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Cole Cooks: My All-Time Favorite Cookbooks Part 2

Favorite Cookbooks

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Welcome to part 2 of my guide to my all-time favorite cookbooks.  In these two posts I share some of most cherished cookbooks.  If you haven’t done so all ready make sure to check out the first post.  At the end of that post, I talked about some of my favorite international cookbooks.  The cookbooks in this post are more focused on recipes that are more American in origin.

The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Author: America’s Test Kitchen
Year: 2006

Favorite Cookbooks

Going back to American cooking we come to one of my most used cookbooks.  My edition comes in a binder which allows you to add and replace pages.  I have a newer edition that is a regular bound book but I do not use that nearly as much.

Like Joy of Cooking this is a great reference book.  It is not nearly as comprehensive as Joy of Cooking, but they still have all kinds of recipes and techniques.  America’s Test Kitchen is behind a series of books, magazines (most notably Cooks Illustrated) and a PBS TV show.  I like that they test the heck out of these recipes and they are almost always reliable and good.  Favorites include Spaghetti and Meatballs, a new Beef Stroganoff recipe, Thai Red Beef Curry and their Chili.

In recent years, America’s Test Kitchen has had some controversy.  One of the founders and main guys, Christopher Kimball left and started a competing company.  Lawsuits have followed and I think the brand has been tarnished.  The 2014 version of this book was pretty good but I mainly use the original. 

Favorite Cookbooks
This is a well worn book with many favorites

Rachael Ray 2: 30-Minute Meals
Author: Rachael Ray
Year: 2003

Favorite Cookbooks

Speaking of someone who used to be really good before they got too big, we come to Rachael Ray.  Rachael got started with a legitimately good cooking show on the Food Network, 30-Minute Meals.  This show focused on creating a full family meal in 30-minues.  This cookbook comes right from the show.

I really like that there is great meal planning and she has side dishes for everything.  Thinking up sides to go with a main dish can be difficult so this is appreciated.  This came out right at the time I was starting to feed a growing family so I have a real fondness for many of these recipes.

Ones I really like include Chicken Divan, Gumbo, Chicken Scarpariello, Sesame Chicken Sala, Sloppy Joes, Chicken Piccata, Sicilian Chunk Salad and a French Dip with an excellent au jus.  Of course, now Rachael is overexposed and has slapped her name on too many magazines, books etc.  But back in the day she really came through.

Favorite Cookbooks

Vegetables on the Side
Author: Sallie Williams
Year: 1998 (original edition 1995)

Favorite Cookbooks

Of course, everyone loves vegetables so this book is a no brainer!  Actually, some people struggle to get their proper veggies and I think that is in large part because they simply are not cooked to their full taste potential.  This book helped us solve that issue, as it has a recipe for about every vegetable you can name.  Vegetables on the Side not only got us eating more veggies, but encouraged us to try new ones.  Green beans, spinach, brussel sprouts and beets are items I have learned to spice up using this book,

Paul Prudhomme’s Seasoned America
Author: Paul Prudhomme
Year: 1991

Favorite Cookbooks

The late Paul Prudhomme is another chef I was introduced to early in my cooking career via his TV show. This book really taught me about seasoning food.  Basically, it involves making your own seasoning mix for every recipe.  The Chicken Cacciatore from this book was the first thing I cooked for my parents when they came over to visit me as an adult.

To conclude this article I thought I would add some of my husband’s favorite books.  Dave likes to do big projects and some of these books are definitely geared for that!

BBQ USA
Author: Steven Raichlen
Year: 2003

Favorite Cookbooks

We have several books by BBQ master Steven Raichlen.  BBQ USA is by far the best.   I learned how to make beer can chicken from Raichlen and Dave uses this book all the time.  What he likes best about it is all the regional BBQ recipes.  For example, for pulled pork there are not only has several recipes from North Carolina but also Raichlen discusses and provides recipes for South Carolina, Memphis, Hawaii and even New Jersey versions.

My favorite recipe is for grilled pizza.  This is quite a production that always wows guests when Dave does it.  The no-cook pizza sauce recipe has become a regular of mine for many other dishes.  One great thing about this book is he describes many major BBQ restaurants around the country.  We have actually been to quite a few of them and hope to hit more!

Favorite Cookbooks
Raichlen has become a franchise but this is by far his best

Bruce Aidell’s Complete Sausage Book
Author: Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly
Year: 2000

Favorite Cookbooks 

When it comes to crazy cooking projects Dave has taken on, nothing beats stuffing his own sausage.  Luckily this is a project he only takes on every five years or so.  It is a frustrating, two-person, ordeal and I am happy to report last time he did it he recruited our daughter as his helper.

We were introduced to Bruce Aidells sausage from buying it at Costco.  These are chicken sausages but the main focus of these recipes is on traditional sausage meats like pork (we also own his excellent pork cookbook).  Of course, there are plenty of recipes with other meats, including game and seafood.  Overall you can probably find a recipe for any type of sausage you like.

Personally, I like to make his breakfast sausage.  Like most of the sausages in this book I find it works fine if you don’t bother stuffing it and instead just for it into a patty or crumble it and brown it like ground beef.  If you do stuff it that involves getting intestine or collagen casings and investing in a meat grinder. I am sure Dave will do a post on how to do this some day.

Favorite Cookbooks
Another well worn cookbook

The first half of the book (120 pages) is how to make specific types of sausage.  The second half is all recipes that use the sausage.  One of our family favorites is the Pennsylvania Dutch Schnitz and Knepp.  This is sausage with apples and dumplings and the kids have loved it for years.  We crumble the sausage and use the Iowa Farm Sausage recipe.

Leaving Home
Author: Louise Grace
Year: 1984

Favorite Cookbooks

This was Dave’s first cookbook given to him by his mom when he got his first apartment.  This is a great beginner cookbook.  Hopefully we can pass this down to the children as they strike out on their own.  Dave used this book to make Swiss Steak, a dish I had never tried before.

….And that concludes my overview of favorite cookbooks.  I hope one day to compile my recipes in my own family cookbook.  My hope is that even with the Internet my children and grandchildren will still check out a physical cookbook every once in awhile.  I know these books have brought me great joy over the years.

To see the first post in this series click here.

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