Recipe Review: Harvest Roast Chicken with Grapes, Olives, and Rosemary

Chicy n grapes

In a mad dash for something yummy and quick after a long day, I reached for my Smitten Kitchen cookbook. In her book, Deb Perelman indicates that her desire is to fill the book with uncomplicated ingredients and recipes you were glad to take the time to make. I was looking for one of the quickest throw together recipes the book had to offer and this was it. Initially the name of this dish made me scratch my head. Then I began to think about chicken salad and how well grapes taste in it. The wheels began turning and I decided to give it a chance.

What I love, love, love about her cookbook goes beyond the humbly provocative images of her creations, and reaches to the text. Everything from the way she talks about each recipe to the guidance through cooking them, creates this personal connection showcasing her love for food and even more so the people she serves. This chicken recipe seems like a pretty interesting experiment, but my taste-buds were so not ready for what they encountered.

The sizzle of the chicken and bursting of the grapes, oozing into a nice sauce was just a start. This dish was absolutely the best chicken dish I have ever had or prepared. I make a lot of chicken and it happens to be a meat I cook very well with. This recipe rocked my chicken-loving socks off. The grapes soaked up all the love from the shallots and chicken juices, while giving flavor to the chicken. Then the sauce? Deb encourages cooks to observe how long it takes for others to slurp up the sauce by the spoonful. There is certainly a reason for that. It is killer.

This dish is the kind of dish you expect an amazing dessert after. Only because it demands a good follow up. The dish stands up and declares war on the idea that an upscale dish that serves a family with hugs and rainbows must take hours to reduce and simmer. The flavor is so wonderful you will be excited to see what you will cook next! It is also nice and easy for the inexperienced to gain confidence. The busy family on a budget can also enjoy this meal easily and feel as if they were at a fancy restaurant.

Recipe (According to the book):
3 lbs chicken parts (thighs, breast, legs, etc.)
Table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup seedless grapes
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 small shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

How to make it:
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees with a rack in the middle. Pat dry the chicken and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet (use cast-iron skillet if you’ve got one) over medium-high heat until it simmers. Working in two batches, brown the chicken, skin side down first and turning them over once, about5 minutes per batch. I like to take a lot of care in this step, not moving the chicken until the skin releases itself and has a nice bronze on it.

Return the pieces to the pan, skin side up, and surround the pieces with grapes, olives, and shallots. Roast the chicken in the oven until it has just cooked and the juices run clear, about 20 minutes. Transfer the chicken, grapes, and shallots to a platter, then add wine and chicken broth to the pan juices in skillet. Bring liquid to a boil, scraping up any brown bits, until it is reduced by half, for 2 to 3 minutes. Strain sauce, if desired, then pour it over the chicken. Garnish with rosemary and see how long it takes guests to offer to slurp the sauce with a spoon.

Modifications/ Notes:
One note of importance, after you pull the pan from the oven and while making sauce over the stove top, be sure to use a glove. It sounds obvious but the pan is still hot! I have made the mistake, even after reminding myself. It is just habit to grab that handle when making a sauce stove top.

There are some possible modifications you may want to consider. If you want to reduce fat content you can remove skins after cooking in oven, skim some fat off the top of the reduced sauce, or drain some fat before making the sauce. The skin acts like a sealer for the juices and flavor being melded. I also kept the sauce separate and added a little on top of everyone’s chicken after it was plated. You can control the amount you want better this way. For sodium concerns, use low-sodium broth or organic broth and sea salt in place of table salt. You need less of the sea salt for the same flavor. Also I bought a whole chicken and cut it up, as it was cheaper. Use local or organic as you can.

Side dishes could include salads, whole grain crusty bread with olive oil, roasted vegetables, or mashed potatoes. Her recipes are amazing and I encourage you to buy her book and play in your kitchen! You can also visit her blog ( ) for more recipes. Happy Eating!

Recipe Rating: 5 Stars


Unwrap the Gift Only You Can Give


     Hello again! Finals are over and now a different chaos is settling in. Christmas. With so many events to attend, from cookie exchanges to several dinners, it can be easy to run short on time. The kids are home for break and you have even less time for your to-do list(s)! How can you make this time of year less stressful and enjoy the ones you love? Being pulled in so many directions it is easy for many of us to feel out of control. Put yourself back in control and save your sanity! Here are some tips:

  1. Breathe– Oxygen helps remind your body that it is not in emergency mode. Even if you feel like it, your hair is not on fire.
  2. Make a List. Check it twice. Prioritize people, events, recipes, etc. Check with those you will be dragging along, to see what events they find important. Then you can come up with a combined priority list.
  3. Make a New Year’s Resolution to show the people in your life how much you care through out the year, instead of trying to fit it into one season. Out of guilt we often try to see everyone this once a year. Then we vow to meet up more after the holidays. How about actually planning time in the year to get together? Set a reminder on your phone to get a hold of one person each month. This lessens the obligation to see EVERYONE during the holidays. 
  4. Find one outfit that works for you and change up the way you wear it. It can be stressful to pick out the perfect outfits for parties. If you pick one piece, and change up the accessories, add a jacket, loose a jacket, pair with leggings, or wear your hair differently, you can have different looks and keep it simple. You can get ideas from online magazines like for tips. 
  5.  Make some of the to-do’s something the kids can join in on. Carve out extra time to complete them. Kids take a little patience and lots of paper towels. The trade off is worth the effort, because kids also make memories special.
  6. Communicate with those who more or less fall lower on the priority vs. time list. Show appreciation for the invitations, and try to reschedule a time after the holidays to get together. This way you can do your part in avoiding drama and letting them know you care about his/her feelings.
  7. Rethink gifting. The commercials will tell you to buy expensive gifts and convince you that it is not fabulous to live within your means. You are not a bad parent, spouse, or friend for not going into debt for Christmas. One of my favorite gifts of all time was a great coffee mug. My friend knew how much I loved coffee and I use it almost every morning. Think about the person and do something to show you care. Maybe you and your spouse could do a coupon book for each other? How nice would it be to redeem a coupon for a back rub or breakfast in bed, or babysitting duty while one enjoys a night out with friends?
  8. Recall your favorite memories. Take time to remember the good moments either of the year or of Christmas’ past. It does the heart good to reflect on positive thoughts. Maybe you have had some tough Christmas’ but you have people who care about you. Thinking about the good things in your life can enhance everything about your life.  
  9. Be a kid. Enjoy the events along with your kids. If you don’t have kids, take the time to be a kid. Soak in all the sights, sounds, and tastes of the season. Don’t just get through Christmas, enjoy it.
  10.  Lower expectations. Mainly this probably applies to you. You are one person. You are amazing, and can probably technically physically manage to do most if not all on your list. Think about this though, how are those you care about seeing you? What message are you sending when you are rushing everyone out to be somewhere, pushing your children out of the kitchen so you can make the perfect dish, or freak out about messes? What really matters? If we stop expecting perfection out of ourselves, maybe we can stop expecting perfection out of others. This trickle effect may promote a society change. “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.” (Sy Miller and Jill Jackson) 
  11. Make meals easy. If you are doing a lot of cooking and baking, meal time can be stressful. Lower the stress by making a breakfast strata for well… breakfast. You could do chili and have it as soup for one night, spaghetti for another(over pasta with reduced-fat cheese), and then a walking taco for yet another (add Frito chips and low-fat sour cream, shredded lettuce, and reduced-sodium taco seasoning). You could also do a shepherd’s pie or other tasty one dish wonders. If you need something light, roast a chicken in a crock-pot and use it to top a salad, shred it and add bbq for a sandwich, or use it for chicken tacos. This way you can feel good about what you are feeding your family without the hassle of preparing big meals every night. You simply make one item work for several days. 

I hope these tips help you and your family better enjoy this season. Feel free to share your ideas below or comments about my tips. Do you feel they are practical? 

Fighting the Good Fight of PCOS


Things have been pretty crazy around my place lately. This senior year workload has kept me pretty busy, along with having a 9 month-old and a 2 year-old! Sorry if it seems I have been absent. This week I won a big battle in my fight against PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). I sat in the waiting room in excitement to speak with my doctor. 5 years ago I was in that office and she diagnosed me with the disorder. At 209lbs and struggling to find something that worked for me, it was nice to put a face on my opponent. From that moment on I was determined to do something about it and to help others as well. I knew she would be proud of the progress i made. She has been there as I have struggled over and over again, watching me feel hopeless. She has also watched me succeed.

I understand what it feels like to be frustrated, cranky, hungry, and overwhelmed in weight-loss battles. I have since lost the weight, have 2 children, and ran my best time. As of that office visit, I am officially off my Metformin medication! That is right. You can get healthy and get off some of your medications by changing your lifestyle. In this economy, who couldn’t afford to have their doctor drop a prescription or two? Think of all the pages of side-effects from medications you are on. There are a lot of medications your doctor could eliminate by your change in lifestyle. Less chemicals entering and running through your body. You take control back from the medications by becoming disciplined. Obviously you should NEVER attempt to go off a medication without your doctor’s orders. This is simply a goal you can set for yourself to motivate you for healthier living.  

You have to first understand that you are worth the time and effort. Your loved ones deserve the best you possible. Life has battles great and small. We have to have the courage and gumption to face them head on. We cannot control everything that happens to us. We can choose how to deal with them and do our best to prevent damage. Respond. Do not let life keep you juggling with symptoms health-related or in general. Use what power you do have to make the best decisions you can. I personally believe that God will handle the rest. At the end of the day, come what may, I want to know I did what I could and didn’t sit idle. What battles have you won? Please share and encourage others to keep pushing! Feel free to comment or share a story below!! 

Cheese Clafoutis Recipe Review

So as I mentioned we recently returned from Disney World. I was on a culinary quest to broaden my taste buds and rekindle my passion for food. I had not lost it, but being a stay at home mom on a budget can sometimes cause the fire to dwindle a bit. Then I walked into Epcot’s World Showcase section of the park and my heart soared feeling immersed in the cultures and smells coming from kitchens preparing for the dinner rush to come.  I waltzed into a small shop in “France” and found an adorable cookbook for just $9 and it had some wonderful staples I wanted to try. I love trying new recipes, if for nothing else but to try a new cooking technique that broadens my creativity in the kitchen.

Last night, a dear friend was in town and we had an impromptu French-themed night. We watched Ratatouille and made cheese clafoutis. This was chosen for the short list of ingredients and relatively easy on the budget. We were able to cut the recipe in half since it was just the two of us eating it. My husband was really enjoying some time to himself, and the kids had already been put down for the night. Of course the smell from the kitchen woke my son up (or maybe the fact that I grabbed the movie from his room) and we shared a few moments with him. He ooed and awed at the sight of Paris first on the screen, as my friend and I did the same over this delicious dish!  It really felt like a special moment of living in good taste for little cost. 

The Recipe:

Cheese Clafoutis from “The French Kitchen Cookbook: Everday cuisine from the French country kitchen”


Serves 4-6   Prep Time:15 minutes    Cook time: 50-55 minutes (35-40 if halved) 


-Olive oil for greasing    -3 cups Cherry Tomatoes      -3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled     -2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves    -1/2 cup all-purpose flour  – 4 extra-large eggs    -1 1/4 cup whole milk    -pinch of salt    -pinch of sugar


One: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Arrange the Tomatoes in a single layer in the dish, then scatter the Cheese and Thyme over them and set aside.

Two: Sift the Flour, Sugar, and Salt into a large bowl and make a well in the center. Break Eggs into the well and use a whisk or fork to blend them together. Add half of the Milk and stir, gradually incorporating the Flour from the side of the bowl until blended. Stir in the remaining Milk until a smooth batter forms. 

Three: Gently pour the batter over the Tomatoes, shaking the dish slightly to distribute the Cheese and Thyme. Place in preheated oven and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the batter is puffed, golden, and set and the Tomatoes are tender.

Four: Remove Clafoutis from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.


This was absolutely delicious!

A few tips to tweak it for healthier eating:

-Use 2% milk instead of whole

-Use whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose

-Limit your serving size. 

Food Snob rating: 9/10

Salmon Strawberry Almond Salad with a Mango Poppy Seed Dressing.

My husband and I went on our first vacation this past week, which is why it has been quiet around here. We took our children for a magical time to Disney World in Florida. In an attempt to save money on the trip, we stayed at a villa with full amenities. This way I could cook most meals. I was craving some seafood since we were surrounded by a tropical backdrop. Additionally i began to understand that a day at Disney made for one tired Momma. What could I cook that would satisfy, be quick to make, taste great, and hit the spot. This is what I came up with.

Salmon Strawberry Almond Salad with a Mango Poppy Seed Dressing.

-1 lemon -1 lb Wild-Caught Salmon fillet (If it smells fishy, do not buy) -Salt and Pepper
-1 cup chopped strawberries (or sliced if you prefer) -1/4 cup slivered almonds – 1/4 cup Mango Poppy Seed Dressing (or to taste) -1 Package Baby Spring Lettuce (Rinsed and Dried)

One: Preheat oven to 425 Degrees F. While the oven is heating up, Slice up your Strawberries. Cut Lemon in half.

Two: Place the Salmon in a baking dish, and season it with Salt and Pepper. Drizzle the Salmon with lemon juice, by squeezing one half of the Lemon at a time, over the fillet evenly with one hand. Use your opposite hand as a sieve to catch seeds. Slice the juiced Lemon and place the slices of Lemon directly onto the Salmon.

Three: Place the Salmon in the pre-heated oven and enjoy the aroma for about 15-20 minutes depending on the size and thickness of your fillet. You are looking for firm and flaky texture. While that is getting yummy, place your Slivered Almonds evenly on a cookie sheet with salt and pepper if desired. Half way through the Salmon baking time, place the Almonds in the oven.
salmon oven

Four: Toss the Baby Spring lettuce into a bowl. Once everything in the oven has come out, place the toasted Almond Slivers and chopped Strawberries evenly over the bed of lettuce. Use a fork to pull chunks of Salmon out and lay across the bed of green and red goodness. You may or may not want to keep the skin. It is whatever your preference is. I usually allow my family to dress the salad to their liking, so I don’t have to receive complaints and it does not get soggy with pre-dressing. Serve.

salmon salad

This salad as a meal serves 4 and as a side to soup may serve up to 6. Good crusty bread and a bit of dipping olive oil with fresh-cracked black pepper would make a great add to this dish. One soup that may pair well is corn chowder with a hint of lime.


Drive-thru Rut?

There are times you have to hit a drive-thru. It happens. A new meal that Chick-fil-a is serving is Chick-fil-a Grilled Market Salad. It is Food Snob approved.

I actually do not like eating a salad when I am out, but this one is super yummy! Loaded with berries and apples and sprinkled with blue cheese, it has enough flavor to satisfy any appetite. Topped with grilled chicken it comes in as a low-fat, low-calorie option. Only 180 calories and a big portion you can easily say yes.

Warning: It does come with granola and roasted nut blend on the side that are not included in the caloric count. The granola is 60 calories and the nuts are 80 calories. Compared to a chicken sammy this is still a great option and sprinkle away! The recommended dressing is Zesty Apple Cider vinaigrette, but beware if you use the whole packet it is over 200 calories. A light drizzle would go a long way since there is already so much flavor. You could also pick out some blue cheese to help make up the difference if you really want to. Omit the chicken and you have a vegetarian option and fewer calories.

This meal has anti-oxidants, iron, lean protein, good fats, and great flavor. I would obviously like to see organic produce, but this is fast food after all. Rating: 8.5/10

Check it out below: