Spain-Inspired Dinner


One of the casualties of my returning to work full time a few years back was having people over for dinner.  Mostly because my dining room table became ground zero for all “work in process”: unfolded laundry, unpaid bills, school books and bags of chips that no one had time to put away.  I couldn’t even begin to think about entertaining as the task of organizing the chaos was overwhelming.

Towards the end of last year, I was feeling especially disconnected from friends.  And I realized how much I missed those dinner parties. I also realized it was about time I got a handle on the disorganization that had taken over my house, so I spent a few weekends cleaning and purging and FINALLY seeing my dining room table for the first time!20170211_185110500_ios

Then the planets aligned with a few other couples whose sons wrestled in high school with our son and we got a date to gather and wine and dine!  I thought a sunny Spain-inspired menu would be the perfect way to break up the mid-winter monotony.  For starters I put together this platter of traditional Spanish cheeses and charcuterie: Cana de Cabra (tangy goat cheese), Campo de Montalban (a 100 day aged cheese is a blend of cow, sheep and goat‚Äôs milk from La Mancha), prosciutto, sausages and my favorite Marcona Almonds.20170212_001516606_ios

Olives too!  Oh my…these Castelvetrano Olives Marinated with Rosemary, Red Chili, Orange and Paprika were spectacular: 20170211_191404314_ios-1

There are so many versions of paella, it was difficult deciding which one to make!  I ended up with this Chicken and Seafood Paella from Jo Cooks since it offers a bit of everything.  A little tweaking was necessary as I omitted the clams, added some chopped roasted red peppers and about one cup of peas at the end.  16/20 shrimp is the perfect size and andouille sausage can easily be substituted if chorizo is not available.  With the right equipment and best quality ingredients (see Resources section below), this dish was a knock-out:20170212_023654293_ios-1

Because I love wine and especially Spanish wine, there was plenty of it to go around as well. For red, I chose a silky Tempranillo : 2014 Hito Cepa 21 available locally at Binny’s Beverage Depot for just $13.99/bottle.  Be sure to decant this one about an hour before serving so all of its complex fruit and smooth tannins are at their best.  For white, I didn’t want to veer too far into anything floral, so opted for a 2015 Naia Verdejo, which had just enough straw and citrus to compliment the seafood and work with the more assertive saffron/smoked paprika elements in the dish.  Available at Binny’s for just $10.00/bottle.  It’s a great value!

We ended the evening with chocolate covered strawberries, other sweets and of course more wine!

To me this is what cooking is all about and I can’t wait to gather friends together for another meal to share.  Whether I can keep my dining room table cleared until then remains to be seen ūüėČ

Until next time, be well, eat well and love lots!



PAELLA PAN – Do you HAVE to buy one to make paella?  Well yes and no.  The week before I gave the recipe a test run in a shallow Le Crueset pan and it was very good.   For my dinner party, I borrowed a more authentic paella pan from a friend and the paella was even better. The large surface area and dimpled carbon steel base allowed for even cooking and that wonderful authentic paella “crust” to form on the bottom.  Would also make a great pan for sauteeing vegetables and for other rice-based dishes.  At just $29.95 for a 15″ pan (large enough to make a paella for 8),  at Williams Sonoma, how can you resist!20170212_153824811_ios

SAFFRON – In addition to a paella pan, it’s worth investing in some good quality saffron for this dish, as it is truly the star flavor ingredient.  Unless you’re in a bind, I would not recommend supermarket saffron as it is typically grossly overpriced and has likely been sitting on the shelf for ever.  Instead, head to Amazon and purchase a bottle of this Mehr Premium All Red Saffron.  3 grams will run you around $20 and yes I know that is a lot of money but this is a generous quantity and will last you a long time.  And with this stunning silky gift box, think of it as a gift to yourself!20170208_000645233_ios

OLIVE DISH – Part of the fun of entertaining is digging through my shelves of serving plates, glassware, etc. It’s amazing how much I’ve accumulated over the years. This pretty ceramic olive bowl makes frequent appearances at parties. Mainly because I LOVE olives and serve them at almost every occasion.  One compartment for the olives, one for toothpicks and a third for pits.  And it just happens to have been made in Spain. Perfect!  Available online at La Tienda for $29.95 + shipping.20170212_151906702_ios


Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast | Dinner Is ServedPretty sure I have mentioned on more than one occasion that I have a small kitchen, with about 5 ft. of usable but non-continuous counter space. It’s something that to be honest, I use to complain about. A lot. ¬†But as with many struggles in life, you grow to accept the limitations, and these days instead of complaining, I just find creative ways of dealing with it.

That said, Thanksgiving has always proven to be a challenge. Definitely “think outside the box” time. And more than ever the appliance for which I am most thankful is my¬†slow cooker.Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast | Dinner Is Served

In the past, I’ve put mine to use for preparing and serving mashed potatoes. ( Highly recommend this¬†recipe from Cooking Classy!¬†) ¬†I’ve also put my smaller cooker to use to keep gravy warm.

This year with a larger-than-average group assembling at my house and most of them white-meat lovers, I’ve decided to cook an extra turkey breast guessed it: the slow cooker!Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast 2 Dinner Is Served

You’ll definitely want to boost the flavor a bit and for that, I love this garlic and rosemary paste.Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast 3 Dinner Is Served

Just spread a little underneath the skin and again on top of the breast after browning. It adds just the right amount of savory touch.

Really that’s all there is too it. ¬†Just simmer away in some chicken stock for about 5-6 hours. You can make slice the breast ahead of time and re-heat. Added bonus too: the reserved liquid makes a fantastic gravy (instructions follow recipe).

Of course you can make a slow cooker turkey breast any day of the year! But especially on Thanksgiving, if you are also blessed with a small kitchen, large crowd and need a little extra turkey to serve, this recipe is a lifesaver.

Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast 4 Dinner Is Served

Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

  • 1 bone-in or boneless (rolled and tied) fresh turkey breast (about 5#)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 TBS fresh minced rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 4 TBS olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup roughly chopped celery
  • 1 cup roughly chopped onion
  • 3/4 cups chicken or turkey stock

Puree the garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper & paprika in a mini food processor. Add 2 TBS of the olive oil ad process until a paste forms (this can also be done with a mortar and pestle).

Rinse the breast under cold water and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels.

Using your fingers, loosen the skin on the turkey breast and spread about half of the paste onto the meat, distributing evenly. Pull skin back over meat (use toothpicks to secure skin if necessary). Sprinkle with a little extra salt and pepper.

Heat the remaining 2 TBS olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear turkey breast on all sides until golden.

Place celery and onions in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place turkey on top of vegetables, breast side up. Spread remaining paste over top of breast, distributing evenly.  Pour in chicken broth.  Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours, until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Remove breast from slow cooker and let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Serves 6

~~~~~~~~For Gravy~~~~~~~~

Strain the solids from the slow cooker and skim off any fat. You should have about 1-2 cups of stock,  Add additional chicken or turkey stock to bring to 4 cups. Bring to a simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes. Keep warm.

In a second saucepan, melt 2 TBS unsalted butter over medium heat. Whisk in 2 TBS all-purpose flour and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until mixture is golden.  Slowly whisk in reserved stock, whisking constantly, until smooth.

Reduce heat to low and simmer gravy, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened. If desired, add in a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet¬ģ in for a deep rich brown color. ¬†Season to taste, adding additional salt and black pepper if desired.

Grilled Spice Rubbed Chicken with Fresh Tomato, Basil & Olive Salad

Grilled Spice Rubbed Chicken with Tomato, Basil & Olive Salad

The first comment my co-worker made when sampling this dish last week was “Oh my god, this is amazing! ¬†Are these tomatoes from your garden?” ¬†I thanked her for the compliment, then sadly had to admit, that no, they were store bought tomatoes. ¬†It’s a bit of a sore subject for me this summer, as photos of tomato harvests come in from friends on Twitter and Facebook. ¬†We’re talking bushels of glorious red, ripe tomatoes, some coming from gardens a mere couple of blocks away. ¬† And yet here in my little back yard, for reasons I cannot explain, my tomatoes have been a total bust.

Bakers Acres

As you can see above, it hasn’t been all bad. ¬†I’m in basil and kale overload and those cabbages are looking pretty darned beautiful. ¬†Guess I’ll just have to accept the fail and move on, right? ¬† Which, I am MORE than happy to move on to this completely awesome dish that works with any kind of tomatoes, garden grown or not. ¬†I mean, just look at this glorious salad, made with just about everything I love on the planet:

Grilled Spice Rubbed Chicken with Tomato, Basil & Olive Salad| Dinner Is Served

If you’re thinking “To heck with the chicken, I just want this salad,” I can’t say I blame you. ¬†The flavors are so bright and complimentary. ¬†In fact if you tossed in some grilled bread, you’d have an almost perfect panzanella (making mental note to try that next time). ¬†

Of course, this versatile salad goes with just about anything that will be coming off your grill right now: shrimp, swordfish, flank steak, and yes, chicken!  Speaking of that chicken, let me state for the record, that this spice rub is fun and unique and definitely worth a try:

Grilled Spice Rubbed Chicken with Tomato, Basil & Olive Salad | Dinner Is ServedIt’s worth grilling a few extra breasts, then refrigerating them to use in a salad or a wrap the next day. ¬†And the salad (assuming there’s any leftover), will keep for a few days as well in the fridge. ¬†One of those “gift that keeps on giving” kind of meals I love making. ¬†Teen tested, co-worker tested and approved too! ¬†Now off to check out kale and cabbage recipes!

Grilled Spice Rubbed Chicken with Tomato, Basil & Olive Salad

Spice Rub:

2 tsp dark brown sugar

2 tsp crushed or finely chopped fennel seeds (see Note>)

1 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika

1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

1 tsp. Kosher salt


2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered (or any type of fresh tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped)

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped Kalamata olives

2 TBS drained capers

2 TBS (or more to taste) torn fresh basil leaves

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 TBS fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Vegetable oil

Combine ingredients for spice rub in a small bowl. Pat chicken breasts dry; drizzle both sides with a little of the vegetable oil and rub in.  Sprinkle both sides with the spice rub and let stand about 10 minutes.

For the salad, combine all ingredients in a small glass bowl.  Add additional lemon juice, olive oil, salt and/or pepper as desired.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.  Oil grate or spray with grill-grade non stick spray. Place chicken breasts on grill, smooth side down. Grill for about 4 minutes, or until grill marks have been achieved. Reduce heat to medium, then flip chicken over.  Cover grill and continue cooking until chicken is just cooked through and juices run clear, about 5 additional minutes depending on thickness of breasts.

Transfer chicken to a platter, tent with foil and let rest for a few minutes.  Slice and serve with salad.

Serves 4-6

Note> If you have not yet purchased a Mortar & Pestle , this recipe is the perfect excuse to add one to your kitchen!  Perfect for grinding spices (like the fennel seeds), crushing garlic or even making pesto or guacamole (in the traditional way).  Alternatively spices may be finely chopped by hand or in a coffee grinder that has been designated as a spice grinder.  

Sauteed Lemony Pepper Chicken

Sauteed Lemony Pepper Chicken

Anyone with a smart phone surely has had one or two or a thousand , amusing/cringe worthy stories about auto-correct fails. ¬† Some are so epic, they find their way to sites like Facebook and Instagram and cause people like me to laugh till our stomachs hurt. ¬† ¬†One of my personal favorites occurred a few years back when I was making reference to a nearby town called Lemont. ¬†Which my auto- correct decided should read ¬†“lemony”. ¬†My friend got quite the kick out of that one, asking me where “Lemony, IL” was located. ¬†*rolls eyes.

So, in honor of the great town of Lemony, I bring you this super simple, super quick chicken. ¬†If you’ve followed my blog for any period of time, you may notice a similarity to my Chicken with Herbes de Provence (7/30/2011). ¬†Although the flavorings and timing are slightly different, the technique remains the same: ¬†season chicken breasts, brown them in butter, then cover and let rest to let the residual heat finish cooking the chicken. ¬†The result is always incredible moist chicken, with a nice little browned butter sauce to add the finishing touch.

For this recipe, I am recommending Trader Joe’s lovely Lemon Pepper Seasoning Blend:

Sauteed Lemony Pepper ChickenI dig grinding my own spices and this is such a versatile combo, it’s been lemon pepper mania here lately.

I will also suggest insist that you always purchase good quality chicken breasts. ¬†Like this:¬†Sauteed Lemony Pepper ChickenSauteed Lemony Pepper ChickenIdeally in the 7-8-ounce range. ¬†Ideally all natural or organic . ¬†You’ve heard the phrase “garbage in, garbage out”? ¬†Well that is one of THE foundations of good cooking. ¬†You just cannot take stringy, processed, monster chicken breasts and make this recipe (or any other) turn out ok.

Some parting remarks: by all means double the recipe!  Leftovers are terrific in wraps, sandwiches and salads.  Before long, your family will be singing the praises of lemony chicken and should you or they, ever meet up with someone from Lemont, IL, please tell them they inspired one darned good recipe.

Sauteed Lemony Pepper Chicken

  • 2 – 2 1/2 ¬†TBS unsalted butter
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, preferably all natural, about 7-8 oz. each
  • Lemon Pepper seasoning (preferably Trader Joe’s)
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 thin slices fresh lemon

Season the smooth (presentation) side of each breast with the Lemon Pepper seasoning and some Kosher salt. ¬†In a medium-sized skillet, heat the butter on medium high heat until it’s foaming.

Place the breasts, seasoned side down, in the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes.  While the breast is cooking, season the other side with Lemon Pepper and salt.  The breast should be well browned at this point.  Using tongs, carefully turn the breasts over and continue browning on the second side for about 4 minutes.  At this point you can add the lemon slices to the skillet while the chicken is browning.  Cook lemon slices about 30 seconds on each side, just to get some color.

You will notice that the butter will start to brown a bit while you’re sauteeing the breasts. ¬†This is a good thing! ¬†However at any point, if you notice the butter starting to burn or smoke, reduce heat to medium.

After chicken has been browned on both sides, flip over once more.  Place browned lemon slices on top of breasts.  Cover pan and turn off heat.  Let pan sit for at least 8 minutes or up to 15 minutes.

Transfer breasts to a plate or to a cutting board to slice.  Serve with the browned lemon slices and, if desired, a bit of the lemony, browned butter sauce.

Serves 2

My Very Best Thanksgiving Turkey

2005-02-11 10.33.20

My Grandma Wagner, Aunt Cody & Dad – Thanksgiving in the ’60s

By now, most of you know that Fall is my favorite season, and it should come as no surprise that Thanksgiving is far and away my most favorite holiday.  Such wonderful memories like the one pictured above. By the way, my dad is still the best turkey carver around!

The first time I participated in actually cooking Thanksgiving dinner was in 1995. ¬†Fresh out of culinary school and also five months pregnant with my daughter. ¬†Let’s just say it was a bit rocky (there are references in my notes about a steroid turkey from h*!!). ¬†And oh yes, I did indeed take notes and have taken notes every year that followed. ¬†Along with all my recipes, stashed away in this very worn looking folder:

A Collection of Thanksgiving Memories

In the seventeen years that followed, we’ve done turkey just about every which way. ¬†Smoked it, deep fried it, roasted it with herbs, brined and unbrined. ¬†You name it, I think I’ve tried it. ¬†Then in 2005, I came across this article in Bon Appetit by Alton Brown and figured, heck this guy seems to know what he’s doing. ¬†I gave it a shot although the thought of not basting a turkey made me a bit sad.


Well let me just say, that turkey was about as perfect as anything I had ever made. ¬†So perfect in fact, that I have been using Alton’s method every year since. ¬†I won’t bother reprinting it here on my blog because part of the fun is reading Alton’s witty prose (“stuffing is evil”). ¬† But the basic principal of his method is to rub the turkey with softened butter, roast it at 500¬į for 30 minutes, then cover the breast with foil, reduce the oven temp to 350¬į and continue roasting until the temperature in the breast reaches 161¬į . NO BASTING!

I can, however, offer a couple of quick notes and tweaks that I have made since I started using this method:

  1. The past several years, I have purchased Kosher turkeys, that do not require brining. ¬†So therefore I skip over Alton’s instructions on brining and go straight to the roasting part. ¬† If you want to jazz up your brine a bit, I recommend this recipe from Savory Sweet Life (
  2. Last year I mixed in ¬†a bit of Savory Spice’s Tiny Town Turkey Rub to my softened butter and thought it added a nice bit of flavor and color. ¬†Highly recommend!¬†Savory Spice Tiny Town T
  3. I love to throw some fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley) into the cavity of my turkey before roasting. ¬†Maybe a chopped onion as well. But that’s about it. ¬†Alton recommends keeping it simple and remember no stuffing because it’s EVIL!
  4. The initial 500¬į is pretty intense, but it does get the job done. ¬† Remember to flip on your exhaust fan and don’t hesitate to take that bird out if you feel it’s smoking too much.
  5. If you haven’t already invested in a digital thermometer, DO IT NOW! Mine is from Williams Sonoma and is ancient, but is still spot on. For about $20, you can get this Polder All-In-One Timer/Thermometer on Amazon and I promise it will a worthy investment.Polder All-In-One Thermometer

Well that about wraps it up for turkey cooking, thanks to Alton. ¬†All you need is my perfect gravy recipe and you’re good to go. ¬†But I’ll have to save that for another blog post.

Gobble ūüôā

Roast Cornish Game Hens with Seville Orange and Whiskey Glaze

2013-11-11 19.01.38

I think about Cornish Game Hens a lot. ¬†And how I was first introduced to theses magic wonders by my culinary inspirations Shelia Lukens and Julee Rosso, of Silver Palate fame. ¬†I admit to being hesitant at first.¬† They sounded exotic, expensive.¬† And what if, heaven forbid, they were “gamey”?¬† Thankfully none of those are true.

Cornish Hen3

Cornish hens are merely a hybrid chicken.  They are small, with average weight of about 1 1/2 Р2 pounds.  Contrary to the name, they are not game birds and in fact are readily available at most grocery store chains (many times in the freezer section).  They cook quickly and half a hen is a perfect serving for one, with both white and dark meat.  Hard to do that with a regular chicken, unless you have a humongous appetite!

So now that I’ve sold you on game hens, let’s move on to the other star of this recipe: Rosebud Farms Seville Orange & Whisky Marmalade, from CyberCucina


This is true grown-up jam, crafted in England, with imported organic Seville oranges, pure whiskey and no refined sugar.  The flavors are intense with just right blend of bitterness from the oranges, sweetness from molasses and a touch of kick from whiskey and a dash of lemon juice.   Trust me, if I were a jam making kind of person, this is what I would be making.

Of course this spread would be wicked good on a toasted English muffin with a cup of tea. ¬†But then you have the culinary possibilities, which are endless. ¬†Any recipe calling for a glaze, whether it be ham or turkey or roast chicken, will be made infinitely better with this jam.¬† My beloved cornish hen…of course, sheer perfection.

I am also imagining an appetizer made of toasted rye, aged English cheddar, and a little dab of this spread on top. ¬† Can you imagine this with a Porter or Stout ¬†on a cold winter’s eve?

Finally, a note about two kitchen essentials, that will make your culinary endeavors a whole lot better with this recipe and countless others.¬† A great pair of kitchen shears is a must have and makes jobs like halving the hens a total breeze.¬† My all time favorite shears are Pampered Chef’s Professional Shears:

Scissors2Secondly, if you don’t have a roll of Reynolds Wrap¬ģ Non-Stick Foil in your cabinet, you’re missing out on a life changing product.¬† No more dealing with messy non-stick spray on sheet pans.¬† Makes clean up almost non-existent!

Foil2A final note that you MAY recognize the sweet potatoes in the main photo?¬† They’re my most awesome Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes, which are a perfect accompaniment to the glazed Cornish hen.

Stay tuned for more recipes featuring products from CyberCucina!

Roast Cornish Game Hens with Seville Orange and Whiskey Glaze

2 whole Cornish Game Hens

1 jar Rosebud Farms Seville Orange and Whiskey Marmalade (see Note>)

2 lemons, thinly sliced

Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450¬į and place rack in upper third of the oven.

Rinse each hen thoroughly with cold running water and pat dry.  Place on a cutting board, breast side down.  Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut along each side of the backbone. Remove backbone and discard.  Then split the hen in half by cutting down the middle of the breast bone.  Repeat with the second hen.  Season both sides with Kosher salt and pepper.

Lay a sheet of Reynolds Wrap¬ģ non-stick foil onto a heavy duty sheet pan (or alternatively, spray with non-stick spray).¬† Arrange lemon slices on the pan so they form 4 separate rectangles.¬† Place one Cornish hen half, skin side up on each rectangle, like this:

Cornish Hen2Roast for 15 minutes.  While hens are roasting, bring marmalade to a simmer on the stove over very low heat to form a glaze and season with just a pinch of salt and pepper.  After 15 minutes, brush hens with a bit of the glaze and continue roasting for about 15 -20 additional minutes, brushing two more times with the glaze.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Note> If you’re not up to the seville orange marmalade challenge, then you may certainly substitute 2/3 cup of any all-fruit orange marmalade, simmered with about 2 TBS fresh lemon juice, 1 1/2 TBS bourbon and a pinch of ground cloves.

Twenty Minute Skillet Chicken with Creamy Rice and Broccoli

Twenty Minute Skillet Chicken with Creamy Rice and Broccoli | Dinner Is ServedI have never understood how my brain works.¬† I suppose most people feel that way, right?¬† How, for instance, does it make any sense that I misplace car keys, important papers, etc. on a regular bases.¬† And yet, if someone asks for a specific recipe, I can zero in on it in a matter of seconds.¬† Shelves jam packed with cookbooks,¬† mountains of recipe binders and hundreds upon hundreds of recipes on my laptop/Pinterest, etc.¬†¬† All these are the ‚Äúhaystack.‚Ä̬† A single recipe is the ‚Äúneedle.‚Ä̬† ¬†How I can find that needle just about every time makes no sense, but there you have it.

The recipe I share with you today is based on an old one that popped into my brain earlier in the week while planning meals for the week.  I remembered a silly easy chicken and rice skillet meal that I used to make a while back (like I’m talking at least twelve years ago).  My radar recipe brain led me to my very ancient and old-school recipe box where, yes, I found the original recipe.


I will warn you, this recipe contains condensed soup AND instant cook rice.  If that’s a deal killer for you, then feel free to immediately jump ship.

For those of you still with me.  Seriously, this recipe has basically four ingredients and I pinky promise will be on your table in about 20 minutes.   I am also serious that the rice is very reminiscent of risotto, the broccoli and chicken are so moist and tender.   Last night I kicked it up a bit and tried out a new Savory Spice blend (Nantucket Rosemary & Citrus Seasoning) on the chickie and sprinkled some of my garden fresh parsley over the top.

Oh my, there was much rejoicing around the dinner table.  I think my son actually went for thirds, and I will admit to sneaking a second spoonful of rice.

And the ironic end to the tale.  I had a container with a little bit of leftovers all ready for me to take to work today.

I forgot it. Go figure.

Twenty Minute Skillet Chicken with Creamy Rice and Broccoli

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Kosher salt & coarsely ground pepper

Any poultry-friendly seasoning blend

1 TBS olive oil

2 cups fresh broccoli florets

1 can ( 10 ¬ĺ oz.) condensed Cream of Chicken Soup

1 ‚ÖĒ cup water

¬ľ tsp. paprika

¬ľ tsp. pepper

¬ľ tsp. salt

1 ¬Ĺ cups quick cook rice (such as Minute Rice)

Additional salt and pepper

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil.  Add a pinch of salt, then the broccoli.  Cook for about one minute.  Drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking.  Set aside.

Season chicken breasts on both sides with salt, pepper, and seasoning blend (if using).

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Place chicken in pan and brown for about 5 minutes, or until golden.  Turn and continue cooking about 5 -8 minutes longer until golden and cooked through.  Remove to a plate.

Add soup, water and paprika, salt and pepper to the pan.  Stir to blend.  Add rice and stir.  Then add broccoli.  Place chicken on top.  Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until rice is just tender.   Remove from heat and let rest, covered for a few additional minutes, then serve.

Serves 4

Recipe adapted from the Campbell Soup Co.

Note 1> There are many wonderful salt-free seasoning blends available.  Look for ones with bright flavors like lemon and pepper.  Italian seasoning blends work well too.   If your blend contains salt, then cut back or eliminate the additional salt seasoning in the recipe.

Note 2>  Feel free to substitute any of the following:

a)      Campbell’s 98% Fat Free Cream of Chicken Soup

b)¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Campbell‚Äôs Healthy Request¬ģ Cream of Chicken Soup

c)      Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup with Herbs

d)      Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup

Peruvian Chile Lime Grilled Chicken with a Grilled Chipotle Corn, Tomato and Arugula Salad

chile chickenWell my photo of last night’s dinner caused quite a stir on Facebook and now several people have asked me for the recipe, so I feel terrible about telling you there really was no recipe.  As with much of the everyday cooking I do, I was just making do with whatever I had in the fridge and/or growing in my garden!

I am, however, more than happy to share with you the ingredients for this quick and healthy meal so that you can create your version at home.  Starting with my very special seasonings I chose.  Both are available online, or if you are fortunate to live near either a Penzey’s or a Savory Spice Shop, then you can just pick either one up there:


If you are looking for a substitute for the Peruvian¬†Chile Lime¬†Seasoning, you may substitute any kind of ‚ÄúSouthwestern‚ÄĚ style spice blend or in a pinch, make your own.¬†¬† For the corn, I like the smokiness of the Chipotle seasoning but you can always substitute regular chile powder or even smoked Spanish paprika.

Otherwise, the ingredients are very straightforward and the entire meal comes together in under thirty minutes, making it perfect for a light & quick summer meal.  I will say that if I make this again, I will definitely add diced avocadoes to the salad.

So set aside your measuring cups and spoons and go with your instinct on this one!

Peruvian Chile Lime Grilled Chicken with a Grilled Chipotle Corn, Tomato and Arugula Salad

1 ¬Ĺ # boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about three medium)

Olive Oil

Peruvian Chile Lime Seasoning Blend

Salt (if needed)

3 ears fresh corn, shucked

Olive oil

Chipotle seasoning

Coarse Kosher salt and pepper

Bunch of fresh arugula, cleaned

Grape or cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

1 ripe but still firm avocado, pitted and diced (optional)

Fresh basil (or cilantro), chopped

Fresh limes

Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Rub with a little olive oil then sprinkle with the chile seasoning (I probably used about 1 TBS of seasoning for three breasts). Sprinkle with a little additional salt if desired and set aside.

Rub corn with olive oil then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with a little bit of the chipotle powder.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium. Place chicken breasts on grill; cover and cook for about 5 minutes.  Then turn and continue to cook until firm to the touch (about 6-10 minutes more depending on size of the breasts and temperature of the grill).  Remove to a plate and tent with foil.

Place corn directly on grill and cook, turning frequently, until lightly charred on all sides, about 5 minutes.  Remove from grill and let sit at room temperature for a few minutes to cool off.

Using a sharp knife, cut kernels away from corn.  Place arugula on serving places.  Top with corn kernels, tomatoes, avocadoes (if using), a sprinkle of either fresh basil or fresh cilantro, a slight pinch of salt and some ground pepper.  Slice chicken and arrange on plate, drizzling any accumulated juices over the top.

Squirt some lime juice over both the salad and the chicken, and then give the salad a little drizzle of olive oil just before serving.

Serves 3-4

Linguine with Chicken and Roasted Herbes de Provence Tomatoes

20121212_190633 (3)

Two words that elude me in the dog days of winter here in the Midwest: fresh produce. ¬†Oh sure, walk into the produce section of any supermarket, and there are displays piled high with apples, berries, lettuce. ¬†Artfully arranged pyramids of pears, oranges and lemons. ¬† Asparagus in January? ¬†Yep, it’s there. ¬†Craving some watermelon on a snowy day? ¬†No worries, I’m sure your supermarket has it. ¬†So shiny and colorful, like they were plucked from Mother Earth mere seconds ago.

Thanks to the marvels of science and transport, this produce is beautiful to behold but sadly, so lacking in flavor that ¬†the term “fresh” is often a misnomer. ¬†Perhaps a more appropriate term would be “not frozen” or “not canned” or better yet just…”meh.”

And in my book, nothing epitomizes meh, more than an out-of-season tomato.

Oh sure they’re red. ¬†They look ripe, don’t they now? ¬†But biting into a mid-winter supermarket tomato is a bit like eating an unsalted saltine cracker and washing it down with a swig of lukewarm tap water. ¬†It’s enough to make one swear off fruits and vegetables for the next five months and just down a few V-8¬ģ cocktails every day.

Thankfully, I have come to save the day.  Step off that produce cliff, turn on your oven and reach into your spice cabinet.  All is not lost my friends.

Roasting and seasoning do amazing things to bland, out-of-season produce, and this recipe is a shining example. ¬†Grape tomatoes get a healthy dose of olive oil, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. ¬†After quick roast in a 450¬į oven they are magically transformed into sweet, juicy tomatoes that actually taste like, well…tomatoes! ¬†And FRESH tomatoes at that!


Oh yes, there’s chicken in this recipe too and it’s all served over linguine and garnished with more fresh herbs. ¬†But of course it’s the tomatoes that make the dish. ¬†Like summer in a bowl, I tell you. ¬†Actually make that summer in the South of France in a bowl.

Linguine with Chicken and Roasted Herbes de Provence Tomatoes

  • 1 1/2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons herbes de Provence <see Note>
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves or fresh basil
  • 1 lb. dried linguine pasta (or thick spaghetti pasta), cooked according to package directions


Preheat oven to 450¬įF. Combine tomatoes, 2 tablespoons oil, and herbes de Provence in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy ovenproof skillet until oil shimmers. Carefully add tomatoes to pan (oil may spatter). Transfer skillet to oven and roast, turning once, until tomatoes burst and give up some of their juices, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and drizzle with Worcestershire sauce.

Meanwhile, season chicken all over with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sear chicken on both sides until golden brown, 6‚Äď8 minutes. Transfer pan to oven and roast chicken until cooked through, 8‚Äď10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to same skillet; heat over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Deglaze pan with vinegar, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan; add tomatoes and their juices and simmer until sauce is just beginning to thicken, about 1 minute. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide linguine equally among plates.  Slice chicken and place atop linguine.  Spoon tomatoes and sauce over; garnish with herbs.

Serves 4

HERBES_DE_PROVENCE_1Note> Herbes de Provence may well be the most heavenly blend of dried herbs available on this planet . ¬†While variations exist, most blends contain thyme, savory, fennel, rosemary, marjoram, basil, tarragon and (my personal favorite) lavender. Talk about aromatherapy! ¬†One whiff of this blend will immediately transport you to the south of France. ¬†In the past decade it has become more widely available in most every supermarket chain, although you will benefit greatly by getting a fresh, quality blend from a fine spice purveyor. ¬†If you love it as much as I do, check out Savory Spice’s Herbes de Provence Seasoning Salt.¬† It’s terrific on roasts, lamb chops, roasted potatoes and vegetables.

Savory Turkey Stroganoff {}

20121110_192353 (1)It should be crunch time right now.  Office parties, neighborhood parties,  last minute shopping, baking, wrapping, and writing a witty yet informative  holiday letter (although I gave that up years ago).   But this year, something is different.  This year as we go about our last minute holiday preparations, there is a veil of sadness and disbelief.  What happened in Newton, CT. a week ago shook this nation to the core.

I wanted to post this recipe earlier, but my typically cheery prose seemed out of place. ¬†Except for the two words in my recurring theme this month: family…and comfort. ¬†Those two words seem to have taken on a special meaning this past week. ¬† Sometimes an event like this forces us to stop and realize the importance of family and close friends… recognize the value of comfort, whether it be a hug, a note of support, or a bowl of soup.

This dish has all the elements of comfort: warm earthy flavors, creamy sauce and hearty pasta. ¬†And yet it is so easy to prepare, it’s perfect for these busy evenings when you have only minutes to spare. ¬† Something nice to cook for your own family, a friend, or perhaps a neighbor living alone. ¬†A home cooked meal is a simple thing, actually, but its powers go far beyond the food itself.

From my family to yours, wishing you  peace, love and comfort for this holiday season.

Savory Turkey Stroganoff {}

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¬ĺ pound turkey cutlets, cut into thin strips
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 box (10 ounces) cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika OR Savory Spice Tiny Town Turkey Rub (see photo below)
  • ¬ľ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • Fresh chopped flat leaf parsley (optional)
  • For serving: Cavatappi pasta, fussili, rigatoni, penne or broad egg noodles


1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over high heat. Add the turkey and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until no longer pink and just cooked through. Remove to a plate.

2. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil and shallots to the skillet. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, or until the shallots begin to soften. Add the mushrooms and carrots. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 minutes, or until the mushrooms soften. Stir in the garlic, paprika, and salt and cook for 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat.

3. In a small bowl, stir the chicken broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and cornstarch until blended. Return the skillet to medium heat and add the broth mixture. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the turkey and cook for 1 minute, or until hot. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the sour cream.

4. Serve immediately over pasta or noodles, garnishing with fresh parsley.

Serves 4


Tiny Town Turkey Rub is another fabulous and versatile ¬†salt-free blend from the Savory Spice shop. ¬†Kind of like “Thanksgiving in a jar.” ¬†In addition to paprika, this blend includes sage, onion, garlic rosemary, pepper, ginger, thyme and countless other spices. ¬† I like to add it to softened butter, then rub onto a turkey or chicken before roasting. ¬†It is available at local Savory Spice Shops around the country OR online at