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Ever since I was a little girl, cooking and baking have always fascinated me. I watched my mama, grandmothers, and aunts whip up delicious dishes from their kitchens every night. On summer breaks, I watched endless hours of Great Chefs on PBS. As I grew older, I began subscribing to food magazines like Bon Appetit and Food & Wine and collecting cookbooks (75 books and counting).
Up until I graduated from college, cooking and baking were relegated to my days off. Afterward, I began cooking every day, relishing the nights of visiting my Mollie Stones for the evening’s produce. I baked for every family event and holiday. I gifted home-baked sweets to our relatives for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Pecan tarts, madeleines, mini cookies, to name a few. My kitchen has always been bustling with the aromas roasted meats and baked treats. Even now, with the never-ending demands of work and family life, puttering in the kitchen is one of my favorite things to do. Nothing is quite as relaxing as the sound of dicing shallots and hearing them sizzle in a hot pan.
To stay inspired in my quest to be a good home cook and baker, I rely on a few weathered books to support me through the daily weekday grind. They are my bibles for cooking and baking during the week, and they can support you during your workweek too.
Anything by America’s Test Kitchen
I have four different cookbooks from them: The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, the Quick Family Cookbook, the Family Baking Book, and Cook’s Country Cookbook. The recipes are easy to follow with readily available ingredients. America’s Test Kitchen is the reason why I own thermometers…so I don’t overcook my meats.
The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge
Baking on a weekday is possible with this cookbook! I love the blender cupcakes and bar recipes made in round pans. The author even shows readers how to multiply or vary recipes so you can make the quantities you want. Brilliant!
The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer
One of my first cookbook purchases and a classic at that. Just endless recipes divided by chapters like meat, poultry, pastries, breads, etc. I am particularly fond of the vegetable or fruit chapters, as each offer dozens of ways to prepare and serve vegetables or fruits.
Anything by Ina Garten
I’ve loved Ina’s Barefoot Contessa books since her show premiered on the Food Network in 2002. I own all of her books and am looking to add a fourth with Cooking for Jeffrey. They are my go-to books for beautiful dishes and entertaining tips. All the recipes I’ve tried from her book have turned out just as pretty in real life as they looked in the photos.
How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
The last book in this collection of cooking bibles — Nigella has excellent prose, and her cookbooks are just as fun to read as they are to learn a recipe from. I love that this book offers moderately-sized recipes for an assortment of baked goods. For example, a recipe for brownies is made in an 8” square pan versus a 9”x 13” pan. The recipes are wonderful for small families like my own. I am quite fond of the section on “loaves.”
Admittedly, there are days when I am at a loss for what to cook or am too tired to cook. Still, most of the time I want to cook a whole meal, from appetizer to dessert. Nothing pleases me more than when my family and guests enjoy what I cook for them. Armed with these books, I feel like a great chef.
Shop the Books
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