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Chocolate Chip-Pecan Kentucky Pie for the Final Four

Many college kids don’t exactly follow a healthy meal plan, and I was no exception. Since the majority of restaurants in my Alabama university town accepted our campus dining card, I would often order a lavish takeout dinner. Excess was the rule. One of my all-time favorite splurges was a rather large slice of warm Kentucky Pie from a local deli. That sublime chocolate chip cookie/pecan pie hybrid, a riff on Louisville’s famous Derby Pie, was the stuff that dreams (and the dreaded ‘freshman 15′) were made of.

This Saturday, whether you’re cheering on the Kentucky Wildcats or a fan of gooey chocolate chip desserts (because surely you are at least one of these things?), consider making this riff on crowd-pleasing Kentucky Pie for your fellow March Madness revelers. Serve slabs of this soft cookie-pie warm, straight out of the oven, with whipped cream or ice cream if you so please. (I do.) And if you want to do it like a real Southerner, offer a nip of bourbon on the side.

(Want even more recipes inspired by famous college town foods? Check out Cooking Channel’s Bracket Battle of the Best College Eats.)

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31 Days of Cookies: Irish Cream and Coffee Cookies

This year, we’re celebrating the season with a month of nonstop cookies. For the 10th day of cookies, Nealey Dozier shares her cookie-fied take on Irish creme and coffee:

These days there are thousands (millions?) of Christmas cookie recipes available to enthusiastic holiday bakers everywhere. In my attempt to mix up the cookie swap this year, I wanted to create a cookie that’s as warm and comforting as it is creative. Taking a nod from seasonal cocktails — is there any better way to face the winter chill than with a hot mug in hand? — I began dreaming of drinks I could craft into cookie form. Hot cocoa splashed with peppermint schnapps? Cider spiked with aged whiskey? A classic hot toddy? I finally decided on a classic after-dinner drink: Irish creme and coffee. Whiskey, chocolate and heavy cream pair perfectly with coffee and translate well into a with-a-jolt dessert.

I started by revving up my best sugar cookie recipe with a double dose of java, using coffee extract (for bitter yet sultry undertones) and finely ground espresso beans (which add contrasting crunch and those lovely specks). Then, I piped a cloud of Irish Creme-buttercream to resemble a mountain of whipped cream. The cherry on top? A single chocolate covered espresso bean.

Irish Cream and Coffee Cookies

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Leftover White Turkey Chili

In our humble opinion, Thanksgiving is superior to any other day of the year. In an effort to make this year’s feast the best of all time (sorry, Pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe), we’re bringing you the recipes, how-tos and decorating ideas to help you become a Turkey Day pro.

My very first batch of white turkey chili involved tossing a bunch of ingredients into a pot and praying for the best. Much to my surprise, my family was scraping the bottom of the pot within an hour (and not because I didn’t make enough!). Now, leftover-turkey chili is as much a part of our Thanksgiving tradition as the holiday meal itself.

One of the things I love most about this recipe is that it never turns out exactly the same. If I’m feeling particularly lazy, I’ll swap canned chiles for fresh, and sometimes — if I want to get adventurous — I’ll toss in a few “exotic” peppers from the nearby Mexican market. This plan can backfire, however, if you don’t know what you’re doing (I didn’t), so make sure you sample the peppers before it’s too late. (Thankfully, a few cups of cooked white rice salvaged the pot and silenced the alarms, not to mention it tasted amazing.)

Play around with ingredient quantities and flavors to make it your own. Hominy and even white potatoes make tasty additions to this soup. I prefer my turkey chili to be thick and creamier than most. Some recipes call for adding cornmeal or pureeing some of the beans with an immersion blender, but I find that a basic roux with some milk (or heavy cream) does the trick.

The best thing about this dish, and chili in general, is that it just keeps getting better as the days go by. I suggest making it early in the morning, then turning off the range and letting it be. Now sit back, relax and savor your new day-after-Thanksgiving tradition.

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Sweet Potato Casserole Pie with Marshmallow Praline Topping

In our humble opinion, Thanksgiving is superior to any other day of the year. In an effort to make this year’s feast the best of all time (sorry, Pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe), we’re bringing you the recipes, how-tos and decorating ideas to help you become a Turkey Day pro.

Southerners love to over-sugar their sweet potatoes, making most recipes resemble a dessert rather than a side dish. And although I was raised on a saccharine sweet potato casserole piled high with toasted marshmallows (and still swear by the beloved tradition), it seems jet-puffed sweet potatoes are falling out of favor for recipes with a more “refined” profile. So why not embrace sweet potato casserole’s sugary roots and consider serving it alongside your dessert spread? After all, the only thing missing from the candied casserole is a flaky buttered crust. This delicious twist on the classic is the perfect way to get your holiday sweet potato fix and put all of those marshmallow haters to shame.

This pie stems from numerous experiments based off my heirloom family recipe — just a few tweaks here and a few changes there — to create the ultimate sweet potato casserole-as-pie. I always roast my sweet potatoes (as opposed to boiling) to intensify their flavors and allow natural caramel undertones to shine through. Instead of my usual heavy cream, however, I added sweetened condensed milk and doubled the number of eggs, resulting in a velvety-smooth texture more suitable for a pie. And while lots of sweet potato pie recipes call for a bevy of overwhelming spices, I find they mask the true character of the simple Southern dish. A splash of spiced rum and some vanilla bean paste are just enough to add complexity without concealing the subtle sweet potato flavor.

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Cheddar & Ale Dip

My fiancé and I aren’t really the types to have a local watering hole where everybody knows our name. It’s not that we aren’t social, but we much prefer to entertain from home. The closest thing we do have to our own “spot” is a happening little Irish pub just a few miles away.

Everything—and I mean everything—on their menu is amazing (which is sort of surprising, in that the restaurant lurks in a chain-obsessed suburban strip mall) but it’s the oh-so-sinful ‘cheddar & ale dip’ that keeps us coming back for more.

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Christmas for Chocoholics: Triple Chocolate Holiday Trifle

Southerners know a thing or two about showy desserts—the taller and flashier the better—which explains why my mother’s signature sweet was a stunning English trifle filled with layers of sherry-soaked pound cake, creamy egg custard, raspberry preserves and vanilla bean whipped cream.

Thanks to Mom, that classic trifle has also become my favorite way to wow a crowd. I mean, what’s not to like? It looks gorgeous on a side table and keeps everyone on their toes until it’s time to serve. While I will always cherish my mom’s version, this year I decided I needed my very own pièce de résistance. And in my book, that means chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate.

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Cheesy Parmesan Spoon Bread

One of the things I love most about Southern food is that it draws flavor inspiration from cultures all around the world, yet still maintains a unique identity of its own. It truly is a melting pot of tastes—hot, sticky, spicy and sweet—all boxed up in one.

Take spoon bread for example, a quintessential down-home dish. Its name may not turn any heads (or open any mouths), but one bite is enough to convert even the biggest of skeptics. Spoon bread, in fact, has a pretty distinguished pedigree if you ask me. It’s part French soufflé, part English Yorkshire pudding, but once you add the cornmeal, it’s all Southern.

If you still can’t wrap your head around this old-fashioned recipe, just imagine a rich, custardy version of cornbread worthy of scooping up with a spoon. Or better yet, picture the lightest, fluffiest grits casserole you’ve ever had. I mean, what’s not to like?

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Christmas “Circus” Cookies

Gear up for holiday baking with Cooking Channel. Your favorite chefs & Food People have opened their kitchens to share their best cookie recipes. From mini Red Velvet Whoopie Pies to Chuck’s Maple-Pecan Shortbread, we’ll keep you baking all season. Visit our All-Star Cookie Swap, then head over to for great takes on holiday baking from Food Network chefs.

I have a dark confession to make: I loathe holiday cookies. (I know, the horror!) Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate a family bake-a-thon as much as the next gal and I truly believe that homemade presents are the ultimate gift of love. But other than that, I just don’t get the obsession. Please tell me I’m not the only one.

Despite my aversion to candy-covered gingerbread men and peppermint-laden pinwheels, I’m no grumpy scrooge. I knew I would eventually have to slay my inner Christmas-cookie monster, so this year, I’m turning over a new leaf.

I set out to create a fun holiday-worthy recipe that’s delicious enough to be enjoyed all year-round: no dried fruits or spices here. When I started brainstorming, all I could think about were those little pink- and white-frosted animal cookies I used to devour as a child. And that’s when the light bulb went off; I could try to recreate the famous Mother’s Circus Animal Cookies in cute little holiday shapes!

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Big Game Eats: Buffalo Chicken Dip

There are certain times of year that require what I lovingly refer to as “man food.” During football season, anything that includes cream cheese, mayonnaise, or sour cream (or all of the above!) are staples on my entertaining roster. No, they aren’t gourmet, and they sure as heck aren’t good for you, but I’ve never seen a bite left over. Let’s just say they are good for the soul.

Buffalo chicken dip is one of the most famous of the “man dips.” I’ve made a number of variations of it over the years, and this is the version I find to be just right. I’ve never had the courage to use canned chicken, so I prefer to shred moist and tender chicken thighs for my recipe. I use a mix of cheddar and pepper jack for sharpness and heat. I also use powdered ranch dressing instead of bottled, it’s a personal preference I’ve developed over the years.

This buffalo chicken dip is guaranteed to please even the most discriminating of eaters. You’ll even be surprised how many food snobs keep coming back for more. Sometimes, it’s all about the “high-low”. And sometimes, it’s just about the “low.”

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Game Day Eats: Barbecue Chicken Sliders

There’s an unspoken rule in our house that when there is pork butt, it had better be smoked. And pulled. By a man. And while I think I have a pretty great recipe for oven pulled pork, it often gets scoffed at by the self-declared pit master I reside with. Problem is, I have barbecue cravings during the 50 weeks he’s not out back drinking beers and worshiping fire. So I found a loop hole. (Apparently the “pit master” doesn’t have any beef with me cooking chicken.)

It took a few tries, but I think I perfected my barbecue chicken recipe—a bold statement—but just ask my fiancé. He gave it his hard-earned seal of approval, which I gladly accepted. The secret is not really in the braise (although it helps) but in what comes next. To get the blackened, crispy ends that you expect from a barbecue joint, you’ve got to throw the chicken under the broiler. As for the results? You could fool anybody that’s not in on your scheme.

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