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January’s Easy & Squashy Chicken Parm by Meredith Griffin

January’s Easy & Squashy Chicken Parm by Meredith Griffin

Since it’s finally cooling off in New Orleans (that means days under 70°F), we’re finally in the mood for more warm, hearty dishes!

Italian is one of my favorite cuisines, so that’s usually where I get my inspiration. However, in an effort to keep the meal lighter I'm going to skip the pasta and opt for a baked chicken parmesan over spaghetti squash.

The goal is to deliver the coziness of a hearty meal, but with a couple simple tweaks we create a lower calorie dish. And to complete the meal I’m paring it with a glass of our 2016 Jewels of the Earth Merlot.


2 chicken breasts, pounded thinly

2 tsp Italian seasoning

Olive oil

1 small to medium spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed

1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

½ cup grated or about 2 of the larger Mozzarella Bocconcini’s sliced into medallions

1 cup Marinara sauce

Shallot, garlic clove and 8oz diced mushrooms, optional

Fresh basil, optional

Salt and pepper

To Prepare for two people:        

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F
  2. Prepare the squash by spraying it with oil and seasoning it with about 1 tsp of the Italian seasoning and a little salt. Place flesh down on a baking sheet. Bake at 400° for about 25-35 minutes until fork tender (the small one I cooked only took 25 minutes). Remove from the heat and set aside until cool enough to handle.
  3. While squash cooks, drizzle chicken with olive oil and season with the other tsp of Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Then sprinkle and pat Parmigiano-Reggiano on both sides of each piece of chicken. Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet lined with foil and spray rack with cooking spray. Place chicken on the rack.
  4. If using fresh mushrooms, shallot and garlic warm a medium pan over medium heat. Add a little olive oil to the pan and sauté shallot for about 3-4 minutes until translucent. Grate one garlic clove into the shallot, cook one more minute. Then add mushrooms and cook until softened. Add your preferred marinara to pan and let simmer.
  5. If not using shallot, garlic and mushrooms, simply pour your preferred marinara sauce in a medium pan and warm over medium-high heat.
  6. Once squash is done cooking, put chicken in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes. Remove and top each chicken breast with about 2 tbsp marinara and cover with mozzarella cheese. Put back in the oven and cook for about another 5 minutes until cheese is melted.*
  7. While chicken cooks, use a fork to remove squash from the shells. Toss with additional marinara sauce and divided between two plates.
  8. Top each plate of spaghetti squash with one chicken breast.
  9. Uncork the wine, pour two glasses and enjoy!

 *Internal temperature of chicken needs to reach 165°F

Why this wine pairing:

Although I generally believe that “what grows together goes together” and thus, would typically serve an Italian wine with an Italian dish, I’m pretty sure Italians would not classify this as a true Italian dish. Therefore, Jewels of the Earth Merlot gets my vote for this pairing!

Marinara sauce, because of its acid component, does not pair well with big tannic wines — like Cabernet Sauvignon. This Merlot has soft tannins along with bright fruit flavors that will complement the marinara, but it also has enough complexity and body to hold up to the flavors and hearty texture of this dish.


Holiday Brussel Sprouts Salad by Meredith Griffin

Holiday Brussel Sprouts Salad by Meredith Griffin

This recipe is inspired by one of my favorite salads I discovered many years ago in Phoenix, AZ before Brussels Sprouts were cool!

I’ve put my own spin on it by roasting the sprouts to bring out their flavor. You can add the dressing, but I’ve also just used just a little white balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The green Brussels with dried cranberries looks very festive for the Christmas season and it can act as a lighter dinner before a feast or as a side to your holiday meal.

I prefer this with a white wine like our Stormy Edges Chenin Blanc Viognier Blend or Beau Vigne, but if you add the pancetta or bacon, the Three Places Pinot Noir or other Pinot Noir will also pair well.


About 1lb of Brussel Sprouts, trimmed and sliced into thin slivers

About ¼ lb Manchego cheese

¼ cup Marcona almonds

¼ cup dried fruit (I use a combo of dried cherries, blueberries and cranberries but choose your favorites)

*Optional-1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked diced pancetta or bacon

For the Dressing

2 tbsp of Champagne vinegar

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp honey

¼ cup olive oil

Salt and pepper

How to Prepare

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Once the Brussels have been trimmed and sliced into thin rounds, toss them with about 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle of salt. Cook for about 20mins until browned and slightly crisped. (To crisp them up a little more you can turn the oven to broil and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes)
  3. Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, create slivers of Manchego cheese.
  4. Chop the Marcona almonds into smaller pieces.
  5. Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together.
  6. Once the Brussels are done cooking remove from oven, transfer to a bowl and let cool about 5 minutes. Toss with dressing if using and then top with cheese, almonds, dried fruit and pancetta/bacon if using.
  7. Uncork the wine and enjoy!

Smoky Pumpkin Soup by Meredith Griffin

Smoky Pumpkin Soup by Meredith Griffin

This recipe was inspired by the new partnership Major Crush has with the Orion Cooker, which is described an outdoor convection oven that imparts smoke flavor into the food. As I mentioned, my dad smokes a lot of foods and so I crave that aroma and flavor, but the Orion Cooker makes it possible for me to experience it with much less prep and cook time. It’s much less intimidating.

After smoking some squash on the cooker for a salad, I was inspired to try a smoky pumpkin soup to showcase a non-sweet pumpkin dish.

This recipe can be made on any smoker, just adjust the cooking time to your smoker and if you don’t have a smoker or an Orion Cooker, although I highly recommend them, you can add some smoke chips to an aluminum pie place or one of the smoker boxes you can buy at kitchen/BBQ stores.


  • 1 medium pie pumpkin, halved lengthwise and seeds scooped out
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 1-2tbsp combo of fresh sage, thyme and rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 3-4 cups vegetable broth
  • Dash of fresh grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinaigrette
  • Pepitas to top


  1. Smoke the pumpkin following the directions for your smoker or grill (It took about 45 minutes to cook one on the Orion Cooker).
  2. Cool and scoop out the flesh of the pumpkin.
  3. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add oil and shallot and cook for a couple minutes, then add garlic and herbs and cook until soft. (If more moisture is needed add a splash of the vegetable broth.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Add pumpkin, diced apple vegetable, broth and onion mixture to a blender and puree until smooth.
  6. Return sauté pan, add salt, pepper, nutmeg and bring to simmer.
  7. Like wine, the longer the soup can sit to allow the flavors to blend together, the more integrated the soup will be.
  8. Add a splash of vinegar and top with pepitas and/or dollop of Greek yogurt if desired before serving.
  9. Pair with the The Three Places Pinot Noir or Volante Zinfandel.
Watch our video for this recipe here.