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On My Bookshelf – Best Cookbooks and Gardening Books

Troy once mentioned that it is hard to find gifts for me. I don’t like knick knacks (who wants to dust around those?), most items don’t hold a lot of sentimental value for me (I prefer the memories to the stuff), and I don’t care about purses, jewelry, or things like that. In actuality, I make it really easy to let others know what I like because I have an Amazon wish list. Troy and I no longer give each other gifts, but I keep the wish list for friends and family. Pro tip – you can actually make a wish list for each member of your household. For people who live out-of-town or grandparents who want to know what the kiddos really want, they just search, click, and order.

I have always loved the idea of cooking (I asked for a cookbook for my fifth birthday), but have really gotten into the “why” of cooking in the last ten years. Why do people make certain dishes? What memories or feelings does food give people? What flavors rock my world? Why do sane people eat mushrooms? You know, things like that. With my food journey evolving, cookbooks have been a staple on my birthday and Christmas wish lists.

In addition to trying recipes out of them, I also devour cookbooks – text and photos. I read them like books, and consider them parts of my cooking evolution. Today, I am sharing some of the best cookbooks that I have collected over the years. Since my storage in the kitchen is limited, I have them in squirrel nests all over the house. I’ve sprinkled in a few great gardening books as well since gardening truly directs my cooking.

In my kitchen:

best cookbooks

Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans
A great cookbook for people who are looking for easy paleo recipes, or recipes to incorporate into most families. We’re not paleo by any means, but reading about different ways of eating has always interested me. I love the Kaula Pork recipe, and it was the first to help me understand that you can cook large cuts of meat on low heat for 10+ hours and achieve super tender results.

Earthbound Farms: Food to Live By
I read this book cover to cover at my aunt’s house and then added it to my Christmas last many years ago. Lots of great, real food recipes that emphasize lots of fresh produce. It was the first cookbook I read that focused on organics. It was a turning point for me in learning about that concept.

Homemade Pantry
Oh, how I love this book. I really do, and I use it often. Her hummus recipe was the inspiration for my own homemade version, and it inspired me to make a honey-sweetened version of homemade marshmallows. There are so many good recipes and stories in this book.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks
This was the first cookbook I read that showed me the storytelling side of food. I mainly use the enchiladas recipe from this book, but the handful of other recipes I have tried have been tasty. Her style of cooking is a bit heavier than mine, so it’s not one I turn to a lot.

Super Natural Foods Everyday
A beautiful book from Heidi Swanson. It is vegetarian-based, but also has a wonderful section on stocking your pantry with wholesome ingredients. It was the first book I had read that had that resource included, and I really found it fascinating as I started my whole foods journey.

The Art of Simple Food
A cookbook from Alice Waters that shows that amazing food doesn’t need to be complicated or fussy. Her strawberry ice cream recipe was the inspiration for my own version.

Plowing With Pigs
This book has gardening, homesteading, and recipes woven throughout the pages. It contains my go-to baguette recipe.

(on top of the stack, but not pictured)

The Official Vermont Maple Cookbook
From a dear friend who grew up in New England. She has a brain tumor and is not well, so this cookbook is more than just a cookbook to me.

Beat This Cookbook
I originally got this from the library and enjoyed it so much that I added it my wish list. Many of the recipes contain more sugar and alternative ingredients than I prefer to use, but they offer an excellent foundation for making my own versions.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Bread. Carbs. Baking. Yep. ‘Nough said.

In my Pantry:

best cookbooks
This is my homemade cookbook that I have had for years. It’s a huge and cute binder from Target where I store recipes that I rip out of magazines and find online. I put the individual pages in plastic sheet protectors. Because I’m a nerd.

On our basement bookshelves:

best cookbooks

The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook
This book is more for a category that I would call “It would be nice to have some life skills if/when the world goes to hell”. The crunchy pony-tailed dude on the cover looks legit and like he knows what to do.

The recipe book from my Vitamix

My Paris Kitchen
A beautiful book full of beautiful food and supplemented by wonderful stories. Can’t go wrong with David Lebovitz when it comes to food.

Real Food Fermentation
See comment above on the world going to hell. At least I will have some lacto-fermented pickles in my handbasket.

True Food: Seasonal, Sustainable, Simple, Pure
I ate at True Food Kitchen in Denver during a visit with my friend Anne. I really enjoyed the food and so I bought the cookbook. I wish I had a more inspiring or witty story to tell about this one.

The Homemade Kitchen
A follow up to the Homemade Pantry. I haven’t made very much from this book, but there is much for me to explore in the future. Just like the Homemade Pantry, it’s a beautiful book with wonderful stories.

The Paleo Kitchen: Finding Primal Joy in Modern Cooking
From the blogger behind Paleomg. Great paleo recipes that include a lot of dairy and grain-free desserts.

The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
A wonderful book from the author of a wonderful blog. No need to sugar-coat it; this is a great cookbook to have on your shelf.

Thug Kitchen
I got this book last Christmas, and I have never laughed so hard at a cookbook before. So much profane and hilarious language around vegetarian cooking. I would read Troy a few snippets and he kept saying “are you sure you didn’t write this”. These people get me.

Hollyhock: Garden to Table
A local cookbook full of delicious goodness from the Puget Sound region.

This is not a gardening or cooking book, but this book more than anything got me started on a sustainable lifestyle journey. It’s a fast but interesting read about two Canadians who aim to eat food only grown within 100 miles of their home for one year. It’s fascinating. And not preachy.

Cooking for Baby
A basic homemade baby food recipe book. I need to pass this on to someone who can use it.

best cookbooks

The Vegetable Gardeners Bible
My first gardening book, and frankly really the only one I need. So much useful info.

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Safe and tested canning recipes from the masters of home canning.

Keeping Chickens
I actually won this book from Ashley on her blog (it looks like she hasn’t written in months) right before we got our own chickens. It’s a great resource and compiles all the practical and useful tips that are floating around online.

The All New Ball Book for Canning
I never tire of canning books. Even though I f#*king hate canning, I still do it a lot and it’s nice to have trusted recipes.

The Blue Ball Book of Canning (not pictured, but stored with my pressure canner)
My first canning book, and one I still use a ton. It’s messy and quite dog-earred.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Fermenting Foods
World going to hell. Prepping. Yep.

Put Em’ Up!
A fabulous canning guide that introduced me to the wonderfulness that is Pomona’s Pectin as used in my Strawberry Jam recipe.

The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook
A great book for anyone who loves cast iron. Who has two thumbs and loves cast iron? (Points to self) this girl!

Preparedness Now!
Mushroom cloud. Chaos. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria. <—— name that movie.
I actually bought this book for Troy for some holiday many years ago.

The Forager’s Harvest: Edible Wild Plants
When the zombies attack, I need to know more than finding blackberries down the street.

Food in Jars
Better for small batch canning than my other canning books. Many creative and unique recipes.

Back to Basics
A great starter book (that is huge) for people looking for a more simple lifestyle.

SAS Survival Handbook
This is Troy’s book. But I won’t kick it off the bookshelf because it may come in handy some day when we’re celebrating Thanksgiving with a giant roasted rat slathered in government butter purchased with our ration cards.

How Do You Light a Fart
Troy’s book. I have no idea where it came from, but my money is on my mother-in-law.

So there you have it. A list of the best cookbooks and gardening books that live in my home and my heart. Even though I think these are the best cookbooks, I want to hear from you and read your recommendations. What is the best cookbook you have seen/own/covet? I’m taking copious notes as I need to start my birthday/Christmas list soon.

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7 comments on “On My Bookshelf – Best Cookbooks and Gardening Books”

  1. Five cookbooks and two food-related books. Favorite recipes from one place or another have been memorized; new recipes come from food blogs, Pinterest, and the grocery store monthly recipe magazine. If the meal is remarkable I will memorize the recipe; otherwise, the recipe fades away.

    A second edition “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” Julia is timeless brilliance for the basics. A treasured Christmas gift from my husband.

    Charmaine Solomon’s “Asian Cookbook.” My go-to for all dishes from the Far East.

    “Tacopedia,” the Taco Encyclopedia. Mexico’s Best Selling Taco Book, for good reason.

    “Persiana.” Recipes from the Middle East and Beyond.

    “Indien.” A cookbook written in German. It’s like The Joy of Cooking for Indian food, for German language speakers. Because there is so much more to Indian cooking than curry.

    The two food-related books are Farm Anatomy (understanding the part of meat you’re preparing is important); and An Everlasting Meal, a very enthusiastic approach to using every single little bit of food the one purchases.

  2. New England soup factory cook book — just halve the recipes. I’ve probably bought this book ten times for friends and family

  3. Like you, I love reading cookbooks! If storytelling and food is what turns you on, you really need to get Deep Run Roots by Vivian Howard. She has a show on PBS called A Chef’s Life that is about her returning to her home in eastern North Carolina and re-discovering the foods of her childhood and upbringing. She has a fantastic restaurant that does amazing things with food/animals/and local seasonal produce. She is a great storyteller. I love to pick up cookbooks from our travels, reading about and trying foods that belong to a particular place. Because we are currently in the Southwest, I have lots of cookbooks for native, Hispanic, and cast iron cooking. I love Mark Bittman’s books, especially The Minimalist at Home. A book called Ratio is a great primer on baking. Once you understand and master the ratio of ingredients (grain to salt to yeast to liquid, etc.), baking makes sense. That and King Arthur Flour are my baking go-tos. And the Better Homes and Gardens Garden Book – because it was my grandmother’s (who had a lovely garden, both decorative and foods) and then my aunt’s and now mine. I wish I could post photos of my cookbooks shelves!

  4. Sarah, what is keeping you from YOUR OWN COOKBOOK?????? Your humor is contagious, I look forward to your blogs and I would definitely buy your Book(s) …… ?? Just gooooooo for it??????????

  5. My first and only canning book is the Better Homes & Gardens You Can Can. Re name makes me giggle.

    A go to book that is full of wacky recipes I haven’t tried yet, 365 Ways to Cook Hamburger by Doyne Nickerson. My mother gave it to me from a bunch of old library books they were throwing away.

    I also have two slow cooker books: Fix it and Forget it, and the entertaining version.

    There’s a plethora more but I haven’t even finished my coffee so I’ll just go find them and comment the rest later.

  6. I looked but can’t find a list of what recipes are in the super natural foods Heidi Swanson book. Can you post the recipe list?