The New Year has come and gone and if you’re anything like every single other human in the world you’ve probably already rolled the diet dice and lost. This time last year, if you had given me a penny for every time I googled pescetarianism or made fickle promises to the perfectly ripped paleo gods, I’d have had enough money to buy a snickers (king size). The problem for me wasn’t actually will power – well maybe a little – the problem was that I let fast food joints and bottom line buffets prepare my meals. I didn’t know the first thing about cooking, but my protruding gut and shrinking wallet forced me to learn. Not even touching on that sweet sweet cash you’re going to be saving (and you will be saving a lot) cooking from home lets you choose the healthier option, pick your poison, make it with your own mitts and revel in your glorious culinary creation. What’s the secret to getting there, grasshopper? Acquiring your very own culinary sensei: the Cookbook. Here are the ten best Cookbooks to get you cookin’ at home:

ModelDescriptionPrice
Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ckVeganCheck Price
The Complete Cooking For Two CookbookFor TwoCheck Price
Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California CookingCaliforniaCheck Price
The Short Stack Cookbook: Ingredients That Speak VolumesIngredientsCheck Price
Chicken: a Savor the South® cookbookChickenCheck Price
The Asian Slow Cooker: Exotic Favorites for Your CrockpotAsianCheck Price
The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the WildHunting & GatheringCheck Price
SimpleEffortlessCheck Price
Sara Moulton's Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste BetterCulinary EducationCheck Price
Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern DinerComfort FoodCheck Price

Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck

Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck

In their quest to keep it real the profane folks over at Thug Kitchen have compiled a very real cookbook to make your new GMO-free, dairy-free, meat-free life just a little bit realer. Abiding by the age old adage that “you’re not hardcore unless you eat hardcore” this curse-filled Vegan cookbook hits you right in the teeth with over a hundred gourmet recipes that don’t break the bank or have you frantically searching expensive back alley herb markets for that one exotic special sauce.

Chalk full of preparation techniques, ingredient information and healthy eating guidelines the Thug Kitchen’s Official Cookbook focuses on making vegetarian and vegan cooking a fun, adult experience. What could be seen as another coffee table cookbook or humor rag for toilet time is actually a comprehensive culinary treasure trove. Every recipe in the Thug Kitchen’s Official Cookbook is so well thought out and presented it’s as if the writers actually wanted you to cook them. A useful utensil inventory, an easy-to-use index, and the numbered steps make this book’s recipes some of the easier to follow I’ve seen. From their Roasted Beer & Lime Cauliflower Tacos with Cilantro Coleslaw to their Pozole Rojo to my favorite Baked Okra and Potato Hash, this spice train leaves the station on a nonstop white-knuckle thrill ride to flavor town.

However, all this tasty green goodness at a reasonable price comes with a very high tax = time. These aren’t run and gun meals you can serve up in an hour. Every single sauce is made from scratch, while every leaf of produce needs to be chopped, sliced, washed and pureed – not necessarily in that order. What is sold as an everyman’s daily guide to becoming that lean, mean Vegan of dreams is actually more of a weekend warrior’s day-long mission itinerary.

Pros

- Healthy recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert
- Vegan and Vegetarian
- A funny read
- Reasonably priced

Cons

- Language (these f*ckers curse like gutter sailors marooned in a Billy Bush’s locker room: keep the kids away)
- No meat. None. Zip. Zero. Sorry.
- Long prep and cook times

Bottom Line

While the flavors are delicious and the book itself is funny as f*ck, you’re not going to be juggling work, school, kids and your intense Magic the Gathering habit while cooking these intricate vegan meals.

The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook

The Complete Cooking For Two Cookbook

Everyone knows one is the loneliest number, but for you single ladies and gents out there rest assured that two can be as bad as one, it’s the loneliest number since…I’ll stop. This charming cookbook by America’s Taste Kitchen is made for those lonely pairs trying to shake the soul crushing weight of impending eternal partnership and get a little foodie funk back into their lives. With 650 perfectly proportioned recipes I defy you to get bored with your significant other’s cooking. In fact, I defy you to find a dish there isn’t a recipe for in this hefty twosome’s tome.

The key to this cookbook’s success is in the name. Everything is made for two. Gone are the days when you had to juggle a calculator in one hand and a butcher’s knife in the other as you guesstimated what five tablespoons of salt divided by three was. These recipes aren’t made for four to six, these are made for you and bae and no one else.

Portion control is a huge key to losing weight and staying healthy and the fact of the matter is we home cooking types often go overboard. With this book you’re pretty much guaranteed to make just the right amount of food. Lasagna cooked in a smaller pan, cookies baked by the dozen, you’re going to save money by using less, cooking more, and sparing the planet’s overstuffed landfills from all those leftovers you promise to eat but never do.

The 650 recipes, 150 of which are 30-min meals or less, run the gambit from ethnic dishes to the stay at home staples you know and love. The main problem is that there are 650 of them. You’ll never make them all, never ever, and that a rather sad realization going in.

Pros

- Perfectly proportioned meals for two
- A one-stop cookbook with 650 different recipes
- 150 recipes in 30 min or less
- Reasonably priced

Cons

- Exclusively meals for two, so say no to friends
- Vastness of this book may make you question the point of life, the universe, everything.

Bottom Line

This cookbook won’t save your marriage, but it will help you make 650 delicious and perfectly proportioned meals for you and yours…so it’ll get you about halfway there. Remember these are meals for two, no company allowed.

Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking

Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking

Jessica Koslow, the chef of Sqirl in Los Angeles, finally reveals the recipes that have Angelinos waiting hours outside her restaurant just for a taste. “Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking” is a delicious foray into the adventurous minds of Koslow and her staff, the dishes hailing from all over the world and running the gambit from Sticky Toffee Whole-Wheat Date Cake to Shredded Vegetable Socca.

California cooking at its best will blend the lines between health conscious and hearty, and that’s just what you will find herein. This cookbook will present you with Koslow’s recipe for avocado toast, an LA yogi’s favorite nutritious breakfast, but will smother said toast in oil and the pickled carrots, which you’ll have to pickle yourself, will be positively sugar soaked. Butter, sugar, crème fraiche and salt are present in positively everything and in lugubrious amounts. Now, back to those carrots and their pickling: these time consuming inclusions run rampant throughout this book. You will be spending hours on these recipes, hours and hours. But whether it’s the braised duck or the plum upside down cake, it will all be gone in mere seconds. You will not, I repeat, YOU WILL NOT be able to stop yourself from stuffing your face as quickly as possible. Everything is so utterly delicious. Pure culinary decadence disguised as Californian healthy cuisine.

There’s a definite food truck/hipster chic feel to this urban artsy cookbook. The photos of the food are extraordinarily appetizing and well composed. The photos of people eating it are not, but that’s the beauty of this book. There’s love there, a mutual delight in the dish and the customer’s enjoyment of it.

Pros

- Delicious recipes with a California twist
- Book is beautifully composed, a window into Sqirl’s world

Cons

- Long prep and cook times
- Not the healthiest options despite the “California” tag

Bottom Line

“Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking” is aptly named, I want to eat everything in it.

The Short Stack Cookbook: Ingredients That Speak Volumes

The Short Stack Cookbook: Ingredients That Speak Volumes

Well organized and easy to understand this cookbook is separated into easy to navigate section based on eighteen ingredients – from apples and Brussels sprouts to bacon and butter and even hot chili peppers. There is a lamentable lack of photographs in this book, there are many but I prefer a cookbook to include one for each recipe. It is an easily over-looked but incredibly valuable tool in the kitchen to know what to expect your final product to look like. Even if it is an expensive addition to a cookbook, it adds value in every sense of the word. For a collaborative effort like The Short Stack Cookbook, photos can provide unity in what is, at its core, the brainchild of many different chefs.

However, even without the photos, this cookbook is still a beautiful and well-organized piece. The essential tools and kitchen appliances are explained at the start of the book while each section is bordered in a separate color, making navigation a synch. The recipes themselves are set out in such a way that following the steps is easy and intuitive. Whether preparing a delicious treat of Pull-apart Sourdough Bread for the family or serving Thai Chicken Larb at a more formal dinner party, this book makes preparation a simple step-by-step trot towards completion.

As far as the healthy options go, in this book you have entire sections devoted to such nutritious staples as Greek Yogurt, Winter Squash and Kale. In a manner that brings to mind Iron Chef, this is the kind of cooking where you pick an ingredient and create a meal around it. There is purity to the method, a feeling of lean times but good times. With a look into your nearly empty refrigerator you may, with one of these ingredients, yield a gourmet meal.

Pros

- A well-organized cookbook with some incredible recipes built around eighteen different ingredients
- Healthy and quick options included
- Meal ideas for formal occasions or quick family dinners

Cons

- A lack of photographs is jarring but not a huge loss

Bottom Line

This is the kind of cookbook that will have you excited to shop for that one special ingredient.

Chicken: a Savor the South® cookbook

Chicken: a Savor the South® cookbook

Do you love chicken? Do you love chicken so much that you need a cookbook detailing all the incredible ways you can fry, roast, bake, slice, dice, mash and baste that selfsame bird? Good news! Cynthia Graubart has written it for you and boy-howdy is it full of delicious ways to prepare and consume our flightless feathered friends.

The South is known as the birthplace of fried chicken, it’s most iconic method of cooking the bird, and this book supplies you with seven different ways to do so, each as preposterously delicious (and unhealthy) as the next. But frying isn’t the only way a Southern man or belle can prepare a hen. Whether it’s Chicken and Parslied Dumplings or the Country Captain or even Carolina Chicken Bog this cookbook takes pure jubilation in fowl preparation and supplies the reader with numerous and diverse ways to serve up some of the South’s greatest recipes. Graubart’s commitment to getting you prepared for your own chicken feast doesn’t stop at the recipes, she serves you up all the necessary information on how to best pick your bird at the supermarket, cut it up so it’s good and ready for the pot or pan, and the best ways to braise, roast or slow cook that sucker.

With fifty-three recipes available and countless helpful techniques this cookbook takes you through the folklore, tradition and storied history of chicken in the South, you’re going to be getting some serious bang for your cluck buck. In fact, this cookbook is so full to bursting with little tid bits and blurbs about the South and chicken in general you might not be reading this in the kitchen so much as curled up on the couch. Graubart’s writing is both so engaging and easy to read you’re going to find yourself repeating plenty of poultry facts to your friends and family.

Pros

- Modern, international and traditional chicken recipes
- Fried chicken easily prepared at home – no need to take out KFC or Popeyes Chicken ever again. Unless you really want to.
- Affordable and invaluable for the chicken lover in your life
- Step by step guide to selecting and preparing your bird: from the store to the stove

Cons

- Not a lot of healthy options
- Chicken dishes only, but you probably got that

Bottom Line

This book will be a crown jewel in any chicken cooker’s kitchen. For more delectable Southern recipes with a naughty twist check out Bourbon: A Savor the South Cookbook by Gaubart.

The Asian Slow Cooker: Exotic Favorites for Your Crockpot

The Asian Slow Cooker: Exotic Favorites for Your Crockpot

Living on the Westside of Los Angeles I have exclusive access to some truly terrible Chinese food. The blessed woks of the San Gabriel Valley are far far away, the highway to Chinatown is barred by traffic, sushi is everywhere but Szechuan I cannot find. Such was my lot in life until Kelly Kwok’s “The Asian Slow Cooker” saved me from my geographical location’s extraordinary lack of Mandarin love.

The founder of "Life Made Sweeter," Kelly Kwok presents us with restaurant quality recipes hailing from across East Asia. Whether Thai, Korean, Vietnamese or Chinese each of Kwok’s stir fries, noodles, curries, and desserts are as authentic and brilliant as anything you’ll find in your town’s best ethnic eatery. With such Chinese standbys as General Tso's Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, Lemon Chicken, Beef and Broccoli, your take out days are at an end. While the incredible Korean Short Ribs will have you dreaming of setting up your very own BBQ joint. For me though, the dish I continue to make time and time again is Kwok’s Bahn mi: the perfect balance between spice and sweet, this French-Vietnamese sandwich is a slam-dunk for lunch, dinner and – I’ll admit it – a midnight snack. There are numerous Vegetarian options to be enjoyed as well: from General Tso’s Brussels sprouts (Kwok must have heard my prayers to the flavor gods!) to Thai red curry vegetables.

Most of these recipes can be made in a single pot – the inclusion of the “Slow Cooker” in the title is a bit of a misnomer considering a lot of these dishes don’t use the Crock Pot at all – which means little mess and quick preparation. The composition of this book is also a treat, each ingredient is listed in metric and imperial measurements and all are easily accessible at your local grocery store. You’ll not be tramping around specialty markets searching for a strange and rare form of cumin ever again. Every recipe has a beautiful photo beside it, showing you just what you should expect your creation to look like.

Pros

- Fantastic recipes that seem daunting but are actually eminently makeable
- Never do mediocre takeout again
- One pot or Crock Pot dishes, quick to prepare and quicker to clean up

Cons

- Almost entirely traditional recipes, not a lot of creativity found here
- A focus on unhealthy American Chinese dishes

Bottom Line

Overall this is a fantastic book that will have you quickly and easily whipping up your favorite Asian dishes and some surprising new ones right at home.

The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild

The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild

The cookbook you’ll have to send a carrier pigeon to tell your survivalist cousin about, “The Bushcraft Field Guide” is a treasure trove of woodsman wisdom and wild lands living. Whether you know in your gut the apocalypse is coming or you’re trying to impress your fellow burners come festival season, this is the cookbook you’ll want in your rucksack when everything goes topsy turvy. New York Times bestselling author Dave Cantebury delivers a comprehensive guide to not just living off the land, but thriving on it.

The keys to surviving in the wild are finding food, shelter and water. Cantebury tackles each of these subjects and many others with gusto and attention, but it’s the cooking of the food that seems a bit like an after thought. There is a single chapter on unconventional cooking. You’ll learn how to cook a cheese sandwich on your car’s engine or a can of beans over the fire, but as useful as these are, they’re not necessarily going to wow the crowd around the campfire. There is a lengthy section on what to bring when heading into the wild, Old Bay seasoning apparently is a necessity, but other than a few ways to prepare trout, rabbit, and make a mountain man’s breakfast, you’re not going to find anything exactly riveting.

Pros

- Learn the ways of the wild: how to build a shelter, trap, kill and skin a rabbit (and other furry woodland creatures), how to start a fire from scratch, the best ways to find fresh water and how to forage for plant life that won’t poison or kill you
- Recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner in the wild

Cons

- A lack of illustrations and inclusion of very brief and general information means that many of the traps you will never end up setting
- Most of the bush craft is covered more extensively in Mr. Cantebury’s other book: “Bush Craft 101”. This is just a rehashing of that information but in less detail
- This is a beginner’s guide to outdoor living – your experienced survivalist might know all the tips and trick already
- Not a cookbook. A book with cooking.

Bottom Line

A valuable and fun book that any of your outdoorsy friends are sure to enjoy.

Simple

Simple

The work of award winning food writer, Diana Henry, this cookbook focuses on the preparation of simple, easy to follow recipes that aren’t going to require a ten-hour investment. The mission is in the name “Simple”, and for the most part Ms. Henry succeeds with flying colors.

It’s a fairly common pitch, simple meals with flavor that will “knock your socks off”. From her Carrot hummus, roast tomatoes, and harissa yogurt toast to her baked sausages with apples, raisins, and hard cider, almost every recipe tastes fresh, original and complex. Considering the few hours you’ll be spending on each of those relatively quick dishes, that complexity is going to be delightfully deceiving to those you are serving. Cumin-roast eggplants, chickpeas, walnuts and dates is a beautiful recipe for the vegetarian in you, while Moroccan-spiced chicken with dates and eggplant is going to bring down the house and make you ooze well-traveled good taste.

You would not think it possible with such a name but “Simple” sporadically falls prey to its recipes’ complexity. There are numerous ingredients that you are just never going to find at your grocery store and may have to order online. Ms. Henry does, however, give you easier to find alternative ingredients, going a long way towards mitigating this problem of complexity.

Pros

- A creative addition to any adventurous cook’s kitchen these recipes are delightfully elaborate and unexpectedly flavorful
- Recipes contain options to customize your dish with additional ingredients and spices so that every meal you make will be entirely your own
- The writing is engrossing and fun, you’ll not want to out this cookbook down

Cons

- Makes some use of ingredients that may be difficult to find at you neighborhood grocery
- Not as simple as you would believe, some of these recipes are very complex, take a lot of time to prepare and require some prior experience in the kitchen

Bottom Line

Overall “Simple” is an incredible addition to Diana Henry’s portfolio, a work she can truly be proud of that will make meals you can be proud of too.

Sara Moulton's Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better

Sara Moulton's Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything Taste Better

The heir apparent to Julia Child’s happy legacy, Sara Moulton is a home cooking legend in her own right and her cookbook is a fount of wisdom for aspiring chefs. She takes it upon herself to reteach you cooking techniques that you might have doing wrong for years as well as providing quick tips to sharpen your culinary skills. From how best to toss a salad, beat an egg or shuck a lobster, every page of this book is a master class in cooking, a one-on-one teaching experience that you can’t find in any other book.

As you would expect the recipes in this book are as much a delight to the palate as they are a learning experience. Moulton wants you to learn and grow as you cook your way through her lessons. She is teaching you skills and shortcuts as you grill a sirloin, she is getting your eye to notice things it wouldn’t have as you boil shrimp. This book is not a cookbook, or not just a cookbook, it is a guide to making you the cook you’ve always wanted to become.

The ingredients listed in many of these recipes may be hard to find at your local store but Moulton provides reasonable substitutions that will capture the essence of those lost pieces of the puzzle.

Pros

- Full of engaging recipes that are sure to challenge and delight the experienced cook in your life
- Teaching techniques that build upon your prior knowledge in the field
- Recipes ranging in prep time from a few days to thirty minutes

Cons

- Despite the 101: this is not a cookbook for an inexperienced hand in the kitchen.
- Uses ingredients that may not be readily available at your local supermarket

Bottom Line

This is the cookbook that will take you from amateur hobbyist to a full blown kitchen master.

Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner

Poole's: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner

Poole’s tells the story of writer Ashley Christensen’s restaurant, and its commitment to serving great food to the city of Raleigh, North Carolina. This cookbook is a testament to Christensen’s sense of community and her desire to revamp the food scene in her city. Full of preposterously addicting comfort food recipes that are sure to make your home as buzzin’ a spot as Poole’s is, Ms. Christensen delivers a grand slam home run of a cookbook for experienced and willing home cooks.

The recipes range from Warm Broccoli Salad with Cheddar and Bacon Vinaigrette to Macaroni au Gratin to Challah Bread Pudding with Whiskey Apples and Crème Fraiche (my personal favorite). As you can probably tell there aren’t a lot of healthy options herein – though the Heirloom Tomatoes with Crushed Olives, Crispy Quinoa, and White Anchovy Dressing could be considered such – but that’s alright, you’ve plenty of time to do lunges and crunches while cooking these delectable dishes.

With such great recipes you might think the book ends there, but it also includes drink recipes and a technique and ingredient guide. It is a fun and engaging look into the running of this remarkable restaurant, but be warned: this is an experienced chef’s recipes. Weekend warriors and amateur cooks might find themselves over-stretching their abilities.

Pros

- A journey into the world of Ashley Christensen’s Poole’s restaurant and rocking Raleigh’s fun loving food scene.
- Comfort food! Comfort food! Comfort food!
- A wide range of recipes from steak to seafood to pies to deserts, you’re bound to find something you love.

Cons

- These dishes are served at a top of the line restaurant – expect complexity.
- Not a lot of healthy options in this one, but what did you expect from real Southern comfort food?

Bottom Line

Poole’s is the book any comfort food loving cook is going to want, not on their bookshelf, but wide open on the kitchen counter ready for use.

These Ten Cookbooks are sure to shrink your gut, expand your wallet and make your life a lot more interesting. Whether you’re preparing Chicken in the Southern style or cooking the foul-mouthed Vegan recipes of Thug Kitchen, you’re sure to surprise and delight you family and friends with these culinary creations.

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