Dijon Mustard, Garlic & Lemon Marinated Chicken

I LOVE marinades!  What is not to love about them?  You take a piece of bland protein or a vegetable, and you soak it in a marinade for a particular amount of time to infuse it with all kinds of flavor.  You may use a dry or a wet marinade to achieve a flavorful result.  In this case, I am using a wet marinade to flavor my husband’s favorite protein, chicken.



4 – 6 skinless, boneless organic Chicken breasts
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 tablespoon Grainy Mustard
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup Vouvray White wine
2 Lemons – zested & juiced
12 Garlic cloves
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Salt
1 teaspoon Black Pepper – freshly ground
pinch of Red Chili Flakes

In a very large bowl, combine the Dijon and grainy mustard with the Worcestershire sauce, white wine, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, chili flakes, salt, and pepper.  For the garlic, you may either mash it in a mortar and pestle, or you may grate it with the same microplane zester used to zest the lemons.  Whisk everything together and add the chicken breasts, and cover.  You may also divide the marinade into two by putting one half in a one gallon freezer bag with half the chicken, and the other half in another one gallon freezer bag with the other half of the chicken.  Now, place the chicken and marinade in the refrigerator for about two days.  I know, it is a long time, but trust me, they will be DELICIOUS and very flavorful!


4 (2 day) marinated Chicken breasts
2 cups of the Marinade
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
10 Thyme springs
1 Lemon – washed & juiced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place a large oven proof skillet or braiser over medium high heat until hot, then add the olive oil.  Now, gently place each chicken breast in the pan, and let sear for about 4 to 5 minutes on one side, or until that side of the breasts is caramelized.  Turn the chicken over on the other side, add the thyme spigs, the marinade, lemon juice, and juiced lemon.  Place the chicken in the oven for 30 minutes.  Take the chicken out of the oven, then remove the breasts and allow to rest on a plate, covered, for about 10 minutes.  I highly suggest straining the sauce left in the braiser using a fine mesh strainer.

Now that the chicken has rested, slice it and place it in a serving platter, topped with a few thyme sprigs and a few ladles of the strained sauce.  If you would like, place a few cooked lemon wedges around the platter for decoration, and there you have it.  Dinner is served.

Everyday Chicken Soup

It is early Sunday afternoon in Dallas; it’s raining, and the temperature is dropping.  The weather channel is forecasting an evening full of sleet and possible snow.  I would like to say that I am very happy with the notion of getting an extra day off.  So, what would be best to have on a very cold February night, one might ask?  Aside from a large mug of steaming hot chocolate, chicken soup comes to mind.  I have to feed my family after all.

My husband is upstairs in his office working, and my daughter is sitting in the dining room working on her science project.  I decide to start on dinner.  I have been known to spend more time than needed in the kitchen.  And this chicken soup takes quite a while to make; however, you can always modify it to take no more than an hour.  I will elaborate on that later in this post.  Let’s begin by making the stock.  I use an 8 quart pot for what will yield about 3 quarts of fortified stock.  Also, in this recipe, I used two organic chicken breasts with the skin still on and the bone still in; however, you can make it with a whole chicken or chicken thighs.  My reasoning is that my family and I prefer white meat, simple as that.


2 Chicken breasts bone-in, skin-on
3 Carrots
2 Celery stick
1 large yellow Onion
3 Bay Leaves
4 Thyme springs –
4 large Garlic clove
1 bunch of Italian Parsley – (use the sprigs for the stock, leave the leaves for the soup at the end)
3 Tablespoon of kosher Salt
1 Tablespoon whole Black Peppercorns
6 quarts of cold Water

Place everything in the pot, and place it on the stove over medium high heat, until it starts to boil.  When it boils, turn the heat down; it needs to be between a soft boil and a simmer.  After 45 minutes, remove the chicken, place them on a plate, and let them cool for a few minutes.  This is where you decide whether to make the long version, where the stock has a very deep flavor, or if you want to make the short version, that is delicious in any case.  For the longer version, remove the bones from the chicken once you are able to do so without burning your fingers, then toss them back in the stock.  Add 5 cups of cold water, and let the stock cook for another hour.  After which, you will strain the stock in a fine mesh strainer, return it to the stove, and add the desired vegetables (listed below) and the de-boned chopped or shredded chicken.

For the shorter version, once you remove the chicken from the pot to cool down, strain the stock with a fine mesh strainer.  Return the stock to the stove and add the following:


12 Mushrooms sliced
6 Carrots
1 yellow Onion
1 cup Peas
1 bunch of Italian Parsley

Once you have strained the soup to get a clear golden broth, place the chopped onions, carrots, and mushrooms in the pot and cook for about 30 minutes over medium heat.  After the vegetables are softened, add the peas, the shredded or chopped chicken, and finely chopped parsley.  I know a whole bunch of parsley seems like much, but trust me, it makes the soup taste better, look better, and is very good for you.  Let steep in the broth for about 5 minutes, then ENJOY!

Spinach Salad w/ Avocado & Walnuts

Salad is absolutely my favorite thing to make and eat, especially, with a crusty baguette.  Well, I guess anything is good with a baguette.  I think it all began when I was attempting to be healthy after graduate school, where my diet was horrible.  My food and drink consumption consisted of many cups or pots of coffee, overcooked “things” I occasionally had at 24 hour diners, and all simple carbohydrates.  So, when I graduated and began my career, I decided to go back to the way I used to eat, the way my mother taught me.  Salads were the first concoctions I made.  I found them to be so exciting, as I could make them with anything I liked.  I also experimented with many homemade dressings; however, I always seemed to go back to old faithful, my mother’s traditional Lebanese salad dressing made of freshly grated or mashed garlic, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil.  Fast forward nine years, now I am known as the “salad girl” among my family and close friends.  Allow me to share with you one of my favorite salads.


4 ounces of organic baby Spinach
1 cup of cherry Tomatoes
2 Avocadoes
1/2 Green Olives – pitted and chopped
1/2 cup Italian Parsley – finely chopped
1/4 cup Mint
1/4 cup toastes Walnuts
1/4 cup toasted Almonds

Lebanese Salad Dressing

2 Lemons juiced
4 Garlic cloves – grated or mashed
1/2 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Salt
1 teaspoon Pepper – freshly grated
a pinch of Red Chili Flakes (OPTIONAL)

In a large bowl, place the washed spinach and top it with sliced cherry tomatoes, diced avocado, chopped green olives, finely chopped Italian parsley, and chopped mint.  In a small bowl, you can grate the garlic with a microplane or mash it with a mortar and pestle.  Add the salt & pepper, lemon juice, and the extra virgin olive oil.  If you choose to add a bit of spice, mix a pinch of red chili flakes.

I usually buy raw walnuts and dry roasted almonds.  If you buy them both toasted, then great, you can omit this step.  If, however, you you buy them raw, then you may want to toast them on the stove or in the oven.  I believe the oven works best, but this time, I used the stove.  In a pan, toast the walnuts over medium low heat.  Be very careful not to burn them, as their natural oil allows them to burn very easily, if you neglect them, even for small moment.  After they are toasted to your liking, chop them on a dry cutting board, along with the almonds.  Add them to the salad.  Add the dressing and mix well.  Now plate and enjoy with your heavenly baguette.

Spinach, Mushroom & Goat Cheese Frittata

When I am hosting a brunch, I want to make delicious food that does not require me to spend the entire meal in the kitchen.  I, like most people, love socializing with my friends.  So, when they come for a weekend meal, I do my best to cook wisely.  And since it is a brunch, I have to make eggs.  An Italian frittata is perfect for such occasions.  You may use many kinds of herbs, vegetables, meat, and cheeses.  I like my frittatas filled vegetables, herbs, and a cheese or two.


Serves 8 people

12 large organic Eggs
1/4 cup organic Cream
4 tablespoons organic unsalted Butter2 tablespoons Salt
1 tablespoon black Pepper – freshly ground
2 Shallots
12 cremini Mushrooms
2 cups baby Spinach
1/2 cup Peas
1 Zucchini
4 Thyme sprigs
1/4 cup Italian Parsley – finely chopped
8 ounces Goat cheese – room temperature
1 cup grated Asiago cheese

Start by finely chopping the shallots, thyme, and parsley, then slice the mushrooms and zucchini.  In a sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, then add the mushrooms,  shallots, thyme, half the parsley, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  When they become translucent and a bit caramelized, take off the heat and place in a bowl to cool down to room temperature.  In the same sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter, and sauté the zucchini.  Salt and pepper them, as you want to season every layer.  When you are done sautéing the zucchini, place on a paper towel to remove all the excess moisture, as they cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, crack 12 large eggs, add the cream, 1 tablespoon or salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, and whisk lightly.  Add the Asiago cheese to the egg mixture.  Now that you are ready to make the frittata, melt the remainder of the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Though I am an advocate for stainless steel cookware, when it comes to cooking eggs and pancakes, I will always recommend you use a non-stick pan.  Add the sautéed room temperature mushrooms, shallots, and peas.  If you are using frozen peas, as I did, make sure they are defrosted and at room temperature before adding them to egg mixture.  When the butter is fully melted, add the spinach to the pan, and IMMEDIATELY add the egg mixture to the spinach.  You do not want the spinach to cook, as it will yield a copious amount of liquid, leaving your frittata in horrible shape.  Use a wooden or silicone spatula to very gently stir the mixture.

Now, add small dollops of goat cheese sporadically all over the frittata, then layer the zucchini all around it.  Remove the pan from the stove, and put it straight in the 350 degree oven.  Let the frittata cook for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the oven and the thickness of the frittata.  Do not over bake; it should be set like a custard.  Once it’s done, remove it from the over, and slide onto a serving plate.  Sprinkle the rest of the parsley all over it for garnish.  Buon Appetito!

Basil Pesto + Crostini Appetizer

Have you ever stopped to smell the amazing fragrant aroma of sweet basil?  For the Italians, it is the king of herbs.  For the Lebanese, aside from using it with our cheese, deli, and vegetable & herb platters (to be shown in a future post), we plant it outside our front doors and run our hands through it on the way in and on the way out.  Then we smell that amazing scent for the next few hours.  These days, every time I smell that intoxicating scent, I am taken back through time to my childhood, where I would run my fingers through those beautiful fragrant leaves …


6 cups sweet basil leaves
2 large Garlic cloves
1/3 cup toasted Pine Nuts
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Lemon juice
1 tablespoon Salt
1 teaspoon black Pepper freshly ground

Toast the raw pine nuts in a wide pan over low heat, as they tend to burn very easily.  Do not add any oil or butter to them.  Put the basil leaves, garlic, toasted pine nuts, salt, and pepper in a food processor.  Pulse it until everything is chopped finely.  Drizzle in the olive oil, then add the lemon juice.  Take the pesto out of the food processor and put in a bowl.  Gently stir in the grated Parmesan cheese.  You may use Asiago for a nuttier flavor or Pecorino Romano* for a sharper cheese flavor.

*Pecorino Romano is a very salty, yet delicious sheep’s milk cheese.  Should you choose to use it in this recipe, please omit the salt.  Only salt the pesto to your liking AFTER you have added the cheese and tasted it.

It would be noteworthy to mention that traditional pesto is made in a mortar and pestle.  However, for convenience’s sake, I use the food processor; it is much faster.  You may enjoy this freshly made basil pesto on pasta, bread, as a dip,or as a condiment in a sandwich / panini.  If you are not going to consume it within a couple of days, top it off with extra virgin olive oil to cover it, then leave it in the fridge.  It will keep for up to 2 weeks.  You may always freeze it to be used as a marinade much later.

CROSTINI – Bruschetta*

1 pint cherry Tomatoes
2 cups Basil Pesto
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive OilSalt and Pepper to taste

Mix the sliced tomatoes, basil pesto, and olive oil together in a bowl.  Season to taste.  Serve it with gently toasted crostinis.  When I made it last, I kept the crostinis and the tomato basil pesto mixture separate to keep the slightly toasted bread from being soggy.  And since we had some friends over for brunch, this deviation from the traditional bruschetta made the meal a bit more interactive.

*Bruschetta is a crostini topped with tomato, garlic, basil, olive oil, and of course, salt & pepper.

Dark Chocolate Pancakes w/ Dark Cherry Rum Compote & Toasted Walnuts

My daughter Amanda’s favorite breakfast on the weekends is pancakes.  She loves their simple flavor.  She eats them topped with powdered sugar and strawberries, no syrup needed.  When we have friends over for brunch, making them simple pancakes is just not something I would do.  So, I decided to make dark chocolate pancakes topped with a dark cherry rum compote and toasted walnuts.  I know it is a gamble, as I have never made these elaborate pancakes before, but I thought they would taste very much like a forêt noire or a black forest cake.  What gave me this idea was delicious black forest cake I made for my husband Kevin’s birthday a few weeks before.  Well, as you might have guessed, I made the pancakes, and they were a hit!

Dark Chocolate Pancakes with Dark Cherry Rum Compote and Toasted Walnuts

2 cups All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
2 tablespoons Baking Powder
pinch of Salt
1 1/2 cups organic Whole Milk
2 large organic Eggs
2 tablespoons of Pure Vanilla Extract2 tablespoons of organic unsalted Butter – melted
1/2 cup Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate – your choice
1 cup Walnuts – toasted
1/4 cup powdered Sugar

Dark Cherry & Rum Compote

12 ounces dark cherries – pitted
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Rum

In a small sauce pan, place the pitted cherries over medium heat for about 20-30 minutes, or heat them and let them simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add the sugar and allow them to break down further.   If you choose to use the canned variety of dark cherries, use their liquid as well and omit the sugar, as they will already be sweet enough.  After about 10 minutes, add the rum and let reduce to a syrup like consistency.  Basically, the resulting cherry compote should easily coat the back of a spoon.

Place a small sauce pan filled with about 2 to 3 inches of water on the stove and over medium low heat.  Take the chocolate and place it in a bowl on top of the sauce pan to create a double boiler.  Make sure the bowl is not touching the water.  As the water simmers, the resulting steam will gently heat the bowl and slowly melt the chocolate.

In a much larger bowl, add the flour, salt, and baking powder and stir.  In baking, you must mix the wet ingredients separately from the dry, then you combine.  Even for silly pancakes, we will follow the rules.  In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla together.  After which whisk in the milk.  Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients and fold them together to mix well.  Try not to over mix the batter.  Let the pancake batter sit for a few minutes.  Your pancakes will be very fluffy as a result.

In the meantime, toast the walnuts in a wide and shallow pan over medium low heat.  Be careful not to burn them.  Now that everything is practically ready, heat up a non-stick skillet on medium heat.  Melt a small amount of butter (or use non-stick spray), and add a ladle full of pancake batter to the pan.  When you see bubbles all over the top, flip the pancake and let cook for another minute or two.  Once you have made your pancakes, stack the desired amount on a plate.  Spoon the dark cherry compote over the pancakes.  Roughly chop the toasted walnuts, and sprinkle on top.  Finish off with some powdered sugar … et voilà, my ode to the forêt noire gâteau.

My Favorite Beef Stew

After a very long day of shopping and running errands, my husband, my daughter, and I decided to have a nice quiet movie night at home.  What to eat on that cold and tiring day?  Well, most affordable restaurants don’t make good soups or stews, with Pho being the exception for me.  Pho, in my opinion, is a very delicious Vietnamese noodle soup that I eat at least once a week.  For argument’s sake, however, let’s say those restaurants did in fact make delicious concoctions. Those yummy soups and stews don’t taste as good, when you take them to go.  So, I must make something at home, something delicious and hearty, a beef stew perhaps.  Definitely, something my Scottish-American husband will appreciate.


1 lb boneless grass fed Beef chuck
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/2 yellow Onions
6 Carrots
2 Parsnips
3 Yukon gold Potatoes
12 cremini or button Mushrooms
1 cup green Peas – frozen or fresh
5 Garlic cloves
5 Thyme sprigs
2 Bay leaves
1/4 cup chopped Italian Parsley
2 tablespoons Tomato paste
1 cup Red Wine (I use a good Bordeaux)
5 cups reduced Beef stock – instructions in text below
1/2 cup finely chopped Italian Parsley – at the end of cooking process
2 Tablespoons Salt or to taste
1 Tablespoon freshly ground Pepper or to taste

Make sure your beef is completely dry by using paper towels to soak up any moisture before searing.  Then sprinkle a generous amount of salt and freshly ground pepper.  Place a dutch oven or a deep pot of your choosing on medium high heat.  Once it is hot, add the olive oil and begin searing the seasoned beef.  DO NOT CROWD the pan; you might have to sear in batches.  If you crowd the pan, you will have steamed and not beautifully caramelized beef.  Do not worry about all the brown bits at the bottom of the pan; they are there purely for flavor.  They make everything taste better.  While you are searing the meat, or before you start this whole process, peel and chop the onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, potatoes, mushrooms, garlic, and finely chop the parsley.

After all the meat is seared, place it on a plate and to the side.  Now, add the chopped onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, potatoes, and mushrooms.  Stir them all while scraping the bottom of the pan to get all the brown bits.  Then add about 1 tablespoon of salt, 1/2 tablespoon of freshly ground pepper, and the tomato paste.  Stir the paste to get it integrated in the vegetable mixture.  After a couple of minutes, add the seared meat, 1/4 cup of the chopped Italian parsley, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves.

Add the wine to deglaze the bottom of the dutch oven; then, add the reduced beef stock, cover, and leave to cook on the stove on low heat for about 2 hours.  Thirty minutes before the stew is done, add the green peas.  After 2 hours, take the lid off, taste and season more, if necessary.  Add the final 1/2 cup of finely chopped Italian parsley, stir to mix, then serve with a crusty baguette – for best results – and ENJOY!

Making reduced stock is very easy, but time consuming.

Reduced Beef Stock

1 to 2 lbs Beef bones
2 Celery stalks
2 Carrots
1 Onion
2 Roma Tomatoes
4 Mushrooms
4 Garlic cloves
1 cup Parsley sprigs
4 Thyme sprigs
2 Bay leaves
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon whole Peppercorns
6 quarts Water

Place everything together in a large stock pot, add the water, and put on the stove on medium high heat till it reaches a boil.  Bring the heat down to reach a very soft boil, and leave it for about 2 hours.  After you get a rich broth, strain the contents of the pot in a fine mesh strainer.  Place the beautiful brown broth back on the stove and let reduce by half.  Now, you have reduced and concentrated beef broth.