Thursday, May 6, 2010

Southern Living Cookbook Reviews

About a month ago I received copies of three different themed “Southern Living” cookbooks. Since that time I’ve prepared several recipes from them with much success. Below is a quick review of each book.

Farmers Market Cookbook: A Fresh Look at Local Flavor. This is more than a cookbook it’s a guide to farmer’s market’s and their products. It’s filled not only with easy to follow recipes but also tips on how to shop a farmer’s market and how to pick produce. There are full page photos of most recipes; which I thoroughly enjoy when browsing a cookbook.
The Farmer’s Market Cookbook is divided into seasonal sections. Allowing you to make the most of each session’s bounty. With such an abundance of new recipes to try I found myself cooking more fresh vegetables than ever. A few of the recipes I tried include: Yukon Gold Mash with Morel Suace, Grilled Fresh Artichokes with dipping sauce and Green Peas with Crispy Bacon.  All were delicious.

The Big Book of BBQ: Recipes and Revelations from the Barbecue Belt is also more than just a cookbook. Not only are there “finger-lickin” good recipes, but also discussions on BBQ competitions, techniques and traditions. This book would make a great addition to any BBQ cookbook collection. Recipes span several cooking methods including slow-cooking, grilling and even indoor.

We’re not just talking your standard BBQ dishes either…there are recipes for drinks, side dishes, and even desserts.  I made the Smoky Pecans...what a great idea to add pecans to the grill while smoking meats.  I also cooked the "Championship" Pork Butt with an injection marinade and dry rub and made some Sweet Mustard Barbecue Sauce.

Classic Southern Desserts: All-Time Favorite Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Puddings, Cobblers, Ice Cream and More. The name says it all. This book includes over 200 dessert recipes; full color photos and lots of baking tips. The one fault I had was that some of the recipes start with a “box” cake mix. To me if you’re baking, your baking….it’s not that hard to make the cake from scratch first. But that is a pet peeve of mine.  I baked the Caramel Cake (recipe below) and the Dark Chocolate Bundt cake.

I think all three of these books are worthy of a spot on just about anyone's cookbook shelf.  With their track record I'd be interested to see what other cookbooks Southern Living has out there.

Carmel Cake
adapted from Classic Southern Desserts

8 oz sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine sour cream and milk. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixture until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating well.  Add eggs,  1 at a time, beating after each addition.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Beat at medium-low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

Pour batter into 2 greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans.  Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until a wooden pick  inserted int he center comes out clean.  Let cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes.  remove from pans and cool completely (1 hour) before spreading with caramel frosting.

Caramel Frosting

1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
3/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla

Sprinkle 1/3 cup sugar in a shallow, heavy 3 1/2 quart Dutch oven; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 3 minutes or until sugar is melted and syrup is light golden brown (sugar will clump). Remove from heat.

Stir together 1 Tbsp flour and 2 1/2 cups sugar in a large saucepan; add milk and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.

Gradually pour about 1/4 hot milk mixture into caramelized sugar, stirring constantly; gradually stir in remaining hot milk mixture until smooth.  (mixture will lump, but continue stirring until smooth).

cover and cook over low heat 2 minutes.  Increase heat to medium; uncover and cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reaches 238 (soft ball stage, about 10 minutes)  Add butter, stirring until blended. Remove from heat and let stand, withuot stirring, until temperature drops to 110 (about 1 hour)

Pour into a bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer.  Add vanilla, and beat at medium speed with whisk attachment until spreading consistency (about 20 minutes)


  1. Excellent review! Southern food is one of my favorite's so full of flavor!

  2. Nice review. Thanks for swinging by my site and leave the nice comment :-) I too am a Philly transplant. Signing off for a week but I look forward to visiting your blog when I return.

  3. The Farmers Market Cookbook sounds great to me. I just joined a CSA this year and will need recipes for all of my fresh produce. Thanks for the review!

  4. I own quite a few older Southern Living cookbooks and I have to agree they are worthy of a spot on the cookbook shelf. Yummy Carmel Cake!

  5. My Goodness! The caramel frosting looks finger licking good.