Monthly Archives: October 2009

F for Effort

I took one photo of this recipe. One. This pretty much unheard of. Even on my laziest of lazy nights, even when I’m so hungry I’m about ready to chew off my own arm, I usually take at least a half or dozen or so.

But this. This I could not wait to eat. This smelled so freakin’ amazing coming out of the oven, I contemplated taking the entire dish into a dark closet and having my way with it. Instead, I managed to control myself just long enough to plunk my Pyrex down on the counter, grab the camera, and take one crappy shot before digging in. In the battle of my stomach vs. my blog, my stomach ALWAYS wins. A true F for Effort.

Ah! I may get an F, but this recipe is gets an A+ for AMAZING. Not only does it taste great, it’s really easy to make. That’s an A+ in my grade book for sure!

I’ve had my eye on Ina’s Baked Shrimp Scampi ever since I got my hands on her Back to Basics cookbook. I kept making a mental note to add it my menu, but the mental note kept getting lost in the shuffle. Now I’m wondering what in the world took me so long! Buttery, crunchy and knock your socks off delicious. The fresh herbs are a must – I wouldn’t sub dry here. The garlic and shallots add amazing flavor – and with the brightness from the herbs you really just can’t beat it. It’s a little decadent (note the copious amounts of butter) but you can certainly make some adjustments. I halved the recipe for the two of us (the entire recipe appears below) and used about four tablespoons of butter instead of six. Worked out great. This would be great with pretty much any starch – rice, pasta or even mashed potatoes. I had some couscous on hand so I made that. Added a salad and called it a meal. It’s a must try!

And with out further ado, on to the recipe and my one lonely photograph. It just doesn’t do it justice!

BAKED SHRIMP SCAMPI (Recipe Source: Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics)


  • 2 pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell (I used frozen raw shrimp, already peeled and deveined. I always do. You probably would to if you lived in a state as landlocked as Iowa. I just a teeny bit wary of buying fresh seafood around here. So I don’t.)
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk
  • 2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.
  3. In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.
  4. Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. (Since I halved the recipe, I used a 11×7 glass baking pan) Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges.




Filed under shrimp

“It’s a texture thing.”

Ever hear anyone say that about food? People seem to really get worked up over food and it’s various textural properties. Or something.

Oh, it’s too mushy, it’s too chalky, it’s too starchy, it’s too crunchy. Too soft, too hard, too chewy. The list goes on and on. And on. Really, I think everyone’s just grappling at adjectives trying to come up with and excuse not to eat something.

For me, personally, I wouldn’t say there is one particular food texture I’m adverse to – except maybe soggy. I have problem with anything I deem soggy. In fact, I don’t do soggy. At all. Ever. I have to literally inhale a bowl of cereal to save myself from the sogginess that lurks beneath the milk’s surface. Oh, and I kind of have this irrational fear of sandwiches made from store-bought sliced bread. Same deal – sogged. Ew.

Other than that I’m good. Totally normal. Yep, no texture issues over here.

Sogginess aside, I’m really not picky about textures. I am, however, drawn to some more than others. Specifically, I like a variety of textures in my food. I think that’s why I’m lukewarm on things like mashed potatoes and pudding. It’s just one big glob of…the same stuff. There’s nothing exciting there. Same with Jello. I can take it or leave it.

So what does all this have to do with…anything? Well, over the weekend I tried a new recipe to fool impress Eric. See, we never get Chinese take out at our house. Excuse me…I’m getting a little choked up.


Eric doesn’t like it. I love it. For this reason, every so often, I’ll pull out my secret stash of soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar and make something readily available at any take out place at home so I can get my fix. Of course, I call it something different. Example: the cashew chicken I made over the weekend. Cashew chicken is not cashew chicken. It’s “chicken and brown sauce over  rice. With cashews in it.” He buys it. Every time!

I’m sneaky like that. And I totally just outed myself. (Hi, Eric! Maybe my dad will stop picking on you now. LOVE YOU! 🙂 )

Anyway, I spotted this cashew chicken over at The Bitten Word. Couldn’t stop thinking about it. Couldn’t WAIT to make it! Just what I needed to satisfy my take out craving. Glad I didn’t wait!  We – yes, we…as in both of us – really enjoyed this meal. The thing that really made it for me, besides the awesome flavors, of course, was all the different textures. Crunchy cashews, fluffy rice, perfectly tender chicken. Yeah, that’s pretty much perfect. Not to mention, it’s really REALLY good. Plus, you can feel better about eating it because you know exactly what’s in it. That’s not always the case with takeout. And, if you’ve got a well-stocked pantry, you probably have everything you need to make this at home for dinner tomorrow. The only thing I needed to buy was the cashews. Since they are Eric’s favorite nut, I figured that if the meal flopped big time he could just gorge himself on nuts for dinner. 🙂

CASHEW CHICKEN (Recipe Source: Everyday Food, September 2009 as seen at The Bitten Word)


  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry (I used cooking wine. Shhh. Don’t tell!)
  • 2 tsp. minced, peeled, fresh ginger (I used 1 teaspoon ginger powder)
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2/3 cup unsalted cashews, toasted (I couldn’t find unsalted. I’ll admit I didn’t look very hard. Lightly salted worked just fine.)
  • 2 green onions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced


  1. In a medium bowl, toss chicken with sherry, ginger, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch; season with salt. Refrigerate 30 minutes. In another bowl, combine broth, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and 2 teaspoons cornstarch. Set sauce aside.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken and cook until golden and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a covered plate. Add 1 teaspoon oil to skillet and cook remaining chicken (reduce heat if chicken is over-browning). Transfer to plate.
  3. To same skillet, add 1 teaspoon oil, garlic, cashews, and green onion whites. Cook, stirring constantly, until garlic begins to soften, about 30 seconds. Whisk sauce and add to skillet along with chicken. Cook until sauce thickens, about 30 seconds. Top with green onion greens and serve with rice or noodles.

Serves 4.


One Year Ago: I was celebrating a victory unrelated to my cooking. But it involved my writing, so we’ll call it relevant to the blog. Ha. 🙂



Filed under chicken

Beat Cancer!

As you all know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. All month long, people show support for family, friends and survivors by sporting all things PINK!

It seems just about everyone knows someone personally who has been affected by breast cancer. I know I do. From family to friends to co-workers I have seen people fight and BEAT this disease. There is a wonderful, amazing sisterhood amongst survivors and it’s important that we all do our part to make sure there is a cure for all that are affected. Encourage you family and friends to do their monthly self exams and get regular mammograms. As they say – SAVE SECOND BASE! 🙂

I decided to make a pink treat to show my support. I’ll be entering these in the Power of Pink challenge hosted by Jen over at Beantown Baker. Thanks for raising awareness of this important cause, Jen! 🙂

Sometimes on quiet evenings when there’s not much going on, I’ll drag out cookbooks I’ve looked at million times and flip through them, just to remind myself what’s in there. I was glancing through my Hershey’s cookbook the other day and came upon adorable, pink-frosted mini cupcakes. Perfect for the month of October!

What intrigued me about these cupcakes was the addition of a stiffly beaten egg white to the chocolate cake batter. Different, eh? I thought so too. The end result was a light and almost spongy cake. Not bad – just not what you would expect. The interesting cake texture, coupled with the smooth creamy (PINK) frosting and the richness and crunch of chopped Hershey’s chocolate bars with almonds almost made me forget that these were actually cupcakes. They were pushed into the realm of…something other than cake! I’m not sure how to explain it, other than to say they are very interesting and delicious!

CHOCOLATE PINKS (Recipe Source: Hershey’s 1934 Cookbook)


  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons Hershey’s cocoa
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 egg white, beaten to stiff peaks
  • 2 Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars with Almonds (1.05 ounces each), chopped into small chunks


  1. Cream butter and sugar together; add the egg yolk and vanilla, and beat well.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda and cocoa; add with milk to other ingredients.
  3. Add stiffly beaten egg white.
  4. Bake in a very small buttered tins (1 3/4 inch muffin pan) in a 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Ice with Pink Butter Icing (recipe follows). Scatter candy over the cakes while icing is still soft. Makes 24 cakes.


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon of milk
  • 4 drops red food coloring (I actually used pink gel food coloring. And too much of it at that. Pepto cakes, anyone?)

Beat butter and sugar; stir in vanilla and milk. Beat until icing is smooth and of spreading consistency. Makes about 1 cup.

A couple notes about the frosting:

  • You can use any vanilla buttercream recipe you like here. I found this particular recipe to be quite sweet. But since the cakes aren’t that sweet and there’s some texture with the almonds in the candy, I think it works here. I probably wouldn’t use this particular recipe on it’s own.
  • You may need to add a splash more milk. I found the frosting to be a bit stiff when I went to spread. I knew more milk would solve the problem, but I was already 4 or 5 in – wasn’t gonna turn back! I just kept on…silently cursing myself for not paying better attention the first place. Ha. 🙂


One Year Ago:


Filed under chocolate, cupcakes

A Yankee Girl Heads South

I’m the first to admit I haven’t spent much time “down south.” With the exception of a few trips to Florida, Eric’s hometown in southern Illinois was as far south as I’ve ever been.

Until now! Eric and I just got back from an AWESOME trip to Nashville, TN! We decided to road trip from Iowa and with a stop over at the in-laws in southern Illinois, it wasn’t a bad drive at all! Even if you don’t have a place to stop, this is a one day drive from the Midwest easily. 🙂

I loved everything about this city. Everything. I never thought I’d want to leave the Midwest but I’d make an exception for Nashville. Yes. I would live there. This is HUGE for me. Huge. I’m not even kidding. I fell head over heals IN LOVE with Nashville.

Let me tell you why I like it. Ready? Great! Take a trip with us to fabulous Nashville, TN!

1. It’s a big city without being too big. All the great things about a big city are there without all the hassles. Case in point – we were downtown early in the evening on Sunday night…there was a Titans game about to start, a pretty big name at the Ryman and the streets were packed with people. We still found a place to park without much searching AND got a table at a restaurant right there in the middle of the action without evening without waiting more than 5 minutes. Now THAT’S what I’m talking about! LOVE it.

2. I loved the mix of old and young. The city totally has a young, hip vibe with cool places to eat/hang out/shop with a nice splash of history and old-timeyness thrown in. I loved that we heard a young guy play Hank, Sr. in a honky-tonk. I loved that the people at the next table were our parents age. There is truly something for everyone there and it’s all mixed up together into a melting pot of wonderfulness!

3. Live country music. Ice cold beer. And NO cover? Yes, please!

4. And, last but not least, there is a ton to do and see…and EAT! Here’s some highlights from our trip to Music City.

First, let me hype up this AWESOME deal from the Nashville CVB – The Total Access Pass. $45 gets you admission into four attractions of your choice. There are 16 to choose from including the Country Music Hall of Fame. This was a GREAT find. With two Total Access passes, it was like getting into all the attractions at two for one. This is a must. I mean, it’s 20 bucks to get into the CMHoF alone – this thing pays for itself in three attractions. Worth it. With our passes we went to the Hall of Fame, toured the Ryman Auditorium, went to the Hermitage and to the Belle Meade Plantation. The pass also included free admission to the Parthenon (yes, there’s a replica of the Greek Parthenon in Nashville! Who would have thunk it?!) but we ran out of time and didn’t get over there.

We loved the Hall of Fame – especially the exhibit about the Williams family. Fascinating!

The Hermitage (home of our 7th President, Andrew Jackson) was really interesting too. I learned a lot about him I didn’t know from high school history!

The Ryman was truly amazing. No wonder they call it the Mother Church of Country Music. We kind of went in there on whim and I’m so glad we did. I need-NEED- to see a show here someday. I bet it’s beyond amazing. I’m already on their mailing list. Next trip to Nashville WILL involve a show here.

Belle Meade (home of the bloodlines of such famous racehorses as Seabiscuit and Secretariat, among others) was great because they let you wander around the entire house and get up close to the items inside (most of which are original.) Very cool!

Other highlights – we drove down to Lynchberg to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. This was probably the highlight of the trip for both of us. SO amazing – you can read about our trip down there here.

And we saw a show at the Grand Ole Opry. Wow, was that like stepping back in time or what?? The modern artists on the stage that night – Josh Turner and Montgomery Gentry. Both awesome. It was fun to see some old timers too. Eric is more familiar with those folks than I am, but I enjoyed it too. It’s a live radio broadcast (complete with sponsors and commercials!) so the announcer would prompt us to cheer and clap every now and then. So much fun! They actually let you come right up to the stage and take pictures if you want. I didn’t, but that’s pretty neat that you can get that close to the stars!

We also had our very first pro-hockey game experience with the Nashville Predators. We are hockey virgins no more! I’ve never been much of a hockey fan but it was actually a lot of fun – even though the Predators didn’t play that well this particular evening. Helpful tip – we waited until the day of the game to get tix and we got cheap seats for only 10 bucks each! Can’t beat that with a stick. Apparently they sell a hundred tickets at a reduced price the day of the game. Great deal! Sure, they were nosebleeds but they were far from bad seats. I liked being up high because we had a nice birdseye view of what was happening. It was easier for me to follow along that way. I learned all about penalty boxes and power plays. Hee. This game was a treat for sure! The zambonis are my favorite part. Of course.

And now the reason why you’re here – the FOOD!

Big, HUGE thank you shout out to Erin over at Erin’s Food Files. Erin’s blog is FAB! One of my favorites for sure. Her recipes are so creative-I love when she features the goodies she gets in her CSA baskets! Please be sure to check it out! She gave me the low down on all her favorite local eats and provided us with some GREAT recommendations. See, this is what’s so great about the food blogging world – although Erin and I have never met, we are acquainted through our mutual love of food – and blogging about it! We’ve connected through blogging! When she heard we were headed her way, she quickly came to the rescue with her recs as I was at a complete loss on where to eat! Thank you, Erin!!

Here’s just a sampling of where we chowed down. I could go on and on forever about every single place we ate but I’ll spare you and just mention the highlights. 🙂

Jack’s BBQ – 416 Broadway, Nashville

Okay. Jack’s ROCKS! It’s located right downtown in the heart of the action and has cute little flying piggies on the marquee. Hee. This a counter service type place, where you order at the counter and then take your food and go sit down. It was SO good. Now, I LOVE barbeque, but I really don’t know much about it. What I do know is that it’s serious business. Especially in the south. This was our first meal in Nashville and it was a great way to kick things off!

As I pondered my choices (had plenty of time do so, the line was pretty long!) I thought I’d probably end up with pork. I always get pork. But the smoked turkey was speaking to me. Calling to me. I went for it – in sandwich form. Mmmm. Like butter it was so tender. Perfect smokey flavor, lots of charred, crunchy edges to enjoy. Yum. I got baked beans on the side. They had a nice kick of spice to them – just how I like ’em. 🙂

Eric got the pork. I didn’t even end up trying it, I was so enthralled in my turkey, but he really seemed to enjoy it. On the side, he got mac and cheese (homemade and very cheesy and delicious) and cinnamon apples (like pie-sans crust. YUM.)

We got little cups of all the sauces to try before deciding which one to pour on our sandwiches. Eric liked the mustard-based sauce the best. I liked the sweet/spicy/tangy vinegar sauce the best, with the mustard coming in a close second. The tomato based sauce was good too but there’s something about vinegar and mustard sauces that always outdo the tomato sauces for me – not sure why that is!

This was probably my favorite place that we ate. Also one of the cheapest! Ha. I’m a cheap date, I guess. 🙂

Cabana – 1910 Belcourt Ave., Nashville

Cabana is on Nashville’s west side near Vanderbilt University. The neighborhood over there is totally cool. Very hip and vibrant. Once I got over feeling like a country bumpkin trying to fit in with the rich kids, I really enjoyed myself. Ha ha…I *think* Vanderbilt is a little fancier than what we public state school grads are used to (Going out on a limb and guessing they probably don’t have classrooms with scary looking live wires hanging out spaces where the ceiling tiles have disintegrated like we did? Am I right? Ha ha.) The area around campus is really beautiful.

On to our dinner! Well. Let me just say, if we go back to Nashville, I would absolutely try Cabana again. The food was excellent and I LOVED the atmosphere. We liked how the menu was a bit more upscale but there was still a couple giant TVs on hand to watch some football and keep things casual. Very cool vibe.

However. Yeah, there’s a however here. Just hear me out though!

We debated back and forth about getting a couple smaller plates to share or getting entrees. In the end we each went with an entree. I kind of wished we went with the smaller plates so we could have had more variety. The entree I chose originally was a pasta special. They were out. I know that’s no one’s fault but….you know….when you have your heart set on one thing and then you have to choose something else it’s like a major bummer. I ended up getting the braised bison short ribs with gnocchi. I liked the flavors a lot and the meat was insanely tender and delicious – but there was like four gnocchi on my entire plate…and I gave one to Eric when he tried a bite! I wanted more soft, potato-y goodness. There wasn’t enough contrast of textures without more gnocchi. Eric got a tri-colored cheese tortellini with Italian sausage and a crushed tomato sauce. It was for sure delicious, but it wouldn’t have been my choice when there were so many other interesting things to choose from! He’s kind of scared of the unknown, so no surprises that he chose that. It’s okay – I still love him. 🙂

Also, our server told us it was happy hour and that draft beers were a dollar off – I had a draft and Eric didn’t so I don’t think he knew how much it was supposed to be when he got the check. I looked at our receipt after we left and we didn’t get the drink for a dollar off. In the grand scheme of things, does one dollar matter? No, of course not. But still…you know…yeah….

Again, I will absolutely give Cabana another shot. The menu is so eclectic and fun, I can’t wait to get back and try it a second time. Overall, we really enjoyed ourselves there.

Jackson’s – 1800 21st Ave. S, Nashville

Jackson’s is also on the west end near Vanderbilt. We stopped in here for brunch on Sunday afternoon. It was getting late – close to 2:00 and this place was still packed to the brim. This is actually the only place we went on our trip where we had to wait to be seated. I’m a big believer in following the crowd and the crowd for sure knew what they were talking about here. There were so many things on the menu that sounded good, we really had a hard time choosing! Eric got an omlette (I can’t remember what was is in it!) and cinnamon toast. He seemed to enjoy it. I tried a bit of the cinnamon toast and thought it was just so-so. Just a basic buttered toast with a bit of cinnamon sugar on top. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I don’t think it was that. Oh well. Everything else was good.

I just had to get the monte cristo – ham, cheese, sandwiched between what tastes a lot like french toast and deep fried. I got mine with a side of bypass surgery. LOL. Kidding, of course! I knew I was only going to be able to eat about a quarter of the sandwich because they are always so so SO rich but I couldn’t pass it up. My prediction came true…I couldn’t even finish half of it but it was decadent and delicious. I’m big on the sweet/salty combo so this was right up my alley. Dipped in maple syrup, this is treat is salty, crunchy, melty and delicious!

I had a side of french onion hash brown potatoes. Onions, potatoes and cheese? I’ll take two orders, please. 🙂 These were good too – thick chunks of potatoes, fried up crispy and topped with lots of melted swiss. Loved the sweet background from the onions. Eric ate what I couldn’t finish of those. 🙂

Big River Grille and Brewery Works – 111 Broadway, Nashville

We came out of the Country Music Hall of Fame around noon absolutely famished. We wandered down Broadway and saw people pretty much streaming into this place. We need to follow that crowd, I told Eric. So we did. I was just expecting your basic bar food and sandwiches, which is all well and good, but I was actually pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed my meal here. First of all, they’ve got real, fresh-squeezed lemonade on the menu. Two big, enthusiastic thumbs up from me right there. I’m sold! You don’t see that nearly often enough. I ended up with the fish tacos. Grilled mahi-mahi kicked up with spicy cajun seasonings, lettuce, fresh pico de gallo, pepper jack cheese and an avocado sauce. All that yumminess came stuffed in a crunchy blue corn tortilla and then wrapped in a flour tortilla. Mmmmm. Very fresh and delicious. It came with a spicy rice and delightful black beans. And with ice cold lemonade to wash it all down, I left there a happy camper with a full tummy.

Oh, Eric had a bacon cheeseburger, I think. He enjoyed it. 🙂

So there you have it! Erin and Eric’s Excellent Adventure in Nashville. Let me just add here that everything expressed in this post is my personal opinion only. I received no compensation in any way shape or form, monetary or otherwise, from anyone mentioned above. We just had a really great time in Nashville! I hope anyone else planning a trip finds this post useful!

Bye y’all! 🙂 (Does that sound authentic? Do I fit in yet?)

One Year Ago:


Filed under Just for Fun, Uncategorized

Welcome Back

I may or may not have dropped off the face of the earth there for a minute. Yeesh. Sorry!! I’m back now. I have booze. That’s a peace offering if there ever was one, don’t ya think? Yep. Me too. CHEERS! 🙂

Now, where I have been? Well, since my last post two friggin’ weeks ago already, I have gone through three distinct phases that have completely and totally removed me from all things blogging.

First, there was pre-vacation panic. This is where I run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off making sure everything is just so before we leave. I do this, of course, so I can relax. I make myself crazy so I can relax. Is that weird? That may be weird… The house must be spotless. There must be nothing left in the fridge that may rot. I have to lay out my entire wardrobe just so I can select 10 or so outfits to cover my bare bottom while we travel. I have to pack the snacks. And assemble the rockin’ road trip tunes. And make sure the mail is being held and the newspaper is canceled and that there are timers on all the lights. Getting ready to go on vacation is downright exhausting, I tell you what!

Second, well, we went on vacation! There’s no blogging on vacation. Only sightseeing and eating and spending time with the Hubs are allowed. Ahhhh. We spent five relaxing days in FABULOUS Nashville, TN. We had an AWESOME time. LOVED it. Like the “I would drop everything right now and move there” kind of love. I am ever so slowly working on a post about all the great things we saw and ate while we were there. It will be up soon…I promise! I’ve been working on it since last Wednesday…sometimes you just know when it’s time to take a step back and move on to something else for a while. This is one of those times. That’s why you’ll see an (unusual and fun) recipe in this post to pump you up for what’s coming. So stayed tuned!

And, third, there’s the Back from Vacation Blahs. You know how you get all tired and cranky that it’s back to reality? Laundry. Restocking that fridge you raked clean. Getting back into the swing of things at work. Add in the fact that two days after we returned it was back into the car for a weekend in the Chicago ‘burbs to see some of my wonderful, fabulous friends!

Whew! Needless to say, the blog has fallen by the wayside while I was off gallivanting around. Here is a really fun and easy recipe to get back into the swing of things….

Now, not to give too much away about our vacation, but one of the best things we did was drive down to Lynchburg to the Jack Daniel’s distillery. What fun! A of all…it’s gorgeous country down there. The town is nestled into wooded hills. It’s tiny, but absolutely beautiful. And with the leaves just beginning to turn, it kind of makes you forget that you are really not all that far from the big city. B of all…it’s Jack Daniel’s – what’s not to love about that?!

The whiskey making process is a long and labor intensive one – Our tour guide said that at any given time, there are upwards of 70 MILLION gallons of whiskey being aged in the barrel houses. 70 Million!! Now THAT’S a lot of booze. The county in which the distillery is located is actually dry. The only place you can buy liquor is on the property and they only started allowing that about 15 years ago! That’s just fascinating – the county’s economy revolves around the production of alcohol…and you can’t even buy it there!

Of course, we picked up our own bottle of Tennessee whiskey while we were there. That’s a given. After we finished our tour, we headed into town to poke around in the shops on Main St. Who can resist small town shops? I know I can’t. I promptly dropped 60 bucks there. Ha. One of the souvenirs I picked up was a cookbook – Jack Daniel’s Spirit of Tennessee Cookbook. Eric may talk a big game that he’s Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound (ha) but he will totally NOT drink all that anytime soon. Figured I’d help him along and use some of that amber-colored deliciousness in some recipes.

As I was leafing through it, I knew what I had to try first – as in pretty much the minute we returned….


Um. Best.Cookie.Name.EVER. Right?? Totally.

What the heck is a Snockerdoodle? Well, it’s a delightful chocolate cookie that starts with boxed cake mix (I know, I know…but like I said, this is a ridiculously easy cookie) and gets a little flavor help from Uncle Jack (Daniel, that is.) Yup, this is a chocolate WHISKEY cookie. Get it? SNOCKERdoodles. LOVE it.

These are SO good. The end result is a chewy cookie with a rich, dark chocolate flavor and a warm, spicy background from the whiskey. The flavor is so unexpected but totally delicious. The whiskey is not overpowering at all. These would be an excellent addition to a holiday treat tray. You know…after you’ve spent days and days and countless hours kneading, rolling, cutting, and decorating Christmas cookies but you still need just ONE MORE thing to round out your baking? These. Seriously. They take minutes to throw together and they will totally impress your friends.

SNOCKERDOODLES (Recipe Source: Jack Daniel’s Spirit of Tennessee Cookbook)


  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 box devil’s food cake mix (two layer size)
  • 5 tablespoons Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
  • Powdered sugar, for rolling


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend eggs and oil. Add cake mix and whiskey. Mix well. (I used my hand mixer). Form into small balls and roll in powdered sugar before baking. Place cookie balls on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes (check ’em after 10). Be careful not to overbake – cookies will soft when taken out of the oven. Makes 5 dozen.


One Year Ago:


Filed under chocolate, cookies

Where the boys are

I often find myself wondering what happens in other homes when husband’s friends come to stay for the weekend. I have a few guesses – 48 hours of video games, anyone? Maybe two full days full of nothing but beer and sports. Perhaps they get the old band back together and play music. Or maybe they don’t stay home at all and immediately jet off for a long motorcycle ride or hunting trip. Or head off to the nearest campsite, hiking trail or bike path. Seems pretty accurate. Manly. The things life long Bromances are made of.

But, how many  homes are filled with the smell of fresh paint and stain when husband’s friends visit? Or the sounds of a hammer on nails or a power saw whirring. How many wives overhear their husband’s tell their friends on the phone to bring “work clothes and boots” when discussing the weekend’s plans?

This is what happens at our house. I am seriously beginning to questions whether or not this is normal. Is this normal? Really, I want to know. When your husband’s friends come to stay for the weekend does he put them straight to work? Because my husband does. Weird, right? Yeah.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. The fact that it was Eric’s two high school buddies painting doors and trim on Saturday and not me totally made me do a little dance of joy. I guess I just don’t know WHY anyone would want to drive 300 plus miles to do manual labor at someone else’s house. I mean, no one has any shortage of that kind of stuff around their own house, why in the world would they want to go to someone else’s and do it?

Oh well. They don’t seem to mind. And I certainly don’t mind. Everyone wins!

Eric had his buddies hard at work this weekend, so I figured I could do my part and make dinner. What to feed three growing boys that have been working hard all day. Hm. Can’t go wrong with chili! And my favorite beer bread.

I make this bread pretty frequently. Anytime there’s a chili or hearty soup to be had, I usually whip this up to go along side it because it literally takes minutes to throw together. It is insanely delicious. It’s one of those things that’s so common around here, I didn’t even think to ever put it in my blog. It’s like it’s not special enough – it’d be like blogging tacos made with a seasoning packet or a boxed pasta salad (both of which I do make and enjoy very much. Ha. Don’t you judge me!) But, really, it IS special – because it’s so very good! It does deserve a place in my blog after all. With a slight kick from sauteed onion and garlic and great cheesy surprise, it bakes up light and tender. Check out all those little pockets of cheesy deliciousness! (that’s a technical culinary term.) It’s so flavorful inside and crunchy and yummy outside.

Shout out to all my fellow edge piece fans out there in Blogland! Every piece has that satisfying crunch of “edge” to be enjoyed. Love me some edges. Holla! 🙂

BASIC BEER-CHEESE BREAD (Recipe Source: Cooking Light, November 2008)


  • 1  tablespoon  olive oil
  • 1/2  cup  finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • 13.5  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 3 cups)
  • 3  tablespoons  sugar
  • 2  teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  cup  (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1  (12-ounce) bottle lager-style beer (such as Budweiser)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2  tablespoons  melted butter, divided


1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion to pan; cook 10 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in pepper and garlic; cook 1 minute.

3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk; make a well in center of mixture. Add onion mixture, cheese, and beer to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

4. Spoon batter into a 9 x 5–inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle 1 tablespoon butter over batter. Bake at 375° for 35 minutes. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon butter over batter. Bake an additional 25 minutes or until deep golden brown and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.


One year ago:


Filed under bread