The Ultimate Cookbook Guide For Families

This is the Ultimate Holiday Cookbook Shopping Guide For Families! {Brittany's Pantry}The closer we get to Christmas, the more excited I get.

Yes, there are the obvious reasons that make me giddy; the celebration of the birth of Christ, the gift giving, the traditions, the FOOD, etc.  But every Christmas, without fail, I receive cookbooks.  I will proudly state that along with my husband and library shelves full of literature, cookbooks make my heart go pitty pat!

I am not very discriminatory when it comes to books about food, but more and more, I find myself reaching for those that are more suited to family meals rather than, say, a cocktail party or specialty meals.  People ask me every holiday season what kind of cookbooks to buy for their wife/sister/boss/best friend/mailman, and I decided to just create a master list of good ones.  These definitely veer toward the busy parents and children demographic, but nothing is on this list that I wouldn’t (or haven’t) used when I was single or married withOUT kids.  They are just good cookbooks.  And in a time when the internet (read:, Pinterest, etc) seem to have replaced our need for written recipes, these beautiful books welcome written notes in the margins and melted butter splatters across their pages.  Try doing THAT with your electronic of choice.

For ease of use, I have broken them down into categories based loosely on need.  I polled my friends, families, other professionals, major foodies, those who hate to cook, families with food allergies, and even cookbook authors.  I also include a section if you are looking for cookbooks for your young chef. This is the BEST I could throw together!  This is BY NO MEANS an all encompassing list and while I hope your find some of your favorites below, I also hope you see something new.  There are thousands of cookbooks out there (and I could not possibly review them all) so please please PLEASE, if you don’t see your go-to choice, contribute to the discussion and mention what you love in the comments below.

All-Purpose, GREAT Cookbooks For Families

Dinner: A Love Story
By Jenny RosenstrachthIf you are familiar with Jenny’s blog by the same name, then it is no surprise that her book makes this list.  The recipes are straight from her family table and the cookbook is easy to use and easy to read.  Much like getting reliable recipes from a good friend while you chat over coffee.  The food is honest, practical, and incredibly delicious.  Yes, it contains tips and food advice, but its less about being a chef in the kitchen, and more about how to get dinner on the table and have it taste great, regardless of who is eating it. You can absolutely read this cover to cover like a novel, but you can cook it all the way through too. Start with the Lazy Bolognese and the Apricot Mustard Baked Chicken. Her second book, Dinner: The Playbook, is just as great.

By Kathy Brennan & Caroline Campione227ebb8fcb19e9aa124376cebb40dfeDo you see that subheading at the top of the cookbook?  Yeah.  They aren’t kidding.  Every recipe in here is simple and easy and delicious. None of them take a ton of time (hallelujah) and the ingredient lists are small.  Think of it like a cookbook of staple recipes you will just rotate through over and over.  You learn one recipe and then they explain how to turn that a different meal with one little tweak.  They also cover the bases of good cooking, like why you should be roasting your veggies and how to make your own breadcrumbs.  The Sausage and White Bean Gratin sounds fancy but is simple and hearty so be sure to give it a try! The Farfalle (Bow Ties) With Gorgonzola, Ham & Peas is crazy good and ridiculously easy.  Weeknight cooking at its best. Or in my case, I will be making that after my Christmas ham has been picked over!

America’s Test Kitchen-Healthy Family Cookbook
By America’s Test Kitchen Brittany's PantryThis book has it all. Healthy recipes that are easy to make and basically no-brainers for you and your family. With over 800 of them, you are bound to find foods in here for everyone. It covers main dishes, appetizers, etc, and is an easy, spiral bound book. Much like their other in this series, ATK has included tried, true, and simple dishes, making this a cookbook you will reach for again and again. The New Family Cookbook and the ATK Quick Family Cookbook are fantastic as well.

Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook
Cookbooks For FamiliesI would be remiss if I didn’t mention this cookbook. If you don’t have some version of this on your shelves, PUT IT ON YOUR CHRISTMAS LIST! This inexpensive paperback would even make a great hostess gift if you knew someone who didn’t have it. Time and again, this book gets mentioned by every kind of cook I know-including those who don’t like to spend time in the kitchen. It gets reached for over and over as the go-to, all-purpose, reach for when you don’t know what to do, kind of book. Its a classic for a reason people.

Great For Young Families or New Parents

Parents Need To Eat Too
By Debbie Koenig
parents-need-to-eat-tooAMEN! This book is bursting with easy to read, easy to make recipes. The author shares a bit of her experiences as a new mom, as well as encouragement and support. Recipes include the slow cooker, food to eat while holding/nursing a baby, meals that can be made in stages, and even how to turn adult food into baby or toddler food. A useful resource for sure!!

The Homemade Pantry
By Alana ChernilaFamily Cookbooks This cookbook made quite a stir when it was released. With a theme of practicality and frugalness, this book covers basic food items that have become staples in many kitchens. Here, Alana shows you how to make them yourself, forgoing the chemicals and packaging, and boosting the flavor. The cover picture of her homemade pop tarts are quite popular, but with a recipe to make your own chai tea, pickles, and even an incredible hot sauce, you won’t want to limit yourself. Don’t misunderstand-these are easy and straightforward. In addition, it makes a great resource for homemade gifts.

Good Cheap Eats
Jessica FisherGood Cheap EatsWhen I started polling friends and family about their favorite and most used cookbooks, this author was mentioned again and again.  I don’t personally have any of her books, but they are now on my Christmas list! This one is a favorite I have flagged and from the research I have done, I can’t wait to start cooking from it! Users shouted praise from the rooftops, claiming ease of use and no-nonsense ingredients. Great photos and recipes with limited steps (bonus!) make this a cookbook that can be navigated easily. And with chapter heading such as Meals On The Run, Stretching It, and Breakfast For Dinner, she already seems to pinpoint exactly how a busy family operates. I’m going to start with her Potato and Corn Chowder!

The Mom 100
By Katie Workman
mom100The title says it all. With a solution for nearly every dilemma, Katie Workman gives you easy to make meals that are perfect when kids (or life in general) has you busy. Basic recipes with tons of room for variety will guarantee that you will be able to adapt meals to suit your families tastes and dietary needs while still expanding their horizons. Largely broken down by specific family food issues, this book is an incredible resource to plan your weekly meals and save you some time! Make-Ahead Parmesan Turkey Meatloaf? Yes please!!!

Specialty Cookbooks For Families W/Food Sensitivities

The Skinnytaste Cookbook
By Gina Homolka
Best-cookbooks-for-families-2014-Skinnytaste-Cookbook-Gina-Homolka_zps9fd5095bNot a cookbook specific to any food issues, but definitely a great one if you are limited. This book includes vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy free, and  so much more. You can easily expand your taste buds while keeping within whatever guidelines you can. I love the recipes because they are good for you and it gives my family variety, making especially easy to incorporate them into the our weekly menus and cooking for company. Don’t worry. The recipes are familiar, like Double Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies and Chicken Alfredo W/Broccoli, but they just have a little healthy tweaking. Gina’s blog is an expansion of the book so be sure to search her out!

Gluten-Free On A Shoestring
By Nicole Hunn
Best-Cookbooks-For-FamiliesStraight up, easy to make recipes that are gluten-free and won’t break the bank.  A fantastic staple cookbook for anyone new to celiac disease or a newly diagnosed gluten sensitivity. Tips and tricks to make the basics (Chicken Stock) and some specialty items (Apple Cake) along with strategies that help your bottom line-regardless of your menu choices.

Against All Grain
By Danielle WalkerCookbooks For FamiliesA #1 bestseller, this cookbook includes grain-free and dairy-free recipes but keeps the emphasis on flavor. Focused on the foods that we all want to eat, regardless of dietary needs, this book is a paleo persons dream. There is even a special section dedicated to kids so that no one is left out. The recipes have fantastic pictures that will make you WANT to cook them, a detail my kids like when they page through books and request meals. 🙂 No refined sugars makes this a great book to use with kids, making sure to guide young tastebuds toward whole, natural foods. It is simple and healthy. Period.

The Forest Feast for Kids
By Erin Gleeson
The Forest Feast For KidsI can’t even tell you how much fun it is to page through this book.  Vegetarian recipes that practically beg to be made and eaten. The food is simple and straightforward, while still exposing you to things you may not normally choose. Beautiful pictures and whimsical writing make this book a blast for anyone who excludes meat, or just wants to expand menus a bit. Great for adults or kids alike. I could have put this below in the Kid section, but I love it as much as my kids, so here it stays. Strawberry Salsa anyone?

Cookbooks For Kids

Betty Crocker Kids Cook!
By Betty Crocker
Betty Crocker Kids CookMy family received this book years ago and it has been through a lot. My kids love it and often page through to find something to surprise me with. Easy to read and with extra silly illustrations over the pages, my kids KNOW that it is designed for them. Lunchbox Chocolate Chip Cookies are a staple in our house and Mouthwatering Cinnamon Muffins are pretty darn fantastic. All with paired down ingredients and streamlined steps. A great cookbook that will grow with your kids and their skills!

The Cookbook For Kids Who Love To Cook
By Lisa Atwood
51zw49Fo9WL._SX434_BO1,204,203,200_This cookbook is fantastic for kids that are a bit more advanced in the kitchen, but still has a few easy ones for beginners. Straightforward recipes that are easy to follow but with grown up methods. Think yogurt and fruit parfaits instead of just a smoothie. Or Cinnamon Swirl French Toast. I love that it pushes kids to be creative and builds skills with food KIDS can make but ADULTS will want to eat too. Perfect to instill confidence and foster independence!

Mom and Me Cookbook
By Annabel Karmel51bnPhPxBRL._SX367_BO1,204,203,200_You will see this cookbook again and again for a lot of reasons. It is a fantastic book for introducing toddlers and preschoolers to the art of cooking and gets them interested in what they are eating. This definitely falls into the ‘cute’ category.  Fun recipes that are perfect for little fingers and would be a fantastic present for a little one, wrapped up in an apron!

Kitchen For Kids
By Jennifer Low51CZM2Mm66L._SX387_BO1,204,203,200_This is another cookbook on my ‘need to pick up’ list. Actually, it will be marked FAMILY and tucked under the tree! Sssshhhh.  Don’t tell. 🙂 My kids love to try new things and this book, which boasts no sharp knives and no flame cooking, is perfect for my children and I to cook from together. The recipe for Oven Baked Pad-Thai is at the top of my list to make. Perfect meals for after school prep and ready in time for dinner!

Of course, cookbooks and preferences are very personal and change from family to family. My hope is that you get some great ideas for the holidays and perhaps, make your shopping a bit easier! If you didn’t see your favorites above, please note that I tried to avoid the ever popular suggestions that were no brainers when it came to cookbooks. Here are a list of some of the cookbooks that are overwhelmingly loved.

Any Barefoot Contessa Cookbook that was ever written. Because Ina Garten is…well…Ina Garten

Any of the classic Pillsbury Cookbooks, especially this one

Pioneer Woman Cookbooks

Any of the How To Cook Everything series by Mark Bittman

The Joy Of Cooking by Irma Rombauer

I want to hear about YOUR favorites in the comments below! Hit me with the cookbooks you dog ear, splatter with stains, singe on the stove, and otherwise reach for in the kitchen! What do YOU cook from?

*This post contains referral links that help support this blog. All opinions belong to the author alone. All images via Amazon.

Christmas Cracker Toffee

The classic Christmas Cracker Toffee is everyone's favorite during the holidays. And less than 5 ingredients! {Brittany's Pantry}I have no fancy words or clever lead in to this post. So I’m just going to lay it out straight for you.

This stuff is awesome. End of story.

Lots of you probably grew up with these treats during the holidays, and too, probably have your own recipe to make it. However, for those of you who, like me, missed out on a childhood with cracker toffee, I will save your holiday season by giving you this. It has the unfortunate nickname of being called ‘Christmas Crack’ but I have to say, its rather fitting.

There are less than 5 ingredients, if you skip the sprinkles. Cheap to make and easy to do, it makes a huge pan so you can serve it at a party AND give some away to your piano teacher or favorite neighbor. It is so darn festive it is re-DONK-ulous. My kids help make them too, although I keep them away from the hot toffee portion of the recipe. They help lay out crackers, sprinkle chocolate chips, and sprinkle…well…sprinkles.
The classic Christmas Cracker Toffee is everyone's favorite during the holidays. And less than 5 ingredients! {Brittany's Pantry}These are forever a part of my holiday traditions now and if you spend ANY amount of time with me this Christmas season, there is a 100% chance that I will serve these to you at some point. If I spend time with you and YOU serve me some? Even better. Merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas Cracker Toffee Treats

1 1/2 sleeves of soda crackers, such as Saltines
1 c (2 sticks) butter
1 c packed brown sugar
1 (10 oz) bag of semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
holiday sprinkles, optional

Preheat the oven to 350.

Line a half sheet pan (jelly roll pan, cookie sheet) with parchment paper, letting it extend over all the edges. In a pinch, you can use foil too, but be sure to spray the foil very well with cooking spray. Line the pan with crackers, taking care to set them edge to edge and cover the pan well with no gaps. In a small saucepan, combine the butter and sugar over medium heat. Melt the butter, then bring to a slow boil. Let bubble for 2 minutes, then immediately pour over the crackers. Carefully spread the toffee evenly over the crackers, working quickly so the toffee doesn’t harden. Pop the pan in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. The toffee will spread, bubble a LOT, and get slightly darker. Watch it so it doesn’t start to burn! Remove from the oven, let the crazy bubbling stop 🙂 and then sprinkle the entire bag of chocolate chips evenly over the toffee. Let the chocolate sit for a few minutes and melt, then carefully just spread the melted chocolate over the pan. Let sit at room temperature for several minutes to cool, then set the whole pan in your fridge (if you live where its cold, set it on your porch, in your garage, etc) to cool completely. When it is good and cold, simply lift the parchment paper off the pan and set the whole thing in a cutting board. With a large knife, cut the treats into desired shapes-I like them irregular like broken shards-and serve! Store in the fridge so they stay firm. Enjoy!

These Roasted Fall Vegetables are a great side dish! Here are TWO additional ways to enjoy them! {Brittany's Pantry}Brace yourselves. I have news.

There is a misconception that great produce is not available once summer is over. *gasp* I know. Shocking.

Obviously, since you all go to pumpkin patches and apple orchards in September and October, you know that this cannot entirely be the case. Autumn is a favorite time of year for a lot of reasons (fall colors, crisp weather, cute boots…) but I am continually inspired by the rainbow of available items at my local farmers market. The colors and flavors and textures draw me into the kitchen like no other season does. I’m not talking about the heavy, cream laden casseroles and hot dishes, although those are good too. I’m am referring to the stewed, roasted, and braised root veggies and greens that thrive in this chilly weather.

So in turn, to inspire all of YOU, I have TWO (actually three) ways to enjoy a rainbow of vegetables this season. Roasting is easy, classic, and tasty, but it goes beyond just roasting and eating. There are so many different ways to take this dish to the next level, and these are just two of them. What are YOUR favorite ways to enjoy the veggies of the season?
These Roasted Fall Vegetables are a great side dish! Here are TWO additional ways to enjoy them! {Brittany's Pantry}These Roasted Fall Vegetables are a great side dish! Here are TWO additional ways to enjoy them! {Brittany's Pantry}Check out the recipe for Roasted Vegetable Salad and Roasted Veggie Pasta over at the Columbia City Moms Blog!