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Raise your hand if one of your New Year’s resolutions involved cooking more. According to surveys, the most popular goals this time of year are to lose weight, spend less, learn something new and to eat more at home with loved ones.
These are all wonderful habits to make, in my opinion, but damn it they’re hard.
If you’ve never cut up a grapefruit before, you might not know just how much time it takes to transform into a beautiful (and actually edible) breakfast. What’s the difference between mincing and dicing and chopping and julienning? And we haven’t even started on what it mean to ‘eat healthy’ or just cook tasty meals.
So where the hell do we start?
When my Mom had a series of strokes a little over a year ago, my endearingly well intentioned Dad rolled up his sleeves in the kitchen and tried his hand at something he hadn’t done in 40 years. I ended up spending hours on the phone with him during grocery shopping trips, emailing him heart-healthy recipes, and trying to explain why he could not just give up and buy 10 boxes of Ritz crackers instead.
Most of the cookbook world is not made for beginners. I mean the most basic, straightforward, show-me-what-kale-even-looks-like beginner.
There are, however, a few gems out there that do more than send you on your way with a complicated recipe.
This handy little book from the editors at Cooks Illustrated is filled with amazing tricks to get you through dinner without losing a finger. Its tagline is ‘How Clever Cooks Get Things Done,’ which describes it perfectly. The book doesn’t just show you one way to do something, it shows you the best way.
My favorite hack so far has been slipping an oven mitt over my coffee grinder in the mornings so that I don’t wake anyone up!
Who here feels personally victimized by recipes that call store bought pasta sauce blasphemy?
Yeah, me too.
At best, what I’ll often find is a book that says to substitute with pre-made versions if you must, but they’re not exactly lining up with a list of those good alternatives. America’s Test Kitchen is famous for testing their recipes dozens of times, and that includes comparing brands and variations of ingredients. Oh, and they actually tell you why they choose what they do.
Every recipe in this book only requires 6 ingredients, as you might imagine. It has my all-time favorite recipe for flank steak tacos that are out of this world, you can tell because there’s a permanent crease in the spine at that spot!
Look, if you’re just trying to figure out what the hell to make for dinner tonight that will even remotely fulfill your resolution to eat healthier this year, the Skinnytaste Cookbook is perfect for you.
I’m not here to tell you that the lower fat approach is the absolute best (and in fact I often use full-fat versions of ingredients when I’m cooking from her book). But the recipes are delicious and easy and picky eater approved.
She also just came out with a second book called Skinnytaste: Fast & Slow, which really helps those people who don’t have a ton of time to spend cooking.
Are you interested in how to not only learn cooking techniques but to master them? And better yet, to do so with science?
Digging into facts and busting myths is a favorite pastime of mine, and this book does it all with a style. It’s a beast of a tome, but I have made the best damn burger of my life from it so it stays.
It’s not technically a cookbook, but this is the final step in learning the mysterious ways of cooking. The student becomes the master, and goes forth with the knowledge to create their own recipes. Become one with the kitchen, young Padawan.
But seriously, it is So. Freaking. Cool. to figure out how different flavors pair to make a kickass dish. Every single one of my original recipes on here started with me flipping through this book.