Posted in daily

Spicy Fried Chicken Sliders

Before you say anything about the lack of posts around here for the past EIGHTEEN MONTHS, just know that no one is more disappointed in me than me.

Ok, let’s move on.

For the past eight years or so, the 4th of July has been a “Girls’ Day” of sorts for my best friend and I. Our agenda changes a bit from year to year but we always spend the day together. This year we decided to take advantage of the nice (but hot!) weather and walk around a small local zoo and take a small picnic to a nearby park afterward. These little chicken sliders were a perfect picnic food – easy to make ahead, and kept nicely in our cooler with salad and drinks.

I love fried chicken but making it at home is always intimidating to me – it’s hard to gauge how long to fry bone in chicken without over or under cooking it. These little sandos have the juicy crispness of fried chicken without all the guess work.

Start with boneless skinless chicken thighs. Trim excess fat, cut each thigh into thirds (or quarters or halves, depending on the size thighs and rolls you have) and season with salt and pepper. Brine thighs in  two cups of buttermilk and three or four tablespoons of hot sauce (more or less, depending on personal preference). Rest in fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Just before you’re ready to fry, mix up the flour dredge: all purpose flour, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and fresh ground pepper. Whisk or mix with a fork until all spices are fully incorporated.

Remove chicken from buttermilk brine but do not pat dry. Dredge chicken in flour mixture until fully covered.

Heat vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed high sided pan over medium heat. The oil doesn’t need to cover the chicken completely but should be high enough that the chicken is sitting *in* the oil.

Like so.

Fry chicken approximately 8-12 minutes, flipping when one side is brown and golden to the other. My chicken got a *touch* over done on the outside but I wanted to ensure doneness on the inside. I think my burner was up a touch too high but the chicken was cooked perfectly – juicy and tender.

Remove chicken from oil and drain on a cookie sheet with a rack or paper towels, whatever you have handy. Season immediately with a generous pinch of salt.

When all the chicken is done frying, pour honey in a small glass bowl and heat in the microwave for 20-30 second on high until thinned out and easy to stir. Mix in hot sauce (as desired), and drizzle over hot chicken.

You guys. You could totally stop here and eat the chicken just like this and be 1,000,000% happy, it’s so tasty and juicy and perfectly sweet and spicy.

I was.

But I promised someone fried chicken sliders, so I soldiered on.

With King’s Hawaiian rolls, mayonnaise, and a little butter lettuce. Pickles on the side, please.

You could totally add a little hot sauce to the mayo, too – I chose not to this time because I wasn’t 100% sure how spicy the chicken would be on its own. I could have stood a touch more heat, but it’s all personal preference.

I put a toothpick through each slider to hold them together and stored them all in a large plastic container.

To finish off our picnic I also made one of my favorite summer sides – fresh cucumber salad.

And mixed up some no-bake peanut butter bars from a store bought mix, simply because I wanted something easy this time around.

These were decent. Reese’s brand, I think. I found the mix at Target.

We had a great day capped off with a tasty meal. A successful Independence Day celebration for sure.

I will absolutely make these little sliders again – they’re so cute and a way less intimidating way to indulge in tasty fried chicken. Definitely try them for your next small gathering or a fun family dinner this summer!

Spicy Fried Chicken Sliders

  • 1 package boneless skinless chicken thighs, about 1 lb.
  • 1 packages King’s Hawaiian slider rolls
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 6 TB Frank’s Red Hot sauce, separated
  • 3 Tbs honey
  • 2 cups All-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • shredded lettuce, mayonnaise and pickles to serve

Mix buttermilk and 4 Tb hot sauce in a large bowl. Trim chicken thighs and cut into thirds or quarters. Stir chicken into buttermilk mixture and set in refrigerator for a few hours.

Whisk flour and spices together. Drain chicken from buttermilk mixture and dredge in flour until covered.

Heat oil in heavy bottomed, deep sided pan over medium heat. Add chicken to hot oil, a few pieces at a time, and fry 4-6 minutes on each side until chicken is cooked through and outside coating is crispy and brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel or a rack placed over a cookie sheet. Season immediately with a pinch of salt.

Pour honey in a small glass bowl and heat in microwave at full power for 20-30 seconds until honey is loosened and easy to stir. Stir together with remaining hot sauce and drizzle over the hot chicken.

Serve chicken on slider rolls with lettuce, mayonnaise, pickles, or any other toppings/condiments you prefer.

Enjoy!

Note: There are only 9 rolls in the pack and I had about 12-13 pieces of chicken. You might need another pack of rolls, or you can just eat the rest of the chicken on its own like I did. 

Posted in comfort food, daily, food, holidays, pasta, recipe

Christmas Fettuccine

Woof. This past month has FLOWN by. I absolutely meant to share details from my Friendsgiving celebration and my favorite recipe for turkey and wild rice soup to use up your leftovers, but time got away from me. I’ve been super busy between both jobs and preparing for Christmas, I’ve been sick for a couple of weeks and by the time I was finally able to even think about writing up those posts….

It was last week. So, onward.

It’s literally three days before Christmas and I still have a ton to do, but I wanted to share this recipe because it’s part of my favorite tradition on my favorite day of the year, plus it’s a super quick meal. In less than twenty minutes you’ll be sitting down in front of your favorite Christmas movie and waiting for Santa to squeeze his big butt down your chimney.

As much as I love the Christmas holiday and spending time with my family on Christmas Day, the time I have to myself on Christmas Eve is just as precious to me. The past few years I’ve spent Christmas Eve day finishing up everything I need for the next day; making dessert to take to mom’s and wrapping the last of the gifts and putting them under the tree (for the cats, you know). But when the evening comes, it’s my time to relax, enjoy a glass of wine by light of the Christmas tree, watch a few of my favorite holiday classics, and dig in to this pasta.

As a matter of fact, the idea for this dish came directly from one of the movies I watch every year – The Holiday. It’s a (slightly cheesy) Nancy Meyers movie with Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black, and Jude Law (😍). In it, Kate Winslet’s character offers to make “Christmas Fettuccine” for Jack Black, and honestly, what could be better on Christmas Eve than a bowl of creamy, decadent pasta?

Nothing. Nothing is the answer. So let’s jump in.

What you’ll need: Fettuccine noodles (I bought fresh to cut down on time, but regular dried is fine), pancetta, heavy cream, butter, grated parmesan, garlic, shallot, and fresh parsley didn’t make it in the photo. Side note: the only pancetta I could find on this day was sliced, but if you can find a packaged of diced pancetta use that, or you can get a thick slice from the deli counter and dice it yourself.

While waiting for a large pot of water to boil, dice a large shallot and finely mince two cloves of garlic. Dice pancetta if necessary. Melt a couple tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until translucent. Add pancetta to the pan and allow to brown slightly. Add the minced garlic to the pan and sauté for a minute or two, until fragrant, but avoid letting it burn. (Remove the pan from the heat as necessary to avoid burning)

Salt water and boil pasta – if using fresh, it should only take about three to four minutes. If you’re using dry pasta, you might want to wait to make your sauce until the pasta is almost done cooking.

Seriously, this goes quickly.

Drain pasta and rest. Add the cream to the pan with the shallots and pancetta. Stir and allow to thicken for a few seconds.

Toss the pasta in the sauce, and add in the grated parmesan. Season (lightly) with salt and (heavily) with fresh cracked pepper.

Top with minced fresh parsley and a little more grated parmesan and serve.

A big bowl full of Christmas Fettuccine, a nice crisp Riesling, accompanied by The Holiday and Love Actually. Now that’s a perfect Christmas Eve.

Oh, I guess these jerks could hang out too.

Christmas Fettuccine 

  • 1 package (9oz) fresh fettuccine pasta (use half a pound of dry pasta)
  • 1 large shallot
  • 2 oz. diced pancetta (depending on availability)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tb unsalted butter
  • Half pint heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 Tb fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper

Dice shallot finely, mince garlic and parsley. Dice pancetta if needed. Boil water for pasta, and cook pasta according to package directions.

Melt butter over medium heat in a large pan. Add shallot to pan and sauté for a few minutes until translucent. Add pancetta to pan and allow to brown. Add garlic and sauté for a few seconds until fragrant but don’t brown. Add cream and grated cheese to the pan, and toss in cooked pasta. Toss until entirely coated with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with fresh parsley and a sprinkle of grated cheese on top.

Enjoy. Merry Christmas everyone!

 

 

 

Posted in daily, dinner, food, recipe, simple suppers, slow cooker

Saturday Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

You guys. I NEED new content, stat. This is the last recipe/bunch of photos I’ve got stockpiled – I’m not 100% positive, but I don’t think there’s anything lurking on my SD cards. I’m hosting Friendsgiving this weekend so I’ll be able to wrangle a post or two out of that but I need to get cracking on some new material. Problem is, I’m at a loss of what to post. So if there’s anything you’d like to see/hear about feel free comment here or on my Facebook page!

Two weekends ago my bestie and I had a girls’ day that included brunch, apple picking at a local orchard, and then heading back home to have some dinner and watch college football.

The apple picking was a lot of fun, even if it was an unseasonably hot 82 degrees in October.

I wore my cute fall boots anyway, damn it. Those apples are amazing by the way. If you’re local I highly recommend trying Grim’s Orchard. They’ve got fun activities for little ones too. (Note: I said fun. I did not say cheap.)

Before we headed out for the day, however, I threw dinner together in the crockpot so it would be ready when we go back to the house. Sara and I are big taco fans, so the choice of what to make was a no-brainer. And these shredded chicken tacos are so easy to throw together that the most amount of work involved is cutting up and organizing all the toppings when you’re ready to serve.

Side note: I have the Ninja 3-in-1 Cooking System, which allows me to sear/saute/bake/etc. so my instructions are specific to my that appliance. If you have a regular slow cooker, you can just throw everything in it, turn it on high, and let it go for 4-5 hours.

To prepare the chicken: Slice a medium onion, thinly. Pour 2 Tbs olive oil into the cooker on the saute setting (high heat), and add the onion. Stir and allow onions to sweat – they will soften and become slightly translucent. Add 2-3 chicken breasts directly to the surface of the cooker and sear for a minute. Season with salt, pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander, and chili powder. Pour a small bottle of enchilada sauce and a jar of salsa over the chicken.

I also added a small sprinkle of brown sugar to cut the acidity of the salsa and enchilada sauce. Honey or agave syrup would work here as well. Cover, and change heat setting to slow cook over high heat. Go about your day for at least four hours. Brunch to your hearts’ content. Go apple picking and complain about the heat. Buy all the apple things, plus tasty kettle corn. Go shopping for some new Penn State (or the college of your choice) gear.

Then come home to a house that smells of taco amazingness, and shred that chicken to bits using a couple of forks.  Reduce heat to warm. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

For the pineapple salsa, peel and core a pineapple, and dice up about 1/2 of it. Finely dice 1/2 a small red onion, 1/2 a jalapeno pepper (more or less depending on your desired spice level), mince one clove of garlic, and a squeeze of lime juice. Stir together and set aside. (You can add some fresh cilantro to this, but I prefer to serve cilantro separately when I’m making tacos for more than just me — not everyone enjoys it)

Arrange all the rest of your toppings – I had the pineapple salsa, shredded cheese, hot sauce, chopped cilantro, pico de gallo, a little guacamole (leftover from the chips and guac we snacked on before dinner), sour cream, and some small lime quarters. Heat up your tortillas of choice (I’m a soft flour kinda girl myself), and serve.

Enjoy along with your adult beverage of choice and some college football.

And perhaps a cupcake. 🙂

 

Easy Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 jar chunky salsa
  • 1 bottle enchilada sauce
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 TB brown sugar, honey, or agave syrup
  • tortillas and toppings of your choice

Turn the slow cooker on to high heat/saute. Cut the onion in half, peel, and slice thinly. Add the olive oil to the cooker and allow to become slightly softened and translucent. Add the chicken to the slow cooker and the seasonings. Sear the chicken for a couple minutes, add the salsa and enchilada sauce, switch heat setting to high/slow cook, and allow to cook for 4-5 hours.

Shred chicken with two forks and reduce setting to warm. Serve with preferred toppings. See pineapple salsa recipe below.

Pineapple Salsa 

  • 1/2 ripe pineapple
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno (more or less as desired)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • lime juice
  • salt

Peel and core pineapple. Chop into smaller diced pieces. Dice onion. De-seed and dice jalapeno(depending on desired heat level). Mince garlic. Toss all into a bowl with lime juice and a pinch of salt. Serve with tacos, chips, or anything else you like.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in breakfast, brunch, comfort food, daily, food, recipe

Apple Spice Waffles

You guys. I have a dilemma. If you’ve been around here for any period of time, you might know that my weekend breakfast of choice is homemade buttermilk pancakes. I love pancakes so much that I’ve got them as an answer to a security question with one of my online billing accounts. When I go out for brunch I scan the restaurant’s menu for their version of pancakes, even if I don’t feel like ordering them. I could go on for hours about the best types of pancakes and debate the merits of box mix vs. scratch made. Homemade vs. restaurant. Restaurant vs. restaurant.

I like pancakes, y’all.

So when I had a weekend guest a while back and knew I wanted to throw together breakfast for us in the morning, my mind immediately went to pancakes. However, this particular guest had already experienced my homemade pancakes and I didn’t want to repeat myself too quickly. So what’s the next best thing to pancakes?

Waffles. After all, they’re pretty much just pancakes with built in syrup receptacles.

And these waffles are a lot like the pancakes that I’ve been making for years so it was like second nature to throw them together. I wanted to give them a little something extra and was feeling all sorts of fall that weekend so I peeled and diced up a couple apples and stirred them into the batter along with cinnamon and nutmeg. I actually might make another batch of these this weekend. I went apple picking last week and the local apples I have are amazing.

The necessities: Milk, flour, eggs, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, fresh ground nutmeg, two apples, juice of a lemon.

Peel and chop the apples into small dice. Toss with lemon juice to avoid browning. Forgive me, but I don’t remember what kind of apples these were, but really almost any variety will work. Something tart yet sweet and not super crisp will do very nicely.

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside. Separate eggs. Whisk whites until stiff and stir yolks together with brown sugar and vanilla. Melt butter in microwave, and measure out milk.

Whisk together butter and egg yolk/brown sugar mixture, and stir into the dry ingredients along with the milk. Whisk until mixture just comes together. It will still be lumpy.

Add egg whites to mixture and fold together gently. Add chopped apples and stir until combined.

Pre-heat waffle iron and brush with more melted butter (or spray with cooking spray). Pour batter onto waffle iron (I used a little less than a cup worth of batter for my iron, and it was a tad too much as you’ll see). Close iron and allow to cook for 4-5 minutes, until waffle is at desired doneness.

I think this was only the third or fourth time I’ve actually used my waffle iron, so I had some trial and error here.

But they still came out pretty damn good.

Serve with some more butter (if desired), and your choice of syrup.

So good. Crispy on the outside, tender and just a little moist on the inside, with a nice sweet/tart/slight crunch from the apple, and great spice. They’re perfect for a lazy fall morning. Another bonus?  These freeze beautifully. Make a double batch and save some for a busy weekday morning – just throw them in the toaster!

Apple Spice Waffles (Adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 11/2 cup milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 apples
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Peel and chop apples into small dice. Toss in a bowl with lemon juice and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

Mix egg yolk with brown sugar and vanilla, add melted butter and combine.

Whisk egg whites until stiff (can be done with a hand or stand mixer as well to save time and your arm).

Mix dry ingredients with egg yolk, sugar and butter mixture. Stir together with milk until just combined – will still be lumpy.

Gently fold in egg whites and stir into batter. Fold in diced apples.

Heat up waffle iron and brush with melted butter or spray with cooking spray. Pour batter onto waffle iron and close. Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, until browned on the outside and cooked through. Try to avoid opening the waffle iron too much!

Serve waffles with butter and your choice of syrup.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in comfort food, daily, food, recipe, seafood, soup

Corn and Crab Chowder

As soon as September 1st rolls around it begins. Jack Skellington memes on Facebook. Reports of Pumpkin Spice everything at the grocery store. Young women who just spent the summer in sun dresses and sandals are digging out their boots, flannels, and puffy vests. “OMG it’s finally FALL!”

Except it isn’t. Not really. Not in Pennsylvania. We had sunny, hot, summer-like 80 degree weather until…

Like a week and a half ago. I was still sleeping with my air conditioner on. It was maddening, especially given the crappy rainy summer we did have. But now, finally, MIDWAY THROUGH OCTOBER, fall has arrived. Leaves are changing, the air is crisp and cool and I’m craving soup pretty much 24/7.

This is a great soup to make during late summer/early fall, when the corn harvest is still abundant. You can make this any time of year with frozen corn, but fresh corn is fantastic with the crab meat and bacon in the chowder.

You will need: Corn, fresh lump crab meat, bacon, four medium potatoes, one large onion, two to four cloves of garlic, one large bell pepper (or 1/2 to 3/4 each of two medium sized ones), vegetable stock, seafood stock jelly packet (optional, you could use a carton of seafood stock if you have it available), fresh parsley, heavy cream, and seasoning.

Note: This isn’t a “chowder” in the strictest sense of the word, because it’s not super thick or rich  – I don’t add flour to the fat with the cooked vegetables to make a roux before adding the stock. You absolutely can do so if you prefer a richer soup. I’ve always just made it this way and I really enjoy it. 

Start by heating a large soup pot over medium heat, and cut four strips of bacon into large dice. Add the bacon to the hot pot and cook until browned and crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot and drain on paper towels.

Snack on a piece or two, I won’t tell. Dice the onion and bell peppers and add them to the rendered bacon fat in the pot and saute until translucent and soft. Mince the garlic, add to pot, and saute until fragrant. Add a little salt and pepper and some onion and garlic powder if you like.

While the vegetables are sauteing, remove the corn from the cobs and dice the potatoes into small bite size pieces. Add the corn and potatoes to the pot, along with the seafood stock jelly and vegetable stock, and increase the heat to medium-high.

This isn’t a necessary ingredient; you can just buy liquid seafood stock, or use plain vegetable or chicken stock(low sodium) if you prefer. I just tried this to see if it made a difference in flavor – I think this definitely made the chowder more “fishy” than when I’ve made it in the past.

Allow the vegetables and stock to come to a low boil, reduce heat back down to medium, and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through. While the soup is simmering, drain the crab meat and pick through to make sure there are no pieces of shell left in the meat.

Fresh lump crab meat is best here – don’t scrimp on this ingredient. It’s a bit pricey but sometimes you can hit a good seafood sale at your local grocery store.

When the potatoes are fork tender, add the crab meat to the soup along with the cooked bacon. Stir together and allow to simmer 5-10 minutes so the flavors mingle. Add 1/2 pint of heavy cream and 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley. Check seasonings and serve.

Corn and Crab Chowder

  • 4 or 5 ears fresh corn on the cob, husked and kernels removed
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced (can leave peels on, just scrub well)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (I used 1/2 red pepper and 1/2 orange pepper, but use whatever you prefer)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 slices of bacon cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 lb fresh lump crab mean, drained and any remaining bits of shell removed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • seafood stock jelly
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 2 Tbs fresh parsley, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, cook the chopped bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove and drain on paper towels and set aside. Saute the onion and bell pepper in the remaining bacon drippings (add a little olive oil or butter if you need more fat for sauteing) until translucent. Add minced garlic and saute for one minute more. ~This is where you would add a tablespoon of flour to the fat to thicken the soup if you prefer.~

Add corn, diced potatoes, and seafood stock jelly to the vegetables and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Add vegetable stock to the pot and allow to come to a slow boil. Reduce heat, cover with lid and simmer until the potatoes are just cooked through. Add crab meat and bacon to the pot and simmer for another 5 minutes. Stir in cream and parsley and adjust seasonings to taste, if necessary.

Serve with crackers and enjoy!

Posted in breakfast, brunch, daily, Entertaining, food

Brunch At Jenn’s: Harvest Fest 2017

I took a look back through my incredibly short archives and realized the last time I shared a post about my annual Harvest Fest brunch was FOUR damn years ago.

I’m sorry, darlings. I won’t let it happen again.

Suffice to say, the amount of food I serve and my style of entertaining has…evolved a bit since 2013.

Just a little.

Let me walk you through the process of hosting a brunch, @TheJennC style. It starts at least three or four weeks earlier, when I look through my Pinterest and cookbooks and try to decide what dishes and drinks to serve. I mean, it’s brunch, so there will of course be mimosas and coffee. A nice fruit plate is also a must, as is my oven-roasted bacon sprinkled with brown sugar and chile powder, and the cheesy hash brown casserole that my friends (apparently) cannot live without.  From there it’s a matter of what type of breakfast pastry/pancakes/waffles/etc. I’m feeling and what type of egg dish I want to throw together. There’s also usually a “desert” of some type served, and the past few years I end up making a couple of batches of French macarons as well. No matter how ‘simple’ I try to keep everything, from beginning to end it does add up to a fair amount of work. But I love to do it, and would hate to stop.

One thing that helps me is taking a day (or more) off from work – this year I had Friday off and was able to sneak out of work a tad early on Thursday. I got home Thursday afternoon and immediately started cleaning up the kitchen to set up for the macaron making, which didn’t actually happen until about 9 o’clock that night because I’m a professional goddamn procrastinator.

Classic me.

So I had the macarons done and was off to bed around 2 o’clock on Friday morning. I had a couple appointments and some errands to run early and my parents were coming by to do some work around the house; dad is in the middle of putting a fresh coat of paint on the ceiling in the living room and kitchen and we also wanted to clear out some old junk from the basement. So I was back up around 6:30 to shower, dress, finish up the dishes from the night before and write up my grocery and to-do lists.

I’m a to-do list kind of girl, I think I’ve mentioned in the past. I have full on notebooks for my to-do lists. I can’t think before I make a to-do list. I make to-do lists of my to-do lists.

I like lists, people. Lists are my thing. I list out everything I have to do that day before I can go to bed, then I list out everything I need to do the day of and the time I need to start the task (or have it completed) from the second I wake up until the second the food hits the table (yes, even showering and getting ready). It’s incredibly helpful to me to see everything I need to get done laid out and keeps me on task.

So, off to my appointments, grocery shopping, etc. and back to the house just a bit before noon on Friday. My dad was already at the house working, and I got straight into Cleaning Frenzy mode. I cleared the stuff up out of the basement that I wanted to leave for garbage collection and did the little cleaning around the house that I could while my dad had all his painting paraphernalia strewn about. He finished up and was out of my hair a little before 3, and I ran back out to the store to find the one thing I still needed that I couldn’t find at three other grocery stores earlier that day. (Yes, I was successful)

I returned home, finished all my cleaning with the exception of the floors, and moved on to prepping the little bit that I could for the next day. This included making the french toast casserole and a chocolate sauce, brewing up some coffee to chill in the fridge overnight, and getting my serving dishes, utensils, and decorations out.

Don’t ask what time I took that photo Saturday morning Friday night.

Off to bed for another four or five hours of sleep, and back up at 6:00 to shower and dress, and I was downstairs right around 7 am to get started.

The first thing I did was stir together the Chicory Coffee Milk punch and put it in the freezer to set for three hours. This is one of the recipes I found in my copy of Brunch at Bobby’s and it’s amazing. It’s supposed to freeze up and get slushy, but mine didn’t get so much slushy as super ice cold. I served it over ice and it was perfect. Boozy, creamy, a tad sweet, it gave my brunch a nice hint of southern charm. Look for it in an upcoming Cocktail Friday post!

Onto the hash browns. I’ve been making this slow-cooker version of Cracker Barrel’s famous hash brown casserole for a couple of years, and when I didn’t mention that I was making it for my New Year’s brunch this past January I could hear the pouts via text message, so I know it’s a must-have for every brunch at my place. (Yes, I ended up making it for New Year’s too. Spoiled-ass friends.) This creamy, cheesy casserole is super easy to make, and ready to serve after cooking on high for about three hours. I could have stirred it all together and had it ready to go the night before, but I had ZERO room in my refrigerator for it, so I opted to throw it together in the morning.

Then I made the batter for these Mini Pumpkin Churros, the recipe for which I also found in Brunch at Bobby’s. I thought they would be a perfect sweet companion to a fall brunch. I did not, however, stop to think about the amount of work it takes to fry a bunch of mini churros right before you’ve got a houseful of guests coming over, so if you’re hosting by yourself or don’t have a trusty assistant, I’d suggest trying those out another time.

You will thank me (and Bobby Flay) when you make them, though. Crispy, sweet, pumpkin perfection. The orange-chocolate dipping sauce makes a perfect companion.

By this time it was very close to 9 am, and I was expecting guests around 10, so I had to start hustling. I pre-heated the oven and started to prep my bacon. For 8-12 guests I buy two pounds of bacon and I usually end up with about two pieces left, if any. Line two baking sheets with foil, place a rack on each sheet and lay the bacon out on the racks. Sprinkle bacon with brown sugar, chile powder, and fresh cracked black pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes and serve.

Magic.

Before I put the bacon in the oven, I had to bake the Texas French Toast Bake. I’ve always been super skeptical about french toast casseroles – I don’t like super soggy french toast to begin with, and those make ahead casseroles always struck me as such. I had this french toast bake a few months ago for a breakfast pot luck at work, and loved it. It’s perfect – not super “eggy”, with a touch of crisp on the bottom. This one’s definitely in the rotation.

Now I was getting down to the wire. I grabbed my macarons out of the fridge to take the chill off, and started to warm up the chocolate sauce for the churros. Everything else was baking, warming, or chilling, and I still had a floor to mop and tables to set. So I did the quickest round of Swiffer-ing ever and set up my tables and kitchen island for serving.

For parties like this, I always use disposable plates, cups, and utensils, just to make clean up easier. I like to buy “nicer” disposables, but disposables nonetheless. I found that cute little blackboard to use as a menu board in the dollar section at Target, and some greenery (leafery?) at my local grocery store, along with decorative gourds, motherf*ckers.

The little fake pumpkins were from Target, along with the colored/wrapped led lights. The serving plates I’ve had for a few years; you can always find really nice ones at Marshall’s/TJ Maxx and the like.

Back to cooking! I started the oil for my mini churros, took the french toast bake out of the oven, upped the oven temperature and started the bacon. I grabbed my fruit from the fridge, rinsed what needed to be rinsed, and started cutting up the pineapple.

In between batches of churros, I plated up the fruit.

Pineapple, mixed berries, and concord grapes. I used my large cutting board simply because all my other platters were too small.

The first of my guests started arriving at this time, so I snagged the bourbon/coffee/cream goodness out of the freezer and placed that out on the table I had set up for the plates and such, along with the juice and bubbly for mimosas, and the Bloody Mary fixings my friends brought with them.

The macarons were vanilla-raspberry and pumpkin spice-cinnamon bourbon. Yes, I can make macarons. No, I will not be writing about it any time soon, because I don’t have them perfected just yet.

Crunch time. More people arriving, more things to finish. The churros were popping out left and right, and the more I made the more I realized…I didn’t need this many damn churros. So I stopped frying them up about half way through the batch of batter (Note to self: make half the amount next time), and moved on to more pressing issues, mainly plating the bacon and starting the cheesy scrambled eggs.

Super easy. Whisk up a whole bunch of eggs, scramble in pan, add cheese, serve.

And there you have it! Everything was a big hit, I had a super fun day with some of my very favorite people, and I think I’m almost recovered from the lack of sleep and day drinking.

Some tips for your next brunch:

Start planning early. Pre-buy your booze, dishes, utensils, and decorations.

Hit up Aldi or another discount grocery store for your essentials, and then go to the fancy grocery store for the specialty items.

If you need to clean your house (like I always do), start early in the week to avoid last minute/late night speed cleaning (like I always do).

Set out extra chairs/tables/etc. the night before. Set out dishes and decorations too.

Pre-make and prep what you can the day or night before.

Get out of bed a half an hour before you think you need to.

CLEAN AS YOU GO. Start the morning off with an empty sink and dishwasher to avoid a back up in the sink.

Always take help from your friends when they offer, even if it’s just to clean the fruit or grab a dish from the cabinet.

Sit. Drink. Laugh. Enjoy yourself. And leave the dishes for Sunday.

Posted in comfort food, daily, Entertaining, food, recipe

Philly Cheese Steak Rolls

Okay, so here’s that recipe I promised you almost a week ago.

I’m terrible at this, aren’t I?

But I’m really good at some other things, so it evens out. Kind of.

Anyway, these are the cheese steak roll ups that I made for my birthday game night last month. They were super easy to make and really tasty. You can make them ahead, freeze them and bake them whenever you need them too.

What you’ll need:

Thin sliced or shaved steak (see below – you can usually find it in the frozen meat section), frozen puff pastry sheets, a good sized onion, sliced bell or banana peppers (or both, depending on preference), sliced american or provolone cheese, one egg, and some sesame seeds (again, your preference). To season the meat mixture I used salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and a little bit of Dijon mustard.

Set frozen puff pastry out to thaw for about 30-45 minutes. Peel the onion, cut it into halves or quarters and slice thinly. Saute onion in 2 Tb olive oil until softened and slightly browned (Add sliced bell peppers – if using – and cook until soft). Cut the shaved steak into bite sized pieces and add to pan, saute with onions until just cooked through. Add salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard. Stir together and set aside, letting cool slightly.

Whisk the egg with a tablespoon of water in a bowl to make an egg wash. Roll one sheet of puff pastry out with flour into an approximate 12 x 16 rectangle. Pile approximately one half of the meat mixture down the length of one end of the dough. Top with sliced banana peppers (if using),

And then the sliced cheese.

Roll meat and pastry tightly end to end. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds (or poppy seeds, or caraway seeds…you see where I’m going here. You can also go seedless if you prefer). Repeat with the remaining puff pastry and meat mixture.

Rest on a baking sheet in the refrigerator for an hour to set. This step isn’t a necessity, but it will allow the pastry to slightly firm back up and make slicing the roll much easier. If you have the time, rest it; even for a day or two, as long as it’s wrapped in plastic.

To bake:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice rolls into 12 slices; about 1 inch thick. Bake on a lined cookie sheet 10-12 minutes, then flip and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the pastry is nicely browned.

Serve warm with some marinara sauce on the side.

And watch them disappear.

Philly Cheese Steak Rolls

  • 1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 package shaved steak, chopped fine
  • 1 medium to large onion
  • 1/4-1/2 cup (or more) sliced banana peppers (if desired)
  • 1/4 – 1/3 lb sliced deli cheese of your choosing
  • 1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 Tb Olive oil
  • sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Slice the onion thinly and add to a sautée pan over medium heat with olive oil. Sautee until lightly browned and add chopped steak. Cook until just browned, add salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard. Stir together and set aside.

Roll out one sheet of thawed pastry on a flour-topped counter with a rolling pin. Pile one half of the meat mixture down the length of one end of the pastry. Top with sliced banana peppers and cheese, and roll from meat to other end tightly. Repeat with other sheet of pastry, remaining meat mixture, peppers, and cheese.

Whisk egg in a bowl with 1-2 Tbs cold water to make an egg wash. Brush egg wash over rolled pastry and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Set rolls on baking sheet in refrigerator for at least an hour to over night.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice roll into 12 1-inch slices and place on to lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes on one side, flip, and bake an additional 5-10 minutes, until the pastry is browned and the cheese is melted.

Remove from baking sheet onto serving platter, and serve warm with a side of marinara sauce.

Enjoy!!

 

 

 

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Posted in daily, Entertaining

Birthday Game Night, Complete with Snacks

I celebrated my birthday a couple weeks ago in my usual fashion – an all-night rager at a local club that didn’t end until the local police showed up.

Kidding. I actually just hosted game night with some of my favorite people. I love a good game night party – it’s super informal, you just need a few finger foods, a big bowl of popcorn, a plate of cupcakes and plenty of booze.

This year I knew I would be out of the house most for of the day leading up to the party and therefore wouldn’t have a ton of prep time so I came up with a super simple menu – a couple parts make ahead, one part crock pot, and one part big old bowl of stove-popped popcorn. I’ll start with the dips – I stirred together a spinach dip and served it with some cut up veggies, pretzels and store-bought pita chips.

Always a classic. If you don’t know how to make a spinach dip by now… Here you go.

I also served something that became a new favorite this year, Mexican Street Corn dip. A friend of mine served it at a Cinco de Mayo party and I bugged her for the recipe immediately. I think I’ve made it four times since May. The recipe calls for you to stir everything together on the stove but I just throw it all together in the crock pot and let it rip for an hour or two, it’s perfectly gooey and melty, plus it stays warm throughout your whole party.

Ugh. It’s so good. Serve with lots of tortilla chips. It reheats fantastically, too.

I made some stovetop garlic parmesan popcorn as well. Just pop the corn, melt some butter with some cracked peeled garlic cloves, allow to infuse, drain and pour over the popped corn, and sprinkle some fresh grated parmesan cheese on top.

That was the easy-peasy, throw-together-at-the-last-minute stuff. The make ahead stuff was easy too, but just a tad more time consuming so I started the night before.

I made these Chocolate Hazelnut cupcakes with a toasted bourbon meringue frosting, because they sounded rich, decadent and delicious and it was an excuse to use my food torch so OF COURSE I was going to make them.

Mine didn’t come out quite as pretty as the original recipe (I don’t think I gave the meringue enough time in the mixer), but I enjoyed them immensely.

As a sort of “main dish” to all this finger food, I was in the mood for something cheesesteak-y. Let’s be honest, when am I not in the mood for something cheesesteak-y? Cheesesteak anything is amazing. But for my birthday I decided to dress it up just a tad in some puff pastry. Roll, slice, bake, done.

I’ll give this a full write up in my next post, because I’m getting a little long winded here, and I just wanted to share birthday goodies before September is over. I’ve got a few other recipes waiting for write ups, and Harvest Fest brunch is coming next week! I’m still working out my menu for that but I think it’s going to be a good one. I’m so excited for fall and what the rest of this year brings!

But for real in the meantime? I might need to make the cheesesteak rolls again. Yum.

 

Posted in daily, life, recipe

Post Number 200! An Update and A Recipe.

Hello there, and welcome back to my little blog. I know blogs are so early 00’s but I still read them, so I figure other people out there do too. (And thank you for doing so!)

So, life update. I’m still working like crazy at both jobs. I did make a conscious decision to take fewer hours at my second job, but I still end up working quite a few days a month there. I’m still waiting to hit that Powerball. No word yet.

The cats are good boys. Dean is getting super chubby despite the fact that I do NOT over feed them – I just feel like some cats are pre-disposed to be chubs.

He’s super cute though. Even when he is grumpy as hell.

Made a few changes around the house – I got a new stove! My old one was giving out on me last year, which I finally noticed the week I was baking all my Christmas cookies. Of course. So between holiday gift cards, cash, and a little help from mom and dad, I was able to get a new stove. Best part? Convection. Fancy!

I’m still getting the hang of her, however. I was used to the old stove that didn’t get as hot or cook food as fast. I gotta keep on my toes with this one!

Dad also helped me refresh the living room with a new coat of paint. It had been a pretty butter yellow for years but I was ready for a change. I wanted something a little neutral but dramatic, and I thought a medium beige-ish gray would be perfect.

And it is.

And finally, my biggest life update: there’s a boy. In my life.

Yes, a boy. We’ve been dating since October. I like him. That’s all you get.

Onto the recipe! I had this one in my brain for a couple of weeks and took advantage of a day off recently to give it a go. It’s easy enough to pull together on a week night yet just ‘fancy’ enough to serve to someone special for an at-home date night.

I love corn served alongside scallops, I think the sweetness of the corn complements the succulent butteriness of the scallops, and the pop of heat from the roasted poblano pepper gives the puree a great kick.

I started with a few ears of corn, four or five. Shuck and remove silk, drizzle with olive oil, and season with a little salt and pepper. Grill on high for approximately 10-12 minutes until roasted on all sides.

Grill the poblano pepper for a few minutes on all sides until the skin is blackened and blistered.

Remove from grill and place in a zip top bag or a covered bowl for a few minutes until the skin softens and you’re able to remove it easily. Remove the stem and seeds, and dice the pepper. Remove the corn from the grill and cut the kernels off the cobs.

Place half of the corn in a blender and puree until smooth.

Edit: This is where my pretty new stove’s super-hot burners kinda bit me in the butt, I had to move so fast to make sure nothing burned that I couldn’t take any more photos of the action. Whomp whomp.

Add pureed corn to a medium saucepan, stir in remaining corn and diced poblano. Add 1 TB butter, a splash of cream or half and half, 3 TBS parmesan cheese, a pinch of salt and fresh ground black pepper. Heat on medium low until the butter melts and the mixture bubbles slightly.

In a large saute pan, heat a few tablespoons of butter until melted. Pat the scallops dry and season with a little salt and pepper. Add to the pan with melted butter and cook on both sides until browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and serve immediately with the corn and pepper puree.

I served it alongside these easy sautéed green beans.

Yum. Tender, perfectly cooked scallops. Sweet, creamy corn with just a touch of char, and the perfect amount of heat from the poblanos. I highly recommend this one before the corn is all gone for the summer.

Sautéed Scallops with Roasted Corn and Poblano Puree

  • Large Scallops, 4 per person
  • 4-6 ears of corn, shucked and cleaned
  • 1 large poblano pepper
  • 5 Tb butter
  • 3 Tb grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 Tb half and half, milk or cream
  • salt and pepper
  • Other seasonings, as desired for corn puree (I used a little of this.)

Brush a light coating of olive oil over the ears of corn and season with salt and pepper. Grill corn until roasted on all sides, approximately 10-12 minutes. Grill poblano until charred and softened, approximately 10 minutes. Place poblano in a zip top bag and allow to cool. Remove blackened skin from the outside, remove seeds and stem, and cut into small dice.

Remove corn kernels from cobs. Puree half of the corn in a blender until smooth. Pour the puree into a small saucepan, add the remaining corn kernels and diced pepper, 1 TB butter, cream or half and half, parmesan cheese, and desired seasonings. Stir over medium low heat until incorporated and the mixture starts to bubble lightly.

Melt remaining butter in a pan over medium heat. Pat scallops dry on a paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Sautee scallops in pan until brown and just cooked through, approximately 3-4 minutes per side, depending on size of scallops.

Serve scallops immediately over corn puree and enjoy.

 

 

 

Posted in daily, life, Local Flavor

A Common-Sense Guide to Musikfest 2017

If you’re a resident of the Lehigh Valley (and haven’t spent the last few weeks under a rock), you are aware that Musikfest starts this Friday, August 4th. For those not in the know, Musikfest is a ten-day music festival featuring dozens of acts, crafts, street performers, beer, and more fried food than you’d be able to eat in a month. It’s kind of a big deal in this area and I’m definitely a fan. I’ve attended regularly for about seven or eight years now and I usually make it to the festival multiple nights during the ten days (ridiculous work schedule notwithstanding).

I don’t consider myself to be some sort of Musikfest professional, but I’d like to think I’m pretty well versed in the ins and outs of ‘Festing, so I decided to share some helpful tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way.

A Primer: Musikfest takes up a good portion of Bethlehem, PA, with stages on both the north and south sides of town. The big ticket acts only play on the Southside, so if you only have plans to see Live, Santana or Toby Keith (Why tho?), I’d suggest parking on the Southside to save yourself the headache of navigating your way over from Broad Street. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Musikfest has multiple stages, called Platzes, at which many acts play during each day at the festival. The majority of the Platzes are on the Northside, and I recommend starting your day over there, if not spending all day in that area. You can always hop on the North-South shuttle if there’s a specific act you wanted to see on the Southside. Walking is an option but with the Fahy Bridge (still) under massive construction, I’d avoid it if possible.

Before you go:

Get in the know. Download the app, grab a progam at Artsquest , or familiarize yourself with the Musikfest website. The more informed you are before you arrive the better. You’ll get info on band schedules, where to park and grab the North-South shuttle, where to fill your mug, and where to find your corn.

Follow my friend The El Vee, if you aren’t already(He’s on Facebook too). In addition to his awesome yearly pre-Fest guide(including where to get the best craft and local brew mug fills), his daily recommendations for must-see acts will help make the best of the “music” portion of your Musikfest experience, and his recaps will let you know which acts to look out for next year, if you missed them.

Buy a Mug. Even if you’re only going one day. Get a damn mug(or borrow an old one from a friend). If you’re planning on buying more than one beer it’ll save you a little cash. You can snag one of the fancy-pants light up mugs, but they cost like two bucks more, plus they’re a pain in the ass to wash. Go for the regular mugs; they’re much easier to throw in the dishwasher in the morning to wash the beer funk out. You can snag one at Artsquest or a local Wegmans this week before the festival even starts.

Get Comfortable. Musikfest takes place in August in Pennsylvania. It’s notoriously hot and humid this time of the year. Wear comfortable, light clothes and sturdy shoes good for walking. If you carry a purse I recommend a cross-body type to keep your hands free, and if possible, pick up a large carabineer to clip your mug to your bag or belt when not in use. 

Come Prepared, but Travel Light. Bring only the necessities. Will you need cash? Yes, absolutely. Bring your ID and ATM cards too. A small bottle of anti-bacterial hand sanitizer or small pack of baby wipes will help keep your hands clean after using the porta-potties, and if you plan on taking a lot of photos, videos, or spend the day SnapChatting, a portable power bank isn’t a bad idea. If you’re prone to aches, pains, and heartburn like me, bring a small bottle of Tylenol or pack of antacids. At the very least have them available back at your vehicle along with Band-Aids and other first aid supplies, and maybe a cooler with icy cold bottles of water for the drive home.

Suck It Up and Pay For Parking. Unless you arrive hella early or get hella lucky, you’re not going to find a free parking space anywhere near the festival grounds. So park about a mile and a half away and get to stepping, park at one of the shuttle lots and bus in, or pay $10 to park in one of the city lots. Many local businesses/churches offer parking for about $5-7, but aren’t monitored by security, so park there at your own risk.

Food and Drink: Musikfest has a ton of food and drink tents that operate with a ticket system. Northside vendors are strictly ticket-only, while Southside vendors accept both tickets and cash. There are multiple tents that sell tickets all over, right alongside the food and beer tents. Ticket tents accept cash and credit/debit cards for convenience (Buy more than you think you’ll need, trust me on this). There are plenty of businesses on Main Street that sell food and drinks without tickets, but that money doesn’t go to fund Musikfest. Plus why would you go into the heart ‘Fest and eat at Mama Nina’s instead of Take a Taco?

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I mean, no shade on Mama Nina’s but they’re open year ’round. Musikfest is only here for ten days. GET THE TACO. Or the gyro. Or any other of the dozens of different delicious delicacies available.

Many businesses offer mug refills at a reduced rate; this is an option to consider if you’re planning on doing any serious drinking at ‘Fest. (Make sure you have a DD, please. Or snag an Uber home.) If you’re good with drinking Miller Light, Yuengling or Coors, most businesses on Broad will fill your mug on the cheap; Musikfest charges at least 7-8$. Some places offer craft and local brews; you can obviously expect to pay a little more for that quality of beverage where available. Side note: Your mug holds non-alcoholic beverages just as well. A little cold water to stay hydrated wouldn’t hurt.

My Food Picks: You can never go wrong with Take a Taco, Pretzel Revolution, Hogar Crea Shish Kabobs, Aw Shucks corn, and Island Noodles. A giant ice cream sandwich from Bethlehem Dairy Store (AKA The Cup) is always a good idea. There are a few new vendors this year that I’m looking forward to scoping out, but I’ll let The El Vee tell you about them (He’s done more research, trust me). On a really hot day a frozen tropical smoothie is a great idea too (and if your mug happens to have rum in it when you get the smoothie? BONUS.).

Have Fun. Don’t Be A Jerk. Yes, there’s booze aplenty. Yes, there’s a ton of people, and yes, it’s really freaking hot. It’s no excuse to act like an ass and get yourself in trouble with the local law enforcement. Have fun, get crazy, but be respectful of the town and other ‘Fest-goers. Also, yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s stupid crowded. Yes, it used to be cheaper. And YES, the mugs used to hold more beer. Times change, prices change. There’s nothing we can do about it, so just enjoy while you can. Musikfest only happens once a year, there’s no sense in being miserable about it.

 

See you at ‘Fest!

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