My Favorite Burger (also, I’m BAAAAACK!!!)

I’ve taken a small hiatus from cooking, writing and socializing for the past two months.  July and August have been a whirlwind of brutal change for me!  We sold our condo and moved from the bright downtown city core to quiet suburbia.  No more car alarms, helicopters, sirens, or gunshots!  When you turn off the lights at night it’s DARK.  No more city glow nightlight shining into your bedroom.  It’s hard to sleep at night without the city noise.  If you remember, my last post was a recipe for energy bars.  This was mainly because I was finding I couldn’t stay awake during the day and also had an insatiable hunger… all because I am pregnant!  It’s true, I’ve got a big ol’ belly that only continues to grow and as of today I’m just over 4 months pregnant.

Baby P!

Baby P!

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Date & Walnut Energy Bars

I ate one already...

I ate one already…

I saw a recipe on The Kitchn’s site for energy bars and was intrigued.  You never know what they might be putting in those energy bars on the shelves at the store.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t eat an energy bar instead of my own arm if I was starving and stuck in a snowstorm, but it’s nice to know there’s a homemade alternative that doesn’t include any unpronounceable ingredients.  This recipe is four ingredients of awesome; walnuts, dates, dark chocolate and salt.  It took me about 20 minutes to assemble and then another hour in the fridge to chill and harden the top layer of melted chocolate.  Super tasty, no added sugar (well other than the chocolate), and super portable.

we like 55% dark because it's not too bitter

we like 55% dark because it’s not too bitter

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Genovese Basil Pesto

yes.  Just, YES.

yes. Just, YES.

Last Summer I posted my tired and true pesto recipe.  I’ve been making my pesto recipe for so long, I could probably make it with my eyes closed (though I do not recommend doing this).  I stumbled across a recipe for Genovese basil pesto in the 2013 July/Aug issue of La Cucina Italiana Magazine.  The article mentioned most Americans have never understood how to properly prepare pesto.  The article’s author often found American pesto “army green in color”, and “too garlicky”.  My initial response to the article was “HARRUMPH!”, but then I began to wonder; how different could their recipe really be from mine?  I mean, I LOVED my pesto sauce.  I went ahead and made the Genovese version last summer and it truly is the best pesto I’ve ever eaten.  Pea green in color with just a hint of garlic, smooth and mild, yet still very earthy; this pesto was well worth the extra hassle of soaking the basil leaves.  Since La Cucina Italiana Magazine’s last issue was Jan/Feb 2014, (even their website is GONE) I felt I should share this with America so we can all begin to make proper pesto!  Thanks La Cucina, you will be missed. Continue reading

Peach Pie

prettiest pie ever!

prettiest pie ever!

Peaches are now über ripe so what else is there to do other than make peach pie, right?  I’m on a pie roll and I can’t quite stop.  I spent a little tutelage time last week at the Pie Master’s house, and we tried out four different pie doughs!  Oil and flour, lard and flour, butter, egg, vinegar and flour, and lastly, butter, shortening, cake flour and all purpose flour.  Because I’ve had several failed pie crust attempts in the past, I had my doubts about each dough.  All crusts turned out successfully, in their own way.  In the end, it’s all about your personal taste preference.  We had a crust tasting and by far my favorite crust was Julia Child’s, which also included the cake flour.  It was light, flaky, buttery, and crisp.  Thank-you Julia!

the lard crust tasted like bacon!

clockwise from the L, lard, julia, oil, and egg.  the lard crust tasted like bacon!

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Spinach Feta Burger

yummmmmmmm

This recipe goes out to all my veg friends!

When I lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan, my old bff and I used to be once-a-week regulars at an Irish pub called O’Duffy’s.   She (conveniently) lived across the street and we’d have our standing Wednesday night date to complain to Chris, our neighborhood bartender, about everything happening in our Kalamazoo lives.  We’d belly up to the ornately carved bar and drink Bombay Sapphire n’ tonics or Guinness.  The Guinness was always poured properly, complete with shamrock on top.  My vegetarian bff introduced me to O’Duffy’s spinach feta burger.  It’s not something I would have ever ordered in place of a meat burger.  Ever.  But she split one with me one day and I was hooked forever.  I asked Jamie, O’Duffy’s owner, several times for the recipe and he told me it was passed down to him from the pub’s previous owners and that he would never ever give it to anyone.  I pieced this recipe together and guessed a lot.  Jamie would give no hints, I mean, even the menu doesn’t describe the burger, all it reads is, “a tradition at 804 W. Vine“.  Jamie, I hope I did your spinach feta burger justice.  It didn’t taste exactly the same (I don’t own a deep fryer, and I’m pretty sure that’s how he gets the distinctive crunch on both sides and all edges) but it was still pretty damn good, if I do say so myself! Continue reading

Berries in Sweet Yogurt

mmmm syrup.

mmmm syrup.

This recipe is inspired by my six-year-old nephew, Matthew.  Last week Matthew and I were enjoying my sister’s homemade waffles for breakfast, with fresh strawberry slices on the side.  He proceeded to show me how dipping your fresh strawberries in syrup made them taste better.  Duh!  All my life I’ve never thought to put maple syrup on berries.  What was I thinking!?  It takes this little smarty pants to show me what is up.

Matthew's funny face while in the hot tub on vacation.

Matthew’s funny face while swimming in the hot tub on vacation.

Anyway, this recipe is super simple and a lovely afternoon snack or after dinner desert.  Schmear Greek yogurt on plate, drizzle with syrup, add berries, eat.  Done. Continue reading

BA’s June Cover: Cherry Pie

sheeeeee's my cherrrrrry pie!

sheeeeee’s my cherrrrrry pie!

Last month Bon Appétit didn’t have a recipe on the cover (harrumph!).  Their May travel issue pictured some beautiful waiter from another country. But this month, June, it’s a beautiful-looking cherry pie.  (Cue the horrible Warrant song, as it’s been running through my head ALL AFTERNOON.)  I really am not a hot fruit type of person.  But firstly, the pie cover shot was photographed so beautifully and imperfectly; I felt an overwhelming compulsion to bake it and photograph it. BAcover Secondly, I figured, maybe with a small dollop of homemade vanilla ice cream on top to cool it off, the hot fruit might not seem so bad.  Thirdly, yet most importantly, two of my most favorite Nashvillians got married this past Wednesday and threw a champagne toast party on Thursday in celebration.  They said “no gifts” but I figured a homemade cherry pie wouldn’t be turned away, right?  I mean, we are in The South, people do have manners here!

the cheater chefs tied the knot!

the cheater chefs tied the knot!

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Steamed Rainbow Trout with Garlic and Butter

I channeled my inner Ansel

I channeled my inner Ansel

I’m home from Big Sky now, and already missing it’s bluey, snow-capped mountains.  My sissy and her hubs showed us a great time!!!  In five days we managed to fit in a trip to Yellowstone, fly fishing, several naps, and even a mountainous trail ride on horseback.  We truly enjoyed Yellowstone, as neither The Hubs nor I had ever before been.  We saw tons of bison, a couple of coyotes, some elk, and ravens as big as dogs!

baby bison!

baby bison!

We drove to view Old Faithful and it was kind of shocking; not in the least what I had thought it would be at all.  Picture a huge parking lot with tons of tourists, then almost an amphitheater type of platform built around the geyser, complete with stadium bench seating, three deep!  I thought the geyser would be in the desolate middle of nothingness - WRONG!  Old Faithful came complete with a huge hotel, a gift shop, cafeteria, gas station and every other amenity you would ever want or need… it was crazy.  Thankfully, I was able to take a photo omitting almost all of those things.

Old Faithful was 15 minutes late...

Old Faithful was 15 minutes late…

The Fountain Paint Pot Nature Trail had to be my favorite Yellowstone attraction.  It smelled sulphurically horrible but contained so many beautiful colors!  The Fountain Paint Pot truly looked like bubbling, blurping primordial ooze.  
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Bob’s Bean Salad

beautiful beans!

beautiful beans!

I sit and type this post from one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  Not even lying folks, this is my current view:

wine o'clock!

wine o’clock!

I’m both lucky and unlucky enough to have a sister who lives in Big Sky, Montana.  I’m lucky, because it’s truly a beautiful evergreen gem of a place to visit; a quaint ski village nestled into the Gallatin mountain range amongst picturesque rivers, valleys, and snow-capped peaks.  Big Sky is a forty minute drive from Yellowstone National Park!  I’m unlucky, because boy oh boy is it ever a trek to get here; and because of this I might only see my sissy and her fam once a year at best.    My parents opted to rent Das Trout Haus through my sister’s work and asked me and The Hubs if we felt like vacationing.  One look at the Trout Haus and wow, what an amazing place to stay, of course we’d love to go!!  This house located right on the Gallatin River, which is like 20 paces from the back deck. Continue reading

Sticky Sweet Bourbon BBQ Sauce

i am an artist and bbq sauce is my medium

i am an artist and bbq sauce is my medium

I love to grill meat!  The great outdoors, the smell, the flames, the seared, browned exterior crust over a juicy meaty interior; honestly, what’s not to love?  Did you know May is National Barbecue Month?  I learned this news nugget when Four Roses Bourbon approached me and asked if I would create a BBQ sauce from their single barrel bourbon.  Absoflippinlutely, I responded!

let's talk bourbon...

let’s talk bourbon…

As a dedicated dirty martini drinker, bourbon is not a spirit with which I’m very familiar.  Oh sure, I’ve partaken in the obligatory mint julep on Derby Day, but beyond a signature drink for a once-a-year event, I was clueless.  A quick wiki peek and some googling definitely helped me gain a better bourbon background.  Did you know, if it’s made in another country, it can’t be called bourbon?  It’s true; bourbon comes from the United States only, and almost all bourbon whiskeys are distilled in Kentucky.  This helped me to understand Nashville’s obsession with bourbon, as we are located less than an hour’s drive from the Tennessee/Kentucky border.  Bourbon must be distilled from 51% corn (other grains can be added like rye or barley) and is traditionally aged in white oak barrel casks, which give the bourbon it’s caramel color and maple-woody flavor.  Upon my first sip of the single barrel bourbon, I tasted the faintest hint of cherries with floral undertones and immediately wanted to add brown sugar and molasses to see what might happen. Continue reading