My Favorite (and very few) Cookbooks

posted by Andrea | 01/17/2014

my favorite cookbooks

When I was first married, I received a massive amount (like boxes and boxes) of really nice cookbooks from an older friend who absolutely LOVED to cook and wanted to pass on some of her collection to me.

I was beyond thrilled to get all those fabulous cookbooks and start my own collection… until I realized that anytime I wanted to try a new recipe, I simply went to the internet and did a Google search, looked up a favorite cooking blog, or scoured AllRecipes.com for specific ingredients or specific recipes.

I almost never looked at my shelves (yes, plural — there were multiple shelves) of brightly-colored cookbooks; and if I did, it was just to oooh and aaah over the fabulous recipes and gorgeous photography.

The recipes just weren’t super practical to make — and again, it was just so much easier to do a quick internet search, pick one of 50 similar recipes, AND read the reviews to know which recipe others liked best.

I slowly began to purge some of my massive cookbook collection — selling some, donating some, giving some to family and friends who expressed interested in specific books, etc. etc.

And then we moved 3 years ago and I purged even more.

However, up until last year, I still had a FULL SHELF of cookbooks in our kitchen — and only used a few of them on a regular basis.

Although I had the space to store them, I sort of felt like a hypocrite “hoarding” all these cookbooks that I didn’t want, need, use, or love. I just kept them because it was easier than getting rid of them (ahem, who can relate to that!)

Then last fall, when we were fully finished with our kitchen renovation, I decided that I would ONLY keep the very few cookbooks I used on a regular basis — and then purge the rest.

And I did! 

I put them all in a donation box, let my 2 recently married sisters look through them, and brought the rest away.

Boy did that feel good!

Now I just have a few cookbooks — and they’re ones I actually use (imagine that!).

The ONLY cookbook I don’t necessarily use is this old antique one — but it was from my grandma’s kitchen (who has now passed away) and I do enjoy looking back through the old-fashioned recipes. Plus, I think it’s OK to keep one sentimental cookbook :)

So since I’m regularly asked what my favorite cookbooks are, I thought I’d quickly list them out for you — after all, it is a pretty short list now!

The photo above is literally the ONLY cookbooks you’ll find anywhere in my house right now — I promise!

1. The Better Homes and Garden New Baking Book:

I got this one as a Christmas gift from Dave’s sister and it’s basically been my go-to baking book ever since. There are HUNDREDS of amazing recipes inside these pages — some really simple and traditional favorites, some a bit more fancy and elaborate (for when I want to try something new).

But since Better Homes and Garden magazine is by-far my most favorite magazine, it’s really no surprise that their cookbook is one of the very few that has survived my many cookbook purges.

2. Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day:

I got on a bread-baking kick a couple years ago and was instantly impressed with the Artisan Bread in Five MInutes a Day cookbook. It basically has a few “base recipes” for making bread dough in bulk… and then storing it in your fridge until you’re ready for another loaf.

You can make bread, rolls, buns, cinnamon rolls, etc. all from the same dough — and all you need to do is scoop out the dough you need from the container in your refrigerator, let it rise, and then bake.

It’s by far the simplest way I’ve found to make homemade bread on a regular basis — and without a bulky bread machine.

3. The Big Book of Breakfast:

Dave and I LOVE breakfast — so much that we have some type of breakfast for dinner almost weekly (plus lots of big breakfasts on the weekend).

I love all the recipes in The Big Book of Breakfast, and have actually broken the spine of the book in many different places because I’ve made some of the recipes SO often!

I use each of the 3 cookbooks above on a regular basis — but for my daily and weekly meal planning and cooking, I either browse through the recipes here on my blog or the 3 cookbooks below.

The first one was from Dave’s mom the 2nd Christmas we were married. It has all Dave’s favorite recipes — and a bunch of traditional “Dekker favorites”. I use this a lot when I’m making food for Dave’s family, or if I just really want to make Dave happy :)

The other two books were both wedding gifts (clearly from very practical cooks!) One is a local school cookbook and the other is a local church cookbook. ALL the recipes inside are simple recipes with normal ingredients, made by busy moms for busy families.

I’ve gotten more than my fair share of use out of these books (especially those first few years of marriage when I was still figuring out how to cook!)

So there you have it — my super short list of favorite cookbooks.

Nothing too fancy, but oh so useful for my cooking style and our family’s tastes.

What are your favorite cookbooks?

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26 comments

  1. lydia@ Five4FiveMeals

    01/17/2014

    My favorite cookbook is actually one that my mom and aunt made for me when I got married. It is filled with old family recipes from mine and my husband’s family. All the recipes are in a three ring binder so I can pop them out and put them back and add to it with ease. And the best part is, they scanned recipes that were handwritten by my grandmother and great grandmother, so I I will always have that. (And they typed them so I could read it clearly too.)

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    Andrea Reply:

    Sounds similar to the book Dave’s mom made — she typed her recipes too so they are easy to read!

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  2. Amanda

    01/17/2014

    while not my favorite for recipes, I keep a copy of Joy of Cooking around. It is a great reference book and has tons of information. if I have a question about an ingredient, the answer can be found in there. The 2 I use the most for cooking is the Betty Crocker cookbook (its huge and comb bound and the recipes are sorted with easy tabs) and my Picky Palate cook book -she’s a food blog and she has tons of easy but really yummy recipes. Otherwise Pinterest is my other favorite cookbook, lol.

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    Lee Cockrum Reply:

    I totally agree on the Joy of Cooking as a reference, although I use it much less now than in years before the Internet;)

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  3. Gina

    01/17/2014

    I have a binder where I keep all the things I really cook (I use it when I do meal planning), so I really only have three cookbooks right now. I go back to them once in a while when I want to liven things up, but because it’s so easy to get recipes online now, I just take my tablet in the kitchen and use that.

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  4. Deb

    01/17/2014

    I love the Gooseberry Patch hardcover books, a traditional red and white Betty Crocker, Cook’s Illustrated anything, one called “Caramel” and a few others. I still hoard cookbooks. ;) We have the room, I do use them occasionally and I would have to go through each one to find the recipes that I use and then store them somewhere else as all the GP ones are not online.

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  5. Marci

    01/17/2014

    I have a late ’70′s version of the Farm Journal Cookbook! I LOVE it, but mine is fall apart & is held together by a rubber band &/or a ziplock bag! I’ve made notes through it each time I canned/froze something from it. (When it was new, we were young & very poor, I even tried canning zucchini! It worked, but definitely NOT worth the effort.) It’s seen LOTS of good use through all these years

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    Andrea Reply:

    Sounds like that will be fun cookbook to pass down to your kids or grandkids some day — I’m sure they’ll love looking through your notes!

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  6. Marisa

    01/17/2014

    Right now I’m loving The Auburn Cookbook and The Commonsense Kitchen. They are helping me develop a foundation of simple, tested, traditional recipes.

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  7. Monica

    01/17/2014

    I have too many cookbooks which will be purged this winter as one of my projects. You might want to bring the breakfast cookbook to a print shop, as they could put a spiral binding on it, like a notebook. I have done this with music books and it is so nice when they can open and lay flat!

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  8. Karen @ Abundance on a Dime

    01/17/2014

    Well, the most used cookbook around here is my own cookbook :) which comes off the shelves pretty much daily (no, I don’t know ALL of my own recipes off by heart, lol).

    My go-to reference cookbook is the updated Fannie Farmer – I picked up a hardcover copy in almost new condition at a church rummage sale for 50 cents!! I also use Jean Pare’s Preserves book quite a lot during canning season.

    I still have quite a few books in my collection even though I’ve purged MANY cookbooks over the years. I do flip through them for inspiration once in a while although usually I go to Google/Pinterest first if I have a rough idea what I want to make or a specific ingredient to use up.

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  9. Linda

    01/17/2014

    In the 1990′s I had between 200-300 cookbooks and when we downsized from a large home to a large fifth-wheel to go full-time RV’ing for the next 8 years, of course I had to purge and keep only my very favorites.

    Today, I only have about ten cookbooks and Artisan Bread Baking in 5 minutes a day is my newest cookbook. I used to bake several loaves of bread a week but when life got too busy I stopped baking bread. Until now. I love the ease of quickly mixing the dough and keeping it in the frig until we need a loaf. Easiest method for fresh-baked bread yet!

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  10. Melissa

    01/17/2014

    I have a few cookbooks I actually cook from, but I actually read cookbooks for pleasure. The ones I cook from most (besides America’s Test Kitchen and Food Network websites) are the Sparkpeople cookbook, Mollie Katzen’s Get Cooking, River Cottage Family cookbook, and one of my old Taste of Home annuals. I have cookbooks by Mollie Katzen, Ree Drummond, and Ina Garten that I just love to read for ideas (and to get hungry.) I have purged most the cookbooks I didn’t love as much, and am down to one short bookshelf, so I am allowing myself the ones I have.

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  11. Carrie

    01/17/2014

    My favorite cookbook is “The Victory Garden Cookbook”. It has an alphabetical list of vegetables and includes not only recipes but lots of information on storing vegetables and other information about veggies. My favorite go-to reference cookbook is the Fanny Farmer cookbook. The Cook’s Illustrated cookbook also has some great information in it. I love cookbooks…it is probably an addiction…but there are worse things to be addicted to:) I enjoy reading them as I do other books.

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  12. Angie

    01/17/2014

    Yeah, I pretty much did the same thing after the Nashville flood. They were up high so they didn’t get wet … but when we started rebuilding with so very little I started wondering WHY DO I NEED THIS STUFF? I only use a handful and the rest are purely sentimental; there is no guilt in giving them away so WHY DON’T I?? They make great newlywed gifts anyway. Now I finally have the space above my fridge … and above my sink … and above my stove … (LOL) … for actually HELPFUL kitchen supplies for that area. DUH! *face palm*

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  13. Sandy

    01/17/2014

    How neat! My church’s cookbook is one of your favorites! Mine too, along with some school cookbooks……some that are probably older than you, but still have some great recipes in them. I find it interesting to look through them and see the ‘trends’ of the times. I agree that with the internet at our fingertips and all the blogs, websites, etc., there’s not a need for cookbooks like there used to be. Thinking about it makes me feel old! ;^)

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  14. Mary

    01/17/2014

    I must do this as I have a few books I never look at. I like my Be-ro Recipe Book as it was something my mum always used when I was growing up. I also have a collection of Good Food magazines which have classic recipes for example the Christmas Edition never dates. I have a binder with cut outs and hand written notes but a purge is definitely a good idea!

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  15. Amy

    01/17/2014

    More with Less, Classic Italian Cooking, and How to Cook a Everything Vegetarian are my favorites.

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  16. JoDi

    01/17/2014

    The only cookbook I use regularly is Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything.” Other than that I usually use Allrecipes.com.

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  17. Patti

    01/18/2014

    I just purged my cookbooks this last year. Had to hold on to a few sentimental ones that I got from my mom when she passed away, though: Culinary Art Institute’s Encyclopedic Cookbook, Let’s Start to Cook (contains the first cookie recipe I was taught by my mom), Farm Journal Country Cookbook, and Desserts were some of her favorites. Know I should purge these because I rarely go to them for recipes any more, but I just can’t. Cook’s Country annuals, Fanny Farmer’s, Julia Child’s and America’s Best Lost Recipes are favorites to read just for fun. Your Recipe Box along with JustAPinch.com and Allrecipes.com are my online go-tos. I really enjoy reading recipes, but I have to say that reading the recipes in old cookbooks is my favorite addiction! :o)

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  18. Kristen @ Joyfullythriving

    01/18/2014

    I love my Betty Crocker red edition binder cookbook because it has all the basics when I need them. My other favorites are the Taste of Home ones. I have 4 best of (2000, 2001, etc) and I use them regularly. I like them because they all are regular recipes with regular ingredients – and beautiful pictures. I’ve discovered many new favorites this way!

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  19. Teresa

    01/18/2014

    I just love your blog! You have inspired me to reorganize and de clutter!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Teresa!! Happy cleaning and organizing!

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  20. Maria

    01/19/2014

    Love your blog. One of my favorite cookbooks is “Treasured Amish and Mennonite recipes.”
    The recipes are simple and easy to make (as well as delicious) and the book is interspersed with useful tips and affirmations such as “What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?”

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  21. Meredith

    01/22/2014

    I have my mom’s old old old Betty Crocker Cookbook and my Juila Child Art of French Cooking. I can’t ever get rid of the Betty Crocker one because I never know when I’m going to have to know how to cook squirrel!

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  22. Julie

    02/05/2014

    I love pretty much any Southern Living cookbook. They have basics as well as recipes for entertaining. I have a “Favorites” cookbook and several of their cookbooks from various years. Their recipes are guaranteed to be delicious!

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