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Cookbook Club brings together great friends, food

February 25, 2012


Seven ladies of Starkville have found a fun way to keep in touch during their busy lives while learning some new recipes in the process. The group, made up of Leah Kemp, Shannon Barrett, Emily Lesley, Jennifer Cougle, Kim Peaster, Amanda Shy, Susan Ford and Jennifer Rush, gather at one another’s houses on the third Thursday of each month to eat dinner. Each dinner is chosen from the same cookbook, which each of the girls buy and bring to each meeting.
“I think we got started because we all enjoy cooking, but we all also enjoy having a reason to get together,” Barrett said.
This marks the fourth year that the women have been together as a club. This month they are starting on the cookbook, “Tables of Content: Service, Settings and Supper” by The Junior League of Birmingham, Ala.
“I would say that even though all of us have a lot going on in our lives, we make this a priority,” Barrett said.
The group meets once a month, and each December, they choose their favorites from the year and invite their husbands to have a “Best of the Best” dinner party.
At each dinner, two people make an appetizer, two make a side, the host makes the main dish, one person makes dessert and the host from the previous month gets the night off from cooking and just brings the wine.
On Thursday, Lesley made Baked Mexican Dip, Barrett made Marinated Shrimp, Rush brought White Sangria, Kemp made Broccoli Casserole, Peaster did Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cupcakes, Ford made Fried Green Tomatoes with a Mediterranean Salsa, Shy did the Southwestern Salad and hostess Cougle made the Enchilada Casserole.
The ladies don’t just eat and run, however. After each dinner, they discuss each component of the meal and make notes.
“Before we come, we make notes in our cookbooks about where we found the ingredients and if anything was particularly difficult about a recipe,” Barrett said. “It’s great because it’s like learning how to cook seven things when you only actually have to cook one.”
Ford called herself the “B team,” having been the only member not there from the beginning.
“My favorite cookbook so far was a book called ‘Square Tables,’” Ford said. “I love coming because it encourages me to cook things that my family and I might not eat on our own.”
Kemp is credited with coming up with the idea.
“I had a friend who was doing it in Columbus, and I thought it would be a nice way to get back involved with friends when I moved back to Starkville,” Kemp said. “My favorite book so far has been ‘Food for Thought.’”
Barrett said other than the time spent with friends, the great thing about the club is having an arsenal of go-to recipes she knows will be a success.
“Every Christmas or special occasion I end up using something we’ve tried here,” Barrett said. “It makes planning a big dinner much easier.”

Marinated Shrimp
serves 6 to 8
2 lbs. medium shrimp
1 cup canola, corn or vegetable oil
1/2 cup each cider vinegar and ketchup
1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
1 small jar capers, drained and rinsed
6 to 8 bay leaves
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
2 small white onions, thickly sliced

Bring enough water to generously cover the shrimp to a boil in a stockpot and add the shrimp. Boil for 3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink; drain. Peel and devein shrimp, leaving tails intact. Whisk remaining ingredients in a bowl. Layer the shrimp and onions in a large shallow dish, and pour the canola oil mixture over the layers. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator 1 to 2 days, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaves before serving. For a spicier taste add crushed red pepper or Tabasco sauce. Leaving the tails on the shrimp makes them easy to pick up and avoids the use of wooden picks.

Enchilada Casserole
serves 6 to 8
1 (10-ounce) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 (14-ounce) can diced Mexican-style tomatoes
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. sugar
10 (6-inch) corn tortillas, quartered
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack or Cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream

Squeeze any excess moisture from the spinach. Brown the ground beef with the onion, garlic, cumin, red pepper, salt and black pepper in a skillet, stirring until the ground beef is crumbly; drain. Stir in spinach, undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, green chiles, lime juice and sugar. Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Dip the tortilla quarters in the melted butter. Arrange half of the tortillas in a greased 9x13” baking dish. Spread with half of the ground beef mixture and sprinkle with half of the cheese. Layer with the remaining tortillas, sour cream, remaining ground beef mixture and remaining cheese and bake 30 minutes.

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