I'm going to go out on a limb and say that 2015 is the year of the plant-based home cook. (Pun intended.)
In order to save money and our health, we're taking out less and becoming our own personal chefs. We're taking our food out of the hands of others and into our own. We like the process of handpicking our ingredients — that way, we know exactly what is (and what isn't) going into our bodies.
We're giving meat, dairy, and carbs less space on our plates to allow more room for plants. We're letting up on the sugar and using more natural sweeteners. And we're realizing we don't need to sacrifice taste — at all.
Thankfully, we don't need to enter the kitchen blindly. We have the help of influential and inspirational chefs like April Bloomfield, Erin McKenna, and Steven Satterfield, who want to make our forays into the culinary world much simpler, healthier, and more enjoyable.
So, take a look at some our favorite cookbooks that have come out this year, and pick the one (or two or three) that speak to you and your palate the most:
The Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon by Sara Forte
Bowl food is ultimate comfort food. We slurped up chicken-noodle soup, mac and cheese, and sugary cereals out of bowls when we were little. Since our palates have matured (or, you know, maybe not), the bowl is still just as inviting. In Sara Forte’s recipes, lean proteins, greens, vegetables, and whole grains get cozy together while you get cozy on your couch. All you need is a spoon.
The Whole30 by Melissa Hartwig and Dallas Hartwig
This book isn’t just a cookbook; it’s also a guide and storybook. The Whole30 program is a monthlong eating program that has helped hundreds of thousands of people reset their metabolism and repair their relationship with food. This book provides the steps to take — paired with chef-developed recipes and real-life inspiring stories — to break unhealthy habits with all different kinds of mouthwatering food, like Huevos Rancheros or Romesco Garlic Shrimp.
A Girl And Her Greens by April Bloomfield
Just as much as April Bloomfield loves her pig, she loves her greens (well, maybe not enough to name a restaurant after them…). This time, instead of nose-to-tail eating, it’s about root-to-stem eating. Her style of writing — unadorned and down-to-earth — is reflected in the simplicity of her recipes. She’s all about using minimal ingredients and gentle techniques, allowing the vegetables to speak for themselves. A personal favorite? Pot-roasted Artichokes with White Wine and Capers.
Baking With Less Sugar by Joanne Chang
Sometimes, less is more. That, Joanne Chang argues quite convincingly, is the case with sugar. But if you’re trying to give up sugar completely, this book isn’t for you. It’s for all of us with an insatiable sweet tooth who simply want to cut down on the amount of sugar we consume. This book — which includes classics like Sticky Toffee Pudding to creative concoctions like Lemon-Polenta-Pistachio Buttons — is about making satisfying and comforting sweets with less sugar than they’re traditionally made with, by combining sugar with natural sweeteners you probably already have your kitchen, like maple syrup, honey, and fruit.
Inspiralized by Ali Maffucci
Just because you’re cutting down on the carbs (or gave them up entirely) doesn’t mean you should have to give up the oh-so-satisfying sensation of twirling spaghetti around your fork. But, contrary to popular belief, this book isn’t just about turning zucchini into noodles. Crispy chickpeas stand in for croutons in a Caesar salad; plantains become the “rice” in rice pudding; jicama turns into shoestring fries. Ali Maffucci’s creativity is boundless — and even though these vegetables may not be able to achieve that “al dente” sensation between your teeth, they’re still so delicious in their own right.
My New Roots by Sarah Britton
If you have any kind of specialized eating — Paleo, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, anything — you want to (or probably already do) know who health-food blogger Sarah Britton is. Her recipes aren’t focused on any specific diet; rather, they’re just focused on plants — beautiful, flavorful, nutritious plants. Each dish — photographed masterfully by the author — reflects the season it was made, from a deep winter Four Corners Lentil Soup to an early summer Fava Bean, Sweet Pea, and Tarragon Soup. Feel all warm inside yet? We do.
A Modern Way To Eat by Anna Jones
Anna Jones has done the tough job of putting fresh, vegetable-forward takes on traditional, heartier dishes — and made it look easy. In a relaxed tone, she doesn’t just tell you what to cook; she tells you how to cook healthier, lighter, and cheaper meals simply. Typically carb-heavy pizza gets a cauliflower-almond crust; typically dairy-heavy chocolate cake gets its moisture instead from coconut milk; traditionally meat-heavy beef bourguignon turns into beet bourguignon. The vegetarian recipes don’t claim to take the place of the originals; they’re just feel-good, mouthwatering dishes inspired by the comfort food we love but really can’t be eating all the time.
The Broad Fork by Hugh Acheson
Hugh Acheson, quite literally, seeks to answer the question, “What the hell do I do with kohlrabi?” He wants us to look at produce differently: to understand each fruit or vegetable completely. If you have a huge farmers market haul of apples, you can’t just make apple pie. You’ve gotta get more creative than that. Make apple butter. Throw it in a ceviche. This book demystifies 50 ingredients, showing us that pretty much any piece of produce — from blueberries to Brussels sprouts — can be pickled, puréed, sautéed, braised, steamed, or simply eaten raw. It’s time to realize the full potential of our ingredients.
Bread & Butter by Erin McKenna
Contrary to popular belief, gluten-sensitive people and those with celiac disease don’t just crave sweet things. Yes, they seek gluten-free muffins and cakes and tarts, but what about savory stuff? Erin McKenna, founder of Erin McKenna's Bakery NYC (formerly called Babycakes NYC), has most recently taken on bread and savory pastries. Much like her famed sweet baked goods, her croissants, biscuits, bagels, English muffins, pretzels, and pizza dough — you name it — are airy and fluffy. They leave nothing (specifically gluten) to be desired. And now, in this cookbook, she’s shared her sought-after recipes with us so that we can getting baking in the comfort of our own homes. Oh, and she cracked the code for rich and creamy vegan butter, so … there’s that.
Simply Ancient Grains by Maria Speck
Grains most of us never even knew existed have been appearing on restaurant menus everywhere — like Kamut, amaranth, and sorghum — because people are realizing that quinoa isn’t the only delicious and nutritious grain worth taking up real estate on our plates. But making them at home? No, that would be way too complex — right? No, Maria Speck argues, definitely not. She makes these mystery seeds seem approachable (because they are!) and then puts them to work in fresh, Mediterranean-inspired recipes — farro mingles with roasted eggplant, caramelized onion, and pine nuts for a refreshing summer salad; red rice adds substance to shakshuka; and for dessert, an almond-polenta tart with a sherry-plum compote. How’s that sound?
Root To Leaf by Steven Satterfield
Who says southerners only eat barbecued meats? Steven Satterfield, an Atlanta-based chef and southerner through and through, is actually famed for his vegetable dishes. Like April Bloomfield (whose book was mentioned above), Satterfield celebrates his ingredients by using them in their entirety — from, well, root to leaf — always with a southern spin. The book celebrates fresh, seasonal produce, but it’s not a vegetarian cookbook. It’s about using ingredients, which can include meat, that bring out the flavors of the vegetables. There are dishes for every type of eater in here — whether that’s a flavorful, tarragon-heavy succotash and okra or trout fillets with sautéed fennel stems and fronds.