Close up of Tim Mulligan's faceTim Mulligan grew up collecting recipes. “My mother was not a good cook,” he said, “so at an early age I took over the family cooking. I would get recipes from all the women cooks in the neighborhood, and, as time went on, I collected recipes from friends, travel, restaurants and …well…just about from anyone and anyplace.” Recently Tim culled all-time favorites from his vast collection to fill two recently published cookbooks:

A PERFECT 10  Ten Proven Scrumptious Recipes For Each Part Of Every Meal (published in 2022)


A PERFECT 1O Full Menus and Activities to Make Hosting Parities A Breeze (published in 2023).

Cover of Tim Mulligan's A Perfect 10 Party book.

Cooking is Tim’s passion, but not his day job. He earned a BA in Hospitality Business Management from Washington State University and a JD from Gonzaga University School of Law, before working in the hospitality and serving as the chief human resource officer for the  San Diego Zoo Global, Paul Allen’s Vulcan, and BENlabs’ (Bill Gates founder). In his spare time,Tim writes plays and cookbooks, fulfilling, what he claims, are the two major tasks on his bucket list.

Despite the high-powered, overload of activities, Tim comes across as low key, sincere and fun—traits displayed in his cookbooks.

Unpretentious and geared to cooks who may be a bit intimidated in the kitchen, the easy-to-follow recipes rely on fresh ingredients that will work to produce favorite comfort-type foods, such as a “mash-up” of cinnamon rolls and apple pie. (Recipe below—oh so good).

Close up of top of Princess Leia Cinnamon Roll Apple PieAs to tips for party giving, Tim says:

“I like to have all the work done in advance, so the minute the guest arrive I can enjoy the party too.

“I’m against setting out an open bar, which guests could find confusing. Rather I make a batch or two of a special cocktail and am ready to pour when guest arrive.

“Plan the whole party in advance–the décor, the food, the music, the games, and then, you can enjoy the party right along with guests.”

For ordering books and/or more information check out Tim’s blog HERE.

And, as promised, Tim’s luscious recipe straight from his party book:


Recipe photographed from Tim's book.

A wedge of Princess :era Cinnamon Roll Apple Pie




A glass of bourbon.Sorry vodka. Get lost gin. Forget about it rum. Bourbon is the glory-be American alcohol.

Born as moonshine, bourbon rose to superstar status in 1964 when Congress officially declared “Bourbon whiskey is a distinctive product of the United States and is unlike other types of alcoholic beverages, whether foreign or domestic.” Bourbon ranks right up there with the American flag, Fourth of July and the Bald Eagle as a patriotic treasure.

So what makes bourbon so special and different from other whiskeys?

To wear the name, bourbon must be produced in the United States, aged in new oak barrels that have been charred,

A stack of new oak barrells holding bourbon

and made from a mixture of grains that are at least 51% corn. Bourbon must also enter the barrel for aging at no higher than 125 proof and contain no additives (except water if needed to lessen the proof).

How do we know this?

We distilled the information from exploring THE B-LINE®, a self-guided bourbon tour in Northern Kentucky.

A decorative barrel with B-Line printing.

The B-Line tour–which happily includes a portion of the Northern Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour®–lists seven craft distilleries (each with a fascinating background);

The Neeley Family Distillery with an old car in front.

nine bourbon-focused bars (each with cool ambiance); and nine restaurants (each with delightful food).

Exterior of the Tousey House Tavern

Those who thirst for bourbon pizzazz can have a barrel of fun no matter if they hit a few places, explore all, or use The B-Line tour as a jump-off point to the longer, broader Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

To fully capture the magic of our 100% All-American spirit, beeline it to Northern Kentucky (right across the Ohio River from Cincinnati)

View of Ohio River and Cincinnati from Kentucky.

View of Ohio River with Cincinnati in background.

where you can:

Taste and compare.

The B-Line tasting stations.

Learn about the distilling process.

Collage of bourbon making .

Shop for bourbon and it’s heavenly sidelines.

Two packages of bourbon balls for sale at different distilleries.

Talk with distillers.

Visitors discuss bourbon with a distiller.

Dine well.

A plate of fried eggplant topped with cheese sauce.

Hangover in some old-fashioned, bourbon-centric bars,

A tray filled with Old Fashioned cocktails.

And make yourself a top-shelf bourbon buff.

Bike, hike, drive (with a designated driver) or take advantage of The B-Line’s Uber and Lift discounts and ALWAYS DRINK RESPONSIBLY. You must be 21 or older to participate.

A copy of The B-Line paper Guide.



For a map, a B-Line Guide, and more information about The B-Line, click HERE.

For more information about Kentucky bourbon, click HERE.

Click HERE for a terrific bourbon-glazed meatloaf recipe.

Click HERE for information on Scottish whisky  and HERE  for more about Irish whiskey.




Close up of Stephen Kalt's smiling face.I’m crazy about Stephen Kalt. At least I love his L.A. restaurant, Spartina, especially at happy hour when the prices are discounted. Apparently, I’m not the one and only. Critics rave. Influencers gush. Stephen and his restaurants have been called the best by such prestigious publications as Esquire, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure. He is an undeniable chef/restaurateur super-star who learned as he lived, trained with the best and danced to his own tune.

Born and bred in New York with Eastern European Jewish parents who expected him to be a doctor, Stephen studied chemistry in college, but segued from the physician path when traveling in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on vacation with his brother. The brothers saw a pizza place for sale and bought it. One thing led to another. The pizza place grew to a chain, which eventually sold. Stephen moved back to New York, learned about fine dining by working for several famous restaurants and eventually became a consultant. In the mid 1990s Stephen opened his own restaurant, Spartina, in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood.

Between the New York Spartina closing and the one I love in Los Angeles opening in 2015, Stephen developed and managed numerous food-related projects in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Beverly Hills.

Today he has hands in many enterprises, but it’s Spartina on Melrose in L. A. that makes chic foodies swoon.

With polished concrete floors, wood-trimmed tables, industrial piping and open kitchen, the indoor dining space sends a casual, comfortable, contemporary L.A. vibe.

View of inside Spartina with open kitchen and blue, wood trimmed tables.

The patio, surrounded by potted plants and overhead string lights, feels romantic and private, despite being right on Melrose.

the patio at Spartina at night

Spartina’s menu runs to tasty combinations of creative Southern California, Mediterranean and market-driven seasonal specialties. Whereas unique dishes such as trenette with Spanish octopus, bone marrow, and Parmigiano send hearts aflutter, I’m hooked on some familiar favorites that Spartina makes extraordinary. Don’t know why they are so special, but Spartina’s French fries, fried chicken sandwich and bread pudding are unbeatable—at any restaurant–anywhere.

A plate of Spartina's French Fries


Yield: about 12 servings.

1 loaf artisan white breadA plate of Spartina's warm bread pudding topped with melting vanilla ice cream and blackberry sauce.

2-1/4 cups heavy cream

1-1/2 cups sugar, divided

5 eggs

4 pints blackberries, divided

Ice cream, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Remove crust from bread and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes. Place cubes in a large bowl.

Put cream and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan. Stir over low-moderate heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is warm (do not overheat).

Whisk eggs in a bowl until well blended, then whisk eggs with cream and sugar, incorporating completely.

Cut blackberries in half, crosswise.

Reserve 1/4 cup egg mixture. Toss cubed bread with half of the blackberries and remaining egg mixture. (Toss bread gently to combine ingredients, leaving cubes partially intact.)

Gently press wet bread mixture into a half sheet pan (don’t compress mixture too much). Spoon remaining 1/4 cup egg mixture evenly over top of pudding.

Place half sheet pan into a deeper half hotel pan filled with 1-inch of water and place in oven. Bake uncovered until pudding is set, about 35 minutes.

Make sauce: Put remaining cut blackberries and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan and set over medium heat. Stirring often, cook mixture until sugar is completely dissolved and the blackberries turn reddish and some break apart, about 5 minutes.  (Do not overcook or puree.)

Serve bread pudding with a scoop of ice cream and top with some sauce.


For more information about Spartina, click HERE.

Spartina, 7505 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA

a painted mural points to the door to Spartina

Door to Spartina when the restaurant is closed.


Entrance to Iowa Buffet in an old St. Louis South Side neighborhood.Talk about time travel. Carolyn McKinney’s Iowa Buffet, is a thoroughly authentic, well-worn tavern–practically a leftover of bygone times–that sits on a quiet corner of an old St. Louis South Side neighborhood. Carolyn says that her building dates back “to forever” (actually the 1800s).

Despite being featured in newspapers, magazines and TV food shows, Iowa Buffet remains unpretentious and virtually the same as it has for decades.

Hollywood couldn’t design a better dive-bar set. One bellies up to the bar counter sitting on high stools or gathers at the tables at the side and back of the dimly lit room. Walls sport neon beer signs, photos, a swimsuit calendar, various ads, and just fun sayings. TVs play overhead. Machines dispensing lottery scratchers offer patrons a chance to strike it rich. Music from a jukebox supplies an atmospheric vintage soundtrack (“I love Etta James, so we play her a lot,” says Carolyn.)

Customers sitting at the bar at Iowa Buffet.

The backdoor leads to a family- and dog-friendly outdoor patio with tables and chairs edged by tidbits of garden greenery.

Outdoor tables at Iowa Buffet welcome kids and dogs.

All is aged, casual, and congenial—thanks to Carolyn, a red-headed, dynamic octogenarian who claims to have been in the business since “the beginning of time,” (actually she took over the bar in 1987).

Red-headed Carolyn McKinney wearing an Iowa Buffet shirt.

Carolyn McKinney

Today, Carolyn’s daughter and granddaughter help waitress and manage orders while Carolyn cooks and chats with customers—who all seem to be—or about to be– her best friend. Carolyn is the type who has never met a stranger.

As to food, don’t expect a buffet at Iowa Buffet. The name came with the place.  The tavern has never been a buffet but does serve food that is down-home and comforting.

Diners rave about the hamburgers, cooked in a generations-old gas broiler behind the bar.

Hamburger with onion and pickles served at the bar with fries and a beer.

On Saturdays the menu features items barbecued on the outdoor grill. A sign listing Bar-B-Q Items served Saturday at Iowa Buffet.On weekdays, Carolyn offers specials that she makes from scratch. She says that people particularly like Iowa Buffet’s Sweet Bourbon Glazed Meatloaf, which she makes from five pounds of ground beef, and/or a mixture of ground turkey and salsiccia. Carolyn warns that she never measures and that she adjusts ingredients to what she has on hand. She created a Sweet Bourbon Glaze recipe for Sweet Leisure, but we interpreted the meatloaf recipe from her instructions, cutting her recipe from five to two pounds and adding guessed-at measurements. Of course, this is a super flexible recipe just waiting for cooks to adjust. Thank you, Carolyn. Love it!


A cooked meatloaf with a sweet bourbon glazed top.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

1 pound ground beef or ground turkey

1 pound salsiccia (take out of casing if bought in links)

1 onion, cut into large dice (so people who don’t like onions can pick them out)

2 eggs, beaten

About 1/3 cup breadcrumbs (Carolyn likes Italian seasoned)

About 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup ketchup (can substitute barbeque sauce, salsa, or spaghetti sauce)

2 cloves garlic, minced

About 1 teaspoon mustard

Seasoning mix (use your favorite and be generous)

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

Few dashes Tabasco

Sweet Bourbon Glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Break up meats and put in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle onion pieces, eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese, ketchup or substitute, garlic, mustard and seasonings over top of meat.  Mix everything with your hands just until ingredients are well distributed. Form mixture into an evenly shaped loaf and set in a baking dish.

Spread top of loaf with a generous amount of glaze. Place in preheated oven and bake 30 minutes. Top loaf with more glaze and bake until meat is cooked through, another 30 minutes or more.  Remove from oven.

Reheat any remaining glaze and pour over meatloaf or put in a bowl to serve on the side.

Let meatloaf rest for a few minutes before serving.


4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup bourbon

2/3 cup ketchup

2 clove garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup vinegar

1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

Fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Apple juice or water to thin sauce, if necessary

Put butter in a medium saucepan and set over moderate heat. Stir in sugar. When sugar is incorporated, stir in bourbon, bring to a boil and boil 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Gently cook, stirring often, until mixture is bubbly and thicken, 2 to 5 minutes.  If necessary, thin glaze with water or apple juice. Taste and correct seasoning.

A serving of Bourbon Glazed Meatloaf with fork

Iowa Buffet.  2727 Winnebago St.  St. Louis



To everything there is a season. And this season is the time for showers. Bridal Showers. Woo-hoo!

Our favorite bridal shower is a brunch. We like the old-fashioned variety, held in a home where all is lighthearted, lovely and lovingly personal.

Here are a few tips for keeping a bridal brunch shower sweet, simple and simply splendid:

Invite a compact list of guests—the honoree’s nearest and dearest connected by family, friendship and love.

Fill the house with casual flowers. Put bouquets on tables, in the kitchen, even a small bouquet in the guest bathroom. We like flowers straight from the garden. Daffodils, hyacinths, peonies, tulips, irises, lilacs in the spring. Roses, hydrangeas, daisies, coneflowers, zinnias in the summer. Mix them. Add herbs and wildflowers for interest and greenery. Embrace the season. Nothing formal. Keep all easy—breezy.

A college of garden flower bouquets.

Choose invitations, linens and paper good to be morning fresh, light, bright and pretty–and as eco-friendly as possible.

Bouquets of Zinnias on top of a flowered table cloth.

Design a menu to have something for everyone. Include gluten free, dairy free, and vegetarian dishes. Add tried and true favorites, such as a variety of cut vegetables garnished with basil,

A platter of cut summer vegetables garnished with basil.

plus  a few surprises, such as Nutella Gooey Butter Cake, cut into small pieces.



Nutella Gooey Butter Cake pieces piled on a plate and garnished with hazelnuts, fresh strawberries and chocolate shavings.

Keep beverages simple and refreshing. We suggest unsweetened iced tea accompanied by bowls of help-yourself sugar and sugar subs, fresh mint and cut lemon; a variety of bottled water—unflavored and flavored sparkling; and fresh orange juice. If you pop for Champagne or other bubbly, guests can make Mimosas. Adding a pretty pitcher of fruit-laden sangria adds both menu and décor pizzazz.

Here are some of our favorite recipes to spark a brunch celebration:

A plate of smoked salmon roses sitting in endiveSMOKED SALMON PATE ROSES

SPINACH Close Up of Spinach Egg StrataEGG STRATA

A bowl of cucumber salad sitting. in front of a bunch of mint.CUCUMBER AND MINT SALAD

A glass of white wine sangria garnished with orange  wedgesWHITE SANGRIA

A glass of red-wine sangria garnished with blueberriesRED SANGRIA

Six mini lemon bunt cakes on a doily.LEMON MINI LEMON BUNDT CAKES




A Gluten-free quiche cut and ready to serve.

Yield: 8 to 16 servings depending on how cut.

Shortening to grease pan

20 ounces frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed and squeezed as dry as possible.

1/2 cup shredded white cheddar cheese


Black pepper

2 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, thinly sliced

6 large eggs

½ cup cream, half and half  or milk

1/3 cup cooked crumbled bacon or sausage (or substitute a diced cooked vegetable such as zucchini).

1 cup shredded white cheddar, fontina, or gruyere cheese—or a mixture of shredded white cheeses

1 tablespoons finely chopped chives

Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan.  Put potatoes in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir to mix ingredients and then transfer to the prepared pan. Press the potato mixture over the bottom and sides of the pan; made sure the potato mixture covers pan surfaces evenly (do not leave any holes—this is important).  Place pan in freezer until crust is frozen, 1 hour or more.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place frozen crust in oven and bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.

In the meantime, melt butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until onions caramelize, about 10 minutes. Set onions aside to cool.

Put eggs and cream in a large bowl and whisk until light and fluffy. Add bacon or sausage, 1 cup shredded cheese, and caramelized onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir until ingredients are well mixed. Pour mixture into baked crust.

Lower oven temperature to 375°F and bake quiche until eggs have just set, 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove quiche from oven and run a paring knife around the perimeter of pan. Remove sides of springform pan. Place quiche back in the oven to crisp crust and brown surface, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove quiche from oven and cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chives before cutting and serving.

This quiche may be fully cooked and frozen. Thaw before reheating. To reheat, place quiche on a lightly greased baking sheet and place in a preheated 425°F oven until warmed through and crust is crisp, 30 to 35 minutes.


Close up of pink variegated roses.

Everything’s coming up roses at a lovely bridal shower.



By now you probably know about City Winery, an urban winery, restaurant, performance venue and private event space. The first facility opened in New York City in 2008. Today there are City Winerys in Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, the Hudson valley, and, the newest, St. Louis (opened 2023 in City Foundry STL).

Building facade at City Winery St. Louis

A front portrait of Chris Graziose

Chris Graziose

Chris Graziose joined City Winery’s team as executive chef in 2021. He said the job fits as he shares a passion forfood, music, and wine.

Working from a home base in Long Island, Chris oversees each facility’s food, which he describes as modern American with a wine component. His is no easy job. Chris not only designs menus and creates recipes for each establishment, but also trains and works with local chefs, who add their own specialties to menus.

Ever generous, Chris shared the recipes for a burrata dish we sampled at the St. Louis City Winery. This extravagant and utterly delicious concoction consist of a mound of soft and melt-in-the mouth burrata placed on a smear of cranberry cabernet relish and cilantro pesto. It’s topped with slivers of roasted fennel, a touch of orange zest, and a sprig of dill. City Winery serves this whole beautiful bundle with a thick slice of toasted sourdough, but other breads, crackers and even a fork will do for getting this work of art into your mouth.

Chris’s recipes follow, with some adaptations. We cut the recipe from restaurant proportions to home-cook size. The results should be enough to plate four large servings of burrata. Be aware that the cranberry cabernet relish is so thick, sticky and sweet that it should be called a jam, so we changed its name.

Here you go:

Burrata as served at City Winery St. Louis

Burrata as served at City Winery


Yield: 2 cups.

1-1/2 teaspoon blended oil (or use vegetable oil of your choice)

1clove garlic, minced

4 ounces (about 1 cup) dried cranberries

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup red wine

6 tablespoons red wine vinegar

About 3/4 cup cranberry sauce

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Put oil in a medium saucepan and set over medium-low heat. When oil is hot add garlic, reduce heat and cook garlic for a few moments until it is soft, but not brown. Add cranberries and stir well. Add sugar and stir well. Cook, stirring often, until mixture starts to get sticky and sugar starts to caramelize. Add wine and vinegar and stir well. Add cranberry sauce, vanilla, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer. Gently simmer mixture, stirring very often, until liquid is reduced and mixture is a jam consistency, about 1 hour.

Cool and refrigerate in a covered container.


Yield: About ½ cup.

1 big bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped leaves and tender stems

1/4 cup slivered or chopped skinned almonds

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice



Put cilantro and almonds in the jar of a blender or food processor and puree until mixture is well-blended and forms a paste. With blender on high, slowly drizzle in oil to form an emulsion. Add lime juice. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate in a covered container until ready to use.


Yield: About ¾ cup.

1 large fennel bulb



About 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Julienne fennel and put in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle fennel with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Toss well to distribute all ingredients. Spread fennel on a baking sheet and bake in at 325°F until golden brown, 20 to 40 minutes.

Cool before using.

Serve with:

Wine and music.

Wine being served at City Winery St Louis

Two sets of wine flights from City Winery

Wine Flights from City Winery St. Louis.











Music by Steven Woolley


For more information about City Winery click HERE and HERE.

For more about Steven Woolley click HERE.



Chef Quincy Johnson in Robie's

Chef Quincy Johnson

Chef Quincy Johnson brings magic to Robies’s on 8th, a casual, classy restaurant/lounge tucked into the Magnolia Hotel St. Louis.

The Magnolia enjoys a heritage famous for hospitality and food. Originally open in 1925 as the Mayfair Hotel, the property housed Missouri’s first five-star restaurant and boasted a registry of famous guests, including several U.S. presidents and celebrities such as Irving Berlin and Cary Grant.

It was the Mayfair that initiated the world-wide practice of hotels putting chocolates on pillows. Seems that in the early 1950s, the married Cary Grant requested the Mayfair to leave a path of chocolate candies in his suite, marking the destination for a secret lover soon to arrive. The candy trail started in Grant’s sitting room, ran across the bedroom, up over the bed and ended with a single chocolate on the pillow. The Mayfair’s manager was so turned on by the gesture, that he began imbedding a pillow chocolate in the hotel’s turndown service–a practice copied by other properties around the world.

The word love written in chocolate kisses

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel passed through several owners and renovations before opening as the Magnolia in 2014.

The Magnolia’s décor sports original sparkling chandeliers and treasured stained glass windows, with new renovations adding a lobby “game room,” and sleek reception area.

Collage showing hotel entrance, lobby, reception and game room of Magnolia Hotel

But true gem of the property is Robie’s, the hotel’s dining area that includes an attractive bar with live music (perfect for happy hours); cosy lounge seating, candle-soft lighting, well-spaced tables and food made by jewel in the hotel’s crown Chef Quincy Johnson.

Collage showing Robie's bar, lounge and tables.

Quincy’s describes Robie’s menu as classical American with unique twists. The fare rest on popular appetizers, entrees, salads and sandwiches, but the twists elevate the well-loved to new levels.

A collage of four dishes from Robie's

Pate with Tomato Jam, Bacon Wrapped Dates on Blue Cheese Mousse, Parmesan Crusted Scallops, New York Strip Steak

For example, Quincy adds Nutella to his version of St. Louis’ iconic dessert, gooey butter cake, to create a rich as sin, soft as silk, cheesy, caramelly, extravagant delight worthy of adoration.


Yield: 16 to 20  pieces depending how the cake is cut

For crust:Nutella Gooey Butter Cake pieces piled on a plate and garnished with hazelnuts, fresh strawberries and chocolate shavings.

Shortening to grease pan

1 box (18.25 ounces) yellow cake mix (see NOTE)

1 egg

8 tablespoons butter, melted

For filling:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 ounces Nutella

2 eggs

1 box (16 ounces) powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

8 tablespoons butter, melted

For garnish (if desired):

Toasted hazelnuts

Fresh strawberries

Chocolate shavings

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 13 X 9-inch baking pan.

Make crust: put cake mix, egg and butter in a medium size bowl and beat with electric mixer until well blended. Pat mixture over the bottom of the prepared pan.

Make filling: Put cream cheese, Nutella, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and melted butter in a medium-size mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer on low speed until ingredients are well blended. Turn speed to medium and beat until mixture is a custard-like consistency.

Spread filling over crust. Bake in the preheated 350°F oven 40 to 45 minutes, until cake is “set” with center still a little gooey. Do not overbake.

Cool at room temperature and refrigerate until chilled enough to cut. Garnish as desired.

NOTE: To save money, many cake mixes have reduced their box size to 15.25 ounces. We suggest that if you can’t find an 18.25-ounce box of yellow cake mix that you buy two smaller boxes and add 6 tablespoons of mix from one box to the other 15.25-ounce box to make 18.25 ounces of mix.

For more information about the Magnolia St. Louis, click HERE.

For more information about Robie’s, click HERE.

For more about gooey butter cake and St. Louis click HERE.

Stained Glass window at Hotel Magnolia St. Louis


Cover of A Return to Ireland cookbookIt’s a travelogue, a history book, a memoir of sorts. But most of all Judith McLoughlin’s A Return to Ireland, A culinary journey from America to Ireland, is a cookbook filled with great recipes and alluring photos.

Judith’s first book, The Shamrock and Peach,

fulfilled her dream of telling “the Scots-Irish immigrant story through the language of really good food.” Her new book continues the adventure and “dives into the culture of Ireland expressed through some amazing food.”

Food is the essences of A Return to Ireland. Food is the joy. Food is the medium that Judith uses to convey her love of the Celtic lands and people who inhabit them. But food isn’t all that is special about this  256-page book. Personal stories fill each chapter. Interesting information accompanies each recipe. And gorgeous photography, taken by Judith’s high-school-sweetheart husband, Gary McLoughlin, spark the appetite and stimulate wanderlust.

Judith and Gary moved to the United States in 1996. The couple landed in Boston and eventually moved to Atlanta for Gary’s work. Judith started catering and teaching about Irish cooking. Before long, she earned the reputation of the unofficial ambassador/cheerleader of all things Irish.

She says that growing up on a farm in the County Armagh in Northern Ireland gave her great appreciate for fresh Irish ingredients and Scot-Irish cooking handed down from generation to generation.

Today Judith fuses Irish cooking with that of the deep South, and not only writes cookbooks, but also caters, teaches cooking classes and leads fun food tours to Ireland—sometimes adding Scotland to the itinerary.

Judith McLoughlin with a group on a food tour.

Judith with a food-tour group.

Because all of the recipes in A Return to Ireland look so appealing, I couldn’t choose one to print for you. Top contenders were the Southern-influenced Soft Sweet Potato Biscuits with Country Ham Spread; and the purely Irish, Aged Gaelic Steaks with an Irish Whiskey Cream Sauce; and the updated classic fusion dish, White Chocolate Buttermilk Waffle Berry Pudding. Undecided, I left it up to Judith. She chose Colcannon Potatoes, one of the national dishes spotlighting her chapter on “Legendary Ireland Dishes.”Glad she did. Colcannon is remarkably easy and inexpensive to make and goes with all sorts of entrees—Irish or not. Here straight from the pages of her book


A dish of Colcannon Potatoes

A recipe for Colcannon Potatoes from A Return to Ireland.

A recipe for Colcannon Potatoes from Judith McLoughlin's cookbook A Return to Ireland

A smiling portrait of Judith McLoughlinFor more about Judith McLoughlin click HERE.

To buy A Return to Ireland, see

or click HERE to visit (where I might get a commission.)


Glasses filled with Irish WhiskeyTo know more about Irish Whiskey, click HERE.



Ashford Castle in all it's glory.For sleeping around Ireland in great style, click HERE.



A mug of Irish CoffeeAnd to top off the whole shebang, click HERE.





A close up of a bowl of caramel corn.Jane Helms’ recipe for caramel corn could be the best recipe for popcorn on the planet. But I’m jumping ahead. Before we get to the recipe, let me tell you about her son Matt Helms and his new popping hot business venture.

A portrait of Matt Helms.

Matt Helms

Matt says that he loves family, farming, business, agriculture and marketing—passions that he ties together in one crackerjack product—popcorn.

He grew up on a 2200-acre farm located in Southwest Illinois that has been in his family since 1852. With farming in his heart, Matt studied plant sciences at the University of Illinois and earn an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. For the past 22 years he has worked in different capacities for various companies, mostly related to some form of agriculture. But it’s Matt’s sideline blockbuster business that fascinates Sweet Leisure.

Along with his wife, Michelle, and daughter, Lily Ella, Matt decided to create a product and start a business that people relate to fun and nice experiences.

The farm was there. The trio needed a crop beloved by the multitudes. Popcorn was it.

An ear of popcornPopcorn differs from other corn grown to feed people and livestock. And different types of popcorn serve different functions. To find the best, 13-year-old Lily Ella conducted family taste tests, coming up with an heirloom favorite. Matt contacted popcorn breeders for seed. And the Helmses planted the first two acres of their popcorn in 2017.

With the first harvest, the business burst into being, heated up and expanded greatly.

Harvesting popcorn

They named the company for daughter Lily Ella and Matt’s grandfather Ollie. Michelle designed the packaging and helped develop a line of popcorn products (seasonings, equipment, oils).

Two jars of Ella and Ollie popcorn with a bottle of seasoning salt and a bottle of oil.

Today, the Helms devote 100 acres of the farm to popcorn and Ollie & Ellie popcorn kernels are popping up in St. Louis gourmet popcorn stores, movie theatres, kettle corn stands, specialty shops and grocery stores. One can also order Ella &Ollie popcorn and assorted related items online.

Matt said that he loves a good handful of popcorn with a touch of seasoning salt,

Ella & Ollie popcorn popped with seasoning salt

but that his mom’s caramel corn remains his favorite dressed-up version, which brings us to the best recipe ever!  Jane’s caramel corn makes a great gift—that is if you can bear to share. Please forgive the phrase stealing, but when it comes to Jane’s caramel corn confection, the whole is better than the sum of its buttery sugary parts; it makes hungry where it most satisfies; and too much is never enough!


Caramel corn in a glass jar.Yield: About 5 cups caramel corn.

5 quarts freshly popped Ella & Ollie popcorn

½ pound butter

2 packed cups light brown sugar

½ cup white corn syrup

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

Put popped corn in a large roasting pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 250°F.

Melt butter in a large saucepan. Stir in sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil over medium/high heat, stirring constantly. Stir and boil for 1 minute, then continue to boil syrup gently for 4 minutes without stirring. (The syrup gets really hot; be careful.)

Remove pan from heat and stir in salt, vanilla and baking soda (the syrup will foam). Pour the hot syrup over the popped corn and stir to coat kernels with syrup.

Set roasting pan in preheated oven and bake 40 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes.

Spread popcorn on wax paper and cool before packaging.


A container of caramel corn and ribbons preparing to give as a gift.

For more information, click HERE.

To order online, click HERE.

For more wonderful recipes to give as gifts, click HERE.


It’s as if Santa, on a pre-Christmas reconnaissance, took a rest stop at Union Station in St. Louis, wandered into The Train Shed and decided to stay. The popular restaurant renamed “The Sleigh Shed” for the holiday season, brims with spirit. Lights twinkle. Ornaments shine.

A collage showing four scenes of decor delights at The Sleigh Shed

 The staff radiates good will towards man and woman and kids and each other.

A collage showing smiling staff at The Sleigh Shed in Union Station.

Everything feels merry and bright, especially after one or two of the specialty cocktails the pop-up bar designed for yuletide indulging.

The Sleigh Shed comes gift-wrapped in good tidings.

The restaurant/bar opens at 11 a.m. for lunch and dinner, closing at 9 p.m. on Sunday through Thursdays and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

The Stuffed Tots served at The Sleigh ShedThe menu lists a wide array of family favorites. (The Stuffed Tots bring joy to the world.)

The St. Louis Wheel at night.Union station offers a winter wonderland of attractions including a magical ride on the St. Louis Wheel.

But it’s The Sleigh Shed’s cocktails that so capture the spirt of the holidays. Here is just a sampling of delights that prove ‘Tis the season to be jolly.”


The luscious Santa's Red-Eye Fix served at The Sleigh ShedYou might leave cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve, but we are quite sure he would much prefer the ingredients popped into this Sleigh Shed cocktail.

Yield: 1 serving.

1 ounce chilled espresso

1-1/2 ounces 1220 Vodka

¾ ounce Vanille de Madagascar (vanilla liqueur)

½ ounce simple syrup

½ ounce heavy cream

Whipped cream

Crumbled chocolate chip cookies

Red and green sprinkles.

Put espresso, vodka, vanilla liqueur, syrup and cream in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake shaker vigorously for 10 seconds.

Strain into a frosted martini glass.

Top with whipped cream, cookie crumbles and sprinkles


The Resting Grinch Face bright green cocktail You can tell why the Grinch steals Christmas cocktail excitement with this Sleigh Shed special.

Yield: 1 serving.

6 mint leaves

½ ounce toasted coconut syrup

2-1/4 ounces Cachaça

½ ounce lime juice

¼ ounce Ruby Red Grapefruit Cordial

2 drops green food color

Club soda

Sprig of fresh mint

Powdered sugar

Put mint leaves and syrup in a cocktail shaker and muddle lightly.  Add Cachaça, lime juice, grapefruit cordial and food color. Add ice to shaker and lightly shake. Double strain into a highball glass over fresh ice. Add club soda to top. Garnish with mint sprig. Sprinkle sugar over top. Add green straw.


A Sleigh All Day cocktail garnished with cranberries and lime wheel.Comfort and joy comes with this Sleigh Shed treat.

Yield: 1 serving.

1-1/2 ounces Cava de Oro Blanco Tequila

¾ ounce Bruzco Mezcal

½ ounce Suau Orange Brandy

¾ ounce pineapple gum syrup

¾ ounce lime juice

5 drops Cocktail Punk Peach Bitters


Lime wheel

Put tequila, mezcal, brandy, syrup, juice and bitters in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Strain and pour over ice in a double old-fashioned glass. Garnish with cranberries and lime wheel.


A holly decorated mug filled with hot cocoa and garnished with toasted marshmallows and a peppermint stick.Here’s a bit of naughty fun for adults that transforms, when you leave out the booze, into something super nice for the kiddies.

Yield: 1 serving.

4 ounces hot chocolate

1 ounce Dora Double Chocolate Liqueur

1 ounce Peppermint Bark Cream Liqueur

Toasted mini marshmallows

Peppermint stick

Pour hot chocolate into a mug. Add the liqueurs and stir gently. Top with marshmallows and add a peppermint stick.


To help ensure a happy holiday season DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE—but keep in mind that if you do overindulge you could check into the historic St. Louis Union Station Hotel without even leaving the Union Station complex.

Click HERE for more information on the Train Shed/Sleigh Shed.

Click HERE For more information on Union Station’s hotel and attractions.

The Sleigh Shed sign.