Cookbook Review: 8 of Our Favorites!

This cookbook review is a guest post by Kiran with input from Lisa. To learn more about Kiran check out our team page!

I’ve always been fond of cookbooks and recipes. Though time rarely permits, my idea of a lazy Sunday morning would, without a doubt, include leafing through cookbooks or magazines and dog-earing recipes that pique my interest.

While I’ve been a “conscious” eater (and cook) for about 20 years, lately my desires in recipes have gotten more focused. I should share that I’ve been frustrated in the past with cookbooks that had these fantastic-looking recipes that ended up flopping in my kitchen. While I admit that the faults may have absolutely been my own, these days I am looking for meals that won’t take hours to prepare and that are made with real and, when realistic, organic ingredients. I want successes and smart uses of food, and – with Lisa’s help – together we’ve found 8 cookbooks that have pleased our palates. We hope that you’ll find one to please yours, too!

The Homemade Pantry:  101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making

By Alana Chernila

Book Focus:

Homemade staples to replace common packaged-food versions (some “real food” recipe substitutions required for refined ingredients like white flour and sugar).


Alana Chernila is a young mother who, a few years back, was in the midst of trying to find out who and what she wanted to be when she grew up. Various past jobs, including teaching geometry and modern dance as well as working in architecture and design, hadn’t inspired her quite as much as her Saturday mornings spent at her local farmer’s market. And thus, she started the blog eating from the ground up to fulfill her recipe fix throughout the week.

The Scoop:

Chernila’s focus is on kicking the packaged-food habits, and through trials (and successes), she discovered that many things she was buying in packages could actually be made at home. Her goal is to share these secrets and rouse her readers to do just the same. From ketchup to canned tomatoes, butter to homemade ravioli, homemade nut butter or savory beef stew, The Homemade Pantry serves up nourishing recipes with a focus on savory staples and homemade go-to’s. And with a few substitutions, like whole-wheat flour instead of all purpose and honey instead of refined sugar, most of her recipes can easily adhere to our real food rules.

My Take:

Chernila’s book is set apart from many others, in my mind. I love the fact that it includes “simple” recipes such as homemade butter, spices and even mayonnaise – those which one may assume need to be store bought but can be so much better (in every sense of the word) when made at home. The rich photography and editorial within (Alana shares parts and pieces of her experiences with each recipe, as well as “tense moments” which we can all relate to) make it an enjoyable read, an added bonus. My only personal possible negative is that some recipes include a good number of steps, something that initially may scare me off. But the reality is that most are very realistic, even for those of us who are busy but still want the best foods on our tables and in our pantries.


The Homemade Pantry is available on Amazon for about $15 in paperback.

The Homemade Pantry: Ketchup

Deliciously Organic

By Carrie Vitt

Book Focus: 

Breakfast, side, salad, entree, and dessert recipes made with organic, unprocessed and whole ingredients.


Not so long ago, Vitt was a 25-year-old mother of two who was suffering from debilitating migraines. Changing out her foods and switching to organic brought immediate changes. But switching to all organics wasn’t all that delicious to begin with, she admits. Carrie comes from a “family of foodies,” she says, and she’d always had an interest in cooking and baking. Along with her interest came natural talent as well, and over time Carrie adapted recipes to make them tastier and more desirable. She began sharing these recipes with others through her blog, Deliciously Organic.  A little less than a year ago, Carrie’s first book was published.

The Scoop:

Perhaps the most inspiring thing about this book is the realness that Vitt offers. For many, the word “organic” can be intimidating, but Carrie shows through her own personal stories and successes (her family overcame severe asthma, eczema, IBS, and migraines by changing their eating) that not only can it be done, it can be done easily and realistically. And your recipes can look and taste good too! Vitt’s recipes have been professionally tested and have undergone many tweaks and changes to make them ones that you’ll keep coming back to.

My Take:

It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of Carrie Vitt and what she does over at Deliciously Organic. The biggest plus for me personally is that not only does her photography look fantastic, but the recipes are realistic and taste just as good as they look. Recipes range from those you can prepare in a jiffy to those that are perfect to present to company. I’ve had my eye on the Cottage Pie and my husband LOVED the Roasted Jalapeno Hamburgers. On my menu for this week – Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad.


Deliciously Organic is available on Amazon for about $23 in hardcover.

Deliciously Organic: Tomato Quiche

Super Natural Every Day

By Heidi Swanson

Book Focus:

Vegetarian recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, treats, and drinks using whole, natural foods.

History: Super-Natural-Every-Day-cookbook-review-100-Days-of-Real-Food

Swanson started a blog back in 2003 entitled 101 Cookbooks after acknowledging her obsession with cookbooks. “I looked up at my huge cookbook collection one afternoon and realized that instead of exploring the different books in my collection – I was cooking the same recipes over and over,” she says. (I am also guilty as charged, though I have magazines added to the list. I have a huge collection of them as well.) The intention of Swanson’s blog was to encourage her to stop purchasing cookbooks and to start trying new recipes. The blog would give her a place to discover and track new recipes, to document successes and failures, and to share these experiences with others.

The Scoop:

Super Natural Every Day debuted in 2011, second to Heidi’s first book, Super Natural Cooking. From her years of blogging, Swanson learned to incorporate whole foods (as opposed to refined) in uncomplicated yet delicious ways. A foodie, no doubt, Swanson’s second book shares 100 of her go-to recipes, the ones that she consistently goes back to. Recipes are globally-inspired with some including staples that you’re sure to have in your pantry, and a few which open your eyes to new (and sometimes unfamiliar) ingredients. The book has an earthy feel with fantastic photography taken by Swanson herself.

My Take:

This cookbook absolutely falls within one of my favorites. Not only do I love the photography, but the recipes themselves are wholesome, real and for the most part, simple. I personally can get intimidated with a long list of ingredients and a 2-page description of how to make something.  You’ll find the exact opposite here. Recipes are concise and with minimal steps – yet the results are amazing. Find simple creations such as Yogurt Biscuits to enticing entrees like Chickpea Stew, Broccoli Gribiche and more. One downside for me is that my family eats meat and poultry so I didn’t find recipes to suit in that category. Otherwise, it’s a definite thumbs-up.


Super Natural Every Day may be purchased on Amazon for about $13 in paperback.

Super Natural Every Day: Spring Minestrone with Brown Rice

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals

By Maria Speck

Book Focus:

A variety of Mediterranean-inspired recipes with a whole grain focus including use of old world staples such as farro, barley, polenta, and wheat berries.


Maria Speck grew up in Greece and Germany but moved to the US in 1993. Her earlier years brought her great knowledge and enormous experiences in preparing whole grain foods in the Northern European areas, a strong and influential factor. Fast-forward to recent times when Speck has combined her (cooking) lessons learned with an understanding of making them into modern foods. Along with teaching at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, Speck has contributed to Gourmet Magazine, Saveur, the Vegetarian Times and others. In April 2011, she penned her first book, which has won numerous awards and accolades.

The Scoop:

Get the scoop on spelt, learn more about millet and get rid of that processed white flour. With Ancient Grains, you’ll discover not only the benefits of whole grains, but you’ll broaden your horizons with recipes that are passionately produced and sure to tempt your taste buds. If you’ve even been stumped by terms (and foods) such as Farro, Kamut or even Wheat Berries, this book will break it down and help you incorporate whole grains into just about any meal. 

My Take:

If you’re looking to expand past plain pasta, rice and even quinoa, this book is a wonderful option. I, for one, have seen the bulk bins at my local Earth Fare holding millet, black quinoa and much more … but without real knowledge of 1) what they are or 2) how in the world I can use them, I never even think to purchase them. This book explores the history behind, how to select and, most importantly, how to incorporate these and many more whole grains into your diet.

I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say that I’m a bit intimidated by some of the recipes … but many of them seem very realistic and without too many ingredients, a factor that can often be a turnoff for me. Expect to head to your local store for your grains and a few other random ingredients you may not already have, but with that being said, be open to new ideas and foods.


Ancient Grains for Modern Meals is available on Amazon for about $19 in hardcover.

Ancient Grains: Artichoke-Rosemary Tart with Polenta Crust

The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods

By Sara Forte

Book Focus:

A variety of recipes that take advantage of fresh seasonal produce, whole grains, lean proteins, and natural sweeteners.


Sara Forte wasn’t always keen on cooking. In fact, her childhood included frozen foods and packaged ones as well. But after heading to college the doors opened to a new adventure, an endeavor that would take her on a new path.

She worked on an organic farm on her college campus, which opened her eyes to her newfound interest. Then, she headed to Tuscany where she took an internship at a cooking school. A few desk jobs after graduation helped her to discover what she didn’t want to be doing – and instead, what she should be doing. Sara and her husband Hugh started a blog called Sprouted Kitchen. And in fall 2012, their first book was published.

The Scoop:

The focus of the Forte’s book is incorporating whole foods into recipes that are seasonal yet unique. With the recipes they’ve chosen, it’s easy to see that you needn’t make the same old plain roasted vegetables night after night. Kick up your cooking with some of Sara’s suggestions – a few which you may have come across already, but many which are entirely new and additions you’ll likely try again and again.

My Take:

First and foremost I have to comment on the photography of this book, as it’s absolutely beautiful. Sara’s husband Hugh is self-taught, and what a great thing that he discovered his talent. I love the look of this book and the recipes offer a range, in my opinion. Some, such as the (simple) Crunchy Curried Chickpeas or Stacked Watermelon with Feta and White Balsamic seem easy enough to pull off. Others (Lentil Meatballs with Lemon Pesto, Braised White Beans and Leeks or Buckwheat Harvest Tart) are ones that I personally feel I’d need to plan ahead for, but which I’m really looking forward to trying. For me personally, I don’t always have ample time in the kitchen to cook as long as I’d like, but for some of these recipes I’d try my best to make time.


The Sprouted Kitchen is available on Amazon for about $15 in hardcover.

The Sprouted Kitchen: Ranchero Breakfast Tostadas

Cooking from the Farmer’s Market

by Jodi Liano, Tasha DeSerio, and Jennifer Maiser for Williams-Sonoma

Book Focus:

Recipes that span all courses of a meal with a “farm-to-table” style organized by seasonal ingredients (some “real food” recipe substitutions required for refined ingredients like white flour and sugar).


Since 1956, William-Sonoma, Inc. (WS) has been a specialty retailer of gourmet cookware in the US and has built a reputation with both gourmet and aspiring cooks alike. With over 250 stores, WS products populate many kitchens all over. And with their extensive product line it comes as no surprise they offer cookbooks to use those cooking products with. Cooking from the Farmer’s Market is one of their favored books here at 100 Days of Real Food.

The Scoop:

Cooking From the Farmer’s Market touts the strengths of eating locally and seasonally. It’s broken down in sections based on the type of vegetable or fruit. A description is given about the produce at hand, as are suggestions on what to look for when buying the item. Next you’ll find recipes that include that specific item – a great tool for when you purchase something new or even a reoccurring item in your rotation.

My Take:

I love the simplicity of this cookbook. It’s very well organized and perfect for those fruits or vegetables that you want to try but you A) don’t know how to choose or B) don’t know what to do with once you have them. I wish I had had this book a few months ago during my summer CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Each week I’d get one or two items that I was scared to see in my bag because I didn’t know what to do with them.

The non-seasonal ingredients covered are fairly well-known and stocked in my household, though they are definitely “William-Sonoma” style – read: a little fancier/more “frou frou” than something you find on an kind of site. Which is not a bad thing!


Cooking From the Farmer’s Market is available on Amazon for about $16 in paperback or $23 in hardcover.  While it may also be stocked at your local William-Sonoma store, expect to pay more there.

Cooking from the Farmer’s Market: Farm-fresh ingredients and fairly simple recipes

The Organic Family Cookbook: Growing, Greening and Cooking Together

By Anni Daulter

Book Focus:

Healthy recipes for family-friendly organic meals including snacks, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts, and extras with sidebars and tips throughout promoting green living.


Anni Daulter is the mother of four kids and an advocate of sustainable living. She’s also a phenomenal food stylist and author, and prides herself on eco-living. “I never use any chemicals,” she says. “Everything I do is the REAL deal and I don’t like fancy tricks, just good food.”

A social worker in past years, Daulter started an organic baby food company where she developed all of the recipes. In 2010, she penned her first book, Organically Raised: Conscious Cooking for Babies and Toddlers. She followed this up with Ice Pop Joy and her most recent, The Organic Family Cookbook.

The Scoop:

Daulter’s first book focused on laying the groundwork with babies and toddlers to promote skipping the processed baby foods and encouraging a lifetime of healthy, “real” eating from the get go. Her second book took on treats and offered recipes for yummy, sticky-sweet treats sans the refined sugars and simulated sweeteners. The Organic Family Cookbook focuses on family and involving your kids with the whole cooking process from picking and/or growing, assisting in the kitchen, and coming up with recipes that are simple, yet scrumptious – ones that you’ll keep coming back to with your kiddos in tow.

My Take:

Remember that I also have four kids? Yeah, this one’s another no-brainer for me. I aim to feed my kids “healthy,” but more so, “real,” a common theme around here. And it’s no real news that instilling the knowledge in your kids about why they should be food-conscious and how to do so can be a winning combination when it comes to mealtime. Recipes are fairly simple yet would appeal to the family. I don’t like to play short-order cook; therefore this book is a good answer for me. I can make something that’s not “kid food” but which will be enjoyed by all. I also like the suggestions throughout on eco-friendly activities, such as composting with your kids, having a “planting party,” and hosting a family-cooking day.


The Organic Family Cookbook is available on Amazon for about $15 in paperback.

The Organic Family Cookbook: Warm Berry Quinoa with Honey Butter

Weelicious: 140 Fast, Fresh and Easy Recipes

By Catherine McCord

Book Focus:

A variety of fun family-friendly recipes with a kid focus (some “real food” recipe substitutions required for refined ingredients like white flour and sugar).


Cathering McCord’s family taught her the value of food’s impact on her health in her younger years. As an avid model in her teenage years, McCord was exposed to numerous countries through her work where she learned about the local cuisines. Her worldly knowledge and interest in food encouraged her to enroll at a culinary school where she expanded her education on the subject. After the birth of her first child, she sought healthy, fresh meals for her little one but came up empty handed. Not satisfied with the shortcomings, she took things into her own hands, and created, a comprehensive website that offers recipes for babies, toddlers, school kids, and families.

The Scoop:

A 3-year project, McCord’s first book includes tips and tools for both new and experienced moms to get inspired and to get into the kitchen. The recipes aren’t ingredient-heavy and range from baby purees to dinners, sides and desserts. Cute, catchy photography and over 70 new (not on her website) recipes are part of the book that have already or will become a staple for many, many families.

My Take:

As a mom of four young kids, the book automatically appealed to me. While my family is always served the same thing for dinner (read: I am not a short order cook – dinner is dinner and I don’t do a “kids meal”), I am always on the hunt for new, fun snacks, lunches and even dinner recipes that are family-friendly. I loved seeing a recipe for homemade graham crackers (which my kids and I LOVED) and am going to make the Spinach Ricotta Bites as well as the Banana Bread Cake. Some substitutions required (use of white flour and brown sugar here and there) and the only other caveat is that this one is for a defined demographic – i.e. it’s not something an empty nester may go for.


Weelicious is available on Amazon for about $15 in hardcover.

Weelicous: Cheesy Chicken Taquitos

Well there you have it! I know there are MANY more cookbooks out there. Out of this list, which looks most appealing to you? Any other favorites that we may have missed?

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38 thoughts on “Cookbook Review: 8 of Our Favorites!”

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  1. Love this list. FYI, though, Super Natural Every Day is actually Heidi’s third cookbook. Her first was called “Cook 1.0.” I believe it’s out of print now. But, if you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend it. It’s my go-to for basic recipes and techniques!

  2. I find myself preferring to go directly to the cooking blogs to find what I want. I did get a copy of Weelicious by chance (included with thank you gifts from donating to Though some recipes were original and interesting, it seemed like a lot of what I’d call “filler” recipes for things that probably don’t warrant the space they take up. Too many that were quite similar to each other with just minor variations, and a lot of “glossy” slick photos of her and her kids. I do like some of the stuff on her blog, but I will pass her cookbook on to another friend with a baby for it does have good baby-toddler suggestions if you are new to making your own stuff.

  3. I highly recommend “Feeding the Whole Family” and “Feeding the Young Athlete” by Cynthia Lair! I was a lil intimidated by some of the unfamiliar ingredients at first, but I got used to them quickly and I looove her recipes!

  4. I second the vote for “Cooking from the Farmer’s Market”. It was really useful when we were getting vegetables from our CSA box this summer. Another great cookbook is Deborah Madison’s “Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets”.

  5. Thanks for posting these! The side bar of recommended reading has not been working for me and I was wondering how to get back to some of the cookbooks you had posted. This will do it! :-)

  6. Halleujah! The post I’ve been waiting for and I didn’t even know it! I am a recipe-follower, not one of those really amazing, “oh-I-just-threw-this-together-and-it’s-so-SIMPLE!” cooks and LOVE recipe books. I’ve been educating myself about real food slowly over the last 2 or so years but have a hubby who LOVES McDonalds, pizza and mac and cheese. I’m desperate for recipes – simple, “real” meals that he and our children will eat as I am also not a short-order cook. How wonderful to know there are real food cookbooks out there – lots! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!

  7. I am so excited that you wrote this blog! I was looking for a cookbook or two that would go along with the real foods way of cooking, especially with little ones. I can’t wait for your cookbook as well!

  8. I would also recommend Make the Bread, Buy the Butter as a great read and with good recipes for making food at home. I like Alana Chernila’s book very much as well. And of course, anything by Debra Madison, a great vegetarian chef, is terrific. Her recipes have been an education in themselves. I’m especially fond of her book Vegetarian Suppers.

  9. I am a huge Martha Stewart fan! Her website is a great resource for recipes, tips and techniques. That being said, one of my favorite cookbooks is “Every Day Food Great Food Fast”. It is a collection of mostly whole food recipes arranged by season with accompanying photos and the attention to detail you would expect from Martha. And as the name implies, the recipes can be made on a weeknight. When necessary, white grains can simply be substituted, whole wheat pasta for white pasta, whole wheat tortillas for white flour tortillas, etc. Most recipes incorporate lots of produce and there are also a number of interesting vegetable side dishes. Because the recipes are seasonal, I am currently enjoying the pork chops with apples and shallots while in spring I will be enjoying pork chops with rhubarb-cherry sauce. This book makes it easy to take advantage of local/seasonal produce. This is my main go to dinner cookbook. I can’t praise it enough!

  10. A great list!

    Of of my favorite cookbooks I acquired this year, and especially relevant for fellow NC residents, is Cooking in the Moment: A Year of Seasonal Recipes by NC resident Andrea Reusing. All the recipes I have tried have been fantastic!

    Another favorite is 5 Ingredient fix by Claire Robinson. Not necessarily marketed as a whole foods cookbook, but almost all the recipes call for real ingredients (desserts are an exception. Her muffin recipe uses honey as a sweetener rather than sugar. Plus, they are all incredibly easy meals to put together, perfect or weeknight dinners.

  11. Nice list! I use Nourishing Traditions & the Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters a lot. The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden is a classic too. I find traditional, ethnic cookbooks to be chockfull of real food & extremely tasty food! My family (3 small kids) are not particularly adventurous eaters but they seem to enjoy these tried-and-true recipes.

  12. Echo Simply in Season. I’d also add Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, 10th ann. edition. Basic, real food with lots of tips on how to add, adapt, combine ingredients. About the most processed thing in the book is canned tomatoes. White flour/sugar used, but you can sub. One whole chapter on beans, the best vegetable chapter I’ve ever seen, and lots of tips on how to incorporate a little meat into vegetable dishes to make them more entree-like and so forth.

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Glad to hear it! I’m also in the Weelicious demographic and it’s a win for me; my kids also like looking at it and we’ve attempted one recipe together so far. More to come. Have fun!

  13. Francine Westphal

    I would love to see a cookbook that focuses on “normal/traditional” recipes and foods that we are used to, but made on the whole/real food concept. Often times I look through cookbooks and say to myself, “my family wouldn’t eat that.” Or I see ingredients that most people probably don’t use or are familiar with. Which book is closest to being just basic foods made the real food way? Also Lisa I hope your new book will include all the food resources/brands/links to the foods you have alredy determined to be “real” friendly. You are awesome and I thank God for your committment this endeavor.

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Hi Francine,
      I’d say that Deliciously Organic, Weelicious, Cooking from the Farmer’s Market and The Organic Family Cookbook will be your best bets for basic foods made the real way. The Farmer’s Market book may have you using different fruits/veggies than you are used to, but that’s not a bad thing, right?:)
      Good luck!

  14. Kiran Dodeja Smith

    I think you will be pleased! They are fairly easy and kid-friendly without being the “typical” kid foods. Enjoy! :)

  15. The Best of “The Farmer’s Wife” Cookbook. Published in 2010. Collection of recipes from a magazine printed from 1893-1939. Most of these recipes come from the 1930’s. Old recipes use whole foods because that is all that was available then. Simple and old fashioned. Good recipes for children because they lean on the side of plain. Nothing exotic or over-spiced. I made Noodle Mix Up from page 26 last night (onion, butter, ground beef, canned tomatoes, egg noodles, kidney beans, paprika, salt). My 3 boys ate it up. Going to make a 1921 recipe for Texas Hash later this week. $17.99, Voyageur Press.

  16. Thank you so much for this list. I struggle a lot with dinners that everyone will like, so I have been scouring blogs and websites, but I also love cookbooks. However, cookbooks about whole, real food are so much harder to find. I bought the ancient grains for modern meals book, based on one of your other articles. I, too, am very overwhelmed with all the steps or uncommon ingredients listed in this book. However, I love all the different ways to use grains and more about the different grains that I never even knew existed.
    There are a few books on this list that I will be adding to my wish list on Amazon! I really appreciate all our comments about the books to! One thing I really look for in a recipe book is a picture of the finished product. I hate it when there is only one picture for every 4 or 5 recipes. I know it is harder and more expensive, but I am a visual learner and it makes it easier for me. Do any of these books have a picture for each recipe??
    Thanks again!

    1. Kiran Dodeja Smith

      Hi Stephanie,

      What I like about most of these is, like you, is the photographs (which are all beautiful, I must add). I can’t say that any have a photo of every single recipe without going through every single page right now, but again, one of the reasons I’m also drawn to them is the imagery they have. I hope that helps! If you have one in particular you want me to page through please respond again or email me at

      Take care!