Monthly Archives: September 2012

Lake Weekend

This weekend we traveled 70 miles south of Franklin to beautiful Tim’s Ford Lake.

The drive down was entertaining with these two.

I have no idea why because the weather was mostly wonderful, but we practically had the whole lake to ourselves! Suits me!

“Rustic” vacations like this are sometimes lacking in the food department in my opinion, just because you don’t have all the conveniences of your kitchen and some people tend to forget things when you’re packing, but I’m not naming names ;).

Days on the boat were accompanied by chicken salad and pimento cheese sandwiches and of course plenty of Bloody Mary’s. You don’t want to get thirsty on a boat. Trust me.

We stayed here. The staff was very friendly and the cabins and boats were clean and comfortable.

The first night in true lake form, we grilled hamburgers and hot dogs (no need for picture of those)

But in true Sara form we also had a cheese plate! (Please notice the lovely glass fish cutting board)

We had a Gouda Robusto (semi firm, nutty Parmesan flavor), Killaree Cheddar (mild, creamy and soft) and Cypress Grove Midnight Moon (grainy and buttery tasting-and my favorite)

We greeted the day with your typical breakfasts and some coffee cup advertising from a local realty company 🙂

We tried a little restaurant on the water in one of the coves the 2nd night. I won’t tell you the name because I wouldn’t want you to go there. But they did have very cold beer!

We had a pretty cloudy/drizzly day while we were there so we decided to take a 20 minute drive to  Lynchburg Tennessee to visit the Jack Daniels Distillery! I cant believe as long as have lived in Tennessee I have never been but it was very interesting!

Jack Daniels is the oldest distillery in Tennessee. This is also the only location in the world where JD is made.  They store the barrels of whiskey in 80 different Barrel Houses to ensure that they are kept separately in case something were to ever happen to one or more of the houses.

The grounds are really beautiful. There are just over 400 employees in all and you can tell they take their jobs very seriously and have a real respect for the process.

Lynchburg is in a dry county so unfortunately no samples are given at the distillery.

Our tour guide said this was the only Jack “on the rocks” you would see at the distillery. You could tell she thought this was funny even though I am sure she has said it 1,000 times.

This tree was right behind one of the buildings on campus. The vapors released during the distilling process turn all the trees within 200 yards black! JD is known for making their own charcoal that their whiskey runs over,  which they say gives their whiskey its distinctive flavor.

Even though I am not a whiskey drinker, I would definitely recommend this tour.

Update: I’m a whiskey drinker now!

After that, the rain cleared out so we hit the trails in the Tim’s Ford State Park!

We saw lots of wild life.

Walked over several swinging bridges.

We saw the first signs of fall.

And had a modeling session with Gage.

The last night we grilled steaks.

I even set the table using newspaper ads as place mats!

We were not ready to leave but we were glad to get back to our kitchen!!


Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp Gumbo

It is going to cool off in Tennessee this weekend and you need something to keep you warm.

Invite a crowd because we’re making a big pot of gumbo

If you find yourself with a little time on your hands then this gumbo is for you.

It takes about 3 hours from start to finish but there is lots of down time in between steps. It’s a good game day recipe and can be made the day before. It is also a good recipe to make when you HAVE to be at home because you are say, auto cleaning your oven or something exciting like that.

Gone are the days of seafood gumbo, sausage or chicken gumbo. This hearty stew has all 3!

Holy Trinity and then some.

At one or more stages of this dish you may wonder if you are doing this right. Forge ahead. It’s going to turn out just fine.

Adapted from Paula Deen

Serves 8


2 cups rotisserie chicken breast

1 tablespoon canola or olive oil

1 pound smoked sausage or kielbasa, cut into 1/4-inch slices (i use turkey smoked sausage)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons margarine

1 large onion, diced

6 cloves garlic minced

1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced

3 stalks celery, diced

1/4 cup reduced sodium Worcestershire sauce

1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley coarsely chopped

4 cups warm water or vegetable stock

1 Tablespoon Louisiana hot sauce, plus more for serving

5 beef bouillon cubes

1 14 oz can of petite diced tomatoes

1 16oz bag frozen sliced okra (remove caps, if there are any)

4 green onions, sliced, white and green parts

1/2 pound 31/40 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined


Instructions and Directions: 

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or pot on medium heat. Add slices of sausage, cook until browned and remove.

Sprinkle the flour over the oil, add 2 tablespoons of butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until brown, about 20 minutes. Cook longer for darker roux. Let the roux cool.

Turn the heat to medium low and melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Add onion, garlic, bell pepper and celery. Cook for 20 minutes. Add Worcestershire, salt and pepper to taste and half the parsley. Cook for 10 more minutes.

Add the 4 cups of water (or stock)  and the bouillon cubes. Stir constantly. This is the step that will help break up the bits of goodness on the bottom of the pan.

Add the pulled chicken and sausage to the pot. While stirring, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.

Add the tomatoes, hot sauce and the okra. Stir, cover and simmer for 1 hour. (stop at this step, if making the day before)

Just before serving, add the green onions, remaining parsley and shrimp. Simmer 5 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through.

Serve with white rice that has been cooked in vegetable or chicken broth rather than water 🙂

Pear, Pancetta and Goat Cheese Bites

adapted from Southern Living

I would give up dessert for an appetizer any day of the week.

I always like to make an appetizer for visitors but I can never think of anything light enough since most of the main dishes I make for company tend to be pretty filling. These Pear, Pancetta and Goat cheese bites are the ticket. They are salty and sweet and savory all in one. And they are ultra simple!

Lining a baking sheet with with aluminum foil first helps make cleanup a lot easier.

And you can recycle the foil when you are done!

I buy a goat cheese log that isn’t already crumbled.  The pre-crumbled cheese doesn’t seem as fresh and creamy.When you line these up on a serving platter they look so delicious  and are easy to eat in two bites.



2 Pears (I used one red and one Bartlett)

14 Slices Pancetta (I asked the butcher to slice them paper thin)

2 oz goat cheese, crumbled


Freshly ground pepper

Instructions and Directions: 

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and then with a piece of parchment paper. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until crisp like bacon.  (This step can be done in advance)

Core the pears with an apple corer. Slice pears into 14 thin slices. The pear slices will be almost the same size as the cooked pancetta.

Remove pancetta from oven and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

Arrange pear slices on a serving tray. Top each pear slice with one piece of pancetta and sprinkle with crumbled cheese. Drizzle with honey and a dash of freshly ground pepper.

Would you rather have an appetizer or dessert?

Grilled BBQ Chicken Pizza

The long weekend was a success! If you are anything like me you did a lot of relaxing and a bunch of eating!

We started off the weekend with this pizza.  I get so bored of the usual red sauce and mozzarella with toppings pizzas.

To deal with my boredom, I bring you….variety.

I use Publix pizza dough because as much as we try, we can’t find a home made one that we like better. However, if you don’t have a Publix or a dough recipe you love, I recommend  this one.

Start off by marinating one pound of boneless, skinless, chicken breast cutlets in olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Grill and cube. I find that using cutlets makes the chicken so much more flavorful and keeps the chicken from drying out. Then toss in your favorite BBQ sauce.

 A parchment paper lined cookie sheet helps your pizza to bake evenly and keep from burning.

A Silpat would work too.

There a really only 3 toppings:  The chicken, pepper jack cheese and thinly sliced red onion.

For the cheese, forget the pre-shredded bags . The powder on that stuff keeps the cheese from melting to its full capacity.

Decorate your pizza and send it back to the oven to get warm and cheesy.

It is o.k. if you have a large crust. We are going to dress that up with butter, Parmesan and black pepper.

Did you know if you wrap your Parmesan cheese in wax paper it will help preserve its shelf life?

Hell yes-to cheese longevity!

Then, sink your teeth into this guy. Or use a fork. Whichever you prefer.



1 Large Publix pizza dough (or dough of your choice)

1 Pound boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 minced garlic cloves

1/2 Tablespoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more for sprinkling crust

1 Cup BBQ sauce

6 oz shredded Monterrey pepper jack cheese (or more if desired), shredded

1 half of a large red onion thinly sliced

1 pat cold butter

3 tablespoons of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese

Instructions and Directions:

Marinate chicken in olive oil, salt , pepper and garlic. Return chicken to the fridge to marinate.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Grill chicken for 4-5 minutes. Turn over and reduce grill to medium-low. Grill for 4-5 minutes longer or until chicken is cooked through but still juicy. Let chicken rest on a plate covered in foil until it is cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, spread the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 8 minutes and remove.

Cut chicken into small cubes. In a bowl, toss the chicken with the BBQ sauce. Then spread the chicken onto the partially baked dough. Next, top with cheese and onion.

Bake on 375 for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling.

Remove pizza from the oven and set oven to broil.

Run the cold pat of butter along the pizza crust, this will help hold the pepper and Parmesan cheese to the crust. Sprinkle the pepper (to taste) and the 3 tablespoons of freshly grated cheese around the rim of the pizza.

Return to the oven for approximately 1 minute until cheese is bubbling and Parmesan crust has browned.                          (Do not leave unattended! This part happens quickly!!)

Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Top with more Parm, dip in ranch or blue cheese dressing if desired.

What is your favorite kind of pizza?