Every year around the end of November, I carefully select a stack of books from my cookbook shelf and use them as my main cooking resource for the coming month. Some cookbooks are more useful than others for the holidays, packed full of inspiring recipes and indispensable tips for the festive season.
I’m sharing my favourites with you now, so you can have the chance to look into them yourself. While I own all of the books listed here, I’m not suggesting you run out to the store to buy them all yourself (but feel free to do so!). Instead, see if your local library carries any of the titles, borrow them from a friend, or find a second-hand copy online for a few dollars (see below for how I did exactly that).
Nigella Christmas, by Nigella Lawson: An obvious choice for the Christmas season, Nigella handles the holidays with her no-nonsense approach to feeding her family and friends. Packed full of inspiring ideas, reliable recipes, and wise advice about planning and cooking ahead, this is a new addition to my holiday cookbook collection as I recently purchased it from the used book section on Amazon for $3.45! Add another $6.95 for shipping, and the price was a quarter of what the bookstore charges.
Wintersweet, by Tammy Donroe Inman: The fresh and rustic recipes in the beautiful book push the envelope of traditional winter desserts like pumpkin or apple pie. Each chapter is devoted to a seasonal ingredient or flavour (apples, pears, citrus, chocolate, nuts, and cheese) and offers clever and creative recipes guaranteed to make your holidays festive and bright. P.S. I’m obsessed with the chocolate pavlova with whipped cream and pomegranate on the front cover.
Easy, Delicious Home Cooking, by Real Simple Magazine: Have you ever noticed that no matter how busy you are in the days/weeks leading up to the holidays there are still kids looking to be fed ordinary meals like dinner? I know, it shocks me every year, too. Which is why I keep this cookbook from Real Simple Magazine handy during the holidays. Organized by season, you’ll find everything from an oh-no-they’ll-be-home-in-20-minutes supper to a sandwich for one to ideas for easy appetizers and desserts for the days when you need to treat your family or company. I adore this book and keep it close to me all December long.
The Gourmet Cookie Book, by Gourmet Magazine: This book focuses on the best cookie recipes that appeared in Gourmet Magazine from 1941-2009. There are so many ideas for the holiday cookie exchange or Christmas platters you prepare for friends and neighbours, you’ll never need another cookie book again. Oh, and it also makes a creative, unexpected holiday hostess gift.
Rose Murray’s Canadian Christmas Cooking, by Rose Murray: This affordable guide to holiday meals is a must-have book for those looking for classic Christmas recipes. Forget the frills and fuss, because you won’t find them between the pages of this no-nonsense, no pictures cookbook that boasts plenty of perfect ideas for your holiday feast.
Homemade Gifts from the Kitchen, by Alison Walker: This book provides a beautiful collection of culinary gift ideas for you to make and bake at home for your family and friends. I’ve made several of the charming confections, most of which can be in advance. I plan on trying a few more of the creations this season.
Perfect One-Dish Dinners: All You Need for Easy Get-Togethers, by Pam Anderson: This collection of forty meals, all designed to impress the guests and calm the cook, is ideal for the holiday season. Each meal is made up of one main course’usually a one-pot creation made with protein, starch, and veg’as well as an appetizer, salad, and dessert. In other words, a complete dinner. This book is perfect for feeding extending family that might be staying with you in the days before and after Christmas, those neighbours you wanted to invite over for game night, or friends who are coming over for a casual at-home New Year’s Eve celebration.
Gatherings: Bringing People Together with Food, by Jan Scott and Julie Van Rosendaal: I realize it’s a little cheeky to include my own book in a list of the best cookbooks for the Christmas season, but seeing as it’s entirely devoted to easy and effortless entertaining, I can’t think of a better time to pull it off the shelf and put it to use. Planning a cocktail party? There’s a chapter devoted to that. Wondering how to assemble a cheese board? That’s covered as well. There’s also recipes for a holiday open house, weekend brunch, apres-ski snow day, beer tasting and big family gathering.
Tell us, which cookbooks do you turn to for holiday inspiration?