"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all." ~Harriet van Horne


Fig, Caramelized Onion and Prosciutto Flatbread Pizza,...

Published by: Kathy

  • Oct
  • 1

Nordstrom’s Cafe, I am no longer traumatized by the fact that you have taken this pizza off your menu…I nailed it!

My absolute favorite thing on the Nordstrom’s Cafe menu (aside from the french fries and Kalamata olive aioli, of course), was their Arugula Salad with Crisp Prosciutto Pizza.  (The name Nordstrom’s gave to the pizza, doesn’t do justice to what I feel are the highlights of the dish…the caramelized onions and the fig preserves.)    I have been committed to making this pizza at home and so I went to the cafe two weeks ago, in the name of research (someone’s got to do it), to dissect this delicious offering, once and for all.  Imagine my surprise and disappointment, when they told me it was no longer on the menu!  Ugghh!  I was embarrassed to walk away, considering the line of people behind me, so I placed my alternate order and stepped aside.  While I stood there in shock, I tried to recall the layers of ingredients.  I remembered the basics, but not the details…I asked my waitress if there was cheese on the pizza.  After all, Pioneer Woman had made a similar version on her show recently, and she used fresh mozzarella…The Novice Chef posted her version, which had blue cheese.  No, the waitress recalled there was no cheese, but that’s about all she could tell me.  The rest was up to me and the fond memories I had of devouring that pizza, while my son, Eric reached across the table to pilfer whatever he could from my plate.

And so last night, under the magic of the new moon, my Fig, Caramelized Onion and Prosciutto Flatbread Pizza, Topped with Arugula Salad, was born!  The pre-baked flatbread is first topped with a sweet fig jam…Next comes a layer of caramelized onions sprinkled with strips of crispy prosciutto.  Finally, to take this warm pizza to the other side of heaven, it is topped with a cool, peppery arugula salad and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.  I was soooo excited!  It was really simple to prepare…I swear…Don’t let the long recipe title scare you away.  You have to try this!



  • The flatbread I used as the crust, made two small individual pizzas.  If you want a larger pizza, feel free to use regular pizza dough and determine your own size.  You may also want to make your flatbread from scratch.  Everything I have read, indicates it is a relatively simple process.
  • Prepare the caramelized onions and balsamic reduction ahead of time.  This way, when you are ready to put the pizzas together, that is all you will be doing.  Great idea if you are preparing these for guests.
  • While we are on the subject of guests, I think these pizzas would make excellent appetizers…Simply cut them into small squares, instead of slices.
  • When spreading the preserves on the flatbread, leave some room on the edge of the dough for handling.  This is kind of a sticky pizza that may require the use of a fork.  Leaving the dry edge, makes it easier to handle and gives you and your guests eating options.
  • Remember, a pizza is like a blank canvas.  The creation can be designed to suit your personal palate…Add or subtract anything you like. 



  • 2  pre-baked flatbread doughs (I used Stonefire™ Tandoori Naan)
  • Fig Preserves (I used Braswell’s® Fig Preserves)
  • Caramelized onions (recipe follows)
  • 6 slices of prosciutto, cut into thin strips  (I used Boars Head Prosciutto Piccolo)
  • Arugula
  • Balsamic Reduction (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400°.  Place flatbreads on a cookie sheet.  Spread each flatbread with 3-4 tablespoons of fig preserves. (Remember, the more you use, the sweeter the pizza will be, so use your judgement.)  Spread evenly, stopping within 1/2-inch of the dough edge.   Cover the preserves with a layer of caramelized onions and then top the onions with the prosciutto strips.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until dough gets crispy.  When out of the oven, top each pizza with a handful of arugula and drizzle with the balsamic reduction.  Cut into pieces and enjoy!



  •  2  c. thinly sliced onions (1 large onion)
  • 3  T. butter
  • 2  pinches of salt
  • 2  tsp. sugar

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions, salt and pepper and cook, stirring constantly, until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the sugar and continue to cook, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Be careful not to burn the onions!  Remove from heat and set aside until ready to use.


  • 1 ½  c. balsamic vinegar (the better the vinegar, the better the taste)
  • 3  T. brown sugar

In a saucepan, over  heat, bring vinegar to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and allow vinegar to simmer.  Add brown sugar and stir until it is dissolved.  Continue simmering uncovered, until the vinegar has reduced by half.  The reduction is done when it is thickened to the consistency of syrup.  It will continue to thicken as it cools.  Store any leftovers in the fridge.






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The Cheesecake Factory Chicken Madeira (Copy-Cat Version)...

Published by: Kathy

  • Aug
  • 27

Look veerrrry closely and you will see a chicken breast nestled in a pile of mashed potatoes.

OK, so I’m still working on my food stylist and photography skills…But I promise you, I’ve got the cooking part down pat!

A recent trip to the Cheesecake Factory brought back fond memories of one of my favorite dishes off their menu….Chicken Madeira.  Not that I’ve ordered it for quite some time, due to the fact that their entree portions are so gargantuan.  I usually opt to make one of their appetizers my meal and leave a little extra room for dessert.  (Duh!  It’s the CHEESECAKE Factory!)

When I got home that night, (and was taking a few bites of my Turtle cheesecake) I remembered my handy-dandy Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 cookbook and recalled that it had a recipe for The Cheesecake Factory Chicken Madeira.  I made it last night  and, oh, yeah!  Another copy-cat recipe success story!   The gravy over the chicken was absolutely divine!  My husband noted that it would taste good on just about anything!  And, my potatoes were equally delicious.  Smashed potatoes are all the rage in restaurants these days and easier to make than mashed potatoes.  However, I ended up whipping them with an electric mixwer, instead of smashing them.  I thought a smoother texture would be better paired with the chicken.  Next time, I will go ahead and just hand-smash the potatoes, leaving them on the chunky side.

This post is a 2-for-1, because I’ve added the recipe I came up with for Garlic Smashed New Potatoes.  I promise, you won’t be disappointed in either recipe.


  • I purchased a pound of asparagus and in addition to putting it on top of the chicken, I served it as a side dish that evening.
  • My husband is a big fan of grilling the asparagus, so he helped me out by cooking them for me on the grill.  To do this, turn on your gas grill.  Season the cleaned asparagus with a little salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  Place the asparagus directly on the grill, going opposite the grates, so that they don’t fall into the fire.  Grill for 3-5 minutes, (depending on the thickness) turning frequently.   Presto!  You have grilled asparagus.  Delicious!
  • Don’t overcook the chicken.  You cannot start your sauce until the chicken is done, because you will be using the juices in the pan to enhance the flavor of your sauce.  So…you should keep your chicken in the oven, covered and on a low temperature, so that it stays warm for the 20 minutes your sauce is simmering.
  • When making the potatoes, leave the garlic with the potatoes once you have drained them.  The boiled garlic is very soft and will easily incorporate itself into the potatoes as you smash or whip them.  It gives the potatoes a beautiful hint of garlic, without overpowering them.



  • 1  T. olive oil
  • 4  skinless chicken breast fillets, pounded to 1/4-inch thick
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
  • 8  asparagus spears
  • 4  mozzarella cheese slices



  • 2  T. olive oil
  • 2  c. sliced fresh white mushrooms
  • 3  c. Madeira wine (found in the Port section of your liquor store)
  • 2  c. beef broth
  • 2  T. butter
  • 1/4  tsp. black pepper
  • 1  heaping tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1  T. Madeira wine

In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil.   Sprinkle each fillet with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Sauté the chicken fillets for 4-6 minutes per side, or until chicken has browned just a bit.  Remove chicken from pan and wrap them together in foil to keep the fillets warm while you make the sauce.

To the drippings in the skillet, and the heat still on medium, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet.  Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for about 2 minutes.  Add the Madeira wine, beef broth, butter and pepper.  Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Mix cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of Madeira wine in a small bowl, until smooth and all the lumps are gone.  Add to the gravy and bring to a simmer, so that mixture will thicken to a silky consistency.

As the sauce is simmering, bring a medium saucepan, filled halfway with water, to a boil.  Add a pinch of salt to the water.  Toss the asparagus into the water and boil for 3-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your asparagus spears.  Drop the asparagus in a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process.  The asparagus should be slightly tender when done…not mushy.  (Or you can eliminate this method and opt to grill them as I outlined in my Helpful Hints.)

Set the oven to broil.  Prepare the dish by arranging the cooked chicken fillets on a baking dish.  Cross two asparagus spears over each fillet, then cover each with a slice of mozzarella cheese.  Broil the fillets for 3-4 minutes, or until light brown spots begin to appear on the cheese.  To serve, arrange one 1 or 2 chicken breasts on each plate, then spoon 3 0r 4 tablespoons of Madeira sauce over the chicken.  Makes 2-4 servings.



  • 2  lbs. new red potatoes, washed
  • 6  cloves garlic, cut in half with ends trimmed
  • 6  Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4  c. heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/8  c. chopped chives  (optional)
  • 2  Tbsp. fresh bacon. cooked crisp and crumbled (optional)


Cut potatoes into uniform sizes (so that they all finish cooking at the same time).  Boil potatoes and garlic, until tender.  (20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes).  Drain.

While the potatoes are cooking,  in a small bowl, heat butter and cream in the microwave.  (I find it easier to work with melted butter and warm cream.  But, cover the bowl you are using in the microwave, and be careful you don’t have a boil-over situation…like I did!)  Using the back of a large spoon, or a potato masher,  smash the potatoes and garlic, so they are large and chunky.  Add the butter, cream, salt and pepper.  Stir gently to combine.  If you like, fold in chives and bacon bits.  Gently reheat if necessary.  Serve hot.  Makes 2-4 servings.


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Bow-Tie Pasta with Chicken ...

Published by: Kathy

  • Aug
  • 23

The origin of this recipe brings back good memories of happy times with very special people…My former co-workers and friends for life.

Years ago, when the first Macaroni Grill restaurant opened in Tampa, it quickly became the place of choice for the birthday celebrations, of my office “family”.  We were hard up for decent restaurants in our immediate vicinity and the 15 minute drive to the Macaroni Grill was the ticket.  On the menu, we found a pasta dish that appealed to all of us and without fail, the unanimous choice was “Farfalle Di Pollo al Sugo Bianco”, for the entire table.  This was bow-tie pasta, with slices of grilled chicken, pancetta bacon, fried crisp, red and green onions, tossed in an asiago garlic cream sauce…Divine!  (Macaroni Grill still serves this dish, however, they use crispy prociutto instead of the pancetta.)

On one of our many visits, when we placed our order for Farfalle Di Pollo al Sugo Bianco, we heard our server refer to the dish as “P-Ties” and that is actually what she wrote down on her pad.  When we asked her about the word, “P-Ties”, she said it was the abbreviation the servers used for the pasta dish.  (Is it any wonder??)  Well, that was all we needed to hear…”P-Ties” it was and still is, almost 20 years later!

I loved this pasta dish so much, I was determined to learn to make it at home.  Back then, I wasn’t all over the internet and didn’t have easy access to the copy-cat recipes that I do now, so I did the next best thing…I entered a radio contest, where I had to write something about why I liked eating at Macaroni Grill.  Me, writing about food I like to eat…It was a done deal!  I won!!!  The prize was a private dinner prepared by a Macaroni Grill Chef…Cooked right before my eyes!!  I was allowed to bring a guest, so I invited  the second biggest P-Tie fan I know, my friend, Maria.  (Me being the first biggest fan!)  The chef prepared several of Macaroni Grill’s most popular dishes, but I couldn’t tell you what they were…All I remember was seeing the P-Ties made!  I watched every move the chef made and memorized everything that went into his pot.  He wasn’t able to give me exact measurements.  I’m assuming that was because his knowledge involved the preparation of mass quantities of the recipe.  But no worries…after much trial and error, I eventually figured it out.  The recipe can be found on page 85 of my cookbook.

And now, in 2011 after all that, you can Google “Farfalle Di Pollo al Sugo Bianco” and find at least a dozen copy-cat recipes at your disposal.  But there would have been no memories made and no story to tell!

Bow-Tie Pasta with Chicken 

 Asiago Cream Sauce

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 6-8  cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 1  c. canned chicken broth
  • 2  c. whipping cream
  • 1  lb. (3 to 4 cups) Asiago cheese, shredded


Melt butter in a medium saucepan.  Add minced garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.  Add chicken broth and cream.  Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture begins to simmer.  Add cheese and continue to stir until the cheese is melted.  Continue to cook on low for approximately 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside until needed.


  • ½  c. red onion, chopped
  • 4  Tbsp. butter
  • 3  chicken breasts, grilled and sliced thin
  • ¾  lb. (1 cup)  pancetta bacon, diced and cooked crisp
  • 2  lbs. bowtie pasta, cooked al dente
  • 3  stalks green onion, sliced thin
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


Sauté red onion in butter for a few seconds.  To the cooked pasta, add the chicken, bacon, red onion, green onion and cheese sauce.  Add salt and pepper according to your taste.  (Easy on the salt, as the pancetta and asiago cheese are very salty by themselves.)  Toss lightly and heat thoroughly.  I like to put it into the oven for about 10-15 minutes at 325º.  Serve immediately.  Serves 6-8.

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P.F. Chang's Spicy Chicken

Published by: Kathy

  • Jun
  • 25

I am super excited to share this next recipe with you!

While in the check-out line at Kohl’s a few weeks ago, I looked up to see the granddaddy of all copy-cat cookbooks, “Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2″,  on sale for only $5!!!  Although I have sworn off buying any more cookbooks, (At last count, I was approaching 250!) I couldn’t resist the affordable price tag and the opportunity to get my hands on a few more copy-cat recipes.  Well, I hit the motherload with this purchase…There were at least a dozen recipes I was excited to see!  Being able to make P.F. Chang’s Spicy Chicken at home,  is in itself, worth whatever I had to pay!

This recipe was fairly simple to prepare…As with most Asian dishes, the prep work is what usually takes the longest.  Once I had everything chopped and measured out, it took a total of 30 minutes to put together.  If I must say so myself, this was a winner, first time out!!  I did add some red pepper flakes for a little added heat…The recipe didn’t call for any and after a quick taste of the sauce, I realized that it lacked the familiar zing.  To complete my meal, I did cheat by picking up some vegetable fried rice at the nearby China Moon…I tried my hand at homemade fried rice a few weeks ago and let me just say, that I won’t be doing that again any time soon!  That recipe would have definitely made it to my “Hit or Miss” category.



  • 2  tsp. vegetable oil
  • 2  Tbsp. garlic (6-8 cloves), chopped
  • 3  Tbsp. green onions (about 3 onions), chopped
  • 1  c. pineapple juice
  • 2  Tbsp. chili sauce
  • 2  Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 4  tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1  tsp.  soy sauce
  • 1/4  tsp. crushed red pepper flakes  (adjust to suit your taste)
  • 2  Tbsp. water
  • 2  tsp. cornstarch

Make the sauce by heating 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan.  Saute the garlic and onion in the oil for just a few seconds, not allowing the ingredients to burn.  Quickly add the pineapple juice, chili sauce, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and red pepper flakes.  Dissolve corstarch in 2 tablespoons of water and add it to the other ingredients in the pan.  Bring mixture to a boil and continue to simmer on medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until mixture is thick and syrupy.  Reduce heat to low and keep warm while you make the chicken.


  • 2  boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/3  c. cornstarch
  • 1  c. vegetable oil

Heat 1 cup of vegetable oil in a wok or medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  While the oil is heating up, chop the chicken breast fillets into bite-size pieces.  Put conrstarch in a plastic zip-lock bag and toss the chicken pieces with cornstarch until dusted.  Saute coated chicken in the hot oil, stirring occasionally, until light brown.  Remove chicken to a stack of paper towels to drain for a moment.  Place cooked chicken into a medium bowl, add sauce and toss well to coat the chicken.  Serve immediately with rice on the side.  Serves 2.

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"Beach" Slaw - It's a "Miss"

Published by: Kathy

  • May
  • 31

I was determined to recreate the “Beach Slaw” served at Waltz Fish Shak in Madeira Beach, FL.

The delicious slaw is served as a side with every dish you order.  I love coleslaw of any variety, but my husband immediately turned his nose up at it.  One taste was enough to change his mind and had me addicted!  This slaw is so simple…It’s made with cabbage, carrots, raisins and almonds.  The dressing is vinegar-based but very sweet and “glossy”.  I’m guessing there’s either honey or Karo syrup in there somewhere, to add the glossiness.  There’s something intriguing about the crunch of the cabbage and almonds and the sweetness of the raisins and dressing.  Anyway, I searched cookbooks and the internet to try and come up with a copy-cat version of the “Beach Slaw” I fell in love with.  I found a recipe that seemed like it might work, so I tweaked it and tried it out.   With any experiment, there is a chance for failure, so I knew the outcome would be a hit or a miss.    My first attempt at Beach Slaw was a definite “miss” and even inspired the addition of a new  blog category…appropriately named, “Hit or Miss”.    Below is Beach Slaw…take one.  The first mistake I made was using purple cabbage.  I thought it would give the dish a lot of color…and I was right!  It actually gave it color-overload…It was so….PURPLE!   It didn’t even look very appetizing.  The second obvious flaw was the dressing.  I never got it quite sweet enough, even though I added a few tablespoons of honey, which the recipe didn’t call for.  Fortunately, I only made a small bowl and have eaten some of the slaw, just not to be wasteful.  What can I say? Rome wasn’t built in a day!  I will try again and let you know how it turns out.

Beach Slaw 

  • 1  small head purple cabbage (about the size of a softball)
  • 4  carrots, peeled and shredded
  • Slivered almonds
  • Craisins

Dressing  (Makes enough for 2 large servings)

  • 1  Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2  Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1  Tbsp. water
  • 1/4  tsp. salt
  • 1/4  tsp. sugar
  • 1  Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 2  Tbsp. honey
  • 2  Tbsp. canola oil

Trim off a small amount of the bottom of the cabbage, where the stem was.  Quarter the cabbage and cut out the thick white cores on each piece.  Process through the slicing disc of your food processor, or slice thinly to make strips.  Shred carrots by hand or via food processor.  Toss cabbage and carrots together in a large bowl.  (If you think it’s too much cabbage, put some away in a zip lock bag for another day.)  Add craisins and almonds to suit your taste buds.  I put approximately 1/4 cup of each.

Whisk all the dressing ingredients together, except for the oil.  Slowly drizzle the oil in while whisking to emulsify.  Pour the dressing over the slaw in the bowl and toss.  Chill for a few hours before serving.  Makes 4-6 servings.

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Sunshine Chicken - My Inaugural Post

Published by: Kathy

  • May
  • 1

Whenever I eat something I like at a restaurant, the first thing I want to do is recreate it at home. The “copy-cat” websites are pretty good when it comes to the chain restaurant menus.

I can usually find a few versions of the recipes I am looking for and then, with a little mix and match, and a lot of trial and error, I can usually come up with a winner. But what happens when the restaurant is of the local variety? That’s when I have to rely on my taste buds and instincts to come up with a recipe that remotely resembles what I am trying to duplicate.

The recipe in my inaugural blog post is an original recipe, but was inspired by a dish served at the Columbia Café at Channelside. It was a “special” one Monday night and my husband and my son both ordered it. The entree was called “Chicken Manchego”. The recipe wasn’t listed in either of my Columbia Restaurant cookbooks, so the challenge was on! Our server, Leticia, did a great job of describing the dish. Little did she know I was mentally taking notes…Details I wrote down as soon as I got home, just so I would be able to remember the key components of the recipe. The boneless chicken breast was coated in Cuban bread crumbs, pan fried and served with a citrus butter. It was then topped with melted Manchego cheese fresh basil and sun-dried tomatoes. After preparing this dish, I was struck by the fact that, though the name of the dish would lead you to be believe otherwise, the Manchego cheese was not the focal point of the recipe (I actually elminated the cheese the second time I made this dish)…In my opinion, the citrus butter sauce is the star…The sauce is velvety smooth and tart, with just the right amount of pucker…When it hits the palate, it’s like having a mouth full of sunshine! 

I offer you “Sunshine Chicken”, my version of Chicken Manchego…it turned out amazing. My husband admitted that he thought it was even better than the Columbia’s…Wow! Not bad for my first try!!  I will add a disclaimer:  This is a complicated dish.  It’s not that the skill level is high, it’s  that there are several components to preparing it.  Things work much better for me, when I have an extra set of hands in the kitchen.  My husband takes charge of seasoning, breading and cooking the chicken.  This leaves me free to work my magic on the sauce and any side dishes I am preparing.


Citrus Butter Sauce

  • 1/2 c. fresh squeezed lime juice
  •  1 c. orange juice
  • 1/4  c. water
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  •  1/4 c. shallots, chopped
  •  2 T. Dijon mustard
  •  1/3 c. sherry wine
  •  salt and pepper to taste
  •  1 stick butter, cut into 4 pieces
  •  1 T. cornstarch
  •  2 T. sherry wine
  • 5  sun-dried tomates, cut into slivers

In a medium saucepan, combine lime juice, orange juice, water, sugar, shallots, Dijon mustard, sherry wine, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer until reduced by half, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat; add butter pieces one at a time, whisking until melted. Mix the cornstarch with the 2 tablespoons of sherry to make a slurry. Add the slurry a little at a time, to the citrus butter sauce, mixing well. If you feel you have the correct thickness, do not add all of the slurry, as the sauce will get too thick.  Allow mixture to simmer until thick and bubbly. Add sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce and stir.  Set aside and keep warm.  (If the sauce gets too thick while it sits, just add a little more water,)

  •  6 boneless chicken cutlets, pounded thin
  •  8 cloves garlic, mashed
  •  salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 eggs
  •  3 cups seasoned panko breadcrumbs
  •  1 stick butter
  • 1/2  c. olive oil
  •  8 fresh basil leaves, julienned
  •  6 slices Manchego cheese (optional)

Season chicken with salt, pepper and crushed garlic. Beat eggs with 2 tablespoons of water. Dip chicken into egg mixture and then roll in panko. Be sure to press chicken into the breadcrumbs to make sure it is coated well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Heat butter and olive oil in large skillet and fry chicken until it is golden brown (at least 3 minutes on each side). If you are going to use the cheese, remove chicken to a glass baking dish, and top each piece with a slice of Manchego. Place baking dish in a 350˚ oven for 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.  Spoon citrus butter sauce over chicken and top with fresh basil . Serve Immediately.

This recipe was inspired by Chicken Manchego served at the Columbia Café at Channelside, in Tampa, Florida.



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