A New Take on Chicken Marbella

For many new brides in the Eighties, like me, recipes from The Silver Palate Cookbook were among the most exotic we had ever prepared.

Chicken Marbella, a lovely chicken entrée that marinated all day long with oregano, bay leaves, capers, olives, and prunes was one of the most memorable and exotic of all. It could feed a crowd, be made ahead of time, be served hot, warm, or cold, and looked beautiful arranged on a platter, all of which made it an excellent dish for get-together meals.

With all this high praise, it may seem blasphemous to write that I have tweaked the recipe. Times have changed in thirty-five years. People are more keen on decreasing their sugar intake, so I’ve omitted the cupful of brown sugar. There are more options for buying various cuts of chicken now, bones in or out, so I buy chicken thighs instead of quartering fryers. There’s less time for food prep and shortcuts are often championed, so I marinate the meat for four hours instead of twenty-four. This marinade is so savory, I braise the chicken in it in a Dutch oven, instead of roasting the meat in a shallow baking pan. Yes, I’ve messed with the recipe, but hopefully, I’ve simplified the process so families might start enjoying this amazing dinner entrée more often instead of saving it for company.

Yield: 8-10 chicken thighs

The Marinade

In this recipe, the marinade ingredients are the stars. In fact, once lined up for a photo I had the urge to say, Ingredients, take a bow as if they were part of an orchestra. And thank you to cookbook authors, Julee Rosso and Shelia Lukins, who were revolutionary when it came to bringing unusual flavors together.

I head of garlic, cloves smashed, peeled and then chopped
6-7 fragrant bay leaves (buy new ones if they don’t smell woodsy)
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup dried oregano (¾ cup, if using fresh)
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup capers, drained (3½ ounces)
1¼ cups dried prunes  (7-8 ounces). Could add apricots or dates, instead.
½ cup green olives, drained (about 3½ ounces)
1 cup white wine
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
4-5 pounds chicken thighs, bone-in or boneless, visible fat removed

Prepping Garlic Cloves
An easy way to prep garlic cloves is to put them in a bag, smash them with a meat mallet, and remove the skins. Rough chop afterward.


Add all of the ingredients into the pot in which you will be cooking the chicken. I use a Dutch oven such as Les Creuset.

Add chicken, stir until all of the chicken pieces are well-coated with marinade. Cover and put in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours to marinate. The chicken can marinate for up to 30 hours. Toss ingredients occasionally. About an hour before you plan to cook, take the pot out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350º.

Cook for 45 minutes for boneless chicken or an hour for bone-in. About halfway through the cooking time, open the oven and stir the chicken. Remove pot from oven and let rest until time to serve.

I was all set to post my recipe with the modifications when … my husband said the only thing that could make this recipe better would be to use boneless thighs. Arghh! Seasoned cooks know how much flavor bones bring to a broth. I didn’t know if I could go that far in changing the recipe. I was reticent but curious, so I made two versions for dinner one night; one with boneless thighs and one with bone-in.  I invited family over for dinner and had them try both versions.

The verdict was tied until early the next morning when I received this vote from my friend, Corabel Shofner who was already on the road for a book tour of her fabulous YA (young adult) novel, Almost Paradise.

Bone-in won!

P.S. It was fun to tell the Millennials at the dinner table how popular the Silver Palate store in NYC was in the Seventies and Eighties as well as how popular the cookbooks were for my generation.

P.P.S. This is a fabulous novel for kids and adults. Lots of life lessons from the ever quick and witty, Corabel Shofner.

Related Posts: Other Fabulous Dinner Entrées
Yummy Shepherd’s Pie
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Easy Roasted Salmon with Olive Oil and Garlic Pepper
Brooks’s Pork Tenderloin with the Most Amazing Marinade
Pot Roast with Herbs and Root Vegetables
Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Morning Rounds in the Garden, April

My favorite time of day is when dawn breaks. It doesn’t matter the season or the place, the beginning of a new day holds the promise of a cup of coffee, a new way of looking at the natural world depending on the morning light, and during the growing season, an opportunity to inspect my vegetable plants for new growth.

This morning, I thought I’d take you on a walkabout of the different garden beds in my backyard.

The Lower Garden

In the spring, planted within a wine bottle necklace (that creates a border between planting spaces and garden paths) are cold-hardy vegetables like peas, lettuces, spinach, radishes, chard, turnips, grapevines along the back fence.

There are six raised beds that are reserved for this Italian cook’s favorite vegetables: tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and zucchini. These plants will go in the ground in mid-April or early May depending on when the ground warms up.

The raised beds were built by Nashville Foodscapes last spring. They have made a huge difference in the amount of time I spend on garden maintenance because 1) the soil in the beds no longer gets compacted from being walked on and thus there is now no reason to till, and 2) the thick woodchip pathways keep the weeds down to a minimum.

The Back Garden 

This garden has six raised beds in the interior. It is enclosed by a four-foot “rabbit” fence that is laced with blackberry branches on three sides and two espaliered pear trees on the tall side.

There are six raised beds. Four beds are planted with herbs and spring crops, and two are not yet planted. I have left them open to plant commercial crops such as cotton, tobacco, peanuts, sorghum, indigo, and rice. I plant these for the children who come by to visit the chickens.

Here are photos of what is growing in the four beds this morning.

Herbs and Garlic

Spring Onions

Beets, Radishes, and Carrots

Salad Greens and Kale

Rain Garden
This is where water run-off from an underground 12-inch drainage pipe empties. I’ve planted it with blueberry bushes and native flowers to attract bees. You can see the crabapple trees in the background.

Berry Garden
This bed was created to help control water run-off. Growing in it are cherry bushes, currants, raspberries, and an apricot tree.

Fruit Trees
On the southern wall of our house, we have a fig tree. It is watered by the condensate that drips from an air-conditioner. Around the perimeter of the backyard, we have a muscadine vine, a plum tree, four apple trees, one mulberry tree, and two crabapple trees.

Three years ago the two crabapple trees had apple limbs grafted on to them by a technique known as bark-grafting. We know which limbs are the apple grafts because they haven’t leafed out yet. Apple trees are about a month behind crabapple trees.

Chicken Coop
We’ve been keeping six chickens in our backyard coop for six years. We do it for the eggs and for the simple joy of watching the chickens strut around our fenced-in backyard.


Herb Porch Pots
For the last three years, I’ve been planting two planters on my front porch with herbs and edible flowers. I do it because they are beautiful to look at and because they are convenient to snip from when cooking. I plant them every February. When they start to look scraggly in late June, I transplant the plants to the herb garden.

Compost Corner
Every morning, I empty the compost bucket from the previous day’s kitchen scraps into the compost heap behind the white fence. There is a mulberry tree planted in the compost to hide the chickens from the hawks who circle overhead. The chickens spend a good deal of their day in the compost pile.

You can follow the progress of these gardens on Instagram @judyschickens.

Related Gardening Posts
Spring Planting Guide for Your Kitchen Garden
Family Dirt
Herb Porch Pots!
Eulogy for a Chicken
WWMD? A Bucket of Spring Veggies as a Centerpiece
How to Make Crab Apple Jelly (and grow the crab apples)
How to Make Grape Jelly (and grow the grapes)

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Old-Timey Vanilla Bunny Cake

My mother made this cake for us in the Sixties, I made it for my kids in the Nineties, and now I am making it for my grandson. This cake spans generations.

I love the simplicity of the ingredients in this vanilla cake. These are ingredients most of us have on hand in the kitchen which makes this a good last-minute vanilla cake. Of course, you could always use a cake mix.

A Recipe for Basic Vanilla Cake


2¼ cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1½ cups sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into half-inch slices, at room temperature
4 large eggs
½ cup milk (whole or 2%)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350º.
Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.

Mix the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together in a mixing bowl for about 30 seconds on slow speed.

Add the slices of butter, slowly. Mix the dry ingredients and butter until they look crumbly, like small pea-sized lumps. Turn the mixer off.

In another bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, and vanilla with a fork until very well blended. It is always best to have these cold ingredients come to room temperature, but I have made this cake last minute, with cool ingredients, and it has worked.

Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together for about one minute on slow speed. Turn mixer off and use a spatula to scrape up ingredients from the bottom of the mixing bowl.

Mix batter on medium speed for about one minute until the batter looks smooth, creamy, and fluffy.

Pour batter into two greased and floured cake pans. Bake for about 25 minutes on the middle oven rack. When done, the cakes should be golden in color and a knife poked into the center of the cake should come out clean.

Remove cake pans from the oven. Let cool on a rack for ten minutes. To easily release the cakes from their pans, use a knife to loosen the edges of the cakes from the perimeter of the pans first and then flip the cake pans onto a rack. The cakes must be completely cooled before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting



1  8-ounce bar cream cheese, softened
½ cup  (1 stick) butter, softened
1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3¾ cups (1 pound box) confectioners’ sugar
2-3 tablespoons whole milk


Beat butter and cream cheese together in a mixing bowl on medium-high speed until smooth.

frosting Red velvet cake

Add sugar and beat until fluffy.

frosting Red velvet cake

Add vanilla and beat 30 seconds more. Add milk to fluff up the frosting.

frosting Red velvet cake
To Assemble Bunny Cake
Cut one cake as shown.
Arrange cakes as shown below. I placed strips of parchment paper under the edges of the cake pieces to keep the tray clean as I frosted the cakes.
My husband got into decorating the cake. I had to pull him off the job when he talked about applying eyebrows!
Here it is!

Meanwhile, a few miles away at my Goddaughter Leigh’s house, my dear friend, Becky, was busy making an Easter Bunny Cake for her three-week-old granddaughter!

The Barton/Meadors family made this beautiful one!

My friend Janet Davies sent me this version. This method of icing it sounds outrageously good! I cut each layer in half horizontally and ice it all with a mixture of 12 oz. frozen coconut, 1 lb powdered sugar and 1 cup sour cream.  It’s very runny and soaks into the cake.  I add dry flaked coconut on top. I like it because it’s not very sweet.  The sour cream gives is a tangy touch.  I also poke holes in the cake with a toothpick to make sure it soaks in well.  Sometimes I take the crusty part off the top of the cake to make sure the runny icing gets into the cake.

If you are celebrating Easter, Happy Easter!

Related Posts for Easter Day

Fun to do with Children:
To Dye For: Making Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs
How to Tell If an Egg Is Fresh or Hard-Boiled
Test Your Sense of Smell with Jellybeans

50 Ways to Make a Frittata
Quiche Lorraine with Bacon and Kale
Mom’s Monkey Bread, circa 1970
Fruit and Nut Bread
The Biscuit King

Grandma’s Italian Fried Cauliflower
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots

Italian Ricotta and Lemon Cookies
Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

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Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Shopping for a Saree in South India

The day before my son’s Hindu wedding ceremony, his then fiancé’s aunt came up to me at the bridal luncheon and with a gentle and engaging voice said, “I am Uma. I will be your dresser tomorrow. May I come to your room at 2:00?”

Wow! Somebody was going to dress me? How nice.

Twenty-four hours later, Uma arrived and helped me put on my saree, a gift from the bride’s family. Soon after, I went outside and joined my son for the Barat. I was beaming; I felt like a princess. A saree will do that to a woman.

The Barat is the traditional Hindu and Sikh welcome procession of the groom’s family to the bride’s family, representative of a time when the groom’s village traveled to the bride’s for wedding festivities. In our case, the Barat took place in the streets of downtown Nashville. It wouldn’t have looked nearly as vibrant without the sparkle of the women’s sarees.

Shopping for a Saree

Last month, my husband and I traveled to India to tour the sites. Afterward, we flew to Hyderabad, the “City of Pearls” in Southern India, to see our daughter-in-law and her lovely extended family.

While there, we attended several celebrations. Parties sometimes mean opportunities for shopping. Although I didn’t think I needed anything when I arrived, after one-afternoon spent shopping for sarees, I was asking when we could go back to the shops! Part of the draw was all the colorful clothes made of fabrics that beckoned to be touched, but equally wonderful was simply being in the company of women who, along with giving me fashion advice, made me feel cherished. I don’t think I will ever forget this cheerful moment in Moksha Couture, a woman’s dress shop in Hyderabad.

What is a Saree?

A saree (or sari) is a traditional two-piece garment worn by women in India. It consists of one long decorative length of fabric in silk, cotton, or chiffon, and a coordinating blouse.

I laid my six-yard-long saree on the floor so you could see that one end of it is more decorative than the other. The decorative end is called the pallu and is the portion of the saree that will be draped over a woman’s shoulder where the design can be seen. The less decorated end is the part that wraps around a woman’s waist and covers her legs.

Notice the sensational pallus on the mannequins at Mandira chic saree shop in Hyderabad. What was once six flat yards of fabric has been transformed into a striking outfit when wrapped around the female shape. That is the beauty of the saree –it is versatile enough to suit any occasion and flaunt any figure.

Buying a Saree in South India

How a saree is draped varies geographically in India. In North India, for example, the pallu may be draped so you see more of it from the back side of a woman. In South India, the pallu is draped more commonly in the front, as seen in this post.

The first store we visited was Mandir. Their saree collection is pure eye candy. They have a saree for every occasion.

To a novice, a saree is a saree, but I quickly learned there are everyday sarees, party sarees, and wedding sarees. To my untrained eye, it seemed the party sarees had more silver or gold threads woven into them compared to the “everyday” sarees people wore in the home.

A wedding saree is full of sparkly gorgeousness.

Designing the Blouse

Woven into the pallu end of a saree is an extra yard of coordinating fabric that is left there to make the matching blouse. Note the solid red fabric the employee is holding.

The blouse is made by a dressmaker, so our next stop after purchasing our sarees was to go to Studio AJ.

Avani is the talented owner and designer at Studio AJ. She meets with her clients and discusses blouse design and how they would like the cut-off end of the pallu to be finished.

The cut edge needs to be finished to keep it from fraying. The threads are typically tied into knots, but can also be embellished with beads.


Additionally, a “fall” is often sewn onto the hem. A fall is a stiff strip of cotton fabric sewn onto a 2½-yard portion of the saree’s hem, on the wrong side, to give the pleats a better-looking drape.

The Blouse. Our blouses buttoned in the front. The back side of the blouse is low-cut which looks very elegant. There are also ties on the back with pretty tassels that dangle as the woman walks. At Studio AJ the tassels are fabricated in the shop and can be quite decorative.

Blouses can be finished simply or elaborately as shown in the photo below where a seamstress is sewing on a golden decorative applique around the neckline.

Here is a photo two finished blouses. Notice the pretty tassels. They are made by covering styrofoam balls with matching fabric from the blouse.

When making blouses for weddings, the finishing requires a lot more handwork. In the photo below, the blouse fabric is stretched onto a frame to keep it taut while a finisher embellishes it with beads.

This blouse is being finished with pearls and beads in the Moghul style.

How to Put on a Saree

Step one is to put on a long petticoat that has a drawstring. The drawstring needs to be tied tightly as it is what holds up the “skirt” portion of the saree when it is wrapped around the waist. Sarees are usually 4 to 5 feet wide. The length of the “skirt” is adjusted by tucking the excess fabric into the petticoat’s waistband.

Here is a video of how a saree is wrapped and draped by a dresser at Mandir. The dresser arranged the center front pleats and pinched them together with a bulldog clip before she started dressing my beautiful daughter-in-law.

With each saree you try on in a store, the dresser puts it on for you. They usually take the extra fabric I mentioned (that is there for the blouse) and tuck it over your bare shoulder so you can see what the outfit will look like once the blouse is made.

Once you choose a saree and have the blouse, all that is left to figure out is what “ornaments” (aka, jewelry) you will wear with your saree. I am thankful to family members, Sadhana and Satish, for making sure I was well ornamented.

On the last night of our trip, we attended a party where the women all wore sarees. Even my husband got in on the shopping fun and wore the shirt he had made at The Gandhi Cottage Textile Factory while we were touring in Jaipur. Pictured with us are two of the many family members we came to know and love on our trip. If you are a follower of the blog, you may recognize Satish as the person who gave us a tour of his farm earlier in the day. As they say in America, “He sure cleans up well!”

This was the last photo we took in India before heading back home to America.

Related Posts:
Cooking 35,000 Meals a Day in a Sikh Kitchen in Delhi (India, Part 1)
Learning How to Block Print in a Factory in Jaipur (India, Part 2)
A Stepwell, Parcheesi, Brick-Making, and Chapati-Making (India, Part 3)
Room with a View: the Taj Mahal in Agra (India, Part 4)
A Cook’s Tour of a Farm in Southern India (India, Part 5)

If you enjoyed this post, please become a subscriber! Be sure to confirm the subscription on the follow-up letter sent to your email address.

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.