Mini Strawberry Ice Cream Cups

IMG_0086When I was younger, chocolate was the only flavor ice cream that existed in my little world. I never dreamed in a million years that I would ever even consider vanilla, maple walnut, butter pecan, chocolate chip, or strawberry. I can remember going to birthday parties over the years, and they would serve Neapolitan. Do you remember Neapolitan? That beautiful chocolate ice cream, desecrated by vanilla and strawberry… it was truly sacrilege in my little mind…and I didn’t even know what sacrilege meant.

That all ended the minute I tried homemade ice cream. I mean, it tastes real, you know? …And that’s because it is real.

The real deal.

IMG_1869Why did it take me all my life to taste fresh homemade ice cream? While it’s a shame that all of those years have been wasted…you can be sure that I’ll be making up for those years now..

Starting with strawberry… We’re almost into strawberry season, and I thought it would be nice to bring in the season with this fresh strawberry ice cream.

It’s sweet.
It’s creamy.
It’s strawberry-ie.
It’s delicious.

And it’s so darn easy to make, I really don’t have to go back to store bought again. Ok, I probably will, but I know that I don’t have to if I don’t want to!

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I’m heading over to Angie’s Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener with my strawberry ice cream… and thought that you might enjoy the ice cream in mini chocolate cups, topped with toasted marshmallow, and then topped off with fresh strawberries.

Mini ice cream cups.
Perfect!

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A special thank you to Angie for hosting Fiesta Friday #18. I can’t believe that it’s been 18 weeks already! I’ve missed the last couple Fridays, and can’t tell you how happy I am to be back! I’ve missed  you…Terribly.

This week, Angie has asked  Mr Fitz from Cooking with Mr Fitz, along with Justine from Eclectic odds n sods  to co-host, and it should be a wonderful time! A special thank you to both Mr Fitz and Justine…I know that they’ll be the perfect hosts for this wonderful party! I hope that you stop by and join the party…it’s always a good time, and everyone always has something wonderful to share! Just click on the link to the right, and it will take you right to the party!

LIfe is good…it’s a “Homemade strawberry ice cream is good, but homemade strawberry ice cream in mini chocolate cups with toasted marshmallows on top is just the bomb”…kind of good…

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Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

1 quart fresh strawberries, reserving about four strawberries for the topping
2 cups heavy cream
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Seed from 1/2 vanilla bean

Mini chocolate dessert cups
Large marshmallows, each sliced into thirds

Chocolate curls for garnish
Blueberries for garnish

Heat the heavy cream, vanilla seeds, and salt in a medium size saucepan until it just begins to boil.

While the heavy cream mixture is heating, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until light and fluffy. Once the heavy cream mixture has come to a boil, begin making the custard by whisking the heated heavy cream into the egg yolk mixture until completely blended.

Pour the custard mixture into a double boiler, and cook until thickened, or until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Pour through a sieve to remove any lumps that might have formed. Cool completely in the refrigerator, at least 8 hours.

After it is completely cooled, pour the custard into the ice cream machine and begin churning according to the machine’s directions.

While the custard is churning, crush the strawberries, and drain them in a colander. When the custard becomes the texture of whipped cream, add the drained strawberries to the ice cream machine. Continue to churn until it is complete. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer container, and place in freezer until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, scoop the ice cream with a cookie scoop to form a ball, and add to the chocolate dessert cups. Place a slice of marshmallow on top of each, and torch the marshmallow with a kitchen torch until melted and browned. Top with chopped strawberries, chocolate curls, and blueberries.

Serve immediately and Enjoy!!

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Writing Process Blog Tour

Life is good…it’s a “sometimes it’s not about the recipes, but the people you meet behind the scenes” kind of good…

I decided to start with my “Life is Good….” instead leaving it for the end…as I thought it was truly fitting for this post.

writingI was contacted about two weeks ago by the lovely Dimple, from Shivaay Delights, to join her in what is called the Writing Process Blog Tour. It took me a matter of seconds to know that I wanted to be a part of such a fun tour…So I immediately accepted! I’m thrilled that Dimple thought of me, and am grateful to be given this opportunity.

This tour is supposed to be about the introduction of bloggers, and what we are working on at the moment. I decided to take it one step further, and in the next few days, share something from Dimple who has introduced me… and then in the next week or two, share something from the three bloggers who/whom (Forgive my bad grammar, I really stink at the who/whom thing) I will be introducing…

In my true fashion, I have to digress for a second….. Speaking of my poor grammar…

My father is a stickler for proper grammar; and throughout my childhood (and still today), he would often correct me. I had to be about 10 years old at the time, and I started a very bad habit of saying the word “ain’t”. Now, this was way before Mr. Webster added “ain’t” to his dictionary..

And most likely, my father had corrected me numerous times…and finally lost his temper….
“You will write: ‘I will never say “ain’t” again’ five hundred times”. He announced after he caught me saying it yet again.

So, I sat all day writing “I will never say “ain’t” again”… 499 times. And the very last sentence, number 500, I wrote: “I ain’t gonna say “ain’t” no more”…

Don’t you know… he found that darn sentence!! I mean; what the heck? Did he read every single one? He must have!! Because… as he should have (which I disagreed at the time, and I honestly wondered where the humanity was..) he made me write it all out all over again!! To this day, you will not hear me saying the word “ain’t”..unless of course, I’m joking around with someone! Just please, whatever you do, don’t tell my papa if you ever hear me say it!!

I’m a little smarter now (not much), and the next time he makes me write it out, I’ll stick my ‘improper sentence’ at line 258, or something like that! Eh, who am I kidding? He’d still catch me!

And now, the Writing Process Blog Tour:

DImple , Shivaay Delights 

1966899_10202564522811669_7194486181960797524_nOur lovely Dimple (Click on her photo to visit Shivaay Delights) is such a beautiful soul, and her blog truly reflects that. The love of her family is the foundation of each and every post, and it truly shines with every single meal she prepares. Her blog is actually written in loving memory of her aunt, who, there is no doubt left a lasting and loving impression on Dimple.

She is a master of both cooking and baking. It amazes me how a person can be both a cook and a baker, but Dimple truly is. The meals and treats that Dimple produces from her kitchen always spark a “Yum” out of me when I’m reading her posts!

One in particular that really had me saying “Yum!” was her Cheese, Cauliflower, and Broccoli Patties. I knew that it would be a matter of a couple of days before I tried them….and I have to say, they are fabulous! I hope that they invokes a “Yum!” out of you, and you will give it a try within a matter of days!

I know that once you visit Shivaay Delights, you’ll fall in love with Dimple just as I have… She is truly a joy.

My Writing Process..

I think the biggest thing that I’m working on now, is trying to find a balance between Life-Life, Work-Life, and Blog-Life. I never realized what was in store for me when the very first time I hit that “publish” button. I know that every other blogger out there can attest that there is a definite hesitation before you really do hit that button for the very first time….and quite frankly…many, many more times after that.

Even today, I still hesitate before I publish. I want to make sure that I have all of my I’s dotted, and T’s crossed (You know… grammar and all. I think my father reads my posts, and I just don’t have time to write out another 500 sentences!). And of course, I want to make sure that I haven’t said anything that might be taken the wrong way, to the point in which I might offend anyone.

On that first day, I knew that I was putting myself out there…making myself vulnerable for so many things such as criticism, disapproval, ridicule…and the worst of all… that nobody would notice me…that I’d be writing to zero people. What I didn’t expect was the flood of people to welcome me into the blogging community, and the support of many, MANY bloggers who would almost instantly become my friends.

And now I find myself working on my own blog, the cooking, the photography, the writing, the publishing, and replying to the most wonderful comments… but also trying to keep up with all of my friends blogs as well.

There is no doubt that it’s overwhelming at times…
But there is no doubt that I’m having the time of my life with this blog.
I love sharing the passion of cooking and food with everyone.

And I can’t tell you how much you, my readers, and my supporters… are loved and appreciated.

One of the questions for this tour is “How does my work differ from others of its genre?” I can’t say that my work is any different from anyone else. There are thousands of food bloggers in this community, and although we come from different cultures, or have different food preferences, we all strive for the same thing…to share our love of food and recipes with snippets of our lives in between.

The next question is why do I write what I do…. It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to you in person, or if I’m typing to you on a computer…. I wear my heart on my sleeve. You will always know when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m angry or frustrated (see the Squeaky Wheel). I try to fit my personality and whatever happens to be going on in my life, or in the world at that particular moment.

And finally… my actual writing process… I guess that part comes easy to me. I tend to be a rambler (I know….there’s a surprise…). As I’m preparing a recipe that I’m planning on posting, I start thinking about how it pertains to my life, right at that moment. It might be as easy as Michael walking into the kitchen asking what I’m cooking, and then announcing that he’s not going to eat that….or it might be as easy as a memory of the three hour cooking classes that I love to take up in Ontario, Canada.

It’s kind of funny, I have a drawer in my kitchen in which I throw my ideas into. They’re all over sticky notes, backs of envelopes and whatever little scrap of paper I could find at the moment. When an idea pops into my head, I grab the nearest piece of paper, jot it down, and throw it into the drawer! When I’m struggling to come up with something for the blog, I simply open the drawer! There are times when I look at my notes and think… “What on earth was I thinking??”…but most of them will eventually get posted!

I usually have my laptop sitting right there on my island as I’m preparing the recipe. When a thought or feeling comes to me, I’ll stop and type it out on a document. I guess you can call that my outline of sorts.. and then later on, after all of the photos have been taken, it all just seems to come together.

There are seldom times that I might sit and stare at a blank document for an hour or so until inspiration hits, but as soon as I have two or three sentences typed, the rest just flows, and I find myself typing, and typing, and typing some more! Before I know it, I’ve filled two or three pages of the document!

Again… I ramble. But you already knew that!

Introductions….

I’d like to introduce three lovely people (in no particular order) who have become a big part of my blogging life…

Suzanne, A Pug in the Kitchen 

square_225First up is, lovely Suzanne (Click on her photo to visit A Pug in the Kitchen), from A Pug in the Kitchen … Suzanne was one of the first few people to welcome me into the blogging community…and honestly… never missed a beat commenting on my posts. I truly look up to Suzanne, and want to be just like her someday… She tends to share much about what’s going on in her life and in her neighborhood, just like I do.

She is a true humanitarian…always looking out for others in need, and such a caring and kindhearted person. When Suzanne is not looking out for others in need, or taking care of her pugs, Izzy and Nando….she is whipping something up, and tempting us with so many delights from her kitchen. One of her recipes that really stands out to me is her award winning Whipped Chocolate Caramel Ganache. Yeah, I’m going to try my hand at that one…. I know, I know… I can’t bake to save my life… but with Suzanne’s winning recipe, I think I’ll be ok! Stay tuned!

In the meantime, stop by and say hello to Suzanne…. You will know exactly what I’m talking about as soon as you read her blog. I know you will love her. I do.

Nancy, Nancy Creative

aboutphoto-10croppedbw6Next up is lovely Nancy (Click on her photo to visit Nancy Creative) from Nancy Creative. Nancy is truly an inspiration…

Now here is a lady who does it all. I’m serious. This amazing lady is a photographer. She cooks. She bakes. She does crafts. You just never know what Nancy will be posting next, and I love that. If you are ever in need of some sunshine…just tune into Nancy’s blog… She shares the most uplifting posts that will have you walking away smiling, whether it be a scripture, quote, photograph or a recipe such as an absolutely delicious chocolate chip banana bread…

Yes, it was a week ago or so when I was flipping through Pinterest to find a chocolate chip banana bread recipe. One caught my eye, and I clicked on it, and guess whose recipe it was? Yep..Nancy’s! So I made it last Sunday, and I’m not kidding when I say that it lasted a matter of five minutes after I was finished taking photos! It was so moist, and so delicious…I just knew that I’d be sharing it with you…so stay tuned!

While you’re waiting for that post…stop by Nancy’s blog for a little sunshine. You will love her…just like I do.

Janelle, Bakes in Slippers

1959989_10202764785992862_1198519691_nAnd finally….my very new friend, lovely Janelle (Click on her photo to visit Bakes in Slippers) from Bakes in Slippers. How cute is her blog’s name? I just love it! I actually stumbled across Janelle on Twitter, stopped by her blog to see what there is to see…and was totally blown away. Her photos are crazy beautiful…and her recipes? Well, they’re fabulous. I mean professional quality fabulous. This girl is going places…quickly. Seriously.

And then on top of her fabulousness…. Janelle has a heart that is bigger than her body. The love for her family is evident as I watch her posts on Facebook, as she shares her daughter’s milestone in graduation. Her dedication and support to her fellow bloggers is above and beyond..

One of Janelle’s recipes that just stood out to me recently, was her Cucumber and Sesame Seed Salad. I don’t know, with summer quickly approaching, I had this strong urge to go and buy the ingredients to make it. I’m glad I did… stay tuned!!

So, before I post that lovely cucumber salad, why not stop by her blog, and get blown away? I’m just happy to know Janelle, and when you visit her blog, you’ll understand why I fell instantly in love with this girl.

Thanks again to Dimple for sharing this tour with me, it’s been a pleasure introducing you to four wonderful bloggers who I look up to, and I’m honored to call my friends.

Affairs of the Eggplant: Eggplant Parm for One

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My kids did not inherit my love of tomatoes. It saddens me, because I think about all of the meals that I could prepare for us…if… only they would love tomatoes. So, there are times when I’m home alone, I make myself some sort of pasta with fresh tomatoes. It’s a special treat for me (both the quiet and the food). Sometimes I’ll make it with mushrooms, sometimes with zucchini, and sometimes, with eggplant. All of the things that I love, but Mike and Jess hate.

And while she’s not fond of tomatoes, Katie did inherit my love of mushrooms, zucchini, and eggplant. I mean, she LOVES them all! So, this week, my beloved Wegmans had a beautiful display of gorgeous eggplants (aubergines). I couldn’t pass them up, that beautiful purple color just pulled me in. I knew immediately that I’d be making an eggplant parm for one, and thought I would be the best mom if I called Katie to come and pick it up after I was finished photographing it. I knew that she wouldn’t mind the tomatoes too, too much…especially when I told her that it was eggplant.

That didn’t happen.
I’m not the best mom as of this moment.
Because I ate it.
All of it.

I could have made more.
But I didn’t.

I’m sorry Kate.
I owe you one.

I’m expecting an angry text…
Right about…
…Now!

And now that I’ve aired the wrongs against my eldest daughter….I want to talk about how easy it is to prepare one serving, so Kate can make her own (although I will make her some soon)… especially now that we all know that I just cannot be trusted when it comes to affairs of the eggplant.

An affair with eggplant parm and fresh cherry tomato sauce..

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I like to make a fresh tomato sauce with cherry tomatoes. It’s such a quick and easy sauce…one of my favorite go-to sauces when I’m making a meal for just me…one pint of cherry tomatoes is the perfect serving size. And…depending on my particular tomatoey mood for that day, I’ll either leave it chunky, or toss it all in my mini processor to make it smooth. I left it chunky for this meal. I’ll throw it on pasta, rice, even over a fried egg… it truly makes a delicious…and completely satisfies that craving that I have for all of those delicious things that my family won’t eat!

There is something about throwing a pint of tomatoes into a pan of sautéed onions and garlic…I’m totally in my happy zone when I’m listening to them sizzle and burst as they give up the last of their firmness, and begin to cook down to a sauce, and that’s when I grab the potato masher and start mashing them down to sauce. A good 20 minutes of simmering, and you have a wonderful sauce!

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And then there is that age old question…. Tomato skins, or no tomato skins?

When I’m making a sauce from cherry tomatoes, I just leave the skins on. I think that with cherry tomatoes, the skin is hardly noticeable, it so tender, that I just don’t think it’s worth the effort to peel each small tomato. Now if you were planning on using larger tomatoes, then yes…I would definitely get rid of the skin, as it tends to curl up and become a little of an unpleasant texture that is still edible, but not palatable.

The best part of this recipe is that one eggplant will usually make four meals for me. So I’ll prepare one meal, and then freeze the rest of the eggplant for another two or three meals!

Life is good…. It’s a “cherry tomato sauce…and all of my favorite things…on a quiet evening” kind of good…

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Eggplant Parm for One
(or two, or three, or four)

Just a quick note: The measurements for the sauce are for one serving, while the eggplant is a generous four servings. If you want to make this four servings, just quadruple the sauce! Or if just for one, cook the whole eggplant, and then freeze it (two slices at a time with waxed paper in between them) for the next time you’re anticipating a quiet evening for one!

The pasta that I used for this was DeCecco Linguine Fini. It’s one of my favorite pastas, but you use your preferred pasta! For one serving, use about a quarter coin size (maybe a little smaller) serving of dry.

The Eggplant:
1 medium eggplant
1 cup flour
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp white pepper
2 tsp salt
¼ tsp cayenne
3 eggs, whisked
2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Romano cheese
¼ cup butter
2 tbsp olive oil
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced into 8ths.

Cut the eggplant into eight slices.

Mix the flour, garlic powder, black pepper, white pepper, salt, and cayenne in a bowl that is large enough to dip the eggplant slices in. Whisk the eggs in another bowl that is large enough to dip the eggplant slices in. Mix the breadcrumbs and Romano cheese in a third bowl.

Dip each eggplant slice first into the egg on both sides. Then dip into the flour, making sure that the flour is coated well on both sides. Dip it back into the egg on both sides…. And then into the breadcrumbs, making sure that it’s coated nicely on both sides.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add each slice of eggplant, and fry until golden brown. Place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Add one slice of mozzarella on top of each eggplant slice, and bake at 350 degrees for ½ hour to 45 minutes, or until the cheese has browned, and the eggplant has softened.

The Cherry Tomato Sauce:
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (Hey, it’s a dinner for one, there is no kissing planned!)
1 small onion, roughly chopped
¼ to ½ tsp crushed red pepper
Fresh basil. I usually just grab a handful and roughly chop. If I had to guesstimate… I would say maybe ¼ cup chopped.
2 tbsp olive oil

One serving of pasta, cooked according to directions on the box
Fresh chopped Basil for garnish
Fresh grated parmesan for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a medium frying pan, and add the onions, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Sauté on medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the cherry tomatoes, whole. Let simmer on low heat.

After about 10 minutes, you’ll hear the tomatoes sizzle, and begin to burst. When they start to look really wrinkled, take your potato masher, and mash them down. Cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes, or until they have cooked down to a chunky sauce. Add the basil and cook for a few more minutes. At this point, you can either leave the sauce chunky, or carefully put it in a food processor to make it smooth.

Cook the pasta according to directions on the box. Make a nest of the cooked pasta in a pasta bowl or dish, and stack 2 slices of eggplant in the middle of the pasta. Top with the cherry tomato sauce, sprinkle with chopped fresh basil, and freshly grated parmesan cheese.

So easy….So delicious! Enjoy!!

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Homemade Strawberry Pop Tarts

IMG_1395I admit to going a little overboard when I’m out grocery shopping. I’ve mentioned a few times how pretty displays throughout the store pull me in, and before I know it, both my shopping cart and mind are filled with ingredients and ideas for said ingredients.

And that’s all well and good, as long as those groceries aren’t perishable…and then I’m scrambling to use them up before they go bad..

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I found myself with about three quarts of strawberries in the refrigerator last week, and decided to make a quick jam. I do love fresh jam, especially when it’s still warm, and I have some warm biscuits to slather it on.

I didn’t have biscuits.

Anyway… while the jam was cooking on the stove, I thought, “Shoot, I should have made a strawberry pie..” And then I thought…it’s not too late… I could make pop tarts instead!

I threw Aunt Linda’s pie crust together (honestly, if you haven’t tried this pie crust recipe, you need to. It will be your “go to” recipe forever) and in no time, had pop tarts thrown together and cooling on a baking rack!

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Of course, my finicky Boy (who is my son Mike…I call him Boy) comes walking through the kitchen:

“What are you making?” he asks.
“Strawberry Pop Tarts” I answer.
“Don’t ask me to be your taste tester” he replies.
“There’s a surprise” I respond.
“You know I like chocolate” he said.
“It’s not always about you..” I reply.

Funny…I’m sure you know it…and especially he knows that that couldn’t be further from the truth….but I should mention that he isn’t a little boy that I’m talking to like that…he will be 19 next Sunday…and he is usually deserving of a wise-ass comment from me… which I might add will usually end up with him picking me up and throwing me into the kitchen sink and turning the faucet on…

Ahh…the love of a mother and her son. There is nothing like it. I love my kids more than life itself, and they all know it. You can be sure that I’ll be making those chocolate pop tarts very soon for the little jerk (said lovingly, of course), and maybe, just maybe, for that day, I won’t have to change my wet pants from being thrown in the sink…

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Anyway…back to the strawberry pop-tarts. Jess just happened to come walking into the kitchen, during the conversation between boy and me.

“Mmm” she says.
“Thank you for that” I respond, giving boy the “look”.
“You want to go in the sink?” he threatens..

Jess picks one up, and takes a bite…and said that I should make them again, “These are really good”…

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And they were. I was surprised that they weren’t huge ordeal to throw them together. What made me really happy was that the crust remained flaky, yet firm enough to be able to pick them up and eat, the jam was perfectly gooey, not runny at all, and a quick royal icing sealed the deal.

A perfect treat for kids of all ages… except for boy, who only wants chocolate.

Life is good..it’s a “too many strawberries in the fridge make for delicious pop-tarts” kind of good..

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Homemade Strawberry Pop Tarts
Makes Six Pop Tarts

Just a quick note: This jam is made with pectin. I know..I’m cheating… but it comes in handy to make a quick jam when the mood strikes!

Create a rectangle template from cardboard 3-1/4″ x 5-14″

Strawberry Jam:
1-1/2 cups crushed strawberries
1-1/2 tbsp pectin (such as Sure Jell)
1-2/3 cup granulated sugar

Combine the strawberries and pectin in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Add the sugar and continue to stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring back to a boil, and boil for one minute. Remove from heat, and let cool.

Aunt Linda’s Pie Crust:
2 cups flour
1 cup shortening
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
1 tbsp vinegar

In a small bowl, mix the milk and vinegar together.  Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, blend the flour, shortening, and salt together until mixture is in pea size crumbles. Pour the milk and vinegar mixture into the flour mixture and stir.   The dough will be sticky.

Roll out on a generously floured surface, kind of on the thicker side. Lay your template on the dough, and cut out as many rectangles as you can with the first roll out. Repeat rolling and cutting out rectangles until you have 12 rectangles.

Give a cookie sheet a spritz of vegetable spray, and place as many rectangles on the sheet that you can. I was able to fit four.

Spoon some strawberry jam on to each rectangle, filling it to about 1/2” from the edge. Place another rectangle on top, pressing down around the edges with your finger. Crimp around the edges with a fork.

Bake at 350” about 1/2 hour, or until golden brown. Remove from oven, and cool completely on a cooling rack.

Frost with royal icing, and sprinkle with decorating sugar.

Quick Royal Icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp meringue powder
2 tbsp water

Combine the powdered sugar, meringue powder, and water in a medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer for about 12 minutes or until stiff peaks form.

Enjoy!

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Wine Jello Shots with Strawberries | Fiesta Friday #15!

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There is a restaurant in Buffalo that is the epitome of gaudy, especially at Christmastime. Seriously. If you looked the word “gaudy” up in the dictionary, you’d see the photos of these places as the definition.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m not using the word “gaudy” in a bad way. I just mean, it’s not my style, which is why I call it gaudy, but I guess in reality, it’s quite grandeur…unless you’re me, then it’s gaudy…but that doesn’t stop me from dining there!

The owner has his vintage cars on display outside of the restaurant behind glass. There are statues everywhere. I’m sure that there are fountains, but there is so much to take in, you just cannot remember everything that is there. The owner actually has requested permission from the city to build a mausoleum in front of his restaurant so that he can be buried there when his time here on earth has ended. You know.. His demise. When he kicks the bucket. Croaks.

And honestly? I wouldn’t be surprised to find a wax figure of him standing inside the restaurant someday after “that” happens.  Let’s just pray that it’s a wax figure…Shudders…

You’re probably wondering if the food is good. Yes. It is. But it isn’t memorable, and I blame that on the showcase that he has going on there. I know I enjoy the food when I’m eating it, but the only memory that lingers on after we leave is the over the top display.

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So, I’ve been waiting all week for Fiesta Friday to get here. I had these delusions of grandeur to make jello shots to share with you. Yep. I used them both in the same sentence… grandeur and jello shots!

Lily Tomlin once said: “Delusions of grandeur make me feel a lot better about myself”… which for me, was my perfect excuse to get away with making jello shots for Fiesta Friday…. But really, is it the delusions of grandeur that make me feel better about myself, or am I so delusional to think that I can get away with grandeur and jello shots in the same sentence??

I don’t need to be delusional to know that jello shots can be sophisticated…

When I mentioned jello shots for my blog to Katie, she was like “Mom, that seems a little trashy…” …and I asked: “What if I made them sophisticated?” She kind of laughed: “Jello shots sophisticated? I don’t know about that…” And after I explained to her what I had in mind, she replied: “Challenge accepted..”

I know that this type of dessert has been around for ages. I also know that this particular one has probably been made a thousand different ways. I always choose to not search the internet for recipes like this…I’d rather do it on my own.

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In my mind, a pretty jello shot made from wine, with some of that sour cream filling from seven layer jello dessert. I thought that it would be pretty to top it off with more fruit, whipped cream, and then a fanned strawberry.

To be honest with you, I’ve never had a jello shot in my life! These little wine shots were my first, and definitely not my last.

They are so delicious! As a matter of fact, Jessica was walking through the kitchen, and I handed one to her to try. She made that involuntary “Mmmm” sound.. so I grabbed a spoon and took a bite from her glass… Oh yeah.. It really was “Mmmm” worthy!! When I went to grab another spoonful, she pulled her glass protectively toward her, and said “Get your own!!”. Right then and there I knew that it was a winner.

The problem was, that they were gaudy. Like that restaurant’s gaudy. Even though I love a million flavors going on at the same time… there was just way too much going on cosmetically (See the photo below).  I was so uncomfortable with they way they looked. I didn’t like the fruit in the jello part. While I loved the taste of the sour cream filling with the wine jello, I didn’t like the way it looked with this particular wine jello shot. That’s not to say that it will never be used again, because there are more wine jello shots in the future now! The whipped cream look ok, but that fanned strawberry? Oh Prudence… that’s so 1995… I did, however, like the fruit on top.

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There is really nothing about me that is gaudy. You won’t find chandeliers in my house, or brocade designs, or even gilded vases. I’m more of a simple kind of girl. Simple to me is tasteful. But that is me. Simple. It shouldn’t be any different with the food that I prepare. I mean, “simple” IS my tagline.

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So, I went back to work, and made a very simple jello wine shot, one that would be memorable for it’s taste alone… not for the way that it looked.

Simple.
Wine and strawberries. Perfect.
Simple Sophistication.

I also want to mention the wonderful grapey scent that just wafts from them.. it’s just another one of those “close your eyes and savor the moment” kind of thing…you know…that happy place we all love to be…

I’m so pleased with these little wine jello shots. This is a dessert that I would happily serve to all of you… my most honored guests. Which is why I’m bringing this simple wine jello shot to Angie’s Fiesta Friday…

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This week Angie has asked Jhuls from The Not So Creative Cook (she is complete opposite of her blog’s name!!), and Selma, from Selma’s Table to host Fiesta Friday #15! I adore both of these girls… they bring the most beautiful recipes to the table week after week… along with wonderful stories that always make me smile. There is no doubt in my mind that you will love them as much as I do… especially Selma’s Asparagus and Feta Cigars (I know, right?) Fabulous, Creative, and so Delicious!! Jhuls brought the most delicious muffins I’ve ever seen… and you have to read her post. It’s the cutest thing, guaranteed to bring some sunshine to your day!

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And Angie…what can I say about Angie that most of you don’t already know? This lady unselfishly gives herself, her time, and her blog, The Novice Gardener (Novice…hardly)…to us every week for Fiesta Friday… and on top of that, creates the most beautiful works of culinary art that we have ever seen.

I hope that if you are new to reading my blog, that you’ll stop by Fiesta Friday to meet Angie, Jhuls, and Selma…and all of the other wonderful bloggers who have given their time to share their beautiful ideas with you. If you are a blogger…you are most welcome to link up with us, and join this wonderful community of the most supportive and loving bloggers…I just know that Angie would welcome you with open arms!

Life is good, it’s the “simple things that make you happy” kind of good…

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Wine Jello Shots with Strawberries

Just a quick note: This is so easy, very few ingredients, and so simple to make… but yet, it’s dessert that will really “wow!!” your guests! It’s also a perfect refreshing snack for a warm summer’s evening… feet up, relaxed mode, watching the fireflies work their magic…

I used six 7oz mini dessert cups for this recipe. I found them on Amazon, and they’re called Circleware “Samba”.

2 cups sweet white wine (or red, your preference)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2- 1oz envelopes unflavored gelatin

1 quart fresh strawberries (or your fruit of choice)
1 tbsp granulated sugar

Whipped Cream (Optional)

In a small saucepan, bring the 2 cups of wine and sugar to a boil, until the sugar has dissolved. Shut the heat off, and whisk the two envelopes of unflavored gelatin into the wine until it is completely dissolved. Pour 1/3 cup of the wine mixture into each cup. There will be a little leftover in the pan, and you can just divide it among the six cups.

Chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two.

While the wine is chilling, cut the strawberries into small bite size pieces. Mix with the sugar. Refrigerate until ready to use.

When the wine is set into gelatin, and just before you are ready to serve, spoon the strawberries over the wine jello, and if you desire, top with whipped cream.

That’s it!! Simple!! Enjoy!!

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Maple Bacon Streusel Muffins with Maple Bourbon Glaze

I have a question…it’s really an age old question….
Why does the squeaky wheel always get the grease?

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Honestly, I’m really trying to figure this one out. All of the other wheels don’t have a problem doing their thing…so they don’t squeak at all. They wouldn’t even think of squeaking because they are decent, hard-working wheels. But yet, they don’t get grease. My question is…. Why don’t they get grease? Don’t they deserve the grease too?

Unfortunately, there is no more grease to be had at the moment.
That’s because the squeaky wheel just got greased.
Once again.

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In a perfect world, the farmer would get rid of the squeaky wheel.

But, in the real world, squeaky wheels cannot be gotten rid of so easily. Why? Well… because they’re squeaky. Try to get rid of them, and they get squeakier.

Better yet, in a perfect world, there would be no squeaky wheel at all. Daily life would be peaceful… squeak free…

But, in the real world, there are squeakers all around us..and we have to deal with them, but figure out a way to find a happy balance.

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My remedy for that is to bake muffins. Maple bacon streusel muffins with maple bourbon glaze, to be exact. With a little extra shot of bourbon on the side for the cook!! That always does the trick..and very soon, that squeaky wheel just might be forgotten… Ok, I exaggerate… not forgotten… because they never let us forget they’re there… but tolerated.

Until the next time…when the squeaks start again.
And we know that they will..

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I was so pleased with the way these muffins turned out..each bite so moist, with smoky bacon and nutty pecans… cinnamon and brown sugar…all mingled with that sweet bourbon and maple glaze.

As you know…I’m not a baker… can’t bake to save my life…but I used the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook recipe, and I changed it up to suit my style… I also found some pointers from The Kitchen Whisperer and she said that the best way to get nicely domed muffins is to spray the top of the muffin pan with cooking spray, fill the liners to the top with batter, and bake them for the first few minutes at 425 degrees and then drop the temperature to 350 degrees for another six to ten minutes.   It really worked! The muffins came out with nicely rounded tops, perfectly baked…

Who knows? Maybe there is hope for me as a baker after all…

So…in the end.. who really needs the grease when there is a plate of these muffins  sitting on the counter?
Not me.
Let the squeakers have the grease, and enjoy a maple bacon streusel muffin instead.

Life is good…it’s a “The squeaky wheel can keep the grease, because a maple bacon streusel muffin with maple bourbon glaze is so, SO much better…” kind of good…

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Maple Bacon Streusel Muffins with Maple Bourbon Glaze
Makes 14 Muffins

Streusel:
6 tbsp all purpose flour
6 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp maple syrup
6 tbsp chopped walnuts or pecans
4 slices crispy bacon, chopped

In a small bowl, mix the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, nuts, and bacon until well combined. Set aside.

Muffins:
3  cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
2 beaten eggs
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and place the oven rack to the upper third part of the oven.

Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray, and line with paper liners.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt together. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it is course crumbs.

Stir eggs and buttermilk into the dry/butter mixture just until moist.  The batter will be lumpy.  Spoon into the prepared muffin tins, filling each about halfway full of batter. Sprinkle some of the streusel onto the batter. Top with the remaining batter, filling the liner to about 1/8” from the top. Yes. Really fill it that full.  It will be ok! Sprinkle the tops with the remaining streusel.

If there are empty muffin cups, fill them with water. Seriously, do it. I never used to, but The Kitchen Whisperer said to do it, and it really helped!  I know, if the Kitchen Whisperer said to jump off the Empire State Building, would I?  After taking her advice on how to bake muffins, yes, I think I would… well, maybe strapped to a bungee… oh who am I kidding?  I’d be scared to death to jump.  Just forget the jumping part, and fill the empty cups with water… it really does work..

Bake at 425 degrees for about 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees (Do not open the oven door at this point!) Continue to bake the muffins for another 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean..don’t confuse the streusel on the toothpick for raw batter.

Cool in muffin tin for 2 minutes, but no longer so that the muffins don’t get soggy in the pan. Cool completely on cooling rack. Drizzle with maple bourbon glaze.

Maple Bourbon Glaze:
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp bourbon
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp melted butter

In a medium mixing bowl, mix the powdered sugar, milk, bourbon, maple syrup, salt, and melted butter with a hand mixer until smooth. If necessary, add more milk to make it the drizzling consistency that you prefer.

Enjoy!!

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Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Rice and Dirty Agua Fresca… Happy Cinco de Mayo!

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I’ve been thinking about joining in on the Cinco de Mayo fun, and post something really fiesta-ish…but what to make? EveryBODY has done EveryTHING imaginable to prepare for tomorrow’s celebration, so anything I made would have been done already…nothing new…but I knew that if I was going to post anything, it was going to be fish tacos. So then I thought, “Eh, I just won’t post anything..” But then I thought…”Why not post something, even if it’s been done a bazillion times already?…Just do what you do, and it will be okay… “

And so I did…
I did what I do…
And it was more than okay…

I’m sure that fish tacos have been around forever, especially in the coastal areas of Mexico…but I think that the fish tacos that we are familiar with today, are more Americanized… or should I say Baja California-ized? There are so many variations of fish tacos…and it seems that I love them all. I can’t go to a restaurant without zeroing in on them, and everything else seems to disappear on the menu. And each time, I proclaim that that particular taco, at that particular time is my most favorite.

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So I had to decide what kind I wanted to talk about tonight, and I thought maybe something on the lighter side, a no nonsense type of taco. A simple grilled cod taco, with a green tomato salsa, cilantro lime rice, and a dirty agua fresca to drink. I know… dirty? Yes. Dirty. Perfect.

Can agua frescas be dirty?
Well…now they can!
Should agua frescas be dirty?
Oh yes… yes they should!!

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Seriously though, I’m totally into dirty drinks now. I tend to go through phases..and it just so happens that I now want everything muddled, shaken, and not strained. Thank you Ryan.

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Back to the taco… I was thinking about a green tomato salsa, and found the prettiest green tomato at my beloved Wegmans. It had just a hint of pink on it, and for the purpose of cosmetic delight only, I bought it. I love how it looks in this salsa!!

I am a firm believer that avocados belong in a taco..no ifs and or buts… cilantro and jalapeños just go with the territory… celery added a wonderful crunch.. needless to say, this salsa was perfectly light to go with the cod. It wasn’t over powering, which was perfect, so that the fish could still be the star of this show.

And it was.
A delicious fish taco.

Life is good… it’s a “starting out unsure about posting yet another fish taco, but truly glad I did, while I drink a dirty kind of drink…” kind of good..

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Fish Tacos
Makes 4 6” tacos

1 lb Cod filet
Salt and Pepper
Old Bay Blackened Seasoning
Olive oil

4 – Six inch flour tortillas
Vegetable oil

1/2 Avocado, cut into small chunks

Prepare your grill (if you don’t plan to cook on the grill, that’s ok. This can be cooked on the stovetop too!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the tortilla cups, brush both sides of each tortilla. Mold each cup by fitting it into a small tartlet pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, and remove from tartlet pan. Place on grill for a few minutes to char the edges. Remove from grill and set aside.

Rub the cod filet with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, and blackened seasoning. Place fish on grill (using a grilling pan or cedar plank if you prefer), and cook until flaky..about four minutes on each side. Remove from grill.

Divide the fish between the four tortilla cups. Serve with green tomato salsa, avocado, and cilantro lime rice.

Green Tomato Salsa
1 green tomato, seeds removed and chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 green onions, sliced (including the green)
1 tbsp minced fresh jalapeño
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
Juice of one lime
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine the tomato, celery, garlic, green onions, jalapeño, cilantro, lime, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Let sit in refrigerator until ready to use.

Cilantro Lime Rice
1 cup uncooked rice
1 cup water
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp butter
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
Salt and Pepper

Combine the rice, water, chicken stock, and butter in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Give it a good stir, reduce the heat, and cover. Let simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes. Let sit for five minutes. Add the lime and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper.

Dirty Agua Fresca
(Makes one drink)

Just a quick note…I know that this isn’t technically an agua fresca, but it’s fun. Delicious. Try it. You’ll love it!

8 oz spring water
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 to 2 tbsp mint
1 tsp turbinado sugar
Ice
Strawberry for garnish

Muddle mint in a cocktail shaker. Add lime juice, ice, water, and turbinado sugar. Place cap on cocktail shaker, and shake for a couple of minutes. Pour into a glass, and garnish with strawberry.

Enjoy!

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Popcorn: Our Favorite Three… And Fiesta Friday #14!!

It’s Fiesta Friday at Angie’s The Novice Gardner… and I’d like to bring popcorn this week to share with all of my friends there.

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Popcorn? You ask looking at me a bit skeptically…maybe as if I have lost my mind…
YES!! I wholeheartedly reply, knowing full well that you’re thinking that I lost my mind!!

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Read on…

Did you know that popcorn has been around for thousands of years? It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me, but it did. I guess I never really thought about people 4000 years ago not only eating popcorn…but popping it!

Corn, yes. But popcorn?? No.

From what I’ve read about popcorn, it wasn’t considered a snack food… (and that made me wonder if they even had snack foods 4000 years ago)…but archeologists believe that the kernels were popped on a hot stone; and then ground up into a fine powder, and mixed with water.. my guess it was used to make bread and/or grits.

In colonial times, it was popped, and then served for breakfast with cream and sugar (corn pops?). Even Christopher Columbus jumped on the popcorn train when he wrote about the Native Americans making headdresses and corsages, not only for rituals, but they also sold them to Columbus’ sailors!

I could just see me wearing a popcorn headdress…

Prudy!! Stop eating your headdress!
She’s pouring butter on her head!!!
Prudy!!! Quit pouring butter on your head!!!
Would somebody PLEASE get that headdress away from that girl before she eats the whole thing?!!
Oh man, she’s got the salt!!
Prudy!!!! Drop the salt!!
For the love of God, GET THE SALT AWAY FROM HER!!!!!…”

It would not be pretty.

I joke, but I’m certain that the rituals were of most importance and religious, and very important to the tribes. Because they used popcorn to make the headdresses, it makes me wonder if there was some sort of meaning behind it. My guess is yes. Maybe it was for a Harvest type of ritual.

Apparently I could talk about that stuff all day… but that’s because I’m kind of nerdy, and I’m totally into the history of things…

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But this is about the popcorn..Today’s popcorn..

Katie’s boyfriend Ryan works at Freedom Run Winery on the Niagara Wine Trail…and last summer he came up with the best idea… he started doing a movie night on Friday nights. Imagine this… a warm summer evening, a quirky movie, and a quirky drink to go with the movie…all outside in a bistro setting.

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I can’t tell you how happy and relaxed I am on those evenings, which is exactly why I wanted to share this with you today……And….while I enjoy the silly movie and the funky drink… the thing that I look forward to the most is the popcorn.

Yep, the popcorn.
Maple and Brown Sugar Bacon Popcorn, to be exact.
I’m hooked…
Head over heels…

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And that’s why Ryan was there the other night…to show me how to make his popcorn, so that I could share it with you. A special thank you to Ryan and Katie for spending that evening with me… I had so much fun, even if I had to cook thousand pounds of bacon… I just love the both of you!

And..in my true fashion… as I was gathering the ingredients necessary for the maple and brown sugar popcorn, we started brainstorming… what other flavors could we come up with? The list was endless, and there are a ton that we wanted to do (and we plan to in the near future), but we had to narrow it down to three for this post.

Our favorite three.

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The first flavor we came up with is Cranberry Relish. Popcorn cooked in coconut oil, mixed with cranberry and walnut butter, and drizzled in blood orange olive oil. Totally out of this world…totally delicious! You need to try this. You really do.

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The next flavor that we came up with is S’Mores. Popcorn cooked in vegetable oil, drizzled with chocolate, and topped off with graham cracker crumbs and crunchy marshmallows. Crazy good. Seriously. Crazy good..You won’t look at S’Mores the same way ever again. I promise you.

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And my personal favorite… Maple and Brown Sugar Bacon. This stuff is so good, I guarantee that you won’t be able to stop eating it once you start! Cooked in bacon grease, vegetable oil, and brown sugar, it is then mixed with chunks of bacon and maple syrup. It’s crunchy, it’s sticky, it’s smoky, it’s sweet.. it’s fabulous!

So now all you need to do is gather some friends, and set up a movie night in your backyard! Serve these popcorns with a drink that goes with the movie! It’s just a relaxing and happy evening, with wonderful friends and great food!

But today, I’d love for you to join us at Fiesta Friday, because I know that you would love all of the great recipes and ideas that these wonderful bloggers share as much as I do! Thank you to Saucy Gander from Adventures in the Kitchen, and Johnny from Flours n Dainty Buns for hosting the party this week! Saucy, who is one classy chick, lives in Sydney, so she got the party started yesterday for us with her beautiful Chana Masala which looks absolutely delicious… (I think it was Friday, or pretty close to Friday for her!) And Johnny… so sophisticated, yet funny and quirky…you’ll immediately fall in love with him and his outstanding recipes! I’m excited that they’re hosting together… the perfect pairing if you ask me!

If you’re a blogger, and this is the first that you’ve heard of Fiesta Friday, I’d love for you to join us!  Just click on the link to the right, and follow the directions to link up to the party!  You will absolutely love Angie, her recipes are just spectacular, I can promise they are nothing like you’ve ever seen before…  and that girl always has something fun up her sleeve!

Life is good…it’s a “ movies on a hot summer night, funky drinks, and maple bacon popcorn…sharing with all of my friends on Fiesta Friday” kind of good.

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Popcorn: Our Favorite Three

Just a quick note: Ryan said that the first batch of popcorn always tastes stale, so he usually doesn’t use that first batch..I guess you can call it “seasoning the pan” with the first batch, because he was absolutely right. It did taste stale, but the second batch of popcorn tasted sweet and perfect!

So, my suggestion to you, is to discard the first batch of plain popcorn…and use the second batch to make these recipes. It’s not a huge loss..doesn’t cost that much…it’s just one extra step, but worth it.

Plain Popcorn
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
Salt & Pepper

Heat vegetable oil in a large heavy pan (I used a 4 quart pan, and of course, one that has a lid!) over medium heat. Place 2 popcorn kernels in the oil, and cover. When the two popcorn kernels have popped, immediately pour the popcorn into the heated oil and cover the pan. Holding the lid tightly on the pan, remove the pan periodically from the heat and shake it up so that the unpopped kernels fall to the bottom of the pan to heat and pop.

When the popping is finished, uncover the pan, and pour the popcorn into a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper (or just salt).

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Cranberry Relish Popcorn

NOTE!!  Cook popcorn in 1/4 cup coconut oil, rather than vegetable oil.

1 batch plain popcorn cooked in coconut oil.
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup butter, melted
Blood orange olive oil for drizzling

Popcorn should be in a large mixing bowl.

Melt the butter in a medium size mixing bowl. Add the cranberries and walnuts and mix well with the butter. Spoon a little bit of the cranberry nut butter into the bowl of popcorn and gently stir it. Continue to spoon a little bit of the mixture into the popcorn until it’s all incorporated.

Drizzle with blood orange olive oil. Serve in individual bowls, or one large bowl or basket.

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S’Mores Popcorn

NOTE!! Cook popcorn in vegetable oil.

1 batch plain popcorn, cooked in vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1-1/2 cups mini hot chocolate marshmallows (the crunchy kind)
1 – 11.5 oz bag milk chocolate chips
3 tbsp heavy cream

Popcorn should be in a large mixing bowl.

Melt the milk chocolate chips and heavy cream in a microwave safe bowl, on medium high heat for about 30 seconds in the microwave. Remove from microwave and stir. Continue to microwave for about 30 seconds at a time until the chocolate chips have melted and are of drizzling consistency.

Drizzle some of the chocolate over the popcorn, and immediately sprinkle with the graham cracker crumbs and marshmallows, so that the graham cracker and marshmallows stick to the chocolate. Continue to add the chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows in small batches, stirring gently until it’s all incorporated.

Let cool, so that the chocolate hardens. Serve in individual bowls or one large bowl or basket.

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Maple and Brown Sugar Bacon

NOTE!!! Cook the popcorn in 3 tbsp bacon grease, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, and 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Add the brown sugar as soon as you pour the popcorn into the pan. Give it a quick stir, and cover. The brown sugar on the popcorn will seem a little soft to begin with, but as it cools, it will harden into a wonderfully crunchy popcorn!

1 batch popcorn, cooked in bacon grease, vegetable oil, and brown sugar
1/2 pound bacon, cooked crisp, and broken into small bits
1-1/2 cups maple syrup
1 tbsp melted butter

While the popcorn is cooking, mix the maple syrup, butter, and bacon together. You’ll want to pour it over the popcorn while it is still hot, so that the maple syrup and bacon stick. Stir it in gently, until it is fully incorporated.

Let cool completely so that it has a good crunch to the popcorn, and serve in individual bowls or baskets.

Enjoy!!

Lemon Chicken Linguine

I love lemons.
And I want a lemon tree.

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I’m trying to find out exactly how small a dwarf lemon tree is. So far, everyone (friends, websites, etc) tells me that a dwarf lemon tree will reach about six feet tall, and if I wanted one in my house, I’d need to dedicate a room solely for the tree. I’m starting to wonder if I really even need a living room…

I use lemons all the time… pretty much on a daily basis…well…almost on a daily basis. Frequently. So, a lemon tree would be so wonderful to have growing in my yard..or in my lemon room (a.k.a. living room)..

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What I wanted to hear was that the tree would reach about four feet tall. And that I could keep it in a little pot, bring it outside in the summer, and then bring it back inside during the winter months. Unfortunately, it’s not meant to be.

Unless I move someplace warm…there are no lemon trees in my future.
I don’t like those words.
I don’t like those words at all.

While that’s a real bummer, it’s not the end of the world, because there are lemons always readily available to me whenever I need them. A lemon tree just would have been fun, you know?

I’m not going to give up, and will continue my search for that perfect little lemon tree.

But in the meantime, I’ll continue to use the lemons that I can buy at the store, and that’s ok, because they do exactly what a fresh lemon would do for me… like this Lemon Chicken Linguine.

Despite my fame for posting heavy creamy dishes ( I really don’t eat that way all the time), this dish is definitely on the lighter side…not laden with sauce, but the lemon truly makes up for that! A squeeze of lemon over the chicken at the end gives this such a refreshing taste! And the asparagus? Well, it’s asparagus…it just belongs in this recipe.

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This is actually one of the meals that I make often, but I felt like it wasn’t worthy of the blog…maybe “not worthy” is being a little too harsh…maybe I thought it was too easy, a no brainer… because it is a common meal that I make. But just like the Embarrassingly Simple BLT Wedge Salad I posted the other day, I started to think that it’s ok to post ordinary meals that I make for my family. After all, my promise to you was simple, rustic and delish, right from the very beginning. This dish truly fits that bill.

It’s quick. It’s easy. It’s delicious. And everyone loves it. Well, maybe not your pickiest eater, but that’s why you have chicken nuggets stashed away in the freezer, right?

Life is good.. it’s a “Not giving up on the lemon tree, and thinking that I really don’t need a couch…” kind of good…

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Lemon Chicken Linguine
Serves Four

For the Chicken:
8 chicken breast tenders
1 cup flour
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp white pepper
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp cayenne
Olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon

The Pasta:
½ pound linguine

For the Sauce:
½ cup butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 lb fresh asparagus tips (save the stalks! Use them for another meal…chop them up in eggs! Make soup! Just don’t toss them!)
2 cups chicken stock
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup Romano cheese
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish:
Fresh lemon zest for garnish
Fresh parsley for garnish
Fresh ground black pepper
Lemon wedges for garnish

Mix the flour, black pepper, white pepper, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne in a medium size shallow bowl. Dredge the chicken breast in the flour mixture until well coated.

(While the chicken is cooking, bring a pot of water to boil. Cook the linguine per the instructions on the box. )

Pour enough olive oil in a large frying pan to coat the bottom. Sauté the chicken about four minutes on each side, or until fully cooked and golden brown. Right before removing the chicken from the pan, drizzle with the lemon juice (1/2 to 1 full lemon, depending on your lemon preference) Remove the chicken from the pan, and set aside. Save the pan with the oil, you’ll use that for the sauce.

Immediately after taking the chicken from the pan, add the butter, garlic, and shallots. Sauté for about two to three minutes, or until golden. Add the asparagus, and sauté until tender (not mushy, but tender), about three to five minutes. Remove the asparagus from the pan, and set aside. Add the chicken stock and the lemon, and simmer for about 5-10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

As soon as the pasta is cooked, transfer it from the water to the pan of sauce with tongs or a wire strainer. Mix the pasta around in the sauce until it is fully coated, and then add the asparagus back to the pan. Add the Romano cheese and parsley, stirring until the pasta is fully coated.

Serve with the chicken and lemon wedge. Garnish with a little more parsley, fresh lemon zest, black pepper.

Enjoy!

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