Category: Holiday Dinner

Eat Your Way to a Prosperous New Year

Champagne goes with everything!
Champagne goes with everything!

Growing up, my family got together every January 1st for lunch or dinner. It was always the same meal, but I really never realized that pattern. One year, I heard someone say “I gotta get some more collard greens, I need all the money I can get!” This confused me, so of course I asked my mom what that meant and she explained it all to me.


It is a tradition in some cultures to eat a specific meal on New Years Eve or New Years Day. In Span and many latin american countries, they eat 12 grapes at midnight. In Pakistan and India people eat rice to symbolize prosperity. There are even behavior traditions, like packing a suitcase to encourage travel in the new year. Other people believe the first person to cross the home’s threshold will be the most lucky. And in my family, we make sure that we have a very clean house by midnight.


As for food, our tradition is fairly simple. We eat black eyed peas, collard greens, candied sweet potatoes and ham. The black eyed peas and ham are for good luck. The collards represent financial gain. But I have no idea why we always have candied sweet potatoes. There are other foods around too, but those four are the main staples.


Even some restaurants get in on this game. One year a lot of my relatives were traveling, so my mom, my aunt, my cousin and I went out for lunch. In honor of the new year, South City Kitchen was serving a black eyed pea and collard green soup as a special starter. We all indulged. It was fantastic.


Anyway, I wish all of you a very happy new year. If you’re even a little bit superstitious, be sure to eat some good luck foods! The list below could be a good place to start. Happy New Year!!

Click for more ideas for good luck meals on New Years Eve and New Years Day!


Thanksgiving Prep… Never Feel Overwhelmed Again!

"The Turkey" by Antony Quintano (CC)
"The Turkey" by Antony Quintano (CC)
“The Turkey” by Antony Quintano (CC)

For many home cooks, Thanksgiving dinner is one of the most stressful meals of the year.  This year, however, can be different thanks in part to these 7 Thanksgiving Cooking Hacks from the team at Chef Works, the leading supplier of culinary apparel for chefs and home cooks alike.



1. Create a timeline and master grocery list

Cooking a meal for a lot of people can be quite the challenge. To help make the process easier, you can spread out parts of the meal and cook it throughout the days leading up to it. By the time your Thanksgiving guests arrive, you’ll have everything ready sans the extra stress and clean up.

Start by making yourself a cooking timeline and a master grocery list several days before the big day. Not only will this allow you more time to enjoy your family and friends, but it also gives you wiggle room for mistakes and ensures that you won’t be making last minute grocery trips because you forgot an essential ingredient.


2. Prep ahead of time

One of the biggest challenges on Thanksgiving Day is juggling multiple dishes at the same time.  Instead of trying to do everything at once, take a look at your menu and see what can be done ahead of time including:

  • Pie dough. Make your dough far ahead of time and freeze it. That way all you have to do is thaw it in the refrigerator overnight and you have homemade piecrusts to impress everyone the next day.
  • Turkey stock and gravy. You can easily go to the butcher and get all the turkey extras you need (necks, wings, etc.) to make your homemade stock that you will use for stuffing and side dishes and freeze it weeks in advance. The same goes for gravy, which is usually the most stressful part to make with everyone breathing down your neck anyway. Making gravy ahead of time gives you plenty of time to pay complete attention to the process (we all know that stepping away from constantly stirring the gravy can mean disaster) and give you time to strain it so that you don’t have bits of anything in it. Plus, gravy freezes well, so all you have to do is reheat it Thanksgiving day.
  • Casseroles, soups, and roasted vegetables. When creating your menu, consider items that can be done a day or two ahead of time then reheated just prior to the big meal including corn, green bean, and/or sweet potato casseroles; creamy squash or carrot soups; and roasted root vegetables and/or Brussels sprouts.  And if refrigerator space is limited, simply store them in an ice filled cooler until they are ready to be reheated.
  • Prepping vegetables. Cut down on the prep time Thanksgiving Day by chopping all of your vegetables, peeling all of the potatoes, and sauté the stuffing ingredients ahead of time.
  • Add frozen butter to the dough. Adding cold butter to your pastry or biscuit dough rather than melting it or softening it to make it easier to mix in is what makes the end result deliciously soft and flaky. However, “cutting in” cold butter is the ultimate pain. Instead, use a cheese grater to grate frozen butter into your flour.
  • Skip peeling the potatoes. My family doesn’t serve mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving, BUT… One of the most tedious tasks that usually ends up with peels flying all over the kitchen no matter how careful you are, peeling the Thanksgiving potatoes is not necessary. Boil your potatoes with the peels on, then once they’re cooked, “shock” them by dunking them in ice-cold water and the peels will slide right off when you rub your hands over them.

3. Cook your turkey outdoors

We all know how precious stovetop and oven space is before holiday meals.  This year, consider cooking your turkey on the grill or in an industrial fryer (grilled turkey with citrus-herb salt and sage butter here).  Not only does this free up a large amount of room in the oven for side dishes and desserts, the smoky flavor from the grill will be a welcomed surprise for all of your guests. And who doesn’t love fried meats?


4. Tape all your recipes to your cabinet doors

Printing out all of your recipes and taping them to your cabinet doors not only gives you a visual of what still need to be done, it’ll save precious minutes as you won’t be searching for recipes online, in cookbooks, and elsewhere. Plus, this makes it easier for others to jump in the kitchen and help.


5. Ran out of butter but have heavy cream?

It’s crunch time and you suddenly realize that you’re out of butter.  No need to panic, however, as you can make your own as long as you have a jar, heavy cream and salt. Watch this video to learn how.


6. Have your emergency contacts ready

Okay so Thanksgiving is rarely an absolute disaster, but there are definitely moments of panic and second-guessing throughout the day. Have this list of holiday hotlines on hand if you need a quick answer about your Thanksgiving dinner preparations. From turkey preparations to how to store and what to do with leftovers, these hotlines can help you out in a pinch (especially if you’re the stubborn kind who doesn’t like to ask family for help).


7. Don’t forget about your slow cooker

Your oven will be getting a workout and you might be panicking about getting all your dishes heated in time for dinner. Slow cookers are an excellent and out-of-the-way cooking option for veggies, mashed potatoes, or cranberries. There are plenty of Thanksgiving recipes for slow cooker casseroles, so don’t let this space-saver go to waste!


I you have tips for how to make Thanksgiving dinner prep much easier, send them to me via twitter or facebook! Talk to you soon. Until then remember life is good; eat it up!

Make Cranberry Sauce… a Holiday Condiment

Don’t cook? No worries! Here is the recipe for everyone’s favorite condiment: Cranberry Sauce. (The people who don’t like it, probably had it made fresh!) With the recipe and video below– you have the ability to blow some minds and changes some lives!!


Macaroni… Easy-Peesy and Cheesy


One of my favorite dishes to eat ever is a good macaroni and cheese. I like it creamy and full of flavor. My personal recipe (not shared) is inspired by Chef Delilah Winder’s 7-cheese macaroni (which Oprah dubbed the Best Macaroni & Cheese in the WORLD).  When I met Chef Delilah and tried this dish– I had to agree.

The woman knows what she’s doing. And she has no problems sharing how it is done. I swear it is easy-peesy! You basically dump the ingredients into a large mixing bowl (with the exception of the eggs) and mix is as best you can. Chef Delilah puts on gloves and mixes it by hand– she doesn’t believe that a spoon can do it justice.

Anyway, I’ve shared her recipe below. But just know that you can substitute these for your faves and even use less options. I only use 3 to five cheeses when I make it, and I add a little ground mustard seed.  Once I perfect a written recipe (with measurements I mean), I’ll post it as a Part II (Maybe for Christmas). And once you get it all down, you’ll be able to add ingredients like sausage, crab, lobster, etc.

Click below for Chef Delilah Winder’s Macaroni recipe courtesy of the food network.


Make a Reservation… For Thanksgiving Dinner!

I recognize how lucky I am to have my family in Atlanta. Every holiday is an opportunity to gather with them and eat my favorite dishes like dressing (not stuffing), deep fried turkey, collard greens, etc. But if you aren’t as fortunate as i am to have a large family full of good cooks, you and your loved ones can dine out! That’s right! Can’t cook? You can still have a Thanksgiving feast!





Camicakes Cupcakes… Providing Smiles by the Box

“Happy Birthday to ME” — a lovely birthday surprise from my awesome team at the 9-5.

There is a lot of hype surrounding the Camicake. I was so pleased when I was surprised by my team with an assorted box. Camicakes is the perfect choice for childrens’ parties, holidays, birthdays, babyshowers and more.

I never really thought of myself as a cupcake person, but how can you not be? Handheld cake decorate so beautifully can only do one thing: make you smile. Mind, they probably have a days caloric intake per bite, but its totally worth it!

Okay, on to the favorites:

My senior colleagues RAVE about the red velvet cake. I’m rarely a champion for anything red velvet– and this is no exception. While it is moist (unlike most restaurant versions) it doesn’t make me do a happy dance.

The Lemon Meringue is a tasty option if you like a light lemon poundcake. The Bananas Foster is a delicious choice for anyone who loves banana cream– I wasn’t quite sold that it was bananas foster. The Raspberry Chocolate is a delight; the almonds add so much to such a simple flavor. I think I love anything strawberry- so I’m not even going to get into how much I gravitate toward it. The Cotton Candy flavor was a pleasant surprise that took me back to a carnival or theme park; the sugar on top is just perfection. The Salted Caramel was fantastic. Not as pretty as the others, but there again I probably should rate anything that is caramel flavored because it will get a rave.

I have to say that the best thing about Camicakes is the icing. Its pretty and colorful and full of flavor. I’m not quite sold that the cake in the cupcakes are the greatest thing since cake, but how can you complain when they are moist, sweet and perfectly topped. There is another purveyor of cupcakes that I may have to write about, but for now: If this is your cupcake provider of choice- you aren’t doing too bad.


Camicakes Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

La Fourchette… Tunisian influenced Mediterranean

Father’s Day 2011, I met mine in Buckhead for an early dinner. I can always count on him to be open minded about food. Things that would make my mother cringe, make him giddy. Eating ostrich, horse or grasshopper makes him feel like Andrew Zimmern (his favorite TV personality).

Usually the restaurants with the most exotic cuisines are either sketchy hole-in-the-walls or astronomically priced. I scoured my Scoutmob app for a coupon and write up that I thought would appeal to him. To be honest any new restaurant appeals to him, but as it was father’s day I really took his food preferences into account. He is all about the seafood. La Fourchette sounded pretty cool and the reviews on UrbanSpoon were good. So I used my Open Table app to make the reservation.

My dad and I always start with the calamari at any restaurant that offers it. (PS- I still think Eclipse Di Luna has the best calamari in Atlanta). But La Fourchette doesn’t offer calamari. They did, however, have Slow Cooked Octopus on the menu. UH DUH! “We’ll start with the octopus!” [HIGH FIVE!]

It was a great way to begin a great dining experience. I asked the server where his accent was from, he told me Tunisia. He also shared that the recipe for the octopus was the Tunisian owner’s mother’s recipe. It was crazy good. The picture probably looks a mess, but that was the picture I took after we ate most of it.

To be honest this was a few months ago. I don’t remember the details the server used to describe each dish, but I do remember that we killed it. I had the Jumbo Lump Crab Pasta with Zucchini Confit. My dad had the Grilled Loup de Mer. I had never had Loup before, but I’ll keep my eyes open for it from now on. I don’t think my dad loved the sauce, but he didn’t complain: it was something new and he was happy to try it.

I recently got an email that jogged my memory about Father’s Day. The verdict: I do recommend La Fourchette— especially now that they offer Sunday Brunch. As you may or may not know, brunch is my favorite meal of the day. Lunch often turns into a second breakfast for me. And La Fourchette offers my favorite part of brunch: Bottomless Mimosas for $12. [HIGH FIVE!]

La Fourchette on Urbanspoon

Live Chat w/Carla Hall of Top Chef All-Stars… RIGHT HERE 8pm EST

At 8:00PM EST, Celebrity chef Carla Hall from “Top Chef All-Stars” will be LIVE online and available to take questions. For foodies, kitchen newbie’s or anyone tasked with a holiday meal, Carla will answer their questions, will give cooking tips and an inside peek into the celeb world of “Top Chef.” Whether you’re putting together a feast for the whole family, baking a few cookies for Santa or your loved ones, the busy holiday season lends itself to a lot of time in the kitchen.

Chef Carla Hall – who cooks from the heart, and balances her Southern traditions, classic French training, and holistic approach to food as an entertaining expert and owner of Alchemy by Carla Hall in Washington, DC – will talk about seasonal, local ingredients that’ll spice up any holiday dish and answer any cooking questions you may have.

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