Monday, June 4, 2012

Read to cook!

I promised some friends back in April that I would  blog about some of my favorite cookbooks, but with two graduations in our house (mine and my daughter's), a funeral (my grandpa's), and the usual end-of-school-year tasks, it's taken me this long to get around to doing so!

I've written before that much of my reading is done outside of books--and cookbooks are a big part of my "outside reading."  I like to plan my family's dinner menus every two months, which means pulling out a few of my dozens of cookbooks to help with meals and shopping lists.  There are certain cookbooks I only use for certain seasons (I rarely cook stews in the summer, for instance).  I usually use five or six of them each time I plan, and spend a couple of hours a day for two or three days to finish the process. 

How do I know what's in each cookbook before I plan?  Because as I collect them, I usually read through each one.  Yep, I have even been known to read cookbooks before I go to sleep!  That doesn't mean that I read through each and every recipe; I just go through the sections, and read the ingredients and directions for the recipes that sound good and/or interesting.  I usually tag the "good" ones with sticky notes for future reference.  After I've tried a recipe, I write notes in the books themselves, and give one to three stars for how well they are received by my family.

Now, I don't advocate writing in all your books, but I like writing notes in my cookbooks, and I LOVE finding old cookbooks with someone else's notes written in them.  It's a connection with history, kitchen to kitchen.
So enough blathering....let's get down to the cookbooks.  My latest purchase is The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, by Ree Drummond.  I read it during our recent roadtrip; it has great passages about life on the ranch and living with real, honest-to-goodness cowboys.  Not to mention some great recipes picturing every step along the way!

My all-time-favorite slow-cooker cookbook is The Busy Mom's Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Jyl Steinback.  We use the pork meatballs-and-sauerkraut recipe every New Year's Day!  There are vegetarian options, side dishes, bonus recipes...and each and every recipe has a SHOPPING LIST!  Thank you, Jyl, for making my life that much easier!

An oldie-but-a-goodie is the 1981 edition of Better Homes and Gardens' New Cook Book.  It has my go-to recipes for chocolate chip and spritz cookies, lemon curd, and how to cook cuts of meat with which I'm unfamiliar.  I even got the 2006 edition...but I haven't used that yet!

I was addicted to Gooseberry Patch cookbooks for over a decade, and their seasonal cookbooks still get pulled out four times a year.  The two I use year-round are Country Quick & Easy and In the Kitchen with Family and Friends

Another all-time favorite, especially during the school year:  The Four Ingredient Cookbooks.  Literally four ingredients per recipe...doesn't get much easier than that!

Magazine cookbooks are usually pretty good, too.  I like the Woman's Day Cookbook, and keep meaning to use the Investment Cooking section sometime (cook all weekend and freeze a bunch for later).

Last, but not least, is an example of my favorite kind of cookbook:  the organization publications.  You know, the ones that churches, bowling leagues, fraternal groups, etc. publish for fundraisers.  You can find the best home cooking recipes in these!  I get them at garage and estate sales, plus I've inherited a few.

I've got over three bookshelves full of cookbooks, and collect even more recipes from magazines.  They make for good reading, and even better cooking!  Hope you've enjoyed this little foray into my kitchen and my "outside reading"!


  1. Awesome entry, Chris! You are so amazing. Now I feel like (1) getting organized, and (2) cooking. Now THAT is unheard of! Miss you.

    1. Jo,
      I'm just glad to be getting back into somewhat of the old routine! Let me know if you want my Word template for the menu planning. Happy cooking--looking forward to seeing you this summer!