Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Party 2012

It's that time of the year again...Time for all the ghouls, ghosts and goblins to come out and play tonight!  It's also time for our annual Halloween shindig.  What a great time we had this year, eating fun Halloween-themed food and spending time together in our silly costumes.  Although the party was a little last minute this year, we still had a blast.  Friends and family came dressed up in their best costumes - There was a pirate, a graduate, a ghostbuster, Little Red Riding Hood, an "obnoxious football fan", a gypsy, and even Jason and Chuckie came in super scary costumes to name a few.  I dressed up as a "Mysterious Masquerader!" 

The party menu was tons of fun to prepare, as usual.  I whipped up a few favorites from past parties, like Witches' Wands, Nutty Ghosts, Kidney Stew (aka Chili) and Mummy Dogs.  I also added a couple of new recipes to the mix, like Blood Punch and an awesomely cute little Nacho Flavored Cheese Ball.  

Here are a few photos from the night...thanks to my awesome husband, Brad, for taking all the pics!:

Happy Halloween!!!

Blood Punch

Mummy Dogs!  I love these little guys!

Nutty Ghosts (white chocolate dipped Nutter Butters!)

Nacho Flavored Cheese Ball...This was a big hit and made a great addition to the party menu this year!

Witches' Wands

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Interview with John McLemore + A GIVEAWAY

I recently had the chance to sit down with chef, cookbook author and CEO of Masterbuilt, John McLemore, for a delicious lunch here in Birmingham, AL.  John was in town for the day on a media blitz, and I'm so thankful that he took the time to meet with me.  Upon arriving, I was greeted by the entire gang - his wife Tonya, his daughter, his Social Media Specialist and even his pilot!  We had a great time at lunch, and I immediately felt like I had known them for years...What a wonderful group of folks.  We talked about all kinds of fun things - memories of his Memaw's Southern Fried Chicken, the story surrounding his most unforgettable meal, the strangest thing he's ever eaten (it was in China!) and even a visit with Paula Deen, in which she prepared an amazing breakfast spread for John and his family at her home.  

I love that John's cookbooks have such a big focus on family.  Flipping through his cookbook is like looking through a family album, filled with wonderful stories, photos and recipes.  Masterbuilt is their family business, and was first started by his father back in 1973.  When he was 19, John and his brother Don became part-owners with their father, and in 1998, John and Don became sole-owners of Masterbuilt.

Read on for more of my interview with John:

1.  Where in the south did you grow up?
I was born in Hawkinsville, GA and moved to Columbus, GA at 6 years old.

2.  Is there a particular family recipe that means the most to you?
MeMaw's Southern Fried Chicken.  We used to fight over the skin!  It's the only recipe that appears in both of my cookbooks. 

3.  What's the secret to the perfect southern fried chicken?
Soak the chicken in milk or buttermilk for at least 2 hours before frying.

4.  Tell me about your most unforgettable meal.
It has to be the Steak & Lobster on my first date with my wife, Tonya!  We had been lobstering down in the Florida Keys and had brought back tons of it.  We cooked steak and lobster that night at my house.  Tonya came over - on a blind date, set up by our mothers! - and the rest is history.

5.  What family traditions centered around food do you look forward to most around the holidays?
Deep frying the Thanksgiving turkey.  When I was 18 years old, I decided that I would deep fry the turkey.   The women in the family were worried that it wouldn't turn out right and be ruined, so one family member decided she'd secretly make a roasted "back-up" turkey...just in case.  On Thanksgiving day, my turkey was a major hit.  The only reason that anyone ate the roasted turkey that year was because we ran out of the fried turkey!  We've fried it every year since!

6.  What are your favorite foods from childhood?
Dad's fish and hushpuppies, Catfish Fingers, Cheese Grits, and of course MeMaw's Southern Fried Chicken

7.  Which recipes from your "DADGUM That's Good!" cookbooks make up your favorite tailgating menu?
Buffalo Wings, Fried Wings, Smokey Pimento Cheese Dip, Redneck Ribs, Southern BBQ Shrimp and Bacon Burger Dogs.

8.  Which Masterbuilt product should be at the top of everyone's must-have list?
It's a close race between the electric smoker and turkey fryer.

9.  What 5 items are always stocked in your kitchen?
Green beans, sweet tea, Butterball's cajun spice, apple cider vinegar and milk

10.  What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen?
Three different popcorn machines...We are popcorn addicts!

11.  What's the most unusual thing you've ever eaten?
Roasted beetle in China.  Also - A deep fried PB & J sandwich.

Now, how about that GIVEAWAY?!?
I am so excited to be giving away an AUTOGRAPHED copy of John's latest cookbook, "DADGUM That's Good, Too!"  The book is filled with awesome recipes that are divided into 3 categories - Smoking, Grilling and Frying. 

How to  Enter:
Simply leave a comment on this post, which answers the following question:

What's your favorite way to prepare the Thanksgiving turkey?

Also, for extra chances to win, simply do the following and leave SEPARATE additional comments letting me know that you did:

The Rules:

  • Entries must be submitted by midnight (CST time) on Thursday, November 8th
  • A winner will be picked at random (using and will be announced on Friday, November 9th.
  • Please make sure you include your name and email address so that I will have a way to contact you if you win...especially if you leave a comment using the "Anonymous" option.
  • At this time, the contest is open to US residents only.
Good Luck, and THANKS for reading!  :)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Easy Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Croutons

Soup and sandwich combos don't get much more classic than a comforting bowl of tomato soup with a toasty grilled cheese on the side.  So, when I received the October 2012 issue of Food Network magazine in the mail recently with this yummy dish gracing the cover, I was anxious to try it.

Now, I don't have a fancy panini press, but that didn't stop me.  I whipped out my trusty skillet and simply made the sandwiches the old-fashioned way.  After a quick trip to the cutting board, they were cut into neat little squares and ready to go.

Oh!  And did I mention that the grilled cheese is made with melty, ooey, gooey, amazing gruyere cheese?  Oh, favorite...!

The saffron threads add a depth of flavor that only saffron can, and the combination of cream and just enough orzo make this soup decadent and mouthwateringly tasty.  The soup is super easy, but the flavor is great and perfect for the chilly nights ahead.  That's another combo that I love!

Bon Appetit, my friends!  :)

Easy Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Croutons
Adapted from:  Ina Garten, via Food Network magazine;  October 2012 issue

3 tablespoons good olive oil
3 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
Large pinch of saffron threads
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup orzo
1/2 cup heavy cream
Grilled Cheese Croutons (see below)

In a large pot or Dutch oven such as Le Creuset, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. (It will finish cooking in the soup.) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup. Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.
Serve hot with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.

Grilled Cheese Croutons:
4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices country white bread
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
Heat a panini grill. Place the four slices of bread on a cutting board and brush lightly with the melted butter, being sure to butter the corners. Turn the slices over and pile Gruyere on two of the slices. Place the remaining two slices of bread on top of the Gruyere, buttered sides up.
Grill the sandwiches on the panini grill for about 5 minutes, until nicely browned. Place on a cutting board, allow to rest for 1 minute and cut into 1-inch cubes.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Amazingly Easy (& Delicious) Banana Muffins

When life gives you ripe bananas, make these incredible muffins!

With autumn finally here in all its crisp air, gorgeous-colored glory, I unsurprisingly have been bitten by the baking bug lately.  It happens every year without fail.  There's just something about the smell of a something delicious baking in the oven that makes fall feel that much more like fall.

The other day, I had a craving for banana muffins, and I just so happened to have 4 ripe bananas hanging out on the kitchen table.  


I found this recipe over at Cat Can Cook, and I had a winner.  It's undoubtedly very easy and you've probably got all of the ingredients in your kitchen.  It's easy...Mix the wet ingredients together.   Mix the dry ingredients together.  Combine.  Bake.  Voila!

This recipe's simplicity and great results are going to make it a favorite of ours for years to come.

Bon Appetit, my friends!

Amazingly Easy (& Delicious) Banana Muffins
Adapted from: Cat Can Cook
Makes 12 muffins

4 large, ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix the mashed banana, sugar, egg and butter together in a small bowl. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour. 

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.  Pour into greased muffin tins, and bake in preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes. 

Cook's Notes:
*These are much more flavorful the next day, and they freeze very nicely too!
*Possible additions:  walnuts, toasted pecans, or chocolate chips 

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Giveaway Winner - Tasia's Table!

Drum-roll, please ........................................................................ ......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

The winner of the autographed copy of Tasia's Table:  Cooking with the Artisan Cheesemaker at Belle Chevre is:

Comment #25 from Jacqueline!!!

"I tweeted about the giveaway too! @bloggingbeauty"

Congratulations and thank you so much to everyone who entered for a chance to win!

I've picked a second potential winner.  Belle Chevre will also be giving away a signed copy of this awesome cookbook to a winner selected from the blogs participating in the Tasia's Table Virtual Potluck.  This name will be added to a drawing that Belle Chevre will do after October 14th.  The winner being added to Belle Chevre's drawing is:

Comment #13 from Dana:
"Dana @ Conscious Kitchen Blog said...My favorite thing about fall? So hard to choose, but I love the football games/tailgating, pumpkin flavored everything and sweaters and boots."

Good Luck, Dana!!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Break 'n Bread Food & Wine Festival 2012

This weekend marks one of the top food events in the state of Alabama - The Break 'n Bread Food & Wine Festival, and I am super duper excited to go this year.  The Birmingham Originals is an organization of our city's finest restaurants, and they are going big this year by hosting what promises to be the best BNB festival yet.

For those of you that live close to Birmingham, AL and are interested in attending, here are the details:

WHAT:  Break 'n Bread Food & Wine Festival
WHEN:  Sunday, October 14th
TIME:  1:00PM - 5:00PM
WHERE:  Railroad Park
TICKETS:   $35 for regular, $75 for VIP and children under 12 years old get in free

Break 'n Bread happens to be the signature experience for the Alabama Tourism Board's Year of Alabama Food campaign, and will feature an array of amazing food from nearly 40 Birmingham Originals restaurants.  A sampling of the restaurants include:

Ted’s Restaurant
The FishMarket
Little Savannah
Daniel George
Hot and Hot FishClub

A wide selection of wine and beer will also be available from Birmingham's own Good People Brewery, International Wines, Pinnacle Imports, Royal Cup and more.

Here's some additional information about the event, straight from the source:

Since 2003, the Birmingham Originals have organized this grand fundraising event to not only celebrate the South’s talented chefs and local farmers, but to give back to the community that has supported them over the years. In an effort to continue pushing the envelope and delighting the crowds, Break ’n Bread will once again play host to four multi-award-winning chefs from out of the state. Chef Adolfo Garcia of RioMar, La Boca and a Mano; Executive Chef Brian Landry of Borgne Restaurant; and Chefs Alison and Slade Rushing of MiLa will helm the VIP area, serving up Big Easy-inspired dishes with Big Easy attitude.

While food enthusiasts gather at the tasting tents, just a few steps away will be a dedicated children’s area featuring face painting with clowns from the Children’s Hospital of Alabama, petting corner and entertainment from the Birmingham Zoo, healthy kids cooking demonstrations, Desert Island Supply Company writing workshop and a pumpkin decorating station. Local farmer’s market vendors will also be stationed in and around the park, offering a variety of fresh produce and artisan products.

Tickets for Break ’n Bread and additional information are available at and on the Birmingham Originals Facebook page.  Prices are $35 for regular, $75 for VIP and children under 12 years old get in free.  A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Make-a-Wish Foundation, Camp Smile-a-Mile and United Way’s Healthy Communities.

I hope to see you there!!  :)

***All photos are courtesy of Birmingham Originals***
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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bacon & Goat Cheese-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Apple Chutney + A GIVEAWAY

This week kicks off a virtual potluck, celebrating Tasia Malakasis' beautiful new cookbook, Tasia's Table, Cooking with the Artisan Cheesemaker at Belle Chevre...I'm excited to be a part of this fun event!  When the folks at Belle Chevre asked me to pick out a recipe from the cookbook, I had a hard time deciding on just one.  However, this recipe for Bacon and Goat Cheese-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Apple Chutney stood out and was calling my name.

This is an outstanding meal, which actually isn't too complicated to make.  The ingredients are simple and the results are savory, scrumptious and comforting.  A pork tenderloin is stuffed with a trio of goat cheese, bacon, and fresh parsley.  After a quick trip to the skillet to brown the tenderloin, it roasts in the oven until done.  The tenderloin is topped off by a few spoonfuls of an easy apply chutney, adding a fruity-citrusy flavor to round out the entire meal.  Plus, on top of all that deliciousness, the rendered bacon fat is used to brown the tenderloin AND is used to saute the onions and apples for the apple chutney.  This means every bite is infused with bacony (is that a word?) goodness.

This meal would be perfect for dinner guests and is a wonderful way to showcase all the apples which are now in season.

Be sure to check out these fabulous bloggers, who are also participating in the virtual potluck:

Before getting all rolled up.

Apple Chutney

Bacon and Goat Cheese-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Apple Chutney
Adapted from:  Tasia's Table, Cooking with the Artisan Cheesemaker at Belle Chevre by Tasia Malakasis
(Reprinted with permission from the author)

1  1/2 - 2 pounds pork tenderloin, fat and sinew removed
3 slices bacon
4 ounces Belle Chevre goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Black pepper, freshly ground, to taste
4  8-inch lengths of kitchen twine

Apple Chutney
1 small red onion, minced
1 tablespoon butter, unsalted
1 small Fuji apple, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line a broiler pan with foil.

Fry the bacon in a large skillet, reserving the pan when done.  Pat the bacon dry with paper towels and chop.

Butterfly the pork tenderloin lengthwise, slicing it down the center, but not all the way through.  Open it up, and cover it with a sheet of plastic wrap.  Pound it evenly with a kitchen mallet or heavy-bottomed saucepan.

Remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the inside evenly with the bacon, goat cheese and flat-leaf parsley.  Close the tenderloin back up and tie in four evenly-spaced places with kitchen twine to keep it shut.  Coat with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper.

Brown the tenderloin in the pan used for frying bacon.  When all sides are brown, place it on the broiler pan and bake it in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F.

While the pork is cooking, make the chutney.  Using the same skillet used for the bacon and browning the tenderloin, cook the onion with the butter on medium-high heat.  After about five minutes, add the minced apple, cooking for another five minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the apple and onion are soft, turn the heat up and add 1 tablespoon each of lemon juice, honey and rice wine vinegar.  Stir on high for five minutes.  The mixture should turn golden brown.  Reduce heat to low and simmer.

When the tenderloin is done, slice it into medallions and arrange on a plate.  Top with spoonfuls of the chutney, and put the remainder into a bowl for the table.

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