My Favorite Cookbooks

It is such fun to make lists of books, especially cookbooks if you are as big a foodie nerd as I am.  Of course I should include Nourishing Traditions in any list, but that pretty much goes without saying at this point.  If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, I highly recommend it.

Sally Fallon breaks down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in the truly groundbreaking introduction.  I remember reading it for the first time and being blown away by her argument that fat was nourishing and not the demon I had been lead to believe it was.

You may have seen a few of these cookbooks on my shelf in the pictures of my kitchen here.  I don’t think I will ever tire of getting a new cookbook to add to my collection.  I love seeing how people think about food, present it, prepare it.  Recipes have their own kind of language; it’s almost as if you can tell a little bit about the person who wrote them.

Previously, I have talked about my ten items I would recommend for a real food newbie.  They also make excellent birthday and holiday gifts, but the fact remains that they build a good foundation for making real foods in your own kitchen.  Alternately, if you find that you already have the basics, then you can see my recommendations for a seasoned foodie.  I’m still working on attaining those items myself!

Another place to start is with your cookbooks.  Buy cookbooks that you find exciting and new.  Real food can be challenging, and so passion for learning these skills is incredibly important.

My Top Ten Cookbooks

  1. Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz: Some call this “the fermenting bible”, which I love because it’s so true.  From breads & beers to miso & kefir, you can arguably ferment anything.  Naturally effervescent, these foods are alive and activated and probiotic (think yogurt!).  You can sometimes even feel them making vibrations in your body, like the first time I tried homemade beet kvass (which is surprisingly tasty; my son Miles asks for it!)
    I have already made a few fermented foods here, such as sauerkraut, water kefir, and lacto-fermented ketchup and mayonnaise.  But I am looking forward to trying out more adventurous foods that are covered in Wild Fermentation, like kefir beer, homemade miso soup (made with fermented miso paste and homemade dashi), or infused vinegars.  The sky’s the limit!
  2. Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 2 Volume Set by Julia Child: I know hardly anyone who doesn’t love traditional French foods.  Real butter, seafood, pate, broths, stocks, and even a deboned roast duck wrapped in pastry dough (anyone else love that part on Julie & Julia?)!  The books are like having Julia Child teach you in a cooking school in your mind.  If I had infinite resources and time, I would want to go to culinary school in Paris, just like her.
    My only “complaint” about this set is that it’s written in the older style of cookbooks where there are not any pictures, but only a few diagrams here and there.  But I have found that even as an extremely visual person I have fallen in love with these cookbooks.  You have to really visualize what the recipe entails, which I find helps me understand it and remember it better in the end.
  3. The Gluten-free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elena Amsterdam: This is one of the best GAPS-friendly dessert cookbooks I have found.  Almond flour is so versatile, and is a GAPS-legal food.
    If you are on GAPS, you may want to get your hands on this book (and read my how to do GAPS post), but do be careful not to use almond flour too often as it is high in oxalates.  However, it is in the mid-range for omega-6 oil content (I am trying to keep my intake of omega-6 oils lower as opposed to making my omega-3 levels higher), so I still have almond flour occasionally.
  4. Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Mary Enig: For several months followed this book hoping that I would lose some weight.  I was having coconut oil three times a day on Eat Fat, Lose Fat I learned a mini lesson in health not being only about weight.  My weight stayed the same, but my energy increased, my sleep got better, and I felt generally content.
    Well, it turns out that my priorities were just a little skewed considering I now wholeheartedly embrace a Diet Recovery and Health at Every Size approach to nutrition, which is much broader and kinder than other “diets”.
  5. The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever by Beatrice Ojakangas: If you grew up with casseroles that were delicious and cheesy and hearty, you also probably saw them made with a can of condensed soup.  Most canned soups contain MSG and other undesirable ingredients, so I was so happy to pick up this book and see that…she teaches you how to make your own sauces for each casserole base.  Hallelujah!
    Another factor that leads to me to agree that this book really is the best casserole book ever is the sheer variety the author manages to put into the varying chapters.  Cheesy dips morph into hearty dinners and then make their way to fruit cobblers and desserts.  You will love your baking dish after this (although I admit I don’t know how you couldn’t love a casserole dish as beautiful as this!)
  6. Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen: First and foremost, this cookbook has an entire chapter on offal.  So that screams “traditional” to me!  I am curious to try the recipe for Stuffed Beef Heart.  I have yet to eat heart that isn’t blended into a delicious braunschweiger on crackers, but I have heard that it’s quite an easy organ to eat, since it is a muscle and therefore similar to beef meat.
    This St. Patrick’s Day I pulled this book off my shelf and was inspired to make all kinds of delicious foods.  Of course we made the corned beef and cabbage and Irish soda bread fare.  But this year I also made apple fritters from this book and an Irish Apple and Potato Cake inspired by another recipe from the book.
  7. The Craft of the Cocktail by Dale DeGroff: I love this book.  It shows you all the basics for getting started, from recommended glassware to garnish techniques. Plus, the list of drink recipes is extensive and thorough.  You can find basic drinks, riffs on each of them, and still get a good handle on more contemporary drinks.
    I got this book instead of The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury.  Two years ago when I bought Craft they only had original copies available.  But now you can find this reprint version for much less.  Now I think I need to get my hands on that copy as well.
    It sounds charming, if not entirely because Embury is so opinionated about the proper way to prepare and serve drinks.  For example, he insists that cocktail glasses should be at least as large as 3 ounces.  But most cocktail glasses today are at least 8 ounces, far too large.  I finally found 6-ounce cocktail glasses at IKEA, which were simple and cost-effective.
    And he also seems to insist upon drinks whetting rather than dulling the appetite, which means he doesn’t like syrupy or sugary drinks.  And as a real foodie I agree!
  8. Cookies Unlimited by Nick Malgieri:  This isn’t a real-food-ready book, but I absolutely love it.  The author is so knowledgeable, and he obviously loves baking to the point of being passionate and excellent at what he does.  I even went through the trouble of making the checkerboard cookies a few years ago, so much fun!
    So you will have to be up for the real foodification of these recipes.  Think of it as a great experiment.  I love doing this.  I even have a whole Pinterest board on the subject!  Seeing how sprouted flour works in cookies recipes is a lot of fun.

Please, let me know what other cookbooks you love, the ones that are tried and true and always seem to get pulled out for inspiration in your kitchen.  Real food should be fun, and it should be something you enjoy thoroughly.  I love playing in the kitchen, and I hope you do too!

This post is a part of Sunday School, Weekend Gourmet, Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Real Food Wednesday, Allergy-Free Wednesday, Healthy2day Wednesday, The Mommy Club, Pennywise Platter, Full Plate Thursday, and Simple Lives Thursday.

PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.


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  1. Well, imagine my surprise to see the cocktails book because here I was thinking you were still at least semi-actively LDS. Now I definitely want to meet you and go out for drinks sometime. 🙂

    Wild Fermentation is one of my favorite books in general, not just for food. I love his stories, the beautiful and magical way he approaches the world. There’s a story about radishes in there that brings a tear to my eye every time I read it.

    One great book I read recently was The Extraordinary Cookbook. It’s a book of weird, wild recipes, most of which I’ll probably never make, but I love that they are so FUN, which I think food should be, and it’s definitely real food… lots of offal in there, and a whole pig’s head.

    • Yeah, I resigned and everything 🙂 In fact, I think when I was on GAPS last summer I tried a sweet tea and bourbon drink that you had on your blog. It was so good! I think I used mint tea, so it was a little julep-y. We definitely need to get together for a drink!

      I would love to check out The Extraordinary Cookbook. I hadn’t heard of it before. *goes to Amazon*

      Health at Every Size is amazing. It’s the only place where I feel like I am valued as a person, instead of a fattie without any control, you know? Because everyone knows that being fat is totally a character flaw *eyeroll*. I love The Nourished Life, and Chicken Tender specifically for those reasons. Your post last year-ish on HAES still puts tears in my eyes if I reread it.

  2. (Oh, and I must say that apart from myself and Elizabeth at The Nourished Life you are the only real food writer I know who actively promotes Health at Every Size… thank you.)

  3. My favorite cookbook hands down is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. It is a little more mainstream than true Real Food but the recipes are easy to convert and he gives tons of variations for most dishes. Everything I’ve cooked from that has come out wonderful. I also use his recipe for home made gingerale which is superb and of course I sub in rapadura for the sugar.

    The Julia Child set has been on my wishlist for a while now. And I’m going to have to add the Eat Fat Loose Fat book.

    One of my fav food books (although not a cookbook it does include some recipes) is Eat, Drink and Be Healthy. Interesting little book based on actual diet studies done here in the US. It is a great primer on glycemic index and got me eating real food instead of SAD.

    I’m also a huge fan of HAES (pun intended) and also The Fat Nutritionist, She doesn’t post often but I love her eating philosophy.

    • Awesome response 🙂 I have How to Cook Everything from the library right now, so I need to pull it out and see what there is! That sounds like one I need to buy.

  4. I just wrote a post about a cookbook as well. The Fannie Farmer cookbook. It’s the 11th addition, I think from about 1964. I like it because most of the ingredients are basic real food.

  5. Kendahl, I’m ex-LDS as well. (Hi Chandelle! I miss seeing you on Facebook.)

    I love NT, but Sandor Katz is the one that really got me fermenting! I got to go to a demonstration when he was in San Francisco on an early book tour.

  6. Thanks for posting this list – that’s a few more cookbooks for my wishlist! I would add “Full Moon Feast” by Jessica Prentice. It is similar to Wild Fermentation & Nourishing Traditions in that there is loads to read as well as the recipes. And it is quite beautiful.

  7. Thanks so much for linking up to Allergy-Free Wednesday. Hope to see you next week.

  8. Looks like a great list of books! Thanks for linking up to Healthy 2Day Wednesday….hope to see you back next week! 🙂

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