I actually really like to cook. I’m not always good at it and I definitely not very efficient. But I do enjoy it as long as I have a recipe.
I am not an inventive cook. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with throwing in a little of this and a little of that. I can pretty easily estimate a tablespoon and a teaspoon. I can almost remember that there are 8 ounces in a cup but 16 ounces in a pound. But when it comes to being creative in the kitchen, that’s not my forte.
I need a good recipe. I’ll do a lot of online searching. I like AllRecipes.com for a good variety and I’m lovin Foodily.com as a great food search engine. But I still like some of my tried and true old cookbooks. I have a few favorites and here’s the criteria they meet.
- Pictures. I have to have pictures of the food I’m going to make.
- Ingredients that I have in my kitchen. I’ll run out for oyster sauce if needed but don’t make me search for ridiculously expensive and hard-to-find ingredients.
- Step-by-step instructions. Over the years, I’ve learned techniques and can usually fill in the blanks. But I read directions and they better be right.
- Recipes that work. Yes, I need a cookbook where the recipe have been tested, actually work, and produce good results. And no, not every cookbook does that (cough, Martha Stewart)
Without further ado, here are my top 5 favorite cookbooks with a sample recipe from each.
1. Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book
You know the red checkered cover. I have used this cookbook more times than I can count. It is a beginner’s MUST as it not only includes simple recipes but directions for basic things like how to bake a potato or how to hard boil an egg. I use it for a reference guide when it comes to freezing meats or substituting ingredients. I use it for everything and I’ve never been disappointed. Not even once.
Sample recipe: Corn Bread
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil (I use Canola)
In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, beat together eggs, milk, and oil. Add to flour mixture and stir just till batter is smooth (do not overbeat)
Pour into a greased 9x9x2-inch baking pan. Bake in a 425 degree over for 20 to 25 minutes.
Note: My edition was printed in 1989 but I’ve never felt the need to upgrade. It covers everything I need.
2. Cooking Light Five Star Recipes: The Best of 10 Years
I was a Cooking Light fan for a long time until I realized that we needed to pay attention to more than just fat in a recipe. So I take the “light” part of the cooking with a grain of salt. However, the healthier recipes I’ve made from this cookbook have never disappointed. And judging by the comments I got on the Blueberry Coffee Cake photo I shared this past weekend, I thought it might be a good recipe to share.
Sample recipe: Blueberry Coffee Cake
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 8-oz. nonfat cream cheese (seriously, use fat-free here – you won’t be able to tell the difference)
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Beat butter and cream cheese st medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating well. Add egg; beat well.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into margarine mixture. Stir in vanilla; fold in berries. Pour batter into a 9-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray. Combine 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour; cool on a wire rack.
Wish I had photos for all of these recipes but this one I just HAD to share.
3. Betty Crocker’s 30-Minute Menus
Yes, this is another oldie but goodie. This is a 1992 cookbook that I feel like I ordered from a book club (anyone else remember them?) This cookbook details full meal recipes. I usually make just a main dish or a side but technically they can all be made in 30 minutes. In fact, I made this one for dinner just tonight. And it was loved by all.
Sample recipe: Honey-Mustard Ham
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 pound fully cooked smoked ham slice, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup sour cream
Mix water, honey, and mustard in 10-inch skillet. Add ham. Cover and heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer over low heat about 15 minutes, turning once, until ham is heated through. Remove ham; keep warm. Stir in sour cream and heat 1 minute. Pour over ham.
4. The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook
I need to remind you that I do actually live in the South. And I do love grits and hushpuppies. But that’s about where my love of Southern food ends. It’s heavy and greasy and carb-overload, typically. However, I found a lovely little cookie recipe a few years ago when I went a little crazy with Christmas cookies. I’m not a big chocolate lover and find so many holiday treats are too much. This was a nice light cookie that would be just perfect with a cup of tea.
Sample Recipe: Lemon Icebox Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Beat butter and sugars at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well afetr each addtion. Add lemon rind and juice, beating until blended.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating just until belnded. Divide dough into 3 equal portions; rolle ach portion on wax paper into a 12 inch log. Cover and chill 8 hours.
Cut each log into 1/2 inch slices (about 28); place on lightly greased baking sheets.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
5. Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: Feasting with your Slow Cooker
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge lover of the recipes in this cookbook. I know that sounds odd. This cookbook is full of user-submitted recipes and clearly, not everyone is a gourmet cook. However, if you like to use a slow cooker, I find this to be a great reference book. Want to make ham a potatoes? There are 8 different recipes. Want to make chili? There are 17 different recipes. I look at them all and then pick and choose my ingredients. I usually end up with my own concoction but use the ingredients, proportions, and cooking times to make something pretty delicious.
Sample recipe: Sally’s Split Pea Soup
1-lb pkg split peas
1 ham hock
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
2 qts. water
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 bay leaf
2 whole allspice
3 potatoes, diced
1 tsp. sugar
Wash and sort split peas, removing any stones. Then combine ingredients in slow cooker.
Cover. Cook on Low 8-10 hours.
Remove ham bone. Cut meat off and dice. Return meat to soup. Stir through.
Remove bay leaf before serving.
And now you are privvy to some of the things I like to make in the kitchen. If I had my way, I’d bake all the time. But, you know, carbs and sugar and all. I’d love to hear what cookbooks would make your list and why.