Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

D & G Occasions


This little gem of a store is one of those places that’s, off the beaten path. If you’re not familiar with D & G occasions, it’s one of those places that you pass by all the time, and not know it’s there.  If you live in the Orlando area, and have never been or heard of D & G, you need to make it one of your must stops. Party supplies, baking supplies, and a wide variety of related eclectic goodies for any occasion. Family owned by Barb and Doug. Located at 625-G Herndon Ave. Orlando, FL. 32803. For more information go to http://www.dandgoccasions.com. You won’t be disappointed!


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Flowers As Your Table’s Centerpiece

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I don’t know how it happened but, since my passion of food has grown, so has my tablescapes. Whether I’m using a type of food, for example; lemons and limes, or flowers, they need to be simple. Nothing, over the top, crazy. As the weather starts to get cooler, and the Fall season is near, the flowers are amazing. I think just having a simple arrangement, of flowers in the house, can brighten your day. I learned that when making an arrangement, it’s important, no matter the type of flowers, to keep the same color pallet. Like this one, I have bright yellow sun flowers, making them the star of this arrangement. Then I just built it up from there. I used yellow “mums” and small yellow daisies as the fillers. I learned something else too. Since flowers can be pricey, I definitely want them to last as long as possible.  When I bring the flowers home, I remove them from their plastic packaging and separate each of them on a table. I then stand them up next to different size vases to see which one is going to work the best. Once I’ve figured that out, then, I take a pair of scissors and cut them, to the length I want them to be,  for the vase I’m using. Next, I take a small paring knife and cut the very bottom on the diagonal to the flowers can drink up as much water as possible. As far as the water goes, there are so many ideas that I’ve heard on how to insure your flowers stay and look fresh. The one thing that I’ve found that works for sure is, to keep the water from turning cloudy. Keep it as clean and clear as you can. Remove the water, at the least, every other day and replace it with fresh water.

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Zucchini And Cremini Gratin. Gluten Free

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Gratins are the easiest yet stunning appetizers to make. Everyone gets their own individual dish. That always seems to make friends and family feel extra special. Whenever I make a tomato sauce, I always have plenty left over. There’s just two of so, I try to think up different ways to use any sauce that may be laying around in the frig. Now this particular batch had whole Cremini mushrooms. Steve loves mushrooms and if he has any say in what goes in the sauce it’s always mushrooms. That’s how this dish came to be. This recipe can be made easy enough if you don’t have leftover sauce. All you would have to do is to buy your favorite jarred sauce, and saute off some Cremini mushrooms.

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So as you can see, I pulled out all the left over mushrooms from my sauce and just sliced them up. There were about 10 mushrooms. Now, all you need to do or the mushrooms is heat up a saute pan. Melt a 2 tablespoons of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Slice 1/2 a pint of Cremini mushrooms and throw them right into the pan set on med-high heat. I like to add a 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves, but dried thyme is fine. Use 1 teaspoon of the dried. I also add black pepper and Kosher salt to taste.  I don”t salt the mushrooms until they reached the brown stage. The salt will cause them to release their water and they won’t brown properly. Once you see they are nice and caramelized, just sprinkle salt to taste. The sauteing of the mushrooms will only take about 10 minutes. Once the mushrooms have been sauteed, remove them from the pan and place them into a bowl until we need them again.

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I have 2 zucchinis and 1 yellow squash that I’ve sliced about 1/2 an inch thick. I have them in a bowl where I’ve added Kosher salt and pepper. Using the same pan, on med heat, I add in 1/4 cup of olive oil that I let get really hot. I carefully place the sliced zucchini and squash in not to over crowd. This needs to be done in two separate batches. They will shallow fry for about 2 minutes per side. I do this just long enough for the veggies to soften and get some nice color on them before they go into the gratin dishes.I have a large plate lined with paper towel so once the veggies are done sauteing, they go right onto the plate to remove any extra oil that may be on them.

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I already have my left over tomato sauce set in a bowl and ready. In a separate bowl I make the cheese filling for the gratin. I have some Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese that I’ve ground up in my mini food processor. I add half of the cheese, that I ground up, into the bowl with some Ricotta, egg, some freshly chopped flat leaf Italian parsley,  and a sprinkling of Kosher salt, black pepper. Finally some half and half. I use the half and half just to thin the mixture out a bit. So now the cheesy gratin part is done. It’s time to assemble.

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So I figured that, with the amount of mushrooms and zucchini slices, I had enough veggies to make 3 individual gratins. You don’t want to over fill the dishes because the cheese sauce has to go it and they will rise slightly. I started with the zucchini and squash slices first. One even layer at the bottom of the dishes. Next, a thin layer of the tomato sauce, which has onions,garlic, and basil in it. On top of that, the sliced cremini mushrooms. I sprinkle just a little of the grated cheese that I reserved on top of the mushroom. Then I spoon on the cheese mixture. Lastly, the rest of the reserved Parmigiano-Reggiano, I sprinkle evenly on top of each one.. I place the 3 gratins on two baking sheets to prevent any spillover. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. and bake for 30 minutes. When finished, garnish with some chopped flat leaf Italian parsley.

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Yields: 3 servings
Prep Time: 25 minutes allowing for the sauteing of the vegetables
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Equipment: gratin dishes
1/4 cup olive oil plus 1 tablespoon ( for sauteing mushrooms)
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 sliced zucchinis
1 sliced yellow squash
3/4’s of a cup of marinara sauce ( bottled is fine)
2 tablespoons of thyme leaves ( 1 tablespoon dried thyme)
1 tablespoon Kosher salt (for seasoning zucchini and squash)
1 teaspoon black pepper (for seasoning zucchini and squash
1/4 cup Ricotta cheese
1/4 cup half and half
1 large egg
3/4’s cup plus 3 tablespoons of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup of freshly chopped flat leaf Italian parsley ( reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Start out by sauteing all the veggies in a large saute pan over med heat. You need to start with the mushrooms, ( wait to salt the mushrooms until they’ve browned, just a sprinkle.) and then go to the zucchinis. They’ll  need to be done in batches.  While that’s working, go ahead and process the cheese in a food processor. Once all the veggies have been sauteed and are nicely brown. Transfer them to a plate lined with paper towel to drain. Next make the ricotta cheese mixture for the gratin. In a bowl adding the ricotta, egg, half and half, 1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reeggiano, and a pinch each of Kosher salt and black pepper.  If you are using leftover marinara or are using bottled have it ready. In each of 3 gratin dishes, place a layer of the zucchini and squash. Next, and thin layer of the marinara sauce. To that the sauteed mushrooms. I sprinkle a little of the reserved grated cheese on top of the mushrooms. Then, spoon on the ricotta cheese mixture. Finally top each gratin with a tablespoon of the grated cheese. Place the dishes on baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes. When they come out of the oven, garnish with the parsley. Serve while hot.

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Tuscan Chicken In A Concord Grape Reduction With Figs

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This has to be one of my favorite chicken dishes ever! Chef Michael Chiarello inspired me to make this recipe after seeing him do it on television. The name sounds really fancy, but the dish is not hard to make. There are a few step that need to be followed and none of them are hard to do.  I would have like to have used fresh figs, as he did, but they weren’t in season at the time.  I used dried figs and reconstituted them. I’ll tell you how I did this in a minute. I’m starting with the spice rub for the chicken.

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All I did to make the spice rub for the chicken was to take fennel and coriander seeds and place them into a spice grinder. Then I dumped the spices into a bowl and added some white pepper. That’s the spice rub. Now for the chicken. I had my butcher remove the bone from four skin-on chicken breasts. I seasoned both sides of the chicken with Kosher salt first. Then I sprinkled a good amount of the spice rub on both sides, and carefully, under the skin as well. I’m pan searing the chicken for this dish and then, finishing it off in the oven. In a large pan, pre- heated, on med-high heat, I added in some olive oil and place the chicken in skin side down first. I cooked the chicken for about 4 minutes on that side and then turned the chicken over and cooked it for another 4 minutes on the other side. Once I finished both sides, then I place the pan right into a pre-heated 350 degree oven for another 20-25 minutes or until the internal temperature was 165 degrees. After the chicken comes out of the oven, I remove it from the saute pan, place the cooked chicken on a plate. I cover the chicken with foil and move onto my sauce.

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Earlier I prepared the ingredients for my sauce. This is what I did. First I bought concord grapes and red seedless grapes. I placed them into a large plastic zip-lock bag, and with my hands, crushed all the grapes to release their juices. Once all the grapes were crushed, I set them in a fine strainer over a large bowl to let the juices fall into the bowl. I used my hands to crush any grapes that I may have missed in the bag to release as much juice as possible. This process took about 15 minutes. In the end I had 2 cups of grape juice. While I was working on the grapes, on the stove I had 4 cups of organic apple juice in a large sauce pot. I placed the dried figs and a 1/4 cup of granulated sugar into the pot. First, I gave it a quick stir then turned the burner on med high heat, I brought the figs up to a boil, then reduced the heat to med low and let this simmer for 30 minutes. This allowed to figs to reconstitute in the apple juice and plump up. Using a slotted spoon I fished all the figs out of the poaching liquid and let them cool for 5 minutes. Once cooled, I removed all the stems and cut the figs into quarters.

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Getting back to the chicken, I have the saute pan with the chicken dripping still in the bottom. On med high heat, I have 1/2 a finely diced red onion ( 1 whole dice shallot would be fine too) that I’ve added to the hot pan. I saute the onion until they are soft and translucent. To the onion, I sprinkle in some Kosher salt and black pepper. Next two sprigs of fresh rosemary. This will add extra flavor to the sauce. As the pan is bubbling I pour in the fresh grape juice and some unsalted chicken broth. Still on med high heat, I allow the sauce to come up to a bubble and reduce the heat to a simmer for another 5-7 minutes. Next,I  add in the reconstituted figs, that I quartered, to the pan letting them swim around in this delicious grape reduction for another couple of minutes to absorb the flavor. Finally, swirling the pan around carefully, I add another sprinkling of Kosher salt, and turn heat off. This amazing sauce is ready to be poured all over the pan seared chicken. I served this Tuscan chicken with a simple arugula salad dressed with shavings of Parmesan cheese and a lemon vinaigrette. Also, lemon pepper sauteed asparagus, and a garnish of concord grapes.

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Prep Time: 35 minutes
Total Cooking Time: 45 minutes
4 boneless skin-on chicken breasts
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon Fennel seeds, ground
1 tablespoon Coriander seeds, ground
1 teaspoon of white pepper
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 a finely diced red onion ( 1 whole diced shallot)
1 package of dried black mission figs (reconstituted) stems removed and quartered (1 pint of fresh figs quartered and stems removed)
2 pints of concord grapes (reserve some for garnish)
2 pints of red seedless grapes
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/2 cup of unsalted chicken broth
Kosher salt to taste

Start out by making the spice rub for the chicken. Once the rub is made, start poaching the dried figs in the apple juice and sugar for 30 minutes. While it’s simmering, continue with the prep. Place the grapes into large plastic bag, and using you hands, crush all the grapes. Next place them into a strainer over a large bowl. While the grapes are draining, Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and dice the onion for the sauce.  On the stove, have a large saute pan heating up and ready. Season the chicken with Kosher salt and the spice rub. Don’t forget to get some of the rub under the skin too.  Add the olive oil to the pan. Start with the skin side down, sear the chicken about 4 minutes each side. Then place the chicken into the 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes or until the internal temp is 165 degrees. While the chicken is in the oven, the figs should be ready to come out of the poaching liquid. Let the figs cool for about 5 minutes then remove the stems and quarter the figs. When the chicken comes out of the oven, place them onto a plate and cover with foil. Using the same saute pan to make the grape reduction. Be careful because the handle is hot from the oven. On med high heat, add in the 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary and the diced onions to the chicken dripping that are still in the pan. Saute until translucent. Add in the grape juice and unsalted chicken broth. Once it comes up to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer this for 5-7 minutes and then add in the figs. Season with a sprinkling of Kosher salt. Swirl the figs around in the grape reduction so they absorb that grape flavor for another couple of minutes and then turn off the heat. Place the chicken on a serving platter and pour over the grape reduction with figs.

Type “Lemon Pepper Asparagus”  into the “search bar”  for my recipe.

Recipe For My Lemon Vinaigrette
1-8 ounce jelly jar with lid
4 tablespoon or 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice ( usually 3 lemons)
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon Agave nectar
8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil E.V.O.O.
Place all the ingredients into the jelly jar. Place the lid on tightly and shake.

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