Recipe: English Lavender Chicken

This past Easter, Craig’s aunt, Charlene West, prepared lavender chicken during her stay with us.  For many years, Charlene ran a catering company.  Then, for the past 18 years, she owned a flower shop.  Now retired, it seemed fitting to celebrate her visit with this delightful dish that infuses the essence of English lavender with the common poultry.  It’s deliciously fragrant and very easy to prepare.

4-5 lavender stalks
8-10 chicken pieces (trim excess fat)
6 cloves of garlic (rough chopped)
Extra virgin olive oil (enough to coat bottom of pan and chicken)
Extra lavender for garnish

Brine chicken in salty water in refrigerator for 24 hours.

Coat the bottom of a 9×13 pan with olive oil.  Tear lavender leaves into pieces. Add chicken, garlic, lavender leaves and flowers, salt and pepper, then coat with more olive oil.  Roast in oven at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until done.


Recipe: Chicken Adobo – Filipino comfort food at its finest


I’ve been eating my mom’s chicken adobo for as long as I can remember.  Over the years, it has become one of our family’s favorite dishes.  For those who aren’t too familiar, chicken adobo is a slow-cooked Filipino dish served with rice.  I associate it with something to enjoy for Sunday supper or on cold, rainy days because it just feels good when you eat it.  Chicken adobo is an umami bomb, rich with salty flavors of soy sauce that is tempered with vinegar, seasoned with whole peppercorns, garlic and bay leaves.  All cooked together and slicked in their own fat, it’s truly Filipino indulgence at its finest.

Note: Traditionally, this dish does not have a lot of sauce, but my family has come to love that part the most, so my recipe yields more liquid. You can adjust it to how you’d like to enjoy it. Some, even prefer to have the liquid reduce until it’s almost gone. That wouldn’t fly in my house.

Here’s how to make it (my way).  Traditionally, everything is placed in a pot then brought to a simmer. I brine my chicken first,  then I brown it, then add everything to the pot. While the adobo is cooking, I cook the rice.

Wash rice to remove impurities.


1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
6–8 cloves garlic, smashed with the side of a knife and peeled
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
12 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs or legs

Brine chicken in salt water for a few hours in the refrigerator. Remove from water and pat dry with paper towels. In a pan, brown each chicken piece thoroughly, add smashed garlic and brown. I don’t use any oil here, as the chicken skin will create it’s own. Add all liquid, peppercorns and bay and bring to a boil, then reduce.  Simmer for approximately 1 hour until meat becomes ultra soft.  Baste often to make certain all parts of the chicken are exposed to the sauce.  Uncover and simmer 30 minutes longer until sauce reduces.  It will also thicken.  Serve with hot rice. The idea is to get rice, chicken, sauce and one peppercorn in every bite.

Secrets to making the perfect popover

Once the chill hits the air, it just feels like popover season to me. And yes, I make them for self-indulgent reasons, but also for the pure entertainment factor. When they rise gloriously beyond the walls of the pan to magnificent heights, it’s a show you want to experience front and center. Then, consume at once!

Popover_Love and Relish blog1

But, why do they rise like that? It’s actually the steam that is built up inside the popover, which creates a hollow pocket and rises, pushing the popover higher and higher .. oh my goodness! (Make sure you don’t have another oven rack above it). The steam also cooks the inside, creating the most supple, custard-like texture that deliciously contrasts with the crunchy  exterior.  It’s really a magical creation.

The functional form of the popover pan.

The popover is an American version of a Yorkshire pudding. It’s a light and hollow roll that is made from an egg batter. One of the secrets to making the perfect popover is using a popover pan.  It looks like a muffin pan, but each individual well is actually separate from the others, which allows hot air to circulate evenly around each well.


Another tip is the make the pan very hot prior to adding the batter.  This will ensure that you achieve the steam needed to push them up, up, up!

Fill popover pan just below half-way up.
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If you choose to add cheese, add 10 minutes into baking (quickly!)
Enjoy at once!

Ingredients to make 12 poppers (2 pans)

1 1/2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, + softened butter for greasing pans
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk, at room temperature
Optional: One or two  1″ piece of Gruyere cheese.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Generously grease popover pans with softened butter. Place the pans in the hot oven for exactly 2 minutes to preheat. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt, eggs, milk, and melted butter until smooth. The batter will be liquid thin. Fill the popover pans less than half full and bake for exactly 30 minutes, or until they are golden brown and tall. If you have window in your oven, watch the show. Otherwise, don’t peek.

Serve immediately with breakfast, lunch, or dinner.


Green Goddess Chimichurri Sauce Recipe

In Argentina, grilled meats hardly go without chimichurri “green goddess” sauce.  I love the versatility of this sauce because besides also being a fantastic marinade, it tastes great on a crunchy green or tomato salad, and is also delicious on grilled flatbread, even over eggs in the morning 🙂

The tart acid and slight heat in the sauce brighten up the grilled meat and just keeps you coming back for more. This recipe should be enough for dinner for 4 people or 3 lbs. of flat iron or skirt steak.

2 cups Italian parsley
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp lemon
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup or more olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh oregano
1/4 cup fresh spearmint or mint (optional)
1 tsp crushed red pepper (or more)

Combine all ingredients in a blender to make a paste.  I like my sauce a little thiner than Italian pesto sauce.

Marinate 2-3 lbs. skirt steak or flat iron steak over night. Reserve the other half for serving.  Remove the steak approximately 30 minutes before grilling.  Grill to medium rare. Watch the meat just disappear!  Enjoy!


Warm Up With Gingered Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash soup is just one of those things we associate with fall and winter.  It’s hearty and delicate at the same time, savory,  and absolutely delicious.  It’s no wonder it becomes a favorite in our kitchen. While I’ve tried many versions, this is the recipe I stick to.  I adopted it from a chef at Lake Sonoma Winery in Dry Creek Valley about 15 years ago.  They were serving it with Russian River chardonnay on a chilly January day.

butternut_squash_Soup_recipe_loveandrelishblogpeel butternut squash - love and relish blogWhat makes this soup so awesome is its two secret ingredients – ginger and coconut milk.  Both Asian-inspired additions transform the traditional, mellow butternut squash soup into this aromatic and flavorful winter warm up that’s simply hard to resist.   The ginger adds the spice element and the coconut milk makes it silky and distinctly creamy, without it being too heavy. Serves 4-6

1 large butternut squash (peeled and cut into large pieces)
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil
1 small onion (cut into quarters
1 small carrot (cut into large pieces
1 celery rib (cut into large piece)
2″ knob of ginger (peeled)
3 cans chicken broth
1 can coconut milk
salt for later adjustments
Garnish ideas:  fresh chives, fried sage leaves, sour cream




How to:
Sauté butternut squash, onion, carrots, ginger, and celery in oil and butter over medium heat until onions become golden brown.  It’s OK if the butternut squash gets a light touch of browning.  It just adds to the savory element of this soup.  Add the chicken broth and simmer until all ingredients are soft – approximately 35-40 minutes.  Cool slightly, then puree in blender.  Return puréed soup into original pot and keep at low heat.  Add coconut milk and stir until blended evenly.  It’s important to keep the heat low-medium.  You don’t want to boil this soup, or milk solids with appear.  Once thoroughly heated, taste and make adjustments by adding salt, if necessary.  Garnish and serve immediately.  I prefer fried sage leaves.

If you love it, make sure to come back and comment here!


Fruity Moscato d’Asti Popsicles

A frosty beverage or chilled rosé wine may do the trick during the hot summer, but quite honestly, the kid in me wants popsicles. Moscato d’Asti is a semi-sweet, lightly sparkling, low-alcohol wine from Piedmont, Italy. When made into fruity Moscato d’Asti popsicles, they are a cool and delicious treat.  Furthermore, they are super easy to make and perfect for a summer gathering.


1 cup assorted fresh strawberries and blackberries, puréed
(use whatever fruit you desire!)
6 small plastic disposable cups
6 popsicle sticks
1 cup Moscato d’Asti

Spoon pureed berries into each cup, then add an equal amount of Moscato d’Asti into each cup.  Freeze approximately 1 hour (times may vary) until a popsicle stick can be inserted into the center of each cup.  Note:  Fruit will settle, so stir frequently during the early freezing process.  Frozen fruit throughout the mixture will help the popsicle stay frozen longer. Freeze until solid.  At time of serving, remove from freezer, let stand for 1 or 2 minutes until the popsicles easily slide out of cups.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy in the shade!

A Picnic Favorite: Pesto Chicken Sandwich

Sandwiches are the perfect picnic or summer get-together solution.  They are easy to make in advance and they travel well.  One of my all-time favorite sandwiches is the pesto chicken sandwich. Stacked with lots of flavor and textures, it actually gets better as the day goes on.


To make 4 Sandwiches:
1 Ciabatta loaf
1 cup basil pesto (homemade preferably)
Burrata cheese (1 ball split open)
1/3 cup cream cheese
1 roasted red bell pepper (jar or fresh), sliced
Fresh basil leaves
2 breasts of chicken (from whole rotisserie chicken), sliced thin
5 slices or more of prosciutto
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Optional:  tomato slices and arugula

Split bread in half lengthwise.  Generously coat the chicken in pesto and arrange onto bottom piece of bread.  Spread burrata and cream cheese onto bread halves. Drizzle both halves with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a layer of the rest of the ingredients.  Assemble* and slice.

*The picture shows how I assembled two sides (for photo purposes only).  The BETTER way to assemble is to place all ingredients on the bottom loaf, spread the cream cheese on the top loaf, then slap it together!

chicken pesto sandwich

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken tortilla soup is something that I’ve been making for many years. Hearty, fresh, delicious and super easy to make, it’s my go-to soup when I have left over chicken.  Best of all, the family loves it.  Here’s my recipe for chicken tortilla soup.  I don’t measure anything, so everything below is approximate.  Please adjust to satisfy your taste.

1 cup left over cooked chicken meat (skin removed)
1tbsp. olive oil
6 mini sweet peppers, seeded and chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
12 grape tomatoes, halved
2 tsp. cumin
1 tbsp. taco seasoning mix
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
3 quarts chicken broth
Juice from 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Suggested Toppings:
Shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, etc)
1/2 cup cilantro chopped
Tortilla strips (see recipe below)
Jalapeño salsa (see recipe below)
Lime wedge
Avocado slices

Tortilla Strips:
Corn tortilla strips
Non-stick canola spray
Taco seasoning

Directions:  Stack 8 corn tortillas and cut into thin, strips.  Spread evenly on cookie sheet, spray with canola oil, sprinkle dry ingredients onto tortilla strips, bake in 400 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown.

Jalapeño salsa:
4-5 jalapeño peppers, seeded and halved
1 bunch of fresh cilantro, trimmed stems
5 basil leaves
5 mint leaves|
1/4 cup olive oil to start (add more if needed)
salt and pepper to taste
juice from 1 lime
Directions:  Combine all ingredients in a food processor and add enough oil to make a smooth consistency.

Directions for soup:
Combine chicken, onion, peppers, olive oil and brown over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add chicken broth and rest of soup ingredients. (I usually hold the tomatoes back until the very end). Bring to boil, then simmer for 45 minutes- 1 hour.

Ladle hot soup into bowls, top with suggested toppings and serve.

A bright salad for spring

As soon as the weather turns warmer, I’m dreaming of a farmers market-fresh celebration on my plate. A bright, spring salad is a perfect way to celebrate.  It can be as simple as tender greens tossed with vinaigrette, or add more interest and flavor by mixing in seasonal treats like peas, asparagus, and radishes.

What makes this springtime salad so colorful is the red cabbage slaw.  The acidity adds a bright, fresh flavor and the ingredients offer a fresh, crunchy texture.  The recipe for the slaw is below.  It yields enough for a week and keeps well in an airtight container.

Combine together:

mixed baby greens

sliced red onions

fresh mango


red cabbage-apple-jicama slaw (see recipe below)


Dressing:  squeeze of half lemon, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper

Red Cabbage-Apple-Jicama Slaw

2 cups of sliced red cabbage

1/2 granny smith apple julienned

1/2 jicama julienned

4 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 jalapeño seeded and chopped

1/2 cup cilantro chopped

1 tsp celery seed

1.5 tsp salt

1.5 tsp sugar

Mix it. Taste it.  Make adjustments, as needed to your liking.  Seal tight and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.




Brunch for a large bunch: Shirred eggs

Preparing brunch for a large group can be daunting at times.  However, I’ve found that shirred eggs are an excellent brunch dish because they’re easy to prepare.  Plus, with the host of ingredients available to put inside, the dish is extremely versatile.

The French have a similar preparation called “en cocotte,” in which eggs are placed in a small dish and baked inside a water bath.  Although shirred eggs also are baked in small dishes called ramekins, most recipes call for them to be baked directly in the oven, not inside a water bath.  I take it a step further by baking them in a muffin pan, which allows me to have 12 eggs done and ready to serve at once.

You can vary the doneness of the eggs by adjusting the baking time.  Begin checking them after 10 minutes for soft-set eggs with runny yolks. Thick-sliced sourdough toast makes a perfect accompaniment, along with seasonal fresh fruit.



1. Grease the bottom and sides of a 12-muffin pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray

2. Add milk to just cover the bottom of each cup

(A little side note on the reason why we add milk –  the oldest known reference to shirred eggs was published in the late 19th century defined “shirr” as “to poach eggs in cream instead of water.”

3. Crack one egg into each cup

4. Top with grated Parmesan cheese

5. Sprinkle with salt and pepper

6. Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes

7. Use a knife to score around the edges of the egg. Remove each egg carefully with a spoon and serve on a platter with your favorite garnish

Optional:  After step 2, you can add pre-cooked ingredients to customize the recipe, such as crumbled bacon, chopped ham, sausage, sauteed mushrooms, onions, asparagus, peppers, and raw spinach leaves.

Consider how quickly you can prepare shirred eggs and just how much easier it has become to feed a large group.   In fact, encourage your guests to join in to customize their own shirred eggs. Who wouldn’t want a little help in the kitchen?