My recipe inspirations borrow from my favorite shows, restaurants, and magazines…and also what makes me HUNGRY. And this is how my Cheese and Crackers Chicken was born! Click to skip to the recipe
People always ask me where I get my recipes. I tell the truth, that I love to copy food from magazines, restaurants, and tv shows. And I do.
But the real truth is that those inspirations are often, just that; an idea for a dish that makes me hungry.
For example, I’ll see a lovely magazine picture of a wine-rich beef stew, and my tummy grumbles. Or Molly Yeh will make a skillet of perfectly cheesy nachos, and I want to grab one through the tv screen.
Or I see a waiter go past my table with a dish and I’ll stop him to ask, “What’s that?”, knowing just the passing aroma and food presentation is enough to make me curious.
My food is based on inspiration but also on what makes me hungry.
It’s also based on what I have on hand. I might be hankerin’ for chicken, but if I’m lacking my favorite pieces (chicken thighs) then that plain old breast will do.
I can not stand to waste food, so those last bits of carrot or lonely sweet potato will find themselves on the dinner plate that night too.
So, when people ask me where I get my recipes, the answer is that I get hungry, I see a dish that might satisfy that hunger, and then I see what I have in the fridge that will make it happen.
This is how my recipe for Cheese and Cracker Chicken was born.
It started with my devotion to cheese and crackers. This is my go-to food when the tummy rumbles and that fasting headache emerges. Just a little bite of cheese takes the edge off. This works…for a while.
What happens next is that cheese begins to sneak its way into my dish. I love cheese on my scrambled eggs. Cheese in my salad. Cheese and crackers for my snack. Then inspiration hits.
Why not cheese and crackers in my chicken dinner?
I had the remnants of a box of everything seasoned Ritz crackers and the bottom half of a plastic container of grated Parm. Defrosted chicken breasts and some odds and ends veggies created a great meal.
I sliced the chicken breasts in half and generously coated each with cracker crumbs so that each bite contained that crackery goodness.
Then I made a simple white sauce laced with just enough Parmesan cheese to consider it cheese sauce.
Cheese and Crackers chicken was born with the perfect side dish of curry roasted sweet potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower. That ladies and gentlemen, is how I create my food.
Cheese and Crackers Chicken
Time: 30 minutes ’til it’s ready
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons Dijon style mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 sleeve buttery round crackers
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
Place the chicken breasts onto your work surface. Place your hand on top of one breast. Use your very sharp knife to cut each in half horizontally. Repeat create 4 pieces. Brush each piece on both sides with mustard and season with salt and pepper.
Smash the crackers into small pieces. Use a meat mallet, rolling pin or the bottom of a sauté pan to gently crush the crackers in the sleeve. Then you can simply pour the crumbs into a shallow dish. There will be about 2 cups of crumbs.
Dredge the chicken breasts in the cracker crumbs generously coating both sides of the chicken. Transfer the coated breast to a platter.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the butter is bubbling, place the chicken into the pan. (You can do this in batches if your pan will not accommodate all 4 breasts.) Cook until golden on one side, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook on the second side until golden making sure that the chicken is cooked through, about another 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a clean platter.
Sprinkle the flour over the juices remaining in the skillet. Reduce the heat to low. Whisk the flour in the pan to form a bubbly paste, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Serve the Parmesan cheese sauce over the cracker-crumbed chicken. Garnish with fresh thyme.
When my kids were little, we had a Friday night tradition of going to our local TGI Friday’s restaurant and order our favorite appetizers: Wings and loaded potato skins. This version of that meal makes me sunshiney happy. I hope it does for you, too! Click to skip to the recipe
I’m a morning person.
Mostly, I’m a morning person because my dog refuses to sleep in…. at all! As soon as the sun breaks through the cracks in the window shades, we’re up. Not “stretchy-downward-dog” up; We’re “running-around-in-circles”, “grabbing-for-the-coffee-pot” UP.
The weather and the mood around here have been a little bleak lately. But, just this morning, I am inspired by just a few seconds of watching a glorious sunrise. The clouds turn pink and then crimson and then the fiery ball climbs up and over the faraway mountains and makes itself known to me, just me. Watching this miracle of nature is just enough to raise my mood and open the door to the prospects that today brings. What a joy.
In just a few minutes, with the caffeine beginning to take root and the sun rising, I can plan my day with a smile on my face. Soon, I know that this miracle will be shared with others and that they, too, can begin to build on this glorious sunshine.
Today I share it with you, my friends, family, and blog friends. My wish is that your day begins with sunshine, maintains the good feelings that this sunrise gives you, and ends with the promise of another glorious miracle after a night of restful sleep.
Meanwhile, here’s a recipe for a sunshine-inspired, fiery Buffalo chicken recipe. Enjoy!
Fiery Buffalo Chicken
When my kids were little, we had a Friday night tradition of going to our local TGI Friday’s restaurant an order our favorite happy: Wings and loaded potato skins. This version of that meal makes me sunshiney happy. I hope it does for you, too!
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
4 chicken thighs
4 tablespoons butter
For Buffalo sauce:
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
¼ cup hot pepper sauce
¼ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Crumbled blue cheese
Preheat the oven to 425°. Place the flour, chili powder, onion powder, garlic salt, salt, and pepper into a resealable plastic bag. Place one or two chicken thighs into the seasoned flour in the bag and shake, shake, shake until the chicken is coated.
Place the thighs into a baking pan that has been coated with cooking oil spray. Repeat until all the chicken is in the pan. Top each chicken piece with a pat of butter.
Bake until the top of the chicken begins to turn golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Whisk together the green onions, diced jalapeno pepper, hot sauce, and vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Remove the chicken from the oven and reduce the temperature to 350°.
Pour the sauce over the chicken. Place the pan back into the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through, about another 20 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and crumble blue cheese over the top.
I served Buffalo chicken with potato skins and jalapeno corn. The corn is easy. Simply remove corn kernels from the cobb and sauté in a bit of olive oil with red onion and finely diced jalapeno pepper. Season with chili powder, salt, and pepper. For the potato skins, scoop out some of the flesh from a baked potato and cut the skins into wedges.
Place a pat of butter into each piece and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with diced bacon, ham, pepperoni, or prosciutto. Your choice!
Spread some grated cheddar cheese over top and bake until the cheese melts. Garnish the skins with sour cream and hot pepper sauce.
As spring slowly begins to surround our stay-at home lives, we find ourselves searching for something different to do. A little change of pace. A supper to look forward to.
I have a plan based on my new favorite corner pub, the end of my driveway! Driveway drinks is my new normal during cocktail hour… but that’s another (socially distancing story).
For now, I’m thinking about setting up the ultimate picnic, and have the perfect recipes in mind.
What makes this supper special is that you can prepare it in advance (like even the day before). It tastes better served at room temperature than it does right out of the fridge. And, you can leisurely enjoy the meal. There’s no rush. If you are a grazer like me, eating this supper will take up some valuable time during these very long days.
For my supper, I’ll include three dishes
The first is a caprese salad. This dish is simply arranged by layering slices of tomato, mozzarella cheese and basil. Drizzle the dish with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. But, here’s the secret. Make this salad several hours before serving and DO NOT REFRIGERATE it. The salt and olive oil will bring out the flavor of the tomatoes.
The second dish is a riff on Niçoise salad, but in place of tuna, I substitute salmon that has been simply roasted with a rub of brown sugar, chili powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I include olives, hard boiled eggs, simply sautéed green beans, roasted baby potatoes and a white balsamic vinaigrette.
The third dish is one of my very favorites! Based on the Italian dish, Vitello Tonnato, cold poached veal with a tuna and caper sauce, I substitute chicken for the veal. The chicken is poached in wine and broth.
The liquid is flavored with onion, lemon and celery, but you can add whatever you like. Parsley, fennel and radishes are excellent additions. The trick is that the chicken is moist and retains that moisture by covering it with the very flavorful sauce. Again, although you refrigerate the dish to marry the flavors, the chicken is best eaten at room temperature.
So, set up your picnic table, lay out your platters, pour a glass of something FUN and leisurely enjoy the first picnic supper of the season.
Let’s look forward to many more to come….. together!
In a Rich Tuna Sauce
serves 6 to 8
2 large (or 4 medium) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
1 small white onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1 small lemon, sliced
2 to 3 stalks celery
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
For tuna sauce:
1 (7-ounce) can tuna packed in oil
4 to 5 anchovies
2 tablespoons capers, drained
Zest of 1 lemon, about 1 tablespoon
Juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
1 cup mayonnaise
Place the chicken breasts into a pot. Pour in the wine and chicken broth. Add the onion, sliced lemon and celery. Add the salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a simmer (some steady bubbles but not a mad bubbling volcano). Cook the chicken in the poaching liquid until it is just cooked through, about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breast. Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. About 165° is perfect. Remove the pot from the heat and keep the chicken in the poaching liquid,
Place the tuna, anchovies, capers, lemon zest and lemon juice into the bowl of a processor. Pulse to combine. Transfer the tuna mixture to a bowl. Fold in the mayonnaise. Remove one breast from the poaching liquid and place onto your cutting board. Cut the breast (across the grain) into ½-inch medallions. Fan these out onto your serving platter. Continue with the remaining chicken. Smooth the tuna sauce over the chicken. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour (or up to several hours) so that the sauce seeps into the chicken.
To serve, remove the platter from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Garnish with slices of lemon, capers and fresh parsley.
As I look around me and watch the posts on social media during this COVID-19 crisis, I see many of us are stressed by the reality of social distancing and self-quarantining of families. Restaurants are closed and grocery store shelves are picked clean. You can’t give your grandma a hug, and it’s hard to plan any social event in the future. The situation is entirely unnerving.
S-T-R-E-S-S! Perhaps we can put this into perspective!
Being a Floridian for most of my life, I’ve weathered plenty of tropical storms and several full-blown hurricanes. When we lost power, there was no electricity, no refrigeration, no lights, no television, no phone chargers and no air conditioning.
Before the storm hits, you fill up tubs and pots with water, because you will lose water after the storm. That means no flushing of toilets, no hot showers. Grocery store shelves are bare before the storm, and often shut down for days after the storm. Gas stations can’t pump gas because they have no electricity. Truck drivers can’t drive product to the stores, because they can’t get gas. The longest stretch I’ve experienced during a storm’s aftermath is two and a half weeks. But many have experienced longer.
So, I look at this crisis with my glass half full vision. Yes, I’m quarantined, staying home for (at least) two weeks. But I have running water, an electric stove and fridge, air conditioning, gas in my car and open grocery stores that are constantly re-stocking their shelves. Not too bad. But I do admit, I miss comfortably being in a room with my pals and sharing a meal.
More than this, the unfamiliarity with this crisis adds a different kind of stress. To reduce it, I thought I might give you a couple of basic ideas for food you can cook at home.
Yes, I totally encourage all of us supporting our local restaurants and ordering meals for pick up or delivery. But, let’s balance this with cooking at home. You’re probably stuck in the house with kids that are driving you crazy by now. Our kids are used to being entertained, and they are looking to you to entertain them.
Instead, let’s work together to teach them the skill of cooking for themselves.
After all, they will all go off on their own one day, and this just may be a skill worth learning.
Let’s start with a chicken! One of the first items you might want to tackle is cooking chicken soup. Not only is it easy, but you have the benefit of having soup on hand, in case you or your family members come down with the virus.
Soup is nourishing, tastes great when you’re sick, and helps to keep you hydrated.
Another plus when cooking a chicken is, you can use leftover meat for other dishes. This soup recipe is just an idea of what’s possible…but really, you can USE ANY COMBO of veggies and spices!
Rinse and pat dry your chicken… any chicken. You can use a whole chicken, which is best, or chicken pieces, which are also good. Try to use chicken pieces with skin on and bone in. These pieces will end up moist, and the broth will collect the nutrients from these parts.
Place the chicken in a deep pot. Cover with water. Boom! That’s it!!!!
You can add stuff to the pot. Good add-ins are onion, carrot, celery, garlic, ginger, turmeric and herbs like parsley. Basically, investigate your vegetable drawer and grab hold of the least fresh things you can find. You don’t have to cut them, peel them or dice them. Just throw them in the pot!
Now you’re ready to bring the water to a boil over medium high heat, reducing the heat to medium-low, or just hot enough to simmer what will become the broth.
You can cover the pot with a lid and simmer away. If you uncover the pot, and the liquid has evaporated significantly, add more water.
I usually simmer the soup for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the chicken, or if I’m using chicken pieces. The broth is ready when the chicken is cooked through.
Use a meat thermometer, inserted into the thickest part of the chicken to determine when it is cooked through. You can simmer for longer than this. There are no set rules!
Here’s the FUN part. Use a BIG colander to strain the broth into a large bowl. Transfer the HOT chicken to your cutting board and let it cool. You can discard your add-ins at this point!
To turn your broth into soup, I dice up onion, celery and carrot. Using that same soup pot, cook the diced veggies in some olive oil until they are soft. At this point you can add rice if you like.
Pour the strained broth back into the pot. This is the time to season the broth with salt and pepper.
Remove the skin and bones from the chicken. You can dice up some of the chicken and put it back into the soup.
Store the remaining chicken in a resealable plastic bag. I normally dice up the dark meat from the thighs, legs and wings for the soup, and reserve the breast meat for other dishes.
Simmer the soup and continue to season it as you wish. When the rice is cooked (you could substitute with noodles for chicken noodle soup), the soup is ready to eat or store. Store the soup in jars. Cool the soup to room temperature before you put it in the fridge or freezer.
Now, for my Bubba Gump moment…
Take that extra chicken and turn it into chicken and brie paninis, curried chicken and grape salad, chicken and mushroom quesadilla, chicken casserole, chicken Caesar salad, Buffalo chicken dip, barbecue chicken flatbread, chicken and veggie pot pies, chicken tacos, chicken wraps, pulled chicken sandwiches, chicken and black bean enchiladas, chicken and broccoli pasta, chicken lettuce wraps…… get the picture?
Until we get past this Cornavirus nightmare…
My next few posts will be dedicated to simple cooking of simple ingredients. If you have anything you want me to simplify, just let me know.
I wish you good health, and a swift passing of this crisis. But, more than this, I wish you joy in the moment. Finding the joy amid stressful times is hard… but, I know we can do it!
Chicken! Yes, my sweetheart tradition is all about a roasted chicken. Not an every Friday night Ina for Jeffrey chicken, but a once a year, Valentines Day roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings: roasted carrots, potatoes and onions and a lovely gravy/sauce to drizzle over everything.Tulips in a pitcher for the centerpiece, and a heart-shaped chocolate cake for dessert. Perfection!
In Sunday Best Dishes, I have a recipe for a chocolate walnut torte that is fudgy and nutty – just perfect for a post-Sunday dinner or Valentine’s Day fare.
You can serve it warm or at room temperature, which allows, if you prefer, to prepare it in the morning, knowing that dessert is all taken care of.
Message me if you want this recipe sent via email, ‘cause today’s post is all about melt in your mouth herb roasted chicken!
I first made this dish for hubby on a particularly cool Valentines Day many moons ago. Something about being three months past Thanksgiving was just about enough time for the fowl craving to emerge. In the very many moons since then, I’ve manipulated that chicken in sooo many ways. I roasted it upside down, leisurely cooked it in slow cooker, rotated it on a spit, split it in half and cooked it under a brick, stuffed it and then unstuffed it … I did it all!
This Valentine’s day evening, I can expect hubby to come home for dinner. He always brings me a most sappy, most meaningful card, and usually a bouquet of roses. I will push my (not quite as sappy) card across the table to him and smile. He will be happy and that makes me happy!
In the end, it’s that roasted chicken, served at home, for hubby that is my sweetest Valentine tradition. What’s yours?
Roasted Chicken with Herb Butter
60 minute cuisine
½ cup butter, room temperature (1 stick)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 (2 ½ to 3 pound) chicken
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 whole orange, cut into sections
½ cup sherry
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Mix the softened butter with the herbs.
Use your hands to cover the chicken with the herb butter. (Use your fingers to gently loosen the skin and place some of the butter between the skin and the meat.) Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
Place the orange sections into the cavities of the chicken.
Place the chicken on an upright roaster (or on a rack) in a baking pan. Pour the sherry over the chicken.
Place the chicken into the oven. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees.
Bake until the skin is crisp, and the juices run clear, about 20 minutes per pound.
Canvas & Cuisine is largely made up of true stories – about trips with my friend and co-author, Sue Fazio. I will never forget our adventures in Russia – the tastiest among them, sampling foie gras and caviar. Two decadent gals on vacay, we had caviar at every meal, and even hit up a caviar tasting bar where vodka was on tap. We did it up!
I learned a lot about caviar on that trip with Sue. The tiny black pearls found in a fingertip of caviar are actually the salt-cured eggs of wild sturgeon found in the Caspian Sea. There are different types of Russian caviar, all of which are considered a delicacy. The top three varieties are Beluga, Osetra and Sevruga, each of which come from a specific type of sturgeon.
Why, you ask, am I going on and on about Russian caviar? Well, pin my tail and call me a donkey, but I just found out that real Russian caviar is available at my local farmers market! And, it is delish!!
It turns out that Marshallberg Farm offers sustainable, high quality, pure Osetra caviar. They raise U.S. farmed sturgeon and caviar. I spoke to Sabine Mader from Marshallberg Farms. She told me the whole process has taken over nine years – from the import of the first fish, to the production of the delicious stuff.
I know my subscribers come from all over the place, and may never visit the Watauga Farmer’s market where the Marshallbergs have their stand, but they are a great reminder to expect anything at the weekend markets popping up across America this summer. If you lay your hands on some caviar, here are my tips on what to do with it:
A savory (Parmesan, sausage and chive) waffle dish, topped with a sprinkle of caviar.
Baked potatoes with caviar
An everything bagel and lox w/a dollop of caviar
Salted caramel ice cream with a touch of caviar
Sautéed chicken breast made the Jorj way (see below!)
The Millionaires Chicken recipe above is crying out for caviar and white wine cream sauce!? So I whipped up Millionaire Chicken after hitting the Marshallbergs’ stand. I served it alongside a clump of sautéed Swiss chard and a few roasted baby potatoes. The oohhs and aahhs were well worth a million bucks!
30 minute cuisine
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
Place the chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound the chicken to about ½-inch of thickness. Season both sides with some of the salt and pepper. Brush both sides with mustard. Dredge in breadcrumbs. Place the chicken onto a platter, cover with plastic wrap and place into the fridge. (You can do this several hours in advance.) Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook the chicken breasts until golden on one side, about 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully flip and cook on the other side until golden, another 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter, tent with aluminum foil.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion to the pan and cook until just soft, about 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the wine, removing all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. When most of the wine has disappeared, pour in the chicken stock and cream. Stir in the mustard. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer the sauce until it begins to thicken. Add the chicken back into the sauce and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, another 4 to 5 minutes. Serve the chicken with the sauce and garnish with a bit of caviar on the top.