Tuesday, January 17, 2012

My Top Choices of Cookbooks to ROCK your SOCKS off!!!

OK I have FOUR FABULOUS cookbook recommendations for you. But first, let me just tell you a little about how I roll. I'm not into all the packaged, processed, hydrogenated junk that turns us into chunky monkeys. But, my family likes regular food like pizza and enchiladas and I will forever be a mac & cheese lover. So where does that leave me as the main meal preparer? 

Well, I can tell you one thing... if I'm going to the trouble of MAKING food for my family to eat instead of getting take-out, it better TASTE GOOD or else it's not worth my effort! I'm not the kind of gal who eats rice cakes. I like real food with fresh ingredients. I don't want to diet or weigh out serving sizes. I just want a collection of do-able recipes that are yummy and nourishing too.

If you're
ready to wean yourself from excessive processed junk that makes you gain weight and feel sluggish, but you don't really know where to go from here... then perhaps my cookbook recommendations will help. I've kindof bumbled around a bit in this area for a while, trying to find that happy balance between "healthy" food and "yummy" food... finding a recipe here and there that was fabulous, simple, and healthy. Now I finally feel like I have a couple of good GO-TO sources for recipes that fit my nutrition approach AND taste great.

So... Without further adieu... 

Here are my top three choices. I can't really rank them as #1 #2 #3 because they all tie for first place, for different reasons. You'll also notice that these cookbooks have EXCELLENT reviews on Amazon, so I am evidently not alone in thinking they're great. In no particular order here they are..... (cue drum roll....)

My first #1 choice: 
"America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook:
A New, Healthier Way to Cook Everything
From America's Most Trusted Kitchen"

I'm so excited about this cookbook! This is my most recent cookbook purchase, and I think it'll be a looong time before I buy another one. It's got over 800 All-American homestyle recipes that they made over to be healthier without sacrificing taste. The recipes are great, reasonably healthy choices the whole family will love.

It is NOT a diet cookbook. Their bottom line factor is taste, so you won't find them plugging in bland cardboard-like ingredients just to reach a certain calorie count. They don't play games with the serving sizes or nix all the tasty foods that contain fat (nuts, eggs, avocados, cheese, salmon); they "just use them judiciously."

Here's their recipe for
 Baked Chicken Fingers... 

We've loved the recipes we've tried and are mainly eating from this cookbook right now as I continue to try more of them. I also love all the helpful hints and preparation tips sprinkled through with the recipes. It comes in a nice binder with tab dividers for all the sections- including dessert! We all need some brownies now and then don't we? Their desserts reduce fat and still taste deliciously desserty. If you don't believe me, check out their fudgy-brownies, which are nice and fudgy WITHOUT using a cup of butter and a pound of chocolate. What are you waiting for???? 

My second and third #1 choices:
"Whole Foods for the Whole Family"
& "Whole Foods From the Whole World" 

These two cookbooks are fab-u-loso! They have loads of healthy, tasty meals as well as really helpful kitchen tips. I've found lots of great dinner recipes, and "Whole Foods for the Whole Family" is my go-to source for baked goods (pancakes, waffles, breads, muffins, etc.) made with mixed flour (I use half whole-wheat, half white/all-purpose). Their cooking philosophy is right in line with mine, and they give recipes for flavorful, nutritious meals made from non-processed foods.

They don't have impressive covers. OK, one of them REALLY looks like it belongs in the 80's. Aaaaaand they don't have dazzling photos inside. Let's face it- we ARE a little spoiled, aren't we? We expect glamorous, color photos with each recipe... but getting these two cookbooks is quite like gaining your great grandma's collection of favorite recipes that have been tried and tweaked to perfection over many years. You don't think you grandma was snapping pictures of her famous world-famous dish before she put it on the table, do you?
 No. She was probably snapping a rooster's neck so she could throw him in the oven. You don't see a great photo before you start cooking... so what? Just trust your grandma on this one- it'll be yumm-O! And healthy to boot!

Here's their recipe for yummy Carrot Spice Muffins, which are made with no butter, oil, OR processed sugar... 

I'd recommend "Whole Foods for the Whole Family" to anyone with a mouth. And I'd recommend "Whole Foods from the Whole World to those who are curious to taste family favorites from around the globe. I got a great recipe for Do Yuk Sahn Juhk from it. I may not pronounce it properly, but it tastes GREAT! :)
And my #2 choice...
Pampered Chef's 

"Make it Fresh Make it Healthy" 

I am a Pampered Chef consultant (only in the most technical sense, I've never done a "home party" I just keep up my consultant status to reap the benefits since I LOVE their products) and I have SEVERAL Pampered Chef cookbooks. I will tell you this about PC cookbooks... their recipes are good. Really good. But a decent amount of them rely on packaged foods, which is what I'm trying to scale back on. This one doesn't. The title says it all.

Coming from Pampered Chef, you KNOW the recipes will be rockin'. The only reason this book is slightly ranked below the first three, instead of having a FOURTH tie for first place is not because the recipes are less fabulous, it's just because the cookbook isn't extensive by any means, whereas the first three are.

It's an assortment of deliciously fresh, healthy recipes you'll be glad to add to your collection. One of our favorites from this book is
 Creamy Saffron & Asparagus Risotto. It is seriously SO good that if I had to pick only 5 meals to be served the remainder of my life over and over again, this would make the cut. 

(Disclaimer: I don't use wine, I substituted in slightly watered-down grape juice.) 

The same gal posting the Risotto recipe also featured their
 Cracker-Crusted Chicken, which takes 15 minutes from start to finish. That's a winner in my book. 


Well... That concludes my top choices of cookbooks to rock your socks off. Buy them, love them, and thank me later ;)  But, while I have your attention I wanted to mention three more "honorable mentions...." which are each geared to more specific cooking needs...

For Babies & Toddlers... 

"Mommy Made and Daddy Too! Home Cooking for a Healthy Baby & Toddler," by Martha & David Kimmel. This is a FABULOUS cookbook for making your own fresh baby food!!! It also has some nice transitional recipes for toddlers (& the rest of the family). I Love it. My sister-in-law, who received a couple different baby food books as gifts, said this was her favorite as well. 

For Sneaky Moms of Picky Kiddos... 

"Deceptively Delicious," by Jessica Seinfield. She has yummy, easy to make recipes that sneak in pureed veggies and improve store-bought foods. Here's her website for it. I have tried a couple of these recipes, and they were tasty. Luckily we don't have picky kids (yet) so I don't have to sneak stuff in. I do find this handy though when we're making baby food purees and have them on hand anyway. If you like this sort of thing, she also has a sequel called Double Delicious!: Good, Simple Food for Busy, Complicated Lives

For Those More Aggressively Trying to Lose Weight... 

"Cook Yourself Thin: Skinny Meals You Can Make in Minutes" cookbook by Lifetime Television.  This is a must if you're wanting to hit it hard going healthy... Although it's not considered a diet cookbook, I'd say it's the closest thing to it that I'd use happily. They revamp your favorite recipes, keeping or improving flavor while increasing nutrients and cutting calories.  Their introduction is really good too, giving lots of helpful hints.  Click here for the show's website, and here to read and print recipes they used on the show. 

Well, that's it! I hope my cookbook recommendations are helpful, and here's wishing you a happy, healthy year! I also came across a blog called "
100 Days of Real Food" with recipes and tips to keep it inexpensive.

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