I might not live in Texas anymore, but sometimes I still cook like a Texan.
Thank you, Texas Co-op Power readers, for teaching me about Southern cooking. Through the monthly reader recipe section, I learned about flavors and techniques that will stay with me forever.
When I joined Texas Co-op Power in 2011, I was thrilled to find out that the editorial staff participated in recipe testing for the recipe contest.
Every month the food editor would send out selected submitted recipes, and the editorial staff would race to pick out the most appealing ones to prepare for a panel of co-workers. We did not have a professional test kitchen, but we were a realistic representation of Texas home cooks.
Contestants showed their culinary acumen with instructions as simple as melting Velveeta into almost anything to the more meticulous, such as stuffing upright rigatoni noodles for Butternut Squash and Gorgonzola Rigatoni Pasta Pie With Fried Sage (July 2016).
Sometimes if I was late in choosing, I’d wind up preparing a more technical or time-consuming recipe, like the Red Velvet Cupcake in a Jar (November 2012) that took me three hours to make. At other times recipes picked me, like the Blueberry-Lime Jam (June 2012) because I owned a hot-water bath canner.
For the Chili Cook-Off contest of 2013, Jenny Sparks of Trinity Valley Electric Cooperative shared a recipe for Venison Chili that uses ground venison, chipotle peppers and hot chocolate mix. Being the only staff member with venison in my freezer at the time, I lucked out with that one. Not only did it win the contest, but it also became a favorite in my recipe repertoire. I make it mostly for company, often using beef instead of venison and adding beans (controversial, I know) to make it stretch. People love the sweet and smoky flavors, and I love telling them about Texas Co-op Power.
Several other Texas recipes and concepts made their way into my cooking routine, thanks to the magazine. Sweet and Savory Sprouts (March 2017) with pancetta or bacon and maple syrup, it turns out, is good hot or cold. Aunt Sharn’s Saag (July 2011) is a yummy way to use an overabundance of greens such as spinach from the garden, and it freezes well.
The experience also exposed me to using nontraditional ingredients in pesto, such as beans as in the Cannellini Pesto Pasta Sauce (March 2012) and pecans instead of pine nuts as in Texas Pecan Pesto (March 2012).
These and many other Texas Co-op Power recipes are now folded into my binder, so I can continue to cook like a Texan.
Suzanne Featherston is a former Texas Co-op Power staff writer who now lives in Nevada.