I am a cookbook hoarder. There I said it. (Note to husband: Though I am admitting this to the public does not mean I’m ready to start clearing out the bookshelves…or kitchen cabinets…or dining room hutch anytime soon.) But there is always room for a few more in the collection, especially those that are going to help me get a good dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time.

The most recent additions to my kitchen all have something in common—they are loaded with good recipes and helpful tips on planning and preparing a yummy and healthy meal for our family of five. Most of the recipes can be deconstructed into basic parts, which means everyone should find something they eat on their plate. Most of the recipes rely heavily on pantry staples and many have suggestions on how to get a head start on the meal before the dinner rush. Bust out of a dinner rut with a little help from these cookbook gems.

favorite family dinner cookbooks

Favorite Cookbooks: Dinner the Playbook - (cool) progeny

Dinner: The Playbook: A 30-Day Plan for Mastering the Art of the Family Meal

This is the second book from Jenny Rosentrach, the woman behind the fantastic blog Dinner a Love Story. Recipes from both the blog (search the recipe index for Tony’s Steak—it’s worth firing up the grill for even during a polar vortex) and her first cookbook Dinner: A Love Story (Black Bean Burritos, anyone?) have become staples in our family dinner line-up over the past few years. Her newest book is a helpful resource for busy parents and seasoned home cooks looking to get on track with a practical weekly meal plan that incorporates some new dishes into the steady line-up of old favorites. The section on “How to Get Started” offers tips on grocery shopping, food prep, and sample meal plans. And the back of the book contains workbook pages where you can plan a week’s worth of meals and then follow-up with grades and notes for future reference.

Here’s what’s on our hit list (so far): Chicken and Barley Soup (page 148), Spaghetti with Shallots and Brussels Sprouts (page 100), Roasted Salmon with Lentils (page 136), Slow-Cooker Korean Short Ribs (120), Asian Slaw with Chicken (150), Buttermilk-Herb-Baked Chicken Fingers (192), and Sweet and Spicy Tofu Bowl (198).

Favorite Cookbooks: Keepers - (cool) progeny

Keepers

Happiness in the kitchen? When you’re racing home from work and squeezing in a family dinner before soccer practice, all while keeping the toddler from scribbling on the television screen with ballpoint pen, this can seem unattainable. But Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion, the authors of Keepers, share their secrets for happiness in the kitchen with a well-curated collection of, well, keepers—those recipes you want to come back to again and again. This book also begins with tips on preparing yourself for the week ahead and making the most out of your grocery haul. The book has great photos, helpful tips peppered throughout, and suggestions for substitutes in many of the recipes. The book jumps right into fish dinner entrees and has a heft section highlighting veggies, grains, and salads.

Some of our keepers include the Sautéed Tilapia with Citrus-Soy Marinade (page 28), Braised Pork Chops with Citrus Glaze (page 91), Sausage and White Bean Gratin (page 97), Crustless Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche (Page 103), Warm Corn Salad (152), Roasted Cauliflower Dressed Up (page 160), Roasted Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce (page 161), and Quinoa Salad with Shaved Raw Vegetables and Carrot-Ginger Dressing (198).

Favorite Cookbooks: Good and Cheap - (cool) progeny

Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day

I first heard about Good and Cheap on NPR and loved the backstory. Author Leanne Brown created the book, with some help from a successful kickstarter campaign, while working on her masters of food studies at NYU. Brown’s goal is to create healthy meals on a budget of $4 a day, which is approximately the amount of money allotted for the 47 million people using SNAP, the food stamp program in our country. This cookbook is available for free as a pdf, or you can buy a copy for $20. I loved the story so much, that I immediately downloaded the Good and Cheap. Again, there are tips, this time focusing on how to stretch your budget while incorporating fresh food and produce into your meals and bypassing processed goods.

We’re fans of the Banana Pancakes (page 18), Brussels Sprouts Hash and Eggs (page 64), Chana Masala (page 92), and I’m studiously working my way through all of the popcorn toppings on page 74—even the brown sugar and orange zest though I’m kind of a savory popcorn purist.

(COOL) POLL: Do you have a favorite go-to cookbook? Share on Facebook for a chance to win one of Jen’s picks!