Looks like I've got some catching up to do

So, to anyone who was reading this with any regularity, it seemed as though I fell off the face of the earth. Or quit cooking. Or quit eating.

I can assure you none of these scenarios is true.

Mike and I still cook together all the time, and now it's even better because we moved last summer, and our new kitchen is far and way better than our old one.

We've also still been traveling quite a bit — most frequently to Asheville — where the most frequent question that comes up is, "Where are we eating tonight/in the morning/next?"

Along those same lines, for our last several birthdays and anniversaries, we've opted to celebrate by dining out at a restaurant (preferably one we haven't tried yet) instead of exchanging gifts.

So I figured to help me get back in the swing of things, I'd share our most recent celebration dinner: my birthday dinner earlier this month.

If you're not from Nashville, you may not know, but the food scene here has EXPLODED in recent years.…

Mt. Juliet lands the next Nashville Original

If you're on any social media at all, you won't be surprised to know that after months of planning, building, and red tape, a locally owned steakhouse open in Nashville late last month. Woodfire MJ officially opened July 29. Tonight, Mike and I joined my parents to try it out and to belatedly celebrate my mom's birthday. I've been reading reviews all week to get an idea of what to expect. I'm happy to report that my experience was nothing but positive. A few concerns I had read: parking lot filled up quickly; dining room was too hot; dining room was too loud; tables were too close together/not enough privacy; sides were cold; steaks were fatty or not not cooked to requested temp; and service was slow. We had no such experience. We met Mom there, and neither of us had any problem parking in the paved area. The temperature was very comfortable inside (and I usually run hot, so this is saying something). I didn't find the dining room to be any louder or crowded than a…

Savory Bread Pudding: The new starchy side dish

One more today, and then I'm taking a break. I don't know that I've ever made bread pudding for dessert, much less as a side dish. But when we saw Ina Garten's Leek and Artichoke Bread Pudding recently (you guessed it, in FNM), we knew we needed to add it to our mini Thanksgiving menu.

We did make a few variations, but nothing major. We used about 3 leeks, but all of it instead of just the white and light green parts. Next time I'd leave the dark green bits out like the recipe said. The flavor was good, but the texture of the dark green leeks wasn't as good as the stayed tougher instead of getting soft.

Also, we used jarred artichokes instead of frozen, and they worked just fine in our opinion. We had the deli cut a big chunk of fresh Swiss cheese as we didn't see one labeled as Emmentaler. I doubt it made a difference at all.

Oh my goodness. I don't think I can go back to sweet bread puddings. This was amazing. Rich, filling, but oh so amazing…

Mashed Potatoes, All Fancied-Up

Mashed potatoes are one of my favorite side dishes at the holidays. You can enjoy them plain, with gravy, reheated the next day with Cheddar cheese and a hot dog (don't knock it until you try it)… the possibilities are endless.

By the same token, though, mashed potatoes can get boring. So when we saw Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes (in the same magazine issue as the Maple Walnut Cheesecake.) There is an option for making it in advance and baking when you're ready, but Mike and I made this the Saturday after Thanksgiving for our "mini Thanksgiving."

They were so good, tangy and creamy and so flavorful. We would make them again for sure, but perhaps only half the recipe since there are just the two of us. We don't own a ricer, but a potato masher seemed to work just fine for us. Find the recipe below, or online here.

Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes
3 pounds large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut in 3/4-inch chunks
5 large garlic cloves
Kosher salt and freshly ground bla…

First of Many Holiday Treats

I've tried a ton of new recipes recently, but have been remiss in sharing them. This cheesecake caught my eye in the November issue of Food Network Magazine, and I decided right away to try it. The more I thought about it, the better it sounded, so I decided to go for broke and bought ingredients to make it both for the Thanksgiving potluck at work and for dinner at my parents house later that week.
It does seem like a lot of ingredients, but it was so well worth it that I would happily make it again. I went home from the work feast with only crumbs in my pan, so I'd say it was a success. You can find the recipe on Food Network website, or I've posted it below. No changes, so have at it!

For the crust:
1 sleeve graham crackers (about 9 crackers)
¾ cup walnut pieces (preferably black walnuts)
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of kosher salt

For the filling:
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room tempera…

Bourbon+Bacon=A Tasty Treat

Recently, I needed an item for a bake sale at work. I was tired of making the same old thing: cookies, brownies, etc. I wanted something out of the norm, something delicious … something with bacon.
I've seen recipes similar to this one before, but always talked myself out of making them. It seemed too complicated, too precise, too sticky. This time, however, I made the mistake of mentioning to co-workers that I was thinking about trying something new. Once I told them what it was (Bacon Bourbon Popcorn), it was all over. I was committed.
Honestly, this was not as tricky as I thought it might be. I popped my corn using the stovetop method. (HINT: scoop out as many of the unpopped kernels as possible once the popcorn has cooled off. It's so much easier that after they're swimming in caramel sauce.) Also, I opted to cook the bacon in the oven. I've been cooking it this way for a while, and it's the best way to cook large amounts at a time and drain off all the grease in…

Welcoming Fall, One Sip at a Time

The weather has finally turn (barely) cooler, and while many have their knickers in twist over all thing pumpkin, I'm all about the apple.
In light of a soggy, wet weekend, we decided to try a new cocktail to welcome the new fall season.

It was simple, delicious, and refreshing, requiring minimum ingredients.

Spiked Apple Cider
(compliments of Aaron McCargo Jr.)
1/4 gallon apple cider 1/2 cup dark rum 1/2 cup cinnamon schnapps
Mix together in a pitcher or large bowl. Chill until ready to serve. Serve in glasses over ice. Garnish with chopped apple on a skewer.
Happy Fall, Y'all!