Category Archives: snacks

Butter spice cookies and the English Tea

Tea Room Resized

It is now Tuesday and I am almost recovered from the English Tea. The event itself was, of course, almost flawless. A few missteps, but nothing we couldn’t recover from. It was the last few days leading up to the tea that almost did me in. Have I mentioned previously that I am not renowned for my baking skills?

So we had a medical emergency with one of our sweets bakers. And as the food chairman, it is my responsibility to always have a Plan B and to adopt it with all due speed when necessary. And I thought I had a nifty Plan B. Did I tell you already that I’m not a very good baker?

Butter spice cookies. A Williams Sonoma recipe that came with my cookie press. I will just pop out 300 butter spice cookies shaped like Christmas trees and we’ll move along with our day.

Catherine with cookies resized

As you can see, these do NOT look like Christmas trees. Thanks goodness, I haven’t told anyone on the food committee that they’re supposed to. As Julia Child said about kitchen mistakes, “Who’s to know?” Except everyone will know now. Blabber mouth. But they’ll have 361 days to forget.

So the good news is they taste great. Uncommonly good. And when I presented them in the kitchen on the day of the tea, someone asked, “How did you get those so thin?” Who’s to know. Or, in my case, who knows?

Dessert plate tea

Butter spice cookies
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: About 48 cookies
Thin, crispy buttery cookies with warm Christmas spices.
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • ¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Using a stand mixer with the flat paddle attachment, beat together the butter, brown sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy. Turn the mixer to low, add the flour mixture and continue to combine until blended well.
  4. Form the dough into 4-5 logs on waxed paper. Roll uniformly and refrigerate for one hour.
  5. Cut the logs into discs about ¼ inch thick and place on an ungreased or Silpat-lined cookie sheet two inches apart.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown with the edges of each cookie slightly browner.
  7. Cool on a wire rack.
You can also use a cookie press with these cookies if you want to openly weep when they flatten out.


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Butter-roasted pecans


And I wonder why I have to keep King Daddy on a strict portion-control diet. It’s because I’m an enabler and I can’t help myself, especially when the weather turns cool. So I just got back from my beloved Publix, where I bought 23 bags of Halloween candy because it’s 50 percent off. And now I’m making these ridiculously rich roasted pecans that are drenched in butter and hot sauce. What is my issue?

I hope he doesn’t read this.

There are certain things that are required when the weather  turns cool. One is a big pot of chili. Another is that egg nog with bourbon in it that only makes an appearance in November and December. And I am compelled to make these roasted pecans. The original recipe, which I got from a distant acquaintance, called for two tablespoons of butter so naturally I add three.

How you pronounce “pecan” has a lot to say about where you’re from. Down here, it’s pronounced Pee-KAHN. But if you live in the North, many times it’s pronounced PEE-Can. When I hear someone pronounce the word as PEE-Can it grates on my nerves a little, but naturally I don’t say anything because they don’t know any better.  They’re not from around here.

So the Pee-KAHNS are cooling on the counter after which I will display them in a beautiful nut jar I got a few years ago and I will carefully monitor the speed at which the level of nuts in the jar drops.

And then I’ll make some more. Bless my heart.


Butter-roasted pecans
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 pound pecan halves
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • Dash of Tabasco Sauce
  • Sea salt in a coarse grinder
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Melt the butter (I do this in the microwave using a coffee cup) and add the Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and Tabasco. Line a large rimmed cookie sheet with foil and mound the nuts in the center. Pour the butter mixture over the nuts and coat thoroughly, spreading them out into a single layer.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes. Stir to redistribute nuts and bake another 10 minutes or until nuts are a golden brown. After removing them from the oven, sprinkle with coarse sea salt and stir one more time. Let cool completely before storing them in a glass jar.


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Nothing succeeds like excess

If Father Wesley Smith is at the rectory right now emptying a bottle of Tums into his gullet I would not be surprised. I believe, once again, the Women of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church have overdone it. Gleefully. We don’t know any other way.

Father Wesley is our interim rector at St. Paul’s. His first Sunday was today. He preached a fantastic sermon all from memory. The choir. Oh, my Lord, the choir. We were all in tears during the offertory anthem and almost burst into applause at the end, which Episcopalians do not do. Lots of God Moments going on this morning.

Because St. Paul’s is a historic church, we don’t have room for everyone at one service so we have four. And that meant four receptions for Father Wesley. And we’re not talking punch and cookies. We don’t do punch and cookies. We do full-on, blow-out-the-windows gala receptions. At all times. Hospitality chair Leslie Fraser coordinated all of them and I do not believe there was a single box of gourmet crackers or block of cream cheese left in all of Williamson County.

So here’s a little visual tour of the astonishing precision of the Women of St. Paul’s (including honorary member son Noah) and the fortitude of poor Father Wesley, who will probably need one of those 3-day detox cleanses in the next couple of days.

Father Wesley

Here he is. Smiling like the pro priest he is at the tail end of reception number two. I felt like the stranger stalker lady asking for a photo, but sadly for him, he’ll get used to it. St. Paul’s is some of my best material.

We had relatively (to us) small receptions after the 7:30 and 8:45 services. The Mac Daddy always comes after the 11. It is where Episcopalians come into their own because it is after noon and wine is served!

Cucumber Sandwiches

First, there are multiple tea sandwiches to be prepared and plated. Noah is allowed to assist in this endeavor. He told me today that as a child he was very intimidated by this whole process, as well he should be. It is serious business.

Ellen Kirk Cheese Plate

Ellen Kirk begins meticulously laying out layers of cheese on a cheese tray. Cheese is big in the Episcopal Church. And no Kraft singles.

Julie Drink Containers

There are no cartons of orange juice or jugs of tea at a St. Paul’s reception. No, no, no. All liquids to be consumed either have to be contained in glass dispensers or wine bottles. Julie Reinhardt completely understands this. Even though they are ridiculously heavy.

Cork screwSpeaking of wine, we have our own cork screws at St. Paul’s. They get a lot of use. Trust me.


All the flowers are personally arranged by Wanda Woolen.


Who then has a glass of Chardonnay because, well, it’s after noon for goodness sake.

Lemon cupcakes with blackberries

Needless to say, everything was impeccable.

Mini ham biscuits with floral flourishes

Perfection. That is the bar we set for ourselves. Father Wesley will be with us until we call a new permanent rector, which could take up to two years. I hope he is up for this.


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Music City Food and Wine: My Top Picks

Oh, I am so depressed. Almost suicidal. They let me in to the Disneyland of Food for two days and then shut the gates for almost a year. The Music City Food and Wine Festival has become one of the premiere food events in the nation in just two years. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have put on our big boy pants.

Fantastic demonstrations by world-famous chefs like Jonathon Waxman, Masaharu Morimoto, Michael Symon, Tyler Florence and Aaron Sanchez who then walk among you and exchange pleasantries. Regional chefs like Ashley Christensen, who is about to become a superstar, so approachable that when we told her we were going to make her tomato recipes that night, she gave us some heirloom tomatoes. And food by Nashville chefs who can hold their own with anyone in the nation.

Fueled by a wee bit of world-class wine, I grazed at the tables of 28 local chefs and I admit I grazed more than once at a few of them. It was all fantastic, but in the interest of time here are my Top Picks for best food at this year’s festival.

Butter Poached Lobster with Popcorn

Butter Poached Lobster with Popcorn by Kayne Prime

OMG. So simple and yet so delectable. The lobster was perfectly poached and then the popcorn soaked up all that lobster butter goodness. I went back four times.

Smoked Wagyu Short Ribs with Brussels Sprouts Slaw

Smoked Wagyu Short Ribs with Brussels Sprouts Slaw and Butternut Puree from Mason’s

This was my first taste of Wagyu beef and I went back multiple times. I hope that is not frowned upon.

Noodles with Sesame Chile Sauce and Cured Egg Yolk by Otaku South

Noodles with Sesame Chile Sauce and Cured Egg Yolk by Otaku South

I’m a sucker for noodles. This was one of Noah’s favorites because of the spicy chile sauce.

Duck Meat Loaf with Peach Jam from Etch

Duck Meat Loaf with Peach Jam from Etch

Seriously. The meatloaf was packed with spicy flavors. I could have eaten the whole meatloaf but I refrained.

Shaved beef, horseradish and green tomato jam on cornbread by The Capitol Grill

Shaved beef, horseradish and green tomato jam on cornbread by The Capitol Grill

Chef Tyler Brown has the coolest chops, literally and figuratively. He used beef from his own Double H Farms to make these delectable open-faced sandwiches. I love this dude so much that we dined on his food for Noah’s 21st birthday.

French Toast with Poached Pears from Sinema

French Toast with Poached Pears from Sinema

By the time I got to this little gem, I was literally too full to eat another bite and I gobbled down the whole beautiful piece of sugar-crusted French toast and a wine-poached pear.

Martin's Bar-B-Que and Friends

Martin’s Bar-B-Que and Friends

And how can you not love Pat Martin, who set up a cornucopia of grilling equipment, invited all his chef friends to help and turned out mass quantities of pork, chicken, fish and vegetables for two days. Well done, sir. Well done.

Yes, the tickets are expensive at $150 a day.  But the food, the instruction, the fun, the wine- so worth it. And this…priceless:

Noah with Morimoto

Noah with Morimoto

Noah started watching the original Iron Chef with me when he was a little boy. Because of Morimoto, he became fascinated with Japanese culture and food. He’s an advanced sushi eater and he got to watch Morimoto teach a primer on sushi. Money well spent.


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Grilled Filipino adobo chicken wings

Filipino Adobo Chicken Wings 1My beloved Tennessee Volunteers will take the field once again a week from today. We are going to battle Utah State and I believe we will prevail. It’s been a tough few years to be a UT fan. I will not disparage the two worst ever in the world coaches who got us into this pickle, but I’m counting on Butch Jones to get us out of it.

King Daddy and I always watch the games in separate rooms. I cannot stand the yelling. When Noah was little he actively became afraid of football because of the screaming at the screen. Normally, King Daddy is a very composed individual, but not on UT game days. He watches in the den and I watch in our bedroom and when he hollers at the TV I can still hear him. Chardonnay helps. With both the yelling and, in the past few years, the games.

But I always do football food in the hoped-for spirit of victory. This has backfired on me more than once since the more the game deteriorates so does King Daddy’s appetite. One game last year, I couldn’t even get him to try the hot Rotel, Velveeta and Tennessee Pride Sausage dip. The man loves his hot cheese and sausage dip (he can take or leave the Rotel since tomatoes are a vegetable – actually a fruit, but that’s another discussion).

By the way, the first game of the year is on a Sunday. I take that as a sign of divine intervention because we’re going to need a lot of that this year. I will be making Char-Broil’s Filipino Adobo Chicken Wings. You will be alarmed when you see what they’re marinated in, but I guarantee they will cure even the most forlorn UT fan. The recipe is over on the Char-Broil LIVE site. Go on. Get on over there and you can thank me later.

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Tammy’s best dessert

Tammy, my daughter in law, won the award for “Best Dessert” at the Mayhew/Harbin/Mayhew family reunion this past week. This may come as a shock to her because Tammy does not cook, at least in the conventional sense. Let’s just say boxes are her friends, her happy and comfortable place. That is why she’s in charge of “snack day” at the cabin, a day that has become one of our favorites. It’s so good to be bad and we’re so bad on snack day. The line up this trip included pigs in a blanket, pretzel dogs, fried macaroni and cheese bites, Bagel Bites, taquitos with sour cream and salsa, stuffed potato skins, Southwestern wontons and cream cheese and bacon bites coated with tortilla chips.

But this dessert I’m about to tell you about is not out of a box. Well, it kind of is. It’s out of a plastic sleeve, a container and a bottle. But it’s a genius idea and I’m stealing it from here on out.

Cookie DessertYes, it’s a cookie, ice cream and hot fudge sauce sort of mini sundae. A warm cookie straight from the oven. Granted, it’s a packaged cookie dough cookie, but who cares? It’s warm out of the oven. In this case, a chocolate chip cookie, topped with vanilla ice cream and microwaved hot fudge sauce. And you cannot feel guilty eating it because it’s an individual dessert. That means you’re supposed to eat the whole thing without consequences. Served on a paper plate for easy disposal of the evidence.

So now, of course, I’m thinking of other combinations: peanut butter cookies with butter pecan ice cream and caramel sauce, chocolate chocolate chip cookies with mint chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce and sugar cookies with strawberry ice cream and strawberry sauce.

Yes, I know. I am, as usual, over thinking this. Just shut up and eat the dessert. It’s a warm cookie.


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Ham dip and the Princess


Noah and Sydney ham dip

The Princess is in the house and the first order of the day is ham dip. We are at our beloved Oak Haven Resort for the latest family reunion and after the luggage is deposited and the wine is cooling, ham dip must be created. It is the glue that holds this family together. We will make multiple batches over the far too few days we are here and it is now tying generation to generation.

It is a simple concoction from my mother in law, Bunny – Underwood Deviled Ham (I know of no other kind) and sour cream. Served with Fritos Scoops. Bunny taught me. I taught my son, Noah. And now, Noah is teaching my granddaughter, Sydney. She is 5. We call her the Princess because that’s what she is. Truly. She wears a tiara. And she’s a generous girl – she shares it with whoever is within tiara range. Gender is not an issue.

Noah crownedNoah and Sydney

Ham dip is the catalyst for a week of excess. It is a miracle we have not all been admitted to the cardiac care unit of the Sevierville City Hospital. This is literally the snack list for the week: deep fried macaroni, taquitos, steak bites, pigs in a blanket (both kinds – puff pastry and pretzel dough), Lipton’s onion dip with bacon-flavored Pringles, Doritos with that magic cheese dust, triple chocolate chip cookies, apple fritters, molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and both chocolate and caramel sauce, a 4-pound jar of Jelly Bellies (49 flavors!) and an energy blend of edamame, cranberries, almonds and sunflower seeds strictly for health reasons.

If you cannot smile broadly and swallow a laugh as you dig into the onion dip and bacon potato chips while preparing for an excursion to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Aquarium in Gatlinburg, you are not our kind of people.

So Tammy, mother to the Princess, inspired snack week by the virtue of the fact that when she married our beloved Josh she did not cook. Snacks she could do and she has taken this genre to a high level of art. But I believe Bunny and I have rubbed off on her over the years. A few weeks before the reunion, she asked me if I could teach her how to grill a steak. Wow, that’s a single source of food that requires heat not set to 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Hell, yes.

So, here’s the lesson and your tip for the day. Pick a steak. I like flat iron. Hot and fast on the grill. Salt and pepper or your favorite rub. Put it on the steak. Spray oil. Spray one side. Throw the spray side on the grill. Hear that immediate sizzle sound. That’s what you want. Grill it until you can peek and see nice grill marks. Don’t mess with it too much. Spray the top side and flip. USE AN INSTANT READ THERMOMETER. Sorry to yell, but if you’re an amateur griller you need to invest in one of these. 130 degrees internal temperature for medium rare. Pull it off the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes under a tent foil. That’s it.

Tamy grills

There’s my girl. Checking her steaks with an instant read thermometer. Notice King Daddy and the Princess in the background. They are waiting for this:

Sriracha-marinated flank steak

Done deal. From ham dip to perfectly cooked steak. We’ve got it covered. And it’s just Day 3. By the way, the super secret recipe for ham dip is two large cans of Underwood Deviled Ham to 8 ounces of sour cream. Serve with Fritos Scoops. It looks like dog food but you will eat every last scrap. You’re welcome.

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A sea of cellophane and cinnamon sugar puff pastry curls



Well, I am fairly certain that there is not a single tube of cellophane left in the entire Middle Tennessee region. Nobody defied Judith Atkinson and brought their treats for the Women of St. Paul’s bake sale in plastic wrap. When Judith, the bake sale chair, says, “Make them pretty,” she means there had better be a trip to Michael’s involved.


Of course, I immediately spied my arch baking rival’s Chocolate Bacon French Macarons. Charlotte Fraser is just insufferable. She is only in her early 20s and she just makes us all look like slackers.


See what I mean? What a show off. And she had the audacity to charge a dollar for a cookie the size of a nickel. I wish I’d bought more. That, by the way, is how church fund raisers go, if you don’t know the protocol. We spend fifty or sixty dollars baking cookies, cakes or pies and then spend another forty bucks buying other people’s baked goods. We do the same thing at the annual bazaar in August. We bring our junk from home and then buy other people’s junk. Not very efficient, but it’s the Christian thing to do.

But I digress. I realized halfway through packaging my coveted peanut butter, dark chocolate chip and bacon cookies that I was going to run out of tags before I got to the cinnamon sugar puff pastry curls. And, by the way, I will digress again to say that I am fairly certain my prowess with bacon cookery is what inspired Charlotte to add bacon to her macarons. Unfortunately, I believe bacon is in the public domain so I will not be able to pursue a legal remedy to such thievery.


I will say I wish I’d used italic lettering like Charlotte did. My font kind of looks like EAT THIS. Since I was not making another trip to Michael’s for more tags, I cleverly raided my Christmas room and disguised a gift box tag.


I know. It looks clunky. Don’t tell anyone, especially Charlotte. She will just lord it over me for the next 11 months.

Cinnamon sugar puff pastry curls
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Thaw the puff pastry in the refrigerator.
  3. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and spread half of it on a large cutting board.
  4. Top the sugar with the puff pastry and put the remaining sugar on the exposed pastry.
  5. Roll out into a thin rectangle and then tightly roll the pastry into a cylinder. Cut the pastry into ½-inch slices and lay them flat on a parchment-covered rimmed baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the pastry begins to brown. Cool on a wire rack.



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Bacon, peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies reprised

Peanut butter, dark chocolate chip and bacon cookies

Peanut butter, dark chocolate chip and bacon cookies

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s annual BBQ is Saturday. It is accompanied by a bake sale put on by the Women of St. Paul’s. In the olden days, before we all apparently developed into uber Type A women, the bake sale was comprised of some very decent but not particularly fancy desserts – chocolate chip cookies, brownies and the like. Perfectly acceptable.

But no more. Somewhere along the way the bake sale became IMPORTANT. The Women of St. Paul’s are over achievers in the world of hospitality. Our English Tea every December has no rival, either here in the states or across the Pond. Our celebratory wedding, christening and other joyful receptions are monuments of excess. And funeral receptions? Over the top. I hope the Women throw one for me before I expire because I’d sure hate to miss the food.

For the bake sale, we are now encouraged to think outside the box. Chocolate chip cookies wrapped in Saran Wrap will, of course, be graciously accepted. But there will be a knowing nod, a little wink indicating that’s not what is expected. Treats must be unusual. They must be wrapped in that expensive cellophane stuff you get at Michael’s and have clever tags extolling the virtues of the organic and artisan ingredients.

Charlotte Fraser has been toiling over her French macarons for days. I know this because I’m friends with her on Facebook and she’s posted her progress.

Bacon chocolate macarons

She is making, among other flavors, chocolate bacon macarons. Here’s her photo of the incredibly delicate shells she will fill with some decadent creamy concoction. I am much Charlotte’s elder, but she is shaming me. How impudent. I am a cook, not a baker. But I try my best with my award-winning (in my own mind) peanut butter, dark chocolate chip and bacon cookies. They now seem…pedestrian… next to chocolate bacon macarons.

Tomorrow is my baking day. I will make my sad, pedestrian peanut butter, chocolate chip and bacon cookies. I will also make blackberry tarts with a homemade pie crust. I will travel to Michael’s to procure the cellophane stuff and some fancy tags. I will shudder to think of the mass macaron production taking place at the Fraser household and the dozens of other women toiling over God knows what. I will update you on what will clearly by my shame Saturday morning when I arrive with my treats. I am fearful.


Bacon, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies Reprised
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 strips bacon, cooked and sliced into fine strips
  • ½ cup sugar, for rolling
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream together the butter and peanut butter with a hand mixer. Add the two sugars and blend well. Add the egg and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture. Add the chocolate chips and bacon.
  4. Roll the cookie dough into walnut-sized pieces and roll in sugar. Place two inches apart on a greased or Silpat-covered cookie sheet and press horizontally and vertically with a fork.
  5. Bake 10-13 minutes or until cookies are firm.
  6. Yield: 3 dozen cookies.




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The perfect hot dog

Hot-Dog-1-500x375What makes the perfect hot dog? It involves these things and they are non-negotiable:

  • Hot dogs with casings. There is no snap to a hot dog without a casing and without a snap there is no point.
  • Chili out of a can. Yes. Hot dog chili out of a can. No beans. Vietti Hot Dog Sauce comes to mind. It’s made by a Nashville company. I think it costs $1.29 a can.
  • Plain yellow mustard. No Dijon. No deli mustard. No honey mustard. Plain and yellow.
  • Diced yellow onions. Enough said.
  • A buttered bun. Yes, add butter to the hot dog and chili. Why not? You’re not eating these every day. Please say you’re not eating these  every day.
  • Grilling. No boiling of the hot dogs. Can’t you hear them screaming?

Want the complete story? Head on over to Char-Broil LIVE to get my recipe for The Perfect Hot Dog.


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