2011 Holiday Gift Guide: My Top 10 Cookbook Picks

Last year’s gift guide for cookbooks was so much fun, especially the title-swapping in the comments, that I had to follow up with another round-up of recommendations for 2011. It’s been a most stellar year for cookbooks – a good thing, until you’re trying to narrow your favorites down to ten. Not an easy task.

This year I really tried to keep you, my readers, in mind when reviewing cookbooks. Even though I have a wicked sweet tooth, you’ll notice there are no dessert books in the line-up. Inspiration for sweets is everywhere – Pinterest, blogs, magazines – but what I find most of us struggle with is getting dinner on the table every night.

My top picks for this year contain a wide variety of cookbook styles that range from practical to artisanal, homey to technical and all of them provide tons of inspiration for dinner.  You can be sure to find one or two books on this list that fit you and your family’s food culture to a ‘T’.

For the entertainer to the vegetarian on your holiday gift list, here are my top 10 cookbook picks for 2011! Happy browsing. Happy cooking.

1. Good Food to Share

I’ve been eating up Sara-Kate’s wisdom from the kitchen for years now on her incredibly popular food blog, The Kitchn, which is why I was delighted to crack the cover of her beautiful new cookbook, Good Food to Share.

Full of gorgeous photographs, inspiring recipes, and savvy tips for throwing a party, Good Food to Share is a must for anyone who loves to entertain. It’s sophisticated but remains simple, and isn’t that the approach we all want when hosting guests?!

2. Cook without a Book: Meatless Meals

  • Author: Pam Anderson
  • Publisher: Rodale Book

Having feasted on the very best vegetarian enchiladas of my life at Pam Andersons’ own home in Pennsylvania this past summer, her new cookbook Cook without a Book: Meatless Meals could not get into my hands soon enough. For those of us looking to prepare more meatless meals for our families, Pam’s book is the ticket to ride.

Meatless Meals features new recipes like Black Bean Hominy Chili and Goat Cheese Pancakes with Peach Syrup, as well as old favorites with a twist such as Creamy Tomato Soup with Garam Masala and Meatless Sloppy Joe’s. With its winning ‘cook without a book’ format, Meatless Meals demonstrates how to master a series of simple formulas to enjoy easy, meatless meals anytime.

3. In My Mother’s Kitchen

  • Author: Trish Magwood
  • Publisher: Harper Collins Canada

James Beard award-winning Canadian author Trish Magwood brings us a cookbook so homey it’s no surprise I flipped through it for the first time and promptly made her recipe for chocolate pudding. Her relaxed and cozy approach to family cooking makes for a cookbook that actually exudes warmth.

In My Mother’s Kitchen feels like a celebration of local produce; it’s full of recipes that burst with seasonal fruits and vegetables, a style that is very close to how I grew up cooking and eating.

Let’s not forget that Trish is also a busy mother of three, and she deftly navigates family dinnertime with simple recipes that are sure to charm every family member – right down to the youngest.

4. Spilling the Beans

  • Authors: Julie Van Rosendaal & Sue Duncan
  • Publisher: Whitecap Books Ltd.

This latest cookbook from Canadian food writer Julie Van Rosendaal has a special place in my kitchen. In it she collaborates with Sue Duncan to produce a straightforward and thorough book on beans that also manages to be utterly elegant to boot.

My family loves beans, but I admit, I tend to serve them in the same old ways. Spilling the Beans not only showcases these healthy and frugal legumes in scads of new dinner recipes, but also provides an entire section on baking delicious desserts with beans.

Three weeks after its release, Spilling the Beans is already sold out in Canada, but you can pre-order on Amazon for the next printing (January).

5. Good Bite Weeknight Meals

They say two heads are better than one, so what happens when you bring a handful of the brightest and boldest food bloggers together to showcase their easy, everyday recipes? You get Good Bite Weeknight Meals, over 140 tried and true recipes from amazing bloggers such as Jenny, Shauna, Julie, and Elise.

My first flip through Good Bite Weeknight Meals left it flagged with about eight sticky notes of recipes I was dying to try and knew I could fit into my busy week. Most of them contained ingredients I already had on hand and none of them required more than 15 or 20 minutes of my time.

Beautifully photographed by the amazing Matt Armendariz; collaboration never looked so good.

6. Cook This Now

  • Author: Melissa Clark
  • Publisher: Hyperion

This latest cookbook from Melissa Clark arrived almost the same week that my favorite roadside produce stand closed. Instead of bemoaning the loss of local strawberries, tomatoes and wax beans, I turned to Cook This Now and discovered the joys of recipes like Roasted Rutabaga with Maple, Kale Salad with Anchovy-Date Dressing, and Carroty Mac & Cheese.

Cook This Now is a celebration of seasonal eating, an exercise I have always embraced, yet seeing those fruits and vegetables through Melissa’s eyes has opened up my fall/winter repertoire to a host of new flavor combinations. For that reason alone, I recommend buying this book.

I can’t wait to see what is in store for spring on the pages of Cook This Now. I’ll be the one eagerly awaiting the arrival of rhubarb and radishes.

7. Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day

  • Authors: Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Homemade pizza is practically a staple in our home and the whole family pitches in to help prepare it. That is just one reason why I knew Jeff and Zoe’s new cookbook would be a perfect addition to my cookbook collection. Also, pizza in five? Yes, please!

In Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day we learn an ingenious technique (known as ‘The Secret”) to make super fast pizza (and flatbread, tarts, pita, etc) from a stored, no-knead dough.

This fantastic cookbook also thoroughly covers a wide variety of ingredients, equipment recommendations and tons of tips for perfect pizza. Following that are enough recipes to keep me busy until my boys are into their teenage years. I know we’ll still be eating pizza when that day comes.

8. Ruhlman’s Twenty

  • Author: Michael Ruhlman
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books

Michael Ruhlman is a technical chef (and writer) through and through, which is why home cooks who enjoy formulas, step-by-step photos, and demystified cooking fundamentals will fall hard for his new cookbook.

Rhulman’s Twenty is tidily divided into twenty techniques that promise to elevate anyone and everyone’s cooking skills and contains over one hundred recipes that provide the practical application for those essentials twenty skills.

A self-professed cook’s manifesto, Rhulman’s Twenty is truly an exceptional cookbook and will certainly be making the rounds in the kitchens of my friends and family.

9. Super Natural Every Day

  • Author: Heidi Swanson
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press

People everywhere are singing praises for Heidi Swanson’s latest cookbook, Super Natural Every Day, and I’m joining in on the chorus. I mean, with recipes like Brown Butter Green Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk, her incredibly fluffy Yogurt Biscuits, and a Berry Baked Oatmeal, how can I not?

Heidi’s healthy and nutritionally packed recipes hold huge appeal, however, I’d recommend having a bit of a background in whole foods before you buy this book. That said, if you know your bulgur, tempeh and tamari, you won’t be able to put this book down.

10. Peko Peko

  • Authors: Stacie Billis, Rachael Hutchings and Marc Matsumoto
  • Publisher: Blurb

Peko Peko: Family Friendly Japanese Recipes is a collection of nearly 60 Japanese and Japanese-inspired recipes published by Blurb, 100% of the profits of which will be donated to charity relief in earthquake-shattered Japan.

It offers gorgeous photography and 59 Japanese-inspired recipes contributed by over 50 of today’s best and brightest food writers, bloggers and photographers.

I was fortunate to be able to contribute to the cookbook and heartily recommend this beautiful curated work. Order one today!

**Shopping Tip/disclosure: Yes, I’ve included some affiliate links in this post, and you should also know…Amazon is offering some mega Black Friday sales today!**

Which of these cookbooks would you love to unwrap on Christmas morning?

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 round-up, Aimee. Five of these books are on my top 10 list too!

  2. Nice list! I see a few that are going on my wish list for the guys ;D

  3. I’m threatening my husband with the bean cookbook. LOL (Beans are not his favorite meal but I love beans). Your lineup looks like a great list, I’ll have to check some of them out soon – my brother just gave me a gift card to a bookstore. 🙂

  4. Lisa [With Style and Grace] says

    Oh, I love cookbooks and want all of these! Great list!

  5. I love the pizza/flatbread one! And the Super Natural one!
    As a photographer, I love good pictures and presentation and these books look awesome! And now I am getting hungry for something besides turkey. 🙂

  6. what i love best about this list: it features so many of the bloggers we enjoy on the web- here’s the chance to support them AND have even more delish food!!

  7. Christine @ Oatmeal in my Bowl says

    Great list! I’ve been wanting Super Natural. Love Heidi’s recipes!

  8. Thank you so much for this great round up! I am a huge cookbook fan & my Christmas list is usually filled with them. I have a few new ones to add to my list now! Can’t wait for Santa 🙂

  9. Awesome round up, Aimee.

    I’m excited to try Cook Without A Book – we’ve been trying to reduce animal products and increase plants, and this’ll be a great help!


  10. Awesome round up. Will track some of them down!

  11. heidi’s! i love love love her blog!! her food is so good i didn’t even realize it was vegetarian for a few weeks after cooking from it – it’s just yummy!

  12. Oh, I love the Meatless & Bean ones! We are not vegetarians, but are finding it so much healthier & cheaper to eat less meat, but I’m like you- I tend to cook beans the same handful of ways and I’d love some new ideas. Also, the Ruhlman’s 20 looks so helpful…may have to email this post to my hubby : )

  13. Ruhlman’s Twenty is on my list….I love his books…and his blog!

    I’m a longtime fan of Simply Recipes, but I didn’t know Elise was contributing to Good Bite. I’ll add that to my wish list!

    I am jealous of the vegetarian enchiladas at Pam’s house. I discovered How to Cook Without a Book when I was fresh out of college–I don’t think any cookbook author has had such a huge impact on my own cooking.

  14. This are great books! I want to have the Super Natural Everyday and Artisan Pizza.. I really want to learn more how to make a good pizza and pasta. I hope my husband will buy these books for me on Christmas!

  15. Emily @ Random Recycling says

    So many yummy options! I have been borrowing cookbooks from the library lately so I’m going to add these to my request list. If I try to renew a book more than 3 times, then I buy it.

  16. Cook without a Book is definitely on my list this year! Thanks for the suggestions, Aimée!

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