Another year, another pile of cookbooks. I’ve added some amazing titles to my cookbook collection this year, but eight in particular are in heavy rotation in my family kitchen, which I think makes them among the best cookbooks for families–indispensable resources especially for parents. Because hey, we aren’t just home cooks; we’re time-crunched, picky-busting, budget-watching home cooks who are constantly trying to feed multiple tastes. There are many fabulous cookbooks from this year, but it takes special cookbooks like these eight that I’ve narrowed down, to provide parents just what we need to get the family cooking job done right.
In no particular order, here are my favorites. Happy not-ordering-sushi!
This is post is part of of our annual series of Editors Picks of the Year. No pay-for-play, no contests to enter, no voting. Just the things we’ve loved in 2014 that we think deserve an extra nod for coolness.
Homemade Decadence: Irresistibly Sweet, Salty, Gooey, Sticky, Fluffy, Creamy, Crunchy Treats by Joy the Baker
Most of the cookbooks on this list help parents get simple, delicious, adaptable dinners on the table fast, but why start with dinner when you can start with dessert? Homemade Decadence ($18.00) is the latest cookbook by Joy Wilson of the genius blog, Joy The Baker. Joy isn’t a parent, but she’s a kid at heart in the most charming way and her recipes are all about simple comforts. This book is full of whimsical but unfussy recipes that everyone in the family will love and that will make you look like a rock star at the next school bake sale. Isn’t that worth the purchase price alone?
Dinner: The Playbook: A 30-Day Plan for Mastering the Art of the Family Meal by Jenny Rosenstrach.
While talking strategy books, we need to talk about Dinner: The Playbook ($15.02) by Jenny Rosenstrach. Jenny is among the finest family food writers of our time. As a working mom herself (with impressive stints at Cookie and Real Simple), she truly understands the pressures working against parents at mealtime. Her recipes are simple and accessible, and she shares a ton of hard-earned wisdom for making the job of being the family cook a little easier. If you want as much practical advice as as you do recipes, this book is for you.
The Kitchn Cookbook: Recipes, Kitchens & Tips to Inspire Your Cooking by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand
I must admit that the recipes in The Kitchn Cookbook ($24.88) by our friends Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand of the wonderful Apartment Therapy cooking site, The Kitchn, may seem more adventurous for some families. But I maintain that this is a must-have family cookbook for all. With plenty of perfectly executed simple family recipes like Spiced Apple Cranberry Muffins, Foolproof Salmon Baked with Olive Oil and Herbs, and Slow Cooker Carnitas, there’s something in here for everyone. Plus, it’s packed with tips like 50 essential techniques to build your skills and gorgeous kitchens that will make you swoon. I guarantee that this cookbook will be on your counter all year long.
The Skinnytaste Cookbook: Light on Calories, Big on Flavor by Gina Homolka
If you’re a fan of the wildly popular blog Skinnytaste you’re going to love The Skinnytaste Cookbook ($17.55) by Gina Homolka. If you’re not already familiar with Skinnytaste, get ready for a new addiction—and one that won’t cause you to pack on the pounds. Check out the site and if you love it as much as I know you will, buy the book. Gina’s straightforward recipes turn out healthy versions of classic family meals like Buttermilk Oven “Fried” Chicken and cheesy Noodle-less Zucchini Lasagna. Yes, cheesy. And her recipe testers lost weight while working on this book. Enough said.
Related: 6 cookbooks every parent should own
The Make Ahead Cook by the Editors at America’s Test Kitchen
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of The Make Ahead Cook ($17.97)–you can read a full, swooning cookbook review on my site One Hungry Mama—and who can blame me. It’s a cookbook packed with more than 150 family-friendly recipes that can be made ahead of time. As in, not at 5:30 pm when I know I can be at my worst as far as meal-planning. The book breaks “make-ahead” down into seven categories, so don’t worry about being forced to spend your Sunday cooking in bulk. With recipes like Slow-Cooker Japanese Pork and Ramen Soup and Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage, there’s something in here for most every family.
Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship by Ashley Rodriguez
Date Night In ($18.70) may not sound like a family cookbook, but it most certainly is. If you ask me, taking time to cook for yourself and for your partner is essential to becoming a happier, or at least more satisfied, family cook. If home cooking is always about the kids, the chore is bound to get boring. This pretty book from top food blogger, restaurant consultant, professional cooking instructor, and mom of three (phew!) Ashley Rodriguez is packed with mouthwatering recipes. I find that each make you fall in love with the idea of taking back your kitchen and remind you of how lovely and pleasurable food can be—even a dinner at home. Remember those times before kids? If not, grab this book stat.
100 Days of Real Food: How We Did It, What We Learned, and 100 Easy, Wholesome Recipes Your Family Will Love by Lisa Leake
If you’re a family looking for simple ways to commit to healthier eating, then 100 Days of Real Food ($17.99)is especially for you. This isn’t a crazy health nut cookbook. Quite the opposite: the recipes in this book are simple dishes made with grownups and kids in mind, without any processed or refined foods. With recipes like Corn Chowder, Frozen Yogurt Pops and Cinnamon Raisin Quick Bread, this book is back to basics in the easiest—and most delicious—way.
Whole-Grain Mornings: New Breakfast Recipes to Span the Seasons by Megan Gordon
Okay so maybe this one is a little cheat; Whole-Grain Mornings was published in December 2013 (so close!), but I couldn’t let it slip by without a mention. This is not the kind of cookbook you’ll pull out on a Monday morning–or any other frantic weekday for that matter–but it’s full of healthy inspiration for the most important meal of the day. If you like making Saturday and Sunday brunch, and are willing to prep healthy breakfast foods, or if you just love the idea of gathering more wholesome and totally delicious breakfast inspiration for those leisurely Sunday mornings, this book is a must-have.
Look for these books at your local indie bookstore or find them at our Amazon affiliate. Also, check out our picks for the best family cookbooks of 2013 which are all still fantastic.