My 2014 Cookbook Gift Guide

On the rare occasion I ever find myself out and about on my own, I inevitably end up at a bookstore, and within that store, in the cookbook section.

It’s thrilling to be around old friends and new, seeing what’s hot and what’s not (discount). At a glance one can pick up on photography trends, fad diets and styling shifts. And then there is the excitement of knowing your book will be joining the party soon. Yes, the cookbook corner of a book shop is my favourite place to wind up.

If you are not immersed in the ever-changing, multiplying world of cookbooks, however, how to know which ones to buy? Who will vouch for their quality of recipes, reliability and readability?

Well, my annual holiday gift guide is a good place to start.

I take my cookbooks very seriously. They are stacked by my bed and dominate the living room book shelves. They accumulate in the kitchen and take over the coffee table most days. They are loved, consulted and pored over frequently.

Here’s a peek at Christmas Cookbooks Past:

2014 Cookbook Gift Guide

Please don’t count how many books made the list! I tried to narrow it down (and indeed, not all of my favourites made the final cut) but 2014 was quite an incredible year for cookbooks, as you can see.

Let’s jump right in! I hope you have a cup of tea made and a pen handy, because I have cookbook recommendations for everyone on your list.

Canning & Preserving

Preserving by the Pint by Marisa McClellan.

Preserving by the Pint

Beautifully photographed and penned with Marisa’s warm wit, Preserving by the Pint focuses on urban-friendly small-batch recipes well suited to small spaces and novice canners. It’s a fantastic concept for a book because it is so darn practical.

I opened this book many times over this past canning season, consulting it for everything from pickles to conserves, chutney and jelly. I only wish I had more time for putting up, because this book is very inspiring.

Find Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces on

Family Entertaining

Gatherings: Bringing People Together with Food by Jan Scott and Julie Van Rosendaal.

Gatherings Cookbook Cover

This darling duo has joined forces to bring us guide to making casual entertaining simple and accessible. As they are two of my favourite Canadian bloggers, it’s no surprise that Jan & Julie’s cookbook is practically perfect in every way! It’s full of helpful tips for real get-together such as backyard barbecues and potlucks, equipping you to go fourth and entertain with confidence.

I can’t wait to put Gatherings to good use over the holiday season. I’ll be hosting plenty of events (did I mention a 60-invite engagement party for my sister?) and will be counting on this beautiful book to help me survive!

Find Gatherings: Bringing People Together with Food on

Beginner Baking

What to Bake & How to Bake It by Jane Hornby.

What to Bake and How to Bake It

We loved Jane’s book, What to Cook & How to Cook It, so I knew her baking book would be just as stellar. With over 500 photos, it’s the perfect introduction for the novice who wants to attempt more than chocolate chip cookies.

My Mateo (6) pounced on this cookbook and declared it ‘his’. He loved the visual aspect of it and had a recipe picked out in no time. We made the Chocolate Hazelnut Log and will soon be sharing our version of  bûche de Noël just in time for the holidays.

Find What to Bake & How to Bake It on

Weekday Family Food

Family Meals by Chef Michael Smith.

Michael Smith's Family Meals cookbook

With sections such as ‘Lunchbox & Snacks’, ‘ Cook Ahead’ and ‘Family Meals in Minutes’, it’s obvious Chef Michael is familiar with juggling the demands of a busy household and a career. While many family cookbooks deliver recipes to cook for your family, Chef Michael’s shows you how to have fun in the kitchen with your family. It’s a subject we love around here!

True to Penguin’s style, the recipes are easy to follow, the photos gorgeous, and the book is a joy to cook from.

Find Family Meals on

Cooking 101

The Kitchn Cookbook by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand.


A warm, inspiring cookbook with 150 or so recipes that stike a good balance between simple and sensational. I’m a fan of the basics, but a cookbook must hold new inspiration for me also; The Kitchn Cookbook has space for both. The food styling is playful and the images are downright beautiful. This book is one you’ll reach for over and over.

Find The Kitchn Cookbook: Recipes, Kitchens & Tips to Inspire Your Cooking on

Read 5 Cheap Ways to Spruce Up Your Gathering from The Kitchn Cookbook.

Traditional Whole Foods

The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther.

The Nourished Kitchen

Traditional Foods are the foods of past generations and this cookbook puts them in the spotlight where they deserve to be. Jenny’s food is actually a pretty close representation of how I cook for my family on a daily basis: wholesome, nourishing meals, sourced and prepared mindfully, with a nod to old world culinary traditions and techniques.

The cookbook is a fresh take on unprocessed foods; 160 recipes prettily packaged alongside helpful headnotes and beautiful photographs. Jennifer is a fountain of knowledge and she generously shares her wisdom between the covers of The Nourished Kitchen.

Find The Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table Recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle on

The Weekend Family Table

Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food by Jamie Oliver.


We don’t follow any special diets at home, other than local, whole foods, prepared with care and enjoyed as a family. This is why Jamie’s new book resonated with me so much. It is a family feast of a book that embraces the rituals of cooking together and the pleasures of good food. I get it. I really do.

Yes, there’s still plenty of room at my table for comfort foods such as grilled cheese and apple pie! On a recent Sunday dinner we feasted on Jamie’s Toad in the Hole with Onion Gravy and his Spinach, Bacon & Pine Nut Salad. My father-in-law deemed it “…food for the soul.”.

This is an outstanding cookbook from Jamie, showing well-researched, well-rounded recipes that span a world of flavours and food cultures. It’s staying in my kitchen permanently.

Find Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food: The Ultimate Weekend Cookbook on


The Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon.

oh she glows

I sent this cookbook to my sister the day it came out, and I’ve recommended it to countless people ever since. Angela is incredibly creative and this book is just an absolute stunner. Recipes are easy to follow, use accessible ingredients and each one is accompanied by a photo. With such consistent quality, it’s no doubt Indigo name Oh She Glows their cookbook of the year.

Find The Oh She Glows Cookbook: Over 100 Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside Out on

French Cuisine

A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorrison.

A Kitchen in France

For those days when I want to dream of life in a château in the French countryside, I’ll open Mimi’s beautiful book.  It’s a feast for the eyes as well as the imagination, and frankly, makes my heart beat a little faster. I’ve already bookmarked her Roquefort and Walnut Gougères for upcoming holiday parties and the Butternut Gratin is in regular weeknight rotation.

Find A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse on

Best Expat + Teen Baker

Top With Cinnamon by Izy Hossack.

Top With Cinnamon_FINAL

Izy’s beautiful cookbook is one that you tuck under your arm and head to a quiet corner with a cup of tea to read in peace. Once you have spread a quilt over your knees and opened the book, prepared to be transported by delightfully styled and effortlessly creative sweets and eats.

When hunger pangs finally force you to stir from your interlude, bring the book into the kitchen and prepare her Triple Lemon Streusel Cake or the Crispy Aubergine with Kale Pesto Fettuccine. How did a girl who is just 18 develop such a sophisticated palate? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out.

Find Top With Cinnamon: Stylish Sweet and Savoury Recipes on

Simple, Gorgeous.

Easy Gourmet by Stephanie Le.

Easy Gourmet

I’m continually blown away Stephanie’s work on her food blog, so the fact that her new cookbook was utterly beautiful was no surprise. Easy Gourmet exudes visual style, yet many of the recipes are simplified version of old favourites.

The Soy Milk Baked Doughnuts are an after-school favourite and the French Onion Grilled Cheese are my secret weapon to fighting a case of the Mondays. With moves like this, it’s no wonder Stephanie is Canada’s darling of the food blogging – and now cookbook!- scene.

Find Easy Gourmet: Awesome Recipes Anyone Can Cook on

Weekend Baking Bonanza

Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson.

Homemade Decadence

Award-winning, ever-inspiring baker Joy Wilson brings us a cookbook so delicious that I flipped through it for the first time and promptly made a five-layer naked cake. Her relaxed and cozy approach to baking makes for a cookbook that actually emanates warmth and charm (just like Joy, really).

Homemade Decadence is worth the price just for the brunch chapter alone, but Joy is obviously out to win hearts and minds with an impressive line up of cookies, bars, pies, crumbles and, of course, layer cakes.

Find Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence: Irresistibly Sweet, Salty, Gooey, Sticky, Fluffy, Creamy, Crunchy Treats on

The Instant Family Heirloom

Saveur: The New Classics Cookbook from the editors of Saveur magazine.

Saveur cover

I’m trying not to use cliches to describe the new Saveur cookbook, but ‘bang for your buck’ and ‘worth every penny’ come to mind over this 1,000 recipe collection. Curated by the best in the business and tested by an absolute stellar team of professionals, The New Classics cookbook from Saveur is one you will cook from your entire lifetime –  and then the kids will take it from there.

I love the range of ethnic cuisines  that the recipes cover as well as the copious tips, stories and quotes sprinkled throughout the cookbook. The first recipe I made from was a Salted Caramel Apple Pie. Talk about a new classic! We very nearly licked the pie plate clean.

Find Saveur: The New Classics Cookbook: More than 1,000 of the world’s best recipes for today’s kitchen on

A good cookbook has to fit like a favourite shoe.

I’ve narrowed things down for you, but I suggest you select an armful of my picks at your local book store and flip through them to see what feels comfortable and fits within your cooking style. Happy browsing!

Disclaimer: Yes, this post contains Amazon affiliate links, which basically means that a small portion of the proceeds from books purchased through the links provided go to support this blog. Thanks!

What are you cooking from these days?

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. Love your “nomination” categories for each of these cookbooks! I found myself in the cookbook section of the book store this weekend, too. By far my favorite place to be! I can’t wait to see mine on the shelves next year and I can’t wait to see yours either 🙂 I’ll be sure to snap a photo! hehe

  2. I want them all!

  3. awesome Aimee!! Thank you for the recc’s I just clicked over and bought Top with Cinnamon 🙂

  4. Aw, thank you SO much for including us on your list of books this year! You have a well-curated list of reads that should be on every home cook’s bookshelf, and I’m so thrilled that you added Julie and I to this list of stellar selections. I’m off to check out the Saveur one now… xo

  5. I love Angela’s book, I’ve used it many times since it came out! I’m putting Joy’s book and Izy’s book on my list for this year!

  6. So many wonderful books here Aimee!! You just reminded me that I gotta get my cookbook gift guide together too 😉

  7. This is wonderful, Aimee! Everyone is asking what I want for Christmas, and I have trouble thinking of anything I really need or even want. Cookbooks are perfect for me, but I rarely have the chance to browse them in a store.

  8. Oh my gosh, what a lovely list…I just put three on hold at the library to check out. 🙂 I don’t know that I bought any cookbooks this year, but some of my favs are Cannelle et Vanille’s “Small Plates, Sweet Treats” (it’s so beautiful, and everything is gluten-free, and I have celiac so it’s great!), Smitten Kitchen’s first book, and Ree Drummond’s cookbooks when I want hearty comfort food.
    Sarah M

  9. I just placed holds on about half of these through my library. Let us hope they don’t all come in at once (it happens) because then I will have about 50 pounds of books to carry out. Ha.

  10. I need a new job just to pay for cookbooks. So much amazingness.

  11. OK…just filled up my Christmas list! Glad to see I’m not the only one that enjoys reading a cookbook. Currently I’m trying to cook only from my file cabinet of clipped and printed out recipes. Butternut squash pasta is on the menu tonight.

  12. Have you read Amy Thielen’s coookbook, The New Midwestern Table? We share the same home town, although I no longer live there. But reading her cookbook was really fun for me because of the local perspective.

  13. what a great guide. thanks!

  14. snap!! what a great list … it’s always this time of year the shelves are flooded with gorgeous new books …” i want them all, i want them now!” my mind tells me, and then my wallet says “play it cool, lady!!” i love your picks, aimee! a nice mix of titles, from well known to newbies (and teens!) i already love my copy of Easy Gourmet, and that Saveur new classics book is calling my NAME…! top with cinnamon is on my wishlist, too, and i really feel like i should cleanse the bod when i think about Oh She Glows – ! xo

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