Classic Old Fashioned or a Fruity Twist

I will always choose food over booze.  However, when I think of going home, while I do think of my mom’s gumbo or meatballs over brown gravy or my other favorite mommy dishes (if I listed them all, you would stop reading), the number one thing I miss most are my mom’s Old Fashioneds – a whisky drink that is perfect for sipping.

And it’s not even about the drinks, though delicious, as much as it’s about that one time of the day where you are sitting together, entirely un-distracted, talking to one another over a nice cocktail.  You really can’t beat it.  Any time I have an Old Fashioned at a restaurant or bar, I will inevitably be texting my mother to describe what they did differently (in other words, WRONG, like soda water).  It’s something that brings us together, no matter how many miles we are apart.

The traditional Old Fashioned uses rye whiskey.  But, my “tradition” means what my family uses, which is Maker’s Mark.  Sorry, it’s smoother.  Another family quirk is that you must use imported Luxardo (real Maraschino) cherries.  While these are a pretty penny per jar compared to your fake-o cherries, they are totally worth it.

Since I have not found these imported cherries in Charleston as of yet (anyone know where I can find them???), I made a fruity simple syrup to make up for it.  So delicious and refreshing.  Perfect for date night.

Old Fashioned

  • 1 part Simple Syrup
  • 4 parts Whiskey (We use Maker’s Mark, but rye can be used as well)
  • 4-5 drops of Angostora bitters
  • Optional garnishing depending on what kind of sweetness you want – Luxardo cherries (with a splash of cherry juice), orange slice (orange and cherry are traditional garnishments), blueberries, lemon peel, etc…  Tradional = cherry and orange.

Add together in a short glass and fill to the brim with ice.  Sip slowly.  Yes it is strong, but this is a sipping cocktail.  My mom would definitely say this cocktail was too weak – she really likes a strong cocktail.  😉


Simple Syrup

  • 1 part sugar
  • 1 part water
  • (optional: 1/2 part fruit if you want it flavored)

Boil ingredients together over the stovetop.  Boil for 5-10 minutes – mixture will turn from cloudy to clear.  Then jar (if you have fruit, strain it out before jarring the liquid).


I almost always make traditional simple syrup.  However, if you don’t have good cherries (and juice) or if you want a little sassy hit of something fruity, I love either pineapple or blueberry simple syrup.. or any other fruit you want.  Just be careful when pairing that fruit with either cherries, oranges, etc.  You don’t want to overwhelm the bourbon with fruitiness.

These made for a very successful date night, especially when followed with Bacon Cheddar Chicken Avocado Paninis and Butternut Squash Fries.

Tomato and Sausage Risotto

I am an Italian foodie at heart.  In that spirit, I should make a Sunday sauce – a delicious red gravy that simmers on the stove all day.  But Sundays are lazy days for me.   So, instead, I whipped up this delish risotto, an almost one-pot dish, that gave me my Italian fix without the early prep work.  In other words, no work (or getting out of bed) til 5 p.m.  Netflix marathon, per favore.


Another thing I loved about this dish is you don’t need any sides.  You put a lot of spinach in it, so you get your veggies that way, and it contains your carbs, protein, etc…

As I said, this dish is ALMOST a one-pot dish. The other small pot just heats up your tomato juices so you aren’t adding cold liquid to your risotto to cook.

The original recipe, a Martha Stewart one, called for white wine.  I just didn’t feel like including this in my grocery budget, so I left it out.  I also added garlic and garnished heavily with more parmesan and a bit of red pepper flakes.

Tomato and Sausage Risotto

  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 – 1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf spinach (10 to 14 ounces), washed well, tough stems removed, chopped (about 7 cups)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons butter

In a small saucepan, combine tomatoes (with their juice) and 3 cups water. Bring just to a simmer; keep warm over low heat.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add sausage, onion, and garlic.  Cook, breaking up sausage with a spoon, until sausage is opaque and onion has softened, 3 to 5 minutes.


Add rice; cook, stirring until well coated, 1 to 2 minutes.


Add about 2 cups hot tomato mixture to rice. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes. Continue adding tomato mixture, 1 cup at a time, waiting for one cup to be absorbed before adding the next, stirring often, until rice is creamy and just tender, about 25 minutes total (you may not have to use all the liquid).


Remove pan from heat. Stir in spinach, Parmesan, and butter. Season with salt and pepper.


Serve immediately, sprinkling with additional parmesan and some red chili pepper flakes, if desired.


Buffalo Chicken Pizza

I used to make this recipe a good bit some years back, and I forgot about it for awhile.  My husband’s favorite foods are wings and pizza, so making this for him should have been a no-brainer.  But you have to hold out some of your tricks til later, amIright?  When I got some pizza dough at the farmer’s market, I knew immediately what I would make.  And it was deeelicious.  Perfect Friday night dinner date with a movie.   My husband turned to me and said, “I have the best wife EVER.”  Is there a better compliment than that?

Buffalo Chicken Pizza – found on Food Network


  • 3/4 pound chicken breast cutlets
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • 2 teaspoons grill seasoning, (recommended: McCormick Montreal Seasoning) eyeball it
  • 1 pizza dough, store bought or from your favorite pizzeria.  If you want to make your own dough, here is a very easy recipe.
  • Cornmeal or flour, to handle dough
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, eyeball it (optional)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons hot sauce, medium to spicy heat
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup favorite shredded cheese, a few generous handfuls – I used a mix from Trader Joe’s of mozz, monterey jack, and cheddar
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles (if you aren’t a fan – gasp – feta goes very well in this recipe, too)
  • 3 green onions
  • 2 stalks of celery

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Preheat grill pan to high.  Place chicken on a plate and drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over the chicken then season with grill seasoning.  When grill is hot, add chicken and cook about 3 minutes on each side.

Stretch dough to form pizza using cornmeal or flour to help you handle it.  Set pizza on pizza pan or baking sheet.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter and stir in Worcestershire (optional), hot sauce, and tomato sauce.  Taste and add more hot sauce if you want it spicier.

Remove the chicken from grill and thinly slice it.  Also, slice up your green onion and celery, keeping them separate.


Cover the pizza dough with the sauce, then the sliced chicken, then the cheeses, and, finally, the green onions.


Bake 18 minutes or until crisp.

After removing the pizza from the oven, top with the sliced celery!!  Enjoy!


Cacio e Pepe

Ok I have another super simple basic pasta recipe.  If you caught my Cheesy Garlic Pasta post, you’ll notice a trend.  I like cheese.  I promise I make things other than pasta, but it’s such an easy cheap meal to make.  And these pastas are like a hug in your tummy.  Kind of my version of mac and cheese.  Also, I needed to use up some of the pasta I bought at the Farmer’s Market.


This pasta is bucatini – similar to spaghetti but with a hole running through the center to give it an extra bite.  Another similar pasta is pici pasta.  When I showed my brother Jimmy a picture of my pasta, he replied with, “You are making cacio e pepe, huh?”  See how well he knows me?  We had this pasta when we were in Italy with the family.. By family, I mean the extended Jones family, around 20 of us.  Quite the adventure!  I fell in love with this simple cheese and pepper pasta.

Ok, first I will get all Ina Garten on your butt (whom I love, but is ridiculous about requiring only the BEST ingredients).  You MUST use freshly ground black pepper and good cheese (parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano – or both).  So do not use pre-ground black pepper in that McCormick spice container or that waxy cheese in the shaker that I’m pretty sure doesn’t even require refrigeration.  🙂

Cacio e Pepe – originally from  Serves around 3 (depending if you have a side), but it’s really easy to adjust. I divided the recipe when making it just for Geoff and me and served with sauteed veggies.

  • 3/4 pound of spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • a bit of the pasta cooking liquid (just save some of it in a cup and set aside after boiling pasta)
  • Cheese – 1 cup.  Can be 1 c. of pecorino or 1 c. of parmigiano or 1/2 c. of each.  This time I went with 1 c. of the pecorino, but I switch it up depending on what I have

First, boil your spaghetti until al dente.  Remember to reserve some liquid from pasta before draining.  After draining, return your (now empty) pot to the pan.  Try to keep the pasta warm in the meantime. On low-medium heat, add butter, oil, and half the pepper.  Let butter melt.

Add a bit of the cooking liquid to the pot and swirl the pot.  Start by adding a little cooking liquid (around 1/2 c) – you can add more later if the pasta is too thick.  Put the heat on low and add the spaghetti and toss just until warm – you don’t want to overcook your pasta.

Next, turn the heat off.  Add all the cheese and the rest of the pepper and toss the spaghetti again in the pot.  Plate the pasta, garnishing with a little extra grated cheese and grated pepper, if desired.  I’ll take any excuse to add more cheese.