Top 11 Foodie Recommendations from The Spiced Life for 2011

My favorite stocking stuffer this year–onion goggles!  No more tears!  Who cares if I look ridiculous?!

Happy New Year!  I love end of year lists.  Best cookbooks, best blogs, best albums, etc…  What it is about ranking and picking favorites that attracts us so much I am not sure, other than it is a great launching point from which to get new ideas if your regular sources have dried up.  Case in point: I am a big music fan.  Always have been and expect to always be so.  But I live under a rock.  I don’t like the radio–never have, hate commercials plus I am a control freak.  I am a stay at home mom of young children, which eliminates plenty of other traditional ways to hear about new music.  For whatever reason, as far as I can tell the other moms I know are not into following current music trends–or at least not telling me if they do!  So every December I hit the “best of” lists and start purchasing music.  Currently I am obsessing on ADELE and Florence and the Machine.  I also bought The Decembrists and Fleet Foxes, along with Lady Gaga’s newest album (sometimes despite being aware of and liking a singer I can be totally oblivious to the fact that they have released a new album!).  Feel free to suggest other bands to check out!

So anyway, I started wondering why I don’t do one, only foodie related not music.  Well, I can tell you now that I have they do take some work.  I had to stare at my bookshelves, contemplate why I liked what I liked and, most important, try to remember just what the heck I was doing at the beginning of 2011.  I decided not to limit myself to books–I have so many and cook from such a variety that limiting it to books just made me gnash my teeth.  I also tried to limit it by my enthusiasm rather than just how used any given site or book was–as a result some books made the list where I have not yet made a recipe from them!

Without further ado, I present to you the no limits, purely my own random thoughts Top 11 Foodie Recommendations from The Spiced Life from 2011:

  1.  Pinterest: I’ve already sung its praises, so I won’t beat a dead horse other than to say in addition to being a great way to discover new foodie trends, recipes, interests, etc., it is also a great way to keep track of all those recipes and ideas you find on the web.
  2. Fine Cooking: The food magazine I am most excited to be reading and cooking from right now, particularly because it is entirely about baking and cooking.  Yes I love the gadgets and food travel covered in other magazines–but sometimes you get tired of staring at stuff you cannot afford, you know?   Here are some recipes I’ve discovered there: Espresso Hazelnut Lace Cookies; Clove Thins; Shrimp with Watermelons, Tomatoes & Feta; and Mint Chocolate Thumbprints
  3. One Spice, Two Spice: American Food, Indian Flavors by Floyd Cardoz: I realize this was published in 2006, but when you shop used bookstores as much as I do, a gem of a discovery is just a deal away.  This has been the year I have converted my mom to Indian food, and this book has been a large part of how I did it.  I have an outstanding beef tenderloin post coming up–our Christmas dinner–and I started with a suggestion in this book to make it.  If you have any extreme carnivores in your life who are resisting Indian food, this book is a great place to start.  Check out this pork tenderloin for an example.
  4. Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi, by Yotam Ottolenghi: This made “best of” cookbook lists for both last year (the British publication) and this year (the American), and with good reason.  The book is gorgeous and inspiring.  I have not made a recipe exactly from it yet (I have only owned it for a few months) but I did get inspired to create a sambal recipe after reading it (I ended up more heavily consulting another book in how to make it, so that was the book I discussed in the post).  The best cookbooks are like that, to my mind, they inspire you to go and create your own.
  5. 2011 was the year that I finally realized that some cookbooks must be owned for their writing, whether you ever make a single recipe from them or not.  Cookbooks in this category that I have acquired in the last year include: Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite: 150 Recipes and Stories About the Food You Love and Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make; David Tanis’s Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys; Andrew Carmellini’s American Flavor; Molly O’Neill’s One Big Tableand A Well-seasoned Appetite: Recipes from an American Kitchen; Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century. All of these cookbooks have spent time at my bedside, just being read, chapter by chapter.  I highly encourage you to do the same–after all if you are reading this blog, you must enjoy reading about food!
  6.  She Simmers: Thai Home CookingBy far my favorite blog discovery of 2011, Leela of She Simmers offers practical Thai cooking advice and recipes.  As a Thai expatriate living in Chicago, facing the same “everyman” challenges that all of us home cooks face when trying to cook food based on a cuisine on the other side of the world, her advice has allowed me to see Thai recipes as not always being the big adventure that homemade curry pastes have been, but also easy, simple shortcut dishes that fit into your weekly rotation.  Since we adore Thai food, this has been huge.  Some dishes that I have either discovered through her or been inspired to make by her include Simple Nam Prik Pao Fried Rice and laab gai, the latter of which I have made multiple times and through no fault of its own it has not yet made it to this site. I’ve pinned quite a few more ideas from her as well.
  7.  Momofuku Milk Bar by Christina Tosi: How can you not be excited by this brash, revolutionary approach to baking?  OK I admit it, I have never eaten at the Milk Bar nor have I made a single recipe yet (John gave me the book for Christmas).  But nonetheless I am crazy excited for it.  Example: the idea of making crumbs that are then included in many of her recipes or eaten on their own with milk.  A special recipe for crumbs.  That just makes my day.  As soon as I have rid my house of Christmas cookies, this baby is getting some serious use.
  8. Baking Style: Art Craft Recipes, by Lisa Yockelson: I suppose shame on me for even including this one, since I have not even opened it and it is on its way to me now, not anytime in 2011.  But here is the thing: a new Lisa Yockelson book is a very exciting thing in my world.  I learned to love both cake and marshmallows with her ChocolateChocolate; her Ultra Lemon Bundt Cake remains my gold standard for lemon cake.  I’ve never been disappointed by anything she’s done and I certainly don’t expect to now.  I told John she was like the U2 of the cookbook world–I buy her books full price sight unseen.
  9. How to Cook Indian: More Than 500 Classic Recipes for the Modern Kitchen, by Sanjeev Kapoor and India: The Cookbook, by Pushpesh Pant: I have no doubt that the many fine cookbooks being written by Indian American cooks are better introductions to cooking Indian food and give better explanations for the many techniques in the cuisine.  I own them, use them, love them, and will continue to do all of the above.  However, for those of us with more experience in cooking Indian food, cookbooks being published for American audiences that are written by Indian chefs normally writing for an Indian audience is an exciting new phenomenon.  The sheer breadth of recipes is exciting and it is also wonderful to not be limited by what American publishers think American audiences will want.  Do be warned, however, that the recipes are short on explanation, assuming knowledge on the part of the reader.
  10. Thanks to my trip to Morocco, this was the year I discovered Mediterranean cooking and particularly Paula Wolfert.  My shelves are now littered with her cookbooks and other cookbooks on Moroccan food especially.  I fell in love with a particular method of cooking meat and beans, in Greek Orange Pork and Beans and its “Pastor” flavored adaptation.  Moroccan Cod Smothered in Sweet Onions was another big success.  And my spice drawers are now filled with various spices and spice mixtures that I brought home from Morocco, waiting to be further explored in 2012.
  11. 2011 was the year I found cookbooks dedicated to bundt cakes, notably Cake Simple: Recipes for Bundt-Style Cakes from Classic Dark Chocolate to Luscious Lemon-Basil by Christie Matheson.  All of my regular readers know how much I love bundt cakes, and every cake I have made from this gem of a book has been terrific.
*Bonus Pick: I recently came across a tiny book by Michael Turback in my used bookstore, Hot Chocolate, that I am really looking forward to exploring this winter!  From dark to milk to white to boozed up, spiced up or minty, this little book has tons of ideas for making hot chocolate more exciting.

Before I forget, I keep forgetting to announce the winner of the Be A Good Cookie OXO spatula!  What can I say, it might be I get a little distracted this time of year!  Joanie from the CLBB please shoot me an email with your email address so I can get your information!

I hope I have given you some ideas to explore in the upcoming months, and I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2012.

Amazon affiliate links were used in this post, but only to link to items I would be discussing and linking to anyway. 



  1. says

    Thanks for these recommendations Laura!Will definietly check out the Thai food blog you mentioned, since I love Thai cuisine!Wishing you a Very Happy New Year!

  2. says

    Great list! I didn’t know Lisa Y had a new book out (I have my own rock). I have just discovered Pinterest myself, and I don’t know how to find people to follow there.

    I find Pandora a great way to find music that is new to me – and no commercials. :) Happy New Year!

    • Laura says

      Thanks for the suggestion! If you follow my link to the post where I really discuss Pinterest there is a link to follow me. But yeah I have not figured it out very well either!

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