Friday, December 31, 2010

Good Luck Beans & Other Things - 11 Favorite Recipes For A 2011 New Year Party

Growing up in my Midwestern family, New Year's Day meant party food for watching football and a dinner of beans for good luck. Tradition dictated a big pot of great northern beans with a silver dollar lurking somewhere deep inside. Good luck would come to the one who dished up the silver dollar.

The beans were usually cooked with a ham hock, topped with chopped raw onions and served with coleslaw (because two three gas producing foods are better than one, right?) and cornbread.

In other parts of the country, the type of beans and the preparation vary somewhat, but the intention is the same, whether it is great northern beans, black-eyed peas, black beans or baked beans.

If you want prosperity and good luck to come your way in 2011, grab a heavy pot and choose one of these delicious and nutritious bean recipes. Most of them will make enough to serve a group and freeze some for later. Hey, I always think I'm lucky when I find a ready-made meal in the freezer!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas Cooking and a Happy New Year Kitchen!

(my monthly food column for Heartland Women)

December 2010  

‘Tis the season for lists, shopping, parties and special times with family and friends, so that’s exactly what I’ve got for you this month! Lists of … new gift-able cookbooks that have caught my eye … cookbooks my friends and family personally use and recommend … and a few recipes for all those holiday gatherings.

After making my own wish list from this year’s crop of new cookbooks, I asked my brother, Jeff, for his very favorite cookbook. His response says it all about my desire (and his) to read and collect cookbooks. Jeff says ...
“My favorite cookbook is … the next one! That’s why you (he means me) have 5000! (he likes to exaggerate) Food, like wine, is all about the next fantastic flavor, the next thing that you haven’t tried. There are cookbooks that I refer to more than others. But nowadays, with the Internet, I research and refer to the books that I remember best. But mostly, when I read a book, I try to “absorb” the idea of the cooking – UNLESS I see a unique recipe that I just HAVE to try.”

Whether you read them for inspiration or follow each recipe verbatim, cookbooks are as tempting to me, and others, as any dish made from the recipes inside them. Where would most of us be without the go-to cookbooks we rely on when we are first learning our way around the kitchen? Or the specialty books that reflect our passions for baking or grilling or veganism? Or the wonderfully simple books full of fast and easy recipes to feed hungry families? Or exciting new flavors to bring us back to the kitchen to cook for grown children, who bring children of their own, home for the holidays.

Here’s hoping all of your lists are made, your stockings are hung, your shopping is done and your baking is underway. But just in case you’ve got a cook on your list who really needs a new cookbook, or you need a jolly new dish for the holidays, here are some recommendations from my friends who cook enough to know what they like – and what works!

~ from my kitchen to yours ~
Merry Christmas cooking to all ... 
and a Happy New Year in your kitchen!

Cora’s Cookbook Wish List for 2010:

Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan – I love the way Dorie eats!

The Simple Art of Eating Well Cookbook, by Jessie Price and the Eating Well Test Kitchen– a new one from my favorite food magazine!

The Essential New York Times Cookbook, by Amanda Hesser – I have an old, beloved copy of the New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne and The New York Times cookbooks never disappoint.

One Big Table: 600 Recipes From the Nation’s Best Home Cooks, Farmers, Fishermen, Pit-Masters and Chefs, by Molly O’Neill – Ten years of research and 300,000 miles of travel all to give us a good look of contemporary food in America. Let’s eat!

Cookbook Favorites From My Favorite Cooks:

The Splendid Table’s How To Eat Supper, by Lynn Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift – Some of us want good food at home, even on weeknights. Kasper and Swift are the team that bring us The Splendid Table show every week on Public Radio. Now we have that same experience and great recipes to read – and cook! – anytime we want.

What’s New, Cupcake?: Ingeniously Simple Designs for Every Occasion, by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson – Cupcakes are so cute and so much fun to eat, for people of all ages, and these are some of the cutest I’ve ever seen!

How To Cook Everything, Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food, by Mark Bittman – Recommended for anyone who wants to have the ultimate reference for contemporary cooking at home.

Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 15th Edition, by Better Homes & Gardens. The hands down favorite and most used cookbook from all the cooks I surveyed. We grew up with this red gingham classic and many of us are still using some version of it today.

Local Community, Church or Organization Cookbooks – You know these books and you probably have one or two that you turn to frequently in your own kitchen. My friend, Kim, says these are her favorites because she knows “real” people make the stuff. My friend, Gayle, still uses her decades old copy of Southern Sideboards, a regional classic from the Jackson, MS Junior Auxiliary. In fact, I still use the copy she gave me for Christmas many, many years ago!

Janet, my sister-in-law, still likes an old family copy of the Mary Margaret McBride Encyclopedia of Cooking, by Mary Margaret McBride, 1959 edition. This is now a very collectible vintage cookbook and is usually priced around $65-200 at Amazon or eBay, but it has 1536 pages and there’s a lot of history in those recipes! Oh what a read that would be!

The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, by Julie Fisher Gunter, editor. Mona and Linda both mentioned Southern Living recipes and cookbooks as personal favorites. I’ve got the entire collection of the Southern Living Annual Recipes cookbooks – all 31 years! – but you may want to start with this newer compilation, before you begin to seek out all the annual editions at used bookstores.

From my very organized friend, Crystal, comes the best Personal Cookbook idea for dedicated collectors of recipes – cards, newspaper clippings and printed from the Internet. Her favorite cookbook is a giant binder with plastic sleeve pages. Makes it easy to take out recipes to make copies, rearrange the order, add more – and the plastic sleeves allow her to wipe off spills. The binder also makes it easy to take out a single page to use while cooking.

Books on Specialty Cooking: 

These are favorites among my cooking savvy friends. I share their appreciation of all of these cookbooks and have most of them in my own library.

Lee has a vintage copy of Simca’s Cuisine, by Simone Beck, she enjoys for French cooking, and Carol likes Marcella Hazan’s Essential’s of Classic Italian Cooking.

Wendy shares my enthusiasm for seafood, and The Coastal Living Cookbook: The Ultimate Recipe Collection for People Who Love the Coast, from the editors of Coastal Living magazine is one of her favorites – and mine!

Denise, a food blogger friend from St. Louis - Eat, Laugh, Love - told me she likes Frank Stitt’s Southern Table, by Birmingham chef Frank Stitt. Frank is another of my favorites too, but I didn’t know, until Denise told me, that his brother, David, has a wine bar/restaurant called Veritas, in Chesterfield, MO. Now it’s on my St. Louis restaurant list to try ASAP!

Aptly titled, The Art of Buffet Entertaining, by Diana and Paul von Welanetz is a favorite of Viki’s, and a cookbook I could use!

Sarah’s new favorite for family meals is 5 Ingredient Fix: Easy, Elegant and Irresistible Recipes, by Claire Robinson.

Emily recommends Everyday Food: Great Food Fast, by Martha Stewart, for working couples who like to cook.

Kristen and Shannon both love The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes From An Accidental Country Girl, by my friend and food blogger, Ree Drummond. It has been on Amazon’s Top 100 list for over a year. Ree, aka Pioneer Woman, recently defeated Bobby Flay in a Thanksgiving Throwdown on the Food Network.

Charlie, a former classmate and current drummer with The Ivas John Band, has fond memories of this chilled Christmas pudding recipe of his mother’s.

Sylvia Morrill’s Norwegian Prune Pudding
1/2 lb. prunes
3 cup cold water
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1-inch piece stick cinnamon
1 1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp. lemon juice
Soak prunes for one hour in cold water. Boil prunes in same water until soft. Remove the prune pits and add prunes back to cooking water. Add sugar, salt, cinnamon and boiling water; simmer 10 minutes. Dilute cornstarch with just enough cold water to pour easily; add to prune mixture; cook and stir constantly for 5 minutes. Remove cinnamon and add lemon juice. Pour into mold, chill and serve with cream. Serves 6.

Kim likes to make this easy holiday dip to serve with fresh apple slices.

Caramel Apple Dip
1 pkg. cream cheese
1 jar caramel sauce
1 cup chopped pecans
sliced apples
Soften cream cheese and spread in an even layer on a large plate. Cover the cream cheese layer with caramel sauce. Sprinkle the chopped pecans over the caramel layer. Serve with apple slices for dipping.

Lee says this Pennsylvania Dutch candy made by her father’s family during the holidays is surprisingly good and addicting!

Potato Candy
1 large potato
1 tsp. vanilla
1 2-lb. bag powdered sugar
1 jar creamy peanut butter

Boil the potato until it falls apart when stuck with a fork. Remove potato and peel while still hot. Place hot potato in a bowl, add vanilla and mash together with a fork until smooth. Gradually add sugar and mix with hands until sugar melts. Shape potato mixture into four dough balls. Sprinkle powdered sugar onto clean counter and roll dough balls out to about ¼-inch thick. Spread with a thin layer of peanut butter. Carefully roll up like a jelly roll; refrigerate for several hours. Cut each roll into slices about ½-inch thick. Sprinkle with more powdered sugar, if desired.

Reggie makes this candy for a fast and easy holiday party take-along.

Chocolate-Orange Balls
1 12-oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups vanilla wafer crumbs
¾ cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
½ cup sour cream
2 tsp. dried grated orange peel
¼ tsp. salt
10 pieces orange slice gumdrop candy, cut into quarters
Sifted confectioner’s sugar

Stirring constantly, melt chocolate chips in a large saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat; stir in cookie crumbs, sugar, sour cream, orange peel and salt. Cover and chill until firm. Press crumb mixture around each piece of candy, forming 1½-inch balls. Coat with confectioner’s sugar. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 40 candies.

Mona, who likes to say she isn’t a cook, really is! She says this easy dip for holiday parties is always a hit.

Mona Dip
2 pkgs. frozen chopped spinach
2 pkg. blue cheese crumbles
chopped onion
Triscuit crackers

Thaw the spinach and press the excess water out. Place the spinach in a bowl and add the cheese, onion and enough mayonnaise to give the mixture a spreading consistency. Serve with Triscuits.

Viki makes this dip in multiple batches to take to holiday parties.

Angela’s Hot Crab Dip
½ pint sour cream
16 oz. cream cheese
½ tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. Old Bay
2 – 3 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 shakes garlic powder
juice from ¼ lemon
3 – 4 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 pound crab meat
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese and/or
slivered almonds
(milk to thin, if necessary)

Mix together first 8 ingredients. Fold crab into mixture. Pour into a flat casserole dish. Sprinkle with cheese and/or slivered almonds. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve with water crackers or club crackers for maximum crab flavor! Note: To take this dip to a party, place cheese and/or almonds in a separate container. Reheat the dip slowly in the microwave for 30 seconds, then stop to stir; repeat until dip is heated.

Cora is a food writer and author of the food blog Cora Cooks. ( She also teaches private and group cooking classes. For more information, contact her at – corasedlacekATgmailDOTcom