Virginia Willis New Cookbook Giveaway & Winter Greens and Butternut Squash Gratin Recipe

I was fortunate to meet Virginia Wills several years ago, and I had the pleasure and honor to co-speak with her last year at Food Blog South. Last fall, I attended an event in Atlanta where she previewed some of her recipes for her new book, “From Basic to Brilliant”. I couldn’t wait for it to be released. Virginia is a graduate of  L’Academie de Cuisine and Ecole de Cuisine LaVarenne and, previously, was the Kitchen Director for Martha Stewart Living. Virginia expands on her incredible style in this 150 recipe cookbook where she offers incredible preparation and presentation techniques (her writing is amazing too). This recipe for Winter Greens and Butternut Squash Gratin is just one of the many stellar recipes in this book. I served it to company this weekend on a cold evening, and I received rave reviews. Her amazingly beautiful photos were taken by Helene Dujardin of Tartlette. “From Basic to Brilliant” can be found at Amazon or any of your favorite online stores as well as bookstores nationwide.

For a chance to win a copy, leave me a comment telling me why you want a copy of this book. Winner will be drawn on Thursday, November 10th and must be a U.S resident. For more chances, leave as many comments as you like telling me that you did the following:

1. Follow Alison Lewis on Twitter

2. Like Ingredients, Inc on Facebook

3. Follow Virginia Willis on Twitter

4. Like Virginia Willis on Facebook


“Reprinted with permission from Basic to Brilliant, Y’all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company by Virginia Willis, copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.”

Photo credit: Helene Dujardin © 2011

Thanksgiving Decor 101


Since my expertise is in food and cooking, I sometimes struggle with décor. I want simplicity but beauty in my home during the holidays. All of these favorite ideas are inexpensive, and what I really love about them is that they can involve the kids. Below are some of my favorites.

My Top 5 Quick & Easy Centerpiece Ideas:

1. Decorate the mantel with pinecones, apples and garlands, or branches and leaves. Kids love to go into the yard to search for items of nature and help you incorporate them into the holiday décor.

2. Fill acorns in decorative candleholders surrounding the candles. Kids love to search for acorns and help arrange them.

3. Place gourds or small pumpkins on candlestick pedestals. Involve the kids in helping you display them.

4. Stuff hydrangeas in winter squash. Once you slice the squash, kids love to help remove the seeds and the insides of the squash.

5. Float green apples or pears in water in tall glass vases. Ask your kids to help fill up the vases and put the apples in them. This look is enhanced when the vases are surrounded by votives.

My Top 5 Table-Setting Ideas:

1. Use pears as place card holders with a string attached. Ask your children to help wash and dry the pears to get you started.

2. Tie fresh herbs with string and attach place card holders to them. My kids love tying the strings and helping me organize my herbs.

3. Let your kid’s create pinecone turkeys to put on each plate.

4. Have your children decorate or note cards and glue a fresh leaf to each.

5. Ask your kids to draw their favorite holiday picture, and place it by each person’s plate or napkin.

I feel so fortunate this year to have the incredible opportunity to work with Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms. Hopefully, you can find some inspiration here for your holiday, as well. For more wonderful information, recipes and tips see Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms.

Note: Dishes are from Pier One Imports