Upsy Daisy! Another Perfect Dinner You Accidentally Made

Upsy Daisy! Another Perfect Dinner You Accidentally Made

Feel like you can’t get it right when you’re in the kitchen? I’m here to tell you that happy recipes happen when you approach fresh ingredients with curiosity. Embrace the imperfections in your meals and learn how to make each meal more magical!

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There’s a day to celebrate EVERYTHING. This one hit me in my kitchen! 

I think some of the intimidation surrounding cooking is the thought that:

“I’m not going to get it, right?” 
“It won’t turn out like the picture.”
“It won’t taste like it should.”

If you feel like this before you begin, how are you going to cook with confidence?

Let’s get rid of this stinkin’ thinkin’ and learn that no matter what you do, it will work out!


I’m working on a new book with just this idea in mind…

Create a dish that works for you with what you have on hand and the flavors you like. Then when you are comfortable with this, start experimenting with new flavors using your trusted basic recipe.

Let me give you an example…Let’s make mac and cheese from scratch. We start with the sauce.

Melt butter in a large pot or deep pan. Whisk in an equal amount of flour to form a paste (two tablespoons butter needs about two tablespoons flour).

Now we’re going to stir in a liquid. You can stir in milk, half and half, chicken stock, or a combination of lemon juice, white wine, and stock…any liquid you use will work. Stir the mixture over medium heat until it thickens into a sauce. 

Next, we add cheese. ANY cheese works. If you grate the cheese, it will melt quicker, but chunks of cheese are fine. You can add a combination of cheese and as much or as little as you want. Stir until the sauce is cheesy goodness.

Now you can flavor your sauce with any herbs or seasonings you like. Salt and pepper for sure, but try dried thyme or tarragon, onion and garlic powder, nutmeg, or chili powder. It’s yours to decide. Taste as you go and add a little at a time.

Finally, we boil the pasta, again any pasta you like. Once the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the sauce. You have mac and cheese ready to serve.

Or you can pour the sauced pasta into a dish and bake it for baked mac and cheese. You can top this casserole with more cheese or breadcrumbs or crumbled potato chips or anything you like.

 

Got it? There’s no right or wrong. There’s only you having FUN in the kitchen!

 

Let’s do the same thing with a chicken breast. Slice a boneless, skinless chicken breast in half horizontally. 

Then pound the chicken breast so that it is an even thickness. This will make sure it cooks evenly.

Season the breast with salt and pepper and anything else you like. At this point, you can grill it and slice it for sandwiches and salads.

Let’s coat the chicken with anything we like. Brush it with mustard and dredge in breadcrumbs. Brush with mayonnaise and crust in crumbled cracker crumbs. Dust in flour and season with oregano. Anything you want to do will work.

Melt olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken until golden on one side, turn, and cook on the other side.

This will only take you a couple of minutes depending on how hard you hammered your chicken! Now you have a seasoned chicken breast that you can use for everything.

But let’s make it better! In the same pan, make a pan sauce by adding more olive oil. Cook your favorite vegetables like onions, peppers, garlic, celery…anything.

Deglaze the pan with about a cup of wine or chicken stock. Now you can add in other flavors.

– For Chicken Piccata, add lemon juice and capers. 

– For puttanesca add olives and tomatoes.

– You can add sliced artichoke hearts, freshly sliced fennel, spinach leaves.

 

Anything THING will work.

It’s your sauce for your chicken breast. Add a bit of butter at the end of cooking for a buttery sauce, a bit of cream for a creamy sauce, a bit of tomato paste for a tomatoey sauce, mustard for a mustardy sauce.

Got it? Again, any THING will work!

Here’s a preview recipe from the new book. Use it as a guideline to create your own chicken dish and share it with me and everyone else!

Remember, an upsy daisey can turn into a creative opportunity!!! Especially in the kitchen.

Millionaire’s Chicken

Servings

4

Ready In:

30 minutes

Good For:

Dinner
Entertaining

Tried it? Tag it!

I would love to see what you did with this recipe.  Share your creation by tagging #inthekitchenwithjorj and with Scrumptious Possibilities With Jorj, my free private home cooking group.

Millionaire’s Chicken

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 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. I recommend sustainable American-produced caviar from Marshallberg Farms.

 

I Did It My Way! Veal Sinatra Inspired By Locanda Rustica

I Did It My Way! Veal Sinatra Inspired By Locanda Rustica

Tonight’s dish is inspired by a local Tequesta/Jupiter hangout where everyone knows your name and the Chicken Sinatra SINGS!  Make veal in marsala wine sauce, MY WAY! Click to skip to the recipe

pumpin swordfish chowder

Everyone has a favorite neighborhood restaurant. And every favorite neighborhood restaurant has a specialty dish.

We have one such restaurant in our neighborhood. The name is Locanda Rustica and it holds court among other small eateries in a strip center on the main drag in Jupiter, FL.

This is the kind of place that sees repeat customers on repeat days. If it’s Wednesday, and the Coleman’s don’t appear at their established time, there will be an inquiry from the owner as to where they were, when they show up the next week.

Patrons are known by their first name, and their drink order is served before it’s ordered. Guest of these patrons are introduced to staff as if they were meeting their family. Before the bread is served, the specialties are announced.

It’s at this moment that you realize you just hit the jackpot of weeknight dining!

This week’s specialty dish was Chicken Sinatra and let me tell you, Frank would be Flying to the Moon over this one.

He would toss Three Coins in the Fountain to get seconds.

He would have High Hopes to know that It Was A Very Good Life that included Chicken Sinatra.

There are no Strangers in the Night when it comes to this dish and you don’t have to be in New York, New York to eat it. 

Spinach, prosciutto, and cheese are sandwiched between two thin chicken cutlets. Then they are battered and sauteed. Two people at our table ordered this special, and I took a bite out of each! I was still left wanting.

You could say that I Got Chicken Sinatra Under My Skin. That’s why two nights later, I found myself creating a dish using it as my inspiration.

I had veal instead of chicken, salami instead of prosciutto, and fresh sage leaves instead of spinach. I added my mother-in-law’s Masala wine sauce. It was delish! I did it MY WAY!

The next time you are in your favorite eatery, I hope you get inspired by a weeknight special dish. After all, That’s Life!!

Veal Sinatra
In Marsala Wine Sauce

Serves: 2

Time:  30 minutes ’til it’s ready

Ingredients

4 thin slices veal cutlet, about 3 to 4 ounces

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

4 thin slices of Swiss cheese

Two thin slices of salami, cut in half

 6 to 8 sage leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

1 cup all-purpose flour

For sauce:

1 large shallot, peeled and finely diced

1-pint white mushrooms, sliced

1 cup Marsala wine

1 cup beef broth

2 tablespoons butter

Veal Sinatra
Veal Sinatra
Veal Sinatra

Place the veal slices between two pieces of parchment paper. Use a meat mallet to pound the veal to about ¼-inch thickness. Season with salt and pepper. Layer 2 slices of veal with cheese, followed by salami and sage. Top with the remaining veal slices forming two veal sandwiches!

Place the flour into a shallow bowl. Whisk the egg with the water. Dredge one veal sandwich into the four, coating both sides. Gently shake of excess flour and then dip into the egg, again coating both sides. Shake off the excess egg and dredge once more into the flour. Place the coated veal onto a plate and repeat with the second sandwich. 

Heat 2 tablespoons of both olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter is bubbling add the veal. Cook until golden brown on one side, about2 to 3 minutes. Carefully turn and cook until golden on the other side, another few minutes. Transfer to a platter. 

Add the shallot and mushrooms to the skillet. Cook until the shallot pieces are soft, and the mushrooms are golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Just A Little (Italian) Cookie

Just A Little (Italian) Cookie

Those that have tip-toed out of their bubble have plenty of tales to tell, and this one is about a little (Italian) cookie. Click to skip to the recipe

Best Italian Cookie Recipe

Those of us that have tip-toed out of our bubble to enjoy a restaurant meal have plenty of tales to tell.

Mine is about a lovely restaurant in Tequesta called EVO. Chef Erik Pettersen has a stellar reputation that reaches beyond our quiet community. He specializes in authentic Italian fare just like his mother Nancy envisioned. The restaurant has won awards noting the transition from her local farm-to-table dinner fare to the “EVOlution” of Chef Erik’s fine dining.

Let’s just say it’s a real treat.

Like many restaurants, EVO has adapted to the current situation by spacing indoor tables and adapting outdoor space to accommodate as many safely-distanced tables as possible. The dinner we shared with two other (bubble) friends was simply delish!

But what impressed me most came after the main meal. 

Here’s the deal: When I finally get to a lovely restaurant, I ABSOLUTELY chow down on everything put in front of me.

The olives, the shavings of Parmesan cheese; the fresh, warm bread dipped into a saucer of olive oil with EVO written in balsamic vinegar. Yes, written in balsamic vinegar!

And then, not yet full, and still excited to be OUT, I order. I order a copious amount of food and swallow each bite with a fair amount of delicious wine.

By the time I finish the last bite from the plate, I feel pretty darn good. Dessert menus are offered, and we all decline (Gluttony is for closets, not outdoor dining tables, after all).

Then, the waitress brings out two small plates of Italian cookies. These teeny, little buttery bites are just sitting there…on the table…in front of me. Well, who can resist? Certainly, not me!

In an attempt to tamper down my desire for restaurant dining, I decided to bake these cookies at home, hoping that if I had them at my fingertips, then I wouldn’t feel the need to make dining reservations.

Well, that didn’t work. I have a reservation at EVO tomorrow night. 😉

But these home-baked cookies are fun to make, fun to dip in chocolate, and fun to dust with sprinkles. Just a great little bite!

Italian Butter Cookies

Serves: Makes about three dozen 2-inch cookies

Time:  30 minutes

Ingredients

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 2 sticks

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Sprinkles

Best Italian Cookie Recipe
Best Italian Cookie Recipe
Best Italian Cookie Recipe

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

Use an electric mixer to beat the butter until it is fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stop the machine and add the confectioners’ sugar. Mix in the sugar on low speed working up to medium speed. Stir in the egg yolks one at a time. Stir in the vanilla. Stop the machine and then add the flour, stirring it in a little bit at a time.

Spoon about a third of the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe the batter onto the baking sheet in about 2-inch lengths about 2-inches apart. Continue until all the cookies are on the baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are just beginning to turn golden on the edges, about 8 minutes. Cool the cookies on a rack.

Place the chocolate into a microwave safe bowl. Melt the chocolate using 30 second intervals until soft and smooth. Dip the ends of the cookies into the chocolate and dust with your favorite sprinkles.

Tip 1:

For true Italian butter cookies, you can use the star tip to pipe. But for fun, you can use other tips to create your favorite shapes. If you’re in a hurry, use an ice cream scoop to mound cookies onto the baking sheet and flatten to form circles.

Fall Means Casserole Season: Moussaka Casserole

Fall Means Casserole Season: Moussaka Casserole

It’s casserole season, and I’m upping my game! When crimson leaves begin to Fall, my thoughts turn to cheese, and with this casserole, anything goes.

Click to skip to the recipe

 

 

 

It’s Casserole Season!

And I’m upping my game! When cooler breezes flurry and crimson leaves begin to fall from the trees my thoughts turn to….cheese.

Yup, cheese.

Why is it that cool weather gives you permission to eat melty cheesy things? It’s like a right of passage.

You turn your nose up to a melty, crisp, gooey grilled cheese sammich in June, but you’ll take that sammich and cram it with more and more cheese in October.

You’ll eat fresh broccoli bathed in only lemon juice and pepper in July, but come November that broccoli is smothered in cheese sauce and topped with butter cracker crumbs.

No shocker….This is how it should be! 

Garden fresh veggies tossed in olive oil and garlic, served over thin pasta noodles is a perfect summer supper, while December suppers by the fire require a cheese-filled pasta side dish or better yet a must-have cheese-stuffed casserole. Fall is like a cheese pass aboard the all-seasons train!

Well, fans, I have one for you.

I dug this out of my Fresh Traditions cookbook. I must admit that I hadn’t made this in quite a while.

I came across ground lamb in the butcher section of the grocery store and it hit the old casserole nerve.

Moussaka is a combination of eggplant, a rich lamb ragù, and a cheesy topping.

The best part is that you can prepare this in advance when you have time (and the inclination strikes) and bake it when the need arises.

I’ll be adding a few of my favorite cheesy casseroles over the next few weeks. Why not…Fall just got here!!

Moussaka Casserole

Think lasagna with eggplant instead of pasta, lamb in place of beef, and you have the essence of this Greek-inspired dish. Feel free to add your favorite veggies to the sauce. With this casserole, anything goes.

Ingredients

For eggplant:

3 large eggplants, peeled and sliced into ½-inch thick lengths

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

½ cup olive oil

2 large cloves garlic, minced, about 2 tablespoons

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried cumin

For lamb ragù:

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced into ½-inch squares (about 1 cup)

2 large carrots, diced (about 1 cup)

2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)

2 pounds lean ground lamb

1 cup red wine

1 (16-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cinnamon stick

For béchamel topping:

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups milk

1 cup ricotta cheese

4 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (about ½ cup)

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Makes: 6 to 8

Time: 45-minute cuisine plus baking for 15 minutes.

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Preheat the oven to 425°. Season the eggplants with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Place into a colander for 30 minutes to exude excess moisture. Stir together ½ cup olive oil, garlic, oregano, and cumin. Brush both sides of the eggplant with the seasoned olive oil. Place onto a baking sheet and roast until the slices are tender and golden, about 30 minutes. The slices can overlap. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°.

Heat 2 more tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet.  Cook the onion and carrots until soft and golden, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the lamb to the pan.  Cook, breaking up the meat with a spatula until browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.  

Stir in the wine, tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, and cinnamon stick.  Simmer the ragù for 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove the cinnamon stick.

Heat the butter in a deep pot over medium high heat.  Whisk in the flour.  Cook until golden and bubbling, about 2 to 4 minutes.  Pour in the milk.  Cook, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickened, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Stir in the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses.  Season with ground nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Assemble the casserole by placing a layer of eggplant slices in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.  Top with half of lamb ragù.  Add another layer of eggplant and another layer of lamb.  Finish with a layer of eggplant.  Top the casserole with béchamel sauce.  Bake until the casserole is bubbly, and the top is golden, about 30 to 40 minutes.  Allow the casserole to sit for 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh mint.

Get on BOARD With This Charcuterie: Tuna Steak Nachos

Get on BOARD With This Charcuterie: Tuna Steak Nachos

Mix and match your guests’ favorite meats, treats, and cheeses and never be bored with your charcuterie board! Start with these Tuna Nachos, perfect for tailgating at home. Click to skip to the recipe

 

There are lots of reasons to entertain family and friends these days, as long as your family and friends have maintained their social distance while trying to live their lives amid craziness!

We’re all living in our reduced social circles these days, but that still leaves us room to gather safely. And gather, we do!

One of my favorite ways to entertain is to set out individual bites onto a lovely charcuterie board.

Now, by its very definition, a charcuterie board is made up of prepared, cured meats (usually pork) and varieties of cheeses.

The very word charcuterie comes from the French words chair (flesh) and cuit (cooked).

But meat and cheese can be boring, so I veer towards combining charcuterie with an antipasti platter. Olives and pickled veggies are so yum.

But then I have a couple of crudité tray ideas and well, before you no it, I create a board full of appetizers that is unlike any other.

Just like I like it!

My recent board was created for my fellow book club pals. It was packed full of individual appys that by themselves would be perfect for a first-course nibble, but when combined could serve a crowd for a cocktail party or game day (stay-at-home) tailgate party.

The appys assembled on my board included roasted shrimp on a stick, chunks of Parmesan cheese, whole roasted garlic, salami and cream cheese “flowers”, margarita sausage on baguettes with lime mustard, gouda and sun-dried tomato “pimento” cheese with candied bacon, hummus and Parmesan stuffed tomatoes and the fan-favorite, seared tuna nachos with roasted garlic cream.

Whew! Sounds like a lot and it was…..but it was also FUN to prepare and wonderful to watch as they were devoured in no time.

Whether you prepare your own fan-favorite appys or arrange store-bought (and there are tons of them) items on your board, the secret is to be surprising. Mix and match your favorites and be creative with your choices. After all, you never want to be bored with your board!!

Seared Tuna Nachos with Roasted Garlic Cream

These nachos are a big hit. You can easily make them in advance, and they look divine on your appy board.

Ingredients

For tuna:

1 (8-ounce) tuna steak:

½ cup rice wine vinegar

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)

4 green onions, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)

1 (1-inch piece) ginger, grated

1 tablespoon olive oil

For roasted garlic cream:

Cloves from 2 whole heads roasted garlic, about ¼ cup, mashed

½ cup sour cream

¼ cup heavy cream

Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon coarse black pepper

For nachos:

Large, sturdy tortilla chips

2 cups tender green leave, washed, dried and thinly julienned (I used frisee, baby kale and butter lettuce leaves)

Serves:   A Crowd

Time:   60-Minute Cuisine

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Place the tuna steaks into a shallow dish. Whisk together the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, onion, and ginger.  Reserve 2 tablespoons of the marinade.  Pour the rest over the tuna steak.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours in the fridge.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Remove the tuna from the marinade.  Shake off the excess.  Sear the tuna in the skillet turning once, about 2 to 3 minutes per side for very rare.  Remove the tuna to the freezer and chill for 5 to 10 minutes.

Place the roasted garlic cloves, sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine into a smooth thick cream. Season with salt and pepper. The cream should be thin enough to drizzle.  Pour into a squeeze bottle and set aside.

Place the tortilla chips on a platter. Toss the greens with the reserved marinade.  Place several shreds of lettuce over the tortilla chips.

Remove the tuna from the freezer.  Use a very sharp knife to cut very thin slices (across the grain) of seared tuna.  Place 1 to 2 slices (depending on how thin you can cut) onto each chip.  Drizzle with garlic cream. 

 

Eggplant Parm, The Old Fashioned Way: My Triple Double

Eggplant Parm, The Old Fashioned Way: My Triple Double

A cast-iron skillet. Thick slices of eggplant. A ladleful of marinara sauce and a double-topping of cheese. Make eggplant parm magic tonight! Click to skip to the recipe

Original Eggplant Parm

 

This week the eggplants drew me in! 

They drew me in in a BIG way. The varieties were amazing. So many colors: purple, green and white.

There were itty bitty ones and skinny ones and fat ones and then huge ones!

I chose a deep purple Japanese variety and stuffed it into my basket.

That night, I made eggplant parm….The old fashioned way. I did a triple-dip of flour, egg, and panko breadcrumbs and got a fabulously crunchy result.

My cast iron skillet was the perfect utensil to fry thick slices of eggplant.

A ladleful of marinara sauce and a double topping of cheese and dinner was ready in a minute.

It’s my version of a triple-double! Watch out Russell Westbrook.

Eggplant Parmesan

Take advantage of your favorite variety of eggplant using this simple frying technique to create a super Italian inspired dish.

Ingredients

1 large eggplant, cut into ¾-inch slices

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon coarse black pepper

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 large eggs, beaten

2 cups seasoned Panko breadcrumbs

Vegetable oil for frying

2 cups marinara sauce 

16 ounces fresh Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated

Yields:   8

Time:   A Crowd

glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce
glazed lemon cake with berry sauce

Season the eggplant with salt and pepper. Dredge a slice of eggplant first in the flour, then through the beaten egg (shaking off the excess), and finally into the breadcrumbs. Place the coated eggplant onto a baking rack or piece of parchment paper and continue with the remaining slices.

Heat about an inch of vegetable in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place some of the eggplant slices into the hot oil. You don’t want to overcrowd the pan. Cook until the eggplant is golden on one side, about 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully turn the eggplant and cook until golden on the second side, about 3 minutes more. Transfer the eggplant slices to a paper-towel-lined platter.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Pour enough marinara sauce into a baking dish to coat the bottom. Lay the eggplant slices into the dish. Top with the remaining marinara sauce. Distribute the Mozzarella cheese over the top of the eggplant and sprinkle Parmesan over everything.

Bake until the cheese is melted and gooey, about 20 minutes.