Wild Mushroom Naan

In the weeks leading up to our vacation, several friends questioned why we weren’t visiting a more renowned spot on the culinary map. Our trip to England, I explained, was about more than food. It was a return to my roots. It was also my first non-working week of vacation in years so… fish and chips? Fine with me. 

I was confident, however, we would enjoy plenty of interesting and inspiring food during our trip, and I was right. From duck burgers in Camden Market to confit leg of pigeon at The Ledbury to a homemade raspberry-meringue dessert we enjoyed with friends, London did not disappoint on any front.

We had a great experience at Rasoi, an Indian restaurant quaintly situated at the end of a winding, residential street in Chelsea and owned by Michelin Star Chef Vineet Bhatia. I’d like to pretend I discovered Rasoi after hours of meticulously researching high-end cuisine, but the truth is I read in People Magazine that Adele had recently dined there with her boyfriend.   SOLD!

There were, I regret to inform, no celebrity sightings, but there was a pilgrimage to Abbey Road.

We also made a few pub stops.

We stumbled upon a rainbow of macarons, cupcakes and giant, pastel-streaked meringues at a pastry shop near the Thames River.

Roasted Garlic Butter

Today, I want to share a little secret:

I keep a bowl of roasted garlic butter in my fridge and use it on everything.

Ok, not on everything, but smeared on thick slices of crusty bread? Yes. Slipped under the skin of roasted chicken? Of course. Brushed on skewers of grilled shrimp? Obviously.

My son, who is the pickiest of eaters, requests it on toast but would eat it by the spoonful if I let him. Butter alone is near perfection, but combined with caramelized, melt-in-your-mouth garlic, it can transform an ordinary dish into something more complex. For example, a few tablespoons of garlic butter stirred into freshly-cooked pasta will take it from uninspired weeknight fare to a plate of food you’d swear came out of the kitchen of your favorite Italian restaurant.

And it couldn’t be easier to make. Whole heads of garlic are trimmed of their tops — beheaded, if you will — and roasted under a pat of butter in a tight-lidded dish or enclosure of aluminum foil. The butter melts and seeps down into the cloves, encouraging even roasting.

At this point I should warn you: The scent of roasted garlic drifting out of your oven may make you weak in the knees, or at the very least, very hungry.

Bacony Salt And Vinegar Kale Chips

I didn’t think it was possible to improve on kale chips until I made a salt and vinegar version. Then I achieved kale chip nirvana when I swapped out one of the two tablespoons of olive oil in the recipe for bacon grease. You may lose a few health points for the substitution, but the calories are the same and it bumps the flavor up to snack food heaven: smoky, bacony and salty with a mild bite from the vinegar.

I’ve been feeling nostalgic about salt and vinegar lately, dreaming about the vinegar-doused fries and pungent salt and vinegar chips of my childhood. Jason and I leave soon for a week-long trip to London that will include a brief excursion to Tonbridge, where I spent nearly the first four years of my life. My fantastic parents took me along on their travels, most of which I remember only through these photos.

Here I am in England’s beautiful Lake District.

With my mother and a family friend on the outskirts of Liverpool.

Pan-Fried Egg With Black Beans, Sriracha And Lime

Forgive me Louisiana, but right now my culinary holy trinity is black beans, eggs and Sriracha. If there’s such a thing as a holy quartet, then add a lime to the group.

My breakfast for the past two weeks has consisted of a pan-fried egg, black beans, and a squirt (or 10, because I enjoy losing all feeling in my mouth) of Sriracha, with a splash of lime.  Spicy, zingy, comforting, it’s a wholly satisfying marriage of eggs and beans.

Roast Chicken Legs and Thighs

If there’s a meal my kids will reminisce about someday when Jason and I are racing wheelchairs in the nursing home, it will be this roast chicken. With its crackly skin and tender, juicy meat, it has appeared on the dinner table many times, too many to count, to the rave reviews of six year olds and out-of-town guests alike. This chicken is, hands-down, the easiest, most inexpensive meal in my dinner arsenal.

For those of you who strive to eat hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat but cringe at the cost, you should seek out chicken legs, thighs or drumsticks, which are significantly lighter on the wallet than their much sought-after counterpart, the chicken breast, and are arguably more delicious. 

Corn and Red Pepper Soup

I’m not sure which is more tragic: purchasing a summer vegetable in the dead of winter or letting large quantities of it rot in the fridge… in the dead of winter.

We strive to eat locally and in-season – that’s my politically-food-correct disclaimer – but in early January my husband, who never cooks, declared he was going to make maque choux for a company potluck. I tracked down a dozen ears of corn along with the other required ingredients in anticipation of watching him fumble his way around the kitchen, roasting and wrangling corn on the cob. Big laughs all around.


He never made the maque choux, and the corn loitered in the crisper drawer for days, which turned into weeks, me cringing every time I opened the fridge and laid eyes on the 12 blasted ears of corn.

After a month, I decided the corn would appear on the dinner table, somewhere, somehow. Soup seemed like the best option, as it tends to be forgiving of lazy cooks and imperfect produce. But as I would soon discover, a less-than-fresh vegetable is one thing; one that has grown hair and teeth is another. When I finally pulled the corn out of the fridge, I recoiled at the sight of an ominous, black mold – clearly, the mark of death – growing on the bottoms of the ears.

I promptly dumped them.

Whether I should be proud or embarrassed of what happened next, I’m still debating, but a few moments later I circled back to the garbage can and retrieved the corn. I cut the moldy bottoms off the cobs and proceeded with my soup plans, hoping a recipe from an inspiring, new cookbook might save the day.

Vanilla Marshmallows And Honey Graham Crackers

I’m not sure which was swooned over more in the homemade s’mores lineup: the cinnamon-sugar-flecked graham crackers made with local honey or the bouncy, vanilla-spiked marshmallows. I served these nostalgic treats, cooked over an open fire in our backyard, at Jason’s birthday party earlier this month.

You’d never know it from the pictures, but when I first pulled the graham crackers out of the oven, they looked dark, too dark, and I feared they were overdone. I panicked at the thought of having to serve adorable yet slightly charred graham crackers.

Crawfish Beignets With Spicy Remoulade

File these crawfish beignets under not part of the diet. I feel semi-guilty for writing about them in January when everyone’s trying to be good, myself included, but I think you’ll forgive me for weakening your resolve when you bite into one of these crispy, Cajun morsels stuffed with crawfish, scallions and red pepper. 

We rarely prepare fried food at home or order it when dining out, so you won’t see many recipes that require frying on this blog. These savory beignets are an exception. I first spotted them in Southwest Airlines’ Spirit Magazine on a trip with my dad to meet my twin nieces. During takeoff, we were drooling over the beignets when our plane began shaking rather violently, violently enough for my dad to lean over and say, “You know, this is the most dangerous part of flying. If we get through this, we should be ok.”

I felt MUCH better after that. A few other things I learned from my dad on this trip:

  1. If you discuss twins running in the family, he will share (for what I swear is the first time ever) that he has twin cousins named Joyce and Royce.
  2. If you attempt to explain why artificial sweetener is unhealthy, expect him to interrupt you mid-sentence with, “YOU’RE WRONG!”
  3. If you hang out in the food court with him during a long layover, you might lose track of time and have to sprint to catch your connecting flight. Sprint, not run. You might also end up being the last passengers to board.

Thank goodness we made our flight. We had the best time visiting the newest members of our family, we did.

Dad and I managed to see eye to eye on most matters, except where we should park at the hospital, why few radio stations play John Denver anymore, and whether a dinner host should apologize for serving a subpar meal – the latter of which is a discussion for another time.  One thing we did agree on was that I should make these savory beignets ASAP when I returned to Birmingham.

Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Red Pepper

Like many of you, I’m currently doing ye ol’ January detox, paying penance for all of the rich food I ate over the holidays. When in the throes of this detox, I have been known to frantically rifle through a kitchen drawer or two in search of long-forgotten chocolate. The diet is not a detox as much as it is a healthy way of living that I strive to maintain most of the time, except when I’m celebrating birthdays or anniversaries or when something doughy and buttery like savory monkey bread calls my name. Minus the weak moments, though, I feel physically better and am in an overall better mood when I’m eating meals that are low in carbohydrates, high in protein and plentiful in vegetables. This diet lends itself to a wide range of delicious food, like my current lunch staple: spicy, garlicky roasted broccoli.

I fire up my oven for a midday meal as often as possible because I work from home and because  we don’t own a microwave; so, if I’m sitting down to eat lunch 20 minutes after I’ve started preparing it, I call that a win. This broccoli dish wins in many ways: it’s simple, fast, inexpensive, healthy and full of flavor.

Italian Meringue Buttercream


After discovering Italian meringue buttercream, the real stuff made with sugar, eggs and what-should-be-illegal amounts of butter, I rarely whip up a frosting that calls for powdered sugar anymore. I don’t entirely eschew powdered sugar – I enjoy a fluffy, powdered-sugar-sweetened cream cheese frosting every now and then, but most of my cakes are adorned with smooth layers, thick fillings and flirty swirls of silky, melt-in-your-mouth buttercream.

Italian meringue buttercream is deceptively light-tasting with a smooth texture that allows it to glide easily onto cake. It sets quickly in the refrigerator or freezer when you’re assembling cake layers and applying frosting coats, and piped decorations of buttercream hold their shapes at room temperature better and longer than the average frosting. These qualities make it a dream for decorating.


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