A Savor the South Cookbook

By Damon Lee Fowler


Retail: $20


This outstanding cookbook  series is coming to an end. However,  do not worry, as the series nears the projected finishing line of twenty books, there  is not winding down on quality. This next volume tackles an icon of the southern table, Ham and was well worth the wait

Author Howler is the skilled author of nine cookbooks and the editor and recipe developer of Dining at Monticello. He lives in Savannah GA.


Ham is discussed for all of its glory starting with the smokehouses of Thomas Jefferson , to today’s southern classics and to that glorious Italian version of ham, Prosciutto. Fowler takes us into the smokehouses where the very walls capture aromas and flavors of the hams and then, after years, bounce those accumulated scents and tastes back into the pork hindquarters that are hung inside each year.


While I worked at Mt. Vernon, we visited the smokehouse often. It was one of my favorite places on the plantation—I loved the scent of good food coming, carefully cared for, cured, into its own, to be presented at George Washington’s own table. When I cook ham, my own kitchen is redolent with the scent and flavors of history. It’s an aroma that brings everyone into the kitchen to try to cadge a bit of the outer ham “just to taste” before I slice and serve it.

Such is the continuity of ham in the south and anywhere this prince of pork products is loved and eaten. Fowler not only pays homage to Ham as a premiere food of the American South, he also recognizes it s place in other cultures and provides recipes from China, France, Italy and Spain and introduces us to their historic ham types and ways of preparing ham.


I read the front of the book with its history and terminology explanations with great interest. One could say I devoured it (except for the groaning sounds of those who hate puns.) As with the others in the series there are 50 plus, in this case, 55 recipes. Although, I cannot say I loved them all, most are wonderful and all of the recipes are explained so that both beginning and expert cooks can use them all with ease.


Why was I at odds with some of them ,especially with his basic baked ham? Simply because  I prefer my own (apple juice and cloves) way of  making it. However, his method is classic and  if you are new to ham, new to the possibilities of this fabulous meat, try his way.


Many of his other recipes will likely become classics in my own home. I especially liked his rendition of the Monte Cristo sandwich (an item that seems to be making a comeback in restaurants) and his ideas for combining southern classics—like his grilled ham and pimiento cheese sandwich. YUM! This recipe includes a very nice recipe for pimiento cheese as well. Classic ham biscuits, prosciutto and asparagus and lots of other ham and asparagus are just some of the other many delicious suggestions he offers (with full recipe) for using this most versatile meat. I could not help but chuckle as I read his recipe for ham bone soup—it called to mind the story of why cat and dog are rarely friends—all because of a fight over a hambone. Yes, even the bone, the leavings of a ham are worthy of use and can produce sublimely delicious offerings for your friends and family. Lunch, brunch, supper, soups are some of the categories in the book.  No desserts with ham—but then again, many lovers of ham (like my husband) will just as soon skip the sugary desserts for a second helping of whatever heavenly ham dish crossed the table as a main course.

As a side note, I am quite fond of the cover of this volume–I love the decorative red rose made from a thin slice of ham–says it all about the love affair the South (and I ) have with ham.


This slim volume is a very worth addition to the collection and deserves a place on your cookbook shelf.



Why I write!

Do you ever wonder why someone writes? My thoughts on this subject are on the Arachne Press blog. Thank you , Cherry! I have been published by Arachne and hope to be again,

Hurricane Prep

On Sunday the Sun News ran my article on hurricane pantry–things you should have on hand.
Remember, we are most at risk during Sept and Oct here on the NC coast

Girl Scout Presentation!

On Saturday, Aug 19, I read my book, Rosa and the Red Apron to a group of Girl Scouts at the Lowe’s Food in Monkey Junction in Wilmington, NC (Lowe’s obtained permission to use photo on FB) . Thank you, Alexandra , for inviting me!
It was a fun way to spend a morning.
We had such a good time! The girls enjoyed acting out the book with me as I read it. We did not have time to talk much about writing–Lowe’s had arranged a wonderful cookie decorating session for them–yummy!
I am available to speak to scout groups on writing, on cooking, on story performance and speaking! I have some dates left before the end of the year. More open in January and February!

Book Review! Small Batch Baking



175 Best Small-Batch Baking

Treats for 1 or 2

By Jill Snider

Robert Rose Press

ISBN-13: 978-0778805618

Retail : $24.95

Review by Joan Leotta

Baking is not what I am known for. The careful chemistry of ingredients, exact measurements–all of this does not jive with my little of this, little of that style of cooking. I do bake–cookies mostly, and when I do, I am careful to follow the directions no matter how much my inner spirit wants to rebel.

Cookies are one of my favorite things to make and eat (if you check out my photos you will know the truth of that!). However, now that we are a family of two, cookie making is restricted to holidays, parties and church or community functions. Even then, I am often faced with a large amount that need to be frozen. When I pull them out months later, even if frozen in small batches, I feel as though it is a chore to eat them. I prefer fresh.

Cutting a recipe for 24, 36 or more cookies into batches of 6 or nine is more than an exercise in simple math. The chemistry of the cookie requires, adjustment of certain ingredients, a smaller pan, a different baking time. Jill Snider has done all of the experiments to make sure that the recipes she has included meet those criteria. These are not oddball cookies–oh no! She has many of my holiday favorites in this book and there are others, related to them, chewy and crisp, bar cookies, min pies, mini loaves and more that are perfect for a romantic dinner, afternoon spur-of-the- moment snack (without days of required eating or gifting of leftover cookies).  My freezer is already smiling at not having to bear the burden of tiny bags of cookies that will be lost behind roasts and veggies until dried out. Many of the recipes are for things that are my personal faves–dream bars, apricot and fig pinwheels, and even pecan balls.

Author Jill Snider has decades of baking experience  in her resume, including 25 years as a test kitchen manager for a major flour maker. This Toronto, Canada resident is the author of two other cook books as well. She has recalculated cooking times and pan size. She knows how to split an egg! (several of my cookie recipes call for one egg and to halve the recipe….) Snider’s recipes are calculated so this issue is resolved.

The 175 recipes in this book–well, this means I can pick up the book and find something I want to make any time I am in the mood for something sweet–and home-made, no chemicals.

Small batch also means lower cost and fewer sugary calories to be consumed at one sitting. Such calorie avoidance, by eating fewer cookies, does not make this a health cookbook, but certainly no one can argue it is good for mental health, providing the means for a small sweet treat when the psyche needs it. This book makes a wonderful gift for anyone who has a smaller household.

With permission of the author the publisher I am printing one of the recipes from the book. Try it, But try it at your own peril, because like all delicious things, once you try one, you will want more!

Raspberry Coconut Pinwheels

Makes 8 medium or 6 larger cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Line baking sheet with parchment


3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons quick oats

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup butter ,softened

1/4 cup pack brown sugar

3 Tablespoons  granulated sugar

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

1/2 cup flaked coconut

1 1/tablespoon raspberry jam


In a small bowl, whisk together flour, oats and baking soda and salt

set aside

In a medium bowl, using a wooden spoon, beat together, butter, sugars, the egg and the almond extract until creamy, Add the coconut and the flour mixture.

Set aside 3 tablespoons of the dough for topping. Then drop by spoonsful onto prepared baking sheet. make an indentation in each cookie. Put the jam in the indentation and then partially cover with the reserved dough

Bake in the preheated oven, 10-14 minutes or until golden.

Let cool for five minutes on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.


Learn about Herbs; Add Herbal Goodness to Recipes

HerbalistKitchenCover (2)Recipes from the Herbalist’s Kitchen

By Brittany Wood Nickerson

Storey Press

ISBN 9781612126906

Suggested Retail: $24.95

It’s been a long time since I have been so excited about a cookbook! Not only is it replete with recipes I want to try, it also is full of information on herbs and how they infuse food with flavor and impact the health-factor of the dish.  My rule of thumb is that a cookbook is worth buying if you find at least six you want to try and includes tips on technique that will enhance your abilities in the kitchen. This book more than exceeds in both categories. I have already filled the book with sticky notes and pieces of paper to mark recipes and segments about specific herbs I want to re-read.

The book avoids making extreme claims for the herbs, but carefully explains their historical uses for health and the way in which they work with other elements in a recipe to provide flavor and to enhance the flavors of the prime ingredients. In no way should you construe any of the health benefits listed as a substitute for seeing a physician for health problems.

Although most herbs do not have side effects, if you have a compromised immune system, are pregnant, or have any other health condition, consult your physician before making any major commitment to a particular herb.

This afternoon, I am embarking on an experiment to make tarragon vinegar. Later this week I plan to make use of some fresh figs I was given in Nickerson’s chicken with figs recipe.

So many recipes, so little time—but so many leftover fresh herbs from supermarket packets that I will now be able to preserve in oils and vinegars. So many new ideas for pesto recipes!

Most people believe in the power of vitamins to help the immune system—why not get vitamins and stimulate your body’s natural healing powers directly from food and the herbs used to flavor them?

“Connect to the healing power in your foods”, is the advice on the back of the book. Certainly, her guidance in the use of herbs will enhance the quality of each dish so that each one works with the body to increase your health.

At the very least you will enjoy tastier meals and have a better understanding of how to use herbs in your cooking. At best you will enjoy improved health.



Cake Decorating Taken to New Heights!

gravity cakes

Gravity Cakes

By Jakki Friedman and Francesca Librae

Robert Rose Press

ISBN: 978-0778805496

Suggested Retail: $24.95


Review by Joan Leotta


The authors of this book note that “gravity cakes” (which might be better called, cakes that defy gravity) are popular now in most of Europe and will soon be the next “big thing” on our shores.  No wonder! These cakes are so much fun! As you can see by the cover, the design of the cake gives the illusion that something is being poured out onto the cake. Others make it look as though a piece is being taken out. This book presents 45 cakes ideas with gravity-defying designs. The inspiration of r this book is said to be the friendship of the co-authors. Jakki Freidman is a professional baker and Francesca Librae is an international reporter now residing in party-central city of New Orleans. The pair bring baking expertise and spectacular ideas to cake design.
You can use their delicious cake recipes as the basis for the designs, or simply follow the directions on a box cake mix for the prime material. Best of all, the introduction to the book carefully explains the process so well,  each design is explained and accompanied by step by step photos, so that once you have tried the techniques, using a couple of their patterns you will be able to create your own designs. The co-authors have a Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Gravitycakes/ where they post pictures of their newest creations and encourage you to send in photos of your designs to share with the community.

If you have children, if you love to entertain, if you simply like to put beautiful things, amazing things on your dinner table, well then, this is the book for you.

Have fun!


Measurements are given in both Metric and US styles.gravity cakes