**This post is inspired by thekitchn.com‘s series of “5 Essential Cookbooks”.**
Living in small urban apartments with even tinier kitchens, my cookbook collection has to be kept pretty small. If a cookbook is going to enter the house, it has to be both inspiring and useful. I like books that have good advice on what to actually DO with food, rather than a collection of glossy pages with overstylized displays.
These are the ones I return to day after day, week after week for inspiration, instruction and delicious food.
Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook: The classic red and white plaid cover is a classic all its own. This was one of the first cookbooks I ever had. I think my parent’s gave me a copy when I got my first apartment. It has everything from how to hard boil an egg (the most used/dog-eared page) to fancier, classic dishes. It’s also a great reference for substitutions and conversion, which are always useful!
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” books are the best reference tools out there. There’s a good reason why there’s one of them on pretty much everyone’s shelf. It’s an amazing reference tool and full of interesting twists on every type of veggie and legume imaginable. When I see a new fruit or veggie at the farmer’s market, this is my go to book for figuring out what to do with it.
Clean Food: Love this way this is organized by season, with fresh recipes and lots of inspiration. This is a new book for me, so I’m still exploring it, but so far everything I’ve made from it has been absolutely delicious!
Veganomicon: Pretty sure this is the pinnacle of vegan cooking right here and even though I’m not vegan, I’ve cooked pretty much everything out of this book at least twice. Every recipe is stellar and the substitution guide for making other recipes vegan friendly is indispensable.
Delicious/Pinterest: Not traditional cookbooks, but I use these two platforms for bookmarking, tagging and saving lots of recipes. Delicious has better search functionality, but Pinterest is making a strong showing with it’s great graphics.
What are your 5 essentials?
My first foray into vegan baking was a smashing success thanks to Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. This is a fabulous little book for vegans and non-vegans — so long as you want to make some seriously kick ass cupcakes, this is a perfect guide!!
It’s preaching to the choir to say that these cupcakes actually taste BETTER than traditional ones. Those who have tried vegan baking know what I’m talking about, and those who haven’t will always be skepitcal until they bite into a perfectly soft, smooshy, creamy chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting.
om nom nom
[Please excuse the lack of natural light in these photos. It was after 10pm but the time I finished and in February in Cambridge, MA, natural light exists only between 8am and 4pm on days when it's not snowing.]
vanilla with chocolate frosting and dark chocolate shavings
I was so impressed by how easy these cupcakes were to make. The ingredient list was short, simple and most of the stuff I already had in my pantry. The only ingredients I needed to purchase was more confectioner’s sugar, high quality vanilla and really, really high quality cocoa powder. Trust me on this when I say that quality matters here, especially with the chocolate. Having the really good stuff made these decadent!
Vegan adventures in cooking continue to go really well and I am so impressed by how far vegetarian and vegan cooking has come. I still suffer from the 1970s impression of alternative cooking when things looked and tasted like wet cardboard. Never have I been so happy to be proved so wrong!
What’s up next? I think this Mexican Chocolate Cake is coming with me to a potluck on Sunday night.
[More pics of yummy food and more are up at Flickr…]
It’s no secret that I love to cook and experiment with food. I love the challenge of looking for delicious, healthy recipes that are easy to make and are within my food budget.
This ongoing culinary quest has led me right smack into the middle of some pretty awesome vegan cooking. Now don’t let the word “vegan” scare you off here. I let it frighten me away from some great recipes in the past — but no longer!
What got me on this path was my intense love for ice cream was no longer jiving with my body. Poor stomach! Dairy and I were just not getting along anymore. So I started to look for the same comfort food I like and crave but with a dairy free version.
Luckily I have a copy of Veganomicon on hand. If you are at all interested in cooking without animal products, are lactose intolerant or have other diet issues, get yourself a copy of this book. The recipes are delicious, easy to prepare, and, for the most part, work with a majority of items already in a well-stocked pantry.
This past weekend I made the “Mac Daddy” – a dairy-free version of macaroni and cheese. While it’s not an exact replica (how can it be) it was pretty damn tasty! I added in some spinach to make sure I had something green and served it along side some steamed green beans with toasted almonds. The best part came when I had my roommates taste it — and they had no idea it was dairy-free! WIN!
I also made this Winter Vegetable Chili from Food & Wine. To keep in the dairy-free theme, I made the cilantro sour cream from Veganomicon to use as a topping along side some blue corn tortilla chips. WIN AGAIN! The parsnips add a delicious, earthy bite to the chili and the chipotle peppers are smooth and smoky.
I’ve got pictures of the chili, which I’ll add to the post later today (they’re still on my camera).
Have you been experimenting around with your eating habits since the New Year? What kinds of recipes have you discovered that have wowed you?