Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Sweet Season

by Jennie Lucas

I love the holiday season. The combination of family, beauty, music and food makes it truly the most wonderful time of the year.

Yes, yes I know it's not even Thanksgiving yet! Before you pelt me with last year's fruitcake, let me say in my defense that I just finished writing my very first Christmas book, and all I want to do is read Christmas cookbooks and dream about sugar plums and pumpkin pies and cookies-for-Santa!

Here are the top three Christmas books I'm dreaming of, in reverse order.


Nigella Lawson's brand-new book Nigella Christmas, which has an official release date of November 11, 2008. I would have placed it at #2, but it seems impossible to get in the U.S. right now. I think just you lucky folks in the UK and Canada can get it. Dangit!


The All-American Christmas Cookbook: Family Favorites from Every State. "A state-by-state tour of America's favorite Christmas recipes from Alabama's Pecan Divinity to New York's Oyster Stew to Utah's Quick Peppermint Stick Cake." Ooooooh!!

And my #1 choice...

Paula Deen's 2007 release, Christmas with Paula Deen. She's like the grandmother I never had. I love the way she fearlessly sticks a cube of butter in everything. It's retro and very comforting. Perfect for the holidays!

One last sweet suggestion. It's not a cookbook, but it is based in a bakery! Susan Mallery's Bakery Sisters Trilogy. I'm halfway through the second book, Sweet Spot. It's practically like Christmas with all the family drama and profusion of baked goods. It's sexy and hilarious!

Do you have any must-read Christmas cookbooks to share with me? I am a truly horrible cook and need all the help I can get! What's your favorite Christmas cookbook ever?

P.S. My next book begins on a snowy New Year's Eve. A struggling single mom is working at a gas station when a dark Italian prince comes in, punches out her evil boss, and whisks her away to Italy to be his princess bride. Italian Prince, Wedlocked Wife will be out in stores right before Christmas (another reason I'm in a holiday mood), but anyone who comments can receive an autographed cover flat--just let me know you'd like one. (limited supply though)

Merry Christmas--now where did I put the butter?



Helen said...

I love Christmas as well but here in Australia it is usually very hot but we still have a big Chrissy lunch with all of the trimmings pork turkey chicken roast vegies for desert I make boiled Christmas pudding in the cloth and Christmas fruit cake.
I love it when all of the family get together for a wonderful time.Most of my receipes are hand me downs from family and I have them written in a book, so I don't have any cookbooks to recomend I gotta say your book sounds great.
Have Fun

Avi J said...

Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook is one of the best l have seen in a long time. As l am a chef l highly recomend it for you. l am intrested to get one of your give aways.

Gina said...

As cook books go, The Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook is great. I look forward to reading your new release. l loved your last one, Tasmin was a great heroine.

Jennie Lucas said...

Helen, your Christmas lunch sounds amazing!! WOW! And the fact that they're all old family recipes makes it even more special.

I will be hosting my first Christmas here for my mom and stepdad, so I'm keen to figure out how to do everything. Especially, how do you manage to make sure everything is ready at the same time??? Do you have to wake up very early, like at 5 a.m., to get everything done? I am so happy every time I think about it. I'm mostly a baker so I'll likely have at least 4 pies. :)

Jennie Lucas said...

Avi, you're a chef? I'm so jealous!! Every year I tell myself this is the year I'm going to properly learn to cook and make the lovely dinners I see on Food Network. I'll definitely check out the Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook. Thanks for the tip!

I'll be very happy to send you a signed cover flat. Please email me privately at with your address.:)

Jennie Lucas said...

Oh Gina, I'm so glad that you enjoyed The Spaniard's Defiant Virgin. That means a lot to me! Tamsin was one of my favorites, too. She's my only heroine so far who's had red hair--even though it doesn't look it on the cover--so there was definitely a bit of me in her. Although I've never been forced to marry a sheikh's nephew or kidnapped by a ruthless Spanish billionaire. :)

The Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook sounds intriguing. I love her magazine. I'm a little worried that her recipes might be too difficult for me, though. Are there any easy recipes for blockheads like me?

Terry S said...

My daughter goes to university in Scotland and sent me a cookbook for Christmas last year named "Tamasin's Kitchen Bible" by Tamasin Day-Lewis. While not a Christmas cookbook, it does have a great section called "Christmas Countdown". One quote from the back cover "Excellent one-stop cookbook, ideal for beginners".

I can't wait for your new book.

Happy Holidays

Marilyn Shoemaker said...

Jennie: I adore Paula Dean but also love the Barefoot Contessa and the Southern Living Christmas cookbooks......tons of butter. As for Thanskgiving, Tyler Florence and his ideas for the perfect turkey.....ummmmmmm getting hungry.

Your Cinderella story, Italian Prince, Wedlock Wife was just beautiful and I encourage any of you reading this post to read it!

As for Susan Mallery, what's not wonderful to say. Her "Sisters" series incredible and made the NYTimes List.

Best of luck with your holiday cooking, I remember my first turkey dinner for my inlaws.

Helen said...

Yes Jennie we do get up very early on Christmas morning even though my children are adults now and only two still live at home but my son and daughter in law arrive very early with my beautiful grandchildren.
I have all the meat cooked the day before so I only have to do the vegies and gravy on the day and warm the meat the pudding needs to cook for another two hours on the day so I try and time things as best I can.

Have Fun

Aideen said...

Hi there Jennie,

Your new book sounds wonderful and I honestly can't wait to get my hands on it. I'll have to wuss out here and say that I have absolutely nothing to suggest cook book wise. The kitchen may be my favourite room in my home but only because I get to EAT there!! And it's my husband I owe my love handles to. He loves to cook and bake and the boys seem to be taking after him, thank God. I'll bake with the boys, stuff like queen cakes and upside down applie pie but that's about it. And of course I always blame them if the stuff is not edible!! I asked my mother for some tips on how to make something nice for Christmas and she more or less told me 'just add brandy'. There you go, lessons in festive cooking from Ireland.
Anyway, great to see you here and I won't wish you a Happy Christmas just yet as I'm sure you'll be popping up somewhere else before then.

All the best from the Emerald Isle,

P.S. I'm so embarrassed to admit that I don't know what a flat is so I'd feel pretty dumb asking for one!!!!

Pat Cochran said...

Hi Jennie,

I collect cookbooks and I just added All-American Christmas Cookbook to my Santa list. Just wanted to add that I enjoy your books, just read Spaniard's Defiant Virgin & Caretti's Forced Bride.
I am now so looking forward to the next book in line!

P. S. I would love to have a signed
flat for my collection!

Pat Cochran

Jennie Lucas said...

Terry, what is it like to have a daughter in Scotland? Do you live very far away? It was always a dream of mine to go to college abroad but I never did it. You must feel so proud of her. Hopefully she'll be home for the holidays...?

I'll have to check out Tamasin Day-Lewis's book (I love her name!) but British cookbooks always throw me for a bit of a loop, with the measurements in liters and grams. I just go cross-eyed. (As you can probably tell, it's easy to make me cross-eyed in the kitchen!) I have tried before--mostly before there were any Indian restaurants in our small town and I came back from London in 1999 desperate for a curry. So I bought a British Indian cookbook. Yeah, right! Like I was ever going to buy fresh ginger and use a hammer and pestle to slowly grind it to spend six hours making one sauce!

So all that cookbook ever got used for was me turning pages and drooling over the photographs. Like food porn. Ah, well.

Thanks for your kind words--Happy Holidays to you as well!

Jennie Lucas said...

Marilyn, it's great to see you!!

Thanks for your lovely review of Italian Prince, Wedlocked Wife for the Pink Heart Society!

And like you, I'm a huge fan of Susan Mallery but she's really outdone herself with this new series IMO. I catch myself laughing out loud all the time. It's sexy, too.

I've heard of the Barefoot Contessa but was suspicious that she was some kind of herbalist, "let's just put lemon juice on the raw spinach" type of cook. Are you saying the girl uses butter? I might have to check her out. And Southern Cooking...oh yeah!!

Can't wait to see you in Portland for the Celebrate Romance conference in February!!

*big hugs!*

Jennie Lucas said...

Helen, thanks so much for sharing how you cook everything and when--it really gave me a sense of your lovely, cozy family Christmas.

When I'm a grandmother, I hope I'm just like you, the glue that holds everyone together, the one who makes the holiday shine for the whole family. I really admire you and aspire to someday be like you.

Now I just need to properly figure out how to thaw a turkey and I'll at least be on my way. :)

Jennie Lucas said...

Aideen, it's great to see you!

First off, you are a lucky lucky lucky woman to be married to someone who likes to cook. Or maybe not so lucky. Hating my own cooking helps me lose weight at times. If my husband was whipping up tasty gourmet meals every night I'd likely weigh 500 pounds by now.

I'm like you. I enjoy baking and that's about it. Your comment about the brandy and Irish cooking made me laugh!! At last, there's a tip I can handle! Tomorrow I'll try pouring brandy over my frozen bean burrito. It could hardly make it worse.

Don't feel bad about not knowing what a cover flat is--before I became an author I didn't know either! It's just the flat cover of a book with no pages inside it. You can see the front and read the back blurb. That's it. And I'd be very happy to send you one, although it will be the North American version of the cover, so likely different than what you'd see in Ireland. As I mentioned to Avi above please email me your address privately and I'll send it out to you. I always love sending stuff overseas. At least my mail is getting a fun trip, if not me. :)


Jennie Lucas said...

Ooh, Pat, you collect cookbooks? Do you actually cook from them or (like me) do you just lovingly look at the pictures and think about maybe cooking something someday?

I'm all agog over the All-American Christmas Cookbook too. I wonder what recipe they'll have for Idaho, my home state? I'm guessing something potatoes, since that's what we're famous for. Is your home state famous for anything too?

Thank you so much for the compliments--I'm totally touched at all your kind words for Spaniard and Caretti. Looking forward to hearing what you think of Wedlocked!

Pat, I would be so happy to send you a cover flat, thanks for asking! Please send your address to me at And Merry, Merry Christmas!!

Terry S said...

Hi again, Jennie.

Idaho, huh? We're neighbors. I'm across the border in Oregon. Unfortunately, you can't get much further from Scotland than the Pacific Northwest!! This year I'm going to visit my daughter for the holidays and am very excited. As you can imagine, visits are few and far between.

I don't even know if you can get "Tamasin's Kitchen Bible" here in the US but it is the only British cookbook I have. It does have all the measurements in both metric and non-metric measurements so no fooling around on that point.

I love reading cookbooks. This one is especially fun to read. Every recipe has a personal memory or history of the dish....and there are many dishes I've never heard of before. I have to admit that so far I haven't made any of the recipes but I'm having a great time reading the book.


Aideen said...

Me again,

Tamasin Day Lewis, anything to the brooding Mr. Daniel Day Lewis I wonder?????

Those two sound suspiciously related.


Jennie Lucas said...

Aideen, I was wondering the same thing about Tamasin D-L!

Terry, we're neighbors, how fun! Are you doing the Celebrate Romance weekend in Portland in February? If so, I'll hopefully see you there! The Tamasin cookbooks sound great if they do non-metric measurements. I'll have to check it out. And I'm so excited for you, spending the holidays in Scotland--wow!! I'm more than excited. I'm envious!

Written in haste--I'm leaving in 10 minutes to kidnap my husband to a 3-day race car driving course in San Francisco for his 40th b-day. No makeup done, bags not quite packed. Wheee!!!

Michele L. said...

Betty Crocker's cookbook is hands down my favorite! It started falling apart so I took it all apart and put it in plastic sleeves in a 3-ring binder. It will last me forever now!

Jennie, you are so funny! Read your last post, "Written in haste--I'm leaving in 10 minutes to kidnap my husband to a 3-day race car driving course in San Francisco for his 40th b-day. No makeup done, bags not quite packed. Wheee!!!" Ha,ha! I sure hope you two had a blast!

What a sweetheart you are! I wish you a fabulous Thanksgiving!

Many blessings,
Michele L.

Jennie Lucas said...

Michele, thanks! It was crazy but somehow it all worked out. My lipstick might have been a little smeared but I didn't forget anything super important as we rushed to the airport. Then while my husband was learning to drive sports cars sideways on the race track (whoa!) I got a chance to read Paula Deen's memoir, "It Ain't All About the Cookin'". It was just terrific!

Thanks for the recommendation about Betty Crocker. That settles it--it's going immediately on my amazon list!

Thanks again for all your lovely comments. I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! :)