Posts tagged ‘lifestyle’

February 21, 2014

Lessons from Mamaw Maggie: How to properly season and care for your cast iron pan

by Crystal Cook

Pan and Crisco

My Mamaw Maggie passed when I was only six months old. I didn’t get to create my own memories with her, but I felt as though I knew her as everyone I met had a fond memory of her and a story to share. One of the very few items I have of my Mamaw Maggie’s is her cast iron skillet. When I was younger I only really used it when I was feeling nostalgic, and would bake up some cornbread. When I was little my Mom always said cornbread, soup beans and buttermilk was her favorite meal. But as I got older, I began to discover the pan’s varied uses.

If you are not familiar with cast iron pans, they can seem intimidating. All that talk of properly seasoning it, how to wash it (or not wash) it, seems like too much work. But trust me, the benefits of the cast iron pan far out way any care concerns. When seasoned correctly, a cast iron skillet will work better than any non-stick pan in your cupboard. They heat evenly and beautifully, and when properly cared for, they will last a lifetime. In fact, Mamaw Maggie’s pan has lasted several lifetimes!

For Christmas, I received another vintage cast iron skillet from my boyfriend’s family. Since I need to season it, I thought that I would just share with you all the secrets I learned from my Mom – who just happened to learn from her mom- Mamaw Maggie!

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • If you have purchased a brand new pan, chances are it will contain a coating of wax. To remove the wax, you will want to thoroughly wash the inside of your skillet with warm soapy water to remove the coating, and rinse it extremely well. Please note that this will be the ONE and ONLY time that you will ever use soap on your pan. After you season it, you will only want to wash with hot water. Since my pan is vintage, and does not have a wax coating, I am just going to wash the pan under hot water for several minutes. It is imperative that you understand that a cast-iron skillet is not dishwasher safe, nor is it made for soaking. For best results, always rinse the pan with hot water immediately after cooking. If you have some stuck on food, try scrubbing with coarse salt or a nonmetal brush.


  • Be sure to dry your skillet thoroughly with paper towels, or if you want to dedicate a kitchen towel to your pan, you can. The main thing is to get it completely dry immediately. Never let it air dry or it will rust.

dry pan

  • Dampen a paper towel with a vegetable oil such as canola oil, lard, or a shortening such as Crisco, and wipe your skillet thoroughly. I always use Crisco, because that is what my Mamaw always did, and I rub the entire thing down with a nice even layer. Note: You don’t want the grease to pool up, but you will want to create a nice sheen or glisten to the pan.


all sides

  • Place the pan upside down on the top rack of a preheated 350° oven. Set a baking sheet, or spread a piece of heavy aluminum foil on the lower rack to catch any grease drippings.

best stove

  • Let the pan bake for 1 hour.
  • Cast iron skillets get very hot so use caution and oven mitts when removing and place on a safe surface for cooling. (In fact, another awesome present they got me was my Lodge Handle Mitt.  I love it!)  Cool for 30 minutes or more until the pan is cool to the touch.

cool with handle

cool for sotring

  • You will reinforce the nonstick coating every time you heat the Crisco in the skillet, so I like to repeat this process two or three times.
  • Rinse and dry skillet thoroughly like mentioned above (no soap).
  • Before putting your pan away, be sure to give it another light coating of oil or shortening to protect it from rust and corrosion. I also like to cover it with a paper towel to protect it from dust.

store with papertowel

Some other important things to note:

  • After you have seasoned your pan, you should avoid cooking anything acidic the first couple of times. In fact, you should try cooking up some bacon, or some other high-fat food, to help build up the surfaces high gloss.
  • Once you have achieved that ultimate gloss, you can cook up just about anything. The only thing you should never try is to boil water. That will cause your pan to rust.
  • Don’t let the cast iron sit too long without using it, if you do it may become a bit rancid. If this happens, clean and re-season the pan (no soap).
  • Always remember to give the pan a light coat of grease after cleaning the pan and storing.
December 13, 2013

A few of our favorite things: The Queen’s online gift guide for the foodie in your life!

by Crystal Cook

Gift Collage

(Gift descriptions, clockwise)

1. Pineapple Beverage Dispenser $68.00: If you grew up in the south like I did, then you know that pineapples are THE symbol of southern hospitality. In fact, my mom had more pineapple decor than any one woman should ever have. This pineapple beverage dispenser from Anthropologie, reminds me of my childhood and is perfect for some sweet tea or lemonade!

2. 10-Piece Glass Bowl Set $39.95: Contain yourself if you can! This 10-piece glass set from Williams Sonoma is my favorite! Simple, beautiful and functional, they’re very useful for preparing your mise en place and for storing in small kitchens.

3. Charles Viancin Silicone Food Storage Lid Covers $7.95–$12.95: Plastic wrap be gone! I am in love with this silicone creation that provides an airtight seal, and works with any smooth-rimmed bowl or pot. Oh and did I mention it is dishwasher, microwave AND oven safe?!

4. Personalized Casserole Dish $54.00: The beauty of the casserole dish is its variety. Not just the ingredients you fill it with, but the shape, size, color or pattern of the dish. Go on, girl, get crazy—express yourself! With so many fun hues, sizes and shapes, even on the busiest of occasions or the dooziest of days, placing your meal in a sunny container can change your entire mood.

5. Dotty Match Potholders $12.00: They’re cute! They’re colorful! They’re comfy! And let’s face it… a girl can never have too many pot holders.

6. Jalapeño Corer $10.95: How many times have you removed the seeds from a jalapeño and then neglected to wash your hands before rubbing your eyes? It burns! Oh, how it burns! Never make that mistake again with this gadget gem!

7. Casserole Carriers $38.00: Made from amazing chevron-printed fabrics, these totes make for easy transport and real down-home appeal. They’re chic and sassy! Want to make one of your own? Check out our latest cookbook or this YouTube video and learn how to craft your own!

8. Scalloped Celebration Cake Stand $24.00–$38.00: You worked hard on that sweet treat, so show it off! From a cake to cupcakes, even a big pile of cookies, every day is a special occasion with these adorable stands.

9. The Casserole Queens Make-a-Meal Cookbook: Mix and Match 100 Casseroles, Salads, Sides, and Desserts & The Casserole Queens Cookbook: Put Some Lovin’ in Your Oven with 100 Easy One-Dish Recipes Come on, you knew these would make our list!

10. Custom Heirloom Silverware Jewelry, starting as low as $30.00: Order custom-made, or ready-to-wear one-of-a-kind pieces, from Elizabeth Lyons Designs this holiday season. These unique silverware-to-jewelry pieces make for a very special holiday gift and are so very culinary chic! (Hence the name!)

Happy shopping!

October 23, 2013

Make Your Garnish Count!

by Crystal Cook

Yesterday we started the prep for garnishes for our upcoming Pumpkin, Butternut Squash and Sage Soup post with learning how to prep crème fraîche, and as promised, today we will make a sage infused olive oil. (Remember folks, baby steps!) And don’t think I don’t know what y’all are thinking! You are thinking I MAY have gone overboard with the garnishes, but I truly believe every single one of the garnishes used in the soup recipe count! In fact, a garnish should always count. If it does not enhance the flavor of the dish, then simply don’t bother.  I am also a big fan of making sure that if I am creating a garnish from scratch, that I have plenty of ideas on how to use any leftover product. I hate to waste anything, so like with the crème fraîche, ideas for additional use are at the end of the post. Besides, when it is this good – you will find lots of ways to incorporate it!

Now let’s get back to the sage olive oil and the heart of this post.  Just think about it…a simple drizzle of good quality olive oil is both delicious and elegant, add a gorgeous herb like fresh sage – and you have magic! With that said, be sure to spring for a good quality olive oil for this recipe. It only has a few simple ingredients, is really easy to prepare and just requires a little forethought.

sage oil ingredients final

With that said, the first thing is to take a cup of good quality EVOO and place it in the fridge to chill for 1 hour. (That’s all the forethought you need folks!)  Once chilled, take about a cup of fresh sage leaves (leaves only) and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the leaves until they are very fine and coarse. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the chilled olive oil.

Sage Oil Collage

When all of the olive oil has been incorporated and the mixture is a bright green color throughout, pass through a fine sieve and discard the solids. Finish off by seasoning with kosher salt to taste.

discard and salt

Store the olive oil in an airtight container of your choice and keep in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. We purposely made this in a small batch so that you can easily find uses for it. Aside from garnishing our pumpkin, butternut squash and sage soup, here are some other ways I love using this:

  • Drizzle this over your favorite mushroom pizza to make it sing! Bada Bing!
  • Dress up your favorite cheese or pumpkin ravioli by tossing it in this flavorful oil along with some shaved Parmesan cheese. And guess what? You can do the same with risotto!
  • Goes great on earthy creamed soups such as a cream of mushroom, butternut squash or potato leek soup.
  • Simply splash on roasted root vegetables to pick up a subtle hint of sage.
  • Rub it onto chicken or turkey breasts before cooking, and it will taste like Thanksgiving!

Note: The refrigeration will cause the oil to become a bit cloudy and slightly solid. It will return to its liquid state once removed from the refrigerator and placed on the counter for a few minutes. Give it a quick whisk before use.

September 30, 2013

Merry Mushroom Bread Pudding

by Crystal Cook

My dish addiction is no secret. We have discussed it here on the blog many times before. So it should come as no surprise that I have an impressive selection of vintage casserole dishes—from Pyrex to Fire King, and a whole lot of everything in between. One of my favorites happens to be a Corning Ware dish with the “Merry Mushroom” pattern on it. The orange, yellow, and brown color palette screams 70’s, and I love it! The dish keeps me inspired and I am constantly creating new mushroom recipes to proudly serve up in this dish. Trust me, nothing perks up a buffet table like a “Merry Mushroom” painted casserole pan!

Since I just learned that September was National Mushroom Month, I jumped at the chance to make something in this dish! Unfortunately I didn’t find out about this until the next to the last day of the month, so I had to act fast! I picked up my trusty Make-A -Meal cookbook from The Cassserole Queens (maybe you have heard of it?) and immediately turned to the Merry Mushroom bread pudding—one of the finest mushroom masterpieces around! The combination of portobello and button mushrooms makes it especially earthy and super comforting.

Shall we?


Ingredient list

Yummy ingredients: Milk, rustic bread, portobello mushrooms, vegetable oil,  button mushrooms, garlic,  fresh parsley,  fresh rosemary, salt, freshly ground black pepper, eggs, and Gruyère cheese.

Pour milk

First take your bread and cube it into 2-inch pieces. Any rustic bread will do, but I used Ciabatta and I liked it a lotta! 🙂 Pour 2 cups of milk over the bread and refrigerate for 30 minutes – stirring occasionally. 

Meanwhile, using a spoon, remove the brown gills from the undersides of the portobellos and remove the stems; discard the gills and stems, slice mushrooms. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the portobello and button mushrooms and sauté for 4 minutes, until the mushrooms start to release their juices.

mushrooms saute

Stir in the garlic, parsley, rosemary, salt, and pepper, and cook for 1 minute.

add garlic rosemary and parsley

In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup of milk, the eggs, and the egg white.

whisk eggs

Spoon 2 cups of the bread mixture from the fridge into the prepared casserole dish.


Top with the mushroom mixture.

layer mushroom

Sprinkle with ⅓ cup of the cheese.

cheese layer

Top with the remaining bread mixture and the remaining ⅔ cup cheese. Pour the egg mixture over top.

last layer

bread pour

Bake for 45 minutes, or until set. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

in the oven

final mushroom dish

final from above

Gorgeous and delicious! Happy National Mushroom Month (or in this case – day!) Better late than never, right?

Merry Mushroom Bread Pudding.

Serves 6

Cooking spray

3 cups whole milk

8 cups rustic bread, cut into 2-inch cubes (I used Ciabatta)

2 (4-ounce) portobello mushrooms

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

6 cups quartered button mushrooms (about 12 ounces)

2 garlic clove, minced

½ cup chopped fresh parsley

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 large eggs

1 large egg white

1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese (4 ounces)

1.  Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a 9 × 13-inch casserole dish with cooking spray.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine 2 cups of the milk and the bread. Cover and chill for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.  Meanwhile, using a spoon, remove the brown gills from the undersides of the portobellos and remove the stems; discard the gills and stems, slice mushrooms. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the portobello and button mushrooms and sauté for 4 minutes, until the mushrooms start to release their juices. Stir in the garlic, parsley, rosemary, salt, and pepper, and cook for 1 minute.

4.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup of milk, the eggs, and the egg white. Spoon 2 cups of the bread mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Top with the mushroom mixture and sprinkle with ⅓ cup of the cheese. Top with the remaining bread mixture and the remaining ⅔ cup cheese. Pour the egg mixture over top. Bake for 45 minutes, or until set. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

September 18, 2013

For the Love of Ramekins: Pot de Crème

by Crystal Cook

Have I ever told y’all about my deep affection for ramekins? If not, you’re about to find out.

Ahh ramekins…the oh-so-versatile dish that is a must in any kitchen. Perfect for individual sized meals and desserts, ramekins also have a number of other uses. In fact, ramekins help you organize recipe ingredients so that you‘re ready to go once the oven is fired up (professional chefs refer to this practice as mise en place). You can also use them for condiments at the dinner table like dipping sauces, toppings, or fresh sea salt or cracked black pepper. (Yes, I am in love!) I am constantly finding ways to use them since my friends and family tease me about the sheer amount of ramekins that I own. I admit, it may be excessive, but you never know when a gal might just want to whip up some Pot de Creme! Am I right?!

Which brings me to this tasty post. Pot de Creme is one of those crazy simple recipes with an end result that feels so indulgent. It takes less than 10 minutes to whip up, and requires only 5 simple ingredients. The only potential drawback you could possibly find is that it takes time to set in the refrigerator (about 2 hours). But I don’t even find that to be a negative, since I love things that you can prepare before hand. You can’t be a “hostess with the mostess” when you’re all stressed out. I like having more time with my company to do the things I want, like enjoy a glass of wine!

So let me show you how easy this really is!

5 simple ingredients: Milk, Vanilla Bean, Egg, Sugar & Dark Chocolate.

photo 2

Cut the bean lengthwise and scrap out the good stuff!

photo 3

Pure heaven!

photo 4

Add milk and vanilla bean to a saucepot and scald. To do this heat over med-high heat and remove pot from heat right before milk comes to a boil or reaches 180F.

photo 5

photo 6

photo 7

Place the remaining ingredients in a blender.

photo 8

Pour milk into a blender along with the sugar, chips, and egg. Blend for 1 minute.

photo 9

photo 10

Pour into 6 ramekins and chill for 2 hours in the refrigerator or until set.

photo 11

Garnish with favorite toppings. We used our caramel sauce, berries and powdered sugar – but we have even more suggestions in the recipe below!

photo 12


Pot de Crème

3/4 cups milk

1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped lengthwise

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cup chocolate chips

1 egg

6 (3-4 ounce) ramekins

Garnish suggestions: powdered sugar, caramel sauce, berries, mini marshmallows, chocolate covered espresso beans, cocoa powder, shaved chocolate.


1. Add milk and vanilla bean to a saucepot and scald. To do this heat over med-high heat and remove pot from heat right before milk comes to a boil or reaches 180F.

2. Pour milk into a blender along with the sugar, chips, and egg. Blend for 1 minute and pour into ramekins, chill for 2 hours in the refrigerator or until set. Garnish with favorite toppings.

March 29, 2013

Inside the Queens Studio with Melissa Guerra

by Sandy Pollock

I have to admit that I kinda wanna be Melissa Guerra. Melissa is such an inspiration to me for so many reason. First of all, she is a food wiz!  She lives and breathes the stuff and her knowledge in the realm of Latin foods is hard to match. Melissa has been a wonderful sounding board for me through the years and I really appreciate that.  She’s a dear friend of my family and an all around awesome person!

If you are in the San Antonio area you MUST go to her store in the Pearl Brewery. It is fantastic and the area is so super fun! It is not to be missed.


Melissa Guerra is an 8th generation Texan, born and raised on a working cattle ranch in South Texas. She is a self taught culinary expert and food historian, specializing in the food ways of the American continent, especially Texas regional, Mexican, and Latin American cuisine. Her cooking show, “The Texas Provincial Kitchen,” was produced in San Antonio at KLRN, and aired on PBS affiliates across the U.S.


Guerra has worked as a bilingual spokesperson for Kraft, Coca-Cola, Goya and Mazola. In 2005, Melissa Guerra served as a consultant, and was featured as a culinary expert on the PBS reality show “Texas Ranch House.” Guerra also teaches cooking courses and is often a featured public speaker.


Her second cookbook Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert: Norteño Cuisine of South Texas  was published in 2006 by John Wiley and Sons. Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert was a finalist for a James Beard Award in the category of Foods of the Americas, and for an International Association of Culinary Professionals award in the same category.


Since 2000, Melissa Guerra has owned and operated a website and storefront dedicated to providing top quality Latin American kitchenware and ingredients. Guerra’s newest store opened in  November, 2008 at the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio, the location of the new Culinary Institute of America’s Center for Foods of the Americas (focusing on Latin American cuisine)




Where you work:

Owns Melissa Guerra, a Latin American culinary store in San Antonio, Texas. Voted the #2 destination to visit by Lonely Plant Travel Guide in May 2011

How you got started:

Taught cooking lessons in my home

What is your “recipe” for success?

Still working on that…

If you weren’t an amazing Entrepreneur, Chef, Cookbook Author you would be…

A mom, and if that hadn’t worked out either a professional singer or a nun.

If your personality could be described as any casserole what would it be?

Not sure, but cheese would definitely be involved.

Your spouse called and his Aunt Edna is in town and coming over for dinner. Quick – what is your go to meal?

If turning off the porch lights and hiding didn’t work, our second option is that we always have frijoles and tortillas in the fridge, maybe Arroz con Pollo as we always seem to have a frozen chicken on hand as well. I would probably make a pie or cake too, which I would consume by myself after Aunt Edna left.

Name one kitchen disaster you’ve had.

I burned my toast about a month ago and set off the fire alarm. Four policemen showed up. They asked what I did for a living, and got a big kick when I told them I was a food professional. Aside from that, a kitchen  set caught fire once when taping a show. My home kitchen blew up during our remodeling, but technically, that had nothing to do with me cooking. Lost 500 sq ft of my house. My restaurant caught on fire too. Take your pick.

What dish from your childhood brings you the most comfort and why?

I am a potato chip FREAK! I love salty, crunchy stuff. Apparently, these snacks love me back as they permanently take up residence on my ever widening rear end.

If someone wrote a book about you, what would the title be

Head in the Fridge – A Psychoanalytical Case Study of A Low Functioning OCD Food Savant.  Not sure if this would be a book or a doctoral dissertation

January 8, 2013

Are you hungry tonight? Try one of these Elvis inspired dishes: one is made for the King, while the other is better suited for we Queens!

by Crystal Cook


Elvis Shrine at SicolaMartin Offices in Austin, TX.

Love is All Around, and so is Elvis!

Let’s face it, we all have a little Elvis in our lives. Whether it’s your leisure suit or just your grandmother’s table cloth….everybody owns a little gold lamé, right? And I mean seriously, who hasn’t used the line “Why thank you, uh thank you very much” at some point in their life? I know I have, possibly to the point of nauseum. I am sorry for that.

Then there are those who emulate his style, and there are those who know all of his music. Maybe you learned to dance by gyrating in front of the TV, or perhaps you have a natural snarl? Some folks like to collect, and some are still addicted to the hair tonic.

And then there are those like me. I apparently got Elvis’ love of southern food, and hefty appetite for all things fried. Today is the King’s birthday and he would have been 78. So while some will drink a Blue Hawaiian and play a ukulele in his honor – I have decided to eat like the King! Fried Peanut Butter & Banana Sandwiches anyone? I hope so, because I will need an army to stop me from eating an entire loaf of fried sandwiches and washing it all down with caramel sauce!

With that caveat, I invited over some friends and prepared two versions of this meal. One lighter version (The Skinny Elvis PB&B) to save my waistline, and one heftier version (The “Later Years” Elvis PB&B) to treat as a dessert and to share!

Let’s get started on the Skinny version, shall we? Start by gathering your ingredients.

Healthy 1

Combine peanut butter with honey and peanut granola. I recently got hooked on KIND brand Whole Grain Peanut Clusters, and thought they would add a nice touch of texture to this dish. Throw in some cinnamon and mix well!

Healthy 2 collage

Cut your bananas into 1/4-inch thick slices. Or, you could also mashup the bananas and incorporate them into the peanut butter mixture as well. I personally just prefer the slice. Don’t ask. It is a texture thing!

Healthy 3 chopping banana

Remove crusts from the bread.

Healthy 4 cutting bread

Assemble sandwiches by spreading the peanut butter mixture along the bottom of 4 pieces of bread, then add four banana slices (towards the center) of the bread.

Healthy 5 collage 2

Top with the remaining bread slices, press down and secure edges by crimping with a fork.

Healthy 6 pressing edges

To keep this version healthy, I prepared my grill with cooking spray. If you aren’t too concerned with calories, a little butter here would be a nice touch. I mean, when isn’t butter a nice touch?

Halthy 7 collage 3

Once browned and the center of your sandwich is hot, it is time to plate. Garnish with more Kind Peanut Clusters and drizzle with a little more honey. Aww, yea.

Healthy 8 collage 4

Now dig in and enjoy without the guilt!

Healthy 9 forks cheers

Healthy is awesome, but every once in a while you can’t help but indulge. On to the King’s preferred way…fried! (Hey, at least I left off the bacon, but I did add caramel didn’t I? Ooops!) Speaking of which, make your caramel sauce first! If you have never made caramel from scratch, you will ask yourself why you waited so long. In five easy steps, you will have created a sinfully delicious sauce. Not only is it the perfect topper for this sandwich, but it is also great for ice cream, and for dipping fruit and chocolate in!

caramel 1 ingredients

First, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add light brown sugar and granulated sugar, stir until dissolved. Add honey and bring to a boil. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring once or twice (watch carefully to avoid scorching). Remove the pot from the heat and swirl in the cream until it is fully incorporated. Be very careful when adding the cream, because the mixture will bubble up. Viola! Now you have caramel. (You can think me later!)

caramel 2 collage

Now it is sandwich time!

fried 1 ingredients

Mix together creamy peanut butter, honey and cinnamon until incorporated and smooth.

fried 2

We use white bread for this version, and not just any white bread,  but Texas Toast. A little thick slice of heaven! Remove crusts and chop bananas into 1/4 inch slices.

fried 3

Spread peanut butter mixture on 4 slices of the bread and add 4 banana slices towards the center. As you can see, I am getting very excited! Place tops to sandwiches, press down and secure edges by crimping with a fork.

fried 5

Prep your wet/dry ingredients. Mix together milk and eggs in a shallow dish. In a separate shallow dish, mix together flour and sugar. Dip each sandwich quickly into your well beaten milk and egg mixture and then into your mixed flour and sugar. Coat thoroughly.

fried 4

Prepare to fry, Elvis fans! Since we were doing PB & Bananas I chose to fry in peanut oil. Nice, huh? Ideally it would be best to have a deep fryer, but I won’t allow myself  to have one for reasons already mentioned, so I used a deep large pan. (And yes, I made a mess!) Once golden brown, drain on a bed of paper towels.

fried 7

Plate and sprinkle well with powdered sugar. Drizzle with caramel sauce. Dig in!

fried 8

Fried Final with Candles

The Skinny Elvis PB &B

Serves 4

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 4 tablespoons honey, plus more for garnish
  • ½ cup KIND Peanut Butter Whole Grain Clusters, plus more for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 8 slices wheat bread
  • cooking spray

In a small bowl mix together the peanut butter, honey, peanut clusters and cinnamon. Slice the bananas into 1/4-inch thick slices. Remove crusts from bread. Spread the peanut butter mixture on 4 slices of bread and cover with 4 banana slices, placed towards the center. Top with the remaining 4 slices of bread. Press down on bread, then use fork to secure edges. Prepare griddle with cooking spray on medium-high heat. Grill the sandwiches on the griddle (or large frying pan) until each side is golden brown and center is hot.

For plating, cut the sandwiches in half and sprinkle with additional peanut clusters and drizzle with more honey.

The “Later Years”  Elvis PB&B

Serves 4

For Sandwich:

  • 8 slices white bread, we like Texas Toast (if you are gonna go, might as well go big!)
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  •  ½ cup granulated sugar

For Caramel Sauce:

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

First make the caramel sauce. In a large pot set over medium-high heat melt the butter then add the brown sugar, granulated sugar and honey. Bring to a boil, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring once or twice (watch carefully to avoid scorching). Remove the pot from the heat and swirl in the cream until it is fully incorporated. Be very careful when adding the cream because the mixture will bubble up. Set aside.

Preheat peanut oil in home deep fryer (ideal method) to 350 degrees. Otherwise a large, deep fry pan will work. Prep sandwiches. In a small bowl mix together the peanut butter, honey and cinnamon. Slice the bananas into 1/4-inch thick slices. Remove crusts from bread. Spread the peanut butter mixture on 4 slices of bread and cover with 4 banana slices, placed towards the center. Top with the remaining 4 slices of bread. Press down on bread, then use fork to secure edges. Mix together milk and eggs in a shallow dish. In a separate shallow dish, mix together flour and sugar. Dip each sandwich quickly into your well beaten milk and egg mixture and then into your mixed flour and sugar. Coat thoroughly.

Drop your sandwich into your home deep fryer or pan and fry until golden brown. Drain on a bed of paper towels and then sprinkle well with powdered sugar. Drizzle with caramel sauce. Any leftover sauce can be stored in the fridge and re-heated for use on ice cream, or for dipping fresh fruit! Yum.

March 28, 2012

Kitchen Grooves – The Cocktail Edition

by Crystal Cook

I have been completely obsessed with the Tiki culture these days – everything from vintage tiki sarong fashions, to the refreshing tiki cocktail revival! So I doubt that I will shock anyone when I say that I am totally in L-O-V-E with the chill sounds of Exotica! Just the name alone invokes fantasy and the mystical allure of the islands. (Uh, hello…guess who needs a vacation?) But since I am unable to escape to my own private isle, I retreat to my patio and create my own little getaway. All it takes is the company of good friends, a platter of Satay, and a Mai Tai in hand to escape the daily grind. Now, throw on this playlist, close your eyes, and relax.

Don Tiki – Close Your Eyes

Les Baxter – Jungle Flower

Stan Getz – The Girl from Ipanema

Steel Guitar Magic – Maui Chimes

Miles Corbin – Quintana Roo

Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass  – A Taste of Honey

Martin Denny – Quiet Village

Stan Getz- Samba De Uma Nota So

Arthur Lyman – Love for Sale

Yma Sumac – Wimoweh (Mbube)

March 23, 2012

Inside the Queen’s Studio with Tara Miko Grayless

by Crystal Cook

The Queens periodically interview someone we find interesting and inspiring. In this installment, we are excited to introduce you to Tara Miko Grayless. Sandy and I love meeting fellow entrepreneurs and hearing the personal stories on what motivates them to pursue certain career paths.  It was while we were out promoting our book that we met Tara Miko Grayless, owner of Happy Hemp!  Initially it may have been the name of the product that grabbed our attention, but we were equally intrigued by Tara’s story. After 10 years in the fashion industry, the stressful demands of the job were taking a toll on both Tara’s physical and mental well-being.   She was suffering from insomnia, indigestion and was generally feeling blue. After embarking on mission to put her health first, she was introduced to the benefits of hemp seeds. The passion she demonstrated over her product was infectious, and after months of being out on tour, it didn’t take much to convince us to give Happy Hemp a try!  Life on the go was simply not allowing us to make healthy eating decisions, so this was a perfect solution to balance out the airport junk and last minute grab-and go meals that consumed our diet! Just two tablespoons a day is all it took, and it truly did help with our general sense of well-being. Tara provides tons of inspiration and tasty ways to incorporate hemp seeds into your diet through her website and blog and we encourage you to check it out at: and

 The queens are proud supporters of Happy Hemp and we hope that you get inspired by her story as well.  Enjoy!

The Queens and Tara

Tell us a little about yourself and why you started your business.

After 10 years in the fashion industry, I came to a place where I did not like where my life was headed. Instead of continuing down that same path, I chose to create a passion project. Happy Hemp was born from me starting over and living a life that I choose to live, was proud of, and ultimately creates happiness for myself and others.

Happy Hemp is enlightening thousands of people to hemp seed, an ancient superfood with life-altering benefits. Often touted as “the most nutritionally complete food source in the world,” hemp seeds are vegan and gluten-free, and boast nature’s highest botanical source of essential fatty acid (more than flax or any other nut or seed oil), a perfect 3:1 ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6  essential fatty acids.

Happy Hemp should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet either as a satisfying snack on its own, a topping for yogurt or cereal, or incorporated into a healthy recipe.

Behold the power of Hemp Seeds!

What is your “recipe” for success?

I am not afraid to hear the word ‘NO.’ One of my greatest strengths is my persistence, and being a successful business owner means to love your company and believe in your company when NO one else does.

If your personality could be described as any casserole, what would it be?

I would say I am a quiche. You take common ingredients like eggs, ham and cheese and come up with a unique combination.

 If someone wrote a book about you, what would the title be?

Failing to Give Up.

What dish from your childhood brings you the most comfort and why?

Grilled cheese and tomato soup. No matter where I am in the world, this simple dish brings me comfort when I am far away.

Family is in town unexpectedly and coming over for dinner. Quick – what is your go to meal?

When I have an unexpected guest, my go to meal is lasagna, a large salad and garlic bread. And don’t forget beautiful full glasses of red wine. For dessert? Two scoops of laughter.

Tell us about a cooking disaster that you’ve had.

OMG… which one? I am the queen of getting distracted in the kitchen, a professional food burner.

What unique characteristic do you bring to the hemp seed?

Most people are surprised by the way I look. There is a preconceived image of what a hemp seed salesgirl is supposed to look like. Some customers who would have walked past are intrigued to stop, chat and learn about how great Happy Hemp is as a food source.

Tara Miko Grayless

What has been the most interesting dish you have ever tasted with hemp?

Ice cream! Yum. It’s nice to be eating such a rich and tasty dish, knowing that it’s still good for you in some ways.

Let us in on your favorite hemp pairings and how often do you work hemp into an “everyday” dish?
My blog keeps me testing and tasting new dishes weekly. I am personally a fan of simple and easy dishes. I love a fresh fruit smoothie to start my day.

Happy Hemp Takeout Noodles - Yum!

Happy Hemp Sesame Sauce with Kale

July 14, 2011

Ask Miss Vivian DuBois, Vintage Fashion Advice

by Crystal Cook

Miss Vivian, the Queens need your help! We are hosting a fabulous “Tiki” party, but we have no idea what to wear- any advice?

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Oh, Kittens- of course Miss Vivian has some advice for you; in fact, she is utterly delighted that you ask!

First, a little background: the Tiki phenomenon started with- oddly enough- a restaurant. A nice young man from Louisiana, with the improbable name of Ernest Beaumont-Gantt, opened his Polynesian themed “Don the Beachcomber” in Hollywood in 1934 after a stint as a sailor in the South Pacific. Mmmmm… sailors! Polynesia, as you will recall from freshman geography class, is a series of islands, including Hawaii, New Zealand, Fiji, and- my personal favorite- Easter.

Mr. Beaumont-Gantt served wonderfully exotic food and cocktails (in fact, Kittens, he is the man who is credited with single-handedly inventing the tropical drink; a tip of the mini-umbrella to you, Ernie!) in a delightfully novel setting that was rather loosely based on the Polynesian aesthetic. His restaurant was so popular with the cognoscenti and glitterati of Hollywood alike that he was soon imitated, first by Trader Vic’s, then by a growing cadre of others.

By the 1950’s, fueled by post-war consumer culture and the easy accessibility- for the first time in history- of travel to tropical paradises like Hawaii, Tiki culture spread across the county, where it reigned in all its growing and glorious kitschiness through the 1960’s.

So with that in mind, what to wear? Close your eyes, Kittens, and imagine a warm, tropical breeze caressing your silky skin. Smell the gaudy, gorgeous hibiscus blooms. Hear the gentle roar of the sea on clean white sand. Now, tighten your sarong a bit, and let’s get to work!

A few key phrases: Bright, perhaps clashing, colors. Big, tropical florals. Novelty Hawaiian prints. Sarongs. Batik. Tribal. Think the dark haired, flower bedecked beauties of Gauguin, the muumuu’d and lei’d Hawaiian princess, even the uber-Americanized pop culture tikiness of Ginger from Gilligan’s Island. You can dial up or dial down the kitsch factor to suit your needs, Kittens; Tiki style tended to grow further from true Polynesian culture and more bastardized and silly (nothing wrong with that, however- I love a silly bastard!) as time passed.

For the big night, why not check out those bastions of vintage goodness, eBay and Etsy? Search for terms like “tiki dress”, “sarong dress”, “Hawaiian dress”, or “kamehameha dress”. Genuine tropical splendor from the salad days of Tiki- the late 40’s and 50’s- won’t come cheap, but they are often absolutely stunning sartorial creations which, when combined with a bold bloom tucked behind one ear, have the power to turn any modern girl into an exotic pinup almost immediately! Look for halter-neck or strapless styles, distinctly Polynesian prints and colors, and a wiggle silhouette (although there are numerous nipped-waist, full-skirted dresses in fabulous Tiki fabric which might work brilliantly, if you prefer that shape). If budget presents a problem, there are a plethora of adorable 80s-does-40s/50s, Tiki-inspired little numbers on offer as I type, and newer means cheaper! (Oh, forgive me, Kittens- I meant to say “newer means more affordable”!)  If you prefer a more mod take on Tiki, look for tropical or tribal print shifts and minis from the 60s.

Whatever your shape, style, or budget, I guarantee there is a Tiki dress out there for you, Kittens! Once you find it, accessorize yourself like an island goddess, and enjoy your warm summer evening in all its tropical Polynesian-esque splendor!

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