The 5 Cookbooks by Women I Couldn’t Live Without

I have an insatiable obsession with cookbooks. Kinda comes with the territory of loving to cook and bake! It’s getting to the point that my bookshelves will crumble if I bring another one home, but that never stops me from running straight to the food section the minute I set foot in a bookstore or adding cookbooks to my Amazon wishlist daily. I can’t help myself! I live for the food photography, heartwarming accounts of the author’s love for cooking, and the excitement of knowing I can make and enjoy recipes that someone lovingly created and wants to share with the world. Becoming the proud owner of a new cookbook is one of my greatest pleasures, but having so many makes it hard to really utilize each one. I’m definitely guilty of catching new toy syndrome, making a few things and never opening the book again. This means it takes a pretty exceptional book to hold my attention and keep me coming back for more, and that’s exactly what this list is! These are the five most loved cookbooks in my arsenal. They’re full of scribbled notes, neon “make me next” tabs, oil drips, crinkled pages and most of all, recipes that I adore. They’ve brought immense amounts of joy into my life by way of conversations over dinner and memories made while cooking with people I love, and they all contribute to making me a better, happier cook day by day. If you’re looking to add a new book or two to your collection, I hope it’ll be one of my top five!

The Kichenista Diaries Holiday Recipe Collection

There’s no food blogger I look up to more than Angela Davis, the woman behind The Kitchenista Diaries: She’s a self-taught home cook, a black woman food writer like me, and my ability to relate to her on so many levels makes her already amazing recipes taste that much better. I’ve drooled on my phone scrolling through her photos and recipes on twitter more than once. She posted a recipe for blueberry cardamom biscuits the other day and I actually shed a tear. The Kitchenista does comfort & soul food at its absolute best, so if you’ve been searching for the ultimate collection of soul-food/comfort food/thanksgiving worthy recipes you can turn to again and again, you’ll find it in her digital cookbook of holiday recipes, The Kitchenista Diaries: 2016 Holiday Recipe Collection. There’s gifts of unbelievably creamy mac and cheese, flaky sweet potato biscuits, and a recipe for pomegranate-glazed lamb ribs that genuinely changed my life and entire relationship with food waiting to be found in the pages of her book. This cookbook is also amazing because it walks you through the entire process of pulling off a successful holiday spread, and the digital format means you can easily have it on hand wherever you need it.


Barefoot Contessa: Family Style

I first started learning to cook by watching the Food Network 24/7, and Ina Garten quickly became my favorite chef both for her approachable, delicious, comforting recipes and her ridiculously lavish lifestyle living in the Hamptons, buying ingredients from local artisan shops and picking fresh herbs from her giant backyard garden. No one does cooking like Ina. Her book, Barefoot Contessa Family Style, was the first cookbook I bought for myself after discovering my love for cooking and baking. The recipes for french toast and spaghetti and meatballs in this book were the first I ever mastered as a baby cook, and they’re still my go-to options when I’m feeding a big group of people. This book is full of amazing recipes that taste like home and feel like a big warm hug, and it’s a great option for anyone who’s just learning their way around the kitchen and wants to get some staples up their sleeve.


Smitten Kitchen Every Day

If you’re not already following Deb Perelman on Instagram and going to her website so often that it’s the first bookmark in your browser you are seriously missing out. I have never, not once, made one of Deb’s recipes and failed to be blown away. Smitten Kitchen Every Day is her newest cookbook and every recipe in it is a gem. I haven’t made them all yet but I’m gonna go ahead and step out on truth and say they’re all gems anyway. Deb works all her culinary magic from a tiny kitchen in NYC with two young children tugging on her apron strings, so her recipes are perfect for home cooks who need big results in little time and/or space. My favorite thing about Deb’s recipes are the flavor combinations she comes up with. They are out of this world. I love sweet and savory things so anyone giving me Olive Oil Shortbread with Rosemary and Chocolate Chunks, or Marsala Meatballs served over warm buttered egg noodles, is doing everything right. I should also mention that she has multiple slab pie recipes, both savory and sweet, that I’ve never managed to have leftovers of. If you’re the kind of cook that aims to be raved about at parties, you cannot go wrong with any recipe in this book.


BakeWise

This book is for anyone who aims to take their baking to the next level. It was recommended to me by a friend of mine who is a pastry chef and went to graduate school in France to become a Historian of US food culture, so you know it’s legit.  In BakeWise, Shirley O. Corriher goes to extensive lengths to explain the science and precision behind the process of baking pretty much everything. If you want to know the function of every ingredient that goes into a recipe and become a total baking nerd, this book is for you. Given the genius amounts of information Shirley has about baking, I don’t create a single recipe for Femme Brûlée anymore with consulting this book first and my baking is much, much better for it. Clocking in at 532 pages with over 200 recipes it’s definitely not a quick study, but I could not recommend it more highly for serious bakers.


The Complete Vegan Kitchen

This was the first vegan cookbook I ever bought and despite the fact that my vegan cookbook collection has grown to ten and counting, this is still the one I reach for most often. I love The Complete Vegan Kitchen because the author, Jannequin Bennett, covers a wide variety of cuisines in her recipes so there’s always new flavors to discover. The recipes for vegan versions of dairy-laden standards like cupcakes, waffles, pancakes and mac and cheese are better than some traditional versions I’ve had and the desserts taste so good you’d never guess they’re vegan. There’s also a great glossary at the start of the cookbook that explains vegan cooking staples, how they taste and function in cooking, and how to get your kitchen stocked and ready for vegan cooking. This book is basically the reason I’m now able to create my own vegan recipes, so if you’re vegan or interested in cooking for vegans, go grab a copy and dig in!

Reneice Charles is a just another queer, liberal, woman of color using the Internet to escape from reality and failing miserably. She received her MSW from New York University and is an Entrepreneur and Vocalist living in Los Angeles. She spends her spare time wishing she didn't have to use her spare time convincing people that everyone deserves the same basic human rights.

Reneice has written 88 articles for us.

17 Comments

  1. Ooooooo I think I need to add BakeWise to my list of books to buy for my research! For both personal delicious research and my thesis research, so really a multitasker, meaning I have no excuse and should definitely get it!

  2. What a great list of cookbooks! I’m adding The Kitchenista Diaries Holiday Recipe collection to my TBR list right now.

    Have you checked out Small Victories, by Julia Turshen yet? Every recipe I’ve tried from that book is a winner! And her second cookbook, Feed the Resistance, is a RAD compilation of recipes from cooks around the country and how they think about food’s role in fueling activism.

    Thanks for sharing this list, and for your own delicious recipes!

    • Second the recommendation of Small Victories! The recipes are great and are all jumping off points for making even more delicious things from the techniques you learn from the original recipe. Also Turshen is a super cool queer lady, so that makes it even better 🙂

  3. I love Ali Larter’s Kitchen Revelry cookbook. I admit I bought it when it showed up in my Amazon suggestions, and my thoughts were basically “she looks fantastic on the cover, I need to buy this”, with no idea what the recipes were like, but they turned out to be really good, and this book has my favourite cornbread recipe.

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