Every year I tell myself I will cook something new for the holidays. Invariably, my aspirational menu (which resembles a glossy magazine feature) morphs into a tried-and-true spread of nostalgic favorites, many requested by family and friends. If breaking with culinary tradition seems daunting, why not try a small change this year? This month’s cookbooks contain plenty of seasonal sides, mains, appetizers, and desserts to complement meals and occasions you’ve already begun to plan.
Cook, Crystal & Sandy Pollock. The Casserole Queens Make-a-Meal Cookbook: Mix and Match 100 Casseroles, Salads, Sides, and Desserts. Clarkson Potter: Crown. 2013. 208p. photos. index. ISBN 9780770436803. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9780770436810. COOKING
Known as the Casserole Queens, Cook and Pollock (The Casserole Queens Cookbook: Put Some Lovin’ in Your Oven with 100 Easy One-Dish Recipes) have been featured on Food Network’s Throwdown! with Bobby Flay and, more recently, YouTube’s HUNGRY channel. Their second cookbook, like their first, embraces 1950s kitsch, offering party ideas (Bunco night, a casserole swap), a sewing project for a casserole tote, a cocktail recipe, and dozens of casseroles. The authors have expanded their original concept to more courses (salads, noncasserole sides, and desserts), international recipes, and icons identifying which recipes freeze well and which are gluten-free, vegetarian, or diabetic-friendly. Full-page photographs are attractive but scarce. VERDICT Nostalgic yet attuned to modern lifestyles, this versatile cookbook is ideal for potlucks and make-ahead meal ideas.
Desmond, Tara Mataraza. Choosing Sides: From Holidays to Every Day, 130 Delicious Recipes To Make the Meal. Andrews McMeel. 2013. 240p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781449427115. $24.99. COOKING
Side dishes, the crux of holiday dinners, are the subject of several great cookbooks, including Best American Side Dishes: A Best Recipe Classic and Fred Thompson’s Fred Thompson’s Southern Sides: 250 Dishes That Really Make the Plate. Here, food writer Desmond (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Easy Artisan Bread) takes a unique approach, providing both a variety of recipes and a convenient framework for selecting them. Readers who know what’s for dinner can use the “Main-Course Pairings” chart to find instantly complementing sides, or they can rely upon the chapter titles and index to browse by occasion or ingredient. Each recipe lists pairings—for instance, Desmond recommends serving orecchiette verde alongside roasted salmon (recipe not included; she suggests googling). VERDICT This title makes it easy to spice up weeknight meals, holiday feasts, and potlucks.
Good Housekeeping Eds. The Good Housekeeping Christmas Cookbook. Hearst: Sterling. Oct. 2013. 400p. illus. index. ISBN 9781588169747. $30. COOKING
No detail is overlooked in Good Housekeeping’s newest Christmas cookbook, which includes planning guides; decorating, entertaining, and cleaning tips; celebrity-contributed quotes and subsections (e.g., Paula Deen’s “Irresistible Holiday Appetizers”); and more than 300 recipes for cocktails, mains, sides, and desserts. Though impressive in scope, this title delivers a mixed message, promising to “chase away stress” while also urging readers to test new recipes in advance, sleep in the guest room to ensure its comfort, hand polish the silver, and lay a festive tablescape. Recipes—mostly American, with some healthy options—include nutrition facts. VERDICT Recommended for serious hosts organizing large, traditional gatherings and for readers in search of creative Christmas ideas.
Gordon, Megan. Whole-Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes To Span the Seasons. Ten Speed: Crown. Jan. 2014. 184p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781607745013; ebk. ISBN 9781607745006. COOKING
Food writer Gordon owns and operates Marge, a Seattle-based granola company. Her hearty breakfast recipes—many of which would be at home in Sophie Dahl’s Very Fond of Food: A Year in Recipes—are arranged by season and occasion. Variations on granola, muesli, porridge, and more contain healthful ingredients, often in indulgent quantities. Trail guide nut and seed bars, extremely calorie dense, are best as a treat, while morning glory oats, which taste like carrot cake in a bowl, are a healthier choice. Gordon includes “basics” such as homemade yogurt and nut milks and encourages experimentation. VERDICT Though too involved for some, these creative breakfasts will tempt readers who love grains and natural ingredients.
Katzinger, Jennifer (text) & Charity Burggraaf (photos). Gluten-Free & Vegan Pie: More Than 50 Sweet and Savory Pies To Make at Home. Sasquatch. 2013. 160p. photos. index. ISBN 9781570618680. pap. $23.95. COOKING
Gluten-free and vegan baking expert Katzinger (Flying Apron’s Gluten-Free & Vegan Baking Book) returns with a new assortment of pies, just in time for holidays and festive occasions. Drawing inspiration from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s Vegan Pie in the Sky: 75 Out–of-This-World Recipes for Pies, Tarts, Cobblers, and More, a similarly compact paperback, Katzinger presents a breadth of pastry doughs, press-in crusts, and sweet and savory fillings that can be used to make pies, turnovers, cobblers, crisps, galettes, tarts, and more. Recipes call for ingredients such as agar, arrowroot, coconut oil, and brown rice flour, with which most gluten-free and vegan bakers will be familiar. VERDICT Highly recommended for gluten-free baking collections.
Manning, Ivy (text) & Jen Altman (photos). Crackers & Dips: More Than 50 Handmade Snacks. Chronicle. 2013. 144p. photos. index. ISBN 9781452109503. $19.95. COOKING
Food writer Manning (The Farm to Table Cookbook: The Art of Eating Locally) shares recipes for crackers, chips, and dips that are less expensive and (when prepared correctly) more delicious than store-bought snacks. Her many sweet and savory varieties will appeal to a wide range of tastes but can be complicated to prepare. Even “easy crackers” require readers to grind spices, deep-fry, and purchase unconventional ingredients. Still, this handsome volume offers gourmets an opportunity to create uniquely show-stopping snacks. VERDICT Fancier and more technically precise than Lee E. Cart’s The Cracker Book: Artisanal Crackers for Every Occasion, this is a great niche title for readers interested in homemade crackers.
Marchetti, Domenica (text) & Sang An (photos). The Glorious Vegetables of Italy. Chronicle. 2013. 272p. photos. index. ISBN 9781452108865. $30. COOKING
Food writer Marchetti, a former newspaper reporter, has written five books on Italian cooking. Her newest offering contains mostly, but not all, vegetarian recipes organized by course, ranging from pizzas and pastas to condiments and desserts. Visually, it resembles her previous work, The Glorious Pasta of Italy, employing the same chic design and gorgeous full-page color photographs. A “Gallery of Italian Vegetables” introduces prominently featured ingredients (e.g., artichokes, chickpeas, mushrooms, potatoes), explaining when they are in season and how to clean and prepare them. VERDICT Broader in scope than the title suggests, Marchetti’s latest work will delight readers looking for a variety of elegant, unfussy, and substantial vegetable dishes.
Pennington, Amy. Apples: From Harvest to Table; 50 Recipes & More Starring the Tried-and-True Favorite. Griffin: St. Martin’s. 2013. 144p. illus. index. ISBN 9781250039064. $21.99. COOKING
Author Pennington (Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable and Seasonal Kitchen) showcases the apple’s versatility in this new collection of sweet and savory recipes. Multiple varieties (e.g., Rome, Golden Delicious, Winesap), raw and cooked, lend sweetness and acidity to potato pancakes with applesauce, vanilla caramel–poached apple halves with mascarpone, and beet and apple relish. In five chapters covering most courses, Pennington offers 50 recipes, technical tips, and projects for kids. VERDICT This beautiful collection has more in common with Frank Browning and Sharon Silva’s An Apple Harvest: Recipes and Orchard Lore than Amy Traverso’s more comprehensive The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. Recommended for readers more interested in recipes than in history and botanical information.
Ruperti, Yvonne. One Bowl Baking: Simple, From Scratch Recipes for Delicious Desserts. Running Pr. Oct. 2013. 224p. photos. index. ISBN 9780762448951. pap. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780762450633. COOKING
When you’re craving sweets, not dirty dishes, turn to Ruperti’s new collection of recipes for baked goods prepared in a single mixing bowl. Simpler and more visually appealing than Nicole Rees’s Baking Unplugged, this book includes several recipes mixed directly in the pan in which they’re baked and charming “tiny cakes” perfect for small parties. Oatmeal raisin scones and classic chocolate chip cookies aren’t the best you’ll ever eat, but they’re so convenient, you’ll hardly notice. Ruperti (The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Easy Artisan Bread), who previously worked for the television show America’s Test Kitchen, recommends a digital scale for accuracy. VERDICT Highly recommended for weeknight and last-minute baking, especially for readers with small, unequipped kitchens.
Stander-Horel, Lisa & Tim Horel. Nosh on This: Gluten-Free Baking From a Jewish-American Kitchen. Experiment. 2013. 288p. photos. index. ISBN 9781615190867. pap. $19.95. COOKING
Unwilling to let a celiac disease diagnosis impede family tradition, Jewish American blogger Stander-Horel (glutenfreecanteen.com; with Horel, Gluten Free Canteen’s Book of Nosh: Baking for Jewish Holidays & More) learned to make her mother’s and grandmother’s recipes without gluten. With her husband and cowriter, Horel, a photographer, she shares more than 100 recipes for desserts, breads, and confections, ranging from the traditional (almond mandelbrot) to the decadent (dark chocolate raspberry cream cake) to the practical (gluten-free egg noodles). This cookbook includes numerous baking tips and resources, and a handy “Jewish Holiday Baking Chart” maps recipes to appropriate occasions. VERDICT Expertise, enthusiasm, and stunning photographs distinguish this excellent gluten-free baking collection.