What’s cookin’ with Angie Horn? We caught up with this savvy author, popular food blogger and expert on the comforts of Southern hospitality to get the inside scoop on her new cookbook, Simple Summer Recipes. SPOILER ALERT: What she has to say is guaranteed to make you hungry!
Interviewer: Christina Hamlett
Q: What’s your earliest recollection of being in a kitchen?
A: Two memories surface when I think of my earliest recollection in the kitchen. A sippy cup with milk and sneaking into a sugar bowl. Apparently, I learned quickly in life that milk and a sweet treat pair well together.
Q: Were there favorite comfort foods that were a staple of your childhood?
A: My parents and grandparents gardened. Many of my food memories come from helping them pick vegetables from the garden, watching my mother and grandmothers can the vegetables. They called it “putting up” the fruit and vegetables. That meant preserving or freezing fruit or vegetables from fruit trees and garden vegetables. I favor many comfort foods because my mother was an exceptional cook, and she enjoyed making our favorite meals.
Breakfast was my favorite meal. Often, my mom or dad would cook bacon and eggs for breakfast. Daddy made pancakes. Mesmerized at the way he would flip the large griddle-size pancakes high above the pan, I eagerly anticipated delving into the hot cakes drenched in Log Cabin syrup.
Mother generally made biscuits. I have fond memories of hot biscuits dipped into ribbon cane syrup. There is a certain technique to eating the thick rich syrup with biscuits. First, you pour the syrup onto your plate, add a slice of butter, and mash the butter into the syrup with a fork. Then you dip a hot biscuit into the syrup/butter mixture. It’s terribly difficult to indulge in only one biscuit with the ribbon cane syrup.
Lunch might be a sandwich or leftovers, but dinner – back then we always called it supper – consisted of meat, bread, and plenty of vegetables. My favorite meats were meatloaf topped with ketchup, baked chicken, or roast cooked in an oblong stainless steel pot with potatoes, cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions. Oh, yes, my family believed in having many vegetables.
I love vegetables, but I’d rather have yellow summer squash cooked with butter and onions any day. Mother liked to make big pots of meat and veggies – like Hamburger Soup, Stew, and Hamburger Pasta with onions – always served with cornbread. Days when I was sick, I recall having her hot creamy chicken soup and crackers. One time, my daughter and I flew into Hobby Airport in Houston, Texas to spend a few days with my parents. I hadn’t been feeling well. When my brother picked us up at the airport, he handed me a tray with hot chicken soup and crackers specially prepared by our mother.
Desserts definitely must be included as my favorite childhood comfort foods. I had three: Chocolate Meringue Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie, and German Chocolate Cake. When I was a young girl, Mother often baked. Her German chocolate cake was the most incredibly good- tasting cake, liberally layered and topped with a thick buttery coconut icing – and I have her recipe! Later on, in my teens, I asked her, “Why don’t you bake German Chocolate cakes anymore?”
“We were all gaining weight, so I stopped baking the cakes,” she replied.
Q: Favorite comfort food as an adult?
A: I don’t think I can narrow comfort foods to only one. Favorite breakfast? Bacon, eggs, and pancakes. Favorite vegetable? Yellow summer squash. Favorite soup? Creamy chicken soup. Favorite dessert? That’s a tough one. Depends on the mood. Chocolate Meringue Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie, or German Chocolate Cake.
Q: What’s the first thing you ever cooked (start to finish) by yourself?
A:The first simplest thing I ever cooked was, most likely, toast. Easy. Quick. Then I learned how to make cheese toast. Mmmm. So good. It’s easy, too. Cut slices of Cracker Barrel extra sharp cheddar cheese. Place the cheese slices on top of a piece of bread. Put into the oven and broil. It’s ready to eat in a jiffy.
Q: So what inspired you to write a cookbook and how did you decide on its theme?
A: Food is comforting. Food, no matter what type of cuisine, is universal. I like to eat, cook, make favorite recipes for family and friends, collect cookbooks, and write about food. Food culture interests me. I especially like to create recipes from ingredients I have on hand – like eggs, seasonal fresh vegetables, and leftover grilled steak or hamburger. If I’m helping with my grandchildren, I love to cook for them. They love to eat simple and easy things – like peanut butter toast and pancakes.
Simple recipes are in demand. We live in a fast-paced society, so quick and easy recipes that don’t take all day to make come in handy for most families. Inspired by the things I like about food, I included easy recipes of comfort foods, summer favorites, and seasonal fruits, herbs, and vegetables in Southern style for the first of my seasonal cookbook series, Simple Summer Recipes.
Q: How did you go about putting it together and testing the recipes for accuracy and completeness?
A: I’m a food blogger and had previously blogged about favorite and new recipes I made. My family and friends are the honored tasting candidates. When I come up with a new recipe, I know it’s good when my husband says, “That one’s a keeper.” For instance, my Simple Summer Recipes cookbook includes salsa. I like to make salsa from my kitchen garden. If my husband loves it, he’ll let me know that it’s perfect and not to change a thing.
A food blogger friend and I have met once a week for over a year, planning our blog posts, sharing our recipes, and including tastings of our new recipes. We make suggestions of different spices or ingredients that could improve on our recipes in addition to proofreading our blog posts.
Q: Your cookbook’s subtitle “& Foodie Storytime” suggests the inclusion of anecdotes. Are they nostalgic, comical, or do they primarily give the history of the recipes?
A: The “& Foodie Storytime” subtitle relates to nostalgic and comical stories about the cookbook’s recipes.
Q: In a perfect world, every cooking experience would be perfect. Have you ever had embarrassing cooking experiences and were there any witnesses to them?
A: The first thing that comes to mind is when, as a newlywed, I prepared a baked chicken dinner for my husband and a friend he worked with. Their job site was not far from where we lived, so my husband invited the guy for dinner on their break. It was planned, and I had dinner ready for them when they arrived. Before I sat down to join them, I stepped out for a moment – but not out of earshot. I heard my husband ask, “Shall we pray again?” I returned to the dining room to ask why they should pray again. The chicken had baked but had uncooked, bloody pockets! I put the chicken back into the oven and nearly burned it the second time. It was horribly embarrassing.
Q: Let’s say you’re planning a dinner party for three people you most admire from the pages of history. Tell us what would be on the menu and what would be your dinner party’s theme?
A: My dinner party’s theme would be Come As You Are Summer Dinner, and I would invite Jesus, Joseph (Jacob’s son – Old Testament in the Bible), Naomi, and everyone I could possibly invite to meet my three special dinner guests. I would serve the following menu:
- cold water as the beverage
- cucumber, grape tomato, strawberry slices, walnuts, butterhead lettuce, olive oil and red wine vinegar as dressing
- grilled salmon, topped with fresh cilantro and lemon slices
- sautéed yellow summer squash with butter and diced sweet onion
- grilled red potatoes
- multi-grain bread loaf and seasonal fruit jam for the bread
- peach cobbler with cream
Perhaps Jesus would turn the water into wine for our dinner, thus making it a most memorable dinner.
Q: How is Simple Summer Recipes connected to your blog, Kitchen Southern Hospitality?
A: Simple Summer Recipes includes some of the recipes from my food blog, Kitchen Southern Hospitality. The cookbook and blog are both written with a Southern flair from my love of Southern cooking and upbringing.
Q: Now that you’ve covered summer, are there plans in the works to cover the other three seasons as well?
A: Yes, I am planning cookbooks for each season
Q: How did you go about finding a publisher?
A: I publish through JoyLife Press, my own publishing company that I began after the publishing company of my first book, Phantom Seven: Secret Heroes of WWII and OSS, closed. My first book was reprinted through JoyLife Press, and Simple Summer Recipes was published through JoyLife Press.
Q: What are you doing in terms of promoting your book?
A: I promote my book through Amazon, my blogs, book fairs, book reviews, and social media – mainly Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Q: Best tip for new cooks?
A: Learn to use what you have on hand, create new recipes from leftovers, and include fresh foods daily.
Q: Best advice to aspiring cookbook writers?
A: First, always write down every ingredient to a new recipe, or you will forget. Next, it’s good to become familiar with other cookbooks with the style of cooking you prefer. But be yourself. Write with your own originality.
Q: If you were marooned on an island for a month (and assuming shelter and safety were assured), what three foods could you happily live on until you were rescued?
A: Assuming I had a way to cook, my three food choices would be eggs, vegetables, and fruit.
Q: When you’re not penning recipes, are there other genres you like to write?
A: I like to write nonfiction and historical fiction.
Q: Are food and recipes involved?
A: Certainly. Whether I’m blogging or writing my Civil War historical fiction series, food and recipes are involved.
Q: What inspires you the most as a writer?
A: Inspiration to write Simple Summer Recipes came mostly from my love of Southern foods, comfort foods, gardening, and preparing meals for my family. Nature inspires me – like sunshine, flowers, organic gardening. Whether in cookbooks, historical fiction, or blogs, food always finds a way into my writing.
Q: What’s next on your plate (so to speak)?
A: A historical fiction series is in the works, beginning with the Civil War era.
Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know?
A: What you eat can influence your health and well-being. It’s up to you to eat nutritious food for your health’s sake. Choose fresh foods, and eat moderately. Check with your healthcare provider to help you determine the best food and exercise plans for you.
My dad lived until he was 90. My first book, Phantom Seven, is about him and his World War II cohorts. The stories in Phantom Seven are from men who served in espionage. My dad was chosen during World War II to serve in the Office of Strategic Services, precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency. He was known by his OSS comrades as Benny McCoy, but to me he was Daddy.
One thing Daddy taught me was to never give up, “never give in” – Winston Churchill’s famous quote. Daddy taught by example. He learned to conquer the overweight battle by cutting back on unhealthy foods, eating a lot of vegetables, and exercising. He exercised up until his last year of life. He used to walk and run six miles about three times a week. He’d run a mile then walk a mile.
Daddy’s example still inspires me. In his latter years, he once told me he had cut back on eating red meat and advised, “You don’t need to eat a lot of meat.” He liked eating. His favorite dessert was banana pudding. But if he started gaining weight, he stopped eating what was putting on the extra pounds and increased the exercise.
Struggling with being overweight, feeling sluggish, not feeling your best? Try a healthy food plan. Exercise. Never give in to allowing cravings dictate to your health and well-being.