There are plenty of reasons to celebrate at my house in October. The weather is finally cooling off and we have birthday parties and Halloween fun on the calendar. Oh, and it’s also National Cookbook Month! While it might not sound exciting to some, 31 days dedicated to a cornucopia of cooking ideas and beautiful food photography fires up my passion for creating unique, fast and healthy meals. If you saw me in the magazine ads this summer for Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner, you may have noticed the headline “I have 100 to 200 cookbooks, but I always make a recipe my own.”
It’s true! I devour cookbooks, thumbing through the pages, drooling over every photo and hanging on every description and ingredient like is some sort of romance novel with a suspense mystery ending – oh, how or how will it ever turn out if I added X, Y or Z to the mix?! Even though I rarely follow the ingredient lists and directions to the letter (except maybe in some baking), my voracious appetite for recipe reading has taught me the basic paradigm for all types of cookery and, for the most part, what works and what doesn’t when it comes to making my own culinary creations. I’m excited to share with you some of my favorite cookbooks that I refer to time and time again for ideas; these tomes of taste are the most dog-eared in my collection (except for the Runner’s World Cookbook that I’m hoping to pick up soon).
But, before you check out the list, I want to show you the cookbook that started it all, Betty Crocker’s “New” Boys and Girls Cookbook circa 1973. On the inside cover, you can see how the “making it my own” started at an early age – I scratched out Betty Crocker’s name in the title and substituted my own! You can tell by the stained pages and notations that my favorite recipe was for “Muffins,” but it was pretty plain. My sweet spin on the recipe was that after the muffins baked, I would brush them with melted butter and then shake them in a bag filled with cinnamon sugar!
The Healthy Beef Cookbook: Steaks, Salads, Stir-fry, and More–Over 130 Luscious Lean Beef Recipes for Every Occasion – by The National Cattleman’s Beef Association & The National Dietetic Association (2005)
I love this cookbook it is filled with 130 easy, family-friendly ways to make the 29 lean cuts of beef (10 grams fat or less per serving) taste even extra fantastic. I’ve had the opportunity to dine at the home of the primary recipe creator, Chef Richard Chamberlain, and can vouch first-hand for his mad skills and creativity with beef. Another tidbit, the Mojo Beef Kabobs featured in the cookbook is one of the recipes I demo in my presentations on “Beef – Fuel for the Finish” or “The Art of Grilling.”
My version of Mojo Beef Kabobs from the Healthy Beef Cookbook.
America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook: A New, Healthier Way to Cook Everything from America’s Most Trusted Test Kitchen – by America’s Test Kitchen (2010)
This cookbook seems to cover just about every angle of cooking with more than 800 family-friendly and globally-inspired recipes that are mindful of healthy eating. It’s easy to serve up whole grains, loads of vegetables and lean meats with all the ideas in this comprehensive cook book that will have you drooling from cover to cover. Probably what I like best are the very explicit instructions on various skills and techniques that may come up in the making of a recipe – it’s a Cliff’s Notes approach! For example, if you need to quickly thaw steaks or extract moisture out of zuchinni for a recipe, there are step-by-step instructions to follow – most with photographs. The ring binder-style presentation means it’s easy to remove favorite recipes to pin on the fridge or share with a friend.Check out my Gluten Free Peach Pecan Cobbler that was inspired from the pages of this cookbook.
Runner’s World Cookbook:150 Ultimate Recipes for Fueling Up and Slimming Down–While Enjoying Every Bite- by Joanna Sayago Golub (2013)
As a runner who likes to cook (and eat), you know this brand-new cookbook piqued my interest. I won’t lie; I’ve only seen a friend’s copy, but need to get my own STAT! Brimming with 150 of the magazine’s most popular recipes, the easy-to-follow key let’s you look for recipes that fit your needs best – such as pre-run and recovery recipes, gluten-free and vegetarian recipes, and low-cal recipes for runners trying to lose weight. There are sample menu plans to address various nutritional needs and, a huge perk is that every recipe can be made in 30 minutes or less – that means more time for running! Plus, the forward is written by a a great marathoner I’ve always admired, Deena Kastor.
Spiced Pecans, a great afternoon snack from The Runner’s World Cookbook.
Paleo Comfort Food: Homestyle Cooking for a Gluten-Free Kitchen –
by Julie Sullivan Mayfield, Charles Mayfield (2011)
I one of those people who follows the 80%/20% rule when it comes to the Paleo Diet. I love the idea of getting back to a simpler way of eating that our hunter-gatherer ancestors chowed down on during the Stone Age, but I just can’t completely commit to the primarily meat and vegetable diet that limits fruits and rules out dairy and grains. But, I still do like to plan completely Paleo meals when I can and this cookbook gives me lots of makeover-style recipes that have an appealing, homespun vibe.
Pot Roast on Cauliflower from Paleo Comfort Foods.
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2013
Oh my gosh, I’ve loved Cooking Light for years and literally jump up and down when the magazine comes in the mail each month – not just for the recipes but for the nutrition and fitness tips, too! If you’d like to have every single one of the magazine’s recipes from the past year, they put out an annual cookbook edition. Pick up the Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2013 and start your low library of healthy meal ideas today, whoot! Don’t miss recipes like XX and XX. Also, CookingLight.com has a really comprehensive cook book resource page that categorizes the editors’ favorite cookbooks – including the best 100 of the last 25 years, the best single subject, the best of baking and more.
Tomato Stack Salad with Corn and Avocado from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2013.
The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs – Karen Page (2008)
This big book is not really a cookbook per se, but a compendium of culinary inspiration broken down by ingredient. Listing out nearly every flavor imaginable from A to Z, make that achiote seeds to zucchini blossoms, this resource has helped me create so many interesting flavor profiles for my recipes. Each ingredient is listed out reference-book style followed by notations on taste, weight, and volume, along with a list of associations and chef comments that can rattle on for columns. A fantastic way to pair together flavors in a way that will have tongues wagging! Oh, and this book is the 2009 winner of the prestigious James Beard Book Award for Best Book: Reference and Scholarship.
King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking: Delicious Recipes Using Nutritious Whole Grain – by King Arthur Flour (2006)
If you appreciate baking (and a healthy lifestyle) as much as I do, then this cookbook will quickly become one of your favorites. As much as I like to wing it in the kitchen, I do admit that baking is a science that has certain no-fudge formulas for success. Often when I have experimented with whole grain substitutions in baking, the finished products could be used as bricks. However, this volume of 400+ recipes ranges pretty much guarantees success with proven recipes that range from rustic breads and gooey cookies to pie crusts and fancy pastries – that all incorporate whole grains! This cookbook inspired me to make these Multi-Grain Banana Peanut Butter Muffins.
My Multi-Grain Banana Muffins inspired by this King Arthur Cookbook!