A Chocolate Chip Cookie By Any Other Name Would Taste As Sweet…

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Have you ever had a craving so bad, that it calls out to you all day?  I mean, I get cravings… but then I get cravings.  Take last week for instance, I wanted cookies. But I didn’t want just any cookie…I wanted a chocolate chip cookie with nuts and raisins.  It was one of those cravings.  No other chocolate chip cookie would do.

Now, you know that I cannot bake to save my life…but what else could I do?  I had to have the cookie.  I had to bake the cookie.

I’m actually quite famous with my kids for my lack of baking skills. I want to be a baker, it’s just not meant to be.  I’ve accepted that.   But once in a while…it just has to be done…knowing full well that I’m walking down the path of possible ridicule and rejection.

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And while I was very pleased with my cookies in both taste and appearance…. My son Mike came walking into the kitchen and took one look at them…and then turned around and took one look at me, shaking his head…

I braced myself for the worst…

He grabbed a couple of them, and walked out of the kitchen. I think you know Mike by now…he’s so fussy…it was a small miracle that he even tried them! A few minutes later, he comes back into the kitchen..

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“These are really good for being as ugly as they are” he said, grabbing a couple more cookies.
“I don’t think they’re that ugly, Boy” I replied.
“Yeah, they’re pretty ugly, I don’t know why you keep trying to bake” he said.
“I hope you burn your tongue” I answered as he walked out.

Let me translate that conversation for you:

“These are really delicious cookies, mom…” is what he really meant.
“Thank you Boy, I had a feeling you’d like them…” is what I really meant.
“Your perseverance in baking is really paying off..” is what he really meant.
“I love you too, Boy” is what we both really meant.

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Anyway…getting back to the cookie craving… I’m glad I made these cookies. There is something about that creamy milk chocolate, with a bite of toasted walnut, a chewy sweet raisin, and a sweet glaze that just makes a cookie complete.  It makes the cookie complete…and it makes me happy.

The next time you get that craving…I hope you try these cookies. They’re foolproof for the non-baker, and they’re delicious enough to please even your biggest critic! And…they’re not ugly.

Life is good, it’s a “Warm chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven with an ice cold glass of milk” kind of good…

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Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes Two Dozen Cookies

Just a quick note: This recipe was adapted from Crisco’s Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie. I changed up a couple (ok… a lot) of things to suit my taste (baking skills).

3/4 cup Crisco® Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
1 1/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (See below)
1 cup raisins

Line one or two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Beat in egg. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Mix into shortening mixture until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips, nuts, and raisins.

Using a 2 tablespoon scoop, scoop the dough into a ball, and place each ball about 3 inches apart.

Bake for 11 minutes for chewy cookies, or 13 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool 4 minutes on baking sheet on a cooling rack. Remove cookies to rack to cool completely.

Drizzle with vanilla glaze. Store in an airtight container, or leave them on a plate on your table. They won’t last long!

Toasted Walnuts:
So simple…. place the walnuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 6-8 minutes, watching them closely so that they don’t burn.

Vanilla Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp heavy cream (or more, until it reaches desired consistency)

In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, melted butter, vanilla, and heavy cream until smooth and glaze consistency.

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!!

I’m Walking on Sunshine!! Open Face Steak Tacos

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It’s amazing what one single day of sunshine can do for the soul….and I find myself humming a lot, and just in a general happy state of mind.

I’m finally beginning to feel like I’m coming out of hibernation, with the winter doldrums quickly melting away!

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I have the strong desire to get outside and get my hands in the dirt… I’m watching my daisies for signs of life, looking for my tulips and worried that the voles just might have won the war this year…and I’m getting excited about planting fresh herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and maybe a lettuce bowl..

I say all of this, understanding that I am a fickle person who does not do well in the heat, and by August, I’ll be wanting the cooler weather and thinking of the days that I can wear sweaters and plan cold weather menus. I think the perfect weather for me would be 70-75 degrees year round. I’ve been told that I should move to San Diego. I probably should, but my fickle-ness would have me longing for some sort of change of season.

But for now, I’m going to embrace the awakening spring and enjoy this sunshine…

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On days like today, I want to make it quick in the kitchen. Sounds crazy coming from a girl who loves to cook and spend time in her kitchen, but our spring and summer months are so short, I want to be able to get outside, and enjoy the sunshine and all of the things I love to do during those months.

I feel myself craving lighter meals, grilled meats and vegetables, and looking forward to the different fruits of the summer season, the perfect ingredients for a light and quick meal, like open face steak tacos.

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I love these tacos because the cooking can be done on the grill, and it’s a matter of slicing up a few vegetables to top them off. The best thing about them is that you can change them up to meet everyone’s liking… make them chicken, shrimp, or veggie tacos with their choice of topping!

I like to throw the tortilla right on the grill until it’s crispy so that I have to eat it as open face, but you can leave it on for a few minutes just to heat it, which would make folding the taco easy to eat.

I’m feeling summer today!!

Life is good… it’s sunshine…it’s a lighter mood, lighter meal, and those little voles think they’ve won, but the war isn’t over yet…kind of good…

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Open Face Steak Tacos

6” corn tortillas

1 lb thin cut strip steak
Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup red cabbage, sliced thin
1/2 cup English cucumber, diced
1/2 cup tomato, diced
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1/4 cup white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
A little minced jalapeño (your desired heat)
1 tbsp cilantro, roughly chopped
Juice of one lime
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Avocado, cubed
Caso Blanco
Cilantro for garnish

Grill the steaks to your desired doneness. Thinly slice the steak diagonally against the grain.

Grill the tortillas until crispy and blackened around the edges.

In a medium size bowl, combine the cabbage, cucumber, tomato, black olives, onion, garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Layer the cabbage and steak on the grilled tortilla. Top with avocado, Caso Blanco, and garnish with more cliantro. Squeeze some more lime juice over the top.

See? Quick and Easy!!

Enjoy!!

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Mushroom Pizzas and Raspberry Sangria

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”  ~Robin Williams

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Today was the first full day of spring, and it’s Fiesta Friday at Angie’s blog, The Novice Gardener!  It must have been nature’s way of saying it’s time to party!

It was such a gorgeous day today…perfect for the first full day of spring! I checked the weather channel on my phone around 2pm, and it said that the temperature was 35, and that, paired with the sunshine… is a beautiful thing… truly good for the soul..

I know I’ve said this before, but it always amazes me when the temperature has been below zero, and all of a sudden it hits 35 degrees, everyone walks around with no coats, thinking it’s a heat wave…. but…. when the temperature has been 85 degrees, and all of a sudden it goes down to 35, it feels unbearably cold, and everyone is bundled up in heavy coats, scarves and mittens!

The beautiful weather today made me feel like summer. I didn’t feel the cold in the air, I only felt the sunshine on my face.. and it made me think of warm evenings and friends.. parties with fruit drinks and finger foods…

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I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate this beautiful day, than with a pitcher of raspberry sangria and individual mushroom pizzas! In my mind, a perfect meal to share with friends on a warm evening…or for Fiesta Friday at Angie’s place!

The oyster, shiitake, and baby bella mushrooms, along with the sautéed onions and garlic were delicious with the Boursin cheese….and the freshness of the zesty sprouts tied it all together in a pretty delicious little package..

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And the sangria? I mean, is there ever a bad time for sangria? It was so refreshing and delicious with all of the different fruit, and the liqueur gave it a wonderful raspberry aftertaste, the flavor of summer!

I’m on my way to Angie’s party, and I hope to see you there!  A special thank you to Angie for hosting such a wonderful party!

Life is good… it’s springtime fiesta party good… 

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Mushroom Pizzas
Serves Four

Just a quick note.. you’ll only be using 1/2 of the bread dough. I’ll usually use half for the pizzas, and with the other half, I’ll make into a small loaf of bread.

1/2 of a store bought pizza dough
2 – 5.2 oz pkgs of Boursin Cheese (your favorite flavor, I used shallot and chive)
1 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb block mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz mushrooms (your favorite type, I used oyster, shiitake, and baby bella), sliced
Sprouts, such as clover, radish sprouts, zesty sprouts, pea shoots
Flavored Olive Oil, I used Tuscan Herb (for drizzling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two baking sheets.

Divide the pizza dough into fourths, and flatten each one out into small ovals, placing two on each baking sheet. Crumble the Boursin cheese onto each pizza. Layer the mozzarella on each pizza.

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In a large frying pan, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil until browned. Remove from the pan, reserving the oil. Saute the mushrooms in the reserved olive oil for about five minutes, or until golden brown.

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Layer the mushrooms on top of the mozzarella cheese. Layer the onions on top of the mushrooms. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Garnish with sprouts, and drizzle with flavored olive oil.

Sangria
1 bottle sweet white wine
1 cup raspberry liqueur
1-1/4 cups raspberries (1 cup for sangria, 1/4 cup for garnish)
1/2 cup blueberries + a few extra for garnish
1 small orange thinly sliced
1 small lemon, thinly sliced
3 tbsp granulated sugar
Fresh mint or basil for garnish

Mix the wine, raspberry liqueur, raspberries, blueberries, orange slices, lemon slices, and sugar together. Pour into a covered jar and refrigerate for about six hours or overnight.

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To serve, pour into a pitcher, and serve in stemmed glasses with ice. Make sure you add some of the fruit into the glasses, and garnish with fresh raspberries, blueberries, mint or basil.

Enjoy!

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Potato Chips!

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It wasn’t until about two years ago that I actually started liking potato chips. It’s not that I hated them, I just found store bought chips to be boring, and totally did not understand the “you can’t eat just one” thing. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t even need to eat ONE.

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And then I tried a homemade potato chip. Holy smokes! Why didn’t I know about these flavorful little beauties? I mean, of course I knew about homemade potato chips, but why did it take me so long to try them? It’s probably because I didn’t realize the true potato flavor and freshness that you just cannot get with a store bought chip.

It took me a few tries before I learned how to get them right. You can research them, and you’ll find a ton of recipes and techniques of making the perfect potato chip. I tried so many different techniques, and finally decided to play around with them myself using bits and pieces of what I read on the internet. This one works for me, and I think you might like it too.   They’re so simple to make, but you do need to set a little time aside to make them!

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These chips are a beautiful golden brown, they’re crispy, and they’re FULL of flavor thanks to a vinegar boil, and deep frying them twice! The vinegar isn’t over-powering, it is more of an after taste after eating one, it’s just enough to say “Hmmm”.  Serve them with garlic dill dip, and you have a wonderful side for that special sandwich, or a great snack for a party, or a quiet evening at home.

Life is good. It’s a “Chips with a hint of Vinegar” kind of good.

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Prudy’s Potato Chips
Serves Four (or two generous snacks!)

The Potato Chips
4 large russet potatoes
2/3 cup vinegar
5 cups water
3 cups canola oil
sea salt to taste

Wash and dry the potatoes. Slice 1/8” thick with mandolin, or a knife. If using a knife, try to keep them as uniform in thickness as possible, so that they cook in the same amount of time.

Bring the vinegar and water to boil in a medium saucepan or dutch oven. Add one half of the potato slices, and boil for exactly four minutes. Remove with a wire spider skimmer and place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Let them dry completely, flipping them so that they dry on both sides. Let cool completely. Repeat with the other half of the potato slices.

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While the potatoes are cooling, heat the canola oil in a large saucepan (You want the oil to be at least 2” deep, so add more oil if you think you need it). I deep fry them when the oil reaches 350 degrees.

When the oil is ready, add a few potato slices at a time to the pan. Don’t overcrowd them. Deep fry for 3 minutes. Remove with a wire spider skimmer to a baking sheet with a cooling rack placed on top. Repeat with remaining potato slices, and let cool completely on the cooling rack, which by the time you’ve finished the last of the potatoes, the first batch will have already cooled.

At this point the chips will still be white and soft.

Now to bring a little color and crispiness to the chips….This is where you really need to stand over the pan and watch the potato chips cook:

Add 1/2 of the cooled chips back to the oil, stirring them around with the wire spider skimmer, and removing the ones that have turned golden, and placing them on the baking sheet with the cooling rack.  Watch them!!  Some turn golden must faster than others!!   Add more to the pan as you remove the golden chips.  Immediately season with salt. You can serve them warm or cooled with homemade chip dip!

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Garlic Dill Dip
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (depending on how garlicky you like it)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

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In a small bowl, mix the sour cream, parsley, dill, chives, garlic, salt, and pepper until well blended. Refrigerate until ready to serve with chips.

Enjoy!

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Fiesta Friday ~ Quesadillas

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It’s Fiesta Friday #6 tonight…and I’d love for you to stop by Angie’s blog, The Novice Gardner, where the online party is going on right now!  You’ll find a ton of wonderful bloggers who have joined in on the party, and have brought with them some pretty AWESOME recipes!  It’s a blast, Angie is a hoot, and did I mention the awesome recipes?!!

This is my second post for Fiesta Friday…well, technically my very first recipe for Fiesta Friday, but Angie was nice enough to let me post my Pretzels last week (I came a little late to the party)…. so this week I’ve prepared some delicious quesadillas to share with everyone tonight!

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I’m so excited, and honored to be a part of this wonderful event, and I truly hope you check it out!  While  you’re there, browse through Angie’s blog.. I can promise you, that you’ll walk away smiling…

You’ll love these quesadillas… they’re quick…they’re easy…and they’re delicious!  I mentioned in last night’s post that I bought two bundles of asparagus a few days ago at my beloved Wegmans, and decided to use the last bundle in the quesadillas.  I have to say, asparagus, chicken, pepper jack cheese, and chipotle crema is a winning combination!  Add fresh pico de gallo and guacamole to the mix and call it a FIESTA!

Life is good… Life is Fiesta Friday good…

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Quesadillas

Serves 2-4

1 lb boneless chicken breast, cut into bite size pieces
1 8oz bottle taco sauce

1 large red onion, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

1 lb asparagus
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

8 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded

1/4 cup sour cream
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce (only 1 pepper from the can)

4 burrito size tortillas

In a large frying pan, add the chicken and the taco sauce over low heat. Simmer until chicken is fully cooked, and taco sauce has thickened.

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In a separate frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the asparagus, balsamic vinegar, salt, and black pepper. Saute until translucent. Remove from oil. Set aside. In that same frying pan, add the asparagus, salt, and black pepper and sauté until tender. About five minutes before the asparagus is fully cooked, add the garlic to the pan.

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In a small food processor, add the sour cream, mayonnaise, and chipotle chile. Process until fully blended and smooth.

Assembling the Quesadillas  
Grease the bottom of a large frying pan with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Add one tortilla to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle about 4 oz of the shredded pepper jack cheese all over the top of the tortilla.

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Spread one half of the chicken over the cheese. Add as many asparagus stalks as you’d like across the top of the chicken. Layer one half of the red onions over the asparagus. Top with chipotle crema. Top with another tortilla. Let heat in the frying pan until the bottom tortilla is golden brown and crispy. With a large spatula, carefully flip the quesadilla over, and heat until the other side is golden brown and crispy.

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Remove from frying pan to a large cutting board, and cut into fourths. Serve with fresh pico de gallo and guacamole.

Pico de Gallo
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2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 medium white onion
1 small jalapeño (I used Hungarian pepper because there isn’t as much heat as a jalapeño)
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped

In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, lime, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Mix well. Refrigerate.

Quacamole
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1 Hass avocado
1 small tomato, chopped
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Remove the avocado from the shell, and place in a small bowl. Mash with a fork. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, lime, salt, and pepper. Mix until well blended. Refrigerate.

Serve the Pico de Gallo and Guacamole with the Quesadillas.

Enjoy this Fiesta Friday!

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Twisted Tuesday: Cobb Lettuce Wraps

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I was watching the weather on the news before I left for work this morning, and the weatherman said something like: “If you think you’ll be walking out the door to dry roads this morning, you will be very mistaken”… and of course, he was right. It was yet another slippery morning, one of the many we have had in the last month and a half. It just set the tone for the rest of the day.

And….There is a very good chance that this weather could be my fault.

I’m quite certain this past summer I proclaimed to the world that I was melting (numerous times throughout July and August), and how I would love a raging blizzard outside my window. I goofed. I should have made it clear that I only wanted one raging blizzard. One blizzard. For only one day. And then the snow could shut off, and the sun could come out, and the roads could be dry for the rest of the winter. But that’s not meant to be. Not just yet, anyway. Apparently we have about six more weeks of winter.

Six weeks.
I think we can handle that.
Right?

Six more weeks of winter.
Ugh.

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I can remember how excited I was in October to start making winter meals. I love them. They’re truly comfort food. They’re the stick to your ribs, keeps you warm meals. That seems like so long ago.

I’m sick of them.
At least for today.

All day long I thought about summer, and how a salad with an ice cold bottle of pop (Yep.. I call it pop. Western NY girl here!) would taste so good…

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A Cobb salad. With blue cheese, chicken, bacon, eggs, tomato, and avocado. For the twist? Maybe something a little lighter… like a Cobb lettuce wrap. Everything we love in a Cobb salad, but a smaller version that we can just pick up and eat. Drizzled with homemade buttermilk ranch dressing, and topped with chopped chives. And a bottle of ice-cold sparkling clementine. Perfect.

It was definitely a pick-me-up, and brought a little summer into what was a rather dreary day.

Six more weeks… we can do it, right? Yeah, I think we can..

Cobb Lettuce Wraps
Serves Four / Two Wraps Each

8 Boston lettuce leaves, cleaned and left whole
2 chicken breasts, grilled and sliced into cubes
4 slices of bacon, cooked crisp, and chopped
1 avocado, cut into cubes
4 hard boiled eggs, cut into cubes
1 large tomato, chopped
4 oz blue cheese
¼ cup chives, chopped
Lemon slices for drizzling

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing (Recipe Below)

Assemble the lettuce wraps:

Lay each lettuce leaf on work surface. Place a few cubes of chicken on each lettuce leaf. Arrange the bacon, avocado, eggs, tomato, and blue cheese in rows on top of the chicken.

Drizzle with buttermilk ranch dressing, and garnish with chives.

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Buttermilk Ranch Dressing:
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, finely minced
¼ tsp ground mustard
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 tbsp fresh parsley
, chopped
1 tsp fresh chives
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Whisk the buttermilk, mayonnaise, garlic, ground mustard, cayenne, parsley, chives, salt, and pepper in a small bowl until well blended.

Cover and refrigerate for up to one week.

Enjoy!

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Coconut Macaroons

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Years ago, I had boss who would bring me four coconut macaroons on a weekly basis from a little bakery that was near his house.

It only took me a couple of weeks to realize that those macaroons weren’t really for me. Well, they were, but they were for me in pretense only. It became a little routine that we had, every Wednesday morning the little bakery box would be sitting on my desk when I came to work. We would sit at my desk, and enjoy a macaroon…and we’d discuss the weekly report that was due on Friday. I would then leave the box containing the other two macaroons on my desk, and they would randomly disappear throughout the day.

It was an unspoken understanding.
One was for me.
Three were for him.

The other day I was sitting at my desk with my usual morning cup of tea, and I started thinking about the macaroons. It’s been so many years, but there are times that I miss that little routine. I miss that weekly macaroon. I don’t, however, miss that weekly report….

I came across some coconut in my refrigerator yesterday morning, and knew right away what I was going to do with it. Within a half hour, there were a dozen coconut macaroons sitting on my counter.

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Coconut macaroons can be found in cookbooks from as early as 1725. Earlier versions were made up of leftover mashed potatoes, covered in chocolate and topped with roasted coconut. Once they became commercial, the mashed potatoes didn’t have a very long shelf life, and eventually, the potatoes were replaced with fondant.

According to Wikipedia, this particular recipe is most popular in the United States, Australia, The Netherlands, and Germany. It goes on to say that they’re commonly coated in chocolate, and at times almond slivers are mixed in. And apparently in Australia, raspberry jam or candied cherries are hidden in the center before they’re baked.

Almonds? Cherries? Chocolate? There’s a good chance I’ll be making these again very, VERY soon…

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Coconut Macaroons
Makes One Dozen

A quick note:  Over the years, I’ve collected a lot of recipes, either by tearing them out of magazines, or newspapers.  Some I’ve acquired from friends.  Most of them I’ve changed up to suit my own taste.  This recipe was torn from a magazine, but I don’t remember which one, or when.

The original recipe actually calls for almond extract, but I actually use vanilla paste for this.  It is super fragrant, and the cookies are speckled with pure vanilla.  If you don’t have vanilla paste, you can use the almond extract, or vanilla extract.

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla paste
¼ tsp salt
3 cups shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together the sweetened condensed milk, egg white, vanilla, salt, and shredded coconut until well blended.

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If you have a cookie scoop, drop mounds of the coconut mixture onto the parchment lined baking sheet. If you don’t have a cookie scoop, measure a heaping tablespoon for each macaroon.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

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Of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, and with a melted piece of a Cadbury’s Dairy Almond bar, I made a couple of Almond Joys with them. Luckily I only made two, or I would have eaten the whole batch!!

Enjoy!

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