Two, New Roasted Chicken Salads

2014-08-18 15.01.332014-08-18 15.01.04                                      These two recipes will have you thinking differently from the traditional ways of making chicken salad. I start off with roasting the chicken off. I have 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts that I place on 2 baking sheets. Drizzle the chicken with some olive oil, and a good sprinkling of Kosher salt, and pepper. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes or until internal temp is 165 degrees and then set them out to cool before removing the bone, skin, and dicing them into large chunks.

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                         The next step is two have two large bowls to which I add different flavorings too.

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In one bowl I add 1 cup of sliced halved grapes, 1/2 a cup of chopped walnuts, 1/4 cup of golden raisins, 1 cup of chopped fresh arugula, the juice of 1/2 of a lemon, 1/4 cup of finely diced red onion, 2 ribs of celery diced small, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. In the second bowl I add 1 mango diced, 1/4 cup of finely diced red onion, 1/2 cup of thinly sliced green onions, 1 cup of chopped fresh cilantro, 1/4 cup of toasted slivered almonds. The other ingredient that I added to my chicken salad have a Latin flare, was to add 1 cup of cooled, sauteed, Puerto Rican style Chorizo that I had chopped into bite size pieces. This particular brand is similar to the cured Spanish style of Chorizo, and that would work just fine. This is totally optional, but if you like a bit of heat, and depth of flavor in there, this works really well. Finally a teaspoon of Kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Now except for one last ingredient I add to each bowl.

                          2014-08-18 14.16.092014-08-18 14.16.27                                                  Now in the first bowl and I did not add any fresh juice. That’s because I add 1 cup of fresh salsa, and that already has lime juice in it. The second bowl I add some fresh basil pesto (store bought if perfectly fine in this), about 2-3 tablespoons. So you can see that these two chicken salads will have to very different tastes. Next, I divide the diced roasted chicken in half, adding half to each of the bowls.

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Finally I add the mayo to each of them. This may vary a little due to the juice from the salsa, in the one, and the fresh lemon juice in the other. What I’m saying here is start with a half a cup of mayo and then mix it all together, see if it’s the right consistency for you. You can always add a bit more but you can’t take it out, if you’ve added too much. No one wants a running chicken salad right?

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                     The two varieties of chicken salad are so delicious even though they taste completely different.

Pesto Roasted Pork Tenderloin With Rosemary, Garlic Potato Wedges

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When I made this dish, I knew that the pork would just be perfect on a sandwich. Let me tell you how I did it. I started by cooking off 4 strips of bacon nice and slow on the top of the stove. To make them easier to fit in my saute pan, I cut the long strips in half. Next, the pork. 

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I had some store bought pesto, of course if you have the time, making your own is even better. This was a weeknight meal, so to make my life a bit easier, I chose this route. I cut the tenderloin in half and spooned on around 4 tablespoons of the pesto and let this marinate in the frig for about an hour. The rest of the pesto, I’ll use later. While this is happening I got the potatoes ready to go into the oven because they take the longest to cook.

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For the potatoes, all I did here was to cut them into wedges. I used the smaller red potatoes here for faster cooking. I laid them out onto a baking sheet and added, I say about a 1/4 cup of olive oil, to make sure all the potatoes were nicely covered. Then I added 1 sprig of fresh rosemary leaves that I chopped up, and 2 cloves of minced garlic. I sprinkled on 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. I tossed them all around with my hands, being sure all the potatoes had some of those flavors evenly distributed throughout, and then spread them out on one even layer. Having the oven set on 450 degrees, the potatoes went in. I like to move the potatoes around during the cooking process. This ensures they don’t stick and that all sides get nice and brown.

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At this point the bacon is finished, and I just set them on some paper towel until I’m ready for them. After around 45 minutes or so, the potatoes are done. Leave the oven at the same temperature and place the pork in. The pork will take no longer than 11 minutes before it’s done.

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I sprinkle them while they’re nice and hot with a pinch of Kosher salt.

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After around 11 minutes, take the pork out and cover with foil, letting the meat rest (at least 10 minutes) before slicing.

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While the pork is resting, I start to build the sandwiches.

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Turn the oven down to 350 degrees before putting the bread in to toast. I bought some fresh baked Cuban bread for these sandwiches. I slathered them with butter and toasted them off.

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When the bread came out of the oven, I spread one side with the reserved pesto. Nest the arugula.

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Then the sliced pork. cooked bacon, heirloom tomatoes, and some slices of Fontina cheese.

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There you have it. The ultimate pork sandwich with roasted rosemary, garlic potato wedges!

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Eat More For Less!

Orlando is doing something really special. This year, during the whole month of September, for Magical Dining Month, you can choose from a three-course prix fix menu for just $33.00 at more than 75 of Orlando’s most renowned restaurants. Even better there is a special preview starting August 25, 2014.

Park Plaza GardensLa Luce� by Donna ScalaMing Court - The Art of Oriental CuisineHawk's Landing Steakhouse & Grille

Capital Grille-Pointe OrlandoKasa Restaurant & Bar

 A Land RememberedRoy's Restaurant

This is an amazing event for Orlando, and there is definitely something for everyone. For more info, or to make reservations, go to Magical Dining Month In Orlando at

A Childhood Treat, Stuffed Artichokes

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Growing up, whenever there was a special occasion this dish was in high demand. I can remember she would always ask what it was that we would like her to make. This recipe was one of those dishes. I believe that Italians utilize as much of the vegetable as they can. If you know anything about artichokes. most often a lot of it is either trimmed off or cut off until you get to the heart of it all. Well, preparing like this you don’t waste hardly any of it. Let me explain. I find that many home cooks tend to be intimidated by this strange thistle. But I’m here to fix that if I can.

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So what I like to start is to pull off some of the outer leaves from the bottom.. Then I take a pair of kitchen scissors and cut the point of the rest of the leaves. Be careful they can be sharp. i then cut the stems off so they will have a flat bottom. You’ll see why later. I have a large pot filled with water and 2 cut lemons that I’ve squeezed the juice out of and placed them into the water. This will stop the artichokes from turning brown and oxidizing.

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As you can see I trimmed the stalks down quite a bit and threw them in as well. They are eatable also. To keep the artichokes submerged in the boiling water, I place a plate on top like this.

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I boil the artichokes on med to med-high heat, be careful that the water doesn’t boil over, for anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. You want them to be tender, and it takes about this long for this to happen. Once that’s done remove them and set them aside to cool until the next step.

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So now for the filling, this is so good, trust me. In a large bowl add 5 cups of Italian style bread crumbs. I like to use this because it has seasonings already mixed into the bread crumbs. Then add 2 cloves of grated garlic,3 cups of grated Parmigiano- Reggiano, I add 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, 6 chopped up sun dried tomatoes, 1/4 cup of golden raisins, for some sweetness, and 6 slices of of chopped prosciutto to the bowl. I also add 1/4 of dried parsley flakes, and a pinch of black pepper. No salt because the prosciutto and cheese have enough salt in them. Now to bind all these ingredients together I’m going to add quite a bit of extra virgin olive oil. I start by add 1-1/2 cups, then I stir it all together. If it’s still too dry, you want it to look like a thick paste, I’ll add in another 1/2 a cup at a time.

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So now that the filling is ready, I take the artichokes that are tender and have cooled, and remove the center. This is where the thistle is, and you cannot eat that. So I pull the leaves apart gently util the center is exposed and take a tablespoon and dig the thistle out. It looks like a circular hairy piece known as the thistle or choke.

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You can see here above how the center is now hollowed out. Now it’s time to stuff the bad boys with that filling. I start with the center and work my way out pulling the leaves apart gently and with my fingers cram as much stuffing in between each row of leaves.

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In a baking pan I set the stuffed artichokes. In the bottom I add about a cup of white wine to keep them moist. On the top I add more cheese and drizzle each one with a good amount of E.V.O.O to help the cheese get golden brown and delicious. I bake them off at 350 degrees for around 30 minutes or so, or until the filling is nice and hot and the artichokes have absorbed almost all of the wine.

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When your ready to eat them, just pull each leaf off using the leaf as a spoon and get all of that goodness of each leaf. As you make it to the center, there you’ll find the surprise. The surprise being the heart of the artichoke which is just so darn good. This dish is a show stopper and any dinner party you may have.

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Recipe For Braised Beef Short Ribs With Pappardelle

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I just loved the response I received on this dish. I know that once you make it, it will be something you’ll make again and again. Let’s get started. First it’s important to prep all the veggies.

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Here I have 5 cloves of whole peeled garlic, (all veggies cut into 2-1/2 in pieces), 2 carrots, 2 ribs of celery, 1 sweet potato, and 1 large sweet onion. I also had some left over tops to some bell peppers, red yellow and orange that I diced up as well. You could just add 1 of your favorite bell peppers to this mix.

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Now for the herbs. Here I have 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary,2 fresh bay leaves, and 6 or so sprigs of fresh thyme. Now if you don’t have fresh herbs, you could use dried, that’s fine. Remember to add less than I have here because dried tend to be a lot stronger than fresh and you don’t want to overpower all the other ingredients in the dish.

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The star of this dish are the beef short ribs. i want to let you know that this cut of meat can be expensive. My butcher happens to carry both types, bone-in and boneless. To be honest I’m really not sure if the boneless are the same cut, but whatever cut they are from they work perfectly. This allow me to get a lot more meat in this dish than if I had just used bone-in short ribs. Here I have 2-1 pound packages of boneless and a 2 pound package of bone-in. Above you will see that I have set the meat out on paper towel to pat them completely dry on all sides. The reason for this is to get a good sear on the outside of the meat. Brown is flavor and that’s what we want. I’m doing something a bit different here, instead of dusting them in seasoned flour and then browning them off in batches in a large pot. No not me, I’m going to roast them off in a really hot oven and save a bunch of time.

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I toss all the meat in some olive oil, Kosher salt, and pepper, and then spread them out onto 2 baking sheets. They will go into a 450 degree oven to roast for around 15-20 minutes.

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This is what they will look like when they come out. While the short ribs are roasting in the oven, on top of the stove this is what’s been happening. In a large braising pot, or any type of heavy bottom pot, I start on the veggies.

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Moving forward, I start with the onions in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. To that I add a sprinkle of Kosher salt and pepper, making sure to season each layer. Once they have softened slightly. I then add in 3 tablespoons of good tomato paste and let that cook with the onions for a minute, until the tomato paste has melted and coated the onions. I  then add in the rest of the veggies a little at a time. I add in the garlic, celery, and bell peppers.

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Now at this point I have my liquids for this dish ready and on stand-by.

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Now I add in all of my fresh herbs from earlier that I removed from their stems and 1 cup of red wine. I’m using a good Merlot for this dish. I’m adding in the bell peppers and celery at this point.

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I let this cup of wine reduce by half before adding any more liquid, for an extra depth of flavor. Stir this together and let simmer until the wine has reduced. Next I add in the carrots and sweet potatoes, and 1 can of San Marzano tomatoes, without their liquid,to the pot.

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I then add in equal parts wine and beef stock. You do not want to cover the veggies, just about 1/2 of the way up, because the veggies will release more liquid, and you don’t want the liquid to overflow from the pot once the lid is on and it’s in the oven. This is a braising process, and the meat will rest on the top. Now bring all of this up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer before adding the short ribs back in..

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Have the oven pre-heated to 350 degrees, with the lid on, place the pot into the oven and cook for another 2-1/2 hours.

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WOW! Does this not look amazing. So now I going to remove the meat take the bones out and shred the meat. Don’t forget to remove the 2 bay leaves, they’ve done their job.

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I have to say by adding the sweet potato to this dish give a nice sweetness. Alright now, we gong to thicken our sauce. To do this I process the veggies in a food processor. Be careful when processing hot veggies. Don’t fill up the processor too full.

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Start ladling the veggies into the processor.

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This is what it will look like when you’re done.

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Add the shredding beef short rib meat to the pureed sauce. Let this simmer on very low heat while you cook the pasta.

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This Artisanal pasta only cooks for 8 minutes. I cook it a little less because when I add it to the sauce it will continue cooking, and I want the pasta to be Al dente.  Toss the pasta through all that goodness. Garnish with some finely chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, To serve it on I place it onto a large serving platter. This dish is one you’ll want to serve to company.

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Home Style Cooking


Steve and I, on a special occasion, will get dressed up and go out to some of Orlando’s new and trending restaurants. I like to see what new and upcoming chefs are serving. I get inspired to recreate some of those dishes at home, with my own twist of course. Having said that, there are those “hidden gems” that are right in our own back yard. I’m talking about a family owned and operated restaurant called Nick’s Family Diner. The whole idea of a diner is just so American, don’t you think?  Ordering whatever you want whenever you want. That’s why it’s really important to me, to support local and small businesses.  There is nothing better to me, than, once a week, going to a diner and having a home cooked meal that is nothing short of what you might get if your mother or grandmother had prepared it. Being in the service industry and having worked in a diner, I know what it takes. Here at Nick’s the service is always top notch. The food is delicious, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it never disappoints.Don’t even get me started on the value, it just can’t be beat. The owner, Angela Vervtas is always there with the same staff of girls that have been with her for a long time. They make it a point to know your name, and make you feel so welcome. Working in the restaurant industry and having my own regular customers, I sometimes wonder why my customers will order the same dish time after time. I have to be honest, I love the dish that I get at Nick’s so much, that I order it every time I go. When you Google Nick’s Family Diner, you’ll find Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Urbanspoon all have something wonderful to say about this restaurant. Nick’s Family Diner also has it’s own Facebook page where customers can write their own reviews which is a great feature. Location and hours of operation are all available. Here’s a peek into Nick’s and some of their staple dishes. Be sure to check the board when you walk in, you may miss one of their delicious daily specials.

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My Recipe For Turkey Sausage, Sweet Potato, And kale Soup

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If you love soup, you will absolutely love this one. It’s healthy yet hearty, it’s so satisfying, you won’t feel guilty having seconds. It’s really easy to make, let me tell you how. I start out with the base of most soups.

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This soup starts out with the standard Mirepoix,. I have 1 large sweet onion, 2 carrots, 2 ribs of celery. next I have 2 peeled and diced sweet potatoes, and 2 minced cloves of garlic. In a heavy bottom pot on med high heat, I start out with 2 tablespoons or so of olive oil.

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I want to sweat these veggies out but not get any color on them so I add a good tablespoon of Kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes for some heat. After they have softened I add in 2 tablespoons of fennel seeds.

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I then add the turkey sausage to the pot and let that start to get some good color on it. Once that’s happened I add in 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped thyme leaves. Dried thyme will work fine as well. I try to use fresh herbs whenever possible. After the turkey has browned off I add my secret ingredient, Dry California Sherry, 2 tablespoons. This is totally optional, I just like that depth of extra flavor that it adds to this soup. If you don’t have Sherry, white wine will do in a pinch. Let this cook for a minute or two so the Sherry can reduce. Now I add the diced sweet potatoes.


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I stir this around and then add 1 chicken bullion cube and 2 quarts of low sodium chicken broth. I cook this on med high heat until the soup comes to a boil then turn in down to med and let it simmer for a good twenty minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender.



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At this point I add in 3 cups of fresh chopped kale and 1-1/2 cups of Israeli Cous Cous. I turn off the heat, put the lid on and let it just do it’s thing. The small pasta will automatically cook in the hot liquid, and the kale will wilt yet keep its bright green color.

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I like to serve this with some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. You could also add some homemade croutons to this soup that would be delicious too.This soup is so tasty, I’m sure, that like me, you’ll be making this again and again.

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