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March 13, 2013
Latter-day Books
Colorful Cookbooks Offer Thought for Food
by Laurie Williams Sowby

I admit: cooking is not my thing. But books are. And I still like to see the pretty pictures and admire the layout, creativity, and utility of a book. That includes cookbooks. I actually own only three -- one a disheveled ring-bound standard which I received as a wedding gift eons ago, one slow cooker collection in which I’ve found a couple of recipes I’ve used repeatedly, and one that uses cake mix to make a variety of desserts (although I’ve only ever made the chocolate cookies found therein).

But I am fortunate to have daughters-in-law and grandkids who enjoy cooking, baking, and all the messy fun that entails, so I do keep an eye out for cookbooks they will find attractive as well as useful. These four sturdy, spiral-bound volumes with thick, grease-resistant pages meet the test.

Chew and Chat blogger Valerie Phillips, former food editor at two Utah dailies, shares her considerable experience and promotes home cooking in Soup’s On!, whose lovely photos made me hungry just flipping through it. Her introduction touting the benefits of soup-making (including budget booster, way to enjoy more veggies, family-time magnet, and a springboard for creativity) persuades aspiring cooks to go beyond the microwave with 100 “fast and flavorful” soups categorized by main ingredients (poultry, beef/pork, seafood, vegetable, bean and nut, and fruit and cheese). Good news: Most of them can be put together in 30 minutes or less, and some of them can even be made in the slow cooker. “Tips for Savvy Soup-Makers” and “Shortcut Ingredients” are well worth reading before you even choose a recipe. (Covenant 2012, 175 pages, $19.99.)

Savoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites offers “more than 100 year-round recipes to enjoy with family and friends,” courtesy of seasoned food bloggers Sara Wells and Kate Jones. Even non-cooks sing the praises of Our Best Bites (same title as their hugely popular blog started in 2008). Fans will love the additional step-by-step, easy-to-follow recipes grouped by season and occasion in the latest book, which again contains tutorials, full-color photographs, a bookmark with equivalent measurements, and a lengthy index. Moms/grandmas and kids will find extra enjoyment in the seasonal crafts and treats sprinkled amidst the recipes. (Shadow Mountain, 264 pages, $27.99.)

And how can you miss with a title like Chocolate Never Faileth? This volume features “More than 125 Heavenly Recipes” on its prettily scalloped 224 pages (Covenant 2010, $21.99). Entries compiled by Annette Lyon, author of the fictional Newport Ladies Book Club series and Band of Sisters, range from the expected cakes, cookies, and snacks to molded treats, icings, and dips and even non-edible chocolate bliss such as body scrubs, play-dough and lip gloss. Lyon is careful to give clear, detailed directions and even tells where specific and unusual ingredients can be found. The glossary is particularly helpful to neophytes in fancy desserts.

Finally, here’s one I’ve purchased for grandchildren’s birthdays this year, maybe because its colorful cartoon illustrations and simple language remind me of a cookbook I had as a child. Cooking Fun, by Rae Grant, contains “121 Simple Recipes to Make with Kids” (St. Martin’s Press 2008, $19.95 list price, much reduced now). Kitchen basics, equipment, cooking terms, and measurements are covered in the introductory pages and followed by easy recipes such as fruit smoothies, scrambled eggs, spaghetti and meatballs, icebox cookies, and lemon bars in an appealing, kid-friendly layout. I expect this little cookbook to be a winner with the 9- to 11-year old crowd.

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