Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wine Country Inspired - Part II - Solvang Style Pork Roast

I promised you one more wine country inspired recipe.  Here you go. 

Solvang Style Pork Roast

It's getting cooler here in Florida, and it's already snowing up north.  I suspect we are in for a cold winter across the US. 

Nothing gets you through a cold snap like a good roast for dinner.   This week is going to be all about roasting; pork, pot roast and chicken.  

I have been to Santa Barbara but never to Santa Barbara wine country.  Near the Santa Ynez mountains, the area was made [more] famous a few years ago by the hit movie "Sideways."  Nearby is a Danish-style town known as Solvang.  I hear that is is a wonderful place to visit for both food and hospitality. 

In doing research I've learned that Danish food has many of the same characteristics as German, Polish, or Slovak food, with the exception of a little more seafood.  This would make sense given the geography. 

Pork is popular in Denmark.  It is often sliced thin for sandwiches, and topped with beets and/or pickled cabbage.  Apples are commonly used in cooking.  

I came up with this recipe which incorporates dried figs.  Now, I doubt this is truly "authentic" Danish, but maybe you can look at this dish as "California Fusion" cuisine.  

For the wine pairing, you might try a Gewürztraminer, or you could go with a German or Danish beer, or maybe a nice, refreshing glass of sweet iced tea as we enjoyed tonight.  Just because it's a "wine inspired" meal doesn't mean that you have to serve wine.

The roast is simply seasoned.   Flavor is added to the roast by way of a mix of savory and sweet ingredients;  fresh cabbage, sauerkraut, apples, the dried figs and sweet onions.  I added a tablespoon of brown sugar and caraway seeds.  Absolutely sensational!

Note:  I cooked this roast in my mom's 50 plus year old  roasting pan with a vented cover.  One of the handles on the rack is missing, and yeah, the pan is very well seasoned.  Every pork roast prepared by my late mom or by me (other than a few crock pot dishes I have tried) has been made in this pan for the last 50 plus years. 

Don't own a 50-year-old roasting pan?   You can easily use a pan with a rack and cover it with tin foil.

For the Pork Roast:

3 1/2 - 4 pound fresh Pork picnic half Roast*
1 tablespoon of Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Water
1 dried Bay Leaf, crushed

For the Veggies and Fruit:

1 cup dried figs, halved; reconstitute in 1/4 cup hot water
2 cups Sauerkraut, drained, liquid reserved
1/2 medium head fresh Cabbage, sliced
1 medium Organic Sweet Onion, sliced thin
1 tablespoon light Brown Sugar
1 cup Water,
1 tablespoon Caraway Seed, plus extra for garnish
1 tablespoon Onion Powder
2 small Granny Smith Apples, cored, and cut into bite-sized pieces (skin on)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Season pork roast.  Place fat side up in roasting pan on rack with 1/2 cup of water and the crushed Bay Leaf.

Lower heat to 325 degrees before placing roast in oven:  This will allow the roast to begin baking at a slightly higher temperature for the first few minutes. 

Place roast in oven on center rack.  Bake, covered, at 325 degrees for 3 hours. 

Tip:  If using a lid with vents, open one of the vents to let a little of the steam escape. 
(I don't know why this works, but trust me, it does. I've been cooking juicy pork roasts like this for years now using this technique).  If using foil, vent the foil on one end of the pan.

Reconstitute figs in hot water.  I do this in a microwave safe bowl for about 3 minutes.  Set aside.

Carefully remove pork roast from oven.  Uncover. 

Raise heat of oven to 375 degrees.

Add Sauerkraut, kraut juice cabbage and onion (around roast) to pan.

Mix the brown sugar into the water and pour over vegetables.  Top with Caraway seeds, figs and apples.  Sprinkle with onion powder.  You can also pour on the remaining water from the figs if you like.

Pork Roast, ready for Round 2 in the oven

Continue to bake, uncovered, for one hour until apples and cabbage are tender.  (I like to stir the veggies a couple of times during this process to get them to braise). 

...A little mashed potato and pork gravy on the side, and you've got a complete meal.  Top with extra caraway seeds (optional).

* Picnic Pork Roast is a little fattier.  It's often used here in the south to make pulled pork.  I selected it for this dish as the fat on top "crackles" as you bake it, and it keeps the roast very moist.  It is also very economical.  Feel free to cut off that "layer" before you serve if like, but I think it adds a certain rustic quality to the dish.

Substitute:  Boston butt (similar, but with a slightly different flavor).

Friday, October 28, 2011

Beef Tenderloin with Italian Béarnaise

October is a big month for me.  A week ago, it was my birthday.   The fun just keeps on coming.  

Today is our 11th wedding anniversary! 

No, it's not Ivana and "The Donald"
It's me and Dan with our "Rent-a-Preacher"
October 28th, 2000
Wyndam Hotel, Tampa, Florida
What a Party!

One thing you learn quickly when you have a late October anniversary – especially if you are married to a sports fan – Game 6 or 7 of the World Series will usually fall on your special day. 

That doesn’t bother me.   A couple of our anniversaries we spent it in Vegas.   In fact, we actually did our "Honeymoon in Vegas."  Only James Caan and Nicolas Cage weren't fighting over me.  It was more like Dan winning at Roulette, and then losing it.  Easy come, easy go.

I recall one year in Vegas where the Yankees - Dan's favorite team - was playing the Florida Marlins.  He got on an elevator wearing a Yankees jersey and a Marlin's hat.  The guy who was already on there asked him if he was "conflicted." ;.)))

Other years we spent it at home.  We've always had fun on our special day no matter what. 

I am also an avid sports fan.  I like baseball, football and NASCAR.  In fact, when Dan and I were planning our wedding in Tampa 11 years ago – he said, “Let’s do it on the 28th, because that’s at the end of Hurricane Season.” 

I said, “You are right.  Why let a tropical storm ruin or big day?” 

Dan smiled and said in return, “I meant Miami Hurricane season.” 
I married him anyway. 

We ARE watching Game 7 tonight.  I am rooting for the Cardinals because I have family in St. Louis.  In fact, when I was six years old, I went to visit family.  I asked my Aunt Helen, "Are we going to go places and do things, or are we just going to sit around the house?"

Oh, but Dan and I will make it up to each other on Sunday by spending the whole day together.  We won't be "sitting around the house."  I guess that's why we are together after 11 years and still going strong. 

Today got me thinking about the demands of modern-day life.  Special days don’t always fall when it’s “convenient.”  In fact, we both were on the road today for our day jobs.  Dan worked a 14 hour day yesterday.  I got home at almost 7 pm due to a rain storm. 

Here is quick and simple meal that will taste like a celebration.  You can make this on your busiest of days.   By the way, our Golden, Eddie, got to partake of some of the beef tonight.  Like most "parents," you have to include the kid(s) in your anniversary celebration.

Our side dish was a simple mash of escarole and white bean, made with a little garlic, crushed red pepper, olive oil, lemon and Parmesan cheese.  Mashing it makes it creamier. I love these starch and veggie combos on busy nights because there is less clean up.

We paired this recipe with Cline Bridgehead Zinfandel Contra Costa County 2009.   

I hope you will enjoy this easy celebration meal!  If you are so inclined, please post your special wedding, honeymoon and anniversary stories in the comments so we can all laugh and share!


1 – 16 ounce Beef Tenderloin
Drizzle or two of Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Course Sea Salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh Ground Pepper, more to taste
½ teaspoon Dried Thyme
½ teaspoon Dried Rosemary

For the Sauce:

1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Packet Béarnaise Sauce Mix
1 cup Cold 2% Milk
1 Cup Petite Diced Tomatoes, drained of Juice
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh Basil

Preheat oven to 450°.

Heat a cast iron skillet until it’s smoking hot.

Drizzle tenderloin with olive oil.  Add salt, pepper and dried herbs to both sides, pressing to make that the herbs stick.

Add tenderloin to hot pan.  Sear on one side, about 2 -3 minutes.

Flip and immediately place pan in hot oven.

Cook for approximately 15 minutes for medium rare.

Let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

To make the sauce:
Whisk all ingredients together in a sauce pan.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer, about two minutes.  Serve immediately over sliced tenderloin. 

It is a Friday night.  No work tomorrow so we topped it off  with a nightcap of Eric Ross 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel Port; Dry Creek Valley.

Cheers, and happy celebrating!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wine Country on a Budget - And MK's Napa Burger

MK's Napa Burger
with Crispy Thyme Onions

As I mentioned in a previous post, Dan and I were recently in California wine country.

Tonight's recipe (pictured above), was also inspired by our trip. Being that we are on a tight budget, we wanted to explore as much as we could on our free days without breaking the bank.  I wanted to share a few tips with you before I post my recipe. 

This isn't exactly going to be "Forty Dollars a Day."  It will probably remind you more of Fran Drescher's parents on Rosie back in the the 90's talking about the "early bird specials."  ;.)

Hey, I do live in Florida.  When in Rome, or Leesburg...

 Dan and his friend at Cline

We had to make a quick visit to Cline winery, which is one of our favorites.  My husband, Dan, is also a great home cook.  He keeps a personal cooking notebook including his collection of recipes.  On the cover is a picture of Dan posing with this guy.  Every time we visit out there now, we just have to try to duplicate the picture. 

We are easily amused.

Unfortunately, Monday is "bus tour" day at the Cline winery, so we weren't able to really do any tasting.  We purchased our favorite bottle and quickly moved on.

After Cline, we visited our very, very favorite, Eric Ross Winey.  I am going to save writing about that one when I do my last "wine country inspired" post;  along with pictures from the mountains headed back to Napa that will take your breath away! 

From there we had a huge lunch at Cafe Citti in Kenwood. We had their famous clam pizza, which I have been dreaming about since I last had it in 2008.   It was better than I remembered!

Then, it was back to Napa!

If you are up for walking (which is the best way to taste wine), Downtown Napa has been totally re-vamped in the last few years.  One of the best deals is the "Taste Downtown Napa" wine card.  For $20 a person, you can visit eleven downtown wineries and wine shops.  Wines range in prices, and some are hard to find California wines (limited production) -- there is something for every palate and wallet. 

It will take you a couple of days to visit all of them - even we can't taste that much in a given day!   We actually started the walking tour on Sunday and finished it upon return from Sonoma on Monday. 

Each venue has it's own deal with the card, from full flights to a glass paired with a bit of chocolate. 

My favorites on the walking wine tour were  --

Mason (great tasting room experience and great wines).  The manager actually delivered the wine we purchased back to our hotel so we would not have to carry it.  Of course, we were staying at a downtown Napa location, so don't expect this service if you are staying up valley.  I have to write this obvious disclaimer because you know how goofy people are these days.  Someone planning on staying in Calistoga will read this and expect the same level of service.  ***Sigh***

With the card, The Napa General Store offered an upgrade of a half price premium tasting for $7.50 per person.  It's worth it, so take the deal if it's offered to you.  Great wines there!

And then there is Uncorked.  If you are visiting Uncorked on a weekend, be sure to ask for Tom.  Tom has a big personality.  He knows everything about the wines and is just engaging to listen to.   The wine club offer is one of the best I've seen.

Barrel Tasting
Uncorked, Napa, CA
Uncorked features Ahnfeldt Wines.  From the website; "Consulting Winemaker Paul Hobbs, assistant wine maker Julian Gonzalez, and Crossbarn operations director Jason Valenti will now be producing the Ahnfeldt and Carducci lines of premium wines."

For dinner we wanted something not too heavy.  We stopped by The Bounty Hunter .  This is also a stop on the wine card.  You get a free small glass of wine for just stopping in.  After all, the Bounty Hunter began as a way for people to get their hands on great wines.  

Now, it's so much more.  When you stop by, you are sure to stay to eat.  They do have the best BBQ in Napa.

Look at the big plate of food that we split for ten bucks;  BBQ Beef, pork and ribs, served with coleslaw.  Three sauces are served on the side.  Delish!

Monday night special at The Bounty Hunter

Not included on the wine card but a "must see" for wine lovers and movie buffs, you have got to stop in and visit GustavoThrace winery.  Gustavo was depicted in the hit comedy movie "Bottleshock."   

After tasting his wines, one thing is clear; Gustavo was born to be a winemaker!

Photo of Gustavo with actor Freddy Rodriguez
GustavoThrace Tasting Room, Napa, CA

Gustavo's business partner, Thrace, is a total sweetie and a talented winemaker in her own right.  When I asked Thrace, "So how does your tasting work?" She replied, "I pour it into a glass and you drink it."  

The tasting is free.  

FYI, Thrace Bromberger also has a her own brand of wine called Toolbox, which she crafts along with two other female winemakers, Katie Hamilton Schaffer and Nancy Otton.

Proceeds from Toolbox wines go to Habitat for Humanity.

The recipe I am posting tonight would pair well with Thrace's Toolbox Napa Valley Merlot or Beringer's Founder's Estate Merlot (one of my other personal favorites). Both wines are very reasonably priced.  And masterful Beringer Winemaker Laurie Hook is also a great example of the growing number of women who are conquering the wine making industry in California.  Love it! 

We are women, hear us roar!  Sorry.  I am an old feminist at heart.

Oh, yeah, I did promise you a recipe tonight.  In case you forgot, it looks like this:

With no further adieu, here is tonight's recipe; my own wine country inspired burger.  Now, you can use store-bought fig preserves, or you can make your own.  This recipe calls for store-bought. 

Whatever you decide, wine country on a budget never tasted so good!

For the Burger:

One pound of ground Meatloaf Mix (Veal, Pork and Beef or Pork and Beef)
1 tablespoon Grill Seasoning for Steak
1/2 cup crumbled Goat Cheese
1/4 cup Fig Preserves
2 sliced Ciabatta Rolls

For the Onions:
1 small sweet onion, sliced thin
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons dried Thyme

Other:  Cooking Spray; lettuce, sliced tomato

Add grill seasoning and goat cheese to meatloaf mixture.  Form into two even patties.

Spray non-stick skillet with cooking spray.  Cook burgers on one side for about five minutes.  Flip and continue to cook for another three-to-four minutes until burger reaches desired temperature.

Brush each burger with 1/2 of the fig preserves.

Meanwhile, saute onions in olive oil and melted butter.  Add in dried thyme.  Cook until onions are slightly crispy on the ends.

Serve on Ciabatta rolls with lettuce and tomato.  Top with onions.

PS -  The burger that's in the header on this page is my Cheddar-Chive Dijon Chicken Burger.

If you like burgers, simply type key word "burgers" in the search box at the top of the blog.

I'll be back with one more "wine country inspired" recipe this weekend!

Note:  Not a paid endorsement for the establishments or wineries contained within this post, and no product was supplied to blogger for use in this blog.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Oktoberfest Roast Chicken with Apples

I see by the number of hits on my page that many of you enjoyed my wine country post.  I'll be back with more wine inspired recipes within the next couple of weeks.  

I have to take you on a side journey to Bavaria for Oktoberfest... or at least to Mama Pirri's "active adult" community in Leesburg, Florida.  Those seniors do know how to party!

Authentic German Food
Royal Highlands Oktoberfest 2011
Leesburg, Florida

Saturday night was the famous Oktoberfest celebration.  Let me tell you, it was a hoot.  Dan and I went along with Mama Pirri and just look at all the food that was included. 

I am on a di- di-- weight adjustment program.  Many of you noted in my picture that I've lost quite a bit of weight since I made my last video for this blog.   I appreciate the compliments.   I still would like to take off a few more pounds before the holidays.  I have never done well on diet programs.  I just like to moderate my lifestyle, eat healthy and exercise and the weight normally comes off for me. 

So... I came up with this healthy Oktoberfest meal that you can make for your family and friends.  You still get the "flavor" of the fall season, without the extra calories;  I substituted whole grain noodles for the potatoes or the dumplings.

Brathähnchen mit Äpfeln

I did a Google search on Chicken with Apples and the nearest translation that I can find is -  Brathähnchen mit Äpfeln.  I am going to call this dish just that -- if any of my friends out there speak German, you can tell me if this is correct.  

I grew up in a Slovak, Polish and Rusyn ** family, but the only words I learned in those languages were choice words that I cannot repeat here (this is a family blog).  Actually, I do know a few food names so when I post those recipes I'll try to post them also with the authentic titles. 

**No, that is not a typo on Russian.  I 'll give you an Eastern European history lesson some time if you do not know.

You are going to love how this smells when it bakes.   You get apple sent, followed by the pop of the caraway seeds.  You will even love it better once you taste it. 

I don't serve the stuffing.  I use it as a aromatic to flavor the chicken.   I get the apple flavor from the gravy. 

Here we go with my version of Brathähnchen mit Äpfeln. 

1 - 3 1/2 pound all natural whole Chicken, cleaned and giblets removed
Sea Salt, to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
2 small Granny Smith Apples, diced and divided
1/2 small yellow Onion, diced
2 tablespoons Grill Seasoning for Chicken
1 tablespoon All-Vegetable Shortening (I used Crisco)*
3 small Carrots, sliced
2 stalks Celery, chopped
1/2 pound Brussels Sprouts, cleaned and halved
1 tablespoon Caraway Seeds
1 cup Cold Water
2 tablespoon Sour Apple Schnapps
1  .87 ounce package Chicken Gravy Mix

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Salt and Pepper inside of chicken cavity.  Stuff with half of the apple and half of the onion. 

Place chicken in roasting pan.   Rub the chicken with the shortening and season with the grill seasoning.

*Try to find a shortening that is 50% less fat than butter for healthful results.

Add the carrots, celery and Brussels sprouts around chicken.  Mix cold water and schnapps together and pour over vegetables.  Salt and pepper to taste (optional).

Bake chicken uncovered for 1/2 hour until the skin starts to become golden. 

Baste vegetables with pan juices.

Reduce heat to 325 degrees.   Cover with tin foil or roasting pan lid (if you have one).  Continue to bake for 45 minutes until internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 F. and juices run clear. 

Prepare gravy by package directions but add in the remaining apple and onion.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and serve over chicken. 

Top chicken with gravy.  Serve vegetables over noodles along with pan juices.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wine Country Inspired - Part I

MK's Wine Country Colcannon
Served with Dan's Perfectly Pan Seared Filet Mignon
 Topped with my Warm Fig Jam and Gorgonzola

Note:  Please do not forget to click on my pics to get the "Full Food Monty!"

Today is my 49th birthday.   Errgh…  And I woke up to the sad realization that I will never be a “Bond Girl.” 

Darn!   ;.)   I think that ship sailed some time ago.

But seriously, folks...

Many of you who read this blog are out on Facebook and I appreciate all the good birthday wishes you sent me today on my wall.  I’ve said it before but food bloggers are the nicest people!

Why am I blogging tonight?   Dan helped me cook and he helped with dishes and he said, "You love this so much, you wouldn't have it any other way."  So he ate the cake and fell asleep on the couch -- snuggled up to our precious Golden, Eddie... and I am up late blogging.   ;.)))  

Dan and Me at a Wine Dinner at Stags' Leap

I had a great early birthday present this past week.  I had the opportunity to accompany my husband to northern California on personal business.  We had two free days to spend in Napa and Sonoma.  While in Napa on our own, we had the opportunity to dine at Cuvee.  That was our one "splurge" meal.  (I will be posting a Wine Country on a Budget post next week).

I do not do restaurant reviews because my mother taught me to only say something nice –  I can't say enough good things about this place!

Executive Chef Jordan Mackey creates simple but elegant Napa Valley “comfort food.”  The menu is affordable; so if you are on a tight budget like we are right now, you can splurge on a night on the town and not break the bank.

Dan had the scallops.  He was wowed by the surprise of a little bit of green apple on top.  The scallops were cooked just perfectly.  They were so juicy and succulent.   The plating was beautiful.

I had the hanger steak.  Delicious.   I have been trying to figure out the secret ingredient in the sauce, but I just can’t. 

We started our meal with the Potato Dumplin’ Bruleé.  We added the Cauliflower  Gratin with bacon and five cheeses as a side dish.  We finished our great meal with the Apple Brown Betty for dessert. 

Check out the menu for the delicious descriptions!

I’m no food critic, but I give this place five out of five stars for food, presentation, atmosphere and great service.  When in Napa, check it out.  Cuvee is located near downtown Napa next to the River Terrace Inn.

The visit to this restaurant inspired me to come up with my own wine country comfort cuisine.  Over the next two weeks, I'm going to be posting some amazing new recipes that I know you are going to love.  Of course, I will find some way to make them healthier and affordable to prepare. 

Since today is my birthday, my husband, Dan, cooked me the perfectly pan seared filet.   I topped it with my fig jam and Gorgonzola crumbles – sorry my fig jam recipe is Top Secret! 

I served it all up with this simple side dish.  Paired with this wonderful Stonehedge 2008 Terroir Select Pinot Noir, we had the perfect celebration meal.

MK's Wine Country Colcannon

½ pound Red Potatoes
½ tablespoon Butter
½ tablespoon Olive Oil
¼ cup chopped Sweet Onion
1 – 9 ounce box frozen Creamed Spinach (suggest an organic brand, low in sodium)
½ teaspoon Nutmeg
Sea Salt, to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan and Romano
Drizzle Garlic Infused Olive Oil (suggest Figone's)*

Boil potatoes in water until fork tender.  Drain.

In the same pan, melt butter with olive oil.  Sauté onion for three minutes, until it softens and slightly browns.

Microwave spinach for three minutes. 

Combine spinach in pan with onions.  Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.

Add potatoes and smash with potato masher to desired consistency. 

Add grated cheese and stir.

Serve with a drizzle of the garlic olive oil. 

No product was supplied to blogger and not a paid endorsement.

*You can order online at:
I know this oil seems a little pricey at first glace. 

Remember, this is a finishing olive oil, so a little goes a long way! 
Store it in your pantry, well-sealed, and it will last.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mama Pirri's Chicken Scarpiello

Hi, everyone.   I'm back from a fun trip out of town.  Tomorrow I return to work and to reality.

Mama Pirri

You've all met Mama Pirri before.  Everyone loves her sausage and peppers.

Mama Pirri has been helping me out quite a bit as I am going through a series of outpatient procedures (next to the last one next Friday... yea!)   We flew in late last night and Mama Pirri had not only helped me out by cleaning my house and watching the famous Mr. Eddie (our Golden), but she also had this wonderful Chicken Scarpiello dish waiting for us. 

Mama Pirri's Chicken Scarpiello

Mama Pirri is allowing me to share her secret recipe with you all.  It's inspired by a dish she once had when she worked at the famous JR's restaurant in Stamford, CT.  Of course, Mama Pirri always mixes it up and makes it her own.

Here's what you need:

8 Chicken Legs, skin on
4 Chicken Thighs, skin on
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon Garlic Powder, divided
2/3 cup Olive Oil
5 Sweet Italian Sausage links, halved
5 Hot Italian Sausage links, halved
1/2 pound Red Potatoes, cut into 8 - 10 pieces (depending on size)
2 cups Sweet Cherry Peppers, stemmed and seeded
1 cup Sweet Cherry Pepper Juice
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Dredge chicken in flour seasoned with half of the garlic powder and black pepper.  Brown Chicken in half of the olive oil.

Place sausage and potatoes in separate pans.  Coat both items with the remaining olive oil - 2 parts on the sausage and one part on the potatoes.  Sprinkle potatoes with the remaining garlic powder and toss.

Place chicken in baking pan.  Add cherry peppers, juice, vinegar and Parmesan cheese. 

Bake all three items in separate pans for one hour (chicken should be covered with foil; sausage and potatoes remain uncovered).

After one hour, remove potatoes and sausage.  Keep potatoes warm. 

Carefully combine sausage in the pan with the chicken.  Continue to bake for another 30 minutes.  

Combine the potatoes into the Scarpiello and serve.  Top with extra juice if desired.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lemon Fennel Chicken

Lemon Fennel Chicken

Here is another easy weeknight meal; crispy lemon chicken roasted with sweet fennel.  Use those fennel frawns to make a simple side dish of roasted red potatoes and carrots with dill and honey. 

This is going to be your "go to" and affordable Autumn meal.


4 Chicken Leg Quarters or a combination of thighs and legs, skin on
2 teaspoons Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Grill Seasoning for Chicken (I used Weber Canadian Chicken)
Juice of Two Lemons, rinds reserved and quartered
1/4 cup dry White Wine or Low Sodium Chicken Broth
2 Fennel Bulbs, sliced
2 tablespoons Fennel frawn; more for garnish
Fresh Oregano or Basil for garnish, optional

For the Side Dish:

On pound red potatoes, quartered or halved (depending on the size)
4 carrots, cleaned and sliced
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons Fennel Frawn
2 tablespoon freshly chopped Dill
Sea Salt, to taste
Freshly ground Black Pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rub chicken with the two teaspoons of olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning.

Add sliced fennel to bottom of roasting pan.  Add lemon juice, rinds, wine or broth to pan.  Top with chicken.  Top that with the fennel frawns.

Toss potatoes and sliced carrots in olive oil and honey.

Bake both for 45 minutes, uncovered, turning potatoes once.

Garnish with fresh herbs.

It's that simple!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cajun Snapper and Shrimp

Cajun Snapper and Shrimp
with Lemon Basil Rice

This is a dish I made some time ago but I never got around to posting.  I don’t know why, as it was totally awesome.  It is one of the easiest fish dishes to prepare.  Using a little help from the store, you and whip this up in no time flat!

Serves 4


1 tablespoon plus on teaspoon Olive Oil
1 small Green Bell Pepper, diced
1 small Yellow Onion, diced
4 – 4 ounce Snapper Fillets
1 tablespoon Cajun Seasoning
1 medium fresh Tomato, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons Butter, cubed
16 large Wild Caught Shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons Jerk Seasoning

For the Rice:

1 – 10 ounce package Saffron Yellow Rice
Zest of One Lemon
7 fresh, torn Basil Leaves

Other:  Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add on tablespoon of Olive Oil to medium skillet.  Sauté pepper and onion for three minutes until softened.  

Spray glass baking dish with cooking spray.  Add softened peppers and onions to the dish. 

Sprinkle snapper fillets with Cajun Seasoning on both sides.  In the same skillet you used for the peppers and onions, add two cubes of the butter and cook fish for two minutes on one side.  Place cooked side down on top the peppers and onions in the glass baking dish. 

Note:  You can skip the one side browning step for the fish if you desire.  (This will give the fish a little bit of a crust for the presentation).

Top fish with tomatoes and cubed butter

Bake for 20 minutes, until fish flakes.

Using the same skillet, add the additional teaspoon of olive oil.  Coat the shrimp in the Jerk seasoning.  Sauté for about three-to-four minutes until shrimp turn pink.  Do not overcook. 

Add zest to rice and cook per package directions.  Fluff with fork.

To serve family style, pour the shrimp mixture over top of the cooked fish and top with fresh basil.   Serve rice on the side (you can top the rice with more basil if you wish). 
Another option is to plate everything up in single servings as shown above (four shrimp per person with each piece of fish).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Amazing Asiago Potato Wedges

I usually post side dishes as an afterthought.  But these deserved their own showcase.  Simple, easy, and so very good. 

Asiago is an Italian cow's milk cheese.  I love it on pasta or on salad.  I also put it on my fantastic white pizza the other night.   In case you missed this post, check it out:

I decided to try something different.  Wow, did this turn out great.  This is a fantastic steakhouse side dish.

Serves 4
Prep Time:  5 Minutes
Cook Time:  30 Minutes


2 Baker Potatoes, sliced into eight wedges
1/8 cup Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Italian Seasoning
1/2 tablespoon Garlic Salt
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
2/3 cup Shredded Asiago Cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place baking rack on top of cookie sheet. 

Add potatoes, olive oil, Italian seasoning and garlic salt to a plastic bag.  Coat potato wedges with mixture by shaking and moving the sealed bag.

Remove wedges from bag.  Smear each potato with an equal amount of the mayonnaise.  Coat with the Asiago cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Chicken and "Yellow" Rice with Avocado and Tomato Salad

Chicken and "Yellow" Rice
with Avocado and Tomato Salad

There are few salads that I love more in life than fresh Avocado paired with fresh tomato, a little minced onion and garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh lime juice. 

Top  it off with fresh Culantro or Cilantro and wow!

Sunday, hubby Dan and our Golden, Eddie, went to the Clermont Farmer's Market.  I promise I will bring you a special post from there very soon.

Look at the size of this Avocado -

Look at the pit!

I only used a third of this tonight to make the incredible salad.

But what to make for a main dish?  Well, I had Sofrito on hand in the freezer from last week.

I also had chicken leg quarters on hand and all of the other ingredients except... so Saffron, which is a traditional and expensive ingredient in yellow rice. 

I bought Saffron once.  When the tube it was stored in opened up in my fridge, I thought I would have a heart attack.  It was like spilling gold.  

Sure I could have run to the store and bought a package of yellow rice mix.  But try this; I guarantee you, you will not miss the Saffron at all! 

Now all the ingredients you see here tonight, except for the chicken, make enough for four servings.  I only added chicken for two.  I made the extra rice as my hubby likes to take it to work the next day.  If you want to truly make this a dish to serve four, just use a slightly bigger Dutch oven than I show here and add the two extra pieces of chicken.  I am writing the recipe for four -- as not to confuse you as to why you only see two pieces of chicken.

Ingredients for the Chicken and Rice:

2 tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Chicken Leg Quarters, skin on
2 teaspoons Adobo Seasoning
2/3 cup diced Green Bell Pepper
2/3 cup diced white Onion
1/2 cup Sofrito (home style or red store-bought), divided
1 cup Valencia short grain Rice
1 12 ounce light Beer**
2 cups Water, divided
Sea Salt, to taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon Annato
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 teaspoon Paprika
2 teaspoons Dried Cilantro or Marjoram 
1/2 cup frozen Peas
Fresh Culantro or Cilantro for Garnish, optional

For the Salad:

1 Florida Avocado, chopped
2 Tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Sea Salt, to taste
Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste
Juice of one Lime
Fresh chopped Culantro or Cilantro

** Don't want to use beer because you're serving this to the kiddies?  You can sub low sodium chicken broth, but I would greatly reduce the amount of salt you use in this dish.  There is plenty of sodium in the Sofrito -

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a heavy Dutch oven, heat the olive oil.  Sprinkle chicken with Adobo. 

Brown lightly on both sides.  Remove to a plate.

Add green pepper, onions and 1/2 of the Sofrito.  Cook over medium heat for five minutes. 

Add rice, beer, half of the water, and remaining seasonings.  Stir in dried Cilantro or Marjoram.  Add chicken.  Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.

Once oven is up to temperature, cover with lid and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  At the end of that time, carefully remove the pot from the oven.  Add the peas, the remaining water and remaining sofrito.  Stir gently and return pot to oven, uncovered.

Bake for a remaining ten minutes.

Keep warm on stove until ready to serve. 

For the salad, simply combine all ingredients and let it hang out at room temperature for at least 15-20 minutes.

Eddie, resting after a fun day at the farmer's market.

Notes:  I served this with store-bought frozen plantains.  No product was supplied to blogger and not a paid endorsement.