a quick and easy way to wow a man…with food


When you have spent several days at a conference filled with teachers and it’s the night before conferences of the parent-teacher variety, you really don’t feel like spending lots of time cooking Sunday dinner. That said, you also don’t want to do a frozen pizza or take-out anything since you have been eating out for three days straight.

What is one to do?

Consult a recipe, of course!!!  For me, there are only a few better ways to unwind than drooling over a cookbook or the newest issue of Cooking Light magazine (these ways include massage, Jamaica, endless episodes of Say Yes To The Dress, or napping).

The most recent edition of CL offered a “quick-and-easy” weeknight chicken dish, which is what I had hunted for since hubs took out some chicken from the freezer earlier in the day.  All I lacked was one ingredient—apple cider—and since Thanksgiving is just a few gobble-gobbles away, we picked some up to have around anyway.

Now, I have made several dishes this fall with cider and cider variants, so I was afraid of overdoing it with the cider.  On the other hand, it is autumn, and I feel like I need to eat up all the leave-changing, brisk-blowing, cider-soaked goodness that I can!

NOTE:  What I loved about the following dish:

1.  super fast–from start to finish was about 20 minutes.

2. the flavors were both sweet and savory, without one particular ingredient overpowering another.

3. the side and the main were meant to be, really.

4.  pretty much had all of the ingredients on hand. I applaud this convenience!

5.  it was a light dish, but not so light that I was still a little hungry.  On the contrary, it was just the perfect amount of food to fill my appetite without making feel the need to put on my I-just-ate-a-big-dinner-pants (that one’s for Webb).

With a meal like this one, there is no need to order take-out:


1–Make brown rice however you usually do, omitting salt and fat. (We used Uncle Ben’s Boil-In-A-Bag brown rice.)

2–While the rice is cooking, melt 1 tsp. butter in a large pan over med-hi heat.   Add 1 lb. of pounded chicken breasts that you have already seasoned with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 3 minutes on each side or until done (mine took about 5 minutes) and remove from pan.

3–Mix up 1 tsp. Dijon mustard (I am sure you could use a honey mustard, or a spicy brown if you like; we like Dijon) and 1/2 cup. apple cider. I also added the lightest dash of cinnamon. Pour into the chickened pan and cook for 2-3 minutes till thickened, scraping up the bits on the pan as you go.

**NOTE:  I followed the CL recipe (minus my addition of cinnamon) and it said to cook until syrupy.  Well, my ‘sauce’ didn’t get really thick or syrupy, but it did thicken up—so the moral of the story is that it will still taste good, so don’t second-guess!**

4–Add chicken back to pan, turn it around and let it swim and glaze over, set aside.

NOW……for the buttered pecan rice:

1—melt 5 tsp. butter in a small saucepan. over med-hi heat. Let it really melt, let it brown; it MUST get brown! After about 2-3 minutes—when it’s brown and smelling awesome—lower the heat to medium and add 1/4 cup chopped pecans to the pan.  Stir nonstop for 1 minute so the nuts toast and don’t burn!

2–pour the mixture over the rice with about 1/4 tsp. salt and stir well.

Farley (he who I feed) walked in and said it smelled like fall in the house, that it smelled like home.  He took one bite, I took one bite,  and before I knew it our Martha Stewart plates were as white as the day we got’em.

hubs, post-meal. quite content and delighted.


(You too can wow your husband with this very simple dish).



slow, cooked, and southern.


I have succumbed to my slow cooker.

And why not?

It’s getting cold outside, kiddos.  Cold to warrant a wool coat with sweaters and jeans hiding underneath.

It’s also *holiday shopping time* according to commercial America, even though we haven’t even APPROACHED our gobble-gobble day of giving thanks yet!! Ugh…but that’s for another blog….

Since my husband has his weekends back, we are doing normal, newlyewed-ish types of things on the weekends:  house-hunting, shopping, daydreaming, being lazy, seeing all of our families (there is a lot and on my side and his), and we, of course, are having fun with all of the new kitchen toys we received as wedding gifts!  (Most recently made purchases at Crate & Barrel with a generous gift card—see?  A normal and newlywed-ish place to shop on the weekends, told ya!)

And while we’re busy being out and about, we still want to cook dinner at home on weekends, but there isn’t always time.

Lo and behold! The slow-cooker to the rescue!

I have always been shy of using a slow cooker, for no real reason other than I didn’t grow up with a Crock-Pot kind of mom—-my mother is an Italian-from-scratch-from-Queens-all-homemade kind of mom, and she does her own slow cooking in a slow oven—why use a Crock-Pot?

But we have one and we are determined to have fun (and good meals) and experimenting with all of our wedding gifts, so be it that the slow-cooker took center-countertop last Saturday.

My sister-in-law-to-be gave me a seriously simple and delicious recipe for pulled pork barbecue, which I couldn’t wait to try out.  Now, I also did not grow up eating this dish and I’m not even sure if you an purchase pulled pork anywhere on my beloved motherland of Long Island, but it’s one of my favorite regional dishes and I have loved it since my Carson-Newman days.  Hubs and I love it so much that we even featured it on the buffet at our wedding.  (Well, we also had chicken parmigiana and baked ziti–it was true and delicious comfort food!)

This came out AWESOME.   I sent hubs to the store, and he came back with a picnic roast—we were told to use Boston butt, but he said it looked no bueno at the store and this looked better–and cost less.  We’re in.

(But feel free to use whichever portion of roast you prefer).

Coming home from Barnes and Noble never smelled so good:


1–Pull your Crock Pot out.

2–Dice up 2 onions.  This may seem like a lot, but I promise it’s not.  They sort of melt down and mix in and seriously, it’s bueno.  So go ahead and dice’em up.

3–Season your 3-4 lb. pork roast (we used a picnic roast) with salt and pepper.  Go ahead, get all kindsa liberal with it.  Set your pork on top of the onions.


make sure you put the fattiest side up! that is where the flavah is! it needs to melt down and out.

4–Pour 1/2 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce on top.

5–Turn your slow cooker on LOW heat for about 9 hours and go play outside or visit Grandma.

6–Nine hours sure does go by fast when you’re not at home, doesn’t it?  Now your house should be filled with the awesome aroma of barbecue just waiting for you to dig in and have a huge bite. But hold on partner–you’ve got to shred your meat first.

Remove the pork with two heavy forks and set in a casserole dish.  Shred the sucker up with two forks.  (This is very easy to do; the meat will be tender and fall apart easily.)  Use a slotted spoon to save the onions you left behind (place in with the meat) and get rid of the juices and fat that melted in the bottom.

7—It may not LOOK gorgeous, but who cares? It SMELLS gorgeous and it’s gonna TASTE gorgeous!
Place your shredded pork and onions back into the slow cooker, cover with 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (more if you are feeling particularly saucy) and just wait one hour longer to get your fill.

8–You can serve on buns, on plates, with coleslaw on the top, with coleslaw on the side, however you please.  Green beans would be stellar, as would my corn pudding corn bread.


This is seriously good food to come home to on a chilly day of being out and about, and it’s so easy! You oughta try it!


pantry raid?


Sundays are always our last chance to be lazy.

Football, napping, napping while the game is on, going for a drive, vegging around the house–all prime Sunday post-morning activities.

So who in their right mind would want to slave over a hot stove on such a deliriously delightful time of ease and respite?

I wanted something delicious and homemade for dinner, but I didn’t want to have to work too hard at it.  I went on a scavenger hunt in my pantry, consulted my self-made cookbooks, and wound up only one item short of glory.  Hubs offered to go to the store to acquire said item, and we were in business, proverbially speaking.

All of the recipes before you can be made and ready within an hour, and most of the items are what one normally might keep around the house.

(Or,  as one of my best friends, Jenny,  said infamously:  you gotta use what you got to get what you want. )

And what you want is something quick, healthy, and yummy that didn’t take much work.

And what could be better than a spicy bean soup and cornbread on a cool autumn night?

(My hubs loves, loves, loves Jiffy bread and he loves, loves, loves beans, so this made him quite happy….then again, there are very few foods he doesn’t eat…!)

**NOTE:  the longer the soup simmers, the better, but you can go ahead and enjoy it after just 1/2 hour of simmah time!**

Have fun doing a pantry-raid for the following:


1–All good things start with onions, olive oil, and garlic, so do it up right and saute 1 red onion, diced and 5 cloves of garlic in a little bit of olive oil.  I suggest sauteing the onion first, then adding your  garlic midway through so your garlic doesn’t burn.

2–Add to this 5 cans of black beans, undrained. Believe me.  Just go ahead and dump the little ones in.

3–Add 5 T. minced jalapeno peppers, 2 1/2 tsp. chili powder, and 2 1/2 tsp. cider vinegar to the mix.  Stir it up nice and good now.

4–Get your soup to simmer, covered, for at least 30 minutes. Taste and check the seasoning, add a smidge of salt and pepper if you think it needs it, cumin might also be a good one to throw into the mix.

NOTE:  Thirty minutes is the minium amount of time required to acquire such grand and spiced yum yum time.   I, however, let the stockpot sit on the stove for about an hour.

NOTE NOTE:  If you prefer, shall we say, a brothier soup, add a can of chicken stock or a can of veggie stock to the mix halfway through your allotted cooking time.

5– If you have bowls you can warm up in the oven, get’em on in there and get’em out when it’s time to dish up.  Dress it up with whatever you like on your beans:  I used strips of Pepper Jack cheese and sour cream, other ideas are cheddar cheese, monterey jack, tortilla strips, crushed Doritos, crushed Fritos, green onions, etc.  Remember, this is made from your PANTRY RAID!

(fyi, I tried my best to photograph the meal for feeding farley fans, but me and the camera just weren’t working that day; I posted what I could to give you the main idea.)


1–Get out a large mixing bowl, open up a box of Jiffy bread mix and beat in 2 eggs and 1 stick of melted butter to the mix.

2–Mix in 1 small can of corn and 2 regular cans of creamed corn, along with 1/4 cup milk and  1/2 of an 8 oz. carton of sour cream.

3–Bake this for 1 hour at 350. “Please resist the urge to sneak a peek and pop the oven door open, because it will delay your baking….” says the voice of experience…..(ahem).

The consistency, when poking in a toothpick, should be clearly baked and custardy, not runny or liquidy.  If the latter is your case, then crank up the heat to 375 and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

it was so good.

Not like I’m trying to be vegetarian, but this is a great meatless meal and my husband didn’t complain about the lack of meat in this dish. He loved it, and even I, who am not usually a fan of beans–it’s a texture thing– loved this meal.  It was cozy, warm, fairly quick, totally easy, and mostly delicious.

Now you have my permission to go on a pantry raid and make this meal! Let me know how it goes for you.


Enjoy and happy eating!

the salad my brother-in-law will actually eat


It turns out that very few men in my family eat salads.

My baby brother is incredibly finicky and drowns his salad in dressing and pulls out pieces that look too crunchy—or as he calls them, ‘hard’–and the bowl winds up looking like soup-and-salad.

The older of my two brothers…..well, I’ve never seen him eat a salad before, actually.  And the same goes for my brother-in-law.

Last fall, my hubs (then-boyfriend) and I threw a harvest dinner party at the casa, and I was eager to try out new dishes.  I was most excited about the salad I’m about to share with you this evening, since it incorporated all kinds of flavors that we loved and celebrated the taste of fall.   I was not betting on either of my brothers or my husband’s brother to check it out.

(Had I placed a five-minute-shoulder-rub bet that they boys wouldn’t eat it, I’d be a goner.)

My brothers actually ate it up, and my brother-in-law had, like, three hefty helpings.  Yeah!!!!!!!!

And before you go running away with thoughts of this being a bad-for-you salad, it’s adapted from Cooking Light, so there!

We had plenty of pork tenderloin, pot roast , and  butternut squash risotto from my cooking extravaganzas last week, so I figured a salad would round out a meal of leftovers nicely…..and sadly, there are no leftover remains of this delicious dish.

Try it out for size:


1-Chop 1 large apple (or two small apples) and  1 red onion and slice it vertically, enough to make 1/3 cup.

(I neglected to remember this whole 1/3 cup bit, and used my entire red onion in the salad, and it was not overpowering–however, I like onions, so do as you wish.)

2–Cook 4 slices of bacon in a non-stick skillet until it is mmm mmm crispy! Remove from pan and reserve 1 tsp of the bacon drippings in the pan; responsibly get rid of the rest.   Crumble up your bacon and let it hang out for a second.  (You can use turkey bacon if you wish)

3–In a little bowl, whisk up 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1/4 c. rice vinegar,  2 T. honey, 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper. Pour into the bacon pan and stir, bringing to a boil.  Take it off the heat.

4–Combine that chopped onion, that chopped apple, that crumbled bacon,  and 1  10 oz. package of baby spinach and pour your dressing over the top.

So good, you might want to make it a double.

Enjoy and happy eating!

now introducing risotto


My husband generally refuses to believe that a meal without meat can actually be a meal, unless we’re talking about breakfast…until now.

Introducing:  risotto.

Comfort food came in the form of pot roast the just yesterday—but now it comes in a vegetarian and delicious kind of way.  Moral?  Comfort food on a cold night can mean different things to different people, but I dare you, I simply dare you, not to try a dish of delicious risotto on a November night.

A few years back, when I was living in Richmond, my darling friend Leigh Ann and I supped at a quaint and yummy spot called Millie’s.  That was my first encounter with the vegetable known as butternut squash, and my first encounter with risotto.  And what a sweet meeting it was!

I have dreamt of that risotto since then.

And I have hunted for recipes that might be as good.

And I believe I have finally found the one….

….actually, I have no recollection of how this one wound up in my books, but I have tampered with it enough so that I would call it my own.
Before you can behold the greatness in recipe form, let me share with you:

NOTE–you may go ahead and roast up the butternut squash before, if you are so inclined and desire that flavor, but the squash will cook up perfectly as directed.

NOTE–if you must have meat, might I suggest crisping up some bacon to crumble upon each serving? The salty, crunchiness of bacon will be a nice contrast to the creaminess of the risotto.

NOTE–you, of course, are free to do what you will with this recipe.  I think a good swap for the Parmesan would be goat cheese. Now that I’m thinking about it, I am so trying that next time!

FINAL NOTE:  this can be a hearty and filling main dish, or a great side to a meat dish–my hubs Farley loves it as a main now! yeah! and we’re thinking about making this again next week to go with some short ribs….yay or nay? Let me know!

Now, kind reader, please make the happy acquaintance of my new best friend,


1–Before you do anything else, peel, seed, and chop up a 3 lb. butternut squash into a small dice, about 1/4 inch. This is the largest prep you need to do.  While you’re at it, chop up 2 onions (2 cups) and thinly slice 4 cloves of garlic.

2–In a large enough saucepan/stockpot (I used my 6 quart pot) heat over medium-low heat 2 T. butter and 2 T. olive oil.  Saute these until they are soft, but not golden. **make sure you have a deep enough pot!**

3–Add in the squash and 2 3/4 cups arborio rice and stir for 2-3 minutes.

4–Add in 3/4 cup dry white wine and stir until absorbed….and then have a little sip yourself. I mean, why not? You need something to do while you are stirring up this risotto for the next 30 minutes or so!  (I used Zeal wine, a great and affordable sauvignon blanc, available at Sam’s Club, which hubs and I love and keep by the case at our house.)

5–Now comes the tedious-but-well-worth-it segment of our post…the stock adding.  In 1/2 cup increments,  add chicken stock and stir until it is absorbed.  How will you know if it is absorbed or merely just getting creamier?  Easy!  Lift up your risotto and check the bottom of the pan.   When there isn’t anymore liquid there, and it looks like your risotto is lightly covered in sauce (versus swimming amid sauce), that’s when you go ahead and add another 1/2 cupful of stock.

**Should take about 7 cups of stock**

6–When your rice and squash are creamy and have a little bit of texture to them, you are finished…..almost!

7—Softly stir in 2 cups cheese (freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago are great for flavor) (but you could also use a mix of regular grating cheese –which for me is a Parmesan and Romano blen– and shredded Parmesan, since that’s what I had, or you could try the goat cheese suggestion above!), 1/2 tsp. lemon juice, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.

So delicious, so creamy.

Like I said, my husband loved it last night and loved it as a main dish, and he is the carnivore of our marriage.

Funnily, I prefer it as a side when eaten day-of….but as I am devouring a healthy-sized bowl of this here whilst writing, I am enjoying it even more the second time around.

Hope you do, too!
Enjoy and happy eating!

perfect man food.


Although the colors of the Blue Ridge mountains have been proof of fall’s arrival for a few weeks, I really didn’t believe it until this past weekend:  it finally got cold enough to turn on the heat.

I love the smell of the heat going on for the first time; it definitely heralds a change of season, since our falls are susceptible to frequent boats of Indian summers.  There are certain and pleasant aromas I will always associate with fall, like the heat going on for the first time, leaves burning, pies baking, and pot roast, um, roasting.

Hubs and I decided to pop in a movie, warm up, and feast on autumn’s premiere main dish.  Then we decided not to be selfish, and promptly invited my mama over to sup with us.

Now, while I do enjoy my mama’s pot roast, mine is one of the few things I make that I prefer to hers.   Why, you ask? Answer is simple:  caramelized onions and beer!  Two ingredients that are supposed to go with meat, in my point of view.

And it ain’t just for Sunday dinners anymore, kiddos:  this is prime man food, it is, and I dare you to find a man who disagrees…….well, ok.  There might be some vegetarian/vegan/allergic-to-beef men out there. If you encounter one of those, well, grab some other man and he is sure to confess that yes, this pot roast recipe is the roast to end all other roasts.

NOTE:   If you don’t have a Dutch oven, a roasting pan will do fine.  Be sure to still brown the meat first and then transfer all that is delicious and good into said roasting pan.  If you can’t find a cover for your roasting pan, a large tent of aluminum foil will suffice.  If you don’t have a Dutch oven and are in the market for one, may I suggest the following: Martha Stewart’s 5.5. quart Dutch oven, available at Macy’s.   It’s a great size, easy to clean, and (if you click on the link) happens to be on sale at the current moment.

NOTE:   …while your meat should turn out sweet and tender, the deliciousness is really in this gravy.


a lot of adaptation occured from the original Cooking Light recipe, found here

1–Melt 2 T. butter in decent-sized saucepan over medium heat.  Add in 12 cups of onions (I use yellow, but white will work—this is about 1.5 lbs onions) and 1 1/2 tsp. sugar. You will need to stir this quite frequently, so that they turn a lovely golden shade of caramel.

butter always makes it better

yeah, it's a ton of onions, but it makes the flavah!!!

2–Preheat your oven to 300 while you are tending to the onions.

3–Take a 3.5–4 lb. pot roast and season the sucker with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. (You can use whatever type of meat you usually use for  pot roast, really, but we used bottom round, since that’s what was on sale.) Pop that baby in your Dutch oven (already Pammed/oiled/buttered/fatted up) and be sure to brown on all sides…..this should take up to five minutes.


4–Now comes the greatness!  Pour all of the onions on top of the meat, along with 1 bottle of Newcastle beer,  1 1/2 cups beef broth, and a generous sprinkling of salt, pepper, garlic powder and whatever your taste buds dream up.   I have used a bay leaf before, but as my father-in-law will tell you, I am not a fan—we tried 1 T. fresh thyme leaves this go round, and it offered a nice flavor to the gravy.

NOTE:  you must use Newcastle as your beer, or at least one very similar to it. I haven’t dared try Guiness—too dark, I think—but you need a nut brown ale to recreate the flavor if you can’t get Newcastle.

the one and only

5–Keep the roast covered tightly for 2 hours.  You can turn it halfway through, which I usually do, as per my mother’s advice…….but I completely forgot to this time.  And you know what? Didn’t make a bit of difference.

before the mixing and the lidding and the roasting


When your roast is done, let it sit on the carving board to breathe a bit while you get the gravy going.


1–In a small bowl, combine about 2 T flour with 1/4 c. water and blend well.

2–Put the Dutch oven on a burner so that all the leftover goodness comes to a boil. Pour in your flour mixture and whisk well enough to give your triceps a fab workout or to get all the brown bits scraped up from the bottom of the pan……whatever happens first.

Voila–you have gravy.

Man food!
Fit for women, too!
And kids!

Serve over egg noodles, or alongside a great heaping helping of mashed potatoes, sit down with the one you love, or at least like enough to get through an evening with, and enjoy!




the south does it better


When you are married to a band director, and when it’s autumn, you will always feel like you have more free time than your spouse, no matter what you do for a living.  Marching band season puts high demands on my man’s time.

Today was hubs’ first completely band-free weekend in months–MONTHS I SAY!!!– so we had major plans.

And I had a major surprise!  My plan was to fix my hubbsy a delicious make-ahead breakfast so we could laze around a little longer in the morning.

The breakfast you’re about to check out is simply mahhhhvelous, dahhhling.
It comes from Charleston, South Carolina, or inasmuch inspired.

(In the spring of 2005,  Etsuko (my former college roomie) and I headed on down to the syrupy Southern goodness of Charleston, South Carolina, hunting for seafood, fried green tomatoes, and more seafood.  Our visit to the luscious city proved to be a culinary extravaganza, indeed. We ate at Hyman’s every day for lunch, and I think we went back for dinner at least twice.)

scallop po'boy at Hymans

At the Cafe Cafe, you will eat the one of the most delectable breakfasts you can get in the South.   Eating this strata is like eating custardy bread pudding for breakfast–rich and heavenly.  This is serious, syrupy Southern goodness. Even though it’s a French-toast base, well, the French ain’t got nothin‘ on the South.

I swear my house smelled like Thanksgiving or Christmas morning while this was baking.  And then it tasted like Thanksgiving or Christmas morning in my mouth.  And then the hubs thus loved the breakfast lazy surprise and therefore declared we will eat this again on the following occasions:  1.  when we have special overnight/out-of-town guests   2.  when it’s a holiday   3.  when we are snowed in and 4. when we have  friends over for our next brunchy double-date.

(You, however, should make this whenever you like.)

A word to the hungry: you can make this up to 24  hours ahead of time,  or in as little as 2 hours ahead of time.

Another word to the hungry: this is quite rich.  I mean it’s right up there with Bill Gates rich.  Hope Diamond rich.

Hunker on down with your  coffee and eat this baby up:


1–Grease/Pam up a 3 quart rectangular baking dish (I use my lasagna dish, which you can get here)

2–Chop up a loaf of French bread into 1-inch cubes, (they can be a little bigger and nothing will get hurt, promise) Put half of the cubes in the pan.

3–Dice up  1 package of cream cheese (8 oz of Philly’ll do ya good) and sprinkle amidst the French bread cubes.  Cover the cheese with the rest of of the bread.  Sprinkle the whole mess with 1-2 tsp. cinnamon (depending on your taste).  You could most definitely do a fat-free, or reduced fat version if you are watching calories—but what the heck are you doing reading through this recipe if you are watching calories? Hmmmmm?

4–Mix up in a bowl the following:  8 eggs, 6 T melted butter,  2 1/2 cups half & half, and 1/4 cup maple syrup. Stir that sucker up good and pour over your bread mixture
**NOTE–I split the half/half mixture between half&half and skim milk**

5–Smush the mixture down with a spatula so everything gets all good and soaky and then cover with plastic wrap until ready to bake!

6–In a 350 degree oven, bake the strata, uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until golden, puffy, gotta-get-your-fork-ready.  Let sit for 10 minutes before serving and voila! Get your apple cider syrup and eat this up.


*You can use this syrup on your Aunt Jemima waffles and pancakes if you choose, but if you decide to dollop it on your strata, get this going a good 10-15 minutes before the strata is due*

1–Combine 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, and 4 tsp. cornstarch in your small saucepan.

2–Stir in 1 cup apple juice, 1 T. lemon juice and cook and stir over medium heat until thick and bubbly! When it gets thick and bubbly, cook it for at max 2 more minutes.

3–Off heat, add 2 T. butter and stir in.


Yeah. Like I said, hope diamond rich, but well worth an extra lap or two in the pool.

Enjoy and happy eating!