5 Great Cookbooks for Gardeners and Homesteaders

June 18, 2018

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My husband and I cook.  A lot.  Well, most of the time he cooks and I bake.


These days its so easy to browse a site like Epicurious or Yummly and find a great new idea for dinner (pro tip - read the reviews to learn from other peoples' mistakes and improvements).  


But there is also something really nice about the old school cookbook, especially the ones that you can turn to over and over again and know that they will be reliable.  


As a gardener and part-time homesteader, I want a cookbook that helps me to use fresh, real food - whole grains, vegetables from the garden, pure ingredients that I feel good about for my family.  It also doesn't hurt if the recipes also help me to get more bang for our buck with inexpensive bulk ingredients or ways to make things at home that we would otherwise buy.


You know you've landed on a good one when there are slips of paper hanging out of many of the pages, food stains on your favorite recipes, dog-eared pages, and wrinkled covers.  


Here are some of the most beaten-up and well-loved books on our shelf:



The New Best Recipe from the Editors of Cooks Illustrated

If you were only to buy one cookbook (maybe you have a small kitchen?) this is the one.  A virtual encyclopedia of recipes, this is the first place we turn whenever we have an idea of something we want to cook and want to find the best version of the recipe.  The staff at America's Test Kitchen try multiple variations of everything from hummus to coque au vin and tell you what they discovered is the absolute best way to cook it.  


Our most do-eared pages:

  • Lasagne (meat and veggie)

  • Hummus 

  • Chicken Pot Pie

  • Scones

  • Steel Cut Oats

  • Summer Berry Pie

  • German or French Potato Salad

  • Chocolate Cake (any of the variations!)


Whole Grain Baking from King Arthur Flour

Did I mention I love baking?  My sweet tooth has an incredible power over my daily decisions, so its become pretty important to find ways to make baked goods more healthy in our household.  We started experimenting with whole grain cooking and we haven't looked back.


This cookbook from King Arthur is another outstanding reference book. It tells you about how to substitute whole grains in many of your favorite recipes while also supplying hundreds of well-tested ones to try.


Our most dog-eared pages:

  • Carrot Cake - substitute applesauce for half of the oil for an even healthier version

  • Chewy Oatmeal cookies - which can always become chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies 

  • Brownies (any and all variations!)

Dinosaur Bar-B-Cue 

Among it's colleagues that are more "all-purpose" this specialty cookbook from one of my husband's favorite restaurants is amazingly diverse in its recipes.  While my husband uses it as a go-to for grilling and other meat preparations, I actually love a number of the recipes for vegetarian and side dishes.  If you can't eat the the Dinosaur, at least you can try to replicate their awesome food at home!


Our most dog-eared pages:

  • Corn and Potato Chowder

  • Honey Hush Corn Bread

  • Grill-Smoked Salmon

  • Texas Beef Brisket

  • Mean Money Greens

  • Black Beans & Rice

  • Chicken Vesuvio

The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

One of our best money-saving strategies, not to mention one that has upped the health factor of our eating, is making our own bread.  But we use the no-knead method described in this book to make it possible to fit bread making into our daily lives!  It is utterly amazing and easy.  We now make our own bread about 2 or 3 times a month (read our article on getting started with bread making or our follow-up article on our favorite ingredients to learn more!).

Our most dog-eared pages:

  • Honey Oatmeal (also good with maple instead of honey)

  • 100% Whole Wheat

  • "American" Whole Wheat (half whole wheat, half all purpose)


Ball's Complete Book of Home Preserving

Ok, so this isn't technically a cook book so much as a canning book.  But if you are a homesteader or a gardener and you don't have this book on your shelf you are missing one of the most valuable resources for preserving your harvest.  We use this as our go to, though we sometimes alter recipes for low sugar or honey variations.  There are too many dog-eared pages to mention, but if you've ever considered canning you should own this book.


What would you add to this list?


Happy Cooking!  (or baking, or canning...)






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