A Guide to Building Your Cookbook Collection

I have a hoarding problem with cookbooks. I enjoy reading recipes and learning how the author came up with their point of view and food ideas. Plus, looking at the pictures help me visualize what my meal will look like. Isaac is a “picky” eater, so we often go through cookbooks and based off the pictures he will give me a thumbs up or thumbs down on whether I should try out the recipe for him. This is the list of my top ten cookbooks or cooking magazines that I go to over and over again for inspiration and favorite recipes that I’ve made over and over again.

1. Lidia’s Favorite Recipes by Lidia Matticchio BastianichMy father’s family is Italian (my maiden name is Fichera) and my favorite cuisine is Italian. I relate to how easy yet delicious Italian dishes can be when using the freshest ingredients you can find. Lidia’s baked stuffed shells are a classic made with a quick sauce of San Marzano Italian Plum tomatoes. As Rachel Ray would say “Yum-O.” 

2. Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook I received this all encompassing cookbook for my wedding. You need one good cookbook that you can look up anything basic and see how it’s made. Out of all the recipes I have tried, the chocolate chip cookies in this cookbook are the best and the recipe could not be easier. All the ingredients get mixed in one bowl! I think the secret is shortening (gasp) but aside from clogging my friends arteries, they always seem to love the cookies. I often make one cookie dough batch and keep it in my fridge so I can make a dozen here or there of fresh cookies throughout the week. 

3. The Best of America’s Test Kitchen Best Recipes and Reviews (magazine)- Every year ATK comes out with a magazine that costs about ten bucks. It has their top rated recipes from the last year. Score! These recipes are perfected and reviewed extensively, so you don’t have to worry about them turning out. They do a thorough job of explaining how they have improved many common recipes such as Carrot Cake. You can also subscribe to ATK online. Try their Ribeye Steaks in the Oven. Amazing! 

4. Southern Living Our Best Desserts (Magazine) I have kept this magazine and refer to it all the time for cake and pie recipes. I love their easy Fresh Georgia Peach Pie and their Mississippi Mud Pie. Desserts seem intimidating to me sometimes because of the precision factor but these recipes are uncomplicated and still look appealing. Get a copy even just to look at the pictures! In reference to my recent comment about Isaac’s thumbs up or down, I think he gave me a thumbs up on every recipe in the magazine!

5. Super Smoothies by Mary Corpening Barber & Sara Corpening WhitefordI recently received a Vitamix from my dad. I love him because when he gets hooked on something, he is all in and gets the top of the line equipment. Just ask him how much his race bike cost- then ask how many miles he has logged this year. His enthusiasm is addicting though and he can be quite persuasive. I guess that’s why he is so good as a salesman. He got hooked on his Vitamix as a way to get lots of nutrients and to aid him in his recent fad of becoming “mostly” gluten free. However, when I was sick earlier this year those smoothies kept me fed and nourished when I could barely eat anything.  He made me one every single day. This summer, since receiving my own, I have jumped on the Vitamix train. It’s amazing and worth every penny. Well, I should caveat that with the fact that I didn’t spend a penny. It was several of my dad’s pennies, but they were well spent! I blend everyday now after Maya gets up from her nap. We make a smoothie together and I hide some spinach in there among the fruit. I’ve had this book forever but it is a wonderful resource for easy and tasty smoothies. The Peachy Lean with peach yogurt, apple juice, a banana, frozen blackberries, & frozen peaches is a keeper.


6. Top 100 Baby Purees by Annabel KarmelThis is a little humorous because I literally just dropped my 30 baby food containers off at my friends house who has one little girl. Now that I have two kids under two and getting to take a shower signifies a successful day, I decided to relinquish my baby food making skills and buy pre made baby food for Georgia. I’ll buy Organic ones to make me feel better. Honestly though I really enjoyed making homemade food for Maya and this book had insightful recipes and techniques. It really is easy to make! Try it with your first baby. And if you do, I recommend this book. When you have your second kid, I’ll say hi to you in the Gerber section at Jewel.

7. Barefoot Contessa At Home by Ina Garten I think this one is my all time fav. I love Ina’s take on entertaining and her casual way of making outstanding food while making it look like it was no big deal to throw together a dinner party for 30 in her barn (million dollar barn I should say…it’s beautiful), or setting a striking table for her sweet husband Jeffrey in her garden with fresh hydrangeas. Oh life looks pretty good in the Hamptons. But her recipes are “Foolproof” as another one of her books is called. I received her book as a present at my wedding shower. I often buy the same book for friends that are brides to be. The lemon yogurt cake, chicken piccata, or peach and blueberry crumbles will impress any mother-in-law!

8. Everyday Italian by Giada de LaurentiisBy this list of books, can you tell I’m obsessed with the Food Network? I learned much of my Italian cooking skills from watching her on Food Network. Isaac hates when she speaks like an American, then busts out her Italian accent when she says “parmigiano reggiano!” I think she’s very talented and appreciate that she struggled for a long time feeling comfortable on camera but overcame that and is now so extraverted on all her shows. Isaac also seems to always notice her cute tshirts and tops….I wonder why? I like her salmon baked in foil recipe in this book. It’s fresh tasting and an unexpected stand out in her Italian cookbook.

9. Professional Cooking by Wayne Gisslen- I am a culinary school drop out. After knife skills and health/sanitation, I realized I wanted to “pursue other avenues.” Actually I really just realized I was not cut out for the nights & weekends that most all chefs adapt to as part of their life. I wasn’t sure how that would combine easily with soccer mom and wife. I was able to keep all my equipment, my amazing chef uniform (I will post that picture someday), and all my books. I use this textbook as a great guide for learning basics like the mother sauces and mise en place. Use this as a resource, not as a pleasurable read. 

10. The Pioneer Woman by Ree DrummondWhy does Ree Drummond look so calm, cool, and collected on her show? She has a website, cooking show, does photography, writes cookbooks, has kids, and oh wait for it……..homeschools. Whatever she’s on, I want some. Her blog is hilarious and she seems like a cool mom. Not like the cool mom in Mean Girls with fake boobs who offers her kids cocktails as a hump day treat, but a cool mom who if I was her teenage daughter I wouldn’t care if she was hanging out with all my friends. Her peppercorn steak sauce is dynamite and I just made her Summer Stir Fry (without tomatoes because of Isaac) tonight and it was great. Her book shows the creation of the recipe with step by step pictures so you know you are cooking it right. I may want to be like her but with my kids in a school classroom and my massive ranch in a gated Scottsdale community with a pool, far from cattle and rodeos. 




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  329. Janice Heath Reply

    Katie – Your Barefoot Contessa recipes have definitely impressed your mother-in-law:)…especially that peach/blueberry crumble! Yum!