Caribbean Twist Chicken Picante

CPC00 100_4773After preparing this post, I realized that I have never actually shared my original recipe for Chicken Picante, which is a long-time family favorite. So here’s the twist version and you can check out the notes for how to pare it back to the original.

What I love about this dish is that it’s health and flavorful. The chicken is steamed, the salsa and/or picante sauce is fat-free and you can cut back on calories by using low-fat cheese.  The best part is that it is just as good as a leftover dish as it is fresh made.


1-1  1/2 lb. package chicken breasts
1  3/4 cup chicken broth (= 14 oz can)
1  1/4 cup pineapple-mango salsa*
1 cup white rice
1 shredded Jack cheese
1 (14 oz) can of black beans, drained and rinsed

Trim and cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

In a deep skillet, bring chicken broth and salsa to a boil.

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Reduce heat, mix in the rice and scatter the chicken pieces onto. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes are up, uncover and stir. If rice is not quite fully cooked, recover and continue cooking, checking every five minutes.

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Once rice is cooked through, remove from heat, stir in rinsed black beans and cover with shredded Jack cheese. Put cover back on and allow cheese to melt before serving.

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Serve up with shredded lettuce, sour cream, and/or tortilla chips.


*I’ve only found pineapple-mango salsa at a restaurant so the parents bought a hot pepper mango salsa and pineapple salsa and I mixed them together and used what I needed.

FYI, to make this dish really pop, you want to make sure to give it some heat.  You can adjust the temperature to your taste, but after trying this with a mango peach salsa I found it came across as bland. You don’t have to kick it ghost pepper style, but just a little pepper pot will do.

ORIGINAL RECIPE – Chicken Picante

  • Uses hot, medium or mild picante sauce instead of flavored salsa.
  • Uses medium or sharp cheddar instead Jack cheese.
  • No black beans (keeping it simple).

Mini Chicken ‘n Waffles with Honey-Hot Sauce Drizzle

MCW00 100_4748I may be Northern by birth, but I am Southern by choice and that is never more evident than when I’m snarfing down some chicken and waffles…fried food meets breakfast food? It’s a little slice of nirvana in my world.

My foodie pal Kelli had the idea to miniaturize this fabulous treat and because I like spicy food, my contribution was the addition of a Honey-Hot Sauce Drizzle.


1-1.5 lb package chicken thighs or breasts
1 cup of buttermilk
1-2 cups flour
1/2-1 tsp black pepper
1/2-1 tsp salt
2-3 eggs, lightly beaten
1-2 cups cornmeal (white or yellow)
Vegetable oil
Eggo® Minis Waffles
2 tbsp honey
3/4 tsp hot sauce (of your choice)


Trim off fat and cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Soak in buttermilk overnight, or at least up to 1.5 hours before prepping to fry.


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Prepare three dipping bowls – one for the flour, salt and pepper, one for the lightly beaten eggs, and one for the cornmeal.

Drain buttermilk from chicken as best you can. Lightly coat the chicken bites in the seasoned flour mix, then dip in the beaten, then coat with cornmeal. Set on a plate.

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NOTE: be prepared for UGG fingers…this is where the buttermilk-flour-egg-cornmeal accumulates on your fingers creating little UGG boot coatings. I had to wash my hands between dipping batches.

Fill a deep frying pan with a shallow layer of vegetable oil and heat to hot over medium-high. When oil is ready, place the coated chicken in the pan and fry until golden brown on either side (will take about 5-6 minutes altogether).

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Remove from oil and place on a rack to drain.


Follow package directions for Eggo® Minis Waffles.

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In a bowl, mix together honey and hot sauce. I found the 2 tbsp to 3/4 tsp ratio to suit my taste, but adjust the amounts to suit your own flavor preference.

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Place chicken on waffle and drizzle to heart’s content. Try to stop at one, I dare you (double dog dare). 🙂

Check It Out: Watermelon Radish

Watermelon Radish

I love this time of year at the Farmer’s Market – okay in all fairness I love ANY time of year at the Farmer’s Market!  But this time of year you get a lovely variety of cruciferous and root veggies, pumpkins, squashes, and big leafy greens. And I love when I come across something new…like Watermelon Radishes.

Watermelon Radish is a variety of Chinese daikon radish. It gets its name from its appearance – bright green on the outside with a white layer surrounding the red center.  So pretty!  And they taste great too.  Still have that peppery crisp bite of a radish, but with some very nice sweet undertones.

The veggie vendor I got them from said that she likes to roast them with just a tidge of maple syrup, but I opted to toss mine in with some potatoes for a roasted Thanksgiving mix.  Once roasted they loose their bite, but make for a root addition and add a bit of color pop to the dish.


1 to 1-1/2 lb potatoes, small red-skinned, parboiled
2 watermelon radishes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp thyme or marjoram
1 tsp basil and/or oregano
fresh crackled black pepper and salt

Parboil your potatoes (about 4-5 minutes in boiling water). Drain and set to cool.

Peel the radishes and chop into large chunks. Place in a medium sized bowl.Watermelon Radish-Potato Roast 01

Once the potatoes are cooled to the point you won’t completely burn your fingers, cut into large chunks.  The smallest potatoes I usually halve and then quarter the ones that are slightly bigger.

Add potato chunks to the radish bowl. Add in oil, minced garlic, and herbs, and mix well.

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Pour into a 9 x 13 baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring very often (as not to burn them), until your desired crispiness level has been reached. I sometimes finish mine off under the broiler to get that nice crunchy edging to them.

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I find that parboiling the potatoes cuts down on baking time by 20-25 minutes. 

Waffle Iron Omelettes

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Happy Post-Thanksgiving Day!  Hope everyone enjoyed their celebratory feasts yesterday.  I’m using this official kick-off to the holiday Season of Eats to get back on track with some recipe sharing.  Have a backlog of good things to show you so let’s get started.  

A couple of months ago there was a video going around Facebook with non-waffle waffle iron food ideas.  The one that caught my eye, and has now become a staple in the K2 food arsenal, is the Waffle Iron Omelette. 

makes 4 omelettes

8 eggs (count on 2 per omelette)
1/2 cup caramelized chopped onions 
1/2 cup chopped pre-cooked turkey bacon (5-6 strips)
1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Cooking spray (*very important*)

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and add in prepared ingredients.

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Heat waffle iron to medium high; make sure iron is up to heat before you start cooking. BEFORE ladling mixture on the waffle iron spray well with cooking spray.

If your waffle iron isn’t well-coated before you start cooking you will be spending some quality time digging bits of omelette out of the waffle iron.

I usually do about 1-1/2 to 2 ladles worth of mixture. Make sure to get the good stuff in the center. Close the waffle iron and cook for 2-3 minutes.

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The mixture should “puff” in the iron. Sorry about the fuzzy photo.

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I like my eggs a little more on the very done side, but check yours during the process and pull it when you when it reaches your preferred egg consistency. Use a spatula to get the omelette off the iron.

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I usually put finished ones on a plate and keep them in the microwave (as a storage space, do not actually turn the microwave on) or on a cookie sheet in the oven set on warm until all of them are ready to be served.

It is important to close the waffle iron and get it back up to heat between omelette bakes. This advice comes from learned experience.

Also make sure to re-spray the iron between omelettes as well.  This will guarantee that everyone enjoying your creations will be happy with their results.


  • FLAVORS – like any omelette, it’s a matter of taste when it comes to add-ins. The above are my go-to, though you could add peppers or mushrooms or sausage or whatever tickles your omelette fancy.
  • SMALL BITS – the main thing to remember is that you want your additional ingredients to be chopped small or bite-sizable so that the omelette is easy to cut into and eat without having large pieces hanging out of your mouth.

Whatever you do, have fun with it!

Gelato Sundae with Mixed Nut Crumble and Roselle Hibiscus Bits


After our successful and adventurous trip to the Farmers Market, I had a brainstorm moment and fun idea for our new purchase of Roselle Hibiscus calyces – Sundae garnish! YAY! Because they were tart, sweet and crisp, I wanted something crunchy and warm to offset that so came up with the idea of a mixed nut crumble.


1 pint Roselle Hibiscus calyces, de-podded and course chopped
1 cup chopped mixed nuts
2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsbp sugar
your favorite gelato or gelati
Fra Angelico, or favorite liqueur

Pull the red fruit pedals off the Roselle Hibiscus calyces and course chop them into small, but not minuscule pieces. Set aside until ready to garnish.


Do not use the green pods. You can compost them or save them to dry and  plant the seeds to someday have your own homegrown Hibiscuses.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the chopped nuts, melted butter and sugar.  Spread out on a cookie sheet (foil-covered will make it easier to clean) and bake at 350 degree (F) for about 5-10 minutes.  Want them to brown but not burn so keep an eye on them.


Once done, let cool for a moment and break up into crumble, if needed.  Should do that on its own.


Generously scoop out your favorite gelato flavor and drizzle/douse with a comfortable amount of Fra Angelico.  Sprinkle with mixed nut crumble and Roselle bits.  Eat, enjoy, feel like you’ve died and gone to ice cream heaven.



  • For chopped nuts, I went with a mix of walnuts, pecans, macadamia, cashews, and pine nuts…because that’s what I found in the freezer chez Rents. (Thank you Mom) 🙂
  • For gelato, we served up two flavors from Talenti, the Tahitian Vanilla Bean and the Double Dark Chocolate, because they sounded fancy enough to serve as a base for chopped Roselle.
  • If you prefer your sundae to be sober, the addition of a liqueur is TOTALLY optional (though possibly incomprehensible).
  • SPECIAL NOTE – a profound shout out to my pal LT for supplying the gorgeous food pornography for this and the last post, and the next two posts, and (fingers crossed) for future posts as well! Ya done good, gal.

The Incredible Edible…Hibiscus

I love new discoveries!  My friend LT was visiting a while back and we made a trek over to the Farmers Market where we were introduced to Roselle Hibiscus.

Now we aren’t talking the gorgeous Hibiscus flowers themselves, but the rather more (if possible) eye-catching fruit produced by the plant.  When we stopped to check them out, we were treated not only to a sample of hibiscus tea but also the raw fruit that comes from the flower.  AMAZING!  It was crunchy and sweet, a la cranberry, but not as tart. I read it described as “sour sweet” which is exactly what it is (oh be still, my savory-sweet heart).  So of course that led to a purchase and food experiment opportunity…featured in the next post.

But what about this new edible floral treat? I wanted to learn more, so here is what I dug up some general information for our culinary edification.


Hibiscus have a long history of use as a medicinal and herbal remedy. The most often used species of the plant is the Roselle (Hibiscus sabdiriffa). There is debate as to its exact origins but the general consensus tends to be that it began in India and Malaysia and made its way across the world via spice and trade routes, and through exploratory sharing.

All parts of the plant can be used and traditionally it is consumed in tea form. It makes a lovely bright pink tea which was used to soothe and relieve symptoms from a number of aliments from cough to skin disease. You can rack dry Hibiscus, recommended that you dry it at a sun-drying temperature.  Tea made from the dried flowers is sweeter than tea made from the leaves; leaf tea is more astringent. In some countries the fresh tender leaves are cooked and eaten a la spinach, though they are also added raw to salads.  Hibiscus offers up some good vitamin C and anthocyanins and is reported to be good for stabilizing blood pressure and lowering cholestrol. And on the other end of thing, the root can be used to make a concoction that works as a laxative.

Roselle Hibiscus Calyces

The calyx is the fruit/seed pod of the plant.  After the hibiscus flower has done its being pretty thing, it shrivels up and falls off the calyx.  When ripe and ready, the calyx will be firm to the touch and should easily snap off the stem.  NOTE: you only want to use the red fruit petals surrounding the green seed pod at the center of the calyx. Though adorable with its Whovian coloring, the green seed pod is NOT for eating, will make you sick…or maybe dead…so don’t try it.


The petals of the calyces are thick like fruit leather only not as chewy and slightly crispier.  They are most often used to make jams, they can be candied, or made into a syrup for cocktails.  In some countries the syrup is flavored with ginger and served with rum, or flavored with cinnamon and cloves…and served with rum. (Rum seems to be the Hibiscus go-to brew.)

For buying and storing, if you get them fresh, they are only good for a short amount of time.  If you dry them, they last longer stored in a cool, dark place out of direct sunlight (you don’t need to put them in the fridge).  Dried Hibiscus or Hibiscus powder has a longer shelf-life.

So there’s a little about that.  There’s a lot more information online and one page I found particular interesting was The Earth of India’s All About Roselle so you should go check it out.

Vietnamese Bánh mì Sandwiches with Fresh Pickled Radish & Carrots

My plate has been super full these days, but I am most fortunate to have foodie friends willing to help out. This post came about because on a recent food-filled trip to Charleston we saw a stall at the Saturday morning Farmer’s Market selling Bánh mì sandwiches (Bánh mì is a Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread). Turns out my pal Deborah is a BIG Bánh mì sandwich fan and actually makes them at home (a lot). So for your eating edification, she offered to share not only the How To process but her recipe for crispy, Fresh Pickled Carrots and Radishes.

Vietnamese Bánh mì Sandwiches  

If you’ve ever had a Vietnamese Bánh mì Sandwich, you’re probably already a fan. They are brilliantly magical! Starting with the lightly crisped bread, to the layered flavors of condiments, tangy crunchy vegetables, pungent fresh herb, the zesty bite of a chile pepper, and of course the savory protein star of the sandwich, everything about this sandwich is right.

The genius of the Bánh mì sandwich comes from its cultural fusion of French and Vietnamese flavors (from France’s colonial period in Indochina). The Bánh mì sandwich pairs a sturdy French baguette, sausages and even pate with distinctly Asian flavors resulting in a portable meal that is both hearty and delicate. Bánh mì sandwiches can be made with any meat, from a thin-sliced garlicky chicken sausage or Asian-spiced pork tenderloin medallions to seasoned tofu or beef sate. You get the idea.

For many, the magic of these creations lies in the fresh vegetable pickles. Crisp and tangy, they elevate a humble sandwich into something sublime. Luckily, they are ridiculously simple to make and to experiment with. No canning or processing — just slice up the veggies, add a hot sweet brine, wait at least an hour and voila! You’ve got fabulous pickles that are perfect for Bánh mì sandwiches, or to perk up any salads or antipasto plates.

Fresh Pickled Carrots and Radishes

2 large carrots (or 3 medium)
about 1 lb (16 oz.) Daikon or red globe radish both types of radish are easy to find in supermarkets
1 tsp salt preferably fine sea salt
2 tsp plus 1/2 cup sugar you can use Splenda or other substitute, you just need to experiment a bit to get the sweetness to your liking
1-1/4 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
Quart jar

Peel the daikon radish and carrots, then slice into matchsticks of roughly the same length and width. If using red globe radish, you can cut it into thin rounds vs. matchsticks. These radishes also give the pickles a beautiful pink tinge.

Place the vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and 2 tsp of the sugar. Gently massage the vegetables for around 3 minutes. They will release some liquid and soften up.

Rinse the vegetables and drain in a colander. Then transfer them to your quart jar. You can also make these in a tupperware container if you don’t have a jar.

For the brine, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar with vinegar and water over medium head until the sugar dissolves. No need to boil. Be sure all bubbling has stopped, you want the brine to cool a bit before pouring into the jar. This is important because you want to brine the vegetables — not cook them! Fully cover your veggie pickles and discard any remaining brine.

Let them sit for at least an hour and then taste to adjust for seasoning. If you want them to be a touch sweeter, add more sugar. If you like them more tart, add a bit more vinegar. Play around!

You can use your fresh pickles after an hour, but the flavor is best after at least 24 hours. These pickles will keep in your fridge for up to a month, but I bet they don’t last that long.

Note: radish pickles can seem a bit stinky when you first open the jar. Don’t worry! They are still good. Just let them air out a bit before assembling your sandwich.

Now it’s time to assemble your Bánh mì sandwich!

BREAD — Slice open your bread roll, lightly toast, and take out some of the crumb on one side to make room for your vegetables. The only rule here on bread choice is don’t pick a bread that is going to scratch up the top of your mouth when you eat the sandwich! You know what I mean. So use what works best for you: hoagie roll, ciabatta roll, baguette, etc.

FAT — Use a homemade mayo, salted butter, garlic aioli, mashed avocado or my favorite — sriracha mayo. Be sure to spread from edge to edge on your bread.

CONDIMENT — Here’s where you can get creative! Use hoisin sauce, Maggi seasoning (a wonderfully flavorful version of soy sauce), Sriracha sauce, or just a light sprinkling of fish sauce. Most any Asian sauce will work, it all depends on what you like. Again, be sure to spread from edge to edge on your bread so that every bite is perfectly flavorful.

PROTEIN — You can use just about anything that makes your mouth water, just be sure it is sliced thin so it is easy to bite through. My favorite is a flavorful chicken sausage sliced on the diagonal.

CUCUMBER — Thinly slice the cucumber of your choice. You can use any kind of cucumber, and peel them or not, as you wish.

CHILE PEPPER — It’s traditional to use thin slices of a chile pepper, but if that’s not you’re thing, no worries. Think jalapeno, thai chile, Anaheim or your personal favorite. I’m not so into the hotness, so I skip this part.

PICKLES — Now it’s time to use your favorite pickled vegetables! Drain them slightly before adding to your sandwich so it’s not drippy and messy.

FRESH HERB — Think cilantro, Thai or sweet basil, mint, or any pungent fresh herb that makes you happy.

Now take a look at your colorful, savory delicious masterpiece and enjoy!


Check It Out: The Yunnan Cookbook

I have a fabulous cookbook recommendation to share with you, I am very giddy about this book and can’t wait to dive into it further.

The Yunnan Cookbook: Recipes from China’s Land of Ethnic Diversity could just as easily be a coffee table presentation piece as it is a book of recipes. Located in southwest China where it borders Vietnam, Laos, and Burma, the Yunnan Province has an ethnic diversity that is reflected in the dishes presented in this book. Coupled with essays and vignettes of the people and food of Yunnan are gorgeous photos (read: food porn) of featured dishes.

Some of the treats you will find inside are Steamed Pumpkin with Walnut and Herb Salad, Pan-fried Spicy Squid, Crispy Spring Onion Cakes, Stir-fried Pork with Jicama and Asparagus.  If you are a fan of condiments, there is a chapter on Preserves, if you are interested in Street Foods, they have that covered too, and if you love Mushroom, they’ve got you covered.

The authors have done amazing research and have modified the recipes (only slightly) to make it more general-user friendly in terms of being able to find what you need. Fresh ingredients are the key and these days most are pretty accessible, especially if you have an international market near you, so you don’t have to worry about not being able to find ingredients. Whether for yourself or the cookbook-collecting foodie in your life, I think you should definitely check it out.

The Yunnan Cookbook: Recipes from China’s Land of Ethnic Diversity
Annabel Jackson and Linda Chia
Blacksmith Books, 2014
ISBN-10: 9881613973
ISBN-13: 9789881613973
List price: $26.95

Cooper’s Super Soup — Four Mushroom Barley

With all the rain we’ve been getting lately in NC (sorry West Coast!), it seems like an excellent time to feature another of Cooper’s Super Soups…Four Mushroom Barley. This one goes great with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side, though it’s certainly hearty enough to stand on its own. However you want to do it, it’s mmm mmm great. This soup got the Two Thumbs Up from Dad.

Four Mushroom Barley Soup

1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
4 tbsp butter
2 cups (16 oz.) small white mushrooms, whole
2 portobello caps, cut in half, thinly sliced
3/4 cup (6 oz.) shitake mushrooms
1/3 cup sherry
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup pearl barley
2 bay leaves
1/2-1 tsp ground marjoram
pinch of dried dill weed
7 cups mushroom stock (see recipe below)
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper, to taste

Place porcinis in 1 cup of boiling water, cover and set aside for 20-30 minutes. Once rehydrated, drain the porcinis, but reserve the water. Once the mushrooms are cool, chop them up.

Melt butter in stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.

Throw in mixed mushrooms and cook about 10 minutes or until softened and reduced.

While stirring the mushrooms, add the sherry and let cook for a minute or two so the mushrooms can soak up the flavor. To intensify the flavor, allow the liquid to reduce a bit.

Stir in onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent.

Mix in barley, bay leaves, marjoram, and dill then cook for another 5-10 minutes.

Add the reserved water from the porcinis, the mushroom broth, and crushed tomatoes. Let simmer covered for about 50 minutes, or until barley reaches desired level of cooking.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cooper’s Thoughts

Lessons I learned from my first attempt making this soup:

  • Barley grows a lot and is very thirsty. First try had 1-1/2 cups of barley. It made for a great risotto.
  • The first time, I used some “fancy” mushrooms (maitake and white beech) in this soup, but they were too mild in flavor to notice. They weren’t worth the extra expense.
  • Porcinis might be the only fancy mushroom worth spending the extra money on and should not be left out.
  • I would make a couple of minor modifications only if you are planning on serving most or all of the soup the day/night of. A little more barley could be added (no more than a 1/4 cup) if you cook the barley to al dente. It will continue to grow in the fridge overnight though (you were warned!). Also, diced tomatoes instead of crushed tomatoes might be better the first serving. After chilling, however, the crushed tomatoes made this soup perfect!
  • For the stock on this soup, I had about 6 cups of my sweet and spicy mushroom broth left over and a cup of boxed chicken stock sitting in the fridge. Hopefully you saved the scraps from the Root Vegetable Soup, because that’s what goes into the yummy stock (below).

Mushroom Stock

3 quarts of water
All the trimmings from the sweet potato, parsnip, turnip, carrots, and celery root (remove the stems from the celery root, but add a few leaves back in, maybe 4-5).
1 onion, quartered
4 portobello stems
Stems from 8 oz of shiitake
Gills from 2-4 portobellos
2 jalapenos, cut in half

Toss all ingredients in a stock pot and simmer for an hour.

Strain and set aside for later. As an aside, when I made this stock it was for another soup. I almost stopped at just the stock because it was so tasty!

This stock is incredibly flavorful, so it will overpower mild flavors (such as the dill that was added), but it really highlights the mushroomy flavor and adds a bit of heat that keeps everyone wondering where the peppers are.