Great Family Cookbooks, To Give and To Get

I always think nothing injects new life into the kitchen like a new cookbook to get the inspirational juices flowing.  I have written two family-focused cookbooks of my own, The Mom 100 Cookbook and Dinner Solved! both of which offer tons of ideas for making your life easier and making everyone in the family happy including YOU!  But each year a new bumper crop of great books comes out, and here are some published in the past year or two that you should consider – either for yourself, or to give...MORE to a friend (the holidays draw near!).

  • 01 of 10

    by Daphne Oz. You may well know Daphne Oz from The Chew, and now she’s presenting her latest book, even the title of which makes home cooks feel uplifted.  Daphne tackles the family kitchen – her large family taught her that a happy cook is casual and confident and she wants to pass on that wisdom to the reader, and that every cook should aim to make the kitchen her very own, and enjoying the journey of cooking as much as the results.  Daphne includes a generous balance of indulgent foods and...MORE healthful dishes, such as Coconut-Mango Pancakes, Spinach Salad with Crispy Chickpeas and Apples, Balsamic Onion and Pear Grilled Cheese, Rigatoni with Green Monster Pesto and Kale Chips, Turkey Veggie Bolognese, and Better Brownies, just a handful of the stylish offerings in this book.


  • 02 of 10

    by Lucinda Scala Quinn. The talented Lucinda Scala Quinn is back in the saddle with the third volume of her Mad Hungry cookbook trilogy.  Scala Quinn has a terrific knack for knowing what families crave, and you might want to grab a packet of sticky notes as you sit down with this book to mark the ones you’ll want to try first.  Market Salad, Hot and Crispy Fried Chicken, Meal-in-One Pork Chops and Greens, and Nesting Noodle Rice Pilaf all beckon you in, and you’ll be happy to find Speed-Scratch...MORE Desserts like Coffee Cookie Parfait to wrap up the meals.  

    Smart sidebars offer information like “Pasta Playbook,” which is a boilerplate for throwing together a quick pasta meal, or a piece titled “Rice Whisperer” which takes the nervousness out of cooking rice.  As you read through this book, there’s no question that the author is a mom, a cook, a food professional and a writer, all of the above combined.

  • 03 of 10

    by Stacie Billis. “There are some nights when you might be able to make your own enchilada sauce, and others where reaching for a can is what allows you to get dinner on the table.  Stacie’s delicious recipes walk the sought-after line between sophisticated and kid-friendly, and her useful tips will help you to be a smarter, happier cook.”  

    Full disclosure is that this is a quote I wrote for the back of Stacie’s book, but I stand by every word.  Her recipes let you:

    1. Go between scratch and...MORE homemade with her handy shopping guide.

    2. Mix and match recipes based on the same ingredients.

    3. Break any rule that makes you want to bolt from your kitchen.  

    And then peruse the over-100 recipes for Slow Cooker Hoisin Pulled Pork, Chili-Rubbed Steak Tacos, Easy Food Processor Pizza Dough, and Ginger Peach Crisp. There’s a nice guide to ingredient basics at the back, too.

  • 04 of 10

    by Kelsey Banfield. “Kelsey Banfield has taken an unruly year of bake sales, weeknight, dinners, holiday meals, school event, potlucks, and celebrations and hipped it into shape.  She provides smart, imminently doable recipes, as well as presentation ideas and craft projects for the un-crafty so that we can all sail through 12 months with ample inspirations and solutions.”

    Admission: my quote again, but it’s just true!  For all of those moments, those times when you need immediate help for what...MORE to make for the class party, book club, Tuesday night, or your daughter’s birthday, this is a great book with loads of ammunition.  It’s organized by season, and then the recipes range from Green Beans with Tarragon Mustard to Pesto Chicken Salad to Double Cinnamon Rolls to Best-Ever Strawberry Graham Cracker Icebox Cake. Extra chunks of advice and info range from Grade School Birthday Party Strategies to how to Bake Crayons to creating Glow In The Dark jars for Halloween to how to make a gingerbread house (I would need Kelsey to come help me with this).  The year ahead suddenly seems much more manageable.  

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    by Jenny Rosentrach. This is Jenny Rosentrach’s third cookbook, and if you are looking for a book to not only give you some great new recipes, but also inspire you with its writing to rediscover (or even discover) the pleasures of cooking for your family, then you’ll want to crack open this friendly volume.  Jenny makes a warm and compelling case for the idea that in between the big celebrations (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve) there is room for all kinds of smaller commemorations,...MORE from sleepover breakfasts to Super Bowl Sundays to a collection of family dinnertime rituals that will stay with you and your kids for years to come.  

    The writing is personal and inviting; this definitely a book to read as well as cook from.  And the recipes are super family-friendly, but still sophisticated.  Popovers with Homemade Strawberry Jam, Salmon and Potatoes with Yogurt Sauce, Orchiette with Sweet Sausage Bolognese  Jenny explains how to slow down, capture the moments that matter and eat well while doing it.


  • 06 of 10

    by Food 52. Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, the creators of Food 52, wonderful community recipe and kitchen/tabletop shopping website, have come out with a book Nigella Lawson calls, “A gift for the time-harried, food-articular cook: a shopping and cooking plan for meals that can be prepared in advance to carry you deliciously throughout the week.”

    This is a cookbook for people who like to cook, who want to figure out how to plan and cook ahead to get more meals on the table.  The authors start...MORE with some weekend dishes which can be made in quantity to create different meals throughout the week.  Roasted tomatoes may first appear as a side dish, then later in the week become part of a sauce including tuna and corn over pasta.  A tuna steak stars as the main course for dinner, but leftovers get mixed with zucchini and couscous for a portable salad to tote to lunch or school.  It’s a system of building blocks that will make you into a smarter happier cook, and result in an abundance of creative and satisfying meals.

    The recipes range from simple to stylish: Spicy Roasted Cauliflower, Gnocchi with Creamed Kale, Lamb Blade Chops with Green Sauce, Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Sherry.  And the mixing and matching allows for the dishes to join together in different combinations throughout the weeks, months and years, so you can find your family favorites and keep changing up how you serve them. Menu planning, grocery shopping, using up leftovers, all and more is covered in this beautifully photographed book.


  • 07 of 10

    by Alice Randall and Caroline Randall Williams. This mother-daughter team took it upon themselves to tackle the traditionally heavy and often unhealthy foods of the African-American culture, and transform and translate them into recipes that are still delicious, but much better for you.  They celebrate both remembered and forgotten soul food staples, but reclaim the cuisine so that black food doesn’t mean unhealthy food.

    Pick and choose from recipes like Peanut Chicken Stew, Red Bean and Brown...MORE Rice Creole Salad, Fiery Green Beans, and Sinless Sweet Potato Pie.  And then dive into the stories.  The writing is enlightening and personal, honest and reflective.  This is a very thoughtful cookbook.


  • 08 of 10

    by Jamielyn Nye. If you have young kids still in the napping years, then no one has to tell you how precious that little block of time is.  Yes, yes, the truth is you’d rather be napping, but given that most days that’s not really an option, with all that needs to be done, the next best thing is to find a way to make the most of that hour or so, so you come out the other side feelings pleased and productive.

    These recipes are meant to be accessible for the whole family and crowd-pleasers, and you...MORE can open to any page and start to get excited about the possibilities. Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Cheesy Baked Ziti, and Shish Kebabs. Nye doesn’t shy away from convenience products like bottled barbecue sauce or spaghetti sauce, or packaged taco seasoning, but why should she, and why should you?  Whatever helps get dinner on the table is pretty much fair game, I always say, and Nye’s recipes manage to walk a nice line between sophisticated and simple.  She has lots going on in the sweets department at the end as well…..Marshmallow Caramel Popcorn is going to be hard to resist.  

    Nye also provides lists of freezer-friendly recipes, so your efforts can be enjoyed later in the month.  


    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    by Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat. This vibrant book is filled with saturated color photos of dishes that focus on hearty-yet-healthy comfort food.  Double Potato Hash with Sunny Side Up Egggs, Lime Chicken Kebabs with Creamy Avocado Dip, Lemon Ricotta Cres with Fresh Berry Sauce, Cajun Chicken Cobb Salad, Zesty Moroccan Chicken with Chickpeas and Olives, Asian Vegetable Stir Fry, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts with Romesco Sauce.  

    Shortcut tips are sprinkled throughout (The...MORE Caramelized Onion, White Cheddar and Arugula Pizza has directions for making your own pizza dough, but also advises that you can buy a store-bought crust and top it as an alternative). There are also lively quotes to keep you entertained, such as: "I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them” from Nora Ephron.  Prep and cook times are included with each recipe.  Gail Simmons says “Lick Your Plate is the ultimate kitchen companion for the modern home cook.”


  • 10 of 10

    by Cal Peternell. Though Peternell is a restaurant chef, he works at Chez Panisse which means by definition he has a warm respect for making simple food taste wonderful, as well as cooking with the seasons.  In this book he helps the home cook plan for every aspect of the meal: how it should start, what should be the main attraction, what does with, and what to serve after the meal, all tied into the seasons.  He also includes information about stocking the pantry, how to explore the basic...MORE cooking techniques, and how to pick recipes to match the intended mood of the meal.

    The recipes are definitely sophisticated.  It will be hard to choose between dishes such as Slow-Baked Salmon with Shell bean Salad and Aioli, Spicy Groudn prok with Ginger, Lime, Peppers and Green Beans and Turkey Breast Scallopine Grilled with Herbs.  Tender Berry Butter Tart is a glorious summer finish, while in the winter you might go for Orange and Cardamom Cream Tart.  Cal’s voice is very appealing and avid home cooks all will be better and more inspired for reading this book.  


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