Baked Chicken w/ Tomato Bacon Relish

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!

Honoring your father on Father’s Day doesn’t require his physical presence. I feel what is more important is just the act of doing it. I am very grateful to have had a father who was such a strong role model in my life. Everything he did was driven by his commitment to provide and care for the family he loved.

My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. Both our dads loved to talk and tell stories from their lives. We often wish we could retrace that time and hear their voices again. It seems you never fully appreciate your parents until they are no longer on this earth. It is so important to appreciate every hour they are in your life.

Brion & I eat a lot of chicken, so I’m always interested in another way of serving it. This recipe gives you not only crispy chicken but a flavorful tomato bacon relish to compliment it.

If you’re a bacon lover, it probably goes without saying, but bacon goes well with everything. Tomato bacon relish sounds like it would be savory, but it’s actually pretty sweet, just like other fruit jams! However, it does have a lot more complexity thanks to the bacon and spices.

The concept may sound strange, but it tastes like caramelized tomatoes–richer, sweeter, and more mellow than their fresh counterparts, balanced by the savory and smoky flavors of the bacon and smoked paprika. A little vinegar and mustard add a subtle tang, and you’ll get a hint of heat at the end from red pepper flakes.

It’s perfect spread on toast, in an omelet or a grilled cheese sandwich, on roasted veggies, next to cheese and crackers on a charcuterie board, or spread over cream cheese or brie for a party appetizer, etc. etc.

My special meal in honor of our dad’s on this Father’s Day is baked chicken tenders with bacon tomato relish.

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Baked Chicken w/ Tomato Bacon Relish
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Instructions
Chicken
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. In a shallow bowl, mix bread crumbs, 2 Tbsp thyme & 1/4 tsp each salt & pepper. Place flour & egg in separate shallow bowls. Dip chicken in flour; shake off excess. Dip in egg, then in crumb mixture, patting to help coating adhere. Place chicken on a greased rack in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Bake about 15 minutes or until no pink remains.
Bacon Tomato Relish
  1. In a skillet, over medium high heat, fry bacon until crispy. Remove bacon to plate. Drain all but 1 Tbsp bacon drippings.
  2. In the same skillet, sauté onions in reserved bacon drippings until onion starts to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic during last minute of sautéing.
  3. Add bacon & all remaining ingredients; stir to combine. Increase heat & bring mixture to a boil.
  4. Decrease heat & simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are tender.
  5. Serve over baked chicken tenders.

Apricot-Lime Glazed Chicken

In 2019 & 2020 Brion & I spent a couple of holidays in the beautiful town of Mérida on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Of course there were many places to explore such as the archeological sites like Chichen Itza and Uxmal while we were there. If you would like to see pictures and read about some of our adventures in Mérida, you can find them on the website blogs in February 2019 & January 2020.

When I decided to make this chicken meal today the peninsula’s bright and sunny flavors came back to me remembering the chicken lime soup we had tasted there. In Yucatán, the lime they use for this soup is the region’s native lima ágria.

In Mexico, using lime juice is quite common. People squeeze limes over grilled meats, fruits, vegetables, salads, soups, drinks, and even chips. The lime juice brings out the flavors in food in a way best described as ‘bright’. It’s tangy, refreshing, and brings out the best flavors in the food it’s on.

The apricot-lime glaze, with a touch of hot sauce, makes the perfect combo of sweet, sour, and spicy on these chicken thighs.

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Apricot-Lime Glazed Chicken
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Instructions
  1. Heat grill to medium. In a small bowl, combine preserves, lime juice, hot sauce & red pepper flakes.
  2. Season chicken with 1/2 tsp black pepper & grill, covered, turning occasionally 10-15 minutes. Uncover & continue grilling, basting with sauce until chicken is cooked through, 5-7 minutes more.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. cut each ear of corn into 3-4 pieces. Add corn to pot with 2 tsp salt & simmer until just tender, 3-4 minutes. Drain, transfer to platter & serve with chicken & lime wedges.

Mixed Berry Summer Pudding

Summer pudding is an unbaked bread pudding. The summer part refers to the abundance of fresh berries this time of year, but if you don’t have access to fresh fruit, frozen berries will work fine. For the bread, a cinnamon loaf makes this bread pudding so special.

If you’ve never had summer pudding, now’s the time. It couldn’t be easier to make—start with making a simple fruit compote, then cube your bread and alternate the two in layers. Weight it down overnight and refrigerate. The result is the essence of summer: The bread absorbs the juices from the berries, giving it a vibrant, unforgettable hue.

This is a classic go-to British pudding for a reason; it’s perfect to use up any leftover berries and stale bread for a colorful summertime treat. This recipe calls for blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, but there are many other choices that will work as well, such as strawberries, loganberries, cherries, or black currants. To make sure that the pudding gets the best texture, seek out a better-quality bread; anything less could result in a grainier, far less appealing texture. It’s perfectly fine, and encouraged, to use stale bread as well.

This is an easy recipe for chilled berry bread pudding that you can prep and cook the day before and refrigerate until it’s time to serve. Summer pudding makes the perfect refreshing summer dessert topped with fresh whipped cream.

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Mixed Berry Summer Pudding
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Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar & cornstarch; blend well. Add berries; stir. Cook over low heat until mixture boils & thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.
  2. Line a 6-cup mold with plastic wrap. Place a small bit of the fruit on the bottom then add a layer of bread cubes.
  3. Pour a small amount of fruit compote over bread. Repeat, alternating layers of bread & compote.
  4. Place plastic wrap over pudding. Cover with a plate that fits tightly inside mold; place a heavy object on top of the plate to mold pudding. Refrigerate overnight. Unmold onto a serving plate & serve with whipped cream. Garnish with mint leaves if desired.

Baked Scallops w/ Ritz Cracker Topping

The foods that stay always stocked, the staples of anyone’s pantry, hold the secret to understanding what makes each individual household special in its own way.

One of the most telling is where someone keeps their Ritz crackers: stocked as the go-to snack for the family, among the chocolate chips as a home baker’s secret to pie, or with the tinned fish, destined to be the base of canapés for a party. Keeping a box of Ritz crackers on the shelves means always having a welcoming taste on hand— easy access to a versatile staple that goes with anything and requires no effort to prepare.

Ritz Crackers are a universal favorite. They’ve been a comforting fixture in grocery stores for over 80 years. Simply put, these scalloped golden discs have an ideal level of saltiness. They’re tender, but not to the point of crumbling as soon as you take a bite. They’re toasty, buttery, and seasoned throughout (instead of just on the top) but not in a way that would overpower whatever toppings or dips you’d enjoy with them.

Cracker breading is the perfect complement for fish, seafood, chicken or a vegetable casserole, mashed potatoes and of course, macaroni and cheese.

The combination of flavors in this simple casserole make it such a classic — just scallops, lemon, butter, vermouth, and Ritz crackers. Taking a bite of baked scallops with Ritz crackers is like going back in time, an old-school pleasure. It’s purely delicious, and incredibly easy to make.

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Baked Scallops w/ Ritz Cracker Topping
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Place rack on the second to top position.
  2. Wash scallops & pat dry. Remove the side muscle if still attached.
  3. Arrange scallops in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. In a small bowl, stir together the cracker crumbs, garlic salt & pepper. Sprinkle the scallops evenly with the cracker crumb mixture, then Parmesan. Pour the butter over all, then sprinkle evenly with the lemon juice & vermouth. Cover the dish with foil & bake for 20 minutes, then remove foil & bake an additional 10 minutes.
  4. Turn the heat up to 'broil' & with the oven door ajar, brown the top for an additional 2 or 3 minutes.
  5. Serve hot, garnished with a slice of lemon & fresh chopped chives or parsley.

Shrimp Orzotto in Creamy Wine Sauce

Cooking with wine is a bit of a misunderstood area. It’s not quite as simple as many people believe it to be with such a wide range of wines available to cook with and a variety of ways in which to use them.

Wine is used in a similar fashion to seasoning. You’re not pouring it in to change the taste of the entire dish, but more to enhance and complement the flavors already there. The alcohol present in wine actually triggers the release of flavor molecules in the sauce, making every ingredient the wine contacts taste even better.

White wines can be wonderful in a whole host of dishes, which is why you’ll often find them in chicken, fish and seafood recipes, as well as vegetarian.  Seafood such as lobster and shellfish are considered full-bodied, so are better partnered with creamier, full-bodied whites like Chardonnay. White wine sauce has been described as ‘a classic sauce for fish’.

A common misconception when cooking with wine is that all alcohol content is burned off during the cooking process. This isn’t completely true. Typically, the majority of the alcohol will evaporate, but in order to eliminate all traces you would need to cook something for a good three hours or more.

It’s not just alcohol content that is evaporated either. All wines contain a small amount of sulphites, a natural result of the winemaking process. These evaporate along with the alcohol, while the flavors are concentrated. The undesirable stuff comes out, the good stuff is enhanced!

This shrimp orzo is nicely complimented with the creamy wine sauce.

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Shrimp Orzotto in Creamy Wine Sauce
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Instructions
  1. In a large bowl pat the shrimps dry with paper towel, & mix them with salt, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning & crushed red pepper flakes.
  2. Melt 1 tbsp. of butter in a large, non-stick skillet on medium heat. Add shrimp & fry for 1-2 minutes on each side, just until it cooks through.
  3. Meanwhile bring 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth to a boil & cook orzo pasta until all the broth is absorbed & orzo is tender. Set aside.
  4. Remove the shrimps from the skillet & set aside. In the same skillet, add the remaining 1 tbsp. of butter & melt until it just starts to brown. Add onion & garlic and cook until translucent & fragrant.
  5. Once the garlic is cooked, add wine & cook for a couple of minutes. Next add heavy cream & once the liquid is simmering, add salt & 1 teaspoon of Italian seasoning. Add orzo & crumbled gorgonzola cheese.
  6. Add shrimp back into the skillet & reheat. Serve with chopped parsley.

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Minis

It’s spring and with warm weather on the horizon, it’s time to trade in decadent, comforting desserts for some light and airy cheesecakes. Bright springtime days seem to call for a change of flavors as we leave winter behind and rush headlong into the season of renewal. It doesn’t get much better than classic cheesecake. Smooth, creamy, and incredibly rich, it’s one of the few desserts we can eat with different fillings, and anything piled on top.

It has ‘cake’ in its name, but in many ways, it is more like a pie. It can be made with ricotta, mascarpone, cream cheese, or quark. It can have a crust or not, be topped with fresh fruit or jam; spend time in the oven or be no-bake and turn out anywhere from very sweet and creamy to dense and only slightly sweet. Cheesecake is a dessert beloved the world over.

When I think spring baking, I instantly think of lemon and blueberries! These mini desserts feature a light lemon cream cheese filling, ginger cookie crumb crusts and are topped with a homemade blueberry sauce. Yum!

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Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Minis
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MINIS
Ingredients
Lemon Cheesecake Filling
Blueberry Topping
Servings
MINIS
Ingredients
Lemon Cheesecake Filling
Blueberry Topping
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Instructions
Lemon Cheesecake Filling
  1. Dissolve the Jell-O powder in boiling water. Set aside to cool. Combine cream cheese, sugar & vanilla in a mixer bowl. Beat until well combined. Stir in the cooled lemon Jell-O, until well combined. Place in refrigerator until slightly starting to gel.
Gingersnap Crust
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a small bowl combine gingersnap crumbs & sugar (if using) & mix well. Add melted butter & mix until it is well blended. Using a mini cheesecake pan, divide crumb mixture evenly between the 12 cups. Bake for about 5 minutes. Cool completely.
Blueberry Topping
  1. In a small saucepan, mix together cornstarch, sugar & salt. Add water & blueberries & cook until 'clear' & bubbling.
Assembly
  1. Place slightly thickened lemon filling in a pastry bag with an open nozzle. On top of the cooled crumb base in each cup, divide the lemon filling evenly. Cover lightly with plastic wrap & refrigerate for at least 2 hours or more.
  2. When firm enough, remove cheesecakes from the pan. Place on a serving dish & top each one with some blueberry topping. Garnish with lemon zest if desired.

Cauliflower, Chicken & Bacon Gratin

Gratin is sort of like a crustless quiche, but a little more substantial. What’s not to like about anything cooked with chicken, bacon, custard and cheese? The cauliflower is meltingly tender. The bacon is smoky. The chicken is seasoned just right. The custard that holds it all together is creamy, and I love cheese.

Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable. It’s inexpensive and good for you, and you can turn it into rice or pizza crusts. It even gives a pretty good impression of a ‘steak’. You can add cauliflower to virtually any casserole, and it will blend right in with the meat and cheese. This gratin is loaded with cauliflower, but with all the bacon, chicken and cheese in there you’ll barely notice.

There are few things as convenient or as comforting as a ‘casserole.’ While the easy-to-assemble dish might appear to be a more modern invention, casseroles have existed in one form or another across different food cultures throughout history.

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Cauliflower, Chicken & Bacon Gratin
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  2. Arrange chicken in a 9 x 13-inch, foil lined baking dish. Drizzle chicken with olive oil & season with salt & pepper. Roast for 45 minutes. Remove from oven & shred.
  3. Reduce oven to 350 F.
  4. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add cauliflower & cook for 6 minutes. Strain cauliflower well.
  5. In the 9 x 13-inch baking pan, gently stir together cauliflower, chicken, 1 cup shredded cheese, bacon pieces, green onions, ranch seasoning mix & garlic powder. Top with halved cherry tomatoes & remaining cheese.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes. I put a pan with a small amount of water in it under the baking pan to prevent the gratin from drying out during the baking time.

Shrimp Boil Foil Packs

CELEBRATING MAY LONG WEEKEND!

Wherever you live across Canada, this May long weekend – typically marks the start of grilling season. It’s time to get outside in the sunshine, fire up the BBQ, and enjoy savory grilled food with family and friends. This distinctly Canadian holiday serves as the official marker to end winter. For Canadians, this is the first long weekend since Easter and a good excuse to celebrate the beginning of the summer season.

Seafood boils likely began with the Acadian Exile, which displaced thousands of Acadians from Canada’s Maritime provinces in the 1700’s to various regions of the U.S.A. Many settled in South Louisiana, where they became known as ‘Cajuns,’ and shared their tradition of boiling shellfish with seasonings and vegetables.

A shrimp boil is a dish that displays a medley of seafood, sausage, and vegetables, ultimately revolving around shrimp seasoned and cooked to perfection. Shrimp boil foil packet meals are everything great about a quintessential seafood boil neatly wrapped in individual packets without the mess.

Foil packets are the ultimate summer BBQ or camping meal! These shrimp boil foil packets are easy to make and quick to cook on the grill or over a fire but can also be made in the oven. There are lots of things to love about foil packet dinners. They can be made in advance (the day before or morning of), they travel well, and they require virtually no clean-up. There’s just something about the ingredients cooking and steaming all together over the fire, whether you’re camping or just in your own backyard (or cooking them in the oven), that makes these so good. Just assemble your ingredients, seal them inside using aluminum foil and parchment paper, and place them over your heat source.

This is an amazing recipe that’s full of flavor, perfect for the May long weekend.

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Shrimp Boil Foil Packs
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. or the grill to medium-high (about 400 F). If using frozen shrimp place the package under cold water for 10 minutes to thaw.
  2. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and add the potatoes and corn. Reduce the heat & bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes on simmer then drain into a colander. Set aside.
  3. While the potatoes & corn are cooking, prepare 4 sets of 12-inch by 24-inch long aluminum foil sheets. Fold each in half, forming a square. If using industrial aluminum foil simply prepare sheets measuring 12-inches square. Slightly fold up the edges of the sheets.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the drained potatoes & corn, sausage, thawed shrimp, onion, and garlic. Drizzle with the 4 tablespoons of melted butter, season with salt, pepper (if using), & Old Bay seasoning. Mix very well to coat all of the ingredients.
  5. Divide the shrimp boil ingredients between the four aluminum foil sheets. Neatly fold into packets, ensuring a good seal.
  6. Place them onto a baking sheet & bake for 15 minutes. If grilling, place the packets directly onto the grill surface & cook for 15 minutes, flipping once after about 8 minutes.
  7. Serve the packets slightly opened up, garnished with chopped parsley, a pinch of Old Bay seasoning, and a few lemon wedges. Serve the melted butter on the side for optional drizzling over the shrimp boil or for dipping.
Recipe Notes
  • For our meal, I did not add any salt or pepper. We found the Old Bay seasoning was enough for our liking. Just personal preference!

Spiced Upside Down Peach Crisp

Fruit crisp is a classic dessert that has been around for centuries. The first known recipe was published in an 1828 cookbook. The recipe used frozen fruit instead of fresh and while fresh fruit is often used in baking, frozen fruit is a great alternative. 

Fresh fruit always has such appeal. It brightens the fridge and counter with cheery colors and sweet scents. Frozen fruit allows for some flexibility by extending a typically short shelf life. Both have their place in the kitchen.

 Frozen fruit may not have the same crispness or texture as it’s fresh counterpart but there are some great benefits to using it.

  • It’s available all year round
  • You can use it straight from the freezer
  • Convenience – it’s already washed and ready to go
  • Frozen fruit is generally quick-frozen at its peak and as soon as it’s picked

This peach crisp is amazing! The frozen peaches are enhanced with fresh lemon juice and flavorings and the spiced oatmeal topping has toasted pecans to add a little crunch. Yum!

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Spiced Upside Down Peach Crisp
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Crisp Topping
Spiced Cream Topping
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Crisp Topping
Spiced Cream Topping
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Instructions
Fruit
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line & lightly grease a 9-inch spring form baking pan with foil.
  2. In a large bowl, combine thawed & drained peaches, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, almond extract & salt. Set aside.
Crisp Topping
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, flour, oats, pecans & spices. Add butter & mix with a wooden spoon until topping is crumbly.
Assembly
  1. Into prepared baking dish pour peach mixture. Sprinkle the crisp topping evenly over the peaches. Bake for 40 - 45 minutes or until top is golden brown. Remove from oven & allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove outside ring from pan then flip crisp over on a serving plate & slice.
Spiced Cream Topping
  1. Add heavy cream to a chilled bowl & beat until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in vanilla, sugar & spices until peaks form.
  2. Serve crisp with spiced cream topping or vanilla ice cream if you would rather.
Recipe Notes
  • Since there are just two of us, I made only half of the recipe, that's why mine is quite thin in the picture. Still gave us 10 pieces!
  • I baked it long enough to really caramelize the peaches. Yum!

French Toast Board

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, many special memories come to mind. My mother passed away in 1978 but even after 44 years, time has changed nothing. I still miss the sound of her voice, the wisdom in her advice, the stories of her life and just being in her presence. I miss her today as much as the day she left us. At the time of her passing a friend said to me, ‘your mother is always with you’. At the time, I didn’t quite understand what she had meant but as the years have passed it has become clear to me.

We are fortunate to still have Brion’s mother, Dolores, in reasonable health. It is with loving thoughts we celebrate her today for her loving and kind ways.

On this Mother’s Day, I would also like to acknowledge my sisters Marilyn & Rita, who give so much of themselves to be the great mom’s they are.

French toast breakfast board for Mother’s Day is the perfect way to celebrate mom this year. Brunch boards make a beautiful display of food while inviting guests to casually graze at their leisure.

Breakfast boards are a lot like charcuterie boards: they include a variety of different tastes, textures, and flavors from a simple brunch menu. The variety and options are endless and there’s something for everyone to enjoy from it.

French toast is so simple to make and must be one of the most comforting breakfast carbs with its crispy, golden exterior and creamy, fluffy interior. Overnight French toast is a recipe that is simple and indulgent. When you make it the day before, the morning meal is tasty and effortless! Just bake it in the oven on Mother’s Day morning to complete your French toast board. Thanks to a long overnight soak in a heavy cream-infused custard, which transforms the sliced challah into a pudding-y delight. A French toast board usually consists of:

*French toast- thick slice bread such as challah, brioche or French

*French toast toppings – such as candied pecans, powdered sugar, maple syrup, chocolate chips and cinnamon/sugar mixture.
*Fruit – 
strawberries, blueberries, caramelized or natural bananas, kiwi, blood oranges for extra color or any personal choices you have.
*Butter –
always a staple.
*Something savory –
bacon, sausage, hashbrowns and/or scrambled eggs.

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Overnight French Toast
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Cuisine American
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Instructions
Night Before
  1. Slice bread into 1" thick slices & let dry on the counter for a couple of hours (or place in a 300°F oven for 10 minutes using caution not to brown the bread).
  2. Place melted butter, brown sugar, & cinnamon on a large rimmed baking sheet about 17" x 12". Mix well and spread on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Arrange bread in the pan over the brown sugar mixture.
  4. Combine eggs, milk, vanilla & maple/rum extract.
  5. Gently pour half of the egg mixture over the bread ensuring all of the bread is soaked. Flip the bread & pour the remaining egg mixture over top.
  6. Sprinkle with chopped nuts (if using) & 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Cover the pan with plastic wrap & refrigerate overnight.
In the Morning
  1. Remove the pan from the refrigerator and let it sit on the counter for 20 minutes
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes until a GOLDEN brown.
  4. Serve with butter & other items on your French Toast Board.