Many of The Sun News readers stop to tell me that they enjoy the cookbook reviews. Almost all of them ask me “Of all the cookbooks you look at in a year, what are your favorites?”
Had to give it a lot of thought, but after sorting through the roughly forty books I’ve reviewed so far this year, these are the half-dozen books that really touched me in my calorie loving soul.
Criteria for putting a book on this “favorite” list were simple:
1. Books that taught me something new about cooking and/or eating.
2. A section up front that helped me better understand ingredients I will be using
3. Recipes that are imaginative and cross national boundaries (introducing me to new flavors)but not so odd in their choice or pairings that I would not eat them.
4. Good organization of the recipes. More than just an index, I like a book that puts recipes in an order that makes sense to a home cook—by type of serving and type of main entree.
For instance, when I don’t know what to make, I may want to browse a book thinking in terms of “What meal is the recipe for?” What can I make with the chicken that is on sale this week?
5. Recipe books that give pairings on the page with the main recipe
6. Books that offer tips on changing the recipe to better suit an individual (how to substitute of an odd ingredient, or cut the recipe or add or substitute foods in case of allergies. This gives me a sense of greater participation in the creative process that is cooking.
7. And I admit, I am a sucker for good photography in a cookbook. It is often said that we eat with our eyes. This is true. Plus, I like being able to compare my finished product with a picture to give me confidence that I have prepared it correctly—especially with foods that are out of my daily cooking comfort zone.
That said, here are my choices from 2016 along with a quote from my review that will help you understand why this book was the cream that rose to the top from among the many wonderful books that crossed by desk this past year.
Deep Run Roots
Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South
By Vivian Howard
She, like great chefs of Europe, and I count my own dear Italian ancestors among these, skillfully puts forth the particular flavors of her corner of the Southern panoply. She rightly notes that every place’s foodstuffs are unique—shaped by the particular terrain climate and the way people farm and use what grows and lives there.
Bacon: A Savor the South cookbook
By Fred Thompson
Thompson describes the cultural context of bacon as an iconic Southern foods and raises the standards for that food by imparting a number of traditional and new recipes for that bacon!
Pumpkin It Up
By Eliza Cross
Her little volume offers pumpkin appetizers, main courses, side dishes, and of course, fabulous cakes, cookies, pies, biscuits, breads and other such delights…The pumpkin is an American vegetable, all the more reason to celebrate by eating it year round. No need to wait until these golden globes (or other tasty varieties)reach maturity in our gardens
The Paleo Diabetes Diet Solution
Jill Hillhouse,CNP with Lisa Cantkier,CHN
These two authors are right up to the minute, offering several of the latest trends, cauliflower “rice,” bone broth, and other such niceties…. The format offers “tips” in boxes on each recipe page. I found them to be quite helpful. In addition they also offer tips on making the recipes with substituted ingredients, such as with the soups when they suggest that instead of making one’s own bone broth(the best way to go, they feel) you can substitute store-bought organic broth. The recipes reflect a realist command of what is available in local groceries and the limited time many folks have to devote to kitchen wizardry….Simple is a watchword in the technique department here. Steps are carefully explained,. Nothing is beyond the average home cook.
The Diabetes Comfort Food Diet
By Laura Cipullo RD CDE and the editors of Prevention magazine
For those readers who are looking to simply cut back on sugar (and carbs) this book will provide many recipes that sound familiar (like bread pudding) but have been modified to fit a healthier lifestyle. Cipullo offers tips on adjusting one’s approach to meals. Studying her recipes and applying her techniques to your own recipes will help turn your own recipe box into a collection of things to make that will be tasty, familiar and give you the comfort of knowing that they are better for you with the changes made.
Note:When it comes to the Diabetes Comfort Food Diet, and the Paleo Diabetes Diet Solution, be sure to consult with your physician before fully embracing the dietary recommendations within. My choice of these was based primarily on the recipes and what I learned about eating and diet in reading the front of each book—I’m now much more confident serving guests who have diabetes, and hopefully using thier tips in my every day cooking will help me and mine avoid succumbing to this disease.
Sometimes I think that my favorite book is the one I am reading now, especially if I like it a lot or it deals with a favorite food of mine, like Bacon or Pumpkin it Up, two that I loved and kept. It’s hard for me to part with them after the review goes live. I do keep a few, but my little house is already chock full of books of all kinds—heavy on mysteries, storytelling, history, and yes, cookbooks! So, I donate most of the books you see to the Hickman Cross roads Library in Brunswick County—my home library here. I can take the book out if I want to refer to it again! So, if you can’t find a recipe you like that I reprinted from one of these or other books during the year, head north to Hickman’s Crossroads and you will likely find it on their shelves.