Farmers Market Finds & A Goat Cheese, Bacon, Onion & Tomato Pie

This past Saturday, if you haven’t already figured out, I went to Pepper Place Farmer’s Market. Farmer’s Markets are obviously an addiction for me. I could be a Farmer’s Market Hoarder. Because I want everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. I’ve bought cutting boards, bowls, jewelry, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, BBQ…pretty much anything I’m in the mood for at the time! Last post, it was strawberries. Before that it was honey. And this week, I just couldn’t make up my mind! Clearly….

Pepper Place Farmer's Market, Birmingham, AL

Farmers Market Goodies

But one thing that was very clear to me was that I wanted some tomatoes. And what a week to want them. They were just gorgeous! Heirlooms, Clusters, Beefsteaks, Cherry, Green…they were everywhere! Swoon!

Combination of Beefsteak & Cluster Tomatoes

Farmer’s Market Tomatoes, Basil & Onion

Now I just had to figure out what to make! I always make BLT’s. I mean who doesn’t?!?! But I wanted more! So the longer I walked around “sampling” the market with my The Home T Tote Bag (Seriously go check them out), it dawned on me. Tomato Pie. With Bacon. And Caramelized Onions. And GOAT CHEESE. Ahhh…this was going to be good. And it seriously was.

Tomato Pie with Goat Cheese, Bacon & Caramelized Onions

Just look at that Tomato Pie Goodness!

This is really an easy dish to make. And one that is so versatile you can eat it for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. Take it to a picnic, serve it at a party or a reunion! It’s really just good anytime!

First thing to get started. Slice your tomatoes about 1/4″ thick into a colander. I used a combination of Beefsteak & Cluster. You use whatever kind is in season and looks the best from your market. Lightly salt & pepper them and let drain of any excess juice and seeds for at least 30 minutes. You don’t want the pie to be soggy, and this will help.

Sliced tomatoes drained in a colander

Let these sit for at least 30 minutes!

While you are letting those tomatoes sit, prepare your other ingredients. Slice your onions, chiffonade your basil, prepare your pie crust & chop your bacon. If you have forgotten…click here for the easiest way to prepare bacon and always have some ready to go! For the pie crust, I wanted to keep it simple this time. So I used a Pillsbury Refrigerated Pie Crust. All you have to do is place it in your pie plate and then pre-bake it for 10 minutes. Simple as that. If you want a homemade pie crust…you can click here for my homemade version from my Aunt Inez. Either way will work just fine.

Tomato Pie with Goat Cheese, Bacon & Caramelized Onions

Tomato Pie with Goat Cheese, Bacon & Caramelized Onions

While your pie crust is baking and cooling, you need to caramelize your onions. Melt your butter in a sauté pan. Once its frothy, add your onions and sauté for about 20 minutes. Don’t stir these too often. Just enough so that they aren’t sticking to the pan. You want them to be a rich, warm & brown in color.

Once the onions are done and the pie crust cooled, it’s time to start layering the ingredients for the pie! Start with your tomatoes. You want these in a single layer barely overlapping each other. Next, add your onions and bacon. About half of each. Then spread out your herbs, shredded parmesan, pinches of goat cheese and mozzarella. About a 1/2 for each layer.

Goat Cheese Tomato Pie Layering

The First Layer of the Goat Cheese Tomato Pie

Continue with another layer of tomatoes and pinches of goat cheese & mozzarella. This is where I mixed together an egg, mayo, apple cider vinegar, the rest of the bacon, onions, herbs & parmesan cheese. Pour this over the top of the layers and spread it all the way over to the sides of the pie crust. Then top with some diced or whole tomatoes, extra herbs, extra freshly grated Parm…whatever you like!

Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes until your crust is golden brown, pie is bubbly and the cheese is melted and browned! Let the pie rest and cool on a wire rack or trivet for at least 30 minutes – up to an hour. Then serve! Serve it with a salad, drizzle some balsamic on top, or just eat it by itself! Which is what I did. All. By. Itself.

Tomato Pie with Goat Cheese, Bacon & Caramelized Onions

We need Smell-o-Vision AND Taste-o-Vision for this!

This is definitely my new favorite way to make a Tomato Pie! And my inspiration came straight from the Farmer’s Market! If you haven’t been to your local market…go this week! It’s well worth your time. You’ll be supporting your local farmers…and who knows what other inspiration you may find!!

Let me know what you think! Enjoy! 🙂

“New Version of the Pie”

Fresh Tomato Pie with Goat Cheese, Bacon & Caramelized Onions

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy
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4-6 Fresh Tomatoes (Heirloom, Beefsteak, Cluster) Sliced 1/4″ Thick
Refrigerator Pie Crust (Or Homemade…Click here for recipe)
1 Medium Onion Sliced Thin
3/4 lb Thick Cut Bacon, Cooked & Chopped (Around 6-7 Slices) Or use Smithfield Bacon Pieces
2 tbsp Butter
Handful of Fresh Basil & Thyme Chopped. About 2-3 tbsp.
4 oz Herbed Goat Cheese (I used a little over half of this)
1 c Fresh Mozzarella
1 c Shredded Parmesan
1 Egg
2 Heaping tbsp Duke’s Mayo
2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
Cornmeal for dusting
Salt & Pepper to Taste

1. Slice Tomatoes about 1/4″ thick and place in a colander. Salt & Pepper and let stand for at least 30 minutes to drain seeds and extra juice.
2. Slice onion into thin slices to caramelize. Set aside.
3. Chop fresh basil & thyme; set aside.
4. Place refrigerated pie crust in a pie plate. Pre-Bake for 10-12 minutes on 400 and set aside to cool. Once cool, dust bottom with cornmeal.
5. While tomatoes are draining & crust is baking/cooling, caramelize the onions.
6. Melt butter in a sauté pan and begin caramelizing onions until brown on medium heat. Stirring occasionally. About 20 minutes. Set Aside.
7. Begin layering tomatoes in the pie crust in a single layer overlapping a little.
8. Next, top tomatoes with 1/2 of these ingredients: bacon, onions, fresh herbs & parmesan.
9. Then add small pinches of goat cheese and mozzarella on top of layer.
10. Repeat one more layer of tomatoes, small pinches of goat cheese & small pinches of mozzarella.
11. Mix together the egg, mayo, apple cider vinegar and remaining bacon, herbs & parmesan cheese.
12. Pour mixture on top of last layer, spreading all the way to the edges of the pie crust. Top with diced tomatoes and grated parm.
13. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes until cheese & crust are browning & pie is bubbly.
14. Let cool for 30 minutes – 1 hour before serving.

A Fresh, Beautiful, Sinful & Sweet…Homemade Strawberry Cake!

Fresh Strawberries. Is there a fruit much better than fresh Strawberries? No…no there isn’t. Unless it’s Peach Season. And then…there is no better fruit than Peaches. Well…until Watermelon Season…and then…well you get my point. I am a lover of all fruit. But as of right now…my favorite fruit is Strawberries!

After my latest trip to Pepper Place Farmer’s Market I saw SO much produce that I just wanted to take it all! But I since I couldn’t…I knew I wasn’t going to leave without one of the BEAUTIFUL buckets of Strawberries that seemed to stare at me with every turn. And since Memorial Day cookouts will be in full force this weekend, I decided that I should indulge in something other than my Updated, Old Fashioned Strawberry Pie (click the link if you missed it, because it’s a “can’t miss”). And trust me…that was a tough decision to make. So what could possibly come close to that goodness?? AHHHH….A Fresh, Beautiful, Sinful & Sweet…Homemade Strawberry Cake! YES!

Homemade Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing

Homemade Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing

Everything is fresh in this cake. No boxed cake mixes (even though you totally could), no over-sweetened frozen strawberries and no food coloring. I really don’t see the need for food coloring. But again…you could totally add it. So here is how this recipe starts.

Homemade Strawberry Cake

Homemade Strawberry Cake

This first step is really a taste preference. I didn’t use any of that frozen strawberry mixture that is loaded with sugar. Instead, I pureed my fresh strawberries with a tablespoon of sugar and juice of half a lemon. You don’t HAVE to add the sugar OR the lemon. But I tasted (or maybe had a small snack of) a few of the strawberries and wanted them just a TAD sweeter…and thought the lemon would just add a nice kick! So if you want to just puree them by themselves…that is just fine for this recipe!

Fresh Strawberry Puree

Fresh Strawberry Puree

Fresh Strawberry Puree

Fresh Strawberry Puree

Now that this done & out of the way…preheat your oven to 325 Degrees. Then sift together the dry ingredients in a mixer or a mixing bowl. The flour (I use White Lily), baking powder, lemon zest, salt & sugar.

Strawberry Cake Mix

Strawberry Cake Mix

Next add the wet ingredients and start mixing. The oil & vanilla first…then add the eggs & whites one at a time until the batter is mixed. Careful not to over mix. Then finally fold in your strawberry puree until just incorporated. [If you want to add the food coloring for a cake that is brighter pink color…here is where you would do that. Just mix in couple of drops of red food coloring at a time until the cake is the color you want it. Remember…a little goes a long way.] Now, back to the important stuff. Time to pour this mixture evenly into 2 separate 9″ pie pans that have been greased with Pam Cooking Spray. Then bake for 30-35 minutes.

Strawberry Cake BEFORE the Oven

Strawberry Cake BEFORE the Oven

Now for the icing…Cream Cheese. Strawberry Cream Cheese. Just saying those three words makes smile. Or want to grab a shot of insulin. 🙂 And this icing is just your classic Strawberry Cream Cheese that everyone’s Grandmother has made. With just a little lemon zest added. You beat the butter & cream cheese together until creamy. Then add the strawberry puree & vanilla. Once this is mixed…start adding the confectioner’s sugar a little at a time until the frosting is the consistency you like it. Then store in the fridge until ready to frost your cake.

Cream Cheese Icing

Cream Cheese Icing

Once the cakes are done…let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then remove them from the pans and let them cool completely before trying to start adding the frosting. But once they are cool…get to it!

Homemade Strawberry Cake

Cakes are Ready for the Icing!

Here is where you can get creative. Just make sure to put the icing in between each of the cakes, the sides and the top! If you want to make designs or make it smooth…it’s whatever you want to do! And for garnish…I’ve added Strawberries, Blueberries, Mint, Coconut…anything that I already have on hand to make it look pretty! So many different options for you to make this cake fit your occasion.

So here is my very plain…but ever so delicious…work of non-art.

Homemade Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing

Homemade Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing

But WOW…doesn’t that still look awfully yummy! Once I finish this post…I may just have another piece!

Let me know what you think! Be sure to send me some pics, leave me a comment or message me on Facebook or Twitter! And be sure to share the blog with your friends to sign up via email! Hope you Enjoy!

Homemade Fresh Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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Strawberry Puree

2 lb Fresh Strawberries
1/2 Lemon, Juiced (optional)
1 tbsp Granulated Sugar (optional)

1. Slice the green tops off of the strawberries.
2. Place Strawberries, Lemon Juice & Sugar in a Blender and Puree. Keep a Chunky Consistency in the Puree.
3. Set aside.


2-9″ Pie Pans Greased with Non-Stick Vegetable Spray
3 c. All Purpose Flour
2 tbsp Baking Powder
1/2 Lemon Zested & Juiced
1 1/2 c. Fresh Strawberry Puree
1 tbsp Salt
2 c. Sugar
1 c. Vegetable Oil
2 Whole Eggs
4 Egg Whites
1 tbsp Vanilla
**3-4 drops Red Food Coloring (Optional)

1. Preheat Oven to 325 Degrees.
2. Sift together dry ingredients into a mixer or mixing bowl. Flour, Baking Powder, Salt & Lemon Zest.
3. Mix in vegetable oil then the vanilla.
4. Mix in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated.
5. Mix in strawberry puree (and optional food coloring) until incorporated.
6. Pour mixture evenly into the greased baking pans.
7. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean in the center of the cake. Careful not to overcook.
8. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Then remove from the pans and let completely cool. Preferably on a wire rack.
9. Decorate with Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing making sure frosting is smooth between both cakes, sides & top.
10. Garnish with whole strawberries, blueberries, coconut, mint, etc.
11. Store in Refrigerator.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing

1 8oz Block of Cream Cheese, Softened (not low fat)
1 Stick of Unsalted Butter, Softened
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1/2 Lemon Zested
1/2 c. Strawberry Puree
4-5 c. Confectioners Sugar

1. Beat cream cheese & butter together until creamy.
2. Mix in Zest, Extract & Puree. Continue to mix on medium speed
3. Slowly mix in Confectioners Sugar a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
4. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Sweet Tea Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken with a Sriracha, Honey Sauce

Fried Chicken. Not much more to say than those 2 words….

Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken with Grilled Potato Salad

Sweet Tea Brined Fried Chicken with Grilled Potato Salad

I’m just kidding (not really). Fried chicken is one of my all time favorite foods. Picnics, Family Reunions, Tailgates, Sunday lunches, Breakfast…. 🙂

I can remember years ago as a kid always devouring the fried chicken at our Lexington family reunions. And there was SOOOO much homemade food around that 2nd Sunday in May to make you feel like you gained 20 pounds in 2 hours! Aunt Ivene’s Green Beans, Vida Mae’s Fried Pies, Hilda’s Strawberry Delight… and on, and on, and on. My families very small contribution to that day??? Sweet tea, ice and fried chicken. Not homemade fried chicken…but a KFC fried chicken bucket. Yep…the “dirty bird”. And I loved it. Every last bite of it. And maybe a couple of last bites from someone else’s plate.

So 30 years later, when I visit new cities and new restaurants…if they have fried chicken on the menu…I’m still a total sucker to try it. Last year, one of my BF’s and I went to the South Beach Food & Wine Festival in Miami. Oh. Em. Gee. What a fun trip! And one of my favorite memories of that trip (and goodness there were so many)…My brunch at one of Miami’s best restaurants: Yardbird, Southern Table & Bar. Because of the fried chicken. Ah-Mazing. And now, oddly enough, one of the founders of that South Beach Food & Wine Festival, Lee Schrager, has a new book coming out on May 20, Fried & True, that is showcasing over 50 of America’s Best Recipes & Sides! That trip was clearly fate…..

Yardbird, Southern Table & Bar--Fried Chicken

Holy Fried Chicken, Y’all–Yardbird, Southern Table & Bar, Miami

But I digress. Although I can’t wait for that book to come out or to eat at Yardbird again…I’ll still have to say, my personal fried chicken recipes are always my favorites. It’s simply hard to beat the inspiration of some of your best childhood memories….So here we go.

Sweet Tea Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken with a Sriracha Honey Dipping Sauce

Sweet Tea Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken with a Sriracha Honey Dipping Sauce

To get started…the first thing you’ll need to do is make sure you are planning this 1-2 days in advance, because you’ll need to brine the chicken for 24-26 hours in the sweet tea mixture. For the brine, you’ll simply make a normal gallon of sweet tea but with 2 tea bags instead of 1 (I always use Luzianne or Red Diamond), the juice of 1 large lemon, 1 c of sugar, 3/4 c of salt & 1/2 c pepper. Then submerge the chicken legs & thighs in the tea and refrigerate overnight.

After the chicken has been taken out of the brine and patted dry, drop it in the buttermilk and let it soak for at least 30 minutes to an hour. In the meantime, mix up your flour with the cayenne, onion powder, salt, garlic powder & paprika.

Flour Battered Chicken Legs

Thighs in the Buttermilk…Legs in the Flour

Now you’re ready to dredge the chicken. I like to do it in batches of the legs first then the thighs. But you don’t have to. It doesn’t actually do anything except make my OCD go away. Next, you’ll need to let the excess buttermilk drain off of each piece. Then coat it well in the flour mixture on all sides–also shaking off any excess. Let the pieces rest either on a wire rack or on parchment paper for at least 10 minutes. This will help the coating stick better while you fry it. While the chicken is resting…heat the oil to around 325 degrees in a cast iron or deep dish frying skillet. But in my opinion…a well-seasoned cast iron is the best way to ever fry chicken. Then fry the chicken in batches of similar size pieces (about 3-4 of them at most) so they will cook evenly on each side.

Sweet Tea Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Sriracha Honey Sauce

Can’t you just hear that sizzle?

I usually cook the legs & thighs for about 10-12 minutes on each side turning 3-4 times to make sure all of the coating is golden brown and chicken is evenly cooked. And start your fry with the skin side down. The most important thing is to not OVER cook so the coating burns or UNDER cook so you get sick. 165 degrees as an internal temperature with a golden brown coating is the goal! Once you get the hang of it after a couple of times, you’ll be a frying chicken like an expert!

Finally, drain on a paper towel to absorb any extra oil then sprinkle with a little salt while it’s still hot!

Serve it with a side of my Grilled or Roasted Potato Salad (click the link in case you missed that favorite recipe), a side of Sriracha Honey and a mixed green salad then you are all set!

Sweet Tea Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Sriracha Honey Sauce

Sweet Tea Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Sriracha Honey Sauce and a side of Grilled (or Roasted) Blue Cheese Potato Salad

I can’t wait to dig in to this deliciousness! Leave me a comment with your favorite recipes and memories..and of course…let me know what you think! Enjoy!

Sweet Tea Brined, Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Sriracha Honey Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Sweet Tea Brine:

2 Tea Bags
1 c Sugar
3/4 c Salt
1 Large Lemon, Juiced
1/2 c Pepper

Boil 2 quarts of water. Once a rolling boil, add tea bags and remove from heat. Let steep off of the heat for about 10 minutes. Add in sugar, salt, lemon & juice, pepper. Stir until sugar & salt are dissolved. Mix in 2 more quarts of cold water to cool.

Fried Chicken

Sweet Tea Brine
3 1/2 lbs of Chicken Legs & Thighs, Skin On
1 Cup of Shortening + 1 Cup of Vegetable Oil (There should be at least 2 – 3 inches of oil in the skillet. But no more than 1/2 way up the side of the skillet)
1 quart Non-Fat Buttermilk
2 c AP Flour
1 tbsp Salt + More for Dusting
1/2 tbsp Pepper
1 tbsp Onion Powder
1 1/4 tbsp Cayenne
1/2 tbsp Garlic Powder
1 tbsp Paprika

1. Place Chicken in cooled, Sweet Tea Brine for 24 hours and no more than 26. Store in refrigerator.
2. Discard Brine & Pat Chicken Dry with Paper Towels.
3. Place Chicken in Buttermilk and Let Soak for 30 min up to 1 hour.
4. Mix Flour, Salt, Pepper, Onion Powder, Cayenne, Garlic Powder & Paprika while Chicken is in Buttermilk.
5. Remove Chicken from Buttermilk & Place Pieces in a Collandar so Excess Buttermilk Will Drain Off.
6. Dredge Chicken Pieces in Flour Mixture, Coating Well on All Sides. Shake Off Excess then Set Aside on Wire Wrack or Parchment Paper for 10 Minutes.
7. Heat Oil in Cast Iron Skillet to 325 Degrees.
8. Begin Frying Chicken in Batches, Starting Skin Side Down. No More than 3-4 Pieces at a Time.
9. Continue Frying Pieces, Turning Chicken 3-4 Times for Around 10-12 Minutes on Each Side until Golden Brown & Internal Temp Reads at least 165 degrees.
10. Place Cooked Chicken on Paper Towels to Drain any Excess Oil.
11. Dash with Salt while Chicken is Still Hot.
12. Drizzle with Sriracha Honey when Ready to Serve.

Sriracha Honey

2 tbsp Honey
1 tbsp Sriracha
1 tsp of Water

Mix ingredients together for desired consistency and flavor. There is really no recipe for this…just what your tastebuds like! If you don’t like the thickness of the sauce, just mix in drops of water to loosen the sauce.

I Can’t Grill–But Here’s a Fabulous Roasted (or Grilled) Potato Salad!

It is finally May here in the South. And May usually means sunny days, warmer temps (humidity), flowers blooming…and barbecue’s! The smell of food cooking on a grill makes me SO happy. Charcoal Grills, Gas Grills, Big Green Eggs, Big Blue Eggs, Polka Dot Eggs…doesn’t matter to me what kind it is…as long as it’s grilled!!!

And now I have a confession to make. I can’t grill. Well…I can. Sometimes. Maybe. Confused yet? Yeah, me too.

To explain…I can grill vegetables and beef VERY, very well. And other things…let’s just put in the category of “needs work”. The recipes are always super delicious, though! It’s just that the EXECUTION needs some fine tuning. I have a terrible tendency to get distracted & then turn around to a massive flame of fire that gives new meaning to “char” grilled pork chops. And so luckily for you…this isn’t a post about grilled pork chops! But rather a roasted (or grilled) potato salad! One that I can honestly say I have perfected on the grill…AND in the oven. Because it’s just that good. But being able to grill this in the summer…yummmmmmm!!!!! I first found a similar recipe from Jeri Ryan in an issue of Food & Wine several years ago. And I’ve just made it my own over time with a ridiculous amount of compliments.

Char Grilled or Roasted Potato Salad with Bacon & Blue Cheese

Char Grilled or Roasted Potato Salad with Bacon & Blue Cheese

Now…just an FYI…I’ve made the post pics about roasting the potato salad since not everyone has a grill. But if you do…then grill it. It’s by far the best way to make this! I’ll explain those few MINOR differences in the recipe card. So here are the ingredients to start….

Grilled Potato Salad Ingredients

Grilled Potato Salad Ingredients

Oven Roasted:

First thing you will need to do is preheat your oven to 400 degrees. You’ll want to make sure to wash your potatoes really well and the slice them into bite size pieces. Keep them as close to the same size as possible so that they cook evenly. Next slice the onion into pieces, keeping these evenly sliced as well. Spread both on an aluminum foil wrapped sheet pan & mix with the oil, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Set Aside.

Roasted Potatoes & Onions

Roasted Potatoes & Onions

If you haven’t seen my post on how I cook bacon…then click HERE to see. Because this is your next step.I used Wright’s Applewood Smoked for this one. Once you have both of your sheet trays full of the bacon & potatoes…then put them in the oven to bake.

Roasted Potatoes & Oven Cooked Bacon

Roasted Potatoes & Bacon

The bacon will be done first. I always put it on the top rack. Bake about 20 minutes so it will be a little crispy for texture. Drain well on paper towels, then chop into pieces. The potatoes should bake for about 30-35 minutes or until tender. You can broil the potatoes for the last 5 minutes to add a little “crispiness” to them if you want.

Roasted Potatoes, Onions & Bacon

Roasted Potatoes, Onions & Bacon

Blot the potatoes & onions with a paper towel just in case there is an excess oil you want to take off. In a bowl, toss together with the bacon and more salt & pepper to taste (if needed). Mix your sour cream, lemon, Duke’s mayo & blue cheese in a separate bowl so you can spoon in as little or as much as you need (I don’t like mine TOO saucy). Then fold into the potato mixture. Make sure to stir gently while the potatoes & onions are warm so they soak in all of that yummy flavor!

Char Grilled or Roasted Potato Salad with Bacon & Blue Cheese

Char Grilled or Roasted Potato Salad with Bacon & Blue Cheese

Top it with some sliced green onions, a little fresh grated parmesan cheese or parsley and serve warm or room temperature!

Make sure to leave me a comment below on what you think! Share with your friends on FB & Twitter, sign up for more updates via email at the bottom of the blog…and most importantly…ENJOY!!!

Roasted Potato & Onion Salad with Bacon & Blue Cheese

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Jeri Ryan, Food & Wine July 2006

3-4 lbs Baking Potatoes Chopped into Quarters
1-2 Large Red Onions, Chopped into Quarters
1 pkg Thick Cut Bacon (Preferably Wright’s Applewood Smoked)
1/4 c. Olive Oil
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 c. Low-fat Sour Cream
1/2 c. Low-fat Duke’s Mayo
3-4 oz Low-fat Blue Cheese
Juice of Half a Lemon
Salt & Pepper to Taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Slice potatoes into pieces about 1/4″ thick. Keeping pieces as close to the same size as possible.
3. Slice red onion into pieces about 1/4″ wide. Keeping pieces as close to the same size as possible.
4. Spread potatoes & onion onto an aluminum foil lined sheet tray. Toss, just to coat, with the oil, garlic powder, salt & pepper.
5. Layer bacon on an aluminum foil lined sheet tray to roast at the same time as the potato mixture.
6. Place both in the oven. Bacon should roast for about 20 minutes or until crispy for texture. Drain well on paper towels then tear or chop into pieces.
7. Potatoes should cook for about 30-35 minutes until tender. Broil for the last 5 minutes if you want to add extra crispiness to the potatoes. Blot to remove any excess oil.
8. In a bowl, toss together the bacon, potatoes & onions.
9. In a separate bowl, mix the mayo, sour cream, lemon & blue cheese.
10. Fold in blue cheese sauce into the warm potato mixture. Use as little or as much as you like, not to over sauce the potatoes. Add in any salt or pepper to taste if needed.
11. Top with fresh parm, green onions or parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Grilled Potato & Onion Salad with Bacon & Blue Cheese

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from Jeri Ryan, Food & Wine July 2006

3-4 lbs Baking Potatoes Chopped into Quarters
1-2 Large Red Onions, Chopped into Quarters
1 pkg Thick Cut Bacon (Preferably Wright’s Applewood Smoked)
1/4 c. Olive Oil
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 c. Low-fat Sour Cream
1/2 c. Low-fat Duke’s Mayo
3-4 oz Low-fat Blue Cheese
Juice of Half a Lemon
Salt & Pepper to Taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Preheat grill to med-high heat.
2. Slice potatoes into pieces about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick.
3. Bring potatoes to a boil in a salted pot of water. Once boiling, cook for about 5 minutes until starting to become tender. Then drain.
4. Slice Red Onion into pieces about 1/2″ wide.
5. Layer bacon on an aluminum foil lined sheet tray to roast.
6. Bacon should roast for about 20 minutes or until crispy for texture while the potatoes are cooking. Drain well on paper towels then tear or chop into pieces.
7. Toss, just to coat, the potatoes & onions together with the oil, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Grill either directly on the grates or using a grill pan. Just make sure you are able to get the “char” & smoke flavor on both the potatoes & onions.
8. Grill until potatoes & onions are charred & tender (5-7 minutes).
9. In a large bowl, toss together the bacon, potatoes & onions.
10. In a separate bowl, mix the mayo, sour cream, lemon & blue cheese.
11. Fold in blue cheese sauce into the warm potato mixture. Use as little or as much as you like, not to over sauce the potatoes. Add any salt or pepper to taste if needed.
12. Top with fresh parm, green onions or parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature.

“Healthy-(Er)” Chicken & Broccoli Casserole…Maybe

Casseroles. If you are from the South, “almost” everyone loves them. And I mean loves ALL kinds of casseroles. They are easy, one pot, comfort foods, main meals, side dishes, desserts, breakfasts…ANYTHING you want them to be! In fact…we like to just turn ordinary, plain dishes into some sort of casserole. For no reason other than just adding that word to the end of it! Enchilada Casseroles, Hamburger Casseroles, Spaghetti Casseroles, RandomVegetableCansInOurPantry Casseroles. I mean…why not, right?!?!

Luck would have it that I…of all people…would have one of those “almost” everyone, best friends that I CLEARLY think something is wrong with (“Whitney”–Name may or may NOT be changed to protect her from the casserole backlash). “Whitney” dislikes anything followed by the word “casserole”. And. I. Just. Don’t. Understand. So a few years ago, I just started renaming everything when she came to dinner. “Enchilada Pie”, “Sauteed Ground Beef Bake”, “Baked Squash in a Cream Sauce”…you get the idea. But before I started doing that to avoid the “casserole’s stink” debate…I made her try my Chicken & Broccoli Casserole.

And guess what…She liked it. Duh. I mean it’s a casserole, “Whitney”! 🙂

No Soup Broccoli & Chicken Casserole

Healthy-(Er) Broccoli & Chicken Casserole

I have been making different versions of Chicken & Broccoli Casserole since I was 18 years old (that was just a couple of years ago by the way…*wink, wink*). Mainly with those cans of “cream of whatever” soup. Loaded with salt & preservatives. (Don’t get me wrong…I still LOVE to use those…just now in moderation). This version is just a TEENSY bit healthier because there is none of that! Fresh broccoli, fresh grated cheese & homemade sauce. And most importantly…it’s still extremely easy to make! I originally found a similar version of this one at “Just Get Off Your Butt & Bake” if you want to check it out.

No Soup Broccoli & Chicken Casserole

Ingredients You’ll Need While the Chicken is Boiling

First you’ll need to boil your chicken in some salt & peppered water. You don’t want to overcook this chicken! And don’t undercook it either! No pressure. 🙂 Now, if you are using chicken breasts on the bone, then boil it for about 25-30 minutes. If you are using boneless, skinless breasts, then boil for about 20 minutes. Really easy. Personally…I always use chicken on the bone. 2 reasons…it’s cheaper and just simply has more flavor! There are more reasons, but I think these 2 are plenty. 🙂

Once the chicken is done, set aside to cool and then shred or chop. Then cut up your broccoli and discard the stems. You’ll want to grab your casserole dish and spray it with Butter Flavored Pam. Then layer the chicken and broccoli mixture on the bottom.

Boiled Broccoli & Chicken

Boiled Broccoli & Chicken

Now you’ll want to preheat your oven to 350 degrees and get your sauce started. If you haven’t already…get your cheese grated, chop your shallot & dissolve your cornstarch in ice cold water. I use a cornstarch slurry here because sometimes a roux is intimidating for people. And because others want a gluten free way to thicken a soup or sauce. On to a very important ingredient…the cheese. My ALL time favorite cheddar is Cabot. Every. Single. Kind. of. Cabot. If you haven’t tried it…start now. For this recipe, I used Seriously Sharp Cheddar. I also used fresh grated Monterrey Jack. Sadly…I don’t have a preference. Maybe I should eat more to find one. 🙂

In a saucepan, cook your shallot/onion in the melted butter on medium heat. Then add in the milk, dissolved cornstarch, chicken broth, dashes of hot sauce (optional), salt & pepper. Whisk this until it starts to thicken like a “creamy” soup. Once it is “creamy”, remove it from the heat, add in 2 cups of your cheese mixture & sour cream. Mix it well until the cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.

No Flour Cheese Sauce

Cheeeesssssseee Sauce

Once the sauce is mixed & cheese is melted, pour it over the chicken & broccoli. Then grate some fresh parmesan on top. Add the rest of the grated cheese, then finally add the crushed crackers on top to cover. (If you want to keep this dish Gluten Free…then top with Glutino Brand Crackers, crushed & mixed with a little salt & pepper). Spray the crackers with Butter Flavored Pam & garnish with poppy seeds. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown & bubbly!

**Here are 3 extra tips for this recipe! You can add chopped mushrooms, carrots, celery or any vegetable you need to cook when you are sauteing your shallot so that you have another veggie in the mixture. You can also add a cup of 10 minute boil in a bag Success Rice to the chicken & broccoli mixture before you bake it. Just follow the cooking instructions on the box. And if you don’t have time to boil some chicken, then buy & shred a rotisserie from the grocery store deli! It’s just as flavorful and saves some extra time.**

Can’t you tell that this is a very versatile casserole?!?!

No Soup Broccoli & Chicken Casserole

I Can’t Wait to Dig in!!!

Let this cool for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

I’m pretty confident that “Whitney” wouldn’t hesitate at all about trying a casserole made like this one!! Let me know what else you add or change! Enjoy!

“Healthy-(Er)”Chicken & Broccoli Casserole

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
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3 Heads of Fresh Broccoli, Chopped & Stems Discarded (Around 4 cups)
3-4 lbs Chicken, Shredded or Chopped (About 4 Chicken Breasts or 1 Rotisserie Chicken)
2 ½ c. Fresh Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese & Monterrey Jack (Mixture of Both)
1/2 c. Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese for topping
2 Tubes of Ritz Crackers, Crushed (Can use Glutino, Gluten Free Original, Crushed up with Extra Salt)
Pam Butter Spray
Poppy Seeds for Garnish
1 tsp Hot Sauce or Tobasco (Optional)
1/2 Stick of Unsalted Butter
2 Shallots, Diced (or 1 small onion)
1/4 c. Cornstarch, Dissolved in 1/4 c. Ice Cold Water
1/2 c. Sour Cream
3/4 c. Chicken Broth
1 1/2 c. Whole Milk (Can use Lactose Free Milk or 1/2 Heavy Cream, 1/2 Milk)
Salt & Pepper to Taste

1. Boil chicken in salt & pepper water for about 30 minutes. (If boneless, skinless chicken breasts, then cut cooking time down to 20 minutes). Set aside to cool.
2. Chop broccoli & set aside, discarding stems.
3. When chicken is cool, shred or chop chicken, discarding bones & skin.
4. Layer chicken & broccoli mixture on the bottom of a lightly greased casserole dish.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6. In a saucepan on medium high heat, melt butter and sauté shallot until translucent. About 3-4 minutes.
7. Whisk in milk, chicken stock, dissolved cornstarch, hot sauce (optional), salt & pepper. Cook until mixture begins to thicken whisking constantly so it doesn’t stick.
8. When mixture begins to thicken, remove from heat and add in 2 c. of grated cheese & the sour cream until sauce is smooth & cheese melted.
9. Pour mixture over chicken.
10. Top with parmesan cheese & then cheese blend.
11. Top the cheese layer with crushed Ritz Crackers.
12. Spray a light layer of Pam on top of crackers to brown.
13. Garnish with Poppy Seeds.
14. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until bubbly & brown.

Maple & Orange Baked Ham…Perfect for Easter Dinner!

Easter is finally in a few days. And this is one of those Holidays that I ABSOLUTELY love. There is just so much meaning in Easter Sunday! Church Services, Easter Dresses, Bunnies, Easter Egg Hunts, Families Gathering Everywhere…and Ham. Lots and Lots of Ham.

Yep! I admit it. Ham is one of my favorite things about Easter. I could eat Baked Ham for almost every single meal. And luckily after Easter “Ham” Dinner…I’ll at least enjoy it for an entire week!

Baked Ham is really so easy and versatile that ANYONE can cook it. Glazes, rubs, marinades…so many options to try. And so few ways to mess it up! This year, I have decided that I want to use Oranges. And Maple Syrup. And Brown Sugar. And…

Orange & Maple Glazed Ham

Ingredients for the Easter Ham

First thing you want to do is clean & trim the Ham. Wash any excess juices off & trim any fat or skin down to no more than 1/4″ thick. Next, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

While your oven is preheating, score the Ham in a criss-cross or diamond pattern. This will help the glaze/marinade/rub or whatever, really get down into the meat. Once it’s scored, place whole cloves into the Ham where each criss-cross meets.

Scored Ham with Cloves

Scored Ham with Cloves

Now, whisk up your marinade/glaze well. Place the Ham in a large roasting pan and pour half of the marinade over it. Make sure to baste the whole thing well. Cover loosely with aluminum foil then bake for about 1 1/2 hours. Or 10 minutes per lb. You’ll want to make sure you baste this every 20 minutes with the pan drippings/marinade/glaze mixture.

Once this is done, take the Ham out of the oven & crank up your temperature to 425 degrees. Uncover the Ham and pour the rest of the marinade on top. Make sure this time you baste it again with the pan drippings until it’s totally covered with the marinade/glaze. Bake uncovered for about 30 more minutes basting one last time after 15 minutes. Take the Ham from the oven, cover & let rest for about 10-15 minutes. Hopefully it will look like this….(My. Mouth. Is. Watering.)

Orange & Maple Baked Ham

Almost Ready!

Pour some of the juices from the pan on top of the Ham and start slicing! Depending on your cut…slice it thin, slice the spirals, or just slice up some ham steaks! However you want to savor this beautiful feast! Garnish it with oranges once you are done…and you are ready to serve!

Maple & Orange Baked Ham


This ham will make a lot of servings. Which really makes it cost effective to cook several more meals. You can freeze it for later, make some sandwiches or whip up a ham & cheese pasta bake! I’m already craving that pasta bake….

Let me know how yours turns out or what you do different! Hope Everyone has a Blessed & Happy Easter! 🙂

Orange & Maple Glazed Ham

  • Servings: A Lot
  • Difficulty: easy
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Credit: Country Living & Simple Southern Living

1 Fully Cooked 8-10 lb Ham (Whole Bone-In or Bone-In Spiraled)
1/2 c. Sprite
1 c. Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
2 Tbsp Orange Zest
2 Tbsp Whole Grain Mustard
1/2 c. Maple Syrup
1/2 c. Dark Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Black Pepper
Whole Cloves
Orange Wedges for Garnish

1. Preheat Oven to 325 Degrees.
2. Rinse & clean the ham to remove any excess juices. Trim the skin & fat around ham to no more than 1/4 inch.
3. Score the ham in a criss-cross or diamond pattern.
4. Insert cloves into the ham where the criss-cross meets at each point. Then place into a large roasting pan.
5. Whisk together the next 7 ingredients, mixing well.
6. Pour 1/2 of the mixture over the entire ham.
7. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 12 minutes per lb. And basting with the pan juices every 20 minutes.
8. Remove ham from oven and turn up the heat to 425 degrees.
9. Pour the rest of the basting mixture over the ham making sure to fully cover it.
10. Bake for 30 more minutes uncovered, basting after 15 minutes.
11. When ham is done, remove from the oven, cover & let rest for 10 minutes.
12. Spoon pan drippings over the ham before serving.

Super Bowl Party! Or Just a Reason to Get Together….

Ahhh the Super Bowl.  That Sunday every year where 2 NFL teams duke it out for the Championship and 364 days of bragging rights.  Or for me…that Sunday every year to attend our friend Phil’s annual cookout, watch the best commercials of the year, and of course the half-time show (I think I’m a Bruno Mars fan now)!

I love potluck parties like this one.  You get to try a lot of different yummy dishes, meet the people making those yummy dishes and most importantly just snack and snack and snack to your heart’s content!  This year I decided to take a couple of my “old faithful” appetizers and mix up the recipes just a bit!

Puff Pastry Sliders…who doesn’t love anything wrapped up in Puff Pastry??  And who doesn’t love all kinds of yummy sliders?? Hence…Puff Pastry Sliders.  There are several “staple” items I always have in my kitchen.  Ground Beef is one of them.  Puff Pastry is another.  Always.  My BFF Lucy over at Lucysinspired, kids me about my Puff Pastry stash.  But it’s just so versatile for all dishes!  And I love it.  And everyone else loves it.  And what if there was a Puff Pastry shortage?  I would totally be ready. 

So here is where I started…and most of this is just pantry items that I already had on hand.  My inspiration for these came from the Pepperidge Farm Website a few years ago and continue making it my own.  Because I love all things Pepperidge Farm.  And if you didn’t already know…I love Puff Pastry.

Puff Pastry Slider Ingredients

Puff Pastry Slider Ingredients

Puff Pastry, Ground Beef or Chuck, Cheese–Any that your prefer, Shallot, Salt, Pepper, Egg White.

Make sure to follow the instructions on the Puff Pastry and let it thaw for 40 minutes before trying to use it…(Very important step here–Trust me when I say frozen Puff doesn’t work).  Start by seasoning the ground beef with salt and pepper.  This time I also added garlic powder, Worcestershire and a little low sodium Dales Sauce.  Then finally dice up or shred a medium shallot to the mix.  Make sure not to overwork the meat!  We aren’t making meatloaf.  Remember…Puff Pastry Sliders.

Next…pat out the sliders into small patties like below.  You want 12 of them.  Fry them for a couple of minutes on each side just until brown.  Don’t fully cook them because they will get more cooking time in the oven.  About 3-4 minutes on each side depending on how thick you make them.  If you use lean ground beef, then make sure to add a little olive oil so they don’t stick to the pan.  Once these are done, set them on paper towels to drain any excess grease.  (We don’t want soggy Puff Pastry later-Trust me again on this).

Ground Beef Slider Patties

Ground Beef Slider Patties

While these are cooling, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grab your thawed Puff Pastry, some flour and a rolling pin.  Lightly flour a clean surface and flour that rolling pin.  You just want to roll out each sheet of the Puff Pastry a little into a rectangle shape.  Not too much.  Just a little.  You are going to want 6 sliders for each of the sheets.

Pimento Cheese, Bacon Cheddar, Pepper Jack & Cheddar Sliders

Pimento Cheese, Bacon Cheddar, Pepper Jack & Cheddar Sliders

Now get creative!  Place 6 patties on the Puff Pastry.  Top these with any ingredients you like!  I had some left over bacon, cheeses, pimento cheese and caramelized onions that I used.  You can make taco sliders, BBQ sliders, plain sliders…whatever you like!  I made bacon cheese, pimento cheese, pepper jack & sharp cheddar and my favorite…blue cheese & caramelized onion.

Caramelized Onion & Blue Cheese Sliders

Caramelized Onion & Blue Cheese Sliders

Completely Perfect Puff Pastry Slider Pockets

Completely Perfect Puff Pastry Slider Pockets

Now take your egg white and whisk it until just a little frothy so it’s easy to brush on the pastry and set aside.  Grab a knife or a pizza cutter and cut the Puff Pastry into 6 even squares so you can fold these up.  Take each corner of the Puff Pastry and fold it to the middle of the sliders.  You can make pockets and seal them up or just leave a little opening where the edges meet for presentation.  Totally up to you.  If you are using Pimento Cheese…make sure they are sealed and firm so the excess grease doesn’t drain out and make the pastry open up.

Take each of the sliders and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Take your egg white and brush the Puff Pastry so it will turn out nice and golden brown.  They don’t have to look perfect (Unlike mine…they are all even.  Clearly all perfect little packages).  Now pop these in the oven according to the Puff Pastry directions!  Or watch them and take them out when they are golden brown and not over cooked and dry.  No one likes dry Puff Pastry.

Golden Brown Slider Yumminess

Golden Brown Slider Yumminess

And Tah-Dah!!  Puff Pastry Sliders.  Sure to wow a crowd and make everyone think you spent hours and hours on their potluck party dish!  Don’t correct them.  Tell them it took forever to make.  Just gives you more to talk about at the party!  And the meaning of Tah-Dah in the Urban Dictionary is “be impressed” or “aren’t I just amazing“.  If you are bringing these to my potluck parties, then I would say “Why yes…yes you are”! Enjoy!

Let me know what you think!

Puff Pastry Sliders

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Credit: Simple Southern Living & Pepperidge Farm

1 1/3 lbs of Ground Beef or Chuck
1 pkg of Thawed Puff Pastry (2 rolls in the package)
1 Diced or Shredded Medium Shallot
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 cup Low Sodium Dale’s Sauce
10 Dashes of Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbsp Ground Pepper
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Egg White
Flour for Rolling the Pastry
Toppings of Your Choice

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix Ground Beef, Shallot, Garlic Powder, Salt, Pepper, Dale’s & Worcestershire together.  Be sure not to over mix.  
2. Pat out into 12 small patties, slider size and fry just until pink in the middle but browned on each side. About 3-4 minutes per side according to thickness.  Drain well on paper towels.
3. Roll out Puff Pastry onto a lightly floured surface so it doesn’t stick.  
4. Place 6 patties onto each puff pastry and top with toppings of your choice.  No condiments or lettuce though.  
5. Take a knife or a pizza cutter and cut the pastry into equal squares around the sliders.  Fold the corners to the middle of the slider to make a “package” or a “pocket”.  
6. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, brush the tops and corners with the egg white and bake until golden brown according to the directions on the Puff Pastry package.  

These can be served hot or at room temperature and great for any occasion.