Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Y’all, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the best crock-pot recipe I have ever created.  Whoa!

Maybe it was so delicious because it’s 20 degrees and snowy outside.  Or maybe it’s because I love cajun food.  Or maybe it’s because I love coming home to dinner already done so I can stuff my face.  If I’m being honest it’s all those reasons!

If you take a look back you’ll remember that I absolutely love things like etouffe, beignets, and bananas foster. I love to spend time in the kitchen creating authentic meals but there just isn’t time to do that on a week night. That’s where the crock-pot comes in! I have to say I’m impressed with the depth of flavor that’s achieved in this slow-cooked version of another one of my favorites.

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Chicken, Andouille, and Shrimp Jambalaya

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large onion, chopped
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 5 oz. can tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 Tablespoons creole seasoning (I use Zatarain’s)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, depending on how spicy you like it
20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb. andouille sausage, sliced and seared in a skillet and drained
To serve: white rice, parsley, hot sauce

In the bowl of a crock-pot, layer onions, bell peppers and chicken breast. Add diced tomatoes and next 7 ingredients (through cayenne) and cook on low 8 hours.

After 8 hours, remove lid and find and remove the bay leaves. Shred the chicken. Add shrimp and andouille and cook on high, uncovered for about 25 minutes (I did this while the rice was cooking). Serve over rice with a sprinkle of parsley and a few dashes of hot sauce if you choose.

Source: Ruth’s Table

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Filed under Cajun, Chicken, Comfort Food, Dinner, Make Ahead, Mardi Gras, One Pot Meals, Shrimp, Slow Cooker, Winter

Happy Hour – Spiked Mexican Hot Chocolate with Chartreuse Marshmallows

I am obsessed with marshmallows. It’s a little obnoxious actually. Just ask my husband. I eat them straight out of the bag. If I see them on a dessert at a restaurant I will always order that dessert. When I make a cup of hot cocoa it’s really only because I want a cup full of melty marshmallows. Growing up, I had to have smores every time we lit a fire. There is a candy company here in town that is famous for their marshmallows. It just so happens it’s close to the Farmer’s Market so I go there way more than I should.
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A couple years ago, on a trip to San Antonio in the fall, I discovered the joy of spiked hot chocolate and marshmallows. They changed my life. No joke. It probably helped that we were sitting at our favorite San Antonio bar (for like the third time on that trip), completely immersed in the local atmosphere, but I will forever remember those marshmallows.

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Esquire Tavern, San Antonio, Texas

I won’t lie, it has taken me a few absolute failures to master the art of the marshmallow. They really aren’t that complicated but I’ve been impatient with them more than once. I also recommend making a regular old marshmallow a time or two before you try to get all gourmet. Trust me. I’m speaking from experience here. :)
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I can honestly say that I’m always very proud of myself when I plop one of these big, fluffy marshmallows on top of a big mug of hot cocoa.

Spiked Mexican Hot Chocolate with Chartreuse Marshmallows

Hot Chocolate
4 cups milk
1/4 cup Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch (optional thickener)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. chipotle powder or chili powder
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cayenne
Shot of tequila

Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until simmering, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and serve with marshmallows.

Chartreuse Marshmallows
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup ice cold water, divided
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 oz. Green Chartreuse
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Nonstick spray

Combine the gelatin with 1/2 cup of the cold water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

Combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, the granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. When the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

Turn the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and Green Chartreuse during the last minute of whipping.

While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows:

Combine the confectioners’ sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use. When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel or knife dusted with the confectioners’ sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Source: Marshmallows adapted from Alton Brown, http://altonbrown.com/homemade-marshmallow-recipe/
Hot chocolate adapted from Gimme Some Oven, http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/mexican-spiced-hot-chocolate

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Now that is how you own a Monday!

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December 1, 2015 · 8:39 pm

Pie in the Sky

I grew up in a small town, Fletcher, Ohio. Well, it’s considered a village actually. Go ahead, look it up on a map. It’s there. Straight up I-75 between Dayton and Toledo. It’s one of those towns you’ll miss if you happen to blink. Unless of course you get stopped at one of the two traffic lights where you’ll enjoy a view of the post office and funeral home. If you take a left you’ll pass the Methodist Church on your way out to the grain elevator. Every time I have a chance to visit I know I’m home when I see that grain elevator.

I have many fond memories of growing up in this little piece of the Midwest. When I graduated from high school and moved to the big city for college I pretty much ran and never wanted to look back. The older I’ve gotten the more I realize how important that town and it’s people were to shaping me in to the woman I’ve become today.

Many of my fondest memories revolve around church and community gatherings.  I would always look forward to serving Thanksgiving dinner with the youth group at church or gathering with the neighbors at the firehouse for the monthly fish fry.  I miss those small town traditions.

One of my most favorite parts of those gatherings were the pies that all the town ladies would make. Sugar cream, Dutch apple, peach, lemon meringue, pecan. Nothing says comfort and tradition to me like a big slice of pie!

As we near the holidays I’ve found myself getting really nostalgic.  In light of all the scary things happening in the world all I want to do is cling tight to tradition. Let’s not forget all the things we are thankful for this season.

Today I am most thankful for my supportive husband. AND it happens to be his birthday so I made his favorite pie!

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Mom’s Pecan Pie
3 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1 frozen or refrigerated pie crust (or homemade if you have time)

Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk all ingredients but pecans together. Stir in pecans. Fill prepared pie crust. Bake for 40-50 minutes until center is almost set (cover with aluminum foil if crust and pecans start to get too dark). Remove from oven and cool completely, 2-4 hours, before serving.

Source: Mom’s recipe book (I think she got it from a Betty Crocker cookbook she’s had for as long as I can remember)

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Filed under Autumn, Baked, Baking, Classic, Comfort Food, Dessert, Fall, Holiday, Nuts, Pie, Portable/Picnic, Thanksgiving, Vintage, Winter

Happy Hour – His & Hers

It’s Saturday night and I want a cocktail. The only problem is I’ve been all nice and cozy in my yoga pants, curled up on the couch under my favorite blanket, watching football, and binge watching Boardwalk Empire all day.

What’s a girl to do? Well, I could hop in the car and go to my favorite cocktail bar. We go there so often I could probably get away with walking in in yoga pants with no makeup on. They probably wouldn’t even question it, ha!

OR I could take all the things I’ve learned from them over the years and make a delicious cocktail (or two) at home.

Since it’s Saturday and Ohio State won (woo!) I think the hubby and I will celebrate with a couple Buckeye inspired cocktails . Cheers!

Hers – Scarlet & Grey
2 oz. Watershed Distillery Barrel Aged Gin
3/4 oz. Dolin Rouge
3/4 oz. Earl Grey syrup*
1/2 oz. Shrub & Co. Blood Orange Shrub
1/2 oz. grenadine
2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
Orange peel garnish

Shake all ingredients but orange peel in a shaker with ice. Serve in a chilled couple. Garnish with orange.

*To make earl grey syrup: Steep 2 tea bags in 2 cups water in a saucepan until strong. Remove tea bags and add 1 cup granulated sugar. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. Store in the refrigerator.

Source: Ruth’s Table

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His – Buckeye Old Fashioned

2 oz. Watershed Distillery Bourbon
3/4 oz. Averna
1/2 oz. Laird’s Apple Brandy
1/4 oz. black walnut liquer
1/4 oz. Allspice Dram
1/4 oz. simple syrup
3 dashes chocolate bitters
Orange express

Stir all ingredients but orange in a glass with ice until very cold. Serve over a large ice cube in an old fashioned glass. Express orange over drink, garnish with peel.

Source: Ruth’s Table

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Filed under Autumn, Bourbon, Cocktails, Gin, Happy Hour

Slow-Cooker Sunday – Chicken, Potato, and Kale Curry

Some weekends are just so busy that my husband and I only connect as one or the other of us is running out the door.  We had one like that a few weeks ago when he was working shows and I had an event and the only time were were actually going to be in the same room was for lunch on Sunday.

Then came the dilemma.

Do we have time to go somewhere for brunch?  Probably not.  There will be an hour wait.  All I’ll want to do is eat french toast and drink mimosas and will never make it to work on time (not to mention that delicious food coma that will hit right as I have to be “on”).  Do we just throw together a quick sandwich at home?  Sure.  That’s fine, but kinda boring.  When this is the one time we get to hang out and spend time together for the weekend it would be nice to actually feel like our meal is special.

Good thing I have a slow-cooker and know how to use it. :)

Indian food is a great idea when it comes to a slow-cooker.  A lot of Indian dishes require quite a bit of stove time and get better the longer they’re allowed to simmer so it makes total sense.  You know I love to spend time in the kitchen creating delicious dishes but even I can get impatient.

My Chicken, Potato and Kale Curry is the perfect dish to throw in the slow-cooker the night before and enjoy for lunch on Sunday.

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Slow-Cooker Chicken, Potato and Kale Curry

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 small onion, diced

3 garlic cloves

3 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 Tablespoon Garam Masala

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional, depending on how hot you like it)

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 small can tomato sauce

Salt & Pepper

1/2 pound yukon gold potatoes, diced

1 small bunch kale

Splash of half & half

To serve: cilantro, chopped cashews, rice, naan

  1. Put chicken, onion, and next 10 ingredients in the bowl of a slow-cooker.  Cook on low for 8 hours.
  2. Add the kale and half & half.  Season with salt & pepper and let cook another 20 minutes.
  3. Serve over rice, top with cilantro and cashews.

Source: Ruth’s Table

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Filed under Autumn, Chicken, Curry, Kale, One Pot Meals, Potatoes, Slow Cooker

Weeknight Warrior – Chicken, Broccoli, and Tomato Mac

Let’s face it, all of us are CRAZY busy these days.  The thought of coming home to fix a dinner after sitting in rush hour traffic forever, or picking the kids up from school and driving them three different places for soccer, ballet, or whatever the latest phase is absolutely sends us into a panic attack.  Oh, and we want it to be something healthy and affordable.  Oh and did I mention that there will be loads of dishes to clean up after?  Yeah, I can see how that would be the last thing anyone would want to do.

I often get asked how I find the time to make all the meals I make (and post on Facebook and Instagram, I’ve become “that” person).  BUT anyone can do it.  Really.  Not kidding.  All it takes is a little time and planning.  Okay, okay, I know don’t shoot me!  Time is what we don’t have!  I get it.  I really do.  But trust me when I say scheduling in just a couple hours in your week will make things a lot easier.  Your health, your family, and your bank account will thank me.  :)

Here’s what I do:

Friday evening – 30 minutes = I plan my menu for the next week, including breakfast, lunch, and dinners and make my grocery list. 

  • My husband works a lot of evenings so he always lets me know what nights to plan on his being there.  I think about things for dinner that will leave him leftovers that he can take with him or warm up quickly to eat before he goes or I can pack to take for lunch.
  • We do a lot of homemade frozen burritos, frittatas, and smoothies for on-the-go healthy breakfasts.
  • Soup or casseroles are great options.  Just throw together a quick salad and you’ve got a full meal.
  • I keep a notebook of each week’s menu plans so that way if I get stuck one week it’s easy to refer back to the things we’ve liked along the way.  If it’s a new recipe I always make a note of the source and if we liked it, what changes I would make, etc.
  • I double check my pantry items to make sure I don’t need to replace those.  This helps make meals quick and easy to throw together.
  • Try to think of ingredients that you can use for multiple meals in the week.  For instance, I buy the family-pack of chicken breasts and use two in a casserole on Sunday, then I grill the rest, will have a couple with some quick roasted veggies and rice one night and then use the rest in salads for my lunch.  Easy as that.

Saturday morning – 1 hour = grocery shopping.

  • I can’t express enough how important it is to have a plan and a list.  I am one of those people who has my list organized like my grocery store is organized.  I can get in and out in less than an hour (driving to and from included) and I don’t have the urge to splurge on a lot of things I don’t need.

Sunday afternoon – 1 to 2 hours = prep for the week.

  • I make a pot of soup, casserole, crock-pot meal, etc. on Sunday and usually that’s what we have for dinner that night.  Leftovers are then packed in individual containers for a quick brown bag lunch.
  • Prep our on-the-go breakfasts and pop in the freezer.
  • If I’m making anything to go with lunches (i.e. broccoli salad, pasta salad, etc.) I make it and pop it in the fridge.
  • Clean any fruits and veggies you want for snacks.

I know that might look daunting but once you get in the habit of doing it it becomes even easier.

Ok, I couldn’t have you read all that and not give you a delicious, healthy, quick weeknight recipe.  This is one that is in our regular rotation.  You’re in and out of the kitchen in about 30 minutes, there’s only one pot to clean AND you sneak in an extra serving of veggies that the kids won’t even notice.  I say that’s a winner all around!!

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Weeknight Chicken, Broccoli, and Tomato Mac

2 center-cut bacon slices, chopped

2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups unsalted chicken stock

1 cup 1% low-fat milk

1 (10-ounce) package frozen butternut squash puree, thawed

10 ounce uncooked large elbow macaroni

3 cups chopped broccoli florets

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and divided (about 1 1/4 cups)


  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan.
  2. Add the diced chicken breast and cook until no longer pink.  Add garlic sauté 30 seconds.
  3. Add stock, milk, and squash to pan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add pasta; cover, ­reduce heat, and ­simmer 5 minutes, ­stirring occasionally. Stir in broccoli and tomatoes; cover and cook 3 minutes or until pasta is done and sauce is thickened.
  5. Stir in salt, pepper, and 4 ounces cheese. Sprinkle bacon and remaining cheese on top. Cover; let stand 1 minute.
  6.  Dish up, serve with a salad and ENJOY!

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, September 2015.

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Filed under Autumn, Butternut Squash, Cheese, Chicken, Comfort Food, Leftovers, Macaroni and Cheese, One Pot Meals, Veggies

Tailgate Time – Pimento Cheese & Brownies

Football season is well under way so that means it’s tailgate time! Well, by tailgate time I mean time to hang out at home in my yoga pants, watching football on my big TV, and stuffing my face with lots of yummy food. Let’s call that “home-gating”!  Sure beats dealing with the crowds, traffic, and rain!

As you know I’m from Ohio and in Ohio we take our Buckeyes football very seriously.  You can yell “O-H” walking down any street in Ohio (and a lot of times here in Nashville) and be heartily greeted with a reply of “I-O!”.  We Ohioans are everywhere!!  :)

Other things taken very seriously in my family include pimento cheese and brownies.  These two things show up at every one of my family’s gatherings.  Our pimento cheese is the best (although by saying that I will lose a LOT of friends here in the south).  I didn’t realize how fanatical I was about that until I moved down here and no one makes it like my Mom!  However, on one trip to Asheville I was converted to the southern way of enjoying it.  Let’s give a hearty welcome to: Warm Pimento Cheese.  *applause*

Warm Pimento Cheese

8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup mayonaise

1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon stone ground mustard

1 teaspoon mustard powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 cup diced roasted red bell peppers

Tortilla chips, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.  Bake for 15-20 minutes in a casserole dish.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Source: Tupelo Honey Cafe Cookbook by Chef Brian Sonoskus

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Another staple at our family gatherings has always been brownies.  My mom has a great recipe for cream cheese brownies that I’ll share sometime but today is not that day.  What could possibly make a brownie better you ask?  Marrying it with another Ohio favorite, the Buckeye.  Seriously, where have these brownies been all my life?!  They are soooo easy it’s ridiculous.  Let’s give a round of applause, standing ovation, and do the wave for: Buckeye Brownies.  Prepare to have your world rocked.

Buckeye Brownies

1 box fudge brownie mix

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 cup milk chocolate chips

Make the brownies according to the package directions for a 9×13 pan.  Let cool.

In a bowl mix powdered sugar, 1/2 cup butter and peanut butter together.  Mix with a hand mixer until light and fluffy.  Spread over the cooled brownies.

Melt the chocolate chips with the remaining butter in the microwave, mixing after 30 second intervals until completely melted.  Stirring between each interval.  Spread the chocolate over the peanut butter layer.

If you can stand to wait, let the chocolate set up a little bit and then cut into squares and devour!

Source: http://lilluna.com/buckeye-brownies/

IMG_20151024_210331I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to have a plain old brownie again.  Go Bucks!  O-H!!

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Filed under Appetizers, Autumn, Baked, Baking, Brownies, Candy, Cheese, Childhood treats, Chocolate, Classic, Comfort Food, Southern, Tailgate