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October 2010

Baked Chicken with Turkish Figs and Walnuts

The following baked chicken with Turkish figs and walnuts recipe was inspired by a dish served at one of my favorite local restaurants, Flip Flops Grill and Chill. The executive chef is Danny Veltri, winner of the popular show, Hell's Kitchen and they serve some amazing food there!

The first time I tried Flip Flops baked chicken with figs entrée I knew I had to try to recreate it. The flavor is so rich and robust and the fig seeds add an additional flavor profile that pulls everything together. Even my husband, who isn't a fan of figs, enjoyed this recipe and encouraged me to add it to our list of favorite recipes.

I served the baked chicken with Turkish figs with a side of homemade chicken risotto and fresh steamed green beans. If you've never made risotto, check out my article, How to Prepare Homemade Risotto published at Associated Content.


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Serves: 2
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes


2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Beau Monde Seasoning
1 teaspoon ground Ginger
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup dried Turkish figs, chopped
2 Tablespoons light Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon Wine
1/4 cup Walnuts, chopped
Zest of 1 Lemon, optional


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry. Place in large resealable plastic bag.
3. Add garlic, Beau Monde seasoning, ginger, salt, red wine vinegar, olive oil and figs. Gently massage to incorporate ingredients into chicken. If desired, allow to marinate 20 to 30 minutes in refrigerator.
4. Place chicken breasts and marinade in glass baking dish.
5. Sprinkle with brown sugar and pour Cabernet Sauvignon between each breast.

6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.
7. Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes, or until juices run clear.
8. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes.
9. Transfer to serving plate and top with chopped walnuts and lemon zest.


Cheese and Honey Phyllo Rounds

I created cheese and honey phyllo rounds for my Greek Feast for Two entry into the Foodbuzz Project Food Blog Challenge. Although, The Cheap Gourmet did not proceed to the next round, I've acquired a love for Greek food and indulge in it whenever I can. If you haven't experimented with Greek recipes, I encourage you to do so. The flavors are amazing and many of the traditional recipes are relatively easy to prepare.

The cheese and honey phyllo rounds make a great appetizer and a semi-guilt-free dessert. As with anything, moderation is the key. You can change the type of cheese, but it's best to use a semi-hard cheese for this recipe. Soft cheeses will melt too much and you'll end up with a product that's more like a mozzarella cheese stick. 

The original cheese and honey phyllo rounds recipe called for cutting the dough into rounds. I didn't have much luck with that method and cut the sheets into quarters. This dish is intended to be served at room temperature, but my husband and I liked them best straight out of the oven. 


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Yield: 16 rounds
Prep Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Bake Time: 12 to 14 minutes


8 sheets refrigerated Phyllo dough, cut into quarters
4 ounces Pecorino-Romano cheese, finely grated
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil for basting
1-1/2 Tablespoons Honey


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Place phyllo dough on large cutting board. Cut sheets into quarters and stack into a pile.
3. Use two sheets of phyllo dough for each cheese-stuffed round. You will need to work quickly so the dough doesn't dry out.
4. Place two sheets of dough on cutting board and lightly brush with olive oil. Place 1/2-teaspoon of cheese near the end of the square. Gently roll and lightly baste with olive oil. Carefully roll one end toward the center to create a snail shell.
5. Place on baking sheet and lightly baste each round before placing in oven.
6. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until light golden brown.

7. Remove from oven and immediately transfer to serving platter. Drizzle with honey. Serve at room temperature.


Brie Cheese and Bacon Stuffed Chicken in Phyllo

This recipe for brie cheese and bacon stuffed chicken in phyllo came to me after making my Greek Feast for Two Dinner Menu. I had plenty of leftover phyllo dough and wanted to try something besides dessert recipes.

The process for making brie cheese and bacon stuffed chicken in phyllo is relatively simple, but does require extra organization. The chicken breasts need to be flattened out for ease of rolling them up. I place the chicken breasts in a resealable bag and flatten with a rolling pin. Take the phyllo dough out of the refrigerator as you begin to prepare the chicken. Cook the bacon ahead of time so it is cool enough to break into small pieces. 

Brie Cheese and Bacon Stuffed Chicken in Phyllo

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Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 35 to 40 minutes


2 (6-oz) boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
2 slices Bacon, cooked extra crispy, chopped
2 ounces Brie Cheese
8 Phyllo Pastry sheets, thawed
3 Tablespoons unsalted Butter, melted


1. Cook bacon slices in medium skillet over medium-high heat. If desired, cut bacon into small chunks prior to cooking. Turn bacon slices or stir bacon bits until extra crispy. Transfer to paper towel lined plate to drain excess grease.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Place chicken breasts, one at a time, in quart-size resealable plastic bag. Using a rolling pin or heavy glass bottle, gently pound and roll chicken breasts to 1/2-inch thickness.

4. Cut brie cheese into 2-inch slices. Place 1-ounce of cheese approximately 2-inches from the narrow end of the breast. Top with crumbled bacon.

5. Fold chicken over cheese and bacon and roll twice; making certain ends are closed. Secure with toothpicks. Set aside.

6. Use 4 sheets of phyllo dough per chicken breast. Melt butter in microwave. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush each phyllo sheet with butter. Place buttered sheets on top of one another.

7. Place chicken breast in center of phyllo dough. Carefully remove toothpicks. Wrap sides of phyllo, than wrap ends; making a package.

8. Transfer chicken breasts to oven-safe glass baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until phyllo dough is medium-golden brown.

9. Let sit for 5 minutes. Slice chicken breasts open. Transfer to serving dish and enjoy!


Roasted Red Bell Pepper Soup Recipe

One of my favorite soups is roasted red bell pepper soup. Years ago, while working as a prep chef for a country club, we served this soup for special occasions. There rarely was ever any leftover and the Executive Chef refused to share his recipe so I could make it at home. 

I recently discovered a roasted red bell pepper soup recipe at CDKitchen.com which sounded similar to the one made at the country club. I made a few minor changes and attempted to go from memory. I'm happy to report the soup turned out magnificently. In fact, my husband, who isn't too fond of red bell peppers, enjoyed the soup so much he went back for seconds!

To make roasted red bell pepper soup, you need to roast the peppers. This can be accomplished by broiling them in the oven or roasting on a grill. I chose the oven method, but need to let you know that roasting peppers in the oven generates substantial smoke, so be certain to turn on the exhaust fan.


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Peppers can be roasted whole, but I cut them in half and remove the seeds. I find this method to be more efficient and less messy. Roast the peppers prior to making the soup. The entire process takes less than 20 minutes. The roasted red bell pepper soup recipe uses 4 whole peppers.

1. Turn oven to broil.
2. Wash and dry peppers. Slice in half and remove stems and seeds.
3. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat pepper halves with vegetable oil. It's important to use vegetable oil because of its high smoke point.
4. Arrange peppers on a baking sheet, skin side up.

5. Place on the highest rack in the oven and broil for 10 to 12 minutes, or until skin starts to bubble and turn brown.

6. Remove peppers and transfer to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, making certain it is sealed all the way around. This provides steam which makes it easier to remove the skins. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
7. When peppers are cool, gently remove skins and chop peppers into bite-sized pieces.


Yields: 6 to 8 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes


1 stick Unsalted Butter
1 small Vidalia Onion, chopped
2 medium Carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 stalks Celery, thinly sliced
3 cloves Garlic, minced
4 Red Bell Peppers, roasted, skin and seeds removed and loosely chopped
2 cups Chicken Broth
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground Black Pepper
1 cup Heavy Cream, warmed
8 fresh Basil leaves for garnish, thinly sliced (optional)


1. In a medium size pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery. Sauté until soft.

 2. Lower heat to medium. Add garlic and cook until vegetables are completely softened; approximately 10 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent burning.

3. Add the roasted red bell peppers and cook for another 10 minutes.

 4. Add chicken stock, salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. 

5. Puree vegetables using a hand blender, food processor, or blender. Return to cooking pot and remove from heat.

 6. Heat heavy cream in microwave for 30 to 45 seconds, or until warm to the touch. 

7. Add cream to soup and stir until incorporated.

8. Transfer to serving bowls and garnish with basil leaves and cracked black pepper. Serve with rustic bread, if desired.


Pink Champagne Cake with Whipped Cream Icing and Chocolate Covered Strawberries

The long awaited recipe for pink champagne cake with whipped cream icing and chocolate covered strawberries has arrived! This recipe was intended to be featured in the Luxury Dinner round of the FoodBuzz Food Blog competition. While The Cheap Gourmet blog did not advance, this cake recipe is way too good not to share!

The texture of the pink champagne cake is similar to a pound cake, while the flavor is similar to angel food cake. I used Andre Blush; a California pink champagne because it was on sale at the grocery store for $6.99. They don't call me cheap for no reason!

Only one cup of pink champagne is used between the cake batter and whipped cream icing, so the champagne flavor is exceptionally mild. This cake is perfect for nearly any special occasion. However, it must be refrigerated until served. Otherwise, the whipped cream icing will slide off. Enjoy!

Pink Champagne Cake with Whipped Cream Icing and Chocolate Covered Strawberries

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Serves: 8 to 10
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 38 to 40 minutes


Cake Ingredients:

1 pound whole Strawberries
7 ounces Baker's Dipping Chocolate
2/3 cup unsalted Butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups granulated Sugar
2 teaspoons Vanilla extract
2-3/4 cups Sawns Down cake flour
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
3/4 cup Pink Champagne
6 Egg Whites, stiffly beaten

Icing Ingredients:

1 cup heavy Whipping Cream
1/4 cup Confectioner Sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1/4 cup Pink Champagne


1. Select 10 large strawberries for dipping. Leave stem and leaves intact. Wash and dry thoroughly.

2. Melt Baker's dipping chocolate according to package directions. Dip strawberries in chocolate and place on plate to dry. Store in refrigerator until needed for decorating.

 3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Lightly grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

5. Remove stems from remaining strawberries, cut into quarters, and place in food processor.

6. Gently pulse until strawberries are pureed.

 7. Separate egg yolks from eggs and place egg whites in medium mixing bowl. Using hand held mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Set aside.

 8. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter.

 9. Add sugar and vanilla extract and beat until creamy.
10. Add flour, baking powder, salt and champagne. Beat on high for 2 minutes.

11. Fold in beaten egg whites and strawberry puree.

12. Pour half of cake batter into each cake pan. Bake for 38 to 40 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.


13. While cakes are cooling, prepare pink champagne whipped cream icing.

14. In a medium bowl, beat heavy whipping cream until stiff; about 2 minutes.

 15. Add sugar, vanilla, and pink champagne and beat until incorporated; about 20 seconds. Be careful not to overbeat whipped cream or it will turn out like cottage cheese.

16. Once cakes are completely cooled, it's time to add the icing and chocolate covered strawberries.

17. Place one cake layer on cake stand. Spread a thin layer of whipped cream icing on top.

 18. Add second layer to cake and evenly spread remaining icing on top and sides.

19. Gently remove chocolate covered strawberries from plate. Place 8 strawberries around the outer edge of cake and position 2 strawberries in the center.

  20. Slice cake into 8 to 10 pieces and serve with a glass of pink champagne.


NutsOnline.com ~ Great Deals on Nuts, Spices, Snacks and Sweets

I discovered NutsOnline.com last year when looking for a place to buy 25 pounds of shelled peanuts. The peanuts were a gift for a friend's 60th birthday bash and Nuts Online offered the best price. The nuts arrived within a day or two and were some of the freshest I've ever tasted. Sadly, I forgot about the company until a few weeks ago when I needed to hunt down Turkish figs for a new recipe.

I'm very glad I rediscovered NutsOnline.com because they have some amazing deals. This resource is too good not to share! We go through mountains of black peppercorns at our house. I don't know if you've checked the price of fresh black pepper lately, but it has gone through the roof. I was able to purchase 1 pound of whole peppercorns for a mere $5.99. I also ordered 1 pound of dry roasted almonds and Turkish figs and NutsOnline sent a sample of dried apricots. I love freebies, don't you? By the way, the apricots were really good!

You can purchase just about anything you need from NutsOnline.com. Their online catalog includes a dizzying array of nuts, dried fruit, chocolate and sweets, snacks, coffees and teas, cooking and baking supplies, and plenty of organic choices. Most products can be purchased in bulk at wholesale prices.

In addition to offering fresh products at discounted prices, Nuts Online ships your order lightning fast. I placed my order late afternoon and had it in my hands 2 days later. Customer service is great too. You can actually speak with a real person! And, they send a follow-up email to make certain your order arrived in perfect condition. It's rare to find a company with humans manning customer service and is a refreshing change. Check them out at www.Nuts.com.


Nature's Pride Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Kahlua-Infused Raisins and Cinnamon Whipped Cream

The following Nature's Pride pumpkin bread pudding with Kahlua-infused raisins is a recipe I am submitting for a FoodBuzz.com competition. If my recipe is selected, I will have the opportunity to present my dish to food bloggers during the Nature's Pride Festival food blogger conference hosted in San Francisco in November.

My Nature's Pride pumpkin bread pudding with Kahlua-infused raisins was adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe for pumpkin bread pudding and Country Living's recipe for cinnamon whipped cream.

The original pumpkin bread pudding recipe used 10-ounce ramekins, but I substitued with 6-ounce custard cups. The great thing about this recipe is it can be baked in a variety of sizes such as regular and mini muffin tins. I recommend using mini muffin tins to serve pumpkin bread pudding during holiday parties. If you prefer a non-alcoholic version, substitue Kahlua with espresso coffee syrup.

I'd like to thank Nature's Pride bread for providing a coupon for a free loaf of their 100% whole wheat bread. Using whole wheat bread adds a rustic element to the pumpkin bread pudding and the cinnamon whipped cream brings all the flavor profiles together. I hope you enjoy this delightful bread pudding recipe!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Kahlua-Infused Raisins

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Yield: 8, 6-ounce custard cups; 18 muffins; or 48 mini muffins
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes


1 cup raisins
1/2 cup Kahlua, coffee flavored liqueur
1/2 cup hot water
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature, for custard cups
1/2 cup light-brown sugar
12 slices Nature's Pride 100% Whole Wheat bread
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
4 large brown eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
Pinch of salt


1. Place raisins in a small bowl and cover with Kahlua and hot water. Let soak until plump, about 20 minutes.

2. Lightly butter custard cups and sprinkle each with 1-1/2 teaspoon brown sugar. Lightly press sugar into bottom of cups. Set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

4. Place bread slices on baking sheet and heat in oven for 5 to 6 minutes or until bread is slightly crisp. Remove from oven and set aside; leaving oven turned on. Cut bread into quarters lengthwise and crosswise to make 3/4-inch cubes.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, eggs, granulated sugar, milk, vanilla, spices, and salt.

5. Toss in bread crumbs and mix gently with hands to evenly coat. Let stand a few minutes to absorb pumpkin puree and spices.

6.Fold in Kahlua-infused raisins.


7. Divide among prepared dishes, pressing down slightly to make level.


8. Bake until custard is set in the center and top is golden; about 38 to 40 minutes for custard cups and muffin tins; 17 to 18 minutes for mini muffins.


9. Remove from oven; let cool slightly. Un-mold onto plates. Top with homemade cinnamon whipped cream.

Homemade Cinnamon Whipped Cream


Yields: 1-1/2 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes


1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar spice, optional


1. Add ingredients to a medium bowl.

2. Using a hand mixer set on medium-high, beat ingredients until stiff peaks form.

3. Drop a dollop of cinnamon whipped cream on top of each pumpkin bread pudding and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture, if desired.




Time to Return to Regularly Scheduled Food Blogging

Sadly, The Cheap Gourmet blog did not advance into round three of the FoodBuzz Project Food Blog Challenge. However, I thank everyone who cast their vote for my Greek Feast for Two entry. I definitely had a lot of fun participating in the challenges and have learned how to become a better food blogger.

While I wish I had advanced, it is time to get back to regularly scheduled food blogging. Project Food Blog inspired me to step outside my comfort zone. The participating food bloggers inspired me to learn more about food photography and opened doors to culinary exploration. So, while I didn't win, I am a winner and what I learned can be shared with you - my loyal visitors who love me regardless of whether I'm competing in cooking contests or not.

Had I gone on to round three, I would be in the midst of preparing a luxury dinner for four, which included a delightful champagne cake. I've been giving considerable thought to this cake for several days and have decided to make it over the weekend. As soon as it is ready, I will be publishing the recipe. It should be a great cake for all types of special celebrations and I look forward to sharing the end result with you.

I encourage you to visit FoodBuzz.com and vote for the remaining participants. They are working very hard to receive the crown of Blog Star and they deserve our votes.

I plan to share links to some of my favorite Project Food Blog participants so you don't miss out on what they offer.  One of my favorite foodie blogs is FotoCuisine.com by Peter and Christey. I met this couple while attending a FoodBuzz Tastemaker event at Carrabba's Italian Grill in Orlando, FL.

Peter cooks and Christey photographs. Together they create some of the most gorgeous food I have ever seen. I am very happy they have moved forward in the competition and am rooting for them to win. Take a moment to visit their food blog at www.FotoCuisine.com. But, be sure to grab a napkin because you're certain to salivate!

Again, thank you for taking time to vote. I look forward to sharing my new food blogging skills and learning more about ethnic foods and cooking techniques. While I am out of the contest, I'm more motivated than ever to provide amazing, yet affordable, meals to the readers of The Cheap Gourmet blog.

Bon Appetit!