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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3, 2005
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Alabama flavors
Cookbook rich with simple, savory ideas

By Patrice Stewart
DAILY Staff Writer

pstewart@decaturdaily.com 340-2446

Katherine Helms can switch from peach pie to pattycake on a moment's notice.

Katherine Helms was surprised at the home-cooked meals her family received after moving to Decatur from Texas. 'People here cook so much more than in Texas,' she marveled. The mother of three has written a cookbook, 'Alabama: Rich in Flavor,' that includes such treats as Beverly's Cold Cucumber Soup, Rice and Artichoke Salad, Sausage Bread and Squash Casserole.
DAILY Photos by Gary Cosby Jr.
Katherine Helms was surprised at the home-cooked meals her family received after moving to Decatur from Texas. "People here cook so much more than in Texas," she marveled. The mother of three has written a cookbook, "Alabama: Rich in Flavor," that includes such treats as Beverly's Cold Cucumber Soup, Rice and Artichoke Salad, Sausage Bread and Squash Casserole.
She often puts aside her baking and recipe testing to play games with her kitchen "helpers" — daughters Maggie, 5, and Mimi, 4, and son Joby, 2.

But all mothers know it's tough to get anything done with that much help. That's why Helms' new cookbook, "Alabama: Rich in Flavor," is such an accomplishment.

"I started on this cookbook last August, working on it during their naptimes," she said, "I had already tried most of the recipes, and I figured this was something I could do as a stay-at-home mom.

"I enjoy cooking and love to taste good food," said Helms, who can "get creative" when she has enough time in the kitchen.

Helms put together an earlier cookbook before she became the mother of three. "Merry Christmas from Texas: Recipes for the Season" ended up in Neiman Marcus and other chains. That book, which she wrote while living in Texas, included only holiday recipes, so she decided to branch out with her latest effort.

"I'm not a gourmet chef but more of a home cook," said Helms, 34, who earned a degree in English education from The University of Kentucky. She guarantees her cookbook contains simple, easy recipes, because that is the only type she has time to address.

She dedicated the book to her husband, Vance, who is pastor of education and discipleship at First Bible Church in Decatur. She said he "has endured many creative food experiments," since their children aren't yet into trying artichokes and Vidalia onions.

Friends, family and church members may recognize recipes they shared with her in "Alabama: Rich in Flavor," she said. The Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel gave her images from across the state to use on the cookbook cover, and she mentions the state's bounty of tomatoes, peaches, pecans, peanuts, sweet potatoes and shrimp.

"People here cook so much more than in Texas," said Helms, who moved to Decatur from the Dallas area three years ago. "Most of the things people brought us there were store-bought, but here we get home-cooked foods. With all the wonderful food that came in after our son was born, I thought I might have several more children."

For a summertime luncheon menu, Helms prepared Beverly's Cold Cucumber Soup, Rice and Artichoke Salad with chicken, Squash Casserole, Sausage Bread, Fabulous Fruit Tea and The Best Peach Pie.

A Decatur friend, Cindy Moore, passed on the Cucumber Soup and several other favorite recipes. "I don't always like cold soups, but this one is real mild, so I like it."

The cold Rice and Artichoke Salad includes chicken breast meat and is perfect for a light summer luncheon. "The secret ingredient is the flavored Rice-a-Roni, along with a bit of curry."

Three types of cheese — cottage, Parmesan and Monterey Jack — make the Squash Casserole tasty, along with green chilies, peppers and onions, she said. She made it with freshly picked squash from a neighbor's garden and used slices of farmer's market tomatoes to accent her luncheon plates.

Helms sometimes makes Sausage Bread to take along to Sunday school or other occasions. It can be served for breakfast, brunch or at other times of day.

"I like this Fruit Tea because it's so easy," said Helms. "You just add frozen orange juice and lemonade to tea."

"The Best Peach Pie" recipe is her mother's and came from her family's spiral-bound cookbook. "It's so simple to make and is always a family favorite at gatherings," Helms said.

Her favorite? Of the menu she prepared for a recent lunch (while a sitter took her children to McDonald's), she said she likes the cucumber soup and the squash casserole with green chilies the best.

A few of her other favorites in the 160-page hardcover cookbook, Helms said, include Trish's Cranberry Cream Cheese Pull Aparts; easy Cheeseburger Pie that children like, along with adults; Coca-Cola Roast, which makes a simple yet delicious dinner; and Richard's Bean Soup from the tailgating section.

the flavored Rice-a-Roni, along with a bit of curry."

Three types of cheese — cottage, Parmesan and Monterey Jack — make the Squash Casserole tasty, along with green chilies, peppers and onions, she said. She made it with freshly picked squash from a neighbor's garden and used slices of farmer's market tomatoes to accent her luncheon plates.

Helms sometimes makes Sausage Bread to take along to Sunday school or other occasions. It can be served for breakfast, brunch or at other times of day.

"I like this Fruit Tea because it's so easy," said Helms. "You just add frozen orange juice and lemonade to tea."

"The Best Peach Pie" recipe is her mother's and came from her family's spiral-bound cookbook. "It's so simple to make and is always a family favorite at gatherings," Helms said.

Her favorite? Of the menu she prepared for a recent lunch (while a sitter took her children to McDonald's), she said she most likes the cucumber soup and the squash casserole with green chilies.

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