One of my presents this Christmas (from my daughter) was the relatively new, The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond. I am really enjoying it not only because it has great recipes but I love the step-by-step illustrations. I think photos are one of the best things you can add to a cookbook, especially for a novice cook. I don't consider myself a novice, but as a blogger who puts recipe after recipe on her blog, this book is like a primer for me. It shows exactly what a cook needs to ensure the recipe is followed correctly--and I have at times been confused with recipe directions.
For instance, take this recipe for pizza. (A dough recipe is also given.) The description is good, but to know just how the recipe should look and how much of something needs to be used, well as they say, a picture IS worth a thousand words.
For someone who has never cooked at all, a few of the recipes might be simple but the photos can tell you the little secrets behind what a good does to give a dish a little extra--finesse.
There are some time-saving recipes as well. The make-ahead muffin melts look easy and we all need recipes for those really busy days.
The PW recipes I have tried so far are always good. I'm not saying they are always healthy but they are great for entertaining and, well--everything is easier when you follow along with the photos.
At this time of year, when we are looking to shed pounds it might not be a great time to make the desserts. They are very good and too tempting but I might suggest making one of the desserts for special company, a birthday or to celebrate after you reach your weight goal. I am sure if you lived on a working ranch, as does this cookbook's author, it would be easy to work off extra calories. Need I say more?
I also love the recipes for pickles and jam. I think canning and putting things by is a lost (domestic) art, but that's another topic.
For a new bride or new cook and for trendy, food recipes--this is THE book.