For the past few weeks, I’ve been watching so many of you hop on the baking and cooking train with great abandon, wondering when my own desire to dive into my cookbooks and never leave my kitchen might settle in. Well… it finally happened.

This past weekend, I sat down in our breakfast nook with a stack kof my favorite cookbooks to do some meal planning. And when I emerged? Well, let’s just say I’ve cooked three new recipes for dinner, and baked banana bread and breakfast cookies. Since Sunday. This is crazy ya’ll.

my three favorite cookbooks for quarantine

Two things have been fueling this fire. First: I’m oh so sick of the usual stuff I cook up around here. I’m the one who makes dinner nearly every night and we’re used to mixing things up by hitting up our favorite restaurants. While we’re trying to do takeout about once a week to support our local businesses, we’re mostly cooking at home. And that means I’ve gotta start mixing thing up too!

Second: I’ll probably write an entire post about the shifts that I’ve found during this time at home and which ones I intend on making more permanent, but one of them has definitely be less waste. While we were mindful of this before this epic saga, I’ve found myself being even more aware now. So I’ve been working hard to use up every item in our fridge before it goes bad, making sauces or dressings out of veggie scraps or getting creative with what we throw in our dinner bowls.

cassandra lavalle neutral breakfast nook

Needless to say, I’ve been turning to my small stack of cookbooks for lessons and inspiration on taking my meals to the next level. And I’ve been putting a lot of tools in my kitchen to good use!! So I thought I’d share all of them here with you in hopes of bringing some more bits of joy to your own kitchen!


1. ‘piatti’ cookbook | 2. garlic peeler | 3. garlic press | 4. chopping knife | 5. fish spatula | 6. ‘where cooking begins’ cookbook | 7. cast iron pan | 8. spoon rest | 9. ‘cook beautiful’ cookbook | 10. silicone tongs | 11. microplane grater | 12. salt cellar | 13. ‘love & lemons every day’ cookbook

While these tools are small, they are mighty and make cooking much easier. You might find it hilarious that I included a pair of tongs on here, but my husband will attest to how much I use ours. Probably more than any spoon or ladle or whatever else you have in your utensil jar. A sharp knife for chopping is a must and this white one is on sale right now! Well worth an investment. Considering how much garlic I use in pretty much every dish I cook, I couldn’t live without a peeler and press. Anything to try and keep that smell off my hands! Another random tool that I’m obsessed with is my fish spatula. It’s delicate and thin, perfect for lifting fish off the pan, but also comes in quite handy for omelettes and other items that need a lighter touch.

As for the cookbooks, here’s a quick review of each!

Piatti: A collection of modern and classic Italian antipasti dishes by Stacy Adimando, you won’t find any pasta here, but you will find amazing Italian comfort food. I happened to meet Stacy on a press trip years ago that was one of my favorites, and she and I both share a passion for our Italian (Calabrese!) heritage. Her recipes adhere to the way that our southern roots teach us to cook: simple, quality ingredients make for simple, but amazing flavors. Some of her recipes are second nature to me, while others have helped up my Italian game. Nonna would be proud.

Where Cooking Begins: After seeing quite a few friends continuously cook from this book, I decided to get my own copy, and I gotta say, it’s worth the hype! I love the variety of recipes, all of which are definitely approachable with a little knowledge of cooking. It’s written by Carla Lalli Music, Food Director at Bon Appetit. And yes, she’s also Italian. What I like best is the small sections on how she actually shops for, organizes and cooks in her own home, as well as some basics on cooking techniques like pan roasting and confit.

Cook Beautiful: Just like everything she does, this cookbook from Athena Calderone is gorgeous. But better than that, it’s delicious. Guys, are you sensing a theme here? Yep, she’s Italian and many of her recipes also employ the simple flavors of Italian cooking. This book is packed with recipes, and every one is more mouth-watering than the next. I couldn’t choose a favorite if I tried! Organized seasonally, there are little tabletop tips sprinkled in as well to add to the charm.

Love & Lemons Everyday: I raved about this book when I got it, and that praise never seems to end. This is my veggie cooking bible, but beyond that, it’s full of great tips for using scraps like the leaves from beet or radish greens for sauces. This is Jeanine Donofrio‘s second cookbook, and it’s even more thoughtful than the first. It has a whole chart dedicated to dressings, tips on basic ways to cook veggies, and covers every main meal and those in-between ones too. I used it last night to bake those breakfast cookies for this morning, and to guide me in whipping up a dressing for our veggie bowl dinner.

There are many more books on my shelf, but these are the four that have been in constant rotation in our house! Would love to know what your go-to’s are right now!

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