The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook

The Curmudgeon’s Recipe for Romance
For the topping:
1 bodice, ripped
1 chest, glistening with sweat
1 set golden locks, flowing (his or hers)
1 kilt (optional (wife’s note – kilt is not, repeat NOT, optional))
For the filling:
200 pages purple prose

Combine the topping ingredients well and put in front of the filling.
Collect royalties.

Obviously, I am rather cynical about the world of romance novels. When it comes right down to it, though, it’s more a matter of envy than anything. I wish I could write dialog. I wish I could conceive captivating characters and intriguing plots, but that’s just not where my strengths lie. I am definitely a food guy, and I’m happy about it.

Sweet Magnolias Cookbook

One nice thing about being a food guy is getting the occasional cookbook in the mail to review. The most recent one came with a surprise though–the publisher is Harlequin, the famed home of romance. The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook: More Than 100 Favorite Southern Recipes is by Sherryl Woods with Chef Teddi Wohlford. The cookbook is from Harlequin because Woods is the author of ten novels (so far) in the Sweet Magnolias series from the romance (and cookbook) publisher.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I have never read any of the series; never heard of it actually. I have to say I like the cookbook though. The series revolves around the town of Serenity, South Carolina, and the recipes come from places all over town, including the fine dining restaurant, the farmers market, and “Mama Cruz’s Recipe File.” It’s a community cookbook, even if the community isn’t real.

I’m a big fan of community cookbooks. The only thing I really remember from my grandmother’s cookbook, The Greenleaf United Methodist Cookbook, is Brother Pepper, the young pastor of the church at the time. (I was maybe 10.) But I do remember dinner on the grounds, the good food that entailed, and the sense of togetherness it promoted. We have other cookbooks from places we know absolutely nothing about, but we love them just the same.

I can see this cookbook being a big hit with fans of the Sweet Magnolias series because they already have a connection. I think that anyone who loves community cookbooks would like this one also. Just be warned, you may find yourself drawn into the world of Serenity, South Carolina, as well.

Of course we dived right into “Mama Cruz’s Recipe File” and decided to make Jacked-Up Tex-Mex Macaroni & Cheese. One change we made was to let Patric make his tacocat magic seasoning blend instead of a packet of mix. We had to make one tweak because the liquid binding was twice as much as we needed. I haven’t scoured the other recipes, but that did give me the community cookbook sense because those recipes always work best in their creators’s kitchens. The cynical part of me thinks this shouldn’t have happened in a “real” cookbook, but the romantic part of me is just charmed by the whole thing and doesn’t care that much. The results were darned tasty.

Jacked-Up Tex-Mex Macaroni & Cheese

This recipe adapted from The Sweet Magnolias Cookbook, copyright 2012 by Sherryl Woods.


  • 1 pound breakfast sausage
  • 1 medium white onion finely diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 14 ounce can spicy diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni cooked to al dente
  • 8 ounces cheddar cheese grated
  • 8 ounces pepper jack cheese grated
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 2 cups milk


  • Preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Grease a 13" X 9" X 2" pan.
  • Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently to crumble.
  • When the sausage is browned, add the onion, cumin, chipotle, garlic powder, black pepper, and salt and mix thoroughly. Cook until the onion is soft.
  • Remove the sausage from the heat and stir in the diced tomatoes and the sour cream.
  • In the prepared dish, layer half the macaroni. Then spoon on half the sausage mixture, covering the macaroni evenly. Spread half the cheese. Repeat this layering once more.
  • Whisk together the eggs and milk. Pour this mixture carefully over the casserole.
  • Cover the casserole tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
  • Remove the foil and allow to bake an additional 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Disclaimer: This book was received from the publisher as a review copy.

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