Why wait until AFTER Thanksgiving to kick off our party?!? Instead I’m going ALL IN and bringing back one of your (AND my) favorite guests- Danielle Walker! We’re talking all about cooking for the holidays, all the times we’ll be in the same place over the next few months, and how we feel about turkey (and her BIG TIP on how to make the most delicious one your people have ever known). Only one episode this Thanksgiving week- so I had to make it a good one.
Use that Black Friday deal and pre-order a copy of Danielle’s new cookbook Eat What You Love… TRUST ME the biscuits and gravy are reason enough to own this one.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends. So grateful for you.
Eat What You Love book
Feeding Friendships Annie’s Episode
Last night was one of my favorite nights of the year- the night when my small group gals all spend the night. We call it a Small Group Snoozle because we think that is funny.
This is our 6th one; we have spent the night here at my house on the last Tuesday of the semester since these seniors were just little baby freshman. And this year, in order to remain unemotional about them graduating and leaving me forever, I decided we were having a competition. A dessert competition.
When you go on Pinterest, and search “Christmas Crack,” there are four main recipes that show up.
So I made them all. And had milk because, obviously, palate cleanser.
Christmas Crack #1 // made with pecans and graham crackers and sugar and butter and vanilla. YES PLEASE.
Christmas Crack #2 // made with peanuts and chocolate chips and peanut butter chips and white chocolate. WHOA.
Christmas Crack #3 // saltines, chocolate, butter, sugar. I CANNOT QUIT YOU.
Christmas Crack #4 // a bowl of chex and pretzels and M&Ms and cheerios covered in white chocolate. YUM.
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So when most of the girls had arrived, we had the CRACKOFF. We took it very seriously- the girls judged by taste and by looks. We started with Christmas Crack #1 and worked our way around the semi-circle.
And here is how it ended up, after much discussion and eating and sipping of milk:
Three votes for Christmas Crack #1.
One vote for Christmas Crack #3.
Two votes (and one more if you count me) for Christmas Crack #4.
And obviously, God agrees with Hannah and shines down upon Christmas Crack #3.
But that Christmas Crack #2?
Yeah, no votes. No yummy. It’s made in the crockpot, and I followed the directions to the minute and I think it burned or something? I dunno. But it wasn’t good. It was so bad that Kendall refused to even be in the photograph with it (them?).
Proceed with caution if you decide to have your own crackoff. That is A LOT of sugar. We were all sick to our stomachs about 3 minutes after this photograph.
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So in a world where not everyone gets to eat ice cream (me) because it is always made with milk and not everyone loves to have milk in their lives (me), this “ice cream” recipe is nothing short of heroic. You know, for dairy-free gals (like me).
My friend Liz mentioned banana ice cream Sunday morning at brunch; by that night, I was googling up a storm and after reading a handful of recipes on pinterest, I came up with my own. So as I watched Miss America last night, I made ice cream.
And y’all. It tasted AMAZING. I immediately decided I needed you to know all about it because that’s what friends do for each other. Share recipes that are a blessing.
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So here’s what you need:
Frozen bananas. (I keep them in the freezer all the time for smoothies, so trust me, it didn’t break my heart to use smoothie bananas for ICE CREAM BANANAS because praise the Lord.)
Cocoa powder. (I wish I had some fancy organic kind, but I don’t. Hershey’s. Real life, people.)
Almond milk. (Like, a splash.)
So because I was only making one serving of ice cream, I used my “one seater” – which is the bizarre nickname I’ve given to my single serving blender cup that comes with THE NINJA.
I put in:
Seriously. It was that easy. And how cute is the little one seater that clicks on to the blender base?!? I know. I love it. And I use it ALL THE TIME.
And then you mix it and blend it until it is the consistency you want. The more frozen the bananas, the better. And if it is too mushy for you after you have blended it, let it sit in the freezer for a few hours and it will harden up like real ice cream.
As for me? It was a blessing to have something the same consistency as a Wendy’s Frosty because I miss those, so I was okay that it was “soft serve.”
I mean. How is that beautiful ice cream even REAL? And dairy free! And made of natural things! And fairly healthy! And PCOS-friendly! AND OH SO TASTY!
And because you have been my friend a long time, I’m posting this next picture. Do you know what that face says? That face says, “Seriously. You need to try this because it is SO GOOD and it is taking all the self-control I have to not devour this entire bowl before you can say DAIRY FREE SELFIE.”
You’re welcome for that late-Sunday-night-Annie-face photo. And yes, I have dark spots on my cheek. And yes, I saw a dermatologist. And yes, she told me it’s part of getting older and I almost passed out because I barely feel like an adult and this woman is telling me MY FACE IS AGING?
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What other ingredients have you tried/would you try in banana ice cream? Expand my horizons! Try the recipe and let me know what you think!
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I don’t think this will become a thing. But it felt right.
And also? I know it is Thursday. But this is what I ate for lunch yesterday, so. Wednesday.
Y’all probably know I have PCOS- either from the book or the blog– and you know that in general, I eat dairy-free and gluten-free. So I’m always looking for ways to take things I used to love to cover in dairy and eat them still and love them still.
Baked potatoes are a great example. I love them- I used to REALLY love them covered in butter, cheese, sour cream, and bacon. Not so much an option anymore since the whole dairy thing and I don’t really eat pork either. But I wanted something more than a plain potato for lunch yesterday.
When I make baked potatoes, I follow these directions from Alton Brown. I like when potatoes have a crispy skin. That matters to me. So I’ve found his recipe to be the best. (“Recipe” might be a generous word here…. more like “instructions.”)
I love cauliflower soup- if you’ve never tried it, it’s super easy to make and sort of tastes like creamy potato soup. I combined my friend Kate’s recipe with my mom’s recipe and here’s what I did:
This is embarrassingly easy. Ready? Go.
Take the chopped leaks and put them in a pot with the oil and heat/brown them. (If I had an onion, like Kate’s recipe called for, I would have chopped it and put it in with the leaks.) Then add the cauliflower and the chicken stock and the ranch dressing mix. (SO HARD, right?) Let it simmer for about thirty minutes, until the cauliflower has softened. Then either transfer it to your blender or use an immersion blender to whirrrrrrr the mess outta that soup.
You may want more liquid- your call. I like it chunkier, so more stew-ish. But if you want it to be more soupy, add water or more stock. After being whirrrrred for an appropriate amount of time, it’s ready to eat! (And yes, that is my favorite caribbean colored Le Creuset that was a Christmas gift years ago and I use as much as possible.) It is the best soup- y’all will love it soooo much.
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So for dinner Tuesday, I just ate soup. If you want, top it with cheese or sour cream or bacon or whatever and it will taste so much like potato soup. But for Weird Lunch Wednesday, I baked a potato in the oven, then topped it with some reheated soup and some shredded turkey breast from Trader Joe’s.
And super weird.
(But it tasted so delicious that I am having it again today for lunch.)
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Well. You’re just gonna love this story.
Last week, I wanted to make chili for my small group girls because the world is cold and winter is the meanest. (I have strong emotions right now about it all.) As I’m trolling through the grocery store, I start thinking about how I should maybe BUY A PEPPER (who am I?) to put in the chili. I’m always looking for ways to sneak veggies into my life, so this just sounded right. And yet, very wrong.
I rolled my eyes at myself knowing I would hate the red pepper, but then I put it in my cart.
I collected all the ingredients I needed for chili, baked potatoes, and gluten-free cookies, paid at the grocery store, and headed out. When I looked down in my cart…
Holy cow. Somehow I managed to NOT PAY FOR THE PEPPER. I considered it fate and I thought God would give me the veggie points even though I didn’t buy the pepper so I wouldn’t be having it in the chili, and I wheeled my cart around and took the pepper to the customer service.
I handed it to the guy, explained the situation, and said, “so I don’t need this pepper, thank you though.”
Then. The young customer service man asked for a dollar and told me to take the pepper. He said I needed to put the red pepper into the chili because I would never taste it and I needed the vegetable intake. Mildly stunned as his bossy ways (just like the flavor of a pepper), I handed him a dollar and left with the red pepper.
I got everything together and got to cooking. (The recipe I use is very top secret… and also on the back of the McCormick’s Chili Seasoning package.)
I cannot tell you how tiny I chopped that pepper. I think peppers invade every dish, so I wanted them so tiny that I couldn’t tell the difference between a pepper piece and a diced tomato.
The girls showed up. I never mentioned the tricky attack pepper that ended up in the chili even though I tried to leave him at the grocery store. They got their baked potatoes and loaded on chili and I absolutely cannot believe I am saying this, but I genuinely didn’t taste it. And, per usual, the girls ate the mess outta that chili. It was goooooood.
Listen, this is not me becoming a pepper fan. Be ye not deceived. I still hate peppers. I just feel like this sneaky pepper may have been a unique one, sacrificing itself for the chili that me and my gals completely enjoyed.
Ok, go for it. Just tell me other recipes into which I should attempt to sneak a pepper.
(Proper English for the win, y’all.)
Last year, when I quit dairy, I wanted to pick up smoothie making for breakfast. So my friend Heather gave me this blender. A friend had given it to her when she got a new one. Then Heather passed it on to me now that she had a new one.
It’s adorable. Like the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blender.
And now I will store it away until the next young lady is in need, because when I got back to Nashville from Christmas break, this beaut was sitting on my front porch, the company asking me to review it.
I was all happy and surprised and pumped. As you can tell.
Also, pardon my hair. It’s a complicated story involving not wanting to brush it.
I kept her, THE NINJA, in the box until Connor got back in town. Oh, you know Connor, he’s everybody’s favorite male intern / little brother. Last spring I used that sweet old multi-owner blender for Connor and I to have smoothies most mornings when he came to work. So I knew he would appreciate THE NINJA as I hoped to.
We unpacked and were TOTALLY impressed with how easy it was to put together. It comes with the 72-ounce pitcher and extra blender blades AND it comes with three one-serving tumblers – like the magic bullet thing. SCORE!
I stuffed that puppy tight, giving it the best go I could. I mean, if it can’t handle my leaves and frozen fruit, get outta here.
Frozen fruit, orange juice, a little almond milk, spinach, half a banana, and a scoop of chia seeds and a scoop of flaxseed meal. Yum. With the old blender, I had to stop a few times during the process of blending, shake it around, stir it up, and give it a go again. But THE NINJA?
You can hear Connor and I gasping and responding in shock. Because whoa. And that’s only speed four out of ten.
Then it all went in the dishwasher! Who can deal with that?
Connor and I were very very pleased with THE NINJA. He’s less pleased that I make him drink from a pink cup with rhinestones and that I don’t brush my hair anymore.
Overall, THE NINJA is amazing and excellent. Our smoothie was quickly made and perfectly blended. I am beyond impressed and can’t wait to use this blender for ALL THE THINGS I CAN THINK OF. The only downside I have found so far is that there is no easy way to add things while it is blending- no opening in the lid to pour in more orange juice, per say, while it is still blending.
So if you’re looking to get healthy this year with some smoothies or soups or a chocolate milkshake I WILL NOT JUDGE YOU, this is the blender for you. It’s so much cheaper than some of the equally talented competitors and it’s called THE NINJA so that’s pretty much all you need to know.
Do you have a great smoothie recipe? Share it with me!
My grandmother, Kath, made the best banana bread EVER. Crunchy ends, spongy moist center, yummy banana flavor. It was a childhood favorite.
Bananas rarely last in my house to the over-ripe point [I love them], but this week I realized a few had. I pulled out the handy dandy Downs Family & Friends Favorites Cookbook to look up the recipe. Lucky for me, this particular recipe is already dairy free, but it’s definitely not gluten free. I did change out a couple of the ingredients and I added chia seeds to make it more hippie… but hopefully less hippy :). You’ll see my changes below in bold, but I’ve also left the original just if you wanna try it for comparison sake. You really can’t tell any difference, if you ask me. It’s so healthy it’s practically salad.
No, no it’s not. But it’s delicious. 🙂
3-4 ripe or over-ripe bananas
1/4 cup oil …. 1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour …. 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons of chia seeds
In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Add egg, sugar, oil/applesauce, and vanilla and stir well. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda and add to banana mixture. Toss in chia seeds. Mix well. Pour into greased 9-inch loaf pan. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack to finish cooling.
It’s been a while since I told you what I’m feeding my small group gals…. as in, like, it’s been a year. Man, just seeing that post makes me feel tired. That chicken was good but TIME INTENSIVE LIKE WHOA.
Over the weekend while I was in Texas- Halloween night to be precise, I had these chicken tacos that I just adored. So I came home and recreated it to put over baked potatoes [at my friend Brooke’s recommendation]. We also had brussel sprouts and banana bread. [Banana bread recipe coming tomorrow. So get ready.]
Lauren, who made the chicken for the tacos, said I needed Stubb’s Pork Marinade. I worried I wouldn’t be able to find it in my local grocery store, but HUZZAH! it was there. You can also order it on Amazon if you can’t find it. Here’s what it looks like.
It’s soooo easy to make the chicken. Nine of us ate and there are still probably three servings of chicken left over for lunch today. I took four chicken breasts and threw them in the crockpot with half a chopped onion and about 3/4 of the jar of Stubbs. I cooked it on high for a few hours, then pulled it out, shredded the cooked chicken, then put it back in there with the rest of the Stubbs and let it sit on low for another hour or so- until the girls arrived.
We had the shredded chicken over baked potatoes and the regular fixings [bacon, cheese, sour cream, butter… all things I do not eat but my people enjoy immensely] as well as these amazing brussel sprouts from Barefoot Contessa, my culinary and lifestyle hero. [I mean, living on the Hamptons and walking to your local florist? Please and thank you.]
Also. One of my girls was glad to have the sour cream because she felt the chicken was spicy. But on a spice scale, it was literally a 2. She has an admittedly wimpy palate.
Sooooo delicious. Next time you need a new super easy dinner idea, try this out!
And tomorrow- Kath’s banana bread. It will bless you.
So as I told you last week when I listed my favorite Nashville fancy dinner places, HUSK just opened and has already leapt to the top five dinners I’ve had in this town.
Me and these two jokers, Keenan and Connor, used this dinner as an opportunity to celebrate their graduation from Vanderbilt, though we really need no good excuse to eat a meal together or try a new restaurant.
How great do they look in those jeans? I’ve worked long and hard to get the boys to wear dark wash jeans, so it feels like a real triumph to have them both in them at the same time. [Also, I said, “for your graduation dinner, please wear your dark jeans.” So, that may have played into their outfit decision.]
The three of us are foodies at heart, even if not always in budget. So when we hear of a cool restaurant to try or a new place we need to scope out, well. We do it. And HUSK, while just opening weeks ago, already had perked our ears so we made reservations the week it opened and had to wait three weeks just to get in! But boy was it worth it.
You can read all about the restaurant here, but I’ll summarize by saying they specialize in local foods cooked in creative Southern ways.
We made the decision to try a lot of things. Don’t judge us.
Here are the appetizers. From left to right:
My main dish was chicken and dumplings with kale and lemon balm. Melt in your mouth for realz. Just stare at it a minute and let it get into your heart. Yes, it was as good as it looks and probably actually better.
Keenan had catfish with tomato-cornmeal gravy [have mercy, world] but we didn’t get a good picture of it before it was just a memory.
Connor took one pic of his meal, a delicious steak with cauliflower puree. I mean, how BEAUTIFUL are those plates!?!
I hope you appreciate that we are all three are photographing our meals in this particular photograph. So, like I said, foodies.
We didn’t dare pass up dessert because seriously, why would you.
Buttermilk pie. Whoa mama. For a girl who hasn’t had dairy since January, this was a good reason to ingest just a bit.
And yes, of course I made them do this for instagram and yes they still love me and are used to my sentimental ways.
Overall, you could not have found three happier humans that night. The ambience is classic and warm and trendy, the way the place is set up- lots of rooms with lots of tables spread throughout the historic home- makes for really comfy feel. And the servers, as expected in a fine dining restaurant, are really educated and knowledgable and nice.
So. Three thumbs up from us. Or six actually. Yes, six. Two thumbs up from all three of us.
TOP 5 FRIDAY is when we each list five of our favorite things, depending on the topic. Feel free to join in via the comments or by posting on your own blog and linking back here. Play along. It’s Friday.
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Two posts that continue to be super popular here are my recommendations for brunch in Nashville and lunch in Nashville. [Which, I went to update them and realized that actually, that’s still exactly where I’d tell you to go eat.]
But lately, our finer dining options have expanded greatly and whoa are we grateful.
Now, when I say “fine dining,” I mean, “a little nicer than the chicken nachos at Edley’s.” Today I’m listing some of my favorite celebratory dinner spots – I’m talking birthdays, graduations, parents in town, or a great date.
Okay? Okay. If you want your normal buddies-heading-to-dinner spot, any of these lunch places would be perfect.
So if you are headed to Nash anytime soon, or if you live here and are looking for a nicer place to eat this weekend, take my word for it: any of these meals will bless you.
In no particular order, here are my current five favorite fancy dinner restaurants.
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What type of food? : Rustic Italian
Level of love : Really high. Like, every birthday for the last three years high.
Why? : There is not a thing on the menu that tastes less than incredible. The menu changes often, based on the season, but it is all amazing.
Reservations : Make them at least the week of.
Dress : Nice jeans or somewhere around that. No need for a dress unless you wanna, but don’t show up in tennis shoes.
Don’t miss : the kale salad, the gnoche, belly ham pizza
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What type of food? : Southern farm to table
Level of love : Growing every time I visit.
Why? : I’ve been here for dinner and for brunch multiple times and I haven’t had a meal misfire yet. They have bragging rights to not even having a can opener in the kitchen, everything is that fresh and handmade. You can’t go wrong with any of their chicken dishes, but if you are braver, go for one of their original and interesting dishes, like fried rabbit, grouper, or hanger steak.
Reservations : I mean, if there is more than four of y’all, yes. But on Friday and Saturday nights without a reservation, you might get turned away.
Dress : Anything is fine really, the staff wears plaid shirts and jeans. But probably not a tshirt and shorts.
Don’t miss : the deviled eggs [three different flavors that change every day]
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What type of food? : Sushi / Japanese
Level of love : I mean, if I’m wanting fancy sushi, this is IT.
Why? : Fun ambiance, delicious and fresh fish for sushi, and tons of yummy options for non-sushi eaters. Also, if the weather is nice, sit outside upstairs- it has a beautiful view of Nashville.
Reservations : Not always, but I would recommend it. Can’t hurt. And if you want sushi, you’ll be sad not to be eating here.
Dress : This place can get kinda trendy, so dress how you want [nice jeans, etc] and just make the choice not to feel insecure that you aren’t in a tight black dress with ridiculous heels. You’re happier, I promise.
Don’t miss : The Bomb, Crispy Rice / Spicy Tuna… it has watermelon pop rocks. Seriously.
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What type of food? : Super fancy Southern
Level of love : I have only been once, it just opened in May, but it was pretty amazing.
Why? : The historic home is beautiful, and the food was BEYOND. I mean, it was one of those meals that is absolutely unforgettable. We tried a few appetizers and main courses and everything, from the asparagus to the steak to the fried chicken skins to pig tails [no joke] to salmon, was so delicious I felt emotional.[I’m actually going to tell you all about it next week… so hang on for pics of our meal.]
Reservations : Absolutely and weeks in advance.
Dress : Just nicer than average. Don’t show up after a workout or in a tank top.
Don’t miss : dessert. We had the buttermilk pie and it was a moment. Phew.
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What type of food? : Steakhouse
Level of love : Well, it’s serious. Serious love.
Why? : Maybe the best steak in town, certainly the best sides in town. Owned by the same group that also has Virago, you can expect similar ambiance, stellar service, and incredible food.
Reservations : Yes.
Dress : Again, like Virago, people get trendy and club-like here sometimes, it’s weird. But you just wear your pretties and let them do whatever they want to do with their lives.
Don’t miss : macaroni and cheese, the view from the bar, A STEAK.
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A few friends are insisting I also give you some honorable mentions…. so you could also check out Watermark, Miel, or Rolf and Daughters. I haven’t eaten at these places enough to Top 5 them, but I’m sure they are great. Because my friends say so.
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Have any great recommendations for dinner in Nashville? Or have thoughts on these places? Share, friends!