One of my very first blog post 3 years ago was about our Seafood Ceviche recipe which we had tweaked and finally perfected (to our taste, of course).

Seafood Ceviche
The original seafood ceviche recipe…A Pitt family creation!

Now, I have added a new twist to this recipe by creating a mini taco version of them but with a unique twist…the shell is a round piece of Jicama!

How to Prepare Jicama - Nutritionist Karen Roth - San Diego - YouTube

For those of you not familiar with Jicama, it is a tropical root vegetable often used in Mexican cuisine.  You can usually find them in your local grocery (you probably have never even noticed them before).  They can be eaten raw as I have done in this recipe or cooked, which I haven’t tried yet.  I usually use it as an added crunch to slaw.  It has a fresh crispy texture and is a perfect substitute for the high carb taco shell!  I wish I could take credit for the idea of using it this way but the idea came from a wonderful restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina called “Nightbell”.  They served a ceaser salad inside a jicama shell and it was a such a unique bite that I had to recreate it at home.

My version of Nightbell’s Caesar Salad served in a Jicama Shell topped with Parmesan Crisps. I used a jalapeno to hold the taco! It was quite tasty!

This inspired me to see what else I could do with that Jicama shell.  Not only is it delicious and low calorie but it is also very vitamin and mineral rich.  This high fiber vegetable is the perfect vessel to hold summer’s freshest flavors.  By using my ceviche recipe to create a taco shell with the Jicama, there was no need to turn on an oven or stove in the summer heat!

Mini Seafood Ceviche Tacos with Jicama


  • English cucumber ½, peeled seeded and coarsely chopped
  • Roma tomato, 2 seeded and coarsely chopped
  • Large red pepper, ½ finely chopped
  • Purple onion small, ½ finely chopped
  • Jalapeño or Serrano pepper, one finely chopped or to taste
  • Garlic, 2 cloves shredded on a micro planer
  • Cilantro, 3 Tbsp. finely chopped
  • Kosher salt, 1 tsp or to taste
  • Pepper, 1/2 tsp or to taste
  • Rice wine vinegar, 1 tsp
  • Limes, 2 juiced or more to taste
  • Lemon, ½ juiced or more to taste
  • Cayenne pepper, optional to taste
  • Shrimp, 1 lb, fresh, cleaned and deveined and chopped
  • Fish filet, mahi mahi or red snapper or other firm fish, 6 oz., chopped
  • 3-4 Jicama roots (depending on size), sliced thinly *(Best to use a mandolin for this so you get extra thin slices that are more pliable)
  • 2 Avocados, peeled and chopped
  • Additional cilantro and lime to garnish, if desired

I think its really important to find the freshest ingredients for this dish, especially your shrimp and your fish.  Don’t cut corners here!

I started with some beautiful shrimp and snapper for today’s recipe.

The rest of the ingredients were the freshest I could find from the market and local farmer’s market.


Combine first 15 (all ingredients but Jicama and Avocado) ingredients in glass bowl, blend and chill for 2-3 hours.


Stir every hour or so.  Taste and add any additional citrus and/or salt and pepper needed.

Now, for your Jicama.  For best results, I microwave the jicama slices for 25 seconds then wrap them in damp paper towels until they are cooled.  This makes them much more pliable and won’t break on you.

Using a slotted spoon, to avoid having to much juice in your taco, place a couple of tablespoons of the Seafood Ceviche in the Jicama Shell, top with the chopped avocado.  Top it with some additional lime juice and a little cilantro, if desired!  Serve immediately and have a napkin ready!

I served these in a Cucumber Boat so they would stay up…beautiful and delicious!

Bottom Line:  These little flavorful morsels got a double thumbs up of approval from my husband!  They are packed with so many beneficial vitamins and minerals, they are low-calorie, high fiber, and so delicious!  Best of all, no need to turn on an oven or a stove!  These will be devoured at your next summer get-together!  Let me know what you think!  I am Chef Frankie, Always in the Kitchen, and Always having fun and cooking with Wild Abandonment!  See you next time!


Today’s blog is in honor of Ashleigh English Pitt, my incredible daughter who will be 26 years old this week!

The apple never falls far from the tree and my beautiful, daughter, Ashleigh is an excellent example of this.  As she has gotten older, just like her mom, her interest in cooking continues to grow and develop.  She likes to experiment and just like me, she is always wanting to “tweak” her recipe to make it a little better each time.  While I have always considered my husband, Jeff, to be my partner in crime in the kitchen (he has his own unique techniques), Ashleigh also has an accomplice in the kitchen, her fiance, Hunter Brown.


The recipe I am sharing today is Ashleigh’s adaption from the Cakebread Cellars American Harvest Cookbook’s Shellfish and Chorizo Paella. It sticks close to the original recipe but she substitutes green peas in for the chickpeas and that is a great idea because it adds a pop of color to the dish that it needed.  She also omits the clams and uses only mussels but doubles up on Spanish chorizo.  Ashleigh calls it her Famous Seafood Paella but Hunter, known for his love of getting her riled up, declared that it wasn’t exactly famous so hence the new title,  Ashleigh & Hunter’s “Infamous” Seafood Paella”!

Ashleigh and Hunter’s “In”Famous Paella


  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tbsp Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads
  • 18 large shrimp (deveined, shell on)
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 lb. scallops
  • kosher salt
  • 2 large yellow onions, minced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, minced
  • 1 (15 oz.) can whole tomatoes
  • 2 cups medium grain rice (preferably Spanish)
  • 4 to 6 cups hot fish or seafood stock
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 lb. mussels (OR clams)
  • 4 oz. Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced on the bias
  • 1/2 cup scallions


  • In a small saucepan, combine the wine, paprika, and saffron. Bring to a boil, cover and set aside for 30 minutes to steep. *This is a crucial part of a traditional Spanish paella. Simply adding saffron while cooking does not disperse the flavor.


  • Heat a large paella pan or very shallow, wide skillet over medium high heat. Add the 1/4 cup of olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 1 1/2 minutes on each side, the remove and set aside.



  • Season the scallops with salt and add ONE tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Sear the scallops until lightly browned on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Do not fully cook. Remove and set aside.


  • In all those good juices, sear the chorizo very lightly for about 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Remove and set aside.


  • Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Add the onions, bell pepper, and a little salt, cooking until soft (about 10 minutes).


  • With the can of tomatoes, hand crush each tomato into the pan and stir, cooking for 5 minutes. *This is another aspect of the traditional Spanish Paella. This is called the “sofrito” and it is very important to let these flavors develop together.



  • When the sofrito seems ready, add the rice and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Then, add 4 cups of hot stock, the peas, and the wine/saffron mixture. Stir to blend and season with salt as needed.


  • Cook at steady simmer WITHOUT stirring until rice is half done, 10-12 minutes. Next, add the mussels or clams (set them slender side up into the rice so they will steam and open).


  • Distribute the scallops evenly, tucking them into the rice to cook. Then, add the shrimp and chorizo, distributing evenly.


  • Scatter the scallions all over the top. NOTE: Add more stock as needed if the rice looks dry, but try as hard as you can NOT to stir. If the rice begins to scorch on the bottom instead of crust, you can gently stir.


  • Continue cooking until the rice is barely aldente, about 20 more minutes. Then remove from heat and let stand for 10-15 minutes, draped loosely with a towel to retain some heat. Paella is best served warm, not hot.


Note:  Served best family-style at a table with glass of Chardonnay or other full-bodied white wine. If you prefer red, we like to drink it with a Spanish Grenache (Garnacha), which brings out the spicy flavors.


Bottom Line: 
Ashleigh and Hunter cooked this beautiful dish for us for Valentine’s Day.  It was such a nice treat to be served family style in our home…It was perfect evening of good wine, great food, and the company wasn’t too bad either.  This recipe is perfect for a romantic dinner for two and or a quaint dinner party with friends.  Although, it is on the expensive side, it isn’t as difficult as it may seem and I encourage you to try it in your own kitchen.  I am Chef Frankie but this time I Wasn’t in The Kitchen, and I was Eating with Wild Abandonment!  (Special Thanks to Hunter for his photography…he is completely responsible for all the “feet” in the!  Fun Night!)

NOTE:  Cakebread Cellar‘s original recipe can be found in their American Harvest Cookbook by Jack and Dolores Cakebread and Brian Streeter with Janet Fletcher.

Ravioli is one of my favorite dishes….little pockets of pasta filled with all kinds of delicious fillings.  It’s almost like a blank canvas…you can literally create your own “art” to stuff right inside those little puffy bites.  However, I don’t really enjoy making homemade pasta.  I find it kind of messy and time consuming.  The solution?  Wontons!  They are easy to manipulate, taste great, and even better, no mess!

Filling these with seafood is how I prefer them the most so I came up with my own creation using my favorite seafoods…lobster and crab!  Perfect partners in Crime!  They are cooked in browned butter with shallots, garlic, parsely, lemon, and red pepper flakes for an extra punch.  It is a winning combination that along with the Tomato Basil Cream Sauce on the side, will wow your taste buds!  Check out the video link from this mornings cooking segment on Mornings with Fox 43 for a close up look on making them.

Lobster & Crab Ravioli with Tomato Basil Cream Sauce


Lobster & Crab Filling

  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • lobster meat from 2 tails, chopped
  • 1/2 cup jumbo lump crab meat,
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese (let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 egg and 1 tablespoon water mixed in a small bowl (egg wash)

Tomato and Basil Cream Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 (14 ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes (in the summer, fresh is even better!)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup freshly shredded or grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


Melt one stick of butter and add in shallots.  Saute on medium-low heat until translucent.  Add in garlic and saute an additional 2-3 minutes.


Stir in lobster and cook over medium heat until cooked through (approximately 5-7 minutes).  Remove pan from heat.


Remove from heat.  Add in crab, parsley, lemon juice, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Mix well.


Fold in ricotta cheese, mixing well.


Lay out 12 wontons.  Brush the edges with the egg wash.  Place about 1 tablespoon of lobster/crab filling in the middle of each wonton.



Cover each one with another wonton “cupping” the center filling to remove air bubbles.  Cut with a ravioli press or cookie cutter ensuring edges are sealed.  (*Note:  I use the tines of a fork on the edges of those that haven’t sealed well)

This one is an example of when I use a cookie cutter and use the fork tines to seal it
Even easier, is using a ravioli press!
Even easier, is using a ravioli press!


Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet and place ravioli upside down on cookie sheet.  (This helps prevent moisture from making the bottom soggy.)  If you aren’t making them cooking them right away, at this point you can refrigerate until later or even freeze.  If refrigerating, allow them to come to room temperature before cooking.  (To freeze, put cookie sheet with raviolis in freezer.  Once frozen, you can just put them in a freezer safe ziplock bag and pull out as many as you need when ready to use.)

To cook the raviolis, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes or until they float.  You will only want to cook 4-5 at a time so they don’t stick together.  Carefully remove the ravioli from the water and place on a heated plate, removing as much water as possible.


Top with Tomato Basil Cream Sauce, chopped parsley, and parmesan cheese.


Tomato Basil Cream Sauce

Heat butter and oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 5 minutes until they begin to  caramelize. Add in garlic and saute for a couple of more minutes.

While the onions and garlic are sauteing, lightly puree the tomatoes in a mixing bowl just to remove the big chunks.


Pour into a sauce pan and add tomato sauce, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Add in heavy cream and parsley; stir well.  Taste to determine is more salt or pepper is needed.


Serve over prepared ravioli and top with additional chopped parsley and parmesan cheese.

So Yummy!

Bottom Line:
I so enjoy making this recipe for family and friends because they think I have absolutely slaved in the kitchen…NOT!  This is such an easy recipe when you don’t want to make your own homemade pasta dough.  The fillings is creamy and decadent while the sauce compliments the seafood with its savory tomatoes and hints of fresh basil.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m betting that if I rolled these little raviolis in butter and an herb parmesan panko mix, they would make an excellent deep fried appetizer with the sauce served on the side.  The filling could also easily be put in manicotti or other large types of pasta shells.  I really do hope you try this in your kitchen and let me know how much you enjoy it!  I am Chef Frankie, Always in the Kitchen, and Always Cooking with Wild Abandonment!

 Today’s Cooking Segment on Mornings with Fox 43:








Around this time last year, I blogged about my favorite homemade Chicken Noodle Soup from an old Southern Living magazine from the ’90’s that I have updated over the years.  It is a winning recipe, I promise!  Please see the original link I posted below and give it a try.  However, I am working on cutting out “bad carbs” and that includes noodles so I transitioned my recipe to include the original broth but omitting the “carby” (my made up word) noodles while adding in tomatoes and beans that improve the protein and vitamin sources.


Normally, by the end of January, I have my first cold or sinus infection of the year’ this year was no exception.  Living in East Tennessee, the climate constantly changes from day to day.  Last weekend, Knoxville had 4+ inches of snow and temperatures in the teens and 4 days later it was 65 degrees and rain!  These variations cause all kinds of ailments including colds, flus, sinus infections and allergies.  My husband, Jeff, and my son, Jarrod both had what we call the “crud” in these parts and I followed soon after.  However, I made a batch of my soup and it helped us all heal a little faster.  It is no myth…Chicken Soup does really help relieve your symptoms.  It is a natural decongestant!  But, knowing we are really working hard to stay on the healthy track this year I revised my soup to a “carb friendly” version and I am very pleased with the results.

A special note…my recipe does include red pepper flakes.  These are spicy and of course, optional.  Omitting them will not change the delicious flavor of the soup.  However, the benefits of “spicy” food can not be ignored.  Not only do spicy foods promote heart health but also add weight loss and in fighting cancer.  So for me, the spicier the better!

Chicken Vegetable with White Bean Soup

1 3.5 to 4 lb. chicken cut up with bone and skin or 2 very large chicken breasts (if you are in a hurry) *You can even use a combo of boneless breast and thighs if you like!
2-3 stalks celery, quartered
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
2-3 carrots, quartered
1 turnip, quartered
2-3 gloves of garlic, peeled
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
5 cups water
5 cups chicken broth
1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 teaspoon of olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and sliced ( I prefer to shave mine and then chop)
1 cup of chopped fresh tomatoes (you can also used canned)
1 15.8 oz can of Northern Beans, Navy Beans, or Cannellini Beans, rinsed & drainedN
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Chopped parsley (Optional Garnish)

Combine first 11 ingredients in a large Dutch oven, and bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat; simmer 45 minutes or until chicken is tender.

Remove chicken from broth to cool and allow broth to continue to simmer. Set aside chicken aside to cool slightly. Shred chicken

When chicken has cooled, Pour broth through a wire-mesh strainer into a large bowl; discard cooked vegetables. Remove and discard fat from broth; return broth to Dutch oven.


I prefer to simmer for at least an hour to truly bring out the flavors, but if you are in a hurry it will still be tasty.
Saute onion and celery in olive oil until vegetables are tender.


Add sauteed celery and onion along with carrots, tomatoes and remaining seasonings to chicken broth; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes.
Stir in chopped chicken and beans; Cook for 10-15 minutes on low.


**Note: If you choose to shave and chop your carrots like I usually do, you can add the remaining ingredients along with the sauteed carrots and onions.

Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a sprinkle of parsley as a garnish.

***Add additional Chicken Broth if needed

Bottom Line:  This recipe is both extremely tasty and flavorful but also very healthy.  If you want a more “stew-like” version, add in some canned diced potatoes and corn.  Sometimes I just make the broth and the chicken just so I can freeze the broth for later uses and use the chicken in enchiladas or other incredible recipes.  If you are short on time, you can definitely skip the broth method and just use 10 cups of regular chicken broth but it won’t quite have that homemade taste and your the health benefits aren’t quite as effective as making the broth from scratch.  This soup fills my house with aromas that evoke feelings of warmth and comfort. I am Chef Frankie, Always in the Kitchen and Always Cooking with Wild Abandonment!

If you grew up in the South, you no doubt have always eaten three certain foods on New Year’s Day…some type of pork, cooked greens, and black-eyed peas.   Traditions vary from different parts of the country but these foods generally are the ones that are known to improve your odds for having a prosperous new year.  Whether that is true or not, I’m uncertain but what I do know is they are guaranteed to leave you with a very satisfied tummy!  This is especially true with today’s featured recipe of Bacon and Greens Pot Pie with a Cornbread Crust..Yummy!

Bacon and Greens Pot Pie with a Cornbread Crust
Bacon and Greens Pot Pie with a Cornbread Crust

This recipe is one that brings all these lucky ingredients into one savory dish topped with a crusty cornbread topping reminiscent of a typical pot pie but with a twist.  The original idea for this dish came from Pinterest (where else?) but after making it a few times, I changed out the protein, substituted frozen greens for fresh, and amped up that creamy sauce.  It is now one of our favorite dishes that can be used as a stand-alone meal or a super side.

Bacon and Greens Pot Pie with a Cornbread Crust


For the Greens and Black-eyed Peas:

  • 1 lb. thick cut bacon, cut into small strips
  • 1 lb. turnip greens, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons of hot pepper vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 15.8 ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained

For the Sauce

  • 1 large shallot bulb, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth

For the Cornbread Crust

  • 1 1/2 cup self-rising buttermilk cornmeal mix
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk


For the Greens:

Saute Bacon in a medium saucepan until crisp; drain but RESERVE 2 TBSP OF BACON GREASE.


Add in the next 7 ingredients (all but the black=eyed peas) and cook on low heat, partially covered for 2 hours.

All the ingredients for the turnip greens ready to go
After 2 hours of cooking, greens are ready
After 2 hours of cooking, greens are ready

Add in the black-eyed peas.


For the Sauce:

When the greens are close to being ready, you can begin the sauce.  Saute the butter and the shallots until the shallots are tender and translucent.


Add in flour and stir well with a whisk.  The mixture should be really thick.


Gradually, add in the chicken broth (about a 1/2 cup at a time). You want it to thicken as you add the broth until you have a beautiful, creamy mixture.


Combine turnip green mixture and sauce and place In a greased casserole dish.


For the Cornbread Crust:

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and spread on top of casserole.


Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until cornbread is golden brown and set.



The last time I made this we served it with pork chops and mashed potatoes but it could easily be a dish on it’s own!


I am making it again on Sunday, New Year’s Day,  with pork chops and a hashbrown casserole…might as well do it right before we start cutting back for the New Year!

Bottom Line:  This recipe has become a go to recipe for our family since its a new way to use one of our all-time favorite southern dishes…turnip greens.  You could also change it up and substitute ham for the bacon and collard greens for the turnip greens. So versatile, so delicious, and so full of good luck!  I am Chef Frankie, Always in the Kitchen, Having Fun, and Cooking with Wild Abandonment.  Happy New Year!

My motivation for this recipe came from this link:  (I like my version way better 😉




If you are looking for the perfect Thanksgiving appetizer to wow your guests, you have come to the right place.  This tasty spin on bruschetta uses fresh flavors from the fall such butternut squash, parsnips, and eggplant.  Throw in savory elements like onion, bacon, and capers, some raisins for sweetness, and some pistachios for crunch…well, you have a hit on your hands!  The layers of flavor and the variety of textures makes this the perfect bite.


Roasted Fall Vegetable Bruschetta


  • Root Vegetable Caponata

    • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (“lardons”)
    • 1 small onion, diced small
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • 1 red pepper, julienne (1/8-inch strips)
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2 cups of parsnips, peeled and diced small
    • 2 cups butternut squash peeled and diced small
    • 2 cups eggplant, diced small
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (not sherry wine)
    • 1/2 cup toasted pistachios, roughly chopped
    • 3/4 cup golden raisins, soaked for 15 min in warm water and strained
    • 2 tablespoons capers, roughly chopped


  • Whipped Feta

    • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature (I love using the one flavored with onions and chives)
    • 4 oz feta, drained and crumbled
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt

****Serve on top of Butter-toasted slice of French Bread or Sourdough


For the Fall Vegetable Topping:Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat large sauté pan over medium heat. Add bacon to the hot pan and cook until it begins to crisp and brown, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, red pepper and garlic and sweat for 3 minutes.


Season with salt and pepper; add the butter and olive oil, and then the parsnips, squash and eggplant. Stir to coat the ingredients with the butter and oil.


Place in oven and let roast until just tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring twice.


Remove from the oven and season with salt and pepper. Toss with the vinegar, pistachios, capers and raisins.


For the whipped feta:

In stand mixer with paddle attachment, whip cream cheese until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add crumbled feta, heavy cream and salt and mix for another minute.


Toast nice crusty sourdough thick slices in butter until golden brown.

Spread with whipped feta and top with caponata.


Note: Leftovers are amazing as a roasted vegetable sandwich smeared with the whipped feta


Bottom Line:  This is unique appetizer is a hit at every party and is pretty easy to make.  It is a beautiful addition to your holiday buffett and very versatile as well.  For example, you can easily substitute acorn squach in for the butternut, or use celery root for the parsnips.  Carrots and turnips are also great additions….feel free to make it your own!  I! am Chef Frankie, Always in the Kitchen, Having Fun, and Cooking with Wild Abandonment!

To see a video of me making this Mornings with Fox43, follow this link:

This recipe was based on one from the Today Show.  For the original recipe, please visit:


About 2 years, I blogged about a lasagna recipe that I discovered in Cooking Light magazine.  Not being a huge lasagna fan, this was one I truly loved and I have spent the past 2 years improving on an already great recipe!  The typical lasagna has 600+ calories and this version only has 378 per serving!  It is delicious, health”ier”, and it is now my go to recipe for lasagna.  I hope you like my changes and let me know what you think!

Health”ier” Lasagna by Chef Frankie


  • 1 cup fat-free ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups fat-free cottage cheese
  • 8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons of minced garlic
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 lb extra-lean ground beef (93% lean)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 (25-ounce) jar of your favorite marinara
  • Cooking spray
  • 9 lasagna noodles, cooked
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese


1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine first 8 ingredients and set aside

Ricotta Mixture

3. Place ground beef in a large non­stick skillet over medium-high heat; sprinkle with peppers and remaining 4 garlic cloves. Cook for 9 minutes or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble; drain. Return beef mixture to pan; stir in marinara sauce, and let simmer until heated through.

Meat Sauce

4. Spread 1/2 cup meat sauce in bottom of a broiler-safe 2.5 glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Meat Sauce in the bottom of baking dish

Place 3 noodles on top of meat sauce and cover noodles with another 1 cup meat sauce.


Top with 1/2 of the ricotta mixture.

Second layer of noodles and ricotta mixture

Repeat this step layering 3 more noodles, 1 more cup of meat sauce, and remaining ricotta.

Finally, add the remaining 3 noodles. Spread remaining meat sauce over top noodles.

Sprinkle evenly with remaining mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. Top with fresh parsley, if desired!



Cover with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes. (I like to take a paper towel and slightly dab off any extra grease from the cheese between steps to keep it a little lighter)


If additional browning of the cheese is needed, put the broiler on high for about 2 minutes until cheese is slightly browned.  Remove from oven and allow to to sit for 10 minutes to set before cutting.  Dinner is Served!



Bottom Line:  I love this recipe!  Cooking Light was the inspiration and i believe my few changes took it to the next level.  This is one of my most requested recipes and I know it will be come a family favorite in your house.  They will never know that it is a little health”ier” than most lasagnas!  I am Chef Frankie, Always in the Kitchen, Having Fun, and Cooking with Wild Abandonment!

For my original post on the Cooking Light Magazine recipe, please visit:


The kitchen is my playground and I love creating new recipes!  One of my most popular creations is my “Smokey” Jalapeno Poppers.  They are so good that I never can seem to make enough of them.  Last week, at our “Baby Q” we had for my future granddaughter, Hadley Grace Pitt, I made 260 of them and they were gone in 30 minutes!  The problem is that I get so tired of making them so I needed to come up with a recipe for this football season that my fellow tailgaters will still love and I think I did it!

I tried several different versions on my husband before I got the perfect combination but we knew immediately this was going to be a winner!  Introducing my newest creation:

Cheesy Jalapeno Stuffed Shrimp Poppers with Red Pepper Jelly Sauce




For the Shrimp Poppers

  • 1 lb. large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and butterflied (21-25 pieces per pound)
  • 2 Tbsp of Cajun Seasoning (I prefer Old Bay’s)
  • 1 cup of Cream Cheese (I use the one with green onions and chives)
  • 2-3 jalepenos, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 8 slices of bacon (cut into thirds)
  • 1/8 cup of brown sugar
  • 21-25 toothpicks
  • Cooking Spray

For the Hot Pepper Jelly Sauce

  • 10 oz. jar of Hot Pepper Jelly
  • 2-3 Tbsp of Spicy Mustard
  • 2 Tbsp of Champagne Vinegar (you can also substitute Apple Cider Vinegar)
  • 2 Tbsp of Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp of Onion Powder
  • 2 Tbsp of Chives, finely chopped


Shrimp Poppers

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, season shrimp evenly with the Cajun Seasoning.  (I lean towards “more is better” so feel free to use as much as you like.)


Spread approximately one teaspoon of cream cheese onto the inside of the butterflied shrimp.


Place a jalapeno strip on top of the cream cheese and press down.


Take a piece of the bacon and wrap around the shrimp. Secure with a toothpick.  (Hint:  You only want the bacon to overlap enough to secure it with toothpick, otherwise the bacon won’t cook through).


Place poppers on a baking sheet.  For easy clean up, line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. (I prefer to put a rack on my baking sheet to allow the grease to slip through to the bottom for crispier bacon, but this is completely optional.)


Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over shrimp poppers.  DON’T skip this step…it creates the perfect crispiness to your bacon!


Place the shrimp in the preheated oven bake for approximately 20 minutes or until bacon is crispy and shrimp is cooked through.


Hot Pepper Jelly Sauce

While your Shrimp Poppers are baking, make your sauce.  (The sauce can be made a couple of days ahead and reheated if necessary).

In a small sauce pan, whisk together the jelly, mustard, vinegar, onion powder, and olive oil. Heat slowly on low.


Add in Chives and remove from heat.


Transfer heated sauce to a serving bowl.


To serve, place your poppers on a platter alongside the hot sauce.  Use the toothpick to dip your popper and ENJOY!


Bottom Line:  Although the true results won’t be known until Thursday night at the University of Tennessee’s vs Appalachian State tailgate, I think I have a hit on my hands.  Based on the reactions from the Anchors at Mornings with Fox43, Abby Ham and Brandon Bates, I think they will agree!  Try them in your kitchen and let me know what you think!  I am Chef Frankie, Always in the Kitchen, Having Fun, and Cooking with Wild Abandonment!



Since I will be making this on WBIR/Fox 43 on Tuesday morning, I thought I would reshare this recipe with a little change.  Two years ago, I posted a blog on a mexican-inspired grilled shrimp taco recipe that I created.  My goal was to make a lighter, healthier version and find a way to create a low calorie creamy sauce that would replace all that fattening sour cream that my husband loves to pile on his tacos.  I also wanted to add a bit of tropical flair and hence, Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Tropical Guacamole Salad with a Creamy Lime Sauce was born!

Follow this link to the original blog post:

Since then, I have made it just a bit more healthy with the replacement of Greek Yogurt to replace the Sour Cream in the Lime Sauce.  It was successful!  An already low calorie and low fat recipe became even lighter with not one bit of change in the delicious flavors! Hope you enjoy it!

Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Creamy Lime Sauce and Tropical Avocado Salad

Creamy Lime Sauce

This sauce has 10 calories and 2 grams of fat per tablespoon less than using regular sour cream! Save the leftovers in fridge for up to 10 days to enhance other dishes!

*You want to make this first so it can go in the fridge while you prepare everything else.


  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (do not use store bought!….remember, FRESH FLAVORS)
  • 1/2 cup Low or Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
  • 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.


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.

Isn’t that a beautiful Salad?  I could eat it for days!

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; Place in a gallon sized Ziplock bag.  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.


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.  Remove the Shrimp from the skewers and set aside.


Now it’s time to prepare your taco! Place 4-5 Shrimp on tortilla, top with the Creamy Lime Sauce and add a couple of heaping tablespoons of the Tropical Guacamole Salad.



You can even add a little cheese if you want!


I like to serve this with some Mexican Black Beans to compliment the tacos…YUM!


Bottom Line:  This recipe will wow crowds…it truly is that good!  I like the switch from the Sour Cream to the Greek Yogurt and I think you will, too!  Add it to your Cinco De Mayo celebration in May for a sensational burst of flavor!  Until next time, I am Chef Frankie, Always in the Kitchen, Having Fun, and Cooking with Wild Abandonment!

P.S.  Join me on WBIR/FOX 43 on Tuesday, August 9, 2016 as I prepare this on the 8:20 Cooking Segment!

In the South, few things come even close to being as delicious as a perfectly crisp piece of fried chicken (well…maybe bacon!).  It is considered satisfyingly flavorful comfort food at its best and there are many recipes and techniques to choose from.  I have tried quite a few recipes but I always come back to this one adapted from Southern Living Magazine many years ago.

I pretty much kept the recipe in its original form with the exception of a couple of extra spices and the addition of allowing chicken to sit coated at room temperature.  Those tweaks helped turn a great recipe into an extraordinary one.  It is my family’s favorite and will become yours too!

Now let’s get this out of the way….this is NOT a healthy dish and we usually one have it a couple of times a year but oh, when I do make it, it doesn’t last long!  There are several important secrets to making perfectly fried chicken:

  • Brining the chicken in salt water
  • Allowing the chicken to sit out at room temperature an hour before frying just after coating it
  • Using some bacon grease in your skillet
  • Applying a combination of covered and uncovered cooking time

Those may seem like simple and insignificant tips but they truly do make a difference in the end product and definitely should not be skipped.  The end result will be a perfectly crispy outside crunch and juicy, tender bites of chicken on the inside.  Perfection every time…check it out!


3 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
1 (2- to 2 1/2-pound) broiler-fryer, cut up**
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable oil
1/4 cup bacon drippings
**Our family loves bone-in chicken thighs so that is what I used in the pictures used in this blog (6-8 thighs are perfect for this recipe)


Combine water and 1 tablespoon salt in a large bowl; add chicken. Cover and chill 8 hours. Drain chicken; rinse with cold water, and pat dry.

Combine salt, pepper, onion powder and cayenne. Season both sides of chicken with one teaspoon of spice mixture.  Combine the remaining 3 teaspoons with flour in a large freezer bag. Place 2 pieces of chicken in bag; seal. Shake to evenly coat. Remove chicken, and repeat procedure with remaining chicken, 2 pieces at a time.  Allow to sit coated on kitchen counter for 45 minutes to an hour.


Combine vegetable oil and bacon drippings in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or chicken fryer (I used an electric skillet); heat to 360°. Add chicken, a few pieces at a time, skin side down. Cover and cook 6 minutes; uncover and cook 9 minutes.

Turn chicken pieces; cover and cook 6 minutes. Uncover and cook 5 to 9 minutes, turning pieces during the last 3 minutes for even browning, if necessary. Drain on paper towels.

Note: For best results, keep the oil temperature between 300° to 325° as you fry the chicken.

I like to drain my chicken on a wire rack

Chicken is ready to be served with all your favorite sides!

Crispy Fried Chicken served along side some mashed potatoes, pinto beans, freshly sliced garden tomatoes, and my awesome Turnip Greens recipe…I will blog on that soon!
Look at that perfectly piece of crisp chicken….Makes you want to make it right now!

Bottom Line:  I love this recipe and again, it is always the one I keep coming back to.  Sometimes I kick up the heat a notch with some roasted red pepper flakes or add a little twist by adding in a little garlic and it still come out perfectly with just a little different flavoring.  The key is to follow the cover, uncover, and flip exactly and your fried chicken will turn out perfectly every single time!  I hope you try this recipe in your kitchen and let me know what you think and stay tuned for my delicious Southern Turnip Greens recipe.  Until then, I am Chef Frankie..always in the kitchen, having fun, and cooking with Wild Abandonment!

For the original Southern Living Recipe this blog is based on, please visit

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