My Top Five Cookbooks, plus one bonus

Let me preface this post by saying I am not an amazing cook. I am not a foodie. I do not pretend to be an expert on cookbooks. But I do know what I like and these cookbooks have been my go-tos for years now. I wholeheartedly recommend them. Two of these cookbooks are vegan; one is vegetarian; and two are omnivorous, but focus on the good stuff (grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables).

The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan

If you are new to healthy eating – as I was when I found this book – this is the perfect place to start. Actually, if you don’t want to commit to the book, his website is helpful too. The cookbook is organized by food groups (you can skip the meat section) and gives you tons of information about each healthy food, like how to choose it, store it, and cook it easily. It also provides tons of nutritional and dietary information. What I like best about this cookbook is how ridiculously easy the recipes are. Almost all of the hundreds of recipes can be made in under seven minutes – now that is my kind of cooking!

Spilling the Beans: Cooking and baking with beans and grains every day by Julie Van Rosendaal and Sue Duncan

My children are completely unaware that there are large quantities of beans in their favorite pizza crust or that their morning muffins have lentils as a main ingredient. They also don’t know their favorite brownies, cookies, and even their pancakes are all bean-based. And don’t any of you tell them!

Grains and beans should make up a large portion of your diet and this book shows you how. The recipes are flavorful and inventive and not too crazy on the ingredients. There’s a lot of standard fair (with the beans and grains taking center stage), but there are also some more exciting recipes. Think “roasted beet salad with wild rice, goat cheese, and chickpeas” level.

But the real reason to get this book is the baking section, which shows you how to hide beans in everything you bake. And I promise, they taste just as good, if not better, than the original. My husband requests the chocolate brownies for his birthday cake each year!

The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

If I were going to write a cookbook, this would be it. The recipes are organized into romantic dinners, casual meals for 4-6, formal dining for 6-10, menus for special occasions, feasts for the holidays, and “buffets, heavy appetizers, and finger food”. For someone who never quite knows what to serve when and how, that is super helpful. And each section has a menu for the Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, which helps when you are trying to eat seasonally, which we all should be doing.

This is my go-to book whenever we are having people over, especially for holidays. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has great advice for being a vegan host and has excellent menus ideas to leave everyone feeling full and happy. I always feel inspired after looking through her book.

The Family Cooks by Laurie David

This cookbook is another one that inspires me. Laurie David argues for cooking your own food, preferably as a family and from scratch. If you need a push in that direction, her introduction is thoroughly convincing. This is a great book for those with small children or picky eaters who want to makes healthier choices. There are also lots of quick dinner suggestions for when you’re in a hurry. One of our favorites – cannellini bean tartine – has five ingredients and is ready in less than ten minutes. And it’s a crowd-pleaser. David gives some great hints for involving children in the cooking process to get them excited about food. I have found my kids will eat just about anything if they cook it themselves.

Food is the Solution: What to Eat to Save the World by Matthew Prescott

Yes, it’s a cookbook, but Matthew Prescott’s book is also a pretty thorough education on why meat is bad for the Earth. The first section of the book shows how meat production is harming the world’s water, air, and land, with lots of graphics and pictures, which are pretty convincing.

But this isn’t just a plea to eat less (or no) meat. There are also some pretty great recipes in this book, many of which are geared toward new vegetarians and vegans. Prescott clearly wants to make sure former meat-eaters don’t leave the table dissatisfied.

BONUS: The High Protein Vegetarian Cookbook: Hearty dishes even carnivores will love by Katie Parker

I wrote about this cookbook before, but it is worth mentioning again briefly. At least six of our favorite meals come from this book. The food is hearty, satisfying, and tasty and easily scaled up for a big family or for leftovers. The meals are definitely not vegan and not as healthy as some of the other cookbooks I’ve listed, but if you are thinking of going vegetarian or trying to convince your family to make the change, this is your book. You will not be disappointed.

There you have it. I hope these recommendations help. I know I always like hearing what cookbooks other families love. That is how I learned about several of these.

– Hannah

What are some of your favorites?

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