Kelly Strom: Cookbooks to help you plan your holiday menus

Kelly Strom: Cookbooks to help you plan your holiday menus

As the days get colder and leaves are quickly falling, it's time to take a look at some our new seasonal cookbooks. It's been a couple of years since we've reviewed these specialty books, so let's start planning early and start perusing for perfect dishes and desserts. As always, we have a wide selection of cookbooks, so the ones I've mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg.

Brand new last month was "Jamie Oliver's Christmas Cookbook." This popular television and publishing icon has been in the business of gastronomy for 17 years. His latest endeavor is filled with classic holiday favorites (and some new ones, too) featuring fresh farm-to-table ingredients.

The book is divided by topic and begins with appetizers like smoked salmon pate. We quickly move on to the main course of roast goose, beef, ham or turkey.

The pictures are gorgeous, and I was ready to break out all the pans and mixing bowls to get started. This thick volume includes a number of potato concoctions, as well as other vegetables, desserts, salads and drinks. There's even a section for creating cute edible gifts.

If you're more the type who wants to throw everything in a crockpot to cook while you're out shopping, then pick up "Fix-It and Forget-It Christmas Slow Cooker Feasts" by Phyllis Good. This title is jampacked with fantastic and easy ideas for making the most of your time during the holidays. All of the entries were sent in by people from across the country, and it was fun to see the origins of each recipe.

Some of the ones that I thought looked particularly good were Shredded Potatoes With Canadian Bacon and the Cranberry Beef Brisket. My only problem with this book was the lack of pictures.

Gooseberry Patch is known for offering down home classic recipes, and the latest, "Christmas Comfort Classics" follows the delightful pattern. Similar to the previous book, this one is filled with recipes from all over the country and features black-and-white drawings instead of enticing photos. You can't go wrong with the food selections though. A handy index is divided into various food groups, so it's easy to find just what you may need.

For dessert choices, check out these two new titles: "Best Holiday Sweets & Treats" by Daniella Malfitano and "The Peppermint Bark Cookbook" by Dominique Devito. Both would make fun gifts for that baking connoisseur you know. Fantastic color photos combine with tempting recipes to satisfy even the pickiest sweet tooth. Some of my favorites were Peppermint Popcorn Bark and Mrs. Claus' Double Chocolate Cookies.

"The Holiday Kosher Baker" by Paula Shoyer features some great Jewish favorites of the season. The heavy tome covers year-round holidays, and there is a specific chapter for Chanukah. I enjoyed the author's narrative, talking about memories she had of special events in her life and how they relate to Kosher cuisine. The recipes are divided by difficulty as easy, multi-step and moderate. I thought that Apple Latkes and Chocolate Ganache Glazed Doughnuts looked particularly appealing.

I have a few other titles for those with special dietary needs. "Gluten-Free Holiday Baking" by Ellen Brown is a lifesaver for those who want delicious holiday treats without using regular flour. There was an Almond Pie Crust, so we don't have to give up that apple pie, and also included Cranberry Cake and Gooey Sticky Pecan Buns. For friends or family who are forced to avoid wheat, barley or rye, make them smile with some options from this book.

"The Healthy Home Cookbook" by Barbara Seelig Brown features holiday and party recipes that are diabetes-friendly. There aren't a lot of pictures, but the recipes look delicious, and each one has nutritional facts. This one has been approved by the American Diabetes Association.

Lastly is "The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook" by well-known author Isa Chandra Moskowitz. This thick book is divided by holiday and includes sections on Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas. Specific goodies to try include Carmelized Onion & Cauliflower Casserole, Cornbread and Chocolate Pecan Pie.

Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, ebooks, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.

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