InStyle Parties
InStyle Parties
by the Editors of InStyle
Oxmoor House (October 2017)

InStyle Parties: The Complete Guide to Easy, Elegant Entertaining All Year Round is a great resource for those who like to entertain. We all need a little guidance sometimes, or just some new ideas. The book starts with a general guide to invitations, food and drinks, setting the table (serving pieces to linens) and the atmosphere (flowers, music, lighting).

There is a wide variety of party ideas including dinner, holiday, occasions/themes, and summer. Each suggests an invitation design, décor, menu, and even an activity. They provide recipes for everything and sneak in shortcuts if you don’t have time for the full deal.

Since the Super Bowl is almost here, I chose to bake the brownies from the “Game Day Fiesta” section of the Occasions & Theme Parties chapter. I have to admit, I haven’t made a lot of brownies in my time. Most were probably from a mix–gasp! These were from scratch with three kinds of chocolate (semisweet and unsweetened bars plus cocoa) and were marvelous.

The hardest part is cutting out the football shapes, and the recipe doesn’t give much guidance here–cut 10 (4-inch) football shapes. After I was disappointed by my freehand attempts, my husband looked up the exact proportions of a football and made a more precise pattern. 2 1/2 ” x 4″ is the correct size.

It’s still a challenge to cut out the shapes. Being careful not to disturb the crunchy top of the brownies (as much as possible) gives the best results.

Recipe: Football Brownies

Football Brownies - InStyle Parties
Photographer, Victor Protasio; Prop Stylist, Claire Spollen; Food Stylist, Emily Nabors Hall

Excerpted from INSTYLE Parties by the Editors of INSTYLE. Copyright © 2017 Oxmoor House. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Time Inc. New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Serves: 10
Hands-on: 30 minutes
Total: 3 hours, 40 minutes (includes cooling)

12 ounces semisweet chocolate baking bar, chopped
3⁄4 cup unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate baking bar, chopped
3 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup powdered sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whole milk

Make the brownies: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 13- x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, and lightly coat with cooking spray. Place the semisweet chocolate, butter, and unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Bring the water in the bottom pan to a light boil over medium. Cook the chocolate mixture, stirring often, until melted and smooth, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly, about 10 minutes.

Whisk together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add the chocolate mixture to the sugar mixture, stirring until smooth. Sift together the flour, cocoa, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until fully incorporated. Spread the batter in the prepared pan.

Bake at 350°F until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, 32 to 35 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Turn the brownies out onto a baking sheet; cut 10 (4-inch) football shapes, reserving the scraps for another use.

Make the icing: Whisk together the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon of the milk in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in the remaining milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to the desired consistency. Spoon the icing into a piping bag or a ziplock plastic bag with 1 corner snipped. Pipe the football stripes onto the brownies. Let the icing set before serving, about 20 minutes.

Thank you to Time Inc. Books, from whom I received a review copy of this book.


Fruit: a Savor the South cookbook
Fruit: a Savor the South® cookbook
Nancie McDermott
University of North Carolina Press (March 2017)

As a southern girl myself—I grew up in northern Louisiana peach country—I was delighted to receive a review copy of Nancie McDermott’s Fruit, part of the Savor the South Cookbook series.

There are so many good ideas in this book. McDermott covers blackberries, cantaloupe, plums, figs, mayhaws, grapes, pawpaws, peaches, persimmons, quince, strawberries, and watermelon. She provides recipes from desserts to salads to main courses.

McDermott introduces each section with lush descriptions, history of the fruit, and fond memories of her own. She also includes information about where and when each fruit grows and the ways it is commonly used.

I look forward to trying many more of these recipes as I come across the various fruits here in New York or while visiting family down south. Reading through this book reminds me of childhood flavors–and makes my mouth water!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

When I got fresh rhubarb with my farm share one week, I knew I had to try the strawberry-rhubarb pie recipe!

I found some good strawberries to pair with the farm fresh rhubarb which I chopped into 1/2 inch chunks as instructed. I hulled the strawberries, cutting larger ones in halves or thirds.

Strawberries and Rhubarb

I’d made the dough earlier, keeping it in the refrigerator until about 15 minutes before making the pie. (McDermott includes a pie dough recipe, or use your own!)

Making Pie - rolling dough, filling

I used cornstarch rather than flour (the recipe gives you this choice), as I was concerned it might be runny. It did turn out with more liquid than I’d have liked. I think my rhubarb and strawberries were especially juicy, it’s not a reflection on the recipe.

Though it wasn’t the most gorgeous pie I’ve ever baked once sliced, it sure did taste good! The tart rhubarb with strawberries is just such a perfect pairing. This is another treat that also can’t go wrong with a scoop of ice cream.

Find this and many other wonderful recipes in Fruit. Thank you to The Trina Kaye Organization for providing a review copy of this cookbook. Learn more about the series at

Want more rhubarb? Check out my Rhubard Cupcakes with Candied Rhubarb Knots.

Rainbow Bakes by Mima Sinclair
Rainbow Bakes
Mima Sinclair
Kyle Books (April 2017)

I was delighted to receive a copy of Mima Sinclair’s Rainbow Bakes. It is a beautifully shot, fun cookbook full of all sweets RAINBOW. If you or a little one you know is rainbow-obsessed, you need this for your baking book collection.

Sinclair’s treats range from full-sized cakes to cake in a jar and include cookies and candies, too. Rainbow Bakes not only has recipes but also offers tips and techniques on types of food coloring and sprinkles for different situations. Beware, not all sprinkles can withstand the baking process, so study up, confetti bakers!

Though there are many tempting recipes, I just had to try my hand at her Over the Rainbow Cupcakes.

Baking Rainbow Cupcakes

These cupcakes take a little work, as you must divide the batter and use food-coloring gel to make purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. You must then carefully fill the cupcake liners color by color, spreading each to make a distinct color layer.

Rainbow Cake Batter

Rainbow Cupcakes in progressThe cupcakes were good, I liked that they were not too sweet. They did come out a little salty to my taste. That may be to balance the sweet marshmallow frosting. (Yum!) If I bake these again–not sure I have the patience, though they certainly did impress!–I would use a little less salt.

Rainbow Cupcake
The layers can’t be perfect, and the batter moves around some when baking, but the result is striking!

The frosting with marshmallow fluff tastes delightful and has that fluffy cloud look. Top these off with Rainbow Fizzy Belt candies. (Thank you to my husband for the emergency run to It’s Sugar.)

Overall, these were very fun to bake, give and eat! I look forward to trying some of the other recipes next time I am in the mood for something colorful.

I received a complimentary copy of Rainbow Bakes by Mima Sinclair for review. For more information about this book, please visit the Kyle Books website.