Saucy Country Style Oven Ribs

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One thing that anyone who’s on pretty good terms with me will tell you, is that I’m usually a self-depreciating person.

I second guess myself a lot. Even if I try something new and it turns out, I’ll usually focus first on the things I did wrong before acknowledging the things I did right.

Especially when it comes to my cooking. I’m super anal about my cooking.

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If I’m making a meal for a crowd or my family, I’ll taste test the dish over and over again, making sure I’ve got my seasonings right.

I’m obsessed with the done-ness of my meats.I’m either afraid that I’m going to undercook them and feed somebody raw food, or overcook them and give someone a piece of leather. There is no in-between.

I use a thermometer to make sure my cakes bake at just the right temperature to be moist, but not too dry. 190 degrees fahrenheit. Yeah. I totally know it by heart.

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I hover over everyone asking questions about the food:

“How is everything?”

“Taste ok?”

“Is it tender/moist enough?”

“Too sweet? Too salty? Too spicy? Not sweet/salty/spicy enough?”

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Even if the dish turns out well, and everyone likes it, I usually still just let it roll off my back. I’m not huge on gloating or giving myself great huge thumbs up.

Most of the time.

But guess what? This time is different. Very, very different.

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This time, I’m gloating. Majorly gloating.

And I dare anyone to try and stop me.

Life in the kitchen is full of trial and error. Sometimes you’ll fail and mess something up. Sometimes you’ll do ok and put out something that’s passable.

And then sometimes, you’ll make something that totally and completely blows your mind.

That’s what happened to me with this dish, guys.

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Country-Style Ribs were something that before this dish, I’d never handled or attempted to cook with before. Red meat itself is just usually something I don’t get my hands on very much anymore because it’s gotten to be too friggin expensive. But my grocery store put them on sale for SUCH a good deal. And the meat looked so beautifully marbled and vibrant in the package that I just couldn’t help myself. I went ahead and bought two packages.

Because it was my first time making them, I decided to stick with something relatively simple and traditional. No frills, no fancy stuff. Barbecue ribs are the best type of ribs.

But me and the grill don’t get along, so I knew I would have to find another way of making them ‘barbecue style’. Cue this recipe I found on Epicurious.com

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What you’re looking at is hands down, one of the most delicious, outstanding, perfect things that I have ever made in my life.

I am NOT  kidding.

This is legit one of the best foods I’ve ever eaten. I almost couldn’t believe that I actually cooked it. It made me step back, take a look at myself and say, “Hey: maybe I’m actually pretty GOOD  at this whole cooking thing….”

I followed this recipe almost to the letter, the only thing I changed was to decrease the original amount of vinegar called for  in the barbecue sauce recipe. (I’m from the South, so I tend to prefer my sauce on the sweeter side.)

Guys, I can’t say enough about the tenderness of these ribs. I mean…Goll-LEEEEEE. Put that knife away: you will NOT be needing it. I’m not even 100% convinced that you’ll need a fork. That’s how tender and juicy and moist the meat comes out. You can literally pull it apart with your fingers.

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See that? That was me after I took one bite of these ribs.

I was Hot Stuff that day. And the day after that when I ate the leftovers.

Lord, just looking at these pictures is making me re-live the glorious feeling of sheer and complete culinary victory all over again. Somebody get me a trophy and a podium to make an acceptance speech, stat.

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I’m super duper late, but I’m still bringing these ribs to the Fiesta Friday#66 party. Because the world deserves to know about these ribs. It’s that serious.  Thanks to Angie and Anna @Anna International for hosting (all by herself too, that is NO easy task!)

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Saucy Country Style Oven Ribs


Recipe Adapted from Epicurious.com

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Ingredients

  • 4 lb boneless country-style pork ribs
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (2 cups)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup (12 oz)
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons drained bottled horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

 Directions

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Put ribs in a 6- to 8-quart pot and cover with water by two inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, skimming froth, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook onion and garlic in oil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.

Drain pork in a colander and pat dry, then arrange in 1 layer using tongs in a 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Pour sauce over pork to coat evenly, then cover dish tightly with foil. Bake 1 hour, then remove foil and carefully turn pork over with tongs and cook, uncovered, until very tender, about 30 minutes. Skim fat from sauce if desired.

Pulled Chicken with Cherry Chile Barbecue Sauce

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*taps mic*

Is this thing on?

Yeah? So we’re live now? Ok, great, thanks.

Umm…. So.

Hiiiii.

Joker

Assuming that there’s even anybody still left out here, just…hear me out. Cause I can explain my little unexpected blogging hiatus that absolutely came out of nowhere and I gave you guys absolutely no warning for.

I think.

See, what had happened was…

Hey! Have I ever told you all about that time I fell off a merry go round on the playground? No? Story time then.

(Don’t worry, I do actually have a point.)

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It was lunch time ‘recess’ and one of the games that a group of me and my buddies did was to cram as many of us on the merry go round as we could get. The boys would take turns cranking and spinning the wheel (because it was pretty packed and heavy) as fast as the laws of physics would allow. The ‘object’ of the game really was to stay on the merry go round at all costs- because if you didn’t hang on tight, your behind was gonna get pushed off- the ‘other’ part of the game.

Looking back on it, the game sounds pretty dangerous to me now. I mean, any number of unfortunate things could’ve happened; broken limbs, bloody noses, concussions- just to name a few.

But it was very amusing to us at the time. There’s something about being a kid where you literally just don’t conceive of anything like that being able to happen to you.

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I’m somewhat curvalicious now that I’ve reached my adult years, but lemme tell you guys, when I was young, I…wasn’t curvy. At all. My stomach was a garbage disposal and since I had the metabolism of an Olympic athlete, I was just really skinny. I say this to emphasize that during our dare devil game on the merry go round, I was able to really maneuver my way on to the center of the wheel and literally wrap myself through the crannies and bars on the surface, in true contortionist-style. In short, I just usually didn’t get thrown off.

But y’know…all good things eventually come to an end. The fateful day came where I wasn’t able to scramble my way to the center of the merry go round and entangle my limbs around the bars, having to content myself with grabbing a spot on the edge of the wheel. It was stupid of me. I shouldn’t have even bothered joining in the game that day.

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But I did. And I paid the price for it.

In case you guys didn’t know: falling off a rapidly spinning merry go round onto a bed of wood chips really, really, really hurts. And it’s also rather embarrassing when you get laughed at by a playground full of other kids for it.  Just putting that out there.

Where was I? Oh yeah. My point. See the thing is, I’ve been pretty good at maintaining a regular blogging schedule for a while, or so I thought. So long as I was putting out around 2 posts a week, I felt like I was on the right track. Kinda like how for a while, I was pretty good at staying on the merry go round on our recess game back at my old school.

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But the day came where I just wasn’t as good at the game as I had been before, and I fell off the wheel. Just like I’ve fallen off the blogging horse for the past three weeks or so. I fell off, and I fell hard. It sucked. It was embarrassing. The truth is, I don’t even have a straightforward answer or explanation for you guys as to why it happened. I’ve still been cooking. I’ve still been taking pictures. I’ve put together some new recipes I’m actually rather excited to share. But I just…I just couldn’t get out a friggin post. It just would not happen for me. I’d sit here and stare at my computer screen like an idiot until I finally closed out my WordPress dashboard in self-disgust and clicked over to my Facebook or Twitter tab. I’ve still been keeping up with my Blog Reader feed though: I’ve still been seeing all you beautiful people and all your beautiful posts. And that helped.

So here I am. Back with more food. This recipe’s pretty straight forward; chicken breasts you throw in the crockpot with a homemade barbecue sauce of fresh cherries and adobe chiles. It’s your perfect blend of sweet and spicy, and dish you can make when you just don’t feel like being bothered with life. Or you’re a derelict food blogger that needs to get back on the blogging horse…or shall we say, the merry-go round?

(Someone should put that on a t-shirt)

Happy Fiesta Friday #60 to my friends at The Novice Gardener, especially this week’s co-hosts Tracy @Scratch It Cook and Nancy @Feasting With Friends. Big thanks to Angie for getting us our own place too- it looks GREAT 🙂

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Pulled Chicken with Cherry Chile Barbecue Sauce

Recipe Courtesy of Epicurious.com

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Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots (about 1 large)
  • 1 tbsp. peeled chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh jalapeno (seeds and membranes removed)
  • Scant 4 cups dark sweet fresh cherries, pitted and de-stemmed (3 cups afterward)
  • Two 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes (no salt added; You’ll only need 1 1/2 cans, save the rest for later use )
  • 1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. chipotle chile from a can of adobo chipotle chiles
  • 3 tbsp. Dijon mustard, divided
  • 1 1/4 tsp. chile powder, divided
  • 2 tsp. coarse salt, divided
  • 15 grinds of black pepper, divided
  • 2 tsp. light brown sugar
  • 3lbs. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed (about 8)

 Directions

1. Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shallots, ginger, and jalapeño and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the cherries, tomatoes, molasses, vinegar, chipotle, 1 tablespoon mustard, 3/4 teaspoon chile powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 5 grinds pepper, and bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Reduce to a simmer over medium heat, and cook until aromatic and thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully transfer half to a blender; purée until smooth, about 20 seconds. Purée the second half until smooth (you should have about 5 1/4 cups). Set aside.

3. Meanwhile, mix 2 tablespoons mustard, 1/2 teaspoon chile powder, 1/2 teaspoons salt, 10 grinds pepper, and the brown sugar in a large bowl; add the chicken and mix well with your hands. Put the chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker and pour 1 1/2 cups of the barbecue sauce on top (reserve the remainder for serving and extras). Cover and cook on low until the meat is cooked through and tender, 4 to 4 1/2 hours.3. Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a cutting board and carefully use a fork to separate the meat from the bones, discarding the bones (you should have about 4 cups meat).4. To serve, stir together 1 cup of the remaining sauce and the shredded meat, and reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.

Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry

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You guys know when you go to a Chinese take-out joint, they’ll serve some dishes with creative names? I’ve always really liked that.

I’m looking at a menu from one of the nearby places here where we’ve gone for years at a list of items that they given those ‘special names’. The funny thing about it is that they don’t really describe what the food is; it’s as if they just expect you to know what it is beforehand. I don’t, but I can always speculate:

1) “Eight Parts Delicious”- I’ve never tried this one before. I’ve always been too scared. Why ‘eight parts’? Why not five, or six, or four? Does eight parts mean eight different spices? Eight different vegetables? Eight different meats? (Wait, that’s really probably not it, I can’t even think of eight meats right now).

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2) “Happy Family”- I’m assuming this is just a big assortment of meats and veggies stir-fried together to make one big “happy family” of a dish. It better be for what they’re charging for it. Sheesh.

3) “Phoenix and Dragon”- well, let me see. I couldn’t swear to what the protein in this would be, but I’m going to make a wild guess that whatever it is, it’s pretty spicy. The ‘phoenix’ part can obviously pass for chicken, but what’s the term used for reptiles? Do people even eat reptiles?

4) “Four Seasons”- This one I’m almost positive had four proteins in it. I mean it’s almost too easy: chicken, beef, pork, fish. The REAL question is which protein stands for which season. I’ll think about it and get back to you guys on that one.

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I got one of my mad, notorious cravings for some Asian stir-fry and rather than just pick up the phone and order in, I remembered that I’m a freakin food blogger and went into the kitchen to fire up my wok instead. That’s pretty impressive for me guys, so you should be giving me a pat on the back.

There really was no rhyme or reason for the ingredients I picked out when planning this recipe. I just used what I knew would be easy, and pretty accessible for most people to get. My protein of choice was chicken (which is par for the course for me), but if you’re more partial to using beef or pork, then feel free to swap it out.

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I was really very happy with how this dish turned out. There’s the perfect ratio of meat to the veggies, the sauce (although literally thrown together at the last minute) turned out really good, and what’s more the dish can feed a pretty good sized crowd. The only problem I could find with it was when I finished cooking and taking pictures and needed to come up with a good name for it to post on the blog.

See, I really, really REALLY wanted to give it one of those ‘creative’ names I’ve seen in Chinese take-out menus. Don’t ask why, I just wanted to.

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My ‘other’ hobby is writing, so at first I tried to get REALLY out there with this. My first idea was “Buddha’s Delight”, but I seemed to remember hearing of that somewhere else, so I binned it.  Then I thought maybe “Year of the Snake” would be kinda cool since according to the Chinese Calendar, that’s my animal/sign. But I just couldn’t marry the idea of a snake with a dish where the protein is chicken so that was out too. After looking at the pictures from the photo shoot the name “Rainbow Stir-Fry” occurred to me to illustrate all the pretty veggie colors. Then I said it out loud and realized that it sounded stupid.

As you guys can see, the winner didn’t turn out to be all that impressive or creative. My wok stayed pretty hot while I was cooking the dish, and the stir-fry part would also make it pretty obvious what it was to avoid any confusion.

So there you have it: Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry. I can promise you that it MORE than makes up for in taste what it lacks in name originality.

I’ll be bringing this over to the Fiesta Friday #56  party hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by  Tina @Mademoiselle Gourmandeand Juju @cookingwithauntjuju.

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Hot Wok Chicken Stir-Fry

Recipe by Jess@CookingIsMySport

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Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thinly into strips
  • 3 tri-color bell peppers (red, yellow and orange), thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots
  • 8 oz. white mushrooms, stems removed, caps thinly sliced
  • 12 oz. broccoli florets
  • 1-2 tbsp. of your favorite stir-fry seasoning
  • Asian stir fry oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. agave nectar or honey
  • 2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • Dried Chow Mein Noodles, optional
  • Egg or vermicelli rice noodles, optional

Directions

1. Heat 1-2 tsp. of Asian stir-fry oil in the bottom of a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Add the peppers and carrots and sautee until softened and slightly limp, 7-10 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

2. Add another 1-2 tsp. of stir-fry oil to pan and sautee mushrooms about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and place with peppers and carrots.

3. Season chicken with stir-fry seasoning in a large bowl, stirring to make sure meat is evenly covered. Add additional stir-fry oil to pan and allow to heat. Add chicken to the pan (you may have to do this in multiple batches, don’t crowd it) and sautee until completely cooked through.

4. Meanwhile, combine soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, agave nectar/honey, hoisin sauce and sesame oil in a measuring cup.

5. When all of the chicken is finished cooking, add the peppers, carrots and mushroom mixture back to the pan. Turn heat up to high. Drizzle the sauce into the mixture and stir to combine. (Note: you may not need to use it all depending on how you like your stir-fry seasoned, so taste and adjust accordingly) Continue to cook until all of the liquid in the pan has been absorbed. During the last minute or so of stir-frying add the broccoli to the pan.

6. When stir-fry is completed, sprinkle chow mein noodles on top and serve atop egg noodles or vermicelli rice noodles if desired. 

My Grandma’s Cornbread

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There’s  a great and mighty war being fought in the United States right now.

No, not that one.

Nope, not that one either.

This one is about something different, something very complicated. The two sides have grappled, struggled and fought with each other for decades, maybe even over a hundred years. They just can’t reach an agreement over the issue at stake- not even a compromise. There’s no end in sight for this war. It could just go on forever.

You know what war I’m talking about, right?

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The Cornbread War.

I’m serious, guys. No, really. I am.

Here’s the thing: there are typically 2 types of corn breads made in the US. The first type is thought of as ‘Northern’ cornbread; it’s made with a majority of flour with a small portion of cornmeal added to the batter so that it’s moist, soft and almost cakey in texture. It’s also pretty sweet. Then there’s ‘Southern’cornbread: this batter is almost completely cornmeal with just a little bit of flour added to it. The texture is therefore coarser and almost crumbly. It’s hardly ever sweet and in most cases, is actually on the salty side.

People who prefer Northern cornbread are adamant that theirs is better. Southern cornbread lovers are of the general opinion that their cornbread IS cornbread. Anything else is just an imposter.

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Personally I have to admit: I am usually willing to be on either of the ‘sides’ in the Cornbread War. Both taste fine to me. However, I will say this: given the choice, any day, I will always always ALWAYS pick my Grandma’s cornbread.

And mu grandma’s cornbread is Southern to a T.

This is a recipe I’ve wanted to share on the blog for a while. It’s very important to our family, as this is something that I’ve literally been eating all my life. Hopefully I’ll be eating it right up to the day I die.  I can cook some pretty fancy stuff if I wanted to, but a hunk of this cornbread served with a big bowl of my grandma’s collard greens are really all I need for a satisfying meal. She’s made this bread so many times, she doesn’t even need to measure out the ingredients; she literally just pours them into a bowl, mixes it up and bakes it off without even paying that much attention.

And it still comes out perfect every time.

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I wouldn’t share this recipe for anything less than a special occasion and today is certainly a VERY special occasion as it happens to be the One Year Anniversary of Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener. A great big HUGE congratulations to Angie on reaching this milestone- thanks for gathering together so many talented bloggers and letting them share all of their wonderful creations week after week at the parties. I also have to throw out a thank you to Nancy@FeastingwithFriends for being the one who first introduced me to the Fiesta Friday link up in the first place- I’m so glad she did. Let’s keep it rockin on, guys.

The Part 1 of our Anniversary party at the Fiesta is being hosted this week by  Hilda @Along The Grapevine and Julianna @Foodie On Board. Make sure you come on out and join us!

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My Grandma's Cornbread

Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 large egg, beaten well
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. liquid bacon grease/drippings
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • About 1 cup of Milk (or as much as necessary)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Spray an 8-inch square pan (or a cast iron skillet) with cooking spray.

2. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, adding the milk in small increments– the batter should be thick, but not so stiff that it can’t be poured out.

3. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle.

Chipotle Apple Butter Chicken

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Sometimes I’ll go through a phase where I become addicted to a certain type of food. Like really addicted. I’ll have to have it every day, so I’ll buy mass quantities at one time- you know, just to make sure I never have a craving that can’t be satisfied. Because that sucks and definitely gets under my skin (probably more than it should).

At one time, it was Yoplait Boston Creme Pie Yogurt mixed in with Honey Bunches of Oats Just Bunches. I HAD to have some as an after dinner ‘dessert’.

At another, it was an Archers Farm trail mix of cashews, almonds and dried cranberries.

For a while, I was hooked on Panera Cinnamon Crunch bagels, toasted and spread with butter.

Bananas and melted peanut butter on whole wheat toast was a REALLY big favorite.

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Yellow corn chips is still a big one- I’ve got three bags in the house right now. Honestly, I have to be careful- they’re waaaaay too easy for me to eat in large quantities. Same thing with animal crackers; right now they’re my go to work snack.

About two years I developed a huge love of eating fried eggs on toast and experimenting with different spreads to put on top. I loved the contrast of saltiness from the egg with the sweetness of different jam spreads. One day I was in the grocery store looking in the jam aisle for something a little bit different to try and I noticed a jar of Musselman’s Apple Butter. I’d never heard of apple butter before, much less what it tasted like. But I was in the experimenting kind of mood, so I decided to give it a try.

From that first day, I was hooked. I LOVED apple butter. From then on, it was all I wanted to eat on my toast.

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But as we know, interests and passions begin to fade and shift after a while. Eventually,I got a little tired of having my regular fried eggs on toast smeared with apple butter. I moved onto my next obsession.

But I still had two unopened jumbo jars of apple butter in my pantry. For a long while, they just sat there. And sat there. And sat there.

I wasn’t gonna throw them away. I’m too cheap to do that. But I just…I didn’t know what to do with them. One of the jars eventually went to making some Apple Butter Bread- which I’ve posted on the blog a while ago. The other one still didn’t get used for a few months.

Recently, I bought a family pack of chicken breasts and had no idea what I was going to do with them. I just decided that I would look in the pantry and pick out whatever I thought would be good in a dish. When I got home, the first things I came across were the lonely unused jar of apple butter, and a can of adobe chipotle chiles. And that gave me an idea. By itself, the apple butter would make the chicken way too sweet- but the addition of chipotle chiles and sauce- that just could work.

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I’ve never heard of an apple butter and chipotle barbecue sauce before- but after coming up with this here recipe, I’m of the strong opinion that it really should be come a ‘thing’.

Because it’s friggin marvelous stuff.

The marinade alone works really well, but the best part of this recipe is setting aside a sizable portion ahead of time so that when the chicken is done, you can have some sauce to dunk it into. I cut the chicken up into medium sized tenders, then baked them off in the oven on racks, but this would be an EXCELLENT  dish to make over a grill to give a really special charcoal flavor to compliment the flavor of the sauce.

I’m really happy with this one, guys. So you should go ahead and just try this.

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I’m beginning to think that I should just start calling this blog Cooking Chicken Is My Sport-because sometimes, it really does seem to me that all I do is throw a bunch of chicken recipes at you guys. It’s getting kind of ridiculous.

But the truth is, chicken’s just about the most inexpensive meat I can buy. Luckily, it’s also my preference of  protein nine times out of ten. So I have to keep experimenting with different recipes and ingredients just to make it stay interesting.

Sorry. I hope you won’t hold it against me too much.

I’m taking this chicken to this week’s Fiesta Friday #51, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted by  Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook and Juju @cookingwithauntjuju. Thanks ladies- appreciate ya 🙂

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Chipotle Apple Butter Chicken

Recipe Courtesy of Jess@CookingisMySport

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Ingredients

  • 1 28 oz. jar of Apple Butter
  • 2 1/2 canned chipotle chilies, finely chopped, plus 2 tbsp. of the sauce from the jar
  • 1 tbsp. Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 5 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into tender-size strips
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Romaine hearts, optional

 Directions

1. Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl. Divide 1/2 cup of marinade between two ziploc bags, and set aside the rest for later use.

2. Place half of the chicken tenders in one bag, and one half in the other. Seal bags and roll chicken around in marinade to make sure it is evenly coated. Refrigerate overnight, or at least for 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, then place a baking rack on top. Spray rack with non stick cooking spray.

4. Remove chicken from marinade and place on top of baking rack. Bake chicken in the oven, about 30-35 minutes (or until chicken reaches an inner temp of 165°), basting with the remaining apple butter/chipotle sauce occasionally.

5. Remove chicken from oven and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve inside of romaine hearts if desired.

 

Nestle Toll House Cookie Pie

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Bad news, guys: for the past few days I’ve had a pretty bad case of writer’s block.

Seriously. It’s really, really bad. I’ve been meaning to put up a post for the past couple of days, but I just couldn’t make it happen. Every time I tried to start writing a post with something ‘meaningful’ to say, it just backfired and I would get distracted with something else. Usually I can manage to pair a recipe with some kind of vaguely interesting story, reflection or topic but today I’ve got absolutely nothing meaningful or interesting to say.

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But I still really wanted to put SOMETHING up. So I guess I can rattle off some random, meaningless tidbits of info to fill up white space.

My twin sister’s getting married in September. I’m (naturally) one of the bridesmaids. Next Saturday I have to go shopping for a dress. Here’s hoping I can find a nice one.

I’ve just discovered the show “Sherlock” and have been binge watching it on Netflix this weekend. It’s pretty good, I think. Benedict Cumberbatch was a good casting choice to play Sherlock Holmes.

I got 2 new cookbooks for Christmas and have already made 2 recipes from them that I’ll be sharing on the blog soon enough.

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That’s 3 things about my life in general; I guess I can also share 3 things about this recipe.

It was a really cloudy, gloomy day outside when I did this photo shoot. Thus, the rather unsatisfactory quality of these pictures. Just try and overlook it.

For those that have never had it, a Toll House Cookie Pie (particularly when it’s piping hot) tastes like the thickest, chewiest, gooiest chocolate chip cookie you’ve ever had. In other words, it tastes like a foodgasm that will make your eyes roll back in your head. Ice cream on top  is also mandatory.

I used some walnuts in this that had been sitting in my cupboard for…a while. It wasn’t a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, nothing bad happened. The pie still tasted delicious. But still, a lesson was still learned: don’t use old nuts. For anything.

Tollhouse Cookie Pie4

I doubt there’s still anyone at the Fiesta Friday Party #50 this week, but I’m still dragging my late self there anyway. Thanks to Angie@TheNoviceGardener for hosting as always, and  Selma @Selma’s Table and Sue @birgerbird for co-hosting. Don’t mind me, I’m just dropping off my little pie.

Now if you’ll excuse me: I have an appointment with my sofa, blanket and a man named Benedict that I’ve got to be getting back to now….

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Nestle Toll House Cookie Pie

Recipe Courtesy of Nestle

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Ingredients

  • unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup (6 oz.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325° F.

2. Beat eggs in large mixer bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Beat in butter.

3. Stir in morsels and nuts. Spoon into pie shell.

4. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Chinese Chicken Salad4

I went to a popular restaurant in our city for breakfast with my mom and sisters one day a few years back. It was a pretty good day, I was in a pretty good mood, and ready to eat some food that was more than pretty good (actually it’s fantastic, so if you’re ever in the Lansing MI area then make sure you go to Sophia’s House of Pancakes).

When we were seated, I noticed that there was an elderly couple that had also been recently seated in the booth just behind ours. The woman was sitting with her back to me, while the man was sitting on the opposite side, facing me. As well sat down, he smiled at me. I thought it was a very nice, kind smile, and even though the strangers I’ve come across normally didn’t throw out smiles like that, I decided to go ahead and throw a great big smile back at him. I didn’t really think too much of it after that, focusing my attention on ordering m food and engaging in conversation with my family.

Chinese Chicken Salad1

I think it was a few minutes after the food we’d all ordered had come out- we were about mid way through, when suddenly our waitress comes over to our table. She bends down and starts murmuring to us quietly, “Excuse me: I know this is our of nowhere, but I’ve just been told to let you now that your meal’s been completely paid for.”

TimeoutwaitWHAT?!

That was about the collective response at our table. When we asked her if she was sure about that, she nodded and pointed across the restaurant, “Yes: it was that gentlemen over there. He said that he just wanted to cover your bill for you because of how nicely you,” She nodded at me, “Smiled at him when you came in.”

You guys, I’m not the type of person who gets embarrassed easily. I think I’ve blushed a grand total of three times in my entire life.

Well, that was one of them.

At hearing that, my face got all hot and pink, I started grinning like an idiot and I paused long enough to swallow my mouthful of pancakes to choke out a sheepish, “Oh my God, are you serious?!” I was in a state of mild shock.

Chinese Chicken Salad3

I looked up to find the elderly gentleman and his wife and saw that they were just then leaving the restaurant. He waved at all of us as we shouted out a collective, stunned “thank you!”. I still remember the way that he grinned at me and mouthed, “Keep smiling!” as they went out the doors.

It’s the year 2015. Everywhere I look, I see people posting about New Years resolutions to accomplish things that (if we’re being completely honest with ourselves) are almost entirely superficial. I’l be upfront with you all and even admit that I’ve made similar resolutions to myself in past years. It’s easy to focus on what’s ‘wrong’ with you as a person and resolve to change it. Heck, that’s not always a bad thing.

However, this year I’m hoping for more moment like that day in Sophia’s House of Pancakes where I come across people like that kind elderly man and his wife that aren’t too old, jaded or bitter to notice and value the important of seemingly little things like kind smiles and random acts of generosity to strangers. I’m also hoping that this year I can do more to take my focus off of myself and be like that elderly man was in noticing the beautiful things of life that are far too often taken for granted. I believe that days and moments like the one I just shared are a large part of why we’re here on this Earth in the first place. They make the world seem brighter and filled with hope. They’re what’s really important in life.

Chinese Chicken Salad2

I’m still keeping things light and healthy this week with a salad that’s become a new favorite of mine. Although the recipe is originally for chicken, we are just coming off of the holidays and if you still have some leftover turkey in your fridge (like I do) then you can definitely sub that in. The dressing is both tangy from the vinegar and ginger, and also earthy from the flavor of the peanut butter. The chipotle gives it a nice little kick of heat in the aftertaste. If you can’t find dry crunchy Chow Mein noodles where you are (they’re usually in the Foreign Cuisine aisle of the grocery store) then using peanuts would also give the same ‘crouton’ contrast of textures that you’re looking for in a salad.

I’m taking this salad to Fiesta Friday #49 this week, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by Mr Fitz @CookingwithMrFitz and Kaila @GF Life 24/7. Happy New Year everyone!

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Chinese Chicken Salad

Recipe Courtesy of Bobby Flay

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle pepper puree
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 head Napa cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 head romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • 1/4 pound snow peas, julienned
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
  • 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • Handful of Chinese crunchy chow mein noodles

Directions

1. Whisk together the vinegar, peanut butter, ginger, chipotle pepper puree, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, and canola oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

2. Combine cabbage, lettuce, carrots, snow peas, cilantro, and green onion in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to combine.

3. Transfer to a serving platter and top with the shredded chicken and chow mein noodles.