Category Archives: yummy stuff

Grammar Lovers Rock On — Weird Al Yankovic’s hilarious spoof “Word Crimes” mocks “Blurred Lines”

Finally a song for all the grammar Nazis lovers, writers, and Strunk & White followers. Weird Al’s back with a hilarious spoof aiming to save the world from all those dat doan want 2 lern no grammer.

Weird Al Yankovik’s rewrite transforms Robin Thicke’s raunchy “Blurred Lines” into the clever “Word Crimes.” Now this is a song I can applaud—with absolutely no twerking involved.
(Who makes up these words?)




The Southern Cowboy Cookbook Dishes Up Banana Dream Pudding (recipe) and Down-home Charm

In the mood for a fresh take on Southern comfort food? Have I got the cookbook for you.

Born of family, faith, and a passion for making the best blend of Southern barbeque around, one of Orlando’s foodie delights is 4 Rivers Smokehouse. Home of the neon “Hot Brisket Now” sign and lines ringing the building on a nightly basis, the first location in Winter Park, Florida, had humble origins. Back in 2009, businessman and weekend chef John Rivers decided to open a sort-of commissary for his “Barbeque Ministry” in the oft chance locals might want to purchase leftovers from his charitable events, or maybe even order take-out. . .

Five years later, John Rivers runs seven ridiculously successful  locations in Central/North Florida (with a Tampa locale in the works). Though his restaurants are one of the only places my family and I eat out on a regular basis, most of y’all can’t just drop by for a heaping portion of 4 Rivers tender smoked briquet, tangy pulled pork, or to-die-for baked beans (which my dad swears are second only to the beans his mom used to make). Lucky, John Rivers has kindly shared his delectable comfort food recipes in THE SOUTHERN COWBOY COOKBOOK.

The recipes are a bold blend of Deep-South specialties, traditional Texas BBQ, and Low Country cuisine. All of my favorite sides from the restaurant are in there: Smokehouse Corn, Baked Cheese Grits, Bacon-wrapped Smoked Jalapenos, and more.

The meat sections are the highlight of the book, as that’s what draws customers to the casual 4 Rivers Smokehouses, even though they know they’ll have to wait patiently outside in the Florida heat (sometimes an hour), salivating as whiffs from the smoker drift across the sizzling parking lot. (Don’t worry, when the lines are long, the clean-cut and uber polite staff hands out samples to waiting customers.) Rivers includes recipes for all of his signature smoked meats, including the rubs, marinades, and finishing sauces. While these particular recipes might not be that useful unless you have a smoker, chances are you know someone who does. . . And you can share the book with them. . .

Most of the other recipes are much more approachable for the average home cook. The sandwich section reads like the restaurant menu board, highlighting creations that sound odd, but are oh-so-scrumptious, such as the Messy Pig (coleslaw, pulled pork, dill pickles, pickled jalapenos, & BBQ sauce slapped on a sandwich bun). Yes, you need many napkins.

Tossed in with the iconic recipes are some contemporary favorites, like Coffee-rubed Ribeye, Gruyere Herb Biscuits, and Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding. There are just far too many good ones to mention, and most are accompanied by drool-worthy photographs.

John rivers


I had the pleasure of attending a cooking demonstration and cookbook discussion with John Rivers at the UCF Book Festival back in April. He chatted with the audience about his unlikely rises as a successful restauranteur,  why he’ll never franchise (because he doesn’t want the quality and service to waver), his nationwide search for the perfect barbeque, and the role faith, community, and family play in his business and his life.


Then he made Banana Dream Pudding Cups and passed out samples to the audience.

Banana Dream Pudding Cups (from the Southern Cowboy Cookbook). Perfect for a potluck! Adding roasted bananas makes all the difference!

Banana pudding is a favorite in my house. The simple Southern specialty is a staple at our Easter potluck, and the bowl is practically licked clean by guests. But John Rivers added a twist I’d never thought of: roasting bananas to bring out the sweetness, pureeing them, then adding them to the standard vanilla pudding. Oh, and adding chocolate. And caramel. And Heath bar bits.


4 rivers banana pudding

Of course I had to try the recipe at home.

And you can, too.

When you make the puree (I just used my good old mini food processor), blend until you have your preferred consistency. I tried leaving it a little bit chunky, and it added a nice texture to the pudding. Also, don’t use room temp Hershey’s syrup for the chocolate sauce–far too runny and not rich enough. A nice drizzle of hot fudge sauce (homemade or jarred) works much better. And use real whipped cream—it’s worth the few minutes of work.

Banana Dream Pudding Cups (from the Southern Cowboy Cookbook). Adding roasted bananas makes all the difference!

Banana Dream Pudding Cups

From  The Southern Cowboy Cookbook by John Rivers

Serves 6

Banana Dream Puree

5 large bananas
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups vanilla pudding (I used instant, but I’m sure homemade would be better)

Banana Dream Pudding Cups

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
18 (1/4-inch-thick) banana slices
12 tablespoons toffee-chocolate bits (like Heath)
3 cups Banana Dream Puree, divided
1 3/4 cups freshly whipped cream, divided
6 tablespoons chocolate sauce, divided
6 tablespoons caramel sauce, divided
18 vanilla wafers

 Make Puree

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay bananas, unpeeled on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until bananas turn dark brown and go soft. Allow bananas to cool before peeling.

Peel bananas and place in the work bowl of a food processor along with the sugar. Pulse until desired smoothness.

Add pudding to bowl and mix by hand until combined. Refrigerate until cold.

 Make Pudding Cups

Combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, and melted butter in a bowl, and mix until well blended.

In each of 6 glass dishes (I used stemless wine glasses), place 2 tablespoons graham cracker mixture, then top with 3 banana slices and a tablespoon of toffee-chocolate bits.

Spoon in 1/2 cup puree, then top with 1/4 cup whipped cream.

Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon toffee-chocolate bits, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon chocolate sauce and 1 tablespoon caramel sauce. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Place 3 vanilla wafers around each rim just before serving.


The Recommendation:

Buy it. The cookbook is worth the price just for the Thanksgiving menu, which I plan on making for my holiday celebration this year. (Potential guests, expect Prosciutto Brussels Sprouts, Southern Green Beans, and Smoked Turkey.)

Now that I’ve spent the hour salivating over the cookbook and dreaming of BBQ and banana pudding, I’m going to head off to the gym—possibly with a detour afterwards to pick up some 4 Rivers takeout.

The Details:

The Southern Cowboy Cookbook by John Rivers
Print Length: 223 pages
Publisher: Story Farm

Weekend Cooking hosted by


Joining up again with Weekend Cooking hosted by If you’re interested in more food-related posts, drop on by!

Escape to the French Countryside with a Peter Mayle book and Provençal Beans and Orzo {recipe}

I often dream of stuffing a couple of suitcases with sundresses and books and escaping to an old farmhouse somewhere in the hills of Provence. I imagine lingering around a vintage table with a glass of local wine, my belly full of some fresh and exotic meal. Later I’d wander along a dirt road to some quaint village, passing fields of lavender and sunflowers.  Every day a postcard: vivid blue skies juxtaposed against green vineyards, basking by the backyard pool after a morning of writing and gardening, a trip to town to procure vegetables still warm from the earth to create dinner…la belle vie.

It’s no surprise I fell in love with Peter Mayle’s books from the first sentence.

“The year began with lunch.”red beans and orzo

Provence must be a gastronomic paradise.

If you haven’t read Mayle’s warm and witty chronicles of his “foray into Provençal domesticity” you should. The charming blend of memoir, travelog, and home improvement manual will make you fall in love with the region—despite the wicked winds of the Mistral, plagues of summer tourists, and the local’s proclivity for frog legs and offal. You’ll want to buy the 200-year-old farmhouse next door, with Englishman-turned-Francophile Mayle for a neighbor, of course.  His Provence novels are delightful, light reads as well—perfect for a spring day with a glass of  Pastis by the pool.

Zut alors! I just discovered he released a new book in April. Off to buy—Amazon gets all of my money.

Provence in Ten Easy Lessons: From Provence A-Z: A Francophile’s Essential Handbook (Vintage Departures)


Mais oui, here in the Sunshine State, spring means a yard overflowing with blooms, beach time, and lazy days off by the pool. It also means the thermometer will start racing towards triple digits, so my oven will be retired until late fall, and some days it’s just no fun to hang over a hot stove for long.

It’s time for lighter fare—perhaps with a Provençal flair…

We spend every free moment in the backyard or by the water, knowing that the bugs and the heat will trap us inside within a few weeks. Since I’m working outside the home for the first time in years, my meal prep needs to be simple, efficient, and easy.

Time to share one of my favorite meals that fits all those categories: Provençal Beans and Orzo.

It’s pretty dang delicious, too.

Made from mostly panty and freezer staples, this is a meal I can whip up on short notice that always has my family saying, “Ooh la la!”  The prosciutto/speck/ham adds plenty of salty goodness, so you probably won’t need to add much salt. Serve with some warm and crusty French bread and some wine and you’re ready for company.

 Provençal  Beans and Orzo

Provençal Beans and Orzo

30 min (including prep) | Serves 4


1 3/4 cups orzo
3 cups chicken broth (or 1 14 oz can + 3/4 cup water)
1 small onion chopped (about 12 – 3/4 cup)
1 15-oz can kidney beans
1/2 cup (about 2-oz) prosciutto, speck, or high-quality ham, chopped
1 bag fresh baby spinach, chopped (or 1/2 box frozen, thawed and drained)
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese*
splash of olive oil


  1. In a large pot, saute onion until slightly translucent, about five minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Sir in orzo and herbs de Provence.
  2. Boil gently, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir regularly. (If mixture looks too dry at any point, just add water gradually.)
  3. Toss spinach on top. Cook an additional 2 to 5 minutes or until orzo is tender and most of liquid is absorbed.
  4. Add beans and prosciutto (or ham). Stir until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Dish into bowls and top with cheese.*

I’ve used Asiago cheese instead of Parmesan—délicieux!

Bon Appetite, mon amies!!

For more inspiration, check out some of my favorite Peter Mayle books: Cooking At is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.




Sweets for your sweetie: Cherry Cordial Brownie Bites

You can never have too many brownies. Or at least, I can never have too many brownies. Ever since I discovered the handy-dandy method of baking them in mini-muffin pans, I always keep some tucked away in the freezer for chocolate emergencies. (Don’t laugh. Chocolate emergencies are a real thing.)

I actually came up with this recipe at Christmas time after I’d sworn I wasn’t going to bake cookies from scratch. In the past, I’ve spent days making dozens of dozens of homemade treats for bosses, teachers, and friends, but this year I just didn’t have the time. I aimed for the semi-homemade route, which if dressed up properly, can be just as tasty and ten times easier.  I wanted to do something with brownies…cherry cordial candies were my dad’s favorite, and always under the Christmas tree…how about cherry cordial brownies?

I searched for a recipe to imitate that rich, creamy deliciousness with a gooey cherry inside, but I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. I did find an intriguing Cherry-Merlot Brownie Bite recipe via Betty Crocker. Hmmm…not quite…  After a few tweaks, it was better than I dreamed!

cherry cordial brownie recipe

By switching out the Merlot for Amaretto, the brownies took on the creamy, cherry almond cream taste I was going for. These things are AMAZING!  Chewy, rich, and OMG good!  (Hold on a sec—I have to go eat one now!) They will make a perfect Valentine’s Day treat for your Sweetie (or yourself!)

Can you tell I’m seriously in love with these?  And they are seriously easy.

cherry cordial brownie bites

Cherry Cordial Brownie Bites

1 bag (about 5 – 6 oz.) dried cherries
about 1/2 cup Amaretto liqueur
1 box brownie mix (I recommend Betty Crocker Supreme Triple Chunk or Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate)
1 egg*
1/3 cup oil*
water to fill***

  • Place cherries in a microwave safe bowl. Add Amaretto so that it about covers the cherries (you can add a little more if necessary). Microwave on high for 90 seconds. Set aside and let cool about 10 minutes.
  • Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). (optional) Place mini paper baking cup in each of 48 mini muffin cups. (I have bake in two batches, so liners are easier for me.)
  • Strain cherries, pouring leftover Amaretto into a measuring cup. Check how much water your brownie mix box calls for (mine called for 1/4 cup of water). ***Use the Amaretto instead of the called for water. If you don’t have quite enough, add water.
  • In a mixing bowl, add brownie mix, Amaretto/water, * EGG(S), AND OIL ON CALLED FOR ON BROWNIE MIX BOX. Stir until mixed.
  • Fold in the cherries. Mix.
  • Fill each muffin cup with about 1 tablespoon batter/about 3/4 full. (I use a cookie scoop.)
  • Bake 18-21 minutes. Let cool in pan a few minutes, then remove each brownie bite to a cooling rack.

*Tip from Betty Crocker: If a recipe yields more mini cupcakes than your pan will make, cover and refrigerate the rest of the batter while baking the first batch. Cool the pan 10 to 15 minutes and then bake the rest of the batter, adding about 1 minute to the bake time.

*Since the cherries make them a little gooey, the paper wrappers may stick. Optional.

Happy Valentine’s Day


Cheers, my friends!

Nowhere but Home and Last Meals

While on vacation last month, I ate up Liza Palmer’s Nowhere but Home. Though not the typical beach read, I savored each word as I relaxed in the Florida Keys. The book came out in April, I read it in August, and I’m just reviewing it in September. (How the hell is it September already?) Slap a slacker sticker across my forehead. I’ve been so sucked into my own writing that my eyes go blurry at the end of the day. My books backlog is ridiculous. My reviews—overdue. Mea culpa. But I just couldn’t forget this story.

From the back cover:

Nowhere but Home nowhere but home - liza palmer-last mealsby Liza Palmer

The strategy on the gridiron of Friday Night Lights is nothing compared to the savagery of coming home . . .

Queenie Wake has just been fired from her job as a chef for not allowing a customer to use ketchup . . . again. Now the only place she has to go is North Star, Texas, the hometown she left in disgrace. Maybe things will be different this time around. After all, her mother—notorious for stealing your man, your car, and your rent money—has been dead for years. And Queenie’s sister, once the local teenage harlot who fooled around with the town golden boy, is now the mother of the high school football captain.

Queenie’s new job, cooking last meals at the nearby prison, is going well . . . at least the inmates don’t complain! But apparently small-town Texas has a long memory for bad reputations. And when Queenie bumps into Everett Coburn, the high school sweetheart who broke her heart, she wishes her own memory was a little spottier. But before Queenie takes another chance on love, she’ll have to take an even bigger risk: finding a place to call home once and for all.


First off, this cover doesn’t do the book justice—though it’s pretty and charming, the story is far more Texas grit than fluff. As always, Liza Palmer’s characters are irreverent, a little rough around the edges, bitingly funny—and all the more gripping because of that. If you’ve read any of her other books, you know that she delves into some deep stuff—the cover of More Like Her may feature three chicks in heels, but the story starts with a shooting. Grit lit, not chick lit.

In Nowhere But Home, Queenie Wake slinks back to North Star, the tiny town she’d fled years ago trying to escape from her shame and herself. The mean girls from her past might be married with kids, but as they grew older, their claws grew sharper. They won’t let Queenie forget how her mama was shot dead by her best friend after being caught in bed with her husband. The small-town social hierarchy painted Queenie and her sister as trashy, no-good, tramps, too—even if the women are anything but. In a town overflowing with dirty little secrets, Queenie must learn that she can’t outrun the past, and sometimes, holding onto your roots can set you free.

A couple of plot twists into the story, Queenie accepts a rather unusual culinary position—cooking last meals for convicts about to be executed. Cheerful job, right? But someone has to do it. Queenie takes the job seriously, working tirelessly to recreate each prisoner’s request, down to figuring out where in Mexico one man’s grandmother came from so she could make the proper type of tamale. The details of the requests—from a meal that read like a Mexican Christmas dinner to the significance of a pack of Skittles—got me thinking.

What foods would I want to savor, knowing I was about to die? Which foods would bring me comfort, draw blissful memories, transport me to a time and place far from the fear of death?

(A difficult subject to ponder while staring into turquoise waters in a picture postcard setting.)

nowhere but home, liza palmer, florida keys, bahia honda

My first thoughts drifted to foods from my travels: the crepes a la Florentina from a cozy trattoria in Florence, the near perfect tortellini in white sauce savored while overlooking a Venetian canal, the delicate lemon cake from my wedding night in Rome. All recipes I’ve been unable to recreate, all foods that set my taste buds in a tizzy as I reminisce . . . all hoity-toity delicacies that represent a part of my life I want to relive, but not who I really am.

After hours of thought, I figured it out.

Veal cutlets, mashed potatoes, Le Seur canned peas, onion gravy. My family’s traditional sage stuffing. My mom’s caramel brownies with a side of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Beverage . . . I don’t think they’d let me have any chardonnay, so . . . root beer?

I grew up eating this simple meal. (Okay, the stuffing went with turkey on holidays, but dammit, it’s my last meal. It sops up gravy perfectly.) I still make it regularly.  We call it comfort food, as in: “What’s for dinner?” “Comfort food.”  And we all know exactly what’s on the menu. When I’m sick, when I’m sad, when I just don’t want to eat anything, this always makes me feel warm inside.

Guess that fits the bill.

As for the book—Nowhere but Home is rich, satisfying, and will leave you cheering for the disreputable Wake girls. Buy it. Read it. You’ll laugh, shed a tear or two, and get really hungry.

{psst—you can find my final request recipes for Mom’s Magic Caramel Brownies here and the Traditional Sage Stuffing here…good stuff…}

Your turn—what foods would you choose to fill not only your gut, but your heart? What would be your last meal?

Weekend Cooking hosted by


{Okay, technically a book review isn’t PYHO material, but the deep thought involved with last meals certainly took a lot of thought and heart to write.}


Holiday Recipes: Brandied Cranberry Apple Pie and Classic Sage Stuffing

When Unilever asked me to share two of my favorite holiday recipes using I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, knew exactly which treats I’d dish up. One is a recipe which has been passed down for generations, my family’s Classic Sage Stuffing. Trust me, you will never want to eat that nasty stuffing from a box again. The recipe is simple, budget-friendly, and can easily be doubled or halved depending on how large your family gathering may be this year.
I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to divulge my famous Brandied Cranberry Apple Pie recipe. Sweet apples mixed with tart cranberries and a luxurious layering of rich brandy finished with a crumb topping — you will never look at a plain apple pie again. It’s that good.


Brandied Cranberry Apple Pie


1 frozen/refrigerated deep dish pie crust


2 1/4 pounds apples peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (I prefer a mix of Granny Smith and Gala, but use any variety you prefer)
1 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon clove
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 {generous} tablespoons brandy*


2 tablespoons I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spread, butter, or margarine
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
sprinkle of cinnamon

  • Follow pie crust thawing instructions. Or, if you insist, make your own single pie crust.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • For filling: mix sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cranberries in a large bowl. Add in apples and toss to coat. Mix in vanilla and brandy, combining thoroughly.
  • Spoon mixture into pie crust. Gently press down with spoon to pack apples together. Mound slightly in the center.
  • For topping: in a separate bowl, combine  1/2 cup flour, brown sugar, and a pinch of cinnamon (if desired). Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in the 2 cold tablespoons of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Spoon mixture over pie filling, covering completely up to the edge of the crust. You may gently pat down to even out the crumbs. With a knife, poke a small slit in the center of the topping so steam can escape while baking.
  • I recommend placing pie on a cookie sheet, as the filling sometimes oozes out a bit. Cover the edge of the crust with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove foil from crust. Bake pie 35 minutes more.
  • Cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Topping Suggestions:  I am an à la mode  girl, and I usually top a slice of warm pie with ice cream: eggnog is my favorite, but vanilla or butter pecan blend deliciously as well. You can also top with whipped cream.

*You can omit the brandy, but I highly recommend you include it as it adds an amazingly rich layer of flavor. Don’t worry, the alcohol bakes out. You can also substitute Cognac or Bourbon.

Classic Southern Sage Stuffing

Makes 8 to 10 servings, but this recipe can easily be doubled or halved.


8 cups white bread crumbs (crust on)*

1 cup I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spread
2 onions diced
6 stalks of celery chopped
3/4 teaspoon marjoram
3/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons sage
2 eggs
2/3 cup chicken broth


  • *To make the breadcrumbs: Use slightly stale (NOT moldy) white bread. Hamburger buns also work. If bread is very fresh, spread on a cookie sheet and bake in a slow oven (200 degrees) until slightly dry. Cool. Slice bread into roughly 1/4 inch cubes. Do not chop in a food processor as the crumbs will be too small and the stuffing will not firm up. 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs = approx. 3 slices bread. (Can be prepped days ahead.)


  • To make the stuffing: In a large skillet, melt I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spread. Add onions and celery. Saute until translucent, about 10 to 15 minutes.


  • In a large bowl, mix together bread crumbs and seasonings. Pour in all sauteed onions, celery, and remaining I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. Mix.
  • In a separate small bowl, beat the eggs then add chicken broth (make sure broth is not hot). Add to bread crumbs and veggie mix. Combine thoroughly.
  • Spoon stuffing into a greased casserole and bake (uncovered) for 35- 45 minutes at 325 degrees or until top is lightly browned. (In my family, we cook it longer and fight over the crispy edges.) Note: this stuffing is pretty flexible, and it will cook at whatever temperature your turkey or other dishes require.
  • Though I prefer baking the stuffing on its own, you can also stuff this mix into a 5 – 10 pound turkey (double for a 11 – 20 pound bird) and bake according to the directions (on bird).  Stuff the bird just before placing it in the oven and remove all the stuffing when bird is cooked.

Leftovers (on the slight chance that any remain) can be frozen.

Thank you to Good to Know & Unilever Spreads for being a sponsor. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own.


My Berlin Kitchen: Review and Recipe

My latest review for Bookshelf Bombshells, My Berlin Kitchen, is a delightful tale of how one thoroughly confused, kitchen-mad romantic broke off her engagement, quit her dream job, and went across the ocean in search of happiness. And food. Lots of food.

 Some of you may know author Luisa Weiss from her popular food blog The Wednesday Chef.  Inspired by other excellent food blogs and drowning in stacks of recipes she’d clipped from the Wednesday food section, Weiss set out to test the recipes, just for a year. That year flew by. She gained a dedicated readership following her mix of personal journal and cooking diary (and now reading her “love story with recipes”).

Now according to Luisa, there are two camps of potato salad eaters: mayo (rich and creamy) or hot vinegar (light and sour).  Being a Southern girl, I was raised with both feet firmly planted in the mayo camp. Potato salad should contain big old Idaho potatoes, hard boiled eggs, onions, MAYO, and MUSTARD (but NO relish, please). It should be firm, creamy, and yellow with sprinkles of salt, pepper, and maybe paprika on top.  My mom, despite growing up in Germany, is renowned for her Southern potato salad (based on one of my dad’s family recipes). I stand as firm as a scoop of that divine salad: mayo & mustard rule.

But I’m also totally open to new foods. I had to give it a try.

And I’m delighted I did. Though the hot vinegar mix made my house smell like a German restaurant (tip: open windows before boiling), the finished salad was crisp, vibrant, and not at all overpowering. Everyone in the house liked it. The tart/sour flavor mellowed  over time (it makes a good-sized batch, so we ate it over several days).

Though I don’t think it will replace my family recipe, it was a nice change and would be a hit at any party or potluck. Try it!

Pin It

Kartoffelsalat (Potato Salad)
from My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss

2 lbs. Yukon Gold or other waxy potatoes
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2/3 cup beef or chicken broth
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley

  1. Wash the potatoes and put them in a pot with cold salted water just to cover. Bring to boil with the lid on; then reduce the heat to medium and cook the potatoes until they are just tender. Depending on their size, this should take between 20 and 30 minutes. Drain the potatoes and let them cool for at least an hour or two and up to overnight.
  2.  Peel the potatoes and cut them into very think slices, about 1/8-inch thick. Put the potato slices into a serving bowl.
  3. Melt the butter in a 10-inch saute pan and add the onions. Mix well and cook for 3 minutes over medium heat. Pour in the vinegar and the broth. Add the mustard and stir well. Let the mixture simmer over low heat for an additional 3 minutes.
  4. Carefully y whisk in the oil, and then pour the hot marinade over the sliced potatoes and mix well. The potatoes will take a few minutes to absorb all the dressing. Add the salt and add as much freshly ground pepper as you’d like.
  5. Just before serving, add the minced parsley to the bowl and mix well. taste for seasoning and serve.

If you’d like bits of bacon or Speck in your salad, dice up 3 1/2 ounces and fry the bacon or Speck in the butter for a few minutes before adding the chopped onions (reduce the amount of butter by a talbespoon0.

Or add 1/3 cup of diced French cornichons to the finished salad to bump up the sour, crunchy flavor.


I used red potatoes (I had 5 pounds just begging to be used up), red onions (ditto), and about 2 ounces of Speck. I also let the potatoes sit overnight (as Weiss recommended) and they were ridiculously easy to slice by hand. (I’ve sworn off mandolins because I have an overwhelming desire to keep all ten digits.)

Try it. You’ll like it.

And don’t forget to drop by Bookshelf Bombshells for the full book review.

Craving Comfort: Time for Mac & Cheese with Sausage & Peas

Sometimes we just need comfort food. We crave comfort food. We think we will clean-out the chocolate section of Walmart if we can’t have some comfort food.

Last night I was in desperate need of some comfort food. My sad & stressed out body pleaded for some homemade mac and cheeses.

Only one problem: my husband won’t eat the stuff.

Yes, I know. . .how can anyone not like mac and cheese? It’s unAmearican. It’s sacrilegious. Luckily he had enough redeeming qualities that it wasn’t a deal-breaker discovery.

His intense aversion is the result of some childhood trauma {stomach flu & a box of Kraft?} so for the past 35+ years he hasn’t touched the stuff. When we first met he couldn’t even look at it. He graduated to serving it once we had a kid (because every other kid in the world loves the stuff).  When we visited Savannah, he actually tried Paula Deen’s heavenly, gooey dish and. . .he LOVED it.  But only because Paula made it. He trusted Paula more than me.

Yesterday, every taste bud and nerve center was crying out for some homemade m&c. I remember the smell wafting through the house when my mom would bake a batch. It was often accompanied by smoked sausage, split down the center and broiled until slightly crispy and browned.

I needed some. I didn’t have any Velveeta like my mom’s recipe called for. I turned to Panera’s recipe.

Because everyone (including my crazy husband) loves Panera.

It’s a pretty basic recipe. I made a few alterations and added smoked sausage and peas to make it a complete meal.

The comfort factor just oozed though the cheese, and the sharpness of the cheddar combined with the smokiness of the sausage warmed me from the inside. And the husband loved it.


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Stove Top Macaroni & Cheese with Smoked Sausage & Peas


1 (16-ounce) package of small shaped pasta (like shells or rotini twists)
1/2 package frozen peas
1/2 small onion, finely chopped (optional)
12-14 oz. package fully cooked smoked sausage (we like the turkey) sliced into rounds
4 tbsp. butter + 1 tbsp. butter
4 1/2 tbsp. flour all-purpose flour
2½ cups milk (any milk or cream)
cheese: 6 slices white American cheese, chopped
            and 1 cup (8 ounces) shredded extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar
            12 oz. Sargento Chef Blends Shredded 4 State Cheddar Cheese
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon hot sauce


  • Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  • Prepare peas according to package directions. (I always just toss them in with the pasta during the last 5 minutes of cook time—probably a no-no, but works for me. If you do so, add 1 minute to total pasta cook time.)
  • Melt 1 tbsp. butter in pot. Saute the sausage and onions for about 3-5 minutes. Remove from pot with slotted spoon.
  • In same pot, melt remaining 4 tbsp. butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Gradually whisk in milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture thickens and bubbles, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Add cheeses, stirring until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.
  • Stir in mustard, salt, and hot sauce.
  • Stir in pasta, sausage, and peas. Cook over medium heat for 1 minute (or until thoroughly heated).
  • Serves 4 to 6

DEMETRIE’S Infamous CHOCOLATE PIE {you know the one I’m talking about}

Today’s recipe is from The Book Club Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp, a compilation of 100+ recipes from favorite classic and contemporary novels.  The thoroughly delicious book review is up at Bookshelf

I simply could not resist trying Demetrie’s Chocolate Pie from The Help by Kathryn Stockett. If you read the book (it must have been in the movie, too) you know the pie I’m talking about — the best chocolate pie south of the Mason-Dixon line — with a little extra bit of something dark and rich in it if you happen to be a nosy racist b*tch.

*recipe courtesy of The Book Club Cookbook by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp*

1 2/3 cups water
5 tbsp. Sweetened cocoa powder, such as Ghirardellis (must not contain milk)
3 tbsp. Cornstarch
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
1 tsp. Pure vanilla extract
1 9-inch ice shell (plain or graham cracker)
**See graham cracker recipe below

whipped cream (or if it’s not too humid, you can top with meringue)

  1. In a medium-size cool saucepan, mix water, cocoa, and cornstarch with a whisk until all the lumps are gone, making a paste. Stir in condensed milk and egg yolks. Heat     to just under a boil and stir until it’s thick.


  1. Reduce heat to low and stir in butter. Add in your good vanilla, and keep stirring well. Turn off the heat and let it cool some. Pour into a prebaked pie shell, store-bought if that’s how you do things.


  1. Let the pie set up in a cool spot, like a plug-in refrigerator, covered with waxed paper so you don’t get a skin. Dollop cream on tip, or top with meringue.

Yield: One 9-inch pie, 6 to 8 servings.

**Now, needless to say, I made the scrumptious chocolate pie sans the special ingredient. (If you read the book, you what I’m referring to.) Show up at your book club with this pie and your cohorts will most likely force you sample a slice first. Once they see the chocolate bliss on your face, they will dig right in and the compliments and bathroom humor will start flowing.

This is simply the best damn pie crust in the world. It’s easy (as pie!) to make and makes everything taste better. Everything. {Sorry Mom, the secret is out. . .}

prep time: 5 minutes
bake time: 10 minutes

9 whole graham crackers (1 1/3 cups crumbs)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 stick melted butter or margarine ( 1/2 cup)
**optional 1/4 cup shredded coconut

*If starting with whole graham crackers, put them inside a gallon sized ziploc bag.  With a meat mallet, or wooden rolling pin mash to fine crumbs. {Great way to get out stress for a minute!}

Mix together crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon. Add melted butter/margarine. {I usually pour all but 2ish tablespoons in and mix. It should be moist, but not soggy. Add in the rest if necessary.}

Press mixture firmly and evenly on bottom and up the sides of a greased pie pan. {sometimes wax paper or foil helps, but this is easy}

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.


Check out the FULL BOOK REVIEW @ BOOKSHELF BOMBSHELLS and make your next book club meeting a feast for your brain and your palate.

and for more ideas check out The Book Club
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Pinterest HIT: Crock Pot Mexican Chicken (and Veggies) Recipe

I am slightly afraid of my Crock Pot. It sits alone, clean and shiny, atop dozens of cookbooks in my cupboard. So many recipes call for browning and precooking before you toss things into it, which seems like an utter waste of time. Why bother?

After seeing half a dozen pins for Crock Pot Taco Chicken, I decided to adapt one of my tried and true stove top recipes. Same concept, just instead of poaching the chicken on the stove (which involves watching and timing) I toss it into the crock pot. So simple, there was no way I could screw it up, right?

crock pot recipes, paleo chicken

Right for once.  Easy. Easy. Easy. Incredibly adaptable. You can add beans and veggies and make it with organic and/or clean ingredients. Make a big batch and freeze leftovers for easy weeknight meals. Total HIT.

Crock Pot Mexican Chicken {and Veggies}

*inspired by pins from Chocolate Therapy and The Gracious Pantry*

basic recipe:

6 pieces boneless skinless chicken breast (I plopped them in frozen)
1 16 oz. jar salsa (I like Newman’s Own Pineapple, Mango, or Farmer’s maket)
1 packet taco seasoning or equivalent (great *clean* recipe here)

healthy options:

1 can black beans (drained)
1/2 bag frozen or small can corn
1 bag Birds Eye frozen bell pepper stir-fry (or fresh sliced onions and peppers if you have them)
1 cup shredded or juilenned zucchini

Arrange the chicken breasts in as close to a single layer in the pot. {I dumped them in frozen.} Add salsa and seasoning and gently mix.

Cook 4 – 6 hours on high (4 worked fine from frozen for me) or 6 – 8 hours on low.

If you are around, flip the chicken after two hours or so so it cooks faster. About 1 hour before you plan on eating (after 3 hrs on high) or when chicken looks pretty cooked through, take it out and shred. It should practically fall apart when you pull at it with two forks. Dump back in pot. Add in beans or veggies and stir. Continue cooking for at least another hour or until you are ready to eat.

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***If you aren’t home at all while this is cooking you can dump it all in at one time. I just happen to be home and I like my veggies crisp if possible.

***Serve on tortillas, over rice, in enchiladas, as fajitas — the options are endless.  Add your favorite cheese, veggies, sour cream, guacamole, etc. and you have a meal.

***With chicken, black beans, corn, and peppers, this made easily enough for 3 meals for 2 adults + 2 kids.  Leftovers went straight to the freezer for easy meal to thaw.

Easy. Healthy. Hit.
Did you try any Pinterest inspired recipes this week? How did they work?
 Leave a link in the comments if you’d like to share.
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