Last year we welcomed a sweet new baby into our family. Every new baby, no matter how sweet, brings disruption, but due to my ulcerative colitis and health history, new babies are especially complicated. I took most of the year off from writing in order to make room for taking care of myself and baby. Now, with a healthy (teething!) baby and a healthy mama, it’s time to catch you up on all the best cookbooks from last year.

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In some ways it’s unfortunate that I was unable to share these with you sooner. But the extra months have given me the luxury of spending time with the recipes, so that I have cooked many times from each book and am able to recommend my favorites with confidence. I received dozens of cookbooks last year. The ones here are the ones that have remained on my shelf, that I’ve turned to over and over again, that always seem to have the recipe I’m looking for, that have dog-eared corners and food-splattered pages, and that always rise to the occasion.*

The Soup and Bread Cookbookby Beatrice Ojakangas

There have been many soup cookbooks in residence on my shelves over the years, but this one is far and above the best. The soups are arranged seasonally (soup in summer?? Yes!) which is handy when cooking from the garden or our CSA box. The recipes rely on a mixture of pantry staples (like canned tomatoes or beans) and fresh protein and veggies. And each and every soup recipe is paired with a bread recipe so that I can just add a salad and the meal-planning is already done for me. There is a balanced selection of soups including chilled soups, vegetarian soups, hearty stews, and light broths, and the bread recipes cover everything from small sandwiches, toasts, and buns, to rolls, breadsticks, and loaves.  

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Rodale Publishing sent a couple of extra copies to share and, since I wasn’t writing at the time, I shared them with friends who have both exclaimed over how much they love this book. They agree that the soup recipes are simple, but not bland and the bread recipes are authentic, but not intimidating. 

Some of our favorites from The Soup and Bread Cookbook have been Maine Corn Chowder with Whole Wheat Raisin Muffins, Broccoli and Cauliflower Cheddar Soup with Soft Rye Pretzels, and Mulligan Stew with Irish Brown Soda Bread.

One Bowl Baking, by Yvonne Ruperti

I confess that it was the photography that first grabbed my attention with this book. I’m a sucker for good food photography. But then the recipes drew me in, and then I started baking. After serving the delectable results to a variety of audiences, this is now the book I reach for when called upon for delicious bakes. All of these recipes can be mixed up with a spoon in a bowl (no food processors or mixers to wash!), they rely on standard pantry items (no obscure ingredients to chase down!), and they can be popped into the oven in about 15 minutes (even I can put off a fussy baby for 15 minutes!)

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Yvonne covers all the baking “bases”: layer cakes, biscuits, cookies, tarts, cheesecakes, muffins, and more. My kiddos loved the Blondies and the Sticky Honey and Fig Cake is simply divine. With this book on my shelf there are now not enough opportunities for baking.

Meals Made Simple, by Danielle Walker

Since Paleo isn’t really something that I choose to do (rather, it is something I must do for the sake of managing chronic illness) I’m always looking for recipes that stick to simple and basic ingredients and methods. I don’t have time to fuss over how to make parsnips taste like peanut butter, or to turn kale into sandwich bread in 12 easy steps. Danielle understands this about me, and her cookbooks never disappoint me.

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Danielle’s recipes are simple, straightforward, and oh-so-tasty. I made the succulent Mediterranean Braised Lamb and the Carrot Cake Cupcakes (so moist!) for the Sweetie Pie’s birthday celebration, and the quick and tasty Peruvian Style Chicken showed up on my dinner plate one night. And I can’t talk about this book without mentioning the Fudgy Brownie recipe. I have tried many a Paleo brownie, always to my disappointment. But this one! Oh my! This is the only brownie recipe I will ever make again.

Mediterranean Paleo Cooking, by Caitlin Weeks, Nabil Boumrar, and Diane Sanfilippo

This book is the result of a beautiful collaboration between a nutritionist, a chef, and a Paleo-all-star. Health notes and tidbits? Check. Flavor and seasoning? Check. Adaptations for special Paleo diets? Check. And the photos, dripping with Mediterranean warmth and sunshine, are easy on the eyes in January. 

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Every dish I’ve made has been completely delicious: Easy Paleo Falafel, Fig and Ginger Chicken Tagine, and Paleo Moussaka are a few of my favorites. I love that the authors make an effort to include recipes using good-for-you ingredients that can be intimidating for me. The Sardine Cakes and the Liver Meatballs with Mushroom Gravy are both delicious and completely approachable. Even my kids enjoyed them.

A friend of mine was really excited to see the hefty chapter on Paleo pizza and pasta. I loaned her my book so she could try it out, and she invited us over to sample the stellar results. The authors include detailed step-by-step photos on how to make Paleo pasta and pizza dough. They also include enough variations (5 pizza crusts, 3 types of pasta, and 9 sauces) so that there is, literally, something for every specialized Paleo diet out there. 

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So there you have it. The best that 2014 brought to my kitchen via the mailbox. What will this year bring? I’ll keep you posted.

Review posts are my opinions on items that were sent to me free of charge. The items were given to me, but the thoughts and opinions are my own. I do not provide reviews of every item sent to me and only review items that I find to be truly worthy of recommendation.

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