Month: July 2014


Ina Garten’s Parmesan Chicken

I used to be an avid Food Network lover a few years ago, but not so much anymore.  It was then that I discovered Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa).  Her entertaining style is best described as earthy and elegant.  She throws open the doors of her Hampton’s home and whips up the most delectable, fresh, simple, yet stunningly beautiful dishes.  Her soft spoken voice, her demure and reticent personality draws me to her shows each and every time.  The Contessa from E. Hampton has me hooked.  She’s also been dubbed the “UK’s Best-Loved American cook” on Britain’s Food Network.  I happened upon this easy, yet very tasty parmesan chicken recipe that works a treat for the hot summer weather.  It is light, refreshing and satisfying for a glorious summer supper. With a bit of tweaking here and there, I made it my own.

Parmesan Chicken (serves 6)

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts ( I used thinly sliced turkey breasts)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs (I used panko Italian breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • unsalted butter
  • Good olive oil

Salad greens for 6, washed and spun dry (I added cherry tomatoes for color and texture)

Lemon/marmalade Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon orange marmalade (I added this on my own – the recipe does not call for it)

Pound the chicken breasts – (I used saran wrap to cover the breasts), until they are 1/4 inch thick.  You can use a meat mallet or rolling pin.

Combine the flour, salt and pepper on a plate.  On a second plate, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water.  On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.  Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture and dredge both sides in the bread-crumb mixture, pressing slightly.  Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes on each side, until cooked through.  Add more butter and olive oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts.

 For the Lemon/Marmalade Vinaigrette:

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, marmalade, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss the salad greens with lemon/marmalade vinaigrette.  Place a mound of salad on each hot chicken breast.  Serve with extra grated Parmesan.

IMG_1081 The lemon/marmalade vinaigrette truly popped right out in this recipe.  The zesty and tangy flavors of the lemon and the orange marmalade was truly a good match, with the sweet and sour flavors turning cartwheels in your mouth :).  Enjoy!

It’s always a happening place at Fiesta Friday hosted by Angie.

Thanks to Prudy and Jess for co-hosting today’s party.


Limoncello cheesecake squares

Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur mainly produced in Southern Italy.  Even though there is debate about the origin of this drink, it is said to be at least 100 years old.  Limoncello is very popular in Italy and is only just becoming popular in other parts of the world.  It also happens to be a popular ingredient in cocktails and imparts a strong lemon flavor without the sourness or bitterness of pure lemon juice.  Today I’m going to share a recipe with you using limoncello in a dessert.  A guest that came over for dinner a few weeks back very kindly brought over a bottle, and I’ve been sampling this beauty in a few different ways :) Click here for more information on Italian limoncello liqueur.  


I recall a family trip made to 3 different parts of Italy a few years ago.  My favorite had to be Cinque Terre, a rugged portion of the coast on the Italian Riviera.  It was here that I had my very first taste of this potent potion :)  Cinque Terre when translated means Five small villages, they are set amidst some of the most dramatic coastal scenery on the planet, providing enough to bolster the most jaded of spirits writes The Lonely Planet. 


8 ounces biscotti

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3 tablespoons grated lemon zest

1 (12 oz) container fresh whole milk ricotta, drained, at room temperature

2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup limoncello liqueur

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 large eggs, at room temperature


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray the bottom of a 9x9x2 in baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Finely grind the biscotti in a food processor.  Add the melted butter and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest, and process until the crumbs are moistened.  Press the crumb mixture over the bottom (not the sides) of the prepared pan.  Bake until the crust is golden, about 15 minutes.  Cool the crust completely on a cooling rack. 

 Blend the ricotta in a food processor until smooth.  Add the cream cheese and sugar and blend well, stopping the machine occasionally and scraping down the sides of the work bowl.  Blend in the limoncello, vanilla, and remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon zest.  Add the eggs one at a time, and pulse just until blended.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan.  Place the baking pan in a large roasting pan, pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the  baking pan.  Bake until the cheesecake is golden and the center of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour (the cake will become firm when it is cold).  Transfer the cake to a rack; cool 1 hour.  Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least 8 hours.  Cut the cake into squares and serve.  

and now…..sit back, help yourself to a serving and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Cinque Terre. Buon appetito!

 Click here for more information on Rick Steeve’s article on Cinque Terre.  Heading over to Angie’s now for some Friday Fiesta fun.  Thanks to co-hosts Hilda and Juliana.

Irresistible Lilies and I!

I just love this time of year when the lilies put on a show stopping parade!  The day lilies, tiger lilies, asiatic, scented, no matter what, are just stunning and form a graceful addition to any garden.   Believe it or not, they are pretty hardy and don’t really require much in the way of maintenance.  They’re  happy in well drained soil and require at least 6-7 hours of sunlight each day.  Fertilize them when you first see them put out shoots and deadhead if necessary.  If I had my way, I’d have a field full of lilies in every color and fragrance, they are definitely a wow factor!!

The beautiful photo you see below was an impulse purchase when I went to Walmart one day last summer.   I couldn’t resist these beauties, so I bought two pots and enjoyed these gorgeous and most unusual lilies till the last petal dropped.  When neighbors passed by, they admired and commented on their grace and elegance.  At that time I didn’t think they would surface again, so I thought I’d just leave them in the pots over the winter and abandoned them in a shaded area of the back porch.  Well, what a surprise as you can see, they survived and put on another stunning show.  I’ve decided to leave them in the pots for another year before I can find an area where they will be sure to get the much needed sun and drainage on the back patio.  The next few photos are from various gardens we’ve owned over the years.






IMG_0970Recently I was asked to judge the City  Garden Contest that our city puts on every June.  Naturally, I gravitated to some of the unusual lilies that I came upon.  With camera in hand I was on a mission to capture some that were rare and extraordinary!  Aren’t they just knockouts strutting their stuff?




Last but not least, let me present you with this alluring and heavily scented stunner!  This was taken a couple of years ago when I visited friends in Kent, England.  She’s quite the gardener and has the most amazing arrangement of everything she touches in her garden.  The perfume emanating from this beauty was intoxicating, she had a row of these, they were so top heavy, they had to be tied to the fence.  We sat outside on her patio on a beautiful day in July, listened to music, sipped on wine, and watched the sun set, all the while being aware of this gorgeousness right by my side.  photo

I hope you like lilies as much as I do, I just wish they had more blooming time in the garden.  Off to pamper my lilies now and perhaps buy some more scented orientals, one can never have enough  :).

I’m bringing these irresistible lilies to Angie’s   Fiesta Friday # 24.  It’s a virtual party where we all get together with our creations, a fun time meeting, greeting and sampling an array of foods from around the world.  Thanks to our 3 co-hosts, Indus, Hilda & Selma for helping keep the party in check :).

Also linked to Creative Country Mom’s Garden






Eggplant Parmesan with a sweet surprise ending!

A good friend of mine recently had her first baby, so I thought of bringing her dinner one night as we all well know how the first few weeks of a new arrival literally turns one’s world upside down.  Since I know she favors vegetarian meals, I thought an Eggplant Parmesan dish would fit the ticket.  I love eggplant dishes myself, so set about trying to find some fresh ingredients at the local market together with some fresh basil from the garden.   This is a no-fry variation of the popular dish and re-created from 2 different recipes (All Recipes & Epicurious).  There’s a gorgeous, sweet surprise at the end of this recipe :))


Ingredients – makes 8 servings

3 eggplants, peeled and thinly sliced (I’ve left the skin on on some occasions for a striking color)

2 eggs beaten

3 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (Japanese)

Large plum tomatoes – (I used about 7 and mixed it with some canned crushed tomatoes that I had in the pantry)

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

15 fresh basil leaves, torn in half

Salt and  black pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 3/4 cup)

1 lb chilled fresh mozzarella (not unsalted), thinly sliced

Toss eggplant with 2 teaspoons salt in a colander set over a bowl, then let drain 30 minutes.

While eggplant drains, cut an X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife and blanch tomatoes together in a 5-quart pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Transfer tomatoes with a slotted spoon to a cutting board and, when cool enough to handle, peel off skin, beginning from scored end, with paring knife.

Coarsely chop tomatoes, then coarsely purée in batches in a blender. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then add garlic and sauté, stirring, until golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomato purée, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and red pepper flakes and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 25 to 30 minutes.


I added onion and mushroom to my sauce, the recipe did not call for it.


I added oregano, italian seasoning and dried basil leaves to the sauce – the recipe did not call for it.

Stir together flour,  1/4 teaspoon salt, and  1/4 teaspoon pepper in a shallow bowl. Lightly beat eggs in a second shallow bowl, then stir together panko and 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano in a third shallow bowl.

Working with 1 slice at a time, dredge eggplant in flour, shaking off excess, then dip in egg, letting excess drip off, and dredge in panko until evenly coated. Transfer eggplant to sheets of wax paper, arranging slices in 1 layer.


Surprise!!! A double yolk, how cool is that!

IMG_0929 Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes on each side.

IMG_0932Spread 1 cup tomato sauce in bottom of a rectangular 3 1/2-quart (13- by 11- by 2-inch) baking dish. Arrange about one third of eggplant slices in 1 layer over sauce, overlapping slightly if necessary. Cover eggplant with about one third of remaining sauce (about 1 1/4 cups) and one third of mozzarella. Continue layering with remaining eggplant, sauce, and mozzarella. Sprinkle top with remaining 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake, uncovered, until cheese is melted and golden and sauce is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes in preheated oven 350 degrees.

IMG_0937And now for the sweet surprise :).  Here’s my friend’s bundle of joy, isn’t she just precious in that wee basket?  I did knit the baby blanket and was so happy to see that it was showcased in some of the baby portraits that were taken at the hospital.

photoI’m bringing this dish to Angie’s Fiesta Friday 4th of July celebration – No patriotic colors here but I do hope everyone enjoys this very special holiday and stays safe.  Thanks to our co-hosts Margy and Sylvia too for running this party.