The Opinionated Foodie: The Love (or Not) of Food and Everything That Goes with It

Lupo’s-Dyersburg, Tennessee

Wild Mushroom Ravioli

 When you travel to a small town like Dyersburg, Tennessee, you don’t expect much in the way of fine dining.  There is a McDonalds, Subway, Taco Bell, etc.  It doesn’t look like there is much to chose from.

Recently, the fam and I ate at Lupo’s.  Delish.

Lupo’s is a relatively new restaurant a little out of the way.  It is a large, well-decorated place with a pizza bar and a nice, open kitchen.  If you squint your eyes, you could easily think that you were in a big city instead of a smaller town.  When we were there, the dining room was mostly full of happy people.

And rightfully so.

I had the wild mushroom ravioli.  It was pretty good.  Ravioli all tastes the same to me be it fresh or from a can, but this ravioli was pretty good. The sauce was thick, and the spinach was fine.  My husband had a steak that was very tastey.  The kiddos had pizzas that they liked.  Score one for Lupo’s.

The only problem we had with our experience there was that it was sooo hot-not the food; the actual restaurant.  There were fans running all over the place.  However, I would be glad to try it again on a cooler day.

Good job, Lupo’s.



Eating Alone: The Dutch Baby
September 22, 2011, 6:01 pm
Filed under: Food I Make | Tags: , , , , ,

 I am the only person in my house who likes this recipe.  I can’t help it if everyone else is weird.  A Dutch Baby is a simple, almost custard-like pancake that poofs beautifully in the oven.  It is buttery and sweet.  I love it, so I make it often.

Just for myself.

2 T butter

½ c. milk

½ c. AP flour

¼ c. sugar

2 eggs

1 T butter softened

Pinch of nutmeg

Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 425.

Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter in an oven proof 10 inch skillet.  Coat the skillet with the butter by swirling the butter around.

Wisk the milk, flour, sugar, eggs, and softened butter.  Pour into the skillet over medium and cook for one minute.

After a minute, place your skillet in the oven for twelve to fifteen minutes.  Check back often, because this pancake will poof up and look as if it might explode.  The kiddos will think it is cool even if they won’t eat it. 

Remove the pancake from the oven and sprinkle with the powdered sugar.  Slice like a pie and serve immediately.  You may choose to share yours. 

I have read that lemon and fresh berries make a nice topping, but I prefer to eat my Dutch Baby plain.  And alone. 

I think there is a country song about that.  If not, there should be.

Keepin’ It Real-A Review of The Pioneer Woman’s New Show

Needless to say, I am a little behind. I just now watched the debut episode and second episode of The Pioneer Woman’s new show on the Food Network.

My thoughts? Well, I wanted to like her…

I first heard about Ree Drummond many years ago from a writing teacher friend of mine who followed her then small blog. I started reading, and I liked Ree. I loved her photography tutorials, her cute kid pics, and her simple yet scrumptious recipes. I read her blog very frequently-probably a lot more than my boss would approve of.

Then, I got her cookbook. I was the food nerd who was there when the bookstore opened to buy the first copy. I was the only one there buying the book, but I got the first one! I went home and checked out the table of contents. It was a little disappointing. I mean, who needs a recipe for eggs in a basket with narrative to go with it? Still, I picked out several things and cooked and cooked. I can honestly say that I have made just about everything in the cookbook with great success. Everything is delicious even if some of her recipes are a little simple.

And, I have to give her props here for revolutionizing the whole picture in the recipe as you go format. At the time, it was a wonder to see all those photos for each step. Like, oh that’s what it is supposed to look like! She deserves credit for helping all us mediocre cooks with her helpful photo format that has spread far and wide. So much so, as a matter of fact, that it is now slightly annoying. Seriously, the other day I read on a food blog about making a sundae, and they included five pics for pouring the chocolate.

I loved the cookbook, and I loved the blog, and I loved the Pioneer Woman. I read her blog too much and bought three more cookbooks for Christmas gifts. Then came word of her memoir. Again I was the first and only one at the bookstore to get the second PW book. Somewhere in this, there is a sign.

The memoir stunk. Ree promised it to be full of suspense and drama. “A universal tale of passion, romance, and all-encompasing love.” She sweated in her Vera Wang wedding dress. Her childhood on the golf course was tough. Her fourth generation (fourth! I’m guessing things are paid for around the ranch) cattle ranching husband wanted meat for dinner while she was a vegetarian. She didn’t feel well when pregnant. Boo stinking hoo.

So, here comes the Food Network show, and I am having flashbacks of another beloved cookbook writer who is now at the bottom of my tolerance ladder due to her over-performance on her show, Paula Deen. Not good, Yaaaaaa’ll.

Both episodes were full of cute kids and lots of cute cowboys. She has a lovely family. Her cookware was great. Her home is beautiful. The lodge is unreal, and I do mean unreal. Her clothes were cute.

Unfortunately, none of this taught me how to cook anything.

She made chicken fried steak and gravy. That was fine. I’ve done that before. She made her mashed potatoes. I’ve made them plenty of times. Delish. She made sliders which she put heavy cream in. O-kaaay. Not sure why she did that. She also made sausage sandwiches. None of this was difficult or that original.

Then, her daughter made her chocolate sheet cake with no instructions for us. Whatsoever. She iced it and showed it to us, and that was it.

Ree made pancakes for her son’s birthday breakfast. They were beautiful, but strangely similar to the recipe on the back of my Bisquick box. Hmmm.

In contrast, on the show right after PW’s, Anne Burrell made ratatoulle. Ouch.

PW is now a corporation unto herself just like Paula. I only hope Ree does keep it real. I don’t want to walk into Target someday and see a PW spatula for fifteen dollars.

I’ll keep watching, but the cute kids and cute cowboys will only stay cute for so long. Cook, Ree. Cook.

Cooking with Someone Else’s Granny: Southern Peach Cobbler with Mascarpone
September 5, 2011, 1:39 am
Filed under: Food I Make | Tags: , , , , , ,

This summer during prime peach season, my momma gave me fresh peaches sliced and sugared, because just like good Southern girl always does, she didn’t buy just a few peaches.  Oh no.  We don’t just buy a tomato or two; we big five bushels.  We don’t give away a watermelon; we give them away four at a time. We walk away from the neighbor’s garden with three Wal-Mart sacks of cucumbers.  No telling how many peaches she had. 

Small is not in our vocabulary when it comes to summer produce.


I had already been through my own supply of peaches when she gave me part of hers.   Mine were eaten in various concoctions, but they were all sliced and eaten pretty quickly.  I don’t save too many summer fruits and veggies.  I would rather eat three meals a day or more of fresh corn, okra, or peaches than to slug them out of the freezer all sad and cold in January.  That just isn’t right.

I had to do something with these peaches. 

In times like these, I turn to my cookbook cabinet.  This was a serious situation so I pushed past the Rachael Ray, Pioneer Woman, and Paula Deen fluff.  Rookies.  I needed experience.  I reached deep and pulled out one of my gems of the collection.

The church cookbook.

Yep, the cookbook full of recipes from women who have cooked every day for a hundred years, give or take.   Women who know how to feed a family on nothing and how to have a hot meal ready at noon on a Sunday after a morning full of church. 

I went to the index and found my junior high Sunday school teacher’s grandmother’s recipe for peach cobbler.  Bingo.  There was no way this could be bad.

The recipe:

1 stick of butter

1 c flour

1 c sugar

1 c milk

Peaches-I used the equivalent of three cans of sliced peaches

  In a 13 x 9 glass casserole, melt the butter in the oven for about five minutes while it preheats to 350.  Mix the sugar and flour then add the milk.  Pour the peaches in the casserole over the melted butter.

 Here is where I added my own twist.  I just so happened to have most of an 8 oz package of mascarpone.  I dotted it along the top of the peaches.  Then, I continued with Granny’s original recipe by pouring the flour mixture over the top.  I baked it for about an hour.

 It came out beautiful.  The peaches were sweet and warm.  The cobbler was firm, moist, and golden.  The mascarpone was a nice touch.  I think I may collaborate with Granny again sometime. 

 The only thing I think Granny and I might change next time is to double the cobbler ingredients.  It is my favorite part.  If I could have a cobbler cobbler, I would. 

 I shared part of this Italian/Southern/Summer cobbler with my parents who were impressed with what I did with part of their peach surplus.  Good ole Granny does it every time. 


Thick Enough to Knock You Over: Shrimp and Corn Chowder

It never fails that when I set out to make a potato-based soup, it always gets too thick.  Yet, I am  stubborn so I still make the dang yet delicious stuff. 

Really, the last time I served potato soup at a party, it turned out more like mashed potatoes than soup.  My friends ate it heartily but with a fork.  Embarrassing. 

I still wanted to try this recipe, though.  It turned out a little thick, of course, but still tasty and very pretty.  I made it for our book club, and it was a moderate hit. 

I’ll make it again this fall on some cool, clear day. We will eat it while wearing sweaters. And plaid. Maybe on a blanket or tailgate.    And probably with a fork. 


Shrimp and Corn Chow-dah


5 or 6 slices of bacon

1 onion, chopped

3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces

1 cup chicken stock

2 stalks of celery

1 can of whole kernel corn

1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined. I leave the tail on.  If they are large, slice them in half.

½ c. heavy cream


Leftover crusty bread, sliced into cubes for croutons

  1.  Cook the bacon in a large pot until crisp.  Allow to cool on a paper towel and then crumble.
  2.  In the same pot, cook your onion with salt and pepper for five minutes.  If you don’t like crunchy celery, add it now too.
  3. Meanwhile, in a skillet melt one tablespoon of butter with one tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the crusty bread and toss.  Add salt and an herb if you want such as rosemary.  Toast for three minutes. 
  4. To the onion with or without the celery, add the potatoes, chicken stock, and 2 ½ cups of water.  Boil, then simmer until the potatoes are tender-about fifteen minutes. Add the celery if you haven’t already, plus the shrimp and cream.  Simmer for about five minutes more.  Top with bacon, your homemade croutons, and parsley for looks. 

    Homemade Croutons


How To Get A Man: Chicken Pot Pie
August 24, 2011, 8:43 pm
Filed under: Food I Make | Tags: , , , , ,

Proposal on a Plate

Getting a man is really simple, you single ladies out there.  It is not rocket science.  You rope a man in and keep him with good food.  That’s exactly what I did. 

And, honey, all you need is a few simple ingredients-chicken, cream of mushroom soup, Veg-All, sour cream, pie crust.  Keep it simple.  Most men don’t understand complicated food. 

That’s what I did a little over fourteen years ago.  I saw him.  I fed him.  I kept him for good.   I’ve been feeding him ever since.   When I want to remind him that I love him as much as I did then, I make him this dish.

Here are the steps:

1.  In a crock pot, slow cook three chicken breasts along with a half cup of water, salt, and pepper for around four hours.  Keep an eye on them, as you don’t want them to over cook or dry out. 

2.  Remove the chicken from the crock pot and allow to cool.  Reserve a half cup of the chicken broth from your crock pot chicken just in case things start to look a little thick. 

3.  Cut your chicken into bite-size pieces when it is cool enough.  I like to cut long strips then shred my chicken so it is not in weird bite-size squares.  In a large bowl,  combine your chicken with one can of cream of mushroom soup,  one can of Veg-All, one good dollop of sour cream, and some pepper.  If this looks a little too thick, add in a little of your reserved broth. 

4.  Pour your mixture into a baking dish.  I use a medium size glass bowl because everything  fits just right.  Cover it all with your pie crust.  Get fancy if you want-cut a whole in the shape of your man’s favorite team, his initials, or a heart.  Aww.  Maybe he will notice. 

5.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes until it bubbles around the sides.  While it is baking, go fix yourself up. 

6.  Serve this to your man or prospective man while it is piping hot.  Then, tell him it was nothing, and you do stuff like this all the time.   Hum “Put a Ring on It.”  Prepare your left hand ring finger for immediate invasion of the diamond kind. 


Cashew Chicken and the Kitchen Time Warp

I do believe there is some sort of time warp in my kitchen.  Every time I set out to make a recipe, and that recipe has a time suggestion on it for how long it will take to make a dish, it always takes me much, much longer than it says it should. 

Thirty minute meals? My foot.

And, yes, I know Rachael Ray has help on her set and all of her ingredients are prepared ahead of time.  But I am telling you, if I had the same setup with the same help and the same pre-prepared ingredients, it would still take me forever to make whatever she does in thirty minutes. 

Seriously.  Time warp. 

I got this recipe from a magazine which declared that it should-should being the key word here-take thirty minutes of work time and one hour total. 

I never should have even started.

It took for stinking ever the first time I made this, but it was delish and different.  It was worth it even is the recipe list is a mile long. 

Tonight I made it for the second time.  I was a little faster, but I wasn’t terribly hungry so I was fine with that.  On a hungry girl night? No way.  Someone would get hurt if I had to wait so long. 

Plan ahead, my friends. 

Cashew Chicken

2 good size chicken breasts, thinly sliced
3 T dry sherry, although I was out, so I used red wine.
2 tsp. ginger-I used dried.  I am not a fan of ginger. Nothing personal, Ginger.
2 cloves of garlic, peeled then smashed with the blade of your knife. 
4 ½ tsp. cornstarch
¾ c.  chicken stock
2 T soy sauce
3 T Hoisin sauce
1 T white wine vinegar
2 tsp.  brown sugar
Vegetable oil
½ c. cashews-I used two handfuls which is probably more that this calls for.  I want a crunch in every bite.
Red pepper flakes for garnish
Cooked rice

In a bowl, combine the sherry, ginger, garlic, and 2 t. of the cornstarch.  Add the chicken and toss.  Set aside for thirty minutes to marinade.

In another bowl, combine the stock, soy sauce, Hoisin sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, and the rest of the cornstarch.  Wisk well and set aside. 
 Using two tablespoons of the vegetable oil, sauté the chicken in small batches until the chicken is slightly brown, about five minutes.  Remove each finished batch to a small platter then return it all to the pan when all the chicken is done.

Stir in the soy sauce mixture and allow to simmer for about four minutes.  It should thicken right up to the consistency of thin gravy.  When it is thick, add your cashews. 

To serve, plate your rice, add the cashew chicken on top in a pretty formation, and top with the red pepper flakes to taste. 

Eat away.

Cashew Chicken

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