Monday, May 22, 2006

Cooking Shows, Cookbooks, and Magazines

I do enjoy cooking, but I really love the idea of cooking more than the actual process. I love watching cooking shows on TV, reading cookbooks and magazines about cooking, discussing a new recipe or a streamlining process with friends, planning menus (that sometimes never get made), and of course--eating.

So, here are thoughts on some of my favorite things:


  • I've recently gotten hooked on the Bravo show Top Chef. It appeals to that fixation on reality shows and specifically competition (like the Apprentice), and also showcases how a chef thinks and the process of creating something great.
  • I always enjoy watching Paula's Home Cooking on the Food Network. She comes across as such a warm person, and she genuinely loves food. She makes real food, fattening food, that's just, well, home cooking. It's one of the few shows where I often do look up the recipe and try it.
  • Good Eats, also on the Food Network, is sort of a new fascination. It feeds my desire to possess a lot of knowledge. Alton Brown goes into detail in each episode about a certain food or process. I like knowing why (and then of course, I can share this new-found expertise with others). What makes it even more of a love is that my second grader watches alongside me, because she has an even bigger desire to know "why."


  • As another way of knowing how and why, the Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe series is a great resource. The first book I bought in the series is the Cover and Bake. It has wonderful recipes for oven casseroles, stews, and even a few crock pot recipes--not all simple, but all really great. In addition, these things are taken directly from the magazine (which is why I just buy the books instead), so they include the whole test kitchen process--what they eliminated, what they added, why a certain ingredient was better.
  • The cookbook for people who like to read cookbooks is Beat That. Ann Hodges is funny and opinionated and presents an interesting collection of recipes that she says are the best. I'm not sure if I ever made anything out of this book, but it's a great read.
  • The Mr. Food Cookbook was one of my first favorites. I turned to this for ideas for dinner for my husband and me, and also for simple ideas for company. I don't use this one much anymore, but everything I tried in here was easy, family-friendly and came out great. He's also fun to read.
  • Once a Month Cooking--I tried this process once or twice. It's a great concept, and the plan and recipes included in here are okay. I'm not organized or committed enough to pull it off regularly, but reading this book, and trying some of the concepts, changed the way I planned for dinners. Cooking once and eating twice is great, and getting a jump on the week is great too. Knowing that there's something in the freezer for nights that I don't feel like cooking is a great comfort.


  • Everyday Food magazine is a Martha Stewart publication. I never really saw myself as a "Martha" person. A friend had recommended this magazine as something that really did present food you could make everyday, and after finding many ideas in the issue I bought, I subscribed. I not only enjoy reading it, but I usually try out one or two things each month, with great success. Another unique feature is a spotlight on a certain vegetable each month.
  • Reiman Publications magazines--specifically Quick Cooking and Light and Tasty--I have stacks of these all saved. I literally find 20 recipes in each magazine that I would like to try. Because I have so many, and still refer back to them, I stopped subscribing, but these are great references for me for dinner time meals, company ideas, desserts, pot lucks etc. There are lots of pictures, too, which is always a plus for me when I'm trying to decide how something would come out.

What are your top picks?

Editorial Note: In the interest of full disclosure, I have signed up for the amazon associates program. If you click on an amazon link and make a purchase from that click, I get some cents in my amazon account. Having nothing to do with shameless plugs, but only to help you out, I would like to share that ebay sells magazines at almost half price at times! I have ordered several from different sellers and have never been disappointed.


Jeannine said...

Wow! Thanks for all the info! I subscribe to Taste of Home and Quick Cooking (now called Simple & Delicious). I also sometimes buy the annual book.

I don't know if we have the Food Network; I'll have to see. We just got cable for the first time several months ago and Lidia's Italy was the first cooking show I watched. It was on PBS though.

Aoife said...

Thanks for your comment! I thought that recognition might be a possibility, but Stephen's criticism actually really impressed me. Because it was so detailed and insightful, I figure that he was basing his opinions on the food rather than the chef. Hope you continue to read!

Katrina said...

Thanks for sharing your list! We love Good Eats at our house - it's a show we all enjoy (must be the nerdiness in us!), and I've enjoyed Top Chef, although I sometimes jokingly call it "Top Ego." I love any book about baking, and I enjoy food magazines as well, although I'm not subscribed to any at the moment because my piles of Quick Cooking became unmanageable!

Dianne said...

I think I just read cookbooks for fun. I read 'em and collect 'em! I fill my head with ideas and then do my own thing once I get in the kitchen. This is a great list you've provided here - thanks!