We’re tired of somber and gloomy. Turn off the news, call some friends and dust off your good china, feminine frocks and oversized hats. With our Kentucky Derby menu, we hope to interject a little fun and frivolity into the spring.



The annual horse race, dubbed the Race for the Roses, takes place the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.


We’re tired of somber and gloomy. Turn off the news, call some friends and dust off your good china, feminine frocks and oversized hats. With our Kentucky Derby menu, we hope to interject a little fun and frivolity into the spring.

The annual horse race, dubbed the Race for the Roses, takes place the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. This Southern tradition is all about celebrating, even if your horse isn’t the winner.

Our menu updates some classic Southern fare (which can be heavy). In general, use Jeanie Burke’s tips for lightening recipes (substitute olive and canola oils for any bacon, lard or butter in the recipes). A buffet format provides ease for the hostess, and most of the menu can be done days in advance.

Invite some favorite friends, whip up a few mint juleps, and you are good to go for a festive Saturday afternoon. Silly hats are required!

Kentucky Derby Buffet

Mint Juleps

Glazed Ham with Cheddar Biscuits

Sweet Potato Casserole

Sautéed Greens with Pine Nuts and Shallots

Burgoo (traditional Southern stew)

Chocolate Bourbon Baby Bundt Cakes

Pecan Tarts

Mint Juleps

3 cups water

3 cups sugar

8 ounces fresh mint

Crushed ice

Kentucky bourbon whiskey

Combine sugar and water over medium heat in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, and continue to let boil for 5 minutes. Let cool. Add 4 ounces of mint and let the flavors seep.  

To make a Mint Julep, chill a silver julep cup (or use an old fashioned glass or highball), fill with crushed ice, and pour in 1½ tablespoons of the mint simple syrup and 2 ounces of bourbon. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. This recipe yields enough for at least 20 drinks.

Chocolate Bourbon Baby Bundt Cakes

½ cup bourbon

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup butter, cut into small pieces

1½ cup brewed coffee

2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

1¼ teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoons salt

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Chocolate sauce or whipped cream, optional

Butter baby bundt cake pan and dust with an extra 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder. Combine bourbon, cocoa, butter and coffee in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add sugar.  

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add beaten eggs and vanilla into cooled chocolate mixture.

Add flour mixture to the chocolate mixture. Pour batter into baby bundt cake mold and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool and serve with your favorite chocolate sauce or freshly whipped cream. Yields six.

Sweet Potato Casserole

½ cup dried apricots

4 cups sweet potatoes, cut into thin slices

2 medium cooking apples, thinly sliced

1 8-ounce can unsweetened pineapple tidbits, undrained

2 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup low-fat granola

In 1½-quart baking dish coated with nonstick spray, layer apricots, potatoes and apples.

Drain pineapple, reserving juice. Arrange pineapple over apples. Sprinkle brown sugar, cinnamon and reserved juice over top.  

Cover and bake 60 to 70 minutes at 350 degrees. Sprinkle with granola and bake 10 minutes more.

— Recipes from Jeanie Burke

Kiki Benson owns Kiki B’s and A Movable Feast in Rockford, Ill. Jeanie Burke, R.D., L.D., is a community health specialist.