Call me old-fashioned, but I love to hold a good cookbook in my hands. A collection of an authors best efforts in the kitchen all in one place, bound together by pages full of story, direction, and beautiful images that inspire and spark courage in the reader to join the author in the kitchen.
Recipes found in cookbooks often tell a collaborative story, strung together by the creative wisdom of the author. With each cookbook comes passion, pride, and vulnerability as the cook pulls back the curtain on their own habits, techniques, and style in order to equip you to try something new.
Cookbooks can be a great asset to you as a home cook. Not only do they highlight recipes that will hopefully give you more at-home meals to try, but they can shed light on technique and empower you with a little nutrition knowledge to ensure you make the most out of each meal you make.
But not all cookbooks are going to be in your best interest though. To help you quickly identify which cookbooks you should buy, here’s a quick 5 point checklist to keep in mind:
The majority of ingredients are somewhat familiar. Although cookbooks can serve as great inspiration for out-of-the-norm meals, if the cookbook only contains foods you don’t use on a regular basis, they probably won’t make it into your regular rotation. Hopefully, when you crack open your cookbook, you’ll see plenty of ingredients already on your basic food list. Or, if you are just beginning to eat healthier, look for foods that are simple and easy to find in your grocery store.
Most of the recipes match your skill-level. Recipes can range from the ridiculously simple to extremely difficult depending on the cook behind them and the audience they are aiming to reach. Before you purchase a cookbook, take a quick look at a few of the recipes. How many ingredients are listed and how many steps each recipe takes to create are good indicators of complexity. I find that for real-life cooking, the simpler the better. That means short ingredient lists and relatively short directions. Also look to see if techniques are explained throughout the book – this can also be a good indicator as to which skill level the book is geared towards.
Nutritious ingredients are often incorporated. You know when it comes to making meals at home, I’m going to want you to incorporate as many nutritious ingredients as possible! This means fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, lean meats, and dairy. Yep, those pesky basics. Nutrition information may also be listed in the cookbook and that is another great way to see what sort of added value the meals are providing when you add them to your day.
There are lots of “extras” included. Take a look to see what additional tips, resources, or advice are given in the book. To me, this is really where the true benefit of purchasing a cookbook lies. Are there shopping lists? Tips about eating right? Recipe notes that help you make the most of each meal or explanations of the unique techniques used? These are great ways to maximize your cookbook and take full advantage of the cook who put those recipes together for you.
A registered dietitian was involved. If a registered dietitian helped create the cookbook in your hand or contributed to it in some way, you know that it was created with nutrition in mind. This means the meals you create aren’t just delicious, but designed to positively impact your health and well-being. Keep an eye out for those credentials because its an easy way to know nutrition is an essential factor.
My colleague Cara Rosenbloom, RD just teamed up with Nettie Cronish to develop a cookbook that meets all these criteria. It’s called Nourish: Whole Food Recipes Featuring Seeds, Nuts & Beans and it’s an excellent resource for your home kitchen. And guess what!?!
I love that the Nourish: Whole Food Recipes Featuring Seeds, Nuts & Beans cookbook features its own basic food list and provides great insight into how to build meals that make a lasting, positive impact. The recipes are creative yet simple, varied enough to help you incorporate new meals and snacks into various parts of your day, and provide a good mix of familiar ingredients with a few lesser utilized ones. The entire book is dedicated to seeds, nuts and beans – foods that offer major nutritional value but are often under-utilized in American kitchens.
I gave the Butternut Squash with Dried Cherry and Mint a try and it was a wonderful twist on a roasted veggie favorite of mine. The other recipes are similar, all featuring creative flavorful blends and deliciously simple foods.
Want to see what other people think of this cookbook? Check out the reviews on Amazon.
Disclaimer/disclosure: I was sent a free copy of the Nourish cookbook to review. The thoughts and views expressed here are mine alone. I was not compensated for my time or for writing this post.