Monthly Archives: January 2011

Meat and Three

Meat and Three

My high school sweetheart took me on a our first date to Dotson’s in Franklin, Tennessee. He must have figured out this was a good way to win me over because it has always been one of  my favorite places to eat. When it came time to break-up, I couldn’t think of a better spot than right back where we had started, Dotson’s.

There’s something about that looming list of fresh vegetables and meats that serves up comfort. A big plate of biscuits and cornbread, vegetables served in small bowls and big glass of iced tea to sip on while you gaze around at the hundreds of country music stars autographed glossies that hang on the wall are what make this place an institution when comes to meat and threes.

First up on my tribute to meat and threes this week is meatloaf. It’s the cornerstone of any meat choices keeping up this southern tradition. Stick with me this week and by the end you’ll have the recipes to build a perfect meat and three to enjoy right at home!


1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef, 95/5 or 93/7 percent fat

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup sweet onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped

1/2 cup oatmeal, quick cook

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 egg

1/4 cup tomato sauce, no salt added (buy an 8 oz can)

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a small skillet. Saute onions and bell peppers for 5 minutes or until tender.

Place ground meat in a large mixing bowl, season well with salt and pepper, add oatmeal, Worcestershire sauce, egg and tomato sauce and cooked onions and peppers. Combine well – using your hands works best!

Place meat mixture in a medium loaf pan and gently form a loaf. Do not mash down meat. Make a shallow well down the center of the loaf.

Tomato Topping:

3/4 cup tomato sauce ( rest of the 8 oz. can)

2 tbsp ketchup, I use Heinz Simply Ketchup

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp brown sugar

Mix all ingredients well and set aside.

Place meatloaf in the center of the oven. After the first 15 minutes of baking pour the tomato mixture over the top of the meatloaf and continue cooking for 30-35 minutes. Bake time will be a total of 45-50 minutes. You can always check the temperature to make sure it is cooked through. The temperature should register 160 degrees.

Before serving let meatloaf rest for about 5 minutes.


I like to use no salt added or reduced sodium products whenever possible. By adding your own salt when cooking you can control the amounts.

I don’t like high fructose corn syrup. You’d be amazed how many products contain it; breads, spaghetti sauces, salad dressing and ketchup are just a few. Look for products without it such as Heinz Simply Ketchup. The simpler the ingredients the better for you.

I really like beef. Its easy to cut down on fat with ground beef if you buy leaner cuts. I like ground sirloin with a 95/5 or a 93/7 content.

Muffin Top Sunday

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Elaine had a million dollar idea when she became obsessed with muffin tops on an episode of Seinfeld. She insisted that you had to bake the whole muffin and break the top off the stump to get the muffin top. Little did she know that muffin tops would take on a whole new meaning.

A few years ago I mentioned that my jeans were giving me a muffin top and one of my male friends gave me bewildered look. I had to explain just exactly what that was – you see the jean makers of the world got together with the personal trainers of the world and came up with the crazy idea to sell really low-rise  jeans. The result, no matter how flat of a stomach you have those low riders are gonna push that extra fluff right up over that waistband!

So muffin top and all, I decided to make a healthy muffin that won’t add too much fluff to the waistline!


1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup oatmeal (quick cook oats), rough cut in a blender

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup low-fat buttermilk

1/4 cup applesauce, no sugar added

1/4 cup canola oil

1 tsp vanilla

3 bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a blender or food processor, pulse oatmeal a few times for a rough cut – not to0 fine. Combine flours, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, mash bananas. Then add the egg, sugar, buttermilk, applesauce, oil, vanilla and stir together.

Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and fold together. Do not over stir.

Fill muffin cups and bake for 18-20 minutes. This will make 12-15 medium-sized muffins.


I made extra-large muffins using Panettone paper baking molds from Sur La Table. The cook time for an extra-large muffin will be about 20-25 minutes.

When I punched in this recipe to My food diary’s recipe builder. The calorie count per muffin was around 170 calories with 5 grams of fat.

Pimento Cheese Please

Lightened Up Pimento Cheese

Some southern foods are in a category all by themselves and never make it much past the Mason-Dixon line. This southern delicacy is cheesy, creamy, tangy and everybody has their favorite. It is so important that it can bring together Tennessee and Alabama fans on a football saturday tailgate, it’s the sandwich of choice at The Masters and can comfort a crowd after a funeral.

We’re talking Pimento Cheese! Ask any good southern cook, they’ll tell you there’s pimento cheese recipes you date and then there is the one you marry.  Find a good recipe with the perfect balance and hang onto to – it’ll serve you well.

Here’s my lightened up version, take her on a date and see what you think!


3 tbsp light cream cheese, softened

1 cup low fat  or 2% sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup low fat or 2% cheddar and monterey jack blend cheese

1 tbsp Hellman’s mayo

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tbsp pimentos, diced

Blend all ingredients well. Chill and serve your favorite way!

 I like my pimento cheese toasted on french bread rounds, how do you like yours?

Black beans and quarters

Hearty Black Bean Soup with Chipotle Cream

The first time I ever had black bean soup was in Puerto Rico. That set the bar pretty high as far as black beans soups go. It was the most exotic thing I had ever eaten. It had a subtle heat, served with a side of rice and a delicious pineapple salsa.

So while enjoying my new-found love of black beans, my sister was honing her skills as a card shark and gambler. Sister was a marvel at poker and relentless at the blackjack table. She would come running up with buckets of money flaunting her skills.

 As we strolled through the casino one afternoon, she asked me for a quarter and I did what any good sister would do. So the quarter changed hands and into the slot it went. There it was, that secret talent. She won the $500 jackpot then turned to me and flipped the quarter back into my hand  and said ”thanks for letting me borrow that quarter”.


1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 carrot, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 15 oz. cans black beans, pureed

2 15 oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup salsa, good quality

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp cumin

pepper to taste

32 oz low-sodium chicken broth

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large soup pot. Saute onions, carrots and celery for 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and cook for a minute more.

Reduce heat and add pureed black beans and whole black beans. Stir in spices and combine well with bean mixture. Add in chicken broth, stir well. Simmer for 30 minutes before serving.

Chipotle Cream:

3 tbsp 0% Fage greek yogurt

2 tbsp light sour cream

1 chipotle pepper, in adobo sauce

Put ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Chill before serving.

Serve soup with a scoop of brown rice, a drizzle of chipotle cream and chopped cilanto.


I am picky about salsa. The best jarred salsa I have found is called Texas-Texas and can be found at The Fresh Market.

This soup gets better with age. I usually make it a day ahead, store in fridge and then reheat before serving.

True story, T.J. Maxx and MSG

Orange Chicken Stir Fry

Sometimes a true story is way better than a tall tale. You be the judge of this one. This all came about on one of our favorite mother-daughter past times, trolling through T.J.Maxx and to this day I blame it on the msg fog from the chinese food we had eaten earlier that evening.

So you see my mother and I have a knack for finding TJ Maxx stores anywhere and discovering priceless treasures during our sprees. This one evening they had put out the new arrival of winter coats and anyone that knows mother knows she loves coats. So in her excitement off came the white terry cloth hooded jacket and on went the coats – the oohs and aahs followed. While we were commenting on the coats and parading to the mirrors that little white hooded jacket got lost. We never found it…that night.

So forward 6 months later when the summer clothes were being wheeled out and yes, we were once again trolling late one evening. Mother ventured into the workout section. Still forlorn about her little white hooded jacket, she began browsing and across the store I heard a squeal of delight. She had found the little white terry cloth hooded jacket! Yes, on the rack with the same stain on the sleeve, Merona tag in tact and on a hanger complete with a price tag. The jacket was found!

The events sounded so unbelievable as we rambled on to the manager about the losing and finding of the coat. She must have felt sorry for us or was worried for her own safety that she believed our too crazy to be true story and off we went with the jacket…down the road to the Homegoods store.

Moral of the story…don’t go shopping after questionable chinese food. Make your own!


1/4 cup orange juice, the frozen kind thawed and undiluted

1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

2 tbsp cornstarch

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1 tbsp canola oil

1/2 cup green onions, chopped

1 lb chicken breast, diced into 1″ pieces

3 cups stir fry vegetables, I use broccoli and carrots

Combine first 8 ingredients and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook for about 5 minutes then add in green onions and veggies. Cook until chicken is done and veggies are tender.

Reduce heat and pour orange juice mixture over the chicken and vegetables. Stir well making sure to coat chicken and vegetables with sauce. Cook for a few more minutes until the sauce thickens.

Serve over brown rice. Makes 4 servings.

Flying biscuits and 3 dogs

Better for you biscuits

Is there anything prettier than a fresh batch of biscuits on a silver tray – I think not! In the south, biscuits are a way of life. Forget toast, bagels and english muffins. We want piping hot biscuits with gravy, eggs, molasses and homemade preserves. We take them so serious you can get famous if you make a great biscuit.

Case and point – growing up Ms. Carolyn was famous in our neighborhood, she got up every morning and cranked out fresh biscuits. It was not unusual for my sister and I to show up bright and early to play just so we could enjoy a biscuit. Then there was Cheryl, she was one of the wonderful cooks at Camp Monterey. She made biscuits every morning for hundreds of campers and we all loved her. Finally there was Carol Fay, she was crowned with the title ‘The Biscuit Lady’ and had worked at the Loveless Cafe for more than 25 years. Her biscuit recipe won her national acclaim and many appearances on television. In many ways Carol Fay and her biscuits were the heart of the Loveless. 

That leaves me. My three dogs hover around my feet and wait for the biscuits to start flying so I guess to them I’m pretty famous too!


2 tbsp butter, melted

1 cup half and half

2 cups self-rising flour

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Melt butter in a mixing bowl. Add half and half then stir in flour. Mix ingredients until just blended – it will be a little crumbly.

Turn dough onto a lightly flour surface. Knead a few times and then roll out to 1/2″ thickness. Do not overmix or over knead the dough it makes the biscuits tough.

Cut biscuits and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. I use the mouth of mason jar to cut  biscuits but you can use anything around the kitchen if you don’t have a biscuit cutter. This makes 12-15 biscuits.

Bake for about 10 minutes until light brown on top. Serve hot!

Every southerner should know how to make a good biscuit. They do require butter but I took a few shortcuts to create a more healthy but still delicious biscuit that you can proudly serve on a silver tray! 


When I punched this recipe into My Food Diary, the nutritional calculation per biscuit was around 90 calories and 3.5 grams of fat. This is a great online tool for keeping track of calories!

Texas taught me…

Balsamic Marinated Flank Steak

I have had a love affair with Texas my whole life. It started early on with Bud and Sissy in Urban Cowboy. This was way back when HBO only played two movies all day and I would sit in my jeans tucked into my boots on the arm of the sofa enamored by Gilley’s.
I remember my dad took a business trip to Houston around this same time and all I asked for was a Gilley’s t-shirt. Sure enough he delivered and that shirt hardly ever left my body!
So I eventually got the chance to move to Texas. Here are some lessons I learned:

Girls drive trucks – real big ones and they look cool driving them!

Designer jeans aren’t just for clubbing – showing cattle is a very dressy affair. On my first trip to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, I stopped in the restroom and saw dozens of teenage girls decked out in designer jeans, shiny belts,  flat-ironing their hair and primping for their turn to show.

Goats aren’t just for petting zoos – I worked at the Brazos County Expo Complex where we hosted many livestock shows. During one of my first shows I became taken with the goats. They were so cute and I had a few favorites until I looked up at the sign where it advertised ‘meat goats’. It was then I learned all about livestock shows.

You never meet a stranger, Texans are super friendly. You can make a lifelong friend standing in line at the grocery store.

Get to know your beef. My boss was a wonderful man and he taught me a lot but the lesson above all others was to choose good beef. He was a cattle rancher in his spare time and when I sat down to enjoy a burger at lunch he would begin his cattle stories and why he only ate his beef –


1 1/2 lb flank steak

1/8 c olive oil

1/3 c balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp Dijon or stone ground mustard

2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tbsp lemon juice

salt and pepper

Place meat in a large Ziploc bag. Combine remaining ingredients, whisking together well. Pour over the meat and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours.

Before cooking meat, set out the Ziploc bag and let it come to room temperature. Heat a grill pan, grill or heavy skillet to high heat. Place the steak on the heat and do not move for 4 minutes. Once 4 minutes has passed, flip the meat and cook for another 4 minutes not disturbing the meat.

Once cooked, remove from pan or grill and place on a cutting board letting the meat rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting. Cut across the grain into thin slices for best result.


 Flank steak is a lean cut of  beef and requires a little more attention. Cooking at a high temperature seals in the flavor and allowing the meat to rest will hold in the juices.

If you have leftovers, you can make a great steak taco !

I used my Cuisinart indoor grill for this recipe.

Birthdays are like Potatoes

Potato Gratin

So yesterday was another birthday. When you get to the point like I have and your birthday means being over the hump of mid-thirties and on your way to 40 celebrating is a lot less of a fuss. So I spent the day with my two boys (grown and not), went to lunch and did some shopping.

As I oohed and aahed in Sur La Table, I thought what a difference this is from turning 21 when all you could wait to do is run to the nearest convenient store at midnight and buy beer – all I wanted at 36 was to indulge in a Le Creuset! And then I thought potatoes – they’re a lot like birthdays. You can jazz them up or make them simple. Have a low fat version or go over the top and indulge…the possibilities are endless.

So in the end I choose a lovely baking dish and came home on mission to create a low fat, easy and a little bit exciting birthday, oh I mean potatoes!


1 1/2 lbs yukon gold potatoes

3/4 c fat-free evaporated milk

3/4 c low sodium chicken broth

1 tbsp all-purpose flour

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbsp fresh parsley, minced

3 tbsp parmesan reggiano, shredded

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash and dry potatoes and then thinly slice, preferably with a mandoline.

In a small saucepan, add evaporated milk, chicken stock and minced garlic then whisk in flour. Heat slowly over medium-low heat until it is just warm.

Spray a baking dish with canola oil spray. Take 1/3 of the potatoes and layer, overlapping in the bottom of the dish. Season the potatoes generously with salt and pepper, then sprinkle 1 tbsp each of parmesan cheese and parsley. Pour 1/3 of the milk mixture over the potato layer and then repeat this process two more times.

Cover baking dish with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil after 35 minutes and continue baking for 35 more minutes. Top should be golden brown. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before cutting.

This is not your typical potato gratin. It is not bathed in cheese and butter like traditional recipes. This dish is more a take on a Potatoes Savoyard which uses chicken broth and no cream.

Great Finds at Sur La Table


Oil Mister – just add you own oil, give a few pumps and say goodbye aerosol cans.






Probably the best $20 I’ll ever spend on a kitchen gadget. I had a mandoline but this sleekslice mandoline is compact, folds up and has a finger guard!

Burger Up!

Spicy Cajun Burgers with Caramelized Onions and Lolleigh’s Comeback Sauce 

I love a good burger! Perhaps on this bitterly cold Ohio winter day my brain is longing for a warm sunny day on Center Hill Lake in Middle Tennessee. When I was no more than 6 months old my parents had me on a boat and throughout my life this wonderful place has always been a refuge. Diving into the crisp, green water felt like all the stress and worries were just washed away and after a day of playing hard with sunburned skin nothing tasted better than a ‘lake burger’.

Let me explain, a ‘lake burger’ is probably the best thing you will ever eat in the burger category. It could be the grilled flavor, the crispy iceberg lettuce or sitting in the middle of the water and enjoying every last bite that makes it so great. There just something about pulling the boat up to a dock restaurant picking up your order and speeding off over the water to find the perfect place to enjoy that burger.

This is not quite a ‘lake burger’ but a healthy combo of flavors that I love and happen to be craving – enjoy!


1 lb ground sirloin

1 tsp Cajun seasoning

pepper to taste

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced

Franks Red Hot to taste

4 whole wheat buns

Crispy iceberg lettuce

White cheddar cheese slices, reduced fat

Combine all ingredients well and form into 4 equal patties. Set aside and let come to room temperature before cooking. In the mean time start the onions. While they are cooking, whip up the comeback sauce and place in the fridge. As the onions are finishing up, cook the burgers to desired temperature. Make sure to let burgers rest a few minutes before assembly.

Caramelized Onions:

1 large sweet onion, sliced

1 tsp olive oil


In a fry pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook for 15-20 minutes until onions are a deep brown color. You may add a little salt if desired towards the end of cooking.

Lolleigh’s Comeback Sauce:

1/3 cup 0% Fage Greek Yogurt

1 tsp Dijon mustard

2 tsp ketchup

1 tsp worchestershire sauce

1 tbsp Hellman’s Mayo

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp paprika

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

4 dill pickle chips, chopped or 1 tbsp dill pickle relish

Frank’s Red Hot to taste

Cayenne pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Add hot sauce and cayenne to taste, more for a spicier version. I used my rocket blender to combine everything but a bowl and whisk would work just fine.

To assemble burgers:

Be generous with the comeback sauce put on both sides of the bun. Place lettuce on bottom, add burger, caramelized onions and top with a slice of white cheddar – now sit back and enjoy!


I don’t solely shop at Whole Foods but I do prefer some items – their bakery-fresh whole wheat hamburger buns are really good.

My tried and true Cajun seasoning of choice is Tony Chachere’s.

And yes that’ me. I was probably 6 or 7 years old enjoying a lake day!

Short stack

Whole Wheat Blueberry Pancakes

My Grandaddy called me short stack. He was not so tall himself but he was the friendliest person you would ever meet. He was larger than life and never met a stranger. I think he prided himself on being a good teacher of life, you know street smart skills. He taught us all to play golf, taught my mother how to burn rubber in all 4 gears when she started driving and showed me how to make pancakes.

On Sunday mornings at Nana and Grandaddy’s they would have the coffee brewing, the intercom radio playing through the house and Grandaddy would have his griddle ready to go. He would pour the batter on the griddle as I stood and watched him explain that the pancakes had to bubble perfectly before you could flip them.

So to this day I credit him on my love of making pancakes on the weekends, how to golf and how to be a good friend!


1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp sugar

1 egg

2 cups low fat buttermilk

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Mix together all dry ingredients. Then add egg, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir well and then fold in blueberries.

Heat a large skillet or griddle to medium heat. Coat with canola oil spray. Pour 1/4cup of batter onto griddle for each pancake.

When bubbles appear around the egdes and middle its time to flip. Cook about a minute or two per side or until golden brown.

Makes 12 4″-5″ pankcakes.




My pancake taste tester gave his stamp of approval for this recipe!