What’s sitting on the cookbook shelf…?

How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking, Nigella Lawson
I love Nigella. I love her outlook and her plucky attitude. I DVR her shows “Nigella Express” and “Nigella Feasts,” which are usually on at ridiculously early hours on Saturdays on FoodNetwork. I frequent Nigella.com. I love to see what it is “Nigella Loves,” and someday I will get crazy and make up one or more of “Hettie’s Cocktails of the Week.”

Better Homes & Gardens Hometown Potluck Favorites
The title sounds a bit hokey, but nothing out of this cookbook has failed me yet. Mum sent it in Jim’s 30th-birthday box, because the theme of his birthday was “luck” and this is a potluck cookbook (haha, Mum is so clever). Whether making a week’s worth of leftovers for lunches or taking something to a surprise birthday party, or hosting for 6 at home, this book has been an absolute gem and even a lifesaver.

Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook: The Essential Guide for Caring for Everything in Your Home
Okay, so this isn’t a cookbook, but I do keep it on the same shelf as the rest of the cookbooks, in a convenient go-to location. And it is darn handy, especially when it comes to cleaning the microwave and folding a fitted sheet.

The Healthy Exchanges Cookbook, JoAnna M. Lund
I’m not sure how this cookbook first found its way in to our home, but I suspect that it has something to do with the fact that we lived in the Midwest for a good many years, and Ms. Lund is from Iowa. Her cookbooks are full of charm and smarts and confidence, and what JoAnna has she passes on to her readers. Acknowledging how difficult it can be to lose weight and keep it off, JoAnna finds new, more-healthful ways for people to enjoy traditional and filling foods. Her husband Cliff, a truck-driver, is oft-mentioned as her “official taste-tester,” with the belief being, I assume, that if it passes the muster of a Midwesterner truck driver, it must be good. Her recipes use grocery-store ingredients and she usually tells you exactly which brand she used, which can be either helpful or unhelpful — some brands are only common in the Midwest, and some are by now out of business or have been bought by other companies (thankfully though, Jell-O will always be Jell-O). Also, the sizes of packaged products have reduced over time, so if in 1994 when JoAnna first wrote her recipes you could buy 16-ounce cans of vegetables, today you can only buy 14.5-ounce cans. Go ahead and be frustrated, but roll with the punches.

Nigella Express, Nigella Lawson
Just reading the headnotes in Nigella Express makes me feel like a more confident person in the kitchen, like I don’t have to be a 5-star chef in order to be a good cook, and that there is no sin in making something that is easy to whip up, with regular ingredients, and still have a good-looking, tasty meal on the table. Chocolate croissants?? Oh my gosh those do look ridiculously easy! Quick hamburgers? Count me in! Nigella’s trademark cuisine is traditional, modern, cosmopolitan, and useful all at once. Under her watchful tutelage you are not allowed to eat anything bland. And she is totally no-nonsense. Nigella Lawson, you are my kitchen idol.

The New Legal Sea Foods Cookbook
We all know how good fish and seafood are for our health, but how do you cook it correctly, how do you care safely for the raw materials, and what are some ways to make it exciting? Legal Sea Foods has been pampering Boston-area connoisseurs of sea’s bounty for almost three generations, and now they’re sharing their knowledge and expertise with home cooks around the country.

Cooking Down East and Keep Cooking the Maine Way
Two Mainer standbys by Julia Child of the North, Marjorie Standish. If your Maine grandmother cooked it, Marjorie Standish probably has a recipe for it.

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