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Four Essential Cookbooks

Updated on December 28, 2017
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My Best Kitchen Helpers

I am not a natural cook. When I was growing up, my sister Lorie was always in the kitchen watching Granny's every move while I preferred to hang out in the sewing room with Mom. Today she can cook a meal that tastes exactly like Granny's did, while I can sew a formal gown--and burn dinner. Consequently, when I had a family I needed some good cookbooks to teach me vital survival skills (I lived too far from family for them to help with lessons.)

Cookbook number one was a wedding present: The Betty Crocker Cookbook. Mine was circa 1984, so most of the recipes are still "from scratch." I still refer to this tattered book when I need to remember exactly how long to hard boil eggs or how long to bake a turkey of a certain weight. Many of the recipes are classics I ate as a child and still serve to my family.

Book number two is a small but useful book: Cooking for Crowds, published by Melvin and Miriam Heatwole and printed by CMCO Publications (Box 271, Barwick, ON POW 1A0, Canada.) This handy little cookbook has recipes from Mennonite church kitchens that often serve a multitude. This book includes a complete plan for a wedding reception (ham balls, chicken breasts, side dishes, even those little mints made from scratch!) for 100 guests. These folk of German ancestry serve hearty food, but you can get away with eating it if you also get plenty of exercise on a farm; otherwise, be prepared to head to the gym after indulging in some of these hearty entrees and rich desserts.

Favorite book number three is Once-a-Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg. For busy homemakers, Mimi and Mary Beth have done all the organizing and meal planning. There are two complete months of menu plans, a couple of two-week plans for those who are hesitant about cooking an entire month of freezer meals. Shopping lists for each plan are included for your convenience, too. The book gently leads you step by step through "cooking day" so you are not too overwhelmed. (I will not kid you, the first few cooking days I did were pretty intense--but well worth the effort.)

Another great resource for large families is MegaCooking by Jill Bond. Jill is an industrial engineer by education, a military wife, and a home school mother, so efficiency is her hallmark. She has cooked more than a month of dinners in a day and shows you how to do the same. It sounds crazy to make more than a month of freezer meals, but if you want to try, Jill is the expert.

These four cookbooks have helped my husband and me raise a family of six children. I simply learned to quickly double any recipe in these books (except for Jill's book--she has already sized her meals for large families.)

If you need a gift for a bridal shower, baby shower (Whole Foods would be a great selection for a new mom) or a housewarming, consider one of these cookbooks. Wrap up a book with a casserole dish and some pretty dish towels or potholders for a practical gift that will be used for years.

Watch an Experience Once-a-Month Cook

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