Published in 1981, the Junior League of Abilene, Texas’s Best Little Cookbook in Texas would go on to raise $150,000 for the League’s charitable activities.  Many of the recipes here are Tex-Mex favorites, obscenely hearty meat dishes, or down-home classics; however, every recipe here seems like the perfect thing for a casual get-together with friends and family who like to have a good time, and who really like to eat.

Only in Texas could a recipe call for 1 1/2 pounds of ground sirloin, and include the note:  “Serves 2.”

Jalapeno-Stuffed Hamburgers

Jalapeno-Stuffed Hamburgers

1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 t. tarragon leaves
1 t. Dijon mustard
2 T. chopped jalapenos
2 slices Cheddar cheese

Season sirloin with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Add tarragon leaves and Dijon mustard. Mix loosely. Divide meat into four equal portions and flatten. Place 1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno on each of two patties. Top each with a thick slice of Cheddar cheese and cover with remaining patty. Press edges tightly to seal; oven broil or grill. Serves 2.

— Mrs. Fletcher Rabb

The monster burger pictured above is made of slightly over 1/3 pound of ground sirloin, so imagining a single 3/4 pound burger stuffed with jalapenos and cheese actually scares me a little bit.  On the other hand, while eating this burger, I began to understand that impulse towards excess.  It was juicy, but not greasy, spicy, well-seasoned, and gooey with cheese.  I can only imagine how good these are on the grill.  I could have eaten another one.  I mean, I would have regretted it, but I could have done it.  However, there were other things to eat.

I neglected to eat my black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day this year, but I figured that having some during the month of January should at least be a little bit lucky. Though I am familiar with the little ditty “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” I realize that I have absolutely no idea what it means to be “cotton-eyed.” In the context of this recipe, however, I will assume it is a good quality.

Cotton-Eyed Blackeyed Peas

Cotton-Eyed Blackeyed Peas

1/2 pound bacon
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped bell pepper
2 cups chopped onions
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans peeled tomatoes, undrained
3 (15 ounce) cans blackeyed peas, undrained
Salt and pepper
1 t. sugar (optional)

Fry bacon, reserving 3 tablespoons of drippings. Saute the celery, bell pepper, and onions in bacon grease. Add tomatoes, blackeyed peas, salt, pepper, sugar and crumbled bacon; simmer 30 minutes.

— Mrs. L.F. Hooker

These are a meal by themselves, and a tasty version of the traditional southern dish.  Others I’ve eaten in the past haven’t included tomatoes (or at least not as many tomatoes), but I liked it.  With the burgers and beans, I was feeling a little bit of a picnic vibe in this menu.  Even though it’s January, and raining besides, I decided to roll with that theme.  And what’s a picnic without cole slaw?

Sweet-Sour Slaw

Sweet-Sour Slaw

1 large head cabbage, shredded
2 large onions, shredded
1 large bell pepper, shredded
1 cup sugar
1 cup vinegar
1 T. salt
2 T. sugar
1 t. dry mustard
1 t. celery seed
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Place cabbage, onions and green pepper in a glass bowl. Pour 1 cup sugar over top. Mix vinegar, salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, mustard, celery seed and oil in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Pour over cabbage and cover immediately. Chill for 4 hours. Slaw will keep up to 2 weeks refrigerated. Serves 12.

— Mrs. Russell Cable

For dessert, I was very excited to find this chocolate cookie recipe in The Best Little Cookbook in Texas.  It’s similar to one that my mother makes for Christmas, and Brady’s favorite.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to making them this Christmas, so I decided to make it up to him. These taste like a cake-brownie hybrid, and are pretty enough for special occasions, but easy enough for any occasion at all.

Chocolate Cookies

Chocolate Cookies

1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
2 cups flour
2 t. baking powder
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Mix oil, chocolate and sugar. While beating, add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla, salt, flour and baking powder. Chill in the refrigerator for several hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls, then roll in powdered sugar. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Yields 4 dozen.

— Mrs. Robert Gooch (Janelle Long)

Thanks to my friend, Alex, for giving me this excellent little cookbook – I had a lot of fun with it (and a good meal besides).

And it would seem like I’m not quite done with Texas yet.  I have unfinished business with a roasted chicken, and the best recipe I could find was in the Junior League of Houston’s Stop and Smell the Rosemary.  So, that’s what I’ll be cooking next.  Hopefully, it will turn out better than my other regrettable attempts.

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