With stacks of cookbooks published every year, choosing the right one for that special someone may seem as daunting as perfecting a fussy soufflé. This season, we’ve found sure-to-please titles for every foodie on your list—with an emphasis on healthy, natural ingredients and techniques, of course. Read ’em and eat.

Perfect for Small-fry chefs
Salad People and More Real Recipes
by Mollie Katzen
(Tricycle Press, 2005)
Overview: The latest installment of Katzen’s cookbooks for preschoolers is a worthy follower to the enduringly charming Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes (Tricycle Press, 1994) and, for kids 8 and up, Honest Pretzels (Tricycle Press, 1999). This irresistibly cheerful cookbook for tots and their adult helpers provides foolproof illustrated directions—and testers’ candid comments (see some below)—for easy, vegetarian yummies. It’s destined to spark your mini–Julia Child’s love of wholesome foods and guaranteed to bloom her confidence with each proud announcement, “I made it myself!”

Our favorite titles:

  • Rainbow-Raisin Cole Slaw (“It’s like raisin bran, except it’s salad.”)
  • Miso-Almond Dipping Sauce (“The snow pea is a good scooper.”)
  • Corny Corn Cakes (“Tomorrow we could make this again.”)

Perfect for the ecoconscious eater
Vegan World Fusion Cuisine
by Mark Reinfeld, et al.
(Thousand Petals, 2004)
Overview: Winner of the Nautilus 2005 Small Press Book Award, this labor of love from the Blossoming Lotus restaurant, a renowned vegan eatery in Kapa’a, Hawaii, seeks no less than a world of “mindfulness, gratitude, and the intention to heal and nurture” achieved through plant-based foods. What makes the book sing are stunning photographs of foods and sacred places alongside enticing recipes—often with blessedly lighthearted titles. Includes numerous “living foods” recipes, noted by a pink lotus blossom.

Our favorite titles:

  • Carpe Diem Carrot Almond Paté Nori Rolls
  • Amazing Grace Apricot Corn Bread Stuffing
  • Transcendental Tropical Ratatouille
  • Mysterium Tremendum Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Perfect for the fish fanatic
by Diane Morgan
(Chronicle, 2005)
Overview: Wild salmon—the chicken breast of the new millennium—is the latest must-eat food on health experts’ lists, lauded for its all-important omega-3 fatty acids, low mercury levels, and satisfying taste. This focused book provides practical information on buying, storing, and prepping this versatile fish; a heartfelt and informed discussion of wild versus farmed salmon, including a firsthand look at an environmentally responsible, small-scale salmon farm in Scotland; and dozens of innovative recipes.

Our favorite titles:

  • Rice Noodle Soup with Salmon, Baby Bok Choy, and Shiitake Mushrooms
  • Grilled Salmon Tacos with Chipotle Sauce
  • Roasted Leek and Salmon Tartlets
  • Salmon Cakes with Satsuma, Red Onion, and Jicama Slaw

Perfect for the canine companion
Cooking the Three Dog Bakery Way
by Mark Beckloff and Dan Dye
(Broadway, 2005)
Overview: Written by the founders of the international Three Dog Bakery chain, this book is the latest in their dog-enthusiast series. Every pup-pleasing treat and meal features natural, human-quality ingredients. Cleverly illustrated, the book also includes tons of canine health care tips—and a veritable minefield of doggie-related puns.

Our favorite titles:

  • Belly-Rub Brownies (made with carob)
  • Grrrrrrnola Muttins
  • Hound-Dog Hash
  • Labrador Lasagna

Perfect for the diabetic gourmand
Eating for Diabetes
by Jane Frank
(Marlowe & Co., 2005)
Overview: With sobering statistics on diabetes—more than 18 million Americans have the disease, and numbers are rising—it’s no wonder that diabetes-focused cookbooks appear practically every month. What sets this one apart is the author’s sensible approach to balancing proteins, fats, and especially carbohydrates (the most difficult foods for diabetics to metabolize); the substitution of soy or rice milk for cow’s milk, which may increase insulin secretion; and, most notably, the shunning of all artificial sweeteners. Extras: a helpful discussion of the glycemic index, nutritional breakdowns for every recipe, menu planners, and shopping lists.

Our favorite titles:

  • Turkey with Fennel and Cashew Cream
  • Lime-Scented Carrot and Cumin Salad
  • Chana Dal with Coconut and Whole Spices
  • Baked Blackberry Cheesecake

Four more gifts for cooks >>
Brain Foods for Kids by Nicola Graimes (Delta Trade Paperbacks, 2005) Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Cooking by Susan O’Brien (Thorsons, 2005) i by Monisha Bharadwaj (Kyle Books, 2005) The New American Cooking by Joan Nathan (Knopf, 2005)

Perfect for The health-food skeptic
The New American Plate Cookbook
(University of California Press, 2005)
Overview: This artful blend of up-to-date nutrition science and delicious recipes may be just the thing to convince the not-yet-converted-to-healthy-eating cook. Produced by the American Institute for Cancer Research, the book’s goals are simple: to help people maintain a healthy weight and live longer, healthier lives. (Who could argue with that?) Its lifelong approach centers on proportion: a new view that transforms the traditional, brown-and-white meal—with its hunk of meat, mound of potatoes, and paltry salad—to a vibrantly colored plate where vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans make up two-thirds or more of the meal, and animal protein contributes one-third or less.

Our favorite titles:

  • Pear Salad with Ricotta Cheese and Toasted Pistachios
  • Acorn Squash Stuffed with Apricots and Cornbread
  • Spicy Tomato-Pepper Pot Roast
  • Sweet Potato and Apple Stew with Turkey and Cranberries
  • Cranberry-Apple Lattice Pie