When I cook dinner after developing dessert recipes all day, I am tired of following recipes, so I don’t. I open the fridge and cook freestyle. Now that I write cookbook reviews, I have to use recipes. After trying out a bunch from some of the cookbooks I collected over 2013, I have discovered some great new dishes that will enhance your family meals throughout the new year. I am sure you will enjoy exploring these recipes—and cookbooks—as much as I did.

Modern Menu by Kim Kushner, a New York cooking teacher, is organized by menus with titles such as “Vibrant” which contains colorful and crisp dishes and “Gutsy” with recipes using unique ingredients. Kim believes that “Less is more, simple is always best, and food should look as good as it tastes and taste as good as it looks.”  She wants home chefs to take risks.

The “Warm,” menu includes Chicken with Pumpkin and Figs, a tasty winter dish. The tangy Sticky Beef Ribs come from the “Saucy” menu. The menus are suggestions, so I mixed those mains with the Crunchy Cauliflower from the “Fresh” menu. A favorite is the “Gutsy” Gingered Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes, a flavorful dish requiring three hours of oven commitment, but was definitely worth the time.

Starters & Sides Made Easy: Favorite Triple-Tested Recipes, written by Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek, is the second of a series that started with Passover Made Easy. The books are soft covered and reasonably priced. Starters has 60 easy recipes with photos and advance prep instructions. Although Victoria warned me about the chopping for the Three Onion Brown Rice, the onions create a risotto-like consistency we all loved. I also enjoyed the Sweet Potato and Leek Quiche and the Seared Tuna with Gemmeli salad.

Jamie Geller, of the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller magazine and website, follows up her two Quick and Kosher books with Joy of Kosher, a beautiful book of 100 fast recipes that you can dress up for entertaining or dress down for weekday meals. The Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Herb “Butter” is becoming a regular at our table. My boys enjoyed the spice mix of the Moroccan Roasted Chicken and breakfast-for-dinner with the Chicken Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash with Baked Eggs.

Cooking Inspired by Estee Kafra is a collection of the best recipes from the fabulous Kosher Scoop website. It is a large book with 200 recipes. Estee’s philosophy is if we allow ourselves to be inspired by ingredients, the season and a positive attitude, all of us can create delicious food.

First I was inspired to make was the Walnut Crusted Salmon. It took minutes to prepare and has a tasty crunchy breading. The Braised Lemon Chicken with Herbs looked simple, but my family and guests absolutely loved the depth of flavor and moist chicken pieces. I am honored that the book includes my Passover Granola Bars.

Tina Wasserman has taught cooking for over 40 years, though she certainly does not look the part. Entrée to Judaism for Families follows up Entrée to Judaism and is geared to cooking sophisticated Jewish food with children, without being a kid’s book.

“Kitchen Conversation” boxes feature questions that encourage discussions about personal connections to food and holidays, some geared to younger children and others explore deeper philosophical issues. The book includes traditional chicken soup with kreplach and blintz soufflé alongside more modern recipes for Ethiopian Peanut Soup and the Kale, Mango and Almond Salad with a creamy ginger dressing, both big hits in my family.

Trying new recipes has been an all-year round gift to my family, who often have to endure six versions of the same rugelach recipe. You, too, will be surprised that there are still many new food ideas to discover.