My husband and I have a favorite restaurant and it has been our weekly date night place for many years. Needless to say, we have a small number of favorite things that we regularly order. I recently decided that my next great cooking adventure would be mastering the art of Asian cooking. I got two new woks for my birthday, one a heavy cast iron wok, and the other a lighter weight carbon steel wok. After a bit of study, I also purchased a number of special spices, condiments, and ingredients and I am now deep in new territory!

I’ll start sharing some of my successes on and hope you’ll enjoy venturing into this exciting type of cooking, too! Let’s begin with one of my personal favorites, Lahp. I went in search of a version of Lahp (also called Larb) that closely matched the version at my local Thai restaurant. I found one at I followed it closely but altered it a wee bit for both my personal tastes and also the availability of ingredients. The result was outstanding!


1 TBSP. toasted rice powder (this can be purchased or you can make your own)
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 TSP sugar
1 TBSP fish sauce (I recommend Red Boat brand)
juice of 1 lime
2 shallots, sliced
3 green onions, sliced, both white and green parts
1 small white onion, cut in half and sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup fresh mint
dried red chilis, optional, for added spice
Cooked jasmine or sticky rice
2-3 cups spring mix lettuce
Sliced cucumber

Place wok over high heat and add the vegetable oil. When oil is smoking hot, add the ground beef. Cook the beef, breaking it up and cooking until no longer pink. Add the toasted rice powder, sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice. Mix into the beef and cook for a minute or so. Add the onion, green onions, and shallots (and red chilis if using) and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the cilantro and mint. Continue to cook until the herbs have wilted.

To serve, make a bed of the spring lettuce mix and top with lahp. Serve with a side of rice and garnish with cucumbers.

Lahp seems to have many variations. Play with the ingredients and spices until you find your happy place!


Bread pudding has been one of my favorite desserts since I was a child. It’s not fancy and is typically only made when I have leftover biscuits, buns, or bread that need to be used. But it is one of the most satisfying dishes in my repertoire. Today, I changed up my normal bread pudding. I had already started tearing up my biscuits and then realized that I was completely out of milk. Well, darn! As usual, I decided this was a great challenge and decided to get creative. The result is the best bread pudding I’ve ever made – this sentiment was reinforced by my husband. He said, “This is the best bread pudding I’ve ever had!” With that kind of praise, I had to share the recipe with everyone.


About 6 cups of stale biscuits, buns, or bread (I typically use biscuits in mine because I like the taste and texture)
2 cans evaporated milk
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
2 Teaspoons ground cinnamon


Cut or tear the bread into cubes or bite-size pieces and place into a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, brown sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour the milk mixture over the bread, lightly mix, and let stand about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish and pour bread pudding mixture into the dish, spreading to distribute evenly. Bake the bread pudding for about 30-40 minutes or until golden on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve warm with Cinnamon Vanilla Sauce.


1 1/4 cup Natural Bliss Vanilla Flavored Coffee Creamer
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg
1 Tablespoon flour
Pinch salt
1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan, whisk together all ingredients except the vanilla. Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Serve warm. Store the leftovers in the refrigerator.

Sometimes the best recipes happen by accident. This is one of those recipes. No milk? No problem! There’s a good reason I always have evaporated milk on hand and coffee creamer in my fridge!


Although I usually make the traditional favorites on holidays, this year included a few new offerings as I branched out to explore new recipes. One big hit was a Black Forest Tart made using a gluten-free approach. The presentation is impressive, but the recipe is simple and easy. Grandson Seth said, “It’s one of the best things he’s ever eaten.” That’s good enough for me to include it in future holiday menus and to share with you!


1 1/4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (I used a gluten-free version)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted


1/2 cup butter
6 ounces semisweet chocolate or chocolate chips
3 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup flour (I used King Arthur’s Gluten-Free Cup-for-Cup Flour Mix)


1 can cherry pie filling


In a small bowl, combine wafer crumbs and sugar and mix in butter. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of a lightly greased 11-in. fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Note: I found that I needed a few more crumbs to adequately reach the top of the tart pan. I added another 1/4 cup of crumbs, a dab more sugar, and butter.

Place the pan on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° until lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Cool completely.

In a microwave, melt butter and chocolate; stir until smooth. (Do this in 30-second increments, stirring between each, to avoid chocolate seizing up.)Cool for 10 minutes. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt until thickened. Blend in the chocolate mixture. Stir in flour and mix well.

Pour into crust;, spreading evenly. Bake at 350° until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool completely. Spread pie filling over the top.

Refrigerate until serving. Slice in small wedges and serve garnished with whipped cream and shaved chocolate.

Use a sharp knife to cut and dip in warm water between slices to make smooth and even cuts.


I’m always looking for something that’s a quick and easy treat to put together for a holiday. This Halloween Boo-Bark is the perfect project to do with your kids or grandkids. All it takes is milk chocolate or white chocolate almond bark and any variety of candies or salty additions you want to use. You can make it more Halloween-themed by using candy eyeballs, fall-themed nonpareils and sprinkles, and Halloween standards like candy corn or Reeses pieces. In our house, I make it with gluten-free pretzels to ensure it’s safe for some of my family members with gluten allergies. Go crazy, go wild, and be creative with your candy-making!


2 packages of chocolate almond bark or white chocolate candy bark
Selection of candies or salty treats to add to the top, such as:
Mini pretzels
Salted peanuts
Candy Corn
Reeses Pieces
Candy Eyeballs
Fall colored sprinkles
Mini oreo cookies or crushed cookie crumbles


Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper. This is important or your candy will stick to the bottom of the pan and you’ll have a hard time getting it out in nice, uniform pieces.

Melt the chocolate bark in a glass mixing bowl. Microwave on high heat for about 30-45 seconds. Remove and stir. Continue microwaving in 15-second increments, stirring between each increment, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.

Pour melted bark into the jelly roll pan, smoothing to the edges to create an even layer of chocolate. Add your candies and salted treats to the top. Press down lightly on some of the larger items such as pretzels and candy corn to make sure they are able to adhere to the chocolate.

Allow the chocolate to completely set up in a cool place, at least overnight. Break up into smaller pieces and serve!

I like to place another sheet of parchment paper over the top of the boo-bark as I’m breaking it up to keep my hands clean and to keep the heat of my hands from smudging or melting the chocolate.


When I was a little girl, some of my earliest memories include standing in my own Granny’s kitchen on the farm and watching her cook. Before the age of five I understood where food came from because I helped gather eggs, watched Granny churn butter, and helped her make applesauce. She did things the old fashioned way, and while it’s nice to have the option to use shortcuts and kitchen gadgets, I’m glad I learned to do things by hand.

Many decades later, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching my own daughters how to do things and now have stepped into the “Grammy” shoes and find joy in spending time with grandchildren who like to learn the art of cooking, both girls and boys.

Imagine how exciting it is to get messages on Saturday mornings from my granddaughter Sophia and her mommy showing me what she’s learning to cook that day. Sophia has to be careful about her diet because she has celiac, so having a skillset that allows her to make and enjoy things within the parameters of her dietary restrictions is important.

At the present time, she is learning how to work with mixes that allow her to practice on her own. She really loves doing it by herself. The donuts pictured were made with the King Arthur GF Donut mix and were baked in a BabyCakes mini donut iron. She piped in the batter, baked for three minutes, and they turned out perfectly!

Her mommy is very supportive of this and has supplied her with the tools she needs to learn.

“I bought new mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, spatulas, and glass liquid measuring cups for her,” her mom, Annie, said. “She wakes up on the weekends and begs to bake. I love it!”

It’s exciting to see one more generation enjoying the time together making great food and great memories. I can hardly wait to see what Sophia masters next!

It’s the end of summer and the end of tomato season. Someone needs to tell our tomato plants! When you have lovely, big, green tomatoes on the vines, you don’t want to waste them. Make green tomatoes something to celebrate by whipping up a batch of that old southern classic, Fried Green Tomatoes.


2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup flour, divided
1 cup milk or buttermilk
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3-5 green tomatoes cut into thick slices

Set up a dredging station using three bowls. In one bowl, beat together the eggs and milk. In another bowl mix half the flour with the cornmeal, salt, and pepper. In the final bowl place the remaining flour.

In a deep skillet, heat about a 1/2 inch of vegetable oil to about 375 degrees.

Dredge the tomato slices in plain flour, then in egg and milk mixture, then in cornmeal mixture. Place in the hot oil to fry. Cook for a couple minutes on each side or until a deep golden brown. Remove from oil and drain. Sprinkle with a little salt and serve with the condiment of your choice.

These are awesome with homemade ranch or other types of aioli’s. Be adventurous!

Make sure to use GREEN tomatoes. If the tomatoes are starting to turn a little pink, they get mushy when you fry them and you won’t like the results.


I just celebrated a milestone birthday and, as a reward, decided to try a new recipe I’ve been dying to make. Some recipes have to wait until a special occasion – you have to have plenty of help eating it to make it worth the effort.

I found this recipe on Delish and it looked amazing. Tasted amazing too! So, happy birthday to me and enjoy!



15 graham crackers

1/8 tsp. kosher salt

3 tbsp. sugar

1/2 stick butter, melted


4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened

1 1/4 c. sugar

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs

1 c. coconut milk

1/4 c. sour cream


1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened

1/2 c. butter, softened

3 tbsp. coconut milk

3 c. powdered sugar

1 c. Toasted shredded coconut


Toasted shredded coconut, for topping


  1. Make the crust: Butter a 9″ springform pan. Wrap bottom and sides of pan in a double layer of aluminum foil, then set a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°. Note: I always use GF crumbs for my cheesecakes and this turned out well.
  2. In a food processor or blender, grind graham crackers into fine crumbs. Add salt and sugar and pulse to combine. Transfer to medium bowl, add butter, and use fork or fingers to blend mixture until crumbs are evenly moist. Press into bottom and about a third of the way up sides of springform pan, then freeze for 10 minutes.
  3. Place on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 10 minutes. Set on a rack to cool, and reduce oven temperature to 325°.
  4. Make the cheesecake: In a large bowl using a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat cream cheese on medium, scraping down bowl as necessary, until completely smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sugar and salt and beat, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add vanilla and beat 30 seconds, then add eggs, 1 at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition and scraping down bowl as necessary. Add coconut milk and sour cream and beat on low until fully incorporated and completely smooth, 1 minute. Note: Make sure all ingredients are at room temp before mixing.
  5. Pour cheesecake batter into cooled crust, then put cheesecake in a deep roasting pan and set on middle rack of oven. Carefully pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come about halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake until top is just starting to brown and crack, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Turn off oven, prop door open and allow the cheesecake to slowly cool in the water bath for 1 hour.
  6. Remove roasting pan from oven, then carefully lift springform pan out of water and remove foil. Set cheesecake on rack and let come to room temperature. Once completely cool, loosely cover cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate, 4 hours, or up to overnight.
  7. Make frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter, and coconut milk until combined. Slowly add powdered sugar and toasted coconut until creamy. Frost cheesecake and sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Add the frosting just before serving for best results. And, don’t forget to lick the spoon!


In our family, we have folks who love blackberries and look forward to any dessert that includes their favorite fruit. And any meal that includes cheesecake is a sure winner. It was no surprise that coupling blackberries and cheesecake was a winning combination! This recipe came from the Food Network.


1-9 ounce box chocolate wafer cookies or cookie crumbs (I use GF cookie crumbs and they work great)
1/4 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted


3-8 ounce blocks cream cheese
1 1/4 sugar
1 16 ounce carton sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-6 ounce containers blackberries


For the crust: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F.

Add the cookies and sugar to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to fine crumbs. Drizzle in the butter and pulse until the crumbs are completely coated with the butter. 

Press the crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake until set, 15 to 18 minutes; let cool completely on a rack, 30 minutes.

Wrap the bottom and sides of the pan with a large piece of foil and put it in a large roasting pan.  

For the filling: Beat together the cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the sour cream and beat until just combined. Add the heavy cream and beat until just combined. Mix in the eggs by hand, one at a time, until just combined. Mix in the vanilla by hand until just combined. Set aside.

Puree half the blackberries in a blender until completely smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and ladle in 1/4 cup of the cheesecake mixture. Stir to combine. Pour the remaining plain cheesecake batter into the crust. 

Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to drop scoopfuls of the blackberry batter on top of the plain batter. Drag a long wooden skewer through the batter, making sure the skewer reaches down to the bottom, to marble the colors for a tie-dye effect. Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to come about halfway up the sides of the springform pan.  

Bake until the outside of the cheesecake is set, but the center is still slightly loose, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake inside for 1 hour.

Remove the cheesecake from the roasting pan to a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and let the cheesecake cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to 12 hours. 

Run a knife around the edge of the pan one more time, then open the pan clasp to release the sides. Transfer the cheesecake to a serving platter or cake stand. Smooth the edges of the cheesecake with a knife. Slice and serve garnished with the remaining blackberries.  

It’s important not to OVERMIX the cheesecake or the texture will be off. It will be more souffle-like than cheesecake-like.


These are the best pork chops I’ve ever had. My husband is a big fan of Malcolm Reed (HowToBBQRight). These were his recipe and they’re easy, moist and flavorful. They’re also really pretty!


6, thick-cut bone-in pork chops

For the brine:
64 ounces apple juice
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup BBQ rub (we used Killer Hogs BBQ Rub)

Additional Killer Hogs BBQ Rub to season chops


Prepare the brine by mixing apple juice, brown sugar, kosher salt and 1/2 cup BBQ rub. Place in a food-safe brining container. Let brine in for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Remove from the brine and remove any excess liquids. Sprinkle additional seasoning evenly over the chops.

Set smoker to 250 degrees using hickory wood for the smoke. You can also use any fruit wood of your choice.

Smoke chops, turning once, until they reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees when checking with a meat thermometer. This takes roughly an hour and a half, depending on the thickness of your chops. We use about a 1 1/4″ thick chop. Remove and wrap in foil to rest. The chops will gain an additional 5 degrees of internal temp at this stage. It’s important not to OVERCOOK as the chops will get too dry.

I love all of the fabulous grilled and smoked meats my husband makes. They are always the centerpiece of our year-round meals. However, the quality of the side dishes that go along with those offerings make them even more special. This particular one I originally found via and then I altered it to suit our family’s tastes and dietary needs. It was a big hit and is certain to become a frequently requested family favorite!


i/2 pound bacon, diced
1 uncooked bratwurst link, casing removed
2 jalapenos, seeds removed and finely diced
1 8 ounce block cream cheese
12 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni (I use gluten free and it turns out great!)
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups half-and-half (you can add a little more depending on how moist or saucy you like your mac & cheese)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 cups shredded cheese of your choice (I use a mixture of sharp cheddar, mild cheddar, and cheddar jack)
1/4 cup Ritz crackers, crushed (I use gluten free panko crumbs when making this a gluten friendly batch)
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1-2 teaspoons BBQ rub of your choice


Preheat your smoker to 225 degrees and use a mild wood or pellet like hickory. Preheat a 12 inch cast iron skillet or cast iron dutch oven over medium high heat. Add diced bacon and bratwurst and brown. Add the diced jalapenos and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the cream cheese until melted and incorporated. Add the uncooked noodles, water and half-and-half. Cook, stirring frequently, until the noodles have absorbed the majority of the liquid. Turn off heat and stir in the garlic powder, salt, pepper and cheese. Sprinkle the top with the BBQ rub and crackers or panko crumbs. Add the slices of jalapeno to the top.

Place the mac and cheese in the smoker for 30 minutes. Either increase your temp in the smoker to 400 or transfer to a 400 degree over for a few minutes to brown the cracker crumb topping.

This is a really versatile recipe and you can change it in so many ways to suit your tastes and needs. Make it gluten-free, or change up the types and varieties of cheeses to make it interesting.