Patsy Conquest, left, and Gail Ward are pictured Tuesday with several dishes they prepared using recipes from their new cookbook, Southern Blend II. The Columbus women compiled more than 1,300 recipes for the project. The dishes include, from front to back, corn soufflé, cooked pimiento and cheese, squash casserole, Santa Fe chicken, chewy cake and a pound cake. Photo by: Mary Alice Weeks/Dispatch Staff
April 23, 2014 10:12:50 AM
When Columbus residents and close friends Gail Ward and Patsy Conquest decided to collaborate on a cookbook, they may not have envisioned 1,308 recipes and more than 540 pages, but that's what they have delivered. Southern Blend II, a second edition of their 1991 Southern Blend cookbook, is an extensive collection of recipes from family and friends in the Golden Triangle area and beyond.
Their wide circle of acquaintances, plus large family circles, proved to be prolific resources for the book. Hence, the name Southern Blend.
"When we started asking for recipes, we just got swamped," laughed Ward, who teaches English as a second language in the Lowndes County school system. "It ended up being a huge undertaking."
Both women are active in church -- Ward at Columbus Church of Christ, Conquest at the Caledonia Church of Christ.
"We put out boxes at church, and people just filled them up," added Conquest, a retired church secretary.
Their hardcover, spiral-bound cookbook featuring cover art and divider illustrations by Ward does more than cover tables with good food. It directly supports two missions with strong local ties: Operation Ukraine, and the Bill Brumley Cottage and Library at Casa de Esperanza Children's Home in Honduras.
Operation Ukraine was founded in 1999 to send hospital supplies, equipment and clothing to Donetsk, Ukraine. Under the guidance of Kathy Cadden and Joe Thompson, it has expanded to include aid shipments within the U.S. and many other parts of the world. It also provides services for local families. Conquest and her husband, Gary, work as volunteers at the organization's warehouse in Columbus.
The children's home in Honduras was founded by former Columbus residents Marc and Terri Tindall, to care for homeless children. Ward and her husband, Wade, have made many trips to Honduras to support the home and other ministries. Ward also teaches English there and assists women with the labor and delivery of babies.
"They both do really good work," remarked Ward. Any and all proceeds from cookbook sales go directly to the missions.
Putting it together
Creating Southern Blend II has been a lengthy process. Gathering recipes was a matter of just a few months. Editing, formatting and publishing took longer.
Conquest remembers the first cookbook she and Ward put out in 1991. "Long years ago, we just wrote out the recipes by hand, and they were typed up by someone else." Times have changed by leaps and bounds. Using an Adobe computer program compatible with Saks, the book's publisher in Jackson, Conquest invested many, many hours at her keyboard. Both women acted as proofreaders and editors (as did several of their friends). The work was laborious, but they are pleased with the result.
"I love to read cookbooks -- I bet I have 100 cookbooks -- but this one is my favorite," said Conquest, who hails originally from York, Alabama. "We've had people tell us that if they need a cookbook, they'd go to this one. That if you want a recipe, you'll find it in this book; and they're good recipes!"
Choosing favorites out of so many is almost impossible, but Ward, when pressed, noted a few she would put a star by: Chow Pot, an Asian-inspired chicken, rice and cabbage crock pot dish ("It may not sound like it or look like it, but it's really good"), and No Roll Sugar Cookies, an easy recipe that gets thumbs up from her grandchildren.
One of the recipes Conquest is known for is her red velvet cake. "It's so good we used it for the groom's cake at my daughter's wedding," said Ward.
And then, there are 1,305 more.
The cookbook mavens hope cooks everywhere enjoy Southern Blend. It was a labor of love they hope will inspire a few new dishes from your kitchen and generate support for two missions with very important work to do.
How to get it
Southern Blend II cookbooks are $15, available at the Columbus Church of Christ office, 2401 Seventh St. N., and at Magnolia Antique Mall, 302 Alabama St., Columbus. Or contact Ward at 662-352-4231, or Conquest at 662-328-9671 or email@example.com. Price is $20 for cookbooks shipped within the U.S.
COOKED PIMIENTO AND CHEESE
1 (16-ounce) package American cheese
1/3 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 (8-ounce) jar pimiento
1 cup mayonnaise
SANTA FE CHICKEN
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/4 cup chicken broth
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup salsa
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
PATSY'S RED VELVET CAKE
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 (1-ounce) red food color
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cocoa
2 1/4 cup plain flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
For the frosting:
1 pound powdered sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
1 stick butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1 (16-ounce) can carrots
1 stick oleo
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.