Taco Lasagna

Yes you read that right, I said Taco Lasagna. I enjoy trying to come up with new ways to present different dishes. This time I thought it would be good to make something with that Tex Mex flavor but be presented in an all in one meal like lasagna, so I combined the ingredients for tacos and came up with a fun way to put it together to mimic the looks of lasagna. Here is what you need.

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Ingredients:

2 lbs lean ground beef

18 small corn tortillas

4 fresh jalapenos (seeded and diced)

1 medium white onion (diced)

1 10 ounce can of Rotel tomatoes and green chilies

8 ounces of sharp shredded cheddar

10 ounces of part skim queso fresco (crumbled into small pieces)

1 can of low fat refried beans

8 ounces of sour cream (I used low fat)

1/2 cup Fresh cilantro (finely chopped)

1/2 cup Green onion (finely chopped)

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 cup of chili powder

2 tablespoons of black pepper

1 tablespoon of kosher salt

2 tablespoons of minced garlic

Prep and cooking

In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion and jalapeno until the onion starts to turn clear. Then add the garlic and ground beef. Once the beef is browned add in the can of Rotel and the spices and stir together. Now add the can of refried beans and stir all together. This will make a nice thick mixture that you will use as filling for the lasagna. Set that aside and get ready to start assembling.

Now it is time to assemble the lasagna. In a large (5 quart) baking dish thoroughly coat the bottom and sides with a non stick cooking spray. Now lay out 6 corn tortillas to cover the bottom. Spread out a layer of the meat mixture about 1/2 inch thick on top of the tortillas (you will use about half of the meat) Now add a thin coating of sour cream and then cover that with about half of the queso fresco.  Add another layer of six tortillas and repeat the layering process. After the second layer is done add the last six tortillas and then cover with any left over queso and sour cream. For the final step you will want to cover the top with the shredded cheddar and then add the diced onion and cilantro to finish it off.

Stick this in a preheated to 350 degree oven uncovered for about an hour (or until the cheese on top starts to brown slightly. All that is left to do is let t cool a bit and then cut it into nice square servings just like lasagna. It is great by itself or covered with a little salsa.

I hope you like this one. It is a fun way to put a twist on something the whole family should enjoy.

Thanks for reading,

JMW

Simple Crockpot BBQ

To some people BBQ is a way of life. They have their grill and their smoker and know how to make their own sauce and rubs. I am one of those people and love coming up with new ways to make great BBQ. I also know there are a lot of people that don’t have the time or resources to go through all of that trouble but still love good BBQ. That reason is why I have come up with this little recipe. I wanted to make it easy for people that love great BBQ but may not have access to a smoker or grill to make their own at home with very little trouble. All you need is a crock pot a knife and a few ingredients from the grocery store.

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Here is how its done.

Ingredients:

1 beef brisket (2 to 4 lbs cut in half with fat trimmed off)

1 yellow onion (cut into thin slices)

3 jalapenos (diced)

1 bottle of BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays)

2 tablespoons of Liquid Smoke

8 pieces of garlic toast (Texas toast)

Dill pickle Hamburger slices

Salt (2 tablespoons)

Black pepper (2 tablespoons)

Garlic powder (1 tablespoons)

Chili powder (3 tablespoons)

Cooking:

In the bottom of a large crock pot place the onion and jalapeno then lay the brisket on top. Now add all of the spices and cover with about half of the BBQ sauce and two tablespoons of the liquid smoke. You will now want to add just enough water to cover the top of the brisket. Then put the lid on the crock pot and cook on high for about 5 to 6 hrs.

After 5 to 6 hrs reduce heat to low and let cook another 2 to 3 hrs. What you want is for the brisket to get tender enough to pull apart with a fork.

After the brisket is done cooking move the pieces to a large bowl and start shredding it apart. Use a slotted spoon and add a couple of spoonfuls of the onion and jalapeno pieces from the crock pot and then add the rest of the BBQ sauce and mix it all together. While that is cooling heat up the oven and cook your garlic toast according to the directions on the box.

Once the garlic toast is done you are ready to assemble your sandwich. Place a big spoonful of the BBQ beef on a slice of garlic bread then add about 3 to 4 pickle slices to the top and place another piece of garlic toast on top to finish it off. You may also want to take it a step farther by adding some pickled red onions which really give it a nice zing.

I know some of you may think using the garlic toast as the sandwich bread is a little odd but trust me on this. It is a way of life to eat BBQ this way on the east coast and there is nothing quite like it.

All that is left to do is sit back and enjoy some great tasting BBQ.

Thanks for reading

JMW

Seafood “Quartet” Chowder

When it comes to seafood you usually get two kinds of people, those who love it or those who hate it. I fall into the category of those how love it. I will eat anything that comes out of the water and have never understood people that cant stand seafood. It’s so good and there are so many ways to cook it, as well as so many different dishes that can be made. Seafood has so many different flavors and tastes and things you can do with it. I just don’t get when someone condemns it all. But to each their own I guess. This past weekend I got a craving for clam chowder but while there are a few seafood places in San Antonio to get seafood there aren’t many to get a really good homemade chowder. So I set out to come up with my own recipe and in the process I just went crazy and decided it needed more seafood. This chowder has shrimp, clams, crab and crawfish and is so good that it sings in your mouth when you take a bite (get it Seafood Quartet)…

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Anyway. Here is how I did it. (Yes I did have to use some canned ingredients just because finding fresh ingredients like clams is hard to do in the land locked city of San Antonio).

Ingredients:

1/2 lb Shrimp (peeled/devained and cut in to small pieces)

1/2 lb crawfish tail meat chopped into small pieces

1 can whole clams (drained but keep the juice for cooking)

1/4 lb crab meat (not imitation)

3 medium sized white potatoes (cut into small cubes)

3 celery stalks sliced into small pieces

1 yellow onion diced into small pieces

1 bottle of clam juice (can usually be found on the canned meat aisle in your grocery store)

3 table spoons ground black pepper

2 table spoons course sea salt

2 bay leaves

4 slices thick sliced bacon (applewood smoked is preferred)

2 tablespoons of butter

1 pint of heavy cream

all purpose flour (2 or 3 tablespoons)

Cooking

In a large pot you will want to cook the bacon crisp and then remove it to a paper towel covered plate to drain off excess grease. Drain as much grease as you can from the pot without removing the little bits that come off during frying (leaving some grease is fine).

Now add the butter to the pot and let melt on medium heat. Add the Onion and celery to the pot and cook until the start to turn clear.

Now add the potatoes and pour in the clam clam juice (enough to come to the top of the potatoes). Stir in the two bay leaves and increase the heat to high and boil until the potatoes start to soften up.

Now add in all of the seafood (shrimp, clams, crawfish and crab) and reduce heat to medium. Now chop up the bacon into small pieces and stir into the pot. When the shrimp all turn pink go ahead and reduce heat to low and let it cool for a few minutes before moving to the next step.

You are now ready to add the heavy cream. Start stirring it in a little at a time until the whole pot is a nice thick milky color. Now add the salt and pepper and stir in really good and let simmer on low for a few minutes. to thicken it up a bit you will want to add a little bit of flour in at a time. Start with a couple of tablespoons and stir it in until it is completely mixed in to the chowder. Do this a couple more times until you get the desired consistency. Some people may like it thicker or thinner than others, I personally like a thick chowder. Keep in mind that it will thicken up a little as it cools too so you may not want to add a lot of flour or it could come out to thick.

Now you are ready to serve it up and enjoy. It would be great with a nice Cesar salad or garlic bread. I served mine with a crispy garlic, basil gnocchi and it was great.

Thanks for read

JMW

One Pot Rosemary Chicken Dinner

In this day and age people seem to have less time to do things than ever, which makes simple one pot meals that can be set to cook with minimal involvement so that other things can be done at the same time have become a growing trend. While I like cooking and prepping and all of that there are times when I have a busy weekend doing things around the house and would like to be able to put together a simple yet delicious meal and still have time to do all of the little necessary things in life. The recipe I have come up with this week is just that, simple and delicious. I wanted to do something hearty yet somewhat healthy but also easy to put together and have lots of veggies to make a nice rounded meal. So with that in mind I came up with a one pot rosemary chicken meal.

Here is what you need.

1 large oven safe pot with a lid.

Ingredients:

4 large boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 medium sized sweet onion quartered (Vidalia if you can find them)

4 medium sized red potatoes quartered

2 carrots cut into 1 inch pieces

1 cup of trimmed fresh green beans

about 2 tables spoons of chopped fresh rosemary

course sea salt (1 tablespoon)

ground black pepper (2 table spoons

3 tablespoons fresh chopped garlic

Chicken broth/stock (32 oz container should be enough)

Non stick cooking spray

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Cooking

Go ahead and pre heat your oven to 375.

For this one it is all about layering. First coat the pot with non stick cooking spray and then put the 4 chicken breasts in the bottom. Now add the potatoes, then the carrots, then the onion, then the garlic and lastly the green beans. Now you want to sprinkle about half of the salt and black pepper evenly across the top and then top it off with the rosemary.

Once you have everything in the pot go ahead and add some chicken stock until it fills about 3 quarters of the pot. Then put the lid on and place in the preheated oven. You will let this cook for roughly 5 hrs.

After 5 hrs take the pot out of the oven and with a long handled spoon give it a good stir. You will see that the chicken is nice a tender is breaking apart easily. Once it is good and stirred up go ahead and add the rest of the salt and pepper and add another half cup of chicken stock. Then put it back in the oven, uncovered this time and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. This will get a little bit of crunch added to the top for texture.

After 15 to 2o minutes pull it out of the oven and give it one more stir and place the lid back on the pot until you are ready to serve.

This is a nice meal that is sure to please the entire family while giving you time to work on other projects around the house. So serve it up, sit back and enjoy.

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Thanks for reading,

JMW

Brunswick Stew

Today we are going to talk about an old southern classic and family favorite of mine, Brunswick stew.  This is a nice hearty BBQ style stew that packs a lot of flavor into each bite. If you search for Brunswick stew online you are going to find many different recipes and and ways to prepare this stew and you will see that many of them are completely different in their approach to doing it. There are so many variations in fact that its hard to imagine most of them tasting how this stew should taste which is why I set out to see if I could do it justice. When I was coming up with this recipe taste was first and foremost on my mind. Brunswick stew has a unique flavor that has a hint of BBQ, a little smokiness, a little sweet taste and a great black pepper flavor. Traditionally this stew is mostly made with left over BBQ bits. If you have left over pork, brisket, chicken etc, they all get shredded up and tossed into a pot with a bunch of veggies and cooked into a stew. This is what gives this stew its unique BBQ taste. Surprisingly I did not have any left overs this time so I went in a little bit different direction but it still came out pretty amazing.

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Here is what you need.

Crock Pot

3 boneless/skinless chicken breasts

1 large sweet onion (Vidalia if you can find them) (diced)

2 Jalapenos (chopped with seeds)

1 small bag frozen Lima beans

1 small bag frozen corn

3 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes (diced)

1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons of liquid smoke

2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons of chili sauce (sriracha sauce)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

3 table spoons black pepper

1 cup sweet BBQ sauce ( I used Sweet Baby Rays)

Prep and cooking

Boil your chicken breasts in a pot of water until the are cooked through then set aside to cool a bit. Do not pour out the water as you will be using this as stock for your stew.

In your crock pot add the crushed tomatoes,onion, potatoes, jalapeno, corn and Lima beans. Now pour enough chicken stock over it to come to the top of the veggies (don’t completely cover them, this is stew not soup).

Now break apart the chicken, shredding it in to small pieces and add to the pot.

Now add everything else and stir it all together.

Place the lid on the crock pot and cook on high heat for about 5 hrs, then reduce to low and cook for another 2 hrs. If you are around you may want to give it a stir about half way through but if not its not a big deal.

I really hope that you all enjoy this stew. It is something that I grew up with and is an old southern tradition that just tastes great. Its unique flavor is something that you don’t taste every day. So scoop out a nice bowl full and grab a roll or piece of bread and enjoy a new experience. You wont be disappointed.

Thanks for Reading

JMW

Breakfast Sandwiches

Everyone that knows me knows that breakfast is my favorite meal. So much so that I have been known to have breakfast for lunch and even dinner on more than one occasion. While I love all types of breakfast foods and combinations of them, one of my favorite things is breakfast sandwiches. Yes the kind you get from fast food restaurants (I am a sucker for a sausage McMuffin). I don’t now why but they are a guilty pleasure of mine that I tend to enjoy way to much. Oh and its not just one kind either, I enjoy the breakfast sandwiches from several different fast food restaurants. It just depends on my mood as to which one I go to.  This however does create a bit of a problem when it comes to trying to eat right and drop a few pounds, which is something I am working toward right now. So I set out to create my own breakfast sandwich that I can make at home that cuts out a lot of the fat that you get from fast food places but still tastes great.

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Here is what I did

What you need:

(this makes two sandwiches)

Butterball Smoked turkey sausage (one link)

2 slices Kraft fat free cheese

4 slices Natures Own White/Wheat bread

2 eggs

1 teaspoon smart balance heart right buttery spread

Non stick cooking spray

Here’s how to make it:

Coat a non stick skillet with the cooking spray and heat to medium high heat. Add a teaspoon of smart balance to the pan and let it melt while spreading it around with a spatula to coat the bottom of the pan. Take your bread and separate into two stacks so that it looks like you have two sandwiches with nothing in them. Put them in the pan and toast them on either side (leaving the middle part un-toasted. This step is just like making a grilled cheese with no cheese in between the two slices. Now put them on a plate and separate the pieces so you have 4 pieces of bread toasted side down on the plate in a big square. Two slices for the bottom of the sandwich and two for the top.

Cut the sausage link in half and then cut both halves in half long ways down the middle. Spray a little more non stick spray in the pan and place the sausage cut side down and cook to your desired amount of done-ness. I like mine cooked pretty well but some people like it just warmed up a little. Turn them once and cook on the other side. Now place them on the bread (two pieces for each sandwich). Then place a slice of cheese on each sandwich so it will start to melt.

Reduce the heat in the pan to medium and crack two eggs in it. Cook on one side a couple of minutes until the white starts to firm up. Now add a little salt and black pepper for flavor and flip both eggs over. Once flipped over gently pop the yolk so it runs out and starts to cook. As much as I love a runny yolk it doesn’t work to well on a sandwich.  Let the eggs cook for another minute or so and then place on top of the sausage and cheese and add the other piece of toasted bread on top to finish off the sandwich.

That my friends is how to make a tasty low fat breakfast sandwich. There are several reasons for doing it this way. Using the smart balance to toast the bread adds a little extra flavor that reduces the need for topping it off with Jelly, Mayo, ketchup or whatever you like to put on your sandwiches that tends to add extra fat or unwanted calories. The other ingredients are to me the best tasting brands out there for fat free and low fat food of its kind. When combined they taste great and make a great sandwich. While this is not 100% health food it is a lower fat alternative to the high fat and processed versions of what you will find in a fast food restaurant.

Enjoy

Thanks for Reading,

James

A new spin on Eggplant Parmesan

I know that a lot of people cringe when they hear the word eggplant but I am hear to tell you that it can be very good. This past weekend I decided that it had been way to long since I had eaten eggplant and that I wanted to come up with a new recipe for you all to enjoy. So with that mindset I went to work brainstorming ideas and came up with one for my very own version of Eggplant Parmesan. Before you go any further I will tell you that this is not your traditional recipe for this dish, but that is after all what I do. I try and come up with new ways to look at making food so that the average person that wouldn’t normally like something like Eggplant Parmesan may actually give this a try. This is also something that long time lovers of eggplant are sure to love as well. It’s a really a good meal that I think most people will like and for you parents out there with picky kids, just go ahead and make it and don’t tell them what it is. I bet they will like it.

So here is what you need.

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Ingredients:

1 Large eggplant

1 large white onion

1 red bell pepper

Extra Virgin olive oil (about 1/4 cup)

all purpose flour (about 2 cups)

Salt/Pepper

non stick cooking spray

mozzarella cheese (3 cups)

grated parmesan cheese (2 cups)

1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce ( I used RAO’s marinara)

sliced pepperoni (about 15 slices)

2 cloves chopped garlic

1 cup Italian bread crumbs

Prep and cooking:

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It would be good to go ahead and get every thing that you need cut up and prepped before you start cooking, since there are a few steps involved in making this dish.

Start by removing the skin from the eggplant (this is optional), and then cut the eggplant into slices about a quarter inch thick and then lay them out on paper towels to soak up the excess moisture. Eggplants are a pretty wet vegetable and soaking up some of the water helps with the cooking process.

Cut the onion and red bell pepper into nice thin strips and set aside. You can also chop the garlic and add it to the onion and pepper since they are all getting cooked at the same time.

Put your flour in a bowl large enough to fit the eggplant slices and set near the stove.

Now you are ready to start cooking. Add the olive oil to a large skillet (frying pan) and heat to medium high heat. Take the eggplant and piece by piece cover in a thin layer of flour and then add to the frying pan. You want to brown the eggplant slices on both sides, adding salt and pepper during the process. Once they are browned on both sides remove to a paper towel covered plate to drain the excess oil.

When you have all of the eggplant cooked add the onion, peppers, and garlic to the pan and cook until the onions start to turn clear. Once those are done remove to a paper towel covered plate to drain excess oil.

Now you are ready to assemble this concoction and bake it. Go ahead and preheat an oven to 375/400 degrees.

In an oven safe casserole dish you will want to spray with non stick spray and then put down a thin coating of your marinara sauce. Now you will need to put down a layer of eggplant making sure that all of the sides are touching and that it covers the entire bottom of the container. If you have slices left over that is fine, you can just overlap them making a second layer. Just be sure to space them out evenly. Now using about half of the mozzarella cover the eggplant and then cover that with about half of the remaining sauce. Now lay out the onions and peppers across the top in an even layer and cover that with the rest of the mozzarella cheese and then cover it with the rest of the sauce. Now cover the top with the parmesan cheese and a thin layer of bread crumbs and then add the pepperoni in a nice even layer to the top of that.

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Now stick this in the oven uncovered and bake until the cheese is melted and the pepperoni starts to crisp up (about 20 minutes).  Once it is done, remove it and let it cool a little before serving. Then cut yourself  a nice big piece and enjoy.

Thanks for reading

James

A new look

I decided that it was time for a new look for the blog. As with all things food it is important to keep it fresh. This new look also adds some much needed functionality to the page. These changes should help you all enjoy my blog much better.

There are a couple of new functions in the menu for you to more easily navigate.

If you are in the mood to just read reviews all you have to do is click on the reviews tab and you can read through all of the reviews. The same goes for recipes and news about the blog.

I hope that these changes make reading about my culinary adventures even more fun and easier to do.

Thanks for reading

JMW

 

 

BBQ Country Style Ribs

When setting out to grill or BBQ there is always the question of what to cook and how to do it. Do you want to slow cook on low heat? Do you want something quick and easy? Do you sauce first or after  or even at all? Depending on what part of the country you are from will also greatly determine if you choose to cook pork or beef. Since I grew up on the east coast I tend to lead more toward pork BBQ which goes against everything you hear out in Texas where I live now. Everyone has their own way of doing things on the grill and I am no different, I just happen to think mine tastes a little better than most. I have spent a lot of time over the years developing a specific taste to my BBQ. I have taken tips from the way my Dad does his BBQ as well as taking things from several other places I have tried over the years and have come up with my own unique flavor that is not to sweet, not to spicy and doesn’t have that over powering vinegar taste to it either. My BBQ has just the right amount of all of that. Its kind of like an amalgam of all of the best tastes around the US.

I was doing some grocery shopping over the weekend and came across a great deal on country style boneless pork ribs and knew exactly what I was going to do with them as soon as I saw them.  Boneless country style ribs are a great thing to BBQ. They don’t take that long to cook and just have a great flavor. They have a great meat to fat ratio which is important when grilling. You want something that has a little fat in it to keep from drying out when cooking. But enough about that. Lets get down to cooking these bad boys up.

You can use off the shelf sauces for this but I tend to use my own homemade sauces.

What you need:

1 large pack of boneless country style pork ribs

1 bottle of mustard based BBQ sauce (you want a really tangy sauce for this one)

(My mustard sauce consists of the right amount of yellow mustard, white vinegar, sugar, black pepper and margarine)

1 bottle of tomato based BBQ sauce (you can use your favorite but a good sweet and spicy one is the best to counter the tang of the mustard sauce)

Salt

Black pepper

Prep and cooking

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Rinse the ribs under cold water and pat dry. Then salt and pepper them all around. Place them in a large bowl and cover with the mustard sauce. Let them marinate for at least two hrs.

Whether you use gas or charcoal is up to you. Either way you will need medium to medium high heat. Something that will give a good sear to the outside while not drying them out when cooking. I know a lot of people complain if they see even a hint of black on their meat but to me it just doesn’t taste right unless you get a little char on the outside. That’s what BBQ is and why people like “burnt end sandwiches” so much (if you’ve never had a burn end sandwich, stop reading and go find one now). It tastes good so trust me. You want to cook these covered for about 7 to 9 minutes on either side depending on how thick they are. Then remove the lid and turn the heat up just a little. With a BBQ brush you now want to coat the ribs with the more traditional BBQ Sauce. You always want to wait until the end to put on most tomato (and brown sugar) based sauces due to them burning easier. Turn the ribs over a couple of times with that sauce on them until it starts to thicken up and get darker. It will create a nice messy,gooey coating that screams BBQ.

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Now they are ready to go. Pull them off the grill and let them cool for a few minutes. You are now ready to enjoy some of the best BBQ you have ever tasted. I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for reading,

JMW

Baked can still taste good

There’s a reason that all of the best things to eat are fried and not baked. That’s because fried food tastes really really good. If someone put out a plate of baked chicken and a plate of home made fried chicken most people are going to go for the fried first. The downside is that too much fried foods can be pretty bad for you and cause serious problems as you get older. This is where moderation comes in handy. You can enjoy good fried foods every now and then but in between those meals it is good to try something a little on the healthier side of the menu. Today’s recipe comes from that healthier side of things and may even be something you can substitute for the fried goodness that we all love so. Now when I hear someone say baked chicken I usually don’t immediately respond with joy and glee but I set out to find something that may change that attitude. I took the idea from one of my mothers old recipes and expanded on it a bit to come up with a newer updated version of it. Italian Parmesan Baked Chicken. (This would also be really good on fish).

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Here is what you need to bring it together.

Ingredients

1 pack thin sliced boneless skinless chicken breast

1 container of grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)

1 box Hungry Jack potato flakes

1 pint low fat buttermilk

Granulated Garlic

Black Pepper

Kosher salt

Dried Oregano

Cooking Spray

Prep and cooking

Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil and then coat it with non stick spray. Rinse the chicken breasts and pat them dry. Now set out two bowls and pour the buttermilk in one. If you have never used buttermilk before keep in mind that it does have a sour smell to it but that does not mean is has gone bad. So don’t toss it out, it works great for cooking. In the other bowl you will mix up your breading: combine about 3 cups of potato flakes, 4 ounces of Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1 tablespoon of oregano, and 1 tablespoon of granulated garlic. Make sure to mix them together well.

Now it will be easier if you set up a little assembly line. start from right to left: Raw chicken, butter milk, breading, baking pan. Dip the chicken into the buttermilk and completely cover it, then dip into the breading and make sure it is completely covered, now place it on the baking sheet. Once you have all of the chicken coated and on the baking sheet place it into a preheated 350 degree oven and cook until the top starts to get brown (about 20 minutes for thin sliced chicken breast). You don’t want too much brown on top but enough to give it a nice color.

Tip: Keep in mind when handling chicken to always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handing any other food or sampling anything else you are cooking.

This recipe turned out to be very tasty and a nice little update to something I ate as a kid. To change it up a bit you could also try a little rosemary instead of oregano.

Enjoy

Thanks for Reading

JMW