Fredericksburg, Texas area resident Rebecca Rather, owner of the “Sweet Bakery and Cafe” since 1999 has created a very good holiday book full of Texas color and recipes. After an acknowledgment that thanks her customers as well as many others who helped in some way with her writing career, and an introduction that gives personal background, it is time for the recipes.

Chapter One “Holiday Open House” starts with “Old-Fashioned Eggnog.” Be warned, this isn’t the kind of eggnog one buys in the grocery stores these days. Recipes for “Cranberry-Walnut Scones, Mustard Baked Ham, Green Chile and Cheddar Baking  Powder Biscuits, Red Velvet Cupcakes with Mascarpone Cream Cheese Icing” are just a few of the delectable recipes in this chapter. Pictures are many and include not only the finished product but also often a picture at some point in the recipe before it is a finished product. “Tips” are many as well with various suggestions concerning adding other ingredients to the recipes mentioned. Along the way there is the occasional story about the recipe detailing the background of the dish.

A subsection of Chapter One begins on page 43 and is titled “Outdoor Tree Trimming” along with brief instructions on how to make “fresh fruit ornaments, dried fruit ornaments,”etc. there are the recipes. The recipes start with “In-The-Bag Chili Frito Pie,” and move to “Rather Minty Brownies, My Mistake Cookies” and other treats. This is a very short section at six pages.

“Ranch Barn Brunch” is the title for Chapter Two beginning on page 51 and the Chapter works off the theme of the author’s love of horses. Friends of the author provided the barn for the party pictures and she again explains about her love of horses and how the party was designed. The recipes begin with “Larry Doll’s Famous Cranberry Margaritas” and include among other mouthwatering recipes “Seasonal Fruit Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing, Brown Sugar Bacon, Mexican Ranch Chilaquiles, Mexican Camp Bread” among many others. Like in Chapter One, there are numerous color photos of the meals as well as numerous tips along with personal stories about the history of the recipes and the people in the author’s life.

Chapter 2 concludes with a section on “Making Gingerbread Houses.” Templates for the houses are included in the appendix. As part of the making gingerbread houses, which is a kid involved activity, she makes a few other suggestions of what to make now that the kids are in the kitchen. “Sour Cream and Chicken Enchiladas” is one with “Torched S’mores” being another of the several possibilities.

“Christmas Eve” is Chapter Three (page 99) which kicks off with “LBJ Ranch Crown Roast of Lamb with Rice Stuffing and Jalapeño-Mint Sauce. If that doesn’t strike your fancy, maybe “Blue Corn Blinis with Crab and Avocado Crema” will work for you. The recipe makes 28 servings which means since they are appetizers, you might need to double upon it.  There is always “Green Olive Beef Tenderloin” as well as “Martha’s Best –Ever Rolls. Save room for the “Christmas Coconut Cake.” As in every chapter, there are far more recipes than I have mentioned here, along with color photographs, history and tips.

“Cookie Decorating” is a little section at the end of this chapter and is all about the kids and having fun. Pretty much self explanatory and this section begins on page 133.

“Christmas Day” marks Chapter Four in a chapter working around the theme of the day and beautiful Christmas dinners. It begins on page 143 and buffet is the order of the day in the author’s house. One of the first dishes to be consumed is her “Green Bean Bundles.” The “Texas Spice-Rubbed Roast Pork” sounds mighty good and looks good too. As does the “Cajun Roast Turkey” (no picture though) and numerous other dishes. Included are the usual photographs, tips, and personal history.

At the end of the Chapter is another small section titled “Wrapping Up the Holidays with Edible Gifts.”  Aptly titled and self explanatory, it covers little tasty treats such as “Denise’s Vanilla Caramels, Lola’s Sunday Fudge,” among other items.

“New Year’s Eve” is the title for Chapter 5 and the final Chapter in this book which begins on page 183. Beyond the gorgeous photograph of a spinning windmill against a Texas sunset there are recipes such as “Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Cranberry–Pecan Salsa, Mother’s Lobster Bisque, Ken Hall’s Standing Rib Roast” and many others with a distinctive Texas flavor. Of course, there are more photographs, tips and history here following the format used throughout the book. This chapter closes the book and is followed by the aforementioned templates for a gingerbread house and an index.

At 225 pages, this is a beautifully photographed book full of recipes, Texas history and culture and ways to do the season right. Written in a down home style, this is not a pretentious book and does not at any time talk down to readers. It provides easy clear instructions, something many cookbooks lack, along with pictures, to help you through the recipe process.

It does lack basic info on dietary issues. While it states how many servings a dish has, it doesn’t make any mention of sodium counts, fats, sugars, etc. in regards to health, Granted, it is a book for the holiday season and many folks ignore such issues during that time, but for others such information is critically important year around.

That being said a lot of that sort of info can be determined by considering the recipe itself before making the item. Therefore, the lack of info is a minor quibble overall and one that can be ignored simply because this is such a beautifully done book full of mouth watering recipes. A book well worth your time and investment in and one sure to assist you for many holidays to come.

The Pastry Queen Christmas: Big-Hearted Holiday Entertaining Texas Style

Rebecca Rather with Alison Oresman

Photography by Laurie Smith

Ten Speed Press


ISBN#: 1-58008-790-6


226 Pages


Review copy provided by the staff of the Plano, Texas Public Library System

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

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