Brown Sugar Grilled Chicken

Brown Sugar Grilled Chicken

Chicken on the grill is a summer staple for casual dinners and picnics.  This Brown Sugar Grilled Chicken is a great alternative to a traditional BBQ sauce chicken.  The sugar and orange juice give it sweetness, while the Dijon and chili powder give you that touch of heat.

This chicken is also lovely eaten cold.  My husband often takes it with him to the golf course for a quick lunch.

Brown Sugar Grilled Chicken

Serves 4

  • 1 whole chicken cut up
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
  • Juice of one lemon

For the Basting Sauce

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

To Prepare the Chicken

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and trim any excess fat.

Season the chicken with the lemon juice, garlic salt and pepper.

Let the chicken marinate for one hour.

To Cook Chicken on a Gas Grill

Prepare the gas grill for indirect heat, setting the grill for medium-high (see note on indirect heat).

Oil grill racks and place chicken skin-side down on turned off burner.

Cook chicken (covered) without turning for 8 minutes.

Reduce the heat on the burners to medium and grill the chicken for an additional 15 minutes, turning occasionally.

Now, turn the heat on directly over the chicken and baste with the sauce for an additional 4-5 minutes so the basting sauce caramelizes.

To Prepare the Basting Sauce

In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, mustard, garlic salt, pepper, chili powder and canola oil.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  This sauce will keep in the refrigerator for four days.

Indirect heat means heating the burners on both sides of the grill, and keeping the middle burner off.  Place the chicken on the middle burner and it will cook by the heat on the side burners.

The Elegant Occasion Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir or Cotes du Rhone



Oh how I love Gazpacho!  This chilled summer soup is a satisfying lunch, a healthy snack for the kids and a great first course for dinner.  If you want to dress it up, just before serving top each bowl with a jumbo shrimp or some lump crab meat.


Serves 6-8

  • 3 large tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • ½ of an English cucumber, diced (or 1 regular cucumber, diced)
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ of a red onion, finely diced
  • ½ cup cilantro
  • ¼ cup good olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
  • Crème fraiche for garnish
  • Lime slices

To Prepare Gazpacho

In a food processor pulse the tomatoes, pepper, garlic, onion and cilantro.

Slowly add in the tomato juice and the olive oil.

Place the soup into a large, non-reactive bowl and stir in the garlic salt, pepper and lime juice.

Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of four hours.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  The gazpacho can be made 24 hours in advance, and will keep, covered in the refrigerator for up to four days.


To Plate the Gazpacho

Ladle the soup into large serving bowls and garnish with a dollop of crème fraiche, chopped fresh cilantro and a lime slice.

The Elegant Occasion Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc


Sea Bass Baked in Parchment Paper

Sea Bass Baked in Parchment Paper

My husband loves fish, and recently I have found myself craving any type of seafood.  This is one of my favorite recipes, as the cooking method is just about fool proof.  Watch the video for a demonstration on wrapping the fish in parchment.

The mustard sauce is optional, but I love it because it really dresses up the dish and amps up the flavor.  A simple lemon butter sauce would be nice as well.  This meal makes a beautiful presentation for guests.

Sea Bass Baked in Parchment Paper

Serves 2

  • 2 sea bass filets, skin off
  • 2 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes, sliced into ¼ inch rounds
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half (a mixture of red and yellow preferred)
  • 2 fennel slices in ½ thickness
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • Parchment paper

To Prepare the Sea Bass

Lay a piece of parchment paper on a flat work surface.

Arrange the potato slices of one potato in the center of the parchment paper, going in a clockwise direction. Be sure the potatoes overlap so that they are covering the center of the parchment.

Take half of the tomatoes (both red and yellow) and place them on top of the potatoes.

Lay one piece of fennel and half of the chopped garlic on top of the potatoes and tomatoes.

Place the sea bass on top of the vegetables.

Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of white wine over the fish and vegetables.

Sprinkle ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper over the fish and vegetables.

Lay one sprig of fresh thyme over the top.

Bring the parchment paper up and over the top of the fish on both sides, as you would when wrapping a present.

Fold each edge and crimp to entirely close the parchment.

Lay the parchment package on a baking sheet, and repeat the entire process for the second piece of fish.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  You can prepare the parchment packages up to this point, two hours in advance and then store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to roast the sea bass.

To Cook the Sea Bass

Place the baking sheet with the sea bass in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.

While the sea bass is cooking, prepare the mustard sauce used for garnish.

To Prepare the Mustard Sauce

  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme

In a sauté pan, melt the butter and add in the garlic.  Cook until the garlic turns golden.  Whisk in the mustard and heavy cream and drop in the thyme sprig.  Allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Take the sauce off the heat, but be sure to re-warm before plating.

To Plate the Sea Bass

Gently open the parchment.

With a wide spatula, go under the potatoes and lift the vegetables and sea bass out of the parchment, and place it directly in the center of a serving plate.

Spoon the mustard sauce around and over the fish and vegetables.  Garnish with fresh thyme and serve immediately.

The Elegant Occasion Wine Pairing:  Sauvignon Blanc, White Burgundy or Sancerre

Ice Cream Cake

Ice Cream Cake

Our friends’ son, Luca, turned five and had a birthday party this weekend.  This little boy has totally captured my heart (and the hearts of our three daughters). I love to see him smile, and he loves food, so it goes without saying that we have the perfect relationship!

 When his Mom told me she was going to order an ice cream cake for the party, I insisted on making it myself. The party was thoroughly enjoyable on what turned out to be an amazingly sunny day (who would have guessed after the deluge of rain on Friday evening).  From a bounce house to a wonderfully entertaining presentation by Curious Creatures, which offered a fun and educational live animal show, the birthday boy and his twenty-something little friends had grins on their faces from ear to ear. After lunching on a variety of mouthwatering pizzas from New Haven Apizza and Bakery (recently opened on Route 79 in Madison), it was time for the cake.

I will note here that if you think you cannot improve upon the ice cream parlor’s ice cream cake, guess again.  Homemade ice cream is truly better than anything you can buy.  And the addition of rich, fudgy chocolate ganache drizzled in between the layers of ice cream and cookie crumbs, makes a delicious chocolate ripple type flavor that is decadent. Luca was very excited when he got the first piece of cake and the smile on his face when he held up his fork and exclaimed “I just got to the chocolate” was priceless.  Happy 5th Birthday, Luca!  We all love you!

PS: The batches of homemade ice cream are small, and you will definitely need a double batch to make one eight-inch cake. Make the ice cream a few days ahead of time so that you break up the steps. When ready to assemble the cake, let the ice cream come down in temperature so you can literally pour it into the pan, and then freeze again.

Ice Cream Cake

  • 1 ½ Cups whole milk
  • 1 ½  Cups For the Ice Cream
  • heavy cream
  • 6 Extra large egg yolks
  • ¾ Cup sugar
  • 2 Vanilla Beans
  • 1 Teaspoon Madagascar vanilla bean paste

To Make the Vanilla Ice Cream

Split the vanilla beans lengthwise and place them in a medium saucepan with the milk.

Cook the milk until just under a boil, and then remove the pan from the heat.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine the egg yolks and sugar.  Whisk at high speed until pale and fluffy (this takes a full 5 minutes).

Take the vanilla beans out of the milk and scrape the pods into the milk.

Pour half of the milk into the egg yolk/sugar mixture and whisk until combined.

Slowly add the rest of the milk and mix again.

Pour the custard back into the saucepan and cook over low heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  You must stir constantly (this process takes almost a full 5 minutes).

Remove the milk from the heat and add the heavy cream and the vanilla bean paste.  Stir until combined.

Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer into a glass bowl.

Chill the custard for four hours.

Pour the custard into the bowl of an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s directions.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  To make an 8-inch cake, you will need a double batch of this recipe.

For the Cake Base

  • 15 Oreo Cookies crumbled into very fine crumbs in a food processor (you want the entire cookie filling and all)
  • Nine inch springform pan

Press the cookie crumbs into the bottom of the springform pan.

Place the springform pan on a sheet pan to prevent a mess when pouring in the ice cream, as sometimes the melted ice cream leaks through the bottom of the pan.

To Assemble the Cake

Pour half of the ice cream onto the cookie crumbs.

Top the ice cream with more cookie crumbs and your favorite chocolate sauce or chocolate ganache (remember, chocolate ganache is just equal parts chocolate and cream melted together…this is terrific in an ice cream cake).

Top with the remaining ice cream.

Freeze the cake on the sheet pan for two hours.

Remove the cake from the freezer and place whipped cream (homemade or store-bought) over the ice cream cake.

The Elegant Occasion Note: If you are going to write something on the cake, now is the time to do it so that the entire cake can freeze and the flavors meld together.  I wrote “Happy Birthday” as you see above in Chocolate Ganache.

Freeze the cake until ready to serve.

Remove the ice cream cake from the freezer five-10 minutes before serving.

Ricotta Pancakes

Ricotta Pancakes

I am forever trying to watch my weight.  Loving to cook and experiment in the kitchen, sometimes it seems like I am always fighting an uphill battle.  This recipe for Ricotta Pancakes is a must when I want to feel like I am eating something decadent for breakfast.  They have a lighter, softer and creamier texture than a regular pancake.  And by using skim milk ricotta and less flour, the calories are significantly lower than a traditional pancake. My favorite way to eat this is to fill them with fresh fruit and roll them like a crepe.

Ricotta Pancakes

  • ¾ Cup flour
  • 2 ½ Teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 Cup part skim milk ricotta
  • 2 Extra large eggs
  • 2/3 Cup milk
  • 2 Teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • Confectionery sugar for dusting

In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the sugar, ricotta, eggs, milk and vanilla.

Place a tablespoon of butter in a skillet or griddle and let it melt.

Ladle about ¼ cup of the pancake batter onto the griddle or pan and cook for about 2 minutes on the first side, and a minute on the second side.

Continue with the rest of the batter in the same manner.

Before serving, dust the pancakes with confectionery sugar.