I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

Forgive me Rachael

I felt sort of bad about bashing Rachael Ray in my last post, so I thought I'd make it up by paying homage to a few more of her recipes.

The Spinach Artichoke Calzone is a great recipe that can be tweaked to accommodate any combination of ingredients that you want to use for filling ~ make them vegetarian or load them up with your favorite Italian meats. I was a little short on artichokes but had some sun-dried tomatoes and pepperoni on hand so I tossed those in as well. I picked up prepared pizza dough from the deli section of the grocery store instead of the tube variety and used it to make four huge calzones. After baking and cooling completely, these store well in the freezer.

Have fun and let your imagination run wild!

Rachael Ray's Spinach Artichoke Calzones
Makes 4


* 2 cups part skim ricotta
* 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated or a few pinches ground
* A few grinds black pepper
* 1/2 cup (a couple of handfuls) grated Parmigiano, plus extra, for sprinkling
* 1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
* 1 (15-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
* 2 (10-ounce) tubes refrigerated pizza dough
* 2 cups shredded mozzarella
* 2 cups tomato sauce, marinara or pizza sauce, for dipping or Five Minute Spicy Marinara, recipe follows


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a bowl. Roll each pizza dough out on a cookie sheet, and halve each cross-wise. Spread 1/2 cup mozzarella and up to 1/4 of filling on each rectangle. Work on just half of the surface of each rectangle of dough, then fold dough over top of filling and pinch edges firmly to seal. For a half-moon "pizza parlor" look to your calzones, mound filling into a half-moon shape, fold dough over top trim edges of dough to follow the rounded shape, then seal edges.

If your dough tears, remove a little of the filling and repair. Repeat the process, spacing the calzones evenly on baking sheet. Bake the calzones for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown all over. Serve calzones with warm tomato or pizza sauce for dunking.

Rachael's Note: Freeze any remaining filling in a small plastic container and use it to stuff a chicken breast on another day.

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Rachael Ray's Redemption

It is one of my (many) guilty pleasures to lay in bed on Saturday and Sunday mornings and watch the Food Network. Mostly I doze in and out of the segments and only vaguely recollect the delicacies my favorite chefs have prepared. Visions of garden parties hosted by the Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten and chocolate cupcakes baked by the curvaceous British maven Nigella Lawson dance and flit through my head for the rest of the day after I rise.

But there's one thing that always wakes me from my slumber ~ jolts me awake as if I just realized that I was catering a huge black tie affair for PETA and juicy thick steaks are on the menu. The panic inducing thing that I speak of is none other than the raspy, overly enthusiastic, screeching voice of Rachael Ray.

I'd like to know just how many cups of coffee this woman drinks in a day and I'd also bet that if you cut off her hands, she'd be rendered mute. I've never seen such highly caffeinated, flailing arms, nervous chatter in all my life. And really...once Oprah puts her "My Favorite Things" seal of approval on something, is there anything other than God that can put it asunder? Cooking shows, travel shows, magazine covers, talk shows, cookbooks, cookware, TV commercials. Rachael Ray ad nausem. Somebody give me a garbage bowl, please.

But (there's always a but), Rachael can cook. I dunno about the whole 30 minute deal because I have to stop for a drink every 90 seconds while I'm preparing one of her dishes just to drown out the sound of her voice replaying in my head. "Two turns of (arms waving frantically) EVOO extra-virgin olive oil in the pan" (we know WTF it is by now, Rach. You don't have to clarify (wave your arms some more) the meaning of EVOO Every. Single. Freaking. Time.)

Despite the fact that the mere sight of the woman makes me break out into a cold sweat, I will admit to having and using Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals 2 cookbook. I'll also confess that everything I've ever prepared from the book so far has been very good and this Chicken Paillard is no exception. Quick, easy, fresh and delicious, it's one of my favorite go-to dinners when I'm crunched for time.

Rach, honey, you drive me absolutely nuts but I totally dig your food.

Rachael Ray's Chicken Paillard
Serves 2


* 4 small whole chicken breast cutlets
* Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling, plus 2 tablespoons
* 4 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped and finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons
* 2 tablespoons fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley, a handful
* 1 lemon zested and juiced
* Coarse salt and black pepper
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 2 cups chicken stock or chicken broth
* 1 sack, 5 ounces, mixed baby salad greens, available in produce section


Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Arrange the chicken in a shallow baking dish and drizzle meat with extra-virgin olive oil to just coat the chicken, about 1 1/2 tablespoons, total. Combine chopped herbs and lemon zest and sprinkle over the chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Using your hands, rub the chicken and coat evenly with the herbs and seasonings. Wash hands with hot water and soap. Using tongs, transfer chicken in a single layer to hot skillet and cook chicken cutlets 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Cover cooked chicken loosely with foil to keep warm and repeat with remaining cutlets.

Return pan to heat and add butter. When the butter melts, add flour to the butter and cook, stirring with whisk, a minute or 2 to make a light roux. Whisk in chicken broth. When broth thickens to just coat the back of a spoon, remove pan from heat and turn off burner.

Toss salad greens with lemon juice and coarse salt. Drizzle 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil around the bowl and re-toss greens.

To serve, cover the bottom of a dinner plate with warm sauce. Top with a small pile of salad greens and 2 chicken cutlets.

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Breakfast of Champions ~ Part II

No doubt you'd rush the dessert table for a chocolate cupcake piled high with double chocolate frosting, but would you jump up from your desk and run to the office refrigerator for an egg cupcake?

An egg cupcake, you say? How funny is that?! The boss laughs every time I heat one of these up in the office kitchenette but I'm the one who's eating a healthy breakfast and laughing as he struggles with yet another foil PopTart package.

This recipe is great for two reasons ~ it's very versatile and it's freezer friendly. Thaw overnight (I pull a few out of the freezer at the beginning of the week and store them in an airtight container in the fridge), zap in the microwave for about 1 minute, add a spoonful of salsa on the side and you have a zesty, healthy, protein-rich breakfast.

Egg Cupcakes
makes 12

3 Tablespoons butter
1 cup mushrooms*, chopped
1 cup broccoli flowerets*, chopped
1 cup ham, finely diced (I use Applegate Farms organic and natural meat products)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup cheese, grated
Salt and pepper, to taste
Few dashes hot sauce, to taste
12 large eggs

*You can use any type of vegetables or ham, bacon or sausage that you would like for these.

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Spray cupcake tins with nonstick spray.

In skillet, add butter and olive oil and heat over medium-high heat until butter melts. Sauté mushrooms and broccoli, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and add grated cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fill each cupcake half full with vegetable mixture.

In bowl beat eggs and a few splashes of water until light and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper and a few dashes of hot sauce. Pour over vegetables in cupcake tins.

Bake 10 minutes. Serve immediately or wrap each cupcake in plastic wrap and store in refrigerate or freezer. Warm up in microwave when ready to eat.

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