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Kale Caesar

September 18, 2012

All hail Caesar. Or rather, all kale Caesar. Last month, I met my friend, Jennifer (who, by the way, broke this story for People), for lunch at Richard Blais’s newish spot, the Spence. While there, we spilt a burger and a kale Caesar salad with chicken. We both were blown away by this salad. I’m a Kale lover, but had never had it replacing traditional romaine in a Caesar salad.

I’ve always just stuck to steaming or making some sort of Asian-style salad with the leafy green (ginger, sunflower seeds, rice vinegar, oil) and that’s served me pretty well.

I tried to recreate the Spence salad for dinner to a great weeknight meal success. Just a mound of kale, prepared dressing (I know, I’m lazy, but I like Newman’s Own), grilled chicken that’s been seasoned with a healthy dose of salt and pepper, I threw on carrots because they were taking up space in the veggie bin, and gave a good squeeze of lemon from one that was just about a day away from walking itself to the trashcan.

All hail Caesar.

Tomato Tart

July 18, 2012

Our house is located in the heart of Atlanta, but an interesting juxtaposition to our city living is the co-op farm situated just behind us. And right now, we are so spoiled with a ridiculous supply of ginormous eggplants, tomatoes in every color of the rainbow, endless squash and zucchini, and beans that are so good they require no dressing up.

After my friend who farms behind us gave me a canvas bag full of gorgeous tomatoes, I was in search of a recipe that would use an abundance of them before they spoiled. So, I made this tomato tart. The recipe here calls for it to be rustic, but I made it somewhat fancy and actually used a tart pan for more of a formed dish. It was incredible for dinner. And even better the next day for lunch. I can’t say this would taste the same if you used grocery store tomatoes, as they are the star ingredient, and this tart certainly requires a great variety of peak-season toms.

This is exactly what July should taste like.

Cool Summer

June 27, 2012

I’m still reeling from the incredibly kind words and comments about last week’s piece. Thank you. Now, let’s chat about dessert!

Sometime around St. Patrick’s Day while poking around on Pinterest, I saw an abundance of foods dyed in green for the holiday. I came across a pastel green-hued cookie thinking it was some from-scratch masterpiece. told a different story. The recipe calls for a box of Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix with crème de menthe baking chips, food coloring, mint extract and chocolate chunks. My kind of concoction (though I’m not normally particularly fond of a bunch of dye in my food).

You can find the full recipe for the cookies here. However, I tweaked the recipe after walking out of two grocery stores empty handed with those pesky crème de menthe baking chips nowhere to be found. Instead I used dark chocolate mint M&M’s for a semi-monster cookie effect.

Well, then I added a healthy slather of vanilla Graeters between two of these bad boys and created mint chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches. The sandwiches are a somewhat deconstructed version of mint chocolate chip ice cream and are cool, creamy, and sweet–just the thing for summer. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, by all means, churn out your own pint of ice cream and whip up a batch of your favorite homemade sugar cookies. I, on the other hand, felt just fine taking the shortcut.

A Side of Kale

May 16, 2012

Growing up we ate all sorts of exotic foods. Living in Hawaii while I was young provided me with a pretty diverse palate that made everyone in my family adventurous eaters (except for my mom who unfortunately has a pretty severe shellfish allergy which was discovered while living on Oahu). That, coupled with all the Allied Officers my parents sponsored, meant we were exposed to plates of Vietnamese, Moroccan, Egyptian, African–you name it–foods, most of which would cause me to clean my plate.

But, even when I was young in addition to the daring, I liked very simple foods. For several years in a row my birthday meal request was a bowl of pinto beans and cornbread. My twin sister was not a happy camper, and if memory serves, finally vetoed the meal for shared occasions. It’s really no wonder why I like Southern food so much because at its heart, it’s as simple as it gets.

Years ago I got sent a press kit for Gena Knox’s cookbook, “Southern My Way.” I adore her take on Southern food, primarily because most of it has a modern twist and is not as heavy as traditional food from this region. I make her rosemary biscuits with honey ham for a quick supper, but my favorite so far is her healthful recipe for collards with capers, raisins, and pine nuts. I love how it’s not laden with the extra fat so often found with greens recipes, nor does it take hours to prepare. I’ve tweaked it with kale (which she suggests) that I cannot get enough of recently. It’s the perfect side this summer for anything you’re throwing on the grill.

Gena was kind enough to let me reprint the recipe and use her gorgeous photograph from the cookbook.

Kale (or Collards) with Capers, Raisins, and Pine Nuts
PREP TIME 15 minutes
COOK TIME 10 minutes
YIELDS 4-6 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 ¼ pounds kale, ribs and stalks removed and leaves sliced crosswise into ribbons (about 15 cups of greens)
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 ½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon capers

FIRST Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add half of greens, stock, and salt and cook until greens wilt slightly, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, fold in remaining greens so that wilted greens are mostly on top.

NEXT Add raisins, cover pot with lid, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes until greens are tender, tossing occasionally.

LAST Toss greens with vinegar and season with pepper. Arrange on platter and top with pine nuts and capers; drizzle with extra olive oil, if desired.

Image: © Erica George Dines

Gin and Juice

April 18, 2012

Here’s what trend I see popping up in the spirits category this year—gin, gin, gin, gin and more gin, gin. Juniper is having a serious moment here. Snoop had it right back in 1994. I actually wasn’t a fan of it, always favoring the more subtle and smooth vodka in my cocktails, but then I tried Hendrick’s, and besides having incredibly clever packaging made to look like a vintage apothecary jar, it’s the best tasting sip there is.

I’ve now stumbled across what sounds like the most delicious, perfect springtime-into-summer sip of choice–the blackberry cocktail. Of course, it contains gin. This is Atlanta chef Anne Quatrano’s recipe, which was published in a back issue of Southern Living, and I cannot wait to make it. I mean, mint, lime, cucumber, and blackberries all swimming in a sea of gin … how great is that?

Get the recipe here. Don’t know about you, but it helps me keep my mind on my money and my money on my mind.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

March 28, 2012

I know it’s entirely too early to be posting something so seasonal as a dessert composed mostly of strawberry and rhubarb. But, I couldn’t resist. Whenever the weather starts to turn warm (we’ve had some 80° days in succession already in Atlanta) I get a hankering for that tart and sweet concoction. I realize this dessert should be reserved for a hot summer day topped with vanilla ice cream that melts as soon as it hits the steamy surface, but I am impatient and wanted it now.

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Linnie’s Spinach Artichoke Dip

February 1, 2012

Although I’m not a football person, I do know the Superbowl is this weekend. Which means you need something fattening and ridiculously delicious to eat, right? And preferably something loaded with a fair amount of cheese. Easy there, Paula Deen. Since it is a special occasion, I have just the thing for you courtesy of one of my oldest friends in the whole world, Linda.

I’ve known Linda since we were about 12, which is quite the feat since I come from a military family and we moved around a fair amount. From our start in seventh grade at East Junior High, I eagerly wanted to be friends with the cool girl with clear braces wearing the Benetton jacket. And I’m so glad we were (and still are). Through the years, she’s done everything from helping me master the dance to Marky Marky and the Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations” for cheerleading tryouts at the end of our junior year of high school, to driving an hour out of the way to meet me for a much needed break during my mom’s recovery from her stem cell transplant last year … the gurl shows up.

This past holiday Linda and her husband hosted my husband and me alongside another dear friend (the one responsible for the recipe found here) and her husband for what ended up as a fun night down memory lane with all of us laughing so hard we were crying. Oh, and Linda also served this amazing spinach artichoke dip that she whipped up from scratch. Thankfully I wasn’t left alone in a room with this fabulous casserole of goodness. That would’ve been dangerous. It’s perfect for this weekend’s worth of yelling at the television.

Linnie’s Spinach Artichoke Dip

1 pack cream cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
about 4 cloves of fresh garlic (food processor)
a lot of fresh basil (food processor)
1 bag of fresh spinach torn in pieces
2 small cans of artichoke hearts (or 1 regular size) (food processor)

Mix everything together in the Kitchen Aid then bake in oven at 350° for about 30 minutes. Serve with pita or tortilla chips, crusty bread or crackers.

Caramel Corn

January 18, 2012

I grew up in a house outfitted with a popcorn machine. To say my parents’ taste in home furnishing is eclectic is an understatement. In the same room as the aforementioned popcorn machine sits a barbershop chair, a pinball machine (which is not the only one in the house), and a motorcycle hanging from the exposed walnut beams on the ceiling. Yes, you read that right.

It was a wonderful way to grow up, but the best part—my parents actually popped popcorn all the time in that machine. And when the popcorn got dry and stale, my mom would whip up caramel corn. Her recipe for caramel corn is delicious; the molasses gives it a nice complex flavor, similar to Cracker Jack (which is what she calls it).

My mother’s version generally omits the nuts because they made my brother gag, so none of us got them, but feel free to add (as she mentions, “You may add peanuts.”). She, of course, had gallon-sized bags of it waiting for us to gorge on over the holidays. Also, I left the recipe word for word via my mother because I just love how at the end of the recipe she writes, “Bag it and watch it go!” I feel like I’m eating a bit of home with each kernel.

Jeanie’s Cracker Jack
¼ cup honey
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup butter
16 cups popcorn

Heat honey, molasses and butter in a saucepan until blended. Pour over popcorn in a big bowl. Mix well so that all is coated. Then, put in a shallow cookie pan. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes, stirring several times while baking. You may add peanuts. Bag it and watch it go! Made with love … MOM.

Engagement Chicken

December 14, 2011

Image: Courtesy of

Years ago, I remember reading the “Engagement Chicken” article in Glamour magazine. It circulated for a while among my single girlfriends. Do you recall? It was a simple recipe for a roasted chicken with lemon and herbs, and upon making it, many women were later proposed to by the respective consumers of that gorgeous meal. The recipe (and article) can be found here.

It got me thinking about those recipes we pull out when we’re trying to impress. These are meals that set the bar a bit higher than others, but that doesn’t mean they require 15 kitchen gadgets to make. Most often, I’ve found the dishes that appear gussied up really are just simple ways of cooking. In this season of holiday madness and loads of kitchen time that’ll happen between now and New Years Day, here are some of my takes on special meals—most of which require very little effort, except good, high quality ingredients to make memorable bites.

One of my favorite desserts is when my sister-in-law bakes her individual little molten lava cakes. There’s just something so beautifully decadent as the rich chocolate oozes out of individual cakes the second it’s punctured with a spoon. You can find the recipe here.

I’ve been on a mussel kick lately. Which means that everywhere I go, if it’s on the menu, it’s my order. Steamed mussels really are a cinch to make, so I’ve heard. Before 2012, I’d like to attempt the ones here. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than a broth composed of garlic, shallots, butter, herbs and wine all waiting for sweet mussels to take the stage.

According to my husband, his sweet grandmother (who I wish I could’ve met) made a very special beef braciole with egg this time of year. I’d like to make him this showstopping recipe here, no matter the season.

Mussels, chocolate, braciole, a few simple ingredients, plenty of friends and family to share it with, is there anything better?

I suppose a proposal.

Soup Season

November 2, 2011

Image: Courtesy of

Fact: fall and soup go together like drag queens and fake eyelashes. Seriously, there’s something about the leaves falling from trees that makes you want to cozy up with a bowl of steamy goodness.

Three soups I’ll be stocking the freezer with this fall come from Art Smith, Sophie Dahl and Jacques Pepin, respectively. The first: Mr. Smith’s chicken noodle from his book Back to the Table: The Reunion of Food and Family. I was recently gifted this at the opening of Smith’s restaurant in Atlanta, Art and Soul (which is fabulous, by the way), in which he signed, “food is love” and I couldn’t agree more. But, pretty sure I’ll be altering his “everything from scratch” version by buying a rotisserie chicken and prepared stock.

I love everything in Dahl’s cookbook, especially her chestnut and mushroom soup. It sums up the November weather in one slurp. I think I made this soup three times in one month last year. The third: Pepin’s recipe for bread and onion soup, featured on NPR’s “Splendid Table.” But, I’ll be experimenting with this one (I know, gasp, how dare I tinker with an expert?) because my husband, while he likes onion, hates soggy bread in soup.

Though, how can I talk soup without mentioning my grandmother? James Beard or not, the best of the bunch (at least in my house) is my grandparents’ recipe for tomato cheese soup. My grandfather made it until he couldn’t, then my grandmother took over stove duties. Here it is.

Templeman’s Tomato Cheese Soup
2-3 stalks of celery
2 onions
1 carton of chicken broth
8-10 fresh chopped tomatoes (or 2 big cans of chopped tomatoes)
1 can Ro*tel
2 tsp. baking soda
1 T sugar
1 lb. Velveeta cheese

Cook celery and onions until tender, then add one carton of chicken broth over vegetables. Add tomatoes (either canned or fresh). Add Ro*tel and sugar (this is noted in the recipe as an addition from my grandmother, not from my grandfather’s mother). Simmer and add the baking soda, salt and pepper (to taste). Turn off stove and let cool for 10 minutes then add the Velveeta cheese to melt in soup.  Enjoy!