Kitchen and kitsch are two of my favorite things so when they combine in one place I get all giggly with excitement, and this is exactly what happened when I opened up The Casserole Queens Cookbook. Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock have taken some of the most absurd (but you know you still crave them) recipes from your grandmother’s bag of tricks and upgraded them with homemade elements such as making a béchamel instead of using cream of mushroom soup, or classing up chicken pot pie with white wine and fresh tarragon. Oh cream of mushroom soup from a can…how are we still alive?!

This awesome duo have managed to dig up a veritable treasure trove of back in the day favorites including the meal I ate countless times while laying on the living room floor at my grandmother’s house and watching Brady Bunch reruns: Tuna Noodle Casserole (or as we nicknamed it: Tuna-Pea-Wiggle). But the awesome doesn’t stop there. You can also learn how to make perked up versions of Cottage Pie, Arroz con Pollo, Beef Burgundy, Peach Cobbler, and even Strata. Cook and Pollock refer to their best of the ’50s style of cooking with a modern and sophisticated twist as “sophistakitsch” and I can definitely see myself whipping up an array of their creative dishes while channeling my inner Betty Draper just as soon as I can find my pearls.

Congratulations to Stacy: the winner of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book!

Fact: the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book was the first cookbook that I ever purchased for myself. I happened upon it at a company sponsored book fair back at my first job right out of college. The familiar red-plaid cover drew me in. I’d been paging through a similar cookbook for years at my grandmother’s house so I was instantly filled with happy childhood memories upon seeing it perched on the portable shelf. While flipping through the book the gorgeous photographs and familiar recipes, that appeared to be things that I could make without burning my apartment down, immediately convinced me that I had to have it and I promptly paid for the book and rushed up to my cubicle so I could examine it more closely.

It was through this cookbook that I gained a bit of cooking confidence. The detailed recipes introduced me to banana bread, meatloaf, classic white bread, and even macaroni and cheese. To this day it’s still one of my go-to cookbooks. If you’ve ever wondered what the one essential cookbook every home cook should own I wouldn’t hesitate for a second in recommending this one.

The 15th edition of the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book has been updated to include more than 1400 recipes (1000 of which are all brand new) and new chapters for “Breakfast and Brunches,” “Sandwiches and Pizza,” and “Convenience Cooking” have also been added. Plus, as canning has become ever so popular as of late the chapter on “Canning and Freezing” has been completely revamped.

As this is such a well-loved book I’d like to give you the opportunity to win a copy to keep on your own shelf for years to come. To enter the giveaway all you have to do is leave a comment on this post.

In addition, If you share the link to this contest on your own blog, Twitter, Facebook etc… you may have one additional entry for a total of two possible chances to win. If you choose this option please leave a link to your shout out as your second comment.  A winner will be selected via the random number generator this Friday, October 1, 2010 at 6:00 PM EST and then I’ll promptly arrange to have the book shipped to your home. Best of luck!

(Please note: A copy of this book was provided to me free of charge by the publisher).

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Nigella ChristmasI have a serious girl crush on Nigella Lawson. I adore the tone of her cookbooks and the devil-may-care manner in which she prepares food on her numerous gorgeously styled television programs. Nigella’s cookbooks always present entertaining in such an approachable and anxiety-free way that I’m repeatedly convinced I can host a fabulous dinner party without having a meltdown. I’ve yet to accomplish this feat though. I always have at least one hissy fit at some point before a big party, but a girl can still hope, right?

Nigella Christmas, Lawson’s latest gorgeous volume of recipes, was recently released and I simply can’t put it down. I’ve flipped through the festive pages numerous times over the past weeks and changed my mind about which dishes I hope to prepare for our Christmas dinner on countless occasions. Presently I have my eye on a Tiramisu Layer Cake, a sticky looking Gingerbread, and a decadent Clementine based chutney. Obviously I need to find some sort of protein and vegetables to serve between this array of sweets but I’m certain Nigella has my back.

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The Christmas TableAlmost every recipe I made for my first Christmas dinner last year came from Diana Morgan’s must-have cookbook The Christmas Table. If you’re at all nervous about playing hostess for this month’s festivities then I absolutely recommend picking up this title. Morgan covers everything from the traditional holiday turkey to a sublime show-stopping crown roast. But that’s only the beginning; from appetizers to cocktails, dessert to leftovers and even edible gifts this book offers step-by-step instruction on everything you’ll need to know to entertain in fabulous style.

The pièce de résistance of my feast last year was a decadent Eggnog Cheesecake. This year I’m hoping to tackle the Yorkshire Pudding with Chives and perhaps the Gingerbread Bundt Cake with Créme Anglaise. Then we’ll possibly wash it all down with a Blood Orange Mimosa (or three). Now if that line-up doesn’t scream “jolly and bright” I don’t know what does.

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The New Thanksgiving TableThanksgiving is such a special holiday but the pressure to prepare a spectacular meal for your closest friends and family can quickly become an overwhelming chore of epic proportions. Thankfully, this year author Diane Morgan has provided ambitious home cooks everywhere with a beautiful cookbook full of recipes that will satisfy all of your guests expectations.

Covering everything from appetizers to leftovers, The New Thanksgiving Table touches upon a variety of regional dish traditions from coast to coast (including many vegetarian options) while providing detailed menus and instruction, all while encouraging you not to be afraid to make things ahead. In my experience this seems to be the saving grace for any high pressure get together.

How does Silky Parsnip-Potato Soup, a piping hot Hazelnut and Fresh Herb Popover, and Cape Cod Cranberry Compote sound? My mouth simply waters at the thought of so many decadent dishes! So whether you’re an experienced hostess looking for a few new editions to add to your already stunning repertoire, or a nervous newlywed hosting the in-laws for the first time, I’m confident that you’ll find just what you’re looking for in this highly accessible new title from Chronicle Books.

Kids' Kitchen Recipe DeckThe colorful kitchen-themed window display at Barefoot Books in Porter square stopped me in my tracks while I was walking past the store on Monday afternoon. The bright and cheerful arrangement of child-friendly tools was designed to highlight the Kids’ Kitchen Recipe Deck. Included in this new deck are 40 whimsically illustrated recipes which are categorized to introduce children to the five main food groups. In addition to the recipes being a genius way to orient kids to the basics of cooking and preparing food, the cards will also educate your little chef on the ins and outs of essential vitamins and minerals and wow them with fun food facts. All of the recipes are vegetarian and include an array of dishes from Mellow Yellow Rice to Mean Green Guacamole. I’m positive even the pickiest of little eaters will be able to find an acceptable meal in this must-have deck.

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Field Guide to CandyThe Field Guide to Candy conceived by blogger Anita Chu of Dessert First is a tiny cookbook that just brims with fascinating facts, tips, and recipes. I personally would never have dreamed to attempt making my own Gummy Bears, Maple Sugar Candy, or Rock Candy at home. These are all treats that I’ve ordinarily purchased in a store, but with Anita’s straightforward and easy to follow instructions I’m confident that I’m now in possession of the knowledge to become a one woman candy making machine.

From the publisher: Field Guide to Candy includes traditional favorites and exotic treats from all over the world, everything from peanut butter cups and salt-water taffy to Pastelia (Greek honey candy) and Turkish Delight. Each candy is photographed in glorious full color, with step-by-step instructions on how to prepare, make, serve, and store your creations. Yummy homemade confections are just minutes away with Field Guide to Candy in your pantry!

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Eat Your Feelings: Recipes for Self-LoathingIf you enjoy off-beat comedy then Heather Whaley’s Eat Your Feelings: Recipes for Self-Loathing is definitely the cookbook for you. It will probably have a triggering effect though so be forewarned: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to make a pie and eat the whole thing while watching reruns of The Ghost Whisperer. It’s ok though. I’m sure you have your therapist on speed dial. She’s looking forward to your call.

From the publisher: In this hilarious tongue-in-cheek collection, actress and playwright Heather Whaley reminds us that unlike fair weather friends and reliable sources of income, food will always be there for you – and for each of life’s pitfalls she has provided the perfect recipe to cheer you up. Whether you’ve just been dumped, fired, found naked pictures of yourself online, or are forty-five and living with your parents, Eat Your Feelings will help fill any void.

With a dark comedic edge, this book collects the comfort foods necessary for any emotional roller coaster: Sky-High Banana Cream Pie Because You’re Dating a Married Guy, Lonely Christmas Pudding, Little Sister Earns More Than You Ham-and-Cheese Toastie, and many more. Illustrated with photos that add the perfect punch, this collection confounds life’s little dramas with wit and brevity.

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