Whether you are headed to the Derby or just watching the best two minutes in sports on your television, be sure to have my Mint Julep recipe on the menu!

I am a horse fanatic, I have been since I was a kid. So much so, I'd fall asleep with my entire plastic horse collection in my bed. I get excited about the Derby even though I don't follow horse racing. I've only been once but it was quite the experience... no other sporting event can compare. The hats, the pretty women, the dashing guys, the Southern charm, the majesty of the horses, and of course, the Kentucky bourbon and the Mint Juleps! I always crack up because the Mint Julep is THE drink associated with the South more than any other. When I meet people from other countries and they find out I'm from Alabama, they tell me their impression is that we all sit around on the porch, sipping Mint Juleps..... So in tribute to the horses and most magnificent race in sports, here's a classic Mint Julep recipe my way, just in time for Derby Day. 


A silver or pewter Mint Julep cup does make this cocktail more authentic and yes, even more delicious.

A silver or pewter Mint Julep cup does make this cocktail more authentic and yes, even more delicious.

To begin, make a simple syrup infused with mint. This will really bring a wonderful mint flavor to the cocktail and you can also use it to sweeten tea. For the simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water. For 6 drinks, I am using 1 cup each sugar and water. Bring it to a boil, and turn off the heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add 15-20 fresh mint leaves. Stir. Allow the syrup to cool completely. Strain and pour into a canning jar, secure the lid, and chill. This will keep in the refrigerator for a week.

For one cocktail:

3 fresh mint leaves (plus more for garnish)

3 tablespoons mint syrup (depending on how sweet you like it, I like 3)

1  1/2 ounces Kentucky bourbon (I like Four Roses bourbon)

Crushed ice

Powdered sugar for garnish, if desired

Chill your glasses prior to serving. A traditional silver mint julep cup makes this cocktail so frosty and delicious. Add the syrup and mint leaves to a pitcher or shaker. Use a wooden spoon to muddle (not tear) the mint into the syrup to release the oil. Add the bourbon. Fill the cup with crushed ice and strain the bourbon over the ice, almost like a snow cone. Add a straw, a mint sprig, and a dusting of powdered sugar over the top, if you like. Serve immediately.

For a lighter, less potent version, add 1/2 cup of unsweetened tea to fill the cup after you add the bourbon.


2014 is over? Really?

BLINK- it is 2015! Before we dive in to the new year and new projects, here are some highlights of my year, complete with the most popular recipes from my new website. Thanks to all of you who made this year my best yet! I may not say it enough but I'm grateful for each and every one of you. I look forward to your posts, your comments, and especially love to hear the results when you've made one of my recipes. Thank you.

I'd also like to say a special thank you to my dad, Jared, Corey, Debbie, Jason, LynnBo, Kathy, Justin, Sam, Caroline, Raymie, Nicole, Chanda, my friends at The Hangout, and everyone else who helps me do what I do day in and day out. I love and appreciate you, too.

My Favorite Photos 2014

A look back at where I've been, what I ate, and who I saw in photos.

 We did a lot of good this year.

We hosted a charity dinner party in Chicago with my friends, the Yandell's, to benefit the Latin School scholarship fund. They wanted a classic Southern menu so I brought a lot of ingredients with me: Gulf shrimp, McEwen & Sons stone ground grits, blueberries from the garden, and of course, Red Diamond tea to make authentic Alabama style sweet tea. The party was a huge success and over $1 million was raised through the event for scholarships. Yeeeaaahhhh!

In June, our "Country Carnival for a Cause" in Argo, Alabama was put together with the tireless and amazing Holly Hart Shirley and Toomer's for Tuscaloosa (a disaster relief group) to raise money for Linda Tucker, Miss Wheelchair Alabama. Linda has no use of her legs and lost everything she had when tornadoes tore through Bessemer, Alabama in the spring of 2014. She had to replace all of her possessions and didn't have the means to travel to her national pageant. Many of you came out or made contributions to help make her dream come true. I so appreciate that you always show up when we need you. Special thanks to Sean Brown of Tutt Land Company, my good friends Bunnie and Bob, Stacy, Toni, Jared and Corey from The Sonnet House, Jill, Jason, Bryan, Beth, Laurel, Debbie, Rita, Joy, Kristin and John Coon from House of Q and BBQ Pitmasters on Destination America, Tommy Trimm from Trimm Landscape, Cam Video Production, Darlings Sweets, and so many others who showed up with their work boots on to make this event happen. 

My friend and Food Network Star cast mate, Michele Ragussis, invited me to Rockland, Maine to help cook and be part of her event for Maine's Make-a-Wish Foundation. It was great fun to work with Linkie Marais, Nikki Martin, and Michele again. We raised enough for the organization to grant wishes for two families. Our sous chef for the evening was Zach- a young foodie who has survived two major brain operations---one of them just days before our event. He is an inspiration and I'm proud to have gotten a chance to meet him and his family. Thank you, Michele, for making it possible.

Another big do-good project for 2014 was the Birmingham Best Bites cookbook. I helped produce the book featuring recipes from local restaurants with Chanda Temple and photographers Arden Ward Upton and Mo Davis of Arden Photography to benefit the Birmingham Public Library's special events division. Many in our community don't have the means to purchase books and these special events give people who need it most an introduction to the library and all of the services they offer. Almost 1,000 copies were sold thanks to funding by EBSCO Media and Alagasco. The secondary benefit is increased visibility for Birmingham's food scene and the wonderful restaurants we have in my hometown. If the recipes don't inspire you to cook, I hope they will at the very least inspire you to make a reservation. Thank you to friends and fans from around the country who purchased the book! The book is currently sold out but plans are being made for another printing.

AND... because of all the good you helped me do and because I try to promote the state of Alabama, our restaurants, our beautiful resorts and destinations, and most of all, our people and culture, someone (Deidra Perry) got the big idea to include me in Birmingham Magazine's elite group of "20 Women Making a Difference" in my hometown. I am very honored; there are some incredible women doing unreal things to make Birmingham better. I am not remotely deserving, mind you, but very honored to be included. Thank you to all involved.

I traveled a lot.

Everyone knows my work keeps me on the road. This year the road went all the way to Juneau, Alaska where I helped host the Haa Aani Oyster Festival and a charity event to help fund local business opportunities. My favorite photo this year is from that trip to Alaska- if you have not been, go. Read the story... and you'll know why Alaska should be on your bucket list. Thanks, Juneau. It was magnificent. Can't wait to go back.

Also new this year, after many requests for travel info on where to go, where to eat, and where to stay, I'm now writing a monthly travel article I'm calling "Two Days Away". Read all about New Orleans..

Food Network. Again.

In January. I headed to Los Angeles to compete for my own show (again) on Food Network Star after being named "fan favorite" for Season 10. While I didn't win the big prize, I was very grateful for the opportunity and especially the title of fan favorite. That is a win as far as I'm concerned. And yes, I'm still plugging away at my own show.

Speaking of Food Network, Alton Brown, my mentor from Season 8 of Food Network Star, came to my hometown of Birmingham in October for his Edible Inevitable Tour. Alton invited me to the show and then had me come up on stage with him to make a pizza in his Mega-Bake, a giant Easy-Bake oven on steroids. It turned out pretty well, considering. Alton cheated, using delicious BBQ from Saw's BBQ on his pizza and leaving me with crappy pepperoni for mine. I guess one would not expect less from the sinister and devious host of Cutthroat Kitchen, right? Very cool of him to include me in the show. Thanks, Alton.

Food Shows 2014

I do a lot of food festivals and live food events. Number one on the list has to be the Fabulous Food Show in Cleveland, Ohio. This show at the I-X Center is legendary and I finally know why. I had a great time with the fans and made some new friends along the way including Michael Symon, Carla Hall, and Tyler Florence. My good friend Jason Roberts hosts the entire weekend and my new friend Sammy Jo manages all of the culinary. It was a blast. Put it on your calendar... it is a can't miss food event.

My other favorite event for 2014 has to be the Hangout Oyster Cookoff in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We bring in over 60 teams from the region who cook over 70,000 Gulf oysters in 3 different categories. I host the party each year and bring in some other celebrity chefs to help me. This year we had Jason Roberts, Michele Ragussis, Linkie Marais, Ippy Aiona, Nikki Martin, Panini Pete, and others from Food Network. We also had James Beard Award winner Ryan Prewitt from Peche on our celebrity chef stage. Staying at Turquoise Place is one of the best parts of this event... a grill and a hot tub on the balcony makes it hard to leave. This year, we also had incredible hospitality from the Hangout and from Salty Dog Charters.... Captain Marty took us out for some fishing and we all caught the limit them brought them home and cooked them. Yes, I'd call that paradise. Plan on spending part of November in Lower Alabama at the 8th Annual Oyster Cookoff at the Hangout. You'll fall in love.

A New Website, Branding, and MSN Food & Drink

2014 brought a lot of changes and I launched the new website in August. Right now, the old site still exists but as soon as I get all of the recipes moved over, we'll merge them.

Also in 2014, I joined forces with Microsoft to help launch the new MSN Food & Drink app and the Food & Drink channel on I'm proud to have my recipes featured with some of the top chefs in the world. More to come in 2015.

Top 10 Recipes for 2014

Here's the list of top rated/liked/shared recipes from my new website for this year. Read more...

What's up for 2015?

I'm working on my own first cookbook and a new video web series that you are going to absolutely love. Stay tuned!

I guess that is about it. I wish all of you good health, much happiness, and the very best for the new year.




I have got quite the week in front of me. Some of it is exciting and some is like jail.

The jail part is self imposed. I put myself on lockdown. No phone. No Facebook. I'd say no computer but I have to write. Suddenly, I'm having a flashback to Food Network Star.... ugh. Here's why I'm in self-imposed hiatus....  I'm trying to finish editing the collection of recipes I have gathered for an upcoming cookbook called Birmingham's Best Bites: A Collection of Recipes from Your Favorite Restaurants which will benefit the Birmingham Public Library. I loved the library as a kid and would ride my bike there almost daily in the summer to get new books to read. I bet I read every sports, horse, or Nancy Drew book they had in the place. Here's me... I always fell asleep with a library book on my head.

Martie reading in bed.jpg

I'm writing the book with my good friend Chanda Temple, who is the Public Relations Director at the library. Our deadline is this week so I'm on lockdown until I finish. The book will be a great way for the library to raise funds for events and special programs and it will also help the restaurants with their visibility, too. The book launch party happens as the conclusion of this year's Eat, Drink, Read, Write Festival on October 10,2014. I'm helping throw the party. Here's a link to tickets if you want to come. They are only $10. Purchase EDRW Birmingham's Best Bites & Instagrammy's Tickets. 

You have to be there to buy the cookbook and there are only a limited number of copies available. Besides, it is going to be a great party with lots of wonderful best bites! There are recipes from Birmingham's James Beard Award winners and nominees: Chef Frank Stitt and Highlands Bar and Grill, Chef Chris Hastings, Hot and Hot Fish Club, Chef James Lewis, Bettola at Pepper Place, Jim 'n Nicks, Ollie Irene, and the iconic The Bright Star in Bessemer. There are recipes from favorite food trucks like Shindigs and Dreamcakes to new-comers like Avondale's Hotbox, Bottle & Bone at Uptown, and the highly anticipated Galley & Garden from Chef James Boyce, Little Savannah, Satterfield's, DoDiYo's, Jinsei, Maki Fresh, Eagles Restaurant, and Ashley Mac and so many, many more have stepped up to participate.

Chanda Temple and I preview our cookbook, Birmingham's Best Bites: Recipes from Birmingham's Restaurants, Bars and Food Trucks

Chanda Temple and I preview our cookbook, Birmingham's Best Bites: Recipes from Birmingham's Restaurants, Bars and Food Trucks

We've even included a "days gone by" section with a history of Birmingham restaurants and recipes from some favorites that have closed. That section includes the recipe for my Chocolate Roulage recipe, inspired by a landmark Birmingham restaurant called Cobb Lane which closed long ago. We used to go there back in the day for special occasions like bridesmaids luncheons and baby showers and the primary reason was for the Roulage. Yes, rou-lage. Not roulade. Yes. I know the French pronounce the rolled up thingie a "rou-lade" but here in Birmingham Alabama, it is and always will be pronounced rou-lage.

This book will be the perfect present for your foodie friends so get a few and keep them for special occasions. The images are by local photographers Arden Ward Upton and Mo Davis of Arden Photography. The photos are stunning and will make the book all the more special. Here is a sneak peek: