All the Cookbooks I’ve Checked Out from the Library Over Quarantine (So Far)

Author: Morris McLennan

I don’t remember how this started. I believe my roommates and I were having a good laugh about mobsters. Perhaps it was around the time we were planning to marathon all the Godfather movies? I can’t say I’m entirely sure. What I do know is this: my life was forever changed after going to the library and checking out The Wise Guy Cookbook: My Favorite Recipes From My Life as a Goodfella to Cooking on the Run by Henry Hill.  What started as a joke has turned into my favorite quarantine activity of all time. I browse the internet for cookbooks, then instead of buying them like some kind of billionaire, I check them out from the library and cook through a few of the recipes before returning them. 

For context, I have been cooking and baking consistently for three years now. I’m no five-star chef, but I do have a lot of experience reading and following recipes. Unfortunately, my opinion is not objectively true, and all of my reviews will be based on my opinion. Many cookbooks are hard to compare, so please don’t take this as anything other than silly college entertainment writing. But without further ado, here are my reviews.

The Wise Guy Cookbook: My Favorite Recipes From My Life as a Goodfella to Cooking on the Run by Henry Hill

Henry. The man who started it all. I’ve never seen Goodfellas, but I promise I’ll watch it eventually. Henry Hill is apparently one of the mobsters that movie was about. As for the cookbook, his stories are the best part. First I made his stuffed shells with tomato mint sauce, but I used store-bought vegan mozzarella and homemade tofu ricotta instead of cow cheese. I don’t think that’s how Henry would’ve wanted me to make it, but it turned out pretty good, and I’ll definitely make them again sometime. I also made a sun-dried tomato pasta sauce, which was fine, but not awesome. That being said, this is a great cookbook to read cover to cover. There are stories all about the recipes and where they come from. It’s organized not by breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or even by seasons; Henry Hill’s cookbook follows his life on the run! 

My Rating: 4 Stars

Food52 Vegan: 60 Vegetable-Driven Recipes for Any Kitchen by Gena Hamshaw

I love the Food52 website. I love the Food52 YouTube channel. I guzzle Food52 recipes like I’m a very dehydrated person and they are water. Gena Hamshaw is the queen of Food52 vegan recipes. I own her other cookbook, Power Plates, so I was excited to give this one a try. However, many of the Food52 Vegan recipes are copies of the recipes that appear in Power Plates. Many of the recipes looked sort of basic and boring to me. It’s a nice cookbook, and there’s plenty of pictures, but you’re probably better off just looking at the recipes online. I tried the date nut bread, and it was okay, but I don’t love dates all that much. 

My Rating: 2 Stars

The Jewish Cookbook by Leah Koeing

I checked out this book with the intention of learning how to make hamantaschen. I have not leaned how to make hamantaschen yet. However, I still have a few days left on my loan, and Lori Lightfoot can’t take my money if I return it a few days late. What makes The Jewish Cookbook so special is the massive quantity of recipes and information it contains. Jewish food exists basically all over the planet, so there are tons of regional dishes and variations on recipes. The Jewish Cookbook also contains stories about many of the recipes; I know I learned a lot while flipping through it. The only recipe I’ve made so far is braised fennel, and it was very solid, but I also discovered that I don’t really like fennel that much. 

My Rating: 4 Stars

PLANTLAB by Matthew Kenney

Maybe I should not be reviewing this cookbook since I haven’t made any recipes from it, but I feel like it would be dishonest of me not to tell you what happened. What happened, you ask? I checked this cookbook out from the library, looked at it for five minutes, and then returned it. I do not want to make meals that are essentially just raw or cooked vegetables with no source of… anything remotely satiating. This is a cookbook for people who want to make tiny fancy restaurant foods. Also many of the recipes were for raw foods, which I have no personal disrespect for, I simply do not consider them high on my list of foods I want to make. 

My Rating: 1 Star

Black Girl Baking: Wholesome Recipes Inspired by a Soulful Upbringing by Jerrelle Guy

When Food52 released a video on Jerrelle Guy’s kombucha muffins, I thought… no way. Then I made them, and I thought ‘this is unlike anything I’ve ever made before; I wonder if more recipes like this exist?’ Then I learned that Jerrelle Guy has a cookbook. And it is amazing. I am a whole grain fanboy. I am an alternative flours fanboy. I am a vegan baked goods fanboy. This cookbook has brought so much joy into my life. I made the almond coconut croissants and they brought a tear to my eye. I have like ten bookmarks on the recipes I want to make. I must admit that I did severely mess up the apple crisp recipe, and ended up with something both burnt and raw at the same time, but that was probably on me. The croissants changed my life and I will be buying this cookbook once I return the library copy. 

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Those are all my cookbook reviews so far! If you’re familiar with any of these cookbooks and have opinions, I would love to hear them. I’m also open to any suggestions for more cookbooks I should check out in the future.   Email me at:

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