I’m fortunate to have lovely neighbors. Among them is Mary Jane Howell, who’s a terrific cook. That talent apparently rubbed off on her daughter, Jean Button, who lives in Fayetteville, Ark.

Button served on the committee that put together a wonderful 312-page cookbook for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Fayetteville.

A couple of months ago Button sent me a copy of the book, “Full Plate: Generous Servings of Ozark Hospitality,” to thank me for the very small role I played in the committee acquiring a copy of the Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge’s Peace Gumbo recipe. That recipe is reprinted as a sidebar in the cookbook’s Soups and Stews chapter.

I’m glad Button thought to send me the book. It is a terrific example of an outstanding community cookbook with appealing recipes from almond praline bacon to zucchini with onion and green bell peppers.

The foreword says the book was “a work in progress for many people over nearly 10 years,” and committee members promise readers can count on its 308 recipes. (More than 1,000 were submitted.) That’s because each was tested at least three times and no one tested their own to make sure someone else could reproduce what was written down.

The recipes, divided into 11 sections, were evaluated and rated for their taste and appearance.

The book’s wipe-clean hardcover has hidden spiral binding. Each page has a sidebar with a cooking tip or information about local or regional history. The book is illustrated with black-and-white photographs.

Proceeds from book sales will go to help support the church’s food-related ministries.

To order a copy go to the church’s website: http://www.stpaulsfay.org. Cost is $25 per book plus $6 for shipping. Shipping is $3 for each additional book in the same order.

Among the book’s recipes is Praline MiniMuffins, a recipe submitted by Button. It’s one that her mother said she’s often made for get-togethers with friends.

Another is Wishing Cookies, a recipe for celebrating Epiphany, or Twelfth Day, which is also the start of Mardi Gras season.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is csonnier@theadvocate.com.

Advocate-tested recipe

Praline Mini-Muffins

Makes 36 minimuffins. Recipe is reprinted with permission from “Full Plate: Generous Servings of Ozark Hospitality” by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Fayetteville, Ark.

Butter, for greasing pans

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

2?3 cup butter, melted

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the cups of two minimuffin baking pans with softened butter.

2. Using an electric mixer, blend brown sugar, flour, eggs, melted butter and vanilla.

3. Using a wooden spoon, stir in chopped pecans. Batter can be made a day ahead at this point. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to bake.

4. Fill the prepared pans with about 1 tablespoon batter in each.

5. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 16 minutes.

Advocate-tested recipe

Wishing Cookies

Makes about 50 cookies. Recipe is reprinted with permission from “Full Plate: Generous Servings of Ozark Hospitality” by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Fayetteville, Ark. This cookie is made and served at Epiphany at St. Paul’s. Children love the ritual … Place a Wishing Cookie in the palm of your hand. Press the center with one finger. If the cookie breaks into three pieces and you can eat them all without saying a word, you get to make a wish.


11/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 2 tbls.

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ginger

1?8 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 tbl. molasses

1/2 tbl. water

1/4 tsp. lemon or orange zest

Lace Icing

2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tbls. milk, or as needed

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees

2. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg together in a medium bowl, blending well.

3. With an electric mixer beat butter at medium speed until softened. Add sugar and beat until fluffy.

4. Add egg, molasses, water and zest, beating well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well until mixed.

5. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours, or until easy to handle.

6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough 1?8-inch thick. Shape into stars using a star-shaped cookie cutter and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove and cool.

7. For lace icing, while cookies are baking, blend confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and enough milk to make it thick enough to press through an icing bag.

8. Pipe a design on each cookie using a decorating bag fitted with a writing tip, or transfer icing to a zip-top plastic bag, snip off one corner, and squeeze icing over the tops of cookies.