killing time between meals

where talking about what's for dinner while you're at lunch is totally acceptable


Beef Stew & Shepherd’s Pie

bowl o stew

St. Paddy’s Day may be a few days behind us, but there’s still a windy chill in the air. While today is the first day of spring, you can still say an official farewell to winter with some hearty beef stew and/or shepherd’s pie. If you know any men wearing flannel shirts and sporting thick beards, I advise you to invite them over. They will love you and eat up all the hearty food on your table.

Beef Stew
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Serves 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 pounds beef stew meat
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can or bottle of beer
4 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ teaspoon paprika
1½ teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 new potatoes, quartered
4 carrots, unpeeled & sliced into chunks
¼ cup minced parsley
  • Heat the olive oil and butter in Dutch oven over meduim-high heat. Brown the beef on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove meat from the pot and set aside.
  • Place chopped onion in pot and stir until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Stir in beer, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, paprika, sugar, salt, and pepper. Return beef to pot, cover and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours.
  • Add potatoes and carrots. Cover and cook another 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
  • Serve in deep bowls. Sprinkle with minced parsley.
pot o stew
Now, that was good. But shepherd’s pie is even better.
Shepherd’s Pie
Leftover beef stew
2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 tablespoons butter (or more or less to taste)
½ cup milk or half-and-half (to taste and consistency preference)
Salt & pepper to taste
Sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Peel and cut the potatoes into same-sized pieces, and add them to the water. Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes in a large colander; return them to the pot they cooked in, and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape.
  • Turn off the stove and add butter, milk, salt, and pepper. Mash to desired consistency and taste for seasoning.
  • Place leftover stew in a pan.
  • Lather a thick layer of mashed potatoes on top. Smooth with a spatula. Like so:

spread 2

  • Cover potatoes with grated cheese.
with cheese

  • Bake until the cheese is warm and brown.

hot cheese

shep close

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Symphony Brownies


Next week Kenny Loggins is playing three nights of shows at the Nashville Symphony. My sweetie and I will be soaking up the sounds of “I’m Alright” and “Danny’s Song” from the balcony. In honor of this special occasion, I give you the Symphony Brownie—a recipe from my friend Julie who is the queen of desserts. The basic brownie recipe is just right on its own, but the addition of Symphony candy bars really takes it over the top (say, past the back row of the balcony). Make these brownies before a road trip, after a baby is born, or when you need to say, “Thanks!” or “I’m sorry.”

Symphony Brownies
11 tablespoons butter
1¼ cup sugar
¼ cup water
24 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1½ cups flour
½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoons salt
3 extra large (4.25 oz) Symphony bars with almonds & toffee
  • Preheat the oven to 325. Grease a 13×9-inch baking pan.
  • In heavy sauce pan, combine butter, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil, stirring until the butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.

melt my butter

  • Remove from heat and stir in 2 cups of the chocolate chips until melted. Cool a bit, then add vanilla. I used the really good vanilla I got in Mexico.

mexican vanilla

  • In large mixing bowl, whisk eggs, then gradually add the chocolate mix, stirring with a wooden spoon until entirely mixed.
  • In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the remaining chocolate chips.


  • Finally, stir the dry ingredients into the wet. Mix well.

  • Spread half the brownie batter into the pan. Place the Symphony Bars side-by-side across the batter, and spread the other half of the batter on top.



  • Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until cooked through. Do not over bake!


Hoppin’ John for New Year’s Day

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is one of my favorites. There seems to be extra time to go to the movies and return stuff that didn’t fit and read the new cookbook you bought yourself for Christmas.


Ree begins her book of holiday meals with New Year’s Day Hoppin’ John. This is a tradition I’ve never participated in before. But after my first encounter, I see many a black-eyed pea in my future January 1sts (as well as other chilly days ahead). Hoppin’ John over rice is a filling, simple, flavorful meal. Add another dimension by serving it alongside kale, with cornbread, or over grits instead of rice like my friend Caroline does.

pot of beans

Hoppin’ John
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Serves 6

2 cups dried black-eyed peas
5 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 to 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 thick slice country ham, diced (about 1 cup)
White rice, for serving

  1. Soak black-eyed peas in cool water for 6 hours or more. Rinse and drain.
  2. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, bell peppers, jalapeño, garlic, and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in rinsed beans, then add the chicken stock, salt & pepper, and cayenne pepper. It’s a lot of beans to season, but go easy on the salt since the country ham you’re about to add is very salty. Start with a teaspoon and see how you feel.
  3. Toss in the diced country ham (bone and all) and bring to a boil.
    country ham
  4. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour. Stir periodically, and check the liquid level after about 45 minutes. I like a thick stew consistency so some liquid remains to spoon over the rice. If the mixture is too soupy, remove the lid and cook for another 15 minutes or so. If it’s too thick, add more stock.
  5. Taste for seasonings. Remove bone. Serve over rice.

Happy New Year, friends!


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Fancy Beans & Greens

beans greens cook

Do you like beans and greens? Before you say bah-humbug, whip up a pot. Humble beans and lowly greens create the loveliest dish that can be enjoyed on its own, with a spicy sausage, or as a hearty side dish to accompany nearly any meat main. Last week I went a step further and put a fried egg on top. Some might say that adding a fried egg is a fleeting food fad, but I say it makes beans & greens swanky. The runny yolk adds a rich, creamy, golden layer of flavor.

Beans & Greens
Serves 2 to 3

Olive oil
1 bunch organic kale, destemmed and chopped
Salt & pepper
Fresh ground nutmeg (optional)
Red chili flakes (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup chicken stock
1 can white beans (great northern, cannellini), rinsed & drained

  • Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add kale, turning often until wilted. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, chili flakes, and garlic.
  • Deglaze the pan by adding some chicken stock. Pour in white beans. Add more chicken stock as desired. Simmer until warmed through.
  • Enjoy as is, with chicken sausage, or get fancy.

Get Fancy
Salt & pepper
Parmesan cheese

  • While beans & greens simmer, fry some eggs to over easy or over medium—whatever you prefer as long as the yolk is still runny. Sprinkle with salt & pepper as they cook.
    over medium
  • Serve on top of a pile of beans & greens with a side of toast. Or, if you happen to have thick, crusty bread, lying around, pile everything on top. Sprinkle with a generous amount of fresh grated Parmesan.

with egg

runny yolk

perfect bite

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Chili Time!


If there’s even the slightest chill in the air, it’s time to make a pot of chili. I have whipped this recipe up twice since the temperature dipped below 75 degrees. Chili is a very personal dish with more variations than I care to talk about. But aside from bean and spice preferences, I find chili to be a personally sentimental dish as well. It kicks off fall, my favorite season. It tends to draw a crowd of people I love. It’s casual comfort food that makes newcomers feel at home. And it’s the first thing I ever cooked for my sweetie.

Make chili for your next fall get-together. It’s all in one pot, so there’s little clean up. Setting up a pick-your-own toppings buffet couldn’t be easier. And it gives you an excuse to eat Fritos (like you needed one).


Chili Girl’s Chili
Serves 6 to 8

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. ground beef
2 bell peppers (red and/or green), chopped
2 jalapeños, minced
4 generous dashes Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
Salt & pepper
1 can tomato paste
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (aka Rotel)
1 can chopped green chilies
2 cans beans (black, kidney, and/or pinto), rinsed & drained
Garnishes of your choice

  • Warm olive oil in Dutch oven and sauté onion and garlic until tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the ground beef and brown. Drain any excess fat from pot.
  • Add bell peppers and jalapeños.
  • Stir Worcestershire, chili powder, oregano, cayenne, cumin, paprika, chili flakes, salt, and pepper into the meat mixture. Cook 1 minute. Add tomato paste, mixing in well. Cook another minute.
  • Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Serve with chopped green onions, avocado slices, cheddar cheese, sour cream, Fritos, and cornbread.


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Jambalaya and a Crawfish Pie …


I’m sure it’s very easy to have some fun on the bayou. But son of a gun, I do not live close to a bayou. So I brought the bayou to me by making jambalaya! The name alone sounds like a party. This hearty one-pot meal is surprisingly simple. I wasn’t so sure at first. But my Louisianan friend Leigh Ann assured me: “All you have to do is get the trinity right. After that, it’s just a little bit of this and a little bit of that!” Below is the beginning of the Cajun holy trinity that Leigh Ann was talking about. This is just equal quantities of onion, celery, and bell peppers. A mirepoix variant, if you will. And I will.


I took Leigh Ann’s words to heart. Ina’s original recipe calls for chicken thighs, but I am not a chicken lover, so I left those out. You should leave them in if you’re into that sorta thing. Whatever you decide, make this dish the next time you have a crowd coming over. No matter how many people show up, I bet you will have leftovers.

Adapted from Ina Garten
Serves 10

2 tablespoons good olive oil
1½ pounds andouille sausage
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and large-diced
3 large stalks celery, large-diced
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained and medium-diced
2 jalapeño peppers, minced and seeded
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken stock
3 cups extra-long-grain white rice
3 bay leaves
1 pound peeled & deveined shrimp, tails on
½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 to 6 scallions, chopped
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • Heat the olive oil in a very large Dutch oven or stockpot, add the sausage, and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, turning until browned. Remove the sausage to a plate and sliced diagonally ½ inch thick. Set aside.
  • Add the butter to the pot of browned goodness, then add the onions, bell peppers, celery, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.



  • Add the tomatoes, jalapeño, garlic, tomato paste, oregano, thyme, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Add the white wine and scrape up the browned bits in the pot. Add the stock, rice, sausage, and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the shrimp and simmer, covered, for 5 more minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Stir in the parsley, scallions, and lemon juice. Cover and allow to steam for 10 to 15 minutes, until the rice is tender and the shrimp are fully cooked.
  • Discard the bay leaves. Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of parsley and scallions.




End of Summer Pork Tenderloin & Black-Eyed Pea Salad


I really believe that. Don’t you? So are cows and chickens. Buy this adorable letter press by Starshaped Press here.

Anyway, this fabulous and wildly easy supper has been my summer go-to meal. The entire thing takes less than 45 minutes, and you only dirty two dishes. That’s my kind of simple. Plus, you can double, triple, or quadruple the recipes without breaking a sweat. Like the time I made one for me, one for a friend who just had a baby, and one for my neighbor as a thank-you.

Since it’s all so simple, don’t skimp on the meat. That pig is the star of the show. I buy mine at Turnip Truck in the Gulch. They recently started carrying American Homestead Natural Pork. The tenderloin runs $12.99 a pound. If I don’t share I can get three or four meals out of one tenderloin. And it’s Hampshire pork. That’s like buying an heirloom tomato versus a grocery store tomato.


Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Adapted from Everyday Food


1/2 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pork tenderloin (around a pound)
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil

spice rub

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 can (15 ounces) black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 red bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), finely diced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper

salad fixins

  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, make the spice rub. Combine paprika, thyme, cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and set aside.
  • Place pork on a rimmed baking sheet and rub with oil. Sprinkle all over with spice mixture, patting in gently. Roast until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of meat registers 150 degrees (about 20 to 25 minutes). Let cool.


  • While the pork cooks, make the black-eyed pea salad. In the bottom of a medium bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, and oil. Add all vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, toss to combine, and taste for seasoning. If you like, place in refrigerator until pork is done.
  • Thinly slice pork and serve with an extra-large helping of black-eyed pea salad.

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A Few of My Favorite (Kitchen) Things

1. A new recipe. Confession #1: I easily get into cooking ruts. But last Saturday I unearthed an Everyday Food cookbook I hadn’t used in a while and decided to branch out. So I made this. (Scroll down for Lime-Marinated Flank Steak recipe.) sliced

2. This juicer. For only $20 you can have fresh squeezed citrus juice in seconds. Generally I am against buying appliances that are only good for one thing, but I am never sorry that I have this citrus juicer when I am making drinks or marinades. (Watch for sales. I swear I saw this thing at Kroger for $12.)

3. Microplanes. I have two. One for smaller zesting (lemon zest, garlic, ginger) and one for larger grating (hard cheeses, chocolate shavings). If you put one of these on your wedding registry, I WILL buy it for you. Heck, I might buy it for you anyway out of that tiny piece of goodness left in my heart.

4. Culinary treats from abroad. I purchased a cute jar of red pepper flakes while in Sorrento (which I didn’t know is known for their chili peppers) at Aromi di Sorrento, a spice shop off the beaten path. This is a fun thing to look for while traveling. I’ve picked up vanilla in Mexico, maple syrup in Canada, bacon in Knoxville … you get the picture. And speaking of picture, look at the difference!

red pepper

Kroger brand (left), the real Sorrento deal (right)

5. Le Creuset. This little roaster has become my favorite size around the kitchen. Clocking in at 8×11 3/4 inches and holding 2 1/2 quarts, it’s the perfect vessel for half a casserole recipe, a Thanksgiving side dish, or holding my marinating meat in case of any drips.
6. New skills. Confession #2: I don’t know how to grill. The fire scares me. Plus it’s already hot outside when you grill, so I know I’m gonna sweat, what with the blazing sun and the flames that you are reaching your hands into. Nevertheless, I feel this is a skill that it is beyond time I learn. So my brave neighbor Nate has agreed to teach me. And the first lesson didn’t go too badly, even if I did squeal like a small child when putting the meat on the hot, hot flames.

What are your kitchen essentials? I’m sure this post is just the first installment of many.

Lime-Marinated Flank Steak
Adapted from Everyday Foods
Serves 4

Juice of 4 limes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 scallions (about 1/3 cup), thinly sliced
2 tablespoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds flank steak
Vegetable oil, for grates
Coarse salt and ground black pepper

  • In a resealable plastic bag, combine lime juice, soy sauce, scallions, ginger, garlic, and red-pepper flakes. Add steak, and seal bag; marinate in the refrigerator, turning occasionally, for at least 1 hour.
  • Heat grill to high; lightly oil grates. Remove steak from marinade, letting excess drip off (discard marinade). Season with salt and black pepper. Place on grill and  cover.
  • Cook, turning once, for 6 to 8 minutes (for medium-rare). Let rest 10 minutes before slicing thinly.
  • Serve with sides or on top of a salad.

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Zucchini with Zing

Remember that time I went to Italy and did nothing but eat amazing food? Yeah, I still miss that. I’m getting through this difficult time of mourning by cooking a little pasta here and there. This week I also tried my hand at zucchine scapece. I can’t say that I’ve perfected the dish I first had at Flavio Al Velavevodetto, but my attempt was so tasty that I sliced up another zucchini and made more.


Zucchine alla Scapece (Zucchini finished in Vinegar)
Adapted from David Rocco’s Dolce Vita

1/3 cup (give or take) extra-virgin olive oil, for frying and seasoning
5 small zucchinis, thinly sliced
10 to 15 fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, quartered
Splash white wine vinegar

  • Pour a thin layer of extra-virgin olive oil into the bottom of a heavy frying pan. Warm over medium to medium-high heat. (Olive oil burns at a higher temperature than, say, vegetable oil, so be careful not to let it get too hot.) Gently place the zucchini in hot oil and fry until golden.
  • Drain zucchini on a paper towel-lined plate and let cool.
  • Meanwhile place the mint leaves and garlic into a bowl. Add the fried zucchini and season with fresh extra-virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, and salt. Toss to coat.
  • If you can resist, allow to sit for about 15 minutes to let the flavors mingle. Taste for seasoning and remove garlic before serving.


Inspiration & One-Pot Pasta


At Blackberry Farm

Last weekend I seized the opportunity to attend the Southern Food Writing Conference in Knoxville, TN. Along with a full stomach (thanks to Blackberry Farm, Tupelo Honey Cafe, and Benton’s Bacon) and some new friends, I walked away with a head full of inspiration.


Allan Benton smokes a mean pig and is the kindest man you’ll ever meet.

I realized that I’ve gotten into a bit of a cooking rut, making the same three dishes each week and visiting my usual restaurants in between. It’s time to branch out! So here we go.


A few weeks ago, I randomly got a Martha Stewart Living magazine in the mail and came across a recipe for one-post pasta. I was intrigued. You just cook everything in there together all at once. Could it really be so easy? I had to know.


With the simplest ingredients that I already had in my kitchen, this dish magically cooked itself into a delicious pasta and sauce. The only thing left to add was salty parm.


One-Pot Pasta
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living
Serves 2

6 ounces dried linguine (All I had was wheat spaghetti and it worked, but I think linguine would have been better. The spaghetti broke up quite a bit.)
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
½ a yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 large sprigs basil, plus more for garnish
2¼ cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

  • Place all ingredients (sans Parmesan) into a large pot.
  • Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with lots of Parmesan cheese and basil leaf threads.