Thursday, December 22, 2016

November Come And Gone

I can believe it's almost 2017.  We just had Thanksgiving didn't we?  And the day before that we celebrated L.B.'s 29th birthday.  Twenty-nine, how did she grow up so fast?   Her request was for Little Joe's Pizza and my homemade Banana Pudding.  Talk about yummy.  I hadn't had pizza in a long time and their bread sticks, lets just say I ate more than my fair share.  It was a good thing we did the Hot To Trot 5k on Thanksgiving to work off some of those calories before we indulged in our Thanksgiving feast.

L.B.'s birthday celebration with the family.

And Thanksgiving, the smell of the turkey smoking on the green egg.  Usually we fry our bird, but this year we decided to try something different.  It was so good.  

Look at that beautiful bird!!!

The Family

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Seems like it's been awhile since I've been in the kitchen.  With different events Stone and I attended and some travel I went two weeks and didn't prepare anything.   Unless we have been on Holiday as our Assie friends call it, I've never gone that long without cooking.   
With friends coming to dinner after UT's win over Kentucky it was time to get back in the swing of things.  Of course I would think of dessert first seeing to me it is the most important part of the meal.   I thought I would bake Paula Deen's Pineapple Upside-Down Cake.   I remember growing up my mama would make Pineapple Upside-Down Cake in a skillet and as with everything she makes it was yummy.  Paula Deen of course took it up a notch.  Her sweet treat is two layers verses the normal one, plus it has frosting around the sides with pecans.  So the question is, which one do I prefer my mama's or  Paula Deen's.  Sorry Paula my mama wins this one.  Although this was very good, my mama's simple cake baked in a skillet is the best.  One layer is sufficient, but I must say I loved the addition of the frosting with the toasted nuts.  It was some kind of good.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Servings: 8

Cake Ingredients:
3 cups cake flour, plus more for pan
1 cup butter softened
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole buttermilk
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup melted butter
2 (20 ounce) cans pineapple slices in juice, drained well (reserve 2 Tablespoons juice for frosting) 
1 (10 ounce) jar maraschino cherries, drained well.

Frosting Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 Tablespoons reserved pineapple juice
Chopped pecans toasted for garnish (optional)

Cake Preparation:
Preheat the oven to 350'.  Spray 2 (9") round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray and coat with flour.  In a large bowl, beat 1 cup butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add the sugar, beating until fluffy.  Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in the vanilla and set aside.  In a small bowl, add the 3 cups of flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir to combine.  Add the flour mixture into the egg mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Divide the brown sugar evenly into each pan.  Pour the 1/2 cup melted butter equally over the brown sugar.  Arrange the pineapple slices and cherries over the brown sugar.  Reserve remaining pineapple slices and cherries for another use.  Pour equal amounts of batter over the fruit and bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes.  Invert the cakes onto wire racks to cool completely.  To assemble the cake, carefully arrange 1 cake layer, pineapple side up, over the first  layer.  Frost the sides of the cake with Pineapple Buttercream Frosting.  Recipe adapted from

Frosting Preparation:
Beat 1/2 cup softened butter, reserved 2 Tablespoons pineapple juice and 3 1/2 cups confection's sugar.  Frost side of cake.  Garnish with pecans, optional.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sexy Surf and Turf: Seared Scallops and Tenderloin Steaks with Manhattan Sauce

It's the season when the leaves begin to turn and the temps cool down.  I've already had the fireplace going once to get the chill from the house.  Stone gave me that look.  You ladies know the one, when they think you are crazy.  Well, let me tell you Lucy and I were very thankful for the warmth of the fire.  

Fall is the time of year when on October 11th we also celebrate Stone's birthday, this year being the  one.  Y'all know the one I'm talking about.  The big 65!  Medicare and senior citizen discounts at the movie theater although we rarely go.  Oh wait, on Wednesdays its senior citizen day at the grocery.  Maybe Stone will start doing the shopping.   Actually that might be kind of scary.  The shopping cart would be full of peanut butter, crackers, grapes, cheese and diet coke.  Although that wouldn't be to bad, I could probably live on that if you throw in some chocolate.

Anyway, back to Stone's birthday, the only cake he ever wants for his birthday is Betty Crocker Chocolate Cake with a tub of Betty Crocker Chocolate Frosting.  It's the ONLY time I make it!  I've made it with fruit piled on top and one year I had mini chocolate chips sprinkled on the frosting.  He doesn't want anything on it.  Just plain ole box cake with a tub of frosting.  Not for sure what the appeal is other than that's what his mama would make for him.  I get that, my son is the same way.  He wants the same dessert every year on his birthday, Heart Attack Chocolate Cake, a recipe given to me by my friend Karen who along with her husband Greg joined us in celebrating Stone's birthday.

Like the Heart Attack Chocolate Cake, Karen also gave me this recipe for seared scallops and tenderloin steaks with manhattan sauce.  Apparently she has been making it for years on their Anniversary.  Must bring good luck seeing they just celebrated their 44th anniversary.  So for this years celebration Karen and I made Stone the Sexy Surf and Turf.

Sexy Surf and Turf: Seared Scallops and Tenderloin Steaks with Manhattan Sauce
Serves: 4

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling, plus 1 turn of the pan
4 (1" thick) tenderloin steaks
8 large diver sea scallops, trimmed of the foot
salt and pepper
2 large shallots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2/3 cup sweet vermouth
4 Tablespoons butter
1 pound asparagus spears, trimmed
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 Tablespoons chives, about 10 blades, chopped or snipped

1.  Drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil over steaks to coat lightly.  Get a nonstick skillet screaming hot and add meat.  Cook 3 minutes on each side for medium rare, 4 for medium to medium well.

2.  Remove meat from pan and pull it off fire to cool for a minute.
3.  Drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil over the scallops and season with salt and pepper.  Get a skillet screaming hot and cook scallops 2-3 minutes on each side until well caramelized.

4.  Bring 2 inches water to a boil in a medium skillet for asparagus.
5.  Return meat pan to medium heat and add 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.  Add shallots, garlic and cook 2 minutes.  Add sweet vermouth and reduce by half, 30 seconds or so.  Add butter to the pan to finish sauce.

6.  Add asparagus to boiling water.  Cook 2-3 minutes, remove and dress with lemon juice, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
7.  Place each tenderloin steak on a plate and drizzle Manhattan sauce down over top.  Serve 2 scallops on top of steaks and garnish with chives.  Serve asparagus spears alongside.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Cinnamon Roll Casserole

With the arrival of fall comes the scent of cinnamon and the new fall fashion from cabi.  This casserole is not only EASY, it is delish.   You use can cinnamon rolls.  Yes, you read that right.  You know the kind that comes in a blue canister and you peel the paper back a little then pop the can so it will open, thats the one.  They also add a little container of icing in the can.  
Did I say this was easy?  You do not prebake the rolls, just cut them up and place them in your 9X13" dish.  Mix up the remaining ingredients, pour it over the rolls and it is ready to go.  How easy is that?  

Cinnamon Roll Casserole
Yields: 12 servings

2 Tablespoons butter, melted.
2 cans (12.4 ounces each) Pillsbury refrigerated cinnamon rolls with icing
4 eggs
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1.  Preheat oven to 375'.  Spray a 9X13" baking dish with cooking spray.
2.  Place melted butter into 9X13" baking dish.
3.  Separate both cans of dough into 16 rolls; Set icing aside. Cut each roll into 8 pieces; place pieces into dish, on top of melted butter.

4.  In a bowl, beat eggs.  Beat in heavy whipping cream, cinnamon, vanilla extract and maple syrup  until well blended; gently pour over roll pieces.  Sprinkle with walnuts if you choose to add.

5.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool 15 minutes.
6.  Microwave icing 10-15 seconds or until thin enough to drizzle.
7.  Drizzle icing over top of casserole.  

8.  Serve warm with a small pitcher of maple syrup and a shaker of powdered sugar on the side.
I made up the liquid portion of this recipe the night before I was going to make it to save time.  Just place it in the refrigerator.   

Monday, September 26, 2016

Chocolate Cake With Heavenly Frosting

Chocolate Cake With Heavenly Frosting
Cake Ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted.

Cake Instructions:
Melt butter and chocolate together.  In mixing bowl add eggs, water, sugar, sour cream and vanilla extract.  Mix, and add flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.  Lastly add the melted butter with the chocolate.  Pour into 2 (9") pans or 3 (7") pan that have been sprayed with baking spray and lined with parchment paper.  Bake until cake tester comes out clean.  About 30 minutes, depending on the pan size you use.  

Heavenly Frosting
Frosting Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/2 cup water
4 egg whites, (that have come to room temperature)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting Directions:
In a small saucepan, add the sugar, salt, and cream of tarter.  Stir mixture to combine;  add the water.
Over medium heat, bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly until it is clear.  Now stop stirring, allow the mixture to boil until it reaches the 240' on a candy thermometer.  I used my thermapen which works great!  !    If it begins to form crystals  around the edge of pan, just wash it down with water on a pastry brush.
Remove from heat and set aside.  In a large bowl beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.  
Once the eggs whites are at a soft peak, begin to slowly pour the boiled sugar mixture into the egg whites.  Pour the mixture along the side of the bowl while beating the two together.
Make sure to pour the sugar mixture in a slow steady stream, beating the frosting the entire time.  Once all the sugar mixture has been added, pour in the vanilla extract. Beat until the frosting is thick enough to form stiff peaks.
Once the frosting has thickened to for stiff peaks, begin frosting the cake.

 UT vs. Florida Tailgate

 Albert ready to eat him some gator!

Karen - Stone

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Emmys In L.A.

Going Down to Tinseltown

By Jim Robertson

Everyone knows that as temperatures cool, star gazing season officially begins out west.
No, I am not talking about the Perdied Meteor shower or the appearance of the Autumn Star. We’re talking about where the stars shine the brightest. Its L.A., baby, and this is awards season. It all starts with TV’s biggest and brightest stage… the Emmys!
Of course only the L.A. elite get to hang in the Hollywood Hills, walk the red carpet in designer threads and dance the night away at the Governor’s Ball… right? Think again, my friends, and let me tell you the story of the girl from Uvalde who made it to L.A., but not before a stop in Oak Ridge and lots of time watching cartoons in Atlanta… yeah, cartoons… in Y’allywood.
Improbable? Probably. Unlikely? Like, totally. Impossible? Hardly.
So, what was the first step this road to the red carpet? It started back in 2011, with a letter to the Dean of the Terry College of Business at of the University of Georgia. Written by a young sales associate at IHG who wanted more. She knew where she wanted to be, but she knew she needed to grow before she was ready to sparkle. Her name was Malia. She was applying for graduate school, but she told the dean she was coming to Terry in order to work for Atlanta’s own Turner. A girl with a plan.  
Fast forward five years, now this dreamer is armed with a master’s degree and the experience of five years, three promotions at IHG. Solving problems and bringing people together was a part of her nature and that passion had been nurtured into a path forward. Then, Turner came calling. Her words – a prophecy. She was at Turner and not just any team. She was with Cartoon Network, the creative, shining star of the Turner family.
Nothing ventured. Nothing gained. The job in itself is a reason to celebrate, but that is just the beginning, not the end of this journey. As you know, this story has a happy Hollywood ending. So, let’s get there.
What does digital user experience have to do with Hollywood? Well, I will put it this way. Your smart phone is eating your TV. Malia, as the digital product manager for Cartoon Network, is just helping with the digestion process. Ten million kids every minute are watching “TV” on smartphones. These kids might not ever hang a TV on their wall.
Hollywood, and the entire entertainment industry, is taking notice.  And that recognition starts with TVs biggest event. The Emmys have always ended with the Primetime Emmy Awards, but Academy of Television Arts & Sciences also host the Creative Arts Awards the weekend before the Primetime Awards. These events are carbon copies of each other and take place at the Microsoft Theater in Downtown L.A.   
For the most part, the Creative Arts Emmy Awards are exactly the same as the Primetime Emmys… basically a dressed rehearsal. The Creative Arts Emmys are presented in recognition of technical and other similar achievements in American television programming, including guest acting roles… and you guessed it… Interactive Media! A jury of the best and brightest minds in digital (think Apple, Google, Netflix) voted to award the absolute best user experience and design for a digital app and Malia’s product won!
Since this was a juried prize, the team actually found out in advance of the awards. This was the first Emmy for Cartoon Network digital, and as you can imagine the entire Turner organization was thrilled. They even made the Turner homepage. Plans began immediately to fly Malia and the rest of the team out to L.A., so they could collect their hardware for a job well done.
Of course with an invite to the Emmys comes a walk down the red carpet. So, your initial focus is all about fashion. How many chances in one life do you get to walk the red carpet? Exactly. So, let the shopping begin. Malia ended up with a beautiful piece of vintage couture. Truly, a throwback to Hollywood glamour with a sleek, form fitting Dolce & Gabbana dress that was a show stealer. Granted, we picked it up from the tailor on the way to the airport, but the fit was perfect and the look… classic Hollywood.
With the dress set, only one thing stood in the way of our trip down the red carpet… partying in the Hollywood Hills. The tough thing about partying in the Hollywood Hills is affording a home up there! The good news for us. The head of the Cartoon Network Studio in L.A., Rob Sorcher, had us covered. Does Sorcher’s name sound familiar? Before he joined Cartoon Network, he spent some time with AMC where he helped develop Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Yeah, you know him, and he invited us over to his house to celebrate on Friday night.
Sorcher’s home (and party) did not disappoint. Even after a long day of traveling from the East Coast, the twinkling lights of DTLA below, the Hollywood sign above and the Griffith Observatory off in the distance, left no doubt. We had arrived. Sorcher’s L.A. was intoxicating, and out of reach for most. Tonight, Sorcher’s L.A. was our L.A., and it was awesome. I am pretty sure Banksy is his neighbor.
After our night in the hills, the team was famished and needed to keep our L.A. story on track. The only stop that would do would be sushi at Katsuya Hollywood on the corner of Hollywood and Vine… of course. Fueled by adrenaline and excitement, we dined until after midnight (think 3am in ATL!) and then surrendered to slumber. So, we retreated to our accommodations downtown – the ACE Hotel.
The ACE was the perfect backdrop for our adventure. The hotel occupies the historic United Artists building in Downtown L.A. Built in 1927 for the maverick film studio, the UA Theater and tower stand as monuments to a group of seminal American artists pushing out on their own. Rooms come with turntables, acoustic guitars and of course…  blank hotel branded sheet music in place of hotel stationary. We’re not in Atlanta any more…

Malia and Jim walking the red carpet.

The day of the awards ceremony finally arrives. The good news is we have our own professional stylist waiting for us. You know her. Family fashionista, L.A. resident, American Apparel Retail Operations Manager and part time makeup artist - Abby Gail Mask.  Glamour Girl was in her element as she helped Malia, and a few other Cartoon Network executives, get their face camera ready. After leaving us, Abby was on her way to another photoshoot for American Apparel.
After saying our goodbyes and thank yous to Glamour Girl, the moment we’d waited for finally arrived. It was our turn to walk the red carpet. Even without the star power of the Daytime Awards, the experience was magical, and the stars were surely shining. I think Malia was the most excited about hanging with Corey from Boy Meets World (maybe a little too excited). If you asked her, she would probably try and sound cool, and tell you we sat behind Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci from Garfunkle and Oates. They didn’t win an Emmy… Malia did. Sorry girls.
Following the awards ceremony (where Game of Thrones literally won everything), we were ushered down a second red carpet and it was time to party. We were greeted with water and bubbly as we walked across the street to the convention center and the Governor’s Ball. The nature's elegance-themed party was breathtaking. Thousands of twinkling lights and hundreds of floral arrangements transformed an ordinary space into a truly magical environment.
The amazing space was transformed once again after our team dinner by amazing live entertainment and a rush to the dancefloor. Malia and her team took over the dance floor and didn’t stop celebrating until the last song was played.
All in all our L.A. story was a special one. Once in a lifetime achievement, that was the result of lots of hard work, some serious shopping and a graduate school admissions letter. I will never look up at the stars again without thinking of Malia’s time to shine.

 We won!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Loaded Carrot Cake

A daughter home for the weekend definitely calls for cake and this particular girl likes it all.  Carrots, pineapple, coconut and walnuts, oh yeah the good stuff.  The dessert is loaded and topped with a creamy Cream Cheese Frosting.  Stone and I were having a difficult time waiting for Lora Beth to arrive so we could cut a piece.

Loaded Carrot Cake
Cake Ingredients:
1 1/3 cup oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup coconut
1 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
1 (15 ounce) crushed pineapple drained
3 cups grated carrots, do not use pre-grated as they are to thick.

Cake Directions:
Toast walnuts in a 350' preheated oven for 6-7 minutes.  Let cool and chop.
Mix all ingredients together, including toasted walnuts.  
Spoon batter into 3 (8" pans) that has been sprayed well with baking spray.  

Frosting Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons concentrated orange juice
4 cups powdered sugar

Frosting Directions:
Let cream cheese and butter come to room temperature.  Using mixer, cream the cheese and butter together until blended.  Add remaining ingredients.  Mix until smooth and creamy.  Frost cake.
I keep this cake in the refrigerator.

 Stone checking the fluids in Lora Beth's car last night making sure all was good before she departed for her 3 hour drive home very early this morning to make it in time for work.


Monday, August 29, 2016

The Book Thief

Several words can describe this book.  Death, survivor, evil and loss are just a few.  The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a young German girl in Nazi territory.   It takes place between 1939-1943 on a cobble stone path called Himmel Street in a small fictional town of Molching Germany during the Holocaust.  How can someone who's lost so much still carry on?   Liesel's real mother was a communist and most likely killed.  We never learned about her father other than he was most likely a communist also.  Her brother dies on the train to the Foster parents house.

Liesel, her Foster parents Hans and Rosa, the Jewish man Max that they hide from the Nazis and her best friend and neighbor Rudy Steiner lived in fear during World War II.  Liesel and Max are the only ones that survive and reunite after the war when Max comes to Alex Steiner's, Rudy's father tailor shop looking for Liesel where she was working.  The story ends there for Max which is frustrating.  Leaving you wondering did they marry.  Liesel on the other hand goes on to live a happy life in Sydney Australia with a  husband, no name and three kids and grandkids.  Is her husband Max??? 


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Hillbenders At Bluegrass Underground

After a brief tour through the Cumberland Caverns, which was beautiful.   Karen, Greg, Stone and I quickly made our way to the Volcano Room where the Hillbenders were to be performing beginning at 1pm.  Since we had the Bucket List Package, one of the things we received was a lunch ticket.  While the Volcano Room was filling up, and since we had an hour before the concert was to begin we made our way back to the concession stand and pick out our goodies.  Now with food in hand, we returned to our seats which just so happened to be on the front row.

The Hillbenders performing a rock opera, was the best concert Stone and I have seen at Bluegrass Underground, a subterranean amphitheater 333' feet below McMinnville Tn.   This was by far the best one ever.  They were "high-energy" as they performed The Who's TOMMY.  Of course being on the front row was fabulous.  You almost felt as though you were part of the band.  If you haven't been to Bluegrass Underground, you should try it out.

As we are on tour we can see down in the Volcano room as the band is warming up and chairs are being set up for the concert.  The concert was completely full holding five hundred people.

Greg and Karen

Twin Falls

Saturday, August 13, 2016

French Coconut Pie

Coconuts are probably my favorite fruit.  I like them plain, toasted and in just about anything.  Actually I can't honestly say I like them plain.  Once Stone and I were in Mexico, sunning along the Riviera Maya when a young man approached with a fresh coconut that he had picked from a tree, drilled a hole and put a straw in it and gave it to me.  It was so pretty, I got all excited.  It had this little umbrella sticking out of it all fancy like.  I took a sip as he stood there waiting, wondering what I thought of his gift.  Hmmm, I didn't like it at all!  The young man was so sweet to give that to me that I couldn't tell him I thought it was just awful, so I pretended to really like it.  Slowly sipping until he was out of site.  

Recently I came across this recipe from a co-worker from many years ago and wondered why I haven't made this pie in so long.  Actually I've never made it for Stone.  With Kathy and Scott coming for dinner I decided it was time to make this quick, easy SUPERDELICIOUS pie.  Words cannot describe how good it was.   Served with a dollop of whipped cream, it was the perfect ending to our meal. 

 French Coconut Pie
Serves: 6

3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter melted
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 (2") vanilla bean (which is what I did)
 pinch of salt
1 (9") uncooked pie shell, homemade or frozen
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream (optional)
1.  Preheat oven 350'.
2.  In a bowl mix beaten eggs with granulated sugar.
3.  Add melted butter,lemon juice, vanilla and salt.  Mix.
4.  Stir in coconut.
5.  Pour into unbaked pie shell.  Bake for 45 minutes-1 hour, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.