Cookbooks lead to new recipes

It’s new cookbook season, with lots of new titles on the market — just in time for the holiday gift-giving season.

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I look forward to this time of year because I get review copies at work! My co-workers and I have fun flipping through the pages of the books and deciding which recipes we want to try.

One that created lots of interest in the office is Jamie Sherman’s “The Poke Cake Cookbook.” Inside this slim volume are recipes for 75 cake and filling combinations for desserts that use the “poke” method: bake a cake in a 9-by-13-inch pan, poke holes in it and pour over a filling that seeps into the poked holes. (That’s very basic description.)

Co-worker Kelsey Padgett and I drooled over the gorgeous photos of such treats as strawberry lemon shortcake poke cake, put the lime in the coconut poke cake, chunky monkey, death by chocolate and turtle poke cakes. Purple haze poke cake and funfetti poke cake also got our attention.

“I could cook that book cover to cover!” Kelsey told me.

We had homecoming at church this past Sunday, and I decided to make a poke cake from Sherman’s book. I seriously had a hard time deciding which cake to make, but I finally decided on black forest poke cake.

This cake is over-the-top, absolutely, with layers of dark chocolate fudge cake, chocolate pudding, hot fudge topping, cherry pie filling and whipped topping adorned with chocolate shavings and maraschino cherries.

Is it good? Oh my, yes. I love the combination of flavors and all of the chocolate goodness, but my husband and I couldn’t even finish the one slice we shared!

If I made this cake again, I would omit one of the chocolate layers, probably the pudding. That would eliminate the overflow problem we experienced with this cake: chocolate pudding and hot fudge ran over the sides of my glass cake pan.

This list price on this book is $19.99. Apparently, it’s been quite popular since it was released earlier this month. The author appeared on QVC recently and sold all 8,400 copies of her book in minutes.

‘What Can I Bring?’

The second new dish I took to homecoming came from Elizabeth Heiskell’s “What Can I Bring? Southern Food For Any Occasion Life Serves Up.” Heiskell, a Delta-born chef, caterer and contributed to “Today,” fills her new cookbook with recipes to take to parties and gatherings or to cheer the recipient.

Her chocolate chip Bundt cake is delicious, and I’d love to try her homemade granola; sausage, egg and grits souffle; roasted vegetable pasta salad; and noodle salad with Asian dressing.

But the recipe I made for homecoming was the very simple sorority girl pasta salad.

While the rotini cooked, I cut up cucumbers and tomatoes and mixed the dressing, which is just mayonnaise and Greek seasoning. So easy!

I really like the taste of this salad and will make it again.

Heiskell’s hardback cookbook, which is listed as $30, is very pretty book with a lot of photos. The chapter titles include “Potluck,” “Bringing Baby Home,” “Weekend Getaway” and “Moving Day.”

Black Forest Poke Cake

This pretty cake is over-the-top delicious. If I make it again, I will probably leave out one of the chocolate layers, probably the pudding.

18-24 servings

1 15.25-ounce box dark chocolate cake mix, prepared according to package directions for a 13X9-inch pan (I used Duncan Hines dark chocolate fudge)

1 3.4-ounce package chocolate instant pudding mix

2 cups cold milk

1 10- to 12 ounce jar hot fudge topping

1 21-ounce can cherry pie filling

1 8-ounce tub frozen whipped topping, thawed

Chocolate shavings, for garnish

18 maraschino cherries with stems, for garnish

Prepare and bake the cake according to package directions, using at 13x9-inch cake pan*. Let it cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Using the round end of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the cake every 1/2 inch to 1 inch.

Empty the pudding mix into a medium-sized bowl and add the milk. Whisk briskly for 2 minutes or until the pudding is dissolved. Evenly pour over the poked cake, filling the holes as much as possible. Place the covered cake in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours or until the pudding is set.

Microwave the hot fudge topping in a microwave-safe container for 20-30 seconds, or until it is easy to pour. Drizzle the topping over the cake. Use the back of a spoon to spread it evenly. Spoon the cherry pie filling evenly over the chocolate layer.

Frost the cake with the whipped topping. Garnish with chocolate shavings and maraschino cherries. Blot the cherries with a paper towel so the juice want turn the whipped topping pink.

Store covered in the refrigerator.

Use the deepest baking pan you have. Mine wasn’t deep enough, and the pudding ran out the sides.

“The Poke Cake Cookbook” by Jamie Sherman

Sorority Girl Pasta Salad

I had never used Greek seasoning, but really liked it. I found it on the spice aisle at the grocery store.

10 servings

1 1-pound box uncooked rotini pasta

2 cups chopped cucumber (from 1 large cucumber)

2 cups chopped tomato (from 1 large tomato)

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon Greek seasoning (such as Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning)

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain well.

Stir together the pasta, cucumber, tomato, mayonnaise and seasoning in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving.

“What Can I Bring” by Elizabeth Heiskell