US-31 BBQ Inspired Chicken Sandwiches


As a child, my family traveled often to Muskegon, a smallish town on the Western coast of Michigan. An absolute must was a stop at US-31 BBQ. It is a tiny restaurant with a very memorable, delicious relish sauce that gets poured over smoked ham and pork. I decided to give it a try on pulled chicken and just as I thought, it is incredible.


A friend recently told me you can (and should) put chicken breasts in a slow cooker and heat on low for about 4 hours. The result is juicy chicken with minimal effort. It shreds well and is a base for so many options – enchiladas, chicken salad, pulled chicken sandwiches, etc. This was a life-changing discovery. Gone are the days where I dry out chicken.


This recipe may seem absolutely ridiculous because it mixes every basic condiment, but I tell you it is magical and amazing. Just take my word and give it a try. If you ever find yourself around Muskegon, Michigan, go directly to US-31 BBQ and try the real thing.

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches with Relish Sauce


  • 1/2 cup sweet relish
  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups finely shredded cabbage (do this by using a cuisinart food processor – cabbage should be VERY finely shredded)
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • about 12 slider buns

Combine ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30-40 minutes. At this point, you can place sauce in an airtight container and store in refrigerator for up to a week.

To make sandwiches, place chicken breasts in slow cooker and heat on low for 4 hours. Once cooked through, remove breasts (allow to cool slightly) and shred. If there is a lot of juice left in the slow cooker, remove a little so relish sauce does not get too thin. Replace shredded chicken and add 1 cup of relish sauce. Heat on low for at least 30 minutes, but can leave on warm until ready to use.

Heat remaining relish sauce on stovetop to warm through. Place about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of shredded chicken on each slider bun. Top with additional relish sauce and serve warm.

Variation: Use thinly sliced deli ham instead of chicken, warm slightly, and top with relish sauce. Use rotisserie chicken instead of cooking chicken yourself for a super quick meal. You can use just about any meat.

Candy Heart Cookies


If you are in the baking mood and want to get in touch with your artistic side, these cookies are both fun and challenging to create. While the actual mixing and roll out portion is super easy, the decorating is more of a mindful practice. My cookies are in no way perfect, but I enjoy the process and love making them my own.


I know we all have a basic sugar cookie recipe, but this one is my favorite because of several reasons – it is super simple, you have baked cookies in no time at all, and they taste the best with the kind of soft texture I require of a sugar cookie. No crunchy cookies in my house.


I like to use a mix of almond and vanilla extract in the dough. I love the flavor of vanilla and can’t be without it in a sweet confection. I use almond because the icing has almond as well, and they compliment each other. If you like a certain flavor, by all means use it instead. These cookies can be your blank canvas to experiment on.


The best part of this dough is it does not have to chill. You can make and bake with no time in between – which is great for people such as myself who cannot wait to eat a cookie once they’ve started the process. I have a chocolate chip cookie recipe that requires DAYS between making and baking and its basically torture (if it weren’t for the cookie dough I sneak in the mean time).


So whether you want to eat a great sugar cookie, to test out your cookie icing skills, or need a gift for someone sweet, this cookie recipe is something fun to try.

Roll Out Sugar Cookies


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon almond flavoring
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring
  • 2 1/2 + a little more all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Cream together butter and confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl. Add egg and flavorings, blending well. With a sifter on top of your large bowl, sift in flour, baking powder and salt, then mix until ingredients are just incorporated. You will know when the dough is ready by touching it – the dough shouldn’t really stick to your fingers. If dough is too sticky, add more flour. Let dough sit for 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thick and cut with heart shaped cutters (any size works – I used small and medium). Place on silpat lined cookie sheets and bake for 7-8 minutes, being careful not to let brown. I take them out when they look completely dry, but have no browning whatsoever.


  • one bag confectioners’ sugar (2 pounds)
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder (available at Michaels)
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup warm water (+ more if necessary)

Stir extracts into water. Using a whisk attachment on a stand mixer, slowly mix confectioners’s sugar and meringue powder. Add water and extracts slowly, with mixer on low. Once incorporated, whisk on medium-high for about 2-4 minutes, or until thick, fluffy and glossy. Icing should form a soft peak.

Separate icing evenly into four bowls (or into 5 if you want to do another color). Add pink food color to one, purple to another, green to another and yellow to the fourth. Since I used small amounts of frosting, only a little coloring was needed – so start with just a tiny bit, adding more until you get the color you want.

Here is an amazing trick for getting colors into piping bags. For each color icing, I place about 3 tablespoons into piping bag and pipe an outline around each cookie. Then you fill the outline with about 2 teaspoons matching icing and smooth to edge with an offset spatula. If your icing seems to thick, you can add a touch of water (works best with a spray bottle until you get proper flooding consistency). The flood icing stops at the outline, and dries smooth and flat. Place cookies by a fan to dry if you want them extra glossy. Let cookies dry for about 2 hours before piping any lettering.

To pipe lettering, dye leftover pink or leftover white frosting red. Use trick for piping bag above, and use #2 wilton tip to write phrases on cookies. Take your time and don’t get frustrated! It takes patience and practice. By the last cookie, I’m sure you will feel like a pro.

Depending on cookie cutter sizes used, this recipe makes about 2 to 2 1/2 dozen. Can be doubled.

food coloring // Wilton tips // icing bags // heart cookie cutters // Silpat // off-set spatula



Chicken Chili with Cornbread Croutons


I am a huge fan of chili and I’ve experimented with recipes a fair amount, but I always come back to this same stellar red chili. It has a smooth red base with chunky tomatoes and hearty beans. I use ground chicken, but you can easily substitute with ground turkey or ground beef.



This particular time around I added cornbread croutons. I love a good crunch, and these are absolute perfection on top. They are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. They soak up the chili and make every bite better, especially when the cheese slightly melts on top of them.


I bake the cornbread a day ahead and let it sit out. The day I am making the chili, I cube the cornbread and brown it up in the oven. You can use any box recipe you like or you can follow the recipe below.



If you are looking for a recipe to feed a crowd, something for a little football game coming up, or to win a chili cook off, try this recipe out. It’s a winner.


Red Chicken Chili with Cornbread Croutons

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium sweet or yellow onions, diced
  • 2 pounds ground chicken
  • 2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can pizza sauce
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • shredded cheese
  • cornbread croutons (see recipe below)

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add ground chicken and break up with wooden spoon. Cook through, addingseasoning salt, salt and pepper- you will add more to taste shortly. Once meat is browned, add tomatoes, pizza sauce, beans, and chili powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer 20 minutes. Ladle into bowls and top with croutons and shredded cheese.

Cornbread Croutons

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray the bottom of and 8 or 9 inch square cake pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a glass bowl in the microwave (takes about a minute). Pour into a large bowl and add the milk and egg. Whisk until well combined. Add the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt all at once. Stir until the flour is moistened – batter will be lumpy and that is OK! Pour batter into the prepared pan. Spread out and smooth the top.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until just slightly golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in refrigerator or better yet – let sit overnight.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut cornbread into cubes and put into a large bowl. Pour olive oil over and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer cubes to a silpat lined baking sheet, or just line a baking sheet with a wire rack.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden and crisp on the outside. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.


Soft, Dreamy PB Cookies


Ever feel like a cookie will make everything better? Yes? Ok good, me too. A batch of these heavenly peanut butter cookies have the ability to not only make everything better, but they make the future bright too. Because you know there are more to devour.


They are super soft, chewy and rich with peanut butter deliciousness. A perfect match for a glass of cold milk.



I need to stress the importance of doing the criss cross pattern. You have to. It’s how you know it’s a peanut butter cookie and is simple/fun to do. Just take the tines of a fork and press into the dough once, turn fork and press again.


Sprinkle with some regular good ol’ granulated sugar, bake, and eat. YUM.



Note: So I accidentally bought salted peanut butter at Traders Joe’s. Apparently the normal peanut butter we all use is unsalted. As I dumped the cup into my softened butter, I licked the spoon before putting it in the sink. YUCK. Salted peanut butter tastes, well, over salted. I feared the batch ruined. In an attempt to fix it, I left out the 1/2 teaspoon salt and all was right in the world. Cookies turned out fine. This note is in case you somehow buy salted PB. If you are allergic to peanut butter, I am sure a soy nut butter would work just fine in place of regular PB.

Dreamy PB Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar, for sprinkling
Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars. Add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Use a cookie scoop (whatever size you would like) to measure out balls of dough, and roll with your hands to make perfect. Place on a silpat lined cookie sheet. Press down with a fork in a criss cross pattern and sprinkle with sugar.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and refrigerate cookies for 15-30 minutes while oven is heating. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes. Do not over bake! Unless you like crunchy cookies. Store in an air-tight container. Makes around 2 1/2 dozen with a medium cookie scoop.

Wild Rice and Chicken Soup


BEST SOUP EVER. I could stop the post now and just leave you with the recipe, but I will tell you why, at the very least.

If it is cold as Siberia outside, this soup warms your soul and gives you a happy, cozy feeling, making you kind of like super chilly days (*if you can eat this and sit by a fire). With hearty rice, tender chicken and colorful veggies, it sticks to your bones in a very good way leaving you full and content, perhaps even mesmerized by the fluttering flakes outside you were just cursing the arrival of. After having one bowl you can conquer the snow pile outside your door and everything will be ok.IMG_2197.jpg


Notes: The original recipe calls for mushrooms, but I personally dislike them. If mushrooms are your thing, you can add them with the cooked chicken just before you let the whole pot simmer. You can find wild rice at Trader Joe’s and I save time by picking up a rotisserie chicken.

Wild Rice and Chicken Soup

  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled diced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups chicken stock or broth
  • kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian (flat-leaf) parsley

Cook wild rice in the 4 cups of water for 40 minutes or until light and fluffy. Drain and set aside.

In a large dutch oven add olive oil, onion, carrots and celery. Cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add flour and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Pour in chicken stock or brother and bring to a boil. Add cooked chicken, salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add cooked wild rice and half and half. Bring soup back up to a boil and allow it to heat through. Turn off heat and stir in chopped parsley. Ladle into large bowls and enjoy!