Family values Christmas gift cook books would have to include:
--YUMMY KAWAII BENTO (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015, 248 pages, $25 hard covers) is by Li Ming Lee, the creator of www.bentomonsters.com. These are character bentos that she has created since 2011, and have been drawn from over 1000 that she has created. Best made for school lunches, they are a combo bento (box lunch) and charaben (food styled as art) . There are teddy bear shaped mini-pizzas, porky pastas, ninja rice balls. There are even preps that kids can work on themselves. A great way to deter pitching kid lunches into the school's compost bin . What fun! Lunch will never be the same again.
--THE OFFICIAL JOHN WAYNE WAY TO GRILL (Media Lab Books, 2015, 254 pages, ISBN 978-1-942556015, $22.99 US soft covers) is a book in celebration of John Wayne the actor. It is an "official" book, with an introduction by son Ethan. Wayne loved steak and potatoes – it was his main meal ("charred medium"). Here there are 100 plus recipes, including family faves, all with the usual step-by-step instructions. And lots of John Wayne lore. "A guy's gotta grill what a guy's gotta grill". Tennessee T-Bone steaks with whiskey butter; lotsa pix and remembrances from the Wayne family but NO INDEX.
--FRIENDS FOOD FAMILY (Quadrille, 2015, 192 pages, $33.50 CAN hard covers) is by Sasha Wilkins, who runs libertylondongirl.com in the UK. It is for the modern hostess who doesn't want to do decorations or garnishes. So it is basically a cookbook for large gatherings and entertaining without the frills. Just good food and conversations with a UK sensibility.
--FOOD GIFT LOVE (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 256 pages, $33 hard covers) is by NYC food blogger Maggie Battista. She's got more than 100 recipes for food to make, wrap and share. It is a good too for crafty cooks and do-it-yourselfers. These are small-batch hand-crafted foods, edible gifts for many e=occasions. The range is from infused salts and sugars through fresh ricotta, flavoured butters, jams, pickles, vinaigrette, cookies, savouries, and drinks. And of course, there is guidance on how to wrap it all up.
--BACK IN TIME FOR DINNER (Bantam Press, 2015, 300 pages, $42.95 CAN hard covers) is by Mary Gwyn. It's based on a BBC TV program concerning how the UK has changed its food habits in the way Brits eat their family meals. So it runs through fish fingers, curries (this is the UK, now), hamburgers, and a range of US imports. Well-researched to tie in with the program, which of course has a British orientation. So maybe a gift for the Brit in your life?
--DESSERTS (DK, 2015, $304 pages, $40 hard covers) is by Caroline Bretherton and Kristen Raines. Nothing says family more than desserts: here are 400 of them, all the classics and variations with step-by-step photography and presentation ideas of garnishes. You will find cherry clafoutis, key lime pie, vanilla pannacotta, sachertorte, creme brulee, etc. Techniques include how to drip, drizzle, melt, marble, pipe, crimp, skewer, shape and dust. The volume is arranged by temperature, beginning with hot, moving on to cold desserts, and then to frozen. Material about presentations are at the end.
--COOKFRESH YEAR-ROUND (Taunton Press, 2015, 320 pages, $24.95 CAN hard covers with slip case) comes from the editors of Fine Cooking magazine. It is a set of four miniature cookbooks according to the seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter) with 50 recipes apiece for no-fuss meals on busy work-nights. Seasonality is stressed. It is a good set for beginning cooks as well as experienced hands.
--THE VERMONT COUNTRY STORE COOKBOOK (Grand Central Life & Style, 2015, 300 pages, $35) is by Ellen Ecker Ogden and Andrea Diehl, with the Orton Family. Vrest and Mildred Orton put out a 36-item catalogue ("The Vermont Country Store") in time for Christmas 1945 – without a physical store, sort of like the Amazon.Com of its day. And now it is 70 years later, and this book serves a memoir/history/Vermont guide of that period. The early emphasis was on fine foods plus tools and utensils for cooking and serving more fine foods. There is lots of detail on running a store, plus the recipes on Vermont food, ending with "Vermont, a way of life".
--THE COOK'S BIBLE AND THE DESSERT BIBLE BOX SET (Little, Brown and Co., 2015, 880 pages, $44 CAN boxed) are two classic kitchen references from America's Test Kitchen. They are derived from Cook's Illustrated magazine, and together deliver hundreds of recipes for families based on the magazine and from the TV show as well. It is billed as American home cookery for the family, but of course there are international influences such as pizza and pasta, stir fries, and the like.
--THE NEWLYWED COOKBOOK (St. Martin's Pr., 2015, 222 pages, $34.50 CAN hard covers) is by Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore. The 70 recipes apparently target some of the most popular small appliances in today's bridal registries. There are copious notes on organizing the kitchen and the pantry, shopping to beat the system, buying kitchen equipment, and spices and herbs. There is even a much needed section on how to cook together.
--DINNER SOLVED! (Workman, 2015, 384 pages, $22.95 CAN paper covers) is by food writer Katie Workman, author of The Mom 100 Cookbook. Having "solved" the problem of getting food on the table for a family on weeknights, she turns her attention to picky eaters: how to make everyone at the table happy without turning into a short-order cook. She has a "fork in the road" solution which makes it easy to turn one dish into two or more: mild and sweet vs. heat, meat eaters vs. vegetarians, mix and match pasta combos, sweet or savoury crostini for breakfasts, ingredient substitutions. The too pretty well promises no more cranky eaters or table strife, reducing stress.
--IDIOT'S GUIDES: Cooking Basics (Alpha, 2015, 266 pages, $24.95 CAN paperback) is by Thomas England, a food service educator who here teaches us all to master the fundamentals, with step-by-step photos and more than 80 classic recipes: breakfasts, soups, stews, sauces, salads, mains, sides. For your student kid and self-learners.
--THE COMPLETE AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN TV SHOW COOKBOOK, 2001 – 2016 (ATK, 2015; distr. Penguin Random House Canada, 2015, 1012 pages, $50 CAN hard covers) has every recipe from the PBS show along with product ratings from Cook's Illustrated magazine. Chris Kimball and his team hone each recipe until they get it right. The tome has more than 1100 American cookery recipes from 16 seasons. There is also THE BEST OF AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN 2016: THE YEAR'S BEST RECIPES, EQUIPMENT REVIEWS AND TASTINGS (320 pages, $40 CAN hard covers); it is different in that it also includes material from Cook's Illustrated, with quick tips from readers.
SUBSET FOR FAMILY: Your HEALTH –
--FAST FOOD, GOOD FOOD (Little, Brown and Co., 2015, 295 pages, $36 CAN hard covers) is by Andrew Weil, MD, who is the most recognized leader in integrative medicine (TV, book author, columnist, drweil.com). Even so he seems to need log rollers such as Waters and Keller. The book has more than 150 quick and easy ways to put healthy, delicious food on your table at home. It's arranged by course, with a good collection of healthy drinks. At the end, he has notes on the anti-inflammatory diet and pyramid. He's also got effective use of bold-face type and leading for the older folks, and this includes the layout for his index. It is, actually, a must purchase as a gift.
--THE FOOD ALLERGY COOKBOOK (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015, 235 pages, $21.99 paperback) is by Carmel Nelson and Amra Ibrisimovic. It is a revised edition of the 2011 work. Here are 101 preps for foods that are free of dairy, gluten, soy, corn, shellfish and nuts. Ingredients are readily available and the instructions are easy. And dishes are savoury and/or sweet depending on seasonings. There are holiday menus, tips for shopping, pantry advice, and how to read labels.
--THE BONE BROTH MIRACLE (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015, 180 pages, ISBN 978-1-63450-702-8, $25.99 CAN paper covers) is by Ariane Resnick, a certified nutritionist who specializes in organic farm-to-table cuisine. She has cooked for celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow. Here are 51 preps for a daily dose of nutrients: calcium, amino acids, collagen, magnesium, potassium and other minerals. In other words, what we knew as Jewish penicillin, good old chicken broth. Suits a paleo diet – and has a good bibliography for further reading.
--THE UNDIET COOKBOOK (Appetite by Random House, 2015, 304 pages, $24.95 CAN soft covers) is by Meghan Telpner, a Toronto-based nutritionist. She gives us 130 plant-based recipes with options for any kind of diet. She's got health tips, meal planning for all courses, even edible beauty care recipes. Some major keys are smoothies and sprouts. Most valuable too are the tips for travel and entertaining in how to "undiet" for life.
--APPLE CIDER VINEGAR FOR HEALTH AND BEAUTY (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015, 242 pages, $22.99 CAN paper covers) is by Simone McGrath. ACV has many health benefits (weight loss, allergies, skin and health), and this guide tells how to use it to also treat common ailments, oral health, and to use it in cooking soups, salads, mains, drinks, and desserts. Organic ACV has been a standard in our house for over two decades.
--HOW CAN IT BE GLUTEN-FREE COOKBOOK, VOL 2 (America's Test Kitchen 2015, 328 pages, $32 CAN paper covers) delivers more of the ATK's honed recipes, furthering breakfast foods, grains, comfort food, breads, and a resource section. Volume 1 was published in early