lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

spicy honey sesame wings

If you’re looking for a great chicken wing recipe with just a hint of heat but a ton of flavor, these are your wings. And, if you don’t subscribe to the “wings have to be nuclear” line of thought, you might also love my spicy apricot wings, because they’re pretty delicious without being crazy hot, also. And don’t be tied down to doing this recipe with wings, because it’s a great sauce for legs, thighs, and even chicken breast, you’ll just have to adjust your cooking time accordingly.

I happened to have hung with a crowd from the Buffalo, NY area during the original Buffalo-style chicken wings heyday back in my New Haven days, and I can tell you they didn’t actually involve much more than deep frying the wings and then tossing them in Frank’s Red Hot, butter and (shhhhh) a shot of Amaretto while they were still hot. True story.  Not very exciting but that’s my story. I still swear by Frank’s Red Hot if you want hot wings because it’s a great, flavorful base to making a tasty hot chicken wing.

I’ll state here that I’m not in the camp of breading chicken wings or deep frying them; I like roasting mine in a hot oven and, if needed, crisping them up for a couple of minutes under the broiler. Less grease, less mess and a wee bit healthier. I also can’t stand a soggy-skin chicken wing. Char it a little and crisp up the skin or don’t bother giving it to me.

Chicken sauces are fun to play around with, as you can do so much in the way of flavors, so I try and mix things up once in a while. The sliced scallions and sesame seeds are key toppings with these wings because they add a huge burst of flavor and crunch to the overall dish. Mostly though, these are just chicken wings…have fun with them for Pete’s sake.

lola rugula sesame chicken wings

spicy honey sesame chicken wings recipe

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon Thai hot chili garlic paste
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 3.5 lbs chicken wings, cut at the joints, wing tips reserved for making stock at a later time. (about 3 lbs wing and drumettes)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

In a large bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients (garlic through rice vinegar) and whisk together well.  Add chicken wings, toss well and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 425º

  1. Brush a large baking sheet with olive oil.(for easy clean-up, line with aluminum foil first)
  2. Place wings on baking sheet, skin side up. Reserve any extra marinade.
  3. Roast wings for 10 minutes. Turn wings over and brush with some of the reserved marinade.
  4. Roast 15 minutes, turn wings over and brush with remaining marinade.
  5. Roast for about 10 more minutes, until wings start to char a bit on the edges.
  6. Remove from oven and transfer to a serving bowl or platter. Sprinkle with sliced scallions and sesame seeds and serve.

lola rugula spicy honey sesame chicken wings

These are just about the perfect chicken wing recipe. Spicy, crunchy and full of sweet, hot flavor. If you want more heat, just add some more Thai garlic chili paste. If you don’t have the chili paste, feel free to add some minced jalapeno, habanero or other hot pepper.

lola rugula sesame honey chicken wings

Of course, if you want to lessen the heat, don’t add any chili paste or hot peppers at’s just that simple.

lola rugula sesame honey chicken wings recipe

These babies are sticky, so be sure and serve them with plenty of napkins. 🙂  And if you have to have a dipping sauce with your wings, these will still do just fine alongside your cup of ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Another variation on these is to do them with chicken tenderloin pieces on skewers. They still make a great meal or appetizer this way, but without the mess of bones.

Never, ever be afraid to play with your food.


lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

Baked Chicken Breast Recipe

As part of my “back-to-basics” series, I’m sharing my baked chicken breast recipe. I had a long-time aversion to chicken breast because it’s often overcooked, dry and tasteless. Then, after much trial and error, I finally figured out how to bake chicken breast and still keep it flavorful and juicy.

The beauty of cooking chicken breast in the oven is that:

  1. It’s easier than standing over a frying pan
  2. It’s less messy than frying
  3. It’s more reliable than cooking on the stovetop
  4. See  reasons 1, 2 and 3

It’s a habit of mine to cook chicken breast on the weekends so we have it for our lunches during the week. It’s low in calories, healthy and delicious if you cook it right. I cook it for other dishes too, obviously, but here’s how I cook just a simple, baked chicken breast in the oven.

This works best with a big baking sheet or pan and only 3-4 chicken breasts. If you overcrowd them, they will steam instead of roasting and you’ll miss out on the beautiful, delicious golden crust that comes with baking only a few of them at a time.

Also, once again, I highly recommend a probe thermometer, as this is really the only way to be able to gauge when the chicken breasts have reached their ideal temperature.

lola rugula how to bake chicken breast

baked chicken breast recipe

  • 3-4 chicken breasts, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1//2 teaspoon kosher salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450º

Line a baking sheet or pan with aluminum foil. Place chicken breast on pan, leaving at least a few inches in between each of them. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Rub all over the chicken breasts and then flip and rub again.

Place probe of the thermometer into the thickest part of the thickest piece of chicken. Place pan in oven, with the thickest piece of chicken in the back of the oven.

Bake until the internal temperature of the thickest part of chicken has reached 140º,  remove probe, flip chicken breasts, re-insert probe and bake until temperature reaches 160º. Remove from oven, wrap foil around breasts and let rest at least 20 minutes.

Slice and serve with pan juices.

Now, for the record, a little bit of butter in place of olive oil adds a wonderful (buttery!) flavor. You can also rub the breasts down with the spices of your choice or smother them in the sauce of your choice, it’s all up to your preference.

That’s it. Not overly exciting but the best way to cook chicken breast in the oven without ending up with dry bookends.

I use my baked chicken breasts in salads, tacos, enchiladas…the possibilities are seriously endless.

Stop spending so much time in the kitchen and get out there and enjoy life. 🙂 Ciao!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

the ultimate basic marinade

This is a marinade that has served me well time and time again. It’s great on beef, pork, salmon, tuna, and even lamb chops. It’s a great starter marinade recipe, which you can customize to your tastes or recipe if desired.


  • 1/2 cup oil – I typically use olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Marinating time depends on your cut of protein – salmon and tuna only need an hour at most, whereas lamb, pork and beef can be marinated for just a couple or hours or overnight. The longer the marinade, the stronger the flavor.

The beauty of this marinade is that you can make a ton of customizations to it. Want to go more Asian? Add 2 teaspoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon of minced ginger and a teaspoon of sesame oil. If you have sesame seeds, add a teaspoon of those, too. A teaspoon of miso paste works great in this, too (although you’ll want to omit the salt if you add miso)

Don’t have soy sauce? Substitute Worcestershire sauce.

Don’t have balsamic vinegar? Try red wine. rice or white balsamic vinegar, for a lighter flavor.

Want to kick the heat up a bit? Add a bit of sriracha, crushed red pepper flakes or hot chile paste to taste.

Got some fresh limes, lemons or oranges? Add a tablespoon of fresh citrus juice to really brighten this up.

Want fresh herbs? Add parsley, cilantro, rosemary….use your imagination.

I’ve used the basis of this marinade in a lot of recipes. It’s particularly good on flank and skirt steak, salmon, chicken breasts and thighs, and lamb chops. It even works great on veggies, especially on the grill.

If you’re looking for an easy marinade recipe that you can customize and call your own, this is it. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Remember what I always say: never, ever be afraid to play with your food.

Happy Sunday, everyone! Enjoy.

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

a brine in time…saves dinner

Grrrr! Don’t you hate it when you have this easy, quick dinner of pork chops planned, but then they end up dry as a bone? I’ve totally done this and been so disappointed that I just want to throw the whole meal in the garbage can.

Well, one thing has saved me from a complete meltdown and it’s this: a quick brine. Brining always sounds like a great idea but, seriously, who has the time on a weeknight? Usually, it involves a gazillion ingredients and a minimum of 12 hours in the fridge…sheesh!

Well, this (hopefully) will bring you out of your dinner despair. It’s a quick and easy brine that can be customized to whatever your tastes and time allow.

pork-chop-chicken-breast-brine-recipe-lola-rugulaHere’s the basic recipe:

pork chop quick brine recipe

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt

Mix salt and water in a bowl and stir well, until salt has dissolved. Cover pork chops completely with brine and let sit for 1 to 3 hours. Remove from brine, pat dry and cook as usual.

What? Where you expecting something more difficult? This is seriously all you need to do to ensure your pork chops are tender. Well, alright, you still can’t cook them to death, but this will help.

I tend to add a few variations to this, depending on:

  • My time
  • My mood
  • My recipe

But here are some suggestions to add:

  • Crushed or minced garlic
  • Minced onion or shallot
  • Chopped herbs – either dry or fresh
  • Spices

Also, feel free to mix up the liquid; instead of water, add beer or stock for a little more flavor.

Keep in mind that thinner cuts of pork can sit an hour or so, but for thicker cuts, 2 to 3 hours will probably give you better results.

This is a fantastic recipe for the grill too. It won’t save you from extended over-cooking but it’s pretty forgiving if you have a tendency to leave your chops on the heat for a little longer than needed. Try this with chicken too – I think you’ll be amazed at the results.

Happy cooking!


lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

crisp roast duck

Roasting a whole duck, so that the skin is crispy and the meat is still moist, is actually a very simple, classic process. I love to make this at the holidays, but I also make it once or twice in the summertime by using our grill instead of the oven. This is a “wow your friends and relatives” recipe that’s fun and easy to make. Here in Rockford, IL, the only way I find duck is frozen, which is fine, and typically they’re 5-7 pounds on average. You may need to adjust the cooking time on this recipe, according to the size of the duck and, of course, make sure the duck is fully thawed before beginning. how-to-make-whole-roast-crispy-duck-recipe-lola-rugula

whole crisp roast duck recipe

  • 1 5-7 lb. Pekin duck
  • 2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 425° Remove any giblets from the duck’s cavity. (the ones I buy also usually come with an orange sauce packet. I’ve never used it, but feel free) Also, remove any excess fat from the duck.

Prick the skin all over with a sharp-tined fork and then place breast-side up on a rack inside a roasting pan. Tuck the long flap of neck skin under the duck and also tuck the wings under the duck.

Pour the boiling water over the duck – you’ll see the skin tighten up, and that’s good! Let the duck cool for a few minutes and then pour the water from the cavity into the pan (you’re going to cook the duck with that water in the bottom of the pan, so leave it there!). With paper towels, pat the duck dry, inside and out, then season inside and out with salt and pepper.

Roast the duck, breast-side up, for 35 minutes. Then, using a pair of tongs, or a couple of spoons inserted in the cavity, turn the duck over and roast breast-side down for 40 minutes. Then, flip the duck back over to breast-side up cook for a final 40-45 minutes.

Remove duck from oven, cover loosely with a foil tent, and let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Ta da! Isn’t it beautiful? Oh, and it’s so, so delicious! In the wintertime, I like to make a whole cranberry sauce to serve with it; the tartness is a perfect foil to the richness of the duck. In the summertime, I often just pair it with a beautiful salad tossed with balsamic vinegar. I’ll admit that when I do it on the grill, I don’t use a pan with a rack – I just put the whole duck into a throw-away aluminum pan and use offset heat. The duck sits in the little bit of water with this method, but on the grill, it tends to evaporate quickly, so it still works beautifully.

On a final note, feel free to pour all of the pan drippings into a clear glass container and refrigerate overnight. Then you can scoop off the duck fat and make some fried potatoes in it. Yum!

lola rugula red lentil chili with black beans

braised chicken with lemon, sage and milk

It’s pretty rare that I come across a recipe that I’ve never heard of, or at least some semblance of, before. So when I came upon a Facebook post from The Kitchn, stating that Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk is probably the best chicken recipe of all time, I clicked through to read the article.

I’ve never heard of cooking chicken in milk. Ever. From anyone. The fact this recipe from The Naked Chef calls for such an odd mix of milk, whole cloves of unpeeled garlic, a cinnamon stick, fresh sage and lemon zest truly had me intrigued. Considering I’ve never been a huge fan of Mr. Oliver, I was a bit dubious about trying this. But then I Googled “Chicken in milk recipe” and, lo and behold, it seems the folks at The Kitchn are not the only ones who rave about this particular dish.

It almost makes sense to me, cooking chicken in milk because, once you add the lemon zest to the milk, you’re creating a homemade version of buttermilk. Now, most of us have had buttermilk fried chicken and can attest to the fact that it’s delicious. So, without giving it any more thought, I decided to try it.

I picked up a whole chicken on my next trip to the store, plucked fresh sage leaves from one of my many bushes and, on a cool, dreary Sunday, the cooking commenced. Is this the best chicken recipe ever? Hmmmm. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I’ll tell you this: It’s pretty damned delicious.

Now, one thing left open for interpretation with this recipe is that Jamie simply calls for “1 good handful of sage”, so I may have gone a little easy on it. I also used a larger chicken than what he calls for, along with using a whole stick of cinnamon instead of a half stick. One of the interesting things that The Kitchn article points out is that Jamie’s recipe originally called for browning it in butter, but has since updated it to olive oil. Also, the Kitchn noted that covering the chicken for half the cooking time results in a more flavor-infused chicken. That made a lot of sense to me, so here’s how I made my rendition of this dish:

chicken braised in milk, sage and lemon zest recipe

chicken braised in milk, sage and lemon zest recipe

  • 1 whole chicken, 5 pounds
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Kerrygold butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium-size cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 12 cloves unpeeled garlic
  • 10 leaves fresh sage
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 375°

Season the bird with salt and pepper. In a pan just large enough to fit the whole bird in, add the butter and olive oil. Brown the bird well on both sides. (I also used a pair of long tongs to hold the bird and brown the leg/wing sides a bit)

Remove chicken from pan and drain excess fat. Place chicken back in pan, toss in the rest of the ingredients and bake for 45 minutes with the lid on. Remove the lid and continue cooking for another 45 minutes. (total cooking time: 1 1/2 hours)

That’s it! What you’ll find when you open the oven door to remove the bird is a bubbling cauldron of deliciousness. I squeezed in 4 whole small red potatoes to the pan at the beginning and they cooked beautifully (and tasted wonderful).

One other thing Jamie’s recipe doesn’t specify is whether to cook the bird breast side up or down. I did mine up, so that the caramelization happened on top. But, after the fact, it appears The Kitchn cooked theirs upside down, immersing the breast in the sauce. (I’m judging strictly by the photos in their article) This would certainly add to the moistness and flavor of the breast meat, though even breast-side up, it turned out great.

Will I make this again? You bet! It was very easy to prepare and the results were terrific. Next time, I’ll add some more fresh sage and try it breast-side down, though.

Have you ever cooked chicken in milk? I’d love to hear about it! Thanks for stopping by.