Stocking stuffers should be at the very top of everybody's gift list: something affordable from under $10 up to $25, and that can also double as a host gift, being something small and lightweight. Most of the books here are paperbacks. And of course, they can all stuff an adult stocking.
Typical for food are those from the colour-photo-friendly Ryland Peters and Small, based in UK but also in USA. They offer (in no particular order) small gift books such as MACARONS (64 pages, $24.95 CAD hardbound) by Annie Rigg, with 30 recipes for an afternoon tea. Salted caramel is impressive., as is passion fruit. CICCHETTI (64 pages, $24.95 CAD hardbound) by Liz Franklin details Italian appetizers from Venice, such as speck and smoked ricotta or tramezzini or fig & blue cheese pizzette (more than 40 recipes in all). SALT (64 pages, $24.95 CAD hardbound) by Valerie Aikman-Smith deets all the major kinds from French fleur de sel to smoked and Himalayan in 40 recipes. OILS (64 pages, $24.95 CAD hardbound) is by Ursula Ferrigno, and it covers 16 fruit, nut and seed oils in more than 30 recipes. Some preps here are interchangeable. PEPPER (64 pages, $24.95 CAD hardbound) is another single ingredient title by the same author of Salt (above). 45 recipes feature pepper as both a seasoning and main ingredient. Includes Malabar, Lampong, Tellicherry, Szechuan and Sansho. POWER GRAINS (64 pages, $24.95 CAD hardbound) covers superfoods such as quinoa and amaranth, and has variety in its 29 recipes. MODERN DIM SUM (64 pages, $24.95 CAD hardbound) by Liu Hoh features 30 recipes of easy-to-prepare but authentic "yun cha" lunches. These are trolley dishes of dumplings, rolls, and wraps. MILKSHAKE BAR (64 pages, $24.95 CAD hardbound) by Hannah Miles has 33 recipes for the classics with syrups, fruits and mixes. Miles has also done SOUP AND A SANDWICH (64 pages, $24.95 CAD hardbound) with 25 preps such as spicy Asian broths and Mediterranean soups, paired with a comparable sandwich or wrap or toastie to serve along them. TEA WITH JANE AUSTEN (64 pages, $24.95 CAD hardbound) is by Pen Vogler, inspired by the novels. 20 preps detail cakes, bakes and pastries from the Regency period. There is also come good commentary here, and it is a perfect small gift for a Janeite.
Another publisher (Gibbs Smith in Utah) has a range of "101 Things to Do with..." in all variety of 32 subjects. This year, they've got 101 THINGS TO DO WITH BEER (128 pages, spiral bound, $13.99 CAD) , from appetizers to sweets. There are notes on flavour profiles of pilsner to stout, general cooking advice on how to handle beer, and preps such as BBQ sauces, beer soups and stews, and breads. 101 THINGS TO DO WITH BACON (128 pages, spiral bound, $13.99 CAD) is good for breakfasts, soups, salads, sandwiches, and six desserts. Gibbs Smith also has HOW D'YA LIKE THEM APPLES (128 pages, $23.99 CAD) with 50 preps, both sweet and savoury, from apps to salads to desserts. There's a good apple slaw here. PUMPKIN IT UP (128 pages, $23.99 CAD) also has 50 preps for such as roasted pumpkin seeds (always useful), pumpkin spice latte, and pumpkin dutch baby. Another is EAT MORE TORTILLAS (128 pages, $23.99 CAD) which also has 50 preps for nachos, pinwheels, and chicken veggie quesadilla stacks. Ideal for students, especially since the range of baked-fried-rolled-wrapped-stuffed-cheesy tortillas is for both savoury and sweet. FIRE PIT COOKING (128 pages, $23.99 CAD) is a nice small work to take with you on trips to outdoor grills or BBQ. There is material on building a fire pit plus 80 recipes. Topics include wrapped in foil, on a stick, tarts on fire, clay pots, iron pies, sandwiches, and more. BIG DIPS (128 pages, $23.99 CAD) does cheese, salsa, pesto, hummus, and sour cream in 68 recipes (plus variations). Each has its own chapter. Platforms include homemade pita chips, tortilla chips, ciabatta toast, and basic crostini.
Chronicle Books also has a range. There's SALMON (144 pages, $27.95 CAD paperbound) with 45 recipes and 40 pages of primer. It covers raw, cured, stove top, oven bakes, grilled and leftovers such as frittatas. MON CHER ECLAIR (112 pages, $23.95 CAD paperbound) has all things for cream puffs, profiteroles and gougeres. 40 classic recipes are here with scaled (weighed) ingredients. SOUTHERN APPETIZERS (144 pages, $27.95 CAD hardbound) is interesting for its mostly upscale nature: this is mostly New Orleans or creole, not backwoods. 60 preps, with material on buffets and party planning. Expect muffaletta bites, marinated shrimp salad, smoked pecans, hot dips. THE EVERYDAY MEAT GUIDE (184 pages, $27.95 CAD paperbound) is a butcher's advice tool on how to shop, cook well, eat better, save money. It's a manual. BEST DRESSED (Chronicle Books, 2016, 112 pages, $26.95 CAD hardbound) is a collection of some 50 recipes for salads, plus many variations. It is a mix of vinaigrettes and other dressings plus the occasional salad (e.g. Escalole salad with tangerines, almonds, and citrus-honey-rosemary vinaigrette). All salads can easily be perked up with brightness, boldness, and richness. They've even got a selection of toppings and many bases of serve-ons.
--TABLE MANNERS (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2016, 148 pages, $28 CAD hardbound) is by Chef Jeremiah Tower. It is a guide for how to survive every situation and to navigate the practical world of fine dining (what to wear, how to serve, what to eat, etc.). A great food title for every millennial to read. Give it to your kids too...
--DR. BURNORIUM'S HOTTEST EVER SAUCES (Dog 'n' Bone Books, 2016, 96 pages, $19.95 CAD hardbound) covers 40 of the world's hottest sauces, at the high end of 1 million Scoville units. The title comes in the shape of a hot-sauce bottle, ideal for stuffing a stocking. It is a good read with reviews, stories, and chili deets.
--VIILI PERPETUAL, NO-COOK HOMEMADE YOGURT (Familius Books, 2016, 66 pages, $11.50 CAD paperbound) is by the prolific Caleb Warnock who specializes in small survival books such as this one. Viili originated in Finland as 100% natural yogurt, and he tells us how to start it, how to use with pasteurized milk or raw milk or powdered milk, how to keep the yogurt sweet, and more. Twenty recipes for cheeses, smoothies, frozen treats, dressings, entrees and desserts.
--15-MINUTE MINDFUL MEALS (Familius Books, 2016, 99 pages, $13.95 CAD paperbound) is also by Caleb Warnock, with Lori Henderson. This is healthy home cooking, 250 recipes using natural produce. Arranged by meal period, to create healthy meals, with desserts and snacks. Great for college students or millennials. These good ideas really work.
--CAST-IRON COOKING (Storey Publishing, 2016, 96 pages, $19.95 CAD paperbound) is by Rachael Narins. Her 40 preps cover the "Full English Breakfast", pan pizza, and spanokopita.
--POWER BOWLS (DK, 2016, 72 pages, $11.99 CAD hardbound) is short and sweet – all you need in one healthy superfood bowl. For breakfast, quinoa and berry porridge or ancient grains porridge with pear (and 4 others). For lunch, perhaps buckwheat and baba ganoush or 6 others. Dinner: spiced millet and veggie bowl or 7 others. Good idea for tips on prepping in advance.
--ULTIMATE ONE-POT DISHES (Ebury Press, 2016, 160 pages, $21.99 CAD paperbound) is by Alan Rosenthal. These are simple and delicious stews and one-pot meals, with an international bent of paella, Brazilian black bean stew, Catalan fish stew, and tagines.
--TOAST (Prion Books, 2016, 120 pages, $19.95 CAD hardbound) is a very funny work by the UK writer Nick Parker. He's got histories, stories and recipes for his "superfood" . His faves are mushrooms on toast (SOS in the military), scrambled eggs on toast, and cheese or beans on toast. There's about a laugh a page.
--FRIES! (Princeton Architectural Press, 2016, 144 pages, $23.95 CAD hardbound) is by Blake Lingle, who runs a fry restaurant. It is his ode to the world's fave food. It is a history with some procedures given.
--100 BEST VEGAN RECIPES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, 192 pages, $23.00 CADS hardbound) is by Robin Robertson. These 100 recipes are drawn from the author's "1000 Vegan Recipes" cookbook (but 10 are actually new here). These are the classic, basic, and essential preps for any vegan anywhere. It's a great cookbook to get you started.
--DELICIOUS DUMP CAKES (St. Martin's Griffen, 2016, 118 pages, $22.99 CAD paperbound) is by Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore. 50 simple desserts can be made in 15 minutes or less, for families with children or who want to keep the cooking "simple". They use canned fruit, cake-mixes, and nuts and chocolate: just layer the ingredients, bake at 350 and allow to cool.
--ONE-POT PASTA (Hardie Grant Books, 2016, 72 pages, $16.99 CAD hardbound) is by Sabrina Fauda-Role. You can do this from pot to plate in under 30 minutes. Here are 30 preps: all the ingredients go into one pot at the same time (pasta, water, and sauce mixture). Cook for 15 minutes or so, no draining needed. Techniques are given, and it is all expandable to a range of ingredients to feed an army. Typical are carbonara, Thai salmon. Included are vegetarian, meat and seafood dishes.
--BEST SALTY SWEET SNACKS (Countryman Press, 2016, 127 pages, $19.95 CAD, paperbound) is by Monica Sweeney who describes the snacks as "gooey, chewy, crunchy treats for every craving". They are nutty, chocolatey and savoury. Good flavour combos are given for caramel-nut-apple dippers, or bacon-caramel corn, or pineapple mini pizzas.
--THE TABASCO COOKBOOK (Clarkson Potter, 2016, 144 pages, $21.99 CAD) was first issued in 1993 by the McIlhenny owners of Tabasco sauces. The 80 recipes (some revised) cover the classic recipes for game day, the Sunday brunch, the grill, Southern food – even dessert.
--SUPERFOOD BREAKFASTS (DK, 2016, 64 pages, $11.99 CAD) has quick and simple high-nutrient recipes to kickstart the day: grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, nutri-powders. The 25 preps include smoothies and pancakes. Very useful for quick meals for just one person.
--COOKIE CLASSICS MADE EASY (Storey Publishing, 2016, 96 pages, $15 CAD paperbound) is a collection of one-bowl recipes, such as pumpkin spice, Italian wedding cakes, ginger molasses, shortbreads, chocolate raspberry, key lime – 43 in all.
--ENERGY BITES (DK, 2016, 61 pages, $9.99 CAD) has high protein recipes for increased vitality and wellness. There are items here for re-fueling after a work out or an immunity boost. There are only 15 recipes but they are all low Glycemic Index, use no refined sugar, and only healthy fats. The procedures cover techniques for baking, no-baking, and savoury foods.
Other little books, for beverages, include those on beer, wine and spirits:
--THE BEER GEEK HANDBOOK (Storey Publishing, 2016, 192 pages, $21.95 CAD paperbound) is by Patrick Dawson who wants you to live a life ruled by beer. It's an illustrated FAQ to the world of beer, with tastings and pairing, using tulip glasses, taking "beercations" to Belgium, Germany, Colorado, New England (but the British Isles are not listed). There are descriptions of cult breweries, dictionaries, glossary, and a pronunciation guide. He's got quizzes, top ten lists, and a hip and savvy writing style. Millennials anyone?
--THE WINE JOURNAL (Skyhorse Publishing, 2016, 264 pages, $19.95 CAD paperbound) is by Jennifer McCartney, a poet-drinks writer. It is a pocket-sized guide for jotting down thoughts about your wine. There is space for wine deets of name, price, tasted where and when, vintage, region, shared with, served with, and more. She's also got some helpful data on tasting basics and glossaries.
--POCKET BOOK OF CRAFT BEER (Dog 'n' Bone, 2016, 208 pages, $21.95 CAD paperbound) is by Mark Dredge. He covers 300 different beers arranged by style, from Pilsner to Stout to Extreme Beers. His scope is International, so Canada is included. Features all the deets plus an image of the beer bottle.
--PARISIAN COCKTAILS (Ryland Peters & Small, 2016, 128 pages, $21.95 hardbound) is by Laura Gladwin. Here are 65 elegant drinks from Paris (spirits, Champagne cocktails, disgestifs) along with some amuse bouche. Good illustrations, and fancy foods.
--SHAKE.STIR.SIP (Chronicle Books, 2016, 128 pages, $ CAD hardbound) is by Kara Newman. Here are 50 effortless cocktails, each made in equal parts (e.g. Negroni, Martini) so there is no real exact measuring needed. These are all the most popular cocktails, easy to make with a minimum of bar glasses and garnishes and other add-ons.
--THE POCKET BOOK OF COCKTAILS (Ryland Peters & Small, 2016, 176 pages, $19.95 CAD paperbound) is packed with 150 easy cocktails devised by leading bartenders plus a beginner's guide to cocktail making equipment and glassware.
--CUBAN COCKTAILS (Ryland Peters & Small, 2016, 128 pages, $19.95 CAD hardbound) has been compiled by Katherine Bebo. There are about 60 recipes for mojitos, daiquiris, and other rum drinks, both classic and contemporary, from Havana. The thought of Cuba is very popular right now: get there before the Americans do...
--COCKTAILS FOR DRINKERS (Countryman Press, 2016, 144 pages, $19.50 CAD) is by Jennifer McCartney who stresses the basic side of drinks with red wine, spritzers, Bellinis, etc. The subtitle says "not even remotely artisanal". These drinks have three ingredients or less that get to the point of wit and verve. The emphasis is on drinking.
--GIN; shake, muddle, stir (Hardie Grant Books, 2016, 144 pages, $ CAD hardbound) is by Dan Jones who believes in top brand selection for gins. He's got material on stocking the home bar, DIY infusions and syrups, and a range of garnishes. These are 40 of the best gin drink cocktails, including his fave, the Dirty Martini with its caperberry brine.
--SPRITZ (Ten Speed Press, 2016, 166 pages, $24.99 CAD) is by Talia Baiocchi and Leslie Pariseau. Spritzes are Italy's iconic apertivos, and of course the authors provide a wide-range of drinks that come from a variety of US bartenders. They tell how to build a spritz bar. There are also food recipes to accompany the drinks: sardines, tuna, olives, almonds – much like Spanish tacos. Try the Negroni Sbagliato (prosecco replaces gin) or Venetia Spritz (bitters-prosecco-soda).
--THE BOOK OF DANGEROUS COCKTAILS (Castle Point Books/St. Martins Press, 2016, 156 pages, $20.99 CAD hardbound) is on the Mary Jane wagon. It's by Dylan March and Jennifer Boudinot, who present us with adventurous recipes for serious drinkers. Many are excessively alcoholic or not diluted enough, but others are made with marijuana-infused gin and other such infusions, to create "Smokin' Sidecar" or "Wake 'n' Bake". A laid back book, although I would have thought alcohol alone would do the trick. For your new weedwacker friend...
Annual calendars are always monster hits and are often appreciated, both the wall and the desk type. The best of the desk are the "page-a-day" (PAD) calendars from Workman. A YEAR OF GOOD BEER 2017 (Workman, 2016, $19.99 CAN) has a combined Saturday and Sunday page. Price is up $2 over last year. Most of the beers appear as imports in Canada, but otherwise there are few Canadian brews included. Lights, wheat, lagers, ales, porters, stouts, seasonal beers, and lambrics – they're all here, 165 or so craft beers. Check out Brew Dog's The End of History at 55% ABV. Other material in this PAD includes beer festivals, beer facts, food and beer pairing, tasting notes, label lore, trivia, and vocabulary. There are also "must-try" US beer recommendations. If you buy any of the PAD calendars, then you can go online to the website and pick up other, free stuff, at www.pageaday.com.
For wall calendars, there is HOMEGROWN GOODNESS SIMPLE PLEASURES CALENDAR 2017 (Workman, 2016, $19.99 CAN) which has homespun touches on foods. Each month features full-colour graphics, many combined with a hand-lettered saying. A juicy summer tomato ("Start fresh!"), a bundle of Indian corn, a festive holiday ornament ("Tis the season to be jolly"). Packaged with 12 colour recipe cards. On the wall too is OLD FARMERS ALMANAC BEST-LOVED RECIPES 2017 (Yankee Publishing, 2016, $11.99 CAD), this time including puffed apple pancake, pasta, cheese, and teas.
And for other non-book items, there have been many blank books this year. For the home chef, there is OUR RECIPE JOURNAL (Ryland Peters & Small, 2016, 224 pages, $26.95 CAD hardbound), a guided blank journal designed so that you can record all of your fave recipes to create a unique legacy to pass down. There are sections of lined pages and prompts to remind you to add cooking times and difficulty ratings. There are also ribbon markers and a slipcase. There is a CRAFT BEER TASTING KIT (Dog 'n' Bone, 2016, $29.95 CAD kit) with a 64-page paperback, 20 beer mats, a flavour wheel, 200 tasting notes and a bottle opener. But no beers – buy those yourself. Sales of craft beers in North America total over $25 billion annually; you are going to need some help in sorting through all these! Other useful items: KITCHEN STICKY NOTES (Chronicle Books, 2016, $19.95 CAD) is a collection of shopping reminders and to-do lists to keep you organized – 150 sticky flags, 50 lists, and 50 sticky notes, each coming with a colour drawing of a fruit or veggie. BEHIND THE BAR (Chronicle Books, 2016, $24.95 CAD) are two tea towels of classic designs for your bar. 100% cotton with silk screened designs (50 x 71 cm). COCKTAIL COASTERS (Chronicle Books, 2016, $22.50 CAD) is a set of 15 re-usable cocktail coasters with recipes. There are three each of five designs (e.g. Dirty Martini) and a storage box.
And so on to the wine annuals. The international leader is HUGH JOHNSON'S POCKET WINE BOOK 2017 (Mitchell Beazley, 2016, 336 pages, $18.99 CAD hardbound) a guide to wines from all around the world, not just to the "best" wines. Johnson claims more than 6000 wines and growers are listed. News, vintage charts and data, glossaries, best value wines, and what to drink now are here. This is his 40th edition and he marks this anniversary . His book is arranged by region; there are notes on the 2015 vintage and a few details about the potential of 2016, along with a closer look at the 2014. He's got notes on what wines are ready to drink in 2017. There is a section on food and wine matching and also a listing of his personal 200 fave wines.
In Canada, we have THE 500 BEST-VALUE WINES IN THE LCBO: 2017 (Whitecap, 2016, 230 pages, $19.95 CAN paperbound) takes a run at the wines for sale in Ontario at the government-run LCBO. This ninth edition by Rod Phillips, wine scribe for the Ottawa Citizen, has wines arranged by wine colour and then by region/country with price and CSPC number. He tasted 1500 wines. Each of the 500 value wines gets a rating (the basic is now 3.5 stars out of five; there have not been any 3 star wines since 2011), and there is an indication of food pairings. A good guidebook, but I'm afraid most people will just look through it for the 5 star selections and leave it at that. Turnover in Ontario occurs regularly as quotas are unmet or prices rise or the producer decides it is time for a change; there are over 100 new entries this year. Coverage is limited to LCBO General Purchase wines and LCBO Vintages Essentials, the wines that are available (if only by special internal order) in every LCBO store. Phillips has also included the LCBO perceived sweetness notations rather than the older Sugar Codes, and he has included some space at each wine for the reader to make personal notes.
If you have the money (this outsized winebook is definitely not a stocking stuffer) and know someone who likes Australian wines, you'll get great pleasure out of HALLIDAY WINE COMPANION 2017 (Hardie Grant Books, 2016, 776 pages, $56.99 CAD paperbound) by James Halliday, who has been at wine writing for over 45 years. This is the definitive guide to Australian wines. He gives us data about the wineries and their vineyards, deets on addresses, social media, opening hours, names and other numbers, followed by detailed tasting notes, vintage-specific ratings, advice on optimal drinking period, ABV, and prices. There are supposed to have been some 9,000 wines tasted for this edition, and he has full tasting notes for 3963 (couldn't he push it up to 4K?), ratings and prices for 3645 other wines, 1302 winery profiles (68 are new wineries), "best of" lists and five-star wineries listed. There are vintage charts and maps plus multiple indexes. But I am sure if he got together with his Kiwi counterpart, they could come up with some antipodean pocket guide at 256 pages to cover both countries and sell it in North America and the UK, sure to be a winner...