Our 6 All-Time Favorite Cookbooks

Thanksgiving: A time for hunting down old family recipes and picking up new favorites. But of the dozen or so cookbooks you own, which of them do you actually use, and which are just collecting dust?

The Dairy MAX blog team is full of moms and dietitians who have stained and floured our share of cookbook pages. And throughout the years, a few cookbooks have stood out as our favorites – the ones we just keep going back to. So if you’re looking for a lifesaver on a Tuesday night, or maybe a great Christmas gift idea, browse through our top six kitchen picks.

How to Cook without a Book: Recipes and Techniques Every Cook Should Know by Heart
By Pam Anderson
Chosen by Caroline Sullivan: This was the first cookbook I was exposed to (thanks to my sister) that wasn’t desserts only. It taught me some really basic techniques that I use on a daily basis. It also helped me to be confident in the kitchen: I didn’t have to be a gourmet chef to make good food.
Best recipes: I use all of the basic recipes she teaches, but “The Big and Bigger Frittata” and the “Simple Tomato Sauce” are ones I use weekly. I love the frittata because it makes a meal that is fast, inexpensive, and a great way to fit in all different types of cheese. The tomato sauce can turn pasta, veggies, and lean protein into a home-cooked Italian meal (don’t forget the parm!).

Meals Like Mom Used to Make: Dinner Menus & Recipes from Days Gone By
By Karen Brown
Chosen by Patty Littlefield: We have a number of young millennials who drop in on weekends who have never cooked anything without a microwave. Old comfort food recipes from the '50s in this cookbook allow me to teach some of the basics of easy cooking from scratch, simple meat loaf, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, etc.

Mr. Food Cooks Real American
By TV Chef Art Ginsburg
Chosen by Patty Littlefield: I use this cookbook simply to double check seasoning ingredients most of the time.
Best recipes: The dog-eared pages of most-used recipes are “Mardi Gras Shrimp,” “Spinach Manicotti,” “Layered Peanut Butter Brownies” … which just beg for a big glass of milk.

Better Homes and Gardens (11th Edition)
Chosen by Susan Allen: The Better Homes and Gardens (BH&G) Cookbook contains just about any recipe you might want to make, particularly good ol’ American classics. I inherited an older version from my grandmother Mabel. She was a great cook, and that cookbook was well used. Now, I think I know at least part of her secret. The newer edition includes low fat and quick-to-fix recipes. In the back, you can search recipes by main ingredient. Don’t you sometimes just buy something when it’s on sale, and think, I wish I could bake something with this? You can search for Yogurt, and find recipes for Orange-Yogurt Muffins (yum), or Yogurt Fruit Dip (double yum)!
Best recipes: The Cream of Vegetable Soup recipe starts with the basic “Cream of” recipe, which you can customize with your favorite vegetable. Asparagus, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Mushroom, Potato, Pumpkin or Squash. I like to make Cream of Potato and add crumbled bacon, onions, garlic, cheese and dumplings made with flour, egg and a smidge of salt. The dumplings are an Allen family favorite, although not listed in my tried and true cookbook. Just goes to show there’s wiggle room in every good recipe, even a BH&G cookbook recipe!

Texas Cowboy Cooking
By Tom Perini
Chosen by Kara Kelton Smith: If you’re ever in the Abilene area of west Texas, don’t miss an opportunity to stop at the Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap. And don’t miss out on Tom’s cookbook. What I love about this cookbook is not only the home-style recipes and unique twists on classic dishes, but also the story and history behind it all. Tom got his start by chuck wagon cooking on his ranch, which soon spread to cooking for nearby ranch parties, and then led to a restaurant and catering business.
Best recipes: I love so many. Jalapeno cheesecake is an interesting combination of flavors and the Zucchini Perini makes a great side dish or main dish. But my favorite recipe in this book would have to be the Bread Pudding. I am a HUGE dessert fan, and this has to be one of my favorites. It’s not too complicated to make and everyone always enjoys it. It is especially great on cool fall or winter evenings – served right out of the oven, with its signature whiskey sauce.

Calf Fries to Caviar and Calf Fries to Caviar Too
by Janel Franklin and Sue Vaughn
Chosen by Jennie Clark: This set of cookbooks is my go-to from the most basic recipe to the fanciest culinary experience. I can always find the perfect additions to my menu.
Best recipes: One of my favorite recipes is the cheesecake recipe. It starts out with a buttery vanilla wafer crust filled with a creamy cheese filling and a sweet sour cream topping. It is always a crowd pleaser!

What’s your all-time favorite cookbook? Tell us in the comments!

By Lana Frantzen, Ph.D.

Lana has been part of the Dairy MAX team for over 18 years. She has a Ph.D. in nutrition and is a Dairy MAX and National Dairy Council spokesperson. When she's not working, Lana enjoys hot yoga and spending time with her two sons. Learn more about Lana

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