Friday, October 1, 2010

Wishlist: Cookbook Edition

First off, full disclosure: I am in a cookbook state of mind...I have been working on the fabulous new Junior League of Chattanooga cookbook (out in April 2011), and our committee got to sneak a peek at the cover art last week (gorgeous) so I've got cookbooks on the brain.  Sorry to bore those of you who don't share this obsession with me!

It's not really Christmas shopping season yet (I guess maybe it is for some of you overachiever types), but I've got a wishlist a mile long on Amazon, and just thought I'd share what foodie books I'm pining for lately...maybe you have someone in your life who's like me and would appreciate one of these beauties under her tree?

New Ina, out later this month...I want Ina's life (or at least her house), but since I don't see us moving to the Hamptons any time soon, I will just have to be satisfied with her newest tome.  I have Family Style (this is the cookbook that has my fave lasagna recipe) and Parties and have used them both extensively.  This is what Amazon says about her:
"Ina Garten is known for her uncomplicated but elegant recipes designed for the home cook whose priority is spending time with friends and family--not in the kitchen."  And I ask you, who doesn't want to live like that?

This isn't a cookbook, but it's a book about food, which I think counts.  Doesn't that title make you want to read it? If you know who Anthony Bourdain is, and what he's like, it does! I am a huge fan of his TV show, No Reservations, and his persona as a judge on Top Chef, and I love how adventurous he is with food, so clearly reading his "valentine" is a must for folks like me!

I need this one in my collection of famous Birmingham chefs' cookbooks.  Also, I'd like to go eat there very soon.  Who's with me?
New one from The Lee Brothers, the native Southern, NY transplants.  It's OK, I don't hold it against them, because their food is so good!
And last, but certainly not least, this gem:
Y'all, if I ever get to actually go to Blackberry Farm and stay, I will just die and go directly to heaven.  It is located here in East Tennessee, not far from where we live (less than 2 hours), but based on the price of the rooms (cheapest starts at right under $800/night), well, this gorgeous beauty is probably going to have to do me for many years.  I actually recently purchased this one for myself, from a Random House sale on One King's Lane (if you aren't a member and want to join, let me know and I'll send you an invitation) and it is supposed to arrive in a week or so, and I cannot wait.  The pictures are just gorgeous, the recipes are so inviting and well, I think this would just be an awesome gift for your momma, or your sister, or just a very special person in your life. 
In the immortal words of Mrs. Julia....Bon Appetit! 

Fall Feast

Oh Fall, how I love thee! 
I celebrate thee! get the picture.

After a brutally hot summer, I am especially grateful for Fall this year...our schedule is a bit slower, we're spending breezy afternoons on a blanket in the yard, and just enjoying being a trio after some long months of missing John during baseball season.  This weather always makes me itch to entertain - gather some friends together to watch football, or play in the leaves, or take a ride to the pumpkin patch.  There's just something about fall that to me, says family, hospitality and warmth. 

So I've got a whole slew of recipes I've been collecting, just waiting for the right occasion, and I thought I'd share.  Maybe you can whip up a few for your next gathering. Yes, some of these are's almost hibernatin' time...what can I say?  I've tried to throw a few salads and lighter ideas in too, in the interest of balance.  Go take a walk outside to work it off, OK?


  • A perennial favorite in my family & circle of friends is sausage dip.  Mix 2 blocks of softened cream cheese (reduced fat works great, fat free, not so much), a can of rotel (pick your preferred spiciness level), and a package of browned, crumbled and drained bulk sausage (Jimmy Dean Sage is my pick for this) in a baking dish.  I bake mine at 350 until it is bubbly, about 1 hour, depending on the shallowness of your baking dish.  This also works great in a crockpot on low for 4 hours or so.  {Variations: once I accidentally bought a can of Rotel for Chili and it was great as well.}  Serve with tortilla chips.  **I kid you not, we have some friends who are expecting a baby in a few weeks and the husband has already put in his request that I make them a big batch of this when they come home from the hospital.  So easy and so good!**

  • Buffalo Wing Dip: this recipe was borrowed from some college friends of John's.  He has asked me to type it up and submit it to a local bar he frequents to see if they will put it on the menu as an appetizer.  This would work great for a football party.  Shred 1 rotisserie chicken (or a few cooked chicken breasts), combine with 2 blocks softened cream cheese, 1 cup blue cheese or ranch dressing (whichever you like better with your wangs), 3/4 cup finely chopped celery (optional), and 1 bottle of Texas Pete Wing Sauce (or your favorite variety, and I recommend starting with half a bottle and adding more in to taste, I usually end up with about 2/3 of the bottle for a spicy but not scorching taste).  Pour in a big casserole dish (you could also do this in the crock pot) and top with plenty of shredded cheddar cheese.  Bake covered for about 20 minutes at 375, then uncovered for another 10 or long enough to melt the cheese.  Serve with tortilla chips and celery sticks.  If you do this in the crock pot, I'd probably recommend just mixing the cheese in with everything else and cooking on low for 4-6 hours or until bubbly and dippable.

  • Butternut, Goat Cheese and Walnut Spread: just seems a bit more refined and intriguing, don't you think?  I think this would be a gorgeous color from the squash, and perfect garnished with some snipped chives or a sprinkling of fresh thyme. I would like some of these with a glass of sparkling rose, please!

  • Pumpkin Hummus: as a lover of all things hummus, I think I owe it to myself to try this one, soon!  Heck, you could even use your leftover seeds from pumpkin carving to make this dish.

  • Spiced Walnuts (makes 1 cup): combine 1/4 t each of ground cumin, ground cinnamon & ground nutmeg in a bowl, add 1 T honey.  Toss in 1 cup walnut halves and stir to coat it in the spice mixture.  Sprinkle 1/2 t kosher salt {not sure why you couldn't just put this in with the spices, that's what I would do} over the nuts and pour onto a sheet pan coated with wax paper.  Put in a 300-degree oven and toast for approximately 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until they are golden brown in color.  Cool, and devour.  Store up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. 

  • Olive Biscuit Cookies: I must admit, these sound fascinating and maybe a little scary, but you'd better bet I'm trying them very soon! {based on her comments I'm not sure if they should be here or in desserts, but I just flipped the coin and put them here!}
Entrees/Salads/Sides - I restrained myself from posting about 90 soups I have bookmarked to try.  The one I did include comes with a ringing endorsement from my kitchen, to yours (sorry, Paula Deen, I sort of stole your line).

  •  44-Clove Garlic Soup: please, please, please, even if you aren't a huge garlic person, try this soup.  You roast a bunch of it, which takes away the bite that some peole don't usually like about garlic, and the end result is something so wonderful that I think you'll be a convert.  This soup is one of those recipes that seems very impressive, and if you serve it to guests, they'll be pretty blown away, but it's really not that much work, so it is pretty manageable to do even on a weeknight {provided you get started on roasting the cloves as soon as you get home, or don't mind a really late dinner time} 

  • Spinach Salad with Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette: this dressing is fantastic, such a great twist, and it perfectly compliments the rich, creamy gorgonzola cheese.  We like to add dried cherries to this salad; sweetened dried cranberries or thinly sliced tart apples would work too.  Perfect anytime, but it just seems to fit especially for fall (I think it was originally featured in a Cooking Light Thanksgiving issue). 

  •  I subscribe the Weeknight Kitchen e-mail newsletter of Lynn Rosetta Kasper's American Public Media radio show, The Splendid Table {since our station doesn't air that fabulous show, and I don't usually get around to listening to it online}.  I saved the newsletter from earlier in the month that featured a smoked ham, cheddar and pear sandwich that sounds like a great step up from tailgating or picnic food.  I cannot link to it, as it is originally published in a cookbook and reprinted with permission (and the newsletters are only available for a week online), and I don't really want to type the entire thing out in this bullet-pointed post, so if that sounds like your sort of thing, e-mail me and I'll forward you the recipe.

  • I was given a handwritten recipe for a Spinach Ricotta Pie, along with a pie plate, by a dear friend at a wedding shower.  It is delicious and comforting, goes great with a simply dressed green salad, and freezes beautifully.  Along with deep dish quiche, I make this one all the time and I think it is an easy weeknight meal, even for someone who's not particularly adept in the kitchen (plus it is kid-friendly which I am always on the lookout for).  Again, I don't really know how to share it here, but please e-mail me if you are interested in having the recipe!

  • Ina's Turkey Lasagna: this uses turkey Italian sausage and while not cheap (lots of cheeses, including goat, to buy), it is so yummy and it is my go-to recipe.  Ina will never steer you wrong, folks!

  • I have been working to perfect a sweet potato and bacon hash that was born out of a dish I took to Thanksgiving dinner last year with John's family.  There is no real recipe {I was asked to bring a side dish, and John asked me to try to go for a hashbrown type dish using sweet potatoes and I tried a few different ideas out before settling on what I actually served to his family, but since then I've made it a few times and tried out some different tweaks}, but if you are interested, let me know and again, I'll try to write something down for you.  This would be good with pork or turkey, although last week I served it under pecan crusted fish.  I'm thinking this is going to become a staple in our house, so it's probably good if I "write" a recipe anyway.

  • Um, Homemade Nutella.  Need I say more?  She even gives you an idea for how to put it into a tart!

  • Butterscotch Pudding: if and when I make this, John will give me a big, fat kiss.  He loves butterscotch anything (which I only recently discovered, I guess the subject just never came up???), so I've got this one in my queue!

  • Pumpkin Bread Pudding: all evidence to the contrary, based on the text immediately above, but John's really not a big dessert person.  About once a month he'll ask me if we have something sweet in the house (answer is usually no, or the sugar free popsicles I do have to offer get turned down with a huff) but other than that it usually goes to waste (or to my waist) if I make anything.  But last year for his birthday his parents were coming down and I knew they'd be upset if there wasn't something to sing Happy Birthday over; of all the desserts, cake is both of our least favorite, and growing up, John's mom would make him a pumpkin pie for his birthday (close proximity to Thanksgiving).  At any rate, I found this, it looked pretty easy, so that's what I served for his birthday.  Hey, it had bourbon in it, which is really more his kind of dessert anyway!  And it was yummy.  It is very low maintenance and would be easy to whip up on short notice.  And I hear the canned pumpkin shortage is officially over, so you shouldn't have a problem finding it this year.

  • I recently made these gingersnaps and they were good, although I increased all the spices from the amounts as it is written, as I like my g'snaps with a lot of bite.  I am going to keep playing with it and try less sugar in the cookie itself next time - they still didn't have quite the spice factor I wanted, but the teachers at Mitchell's school loved 'em!  I made mine more of a regular cookie size; this recipe as written says it will yield 250-300 cookies, but apparently gingersnaps were originally a tiny, bite size cookie, about the size of a quarter or half-dollar.  Based on the size that I made mine, I think I got close to 3 dozen out of them.
Happy pumpkin patching, tailgating, leaf-jumping and all your other favorite Fall activities!  Go work up an appetite!