Friday, January 14, 2011

Essential Cookbooks

Also inspired by the “Ten Tips for Getting Comfortable in the Kitchen” blogpost, this post is focusing on my essential cookbooks.  I have several, but none of them are easy to purchase.  Mostly because mine are made up mostly of recipe cards from friends & family. 

When I got married, I received one of my favorite gifts EVER.  The wives of our groomsmen presented me with a small photo album that was filled with cards of their favorite recipes.  Appetizers, Breads, Salads, Main Dishes, Desserts and Misc. are the wonderful categories that fill the pages.  And these women have blessed me more than they’ll ever know.  I use these recipes CONSTANTLY.  I’ve filled the blank pages with other recipes from friends & family, to the point where I have no more blank pages & had to start another photo album of recipes. 

Another cookbook I received when I got married was the Betty Crocker cookbook.  Mine is a spiral bound softcover cookbook that encompasses all the essential cooking techniques from soft, hard or medium boiled eggs to cooking times and techniques for various kinds of rice.  And so much more.  It’s been a great go-to tool.  It has a great recipe for buttercream frosting that I’ve used more times than I can count.  Just the perfect reference cookbook.  I also got the Better Homes & Gardens hardbound binder cookbook, but after years of sitting dusty on my shelf, I finally chucked it (or, more likely, sold it at Half Price Books) in favor of my beloved Betty, since they were very similar in use.

My family will forever be indebted to my home church, Madison church of Christ in Brooklyn, Iowa, for their 2 church cookbooks.  Several of my mother’s best recipes are listed in the pages of these cookbooks and would probably be lost without these printings.  I’m pretty sure all of my siblings have at least one of the cookbooks.  Sometimes it’s tricky to remember which cookbook has which recipe and more than once someone has been forlorn to find they don’t have the right one for the recipe they desire.  But those of us who have both can usually come through for them. 

I have several Pampered Chef recipe books.  And there are many recipes in each book I refer back to on occasion.  But they change their books & products so often that it’s a bit hard to recommend them to anyone.  I do find their “All the Best” cookbook to be quite a good compilation, though. 

Lastly, I have two binders of recipes that I’ve collected over the years that are great resources for me.  For years I received cooking magazines as Christmas gifts from Mom.  And I found that if I left the recipes of interest in the magazines, I would never refer back to them.  But if I cut out the recipes (and their corresponding pictures!) and pasted them in a binder together, I would have a much greater chance of actually making them later on.  And just as the author of the post above noted, it’s important to keep track of your progress.  If I make a recipe out of the book & like it, it gets a big checkmark.  If not, it gets a big “X” through the recipe so I know not to make it again. Some recipes I’ve had to tweak, & I (usually) remember to notate the changes for future reference.

I’m definitely in the market for a good copy of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” but it is quite pricey.  I’m not sure how much I’ll use it, but I know I won’t if I never get it.  And I’d like to try that style of cooking more.  I keep saying that if someone wanted to pay my way to cooking school in France (just for the fun of it, to learn the techniques, but not to become an actual chef), I’d definitely take them up on it!

What cookbooks are essential for you?

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