10 Best Local Cookbooks and Food Guides

Stacks on stacks on stacks.

Stacks on stacks on stacks.

This holiday season we've compiled our picks for the 10 best food guides and cookbooks, all written by local Minnesota authors in the last year. From cookbooks on indigenous foods, squash, cake, and gluten-free breads, to recipes from Twin Cities chefs, to guides on cooking from farmers markets, mushroom hunting, growing micro greens, and dehydrating -- you've got plenty of options for the local food lover on your list.

See also: The Essential Holiday Gift Guide for Local Food Lovers

10. Original Local by Heid E. Erdrich Heid E. Erdrich is a poet. That's right, she'd not a cookbook author, nor a food blogger, nor a chef. She is also a member of the Turtle Mountain band of Ojibwe, half German-American, and resides in Minnesota. When asked what her inspiration was for writing a cookbook, Erdrich answered, "A thousand years of deliciousness right outside my door; my family of gardeners, hunters, gatherers; and a people's health."

Published late last year, Original Local is just that, a truly indigenous ode to the foods and stories of the upper Midwest. The book is organized into chapters on native foods from manoomin (traditionally harvested wild rice), fish and game, to mandaamin (corn), and maple and berries. Each chapter comes with a story that highlights the past and present state of indigenous food (like how water quality affects wild rice), as well as antidotes, community tales, and of course, poetry. It's a soulful cookbook for the Midwestern heart.

9. The Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook by Tricia Cornell This colorful cookbook is a field guide to finding, shopping, and cooking from local farmers markets in Minnesota. Over 80 recipes from local chefs, foodies, and vendors make this book a goldmine for seasonal cooks. Writer Tricia Cornell created the book because so many people said that they loved to shop at the farmers market, but had no clue how to actually grocery shop at one.

"Farmers markets are fantastic community gathering places, but they are are also great places to do a big portion of your weekly grocery shop," says Cornell. "I wanted to write a book that would help people feel more comfortable doing that." From fresh veggies and fruit to local meats, eggs and cheeses, farmers markets are the perfect way to connect with all that's local -- as is this cookbook.


8. Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest by Kathy Yerich and Teresa Marrone Kathy Yerich and Teresa Marrone (also mentioned below for her dehydrating book) are prolific and expert mushroom hunters. Their guide to mushrooms is written for both beginners and experts. Easy-to-understand descriptions, habitat keys, and high quality photos make this a perfect gift for the budding mycologist in your life. And it fits perfectly in your back pocket (or stocking?).

"Our book is a very accessible reference manual for identifying mushrooms," says Yerich. With almost 400 common mushroom varieties listed, the book is well organized into sections including "Top Edibles" and "Top Toxics." Now you have all winter to read up on mushrooms before the big morel season hits this spring. Prepare yourselves for the hunt.

7. Surprise-Inside Cakes by Amanda Rettke Baker, blogger, and supermom Amanda Rettke's cake cookbook just makes you smile. Her easy-to-make (and tasty) cakes take no special equipment or training, just a desire to delight your loved ones. Filled with fun, fanciful, and downright ingenious cake designs, this cookbook could change your cake baking forever.

"Writing Surprise-Inside Cakes came from a deep seeded desire to make people happy," says Rettke. "Seeing their faces when they cut into a cake with a design on the inside (that is often personalized just for them) is addicting! Plus cake is yummy."

6. Indoor Kitchen Gardening by Elizabeth Millard Author and farmer Elizabeth Millard, co-founder of the local CSA Bossy Acres, takes you through the step-by-step process of simple indoor-farming of micro greens, as well as growing more ambitious varieties of veggies like mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, and lettuce. From window-sill gardening to a garden in your basement, Millard shows you how to have fresh produce all year long.

"Winters in Minnesota are notorious for wearing optimists down to a brittle nub," says Millard. "As the snow buried our cars, we harvested carrots, tomatoes, pea shoots, and tray after tray of micro-greens." Nothing brightens up your day more than a bunch of greens in February during the polar vortex. [page]

5. Smitten with Squash by Amanda Paa Blogger Amanda Paa elevates the humble squash to new heights in this tasty cookbook. From those prolific summer zucchinis to the long-storing winter butternuts, Paa takes home cooks through preparing a wide variety of squashes available in the Midwest, with more than 75 recipes that are easy and delicious to make.

"My hope is that people find new recipes for the familiar butternut and acorn, but also use the book as a resource and inspiration for the other beautiful squashes they see at the market, but usually pass by," notes author Amanda Paa. Now you finally know what to do with that giant pile of squash at the market.

4. The Beginner's Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods by Teresa Marrone This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know to know about dehydrating food, even without a dehydrator, and how cook with it. Each recipe covers oven, sun, and dehydrator options along with wide array of foods, from vegetables and fruits to meats. It also has recipes for how to use all those dried foods in your everyday life.

"I got into drying foods when I was doing a lot of camping in the BWCA (Boundary Water Canoe Area) and wanted to find an alternative to pre-packed freeze-dried 'meals,'" says author Teresa Marrone. "Since then, I've learned about so many other great uses, such as making homemade candied fruit, veggie burger mix, homemade crackers and cereal, and of course all types of dried fruits and veg. It's a great way to make foods that suit your style, whether it's gluten-free, low sodium, vegan, or just plain good." You, too, can have a pantry full of bulk foods at your finger tips, without hitting the co-op.

3. Kitchen Science Lab for Kids by Elizabeth Lee Heinecke While technically not a cookbook (although it does have edible electromagnetic waves), this book celebrates the kitchen and food as a source of science magic. Instead of baking cookies, why not mix up a batch of acid rain detector? Or make your own solar oven? Or, our favorite, create a soda geyser?

"Got milk? Food Coloring? Vinegar? Chances are, you already have a cupboard-full of science experiments at your fingertips," says author Elizabeth Lee Heinecke. "Exploring science in kitchens and backyards provides an environment for freedom, creativity, and invention that isn't always possible in a school setting. Kitchen Science Lab For Kids shows you that it's simple, inexpensive, and fun to whip up amazing experiments for kids of all ages using everyday ingredients." If you have kids, or just are a kid, this book is a must-have.

2. Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg Bestselling authors Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg, of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and numerous other cookbooks, bring you their first entirely gluten-free cookbook, after a flood of requests from devoted readers. The recipes make you wonder why you use wheat when such fabulous bread can be made without it.

"Jeff and I decided that it was a bit unfair for someone with celiac disease or wheat sensitivities to have to buy a book packed full of wheat breads, just for a single chapter of gluten-free recipes," notes Francois. "But they were doing it. So we set off to create a book entirely for those folks. It's all our best recipes from our other books, but reworked with gluten-free flours." We can personally vouch for the brioche doughnuts. OMG.

1. Twin Cities Chef's Table by Stephanie Meyer This lushly photographed cookbook celebrates the vibrant Twin Cities food scene with recipes and stories from more than 50 local eateries and cooks. This insider's guide takes you on a tour of an intensely creative food scene through lens of the Cities' chefs, mixologist, ethnic communities, local farms, and farmers markets. And it does double duty as a coffee table book.

"Basically, it's a love letter to all things food in the Twin Cities," says local food writer and blogger Stephanie Meyer. "The publisher's vision was the evolution of farm-to-table/Midwestern cuisine, with a vibrant ethnic food community, highlighting chefs achieving the national spotlight. I used that vision to share recipes and fill out the rest of the story with nods to our local farmers, markets, craft brewers, co-ops, and food trucks."


Books can be sourced online, or even better, at your local kitchen supply store, book store, or farm store. This year, eat, read, and cook local for the holidays.

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