The New Year is fresh upon us, and perhaps you’ve made some promises to yourself — be punctual, spend time with family and friends, exercise more. Well, I can’t help you with any of those resolutions, but I can offer suggestions if food is one of your concerns. Joplin Public Library’s cookbook collection is nothing if not diverse.

The Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue, by the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated

Because Cook’s Illustrated put together this volume, expect an almost annoying attention to detail. If you want to know about charcoal grilling vs. gas grilling, and all that each entails, you’ve hit the mother lode. What to buy and how to light it, suggested equipment and tools, even cuts of beef rated by price, flavor and tenderness – it’s all here.

Once you make it past the first section’s encyclopedic information about grilling, the book is divided according to type of meat, poultry, and seafood. Recipes abound, from a basic Grill-Roasted Turkey to lobsters and soft-shell crabs prepared on – you guessed it – a grill. If you ever wanted to learn how to bone a leg of lamb or cut up a whole chicken, detailed, black-and-white illustrations will guide you. Interested in a sauce, marinade or rub? You’ll have plenty of choices in this book.

And lest you think grilling is strictly the domain of the meat-eater, the guide offers chapters on vegetables, pizza and bruschetta, and salads and side dishes. However, many of these recipes are intended as accompaniments rather than main courses.

Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen, by Kathy Patalsky

Like many other people, you might have vowed to maintain a healthier diet in 2016. If that’s the case, “Happy Healthy Vegan Kitchen” could be of interest. From the author’s “Ten Tips for New or Test-Run Vegans” to her “12 Happy Life Menus,” there is much guidance to be found. This book is about a lifestyle, not just a particular diet.

The book is organized like most cookbooks, with sections on entrees, sandwiches and salads. The color photographs are lovely, so enticing that you won’t miss the meat. And the recipes sound delicious, from the Avocado Caprese Sandwich, to the Wellness Soba Noodle Soup, to the Fiesta Salad with Plantains. The dessert chapter seems particularly strong.

My only quibble with “Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen” is the author’s over-reliance on certain ingredients, such as avocado, maple syrup, cashew cheese and vegan mayonnaise. It gets a bit repetitive.

“The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime: Comfort Classics, Freezer Food, 16-Minute Meals, and other Delicious Ways to Solve Supper!” by Ree Drummond

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I want to be friends with Ree Drummond.

Well, mostly I want to hang out in her kitchen and have her cook for me while we drink wine and talk about food. So when the Joplin Public Library purchases one of her cookbooks, I can’t wait to get my eager little hands on it. I find great pleasure in poring over every detailed recipe and chatty commentary. And the plentiful, colorful photographs are a feast for the eyes.

As a vegetarian there are plenty of dishes from this collection that I won’t cook, such as Individual Chicken Pot Pies, Beef with Snow Peas and Salisbury Steak. But there are several that I must try: Pumpkin Wonton Ravioli, Roasted Butternut Squash Salad, Breakfast Quesadillas, Black Bean Burgers, Cheesy Cauliflower Soup. One of the things I appreciate most about Drummond’s recipes is that she always includes plenty of meatless recipes, or ones that can be easily modified to omit the meat.

Another characteristic that I particularly enjoy about her cookbooks is the nostalgic quality they possess. This book is filled with recipes for meals that she prepares for her own family, some of which were passed down from friends and relatives. While some of the ingredients – kale, quinoa, Arborio rice – are exotic by some people’s standards, they are easily attainable these days, and the dishes themselves are flavorful, hearty and soothing. One chapter in particular, “Comfort Classics,” brought back lovely childhood memories as I recalled my mother’s own versions of Meatloaf, Tuna Noodle Casserole and Beef Stroganoff.

Drummond has produced another winner with “The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime.” I can’t wait to replicate some of the recipes, and I look forward to her next venture.

 

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