I confess. I am a practical gift giver.
Nine times out of ten, I will tuck something useful and needed under the tree. Books are my favorite things to give to kids and adults alike, but gifting a cookbook is something special. In addition, a cookbook for a family with children should be particularly useful or it will end up being used as a trivet. Its a hard line to walk. How do you ask Santa for/shop for something people will use? Start right here.
Below is a completely unofficial, un-scientificly acquired list of the best cookbooks for families. Friends, families, authors, chefs, cooks and a whole lot of parents were polled and questioned and gently berated to recommend the cookbooks they found most useful for them and their families. The cookbooks they reached for most often. The cookbooks they turned to when the kitchen got heated. The books that are dog-eared, food splattered, faded and missing covers. The result was a hefty list of useful resources that you can be sure will be appreciated this holiday season and throughout the year!
By Jenny Rosenstrach
If you are familiar with Jenny’s blog by the same name, then it is no surprise that her book makes this list. The recipes are straight from her family table and the cookbook is easy to use and easy to read. Much like getting reliable recipes from a good friend while you chat over coffee. The food is honest, practical, and incredibly delicious. Yes, it contains tips and food advice, but its less about being a chef in the kitchen, and more about how to get dinner on the table and have it taste great, regardless of who is eating it. You can absolutely read this cover to cover like a novel, but you can cook it all the way through too. Start with the Lazy Bolognese and the Apricot Mustard Baked Chicken. Her second book, Dinner: The Playbook, is just as great.
By Danielle Walker
A #1 bestseller, Danielle Walker beat an autoimmune disease with diet. A great story turned into a fantastic book. This cookbook includes grain-free and dairy-free recipes but keeps the emphasis on flavor. Focused on the foods that we all want to eat, regardless of dietary needs, this book is a paleo person’s dream. There is even a special section dedicated to kids so that no one is left out. The recipes have fantastic pictures that will make you WANT to cook them, a detail my kids like when they page through books and request meals. 🙂 No refined sugars makes this a great book to use with kids, making sure to guide young tastebuds toward whole, natural foods. It is simple and healthy. Period.
By Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campion
Do you see that subheading at the top of the cookbook? Yeah. They aren’t kidding. Every recipe in here is simple and easy and delicious. None of them take a ton of time (hallelujah) and the ingredient lists are small. Think of it like a cookbook of staple recipes you will just rotate through over and over. You learn one recipe and then they explain how to turn that a different meal with one little tweak. They also cover the bases of good cooking, like why you should be roasting your veggies and how to make your own breadcrumbs. The Sausage and White Bean Gratin sounds fancy but is simple and hearty so be sure to give it a try! The Farfalle (Bow Ties) With Gorgonzola, Ham & Peas is crazy good and ridiculously easy. Weeknight cooking at its best. Or in my case, I will be making that after my Christmas ham has been picked over!
By Jessica Fisher
When I started polling friends and family about their favorite and most used cookbooks, this author was mentioned again and again. I don’t personally have any of her books, but they are now on my Christmas list! This one is a favorite I have flagged and from the research I have done, I can’t wait to start cooking from it! Users shouted praise from the rooftops, claiming ease of use and no-nonsense ingredients. Great photos and recipes with limited steps (bonus!) make this a cookbook that can be navigated easily. And with chapter heading such as Meals On The Run, Stretching It and Breakfast For Dinner, she already seems to pinpoint exactly how a busy family operates. I’m going to start with her Potato and Corn Chowder!
By Katie Workman
The title says it all. With a solution for nearly every dilemma, Katie Workman gives you easy to make meals that are perfect when kids (or life in general) has you busy. Basic recipes with tons of room for variety will guarantee that you will be able to adapt meals to suit your families tastes and dietary needs while still expanding their horizons. Largely broken down by specific family food issues, this book is an incredible resource to plan your weekly meals and save you some time! Make-Ahead Parmesan Turkey Meatloaf? Yes please!!!
By Gina Homolka
Not a cookbook specific to any food issues, but definitely a great one if you are health conscious. This book includes vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy free and so much more. You can easily expand your taste buds while keeping within whatever guidelines you can. I love the recipes because they are good for you and it gives my family variety, making especially easy to incorporate them into the our weekly menus and cooking for company. Don’t worry. The recipes are familiar, like Double Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies and Chicken Alfredo w/Broccoli, but they just have a little healthy tweaking. Gina’s blog is an expansion of the book so be sure to search her out!
By America’s Test Kitchen
This book has it all. Healthy recipes that are easy to make and basically no-brainers for you and your family. With over 800 of them, you are bound to find foods in here for everyone. It covers main dishes, appetizers, etc, and is an easy, spiral bound book. Much like their other in this series, ATK has included tried, true, and simple dishes, making this a cookbook you will reach for again and again. The New Family Cookbook and the ATK Quick Family Cookbook are fantastic as well.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this cookbook. If you don’t have some version of this on your shelves, PUT IT ON YOUR CHRISTMAS LIST! This inexpensive paperback would even make a great hostess gift if you knew someone who didn’t have it. Time and again, this book gets mentioned by every kind of cook I know — including those who don’t like to spend time in the kitchen. It gets picked over and over as the go-to, all-purpose, reach for when you don’t know what to do, kind of book. It’s a classic for a reason people.
By Debbie Koenig
AMEN! This book is bursting with easy to read, easy to make recipes. The author shares a bit of her experiences as a new mom, as well as encouragement and support. Recipes include the slow cooker, food to eat while holding/nursing a baby, meals that can be made in stages and even how to turn adult food into baby or toddler food. A useful resource for sure!!
By Alana Chernila
This cookbook made quite a stir when it was released. With a theme of practicality and frugalness, this book covers basic food items that have become staples in many kitchens. Here, Alana shows you how to make them yourself, forgoing the chemicals and packaging, and boosting the flavor. The cover picture of her homemade pop tarts are quite popular, but with a recipe to make your own chai tea, pickles, and even an incredible hot sauce, you won’t want to limit yourself. Don’t misunderstand — these are easy and straightforward. In addition, it makes a great resource for homemade gifts.
No-Brainer, Well-Loved Cookbooks By Most Everyone
Of course, cookbooks and preferences are very personal and change from family to family. My hope is that you get some great ideas for the holidays and perhaps, make your shopping a bit easier! If you didn’t see your favorites above, please note that I tried to avoid the ever popular suggestions that were no brainers when it came to cookbooks. Here are a list of some of the cookbooks that are overwhelmingly loved.
– Any Barefoot Contessa Cookbook that was ever written. Because Ina Garten is … well … Ina Garten
– Any of the classic Pillsbury Cookbooks
– Any of the How To Cook Everything series by Mark Bittman
– The Joy Of Cooking by Irma Rombauer