Cookbook Obsession: The Beginning

[Note: this is a guest post from my son, Christopher.]

Let’s start with two recipes from Rare Collection: Superb Recipes by The Junior League of Galveston County (1985)—one for moussaka and one for brisket.

photo of a two-page cookbook spread, with recipes for moussaka, deluxe cherry brisket, and steak marchand de vin

This cookbook originally belonged to Lorna’s maternal great-grandmother, and then to Lorna’s mom, Judy, and then to Lorna who took it when she moved out of her parents’ house. She’s cooked a variety of things from it over the years, but particularly the moussaka—most recently last December, which is when I first noticed the brisket recipe on the opposite page.

Season brisket with soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Okay, sure. Sprinkle Lipton onion soup mix, rosemary, caraway seed & celery seed onto brisket. Initially, the soup mix threw me off, but it’s basically a spice mix, so whatever. It’s the last step—where you put the drippings from the brisket into the bottom of a pan, layer the (cold) sliced brisket on top of it, and dump a can of cherry pie filling on top before baking the whole mess another half hour or so—that caught my attention in a wtf kind of way.

That recipe, and browsing through other recipes in the book as Lorna cooked, sparked a new obsession for me. I ordered a few other used Junior League cookbooks that evening (Dallas, Palo Alto, and Colorado), and several others in the following weeks. And more since: I have a cookbook called The Melting Pot: Ethnic Cuisine in Texas, which was compiled by UTSA’s Institute of Texan Cultures. My mom picked up a stack of cookbooks at a garage sale several weeks ago, including two that were evidently fundraisers for the Sherman School Food Service Association. I found a bunch at an antique mall in Denison last weekend, but only came home with four, ranging from a long-defunct Dallas restaurant to an RV park in Harlingen, Texas.

I’m still trying to figure out what’s behind my interest in these cookbooks, but I think a big thing is a curiosity about how recipes travel and change over time, and from context to context and kitchen to kitchen. I plan to write a guest post here once a week or so—look for one on braised celery next—but I’ll also be writing at, if you want to follow along in more depth. In the coming months, I’ll be putting out calls for favorite family recipes, as well as variations on particular themes. I look forward to hearing from y’all!

Mile High Chiffon Pie

My very good friend, Laurie Mealy, shared her grandmother’s recipe with me. I made it today. Mine is lumpy (no, that isn’t corn!) but it tastes great! It wasn’t particularly hard to make and will be a lot easier the next time. Here’s a link to the recipe:

Laurie’s Grandmother’s Mile High Chiffon Pie


And here’s the recipe as a JPG. Below it you will find the original recipe. Laurie’s grandmother obviously knew what she was doing. My recipe has more instruction so that the next time I make it, I’ll have a better chance of it not being lumpy :-).

Lauries Grandmothers MileHighChiffonPie.jpg

Lauries Grandmothers MileHighChiffonPie.jpeg

The pecan pie story…

I decided to try a new pie crust this year, using Steve’s Gluten Free Cake Flour and a pastry recipe from Patisserie GF. I made two batches and refrigerated them overnight thinking I’d get the pies in the oven pretty quickly the next morning.

Here’s what I learned: pastry is different from a pie crust. I realized pretty quickly that that was not going to work (my first ‘wrong’). I turned to my no-fail pie crust by Annalise G Roberts that I’ve written about before (click here). Here’s a link to the pie crust recipe but be aware that it is written for the Authentic Foods Classical Blend GF flour. I can’t say how it will work with other GF flours. It didn’t take long to make the two crusts, but it threw me off my stride.

Then I made the 1st pie filling. I used a recipe from United States of Pie by Adrienne Kane, an excellent resource. Her recipe is similar to many except that she recommends toasting the pecans before adding them to the mix.

I had everything measured out, got the first pie in the oven, and then realized that I had not added the dark Karo syrup (2nd ‘wrong). Words escaped my lips but I decided what the hey (hay?) and pulled the pie out of the oven. I added the Karo syrup and tried stirring it in. Not a good plan, so I dumped the filling into a bowl and stirred it up, returned it to the pan and put it in the oven.

At this point, I was beginning to have real doubts about my mental faculties. However, in my defense, Steve was bustling around the kitchen. He was being helpful but I realized later that I am used to concentrating more when baking. Not his fault, it’s on me that I was easily distracted.

I made the 2nd pie, put it in the bottom oven, set a timer for it and waited. It was when the buzzer went off for pie #1 that I realized that somewhere in there I had (3rd wrong) turned off the top oven!!!!! Geez, Louise. No wonder it looked like it wasn’t cooking. I turned up the heat because, why not?

Both pies got done at the same time, they look about the same, and they both tasted great. I was stunned.

Here’s what I learned:

  • If you have a no-fail crust recipe, use it.
  • Pecan pie is very forgiving.
  • 3 wrongs sometimes to make a right.
  • As Buzz Lightyear says: Never give up. Never give in!

Cranberry sauce that can’t be beat…

It’s fast and easy and delicious!

  1. Wash 1 bag of cranberries.
  2. Put them in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 cup sugar. (Use 3/4 cup sugar if you like tart cranberry sauce.)
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then peel back a little to let steam escape.
  4. Microwave on regular 4 minutes. Stir. The bowl will be hot so use pot holders.
  5. Microwave another 4 minutes.
  6. Stir in 1/4 cup brandy OR Grand Marnier OR whatever sounds good to you.
  7. Cool. Eat, or chill in the refrigerator. Then eat.

GF Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream Cake

Elanor requested this for her birthday and I said ‘sure, I can make that!’ I turned to my favorite cookbook, Gluten Free Baking Classics, for inspiration.

I thought I would make either sponge cake or shortbread layers but wasn’t sure, so I emailed the author, Annalise G Roberts, and she emailed back with ideas. Call me a fan! .

The plan is this: chocolate sponge, raspberry sorbet, crushed chocolate shortbread cookies, sorbet, sponge. Each piece will get a splash of warm chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and fresh raspberries. I used the recipes in Gluten Free Baking Classics.

First I made 2 sponge cake layers. I have avoided this cake because there are so many ways to mess up when beating separated eggs, but it turned out well. Annalise’s recipes always work if you follow the directions!

Next I made the chocolate shortbread cookies and the chocolate sauce (recipe at bottom of post).



I let everything cool, then thawed the sorbet for 15 minutes. I spread plastic wrap in the 2 round cake pans and placed a sponge layer in each.


I spread the sorbet on each layer. It would have been better if I had smoothed the outer edges of the sorbet to make it even with the layers.



I covered the layers with plastic wrap and froze them overnight. This morning I pulled them out, unwrapped them, and placed the sorbet layers together with crushed shortbread cookies between them.


It was not as tidy as I hoped it would be…


Next time I’m going to smooth out the edges of the soft sorbet and maybe put the whole cake together before refreezing. Luckily it looked better when sliced AND it tasted great! Everyone, including Elanor, says it is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. How about that!


As promised, here is my Mom’s chocolate sauce recipe. She always served it the Bisquick’s Velvet Crumb Cake and ice cream.

Chocolate Sauce

  • Melt together 1 cube butter (1/2 cup) with 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips.
  • Stir often.
  • When melted, add 1 cup powdered sugar. Stir well.
  • Add 1 lean cup of milk and add 1 tablespoon vanilla.
  • Stir constantly until it begins to boil Keep on a low boil (still stirring) f
  • or 8 minutes.
  • Serve warm. Refrigerate any remaining sauce.


Piece O’ NYC: Internet Groceries and Meals

Do you have a favorite local grocery store? We don’t… In fact, we hate our grocery stores. We live close to Central Park, which inevitably means that a lot of people venture to our larger (and more preferred) grocery store to get picnic supplies and various other things. The other stores around us are great for different things, but never produce or meat, so we’re limited and/or make many stops. My husband is a superhero. Since we have to navigate the mass crowds, Jeff wakes up early on the weekends and battles through them to get us weekly supplies. After fighting through the crowds for years, even Jeff has had enough. So, now we order things from the internet. Not often, but often enough. Even that’s not perfect – online produce is often not good, you guys – but it’s a major improvement. And besides, hauling up cat litter boxes along with other heavy groceries by myself at peak elevator traffic time isn’t my favorite pastime.

FullSizeRenderWe get delivery from restaurants every once in a while (Seamless and Grubhub are decent resources), but we also order ready-to-make meals from Blue Apron. I’m not an avid spokesperson for this company (nor do I always like their recipes), but for those of you who hate thinking about what to make and/or can’t come to terms with your local stores, I recommend it. Jeff and I used to get into really silly arguments about what to make for dinner (we’re both indecisive) and this helped us avoid that sort of thing. The delivery box comes with ice packets to help keep your items chilled and we have a standard delivery time every Tuesday. Also, our groceries are atrociously high in the city, this is shockingly cheaper for us to use…



The back of the recipe cards have step by step instructions with images!

DSC_0024DSC_0026In a perfect world (or back home with my Momma), I could peruse aisles of groceries and enjoy a visit to a store (give me a Wegmans! Give me a Krogers! I don’t care, I used to love grocery shopping!), but not anymore. The times are a’changing and now we eat internet foods.


Love and happiness in the kitchen always makes a recipe extra delicious :P!