The Best Sweet Potato Casserole (a.k.a My Thanksgiving Must-Have Side Dish)

If you are looking for an easy side dish for your Thanksgiving gathering, I’ve got just the casserole for you.

I know that I may be in the minority, but I’ve never been a fan of the marshmallow-topped concoctions or those syrupy, too-sweet bakes. That’s why I never really ate sweet potatoes until well into adulthood. I tweaked my mom’s recipe until I not only had a great side dish, but also look forward to it every year.

This recipe has citrus zest to brighten up the potatoes, and a spiced pecan topping to bring texture and crunch. Best of all? You can make it ahead and just pop it in the oven while the turkey rests.

The Best Sweet Potato Casserole

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 10

Ingredients
  

Casserole

  • 3 29-ounce cans sweet potatoes, drained
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3/4 cup sugar granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons butter melted
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • additional butter for greasing casserole

Topping

  • 1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter

Instructions
 

Casserole

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place sweet potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Add remaining casserole ingredients. Using an electric hand mixer, beat mixture until fluffy.
  • Pour into a buttered 9x13casserole, spreading mixture evenly.
  • Bake casserole at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove casserole from oven, top with pecan mixture, and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Topping

  • In a medium mixing bowl, add brown sugar and all seasonings to melted butter, stirring to incorporate. Stir in pecans until they are well coated. Top casserole with pecan mixture in last 10 minutes of baking.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Roasted Tomato Paste for a Lazy Canning day

The garden is in full swing, and while I’m doing the best I can, production is quickly out-pacing me.

I typically offer up the extra bounty to our neighborhood, but I think we’ve reached the point where even they groan when they see my text messages pop up. I have been canning every week, but it’s difficult to get the energy to stand over a hot stove with record heat blanketing Louisiana. I ordered a dehydrator with the intention of broadening my horizons and saving the gigantic herb garden before this heat does it in. But that doesn’t solve the problems of today.

Yesterday, I still had a ton of tomatoes in need of processing, and I didn’t have the time or mental energy for lots of hands-on prep work, so that excluded Roasted Tomato Lime Salsa, though I did make some last week. I also did not have enough tomatoes to make marinara, so I turned to my cookbook library and found Roasted Tomato Paste in The All-New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving. I initially balked, because 12 pounds of tomatoes for four, 4-oz jars? Psssssh. But with a Heathen home to help me, I could knock out prep in 20 minutes. However, because both the tomatoes and resulting paste slow roast, it’s still a seemingly longer project, but it was also 90 percent was hands-off. I reckoned that the tomatoes needed to go, so a paste experiment it was.

We started by coring/seeding and quartering the tomatoes, then roasting them in the oven:

Then we pureed them in the food processor, spread the puree on sheet pans and roasted that, stirring every twenty minutes or so until we reached the right color and consistency (following photos are 1-freshly pureed, 2-halfway through, 3-final paste):

Finally, we water-bath canned per the recipe.

It worked out well, but by all that is holy, learn from my mistakes. Line your sheet pan with heavy duty foil. Mine is currently on a fourth round of soaking and I’m about to take the oven cleaner to it. Le sigh.

So, overall, this recipe is long on time but short on hands-on effort. Sure, the yield was small, but those tomatoes were destined for the compost bin if I didn’t figure out a plan that worked with my timeframe. That’s the key for me for successful canning; pivoting when you need to and managing your time. I salvaged the tomatoes but didn’t wreck my other goals for the day.

As always, I will include my usual canning advice, which can be found in this post, and this one. Canning is the very essence of science of food safety, so unless you want to live on the edge via death-by-botulism-roulette, follow professionally developed and tested recipes from trusted sources.

And just when I finished this project, the Husband announced his intention to harvest another round of tomatoes tomorrow, in the 105 degree heat. That dehydrator can’t get here fast enough, I’ll tell y’all that.

Roasted Tomato Paste

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Servings 4 4-oz jarrs

Ingredients
  

  • 12 pounds Roma tomatoes, stems removed and halved lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus more for taste
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove seeds and pulp from tomato halves with a spoon, then cut halves vertically. Place tomato quarters on three rimmed baking sheets lined with foil. Sprinkle with salt.
  • Bake tomato quarters for 1.5 hours, checking every 20 minutes after the 40-minute mark to prevent burning. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
  • Process tomatoes in a food processor in batches until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in citric acid. Add more salt if needed for taste.
  • Return the puree to one sheet pan and spread out evenly. Bake at 350 F until tomato mixture is deep red and very thick, stirring every 20 minutes (could be anywhere from 2-3 hours based on your oven and water content of your tomatoes).
  • Spoon mixture into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space, remove air bubbles as best you can, wipe rims, and apply lids and bands. Process for 40 minutes in boiling water, adjusting recipe for altitude. Remove jars from heat to cooling rack and let sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Inspect seals and refrigerate any jars that failed to seal for short-term use.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

**A note/disclaimer–This blog is not monetized in any way. The links I provide ARE NOT affiliate links, they are just for your convenience. All reviews are of products I pay for with my own money, and I have no problem telling you the truth about them. If you see an ad on my site, that comes from WordPress, my site host, as the toll of free blogging. I have no control over the targeted ads they display to you**

From the Cookbook Library–Recent Reads and Reviews

It’s no secret that I have a cookbook problem…in that I will never, ever have enough. However, I am also guilty of being lazy AF when it comes down to meal planning for this circus. Rather than taking the time to go through my library of cookbooks throughout the week for inspiration, I often spend Sunday mornings scrolling online for fast ideas so I can get my grocery order in on time.

Well, as this year-of-improvement trucks along, I realize that expanding my culinary skillsets also means that I really need to spend a little less time on my phone, and a little more time amongst my bookshelves. So, I’m slowly attempting to build into the routine time to look to my books each week when it comes to meal planning and experimenting. Since I also vowed to cut down on my phone usage (a wee bit harder than I thought), this goal is doing double-duty for me.

Here are a couple of books I cooked from this week, or dove into for future planning:

The Woks of Life Cookbook Cover

The Woks of Life came to me via my Hardcover Cook subscription, and dang if I wasn’t the last to know about the authors’ fantastic food blog. I absolutely love every part of this book, from the family history and stories to the recipes that feel completely accessible to home cooks. On my first pass, I flagged at least 20 recipes I can’t wait to try. This weekend, I made some pork dumplings and chicken curry pockets, along with the ultimate dipping sauce. I wanted to keep going, but alas, we were all full at that point.

My dumpling assembly technique remains woefully inadequate, but everything was still dang tasty and I have plenty more dishes that I want to make soon. This book is a welcome addition to my library, and you should totally check it out at least the blog. I foresee pork buns in my future very soon.

I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve been baking up a storm, but picky eaters are still gonna pick. So, in addition to cake and pie experiments geared toward broadening my culinary skillsets, I’ve also been working my way through this King Arthur Essential Cookie Companion. This book has PLENTY of cookies that are easy to make and frequently utilize items I already have in my pantry. More often than not, I can flip through and find a new cookie recipe to crank out in a pinch before one of the boys gets home for the weekend. So, while I toiled away on a 2-hour caramel frosting that could not save a bone-dry caramel cake (from another cookbook I won’t mention), I at least whipped up a back-up bunch of chocolate-peanut half-moons (post-dip in chocolate not pictured).

Yeah, I am definitely putting some miles on this one, and I also recommend it if you like easy cookie recipes with clear instructions that have been thoroughly tested. I just finished up a batch of Chocolate Wake-Ups in between typing this and working on this weekend’s sourdough.

So, I technically have not tried any of the recipes in this book, but I still think it’s worth a look before summer’s bounty starts rolling in. I cannot for this life of me remember where I heard about it, but I am always on the lookout for books to add to my canning/preserving/skill-building library. This volume covers a lot of bases, from water bath and pressure canning to meat curing and beginner cheesemaking. I have been wanting to branch out into pressure canning for a while, and after reading this, I feel a somewhat less intimidated to get started. Also, after perusing the chapter on curing/smoking, I am about to start the process of turning a lovely pork belly I got at the farm into bacon, so I’ll follow up in a later post on how that goes. Overall, this book is very well-written and thoughtfully laid out, so check it out if you are so inclined.

Well, that about covers it in the time I have before the dough needs more attention. Hopefully, Operation Cook the Books continues, because my habit for acquiring new cookbooks will probably never be tamed. In fact, I wonder what’s new at the bookstore this week……

Super-Bowl Recipe Brainstorming for the Big Game We Probably Can’t Watch

Y’all, I’ve about had enough of this crap.

So, my local TV station is in an epic battle with DirecTV, one that has been waging for at least five months. As such, we will not have access to the Super Bowl, because the NFL has broadcasting rights locked down tighter than a pop star’s conservatorship. I’m trying to figure out a work-around so the guys don’t riot, but in the meantime, I need to come up with some food ideas because, frankly, I’m a wee bit burnt out. Even after the holiday hustle and bustle, we’ve still had a steady stream of guests or events this past month, as well as pesky Heathens who get hungry with frustrating regularity. But alas, tradition beckons, and I need to come up with some kind of plan. So, let’s do a bit of brainstorming, shall we?

I’m 99% sure I will make my Bacon Cheeseburger Eggrolls, because they are a universal hit. As much as I hate frying crap while I’m entertaining, game day is the exception to that rule. If I go this route, I will probably serve it with some version of a “come back” sauce, similar to this one:

Bourbon Meatballs are always a good possibility, especially since I can make them in my sleep at this point:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Sausage and Black-eyed Pea Mini Muffins:

Looking around the internet, I found a few ideas we have tried in the past that may be worth a revisit:

These Hot Brown Party Rolls from Southern Living were a welcome change from the usual ham/Swiss concept that we usually make, and they are easy and filling. By now, everyone has also recovered from their post-holiday turkey overload, so it’s a good option.

Hot Brown Party Rolls

The Cheese Dreams were a big hit at Christmas, especially with warm marinara on the side. They are labor-intensive in prep, but can be assembled ahead of time and frozen, so it’s just bake and serve at party-time:

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve had these Crawfish Boulettes and it might be worth revisiting. If I’m frying the egg rolls anyway, might as well. But just remember, if you are frying any fish or shellfish, fry it last or in a separate oil vat. Fish/shellfish permeates frying oil, and Mom’s golden rule when catering was one fryer for fish, one of the other stuff, and DO NOT CROSS THE STREAMS. Unless you like your chicken wings with a faint fishy flavor, that is.

Crawfish Boulettes With Creole Tartar Sauce

Finally, for the Crawfish Boil last weekend, I made these Spicy Sausage Balls from my CCTT post from last year, but instead of two pounds of sausage, I used one pound of the hot sausage and one pound of ground beef. I baked the balls at 400 for 20 minutes before adding them to the sauce. I got big thumbs up all around so they may have an encore this weekend:

Well, I still need to noodle on the menu more, but at least I have some ideas, plus queso and store-bought dips and wings to consider.

Now, let’s just hope I can find the game somewhere, lest they suggest…gulp…a Sportsbar alternative. If that happens, well…let’s not borrow trouble yet.

 

 

Spicy Sausage and Black-Eyed Pea Cornbread Mini-Muffins: My New Favorite Party Appetizer

So, I’ve shared Mom’s Hot Sausage Cornbread recipe in the past, but I confess, it was not my favorite. The Husband (and most guys in my life) love it, because between the sausage, corn, and spice, what’s not to like? I still felt like the recipe itself was a wee bit weird. Was it an appetizer? Was it a side dish? Was it the product of too many cocktails on a Saturday night? Originally, Mom baked this in a 9×13 casserole and served it in squares, so it’s easy to see my confusion. The sausage and peas lend enough protein that I felt it never really fit into a main dish or side dish category, and serving it in squares with a fork definitely didn’t seem like an appetizer either.

However, as I was doing extensive recipe testing in anticipation of both the holiday season and the big family party, I had the idea to see if this could work as a handheld appetizer. I was worried because honestly, the filling-to-cornbread ratio made me question the structural integrity of the finished product. I rounded up the troops (i.e., the neighbors, Husband, and Heathens) and got to cooking.

Whelp, I am happy to report that we absolutely love this iteration so much more than the original. By cooking the cornbread in the mini muffin pans, we had more browning on all sides (rather than just top and bottom), which added better texture and flavor in comparison to the first recipe. If you are an edge-piece-eater of the things, you already get it.

Now, here’s the deal. This works if you follow some basic rules and suggestions:

  • You must spray the mini muffin tin with nonstick spray
  • DO NOT be tempted to try to remove muffins post-bake prematurely. They will fall apart. There’s just enough batter to hold to them together with a wing and a prayer. Letting the muffins set up is crucial to success.
  • Once you let these cool, the best way to get them out is to run a butter knife around the edges then use a spoon to scoop them out. Don’t expect appearance perfection, so refer to the picture above. I promise the taste makes up for the less-than-Instagram worthy appearance.
  • It’s better to let them cool, get them out of the tin, then reheat them in a warm oven or microwave for serving. If you aren’t too concerned about perfect appearances, go ahead and evacuate them at the 20-30 minute rest mark. They will still be plenty warm.
  • You can absolutely make them ahead. Store in the fridge, then reheat in the oven or microwave. They are best warm, not piping hot.
  • Finally, serving ideas: Mom traditionally suggested salsa and/or sour cream, but Bear swears they are better with the tiniest hint of a honey drizzle. Either way, it’s still guaranteed to be unique, tasty, and not yo mama’s cheese ball.

 

Spicy Sausage and Black-Eyed Peas Cornbread Mini Muffins

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Course Appetizer
Servings 44 mini muffins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound hot bulk pork sausage
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh jalapenos
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 (15-oz) can black-eyed peas drained and rinsed
  • 1 (7-oz) can cream-style corn

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees (or 350 for convection ovens). Spray two 24-count mini muffin pans with nonstick spray.
  • In a skillet, add the sausage, chopped onion, and minced jalapeno. Cook over medium-low heat, breaking up the sausage as you go (like browning ground beef). Season with salt and pepper. Cook until sausage is browned, and onions are translucent. Set aside to cool.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together corn muffin mix, eggs, buttermilk, and vegetable oil until blended. Stir the cooled sausage mixture, cheese, black-eyed peas and cream-style corn.
  • Using a cookie (aka 1-ish-inch) scoop, divide batter into 44 of the muffin tins. These muffins really do not rise much so they can be filled to the top of the cups. Bake for 30 minutes or until nice and browned (see pictures).
  • LET MUFFINS COOL AND REST 30 MINUTES or they will fall apart. Run a butter knife around the edges and lift out gently with a spoon. Serve warm with salsa and sour cream on the side, or a tiny drizzle of honey on top. It's better to let these cool completely and rewarm them than to try and evacuate them from the pan early. Store leftovers in the fridge, and reheat in a 250-degree oven or in the microwave until warm.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Easy Bacon-Cheeseburger Egg Rolls for Game Day!

It’s the first Saints’ game of the season, so like a lunatic, I let everyone have a pick for snacks/appetizers. Both of the boys came home this weekend, and since I’m still on the struggle-bus after sending Bear off to college, I went a little over-the-top by committing to this endeavor. Luckily, the drinks were strong and the “Who Dat” energy electric.

The Husband requested these Bacon-Cheeseburger Egg Rolls, and I made so many, the boys’ roommates will certainly be happy when they get back to campus. These egg rolls are bacon-y, cheesy, beefy delicious bombs, with a hint of dill pickle to cut through all that richness. Serve them up with your favorite burger condiments and enjoy game day. I sure did. Now I’m going to drink cocktails in the bathtub and decide how soon is too soon to decorate for Halloween. Spoiler alert: you already know the answer.

Easy Bacon-Cheeseburger Egg Rolls

Meaty, Cheesy, Bacon Deliciousness Fried to Perfection.
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Course Appetizer
Servings 12 rolls

Ingredients
  

  • 6 slices bacon chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 8 ounces Velveeta cubed
  • 3 tbsp dill pickle relish
  • 12-14 egg roll wrappers
  • vegetable, canola, or peanut oil for frying
  • ketchup, mustard, fry sauce, or favorite burger sauce condiments for serving

Instructions
 

  • Cook chopped bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat until crispy. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Remove all but one tablespoon of the bacon grease from the skillet, saving it for another use.
  • Add ground beef to the skillet with the bacon grease, break it up with a spoon, and cook until browned. Drain any excess fat. Season beef with salt and pepper.
  • Add Velveeta to the skillet and stir until melted and evenly incorporated. Remove skillet from heat and stir in the cooked bacon and dill relish. Let beef mixture cool to room temperature.
  • Meanwhile, heat a couple of inches of oil in a cast-iron skillet or pot to 325 degrees. Place an egg roll wrapper on a clean work surface so a point faces toward you like a diamond and set a cup of water next to your work area. Place 2-3 heaping tablespoons in the center of the wrapper, and using your finger, wet the top edges of your diamond with water. Fold the bottom section over the filling, fold in the sides, then roll it up toward the top (the wet edges will seal it up). There's plenty of tutorials online that are WAY better than these rolling instructions, FYI.
  • Fry the egg rolls in batches (about 5 at a time will fit in a 12-inch cast iron skillet with room to cook evenly), turning every 30 seconds or so until golden brown to your liking, roughly 4-5 minutes in total. Remove to a rack or a paper towel-lined sheet pan to cool.
  • Serve with your favorite burger sauces, like ketchup, fry sauce, mustard, etc. NOTE: these are like molten cheese volcanos fresh out of the frying. Let them cool off for a couple of minutes before consuming, unless you live for burnt taste buds and misery. You do you, Boo.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

 

Our Easter Menu 2022 and a Carrot Soufflé Recipe

I finally planned out the Easter menu, because procrastination is apparently my thing this Spring. The days are flying by this year, for sure.

While I know that ham is traditional on many a southern Easter table, we usually opt for lamb. My family goes bananas for my grilled lamb chops, and with such easy prep and a fast cook time, I’m not juggling cook times and oven space as I often am on other holidays. I also aim for dishes that I can prep ahead, then just toss in the oven or on the grill come lunch time. I’d rather be hanging out and visiting with everyone than stuck in the kitchen on a holiday.

So, here’s the rundown of the big meal:

Maple Mustard Grilled Lamb Chops

Cheesy Hash Brown Potato Casserole

Roasted asparagus (olive oil, salt and pepper, roast at 375 for 10-15 minutes)

This fruit salad

Garlic breadsticks (shaped and baked into rolls instead of sticks)

and Carrot Soufflé (see recipe below).

However, if you are hell-bent on ham, I love this Maple Orange Bourbon Ham, and this Jalapeno Honey Glazed Ham. Both of these would go well with this menu, though I’d switch out the rolls for biscuits.

As for dessert, I will probably whip up a carrot cake, assuming my lost motivation shows up sometime soon. Or maybe break with tradition and do a chocolate fondue-type spread. Now, here’s hoping that I can actually get my hands on everything I need, as the grocery store has been looking a little on the lean side lately.

Carrot Souffle

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour

Ingredients
  

  • 3 pounds carrots peeled and sliced
  • salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs large
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter room temperature

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9x13 casserole dish.
  • Cook carrots in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and set aside.
  • In a food processor or blender, pulse the sugar and eggs until well combined. Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, carrots and butter, and pulse to combine. Pour mixture into prepared dish.
  • Bake casserole until set, about 45 minutes to an hour. Serve immediately.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Community Cookbook Throwback Thursday–Rotisserie Come Back Dressing

After spending a lot of time in Utah last year, my husband got really into what he calls “fry sauce.” While I usually just throw a bottle of ketchup on the table when I make fries, I decided to be less lazy and up my burger-night game.

This recipe comes from Pirate’s Pantryfirst published by the Junior League of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and was submitted by Mrs. Edwin DeWeese. It was originally listed as a salad dressing, but I modified the recipe a bit so that it ended up being a perfect sauce consistency (see notes below). This sauce offered a great balance of creamy, slightly sweet, tangy, and savory. I whipped it up, and the entire crew gave it a resounding thumbs-up.

Rotisserie Come Back Dressing

Prep Time 10 minutes

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cloves garlic pressed
  • 1 small onion grated
  • 2 tsp prepared mustard
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 cup mayonaise
  • salt to taste (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 6 dashes Louisiana hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup Wesson oil
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chili sauce
  • 3/4 cup ketchup

Instructions
 

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender or small mixing bowl. Will keep for weeks in the refrigerator. Serve on green salad or head lettuce.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

As always, I am posting the recipe as it was published, but I did make a few modifications to make it more fry sauce and less salad dressing.

  • I did not use the vegetable oil at all. That kept the consistency of a sauce, instead of diluting it to a thinner dressing.
  • As such, I adjusted the seasoning to about 3/4 of a teaspoon and pepper each. Even if I did use the oil, one tablespoon of salt would probably have been way too much in my opinion.
  • I only used half a small onion.
  • I think this sauce tastes a lot better after it has time for the flavors to meld, so I suggest making it ahead if you can.

Cookbook Review: “Save-It-Forward Suppers” by Cyndi Kane

Save-It-Forward Suppers : A Simple Strategy to Save Time, Money, and Sanity (Hardcover)

Ok, I have a confession to make. With the exception of post-Thanksgiving, my family will rarely eat leftovers. I don’t know what it is about this clown car of a household, but these peeps act like a “leftover night” is more of a punishment than a valid meal option. As such, I’ve gotten pretty adept at meal planning and portioning, but when I heard about the premise of this book, I was intrigued.

Cyndi Kane, otherwise known as Ree Drummond’s best friend, has long been featured on Ree’s blog and TV show, so I was familiar with her in that capacity. However, I don’t follow her on social media, so I didn’t realize she was venturing into her own cookbook publishing.

This book aims to provide a weekly meal plan where components of certain dishes are reimagined or repurposed into different meals later in the week.  For example, Sunday’s Ham shows up in Jambalaya and Ranch Beans later in the week. I will say that, to that effect, this book holds very true the premise. The weekly meal plans are diverse enough so that the “leftover” components appear as entirely newly imagined dishes. It reminds me very much of how I aim to transform Thanksgiving leftovers beyond the turkey sandwich. However, rather than rambling, I’m going to break down my review into neutral notes, pros, and who this book is or isn’t for.

Neutral Notes

  • This book has ZERO photographs. Instead, there are lovely watercolor illustrations throughout, but if you judge a cookbook on the photo situation, be aware that it’s 100% artwork. I know people can be damn picky on this front, so the disclaimer is important.
  • Cindi is self-described mother, wife, homeschooler and home cook. She focuses on family-friendly meals that are somewhat healthy and budget-friendly. As such, she includes an occasional supermarket shortcut like a commercial seasoning packet, jarred sauces, Bisquick, and jarred garlic. The recipes are very much aimed at a home cook. If you are averse to a few processed ingredients or are on a special diet, look this over to see if it goes against your current approach to food.
  • The author admittedly grew up in the low-fat, diet/crazed/weight watchers’ culture of the 80’s. Occasionally, this shows in some of the choices and language in her recipes.

Pros

  • This book really is accessible for home cooks. The recipes are all straightforward and approachable, with no complicated techniques or hard-to-find ingredients in the average US supermarket.
  • The meal-plan menu approach is budget friendly, reduces waste, and does lean toward a good mix of home cooking with a healthy-ish direction here and there. If you want to open a cookbook and have a week’s worth of meals planned out, this IS for you.
  • The author includes timelines, lunch ideas, and “getting ahead” tips that I appreciated.
  • Even if the meal plan approach isn’t for me some weeks, there are still some solid recipes I will be trying on my selectively picky eaters.
  • The writing is conversational and aimed toward home cooks, and the layout is visually appealing and easy to use. I especially chuckled at the way she talks about “biohazard” chicken.

This book is for:

  • Home cooks who want family-tested recipes that are approachable/accessible.
  • People starting out in their next chapter of life (newlyweds, college students/graduates, anyone jumping into the deep end of home cooking/planning with no or rusty experience).
  • Budget-conscious cooks who value using up ingredients to their fullest.
  • People interested in streamlining meal planning and prep.
  • Busy homemakers short on time and interested in a ready-made weekly game plan.
  • Really, this reminds me of the old-school Junior League/church cookbooks from my childhood. Uncomplicated recipes that are designed for busy families with supermarket ingredients.

Pass on this one if:

  • If you are into “chefy” or “authentic” or coffee-table cookbooks.
  • If no photos in a cookbook is a dealbreaker.
  • If you are a hyper-foodie and get a thrill from test-driving complicated techniques or bold flavors.
  • If you are on a specialized diet or a food philosophy, including paleo, whole 30, are a vegan, or keto. (I’d still look it over, though)
  • If you have such severely picky eaters to the point that you can only see using one or two recipes out of it.

Overall, I’m glad I bought the book, and I have earmarked several recipes to try on weeknights. Knowing that dinner will be a little easier after escaping the fifth circle of hell (otherwise known as school carpool line), made it well worth my twenty bucks.

 

Community Cookbook Throwback Thursday–Spicy Sausage Balls

Breaking with tradition, we decided not to host anything for the Super Bowl this year. I hosted a LOT of parties last year, and I’m still just kind of burnt out. While I love entertaining, I was just not up for a party on a school night. I wanted to watch the game and relax, preferably with PJ pants and a cocktail.

Despite it being just us, I planned on a small scale spread so we still had a special occasion feel. While I was looking up a dip recipe, I stumbled across these sausage balls and since I had everything on hand, I decided to give them a try.

This recipe comes from Revel, a cookbook from the Junior League of Shreveport/Bossier Louisiana (1980) and was submitted by Edie Broyles Williams. These were super quick to make, and the sauce showcased a really good balance of sweet, savory, and (a very mild) sour. The boys devoured them, and considering the incredibly low effort, it was a winner all around. For a pantry pull recipe, you really can’t beat this one for fast and easy. It’s safe to say that Spicy Sausage Balls will definitely remain in the appetizer rotation.

Notes

  • Remember, I publish the recipes for CCTT as written. I write these notes to clarify how I interpreted the recipe or streamlined it.
  • For this recipe, I used red wine vinegar and ginger powder (which is what the author most likely intended).
  • My broiler resembles a fire-breathing dragon, so instead of smoking us out of the house, I baked the sausage balls at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.
  • I was in a hurry, so rather than rolling out 80 balls, I used my one-inch scoop which resulted in about 30 balls.
  • Next time, I will use one pound of sausage and one pound of ground beef, rather than straight sausage. I think the sausage seasoning flavor can be pretty strong depending on the brand and cutting it with some ground beef would balance things out perfectly.

Spicy Sausage Balls

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds hot sausage
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp ginger

Instructions
 

  • Roll sausage into balls about the size of pecans. Broil in oven 10 minutes. Turn while broiling. Drain. Mix sauce in a saucepan and heat until bubbly. Add sausage balls to sauce. Serve in chafing dish. Men especially love this.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!