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Cook Like Me: My 7 Favorite Cookbooks

Friday, July 18, 2008

When you want to eat healthy for life, learning how to cook is essential. Choosing healthy, whole ingredients and using healthy cooking methods is one of the best and easiest ways to ensure that what you're eating is good for you (and isn't just masquerading as healthy at the store or from a restaurant). One of the easiest ways to start learning your way around the kitchen is to try out a new cookbook.

It's no secret that I'm a long-time vegetarian, so all of my favorite cookbooks are vegetarian ones. But don't write them off if you eat meat yourself! Here's why: For one, food prices are rising, and that means meat prices are going up, too. Opting for meatless meals—even just once or twice a week—can save you money. But even if money isn't an issue, many major health organizations say we'd be better off if we relied less on meat to make a meal. Plus the carbon footprint of meat is high—it takes more natural resources and produces more waste to bring meat to market than to grow food from plants. But at the very least, we could all benefit by consuming more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and these cookbooks will help you do all of those things.

The picture above is from my very own kitchen, where I keep my cookbooks close at hand. I've written about some of these in former blog entries, so I’m going to give abbreviated reasons as to why each of these is great.

  1. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. My top pick! In addition to being one of the thickest cookbooks ever (hello tons of recipes that never get old), this book really teaches you about food (like when it's in season, how to pick it, prepare it, store it, etc.) AND gives you great information about HOW to cook. I learn something every time I open it up.

  2. Vive Le Vegan! by Dreena Burton. Vegan cooking is very creative and uses foods and products that might be new to you, but it's also low in fat, cholesterol-free and dairy-free, which is great for people with health conditions or sensitivities. This book has great dessert and snack recipes.

  3. RAW: The Uncook Book by Juliano. This guy started a successful raw vegan restaurant in California. While I don't recommend a 100% raw diet, some of these recipes are to die for: guacamole, delicious and beautiful salads, dehydrated fruits and "grawnolas," and more. It's fun and adventurous!

  4. The Candle Café Cookbook by Joy Pierson, Bart Potenza, and Barbara Scott-Goodman. This is great for all the "foodies" out there who like to cook more complicated, gourmet and exotic food. The recipes come from the successful Candle Café vegan restaurant in New York City.

  5. How it All Vegan by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard. This is by far the best cookbooks for vegan food. Every recipe I've ever made from this was a hit, even with meat eaters. My favorites are the Sloppy Joes (you'd never know they're meatless) and Spicy Black Bean Burgers. These recipes are easy to make and use pretty common ingredients, too.

  6. The Garden of Vegan by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard. This is the follow-up to the book above. In addition to yummy recipes like oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (which use healthy ingredients like whole wheat flour), it also has recipes for non-toxic cleaning supplies and home beauty products.

  7. The New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook by Louise Hagler and Dorothy R. Bates. The photos and styling in this book look as old as it truly is (1975). These vegetarian foods are like "comfort" foods to me, and if you're interested in cooking more soy foods, this is the book for you.
    What's your favorite healthy cookbook? Share in the comments below!


Member Comments About This Blog Post:
BABY77A 2/24/2012 10:35PM

    good ideas

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BABY77A 2/24/2012 10:34PM

    thanks for the variety of cookbooks.

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SHERISMILEY 2/17/2012 9:30AM

    I love all kinds of cookbooks...I have several vegan cookbooks myself yet I do not have any of yours. Thank you soo much for sharing your favorites. One of my favorite cookbooks is a diet book but has tons of plant strong recipes that are delish. The Engine 2 diet book. Check it out if you have a chance. It was written by Rip Esselstyn..his dad is a famous cardiologist who is also plant strong!!His Dads book is Reverse Heart Disease and his wife wrote tons of recipes into the book which are all very good.

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USE2BWILD 8/22/2011 11:48AM

    So informative! Thank you!!!!!!!!! emoticon emoticon

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TEACHINMOM 10/29/2010 12:01PM

    I'm not a vegetarian but I do like to incorporate healthy, meatless meals into our menu. The Spicy Black Bean Burgers are one of our weekly favorites (yes, the kids even love them-including the picky one!) and are very inexpensive to feed the family. Thanks for the list! I think I'll be checking some of these out at our next library visit.

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NIMMYT 3/21/2010 6:10PM

    emoticon I have two of these cookbooks on order... RAW: The Uncook Book and How it all Vegan. I'll let you know how I like them. Of course being an Indian, I have to say that any cookbooks from India have the most awesome vegetarian dishes. What I especially like about Indian vegetable dishes is that they are not smothered in cheese & cream. They use spices, onions, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes to make veggies taste scrumptious! emoticon

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WWDROPOUT 8/31/2009 11:33AM

  The longer I am on SP the more I love it. You can grab a five to ten minute blog and learn so much. I am 58 and never knew how little I know. . . hmmmm. I love veggies more than meat but often tolerate the meat end for hubby. I enjoy it ok, but bring on veggies more and more. We were also meat and potato kids, but Mom had at least three vegetables most nights. Of course there were seven of us so that has some bearing as well. Glad to be here.

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MIKE39 6/5/2009 10:36PM

  Mark Bitman's Vegetarian cookbook is great - Although he has stated that he does not plan to be a vegetarian - Oh Well - - His "Everything Cookbook" is the best overall cookbook I have ever found - From "How to really boil an egg" to the exotics. Nicole, thanks for your favorite list. I have added several to my Amazon wish list for the future -

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STEPFANIER 1/20/2009 5:17PM

  neat-o mosquito! emoticon

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COACH_NICOLE 1/20/2009 5:15PM


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PIEGAL 1/18/2009 6:42PM

    I love How it all vegan! What a great cookbook. I'm personally not vegan, but I am a chef and have made many of the recipes from there and they are great. I really like the recipes for condiment and ingredient substitutions. Good recommendation!

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DEBSPAD 8/4/2008 11:40AM

    In October of '07 I got my hands on "Skinny Bitch", pardon the title, but it was an eye opener of sure. They have a cookbook as well, "Skinny Bitch in the Kitch", pretty good, but I have strayed from that eating. I came across this Blog and I am SO happy that I did. I am going to check out some of your fav's for sure. Thank You for sharing!

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JAYELKAY 8/3/2008 6:53PM

    Thank you for the great advice! It's always motivating to try a new cookbook, and I appreciate learning about nutrition and cooking tips. I need all the help I can get, to eat healthy! emoticon

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FUNNYSCRIBBLER 7/31/2008 11:10PM

    Thanks for the list. Library trip was already planned for tomorrow, I'll go looking!

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OMMYANDASH 7/31/2008 5:03PM

  I'm not much of a meat eater and I enjoy reading about the vegetarian lifestyle. Thanks

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CATTOLOSE 7/25/2008 8:45AM

    I love all kinds of cookbooks and I would like to limit our meat eating to maybe 3 days a week. I will definitely get one of these books as I love trying new recipes. I do not like tofu, or maybe I just need to give it another try. I do love soups loaded with veggies as does my meat loving husband.

Comment edited on: 7/25/2008 8:43:55 AM

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FITGIRL15 7/22/2008 11:39PM

    My current favorite cook book is "The Eat Clean Cook Book"... but I also really LOVE vegertarian meals because there is always more spices involved in them! Yummy! So much MORE flavor then just meat and potatoes (like I was brought up on!)

emoticon I must check out your top 3 picks! I love a new cookbook to spice things up (literally) in the FOOD arena! Thanks!!!

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ENNBEE 7/22/2008 7:26PM

  Very enticing book reviews!

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ELAINEVDW 7/22/2008 3:44PM

    Thanks for the tips! I'm not a strict vegetarian, but whenever a new recipe calls for raw meat... yuck, I just plain don't feel like cooking it.

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SALLYHP79 7/22/2008 12:25PM

    Even though I think I'll always eat meat, there are many foods that I just enjoy better with tofu, or without any meat/meat substitute. I love finding vegetarian alternatives, and completely agree that it saves money (and often time) to cook vegetarian meals...especially during harvest season when you can get 'fresh' fruits and veggies from local farmers!

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BOZIE1 7/22/2008 11:43AM

  I'm not vegetarian, but find this very interesting. Makes me question myself and think of becoming one.

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    Thank you for this! im still new to the vegetarian lifestyle and ive been in search for more recipes. do you recommend any just standard books on vegetarianism? about nutrition, etc?

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LILL7778 7/22/2008 10:39AM

    Vegetarian cooking can be amazing. Whats even more amazing is most meat eaters don't even know its veggie until its told to them haha. Our little secret?

Thank you for sharing this with me I will have to check some of these books out. emoticon

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JAMESMOMMY2004 7/22/2008 9:39AM

    I love vegetarian cooking. If my husband weren't such a meat eater we would have way more meatless meals around this house. My son is basically a vegetarian already anyway!!

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NICOLE2112 7/21/2008 9:36PM

    Wow, there are some great books here. Thanks for taking the time to share!

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    Thank you for sharing these. As a new vegan, I am looking for good cookbooks.

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BLKHAIR 7/21/2008 3:22PM

  thanks for sharing

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RAYKAZ 7/21/2008 3:01PM

  Thanks so much for all this wonderful information. Its true what you say, about the meat carbon foot print and very interesting too.
I couldn't stop reading it was better than any novel. Keep this information coming. I have been vegetarian for as long as I can remember. About 35 years, and I wouldn't change anything about it. By the way I'm in Bournemouth in England.


Comment edited on: 7/21/2008 3:03:22 PM

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BLUEGREENGIRL 7/21/2008 1:06PM

    Thanks for sharing this, as a vegetarian I am always looking for new suggestions!

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BSHOWELL 7/21/2008 8:55AM

    Hm I might pick up a book or two.

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2BESMALLAGAIN 7/21/2008 7:11AM

  Thanks so much for the list of vegetarian cookbooks. The first one I want that you listed is the Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Thanks again! emoticon

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EARLYSNOW 7/21/2008 12:07AM

    I have quite a few vegetarian cookbooks but no real favorites. For the past year I have subscribed to a blog called fatfreevegan at for inspiration and to get me out of the cooking blahs when I don't have any ideas or I am tired of the same things. The blogger, Susan V, makes a lot of soups and stews, which I like, too. I make up my own, but it's good to get new ideas, and she puts nutritional values in her recipes. (She also has some recipes from an older site that do not have nutritional information.)

She links to other vegan and vegetarian recipe blogs. The calorie count of her recipes varies. Sometimes she has a dessert that is not low in calories, but she warns us. The comments are always worth reading for more information.

I recently tried her tofu mini quiches and they were good! I made her lasagne for my meat-eating husband for New Year's and he thought it was wonderful. I think she has black bean burgers, too, but I haven't tried them yet.

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QTOWNLADY 7/20/2008 11:43PM

    thank you for sharing your cookbooks with us, my favorite ones are my weight watchers cookbooks, i keep them on the shelf of my coffee table for easy access. i also collect cookbooks so i have about 200 so far and always looking for new and different ones.

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HZJEWL 7/20/2008 8:56PM

    Thanks for your list. I have How it All Vegan and The Garden of Vegan by Sarah Kramer and Tanya Barnard. All of that food on the cover just drew me in to find the recipes.

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BBTHOM1 7/20/2008 8:47PM

  Great listing of books

Barbara in NC

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BESTBET2 7/20/2008 8:33PM

    I am a big fan of Deborah Madison's, too. I use her Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone a lot. It has my favorite pancake recipe in it!

I'll check out your other suggestions, too. Thanks.


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BORITSLOKMO4 7/20/2008 4:38PM

  Thank you. I will check these out. I like chicken, fish, and pork chops, but I don't eat a whole lot of meat. This will give me some alternatives to getting the protein in my diet that I sometimes fall short of. Thanks!

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LOSINIT52 7/20/2008 1:05PM

    Thank you!
Most of these are available at my local library, so I will check them out and decide which ones to buy! emoticon

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LORI13A 7/20/2008 11:44AM

  My very favorite cookbook is "The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide" by Nicolette M. Dumke. My second favorite cookbook is "More-with-Less Cookbook" by Doris Longacre, followed closely by "The Allergy Self-help Cookbook" by Marjorie Jones, R.N.. I've recently started reading the Cook's Illustrated cookbook (The Best ... Cookbook). The recipes are fabulous and it's also an interesting read.

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TWEETSIE16404 7/19/2008 7:57PM

    My favorite cookbooks are the Healthy Exchanges cookbooks. You can check them out for yourself at
I am diabetic but I still love a good meal.

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GLOW8211 7/19/2008 5:12PM

    Thank you Coach Nicole. I want to start a vegetarian lifestyle and I know these books will help! emoticon emoticon

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COLEMANSR 7/18/2008 8:23PM

    Thanks for the titles to look at. Will check them out.

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CORPUSANNIE 7/18/2008 8:13PM

    I also use The New Farm Vegetarian (tofu spinach pie is a favorite)From the same era there's something called Laurel's Kitchen which is awesome. Are you familiar with this book?

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LAURAJK90 7/18/2008 4:03PM

    One of my best friends and fellow vegetarian, gave me the New Vegetarian Cuisine cookbook for Christmas. Since I have moved out of my parents meat and potato household I am finally able to eat right, and cook my own meals. I cook out of this book almost every night. There are nutrition facts and tons of wonderful recipes for any occasion! If you ever see the New Vegetarian Cuisine it is worth picking up! I adore that book. emoticon

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SHELLPRO 7/18/2008 2:32PM

    This is so true! Until I really started to research better health & nutrition? I thought opening a prepackaged food & adding butter & milk was cooking!
When I started to really cook with fresh wholesome ingredients & spices, it really opened my eyes & taste buds! Now I simply refruse unless nothing else is available, to eat those fast food nightmares or pre-package ready to eat meals! Of course, now I need a more book-shelves for all the cook books!

Comment edited on: 7/18/2008 2:31:46 PM

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JOHNBABJR 7/18/2008 12:54PM

    My wife went vegetarian last year and one of my daughters decided yesterday that she would like to try the vegetarian "lifestyle." I know they'll enjoy checking these books out. Great post, as always...

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MAURIZIA 7/18/2008 11:37AM

    Coach Nicole, I'll second the motion on Books 1, 2, 5 & 7 since I own them...Best thing I ever did was switch to a vegetarian palate - never enjoyed meat...and still don't!

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RAVON27 7/18/2008 11:25AM

    Thanks so much for the list of cookbooks. I've only been a vegetarian for 2 years now and bought 1 cookbook. "How To Cook Anything Vegetarian" I liked it because it tells you about everything and not just recipes, but I then realized that it has no nutritional count in it and I find it difficult to find something I like then put it on the recipe calculator. I even wrote to the author with no response. Hope some of these have nutritional values in them. Thanks again.

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ANEWME70 7/18/2008 11:13AM

  I think a lot of people are vegans at heart because we all know about how much more money is used to raise beef, chicken, etc. I am also against how the animals are raised and treated.

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