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!

The Other White Meat

Pork has long been touted as "the other white meat" because its versatility is much like chicken and also because nutritionally it's just as lean and healthy as compared to chicken.  Unfortunately, some cuts of pork have been trimmed so lean that they are hard to prepare without them turning out dry and tough.

Boneless pork chops is one cut that I have problems with but since my grocery store regularly has them on sale for "Buy One, Get One," I wanted to find an easy, no-fail way to prepare them.  This recipe for Tomato Basil Pork Chops has simple ingredients that you probably already have on hand and is very easy to put together, but it does take about an hour to simmer.  Start it on the stove as soon as you come home from work, help the kids with homework while it's simmering, and soon dinner will be  served.  Serve over rice or egg noodles and with a green salad on the side.      

Tomato Basil Pork Chops
Serves 4

4 (1-1/2 inch thick) boneless pork chops
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 TBSP vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup water
1-1/2 TBSP cornstarch
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
28 ounces diced tomatoes, undrained
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
2 tsp dried basil leaves

Using a sharp knife, butterfly pork chops and pound lightly with mallet. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add pork chops and brown on both sides (approximately 4-6 minutes). Remove from pan.

Add onions, garlic, and bell pepper to pan and cook until crisp-tender, approximately 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan and side aside.

Return chops to pan. Stir in tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, and water. Cook over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until chops are tender (approximately 50-60 minutes).

Remove chops from pan and keep warm. Add cornstarch in a small bowl and mix with some of the liquid from the tomatoes. Stir cornstarch mixture into hot tomatoes and stir well. Add peppers, onions, and pork chops.

Increase heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thickened and vegetables are tender (approximately 5-6 minutes). Serve sauce over pork chops.

Pin It
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS

Mushrooms. Yuck. Mushrooms with Alcohol. Yum.

Getting kids to eat fruits and vegetables that they don't like is always tricky business. You may try to cut the foods into minuscule pieces, hide them in with other foods they like, or resort to a reward system for eating the disliked items. I'm sure my mother probably tricked me into eating yucky foods when I was a kid, but she knew I was on to her when I'd leave nothing but peas and carrots in the bottom of my vegetable soup bowl.

These days, I do try to broaden my food horizons and try things that I haven't liked in the past because it is true that your tastes change over time. But there is one surefire way to get me to eat something previously thought as yucky ~ soak it in alcohol! 

I used to prepare this recipe for Chicken Breasts with Sherried Mushrooms in the catering kitchen and it was always a winner with clients, but I never cared for the texture of mushrooms myself.  I'm learning to like them, though, with Shiitakes being at the top of my list (and they would work well in this recipe) and button mushrooms needing quite a bit of seasoning and/or the addition of other items for me to fully enjoy.  I tried this recipe on a whim last week and was a total plate cleaner!  Even if you aren't a fan of 'shrooms either, I bet you'll love them after they're sauted in sherry wine and served atop a tender chicken breast. 

Chicken Breasts with Sherried Mushrooms
Serves 4

4 each chicken breast halves, butterflied and pounded
2 TBSP flour
kosher salt, as needed
freshly ground black pepper, as needed
3 TBSP vegetable oil, divided
2 cups fresh white mushrooms, sliced
2 TBSP shallot, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry sherry, divided
1-1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped

Combine flour, salt and pepper in a shallow dish and dredge chicken until lightly coated. Heat 2 TBSP vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add chicken and cook about 5 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside. Wipe skillet clean of drippings.

Add remaining 1 TBSP vegetable oil to pan and heat again over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and shallots, saute until tender, about 3 minutes.

Combine 1 TBSP sherry and cornstarch and set aside. Add remaining sherry and chicken broth to skillet. Bring to a boil; cook until sauce is reduced to about 1-1/2 cups. Add cornstarch mixture, cook, stirring constantly about 1 minute or until mixture is thickened.

Return chicken to pan, cover, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes or until tender. Transfer chicken to a serving platter, top evenly with mushroom mixture. Garnish with parsley.

Pin It
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS

270 Seconds Can Change Your Life

Am I the only girl in the world who thinks Valentine's Day is a total rip-off for guys?  I think it's atrocious that men have to purchase an expensive gift just to prove their love, and at the risk of speaking against my own gender, I think it's even more sad that women EXPECT that a man should do this.  (Okay, ladies...let the bashing begin.)

What happened to showing our love, adoration, respect and concern for each other EVERY. SINGLE. DAY?  Is that not enough?  Or could it be that the expensive gift given one day a year is intended to make up for the fact that maybe our men don't appreciate us on a daily basis? (It's equal opportunity bashing day, so you men can just start your line right here <----)

For me, Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate the idea of love but every day should be a day of showing love, respect and adoration.  Valentine's Day is the day you give a silly, maybe semi-naughty token of your love and adoration.  Something simple but thoughtful.  Something that made you think of your loved one and made you giggle at the thought of giving it to them.  Something from the heart.

I read an online article not long ago from Esquire Magazine about better marriage tips (maybe I should have read that article two marriages ago, but whatever) and it really stuck with me.  The premise of the article was how to have a better marriage by dedicating 270 seconds to your loved one every day. 

270 seconds. 

That's less than 5 minutes, folks, and surely you can find that small amount of time in your schedule.   I think these same tips hold true if you're in a relationship and not married and it is also a good theory for both guys and gals to practice.  See what you think...


First thing, take ninety seconds to give her the greatest good morning possible: "Good morning. I love you." And if she's asleep, you can lower your voice and whisper, "I love you. Have an awesome day." She'll hear you anyway.

After Work

Right when you get home, focus on her for a full ninety seconds. If she's happy, you go happy; if she's low, you go low, and make sure you look her in the eyes long enough to discern her eye color. This says, I value you, I need you.


Sometime during the last thirty minutes before bed, take ninety seconds to engage fully with her. Do not talk about children, money, or work. Don't talk about the past at all. Look at her, stroke her hair, snuggle up to her, tell her you love her.

Ninety seconds in the morning, ninety seconds after work (or any time you've been away from her for at least two hours), and ninety seconds at night. That's how you bond. After seven to ten days, the marriage will change.

My Valentine does all of these above things and spends far more than 270 seconds doing them. I'm very conscious of the effort that my Valentine puts into making me feel special and I want to repay that favor with my own actions of adoration, kindness and respect.  My Valentine makes me a better person and that, my friends, is what it's all about.

These to-die-for rich chocolate brownies will be part of the gift to my Valentine and although they don't take much longer than 270 seconds to put together and get into the oven, the thought behind making and giving them is so much more.  Happy Valentine's Day! 

270 Seconds To Better Love Brownies

1 box Ghiradelli Ultimate Fudge Brownie Mix
plus these ingredients that are called for on the box:
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
plus these add ins:
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mix and bake according to package directions.  Be sure to use the glaze packet included in the box to finish off these decadent bites of chocolate.

An easy peasy way to say to your Valentine "I love you" or "I adore you" or "hey baby, you're da bomb!"

Pin It
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS

Who's The Cheesiest?

Just in time to try and capture the Super Bowl crowd, Domino's Pizza is advertising their Stuffed Cheesy Bread and how great it is. Their claim is that they sampled cheese bread from all the other competing pizza joints and then made theirs even cheesier.

I've got news for you Domino' bread is even more cheesier than the cheesiest bread you could ever dream of creating! With a whopping 1/2 pound of melted mozzarella and Havarti oozing out of this, who could argue??

This recipe hails from a 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine and claims to be a close replica of a traditional bread from the Republic of Georgia (the country, not the state) called khachapuri. The combination of Havarti and mozzarella is similar to the salted cow's milk cheese called sulguni used in the Georgian version of the bread. Of course we Americans are notorious for putting our own "traditional" spin on things and serving this warm, cheesy goodness with marinara sauce or a garlicky butter sauce would no doubt make this an over-the-top Super Bowl game snack.

This bread is best right out of the oven but the dough can be made the day before and left to rise slowly in the refrigerator, so you can have a batch of this ready to bake just before kick off or during half-time if you want to avoid another display of total narcissism.

Georgian Cheese Bread
Serves 8

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (a 1/4-ounce package)
7 tablespoons warm water (105-115°F)
1 2/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 pound Havarti cheese, coarsely grated
1/4 pound salted mozzarella, coarsely grated
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted

Sprinkle yeast over warm water and stir in 1 tablespoon flour. Let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes. (If yeast does not activate, start over with new yeast.)

Stir together salt and remaining flour in a large bowl, then stir in egg and yeast mixture to form a dough.

Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and turn to coat with flour, then knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form into a ball and dust with flour. Let dough rest in a bowl, covered with plastic wrap, punching down with a wet fist every hour, at least 2 hours and up to 3.

Preheat oven to 500°F with rack in middle.

Turn out dough onto floured pizza pan, turning to coat, then flatten with your fingers into a 7-inch disk.

Toss together cheeses and press into a compact 3-inch ball with your hands. Place ball in middle of dough, then gather dough up around ball of cheese, squeezing excess dough into a topknot. Press down on topknot with a damp fist to press cheese out from center. Continue to flatten dough and distribute cheese evenly, pressing outward from center, until dough is an 11-inch disk.

Cut a 6-inch X through top of dough to expose cheese. Bake until pale golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Brush surface of dough with butter and bake until golden and cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes more.

Cooks' note: • Dough can be made 1 day ahead and chilled in bowl (for a slow rise), covered with plastic wrap. Punch down and bring to room temperature before proceeding with recipe.

Pin It
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS