22 February 2014

Weekend Cooking: Sunday Dinners by Diane Cowen

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Sunday Dinners by Diane CowenOne my fondest childhood memories was having brunch at my grandparents' house. On Sundays, my grandmother would make a big feast for whoever showed up. We didn't go every weekend, but some group of cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends would gather in my grandparents' dining room to share a meal and have a good gossip.

Diane Cowen's Sunday Dinners is a celebration of just such family traditions. She contacted thirteen pastors and asked them to share a family story, a prayer, and the recipes that grace their tables. Although the cookbook has a Texas and southern focus, a few of the families live in the North.

One of the things I love about collections like Sunday Dinners is that the recipes are all tried and true and have been made by ordinary home cooks. And, in fact, every dish in this book is within the reach anyone with moderate kitchen skills. I also appreciate that the ingredients are easy to find and require almost no special equipment. The dishes are perfect for family gatherings and should have a wide appeal.

As I mentioned, the cookbook has a southern feel, which is evident by the recipes for country-fried pork chops, biscuits, corn bread, pimiento cheese, grits, and gumbo. But you'll also find spring rolls, rack of lamb, pot roast, and salads. Because these are Sunday dinners, there is a good selection of desserts, including Texas sheet cake, strawberry cake, puddings, cookies, and flans.

copyright Michael PaulsenIt's common for family recipes to rely on processed foods, and the Sunday Dinner collection is no exception. I'm not judging; I'm just pointing out that quite a few of the dishes include ingredients such as a cream-of soup, a cake mix, canned pie filling, or bottled sauces. In addition to vegetable and salads, all the meals include a meat or fish.

Although I'm more of a from-scratch kind of cook, there were still plenty of recipes that caught my attention. For example, I thought the pecan sweet potatoes (recipe follows) would be great at Thanksgiving. I've marked the pulled-pork tacos to make this spring, and the herb-roasted salmon looks both healthful and easy. Many of the desserts called to me too, especially the carrot cake and chewy chocolate cookies.

Whether you want to start a new tradition in your family or hope to add some new flavors to your standard Sunday fare, pick up a copy of Diane Cowen's Sunday Dinners. If you have dietary concerns or are a vegetarian, you might want to check this one out of the library before you buy. Note on the photos: Both photos were scanned from the cookbook; all rights and copyright remain with the photographer, Michael Paulsen.

Senator Russell's Sweet Potatoes
Serves 12

copyright Michael PaulsenPotatoes
  • 10 medium-size sweet potatoes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 2 cups chopped pecans (though photo shows halves)
Preheat the oven to 350F.

Make the potatoes: Bake the sweet potatoes until soft, 35 to 40 minutes. Allow them to cool enough to be handled, then peel and mash them. Push the potatoes through a ricer or sieve and place in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, milk, and butter. Add to the sweet potatoes and mix. Pour the potato mixture into a 9 by 13-inch baking pan.

Make the topping: Whisk together the brown sugar and flour. Stir in the melted butter until crumbly. Then add the pecans. (If the mixture isn't crumbly, add more sugar.) Sprinkle over the potato mixture and bake for 50 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly.

Andrews McMeel, 2013
ISBN-13: 9781449427108
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity 2/22/14, 6:23 AM  

This is right up my alley!! (Though I've been trying to cut some of those processed steps from my own cooking over the past few years). And Texas sheet cake....one of my favorites. There's something comforting about a big family gathering with good food.

jama 2/22/14, 6:25 AM  

Love the tradition of Sunday family suppers. Will have to check this one out from the library. Thanks for sharing the sweet potatoes recipe :).

Tina 2/22/14, 6:51 AM  

Your opening paragraph had me sold. I was flooded with memories of eating with family at my grandparents' homes. Luckily for me, both sets of grandparents lived within 5 minutes walk so I saw them often.
Love the idea of Sunday Dinners.

rhapsodyinbooks 2/22/14, 7:21 AM  

I have that recipe for sweet potatoes and it is great! (from a Senate cookbook)

Anonymous,  2/22/14, 7:30 AM  

Tradition and family and food seem to be strongly connected for me which is why this book sounds so lovely. I'm not so keen on cooking with so many processed ingredients though; I don't think I'll ever cook something with cream-of soup as an ingredient.

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 2/22/14, 7:34 AM  

I'm with you on not cooking much with processed food, but Thanksgiving is an exception and I love sweet potato casserole! We still have it on Thanksgiving at my mother in law's house - yummy!

Unknown 2/22/14, 8:54 AM  

There has never been a Sunday supper kind of tradition in my family. Sounds like it could be a lot of fun. And that sweet potato casserole...yum!

Amanda 2/22/14, 9:20 AM  

We do Saturday dinners in my family and I love the tradition and sharing good food :)

JoAnn 2/22/14, 9:23 AM  

That's my regular Thanksgiving sweet potato recipe! I discovered it years ago in Applehood & Motherpie, a cookbook from the Junior League of Rochester, NY. Have drastically cut back the butter and sugar over the years, but it's still a family favorite.

grammajudyb 2/22/14, 10:09 AM  

I like the sounds of Sunday Dinner. No one I know seems to do that tradition anymore, me included. I remember coming home from church always to something in the oven and a meal around the table.

Jackie McGuinness 2/22/14, 11:38 AM  

Oh how i miss those Sunday roast dinners at my parents!!!

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews 2/22/14, 11:45 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews 2/22/14, 11:45 AM  


It seems as though a traditional British roast dinner, with all the family around the same table, is a dying trend, here in the UK.

More and more families tend to go out to eat and whilst a pub which serves a good roast dinner will always be full of diners, the less traditional fare is becoming more and more popular.

I had to check out exactly what a Texas sheet cake is and have to say that it does look and sound delicious, as does the recipe for the sweet potatoes.

I am a little more adventurous in combining foods than perhaps my husband is, so neither are probably dishes I would try out over here, although I may well be tempted when visiting other countries to test the local fare.

Thanks for hosting and for a great post this week.


Cecelia 2/22/14, 11:50 AM  

I appreciate your note about reliance on processed foods. I mostly cook for just myself, so family-sized recipes don't make that much sense unless I'm hosting a party, and the use of store-bought sauces, etc. makes me hesitate even more. I do like the look of those sweet potatoes, though! Mmm...

(Diane) bookchickdi 2/22/14, 12:26 PM  

I love books like this! We used to host Sunday and holiday dinners at my house and I always enjoy cooking for a crowd more than a few. I'm going to look for this one for sure.

Carole 2/22/14, 2:27 PM  

Boy, those potatoes must be so sweet! It would be a dessert for me! Cheers

Vasilly 2/22/14, 3:05 PM  

We have Sunday dinners here almost every week and it's such a nice tradition to have. I'm going to see if my library has this.

Rachel 2/22/14, 3:52 PM  

Sunday dinners are the best! Slow food and slow days!

bermudaonion 2/22/14, 8:47 PM  

I don't use a lot of processed foods but it's nice to have a few fast recipes that do for those times you're in a pinch. I love that this includes stories and recipes.

Heather 2/23/14, 5:00 AM  

Growing up, I always went to my great grandmothers house in much the same way. She had six children, so it was a packed house. I loved it!

Those sweet potatoes sound delicious and boy, do I want a biscuit right now.

Rhiannon 2/23/14, 7:15 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhiannon 2/23/14, 7:17 AM  

I love the feeling of home on Sundays and that includes a great meal. I've included a cookbook review from my book review site that is by far the best gluten-free handbook/cookbook I have come across. While I'm not following a gluten free diet I have friends that are and I've been suggesting this book to all of them.

Laurie C 2/23/14, 8:46 AM  

Wow! I can see why you would reserve the sweet potato recipe for a holiday dinner. The ingredients in the sweet potato recipe sound more like dessert! Yummy! This isn't a cookbook for me, but my mother-in-law would have loved it back in the day, before everyone went on a diet!

Tanya @ Moms Small Victories 2/23/14, 4:55 PM  

What a great memory! I think that's why I enjoy cooking so much, I was surrounded by great food with my mom who is a fantastic cook!

This sounds like a great cookbook as I am making our Sunday dinner now with sweet potatoes. Thanks for the linkup!

Sue Jackson 2/24/14, 8:58 AM  

Looks like a interesting book - I like the idea of combining family stories with recipes.

I make a sweet potato casserole very similar to this one, only it's a Cooking Light recipe (of course! lol) - it's a big favorite at our house.


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Charlie (The Worm Hole) 2/24/14, 2:44 PM  

I've a very picky eater in my family and finding cookbooks has been difficult. This one sounds perfect, I'm hoping I can get it here. I like the variety you've talked about and the cover shows. Yep, definitely noting this one down!

Anonymous,  2/24/14, 4:25 PM  

Like you, I'm a from-scratch-kind of cook :-D A lot healther as well as we become more selective of the ingredients we want to use in our cooking. Love your Senator Russell's Sweet pototoes. Sounds yummy..

Dana Tanaro Britt 2/25/14, 10:23 AM  

The title alone is intriguing!

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