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Houston-Area Junior League Cookbooks Bring Savory to Summer

We round up recipes intended to give back AND taste good.

By Emily Oberton July 1, 2016

Mango chutney torta   junior league of the woodlands wisrtu

Mango chutney torta

If you’re like me, you have a disheveled shelf in your kitchen packed with dozens of your favorite cookbooks. Some are in mint condition while others have pages smeared with bits of butter and tomato paste—you know, the ones you actually use.

The not-so-gently-loved cookbook on my shelf is Texas Tables, the volume put out by the Junior League of North Harris and South Montgomery Counties. After joining the Junior League of The Woodlands five years ago, I soon found myself on the committee tasked with promoting and selling the cookbook. At the time, I was a self-described microwave maven, but I decided to think outside the 1100-watt box and cook some of the recipes before trying to sell the book. I was delighted to discover it contained delicious and relatively easy recipes.

Houstonia has three Junior League chapters—one in Houston, one in The Woodlands and another in Galveston. Each chapter produces cookbooks comprised of members’ favorite recipes. Funds from cookbook sales help raise money for programs that benefit the local community.

These Junior League cookbooks contain the best of the best recipes from families in our area, many of which are perfect for a summertime poolside party or casual picnic. Junior League volunteers spend countless hours testing recipes, producing the books and selling them to help fund programs that give back to the region. These cookbooks showcase more than League members’ love for cooking; they also reveal their love for the community.

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The latest from the Junior League of Houston.

Junior League of Houston, Inc.

The Junior League of Houston produced its original cookbook, Houston Junior League Cookbook, in 1968. Peace Meals, the League’s most recent cookbook, was released in 2008. Publishing chair Katie Hackedorn says more than 800 League members and Tea Room patrons contributed recipes for consideration and 500 members tested the recipes. “As a young League member, I thoroughly enjoyed the tasting parties,” she recalls.

Hackedorn says her own favorite recipes in Peace Meals are the “Out of the Box” macaroni-and-cheese recipe and the maple salmon bites. However, the League offers two other teaser recipes on its website. For a taste of how home cooking has evolved over the years, we recommend trying the avocado-cucumber soup with cilantro (Peace Meals) and the leg of lamb with mint glaze (Houston Junior League Cookbook), with 40 years between them side by side.     

Avocado-Cucumber Soup with Cilantro

From Peace Meals

  • 1 ½ cups chicken broth 
  • 2 avocados, pitted, peeled and chopped 
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
  • ½ to 1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and coarsely chopped 
  • 2 large cucumbers, peeled and chopped (about 2 ½ cups), plus additional slices for garnish 
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, plus additional 
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt 
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin 
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice 
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)

This recipe requires advance preparation. Purée the ingredients except yogurt in a blender until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 1 day. Ladle into bowls, top with a dollop of yogurt and garnish with cilantro and slice of cucumber.
Serve chilled. Serves 6. 

Junior League of The Woodlands, Inc.

Texas Tables, the second cookbook from the Junior League of The Woodlands, was released in 2010. Laura Bomer, League president-elect and former cookbook committee chair, says cookbooks are a wonderful way to preserve and honor traditions. “Since members typically submit their personal favorite recipes, there’s a true sense of family and warmth within each book,” she says. She explains that the proceeds from Texas Tables help fund a long list of community programs such as the League’s Kids in the Kitchen program, which teaches children to make smarter food choices.

At the top of Bomer’s list for summertime recipes are chopped arugula summer salad, mango chutney torta and strawberry-red wine sorbet. “Texas Tables welcomes readers to our members’ tables and showcases the touching, humorous and memorable events that happen when we gather around the table with family and friends,” she adds.

Mango Chutney Torta

From Texas Tables

  • 1 cup 1% cottage cheese
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 (9-ounce) jar mango chutney
  • 1/2 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted

This recipe requires 8 hours of refrigeration. Line any shape loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing enough overhang to cover the torta. Process the cottage cheese in a food processor until smooth, scraping the side of the bowl once. Add the cream cheese and curry powder and process until smooth. Add 1 cup peanuts, 1 cup green onions, the raisins and ¼ cup of the chutney. Pulse three or four times or until the peanuts are coarsely chopped.

Spread half the cream cheese mixture in the prepared pan. Layer with ½ cup of the remaining chutney and the remaining cream cheese mixture. Spread with the remaining chutney. Chill, covered with plastic wrap, for 8 hours.

Invert the torta onto a serving platter, discarding the plastic wrap. Sprinkle ½ cup peanuts, ½ cup green onions and the coconut over and around the torta. Serve with assorted party crackers. Serves 25.

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Junior League of Galveston County, Inc.

Although we can’t all wake up to windy beaches and salty air, Culinary Classics from Beachside to Boardwalk offers the next best thing: beach-themed recipes that bring a bit of Galveston Island to your kitchen island. Culinary Classics from Beachside to Boardwalk captures the allure of Galveston by highlighting historical events and local restaurants.

Emily Lindberg, president of Junior League of Galveston County, says they produced more than 5,000 copies of the cookbook and have had two reprints. “Beachside to Boardwalk has family favorites that are quick and super easy, and many times I can prepare many of them without buying anything special,” Lindberg says, extolling the book's virtues. Lindberg recommends the Greek shrimp linguini, Bourbon-bacon scallops and rolled flank steak for main dishes. To top it off, she says the fresh apple cake, peach bread pudding and Almond Dream cookies are a must.    

Greek Shrimp Linguine

From Culinary Classics from Beachside to Boardwalk

  • 8 ounces linguine
  • 5-6 scallions
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon white wine
  • 1/3 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup fish stock or water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta using the package directions. Drain and cool. Sauté the scallions in the olive oil in a skillet until tender. Add the shrimp, wine, dry mustard, red pepper flakes, parsley, stock and lemon juice. Cook for 5 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Drain and cool. Add the cheese and toss to mix. Pour over the linguini and serve at room temperature. Serves 8.

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