My Favorite Cookbooks

Labor Day weekend is upon us and I will be competing in a three-day agility dog trial with my super duper agility dog Blue. I confess, I do have other hobbies besides obsessing over what next to cook in my skillet.

Here’s a picture of Blue doing his thing.

Super Duper Agility Dog

That said, I won’t be able to post my Coming Soon! Tips on How to Season Your Dutch Oven as I had planned. My apologies for the delay, but it will get posted soon. Here, in its place, are some literary foods for thought.

My favorite cookbooks are like old friends. I visit them often and they always invoke fond memories.

I imagine that everyone has a few go-to cookbooks that they use on a regular basis. Some recipes become so familiar and are used so often that they almost seem like our own.

Following are a few cookbooks that I treasure.

Cast Iron Cooking: 50 Gourmet Quality Dishes from Entrees to Desserts by Dwayne Ridgaway.

Cast Iron Cooking: 50 Gourmet Quality Dishes from Entrees to Desserts

This is one of my favorite cast iron cookbooks on the market. It has a great variety of dishes – ranging from skillet scampi (pictured on cover) to Moroccan cuisine. Beautiful photos, easy to follow recipes and delightful food. And a killer pizza dough recipe.

Glycemic Index Cookbook

Glycemic Index Cookbook

My husband is diabetic so we try to stay on a low glycemic diet. I found this cookbook at the bookstore and LOVE the recipes. They are flavorful, low-calorie, and include dishes for breakfast, appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts. For the diabetic or health conscious, this cookbook is a keeper. And it is spiral-bound which makes it very easy to keep open. (It’s the little things in life that make me happy.)

Cooking the Cowboy Way: Recipes Inspired by Campfires, Chuck Wagons, and Ranch Kitchens by Grady Spears and June Naylor

Cooking the Cowboy Way

I must confess, I probably spend more time thumbing through the pages of this book than I do actually cooking the recipes (although I have cooked a few). This book is beautiful! It features ranches and their family recipes from across North America (Alberta to Florida). Each section features a specific ranch and several recipes from each, including descriptive intros, luxurious photos of ranch life and its food. I just want to jump into some of these pages, saddle up a horse and herd some cattle, snuggle down under the stars next to a campfire, and light up some coals under my old Dutch oven.

Dutch Oven Cookbooks – Lodge’s Camp Dutch Oven Cooking 101, The Beginner’s Guide to Dutch Oven Cooking by Marla Rawling, and Dutch Oven Secrets by Lynn Hopkins

Dutch Oven Cookbooks

These three are my favorites. They get used more than any other cookbook that I own. Their pages are dog-eared, smeared with all sorts of stains (cherries to BBQ sauce), and they smell like charcoal. And they feature some great Dutch oven recipes for all experience levels, including guidance on how many coals to use, oven sizes, and how to feed large crowds. My trifecta.

Classic Cooking with Coca-Cola by Elizabeth Candler Graham (great-great-granddaughter of Asa Griggs Candler, founder of Coca-Cola) and Ralph Roberts

Classic Cooking with Coca-Cola

Years ago a friend gave this to me when I was going through my Coca-Cola memorabilia collector phase. I got rid of most of my collection, but this cookbook stayed. Cooking with soda pop – awesome! All sorts of fantastic recipes are included – great desserts and my absolute favorite seafood fettucine recipe – that’s right, seafood fettucine with Coke. It’s fu-sizzle.

Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two

Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two

When I got my first apartment at the tender age of 22 (post college), my mom gave me this cookbook. I consider it my cooking instructor. In college, I was very adept at ordering pizza, cooking Top Ramen and mac and cheese, and making sandwiches, but that was the extent of my repertoire. This book provided simple, tasty, inexpensive (a key ingredient for a poor college graduate) recipes that helped me learn to cook for myself. I still use its meatloaf and scalloped potatoes recipe (one of my hubby’s favorites). I love its spice bread and paella recipes…and so much more. I’ll be cooking out of this book when I’m 80. Thanks Mom.


Best Way to Spend a Saturday

I formed the Northern Sierra Dutch Oven Group (NSDOG) in 2009 to encourage Dutch oven enthusiasts to get together and cook, share recipes and tips, and enjoy each other’s company (and food).

Since then NSDOG has grown to over 120 members. We host informal cook-offs, hands-on trainings and participate in community events like the Genoa Cowboy Poetry & Music Festival (Genoa, Nev.) and Carson City Rendezvous (Carson City, Nev.).

This past Saturday, my dear friend and an original NSDOG member, Doug, and I helped teach a class with park rangers at Washoe Lake State Park near Reno, Nev. The park has offered these free classes for a number of years and they are tremendous hits. NSDOG has been fortunate to be involved for the past two years.

We enjoyed lots of great dishes prepared in Dutch ovens – lasagna, stew, a flavorful chicken and pasta dish, steamed veggies, cherry apple crumble, and upside down pineapple cake – all cooked by class participants.

I met many enthusiastic people, enjoyed a beautiful northern Nevada evening by the lake, and ate lots of delicious food. I am already looking forward to next year.

Following are some snapshots from the day.

Participants wander from table to table deciding which dish to cook.

Participants check out the recipe for the Cherry Apple Crumble.

Participants decide to make the Cherry Apple Crumble

The boys get cookin’!

A participant stirs the lasagna sauce.

Mmmmmm…nothing like a big pot of pasta sauce.

Adding the lasagna noodles.

And the cheese.

Prepping the veggies for the stew

Cooking the stew.

Is it done yet?

Hangin’ with the ladies!

The official name of this dish – Butch’s Bitchin’ Chicken…and it is!

Pasta makes this chicken even more bitchin’.

The piece de la resistance – upside down pineapple cake.

Raffle prizes were passed out and this lucky lady got the grand prize – her very own Dutch oven. It was a great day!

Recipe for Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Spinach and Grilled Shrimp

My husband worked late on Monday so I found myself cooking dinner for one. I am always trying to use up leftover items in my fridge and pantry, and had a lovely jar of chopped sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil in my fridge that I did not want to see go to waste.

So, it is that jar of sun-dried tomatoes that inspired this light pasta dish with spinach and grilled shrimp – a perfect dish for one (or a couple, since my hubby gobbled up the leftovers when he got home from work!)


Pasta Ingredients
Olive Oil (2-4 Tbsps.)
Onion (1/4 to 1/2 cup, chopped)
Garlic (3 cloves, minced)
Dried Basil (1 tsp.)
Sun-Dried Tomatoes (2 Tbsps., finely chopped)
Fresh Spinach (2 to 3 oz.)
Angel Hair Pasta
Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Grilled Shrimp Ingredients
10-15 Medium to Large-sized Fresh or Frozen (thawed) Shrimp, de-veined, tails on or off (your choice!)

Olive Oil (1-2 Tbsps.)
Juice from 1/2 of a Lemon
Dried Basil (1/2 tsp.)
Kosher Salt

Mix the shrimp in a bowl with the olive oil, lemon juice, dried basil, and a little kosher salt. Let the shrimp marinade on a counter top while you prepare the pasta and sauce.

Prepare the angel hair pasta according to the package. Because it is thin, angel hair pasta usually takes between 5 to 7 minutes to cook.

In a cast iron skillet, heat 2-3 Tbsps. of olive oil. Add the chopped onions and sauté until they are translucent – this usually takes about 5 minutes.






Add the minced garlic






Dried basil






And sun-dried tomatoes.

Stir ingredients together.





Add the fresh spinach and allow it to cook down or wilt over a low to medium heat.






This is how it should look when completely wilted.

While the spinach is wilting (that sounds kind of sad…), oil a cast iron grill with cooking spray or a light coat of olive oil. Heat grill.





Skewer the shrimp. Place on grill for about 2-3 minutes. Flip to cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes, until shrimps’ tails curl and begin to turn a light golden brown.

Once cooked, remove the skewered shrimp from the grill so they do not overcook. Cast iron maintains its heat for a long time, even when the stove burners are off.




Mix the cooked pasta with the sun-dried tomato sauce. Pepper to taste and sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. Add the shrimp in any arrangement that suits your fancy.

Dinner is served!

By skilletgirl Posted in Recipes