(Cook) Books I’m Loving Right Now.

I find that the coldest, darkest time of the year (ahem, as in right now) is when I find myself the most inspired in the kitchen.

Every day is a new adventure. A new recipe. A new plan.

What can I cook today that will heat up the house this frosty morning?

What can I serve my family that will warm their bodies and fill up their souls?

Yes, food is that for us.

It is comfort.

It is happiness.

It is necessary (isn’t that great?!).

And it just so happens that our freezers are stocked after a long harvest, butchering, and hunting season. So it’s easy to get inspired when you have so much at hand.

And while I have many favorite recipes to choose from, I know well that the only way those favored recipes are found is by trying something new. Yet the more I cook, the pickier I have become about the quality of the recipes I use and try out.

I think back to my college days when my best meal was pan fried pork chops (dry and overdone, of course), Rice-a-Roni, and a can of corn. I’m relieved to say that my cooking abilities have grown beyond that. {Not to discourage ANY young fledgling just flown the nest from doing their best to prepare themselves a meal. Or anyone, any age, for that matter. Do it to it}.

But now, when I take on a new recipe, there are just certain standards that I live by.

  1. Nothing prepackaged (think: biscuits in a can and premade pie crust) or overly processed (I say overly, because basically anything you buy in a store that is in a box, can, bag, jar, or has a label is processed in some way, but not necessarily one of the “evil” processed foods like chicken nuggets, microwave popcorn, or pop). No canned cream soups. No boxed anything. Just real, raw ingredients.
  2. How much of that recipe can I procure myself? Does it require that I purchase extensively outside of what I raise or grow?

Thankfully I have found some really great cookbooks this year that cater to my personal guidelines and encourage me to be creative along the way. It’s like finding a kindred spirit in the form of a book. Authors who grasp the importance of homegrown food and real ingredients. Those who understand eating with the seasons, rather than against them. Those who get the sheer and utter joy of something we must all do, every day: eating.

And today I wanted to share them with you should you be finding yourself hungry (yes, pun intended) for recipes that inspire and nourish your culinary demands.

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Gatherby Gill Meller

If you love pretty cookbooks just because they are pretty, then get this book. Because the photography is absolutely stunning.

But if you love a pretty cookbook that serves awesome recipes too, then also get this book. Gill Meller not only encourages you to eat with the seasons, but to take a second look at what grows around you and take advantage. Nature provides what we need, and he takes it to an upscale yet simple level. He allows the ingredients to both shine and compliment one another.

The recipes are broken down into categories: Farm, Seashore, Garden, Orchard, Field, Woodland, Moor, and Harbor. And although Gill features his native British landscape and its bounty, almost everything can be found here too, or a reasonable substitute. In addition, I love that he provides recipes for using the not-so-common things such as pig cheek and lamb kidneys. Things that many might not have on hand, but I happen to have in my freezer and am always looking for inspiring ways to honor the less appreciated parts. You can find everything from squirrel to hedgehog, oxtail to mutton, partridge to trout, and everything in between. Herbs galore and plenty of raw vegetables. Pork rinds and fresh fruit. This book has it all, and shows it off in a remarkably beautiful, delicious way.


Homestead Kitchenby Eve and Eivin Kilcher

If you watch Alaska the Last Frontier, you are probably familiar with Eve and Eivin Kilcher. A great family show that features homestead life and the importance of growing, hunting, and harvesting your own food. Being from NE Minnesota, we live in a climate that is nearly identical to many parts of Alaska. It is not uncommon for people who live here to move to Alaska, or vice versa. I myself lived in Alaska for a short time when I was a little girl. We have short growing seasons and long, hard winters. But we also enjoy the woods, wild game, and an abundance of berries and other wild edibles. So when Homestead Kitchen came out, I knew I just had to have it as quite likely the ingredients list would be readily available in my neck of the woods. And I was right.

Like Gather, Homestead Kitchen is also broken down into categories. From the: Garden, Berry Patch & Orchard, Henhouse, Sea, Forest, Milking Shed, Root Cellar, Hunt, Pantry, Family Favorites Recipe Box.

I knew that I would find recipes for northern climate fruits such as crab apples, rhubarb, blueberries, and currants.

And I would find dishes that feature cold climate-friendly vegetables like kale & greens, root veggies, and brassicas.

And that wild game like venison would be featured over beef.

Check, check, and check.

Not only do you get all that, but you get beautifully written personal stories and snippets along the way. If you don’t know the show, you will come to know these two, and love them. I know I do.

What to make first? The Bone Marrow Soup got five stars and two thumbs up from my kale-hating husband. And the Mountain Stew was scarfed down by my daughter like nobody’s business. Me? The Garden of Eden salad is as pretty and tasty as a salad can get. Try them all, and more.


Family Tableby Shaye Elliott

Of all the homestead bloggers out there, there’s nobody I love more than Shaye. She’s real, honest, funny, and- most importantly- understands the importance of food and how to honor it. She cooks with all the things I do, which is convenient. But she doesn’t make food complicated. Even if you are an inexperienced cook, you can follow her recipes and make something awesome. And she will probably make you laugh along the way with her witty taglines and raw sense of humor. (Who doesn’t need some of that?).

I can honestly say that I have yet to try a recipe of hers that isn’t good. Seriously. Every single one I’ve tried has been delicious. And I think that really speaks for her style of cooking. It’s simple. It doesn’t use crazy ingredients that overpowers or distracts from what you are cooking.

And on top of all that, she gets that every meal should be a celebration. This is something that I’ve wrapped my arms around and embraced. Every meal. Every day. It should be produced and served and enjoyed with so much love. It means we don’t set aside one day on one month in one year to feast. It means we do it without provocation, without a date on a calendar telling us to do so. We do it as God intended. He created an endless variety of foods for our enjoyment. And so, we enjoy.

Shaye gets that. And if you do, too, then you need to get this book.

So where to start? How about some Killer Pork Tacos. Or Chop Salad with Chive Cream. Or Easy Chocolate Mousse. But no matter what, try the Creamy Carrot Cake. I can’t even count how many times I’ve made and enjoyed that cake.


The Farmby Ian Knauer

This one got a lot of use during the gardening season. And it’s easy to see why. “The Farm” takes you through the earliest of crops like arugula, baby carrots, spinach, baby turnips, and baby lettuce. And progresses through the season, featuring recipes that use what’s available at that time so you can make the most out of what’s in season without (1) having it go to waste, or (2) feeling like you have to go out and buy half of the ingredients. I often referenced this book when putting together recipe ideas for my CSA members. So if you are a regular at the farmers market, a member of a CSA, or grow your own garden, you will get a lot of mileage out of this cookbook.

Favorites? Mustard-Garlic Venison Roast and the Kale and Toasted Walnut Salad.


Bread Illustratedfrom America’s Test Kitchen

This has been my most favorite winter time baking book yet. Because this is the only time that I can spend hours indoors without feeling guilty about it. And because nothing warms the house like a day of bread baking.

If you love the science behind cooking and baking, you are probably familiar with America’s Test Kitchen or Cook’s Country or any of the affiliates. I love that each recipe has been tested over and over again until that perfect result is found. Good news for people like you and I who don’t have the time to spend hours baking something, only to have it flop. Or taste like crap. Or turn out dry. Or any combination thereof.

This book offers recipes for a range of levels of ability. From easy quick sandwich breads to daunting baguettes. From basic cinnamon rolls to more advanced braided and styled pastries. Wherever your confidence level lies, “Bread Illustrated” will help give you the courage to make advancement in your bread baking abilities.

I love that each recipe gives a list of the needed tools, so you are not caught off guard when you are asked to “mist the dough” or use a pizza peel. Many recipes also include troubleshooting tips. On top of that, this is another book that has yet to give me a failed recipe. Every single one has been good. So buy this one with confidence!


No matter your cooking style, preference, or ability, I hope you come to love and enjoy food as it should be. I hope that it is not merely a chore for you. I hope that it is thoughtful and created with intention.

But if it isn’t, and you would like it to be, then get inspired.

Dig up some new recipes.

Find that cookbook that inspires you.

All of these books I’ve shared today do that for me. Perhaps they will do the same for you.

Happy cooking, my friends.

About yellowbirchhobbyfarm

Hi! I'm Erin, a 19th-century homesteader at heart. Here at Yellow Birch Hobby Farm we practice self-sustainable living by way of organic gardening, canning & preserving, raising a variety of livestock, hunting, foraging, and cooking from scratch. And here at our blog, we share it all with you! So glad you've found us.

4 comments on “(Cook) Books I’m Loving Right Now.

    • Because we don’t buy beef, we only ever have venison or bear. I substitute ground venison for any recipe that calls for ground beef. Are you more looking for a recipe that masks that flavor of the meat? I cringe even as I type that because I think venison is utterly delicious, but I’m wondering if that is what you’re going for…

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