Behind the Kitchen Door at The Christie Cookie Company

Way back, sometime around 1985 (yes, I am seriously giving away my age here), I landed my first non-retail, non-parent influenced job at a boutique wealth management firm in downtown Nashville.  It was a sweet landing outside of my familiar with good folks in a fantastic office in what is now the Fifth Third Center, made all the more sweet by the location of a Christie Cookie Company store in the lobby.  Those were the days … days when I was enthralled with the hustle and bustle of big city life and when a cookie was never off limits because I was exceeding my metabolism speed limit.

I grew up pretty simply.  Banana pudding was dessert and an Oreo® was a cookie, so imagine my delight the first time I experienced one of Christie Cookie’s white chocolate and macadamia nut creations … I was over the moon.  At that time, I’m pretty sure I thought all chocolate was made by Nestlé® and the most exotic nut I had ever experienced was my aunt Sara, who had lived all over the world with my USAF enlisted uncle.  I think I took that little sojourn over the moon every weekday around 3 o’clock for a delicious period of time.

The Christie Cookie Company, Nashville TN

 

Flash forward more than a few years to just a couple of weeks ago when I received an invitation, along with some other local food writers of various types, to visit the Christie Cookie Company for a behind the kitchen door tour.

 

So take the tour I did, and I’m happy to report that this is not your every-day manufacturing facility, although some of the components you would expect are definitely in place … strong leadership, savvy marketing and PR, rigid quality assurance, serious research and development, and some seriously high tech operations.  It’s definitely a sweet operation.

After we were greeted by Sue O’Donnell, President of the Mail Order Division, and Fleming Wilt, the President of Christie Cookie Company, and were appropriately outfitted in white coats and hair covering, we entered the heart of Christie Cookie Company and were greeted by something else entirely … the luscious smell of butter.

Those fabulous cookies ...

After 30 years in business, Christie Cookie Company has stayed true to its origins as one of the inaugural Nashville originals … using the same base recipe and the same high quality ingredients it started with … like real butter and no high-fructose corn syrup …  none of the cost saving measures you might think would entice a growing company are allowed in the house.  The manufacturing method is precise and extreme attention is paid to cleanliness and maintaining the comradery of the staff that works there … Christie Cookie Company prides itself on a family atmosphere in a manufacturing facility that provides steady income to about 50 Nashvillians and a consistent product to an ever-widening market that crosses our state’s borders with over 15 sales staff serving a nation-wide market.  This is a small operation with a big heart and big production.

Trust towers are normally made of rocks, but I made this one of cookies and I trust that they will be delicious!

Ingredients are precisely measured and added to huge mixing equipment in a certain order to insure consistency.  The facility is kosher, so one product is made at a time and equipment is cleaned to a pristine level before moving onto the next recipe.  After a batch of cookies is mixed, it is heaved by manpower into the extruder and out come the ‘pucks’ as they are called.  Next they move onto a conveyer that takes them through a flash freezing process in normal times, or placed by hand onto baking trays during periods of high production (think holidays here when 4 FedEx 18 wheelers a day are filled with edible delights going here, there and yon … amazing!), then onto yet another contraption that puts the correct quantity in boxes for freezing.  No preservatives go into the mix so the freezer life is 3 to 4 months but, in actuality, the inventory is managed on a much closer time frame.

We didn’t discuss recent capital outlay with the management, but I’m assuming it’s been pretty high.  The flash freezing equipment is relatively new, along with equipment that seals the contents of the boxes for storage.  I’ll just say it … I was impressed with the automated portion of the manufacturing, but I was more impressed by the precision and attitude of the people working the various lines.  It is like every cookie that is produced is their cookie … every gift container (that can be customized with your image by Christie Cookie Company’s self-owned silk screen company) is their gift container going to someone they love.  I think the one ingredient that Christie Cookie Company does not include on its ingredient list is ‘pride’ and, yet, I think that is absolutely the most important ingredient in the mix.  Only the “Miss America’s” make the cut … no wallflowers leave the premises.

This is a cutting edge facility operating on the ‘lean manufacturing’ principal which puts employees in charge of efficiency.  I love a great cookie but, even more, I love a company in corporate America, a company located right here in Nashville, that listens and takes direction from its hands-on associates.  They are good at partnering with employees and vendors like DoubleTree Hotel®, the Masters®, Holiday Ham and other outlets.  They have partnered with the Nashville Predators® and will be providing individually packaged cookies at home games.  Christie Cookie Company is focused on Nashville, but the world is out there just waiting to take a bite.

Fleming is on the Board at Gilda's Club

And it’s awesome that Christie Cookie Company donates a lot of their product to local charities.  Those wallflower cookies don’t just go into the waste bin and have graced tables at local fundraisers including an event for the Center For Living and Learning and a United Way of Williamson County campaign event where 250 cookies were sold in about 20 minutes flat.  By the time we were set up and rolling, the cookies were gone!

The most delicious R & D ever ...

And not only was this a tour, it was a tasting!  All of the tour guests were allowed to sample a some extremely tasty R &  D … one of the newest creations scheduled to debut this holiday season … a peppermint cookie.  This is still in development but was fantastic even in its early stages.

 

Nothing but dough baby!

 

At the end of my tour, I received a lovely gift bag full of cookies and an uncooked batch of chocolate chip cookie dough that you too can get if you visit their location on North 3rd.

Dough for My Oven ... Cha Ching!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joe and I have been salivating about creating our own Christie Cookie ice cream sandwich for a while now.

We baked these beautiful cookies…

Ooey, gooey, delicious!

And then we filled them with Talenti’s black raspberry chocolate chip gelato …

All I can say is "Wow!"

That ice cream sandwich was amazing and so was this tour.  Thank you Christie Cookie Company for inviting me to experience one of the Nashville ‘foodie’ originals.  It was delicious and was definitely “Guaranteed to Make You Smile.”  I’m a fan.  Now … go get yourself a cookie!

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Girl’s Night In

Shrimp Ceviche & Mango Salsa Cocktail

It’s a rare thing that I don’t see my handsome beau on a Saturday night; however, I had been hankering for a girl’s night in at my place and this Saturday was it.  There is nothing like having company over to get your tail moving on house projects and I find it so fun to research recipes and figure out if I can wow my pals.

I picked out my fun food and did the shopping and then Joe helped me start putting it all together on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.  Everything was spectacular and there were several firsts on the menu and, while we used some recipes for reference, we changed things up quite a bit.

I love things that make sense … like starting out the evening with really good wine and really good cheese.  One of my gal pals is crazy about goat cheese … me too!  So we have that some of that tangy chevre from France paired with some of Bathtub Gin’s Peaches & Honey Preserves.

I love using cool little skewers for bite sized morsels and I thought these turned out quite lovely and tasty.  This is chevrette, a mild goat cheese from Holland, wrapped in slices of roasted red pepper… a great flavor combination.

And I love these little baby caprese salads skewers.  When I’m entertaining, I’m always looking for delights that can at least be partially prepared ahead so I can have fun too! Both of these skewered cheeses fit the bill and were assembled while I sat in my sunny bay window in the early afternoon.

This fig and goat cheese bruschetta is a Cooking Light recipe.  Two of these delights are only 138 calories and they were delicious!  I made the fig jam the night before and while this is a last minute prep after your guests have arrived, they were easy and pretty fast.

Next?  That beautiful seafood cocktail, of course!

I’m not much of a shrimp lover, but I have made shrimp escabeche a couple of times and it always turns out well, with the shrimp perfectly cooked.  So… I thought I would take the idea of cooking the shrimp in acid and shake it up a bit.  I decided that a ceviche sounded like a great idea.

Shrimp Ceviche & Mango Salsa Cocktail

Serves 6
Prep time 4 hours
Cook time 2 minutes
Total time 4 hours, 2 minutes
Allergy Shellfish
Meal type Appetizer, Salad, Starter
Misc Gourmet, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Region South American
The combination of the shrimp cooked using the ceviche with the mango salsa is light and refreshing.

Ingredients

  • 1lb Shrimp (jumbo, peeled, deveined, tails on)
  • 4 Limes (juiced)
  • 4 Lemons (juiced)
  • 1 Orange (juiced)
  • 2 Roma tomatoes (diced, seeds removed)
  • 1/2 Red onion (thinly sliced)
  • 1/2 bunch Cilantro (stemmed and finely chopped)
  • 2 Mangos (diced into 1/2)
  • 3 tablespoons Red pepper (finely chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons Yellow pepper (finely chopped)
  • 1 & 1/2 tablespoon Serrano chili (finely chopped)
  • 1 & 1/2 tablespoon Cilantro (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons Lime juice

Note

Pop 6 martini glasses in the freezer.

Directions

Ceviche
Step 1
Saute the shrimp in olive oil approximately one minute on each side, just until they turn pink, and place them in a colander, and immediately run them under cold water to stop the cooking
Cevich
Step 2
Add ingredients 2 thru 7 to a glass container and add the shrimp. Cover and let sit at room temperature. Place the ceviche in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 hours.
Salsa
Step 3
Combine the mango, red and yellow peppers, serrano chili, cilantro and juice of 2 limes. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour.
Step 4
Place mango salsa in a chilled martini glasses.
Step 5
Remove the shrimp from the ceviche and place them on top of the mango salsa.

The second course was my second South American dish … lime chicken empanadas.  The fabulous thing about empanadas is that you can put almost anything inside that flaky dough and it is going to be tasty.

Lime Chicken Empanadas

Serves 14
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 1 hour, 15 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 45 minutes
Allergy Egg
Meal type Appetizer, Main Dish
Misc Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve Hot
Region South American
These lime chicken empanadas are perfect for Cinco De Mayo!

Ingredients

  • 2 Chicken breasts (bone in)
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Red pepper (Finely chopped)
  • 1/2 cup Onion (Finely chopped)
  • 3 Limes (juiced)
  • 4oz Mascarpone
  • 1 & 1/2 cup Sour cream
  • 1 cup Mexican cheese blend (shredded)
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin (ground)
  • 1 teaspoon Coriander (ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper (ground)
  • 4 Pie crusts (purchased or from scratch)
  • 3 Egg yolks

Note

This recipe makes a lot of empanadas ... 28!  2 are perfect for an appetizer portion and they freeze great, plus they are delicious.

Directions

Step 1
Bring the chicken to a boil, cover and simmer 15 minutes. Then turn off and leave covered. After 45 minutes remove from the pan and place in the frig to cool.
Step 2
Remove the skin and shred the chicken with two forks and mix in the Mexican chile powder. Pop this mixture back in to the frig while you prepare the other ingredients.
Step 3
Saute the red pepper and onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil
Step 4
Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl, add shredded chicken and sauteed onions and peppers.
Step 5
Roll out one pie crust, nice and thin, 1/4" or less and using a 4" diameter plastic cup, cut circles in the dough.
Step 6
Place a heaping tablespoon of the chicken mixture just south on center on each dough circle, fold over, pressing the edges together and crimp with a fork.
Step 7
Repeat steps 5 and 6 for the other pie crusts.
Step 8
Quickly whip the egg yolks and brush the egg on each empanada.
Step 9
Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with guacamole or pico de gallo and mascarpone or sour cream mixed with lime juice.

There were a couple of other things to nosh on … spinach and artichoke dip … yum!  I had also picked up a sampler of hummus.  And I made some pretty amazing meatballs and paired three each with two of the spinach and walnut raviolis Joe had made with some awesome sauce for the third small plate.  By this point in the evening, the wine had been flowing for a while so I missed a photo opportunity, but it was all tasty.

And of course, if you’re having your girls over, you had better have some sweets!  I went a little traditional with some baby pecan pies.  I recently took a Viking class on French culinary basics and one of the things I learned was how to create an awesome pie crust.  These little tarts were made with the Classic Pecan Pie recipe straight from the Karo Syrup  website and my own, homemade crust.  These are bake ahead, two bite delights and they turned out perfectly.

I also got a little crazy with dipping stuff in chocolate.  I mixed semi-sweet and bittersweet dark Scharffen Berger chocolate together.  I haven’t nailed down the chocolate tempering yet so stuff wasn’t all shiny and glossy, but it was still incredibly awesome.

First in the pool … strawberries.  It’s a tad early for great strawberries, but they were still really good.  Next … some Cape Cod’s Waffle Cut Kettle Chips with Sea Salt.  Super crispy and sweet, these were awesome!  And then …

There was the bacon.  Uncured, slightly sweet, apple smoked bacon from Whole Foods, each strip quartered and made super crispy on a baking rack in a 400 degree oven.  These were funky enough to make me very happy and tasty enough that they vanished rather quickly.

This was an awesome girlfriend night.  The weather was perfect for hanging outside … there was a lot of good wine … some chocolate cigars … and, most important, some awesome females.  I cannot wait to do it again!

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Paella and Spanish Tapas: Christmas Eve’s Eve 2012

During the holidays, Joe and I are on our own and away from family, so in the last couple of years we have started our own little tradition of having friends over for dinner … see my post on Christmas Eve’s Eve 2011.  Last year, we had Greek food and it was awesome!  This year, we were looking for another great theme and we decided to have an evening of paella and Spanish tapas.  You have to love tapas … just little bites of love … and little bites of love seem so very appropriate for friends during the holidays.

Joe was in charge of the paella … really Joe was in charge of everything, but I fought my battles and we came up with a really fun menu that wasn’t so crazy that we couldn’t have a really good time with our friends.  We both love Martha Stewart’s food among others and she had some great recipes for our theme!

We started our prep the night before.  We had both made a run to Publix and I had hit Whole Foods for some special items.  There is always some snafu which requires another run to the store, but we aren’t fazed by that sort of thing anymore!  On the menu …

First off, I’ll talk about the Shrimp Escabeche.  I’m not a shrimp fan or seafood of any sort really, so imagine my surprise when I participated in making this dish during a work-related team building event and found the shrimp flavorful and not rubbery at all.  I think a lot of people have the tendency to overcook shrimp and the texture suffers.  Not the case here … not in the class and not in my kitchen either.  There was a snafu … Joe had purchased the shrimp and it was already cooked.  We had a little convo and I grabbed my bag and headed to Publix for some tails on, deveined, uncooked shrimp in the medium size.  And here we go …

Shrimp Escabeche (Viking Cooking School).  This is a great dish for a party for a couple of reasons … people snarf it up and you prepare it the day before.  The recipe is straight from the Viking Cooking School in Franklin.  If you’ve never taken a class, you should!  It is super fun and I always, always learn something new!

Marinated Manchego with Roasted Red Peppers.  Just yum.  This yet another prepare ahead dish from Viking Cooking School.  Manchego perfectly compliments the strong flavors of garlic and the roasted red peppers.  Plus how pretty with those holiday colors!

So this was snafu #2 … the peppers that we picked up at Publix were way, way too big and weren’t true piquillo peppers.  We made the filling and put it in the frig.  I had seen some at Whole Foods in Cool Springs, so Saturday I headed over there to pick them up.  Surprise!  The shelf was empty.  Okay, Plan B … Fresh Market in Brentwood.  Tah Dah!  I love proper ingredients and these turned out to be delish!  We put some of the extra goat cheese stuffing in the center for folks that wanted a taste on crackers.

Joe steamed some mussels in a lovely little tomato sauce … no recipe on this one.  Sorry!  He just gets in the kitchen and goes a little commando sometimes.

Patatas Bravas.  This is another recipe from Viking Cooking School.  The key here is to get the potatoes roasted nice and crispy on the outside.  Then when you add the tomato sauce, you get texture and layers of flavor.  These are hearty!

Croquettes with Serrano Ham and Manchego.  Thank you Martha!  At first, Joe wanted to make some chicken croquettes, but I steered him in Martha’s direction and, boy, I wasn’t sorry.  These were my absolute favorites of all of the things that we created for this dinner party.  They were crispy on the outside and then when you bit into them, they were luscious, flavorful and creamy.   I’m not sure who got else to eat them because I was eating them like popcorn.  They were awesome!

 

Joe’s Paella … it was delicious and there was nary a scrap of it left afterwards!  It got a little crazy and I had to snag this photo off of Peter Rodman’s Facebook page.

So I made Martha’s Milk Chocolate Tart with Pistachio but I forgot to dust with the pistachios at the end, but I have this cute little white chocolate covered snow flake pretzel.  I think that works fine.  This was a great tart and it was not cloyingly sweet, just a lovely chocolate flavor without crazy sweetness.  The pistachios in the tart are a great touch and I will be making this again.

Here Joe is taking a little break.

 

We had 13 guests and I think everyone had a great time.

 

Some folks hadn’t seen each other for a while and that was really fun …

And a couple of these girls I just cannot live without and I feel so lucky that I don’t have to (Beth Tune and Marsha Anderson)…

 

 

It was really fun and a perfect entry into the holidays.  I love Christmas Eve’s Eve and I’m pretty sure we are going to do it again.  Hmmm… what will the theme be next year?

Here are the recipes I promised earlier.  Glad tidings in 2013!

 

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Deep in High Cotton, Charleston SC

In the South, when you are in “high cotton” things are going your way … think an abundant crop at harvest time and money in the bank … and if you make a reservation at High Cotton during your visit to Charleston, South Carolina, you will not be disappointed.  We had a 1:30 or so flight out of Charleston, non-stop back to NashVegas, and David Plyler had recommended brunch at this venerable institution highly.  We had a 10:30 reservation I had made on OpenTable which gave us plenty of time for this last experience.  We checked out of Planters Inn, checked our bags and then walked the short distance to High Cotton for another fabulous meal.   Continue reading

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Take Your Tastebuds on a Tour of the Peninsula … Peninsula Grill, Charleston, SC

When Joe and I started planning our birthday extravaganza to Charleston, South Carolina, we made a deal … okay, we didn’t really make a deal, I just decided I liked this deal … I would research all of the restaurants that one would love to frequent in a short period of time in Charleston and Joe would pay for the fruits of my labors.  I had several criteria … fit in some of David Plyler’s recommendations, find restaurants highly rated on TripAdvisor and find Joe some exceptional seafood in this coastal city.  Joe liked the criteria, so he agreed to play along.  Peninsula Grill is rated #2 on that aforementioned travel site and, as a matter of luxurious convenience, it is attached to the Planters Inn where we were laying our tired little heads at night and it offers … you guessed it I’m sure … some exceptional seafood for Joe. Continue reading

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Cru Cafe and Freddie

I knew that DP, David Plyler, our friend from Sunset Grill, was up to something when he emailed me and asked about our reservations times (I  love opentable.com!) in Charleston.   When he found out we were visiting Charleston, DP sent me a great list of restaurants … when to frequent them, and also other stuff to do while visiting.  It was invaluable.  I think DP’s connection is college related, and he still has a ton of friends in the restaurant industry in Charleston even though his main gig now is music publicity/booking, etc in Music City.  I was curious but just waited to see what special surprise was in store.  He had told me that I Must make a reservation at Cru Cafe and I followed his advice. Continue reading

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Magnolias – Uptown and Down South in Charleston, South Carolina

 

When I was talking to folks about our upcoming trip to Charleston, one restaurant came up repeatedly and to rave reviews, Magnolias.  This was the reason I had a grilled chicken sandwich for lunch and left most of the fries in the basket.  I was looking forward to an amazing experience and I was not disappointed. Continue reading

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Charleston Sole and Soul Food at Jestine’s Kitchen Will Float Your Ferry Boat!

In my past, I have been a little accident prone on vacations … tripping down a hiking trail and busting up my knee, getting mowed over and knocked down a mountain by a crazy Cajun skiier … you know, that sort of thing.  This was small scale really, but have you ever accidentally stored your soft contacts in hard contact solution?  Let me tell you, it is one big yikes.   That was how I started our Saturday morning … all red eyed, makeup all cried off from my weepy eyeballs.  Not a good start to walk around looking sort of dreadful with eyes that looked like I had been on a four day bender.  Remedy?  Good coffee, proper solution and a good soak of contacts at a lovely little bakery where I had an amazing little quiche and Joe devoured a Thanksgiving fritatta.  Okay, better now. Continue reading

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Mercato – Charleston, South Carolina

With both of our birthdays in such close proximity, Joe and I planned a long weekend food extravaganza in Charleston, South Carolina – a place Joe hadn’t visited since the 80′s and a place I have always longed to visit.  This is the first of six posts and I will tell you up front that I am a little in love with this place … the history, the quaintness and most definitely the food! Continue reading

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Tomorrow Fund’s Battle of the Food Trucks 2012

Being from Nashville, I’m proud to say that I have a little bit of a redneck girl in me … my friends call her “Devil Donna.” You probably know someone of a similar disposition.  So when I found out that the  Tomorrow Fund’s Battle of the Food Trucks is scheduled for a time when I can’t make it the nemesis appeared.  Dang it! I wanted to stomp my girlie clad foot or at least give something a hard pinch with a twist.  Argh! Continue reading

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