Cookbook review: 'The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook' and Sunday brunch
Wonderfully whimsical and simplistically Southern, 'The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook' is full of recipes that feel like they've been in the family awhile.
Raised on "Southern Living" recipes, sweet tea, and homemade pie crust, my bar for Southern-inspired cookbooks is set high. The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook, written by novelist Sherryl Woods with assistance from chef Teddi Wohlford, lived up to my expectations.Skip to next paragraph
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The book is based on recipes mentioned, or highlighted in the "Sweet Magnolias" book series, by Ms. Woods. The cookbook references characters from the novels, and is organized by events or activities that feature in the books.
From appetizers to dinner recipes, the cookbook captures everything from a girls' night out on the town to the menu of the book's fictional Sullivan's Restaurant. The section titled "Mama Cruz's Recipe File," feels like the recipes an old family friend or a favorite aunt would lend you.
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Most of the recipes are straight-forward, made with simple ingredients. There are several go-to entries that would come in handy in most kitchens. There's a how-to for a dry corn muffin mix that can be made up ahead of time and stored for several months, a basic Hollandaise sauce, a simple salsa, and several quick recipes for smoothies and iced tea with only three or four ingredients and a few steps.
There's a version of almost every dish you would want to see in a Southern cookbook; two options for macaroni and cheese, the requisite dozen biscuit and scone ideas, several recipes that incorporate grits, and a peanut butter pie that looks divine.
But beyond the classic family favorites, the book is balanced with quirkier, more inspiring dishes such as Southern-style crab cakes from the brunch section, pork-stuffed tamales, Vadalia onion canapés, and cinnamon roll bread pudding topped with whipped vanilla bean creme.
I tried several recipes from the cookbook. First I made the three-cheese macaroni casserole, which I served with meatballs, and a salad for a weeknight meal. I've tried many macaroni and cheese recipes – from Martha Stewart's take, to the recipe that comes on the back of the box of pasta – and this one, quick to assemble and on the cheesier end of things, may be a contender for my all-time favorite. I also made the black bean chili recipe. A bit doubtful at first, I put my trust in Ms. Wohlford and the packet of El Paso chili seasoning called for in her recipe. In about 30 minutes I had a pot of perfectly seasoned, just spicy enough chili. I served it with a classic side from my Southern family – Jiffy corn muffins made from the box.
But for a true test of the book, I chose two recipes from one of the longest sections, invited a few friends over, and saw how "The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook" fared for Sunday brunch. I made crustless broccoli and three-cheese quiche, and cranberry-orange scones with orange glaze; I modified both slightly and prepared them partially ahead of time. Paired with a quick fruit salad, and a side of bacon, brunch was a success! And "The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook" has officially earned it's spot next to my "Southern Living" cookbooks.
Crustless broccoli and three-cheese quiche
2 cups milk
4 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup biscuit baking mix (such as Bisquick)
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped, steamed crisp-tender broccoli
1 cup canned French-fried onions (optional, see instructions)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
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