There were many years in which I cowered away from the kitchen: the thought of cooking TERRIFIED me. I had an ex-boyfriend whose confidence in the kitchen completely overshadowed me, and I lacked the bravery to experiment with flavors… let alone attempt to follow a recipe. Where he was completely in his element, I was lackluster.

It took a little encouragement from my then-roommates and the support of the online vegan community for me to finally break out of my culinary shell and grow into the (still somewhat amateur) chef that I am today. But truthfully, if you had to ask me right now what one of my favorite hobbies is, it’s cooking.

This month, I’m bringing you several of my favorite cookbooks from over the years. By default, many of these are vegan cookbooks… but trust me when I say that lots of these recipes have satisfied many a non-vegan! (I mean, I once dated someone who was hardcore Paleo. If he could fall in love with some of these dishes, then anyone can.)

Do you have any favorite cookbooks — vegan or otherwise? Leave them in the comments below!

“Thug Kitchen – The Official Cookbook: Eat Like You Give a F*ck” by Matt Holloway and Michelle Davis

The “Thug Kitchen” franchise started their wildly popular web site to inspire people to eat some goddamn vegetables and adopt a healthier lifestyle. Now with over half a million Facebook fans and counting, authors Matt and Michelle want to show everyone how to take charge of their plates and cook up some real vegan food.

If you don’t like swearing, you best just back away from the cookbook immediately. Bad words — this book has ’em. However, if you can get past the cursing, you’ll find a solid cookbook. Not only does Thug Kitchen contain recipes regular humans can create, it also has helpful hints on pantry staples as well as various utensils and gadgets you actually need in your kitchen when starting out on your own.

And it has pretty pictures, too.

The only downside? The recipes are all vegan, so the hardcore carnivore probably won’t be delighted… but you can just tell them to shut the f*ck up and chug back a delicious beverage instead of bitching about the fact there is no carcass on their plate come dinnertime.

Recipe worth writing home about? Grilled eggplant soba noodles.

Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook is available on Amazon in hardcover and on Kindle.

“The China Study All-Star Collection: Whole-Food, Plant-Based Recipes From Your Favorite Vegan Chefs” by LeAnne Campbell

For those of you who may not be familiar, The China Study is touted as the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted. More than 30 years ago, nutrition researcher T. Colin Campbell and his team at Cornell, in partnership with teams in China and England, embarked upon their research. What they found opened their eyes to the dangers of a diet high in animal protein and the unparalleled health benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet.

This cookbook brings together top names in the plant-based community to share their favorite and most delicious recipes. What I like most about it is that all recipes are pretty approachable for the average/busy cook. While I love experimenting in the kitchen, I don’t care much for cookbooks that require you to go out and buy a bunch of weird, specialty ingredients. Most of the recipes in this book called for items that are typically already in your pantry or available in a standard grocery store. There are some recipes that call for processed items — like tofu — but very little.

Best of all, the recipes are clear and easy… and oil-free. If you’re looking to cut oils or processed fats out of your diet, this is the place to start.

Recipe worth writing home about? Creamy broccoli and red pepper macaroni. 

The China Study All-Star Collection is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

“The Vegan Slow Cooker” by Kathy Hester

With The Vegan Slow Cooker, you’ll find all the tasty inspiration you need to pull that neglected crock pot out of storage and get start creating compassionate, crave-worthy meals today. Home cooking has never been more easy… or delicious.

I already loved my slow cooker, but this book has made me appreciate it even more! So many ideas (much more than the expected soups and stews) and easy-to-find ingredients inside.

The layout of this cookbook and the recipes within are also super helpful, indicating if you need a smaller Crockpot or if you need to double (or triple) a recipe if you only have a larger one. The author also includes simple steps — like sauteing your vegetables — that can be done the night before.

Recipe worth writing home about? Hot and sour soup.

The Vegan Slow Cooker is available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.