The American Burger….add some Tuscan flair and take it up a notch to a “Gourmet Burger” by adding Pecorino Cheese, some caramelized onions, a little sage, some gingery homemade ketchup, and top it off with fresh Foccacia Bread!  Wow!  Chianti Burgers with Caramelized Onions in the April 2014 Food & Wine Magazine  sounded amazing!  I had been looking for new twist on the everyday burger…could this be the recipe I was looking for?

Chianti Burgers with Caramelized Onions
Chianti Burgers with Caramelized Onions

I sent Jeff to the grocery store with clear instructions on what to buy (he came through mostly!) and was excited about the fresh ingredients he brought home.  All except for one:  Herb-Flavored Foccacia Bread.  I knew that might conflict with the flavors in the burger and it turned out I was right so note to everyone out there:  If you can’t find PLAIN Foccacia Bread for this recipe, go with another kind of bread/bun like Ciabatta!

I was also very wary of the Pecorino Cheese when I tasted it…it was very strong and I thought surely this is going to overwhelm the burger but as it turned out the sweetness of the homemade ketchup complemented it perfectly!  So make sure that if you try this recipe, you do not skip the ketchup or try to take some of the sweetness out of it.  It just works!


1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
One 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 medium onions (1 pound), thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced sage
Four 4-inch focaccia squares, split horizontally
1 1/2 pounds ground beef chuck
4 slices of young Pecorino cheese (4 ounces)
Let’s start with the ketchuP

Ingredients prepped and ready to go for the ketchup
Ingredients prepped and ready to go for the ketchup
In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar and sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until a medium amber caramel forms, 8 to 10 minutes.
Combine vinegar and sugar and cook until an amber caramel forms
Combine vinegar and sugar and cook until an amber caramel forms
Carefully add the tomatoes and red pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is very thick, about 20 minutes.
Ketchup mixture is starting to thicken
Ketchup mixture is starting to thicken
Transfer to a blender and puree.
We used an immersion blender to puree the ketchup mixture
We used an immersion blender to puree the ketchup mixture
Strain the ketchup through a sieve. Stir in the ginger and season with salt and pepper.
The ginger and seasoning has been added and the ketchup is ready to go
The ginger and seasoning has been added and the ketchup is ready to go

Now for our burgers…..In a large skillet,heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until golden, 15 minutes.  Stir in the sage and keep warm.

Onions are carmelized and sage has gone in
Onions are caramelized and Sage has gone in
Preheat the oven to 475°. Heat a griddle (or you can use a cast iron skillet like I did.) Lightly brush the griddle with oil and toast the focaccia on it until lightly golden, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the focaccia to plates.
Focaccia bread grilling
Focaccia bread grilling
Gently shape the ground beef into four 1/2-inch-thick patties and season with salt and pepper. Note:  Jeff prefers perfect patties so he actually measured each one..ha, ha!  We also decided to do the patties in two batches so as not to crowd the pan and accidentally steam the patties.
Patties going on
Patties going on
Griddle the burgers over high heat until browned, 1 minute per side.
Patties almost ready to come off
Patties almost ready to come off
Transfer to a baking sheet and top each one with a slice of cheese.
Patties topped with Pecorino Cheese
Patties topped with Pecorino Cheese
Bake for 5 minutes for medium-rare.
Patties and Cheese melting in the oven...yummy!
Patties and Cheese melting in the oven…yummy!
Set the burgers on the focaccia and top with the onions and a dollop of the ketchup. Close the burgers and serve.
Our version of the burger...looks quite impressive!
Our version of the burger…looks quite impressive!
Bottom Line:  The burger was perfect except for that herb-flavored focaccia bun!  The richness of the cheesed melded perfectly with the gingery sweet ketchup and the caramelized onions with the sage flavor tied it all together!  I served with some homemade macaroni and cheese and paired it with Chianti Wine. 
The next time I make these burgers, I think I will do them as sliders instead.  They pack a lot of punch and are very filling but would make the perfect dinner party appetizer!
FYI:  Did you notice the title of the recipe said Chianti but there wasn’t any in the recipe…so odd so I thought they must have named it this so you would assume to pair it with the Chianti wine…

This is The Mean Green Margarita!  It is from a new blog that my sister, Kelli, started along with her husband, Aaron, called the “Unconventional Farmhouse”.  Now, generally, their site is about improving your home through arts, crafts, and projects.  However, one night they got involved in creating a new “libation” and were encouraged by their fans to share it on their blog!

The Mean Green Margharita from the  Unconventional Farmhouse
The Mean Green Margharita from the
Unconventional Farmhouse

Now, I am not going to share the recipe with you because I want you to go to their site at  The main reason I am encouraging you to visit is because this spicy green spirit would be the perfect compliment to the Shrimp Taco Recipe I posted yesterday!


Shrimp Tacos topped with Guacamole/Mango Salsa and a Creamy Lime Sauce
Shrimp Tacos topped with Guacamole/Mango Salsa and a Creamy Lime Sauce

Another reason you must visit this blog and start following is because you will get so many creative ideas to update your home.  If you are like me, you don’t have a crafty bone in my body but the way they explain things makes me feel like I might could do that, too! If you already are crafty, you will get plenty of great new ideas.   Their witty style of writing will make you give out a little giggle and you will leave with unique inspirations!

Now, get your grocery list out, go to their site and get the ingredients for this unique margarita.  Paired with my Shrimp Tacos, I see a Cinco De Mayo Party in the making!


Shrimp Tacos topped with Tropical Guacamole Salad and a Creamy Lime Sauce…wow, doesn’t that sound delicious!  This is my personal creation made in my kitchen this week and it embodies all the “fresh flavors” that I have always wanted to include in my food.   Fresh Flavors….Those two words were my inspiration a couple of years ago when I began dabbling in the personal chef business….aka fresh flavors by frankie was born.   Today, I am a part-time personal chef/food blogger and I always try to keep those two words in my mind when I am in my art studio:  My Kitchen!

Shrimp Tacos topped with Guacamole/Mango Salsa and a Creamy Lime Sauce
Shrimp Tacos topped with Guacamole/Mango Salsa and a Creamy Lime Sauce

Shrimp and Mexican were my obvious cravings when I began developing this recipe and I wanted to keep it on the light side so adding avocados and tropical fruit such as mango and pineapple seemed to be a tasty choice.  Now, I must confess that when I was “creating” this recipe this week, I was doing a lot of tasting and adding.  My plan changed often so I didn’t take as many pictures as I normally do.  I didn’t even take a picture of my Tropical Guacamole Salad but you can see it a bit in the photo above.   I will be making this recipe again very soon and I will make sure to update my pictures :-)!  The recipe serves 8 generous portions (2 tacos each).

My  husband, Jeff, slathers sour cream all over every Mexican dish he has and he has really been on a quest to lose weight before our trip to Mexico in May to celebrate his 50th birthday.   I knew I had to figure out a way to keep some sour cream in the recipe but make into a lighter sauce that would satisfy his cravings.  Viola!  Creamy Lime Sauce was born!

Creamy Lime Sauce


  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (do not use store bought!….remember, FRESH FLAVORS)
  • 1/2 cup LIGHT sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of hot sauce (more if you like)
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro (more if you like)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil


Combine first 10 ingredients (all except oil).  Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking to emulsify.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for flavors to meld.  Can be made a day ahead and will keep in fridge so several days after as well.

Blending ingredients
Blending ingredients
Sauce is almost ready....Note:  I added the cilantro after this pic was taken.  I was testing :-)
Sauce is almost ready….Note: I added the cilantro after this pic was taken. I was testing 🙂

On to the Tropical Guacamole Salad!

Tropical Guacamole Salad


  • 1 mango, pitted, peeled, and cubed
  • 1/4 pineapple, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons of jalepeno, seeded and minced
  • 2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and chopped
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Just an FYI…this would be great on anything and I even snacked on it by itself the next day!  The lime juice helped the guacamole from turning brown too fast.

Lime-Marinated Shrimp Tacos


  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Cajun Seasoning (depends on how spicy you like it)
  • 2 lbs. shrimp
  • Tortillas of your choice (I had whole wheat and Jeff had corn)


Whisk together the lime juice, garlic, and olive oil.  Add the shrimp and marinate in the refrigerator for 1-4 hours.

Drain the marinade and rub shrimp with the Cajun Seasoning.  Thread shrimp onto skewers.

Shrimp threaded on skewers ready to hit the grill!
Shrimp threaded on skewers ready to hit the grill!

 Preheat your grill to high.  Brush grill grate with olive oil.  (Note:  I used my indoor grill pan that day since the weather was not cooperating.)  Grill shrimp 2-3 minutes on each side until cooked through. 

Half of my skewers grilling along with Jeff's corn tortillas
Half of my skewers grilling along with Jeff’s corn tortillas


 Now it’s time to prepare your taco! Place 4-5 Shrimp on tortilla, add a couple of heaping tablespoons of the Tropical Guacamole Salad, and top with a couple of teaspoons of the Creamy Lime Sauce.  Serve with your favorite Mexican side dish (I prepared Mexican Black Beans with Corn) and savor that first bite!  Yum!

Shrimp Tacos with a side of Mexican Black Beans and Corn
Shrimp Tacos with a side of Mexican Black Beans and Corn


Bottom Line:  This recipe will wow crowds…it truly is that good!  Add it to your Cinco De Mayo celebration in May for a sensational burst of flavor!  Enjoy and Keep on Cooking!



To many people, a turkey burger does not conjure up images of a big, thick, juicy, satisfying burger. Normally, it is though of a patty of dried-out, tasteless meat that only people on a diet would eat.  Hopefully, this recipe will change your opinion because I like it better than regular beef hamburgers! Hard to believe for this red meat lover, too!

Cooking Light Magazine was the original inspiration for my recipe in an issue from long ago: May 2000!  The recipe was called “Quick and Easy Turkey Burgers” and I made it several times following the directions exactly.  Jeff just wasn’t a fan so finally I started “tweaking it” to my current burger recipe which I call “Sassy Turkey Burgers”! (Note: kind of like me, it sasses back and dares you not to like it 🙂


The original Quick and Easy Turkey Burger by Cooking Light Magazine 2000
The original Quick and Easy Turkey Burger by Cooking Light Magazine 2000

Now , the original recipe was quite good (for a turkey burger) kind of like when someone says you look good (for your age)….nice but not exactly what you were hoping for!  One of my favorite ideas in the original recipe, were the carmelized onions and I kept those pretty much the same except for the addition of a little teriyaki sauce.  The major change I made to the burger was the seasoning I used…let’s just say I “pumped it up a little”!  You can check out the original recipe from Cooking Light at the bottom of the page but here is my version.

Frankie’s “Sassy Turkey Burgers”


  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons of ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce, plus extra to brush on top of burgers while cooking
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon of teriyaki sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into (1/4-inch-thick) slices (about 2 cups)$
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 (1 1/2-ounce) hamburger buns
  • mustard, to spread on buns
  • 8 (1/4-inch-thick) slices tomato
  • 4 curly leaf lettuce leaves


Combine the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Divide the turkey mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each portion into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. (Note:  I like to cook a tiny little patty to flavor test before I cook the burgers just in case I need more seasoning.)

One pound of lean ground turkey
One pound of lean ground turkey
Tiny "Test Patty"
Tiny “Test Patty”

Now, sometimes turkey burgers don’t hold well together and that is why many recipes add breadcrumbs which I don’t like to do.  My secret trick is to refrigerate the patties for at least 30 minutes before cooking so they hold together better.  I do this with my crab cakes as well.  After they are refrigerated, lightly brush both tops with teriyaki sauce.

Patties refrigerated and then brushed with teriyaki sauce
Patties refrigerated and then brushed with teriyaki sauce

While your patties are refrigerating, prepare your onions.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onion slices; lower heat, cover and cook 10-12 minutes or until onion is golden brown and soft, stirring frequently. (Make sure not to overbrown on they will be bitter.  You may have to add more water from time to time. ) Remove onion from pan, and keep warm.

Place 3 tablespoons of olive oil in  a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add patties, and cook 2 (just to get a light brown but the point is to get them to bind together).  Turn over, brush the other side with the teriyake sauce and cook for 4 minutes then flip back over and cook an additional 3-5 minutes until desired degree of doneness.  (I prefer mine more on the done side.)  Add 3 tablespoons teriyaki mixture to pan. Carefully turn patties over, and cook for 3 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Burgers starting to get done
Burgers starting to get done

Put mustard on each side of the bun and place lettuce then 1 patty on bottom half of each bun.  Add a tomato slice  and top each patty with 1/4 cup onion mixture.  Top with remaining bun halves.

Sassy Turkey Burgers with a side of Grilled Mango
Sassy Turkey Burgers with a side of Grilled Mango

Note: You can freeze any uncooked turkey patties for up to 1 month. To freeze, separate the patties with wax paper; place them in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag, remove excess air, seal, and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator.

Bottom Line:  These burgers are fantastic and your family will love them!  The carmelized onions really make them so don’t leave those out…just give it a try!  Let me know how these work in your kitchen and Keep on Cooking!

Link to original recipe:





Recently, I mentioned that I had A LOT of Red Beans and Rice leftover and I really wanted to make sure I used them since they were so delicious.  An obvious option was to make a Cajun Pork Tenderloin (I will share that recipe another time) and my favorite side dish…Braised Greens!  Now, I make my traditional greens with a nice big ham hock but when I want something a little different, this is my go-to recipe and I love it!
Frankie's Braised Greens
Frankie’s Braised Greens
Greens have been a staple in my family my whole life.  They are always on the table at Thanksgiving and I make some kind of version often.  This recipe is one of my favorites and it is so easy!   Many times I double it because I like to add the leftovers to my vegetable soup recipe.  The tangy flavor of the greens is so refreshing and brightens up any dish!
4 slices bacon
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch red pepper flakes
8 cups collard, turnip, or kale greens, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus 1/4 cup
1 large tomato, diced
2 teaspoons white vinegar (If you like to sweeten your greens a bit, use cider vinegar instead but I like it tangy)
Freshly ground black pepper
 Cook the bacon over medium heat in a large skillet until browned, about 6 minutes.

Remove, chop, and add back to the pan…Do not drain the grease!  Add the onion, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper flakes and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.
Back into the pan with the onions and spices
Back into the pan with the onions and spices
Stir in the greens and 1 1/2 cups broth, cover, cook until wilted, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup broth, vinegar, and tomatoes and simmer for at least an hour.  Season with salt and pepper to taste if needed.
My Braised Greens served along with leftover Red Beans & Rice and Cajun Pork Tenderloin...Yummy!
My Braised Greens served along with leftover Red Beans & Rice and Cajun Pork Tenderloin…Yummy!
Bottom Line:  The perfect mouthful and I’m not even kidding!

Spring is taking its sweet time coming to the South this year and instead, we seem to have a lot of cold, rainy days (better than snow and ice that we were getting!).  So, comfort food is still on the menu in the Pitt kitchen and Louisiana Style Red Beans and Rice will definitely do the trick in bringing in a little much needed spice!

Red Beans and Rice courtesy of The Chew's Michael Symon
Red Beans and Rice courtesy of The Chew’s Michael Symon

As usual, my television is always on some kind of cooking show whether I am actually sitting down to watch it or not and this time it was The Chew to the rescue with Michael Symon’s version of Red Beans and Rice.  Other than letting my beans cook a little longer (they weren’t softening at first), and when I mashed some of the beans, I actually followed the directions!  I was even hesitant about putting the rice in the mixture, uncooked, rather than just serving it over rice but it worked!


1 pound Red Beans
1 pound smoked sausage; diced (preferably andouille)
1 Smoked Ham Hock
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
3 ribs Celery; small diced
1 Green Bell Pepper; small diced
1 Clove Garlic; minced
1 Yellow Onion; small diced
pinch Cayenne
1/2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 Bay Leaf
1 tablespoon picked Fresh Thyme Leaves
10 cups Chicken Stock or Water
2 cups White Rice; for serving
finely sliced Scallions; for garnish
your favorite hot sauce (I love Crystal hot sauce…I put it on EVERYTHING!)


Place the Beans in a large stock pot and cover with Water by a few inches. Let them soak for 8 hours or overnight. Drain the beans and set aside.  (Note:  This step is very important and make sure you put enough water over them.  Jeff did mine and didn’t quite get enough water in there and it took me a little longer to cook.)
Beans..Soaked and Drained
Beans..Soaked and Drained
Place the same stock pot over medium-high heat and add a film of Olive Oil followed by the diced Sausage. Cook, stirring occasionally until the Sausage is browned then remove and set aside.
Andouille Sausage browning
Andouille Sausage browning
To the same pot, add the Celery, Bell Pepper, Garlic and Onion with a large pinch of Salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables start to become tender and aromatic then add the Cayenne, Smoked Paprika, Bay Leaf, Thyme and Ham Hock.
Kitchen is really smelling good now!
Kitchen is really smelling good now!
Cook for a minute or two, then add the Chicken Stock or Water and Beans. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally for 1.5 hours.  (Note:  I added and extra hour of simmer time to my mixture because my beans were not softening at all at this point which was unusual so use your best judgement on your timing.  The beans should not be done but still more tender than when you first started.)
Chicken stock added and ready to simmer
Chicken stock added and ready to simmer
After 1-1.5 hours, add the Sausage back in, stir and cook for another 1-2 hours, until the beans are tender and thickened. If the Beans start to get too thick, add more Water or Stock, 1/2 cup at a time to loosen them up.
Sausage has been added back in
Sausage has been added back in
Remove about 1/4 of the beans and put in a bowl and mash the beans with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher.  Mix back in with the other beans and sausage.  (Note:  the original recipe states to do this after adding rice but that just didn’t make sense to me.)
Mashing 1/4 of the Beans
Mashing 1/4 of the Beans
Simmr until ready to add the Rice 20 minutes before serving.
Rice is in!
Rice is in!
 Remove the Ham Hock and Bay Leaf and give the Beans and Rice a taste, checking for seasoning. Add more Salt and Pepper if needed.
Serve with a few dashes your favorite Hot Sauce and a sprinkle of Scallions.
Red Beans and Rice...ready to serve!
Red Beans and Rice…ready to se
Bottom Line:  This recipe should come with a warning that it serves an Army!  The recipe stated 8 servings but it made quite a bit more than that so if you have 2-6 people, I would definitely half the recipe.  That being said, it was delicious and tasted very similar to versions I have had in New Orleans.  Obviously, I had a lot left over so you could use it as a side dish to some pork or chicken for another meal (that is what I did), or wrap it in a tortilla along with some cheese and sour cream and you have a bean and sausage burrito!  Try this recipe at your house and let me know how it goes and until then Keep On Cooking!
Link to original recipe:

In preparation for his 50th birthday in May, my husband, Jeff, is trying to lose a few pounds so I have been trying to throw in a few healthy recipes in my repertoire to assist him in his journey.  The cover of the March/April 2014 issue of Eating Well jumped out at me with a beautiful image of a radish salad so I thought this would be a good place to get some healthy spring entrees.   (Side Note:  I hate radishes but that picture makes me want to give them another try…Another day; Another Blog.)

Cover photo of the radish salad that caught my eye
Cover photo of the radish salad that caught my eye!

Now Jeff is not one that really likes to eat healthy so I knew I would have to find something that would make him think he was eating normally and the Quick Shepherd’s Pie met all my requirements.  It had mashed potatoes…his favorite, and lamb, something I don’t overly care for but he just loves lamb so much that I knew this was a must-try recipe.  The portions were suitable as well with 1 1/4 cup of stew and 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes for only 410 calories…not too bad!

Quick Shepherd's Pie by Eating Well Magazine March/April 2014
Quick Shepherd’s Pie by Eating Well Magazine March/April 2014

Shepherd’s Pie, as you probably already know, is a dish that originated in Ireland and was thought of as a great way to use leftovers.  Basically, they lined the pie pan with mashed potatoes, then added meat and vegetables they had leftover from previous meal.  On top was another layer of mashed potatoes.  As good as that sounds, I have never had Shepherd’s Pie and neither had Jeff.  So my thought process was if you haven’t ever had the fattening version, the light version can’t be compared to anything so it had a chance of being something different but tasty.

In looking at the recipe, the one step that didn’t seem right was to make the mashed potatoes first.  I would prefer to make the stew first and let it have more time to cook and make the mashed potatoes at the end, so that is what I did and my directions will reflect that change.  I also added a couple of ingredients (it didn’t change the calorie profile by much) which I noted at the end of the Ingredients list but you can find the original recipe link after my review.


  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground lamb
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (I ended up using shredded carrots because I had some on hand)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons of spicy tomato paste (My Addition)
  • 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes (My Addition)
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter


Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots,  1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and the red pepper flakes; cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender. (Note:  The recipe stated to add the lamb in at the same time as the onion and carrots but I wanted my vegetables to have a little more time to meld their flavors together with the seasoning.) 

Vegetable sauting
Vegetable sauting

Add the lamb and cook until it is no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes.Sprinkle flour and oregano over the mix and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add broth and corn; bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes more.  (At this point, I tasted the mixture and it seemed very bland so this where I added the spicy tomato paste and onion powder.  As it turned out this was a much needed addition and if I make this again, I will add it right after adding flour and oregano.)

All ingredients in including the extra additions
All ingredients simmering on the stove including the my extra additions

Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a large pot fitted with a steamer basket. Add potatoes and steam until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. Add milk, butter and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Mash together to a chunky consistency. Cover to keep warm.

Mashing Potatoes
Mashing Potatoes
Potatoes are ready to go!
Potatoes are ready to go!

Ladle the lamb stew into 4 bowls and top with the potatoes..and Dinner is served!

Quick Shepherd's Pie
Quick Shepherd’s Pie

Bottom Line:  Jeff loved this and requested that I make it again very soon.  I guess I am glad we haven’t had the fattening version or we might not have felt this way.  I do believe that adding some garlic in while sauteing the vegetables would increase the flavor even more and I might even up the tomato paste by another tablespoon.  I encourage you to try this recipe and if you don’t like lamb, try it with ground chicken or turkey.  This is a tasty but healthy recipe full of fiber that your family will enjoy and only you have to know how healthy it is.

To see the original recipe:



Being a true Southern girl, I LOVE Grits…add some shrimp to them along with a few of my other favorite ingredients and you have a tasty sensation in one dish…Shrimp and Grits!  But, what we commonly call “Shrimp and Grits” varies quite a bit from city to city in the south and it even varies greatly from chef to chef.  I like to think how you make your Shrimp and Grits says a lot about your personality so I’m sharing my favorite version with you.  Although, I have tried many recipes throughout the years,  the one I like best originated from Cooking Light Magazine back in 2010.   It is a lighter version of the dish so I like the base ingredients.  I want to make sure to give them credit even though my version has quite a few modifications….though not many additional calories.

The original Spicy Shrimp and Grits for Cooking Light Magazine in 2010
The original Spicy Shrimp and Grits for Cooking Light Magazine in 2010

As you have probably caught on by reading my previous blogs, I love spicy food!  Oddly not “black peppery spice” but spice such as cayenne and habenero…I love HEAT!  So obviously, one of my major additions to this recipe was jalapenos…and of course, a couple of other true favorites:  garlic and chardonnay!  (The chardonnay is strictly for the dish not for me…wink, wink 🙂

Now, no matter what recipe you use, the one cardinal rule you must keep when making Shrimp and Grits is to USE FRESH SHRIMP!  Do not use frozen…it just won’t taste the same.  Fortunately, we have the Shrimp Dock here in Farragut that gets their shrimp and fish daily from their boats in Louisiana so fresh seafood is always available in Knoxville!


  • 3 cups 1% low-fat milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 4 slices applewood-smoked bacon
  • 1 pound peeled, deveined large shrimp
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 cup thinly vertically sliced white onion
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh jalapeno, chopped
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce or chopped chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground or crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup green onion strips


Make sure to have all your ingredients ready to go…this recipe comes together fast!

imageCombine milk, water, butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer; gradually add grits, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat to medium; cook 4 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat; stir in cheese.



While grits cook, cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 2 teaspoons drippings; crumble bacon.

Applewood Bacon
Applewood Bacon

Add shrimp to drippings in pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove shrimp from pan. Deglaze pan with the white wine..simmer to reduce in half.

Shrimp is in!
Shrimp is in!

Add white onion, garlic, and jalapeno to pan; sauté until tender (about 5-7 minutes).   Stir in bacon, tomatoes, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper; sauté 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Add shrimp, pepper sauce, and red pepper; cook 1 minute or until shrimp are heated.

Shrimp and Sauce is coming together!
Shrimp and Sauce is coming together!

Serve over grits; sprinkle with green onions.

Spicy Shrimp and Grits....Frankie Style :-)
Spicy Shrimp and Grits….Frankie Style 🙂

Bottom Line:  Simply Sensational!  Every image you picture in your head of the deep south comes back as you take your first bite….Savory Shrimp with bits of smoky bacon and a hints of spice throughout the sauce just brings it all together.  This is a must try even if you don’t like grits!  You will become a grit lover!

FYI..I often substitute Polenta (basically a yellow grit) and I love to add Andouille Sausage to change it up sometimes.  Enjoy and Keep On Cooking!



Cuban cuisine is normally known as being very hearty; therefore, right up my husband’s alley!  It just so happened that it was his turn to cook so he got to choose his recipe of choice.  He so loves perusing through food magazines…gathering ideas (we must be a match made in heaven..ha, ha!)  However, one of our differences is that he prefers dishes that have unique ingredients such as the one he chose from the March 2014 edition of Saveur Magazine…Fricasse” de Pollo!

Fricasse’ de Pollo (Cuban-Style Chicken Stew) Saveur/March 2014


Jeff is not one who strays very far from the recipe but he was a little concerned about this one.  He brings the magazine and says to me, “What is wrong with this recipe?”.  I honestly couldn’t see what he was talking about but he pointed out that it was a Cuban dish and other than salt, pepper, and garlic, it had no spice.  That did seem strange but it had some strong ingredients like citrus juices, capers, and olives so we decided he should try it as it and we would see what happens.

The only major change he made to the recipe was to use all chicken thighs since he is a huge fan of dark meat or maybe it was because he didn’t want to quarter that chicken..:-)  Who knows? But it turned out to be a very tasty decision!  He did add a whole roasted red pepper for color (he is visual…what can I say).


¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup fresh orange juice
3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
1 (3½-4-lb.) chicken, quartered (backbone discarded or saved for stock)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
⅓ cup olive oil
1 large green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
½ cup jarred alcaparrado or ⅓ cup pimento-stuffed olives and 2 tbsp. capers (we used the latter)
¼ cup raisins
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted

**Optional:  One roasted red bell pepper


Ingredients ready to go
Ingredients ready to go

Toss lime and orange juices, garlic, chicken, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; chill 1 hour.

Heat oil in an 8-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade; pat dry using paper towels and reserve marinade. Working in batches, cook chicken, flipping once, until browned, 8–10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Browning Chicken
Browning Chicken

Add bell pepper and onion to pan; cook until soft, 6–8 minutes. Add wine; cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan, until reduced by half, 5–7 minutes. Return chicken to pan and add reserved marinade, potatoes, alcaparrado, raisins, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and ½ cup water; boil.

Ingredients going into the pot
Ingredients going into the pot

Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until chicken and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in peas before serving.

Sauce is starting to come together


Dinner is Served!
Dinner is Served!

 Bottom Line:  This was fantastic!  The chicken shredded with your fork and the vegetables and the broth were savory yet not too heavy for my tastes.  I didn’t care as much for the olives (and I do love olives) but I think had you omitted them, some of the flavor would have been missing.  It was easy enough to pick around them since they were whole.  Remember, we were concerned about the spice?  No need…the flavors of the citrus and the saltiness of the olives and capers evolved into a rich, saucy burst of taste.  I think we will make this again on our next camping trip!  Try this recipe and Keep On Cooking!

My husband, Jeff, LOVES crab cakes!  Me, not so much.  I find that often they are heavy and “bready” tasting or have too many ingredients that take away from the crab.  They are also usually very fattening so I would rather save my calories for…perhaps a glass of Chardonnay? 😉

I have tried many recipes in the past and got rave reviews from everyone except for the most important person…me! Then I saw the April edition of Cooking Light Magazine and among its many eye-appealing recipes, the crab cakes caught my eye because it had so few ingredients….exactly what I was looking for!

Crab Cakes  Cooking Light/April 2014
Crab Cakes
Cooking Light/April 2014


Quite surprisingly, the only changes I made to this recipe is to add a half a tablespoon of canola mayonnaise and and additional tablespoon or two of panko crumbs.  I am not including this in the recipe below because I think I needed this addition due to the fact that I used “Jumbo” lump crab meat instead of the regular crab meat.  You may or may not need to add this…I think it is a decision you will have to make based on how well your crab cakes form into patties. 

Jumbo Lump Crab from Publix
Jumbo Lump Crab from Publix

Also, I did not use the accompanying buttermilk dressing recipe because I had been dying to try the Lemon Dill Finishing Sauce from Publix and it was a winner!  Whichever one you choose will do just fine!

Ingredients (Makes 5 crab cakes or 10 mini crab cakes)

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon canola mayonnaise
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 pound lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

Addendum to Recipe (6/17/14):  Adding 1 Tablespoon of Old Bay Seasoning really pumped up the flavor, so I highly suggest this new addition to the recipe!


Combine first 6 ingredients (through egg) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk.

First 6 ingredients, combined
First 6 ingredients, combined

Stir in panko. Add crabmeat; stir gently to combine. Let mixture stand for 10 minutes.

Panko added to form a nice fluffy crab mixture
Panko added to form a nice fluffy crab mixture

Divide crab mixture into  equal portions; gently shape each portion into a 3/4-inch-thick patty.  At this point, I put mine in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. This little trick seems to help them from falling apart during the cooking process.

Crab Cakes formed and ready to chill in the fridge
Crab Cakes formed and ready to chill in the fridge


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add 5 patties to pan; cook 2  to 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove patties from pan; and place on baking sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until heated through. 

Crab Cakes with some Orzo Pasta and Broccolini
Crab Cakes with some Orzo Pasta and Brocolini

Spoon some of the sauce over the top and serve!  (Note:  Try not to use as much sauce as Jeff did in the picture…just so unnecessary! Ha, ha)

Bottom Line:  This was my kind of crab cake.  It focused on the crab not the fillers and I loved it!  Be careful not to try to use too much filler or it will compromise the flavor.  You just need enough to barely hold it together.  Enjoy and Keep On Cooking!

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