Sunday, November 20, 2011

'Louisiana Christmas' offers great cooking ideas, makes ideal gift

            There have been so many wonderful cookbooks arriving on bookshelves that it’s difficult to know where to start. I decided to celebrate a few here this week for those wanting ideas for holiday cooking and continue the list next week. The beauty of cookbooks is they don’t just offer the buyer wonderful new ideas for the kitchen, but they make excellent holiday gifts as well.
            Carol Stubbs and Nancy Rust of Lafayette have compiled wonderful recipes from friends, family, notable chefs and owners of Louisiana attractions in “A Louisiana Christmas: Heritage Recipes and Hometown Celebrations.” The book also includes a handy list of holiday events and attractions statewide, plus lovely photos of the Hanley-Gueno Neopolitan Presepio collection of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist Museum in Lafayette.
            The Louisiana-produced book sells for $20 and is available online, plus at Classic Golden Pecan, Pieces of Eight, The Kitchenary, The Cottage Shoppe, Louisiana Hot Stuff, Jewelies, Caroline & Co and the Vermilionville Gift Shop in Lafayette and Rip Van Winkle Gardens, Books Along the Teche, Shadows-on-the-Teche Gift Shop and Conrad Rice Mill in New Iberia. Also available at The Kitchen Shop in Grand Coteau, Crawdaddy's in Shreveport, Follette Pottery Store in Dubach and The Sanctuary and Paper N Things in Baton Rouge.
            The River Oaks School in Monroe has published a delightful fund-raising cookbook titled “Oaks and Rivers,” choke full of recipes and graced with a cover of the Ouachita Riverby renowned Monroe artist Tommie Sue Sartor Hubenthal. Hubenthal’s work has been shown in numerous galleries, including the Masur Museum of Art.
            The cookbook offers the usual categories, from appetizers to desserts, but also sections on international cuisine, “Men Who Cook” (featuring recipes by men) and “This & That” for all those sauces, jellies and spiced nuts. “Oaks and Rivers” will delight cooks year-round, but there are plenty of ideas for Thanksgiving and surrounding holidays, from homemade breads to the endless array of sweet treats.
Both cookbooks are full of delectable recipes for winter holidays, so get one for yourself for Thanksgiving ideas, then more for under the tree.
            One of my favorite aspects of Thanksgiving is oyster dressing. Just in time for the holidays is the latest installation of Jerald and Glenda Horst’s “Louisiana Seafood Bible” series by Pelican Publishing of New Orleans, this time spotlighting oysters. “Louisiana Seafood Bible: Oysters” features not only 75 recipes but the history of the state’s industry, shucking techniques, interviews with fishermen and much more.
            Need some holiday dessert ideas? TV foodies Kimberly “Momma” Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero, known as the “Sugar Mommas,” have produced a cookbook titled “Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe has a Story.” There are fun stories behind a host of recipes, from the Kentucky Derby Bars derived from a college friend to the Southern traditional Hummingbird Cake sent in by Irene Mangum of Baton Rouge. If you like homespun stories with your recipes, this book is it. I can’t wait to try the chocolate cloud cookies from an early 1930s recipe.
            Fans of the Joanne Fluke Hannah Swensen mysteries, which always included dessert recipes, will be pleased to learn there is now the “Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook: Hannah Swensen’s Recipes from the Cookie Jar.”
            And from Andrews McMeel Publishing comes two delightful little cookbooks: “Cutie Pies: 40 Sweet, Savory, and Adorable Recipes” by Dani Cone and “So Sweet! Cookies, Cupcakes and Whoopie Pies, and More” by Sur La Table. Both are filled with easy-to-read recipes, photos and helpful baking advice.
            Next week I’ll review John Besh’s new cookbook, plus “Lost Restaurants of New Orleans,” “The Lexicon of Read American Food” and more.
            Signing locally will be Neal Bertrand, who will share ideas for one-pot meals and sign copies of his “Slow Cooker Meals: Easy Home Cooking for Busy People” at 11 a.m. Friday at Barnes & Noble, 5707 Johnston St.

New releases
Libby Gardner of Lafayette has published “Barefooted” under the pen name of Lizzie Garrett, a book about her struggle with depression and addiction.
“Much like the lives of millions of others I struggled throughout my life with tragedies, molestation, and then addiction and clinical depression,” she wrote me by email. “From attempted suicide to Godly revelations the story shows the power of depression and addiction and the spirituality required to penetrate and overcome the darkness.”
The book is for sale online at and
Mystery author June Shaw of Thibodaux has published a book about her mom, “an amazing yet ordinary woman named Nora Shaw,” she wrote me by email. “Mom inspired everyone, becoming spunky and great fun during her senior years.”
“Nora 102 ½: A Lesson on Aging Well” is available on Shaw’s web site, and (discount code: YCRWQHRE). Shaw will sign copies, along with her mysteries, at 1 p.m. Sunday at LA Cajun Stuff in Houma.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at