Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Five: Cookbooks to gift

(Obligatory reminder of how many days are left before Christmas and onset of self-induced panic after looking at one's ever-growing to-do list.)

Ha-appy Friday, everyone!  Hope you're having a great week and taking time to enjoy the special moments of the holiday season, however big or small they may be.  The brief 5 minute bursts of hanging ornaments (does your tree take days to decorate like ours?) or Christmas episodes of your favorite TV shows are just as important as the lavish parties and gift exchanges.  Any time together with people you love is time well spent, right?

All of that being said, I take special pride in being a really good gift giver and want to spoil those on my list with things they'll really enjoy.  There are few better things than seeing someone's face light up when they receive a surprise they love, right?

I won't pretend to have all the answers to your shopping and gifting conundrums, but I will offer up a few more suggestions for the food-minded person on your list.  Whether he/she is a rookie or an expert, these cookbooks are some of my favorites, new and old, and are for real people who cook real food.

This Friday Five is all about good resources for good recipes and great food.  Bon appetit! 

1. Martha Stewart Baking Handbook - The owner and head baker of a local bakery recommended this book to me years ago.  When I asked him about going to culinary/pastry school, he told me to save my money and bake my way through this book because it would teach me "everything a baker needs to know."  Best advice to date!  If I could only recommend one book to an aspiring baker, this would be it.

2. Barefoot Contessa Foolproof - My love for Ina knows no bounds, and her latest offering only confirms my adoration.  Reliable recipes, satisfying meals, and easy entertaining are the hallmarks of Ina's food philosophy.  I especially love her tips for planning a party, down to a table layout and timeline leading up to the meal.  Lists are a host's best friend!

3. The America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook - Like Martha's book, if I could only recommend one book to an aspiring cook, this would be it.  America's Test Kitchen doesn't assume that the reader knows everything and provides hundreds (maybe thousands?) of helpful photos.  Recipes for all skill levels and appetites.

4. Michael Symon's 5 in 5 - I once thought Chef Symon was only capable of making fancy and complex dishes from watching him on Iron Chef, but learned his cooking can also be incredibly approachable and downright easy.  He's one of my newest food crushes, thanks to his new show The Chew.  This book has been a savior for weeknight dinners in our home!

5. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays - If Martha is the queen mother and Ina the queen, Ree is absolutely the princess in cowboy boots, new to the royal food court.  I'm a regular reader of her blog and can't get enough of her show on Food Network.  I think the reason she's become so successful is because she cooks what we really want to eat!  Hearty dishes that can feed a small family or a big crowd come together with helpful shortcuts and her signature wit.  Summary: I love this book so!

Bonus: Cookbook holder - Matt got this for me a few years ago, and I can't tell you how useful it is.  Keeps cookbooks open and protects them from flying batter and sizzling oil!

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