Cookbooks to Give as Holiday Gifts

I love food and I love books.  So it makes sense that I’m semi-addicted to cookbooks, and buy way more of them than I can justify, given how much I actually cook.  I have a cookbook for nearly every food trend.  I wish I could say I’m a great cook — I’m not.  I don’t cook instinctively, like many people do.  I need directions.

This past year has been a real exploration of food for me.  Last year I gave up a number of foods due to my migraines (citrus and balsamic vinegar among them, which makes it that much harder to cook).  Then in January this year I decided to cut my sugar and start eating “clean”.  The results have been promising for the migraines, and I feel good although my weight has fluctuated with all of this trying new things.  For example, I eat more foods with high fat content than I used to, but I also pass on most desserts (except when I don’t).

For my birthday this year, my husband gave me two books that aren’t just cookbooks – they are books about the cooking process, and they’ve become a valuable reference in our house.  They are also gorgeous books and would make a fantastic gift for someone who loves to cook.

food labThe Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt: If you’re looking to give someone an “encyclopedia” of cooking, you can’t do better than this book.  It has tons of recipes for everything, but it also really explains the process of cooking and is written in a really fun way.  My husband got it for me because it explains WHY you do things a certain way, rather than just telling you what to do.  We’ve learned some good techniques (especially for eggs) although we didn’t have good results with a roasted sweet potato recipe.  This is a fun book just to explore, and it’s written with a real sense of humor as well.

salt fatSalt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat: This book is organized around the idea that there are four key principles that affect how we cook.  There is a detailed section on salt, fat, acid, and heat, that really explains how each of these works in our cooking.  There are also some great graphics that explain how different cuisines use different fats, etc.  A lot of the things I find complicated in cooking, like when to add salt, or what kind of oil to use, are explained in helpful and easy to use detail.

And here are a couple of others I think would make great gifts:

hungry cleanHungry Girl Clean and Hungry by Lisa Lillien: You probably don’t want to give a “diet” cookbook as a gift, but I love the Hungry Girl books, and I especially appreciate how her food has changed over the years.  Lillien went from being diet-focused, using lots of packaged and artificial foods, to a much more simple whole foods approach.  Her philosophy focuses on substituting healthy foods for the less healthy ones (like cauliflower instead of rice) but still giving you a substantial meal that doesn’t eliminate your favorite comfort foods. She also has a pretty common-sense approach to eating. I would love if she’d do a low-sugar book next.

bowlsClean Eating Bowls by Kenzie Swanheart.  If you need a smaller gift idea, this one comes in paperback and is great for the “clean” eater (and you could package it with a fun bowl or two).  Who doesn’t love food in bowls?  This is my favorite cookbook for when I’m trying to throw together whatever’s in the fridge.  I really like the breakfast bowls, which combine lots of veggies with things like quinoa (which I wouldn’t think of for breakfast).  And I love the granola recipe.  The only downside to this book is no nutritional information.

immigrant cookbookAnd, just added to my own gift list, is The Immigrant Cookbook.  I haven’t seen this book (it comes out mid-December) but it’s got a lot of famous chefs and supports a great cause: the ACLU Immigrants Rights Project. My favorite foods all come from other parts of the world, so this one appeals to me.  Plus it makes a nice political statement!  I wish I could see some of the book before I buy it, though.

Those are my foodie gift ideas! One year I packaged up some mason jars with a couple of mason jar cookbooks, that was a pretty good gift.  If you’re not into buying cookbooks, I also like giving oil & vinegar as gifts, since you can get so many different flavors.  Also truffle salt — good on everything but how many people have it?  This year I’m also thinking about Plated gift certificates (a meal delivery service).  And we like to give wine — especially now, when some of our favorite California wineries are donating to help families recover from the fires.

Because what’s better than gift-giving and food?  What are your favorite foodie gifts?

  10 comments for “Cookbooks to Give as Holiday Gifts

  1. December 5, 2017 at 3:46 am

    The Food Lab book caught my eye but looking at it further I see it focuses on American recipes which would be harder for me to follow since I’m a Brit.
    I like to give food gifts too and ideally home made though always forget how far in advance yiu have to start with things like preserved fruit. What did yiu put into your mason jars – I’ve seen these mentioned as ideas for gifts and they seem to involve putting all the ingredients in the container?

    • December 5, 2017 at 7:11 pm

      I didn’t actually fill the mason jars (that would have been nicer) — I use mine mostly for salads and oatmeal so I just found a couple of recipe books. I’ve mostly seen them filled with cookie ingredients and also dried soup ingredients.

  2. December 5, 2017 at 3:52 am

    This such a great post and fantastic ideas! The Food Lab sounds completely fascinating, like the kind of questions I still have and never knowing why things work the way do being part of the reason I didn’t get into cooking until relatively late. I’m intrigued! Love your gift ideas too. You might like the book Eight Flavors, if you haven’t come across it already. It’s not a cookbook (but it has recipes) and explores the right basic flavors the author identified as being integral to American cuisine and how, why and where they came about. no surprise but many had roots in immigration. I learned a lot, it’s a fasntastic read.

    Saving lots of titles and ideas from this post!😊

    • December 5, 2017 at 7:02 pm

      Eight flavors sounds really interesting, thanks for sharing!

  3. December 5, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    This is such a great idea, and I love Salt Fat Acid Heat—a book to curl up with on Christmas Day afternoon, for a certain type of person!

  4. December 8, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    I’m the same way — I can’t cook without a recipe! And I adore beautiful cookbooks. I’m giving away a big, glossy Six Sisters’ Stuff cookbook on my blog right now. It’s not clean cooking or even healthy, but the recipes look really good 🙂


  5. December 9, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Oo Food Lab sounds excellent! A bit like Good Eats perhaps? Also while I’m not huge on cookbooks (cos I don’t have anywhere good to set them up in my kitchen so they don’t get much actual use) I looooooooove the idea of the Immigrant Cookbook and yeah, may have to pick that up when it comes out.

  6. December 10, 2017 at 3:43 am

    These all sound so interesting! I mostly don’t use cookbooks and google recipes instead, but I’d be tempted to at least see if I can get these from the library and try them out.

    • December 10, 2017 at 6:31 pm

      Thanks for the comment! I use a lot, because you always get a lot of helpful suggestions with each recipe. But these are great reference books (the first two in my post).

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