Erin Cataldi: Life is what you bake it

Nothing brings friends or family together like a good home-cooked meal.

During the pandemic, many of us had to improve our kitchen skills as restaurants temporarily closed their doors. For some, cooking was a chore, but for others, it was something fun to get back into or discover for the first time. Social media exploded with stories about people baking and posts of cooking videos. Hopefully, it is a trend that will stay.

If you are looking to add to your kitchen repertoire or become inspired, then look no further than your local public library. Johnson County Public Library has thousands of cookbooks and cooking magazines to inspire you (no exaggeration — we have a cookbook for everything).

From celebrity cookbooks (Freddie Prinze, Jr., Oprah and Gwyneth Paltrow, to name a few) to diet trends (we cover everything from Paleo to Keto to the South Beach Diet) and new appliances (air fryers, pressure cookers and slow cookers), there is a cookbook for everyone.

We even have DVDs from every season of The Great British Baking Show and Paula Deen as well as cake decorating videos.

Speaking of cakes — do you need a special cake pan or cookie cutter for a birthday or holiday get-together? JCPL offers baking kits for one-week checkout with your library card. Each branch has different cake pans and sets of cookie cutters available to check out. If you can think of a cake pan, we probably have it — from a heart to Darth Vader, to a dinosaur and a unicorn; we have options. The cookie cutters are especially magical. Birds, holidays, superheroes, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and more.

If you like to keep your mind active while you’re baking or cooking, then check out the library’s podcast, “Back Stories,” or rent an audiobook to listen to from our Hoopla app. We even have cooking programs that you can attend virtually to learn about latkes, leftover turkey soup and more. Talk to a librarian or visit to get some kitchen inspiration.

Here is a look at five cookbooks I recommend you check out:

The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes from My Cabin in the Woods by Erin Gleeson

Just Feed Me: Simply Delicious Recipes from My Heart to Your Plate by Jesse James Decker

The Golden Girls Cookbook: More than 90 Delectable Recipes from Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and Sophia by Christopher Styler

The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie: Deluxe Recipes by Paula Haney

The Ultimate Meal Prep Cookbook: One Grocery List, A Week of Meals, No Waste by America’s Test Kitchen

Erin Cataldi is adult and teen services librarian at the Clark Pleasant branch of the Johnson County Public Library. Library staff members share in writing this bi-monthly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to [email protected].