Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

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It’s Day 3 of the 12 Days of Christmas on the blog; I’m sitting listening to my Christmas playlist as I write this post and it’s making me think of a question I’ve wondered about for a while now:

Why is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” considered a Christmas song/carol?

It’s not that I don’t like it. The Sound of Music is a pretty good musical and I’m a fan of the song in general..but I really doubt the writers were thinking of the Holiday as inspiration when they were putting it together.

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My more sentimental, sappy side assumes that because Christmastime is the best time of year, My Favorite Things is generally associated with it because at the very best time of year you start thinking about all of the things that you love the most.

Although I can’t think why the thoughts of “wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings” would suddenly make anyone feel better. Personally geese, ducks and the like freak me out. That could be because the geese and ducks on my university campus always chase people because over the years they’ve become too accustomed to parents taking their kids to the riverside to feed them bread. Therefore, they now think that all humans have a loaf of bread hidden somewhere on their person; they’ll chase you until you ‘give it up’. So yeah, geese are not one of my favorite things.

I’m thinking that Rodgers and Hammerstein just needed a word that rhymed with “things”, and that line is the best they could come up with.

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But whether they meant the song for Christmas or not, it DOES make you think of your favorite things. Heck, I’m starting to do it now. Maria von Trapp had nine, so I guess I can give nine of mine too:

Pancakes with slightly crisp edges doused in maple syrup.

Quiet mornings when the sky is bluish gray, but it’s not raining.

The A & E Pride and Prejudice movie.

Michigan State University football.

Binge watching  Netflix.

Chris Hemsworth’s arms. And abs. And pecs. Basically his ‘everything’ (so that still should count as one, right?).

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Cuddling with my baby niece.

The smell of freshly made bread in my kitchen.

My cookbook collection (it’s extensive and still growing, trust me.)

That’s nine, right? I notice that none of it rhymed with the word ‘things’. Gosh, now I’m starting to understand the inclusion of the whole “wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings” line. Song writing’s not all that easy.

Oh well. Moving on.

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I made two popcorn balls for the series, the first of which was these Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls. The second was this recipe; I saw it in a Christmas issue of Food Network magazine a year or so ago and had it pegged for such an occasion as this. After I made my Champurrado (Mexican Hot Chocolate) a few weeks ago, I remembered that I had this clipping in my recipe box and immediately decided to try it out for the 12 Days of Christmas.

Guys… Chocolate. Marshmallows. Cinnamon sugar. The popcorn balls are doused and dipped in all of these, resulting in one of the yummiest, addictive treats I’ve ever made for Christmas. It’s sweet. It’s gooey. It’s chewy. It’s everything.

C’mon, just look at that sugary crust on the top: isn’t it just making you salivate?

Just a reminder: if you’ve missed the other recipes we’ve done so far in the series, I’m including a list of links to them below. Seeya guys tomorrow 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

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Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Recipe Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

Print

Ingredients

  • 12 cups fresh popcorn (preferably made over the stove)
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tbsp. butter, plus 2-3 tbsp. extra for buttering your hands
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

 Directions

1. Bring corn syrup, butter, confectioners’ sugar. mini marshmallows, unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and water to a boil in a large pot over medium heat, stirring.

2. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt.

3. Remove from the heat; using a rubber spatula, stir in 12 cups popcorn and 1 more cup mini marshmallows.

4. Butter your hands, then shape into balls and roll in cinnamon sugar, working quickly before balls cool off. Place finished balls on parchment paper lined baking racks to set.

Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

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There are certain important, iconic historic events that when they happen, you’ll always remember exactly where you were.

I was very young both times around, but I remember where I was when President Bill Clinton was elected. Both times in 1992, and in 1996: my grandparent’s living room, watching TV with my grandpa.

Strangely enough, I remember where I was the day that O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the murder of his wife: again, my grandparents living room watching the verdict unfold on Geraldo Rivera.

I remember where I was on December 31st/January 1st, 1999 when everyone was holding their breath, thinking the world was going to end in the year 2000. I was at my other grandmother’s house in Detroit with my Dad and sisters and we all were laughing about it.

I remember where I was on September 11th, 2001; my 7th grade English class. My teacher had left in the middle of class for a few minutes, then come back into the room and without saying a word to us, just turned on the TV and switched to CNN. I still remember that first image I saw of the smoke billowing out from the World Trade Center, and not fully realizing what it was I was really seeing.

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I remember where I was when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005; I was visiting my Aunt in Atlanta and was horrified at the images and video footage the news was reporting, not just from the hurricane itself, but also from the aftermath. The first few weeks when I got back to high school, several of the student organizations I was apart of were collecting food, toiletries and clothe donations to send down there to help out.

I remember where I was when President Barack Obama was first elected; in 2008 me and Jas were in our dorm room, watching the election results on our tv through tears of joy and near disbelief. To date, that night is one of the best nights I’ve ever had in my life. (I remember where I was the night of his re-election in 2012 too, but that night in 2008 will always and forever be particularly special to me)

I remember where I was when I found out that Michael Jackson died in 2009. I was in the kitchen cooking and my Mom came in and told me that the story was trending on the internet. I refused to believe it for a really long time. When it finally was confirmed as true, I felt an unexpected sadness and depression that lingered with me for a few days.

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Right up there with all those super duper important, iconic historical events I’ve lived to see, I’m gonna go ahead and add another to that list.

I’ll always remember where I was the day that I first made pork carnitas. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon. I was in the kitchen, while my mom and sister Ashley were watching the tv show The Blacklist in the living room.

Yep. This recipe is that important and life-changing to me.

You have to understand, I’ve never done this before. I didn’t even really know what I was doing, I just knew that carnitas was something I’d always wanted to make for myself.

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So when my grocery store finally put their pork butt (shoulder)on sale, I just went out and bought one of those bad boys, along with some basic ingredients that I knew were traditionally used in making carnitas.

The first good sign was the smell coming out of my slow cooker when I woke up on Sunday morning after letting the shoulder do it’s thing overnight. It was friggin glorious, people. I went in the kitchen and pressed my face up against the glass lid like a kid looking through the glass of a candy store, trying to see what ind of magic was going on in that crockpot that smelled so delicious. The steam and heat had created too many bubbles for me to see unfortunately, so I had to exercise an INCREDIBLE amount of self-restraint from yanking off the lid and let it keep cooking for another few hours. I wasn’t taking any chances. I wanted to make sure I had that type of pork that’s been cooked to low and slow perfection. It needed to practically melt off the bone with little to no force or resistance.

Kinda like the way I get after watching “The Avengers” and seeing Chris Hemsworth’s arms and Chris Evans work a punching bag.

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Good things come to those who wait. I found that out when I finally couldn’t take it anymore and lifted my crockpot lid. The steam from the pork hit me in the face. It was like, the best kiss I ever had

Okay, maybe not the best kiss I ever had. But pretty darn close. I wanted to break out in Snoopy dances when I took a fork and pierced the meat. I didn’t even have to pull, guys. I just touched it. And it FELL off the bone. Fell, I tell you. If I thought it couldn’t get any better, I was wrong. Because a few minutes underneath the broiler elevates these carnitas from mere mortal (albeit delicious) viddles, to the Food of the Gods.

Moist, fork-tender pork that literally melts in your mouth. A hint of crusty caramelization. This is living.

Something this simple to make really shouldn’t taste this good. It just shouldn’t. It almost feels like I’m cheating. Life’s not a fairy tale like that, am I right?!

So why did this dish turn out SO GOOOOOOOOD?!

I’m going to the Fiesta Friday #43, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted this week by  Tracy @Scratch It and Stephanie @The Cozy Cook. I’ll also be bringing these carnitas. See you there…

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Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

Recipe by Jessica@Cooking Is My Sport

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Ingredients

  • 4-6 lbs. pork shoulder, slightly trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 tbsp. garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 2 oranges, sliced in half
  • 1 lime, sliced in half

Directions

1. Combine garlic salt, chili powder, dried oregano, dried basil, cumin, ground coriander, brown sugar, and sweet paprika.

2. Rub the spice mixture evenly over the pork. Place pork in the bottom of a slow cooker (minimum of 6 quarts)*

3. Squeeze the juice from the oranges and limes over the pork. Place rinds pulp side down in slow cooker over the meat.

4. Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours, or until pork is tender and falling off the bone. Use a fork to pull away from bone and discard it.

5. Preheat oven broiler. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and arrange pork in a single layer. Place underneath broiler until tips of pork are browned and slightly crisp, about 3-5 minutes. (Don’t walk away from it. Keep an eye on meat to make sure it doesn’t burn or become overly browned).

6. Serve finished pork in corn/flour tortillas, or over rice.

*I had to use 2 slow cookers too cook a 6lb. pork shoulder that I ended up cutting in half, so keep that in mind when buying your meat.

Chicken Fajitas

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This past week has been quite… eventful.

Obviously I’m talking about Christmas, but for many of us in the mitten state, it was eventful for additional and altogether different reasons. See, last Saturday night (December 21st), much of the Michigan area was hit with the Ice Storm from Hell.  I assure you that that is not an exaggeration. It really was the Ice Storm from Hell. Maybe some of you have been hearing or reading about it in the news. For those of you that haven’t yet, just let me explain.

It all started with rain. Rain that was freezing into ice before it even hit the ground. As a result, it coated pretty much everything it fell on in a thick sheet of ice; trees, roads, cars, roofs…and power lines.

The result of all this: numerous trees collapsed under the weight of the ice, falling on cars and damaging the windshields, or even on roofs and damaging homes. The roads were a skating rink; there were some pretty bad car pile ups and accidents. But none of that is too unusual in Michigan- we can deal with that. The real problem was with what the Ice Storm from Hell (I’ll just call it the ICFH from now on) did to our power lines.

Short answer: carnage. Pure carnage.

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We had hundreds of downed power lines, and 40,000+ people that were left without any power. Even worse yet, our local power company had severely limited resources that quite frankly, couldn’t properly deal with the amount of repairs that had to be done. Keep in mind folks: this was December 21st- 4 days before Christmas. You see where I’m going with this?

Fortunately, my house was not one of the ones affected by the downed power lines. But there were many, MANY of my neighbors, and loved ones that were. I’m not just talking electricity folks. I mean people left in the dark without power or heat…when the temperature was dropping to lows of 10° at night. The mayor advised all affected people to seek shelter in hotels or local specially designated warming centers. It was pretty awful. One day went by, then another, and another, and another…

Yeah. There were thousands of people both in and outside of my town that were left without ANY power or heat on Christmas Day. If that doesn’t suck, then I don’t know what does. As for my crew, we were a very crowded, rather cramped bunch on Christmas- but although the inconvenience to my family was present, it was VERY minor in comparison to others who didn’t have relatives homes they could go to stay in, money for a hotel, or even a Christmas Dinner to enjoy.

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It’s now seven days after the ICFH hit, and though the majority of people  here that were affected have now regained their heat and electricity, there are still too many others that have not. They face the possibility of spending both their Christmas AND New Year without being home, or in a home without heat or power. It may sound like a minor inconvenience, but anyone who’s lost their power for an extended period of time knows that it’s not minor- especially in the dead of winter at the Holidays.

This week taught me a very valuable lesson guys: I learned the importance of being thankful for everything I have. We were crammed together on Christmas- but we were together, with electricity, heat and a wonderful dinner (cooked almost completely single-handedly by yours truly, by the way). That’s something that thousands of people around me couldn’t say.

I’m not trying to preach a sermon or anything at you guys, but…I really just want everyone to try and take a moment to stop and think about the things you have in your life to be grateful for, particularly at this time of year. Don’t take them for granted- they’re not small or insignificant. They mean a whole lot.

Okay, I’m done. Back to the food.

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I’m sure that all of you cookletes out there have a small arsenal of recipes that you can bust out at anytime, throw together in a pinch, and guarantee that it will be a big hit with the members of your household. I’ve got several of my own in my back pocket, and I decided the last time that I made one of them that it was silly for me not to put it here on the blog.

So  ladies and gents, boys and girls: I give you…fajitas.

The best fajitas I’ve ever had- and that counts restaurant fajitas too.

The original version calls for steak to use as the protein. I’ve done that before, as well as using chicken and steak together, and the results have been fabulous with every version. Me and my family just LOVE this recipe. It’s simple, but so flavorful. I love red peppers and onions, so that’s what I used, but if you’re a fan of more variety then feel free to use green, yellow, or orange peppers. They’re delicious too. Fajitas are meant to be put into tortilla wraps, but this recipe is good enough to eat straight with a fork all on its own over rice.

Until next time guys. Remember: try to be grateful for the little things. They may not be as little as you think they are 😉

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Chicken Fajitas

Recipe Adapted from Food.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 flour tortillas (8 inch/20 cm)
  • 1 -2 onion,
  • 2 small sweet peppers, of your choice (green, red, or yellow)

Directions

1. Slice chicken into thin strips.

2. In bowl, mix together 1 tablespoons olive oil, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, cumin, hot pepper flakes, black pepper & salt.

3. Add chicken strips and stir to coat, set aside.

4. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in 350° oven for 5-10 minutes or until heated through.

5. Cut onions in half lengthwise and slice into strips, cut your peppers into strips.

6. In large non stick skillet over medium high heat, heat remaining tablespoons of olive oil.

7. Add onions & peppers stirring for 3-4 minutes, until softened; transfer to a bowl and set aside.

8. Add chicken to skillet, cook, until no longer pink.

9. Return onions and peppers to skillet; stir for about one minute.

10. To serve, spoon a portion of the chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla, top with your desired toppings , fold bottom of tortilla up over filling, fold the sides in, overlapping.

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