2010 Holiday Gift Guide: My Top 10 Cookbook Picks

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved cookbooks. As children, my sister and I would nestle on the sofa, The Encyclopedia of French Cooking opened between us, and we would turn it carefully, page by page, scrunching up our noses over the sautéed chicken livers and sighing over the Raspberry Charlotte and Grand Marnier soufflé. I didn’t know what Grand Marnier was, but I knew I wanted some.

My parents gave me my first cookbook when I was eleven. Pies. I think I made every pie in the book. It was the beginning of what has become a carefully chosen and beloved collection. I never tire of cookbooks. Even though digital recipes from blogs and websites are a huge inspiration and now a normal part of everyday life, I still love to flip through cookbooks, be they old favorites or new acquisitions.

Cookbooks make a fantastic gift for anyone who finds cooking a muse instead of a chore, but with so much selection out there, how does one choose a cookbook that will be used for years?

This following is a list of some of my absolute favorite and most useful cookbooks. I say ‘some’ with all honesty, as it was very hard to narrow the list down to ten, while keeping it diversified. Diversity is key, however, as the dear ones on our Christmas lists are all so different.

For the eco-conscious to the romantic recipient, here are my top ten cookbook recommendations to gift this year. A few are hot off the press and others have been around a tad longer, but are just too good to leave out.

1. For the frugal foodie

Who doesn’t want to eat like a gourmet, but still stay within their monthly food budget? The Poor Girl Gourmet cookbook takes us on a low-budget, high-quality food adventure, but without an ounce of snob.

We’ve been blissfully eating from Amy’s friendly and comprehensive cookbook all summer long. Her Fish Cakes with Lemon-Dill sauce are in regular rotation on our menu plans, and Tangy Barbecue Sauce (several jars of which are stashed in my freezer) has forever changed my watered-down BBQ sauce paradigm.

2. For working mom (ie: every mom)

Several years ago, I quit letting my background in fine dining dictate what I served guests during dinner parties and wouldn’t you know it, everyone started having more fun. Coincidentally, it happened around the same time as I became a mother. Spending hours on dinner details, while a stressed hubby jostles the baby is not the recipe to a happy family.

I also discovered that what makes guests most happy are simple meals with quality ingredients that are packed full of flavor; oh, like every recipe in Pam Anderson’s latest cookbook Perfect One-Dish Dinners. We’re already fans of the one-pot meal around here, but Pam’s cookbook opens up a whole new spectrum of ideas and inspiration.

You’ll want to entertain every night with this New York Times bestseller.

3. For the budding young chef

Yippee! Finally here’s a cookbook for my kids with nary a sprinkle or mini-marshmallow in sight. Instead it is full of over forty well-balanced recipes that feature wholesome ingredients such as beans, fish and vegetables. All dishes are depicted with absolutely charming step-by-step illustrations that present cooking as fun – and it already holds the attention of my 5-year old.

At $13 on Amazon, The Silver Spoon for Children is a steal. There’s no question that this is the cookbook that will nurture every seed I have already planted in my boys and help inspire a lifetime love of cooking.

4. For the everyday gourmet

Everyone should have a cookbook in their repertoire that is the absolute last word on everything from apples to zucchini. When I was growing up, that book was Joy of Cooking; no matter what I was preparing, I knew I could always find a recipe there. But times have changed, and as Gourmet Today author, Ruth Riechl put it, “You aren’t eating the way you used to…the time had come for us to create a new cookbook, one dedicated to the way we are eating right now.”

Now, Gourmet Today is my resource for all things vegetarian, grilled, and much more. With recipes for ever occasion (and budget), this cookbook truly meets today’s needs.

5. For the health conscious

For those of you who want a healthier version of the classic family comfort food, Canadian culinary icon, Anne Lindsay gives us over 500 recipes with a ‘lighter’ side to them in this new cookbook. Anne packs so much into this hefty hardcover book, with recipes from appetizers to desserts and everything in between. The hard part? I want to try everything!

Recipes are easy to read and follow, the photos are splendid, and the tips on healthy eating an added bonus. I particularly love the creative menu planning ideas, as I entertain often.

Lighthearted at Home is an extremely well-rounded cookbook and one you’ll want to buy and slip into your kids’ suitcase when they leave for college.

6. For the ‘sweetest’

If you visited my home this past month, I apologize if I aggressively thrust renown baker Abby Dodge’s brand new book into your hands and babbled about how you have to read it and how Abby is an absolute genius.

It’s all true. This book houses a stellar collection of 125 desserts, each using only four ingredients. If that’s not simple enough for you, then I don’t know what is! We’re talking sophisticated, yet easy to make desserts for every occasion. If you know someone with a sweet tooth, then this is the book for them.

7. For the romantic

Molly’s absorbing cookbook-memoir is one that you tuck under your arm and head outside with a glass of lemonade to read in peace. Once you have spread a quilt in the back yard and plopped down, prepared to be transported.

When hunger pangs finally force you to stir from your afternoon interlude, bring the book into the kitchen and dreamily prepare her father’s recipe for French Toast. It is perfect, as is A Homemade Life. This book was my favorite read last year, bar none, and the recipes are now staples around here, in particular, Molly’s buckwheat pancakes.

8. For the technical

Cut down on your meal prep time with this thorough guide to knife skills. From filleting a delicate fish to basic vegetable prep, this book has clear instructions on how to handle a knife, properly.

Favorite feature? The ring-binding makes it easy to lay the book flat on the countertop to follow along with the photos and instructions while you are practicing.

9. For the eco-conscious

Do you know what ‘sustainable’ really means? How about which seafood species are properly managed? Do you know when frozen is sometimes the better choice? The Ocean Wise Cookbook gives clear instructions on which seafood and fish should be on your shopping list, and then provides a wealth of recipes for preparing them.

If sustainable is a way of life for you – or an aspiration, then The Ocean Wise Cookbook is the perfect addition to your bookshelf.

10. For the visual learner

This cookbook is the next best thing to having a personal chef demonstrating right in your own kitchen. It really is the ultimate step-by-step illustrated cookbook – for adults; each recipe is depicted with clarity and demonstrated with as many as eight photos, leaving little room for question.

Recipes are classics: Cinnamon Buns, Barbecue Ribs, Apple Pie, Spaghetti Bolognese. You find all of your favorite comfort food between the covers of What to Cook and How to Cook it, and with such tantalizing visuals, you’ll be opening this cookbook frequently.

Which cookbook is on your radar for this Christmas?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Great choices! I’m hoping for Dorie Greenspan’s “Around the French Table”, and Melissa Clark’s “In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite”.

  2. over the past 6 years, Mark Bittman has taught me to cook from the pages of his “How to Cook Everything.” when i got married, i had never hard-boiled an egg or baked *anything* from scratch. much more than a book of recipes, it’s an excellent, comprehensive, non-threatening cooking textbook. a 10th-anniversary edition has just been published … i might need that one too.

  3. Okay, Aimée, you got me wanting every book on your list! I honestly had only heard of a few. I’m going to put #2 and 3 on my wish list now. Great round-up.

    And I echo Bittman’s book. I use it all. the. time.

    • And you will LOVE both. Noah (5) sat and read the Silver Spoon for nearly half an hour when it arrived. Then he wouldn’t stop bugging me until we made the meatballs (last night). Such fun!

  4. I’ve been eyeing A Homemade Life for a while.

  5. I already have this cookbook but it is one of my favorites – Simply in Season. It is aimed at cooking foods in season and the recipes are organized by season. So simple to turn to the section for the season we are in an scan the pages to find recipes that fit the very same items that are gracing your farmer’s market stands.

    • I second this book. It is a great book on seasonal cooking. I love that it is spiral bound too, which makes it so much easier to cook with. 🙂

  6. Recipes from the Root Cellar. Technically not a Christmas gift because I already bought it for myself…but a lovely book on cooking seasonally in the winter.

  7. What a wonderful list! After reading your entry, I’m inspired to go out and buy them all for myself! I’ve become cookbook-obsessed lately. And since I don’t have the money to spend on the dozens of cookbooks I want, I usually go get them out at my local library, which is stocked with good cookbooks. Maybe I’ll see if they have some of these… 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!

  8. Is it weird that cookbooks make me a little giddy? I LOVE them. And I’m adding a bunch of these to my Christmas list. Thanks for all the suggestions!

  9. Oh, I forgot to mention a cookbook. My husband is in love with the Pioneer Woman’s recipes (EVERYTHING I’ve made of hers rocks), so I’m anxiously awaiting her second cookbook.

  10. Okay! And if you could only take one to that little place you and your family are hiding away in for a year, what would it be? Because I’m only allowed to put one of my wishlist for Christmas and I’m thinking all-around useful and lovely.

  11. Hey (ooh… time today!!)
    Does the silver spoon give directions only – or does it divide what can be done by parent and child?

  12. I have “the sunset cookbook” on my wish list. I get so many of my recipes from sunset magazine, and this new collection is supposed to represent “how we cook in the west today” (west being west coast in this case).

    My favorite book to give is “Seriously Simple” by Diane Rossen Worthington – the food is beautiful, full of flavor, and every recipe is actually simple. We’ve never gone wrong when we open that one!

  13. I am thinking about purchasing and then cooking (almost exclusively) out of one cookbook next year … my problem is that I’m overwhelmed with too many choices and end up cooking the same thing over and over! So..I’m thinking about Bittman’s new Food Matters cookbook. I love his philosophy and enjoy his writing!

  14. Wow, fantastic post. I could page through cookbooks all day long 🙂 Of your list, I’ve only read A Homemade Life (it was wonderful!) I just bought for myself a book called Fannie’s Last Supper by Chris Kimball, founder of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. I haven’t gotten too far in it yet, but am so intrigued with the idea. He recreated a 12-course Christmas dinner that cookbook author Fannie Farmer served at the end of the 19th century.

  15. For the Gluten Free eaters, I love Gluten Free Every Day by Robert Landolphi. He’s a professional chef and it shows – every recipe has been amazing! It’s the only strictly GF cookbook I use anymore. Love Soup is another one that I’ve been savoring lately.

  16. I’ve been reading and loving Georgia Pellegrini’s new book “Food Heroes.” I love her writing voice, it’s like you’re right there with her. And it is about these food artisans from around the world who are preserving old school food traditions. It’s like being on an escapist food journey.

  17. Well, it was on my Christmas list, but now that I’ve spent the last 3 days devouring it from cover to cover I highly recommend it. Now that is a love story!

  18. For preschoolers…I LOVE Pretend Soup by Mollie Katzen. She’s one of my personal favorites, so when we received a kids cookbook for my daughter’s birthday, I was thrilled. And she absolutely loves it. I’ve gotten it for several gifts since we received it.

  19. Love these recommendations. All new to me! Very excited to check out the silver spoon book.

    Thanks for sharing.

  20. Our favorite, hands down, is America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I have given several copies away. It’s a great mix of realistic recipes and lots of great information.

  21. What a great list! I’m currently reading A Homemade Life and just love it! Now, I want to get my hands on A Poor Girl Gourmet… it looks like a great everyday cookbook!

  22. Like you said in your post, my little daughter is like you ( she is only 2 years old) and she loves admiring cookbooks.
    We talk together about beautiful it is and how it seems tasty.

  23. I definitely need to get Lighthearted at Home, I have most of the Lighthearted series and I reference them all the time. The Heart and Stroke Foundation puts out a quality cookbook.

  24. Helen Chris says

    I love collecting cookbooks for my cooking sessions…This will help…

  25. francinekeaton says

    I love cookbooks! aaaaand I never tire of cookbooks too! ^_^
    I looooove your choices! I would love to give it all to MYSELF though! hahahaha thanks for sharing this. I’m starting to buy gifts for the Holidays! I know, I sound silly but i have a LOT of friends and family to satisfy for the Holidays!

  26. I love cook.. Your list is a very great book to add in my collection hope to find them in our national bookstore..

  27. Wow this is really a great guide for gift giving ideas specially christmas is approaching and still thinking what kind of gift to give. Really nice one!

  28. Thanks for sharing .. You gave me an idea on what to give to my mother for Christmas. Thanks!

  29. Nayumigrante says

    I love to cook.. Your list is a great book to add in my collection.. Thanks for posting!

  30. Sally Thompson says

    Great books to add on my cook book collection! Thanks for sharing…

  31. bumblebee56 says

    Very nice tips for the 2010 holiday..Me if I have a time for that because and holiday I make my special recipes..THANKS! | 😛

  32. As I was toying with choosing what cookbook I need if the genie in the lamp would give me a wish LOL, I realize I love and craving to have all of the above. I always got a cookbook most often during Christmas but I still love to have another set. Lat year I got candy making book. I am looking forward this season for another cookbook.

  33. I’m only allowed to put one of my wishlist for Christmas and I’m thinking all-around useful and lovely. | 😛

  34. yay! i love this post. i love collecting cookbooks too!

  35. Envy! envy! Just love those recipe books you posted! I have my recipe books on Pasta, fish, but I love collecting recipe books!

  36. This is a great gift for my mom for this Christmas.. She will surely love this books.. Thanks for the idea!

  37. oh gosh, more great cookbooks to choose from! perfect for the holidays.

  38. I bookmarked this site already and I am starting to save now, this is the perfect gift for my mother for her birthday, or should i buy her a week before her birthday so she could cook some of her favorite recipes from there! 😀

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