Baked Balsamic Chicken with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil Pesto

We walked nearly 20 miles during our weekend in Savannah (according to my Fitbit, that is), and our aimless meandering about the city included a dozen or so passes by Paula Dean’s Lady and Sons restaurant.  I’ve liked Paula Dean since the first time I stumbled upon her TV show.  I adore her southern charm, youthful excitement, and penchant for using a stick of butter (or two) in every friggin recipe.  When it comes to ingredients, I don’t possess Paula’s steadfast dedication to any one particular item, but rather four:  onions, garlic, Frank’s Red Hot, and balsamic vinegar. These are my four superstars, and I believe any one of them can take a meal from blah to brilliant.  In another life, I’ll write cookbooks dedicated to each of them.  Promise.

Tonight’s dinner was all about *BALSAMIC VINEGAR* Chicken (1 of 5)

Baked Balsamic Chicken with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil Pesto (serves 4)

Adapted from Eat, Live, Run Grilled Balsamic Chicken with Mozzarella and Pesto

  • 4 chicken breasts (about 1.5 lbs, or 6 ounces each)
  • 2 cups balsamic vinegar, divided
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 4 ounces mozzarella (preferably fresh)
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto (try my basil almond pesto recipe)
  • S&P
  • Dried oregano

Step One:  Season chicken breasts with S&P.  Place chicken, 4 cloves garlic (minced OR roughly chopped, your call), and one cup of balsamic in a ziploc baggie or Tupperware and marinate in fridge for 1 hour.  Don’t exceed the one hour mark as the vinegar may start to break down the chicken in weird ways.

Step Two:  While the chicken marinates, heat 1 cup of balsamic vinegar over medium high heat for 15-20 minutes until liquid has reduced by half.  Remove from heat, and use a spatula to pour the reduction into a small bowl or serving pitcher to cool.

Step Three:  Cover a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.  Remove chicken from balsamic marinade, place on prepared baking sheet, and bake at 375 for 25 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Remove chicken from oven and turn on the oven broiler.  Top each chicken breast with a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese then sprinkle with S&P and dried oregano.  Leaving the oven door slightly ajar, broil chicken for 4 minutes, or until cheese is melted.  Top each breast with 1 tbsp pesto and a drizzle of the balsamic reduction.

Balsamic Chicken (4 of 5)

“I’d rather die with a potato in my mouth than a piece of lettuce.” – Paula Deen



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Last day in Savannah

The last day of any trip is always bitter.  So bitter, that it has taken me an entire week to bring myself to recap our last day in Savannah.  I woke up feeling, well, bitter that our trip’s last day had arrived, but one last stroll through the City Market for breakfast at Henry’s sure did  help to sweeten things up.  Henry’s is a relatively new breakfast and lunch spot in Savannah, and we were surprised that there wasn’t a line out the door on a Sunday morning.  We were actually waited on by Henry himself!  How’s that for southern hospitality?

I loved the bright teal paint throughout the restaurant.

Savannah Food Foodie Vacation (1 of 12)

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Weekend in Savannah–Day 2

When I booked the weekend trip to Savannah I envisioned days filled with sunshine, spring flowers, and Spanish moss—a picturesque backdrop for hours of meandering about the historic city.

Boy was I wrong.

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Weekend in Savannah

We arrived in Savannah just before dinner last night, and we were raring to get out on the streets and begin exploring the culinary offerings of the city.  Our hotel (a Priceline score at $80 per night) is very close to the City Market area, so that’s where we headed.  The market area was full of people—diners, chatters, music players everywhere.

Our first stop was the Avia Lounge, which we picked simply because we were starving and it was the nearest restaurant to us.  Avia is in the Avia Hyatt hotel, and I was immediately impressed with the fancy-chic décor and beautiful chandelier.Savannah Food Foodie Vacation (3 of 11)

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Chicken Pesto Paninis

It’s Thursday–the day I spend approximately two to three hours scouring the internet, flipping through cookbooks, and rifling through my big black book in search of amazing recipes and/or inspiration for things to cook this weekend.  It’s a ritual that borders somewhere between dedication and obsession.

Nothing cheeses me off more than spending all those hours (HOURS!) researching on top of shelling out my hard earned moo-lah on ingredients, taking the time to cook the darned thing, and having it turn out to be a flop.  After trying one-too-many frown-evoking recipes, I adopted a new blog bylaw in 2012:  only post recipes that I would recommend (without hesitation) to a friend.  Even though I painstakingly snap photos of everything I cook, if it ain’t delicious, it ain’t going on the blog.  Jarrod knows exactly what I mean when I ask if a dish is “blog worthy,” and he’s pretty truthful about so-so meals (in a I’m-just-glad-you-cooked-please-don’t-make-me-do-this sort of way).

When he REALLY likes something, he doesn’t hesitate to let me know.  Like this Chicken Pesto Panini, for instance, which he declared the BEST SANDWICH OF HIS LIFE.

If those aren’t fighting words, I don’t know what are.

Chicken Pesto Panini (8 of 10)

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Spaghetti Squash with Sausage, Pesto, and Tomatoes

Although it may seem like I eat meatballs at every meal, I occasionally opt for different meats of the non-ball variety.  (Like when I’ve run out of meatballs and don’t have the necessary ingredients to make more.)  Tonight was one of those nights.  With a grumbling belly and nary a meatball in sight, I decided to remix my usual spaghetti squash with some ingredients I had on hand.

Enter Spaghetti Squash with Sausage, Pesto, and Tomatoes:

Spaghetti Squash (8 of 14)

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How to halve a spaghetti squash without losing a finger.

Right or wrong, perfect sense or nonsense, I often do things a certain way simply because that’s the way I’ve always done them.  A prime example is my method for tying shoes.  I remember attempting to learn the whole bunny goes round the tree and jumps in the hole spiel on a wooden practice shoe back in elementary school.  I’d memorized the story line, but my bunny wanted nothing to do with that stinkin’ tree and my index finger kept messing up the loop-around (I blame it on my big hands).  Honestly, I didn’t see what the big deal was.  For weeks I’d been using my own method (the make-two-bunny-ears-then-crisscross-then-fold-one-under-and-pull-to-tighten approach) and my shoes were staying on just fine.

I have a lot of these little quirks, especially in the kitchen, where it’s well established that my knife skills border on horrifying (trust me, you’d shudder if you saw me chop an onion), but hey, I get the job done.  Even though I’ve nearly severed several fingers over the years, not to mention the time I impaled my pinky with a steak knife while slicing a bagel, I’d never really given much thought to the dangerous method I employed to halve a spaghetti squash.  I always proceeded in cutting a spaghetti squash as if it were a giant rock-hard avocado—with a knife painstakingly seesawing around the perimeter of the squash.  I’m not sure what events occurred that caused my subconscious to one day realize this was a horrible HORRIBLE idea.  I’m just thankful it did before I’d involuntarily amputated something.

Spaghetti Squash (1 of 14)

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Brown Dump Chili

I love to cook, but sometimes all I want is to dump a bunch of ingredients in a pot and come back an hour later to a piping hot bowl of flavorful comfort.  I need my unproductive internet perusing and phantom shopping time, which means I can’t spend every ounce of my free time in the kitchen.  That’s what I love about this chili.  You simply brown the turkey then dump everything in the pot.

Dump Turkey Black Bean Chili (4 of 9)

Perhaps, at first glance, the name Brown Dump Chili is unappealing to some.  Given the two-step process behind the chili, I’m sure you wholeheartedly agree the name is appropriate (or, at the very least, foretelling).

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E2 Emeril’s Eatery – Charlotte, NC {restaurant review}

imageEmeril Lagasse’s newest restaurant, E2, opens in Charlotte Thursday January 26th.  Monday night, Vanessa, my favorite foodie friend, and I got the opportunity to check out the new restaurant space and sample the wares.  For those who aren’t familiar with Emeril, he is a boisterous celebrity chef, author, and restauranteur and (most importantly) my grandma loves him.  I first became acquainted with Emeril through his shows on the Food Network.  I was instantly attracted to the peculiar pairing of his cheerful easygoing personality and his serious kitchen demeanor.  He is, in my mind, an ultimate foodie, and I both admire and envy him for it.

imageI’ve always liked watching Emeril cook.  He’s a burly man with a big personality who likes even BIGGER flavor.  Arguably, Emeril is most known for adding spice to food.  He lets you know things are about to get serious by exclaiming “let’s kick it up a notch!” or voicing a booming *BAM* at the addition of a spicy ingredient.  Given this *BAM* factor and Emeril’s ties to New Orleans, I was ready for some serious flavors at E2.

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I shamelessly consider myself a meatball connoisseur.  If meatballs are on the menu, you can bet your last breadstick I’m gonna order one.  Just one solitary meatball is all I need for my analysis.  Texture, taste, accouterments.  More often than not, I’m disappointed.  I’m not a fan of mushy ones and I need them to be thoroughly seasoned, preferably bobbing along in a vat of marina sauce (though I’m flexible on that stipulation).  Every once in a while, about 1 in 5 tries, I will sink my teeth into an amazing meatball and for that brief moment this crazy messed up world is right again.

Healthy Meatballs (1 of 6)

I have been trying to create a delicious healthified meatball recipe for YEARS, and have been wholeheartedly devoted to the cause.  I’ve tried dozens of impromptu turkey meatball concoctions, but they always left something to be desired.  Too dry, too poultry-ee, not meatbally enough, etc.  I kept crawling back to my favorite, albeit it no-so-healthy, meatball recipe:  Meatball Nirvana on  I LOVE this recipe because it results in meatballs that are juicy, flavorful, and that have the coveted sink-your-teeth-in meaty texture.

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