My Favorite Cookbooks

I’m often asked how I come up with my recipes. And while I do make some of them up – nearly every recipe I’ve got in my kitchen started from a cookbook. I might make something straight from a recipe and then write all over the page with adjustments and new ingredients and before you know it – the recipe is barely the same. Other times a recipe inspires me to try something of my own. And still other times I’ll take a couple recipes and combine pieces & parts of them to come up with something new. I really enjoy cookbooks as starting points and inspirations. In no particular order, here are a few of my most-used cookbooks:

Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook
The first cookbook I ever bought for myself – this is the stand by of all stand bys. Need tips on how to cook vegetables? Want to make some muffins? In the mood to bake cookies or pies? Looking for a soup recipe? Need new ideas for different cuts of meat? It’s all in here. Plus some very handy tips, technique guides and ingredient substitutions. I honestly think every kitchen should have this book.

29 Minutes to Dinner
Next time you’re invited to a Pampered Chef party don’t cringe and wonder what you could possibly buy. Bring $15 and buy this cookbook. It’s broken into four sections: poultry, fish/seafood, beef/pork, meatless. And each section has quick and easy recipes that are ready in less than half an hour. And while I was looking up this image, I just found out there’s now a Volume 2 – I need to get invited to a Pampered Chef party.

Weight Watchers Make It In Minutes
The subtitle of this one is what hooked me – Easy Recipes in 15, 20 & 30 minutes. That’s how they divide the book – first by the time each recipe takes to make and then by Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. This is not a new cookbook but I use it all the time. Easy, healthy recipes that have launched me into creating some of our favorite dinners. It’s a great way to start cooking healthier or to keep cooking healthy foods – even when things are hectic.

Rachael Ray’s 365: No Repeats
(Are you sensing a theme here?) I have two Rachael Ray cookbooks and I’d still buy another next time I’m out shopping. While I have a hard time watching Her Perkiness on television, I think her recipes are fantastic. They are usually crowd pleasers and don’t take a ton of time in the kitchen. I think this particular cookbook is good because it’s got lots of variety with fairly basic ingredients.

The Crockpot Ultimate Recipe Collection
You didn’t think I’d have this list and NOT include a crockpot cookbook did you? I have at least five different crockpot cookbooks on my shelf but I’m listing this one because it’s the granddaddy of them all with more than 500 recipes. Pages ranging from appetizers to stews to main dishes to sides to breakfasts – this book covers all sorts of options for all sizes of crockpots and all types of appetites.

But you want to know the cookbook that sees the most use in this house? My three-ring binders. I picked up a couple one year and they are stuffed full with handwritten ideas, recipes printed off the Internet, pages ripped from magazines. If the recipe isn’t already on an 8×11 piece of paper I quickly glue it on – that way it fits in the binder and I have plenty of room to scribble my tweaks and adjustments. The other nice thing about binders is you can organize them in anyway that makes sense for you. I have one that has sections for meat, chicken, seafood and casseroles. Another that has sections for soups, pastas, breakfasts and appetizers. My husband’s grandfather has shelves of three-ring binders and each binder has its own theme.

It doesn’t matter if you like to cook straight by the book or need an inspiration or are just looking to change things up for dinner. These cookbooks fit the bill. (And no, I was in no way asked to write about these books or any cookbooks for that matter. I’m just sharing ideas in the kitchen that work for me.)

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