Soup to nuts

December 2021 View more

With fall in full swing and winter on the horizon, there’s one thing we can all agree on—it’s cooking season. Whether you’re planning meals for December holidays or a simple gathering with family and friends, these five tried-and-true cookbooks are sure to have you going back for seconds.

1. Classic & Traditional

Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book

If you’re new to cooking, I recommend this classic cookbook. Most home cooks will recognize its red-and-white checkered cover. This comprehensive cookbook covers everything from how long to cook the turkey to how to create pumpkin spice seasoning. It’s the perfect companion for a long day in the kitchen and great to have on hand if you need a sudden substitution. It’s been a staple in my mom’s kitchen for as long as I can remember and a trusted resource since it first came out in 1933. Naperville Public Library has the 17th edition in print, and a digital edition is available through Axis360.

2. Healthy Sides and Vegetarian-Friendly Recipes
Love Real Food by Kathryne Taylor

Taylor is the food blogger behind the website Cookie + Kate. Her focus is healthy, whole foods and a vegetarian lifestyle. The recipes in this book are delicious, fresh, and easy to follow. You’ll find filling, vibrant salads, quick-to-prepare appetizers, and a wealth of hearty sides.

For a vegetarian-friendly main dish, try Kate’s Roasted Carrots With Farro, Chickpeas, and Herbed Tahini Sauce on p. 186. It’s a beautiful showstopper and perfect for passing around a table. Available in print from the library.

3. Stress-free Crowd Pleasers 
The Complete Make-Ahead Cookbook by the Editors at America’s Test Kitchen

Take the stress out of a large gathering by preparing food ahead of time. This cookbook features 500 recipes that have been tested and tested again by professional cooks, so you can feel confident the end result will turn out well every time.

Try the Mini Chicken Empanadas as an appetizer or simplify sides with Mashed Potato Casserole (p. 302) and Classic Bread Stuffing With Sage and Thyme (p. 304). And hey, since you made it the day before, maybe you can take the time to sit down and eat it at the same time as everyone else? Available in print at the library and in a digital edition through Overdrive.

4. It’s Pie Time
First Prize Pies by Allison Kave

It’s the best time to fire up your oven and enjoy a warm pastry. If you need some pie inspiration, I recommend this unique and inviting cookbook. Enjoy easy fall favorites from classics like Pumpkin Spice Pie (p. 172) to inventive flavors like Cranberry Dream Pie (p. 176) and Bourbon Ginger Pecan Pie (p. 170).

Kave also shares tips and tricks on how to make your pies look and taste their best, including a step-by-step guide to the ever-dreaded homemade pie crust. Available in print.

5. Small Table
Solo by Anita Lo

If you want to celebrate but you’re not ready for a crowd, try this cookbook for one. It has all the heart and coziness of a family gathering wrapped up in small-quantity recipes. Lo also shares anecdotes that make you feel like you’re sitting down with a friend. A great partner for a quiet, solo day in the kitchen that will make you feel like you’re really taking care of yourself. Available in print.

For more cookbook recommendations or a chance to chat about new recipes you’ve tried, join the library’s culinary book club, On the Table. We will be meeting virtually January 10 to discuss appetizer cookbooks and recipes.

Sarah Marshall is an adult services librarian at Naperville Public Library and leads On The Table: A Culinary Book Club. This story originally appeared in our sister publication, the Naperville Sun, and is reprinted with permission.

Photo by Dan Klenck/Naperville Sun