“Butcher Babe”

If you want to start a conversation with a grandmother, just ask about her grandchildren. Perhaps that is one reason I like Loreal Gavin’s new cookbook, “Butcher Babe.” The introductory remarks by her grandmother were special.

The “Butcher Babe” is my kind of chef and my kind of cookbook. I was very impressed with this new cookbook and also with the author’s background and ability to use the lessons she learned at a young age from her grandmother. She especially liked to cook steak because “it had lines in it.”

This reminded me of my oldest granddaughter, Meagan Carter, who loved to help me cook when she was 4 years old. I remember one time we were cooking cubed steak. As we coated each piece with flour, Meagan patted it and said, “put a little powder on it.” Meagan has become one of the best “from scratch” cooks I know.

My youngest granddaughter, Christi Thornburg, is also accomplished in the culinary field, and her family is very proud. Christi is a senior at Pleasant Valley High School and is completing her third year of culinary training at the Career Academy in Jacksonville. She was one of the winners in the state culinary competition recently, and will be participating in the national competition in Nashville in July.    

Loreal Gavin has the ability to take our much-loved comfort foods and add her special chef’s touch to give us delicious and memorable meals. She takes the traditional meatloaf and tops it with homemade tomato jam. How about Southern Fried Steak with Pecan Butter? These are the types of foods that make “The Butcher Babe Cookbook” (Page Street Publishing) so special. I like her expressive descriptions of her recipes and ingredients. She says she likes to cook with little portobella mushrooms because “they are little bowls just begging to be filled,” which she does in her Spicy Swine Mushroom Caps.

This is a cookbook that you will want to keep close at hand and use often. My biggest problem is deciding which great recipe I would like to try first. Of course, my love of desserts makes me take a second look at the following Brown Butter Peach Crumble. If you don’t have peaches, I think apples would be good in this dessert, because the author says, “You can use any kind of fruit you want and flavor the crumble in many ways.” She is saying, “Make it your own.”


1 (8 ounce) box white cake mix, such as Jiffy Brand (note that this is a small box)

2 cups milk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 stick butter, at room temperature

4 fresh peaches, peeled and pitted

3 tablespoons coarse sugar  (see note below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine cake mix, milk, eggs, cinnamon and butter with a whisk and mix until just combined. Pour into a tart pan. (Recipe does not say that this is to be greased so I assume it isn’t.)

Cut the peaches in half and place them around the pan on top of the cake mix. Sprinkle the coarse sugar on top of peaches and bake for 30 minutes. Now you’ve got a taste of grandma’s house. Where’s the ice cream?

NOTE: Coarse sugar is probably not an ingredient found in most kitchens. I would suggest buying some of this specialty sugar, but if you want to make this dessert and don’t have coarse sugar, use 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons regular sugar. Watch it as it bakes to be sure it is not browning too much. If so, cover loosely with foil for the last few minutes of baking.

Contact Prudence Hilburn at prudencehilburn@aol.com.