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Sunday, February 4, 2018



It's the final game of the 2017-18 football season, and this is the one game that is ALL ABOUT THE FOOD!  We're having neighbors over to watch the game, and since we've got a goal to try and eat healthier at each meal, I've chosen some delicious dishes to prepare that have been tweaked to be lower in fat, but they are still fabulous.




8 LAYER DIP (a healthier version of the classic)
(Adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 can (16 oz) low fat refried black beans
2 tsp lime juice
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup sour cream (I use light)
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 can (4.5 ounces) chopped green chiles
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced small
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup shredded romaine lettuce
2-3 scallions, chopped

Tortilla chips, for serving (Ideally use baked tortilla chips here)

In a medium bowl, combine beans, lime juice, and 2 tablespoons water; season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a serving dish. Top with sour cream, cheese, chiles, tomatoes, avocado (adding a bit of salt and pepper on the tomatoes as well as the avocados, and sprinkle lemon juice on the avocado after the S&P), shredded lettuce, and scallions. 

Serve with tortilla chips.

(Adapted from Martha Stewart)

4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds total), scrubbed and patted dry
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 tsp sweet paprika, plus more for garnish
4 slices bacon (Substitute turkey bacon for a delicious and healthier alternative)
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 scallion, sliced, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. On a rimmed baking sheet, rub sweet potatoes with oil; season with salt and pepper.

Bake until tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool on sheet (keep oven on).

Halve sweet potatoes lengthwise; scoop out 1/3 cup flesh from each half into a medium bowl. Then cut the potato skins in half or into thirds (depending on the size of your potato).

Add buttermilk and paprika to the bowl of sweet potato filling. Mash until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Stuff sweet-potato skins with filling. (To store, refrigerate, up to 2 days.)

Stuff sweet-potato skins with filling. (At this point you can store them, covered, refrigerated, up to 2 days.)

When you're ready to eat the potato skins, arrange filled sweet potato skins on a cookie sheet and bake in a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees F (or until lightly browned around edges), ~ 15 minutes.

While the skins bake, in a skillet, cook bacon over medium until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain on a papertowel-lined plate; crumble. Stir together sour cream and 2 tablespoons water; drizzle over sweet-potato skins. Garnish with bacon, paprika, and scallions.


1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 3 to 4 limes)
1 TBSP Asian chili paste
1 TBSP Asian fish sauce
Coarse salt

For the Shrimp
Canola or safflower oil, for brushing
36 large shrimp (about 3 pounds), peeled and deveined (tails left intact; optional)
Coarse salt
Wooden or metal skewers for grilling

Soak 12 wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes to prevent charring (OR use metal skewers).

To make the sauce: 
Bring sugar and lime juice to a simmer in a small saucepan.

Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in chili paste, and fish sauce. Season with salt.

To make the shrimp: Heat grill to high. Brush grates with oil. Thread shrimp onto each skewer; season with salt.

Divide sauce in half; reserve half for serving. Grill shrimp for 1 minute; brush with sauce. Flip, and grill for 1 minute more; brush with sauce again. Flip, and grill, brushing occasionally with sauce, until opaque, 1 to 3 minutes more. Serve with reserved sauce.

(Adapted from Closet Cooking)

It's a gloomy Super Bowl Sunday in Atlanta, so I've added this chili at the last minute to satisfy the soul.  It's a healthier version of my chicken chili, and with the addition of quinoa, it's packed with goodness.  Plus, it's a snap to make and you can be done in under 30 minutes from start to finish. And the addition of lime juice really gives this chili a zesty fresh taste that I love!

1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp cumin, toasted and ground
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup salsa verde
1 pound boneless and skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1 (15 ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/2 tsp oregano
1 TBSP lime juice (~1/2 lime)
2 TBSP cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 avocados (for topping the bowl when serving)

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat, add the onion and jalapeno peppers and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Add the garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the broth, salsa verde, chicken, beans, quinoa and oregano, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked and the quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes or so (depending on how large your chicken pieces are).

Remove the chicken, shred in a food processor.

Then return the chicken to the soup along with the lime juice and cilantro, season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.


OK - so these are NOT healthy!  But I'm entertaining and want to share a dessert with our friends that is wonderful.  Leftovers will be frozen and brought out at another gathering and they'll still be delicious. I've been making these butterscotch bars for over 30 years - and they get rave reviews each and every time!

2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, at room temp
1 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 TBSP vanilla
2 eggs
1 lg pkg butterscotch morsels (DIVIDED)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter, brown sugar and vanilla together in another bowl.

Beat eggs into the mixture, and then gradually add the flour mixture.

Stir in about half of the morsels. Spread into an ungreased 9x13 baking pan, and sprinkle with remaining morsels.


Bake 25-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center.


***All photos are mine unless otherwise noted.


Sunday, January 28, 2018


It's my son's birthday so we're having a few over to celebrate the occasion in a fun super-casual way.  I love entertaining, but I hate having to tend to cooking while there are people that are around that I want to socialize with!  This menu allows me to prepare most everything in advance, therefore I can enjoy myself and make sure that my guests are enjoying themselves as well.

Here's what I came up with:




FORBIDDEN RICE with Sweet Potatoes and Mandarin Oranges
ORZO with Feta and Roasted Vegetables Salad

TEXAS SHEET CAKE (aka Birthday Cake)

(Adapted from Martha Stewart Living)

I've been wanting to try this recipe for awhile, so I thought "why not have it for Ross' birthday?"  I love anything that's salty AND sweet, and I adore toffee, so it should be the perfect snack mix!  It's super easy to make and keep on hand in airtight containers.

2 cups toasted whole-wheat cereal squares (such as Chex) - just toss on a cookie sheet for ~ 5 minutes at 350 degrees F
3/4 cup pretzel sticks
1 cup whole raw almonds
1 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
1/3 cup toffee bits (like Heath Bars)
3/4 stick unsalted butter
5 sprigs thyme
1 TBSP packed dark-brown sugar
1 TBSP dry mustard
1/2 tsp coarse salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the toasted cereal, pretzels, almonds, peanuts, and toffee bits.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in thyme. (Butter will splatter.) Stir in brown sugar, mustard, and salt. 

Add to cereal mixture and toss until evenly coated.

Spread in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet.

Bake, stirring halfway through, until nuts are toasted and toffee begins to melt, about 15 minutes. Let cool and discard thyme. Store in an airtight container.

(Adapted from Southern Food and Fun)

2 cups watercress (or other frisee)
4 cups arugula
2 cups mixed baby greens
2-3 scallions, chopped
3-4 TBSP fresh herbs: such as - tarragon parsley, cilantro, dill, thyme, coarsely chopped
2 TBSP toasted pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup cheese (such as pecorino romano, Parmesan)
Lemon vinaigrette (see below)
Salt and pepper

Mix lettuces and a few herbs together in a large bowl. Add scallions, pumpkin seeds and cheese. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and add a little freshly ground black pepper.
Toss lightly with vinaigrette.


1/3 cup lemon juice
1-2 TBSP dijon mustard
2-3 tsp sugar
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 TBSP chopped shallot
Salt and pepper to taste

Fill container (like a mason jar) 1/3 with lemon juice or vinegar. Add a large dollop of Dijon mustard ~ 1 TBSP. Add 2-3 teaspoons of granulated sugar. Add shallot, a pinch of salt, and a little freshly ground black pepper.

Cover tightly and shake vigorously.
Remove cover and add extra virgin olive oil to almost fill the remaining 2/3 of container.

Cover and shake again.
Taste and add more sugar, salt, or pepper as needed.

Vinaigrette will keep for several days in the refrigerator. Allow to come to room temperature before using or pop container in the microwave for a few seconds.

(Adapted from simply recipes)

Love this cut of meat!  My husband and I recently returned from a trip to Pebble Beach, CA where tri-tips are common cuts of beef that are often on menus there, and it reminded me how much I enjoy it.

It's sometimes a bit hard to find, but if you ask your butcher in advance, he/she should be able to get one or two for you.  It's a fabulously flavorful cut that drinks up flavor and is perfect for grilling.  Depending on what else you are serving alongside the steak, one tri tip should feed 6-8 people.  

Santa Maria Rub (enough for a 4 pound roast)
1 TBSP Kosher salt
1 TBSP finely ground black pepper
1 TBSP garlic powder
1 TBSP onion powder
1 tsp cayenne
1 TBSP dried oregano
1 tsp dry rosemary (or fresh, finely minced)
1/2 tsp dry sage

Mix the rub ingredients together in a bowl.

Place the roast in a roasting pan or a baking pan with edges.

Sprinkle the rub on the meat on all sides, and massage the rub into the meat.
Cover and let sit at room temp for an hour.

Prepare your grill for hot direct heat on one side, and indirect heat on the other. (By the way, if you are working with a wood-fired grill, Santa Maria BBQ traditionally uses red oak wood.) Sear the roast on all sides, 3-4 minutes per side. Carefully watch the roast during this process as one side of the roast is typically quite fatty and as the fat heats up it can drip down and cause flare-ups. Keep moving the tri-tip away from the flame if flare-ups occur.

Once the tri-tip is seared on all sides, move it away from direct heat and place it fat-side up on the grill rack. If you are using a gas grill with a top rack, I recommend placing the roast on that rack, with an aluminum tray on the bottom rack underneath to catch the fat drippings. If you are grilling on charcoal or wood, you may want to turn the roast over every few minutes, for more even heating. Try to maintain a grill temperature of 250°F to 300°F.

Cover the grill and cook until the temperature of the interior of the tri-tip reaches 120°F for a rare roast, 130°F for medium-rare and 140°F for medium. At this point the meat will take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to cook, depending on how hot your grill is, how well done you want it, and the size of the cut. Note that the interior temperature will continue to rise at least 5°F after you take the roast off the heat.

Once the roast reaches temperature, remove it from the grill and let it rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes. Slice against the grain and serve.

(Adapted from Ina Garten)
For the Salad:
1 small eggplant, peeled and 3/4-inch diced
1 red bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 yellow bell pepper, 1-inch diced
1 red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cups dry orzo or rice-shaped pasta

For the dressing:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
To assemble:
4 scallions, minced
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
3/4 pound fresh feta, crumbled
15 fresh basil leaves, cut into julienne
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan.

Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 8 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Pour on the pasta and vegetables.

Let cool to room temperature, then add the scallions, pine nuts, feta, and basil. Taste and see if you need to adjust the seasonings, and serve at room temperature.   ***Can be refrigerated at this point up to 3 days.

(Adapted from Epicurious)

3/4 cup Chinese black rice
1 1/2 cups water
3/4 tsp salt
2 TBSP vegetable oil
1 bunch scallions, chopped (3/4 cup)
1 TBSP minced peeled fresh ginger
1 large sweet potato or 2 small, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
Optional garnish: chopped scallion

Rinse rice in a sieve under cold water.

Bring rice, water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart heavy saucepan.
Add caption
Then reduce heat to low and cook rice, covered, until tender and most of water is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Let rice stand, covered, off heat 10 minutes.

While rice cooks, heat oil in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté scallions, ginger, and sweet potato, stirring, until coated well, about 2 minutes.

Reduce heat to moderate and add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste, then cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until potato is just tender, about 12 minutes.

Add rice, and oranges and toss gently to combine, then serve.

***If making in advance, toss all together EXCEPT the oranges - add those just before serving at room temperature.

(Adapted from Culinary Hill)

culinary hill
For the Salad Dressing:
2 TBSP canola oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 1/2 TBSP low sodium soy sauce
1 TBSP fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

For the Salad:
4 cups cooked chicken shredded or diced (I'm using chicken from one rotisserie chicken)
1 pound Napa cabbage, cored and finely shredded
2 cups red cabbage, cored and finely shredded
1 cup shredded carrots
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 cup chow mein noodles
2 TBSP sesame seeds for garnish, optional

To make the dressing:

In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine oil, vinegar, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and sesame oil.

Shake vigorously until combined.

Enjoy immediately or, refrigerate for up to 4 days.

To make the salad:

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, cabbage, carrots, scallions, and cilantro.

Shake the dressing to recombine and pour over the salad.

Toss until evenly coated. Sprinkle with chow mein noodles and sesame seeds, if using, and serve.


THE perfect birthday sheet cake! I've made this sheet cake for so many years, but I always end up going back to it several times a year.  It's pretty foolproof, but more importantly, my son loves it.

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup coffee, strong brewed
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup butter
2 TBSP cocoa
1/4 cup milk
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Photo Credit: Cate Bogue
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and lightly grease an 11 X 17 inch baking pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour and 2 cups sugar.

In a heavy saucepan, combine 1 stick butter, 1/2 cup shortening, 1 cup coffee and 1/4 cup cocoa.  Stir and heat to boiling.

Pour boiling mixture over flour and sugar in the bowl and stir.

Add the 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 eggs, 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp vanilla.  Mix well with a spoon or mixer.

Pour into a greased 11x17 or 9x13 pan.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes or until it tests done.
While the cake bakes, prepare the frosting.  In a saucepan, combine the 1 stick butter, 2 TBSP cocoa and 1/4 cup milk.
Heat to boiling, stirring.  Mix in the 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and 1 tsp vanilla until smooth.
Pour warm frosting over the cake as soon as you take it out of the oven.  Cool and then cut into ~ 48 bars.  Freezes well.

A few pics from last year's birthday at THE 
fabulous Atlanta restaurant,