Book review: Taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook

Pinterest is awesome for finding new recipes. For me, though, the pins and pretty pictures will never take the place of cookbooks. I'm a cookbook fanatic. Especially cookbooks with lots of pictures, because, honestly, how many of us rate the success of a recipe we tried on how close it looks to the photo?

For that reason—along with many others—I love the Taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook (Taste of Home/Reader's Digest) I recently received for free to review. The book has more than 400 recipes in it, and every single one of them is accompanied by a photo. Nice photos. Colorful photos. Nice and colorful photos—629, in fact—that will make it easy for me and any other cook to compare their concoctions to.

Photos aren't the only thing to love about the cookbook, though. There are nutrition facts for all recipes, too, plus step-by-step demonstrations, tips, entertaining ideas and more from cooking experts, sprinkled throughout the pages. Things like how to make a crepe, how to make meatballs of even size, choosing (and safely preparing) fish and poultry, the secret to stiff meringue peaks and so much more.

Sounds like the basics, right? And with many of us having cooked for years, probably even decades, why would we need such basics? Well, speaking for myself, there are things I didn't dare try when my kids were in the house but now that the nest is empty, I'd like to branch out and try new things, so some of those basics aren't so basic to me...yet. I appreciate the demonstrations and tips for those things that may be new to me.

What I love about this cookbook: Each chapter of the Taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook increases in difficulty. For example, the Seafood chapter begins with Comforting Tuna Casserole and ends with Orange Tilapia in Parchment; the Beef & Pork chapter starts with Stovetop Hamburger Casserole and moves up to Individual Beef Wellingtons; and the first recipe in the Baking chapter is Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies with the last being a Swedish Tea Ring (with awesome demo photos of how to perfectly roll the thing). What else do I love? Each chapter is assigned a color that spans the length of each page edge, making it simple to find each specific chapter/category of food. Also, with the nest empty and my husband and I finding ourselves ordering takeout more than we should, I like that there's a Better Than Takeout chapter of fast, cheap and easy recipes. And one more I'll mention (though there are many more I like): I appreciate and will often use the Guide to Cooking with Popular Herbs section of the references. One of my cooking goals is to improve my ability to use herbs confidently, so this will help.

Visit the Taste of Home Cooking School Cookbook (available in paperback with French flaps, $17.99, and ebook, $9.99) for more information.

Disclosure: I received a free copy for review. All opinions are my own.