Michael’s Chicken Francaise

I’ve been wanting to get this recipe up for a while now and since I’ve been so insanely busy recently (tis the Season), what an opportune time it is to feature a recipe from another fantastic cook in the family- my brother!  His expertise comes from his culinary school days and his professional experience (both many moons ago).  We share a passion for food, both making it and eating it, and he’s absolutely fantastic in the kitchen.  This Chicken Francaise recipe is one that makes my mouth water just from reading it-  thin cuts of golden brown chicken breast finished with a classic lemon butter sauce.  What a perfect meal for a romantic dinner (notice the candle light in the picture) or if you really want to wow you and your guests’ taste buds!

Creamy Shrimp, Artichoke, and Tomato Pasta

I found a great way to utilize leftover artichoke quarters I had from the Spinach and Artichoke Dip I made this past weekend.  They were the perfect addition to a creamy pasta dish that I make every now and again.   Sometimes we have it with chicken, but I primarily do it with shrimp.  The vegetables interchange based on what I have on hand, but one thing that is always a constant, is lots of  garlic.   What I love most about this meal is that the sauce has a rich texture, but is still light on fat (thanks to one of my faves- Fat Free Half & Half).  It’s a great weekday dinner as it takes less than a half hour to get ready and doesn’t take much effort to put together.

Apple Streusel Pizza (Submitted by Christie W- Tampa, FL)

I recently got a message from Christie who wrote, “This recipe is soooo good.”  How can I ignore that, especially when she’s talking about a sweet treat featuring Apples…. in the form of a Pizza?!?  Like any good person should do, she did not take credit for inventing this dish (it’s actually one from Publix Apron’s Simple Meals), but she did divulge how delicious it was when she made her very own Apple Streusel Pizza.  The simplicity behind it makes it a tempting recipe, which I will definitely be trying at some point in time, but I gotta save up some calories before I can do that! I’m sure it’s worth every one of them though.

Slow Cooked Black Beans

Holy frijoles!  These Black Beans will complete your favorite Latin meal like Lechon Asado or Ropa Vieja, but also have enough flavor to be eaten solo as a soup.  I cheat by using  canned beans instead of dried ones (hey, I’m only half Cuban so I can take short cuts like that) and I think the canned work better for the slow cooker in my opinion because they won’t turn to mush if you leave them in there a long time.  You could of course use dried beans but that would require soaking them overnight.  Nonetheless, these beans are delicious and I could eat them just about everyday with fresh white rice. Speaking of rice, check below the recipe for bonus tips on using a rice cooker!

Lechon Asado (Cuban Pork Roast)

Que rico! That’s all I can say about the Cuban feast we enjoyed last night. I adore getting back to my roots and chowing down on some home style Latin fare. This recipe isn’t a family heirloom (we actually don’t have one for Lechon Asado). It’s derived from the trustworthy 3 Guys from Miami one along with a little Flavor Appraiser flare. Being that I had to get this meal done on a weekday and revolve it around my work lunch break (I went home to get this sucker suckling in the oven), I didn’t get to cook the roast as long as I wanted to (a little longer and the meat would have been shreddable), but the flavor of the pork was so amazing, it didn’t matter what shape each bite was in.

My first go at Lechon Asado went over very well (just ask the guest of honor, birthday girl Vrenda) and I am proud to share it with you all. If you liked the Ropa Vieja recipe, you’ll love this other Spanish favorite. The next time I make the roast, I’m using the slow cooker (and finishing it off in the oven) so that I can put it in the pot in the morning and avoid the heart palpitations about leaving my oven on unattended. I’ll even provide the slow cooker method that I anticipate using in case anyone out there wants to give that a try!

Make sure you read the recipe all the way to the end for the bonus part of the meal!

Balsamic Asparagus

Asparagus has gained popularity over recent years and it has taken me some time to come around to them. I must admit that I am partial to the size of asparagus that I care for. I am not a fan of the big, thick stalks, but I really love the thin, pencil sized asparagus. Whenever I pass a bunch in the produce section that is full of the “skinny” ones, I have to grab it.  Asparagus is even a good find when I don’t know what’s on the week’s menu  since it goes well with all meats and fish (although I dislike when they stick it in my sushi roll).

You can mess with asparagus by boiling/blanching or steaming it, but I really like to roast it. Aside from it being real easy to do, I like the softer texture and the flavors that come out when it is cooked at a high temperature. I am sure there is a chef out there that would say I am ruining or overcooking the vegetable, but I think you’ll agree when you try this simple preparation, that the texture is fun to eat (kinda like cooked green beans) and the taste is excellent thanks to an uncomplicated combination of balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Fish N Chips (Un-Fried)

Does this recipe completely mimic the beer battered creations your favorite pub serves up? Not exactly, but it will give you a satisfying and much healthier alternative if you’re in the mood for Fish n Chips! It took everything in my power not to heat up some oil in a skillet and fry these filets once I got the coating on them, but I’m glad I resisted. Oven frying the tilapia in its cornmeal crust still gave the nice crunch I enjoy when eating traditional fish n chips (and left my fingers a lot less greasy). The tartar sauce was the final touch, adding a robust flavor that tasted surprisingly delicious. I must have commented 5 times about how great it was to be able to make a fat free sauce that held such a similar quality to that of the mayo induced version. As a matter of fact, the only complaint about the meal was that there we ran low on tartar (No worries, I already doubled the measurements when writing out the recipe).

No More Turkey Soup (Slow Cooker)

If you’ve got still got leftover turkey in the fridge, it’s time to get rid of it. This is one last meal that will morph Tom into a delicious, light and healthy soup that everyone will enjoy. I raided the veggie bin, used the last of the turkey, and added in some fun star-shaped pasta to make this a complete meal. The flavors came together perfectly as is, but the soup is really a versatile concept. Toss in green beans, corn, or whatever other veggies you’ve got to make your own version.

Amsterdam Sandwich

I’ve been a little MIA, thanks to a combination of a busy schedule and laziness, but I’m back with a bang. The Amsterdam Sandwich is a replica of an incredible creation I ate a couple of months back in Amsterdam (I probably could have been a bit more clever with the name). My gal pal Gina and I shared the original for lunch at a Dutch outdoor cafe and we fell in love- with the sandwich that is. It was so good that we didn’t shut up about it for weeks. We decided it was time for a reenactment. This replica was just as delicious, although we did miss the beautiful Amsterdam scenery that surrounded us. The men in our lives (who were left behind while we traveled abroad) also agreed that this sandwich was a blue ribbon winner and I know you will too!

Sweet Potato Casserole (Low Fat)

 Many versions of this traditional holiday side dish are out there, but what most of them contain, this one lacks- too much fat.  This Sweet Potato Casserole is delicious and not overcomplicated.  Sweet potatoes on their own, emit a combination of a comforting feel with an appealing taste, so there really isn’t a need to add in so much flavor.  The toppings enhance the sweetness of the dish and add texture to make this casserole extra enjoyable.