It’s quite safe to say that what was once a dreaded, overwhelming task turned into a total love affair and beloved creative outlet. Cooking has become something in my life that not only results in bodily nourishment but also makes for a creative venture of technique and texture and taste. However, this enjoyment has not always been the case and so if you feel like you destroy all that you attempt to turn into palatable food, there is hope indeed! In my cooking journey, cookbooks have guided me with their helpful instruction and delicious inspiration. Whether you’re quite experienced or you consider yourself a novice in the kitchen, I think that helping yourself to a new cookbook is always a good investment (and usually results in something tasty)!
I’ve tumbled down the rabbit hole that is Amazon’s cookbook section many a time. With so many options and gorgeous covers and interesting approaches out there, inspiration abounds! With every book I’ve added to my collection, my culinary horizons have broadened and my cooking has been so greatly encouraged by recipes printed on paper now stained with sauce and buttered fingerprints.
Here’s a short list of five cookbooks I absolutely adore. I really hope it aids you in some way in your cooking journey or simply sparks an interest in dabbling in culinary creativity. This is a list of my current personal favorites, not necessarily honed in on a specific category or culinary topic, but I desperately love them and you can’t help but share what you love if you really love it! Of course, this list is most definitely incomplete as there are so many “greats” in culinary literature, so I encourage you to continue to explore!
- The America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook – I call this the Cooking Bible. If you are diving into cooking for the first time or want to master technique, this one’s for you. Actually, I’ll be frank: this one’s for everyone! With detailed pictures outlining every step, descriptions of different cookware and their appropriate functions, and the best way to cook anything you could think of, this is a great basic fit for every kitchen.
- Julia Turshen’s Small Victories – Julia’s cookbook is sort of like that comfortable pair of jeans you’ve had for forever that makes you look and feel good. Her recipes are amazing and approachable and like those jeans, make you feel like a million bucks while not being at all fussy. I would actually say that her approach to food is the exact opposite of fussy, and that’s the kind of cookbook you’ll be reaching for when the kids are hungry or the in laws are in town!
- Mimi Thorrisson’s A Kitchen in France – By mere chance, I somehow stumbled upon Mimi’s blog, Manger, and was immediately drawn in by her warm narrative and dreamy photographs. Mimi lives in the French countryside with her husband, six children and ten dogs and somehow also writes cookbooks and blogs and hosts workshops and looks fabulously elegant while doing it all! Us mere mortals have much to learn from her stunning culinary talents, covetable lifestyle, timeless style, and knack for making even the most ordinary of things beautiful.
- Athena Calderone’s Cook Beautiful – Oh, Athena. Everything you touch turns to gold. If you haven’t heard of EyeSwoon, her creative baby and source of all things swoon-worthy in life, you simply must visit her site. After just one peek at her endeavors you may start to drool (I most certainly did)! Her cookbook is no different. Every page is gorgeous, organized by seasons and featuring entertaining tips as well as food styling advice. The recipes really are just as scrumptious as they look!
- Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain – This was the very first cookbook I ever purchased! I briefly met Danielle through acquaintances years ago before she had published her first cookbook (she is now working on her fourth!) and when I heard that she had published I knew I needed to try out her recipes! Danielle is an inspiration as she healed her autoimmune disease through a paleo diet and so her recipes are perfect for those with dietary restrictions, those who eat paleo, or those simply wanting some healthier options! Her recipes are both healthy and truly delicious.
Happy cookbook reading!
If I’m completely honest, I used to really not enjoy hummus at all. (gasp!) Having only tried some chalky, pre-packaged, to-go containers as a kid that were available at my local grocery store, I considered it to be just a bland, boring bean dip. Over the years, store-bought hummus has definitely upped its game, getting fresher, featuring adventurous flavors and boasting organic ingredients. Still, I wasn’t totally hooked.
Enter homemade hummus.
It takes time, it takes effort, and it takes some extra planning, but oh my. This isn’t boring-chalky-bland-bean-dip anymore. This is the how-is-this-healthy sort of good.
Though you can absolutely used pre-cooked canned garbanzo beans, I’ve recently been dabbling in soaking then cooking dry beans bought in bulk. Though this means you have to plan ahead and soak your beans overnight before you want to cook them, it’s actually better for you this way. This is because beans naturally contain something called phytic acid, which keeps minerals from being absorbed during digestion. When the beans are soaked overnight, the phytate content is reduced, therefore allowing for greater mineral absorption. In short, soaking beans allows your body to absorb more good-for-you minerals and therefore makes for a healthier, more body-beneficial food. Personally, I think it also makes for creamier, fresher-tasting hummus! Additionally, purchasing dried beans in bulk can sometimes be cheaper. I’ve included instructions for how to do this, but again, feel free to use canned chickpeas if that’s more efficient for you!
This post not only includes a hummus recipe but also a recipe for sprouted wheat pita bread. This hummus can absolutely be served with store-bought pitas, but I would suggest that the homemade stuff is pretty darn awesome. Hot out of the oven and steaming as you plunge freshly torn pieces into creamy hummus, these just might forever ruin any other pita for you!
This recipe uses sprouted whole wheat flour, which relates to the whole phytic acid thing I was talking about above. Because the grain used for the flour has been sprouted, it contains less phytic acid, making for ultra-healthy pita bread. However, you can substitute regular wheat flour and it will still be oh-so-delicious! In contrast to pita made with white flour, these whole wheat morsels are hearty and add an earthy, robust flavor to this meal..yes, I said meal. When I make this, it’s usually constitutes for an entire dinner as it’s just that good and filling. Shown in these photographs is the hand of my younger sister (who is vegan and always appreciative of a delicious vegan meal) digging into that fresh hummus…needless to say these pictures were taken rather quickly as we rushed to munch on our meal!
COOKING DRIED CHICKPEAS
Cooks one 1 lb bag of dried chickpeas
Wash beans thoroughly in a colander and sort out any small stones that may be present. After washing, place the beans in a large bowl, pour in enough filtered water to cover them by about 3 inches, cover, and pop into the fridge. Allow the beans to soak overnight for at least 12 hours or for up to 24 hours.
After having been soaked, rinse the beans thoroughly again and discard the soaking water. Place the rinsed beans in a pot, covering with fresh water by a few inches and adding a pinch of salt.
Cover with the pot lid, turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, skim off any foam that has risen to the surface, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 55 minutes, until the beans are soft and cooked through.
Strain the beans, discarding the cooking liquid. Now you’re ready to eat them, roast them, or make hummus with them!
ROASTED GARLIC HUMMUS
Makes 6 appetizer portions or 4 dinner-sized portions
- 5 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup water
- 6 large garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375.
Place the garlic cloves on a baking sheet and roast in the hot oven for about 10 minutes. Discard the skins.
Place the roasted garlic along with all the other ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth and creamy. You can taste along the way, adjusting the salt and pepper to suit you. Bam, you’re done!
ROASTED CHICKPEA GARNISH (optional but VERY tasty!)
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley, for topping
- Flakey sea salt, for topping
- Olive oil, for drizzling
Using the oven that was preheated to 375, place the chickpeas drizzled with oil and tossed with all seasonings and the sesame seeds into a cast iron skillet or onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and roast for 25 to 35 minutes, until quite golden and a little crispy.
Spoon on top of the hummus, showering with some chopped parsley, flakey sea salt, and a good glug of olive oil drizzled all over!
SPROUTED WHEAT PITA BREAD
Makes 8 small pitas… I like to double this recipe to have extra on hand!
- 3 cups sprouted whole wheat flour (I used this one)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/4 cup very warm water
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Mix flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the warm water and honey until the honey has dissipated. Add the honey-water mixture to the dry ingredients as well as the olive oil and stir to combine. Knead the dough in the bowl for about two minutes, until elastic. Cover and set aside for 1 hour minimum for the dough to rise and relax.
When the dough has been set aside for at least an hour, knead the dough again for about 30 seconds, adding flour if it’s too moist and sticky. On a floured surface, cut the dough into eight pieces, roll into thin disks, and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 475, and allow the disks to rise and rest a bit while the oven is heating.
When the oven is fully heated, bake the disks for 10 to 12 minutes (this is my favorite pan to use for this). Allow to cool and dig into that hummus!
Growing up, my mom always made her chicken soup with some wild rice thrown in. Warm and comforting and served especially during the colder months, we would gobble up steaming spoonfuls around the kitchen table. I’m quite convinced the smell of broth and chicken and vegetables all bubbling away on the stovetop can make anyplace feel like home.
The addition of wild rice gives this soup an extra bit of heartiness and because it’s made with russet potatoes instead of noodles, this recipe is also gluten free. Though making your own homemade chicken broth with bone-in chicken is wonderfully tasty and especially good for you, chicken breasts and store-bought broth are two things I always have on hand, making for an easy throwing-things-together sort of weeknight dinner. It’s great on it’s own, great with a salad, and really great with a hunk of crusty sourdough bread to sop up all that broth. I like to sprinkle a bit of shaved parmesan on the top as well.
Many thanks to my beautiful mama, who is the original creator of this soup and the author of all happiness I associate with it. I hope that this recipe brings as much warm comfort and merry sustenance to your kitchen table as it does mine!
CHICKEN AND WILD RICE SOUP
Makes six servings
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 4 large carrots, peeled and cut on the bias
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 cup wild rice, rinsed
- 10 cups veggie or chicken broth
- bouquet garni of sage, rosemary, and thyme (bundle these together and tie with twine to easily fish out of the soup…you can throw the sprigs in separately, but it’s much easier this way if you happen to have some cooking twine!)
- 2 chicken breasts
- olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
Heat a large pot or dutch oven over low to medium heat, then after adding a splash of olive oil quickly add the chopped onion and garlic cloves. Sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes or so.
Add the celery, carrots, potatoes, wild rice, herbs, and broth and bring to a boil.
After being brought to a boil, turn the heat down to low, and carefully add the chicken breasts. Cover the pot, and simmer for 35 to 45 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked and the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Remove the chicken from the pot, shred with a fork, then add the shredded chicken back into the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve hot, with a bit of parmesan and pieces of crusty sourdough bread to sop up the broth. Bon appétit!
Linen by Rough Linen, soup and bread served on my great-grandmother’s precious china.