B. B. King Gave Us the Blues…

Our last full day before heading back to Chicago was full of more meetings and appointments. (I know… it’s sad but trust me, working hard pays off!) We found our way to Baldwin Park, a community between downtown Orlando and Winter Park. There, we enjoyed a nice italian lunch at Pizzeria Valdiano. We started with calamari and their house bread, which really was great and buttery with a garlic cheese crust. My hubby and sister in law enjoyed plates of pasta with sides of meatballs and italian sausage… while I had a chicken panini with basil and mozzarella cheese. It was a filling meal that was very good! If you find yourself in the Baldwin Park area, do check it out. I forgot to bring my camera to lunch so no pictures of these good eats. However here is a picture of the main promenade of downtown Baldwin Park (taken from their website)…After all our business meetings, we decided to spend our last night with a fun dinner at B.B. Kings. They had a live band playing and the place was great to wind down and let loose on the dance floor. We started with a sampler appetizer platter that had fried pickle chips, buffalo wings, potato skins and ribs… … which I washed down with a “Hoochie Coochie” cocktail. Sure it was a funny name for a drink, but it also was pretty smooth and fruity! (It included pineapple juice, cranberry juice, coconut rum, triple sec…) For dinner I ordered catfish coated in cornmeal and fried, served with french fries, hush puppies, corn muffin and coleslaw….while the hubby ordered a rack of baby back ribs…… and my sister in law ordered the pulled pork platter that came with a corn muffin, collard greens and mac & cheese.We had no room for dessert – in fact, we ended up taking half of the meal home because the portions were so huge!

It was a bittersweet dinner knowing it would be our last for awhile with my sister in law. But thankfully I plan on coming back to Orlando within the next month for more business. Until then, I’ll be singing the blues and aching to be back in the Florida sunshine…

Comfort Food on a Rainy Day

Lately we’ve been hit with a lot of rain, causing me to crave some comfort food. So tonight I decided to use the remaining chicken thighs I had to make fried chicken.

Fried chicken has a dual origin in the rural American South. The Scots, and later Scottish immigrants to many southern states had a tradition of deep frying chicken in fat, unlike their English counterparts who baked or boiled chicken. As Africans were brought to work on southern plantations, the slaves who became cooks incorporated seasonings and spices that were absent in traditional Scottish cuisine, enriching the flavor. Since most slaves were allowed to keep chickens, frying chicken as a special occasion spread through their community.

Here is my recipe for ‘buttermilk’ ranch fried chicken:

1 can evaporated milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 chicken thighs (or preferred cuts)
2 cups flour
1 packet dry ranch dressing
frying oil

In a bowl, combine chicken milk and lemon juice.
Soak chicken in milk mixture overnight.
When ready to cook, heat oil in pan.
In a small bowl, combine flour and dry ranch dressing.
Discard milk and dredge chicken in flour mixture.
Fry chicken until golden brown & juices run clear.

I served this with a creamy
broccoli cheese rice casserole.

Dreaming of the Southern Skies…

It’s no wonder the birds fly south for the winter. The snow and cold is ridiculous! Well, here is my ode to the southern skies and their tasty food.

Southern cuisine varies widely by region. In Southern Louisiana, there is Cajun & Creole cuisine. South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas are popular for their barbeque. Virginia is known for its Smithfield hams and its major supply of apples. Florida is home of Key lime pies and oranges. Georgia is more famous for its peaches & peanuts. Kentucky is famous for burgoo.

Fried chicken has a dual origin in the rural American South and is extremely popular. It’s not exactly the healthiest dish, but is quite the comfort food. Tonight I made a healthier version using chicken breast and the sweet flavors of southern pecans. This recipe was found on CookingLight.com.

Here is the altered recipe I made for Maple (Honey) Pecan Crusted Chicken:

salt & pepper to season
2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup, which I used instead)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cups finely crushed cornflakes (or bran flakes, which I used instead)
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Cooking spray

— Preheat oven to 400
— Sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over pounded chicken breast; set aside.
— Combine honey, mustard, paprika, and garlic powder in a small bowl; stir well.
— Combine cornflakes and pecans in a shallow dish; stir well.
— Brush both sides of chicken with honey mixture; dredge in cornflake mixture.
— Place chicken pieces on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
— Lightly coat chicken with cooking spray
— Bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes or until done.

I served this with steamed broccoli and garlic mashed potatoes.