some and drop them off at my house!
Skinnytaste and Skinnytaste: Fast & Slow are pretty good too. I’m pretty sure she follows Weight Watchers—there are point totals on recipes—but I just ignore those. Fast & Slow is her newest release and each chapter is split up into fast (20 minute or less) and slow (slow cooker or long bake) recipes. I prefer Skinnytaste to Fast & Slow if I had to pick just one. She has a lot of Cuban/Mexican inspired recipes (I loooove her picadillo) and has a whole chapter dedicated just to tacos in Fast & Slow. We just made her Korean-Style Beef Tacos and I literally drank the sauce. It wasn’t my proudest moment but it was dang tasty!
Guy Fieri Family Food. Just like with Ina, I am not a fan of Guy Fieri’s shows. I don’t own any of his other cookbooks and just threw this one in the cart thinking I would probably return it. I got home and started looking through it and I seriously love it! It has a very Southwest / West Coast feel (I’m pretty sure there’s roasted red peppers and onions in everything) and has lots of “build your own” style meals (tacos, chili, pizza, etc.). He also gives recipes on how to repurpose leftovers for more meals and a whole section dedicated to just kabobs. I don’t know about his other books but this one sure is great!
Alton Brown’s Everyday Cook. I don’t own any of his other books but saw a few of his recipes on the Today Show and thought I would give it a try. First of all, he uses a kitchen scale for a lot of his ingredients. While I know he’s a science guy that loves to get things precise, I’m more of a “that looks about right” kind of cook when it comes to measuring ingredients. Why dirty more dishes if you don’t have to?? So that was my first turn off. Then, unfortunately, the meals just weren’t things I’d cook. They were a little too picky or exotic for me (if you consider mussels exotic). This cookbook was food that he actually eats when cooking at home and all of the photos were shot on his iPhone—pretty cool! I wanted to love this book but just couldn’t. Thankfully Costco has that amazing return policy because this was one that went back.
Well I hope this post made you hungry! Head over to Costco today and pick up a great new cookbook—there’s one for everyone! And if you’re new to home cooking, I also recommend checking out their magazine section. My favs are Food Network Magazine and Martha Stewart Living.
Also, a few of us started doing Cook The Book with Iowa Medical Partners members. We choose either a cookbook that everyone cooks out of or a theme (soup, vegetarian, etc.) and get together for a potluck to share recipes/tips. Let’s be honest: it’s a fancy name for an excuse to eat! Join us at our next get together Friday December 16th! Details will be in the Iowa Medical Partners Facebook group. The North Liberty library also does a Cook The Book. Their next event is December 5th at 6:30pm. They’re cooking their way through Chrissy Teigen’s book Cravings (which I of course own and recommend). Their events are for adults only, however, which is why we started something similar for Iowa Medical Partners—no babysitters needed!