Having a few great cookbooks around will really help you not only cook organic and healthier meals and treats but also save you money. It’s hard for some of us to whip up meals in our head – self included. Cookbooks give you ideas when all you have are dried beans, yams and spinach on hand.
I own about 10 cookbooks, which in my opinion is too many, because I only use maybe four of them regularly. I think you can get by with three great cookbooks and then add more if you feel you need them.
My top three used cookbooks
The Moosewood Collective has published 12 cookbooks but my two favorites are below:
Honestly, I hate “low fat” / “low-calorie” type stuff, but adore this cookbook. Unless you read the cover, you’d have no clue that these are low-fat recipes. One of my favorite recipes of all time is in here too – Black Bean Chilaquile. Luckily someone else liked it too and posted it online, thus saving me from having to do it. One nice thing about this cookbook is that you can interchange ingredients easily. For example, the Black Bean Chilaquile recipe calls for low-fat cheese, which is hard to come by in organic form so I just use real organic cheddar, but in a smaller amount.
I don’t have the new revised edition, but I’m sure it’s as cool as the older version. I got this cookbook WAY back in the day; I’m talking 1995 or so and still use it a lot. I got it when I first decided to get into healthier, greener cooking and this book was awesome because it described those weird whole food ingredients that newbies to whole foods and healthy cooking may not know. I’ve learned so much from this cookbook and used it to death.
My version is old, but well used. I don’t actually use it for stunning recipe ideas, because in my opinion it doesn’t have too many great recipes. What I do use this endlessly for is answering basic cooking questions. How long to bake potatoes? What well-kneaded bread looks like? How to test a turkey to make sure it’s done cooking? Is there a basic frosting I can whip up on the fly? How to make flippin’ hard boiled eggs correctly? And so on. I think if you want to save money and eat healthy you need answers to all these little questions that pop up. I think I’m a decent cook, BUT I’m not a cook by nature so I always have questions.
Other awesome eco-friendly & organic cookbooks
The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest – I know, another Moosewood. I own this and like it a lot, but not as much as the two above. The one downside of this cookbook is the bread making section. It looks awesome in theory, but the bread recipes just never work out for me. I do get a lot of use from the other sections of the book though. I especially got a lot of good kid recipes from this for Cedar.
The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread – In my opinion the one and only bread baking book you need. I’ve used this to make everything from rolls, to pizza dough to amazing whole wheat loaves. I LOVE this book so much and it’s glossy beauty is just the icing on the cake. I’m pretty sure this is the most expensive cookbook I ever bought, but it’s been worth every penny. Luckily, you can score it cheaper now – I bought it back in 2002 or so. Actually, I’m so enthralled with Peter Reinhart that I’m considering buying his Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor too, but I’ll probably check it out at the library first.
Simply Organic: A Cookbook for Sustainable, Seasonal, and Local Ingredients – I looked at this forever at Powell’s and had to be really good in order not to buy it up. I’ll likely just get this at the library, but the images alone, not counting the cool looking recipes were enough to make me want it.
Moosewood Restaurant Farm Fresh Meals Deck: 50 Delicious Recipes for Every Season – 50 delicious recipes for every season in this user-friendly deck – each recipe features fruits and vegetables peaking in summer, autumn, winter and spring using fresh locally in season ingredients. I don’t have this yet, but knowing me I will soon.
Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets – I really like this cookbook. It had great sections on how to eat locally year round, not just in the summer (a nice switch). There’s interesting ideas about how to cut veggies right – well fancy anyhow, that I never considered before and an excellent chapter on herbs and alliums.
Food to Live By: The Earthbound Farm Organic Cookbook – Read this, didn’t buy it though. Mainly because I feel like I have too many cookbooks already. That said, I did get some good recipes from it.
Fast, Fresh & Green – This is on my “want to read soon” list. I’m tired of veggies getting second place in most cookbooks, and this one celebrates them (or so it seems). Have you read it? What do you think?
HappyBaby: The Organic Guide to Baby’s First 24 Months – An excellent cookbook if you’ve got kiddos and want to prepare them organic and healthy meals. Read my HappyBaby in-depth review.
Organically Raised: Conscious Cooking for Babies and Toddlers – Expect a full review for this book soon (I just got my review copy). What I can tell you right off the bat is that this book is GORGEOUS! Seriously, it’s one of the prettiest cookbooks I’ve ever seen in my life. The recipes are amazing too so far, using fresh ingredients and lots of cool extras like herbs and spices. I haven’t entirely decided what I’ll say about this book, but I’m guessing it’ll be one of my new top baby and toddler cookbook recommendations.
Hello, Cupcake!: Irresistibly Playful Creations Anyone Can Make and What’s New, Cupcake?: Ingeniously Simple Designs for Every Occasion – I have both of these and neither are green or organic BUT they are fun and one way to get kids cooking is via fun. You can cook anything organic, so I just switch up the recipes in this book, using organic ingredients instead of conventional. I’ll be writing a longer review of these two soon, plus a guide on how to throw an organic cupcake party. However until then just know that these cookbooks offer some awesome ideas for amazing cupcake designs. The kids at my house will sit and look at these cookbooks for a long time just for fun.
Pops!: Icy Treats for Everyone – Green kids need eco-friendly ice pops and this book offers countless ideas. Of course you can also score homemade popsicle ideas for free right here at Growing a Green Family, but this book is super cool too. Plus, it’s in paperback now, so it’s less expensive!
Kids’ Kitchen (Cooking Card Deck) – I’ve been meaning to get this and review it for a while now. This is a Barefoot Book and Cedar loves the Barefoot Books he has. Also, from what I can tell this book is heavy on veggies and fresh ingredients, which will encourage organic kids. You can see some of the cards at the Barefoot site. According to the publisher, ““Kids’ Kitchen” is designed to encourage children to cook delicious and nutritious recipes for their friends and family. 40 recipe cards, displayed on laminated recipe cards [are included and] stored in a sturdy box. Recipes are divided into the five main food categories to reflect government guidelines on healthy eating. This title includes 8-page booklet that contains information on the benefits of each food type, practical advice on hygiene and safety and a glossary of cookery terms.”
The Big Book of Juices and Smoothies: 365 Natural Blends for Health and Vitality Every Day – Cedar loves smoothies and I’m just not that creative with my smoothie concoctions so I’ve been looking for a decent smoothie book for a while now. I never see anything amazing though, and I don’t want some “all green juice” book. I also don’t want a book that encourages a juicer – we’re happy with the blender alone. I recently saw this smoothie book though, and it looks pretty cool. Hopefully, I’ll pick it up to review soon.
Get recipe ideas for free or super cheap!
- Check out cookbooks from the library and keep a notebook of your fave recipes.
- Look online for healthy organic recipes. Really any old search for “Organic recipes” will bring up a huge selection of hits, but one good tip is to check organic retailer websites like Organic Valley or Bob’s Red Mill.
- Hit the thrift stores and look for cookbooks which come cheap at thrift store (like $1-$3) or buy a bunch of old magazines, steal out the recipes and paste them in a notebook. You can score some seriously nice old cooking magazines at thrift stores for under 50 cents each. Just remember to recycle them after you’re done.
What are your favorite healthy and / or eco-friendly cookbooks?