Honey Baked Chicken

Honey Baked Chicken1

I’m listening to Pandora music radio as I’m writing this post, so I thought I’d choose it as the topic of conversation (Besides the food. We’ll get to that in a minute.)

Most of you guys have an account with Pandora, right? I mean,  it’s only one of the best inventions out there to hit the internet/technology scene in recent years. For those of you that don’t have one, you’re really missing out. Imagine your favorite artist, album, genre or even song. Then imagine a computerized musical library that will take that artist, album, genre or song, and construct an entire ‘radio station’ centered around it. If you hear a song that you like or are familiar with, you have the option of ‘thumbing up’ that song so that the computer can know to play it again in the future as well as find other songs to play that are similar to it. If you hear something you don’t like, then you have the option of ‘thumbing down’ to let the computer know not to play that song, or any song like it again on your radio. That’s pretty much how it works on every station, on as many stations as you like.

That’s Pandora. Pretty awesome right?

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I’ve said before in the past that when it come to my taste in music, I kinda resemble a schizophrenic. That wasn’t a bad joke, guys. It’s totally true. Anyone who would randomly shuffle though my ipod would be baffled to say the least at just how wide a range of music I’m interested in. I’m telling you, some of them just don’t seem like they were ever meant to be on the same mp3 player. The same goes for my Pandora station. If there’s a method to that madness, I still haven’t discovered it yet.

For example: what kind of person has a station dedicated to Blackmore’s Night (medieval folk music), then a station dedicated to Erykah Badu (neo-soul)? There’s nothing remotely similar about Evanescence (gothic rock) and Cece Winans (Christian gospel), but I’ve sure got a station dedicated to both on my account. The Spice Girls and Disney don’t mix…except in Jess(ica)’s world, that is.

(…Yeah, don’t judge me about those last two, I’m a sucker for 90’s nostalgia.)

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I used to be a little embarrassed about my crazy taste(s) in music, but I’ve come to kind of embrace it now. Music is the most meaningful to me in the ways that I can connect it to my own life experiences. I have certain days in my life that call for a different type of music or sound. Some days my life is best expressed through the smooth, ambient sound of  neo-soul, while others days have a more aggressive, edgy vibe of gothic rock. No one day is the same, but life isn’t like that either. As I sit here writing this post I’m listening to my smooth jazz station, but tomorrow I could be in the mood for some Earth, Wind and Fire. No big deal. Variety’s the spice of life, right?

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I’ll tell you what IS a big deal, though and it’s this chicken. Don’t let the simplicity of the recipe fool you, guys. The flavor in the seasoning on this bird really packs a punch. I’ve made it a few times now, and it’s still a favorite at the homestead. The spices give it an exotic, almost Indian taste so if you’re a fan of that type of cuisine, you’ll really go for this.

And even if you’re not an Indian-cuisine fan, I’d be willing to bet you’d still go for this anyway. Because it’s just that delicious.


Honey Baked Chicken

Recipe Adapted from “An African American Cookbook”



  • 3 lbs  boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1/3 cup melted butter or margarine
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp turmeric


1. Arrange chicken in shallow baking pan.

2. Combine butter, honey, mustard, salt, curry powder, coriander, cardamom and turmeric. Pour over chicken.

3. Bake at 350° for  about 45-50 minutes, or until chicken in tender and browned.

4. Serve with rice.



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I’ve got a smile on my face as I write this post. Why? Because today I’m thinking a lot about my ‘Get Happy’ List.

What’s that you ask?

Well, I like to think of it as a list of various things that no matter what may be going wrong or badly in my life, I can always turn to and rely upon to perk me up, keep me positive and help me ‘get happy. I’m sure all of you have one too, and I’d love to hear about some of the things on your list in the comments section of this post. In the meanwhile, I thought I’d share some of my Top 5 ‘Get Happy’ must-haves with all of you. Everyone has their share of stressful situations going on in their lives and sometimes we just need things that are able to help us relax and smile in spite of all the crap. Who knows? Maybe some of the things on my ‘Get Happy’ list can help to make some of you ‘ get happy’ too.


Cooking is (of course) on Jess’ Get Happy List, but there are other things too. some of them may make sense, while I’m willing to admit that some of them may not seem to make too much sense to you guys at all. But you know what? I accepted a long time ago that I was a weird/lame nerd and introvert with a schizophrenic taste in music that’s lost in a bizarre world of cooking, classic British novels, Photoshop, fictional characters/stories, and  90’s pop culture.  And I kinda like it.

{Get Happy} Movies:

1. A&E’s Pride and Prejudice (Starring Colin Firth & Jennifer Ehle)

2. Sense & Sensibility (Starring Emma Thompson & Kate Winslet)

3. Phantom of the Opera (Schumacher Version starring Gerard Butler & Emmy Rossum)

4. My Fair Lady (Audrey Hepburn)

5. The Rescuers (Disney)

{Get Happy} Music:

1. Anything by Ella Fitzgerald…literally.

2. “Three Little Birds”- Bob Marley

3. “Glorious”- Darlene Zschech

4. “Suddenly I See”- K.T. Tunstall

5. “Can’t Give Up Now”- Mary Mary


Get Happy Tv:

1. The Office

2. Parks and Recreation

3. Hey Arnold

4. Rugrats

5. Investigative Discovery Shows (Deadly Women, Wicked Attraction, Who the ^%$ Did I Marry?)

{Get Happy} Food:

1. Pancakes

2. Meatloaf

3. Pizza

4. Thick, Iced Sugar Cookies

5. Fresh baked bread


This recipe makes me ‘get happy’ for a couple of reasons. In the first place, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t ‘get happy’ about crescent rolls. They’re buttery pieces of pure perfection that can go with just about every meal, any time of day. Apart from being delicious, they also look ‘pretty’ and make the baker look like they really know what they’re doing in the kitchen- which was a huge deal for me when I decided to start experimenting with yeast breads. This was one of the first recipes I tried to take on and I’m happy to say that it was a huge success. My family loves having homemade bread to eat with weeknight meals and I’ve come to rely on these butterhorn crescents as an easy, delicious accompaniment to our dinner.

These are sure to help you ‘get happy’, guys. Trust me.



Recipe Courtesy of Taste of Home Magazine



  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp plus 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 warm water (110°to 115°)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup warm 2% milk (110°to 115°)
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 cups all purpose flour


1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tsp sugar in warm water.

2. Add the butter, milk, egg, salt remaining sugar and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.

3. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

4. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Roll up each portion into a 12-in circle; cut each circle into 12 wedges. Roll up wedges from the wide end and place point side down 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Curve ends to form crescents.

5. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake 350° for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks. Rub softened butter over crescents while still hot, then allow to cool.


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Old Fashioned Beef Stew

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Do you guys remember the first time that you had beef stew?

No, I don’t mean anything that came out of a can or white plastic package that was labeled Dinty Moore, Hungry Man or  Campbell’s that you had to nuke inside a microwave. That doesn’t count here.

I mean, do you remember the last time you had real beef stew: a thick, rich, , hearty, completely homemade brew of tender meat and vegetables simmering on the stove that filled the house with an aroma that made everyone literally salivate with hunger? Does anyone remember when they first had stew like that?

I sure remember the first time that I did.

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I was in my third year of undergrad at college, right before the time that I started to become interested in learning how to cook. Me and my sister (my roommate) had moved out of the dorms and into an apartment on campus. The dorm that we lived had for two years had recently been remodeled just our freshman year, including the cafeteria. We were very fortunate in that the food was not only edible, but pretty good for the most part. It spoiled us, to be honest. We didn’t realize just how much until we moved into our apartment without a cafeteria meal plan. It was…a learning experience.

We learned that frozen chicken patties got old. As did the microwaveable dinners. We also found out that as college students, consistently ordering out at local restaurants and take-out joints was not economically sustainable. Something would have to be done.

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I reached out to my mom with our ‘desperate’ situation. Her maternal instincts were completely dependable and she immediately made it apart of her routine to cook homemade meals for her daughters on the weekends that we would pick up when we came home so that we wouldn’t have to eat processed crap or takeout all the time.

My mom’s a fantastic cook. Really, truly fantastic. She made us a lot  of big, bulk dishes that could either be really stretched out to last during the week, or frozen to eat later in the future. It was one week in the Spring that one of the things Jas and I got sent home with was a big pot of beef stew.

I’d never had beef stew that wasn’t microwaveable before. But I had absolute confidence in my mom’s cooking and figured that anything she made had to be pretty good.

I was wrong.

Her beef stew wasn’t ‘pretty good’. It was absolutely incredible. To this day, that stew is seriously one of the best tasting things I’ve ever put in my mouth. The blend of spices and seasonings was just perfect. It may seem weird, but I actually remember being jealous that my mom was able to produce something that tasted so good. It was the start of my wanting to be able to learn how to cook for myself. When I finally did get comfortable in the kitchen, I still remembered the taste of that beef stew. I wanted it again. Badly. So I asked my mom what she put in it.

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Remember my mom’s philosophy about cooking? She doesn’t really use recipes anymore. Her answer was somewhere along the lines of  “Oh, I don’t know, I just put some stuff together.”

Which, you know, was loads of help.

Nevertheless: I made it a personal goal of my kitchen aspirations to be able to replicate the taste of that beef stew my mom made me in college. I’m still trying to get it down to this day. Not to say that the ones I’ve tried aren’t good- everyone, including her, tells me that they are. But they juuuuuust aren’t quite as wonderful as my mom’s.

This one though? It’s close. Not the same…but it is close.

{P.S: The rolls you see in see the background were not put there at random: there WILL be a recipe for them coming your way soon ;-)}


Old Fashioned Beef Stew

Recipe Adapted from The Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook (14th Ed)



  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 12 ounces beef stew meat, cut in 3/4 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 3 cups vegetable juice
  • 1 cup beer (Don’t use anything you wouldn’t want to drink)
  • 1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Instant beef bouillon granules
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups cubed potato (sweet or white, according to preference)
  • 1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
  • 1 cup sliced carrot (2 medium)


1. Place flour in a plastic bag. Add meat cubes, a few at ta time, shaking to coat.

 2. In a  Dutch oven or large saucepan brown meat in hot oil; drain fat.

  • 3. Stir in vegetable juice, water, onion, Worcestershire sauce, bouillon granules, oregano, marjoram, pepper and bay leaf.

4. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered, for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until meat is tender.

  • 5. Stir in potato, corn and carrot. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered about 30 minutes more, or until meat and vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaf.

  • *************************************************

Orange Spice Banana Bread

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It seems strange for me to think of now, but there was a time when the thought of cooking really and truly intimidated me. The idea of actually cooking something that wasn’t a pre-made mix, or didn’t involve using the microwave was crazy. I knew that the raw meat that I saw my mom, grandmother and older sister buy from the grocery stores ‘somehow’ turned into delicious cooked dinners like fried chicken, roast, stews, and stir fries- but I didn’t have a clue how it was accomplished.  Baking was a complete enigma filled with things like measuring cups and spoons, ovens, cake tins and flour- things I didn’t want to have any part of, for fear I would mess something up.

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Cooking became to be almost like math to me- I was in awe of the people that were good at it, but was fairly convinced that it would always be something that was completely beyond me. It was something that I would only embarrass myself at when attempting to do,  and that try as I might, I just didn’t get it.

It didn’t bother me at first, but when I got older and went to college, it did. I know that this may sound anti-feminist or sexist, or whatever politically incorrect terminology that you want to use, but not knowing how to cook began to make me feel like ‘less’ of a woman. That’s not to say that men can’t be great cooks (I know some myself) it’s just that I come from a line of traditional Southern women and in my family, the women cook. And they cook well. Not being able to share in that tradition kinda got under my skin for a while, until one day I just decided to swallow my insecurity and try to do something about it.

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I remember when I first started to really try to learn how to cook, my mom told me that cooking boiled down (no pun intended) to one all inclusive rule: follow a recipe, then when you get confident in your knowledge of ingredients and spices, change it to whatever you want. So that’s what I did. And I practiced. A lot. I wish I could say that there was more to it, but there really wasn’t. Beginning cooks just need to stick to those 2 rules, and you’re bound to get good: practice, and follow recipes. Then when you get comfortable enough with spices and ingredients, do whatever you want with them.

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This bread is a prime example of those rules. I had a bunch of brown bananas sitting on my table that I knew I didn’t want to let go to waste, but I wasn’t in the mood for straight banana bread. I wanted to do something a little bit different. I also happened to have a small bottle of orange juice in my fridge, and the idea of bananas with oranges was an interesting flavor combination to me. I found a recipe on Taste of Home that seemed to suit my purposes, but I still wanted to add more flavors to the bread to give it a kind of ‘kick’. So I decided to add in some spices that I would normally see in a spice cake- ginger, cardamom and coriander- and hoped for the best.

It was a winner. In fact, even now as I am writing this post, I’m rather pleased to announce to all of you that the bread you see in the pictures is now completely gone. It’s been devoured by my appreciative family. Not gonna lie, I’m a little irritated seeing as I only got one slice out of the entire loaf. But there’s always the option of making more, isn’t there?


Orange Banana Bread

Recipe Adapted from Taste of Home



  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 medium ripe bananas, mashed (about 1-1/4 cups)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract or orange oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger


1. In a bowl, combine the sugar, oil and eggs; mix well. Stir in bananas and orange juice.

2. Combine the dry ingredients; add to banana mixture, beating just until moistened.

3. Pour into two greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pans.

4. Bake at 325° for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pans to a wire rack to cool completely.


Buffalo Chicken Tenders

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Happy New Year everyone!

We made it to 2014, guys. I hope everyone’s New Year’s Eve was lots of fun and that you spent it surrounded by your loved ones. Did everyone stay up nice and late? Did you save a glass of champagne for me? No? Oh, okay.

Today is a very important day, and not just because it’s the first day of the new year. Something very important is happening today. Any guesses? None?

I’ll give you a hint- it involves roses. Lots and lots of roses…

Random, but very important fact about me guys: I’m an alumni of Michigan State University. A proud alumni. So proud, I’m gonna boast about my school for the next solid paragraph:

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Michigan State University {MSU} is:

  • Among the largest single-campus residence hall system in the country with 27 residence halls in five neighborhoods and two apartment villages. There are 538 buildings, including 95 academic buildings. 
  • Nickname: Spartans,  Colors: Green and white,  Mascot: Sparty (Three-time national top collegiate mascot), Conference: Big Ten
  • Outstanding record of students earning prestigious national and international scholarships: Goldwater, 34; Rhodes, 16; Churchill, 16; Truman, 16; Marshall, 16; Udall, nine; Hollings, six; Gates, three; and Mitchell, one.
  • More than 275 study abroad programs on all continents in more than 60 countries (yes, that does include Antarctica. I’m serious.)

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If none of that is impressive enough, then try this one on for size: today, the MSU football team will be competing in the 2014 Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, CA. For my international readers, and non-College football fans (you poor unfortunate souls, you) I’ll give a brief explanation: the Rose Bowl is a championship game matching up the top 2 teams from the Big 10 Conference (mainly mid-west schools) and the Pacific- 12 Conference (schools in the far west). It’s a pretty big deal. As not only a die-hard, I-bleed-green, Spartan fan, but also a college football lover, I am needless to say, SO proud of my team for making it to the Rose Bowl. So much so, that I wanted to try and do a recipe that would pay some kind of homage to the game taking place tonight.

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Well, trying to create a dish around roses was rather tricky. It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of any, I know you can use rose petals or rose water in food. It was just that the idea of trying to hunt down a recipe with either one of those very pricey ingredients that may not even turn out good (considering I’ve never used either) wasn’t worth the effort to me- at least not now. Besides, since this recipe was supposed to be for a football game I decided that less was more and to just keep things simple. What’s one of the top foods that people love to eat when watching ‘The Game’? Buffalo Chicken. I’m not a huge fan of chicken wings, but I LOVE buffalo chicken tenders, so I decided to go with that.

I used a bag of frozen pre-cut chicken strips I got from my grocery store and thawed, but buying boneless, skinless chicken breast and cutting them up will work just as well with this recipe.  There are two things I will insist on though: ‘double dipping’ the chicken in both the egg wash and flour, and having a sheet pan fitted with a wire rack on top to let the chicken rest. The first will make sure that you have a nice, thick n’ crunchy crust on the outside. The second will help make sure that that crust actually sticks and doesn’t slide off when you fry it. Several trials and errors have proven me right. So just take my word for it.

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If you’re a football fan, I hope you’ll join me in watching MSU play (and hopefully win) against Stanford in the Rose Bowl today.

If you’re not a football fan, then I hope you’ll at least give these chicken tenders a try. They’re a real ‘win’.



Buffalo Chicken Tenders



  • 4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken tender strips, patted dry
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce (preferably Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce)
  • 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon chicken seasoning (like Weber Kick’n Chicken)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • Oil, for frying
  • 1/2 cup, or 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce (preferably Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Wings Sauce)
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic


1. Heat oil in a cast iron skillet, or deep pan to 350°. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Line the bottom of a half sheet pan with wax paper. Place wire rack(s) over sheet pan, and spray rack(s) with cooking spray. Set aside.

3. In a medium size bowl, beat the eggs with the buttermilk and 1/4 cup hot sauce. In a smaller, square dish, mix together the flour, chicken seasoning, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder with a fork.

4. Dip chicken tenders into egg mixture, then dip into flour mixture and coat evenly. Place tenders onto wire racks, being careful not to allow them to touch.

5. Repeat step 3, dipping all of the tenders back into egg mixture, then in flour mixture again so that they have a double coating. Place back on wire rack.

6. Fry tenders in hot oil until golden brown and crisp, about 6-8 minutes. Let drain on paper towels when done.

7. Mix together butter, 1/2 cup hot sauce, brown sugar and minced garlic in a large bowl. Add fried tenders to bowl, a few at a time and toss in the sauce with a pair of tongs until evenly coated.

8. Line another sheet pan with parchment paper. Place tenders onto pan and bake for about 5 minutes. Serve.