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Guest Post: Cookbook Reviews

This week I am welcoming back the talented Mary Jackson who recently updated you on Google Recipes. Today she is sharing a little bit about herself as well as a few reviews from cookbooks she has used throughout the years. I went ahead and included one of my own photos for you as well. Hope you enjoy!

I am Mary Jackson, wife of John Jackson, Milligan Bible/Humanities professor and mother of two teenagers, Quincy, 16 years old and Grace, 13 years old. I fortunately have a job I love as the Research and Instruction Librarian at Milligan. I work 30 hours of the week most of the year, but take time off in the summers and during holidays. All of that would keep me pretty busy, but I am also the fellowship coordinator along with other responsibilities at my church, Hopwood Christian Church, and teach an online course several times a year.

My hobbies are reading, traveling, internet fun and for purposes of this blog, cooking and baking. I was raised by a mother trained in all the traditional home economic arts, culminating in a Masters’ degree. Most of my childhood, she worked as a registered dietician. In another era, I think my mother would have chosen more of a science oriented path. While completely lacking in creativity, my mother knew how to do lots of things involving cooking, sewing, and crafts. More importantly she was willing to try just about anything. If she didn’t know how to do something, she was more than willing to find out how and buy the supplies necessary to do it. My childhood had plenty of art supplies, cooking ingredients, and sewing materials.

I lack much artistic ability and I am, at best, a very basic seamstress—I can usually get 75% of a project completed before the pattern completely baffles me and I just don’t enjoy it. But what I love is baking and cooking. I also married a man with very few cooking skills, but who was very keen on learning. We now cook well together. He took a great interest in yeast products, which I don’t enjoy, and has become an excellent bread man.

Baking is my favorite activity and baking in large quantities is my specialty. To give you some idea of what I consider “normal”. I make treats (usually two-three choices of cookies, bars or muffins) on test days for my husband’s classes. He has 100+ students most fall semesters. Needless to say I have some standby large quantity recipes and a good work routine. I have also been cooking for church groups and potlucks for most of my adult life. I’d like to blog on recipes/tips/strategies on cooking for large groups and as the owner of a large collection of cookbooks, I’d like to review a few that I love…

Since I work with college students, I get invited to a lot of weddings. Shortly after one of this year’s crop of weddings, one new bride posted on FB asking for recipe suggestions and cooking advice. This got me to thinking about what cookbook I would give to a couple just starting out.

Two classics deserve a bit of discussion. Back when I got married, 28 years ago (oh, my!), the traditional book for all new brides was The Joy of Cooking. I still have mine. The book went through a number of editions, some better than others. I used to refer to it occasionally as it is packed with lots of useful information. But with the rise of the Internet and other newer cookbooks, it is no longer my book of choice. Many of the recipes now seem dated.

Another of my wedding gift cookbooks, was The Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book in the three ring binder. It is truly a cookbook with only a little additional information. I love several features of this book. The inside front and back covers have one of the best equivalency charts (1 lemon = 3 Tbsp juice) and emergency substitutes. Very handy and I still use them. I like the three ring binder as the book lays flat, but now after all these years and several big moves, the pages are starting to fall out and have gone missing.

However, the book that I have gifted to many people and the one we most, is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Bittman is a long time food writer for the New York Times. He just stopped writing his weekly column this year. We have both the original edition (falling apart) and the revised 10th Anniversary edition. I have given this as a gift to everyone from experienced cooks to beginners.

Most of the recipes are straightforward and use ingredients commonly found in U.S. grocery stores. If the ingredient is more exotic, he tells you and usually gives a more readily available alternative. What I enjoy most are his many ideas for how to change up ordinary foods. He includes snazzy boxes labeled: 19 Thirty-Second Ways to Jazz Up Plain Rice, 12 Alternative Toppings for Pasta, and lists over 20 ways to cook chicken cutlets. Who hasn’t looked at a package of chicken breasts in the fridge and hoped for some dinner inspiration? He provides basic information about fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans including buying, storing, preparing and best cooking methods.

My only criticism, and it is very minor, is the desserts section is weak. If you need a desserts cookbook, comment on this post or just keep reading as I’ll soon be submitting dessert reviews.

Shrimp Creole Recipe

Have you ever had that feeling of dread when you reach into the dark recesses of your cabinets only to find an empty space in place of that vital ingredient necessary for your meal? I had such a feeling a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I did not discover the lacking ingredients (yes, multiple) until I was fully emerged in cooking the meal, already at the point of no return.

After a small mental tantrum, I pulled myself together and set to work finding and making substitutes.

Here is the link to the original recipe.

And here are the ingredients to our version, which, by the way, turned out to taste fantastic.


2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups tomato sauce
1 teaspoon of chili powder (I also sprinkled more haphazardly throughout the cooking process to our liking)
1/2 tsp. salad supreme seasoning
1 tbsp of all purpose flour
2 tbsp water
1/2 lb of large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tsp Soy sauce
1/4 jalapeno chopped finely
3 green onions chopped
2 tbsp parsley
1 tsp oregano
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 c. white rice

*I know that seems like a lot of seasoning but it was in lieu of the Cajun seasoning which includes all of those ingredients and a few more.


Begin by preparing your rice. Follow instructions on bag.

Heat olive oil on medium heat and add onion, bell pepper, celery, and minced garlic. Once the vegetables are tender, add tomato sauce, soy sauce, and all seasonings. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a low heat. Simmer 15-20 minutes.

Lightly season shrimp with garlic, paprika, chili powder, and lemon juice. Warm 1 tbsp of olive oil in a separate pan and cook shrimp. Add shrimp to sauce. Cook 5 minutes.

Mix flour and water and add to tomato mixture. Cook 5 more minutes.

Add chopped green onions. Taste, taste, taste! Adjust any seasonings necessary to fit your preference.

Serve over rice and enjoy!