Archive for June, 2011

June 30, 2011

Recipe: Guacamole with Pico de Gallo

This is my favorite guacamole recipe. Make your pico the night before and let it sit overnight in the fridge. And save some for yourself before everyone else eats it all – you’ll be glad you did!

Guacamole with Pico de Gallo


  • 3 Avocados
  • Pico de Gallo
  •  Lime Juice
  •  Salt
Start with buttery-soft avocados. Halve them lengthwise and remove the pits. Next. with a spoon scrape the “meat” out onto a large plate. Next, with the bottom of a clean cup (or with a fork) mash the avocados, making sure to leave it relatively chunky. Add just a couple of shakes of salt to taste. Next, add a generous helping of Pico de Gallo. Fold together. Lastly squeeze the juice of half of a lime over the top. Give it a last stir.

Pico de Gallo

  • 5 Plum (Roma) tomatoes
  •  ½ large or 1 small onion
  •  3 jalapeño peppers
  •  Cilantro
  •  Lime Juice
  •  Salt
  •  Quantities are approximate


Pico de Gallo
Chop jalapeño, tomatoes and onions into a very small dice. (leave seeds in your jalapeño for a hotter pico. Adjust amount of jalapeños to your preferred temperature.) Next, chop up a nice-sized bunch of cilantro. Just remove and discard the long leafless stems before chopping. No need to remove the leaves from the stems completely. Place all of these ingredients together in a bowl and give it a good stir.
Squeeze the juice of half of one lime into the bowl. Add salt to taste and stir again.
June 29, 2011

Semi-Recipe: Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli

We shop at Costco fairly often. We mostly get our meat there because we can buy it in bulk and freeze it, making for simple and easy dinner decisions. The last time we were there, I found this ravioli from Pasta Prima.

I’ve had other packaged pasta that honestly wasn’t all that great, but this stuff was pretty tasty. What I love about pasta is that you can pretty much throw any vegetable in your refrigerator in it – zucchini, squash, peas, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, broccoli – it’s endless. Just buy whatever is in season or what looks good! For this recipe, all we really needed to buy was the pasta and the sauce at the store. The rest, we had left over from other dinners or grocery store trips. Here’s what we did:


  • pre-packaged ravioli (any flavor you’d like)
  • 1 large jar of your favorite tomato sauce (we like Publix brand Tomato and Basil)
  • Vegetables – chopped (we used leftover frozen peas, red bell pepper and onion)
  • 2 TBS EVOO
  • Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Boil the ravioli according to the instructions on the package. In a medium pan, heat your EVOO. Once hot, drop in your vegetables of choice and about a saute until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. We boiled and blanched our peas separately (blanch-drop them in an ice water bath to stop the cooking and to keep the bright coloring of the veggie). Add your peas and tomato sauce to the veggies. Cover and warm on medium-low heat. Once the pasta is done, drain and add to your saute pan. Top with Parmesan cheese.

June 28, 2011

Recipe: Gourmet S’mores

Love s’mores but don’t have the camp fire? These are the most delicious little camp-fire-free s’more. And it’s a little more fancy than the marshmellow on a wire hanger. Just saying. I can’t even begin to describe how good these are – really – so rich and chocolaty.  Here’s the good stuff:


  • 1 box of graham crackers
  • 1 tub of marshmallow fluff
  • 1 14 oz. bag of dark or milk chocolate candy melts
  • 1 jumbo bar of chocolate

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, open the package of graham crackers and snap them in half and then in half again. Snap all of your chocolate as well. Line up half of your graham crackers on a sheet pan and top with a piece of chocolate. Pop them in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Your chocolate will be soft, although it won’t look like it.

While you are waiting, take the other half of your graham crackers and spread marshmallow fluff on them. Top the warm crackers with your marshmallow crackers and let those hang out for a bit.

Next, you will need to melt your candy melts. Follow the instructions on your package – for sure. Usually, I melt in the microwave. Using a glass bowl, put half (7 oz.) of your candy melts into the glass bowl. Microwave for 1 minute at 50% power. Stir. Continue to microwave in 30-second intervals until smooth and melted.

Make sure you have wax paper laid out on your counter ready for your s’mores. Take your assembled s’mores and start dunking them in your melted chocolate. I like to use an icing spatula to scrap away the excess chocolate. Lay the wet s’mores out on the wax paper and let harden.

You can also melt colored candy melts and drizzle colors across your s’mores. If your chocolate gets a little too thick and globby, stir in a little bit of solid shortening to thin it out a bit.

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June 26, 2011

Wine: Château Mont-Redon Côtes-du-Rhônes

When we visited Andrews at the Westbrook in Paris, IL, we had 2 really great wines. They had a great wine list – pages and pages – despite being open 3 days a week. They usually only have 2-3 of each bottle in their cellar, but their selection of French wine (my favorite place of wine) was unbelievable for such a small place. It’s hard to even find 1 French wine on a wine list sometimes.

1999 Château Mont-Redon Côtes-du-Rhônes, France

Grenache 80%, Syrah 20%

Photo: Chateau Mont-Redon

This was an easy drinking wine, peppery, sweet and medium-bodied. The couple who joined us drink California Pinot Niors all the time and they loved this French table wine.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be a sommelier. I am in no way and expert. This “review” is because I liked it and think maybe you will like it too. No one can tell you what type of wine you like. Take it with a grain of salt. Try it and see if you like it too.

June 26, 2011

Receipe: Marinated Cheese Appetizer

This is the one of the hors d’ourves served at my brother’s wedding showerand I absolutely had. to. have. this recipe. I served this at my hubby’s b-day party, along with my fabulous guacamole, and this was the first thing gone – by a mile. It is easy – but impressive. My favorite kind of cooking.

Marinated Cheese Appetizer

30 min | 30 min prep
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 dash salt (to taste)
  • 1 dash black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 (2 ounce) jar diced pimentos, drained
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
Cut cheddar cheese and cream cheese into 1/4 inch slices, then again in half.
Using a small dish, place cheese slices on end alternating cheddar and cream cheese.
Make the marinade by combining sugar, basil, salt, pepper, oil, vinegar, pimento, parsley, onion and garlic.
Pour marinade over cheese, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Serve with crackers.
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June 25, 2011

Wine: 2007 Le Pigeoulet en Provence Rouge, Provence, France

This is another wine from our night out at Andrews at the Westbrook. They had a great wine list – pages and pages – despite being open 3 days a week. They usually only have 2-3 of each bottle in their cellar, but their selection of French wine (my favorite place of wine) was unbelievable for such a small place. It’s hard to even find 1 French wine on a wine list sometimes.

2007 Le Pigeoulet en Provence Rouge, Provence, France

80% Grenache, 10% syrah, 5% Cinsault and 5% Carignan
Retails around $20.00

Photo: Vignobles Brunier

This French wine is imported by Kermit Lynch (if you don’t recognize the name, he is a very popular and successful winemaker and importer in the wine world). This was another easy drinker. Fruity, medium-bodied and well balanced. It was great with all of our food choices.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to be a sommelier. I am in no way and expert. This “review” is because I liked it and think maybe you will like it too. No one can tell you what type of wine you like. Take it with a grain of salt. Try it and see if you like it too.

June 25, 2011

Welcome to Nashville: Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe

Taziki’s is an old Birmingham favorite of ours. Every Friday, I would head over to their Mountain Brook location for the special, and now every time my husband and I get a chance while we’re in town, that is one of the places we like to frequent.

The great news is that we don’t have to drive to Birmingham for Taziki’s anymore! Yay! They have franchised their multiple locations in Alabama and they are now in Nashville, Arkansas and West Virginia.  They have two locations, in Cool Springs off McEwen Drive (south of the new Whole Foods) and  the soon to be open West End location, behind the Panera and Which Wich.

The Friday Special is definitely my favorite thing on the menu. Light, fresh and a little tangy. It’s grilled chicken with penne pasta, served on a bed of lettuce with homemade, creamy balsamic vinaigrette and topped with feta, diced tomatoes and a fresh chiffonade of basil.

Taziki’s Friday Special – personal photo

Other favorites are the Chicken Basil-Pesto-Gyro, Tiger Shrimp Greek Salad and the Taziki Dip. Or grab a sweet iced tea and have their great hummus on their patio.

Another great option for families who want to eat at home is their take out Fresh Feasts for 4. Grilled Chicken Breast, marinated for 12 hours in their homemade Greek dressing with Taziki sauce, Roasted Port Loin, Sliced Roasted Leg of Lamb or a Whole Baked Chicken. Served with sides like fruit, pasta salad, tomato-cucumber salad or basmati rice. They also do catering – a good option for a non-pork or red meet Friday business meeting.

They’ve only been open a little over two weeks down in Franklin, so go down and see them! We’ll be there next Friday, for sure.


4091 Mallory Lane
Franklin, TN 37067

Mon – Sat | 11 to 9 Sunday | 11 to 8

$5.95 per entrée

top image taken from

June 23, 2011

Diamond in the Rough: Andrews at the Westbrook

I mentioned in my original and initial post that we visited a restaurant worthy of a review in Paris, IL. We were in town visiting some friends in Terre Haute, IN (45 minutes west of Indianapolis) for a golf tournament. They secured reservations at this restaurant and just raved about it. I knew it would be good. The wife is a fabulous cook herself, they have traveled the world and are also self proclaimed foodies.

So, we took off driving to what seemed like nowhere towards Paris, Illinois, through some very flat fields. At some point, I even asked where they were taking us, in disbelief that this little gem existed.

Andrews At The Westbrook – personal photo

I won’t go through the entire history of this historic home, but you can read about it here. It was built in 1866-67 on family land of the original owner. Double brick walls, a fireplace in every room, 8 rooms, and it originally sat on 1600 acres of land.

photo courtesy This was actually our table right there on the left.

You walk into this home and you can see the beautiful craftsmanship. The curved staircase and woodwork is breathtaking. Each of the eight 18’x18’ rooms is your cozy dining space, with a lounge off to the side for enjoying your last glass of wine or a chat while you wait.

The chef, Andrew, has a small and delicious menu. If the menu is this small, you know it is all good.

Hors d’oeuvres start with New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, Steak Vealie and the Soup Du Jour. We ordered the shrimp. It was delicious and different from a traditional New Orleans recipe. Buttered with herbs and spices. These were huge prawns and you could see the bay leaf and Cajun seasoning just floating in the butter and oil.

Once all the shrimp was gone, we asked for more bread to sop up the rest. I was also eyeing the Steak Vealie, pieces of beef filet with gorgonzola blue cheese sauce.

That same gorgonzola blue cheese was the dressing on the salads too. Delish. They actually make blue cheese using gorgonzola. It’s a very different, sweeter dressing. The ladies chose a creamy balsamic, but I couldn’t keep my fork out of my husband’s dressing.

We ordered 2 fabulous French table wines from Côtes du Rhône. I’ve posted a little review of those in another post here.

For entrees, there are choices of filet, rib eye, veal, crab cakes, salmon, chicken and lamb. Every one of them looked amazing.

I ordered the “Chef’s One and Only Barbecue Salmon”. Folks, this was one of the best pieces of salmon I’ve ever eaten. It’s grilled with a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce, baked and finished with a honey, cilantro sauce. Yes, honey-cilantro. It spilled out all over the plate and made the super farm fresh asparagus and Parmesan roasted new potatoes even more delish.

My husband got the Scallopinni of Veal with Shiitake Mushroom Cream Sauce. The veal was so tender and the cream sauce was almost like a white gravy with a little kick of spice.

Our other diners go the Herb & Cheese Filet of Beef, with herb cheese, seared and served with a red wine shallot sauce. I was lucky enough to grab a bite of that steak before it was gone! It is really hard to over salt a steak. This was the perfect salty filet. And the red wine shallot sauce was super.

On to dessert. Thousand Layer Cake. We actually had to reserve 2 pieces of this prior to dinner. If you don’t, it’s gone. Or there is 1 piece left and your table fights over it.

It’s layers of baked puff pastry, baked separately and constructed layer after layer of alternating, soft and light vanilla mousse. They make one a day of the 3 days that they are open (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) and that’s it. It is so delicate, it doesn’t last any longer than that. We also got a chocolate layer cake, but it seriously sat in jealously while we each shared the 2 large slices of Thousand Layer Cake.

It’s finished with a dusting of powdered sugar. When you dive in, the flakiness of the puff pastry is sticky and crumbles through the layers of mouse. It’s so rich but light at the same time. I devoured the entire thing.  This is the only pictures I got – dug in really quick! A couple of glasses of wine in, and I’m not really caring about quality of pictures at that point. haha

This sleepy little restaurant off Rt. 16 is definitely worth the drive out to Paris, IL if you are in the area. Perfect for a special occasion or when you just in the mood for a good meal.

Andrews at the Westbrook

7397 north 1200th Street
Paris, IL 61944
(217) 465-2003

Call for reservations.
Open Thursday-Saturday.
$25+ per entrée

June 19, 2011

My First Post. Professions, Confessions & Perceptions

Nice to Meet You, Food Blog.

I’ve wanted to start a food blog for a while now. There are so many others out there, so I wanted to give a little insight as to how this might go for me us – my husband will be enjoying at little eating/critiquing too!

I don’t claim to be a chef. I am a novice, at-home cook whom only started seriously cooking and eating about 4-5 years ago. I have a passion for eating out, cooking in and drinking wine. It is my vision to post recipes that we’ve tried, whether they turn out well or we fail, to post restaurant reviews visits, and to talk about the wine that we like (I apologize in advance, it’s usually red).

I don’t claim to be a writer. (or a type-r or a grammar nerd or a speller – my mom will tell you that). When out at a restaurant, I will probably take pictures with my phone camera, which isn’t awesome. I apologize for that, but I’m not quite ready to whip out the Canon DLSR from my purse in public yet. I’ll leave that up to the professionals. And to spare you from the pain of some of those bad pictures, I’ll probably just pull an images from the internet of the dish, if available, with credits, of course.

I don’t plan on really going out and giving bad reviews, so if I post or tweet that I’m going somewhere, and you don’t see a post, then it was either bad, nothing special, or I was lazy. I don’t typically eat a lot of seafood north of the Mason Dixon line (I’m a true Southern girl, born and raised on the gulf coast), but my Husband does, so you’ll be getting reviews from his palette on anything fishy or just plain weird, like squid. I don’t eat squid, whether it is fried or not.

Recipes I post will range from basic & easy to a little more advanced. I’ve even been known to take a stab at cooking some items out of my favorite chef’s, Frank Stitt (Bottega – their website is being redesigned), cookbook. It the sort of “cookbook” that starts a recipe on one page and just when you think it’s through, it tells you to turn to page 275 for the 1 hour long butter sauce-for-the-chicken-scaloppini recipe. Yikes. Luckily, I’ve mastered that one now.

I hope to be able to post both the easy and the hard, usually it will be the easy, recipes that we like and have tried so you can try them yourself. We try to go to different restaurants when we travel – hit up the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives place that make us salivate in different cities. Upcoming trips are Dallas, Denver and Paris, IL (I know, weird, but this place was A-Mazing).

The basic staples that we keep in our pantry/fridge are: EVOO, garlic, dill, sage, salad, some sort of potato, a red or white onion, and we buy and freeze a lot of our meat from Costco. We like to eat healthy and fresh, but we’re also loving a good ole’ steak, burger or ribs too. We’ll be having a wing-off competition come football season – getting super excited about that. We try to use what we have. I am often standing in front of the pantry or fridge conjuring up some weird dinner with the ingredients we have left over from something else.

I don’t claim to be a sommelier. I enjoy wine. I take a few classes. I read a few books. But, I am in no way an expert. So, what ends up on here will just be what we like and think maybe you will like. Take it with a grain of salt. Try it and see if you like it too.

Anyone is welcome to submit posts or recipes or suggestions. Since I do have a full-time job (, I probably won’t post with a certain frequency, but I plan on posting as often as possible. I’ll probably stock up on some posts of recipes that I know and love to keep the flow going in between new posts or reviews. There are thousands of food blogs out there. I hope to selfishly fulfill my need to write about food and all the things that go with it, but I also hope to help readers figure out new recipes, find new restaurants and wines and help you come up with new ideas all your own. Anyway, welcome to my food blog. Hopefully, you will find it useful, entertaining and informative. And if not, you don’t have to read it. Enjoy. ☺