Off To The Races: Kentucky Derby Party Plans

Off To The Races: Kentucky Derby Party Plans

Kentucky Derby Menu Ideas Party

The Kentucky Derby is this weekend and it’s time to prepare your party provisions!  Share these on Saturday in a small backyard soiree or savor them television side with the hubby.

We all know and love the term, “Spring is in the air,” but imagine, too, the divine way it smells, beckoning us to our backyards with the promise of barbeque with the fixin’s….And with Kentucky Derby right around the corner, we can really pull out the Southern stops for a safe and delicious outdoor gathering.

Whether you’re setting an elegant table or wearing a Kentucky Derby hat as you graze an outdoor buffet, consider these your go-to Kentucky Derby party plans:

Southern Style Charcuterie with This Cocktail Pairing…
Mint Julep Recipe Photo by <a href="">Gustavo de Camargo</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>

The Kentucky Derby doesn’t have to be a marathon if you play host this weekend. A simple charcuterie board elevated with Southern-style taste and ingredients will come to the rescue! This board’s arranged with deviled eggs, spiced crackers, pimento spread, pickled okra, millionaire’s bacon, my special cilantro shrimp recipe, and an assortment of turkey and ham roll-ups. Serve with Kentucky Derby’s infamous Mint Juleps and you’ll have yourself a party:

The Savoy Cocktail Book, Harry Craddock, 1930

4 sprigs fresh mint

½ tbls powdered sugar

1 glass bourbon, rye, or Canadian whisky


Use a long tumbler and crush mint leaves and dissolved sugar lightly together. Add spirits and fill glass with cracked ice. Stir gently until glass is frosted. Decorate on top with 3 sprigs of mint.

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Breakfast Skillet with Glazed Eggs

From family to family, here in the South, there is debate about how to make a traditional hand pie. But one thing is for sure: This recipe makes for a delicious peach pie!  This recipe yields a pie that looks like a puffy, jelly doughnut and is over-the-top delicious. Top with confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon and serve with vanilla ice cream for a delicious Southern treat.

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Collard Greens With Slow Roasted Pork Belly

This Southern recipe was made from my Farmer’s Market opening day bounty and pulls together a few of my favorite farmer’s market finds: Tender collard greens, paired with rich pork belly. This dish is perfect if you’ve just had a stash of your greens in your drawer that you’ve been looking to work into a dish or perhaps bought a bushel too much from your local farmer’s market trip. This dish makes for a lovely first course or a wonderful side dish.


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Chilled Strawberry Soup for Hot Days

My chilled soup adds farm-fresh sweet strawberries for a cool and refreshing treat.This recipe features both ways of making a gazpacho – you have the option to seed the tomatoes or you don’t. Either way, you’ll still have a great batch of gazpacho!

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Fried Pickles and Comeback Sauce: Your How to Guide

Like pickles? You’ll love this recipe, and you’ll be delighted to discover that there are so many ways to create a delicious batter for your fried pickles. I personally like the combination of seasoned flour and buttermilk for a tangy topping. You can fry them whole or sliced, fried in vegetable or peanut oil – Whatever floats your boat! The comeback sauce featured in this recipe is definitely to die for.

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My Recipe for Hushpuppies is Too Good for Your Dog!

I’ve always considered that my recipe for hush puppies is TOO GOOD…Try it and you be the judge. This recipe is my own version of that South Carolina fisherman’s special recipe. The great thing about it is that you don’t have to follow it precisely to get a tasty result. If you’re looking for a recipe that you can get creative with, this is it! Pick and choose your add-ins and sauces.

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Couch Potato Fan Food for the Super Bowl

Couch Potato Fan Food for the Super Bowl

What’s better than the Patriots and the Rams in the Super Bowl this year…. Well even if you are a Saints fan, the best part of the Super Bowl is always the game day food!! Well, maybe not if you are a Saints fan…. But for everyone else… let’s talk about the food!

Here’s my Game Day plan. For pregame and first half, I serve finger food that guests can munch on while they are filling out the betting squares. My choice is Veggie Chips with Roasted Garlic Onion Dip. You can make the chips in advance and keep them warm for scooping in silky-smooth onion dip.

Chips and Dip the SUNDAY BEST DISHES way!

Half time requires tummy soothing for fans of the lagging team, and spicy flavor for those coming out ahead. My Turkey Burger Sliders with Crispy Shallot and Pimento Cheese works for both! Again, you can make everything ahead and just grill the sliders right before the half time show starts. Serve a pile of Real Deal Fries alongside the sliders and everyone is ready for the third quarter.

The fourth quarter requires chocolate. Some of your guests are going to be deliriously happy, while some are …. well in need of chocolate. My Chocolate-Walnut Torte is the perfect answer, especially if you serve it with Salted Caramel Ice Cream, featured on a blog I just did on January 7. If your friends haven’t subscribed to yet, forward this post to them with my as of yet unbroken promise of delivering delicious and doable recipes each and every Monday!

As for these sliders, they’re bite size and couch perfect.  Use sharp cheddar and do NOT forget the pickles.  Oh, and good news, the recipe makes enough pimento cheese to entertain your game-watching pals twice in one week!

Really Good Turkey Burger Sliders

with Crispy Shallots and Pimento Cheese



Crispy Shallots

4 large shallots, peeled and thinly sliced, about 1 cup

1 cup canola oil

½ teaspoon coarse salt

¼ teaspoon coarse ground pepper

Heat the canola oil in a small pot over medium high heat.  Add the shallots and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer the shallots until golden (this will take about 20 to 30 minutes).  Remove the shallots with a slotted spoon to a dish layered with paper towels.  The onions will become crispy as they sit. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm in a warming drawer or in the oven on low heat.


Pimento Cheese

1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese

4 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese, about 1 cup

4 ounces grated Monterey Jack cheese, about 1 cup

½ cup mayonnaise

1 (4-ounce) jar pimentos, drained

2 to 3 green onions, sliced, about 2 tablespoons

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon paprika

Place the cream cheese, cheeses, and mayonnaise into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is creamy.  Add the pimentos, onions and spices and season with salt and pepper. Pulse 3 to 5 times more. You will have more cheese than you need for the burgers. Store in an airtight container to serve on warmed Saltine crackers later in the week.



1 pound ground turkey

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon garlic powder

6 slider rolls (about 2-inches in diameter) sliced open horizontally and warmed

Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced

Sliced dill pickles

Place the ground turkey into a large bowl.  Add olive oil and Worcestershire sauce.  Add garlic powder.  Use your hands to combine and form into 6 patties. Season the patties with salt and pepper.

Coat a grill pan with vegetable oil spray and heat on medium high. Place the burgers onto the grill pan and sear on one side, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Carefully flip the burgers and cook until seared on the second side, about 3 minutes more.  Top each burger with a slathering of pimento cheese.  Cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, so that the cheese begins to melt over the burgers.  If the burgers are done and the cheese has not melted, remove the pan from the heat and tent with aluminum foil for 2 minutes.

To assemble the sliders, place the warmed rolls onto a platter.  Open the rolls and place a burger patty with the melted cheese onto the bottom half of the roll.  Cover the burger with crispy onions.  Layer the top half of the roll with slices of tomato and dill pickle.   Put the two halves together and dig in!













Score a Touchdown with the SUNDAY BEST BURGER!

Score a Touchdown with the SUNDAY BEST BURGER!

It’s GAME DAY! Time to plan a meal around the big game…. And the last-minute Christmas shopping. Bring your weekend warriors to the peace table with a grilled burger that scores a TD every time. The secret is a simple, yet flavorful patty that comes from grinding beef brisket. The special sauce elevates the favor of da burger along with lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and perhaps a sesame seed bun!

Check out my recipe for my Sunday Best Burger to see just what happiness is made from! If you don’t want to grind the beef yourself, ask your butcher to do the grinding for you. Most grocery store meat departments will be happy to do this for no extra charge.

Merry Christmas, everyone. We don’t have long to go now!

Sunday Best Burger




1 (3-pound) beef brisket

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

6 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 2 tablespoons

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

Place the shaft, blade and knife of a food grinder (or food grinder attachment) into the freezer to chill. Cut the brisket into 1-inch pieces. Lay the pieces onto a baking tray with lip and place into the freezer until the meat is firm, but not frozen, about 15 minutes. Remove the meat from the freezer and toss with olive oil. Assemble the meat grinder attachment. Push through 2 to 3 pieces of meat at a time into a bowl. After all of the meat has been through the machine, grind it all a second time.

Season the meat with Worcestershire and garlic. Form into 8 (or more) patties. Refrigerate until you are ready to grill. Just before grilling, season the burgers with salt and pepper.


Burger Sauce

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon sweet pick relish

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 tablespoon grated onion

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

½ teaspoon Kosher salt

¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper

            Whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl.


Buns and Toppers

8 large burger buns, sliced

2 tablespoons butter, melted

8 (1-ounce) American cheese slices

2 large tomatoes, sliced

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 large ripe avocado, peeled and thinly sliced

Dill pickle chips

Heat a grill over medium high heat. Brush the inside of the buns with butter. Grill the burgers on one side for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side, until desired degree of doneness, about 4 to 5 minutes more for medium rare. Place a slice of cheese onto each burger.

Brush the buns with melted butter and lay onto the grill.  Toast for 30 to 45 seconds. Place the buns onto a platter. Lay the burgers into the buns. Slather with special sauce and offer your favorite toppers, like those suggested above.



Game Day Food for Your NFL Watch Party!

Game Day Food for Your NFL Watch Party!

What a wonderful night to host a party… maybe a Game Day Party!! Wait a minute. Maybe? Heck yeah, we’re doing this! Here’s the 2017 NFL schedule that’ll keep us entertained through Christmas Eve. We’ll need something to eat, though! My recipe for Beef and Black Bean Nachos with Goat Cheese Sauce is a winner… regardless of the outcome of the game!

Here’s how this SUNDAY BEST “couch potato” chapter standout is nacho your average snack. The lime, cumin and fresh goat cheese are heaven on a black bean drenched tortilla chip! Meat lovers will see it all marries perfectly with the sirloin suggested in this recipe, but healthy swaps like lean turkey work just as well…

These are a perfect finger food for meat lovers, looking for savory comfort food on Game Day. I love a DISH OF THE DAY that requires those hand wipes they pass out at BBQ joints. Once you’re all cleaned up, commence to order an autographed copy of my book! All you have to do to ensure it’s signed is simply email me.

Love & half-time pigouts,

Beef and Black Bean Nachos
with Goat Cheese Sauce

1 (15.5-ounce) can black beans, drained
Juice of 1 large lime, about 2 tablespoons
½ medium white onion, peeled and chopped, about ½ cup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, peeled and minced, about 1 teaspoon
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

Place the beans, lime juice, onion, olive oil, garlic and cumin into a medium sauce pan. Cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Pour this mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 4 to 5 times for a chunky puree. Return the bean mixture to the sauce pan over very low heat to keep warm.
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, plus more for garnish
½ cup heavy cream
In a medium saucepan, whisk together crumbled goat cheese and cream over medium heat until the mixture is smooth and melted. Keep warm.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 1 tablespoon
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded, veins removed, diced, about 2 tablespoons
1 pound ground sirloin beef
2 tablespoons chili sauce
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 bag (18 to 24 ounces) large tortilla chips
Avocados, diced
Fresh tomato salsa
Fresh chopped cilantro leaves

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeno to the pan and cook until the veggies are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the ground beef and cook until browned and crumbling, about 5 minutes more. Stir in the chili sauce and chili powder. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the nachos, lay out tortilla chips in a single layer on a serving platter. Spoon the beef over the top of the chips. Spoon the beans over the meat. Pour the creamy goat cheese sauce over all. Garnish the nachos with diced avocado, fresh salsa, crumbled goat cheese and cilantro.






Game Day Chili

What’s better than a bowl of chili on game day? Well, a bowl of chili topped with cinnamon roasted butternut squash, that’s what. I really like to make food that’s ready when you are… especially if the game is close and the shouting is loud. Chili is the perfect one pot meal. You can make it early on, and keep it simmering ‘til half time. You can load it up with toppings and serve it in a mug. It’s simple to make, you can’t blow it. If it’s too spicy, add something cool and sweet. If it’s too lame, pass the bottle (of hot sauce!).

I have a recipe for chili in my cookbook, Sunday Best Dishes for chili with pork chunks, butternut squash and black beans. This version replaces the pork with turkey, puts the butternut squash on top, and exchanges black beans with a combo of red and black. It’s proof that using a recipe as a guideline to create your own dish is not only doable, but required for a simplified, use-what-you-have-on-hand, game day dish! Serve your favorite chili, and you are definitely a game day winner!

Turkey Chili Topped with Butternut Squash

Serves a Crowd

40 Minute Cuisine Plus Simmering

For Butternut Squash:

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and seeded, cut into ½ -inch dice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon ground chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons coarse black pepper

For Butternut Squash:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, peeled and diced into ¼-inch dice, about 2 cups

1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced into ¼-inch dice, about 1 cup

2 large jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced, about 1 cup

1 whole head garlic, cloves peeled and minced, about 4 tablespoons

3 pounds ground turkey (a mixture of white and dark meat)

3 tablespoons (or more) ground chili powder

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

4 to 6 drops (or more) hot pepper sauce

2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

1 (12-ounce) jar chili sauce

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Diced avocado

Sour cream

Diced red onion

Pickled jalapeno pepper slices

Corn chips

Preheat the oven to 450°. Place the butternut squash pieces onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon ground chili powder and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Season with some of the salt and pepper. Use your (very clean) hands to gently toss all the squash with the seasonings. Roast until the squash is soft and beginning to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, peppers and garlic and cook until the veggies are soft and beginning to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Don’t forget to stir things around a bit.

Add another tablespoon olive oil to the pot. Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking up the clumps until the turkey is beginning to brown, about another 8 to 10 minutes. At this point, generously season the turkey with salt, pepper and 3 tablespoons chili powder. You can add more later on! Stir in Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce. Pour in crushed tomatoes and chili sauce. Stir in tomato paste with the beans. Reduce the temperature to low and simmer your chili for 20 minutes or so to let the flavors blend. Stir, taste and adjust the seasonings to your taste. Add additional salt and pepper, chili powder and/or hot pepper sauce. Continue to simmer the chili until you are ready to serve.

Ladle the chili into bowls. Offer toppings of chopped avocado, sour cream, diced onion, pickled peppers and corn chips. Spoon roasted butternut squash on the top and dig in!


Game Day Dip!

Game Day Dip!

I’m not sure if I love football because of the game or the food. After being a Miami Dolphin fan for over 40 years, it’s safe to say a majority of these past seasons, the football food has been the highpoint!

You know I love Buffalo wings, mostly because I’m addicted to hot sauce! You’ve seen my recipes for wings and recently for Sweet Potato Fries with Buffalo Chicken. But, sometimes, you need a hot dip, and you need it now! This recipe fills the bill. There are tons of versions of Hot Buffalo Wing Dip, so use this as a guideline to make the one you like best. The ingredients that make this dip so perfect for me is Frank’s Red Hot Sauce. There’s just something about this that is super spicy but not hurtful! I use deli chicken as a shortcut, but you can use leftover chicken if you have it. Boar’s Head has a Blazing Buffalo chicken that just adds a little bit of somethin’ somethin’ to the dip, and Fritos corn chips bring the whole experience to critical addiction levels!

Look at all these fixins going into the dip. YUM! Now you’re ready to make this awesome recipe. GOOOOOOOOO Dolphins!

Hot Buffalo Wing Dip

Serves a Crowd

15 Minute Cuisine

Ok. There are about a hundred versions of this dip, but the one thing they all have in common is that the end result is gooey, Buffalo spiced and incredibly addicting!

2 tablespoons butter

4 ounces spicy deli chicken (I like Publix Blazing Buffalo Chicken breast), diced

1 small white onion, peeled and diced

4 celery ribs, sliced thin

2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese

4 ounces, grated sharp cheddar cheese, 1 cup

4 ounces hot pepper sauce (Frank’s Red Hot is my choice!!), more if you are crazy

Corn chips for dipping (Fritos or Scoops are the best)

Heat the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the chicken, onion and celery ribs to the pan. Cook until the veggies are soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the cream cheese to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and stir to soften. Add the cheddar cheese and hot pepper sauce. Keep stirring until everything is melted together.

Cook’s Tip

At this point you are ready to dig in. However, you can pour the dip into a baking dish and keep warm in the oven until kick off.