Guaranteed to please

Anne Byrn, the ‘Cake Mix Doctor,’ shares friends’ favorite go-to recipes

Anne Byrn, the “Cake Mix Doctor.”
Joy’s Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad
Shellie’s Spaghetti Carbonara
Marion’s Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips

Anne Byrn grew up in the South, working as food editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 15 years before making a name for herself as the “Cake Mix Doctor” with a popular series of cookbooks and her own line of all-natural cake mixes.

Byrn visited the Gwinnett Public Library in Norcross recently, on a book tour for her latest cookbook, “Anne Byrn Saves the Day.” Byrn says the idea for the book came to her while swapping recipes with friends after a late afternoon tennis game.

“We all have one or two recipes that people know us for. The ones we depend on for last-minute dinner parties, baby showers or book club potlucks,” she said. “I thought it would be interesting and helpful to gather up my friends’ and relatives’ favorite go-to recipes and share them.”

With Super Bowl parties right around the corner, here are four recipes from “Anne Byrn Saves the Day” that may become your new go-to favorites.

Shellie’s Spaghetti Carbonara
Serves: 4

2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
6 to 8 ounces pancetta (see note), chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 pound spaghetti
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ cups grated good Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano)
Freshly ground black pepper
½ to ¾ cup frozen baby peas, thawed

1.Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and add the salt.

2.Meanwhile, place the olive oil or butter, pancetta and garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the pancetta renders its fat but is not crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and discard the garlic cloves. Do not drain the fat from the skillet.

3.When the water is boiling, add the spaghetti and stir to separate the pasta strands. Reduce the heat to medium and let the spaghetti cook at a simmer until al dente, 6 to 7 minutes.

4.While the spaghetti cooks, break the eggs into a large shallow serving bowl and whisk until the yolks and whites are just combined. Add 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the cooled pancetta and drippings and a generous grinding of pepper.

5.When the spaghetti has cooked, drain it, setting aside ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water, and add the spaghetti to the bowl with the egg mixture. Toss the spaghetti until the egg sauce cooks and the pasta is well-coated. Add enough of the reserved pasta water as needed so the strands of spaghetti do not stick together. Fold in the peas.

6.Serve the spaghetti at once with the remaining ¼ cup of Parmesan on the side for sprinkling on top.

Save the Day note:
Pancetta is Italian bacon, and you can find it at delis that specialize in Italian ingredients. Or, as a money saver, omit the pancetta and use thick-sliced bacon.

Jana’s Cheese Olivettes

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mild cheddar cheese blend
8 tablespoons (1 stick) lightly salted butter, at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco or Frank’s RedHot
1 clove garlic, minced, or a dash of granulated garlic
1 jar (5¾ ounces) pimiento-stuffed green olives (about 48 olives)

1.Place the cheese blend and butter in a large bowl and blend with an electric mixer on low speed until just combined. Add the flour, hot pepper sauce and garlic. Blend on low speed until just combined, about 15 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and blend until smooth, 30 to 45 seconds more. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough until firm, about 1 hour.

2.Preheat the oven to 375°F.

3.Break off a 1-inch piece of dough and tuck a stuffed olive into it, then roll the dough between your palms so that it completely covers the olive. Place the olivette on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough and olives, placing them 1 inch apart on the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the olivettes until they are golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the olivettes to a wire rack and let cool for about 10 minutes, then serve.

Joy’s Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad

Serves: 8

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:
1 bag (12 ounces) kale (Tuscan or curly kale), rinsed and dried
10 to 12 ounces Brussels sprouts (see notes), rinsed and drained
½ cup almonds with skins, chopped, or pine nuts
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano or
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1.Make the dressing: Place the lemon juice and mustard in a medium-size bowl and whisk to combine. Stir in the shallot and garlic. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to toast the almonds, then whisk the remaining oil into the lemon mixture until thickened. Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste and set it aside.

2.Make the salad: Remove and discard the center stems of the kale. Stack the leaves on top of each other and slice them thinly crosswise to create what is called a chiffonade. (If you are pressed for time, remove the center stems but chop the leaves in the food processor, pulsing the machine on and off until the pieces of kale are the size you want.) Place the kale in a large serving bowl.

3. Cut the stem ends off the Brussels sprouts and, using a sharp knife, cut them in half lengthwise and then thinly slice the halves crosswise. Place the Brussels sprouts in the bowl with the kale and toss to combine.

4.Place the reserved 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds and cook, stirring, until they begin to take on color, about 2 minutes. Remove the almonds from the heat and let them cool.

5. To serve, toss the kale and Brussels sprout mixture with the dressing. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and toss to combine it well. Sprinkle the almonds over the top of the salad and serve.

“Save the Day” note:
My friend Kren Teren looks for pre-shredded Brussels sprouts at Trader Joe’s stores to save time. Please do make this salad ahead as the kale softens once it has been dressed with the olive oil and lemon juice dressing.

Marion’s Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips

Vegetable oil spray, for misting the loaf pans
4 large eggs
11⁄2 cups sugar
1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus flour for dusting the loaf pans
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly mist two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans with vegetable oil spray and dust them with flour. Set the loaf pans aside.

Place the eggs, sugar and oil in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed to combine, then increase the speed to medium and beat until thickened and the mixture doubles in size. Add the applesauce and pumpkin and beat on low speed until just incorporated.

Place the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger in a separate bowl and stir to combine. Stir in the chocolate chips. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and beat on low speed until the flour is well combined, 30 to 45 seconds.

Spoon the batter into the two prepared loaf pans and smooth the tops. Bake the loaves until they test done, 50 to 55 minutes; when you press the tops of the loaves lightly with your finger, they will feel firm.

Let the loaves rest in the pans on a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes. Then, run a knife around the edges of the pans, loosen the loaves by gently shaking them and turn them out, placing the loaves right side up on the rack to finish cooling for about 30 minutes before slicing.

The pumpkin bread loaves freeze beautifully for up to six months. Wrap them in aluminum foil and place them in plastic freezer bags. Let thaw on the kitchen counter for about 2 hours.

Razzle Dazzle: Add chopped dried cherries to the chocolate chips, using 1 ½ cups of chocolate chips and ½ cup of dried cherries. Or, omit the chocolate chips and use 1 to 2 cups of raisins.


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