Christy Jordan is not as well-known as celebrity chefs Paula Deen or the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, but she has quite a following of fans who rely on her cookbooks and blog to cook many happy meals.
Jordan is author of Southern Plate: Classic Comfort Food That Makes Everyone Feel Like Family ( HarperCollins, $29.99) and Come Home to Supper: Over 200 Casseroles, Skillets, and Sides (Desserts, Too!) to Feed Your Family with Love (Workman, $16.95). She also blogs at Southernplate.com.
On Saturday, she will share her quick and easy ideas for getting good food on the table at the Kentucky Book Fair at the Frankfort Convention Center.
When asked what her topic for the book fair's crowd would be, she said: "I'll have to see what's on my heart that day. We all care about so many of the same things."
Jordan, who lives in Huntsville, Ala., connects with people of all ages through her blog, which she calls her "virtual front porch." Southernplate.com has almost 1 million unique visitors each month, she said. "I've received emails from those as young as 6 or 7, and as old as 97," she said.
Jordan, the mother of two children ages 9 and 14, said her newest book, Come Home to Supper, was written "specifically as encouragement to people with kids.
"As our social dynamics change, people are not at home teaching kids to cook. You can get tired of fast food real quick, and it's hard if you don't know how to cook," she said.
That was her motivation to start Southernplate.com.
"I use step-by-step photos, and it's like someone is looking over my shoulder. I talk plain and simple and try to anticipate questions before they're asked," said Jordan, who has a degree in home economics and has fond memories of cooking with her mother and grandmothers when she was as young as 3.
"Parents tend to come home and set the kids in front of the TV and they rush into the kitchen to start supper. They're missing out on the greatest part. Bring the kids into the kitchen to help you. You are saying to the kids: You are important to this family, and we need your contribution. You're teaching them invaluable life skills and also having a great moment.
"My mother told me, every night you can, sit down to supper with your kids. They'll start talking, and they'll tell you what's going on in their lives.
"Everybody is telling us to sit down for supper, but they're not telling us how to do it. We run hither and yon all day and at the end of the day, supper sneaks up on you. That's why I set out to write the book as a tool, not only to encourage people, but to make it easy," she said.
Jordan's recipes are simple and fast. She has a knack for taking a complicated recipe with 10 ingredients and 50 steps and making it doable for a quick supper. "I take out half the ingredients and three-quarters of the work, and make it taste just as good," she said.
Jordan said all it takes to making dinnertime a pleasant experience for the family and the cook is "a little bit of planning ahead of time.
"I will look at my schedule and when I need to, I'll do two or three slow-cooker meals. If I plan a casserole, I go ahead and make two or three and freeze one. That works on nights when supper sneaks up on me. I go to my own freezer and it's waiting for me," she said. "I include as many tricks and tips as I could. The price of the book is so low ($16.95), I want people to get it and say, 'I got a value.' I've crammed it as full of as much information as I could to help people."
The book has family stories that are inspirational, but it's her blog and Facebook page that speak more about family and overcoming obstacles. Jordan is still recovering from having broken both legs in a horseback riding accident.
"That was a very enriching experience. I always preach about looking for the good in every situation so when I found myself with two broken legs and unable to put weight on either one for weeks on end, it was an opportunity to see if I can walk the walk.
"You know what was funny? We normally sit down to eat together but I was very limited in where I could go, even within my own house, so I couldn't get into the room where we normally have supper. After about two weeks, I noticed that at supper each night, everyone would fix their plates and gravitate towards the living room, where they'd sit down on the couch or in a chair to eat. This bothered me, because they weren't eating at the table, but then I realized, I was stuck in the living room because that is where my hospital bed was and they were just naturally coming in there to eat with me," she said. You can read about her journey on Southernplate.com.
"I'm doing much better now. I healed far faster than my doctors expected, and I attribute that to prayer and ultimately trusting in God with my healing. I still have aches and pains and swelling from time to time, but those are just reminders that I'm alive and I can walk, so I'm grateful for those, too."
Many of the recipes in Jordan's book have stories that go with them. She created a cappuccino cake recipe when she was no longer able to get it after one of her favorite restaurants in Huntsville closed.
"They always brought out a huge wedge of it for birthdays and special events and served it cold (I think it is better that way) with a side of chocolate ice cream and a generous drizzle of chocolate syrup," she said.
"After the restaurant closed and I spent over a decade pining away for the cake, I decided it couldn't be that difficult to duplicate it. Since I couldn't find the actual recipe anywhere on the Internet, I went by memory and a basic starting point of dark chocolate cake with coffee-infused butter cream. I was thrilled when my cappuccino cake tasted every bit as wonderful as the one in my memory."
For the cake, you may use the batter for a basic chocolate cake or use a box of dark chocolate cake mix.
Cocoa powder, for dusting the pan(s)
1 box basic chocolate cake batter, prepared
1/2 cup milk
3 teaspoons instant coffee (this might seem like a lot but it's right)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Chocolate ice cream, for serving (optional)
Chocolate syrup, such as Hershey's, for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch cake pans or one 9-by-13-inch cake pan with shortening and dust with cocoa powder. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans and bake as directed.
If using 2 cake pans, let the cakes cool in the pans before turning them out to cool completely; if using a 9-by-13-inch cake pan, allow the cake to cool completely in the pan.
When the cakes have cooled, make the frosting: Place the milk in a small bowl and stir in the instant coffee granules until dissolved.
Place the butter in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 1 minute. Add confectioners' sugar, vanilla and coffee-milk mix, and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the side of the bowl and continue beating until the frosting is fluffy and whipped, 5 to 7 minutes more.
Immediately frost the cake and refrigerate for several hours to chill. The cake will keep for up to 5 days when stored, covered, in the fridge.
"Yes, this really is bread made with melted ice cream," Jordan said. "When my friend Jyl gave me the recipe I didn't think she was crazy, though, because I know her well enough to know that we're both a little on the loony side, but in those fun ways that have us making delicious rolls out of ice cream. These are so quick to throw together with only two ingredients. The result is a very tender-crumbed roll (more like a biscuit) with a light sweetness and just a tiny hint of vanilla. They are absolutely delicious and may become your standby rolls for any occasion."
Ice cream rolls
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup melted vanilla ice cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat 6 cups of a muffin tin with cooking spray. Stir together the flour and melted ice cream in a medium-size bowl until well combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin tin cups. Bake until golden on top, 15 to 20 minutes. Allow the rolls to cool for 2 to 3 minutes before removing them from the pan.
Serve warm. Makes 6 rolls.
If you go
Cookbook author Christy Jordan
Book signing: 4-6 p.m. Nov. 15. Kroger in Beaumont Centre, 3175 Beaumont Centre Cir., Lexington. Free.
At Kentucky Book Fair. Fair is 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Nov. 16. Jordan will speak at 10:30 a.m. and sign afterward. Frankfort Convention Center, 405 Mero St. Kybookfair.blogspot.com.