Chicken Satay With Spicy Peanut Sauce

Just a few months ago, my six-year-old son, Walker, was a notoriously picky eater. In May, we implemented a new strategy to expand his diet, and family mealtime has become significantly more enjoyable for all. (No such intervention was necessary for his two-year-old sister, Esme, who eats everything from olives to goat cheese to — when it’s within reach — cat food.)

I will soon blog about our adventure, including the triumphs, and yes, the defeats — along with some fantastic new recipes. In short, Walker will now try nearly any food and has transformed from a kid who turned his nose up to pizza to one who will willingly munch on a piece of arugula. He may not eat a bowlful of arugula, but he’ll eat a few pieces. Progress, I say.

For the record, this new strategy involves no trickery or bribery. I’ve never bought into that hiding-good-food-in-bad-food approach. Using a sugar-laden cookie or brownie as an unsuspecting vehicle in which to disguise something nutritious seems counterproductive not to mention a lot of extra work for busy parents.

Prior to this new era of adventurous eating, I had a limited group of foods to work with when trying to please our family of four. Dining out was equally challenging. Our one saving grace was a local Thai restaurant called Surin West. Walker loves a few dishes on the menu, in particular the restaurant’s chicken satay. I have long wanted to recreate the dish, as I love chicken satay myself, and finally tried my hand at it in June. The first batch I made was near spot-on, but I was curious, would Walker agree?

After one bite, he smiled and gave it an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

Lime-Mint Granita

In the midst of this oppressively hot summer, my garden is a green, thriving wonderland. That’s what I imagine John Mayer would croak sing if he were strolling through it.

(I promise to never again mention John Mayer on this blog.)

My tomatoes are growing plumper and turning deeper in color each day: cherokee chocolate, black cherry, box car willy, watermelon beefsteak and other heirloom varieties.

My poblano, jalapeno, red and yellow peppers are making progress but not yet ripe enough to be harvested.  

And then there’s this charming garden addition, which Jason “planted” in May.


I discovered socca shortly after I had my daughter in 2010, and it immediately became one of my favorite quick, family meals when I was strapped for time or had a fussy baby on my hands. Socca, commonly sold by street vendors in the south of France, is a flatbread made with chickpea flour and is sort of a cross between a crepe and a pancake.

Socca is best enjoyed hot right out of the oven: soft and chewy in the middle, crispy around the edges and underneath, with a slick of olive oil on top and lots of pepper.  In addition to being delicious and mildly (OK, wildly) addictive, it’s naturally gluten-free, vegan and rich in protein and fiber. 

Although it can be served as a snack, I like to feature it as the base of a casual meal, paired with tapenade, cheese, olives and other no-fuss finger foods that can be enjoyed harmoniously with and alongside it.

I’ve hosted two informal dinner parties with socca as the main event.  Everyone lingered around the kitchen table for the better part of the evening – sipping cold rosé, the classic socca pairing– while I hopped over to the oven every 15 minutes or so to pour more batter into a hot cast-iron skillet.

The Donny Draper

The “Donny Draper,” a terrific riff on an Old Fashioned cocktail, has caused quite a stir here in Birmingham, Alabama. Credit for the libation goes to inventive bartender William Hamrick at Hot and Hot Fish Club. (It’s been a milestone year for Hot and Hot and its owner, Chef Chris Hastings. Hastings won the 2012 James Beard Award for best chef in the south and defeated celebrity chef Bobby Flay on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America.”)

Like the Donny Draper’s namesake — the handsome, brooding Don Draper on AMC’s hit show “Mad Men” — the drink is sophisticated and delicious, mysterious even.

Rye whiskey + sassafras syrup + bitters + lemon peel = one superb cocktail.

After our first experience drinking Donny Drapers at Hot and Hot, I vowed to figure out the recipe so we could enjoy them on our front porch throughout the summer.


Chocolate Pecan Praline Sticky Buns


I’m of the opinion sticky buns deserve better than a chalky, white, achingly-sweet glaze.

In my world, this beauty is the mother of all sticky buns, with its thick swirls of chocolate ganache dotted with dark and milk chocolate pieces.



The base is a brioche dough, which bakes up golden, buttery and pillowy soft

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken With Goat Cheese, Chives and Fried Garlic

The inspiration for this recipe comes from Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Chrissy Teigen, who pens the food blog,, where she writes in endearing, bawdy fashion about her favorite recipes, eating habits, her abhorrence of exercise, and the challenges of maintaining her (much envied) figure as a self-proclaimed bacon addict.

(Teigen with fiancé John Legend at a cooking class /

I interned at Sports Illustrated many, many years ago and was often asked what kind of interaction I had with the swimsuit models. I think people envisioned me bumping into Heidi Klum at the vending machine or sharing an elevator with Tyra Banks. Alas, the halls of Sports Illustrated were not filled with long-legged models. They were mostly filled with middle-aged men – and a few college interns, like me, trying not to trip over their own feet.* 

During my time at the magazine, I had the pleasure of meeting an up-and-coming reporter, Jeff Pearlman, who became a lifelong friend and quickly rose in the SI ranks to senior writer.Jeff, author of the New York Times best-selling biography on Walter Payton, once blogged about his week-long experience at an SI swimsuit shoot during the Molly Sims era. Spoiler alert (and unintentionally related to today’s recipe): chicken cutlets were strategically positioned in bikini tops. 

Last year, Teigen blogged at length about eating a primarily low-carb diet in preparation for various swimsuit shoots. This delicious creation appeared in a Shape Magazine article featuring her five favorite low-carb recipes.

The original recipe goes something like this: flatten a chicken breast with a meat tenderizer, spread Boursin cheese on top, add bacon, roll it up, wrap it in prosciutto and bake for approximately an hour.

Salsa Verde

This salsa verde request and dedication goes out to my college friend, Woody, who declared in a voice of authority – OK, over text, but it was an authoritative text – that it was the best salsa verde he’d ever had.

Woody is well versed in many matters of importance: food, music, In Living Color reruns. He’s also a nationally-recognized privacy law expert and a college professor with fancy degrees from fancy schools. We’ve had the pleasure of reconnecting with him and his charming wife since their return to Birmingham last year.

Those two can host a dinner party, and Woody’s the kind of guy who, while carefully tending to a bubbling pot of Bolognese sauce, will captivate you with his expounding knowledge of the complexities of social media privacy – for example, why you should think twice before posting those racy pictures from spring break, Vegas or the family reunion. (Facebook friends, you know who you are.)

Battenberg Cake

Battenberg cake, a checkered sponge cake with apricot jam filling and a marzipan coat, was created to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, Princess Victoria, to Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884. The four cake panels symbolize the four princes of Battenberg.

That’s the word on the street, anyway.

Other sources claim the whimsical cake originally had nine sections, not the four you see today.

Wild Mushroom Naan

In the weeks leading up to our vacation, several friends questioned why we weren’t visiting a more renowned spot on the culinary map. Our trip to England, I explained, was about more than food. It was a return to my roots. It was also my first non-working week of vacation in years so… fish and chips? Fine with me. 

I was confident, however, we would enjoy plenty of interesting and inspiring food during our trip, and I was right. From duck burgers in Camden Market to confit leg of pigeon at The Ledbury to a homemade raspberry-meringue dessert we enjoyed with friends, London did not disappoint on any front.

We had a great experience at Rasoi, an Indian restaurant quaintly situated at the end of a winding, residential street in Chelsea and owned by Michelin Star Chef Vineet Bhatia. I’d like to pretend I discovered Rasoi after hours of meticulously researching high-end cuisine, but the truth is I read in People Magazine that Adele had recently dined there with her boyfriend.   SOLD!

There were, I regret to inform, no celebrity sightings, but there was a pilgrimage to Abbey Road.

We also made a few pub stops.

We stumbled upon a rainbow of macarons, cupcakes and giant, pastel-streaked meringues at a pastry shop near the Thames River.

Roasted Garlic Butter

Today, I want to share a little secret:

I keep a bowl of roasted garlic butter in my fridge and use it on everything.

Ok, not on everything, but smeared on thick slices of crusty bread? Yes. Slipped under the skin of roasted chicken? Of course. Brushed on skewers of grilled shrimp? Obviously.

My son, who is the pickiest of eaters, requests it on toast but would eat it by the spoonful if I let him. Butter alone is near perfection, but combined with caramelized, melt-in-your-mouth garlic, it can transform an ordinary dish into something more complex. For example, a few tablespoons of garlic butter stirred into freshly-cooked pasta will take it from uninspired weeknight fare to a plate of food you’d swear came out of the kitchen of your favorite Italian restaurant.

And it couldn’t be easier to make. Whole heads of garlic are trimmed of their tops — beheaded, if you will — and roasted under a pat of butter in a tight-lidded dish or enclosure of aluminum foil. The butter melts and seeps down into the cloves, encouraging even roasting.

At this point I should warn you: The scent of roasted garlic drifting out of your oven may make you weak in the knees, or at the very least, very hungry.

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