It’s not too late for a 2015 round up, is it? I thought I would start the year right by sharing what were my favorite cookbooks of the year past. I buy a lot of cookbooks, and for a cookbook to qualify as a favorite, I must cook from it frequently, or be transported by its stories, or be in awe of its mouthwatering photography or appealing recipes.
Here are the cookbooks that made it to my top shelf in 2015 (in no specific order).
Scroll down for info about the aforementioned HUGE cookbook giveaway! I promise you won’t be disappointed!
While I was writing my own cookbook, I did a lot of research on how to make desserts healthier and sugar alternatives. Joanne Chang’s gorgeous book is a gem I discovered in the process: the author of bestselling Flour (another favorite of mine) created recipes that cut back in refined sugars, replacing them with natural and clever alternatives such as maple syrup or fruit juices. The recipes are wonderfully appealing—with the substitutions never making it feel like you’re making sacrifices. Why bake any other way?
Healthy meals in a bowl are my work-from-home dream lunches. I thought I was the only one finding additional appeal to meals that can entirely be eaten with a spoon, but fortunately, Sara and Hugh Forte are in the same camp. Serving proteins, greens, vegetables, and whole grains together in a bowl creates wonderful combinations of flavors and textures. The beautifully photographed Bowl + Spoon offers recipes for morning, side, big, and even sweet bowls, and I especially loved the dressings and sauces, many of which I use to create my own bowls now.
3. The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook
Danny Bowien and Chris Ying
Danny Bowien, with his knit cap, long hair, big glasses, tattoos, and association with David Chang and Anthony Bourdain, is an icon of hipster cuisine and I’m not sure whether I should love or hate him for that. Nevertheless, I couldn’t resist visiting his Lower East Side restaurant when I was in New York City last November, and I gotta say: I loved everything about it. The kitsch décor, the rowdy atmosphere, the finger-licking good food, and yes, even the impossibly hipster server, who wore giant plastic earrings and an 80s-style jumpsuit puffing at the hips. It was all too much, but it all just kinda worked. Fittingly, I received his cookbook just a few days after we came back from our trip. The book is just as delightfully all over the place as the restaurant is: part cookbook, part memoir, part travelog, it features Bowien’s classic dishes along with quotes, photographs, and interviews that provide a peek into his creative brain. The Mapo Tofu recipe alone makes the book worth the buy.
4. Seven Spoons
As one of the earliest food bloggers—she started her blog, Seven Spoons, over 10 years ago—Tara O’Brady’s book was eagerly awaited, and rightfully so. She is an incredible storyteller, and I personally couldn’t wait to get a book-long chunk of her work to devour like a novel. Her headnotes read like a memoir that unfolds through the recipes, and her photography is just as gorgeously simple and elegant as it is on her site. Born from Indian parents, raised in Canada, her cuisine reveals international and regional influences that she manages to cleverly combine in dishes you just want to devour, now. A highlight is the Soups, Starters & Snacks, which features recipes as varied as Hard Cider Gougères, Masala Peanuts, and Vietnamese-Inspired Sausage Rolls. A gem of a book.
5. A Modern Way to Cook
You know the feeling when you discover a TV series that has already run for five seasons so you get to binge on the good stuff you missed? That’s how I feel about Anna Jones, my favorite discovery of the year. Jones is a British food writer and stylist who worked as part of Jamie Oliver’s team for years. Billed as “The New Nigella” by the British press, she’s now a freelancer working for some of the biggest UK brands and celebrity chefs, and the author of a gorgeous blog and two cookbooks. Her latest, A Modern Way to Cook, is filled with quick recipes you can whip up on a weeknight, but are so spectacularly delicious you’ll probably want to serve them to company, too. Each recipe is tagged with the time it takes to create it (from 15 to 45 minutes), and the book also contains super clever formulas to help you create meals from what’s in the fridge.
6. Everyday Super Food
I’ll be honest: in my mind, Jamie Oliver can do no wrong. I simply love the guy. I own all his cookbooks, I’ve cooked countless of his recipes, and they just work. They’re unfussy and delicious and they make you proud of what you put on the table. I couldn’t wait to discover Oliver’s take on “healthy” through his latest book, and, well, I’m not disappointed. As expected, Oliver delivers helpful tips without preaching against meat, or fat, or sugar. What I love most about this book is that it provides recipes for dishes that don’t feel like you’ve skimped on the good stuff. The whole Live Well chapter is especially useful, providing concise information about nutrition and special diets.
7. Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel
Few are cookbooks that are as helpful in the kitchen as they are fascinating as coffee-table books. Heidi Swanson’s latest tome, Near & Far, achieves that feat with flying colors. The book is divided by destination, from San Francisco (“Near”) to Morocco, Japan, Italy, France, and India (“Far”), and Swanson’s vegetarian recipes showcase her creative and clever use of each region’s flavor along with wholesome ingredients. Her dreamy travel photography is dotted throughout and browsing through the book, you can’t help but imagine yourself there, gawking at those historic facades or walking on those colorful tiled floors. Bonus points for the gorgeously textured, velvety cover. You won’t want to put the book down!
8. Brown Eggs and Jam Jars: Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites
You don’t get to meet your favorite bloggers all that often, and when you do, it’s always a delight to discover the person, in person, corresponds exactly to what you imagined her to be. Aimée, from the popular blog Simple Bites, is warm and generous, just as her writing is. In her book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars, she invites us into her home and shares her comforting cooking through seasonal recipes that are both practical and enticing. Flipping through the book made me feel like I got to peek into her secret recipe folder: some of my newfound classics include her One-Bowl Carrot-Spice Oatmeal Muffins and Whole Wheat Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Orange Zest. She also shares extremely useful tips for getting the kids involved in the kitchen, as well as down-to-earth advice about homesteading, her specialty. In short, her book provides all the inspiring ingredients to build your own welcoming, loving home.
9. Food52 Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook
I’ve been an avid reader of Kristen Miglore’s Genius Recipes series on Food52 for years, so this might have very well been the most exciting release of the year, in my eyes. The recipes shared by Miglore are passed down from the authors, chefs, and bloggers who made them legendary, with plain English explanations about what makes them truly foolproof. The book features a hundred classic recipes you need to add to your arsenal: just try Marion Cunningham’s Raised Waffles or Yotam Ottolenghi’s Basic Hummus and you too, will understand how game-changing this book is.
10. Montreal Cooks: A Tasting Menu from the City’s Leading Chefs
Jonathan Cheung and Tays Spencer
If you love food and you love to travel, you’ve certainly noticed the meteoric rise of Montreal’s culinary scene over the past years. Building on a rich local terroir and diverse cultural backgrounds, the city’s new generation of chefs create food that is exciting, innovative, and incredibly enjoyable. In Montreal Cooks, you get to meet some of the city’s best chefs, and they each share a couple of their best recipes. The cookbook doubles as culinary travel guide, because I have no doubt perusing it will make you want to come visit au plus vite.
11. The United States of Pizza
Craig Priebe and Dianne Jacob
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’d gladly eat pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s my favorite dish and I won’t ever get tired of it. I believe it’s the most versatile dish in the world, but you don’t have to take my word for it. The new book from chef Craig Priebe and food writing legend Dianne Jacob proves just that: from New York-style to sourdough, to stuffed, to whole wheat, to gluten-free, The United States of Pizza explores the incredible variety of flavors pizza can carry. The book came at a point when I had become heavily partial to Roman-style thin crust pizza, and I am grateful it reminded me of all the goodness I was missing.
12. 101 Easy Asian Recipes
Peter Meehan and the editors of Lucky Peach
If I couldn’t eat pizza for the rest of my life, I’d eat Asian food. It’s my comfort food, and Asian flavors are my default go-to for creating quick weeknight meals. I was excited for this new book by a long-time Lucky Peach writer and editor, Peter Meehan, but part of me was afraid the title would be sarcastic and the recipes would, in fact, be over-the-top complicated. It would sure have been the kind of joke the Lucky Peach team would be game to pull, but thankfully for us, they stayed true to the purpose of the book. The recipes are, in fact, surprisingly simple, allowing you to create quick but authentic dishes that may lead you to forget your favorite takeout numbers. The Slow Cooker Pho is a go-to, as is the Beef Satay. Of course, the book wouldn’t be complete with cheeky recipes. The Mall Chicken, a take on the sticky-sweet chicken most North Americans grew up associating with Asian food, and the Pesto Ramen are examples, dishes that are sure to spark conversations at your next dinner party.
6 Cookbooks in my Winter/Spring 2016 Wish List
The full year of releases hasn’t even been announced yet and my 2016 wishlist is two dozen cookbooks long! It’ll clearly be a delicious year, and I’m noticing many interesting titles with an emphasis on making healthy eating and special diets more accessible. Here are the six titles I’m looking forward to browsing the most (in order of release date):
1. Bon Appetit: The Food Lover’s Cleanse: 140 Delicious, Nourishing Recipes That Will Tempt You Back into Healthful Eating
Release Date: December 22, 2015
I’ve been faithfully following Sara Dickerman’s yearly “cleanses” for the past 5 years. Be advised: This isn’t about going on a diet or drinking only juice for a week. Dickerman, a writer for Bon Appetit Magazine, elaborates her two-week cleanses so you eat meals that are high in fruit, vegetables and whole grains, and low in dairy products and saturated fats. The formula includes dishes for breakfast, dinner, and desserts, along with formulas to make exciting lunches with leftovers from the night before. The dishes are colorful, nutritious, and filling—which is honestly how I want to eat all year long. Past cleanses are available online, and this year’s brand new cleanse is unfolding as we speak. But the reason why I’m excited about The Food Lover’s Cleanse cookbook is that it includes menus for spring, summer, fall, and winter, allowing me to pick up ideas to improve my cooking year-round by making the most of seasonal ingredients. I already have this book at home and I can’t wait to start cooking from it.
2. One Dough, Ten Breads: Making Great Bread by Hand
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Making bread at home is one of my 2016 resolutions, but it feels daunting. Will I create average breads that my family will eat just to acknowledge my effort? Sarah Black is a baker with 25 years of professional experience, and her book makes an encouraging promise: “With just a few ingredients, one’s own two hands, and this book, even a novice baker is well on the way to making artisan-style breads.” I’ll report back on my progress.
3. The Clever Cookbook: Get-Ahead Strategies and Timesaving Tips for Stress-Free Home Cooking
Release Date: February 16, 2016
Learning how to optimize my dinner routine while still managing to create delicious meals has been one of my biggest challenges as a new parent. I’m doing better, but I’m still hungry for tips from other parents who have been down this road before. Emilie Raffa’s blog, The Clever Carrot, has long been providing wholesome recipes, and now her book is “packed with all the timesaving shortcuts and flavor-boosting tips” that I’m sure will help me get better at whipping quick and flavorful family dinners.
4. The Love & Lemons Cookbook: An Apple-to-Zucchini Celebration of Impromptu Cooking
Release Date: March 29, 2016
I’ve been a fan of Jeanine’s colorful vegetarian blog, Love & Lemons, ever since we met back in 2012. I believe I’ve been making at least one of her recipes monthly for years—they’re always quick, delicious, and ultra-satisfying. Her book aims at helping you making the most of seasonal bounty, turning vegetables in elegant and flavor-packed dishes. I can’t wait for a whole book of meatless inspiration!
5. Whole Bowls: Complete Gluten-Free and Vegetarian Meals to Power Your Day
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Speaking of vegetarian cuisine, I’m excited about this book by fellow Canadian blogger, Allison Day. The book follows a formula that made me fall in love with The Sprouted Kitchen’s Bowl + Spoon cookbook in 2015: serve healthy ingredients prepared with irresistible flavorings and condiments, in a bowl. Here’s an example of Allison’s upcoming recipes: “Oat Risotto Bowls with Soft-Boiled Eggs, Avocado, and Hazelnut Dukkah.” I simply can’t resist.
6. The Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking: 101 Entirely Plant-Based, Mostly Gluten-Free, Easy and Delicious Recipes
Release Date: April 26, 2016
And my list ends with, yes, another vegetarian book. The reason why I have so many vegetarian books on my list is that I feel it’s the cuisine I need the most inspiration for. Vegetables can either be exciting or boring. As a long-time reader of Dana Shultz’s blog, The Minimalist Baker, I know her take on plant-based cooking will be the former: her book will include mains, breakfasts, and desserts that all take 30 minutes or less to prepare. Hey, no-fuss, delicious, and healthy food? I’m ready for you.
Now on to the fun stuff…
Welcome to my HUGE cookbook giveaway!
Because I know you love books as much as I do, and I want you to start 2016 on a delicious note, I’m giving away a copy of each book in my 2015 favorites list. And I have TWO copies of Jamie Oliver’s book to giveaway! YES! That means 13 happy winners will each be going away with delicious inspiration for the new year.
PLUS! From January to June, I will be publishing a monthly cookbook review, one for each of the books in my Winter/Spring 2016 Wishlist. And—you guessed it—a copy of each reviewed book will be up for grabs every month. Make sure to come back every third Thursday of every month to discover a new book and enter for a chance to win it. Here’s the upcoming schedule, mark your calendars!
- January 26 (exceptionally posted on a Tuesday): The Food Lover’s Cleanse
- February 18: One Dough, Ten Breads
- March 17: The Clever Cookbook
- April 21: The Love & Lemons Cookbook
- May 19: Whole Bowls
- June 16: The Minimalist Baker’s Everyday Cooking
Channeling the inner announcer in me now: But wait, there’s more! Each and every winner, be it for any of the 2015 or the 2016 books, will also get a copy of my own eCookbook, Sweet Spot, as an extra gift. In other words, everyone will win not one, but two books! If that doesn’t inspire you to get cooking, I don’t know what will!
How to Win
Here’s how to win one of the twelve 2015 books:
- Mandatory: Leave a comment mentioning the top three books from my 2015 favorites you’d like to put your hands on. If you already own some of the books, please list them too. The winners will be picked randomly and I will give away the books on a first come, first serve basis. However, I’ll do my best to give each winner one book from his or her list. If the three books from your list were already given away when I pick your name, rest assured that you will get a fantastic gift as all the books in the list are amazing.
- Optional: Take advantage of all the social media options in the Rafflecopter widget below to get more chances to win. When entering through social media, make sure I can recognize your name/address so I can link your post to your original comment and send you the book you wished for.
The Fine Print
- You must be a U.S. or Canadian resident to win (or provide a U.S. or Canadian mailing address).
- Each winner needs to answer a simple skill question to get the prizes.
- The giveaway ends Wednesday, January 20, 2016, at midnight EST.
Good luck to everyone!