Italian Feast

Planning a wonderful party is one of my greatest joys.  This Christmas I’m hosting an Italian Feast catered by Food Junkee, one of my dear friends.  It inspired me to plan this menu for you here.




    • 1 lb sliced ham
    • 1 lb sliced pastrami
    • 10 ounces mozzarella cheese, cut into sticks ( block)
    • 1 (15 ounce) cans black olives
    • 1 (15 ounce) cans artichoke hearts
    • 1 (15 ounce) cans hearts of palm
    • 1 (16 ounce) bottles Italian dressing
    • 1 tablespoon sugar


  1. Roll ham and pastrami around cheese.
  2. Secure with toothpick.
  3. Mix dressing and sugar.
  4. Layer rolls and remaining ingredients and marinate for at least 2 hours in dressing.
  5. Serve all on a bed of lettuce.


Photo credit: DeliciousAsitLooks

This dish may not be truly Italian, but it IS make ahead so you can spend more time with your guests as they arrive.  And delicious!


  • 4 -6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, halved
  • 1 (1 1/4 ounce) envelope dried Italian salad dressing mix
  • 2 ounces water
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (10 1/2 ounce) can reduced-sodium cream of chicken soup, undiluted (or regular soup)
  • 1 (4 ounce) can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
  • hot cooked rice or pasta


  1. Place the chicken breast halves in the crock pot.
  2. Combine the Italian dressing mix and water until smooth; pour over top of chicken.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours.
  4. Combine the cream cheese and soup until smooth and blended.
  5. Stir in mushroom pieces.
  6. Pour soup mixture over chicken.
  7. Cook 1 hour more or until chicken is cooked through.
  8. Serve over hot cooked rice or pasta.
Charlotte · Cornelius · Denver · Mooresville

Best of Restaurants: Bird

It’s my favorite protein with feet.

Fried Chicken Wings with Winston Salem Sauce at Mert’s Heart and Soul in Charlotte

Pollo Florentine from Caruso’s in Mooresville, NC

Bruschetta Chicken Crepe at The Crispy Crepe in Charlotte

Poussin with sweet pea and summer squash risotto from The Foundry in Denver, NC

Airline Chicken at Bistro La Bon in Charlotte, NC

Thai Sweet and Sour Chicken from Thai House in Cornelius, NC

Chicken Marsala at Chillfire Grill in Denver

Turkey and Dressing at Stacy’s in Denver, NC

Chicken Caprese from Jeffrey’s in Mooresville

Duck and Dumplings at Dogwood: A Southern Table in Charlotte

Hot Wings at Duckworth’s Grill in Mooresville, NC


Summer Grilling

The one thing I love about summer is all of the grilling we get to do and the eating al fresco (that means outside, right?).  Even if you have those indoor grill pans, nothing beats the carcinogens of an actual grill.  I mean the grill marks.

Our dinner tonight was grilled chicken pitas.  I’m going to give you the recipe for the grilled chicken (super easy) then you just assemble with your favorite toppings.  Mine has lettuce, Ranch dressing, and red onion.  Yum!

Grilled Italian Chicken Breast Fillets


  • 4 chicken breast fillets007
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley


Place chicken in bowl; return to refrigerator. In a separate bowl mix together lemon juice, salt, garlic and red pepper; gradually whisk in olive oil. Stir in dried oregano. Pour marinade over chicken to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour, turning chicken occasionally. Preheat grill to medium-hot. Remove chicken from marinade and discard. Grill until tests done.



Grilled Taco Chicken


  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • nonstick cooking spray


Preheat grill to medium high heat. In a small bowl, combine taco seasoning mix, chili powder and salt. Spray each breast with cooking spray and sprinkle with spice mixture. Rub evenly to coat well. Grill chicken, turning occasionally, for 15 to 18 minutes or until no pink remains in the chicken and the juices run clear.


Funny story with this sauce. My college dorm mates and I took turns cooking for each other because we hated eating at the school cafeteria.  A friend had a secret sauce that she used to grill burgers with, and they were delicious!  Naturally, I asked for the recipe.  She said “no, it’s a secret.”  We waited for her to go to the bathroom and set up watches, while I rummaged through her desk.  Two seconds later I found the sticky note with the info.  Devious yes?  Delicious?  Also yes.


1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Bring to a boil slowly. Baste on meat liberally.

Charlotte · Cornelius · Hickory · Mooresville · Morganton · Statesville

Best of Restaurants: Italian

Is there anything more comforting that good Italian food?  So many offerings, but so few get it right.  These do.

Pollo Rosa Maria at Carrabba’s in Hickory (I know it’s a chain, but it is awesome!)

Veal Ossubuco from Fiamma’s in Charlotte

Parmesan Chicken from Alton’s Kitchen & Cocktails in Cornelius, NC

Pollo Florentine at Caruso’s in Mooresville

Gnocchi from Root and Vine in Morganton

Arancini from Novanta 90 Pizzeria Napoletana in Mooresville

Chicken Parmesan at Fin & Fino in Charlotte

Joyce Farms 24-month aged country ham gnocchi with collards, peanuts, and pear vinegar from The Noble Grille in Winston-Salem.

Carmela with Spaghetti at Sorrento in Statesville, NC

Charlotte · Cornelius · Denver · Hickory · Lincolnton · Micanopy FL · Mooresville · Morganton · Myrtle Beach · Shelby · Winston-Salem

Best of Restaurants: Sandwiches

Not your girlfriend’s sandwich.

Chicken Salad Croissant from Croissant’s Bakery in Myrtle Beach

Chicken Salad Croissant, Broccoli Cheddar Soup & Ambrosia Salad

Club Sandwich and Pulled Pork Ban Mi from Hatch in Hickory

Club Sandwich at Village Tavern in Winston Salem

Smoked Turkey Club Sandwich at Crepe Cellar

The Cuban at Sports Page in Denver, NC

Chicken Salad Sandwich from Harvest Moon Grille in Lincolnton, NC

Basil Grilled Chicken Sandwich at The Crispy Crepe in Charlotte

Hot Fried Chicken at Root & Vine in Morganton, NC

Cuban Sandwich at Root and Vine in Morganton, NC

The Cuban at Old Florida Cafe in Micanopy, FL

Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich from Moyers Lakeside Eatery in Mooresville, NC

Wagyu Meatloaf Sandwich from Barrel and Fork in Cornelius

Turkey and Ham Sub from Heavenly Hoagie in Mooresville, NC

Philly Cheesesteak from JackBeagles in Mount Holly

Chicken Katsu Banh Mi from CO in Charlotte

Cuban Sandwich from J Bird’s Deli in Shelby, NC

Chicken Salad Club Sandwich from Common Market in Charlotte

Cornelius · Restaurants

Tenders in Cornelius


Tenders is a popular fast-ish food joint in Cornelius, NC.  It is a on the corner of the beaten path, but you still have to know what you are looking for.  Hint: Follow the crowds, because this place is always jacked.

The food here is very fresh, and all of the ingredients are homemade.  Hand-breaded chicken tenders, not frozen and fried.  The fries are hand-cut and fried, not frozen.  In fact, they have NO freezers at all on premises.  The sauces are not processed bottled sauces, they whip them all up on site.  It’s a huge change from chains and you can taste the difference.

Another thing I love about this restaurant is that it is dine in, carry out or drive up.  Sometimes you just don’t want to get out of your car, you know?

OK, so by the name of the restaurant, you know you are getting some chicken fingers.  And you won’t be unhappy.  That’s what they do, and they do it well.  The chicken fingers are nuclear hot when they are delivered to you, and you get to choose your own sauce from about 8 homemade varieties.  You know I chose Ranch.  Delish!

Pics for your drooling pleasure…

Tenders Buffalo Chix Sammie Tenders Chicken Tender Basket



Specialty Chicken

Back in the day, you used to get recipe cards with your bank statements!  At least at the little bank we used in our town of Crestview, Florida.  First Bank of Crestview still sends them out to this day!  Most of us get our statements online to save a tree, I guess, but lucky for me, my mom-in-law gets them in the mail and still saves the recipes for me!  This recipe is from one of these old timey cards.

Now, I’m going to give it to you like it was written.  But.  I am making a couple of changes next time I make it.  My people loved it just this way, but I like my chicken a little more tender.  So, next time I’ll either sear it in a pan first or just bake it a bit longer, maybe an hour and half.  I’m crazy like that.

Specialty Chicken over rice, green beans and bread with butter.  Yums!
Specialty Chicken over rice, green beans and bread with butter. Yums!

Specialty Chicken


  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • garlic powder
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, cut in 4 pieces
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


Pound chicken breasts until flat. Sprinkle each breast with 1 teaspoons parsley flakes and garlic powder. Add one slice cream cheese and roll up chicken, securing with toothpicks. Place breasts in a greased 13×9″ glass baking pan. Combine remaining ingredients until smooth and pour over chicken. Bake at 325 for one hour. Serve over rice or egg noodles.

If you’d like an easily printable copy of this recipe, click here: Specialty Chicken


College Football is Here!!!


Roll Tide, ya’ll!  College Football has returned, thank heavens!  What do we do with ourselves the other 8 ish months of the year?  While college football is severely cutting into my foodie restaurant reviewing experiences, it does give me a chance to do something I love equally well:  Test out new recipes on hungry fans.  Each Bama game day I make a bunch of snacky foods for us to grub while we watch the Tide roll.

Last weekend was my first trial run.  I learned a lot about the day.  First, think about the appliances you have in your home for cooking.  Make sure you only have one oven food, one stovetop food, one crockpot food…you see where I’m going here?  I scheduled myself too tightly on stove/oven duty and ended up missing the first quarter due to poor planning.  Never again.


My Stove Top Dish

Cumin-Crusted Chicken Cheddar Quesadillas W/ Basil Sour Cream



For chicken

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 4 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless (about 1 1/2 pounds)

For sauteed mushrooms

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 portabello mushroom caps, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced, salt and pepper, to taste

For basil sour cream

  • 1 cup basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups sour cream

For quesadillas

  • 6 (12 inch) flour tortillas
  • 3/4 lb cheddar cheese, grated


  • For chicken: In a small bowl, combine cumin, salt, pepper and cayenne. Rub chicken breasts with spice mixture. Grill chicken 6 minutes on each side or until tender. Remove from heat and thinly slice; set aside.
  • For sautéed mushrooms: Heat butter in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add sliced mushrooms and onions. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • For basil sour cream: Combine basil, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor. Process until pureed. Mix into sour cream. Set aside.
  • To assemble quesadillas: Pre-heat grill or griddle to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place tortillas on a flat surface. Generously sprinkle cheese onto one half of each tortilla. Combine chicken and mushrooms; divide evenly on top of the cheese. Sprinkle cheese on top of the chicken and mushroom mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Fold each tortilla in half (creating a half circle shaped quesadilla). Cook each quesadilla about 4-6 minutes, until cheese is melted and the tortilla begins to brown and crisp. Flip tortilla and repeat about 4-6 minutes. Remove quesadilla from heat and cool about 30 seconds before cutting into 3 triangle slices. Serve with basil sour cream.

My Crock-Pot Dish

Apple Dip

This dip is sweet with just the right amount of peanut butter to give it depth. We gobbled it right up!

Apple Dip
Apple Dip


  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • apple, slices to dip


  1. Combine all ingredients except apple slices in a saucepan, stir until smooth, and heat until scalding, watching to make sure it does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  2. Transfer dip to slow cooker, if needed, cook on low for 20 minutes.
  3. If not transferring, simmer on stovetop for 5-10 minutes.
  4. While the dip is warming, slice the apples and place on a serving plate.
  5. Serve the dip from the cooker, while turned on low to keep it creamy, or from bowls.

The Oven Dish

This recipe has been allllll over the internet, but there’s a good reason for that.  It is simply delicious.  And, if you are having a football party, you have to include some form of Buffalo Wings, right?

Buffalo Chicken Dip (photo by Delicious as it Looks)
Buffalo Chicken Dip (photo by Delicious as it Looks)

Buffalo Chicken Dip


  • 1(8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup ranch dressing
  • 3/4 cup red hot sauce
  • 1 (10 ounce) can chicken, drained (or equivalent rotisserie or freshly-cooked, chopped chicken)
  • shredded cheddar cheese, you decide how much
  • Frito corn chip, scoops


  1. Beat cream cheese, ranch dressing, and red hot sauce.
  2. Fold in shredded chicken.
  3. Spread mixture into pie plate sprayed with Pam.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.
  5. Add cheddar cheese to top.
  6. Bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes.
  7. Serve hot with Frito scoops.

And you know you can always do make aheads and put them in the fridge!

The Panini Press Dish (you know you can use a skillet or even your oven!)

This is officially a sandwich, yes.  But cut in in smaller pieces and bang! you have an appetizer.  These are so darned good.

Touchdown Pepperoni Pizza Sandwich

Touchdown Pepperoni Pizza Sandwich


  • 2 slices Italian bread
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons pizza sauce (or spaghetti sauce)
  • 6 slices pepperoni
  • 2 slices sharp cheddar cheese (or mozzarella)
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese (or Asiago)


  1. Spread mayonnaise on one slice and pizza or spaghetti sauce on the other slice.

  2. Lay pepperoni slices on the pizza sauce and the cheese over the top of that.

  3. Sprinkle Parmesan on the mayonnaise slice.

  4. Pop both pieces into the toaster oven (or put together and use a panini maker) until cheese is bubbly and melted.

  5. Fold sides together, and serve while warm.

  6. VARIATION: try this with your favorite pizza toppings OR cheeses.

  7. SERVING SUGGESTION: Cut on point into four pieces and use as “appetizers” or little kid-wiches.




Never Fail Chicken Casserole

Never Fail Chicken Casserole


Easy to put together on a busy weeknight, with plenty of passive cooking time. A new staple for us! The rice does get pretty “soggy” so if you are someone who likes individual grains of rice, this is NOT the recipe for you.


  • 1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of celery soup
  • 1 (10 3/4 ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 soup can water
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 chicken, cut up (I used breasts)
  • salt and pepper


Combine soups, butter, water and rice in buttered oblong casserole dish. Salt and pepper chicken and place in mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.


Recipe: Cobb Salad

I love love love a good salad.  “A big salad?  With lots of stuff in it?”  Yeah, I also lovelovelove Seinfeld.  Anywho, I found this recipe online by Kelsey Nixon.  I used the exact recipe, and made the dressing…but I HATED the dressing.  Sorry Kelse!  Anyway, I’m not including it here, so use your favorite dressing.  I prefer homemade Ranch, but I bet Bleu Cheese would be good, as well.

Cobb Salad


  • 1/2 head romaine lettuce, chopped (about 3 to 4 cups)
  • 1/2 head Boston lettuce, chopped (about 3 to 4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 cups watercress, stems removed and chopped
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cooked and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3/4 cup Roquefort cheese, crumbled
  • 1 hard-boiled large egg, forced through a sieve (grated)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives


  • Rinse and dry all the salad greens, and toss them together in a large bowl. Arrange the chicken, bacon, avocado, tomato, and Roquefort in uniform rows on top the mixed greens. Garnish with the grated hard-boiled egg, and chives.
  • Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss.