Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Buckeyes vs. The Sooners!

Illustration by Chris Schoelen, The Oklahoman Graphics
This amazing graphic is the best way to describe me when it comes to this major upcoming game! This Saturday, September 17th at 7:30/6:30C my culinary and sports fandom worlds will collide, and I couldn't be more excited!  Ohio State will be hosted by the Oklahoma Sooners at the Memorial Stadium in Norman.  

The stadium will be packed to the brim as tickets have been sold out for quite some time. If you weren't one of the lucky ones to score seats, you can still be part of the action by checking out the one-of-a-kind tailgating culture that only college football can offer, by coming on out to the OU campus and walking around Saturday.  Tailgating is a celebration and colorful display of community built on the shared love of a team, and it is amazing!  So if you have never been to a campus tailgating event, this is going to be a great one to check out. 

I am so excited about this matchup!  I obviously have a connection to both teams seeing as how I have written the officially licensed tailgating cookbooks for both schools.  The Sooners and the Buckeyes have not played against each other since 1983, and this weekend the Bucks are coming to my backyard and will be aired in a prime time slot on Fox.  How exciting!

While you are checking out the tailgating/pre-game culture that OU has to offer, be sure to stop in to the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.  It's free admission (you can't beat that!) and they have an amazing and eclectic collection of art from all over the world, from different periods of time, by outstanding and revolutionary artists.  And while you are taking in the gallery sights, be sure to take a detour into the museum store, aptly named The Muse.  There you will find an artistic collection of beautiful and really unique gifts for all ages and for any occasion, including items for that person who already has "everything". They are also carrying BOTH my University of Oklahoma and Ohio State Cookbooks for the big game day!  

This unusual match-up has me so excited! Not that I keep mentioning it or anything.  Why?  Because I'm from Ohio, my family attended Ohio State, and I'll always be a Buckeye at heart.  But I also love OU because it's where I got my Bachelors and Masters degrees, it's where I work, and I absolutely love Norman! 

No matter who winds up winning, I have no doubt that it will be quite the battle and I for one will be entertained the entire time!

If you would like a signed copy of either my OU or OSU cookbooks, you can find them on display in The Muse store of the FJJMA. If you are in the Norman area, and are interested in bulk orders, feel free to contact me.  


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Curry Mania!

Hello World!  I know I've been on a long hiatus, but that is about to change.  I initially held off on posts because I had grand plans to revamp this blog into a full-blown website, but then when it came to building that website, life/work/etc. kept pushing that project further and further back.  Also, I started finding myself getting too exhausted busy to come up with creative new meals.  The most I was pulling off was how to doll up a boxed frozen pizza (as seen on FaceBook)...ugh.  However, the website build is just going to have to wait because I have had some really great foodie experiences lately and have been waiting to share them with you!

First up, I've been experimenting with Indian food.  Well, mostly just curry at this point, but I hope to develop better taste-bud skills for this region's cuisine. I never thought I would like this kind of food because the spice variations are so much different than what I grew up with, so drastically different from what my pallet was used to.  But then my friend Holli convinced me that I was missing out and forced invited me to go to the local Indian food place, which happened to be right behind my house at the time.

Photo by Joe S. from Yelp

Himalayas the very best Indian buffet in Oklahoma for sure, maybe in the country, but I have no idea because I have not visited every Indian place in the country.  But I can tell you that I am so glad this was my first experience with Indian food, because I have eaten at other Indian restaurants and have been disappointed on more than one occasion.  I tried so many new types of foods here, which broadened my pallet extensively and gave me the courage to try it at home.  It is difficult to try to cook regional dishes if you are not familiar with the spices and combinations of those flavors so I kept going back to Himalayas over and over again, you know, just to make sure I got the flavors right, that is until they moved to the next town over and then I was very sad.  This is still my go-to birthday meal place, that's how much I like it.  I especially like the masala/curry based dishes, so much so, that I felt the need to try theses kinds of dishes wherever I found them on a menu, no matter how weird I thought it was that certain restaurant types prepared them.  For instance:

Mr. Hui's Authentic Chinese Cooking restaurant here in Norman on Lindsay St., makes the most amazing chicken curry I've ever had.  I did not know hardly anything about curry before Himalayas, and maybe curry dishes are typical for Chinese cuisine, but I had never tried it at a Chinese place before and thought I'd give it a go.  I'm so glad I did!

Mr. Hui's Curry Shredded Chicken is $10.95 and comes with rice.  I always order a side of the Egg Drop Soup For Two which really means For 6, for just $4.95 extra.  This meal not only fills me up happily, but will continue to to just that for at least 3 more days.  So if you like left-overs, this is definitely a steal for the amount of meals you can get out of just under $16.  The chicken is tender, and the flavors blend together perfectly with a nice kick, but not too hot.  It is made up of chicken, peppers, onions, sprouts, and a sauce that might be a good go-to for when you are feeling stuffy or having any congestion.

In my curry excursions, I've learned that there are like a billion ways to make curry.  It depends on country, region, and even just what you have on hand in your kitchen.  There are even several different types of curry powder ranging from sweet and mild to what I call "burn-your-face-off".  This powder consists of several spices blended together and even though the rage of spices is wide, the general base consists of turmeric, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and cumin.  The one I use also has some other elements including cayenne pepper.  I also use Garam Masala, which is a curry powder that is less heavy on the spicy hot and more weighted on the cinnamon and clove sweetness.  

Admittedly, I have only tried to make chicken curry at home a total of 3 times and each time it got better.  My last attempt the other day was very good and I am going to share my recipe in this post.  But first, I have to say that my desire to perfect curry is an exciting endeavor in that when I started checking out other recipes on the web, I found myself getting sucked down a rabbit hole.  I absolutely love researching and researching food that has such vast possibilities and variations is so exhilarating for me! So if you find my recipe too mild or hot or sweet or too complex/not complex enough, there are so many ways to adjust and add your own flare.  This one-pot meal okay, two pots if you count the rice, will easily stretch out to four days worth of meals for two people.  So it is cheap to make, depending what all you want to add to it, and is very good for you, and will feed you and/your family for a few days.  So if you love Indian food give it a try at home and save some cash, and if you have never had it, give this a try and see what you think!

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts - cubed (you can also use dark meat)
1 white onion - thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic - crushed
1 red bell pepper - diced
1 green bell pepper - diced
2-3 Tbls olive oil
Dash of sesame oil
2 tsp. paprika +
2 Tbls. curry powder +
1 tsp. turmeric +
1 tsp. coriander seed powder +
1 tsp. cumin +
1-2 tsp. Garam Masala +
1 tsp. salt 
black Pepper (to taste)
chicken stock/broth
1/2 can Rotel Lime & Cilantro 
1 (13.5 oz) can of coconut milk
6 oz. frozen green beans
2 cups fresh baby spinach
cooked rice
Optional: 1 box of frozen Naan bread (I use Tandoor Chef brand)

First, sprinkle just a bit of all the spices over the chicken and make sure the pieces are evenly coated. NOTE:  What you use for this are not the amounts specified above, they are extra (+).  The amounts given under "ingredients" are how much you will put in the pot later. 

Next, heat up about 2-3 Tbls. of olive oil in a large pot on medium-high. When oil is hot, add sesame oil, onions, garlic, and both peppers.  Stir fry until golden (about 15 minutes).  

Add in the Rotel, all spices, and about a cup of chicken broth.  Mix together and cover, cooking for about 15 minutes until broth has been incorporated to make a paste.  Add chicken and green beans plus enough broth to cover the contents, mix together an put the lid on.  Turn the heat down to medium and let it cook for about 35 minutes.  

Add coconut milk and be sure to taste it here and add any extra salt and spices that you feel it may need.  Cook for about 10 more minutes.  Add in spinach and check consistency.  If the consistency is too thin, mix about a tablespoon of corn starch with milk or cream and add to the pot while stirring. Add in the cooked rice or just serve the curry over rice with Naan bread.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Quick Cooks For Busy Lives - Don't Let the Hangry Win!

With football season in full swing, there is a lot of cooking and eating to be done!  The Buckeyes are undefeated and the OU Sooners are hot, so it's a good season all-around!

It has been a very busy couple of months for me and I have not had as much time or energy to cook the kinds of things I normally would in order to have left-overs for my work lunches.  However, that conundrum made me have to stop and figure out quick and easy fixin's that I could make and still have satisfying meals on the go.  Time gets away from me often as of late, and then I find myself getting hangry (the feeling of being angry due to hunger).  So, I thought I'd share these ideas with you just in case you are finding yourself too busy, and often hangry these days as well.

Ok, first up - breakfast.  They say it is the most important meal of the day.  When I was in high school, my idea of breakfast was a Snickers bar and a Pepsi (sometimes I would choose Peanut Butter Twix for a healthier option).   However, now I would probably fall into a diabetic coma if I had that kind of breakfast, and I find that eggs are a much better way to go if I want to actually have enough fuel to get through my day...or at least my morning.  I have always had a guilty pleasure for the big franchise sandwich called the "Egg McMuffin" but as weird as it seems, I just don't leave myself enough time to stop and get one often, plus, I'm not really sure they are made with the best ingredients.  So, I thought I'd try building my own version while at work.

Here's what I used:

Here's what happened: At first I whipped up an egg in a small ramekin and popped it in the microwave set for 25 seconds.  After about 7 seconds, there was a very loud POP! and I quickly opened the microwave to find half of my egg had erupted all over inside it. After several minutes of clean-up, I got got a new egg and gave it another go.


This time, I set the microwave to defrost.  It took a total of about 2 minutes (checking every 30 seconds), but the egg finally got cooked through without any major explosions. Big thumbs-up for me!  Next, I toasted my English muffin and cooked up a couple of pieces of ham in the microwave, after putting it back on high, which I forgot to do until I realized after 4 minutes that the ham wasn't actually getting "fried" on defrost. When they were both done, I began the assembly, starting with a slice of white American cheese, then ham, then the egg.  And then, viola!  Breakfast was served.

So, let's stick with the English muffin theme, because I find they come in handy for just about every meal and/or snack.  For lunch, I found that making these little delights into mini-pizzas was a cinch! It's quick, easy, and delicious -  just how I like my work lunches.  First, toast your English muffin in your Darth Vadar face toaster.  This will keep your "pizza crust" crispy even after microwaving the toppings on it.

When the slices are crisp and warm, smother some pizza sauce on them, then layer them up with your favorite pizza toppings.  I'm a traditional pepperoni kind of girl so that's what I went with, but I'm not opposed to some sausage, mushrooms, or peppers for the next time!

Then just pop them in the trusty ol' work microwave and cook them NOT on defrost, until the cheese is all melted.  Ta-da! Mini-pizzas for lunch!

And moving right along with pizza in mind, this is not actually a work-made snack, but a cook-in-the-oven-at-home delicacy.  I like this for hors d'oeuvres during get-togethers and watch parties as well as my sometimes lunch at home on the weekends. I call it, French Bread Pizza Bites!

First get a loaf of frozen garlic bread or baguette out of the freezer and let it thaw just long enough until you can get a knife through it.  Slice the loaf into angled disks and place them face-up on a cookie sheet. Then add your sauce and toppings, and bake in the oven at 400 until bubbly.  I then like to set the oven on broil for the last couple of minutes to brown the cheese a bit.  Serve hot with a bowl of left-over pizza sauce for dipping.  These are really delicious right out of the oven, but are terrible when reheated, so I do not recommend these as a left-over-for-lunch-the-next-day option. These are a fantastic game day treat and one of my quick-cook favorites!  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Land Run Review

Ok, so, my original plan for this post was to talk about some back-to-school food tips & tricks and some recipes, and I still plan on doing that, just not today.  The reason being is that I have no photos of the things I was going to talk about.  However, I have been wanting to introduce you all to a newly opened local restaurant that I tried recently, and am very excited about!  It's called, Land Run Grill & Wine Bar.

This American-style restaurant has a frontier theme, friendly staff, and the most amazing burgers I have ever had in my entire life!  Seriously, that's saying something.  My foodie buddy had mentioned it to me one day and we decided to go check it out.  When we walked in the front door we were greeted warmly and seated in a booth, as requested.  We were going to try the cozy outdoor patio, complete with running misters, but it was a bit toasty that day, so we opted for an inside experience for our first time there.  The ambiance was fun with cowboy decor and rustic light wood paneling and rope accents everywhere.

My lunch companion and I ordered a couple of beers to quench our thirst while we perused the menu. The beer selection was limited, but I realize this place is a "wine bar", it says so in the title, however, neither of us are fond of wine, so we went for the brews and they had something for both our tastes.   As foodies, we decided it was our duty to order an appetizer and dessert with our entrees to get a good scope of what this place had to offer across the board.  A personal preference for me to really assess a restaurant's quality of food and service is to go between lunch and dinner rushes.  I have found that the middle of the afternoon is when you really get to know the truth about an establishment, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Our beverages came out quickly and we asked several questions about the menu items.  

The waitress did not have a lot of knowledge, but she seemed to be very new to the staff.  The questions she couldn't answer, she was very good about finding someone who did know, and that gentleman came over and seemed genuinely happy to give us the information that we needed. 

After some deliberation, we decided to on the Spinach & Artichoke Dip for our starter.  It was served with fresh tortilla chips which were very good and well seasoned.  The dip itself didn't do anything to "wow" us per se, it was average, but we were satisfied with it overall.  

The menu is quite extensive, which I was a bit leery about, as most of the time, when a menu offers too big of a selection, the quality usually suffers.  But the many selections they offered were made by using some of the same ingredients in several different dishes, so it works.  For instance, they have slow-roasted pulled pork on hand for an entree, but then they offer some specialty burgers, baked potatoes, and appetizers that also include a pulled pork element.  There are vegetarian options (not just substitutions) throughout the menu, French bread pizzas, salads, steaks, hot wings (and other chicken items), fish, cold or grilled sandwiches, and a "Buckaroo" menu for the kids.  But I was in the mood for a burger that day, so I looked over that part of the menu the most.  Wow, what a page it was!  There were so many I wanted to try including the "T-Town" which was actually a sausage/hamburger mixture smothered with chili, three different kinds of cheeses, and onions.  The menu said it is served with a fork because "You'll need it!" 

My friend went with the "Riverside" which was a beef burger with whole grilled green chilies, pepper jack cheese, avocado, lettuce and tomato.  He got mac & cheese on the side topped with green chilies and bacon.  I opted for the "Eggsplosion" which was a beef burger with fried egg, bacon, mayo, tomato, red onion, lettuce, and American cheese.  I had them nix the mayo, tomato, and onion though because I'm picky like that.  I got a side of "Sidewinder Fries" and when we took our first bites, we looked at each other, eyes wide, and full of happy!

The toppings gave us a nice variety of flavors, but we both agreed that these burgers did not need any toppings at all!  They were bursting with flavor all their own, and were juicy and grilled to perfection. I almost wished that I had went with a classic "The Burger" but I can't say I was at all disappointed with the "Eggsplosion" in any way.  And my "Sidewinder Fries"?  OMG!  Crispy and seasoned awesomely on the outside, and perfectly fluffy and soft on the inside.  My counterpart's mac & cheese didn't last long at all.  The buns were nicely toasted and our sides were perfect compliments to our burger choices.  Land Run also offers, sweet potato fries, steamed veggies, fried okra, potato salad, pasta salad, cole slaw baked potatoes, black-eyed peas, chips, and pinto beans, so there's plenty to choose from.  

The dessert menu consists of only two items at this time, so we decided to try one of each.  I chose the "Cast Iron Skillet Cobbler" of which I could get apple or cherry (so I guess there are three desserts, technically).  I chose the apple topped with vanilla ice cream.  The cobbler had just come out of the oven and the ice cream was served on the side. To my delight, it started melting a bit when I heaped it on the hot cobbler - yum!

My friend got the "Aunt June's Root Beer Bread Pudding" and he loved it!  I had a bite of his dessert and I don't like bread pudding in general, it's a texture thing, but it was very tasty indeed.

Prices are on par with other restaurants of this caliber/style.  They also have daily specials to keep your eye on.  If any of you have been there to partake in their wine selection, please let us all know what you thought about their selection in the comments.  All-in-all a fantastic experience: a true Oklahoman atmosphere, happy and friendly staff, fresh hot food, and the most amazing burgers, even at 3 o'clock in the afternoon!  I am so thrilled to not only recommend this place, but to go back many times in the near future.  Maybe next time, I'll try my dining experience on the patio.

Land Run is located on the east side of Norman, OK at 1400 12th Ave. just south of Lindsey. Download their menu here

Happy National Burger Day!!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Culinary Adventures On the Emerald Coast and My Quest For Chippermint Ice Cream

First off, I would like to wish you all a very happy summer!  June is my favorite month, mostly because it's my birthday month because it is the time of year where summer fun and relaxation really get into full swing.  Outdoor swimming, vacation plans, traveling, shorts, garden reaping, birthday presents, and of course cookouts.  Now I know with this kind of introduction you might think I'm going to talk about grilling, but I'm actually going to talk about restaurants in Florida.

I recently went on a family vacation to Ft. Walton and Destin, Florida - otherwise known as The Emerald Coast.

Now I don't know about you, but whenever I get to the ocean, I can't help but crave seafood.  Which is funny to me because I'm not a big seafood lover.  I like some fish pretty well, and I used to love clam strips in my youth, but I'm really picky about the texture of ocean creatures. 


For some reason, the very first seafood delight I decided to have for lunch on the beaches of Ft. Walton was calamari. I don't usually order calamari, however, I thought since I was on the ocean it sounded like a great idea.  I was wrong.

We walked down to The Boardwalk and stopped at a cool-looking rustic place called The Crab Trap. The calamari tasted not fresh but frozen and was underwhelmingly seasoned.  It was also overcooked so it had a very rubbery texture which definitely equals a big NO for me, so I passed it on down to my step-dad and brother-in-law to finish off.  However, my nieces did not eat all of their mozzarella cheese sticks and chicken tenders so I filled up on them, and they were oddly enough delicious!  I also ordered a pina colada expecting a tall curvy glass to hold its contents to make me feel like my vacation had really started.  Alas, I received a stubby plastic cup (pictured above) and the pina colada was about the quality that you can get out of a premixed jug.  All-in-all, the Crab Trap was not a good start to my vacation on a culinary level, however, the view from our outdoor upper deck patio was breathtaking. 

For dinner that night, we tried the seafood place right next door to The Crab Trap called Floyd's Shrimp House and OMG!  Yes!  This place knows how to do seafood!  It was so fantastic that I forgot to take pictures!  But please, head on over to their website and check out some of their photos. I got the fried fish basket which included lightly breaded very fresh catch-of-the-day fish bites with seasoned fries and corn on the cob.  I also started out with the blueberry vodka lemonade which was delivered to me in a very sexy souvenir glass, which I have since put homemade peach Bellini's in, so that was a bonus.  Some of the entrees to make it to our table included some beautiful grouper tacos, fresh giant oysters on the half shell, and gorgeous salads.  My mom has an allergy to fish (I know, that would pretty much suck having to eat at all the seafood restaurants a beach has to offer) however, I have something to say about her dish.  Most seafood joints have non-seafood options and generally, they taste like options - as if seafood is their forte so anything else they just don't put as much effort into, but not Floyd's.  My mom ordered their "Cajun Chicken Pasta"  which is blackened chicken breast in a spicy alfredo over fettuccini.  She let me taste hers and I was floored by the layers of flavors that it had.  I wound up having several more bites and she left very very happy with her experience.  They also offer all-you-can-eat shrimp for under $10 and the atmosphere, food quality, and exceptional service make this a must-stop if you ever find yourself on Okaloosa Island!

The next few days took us down to Destin, just up Miracle Strip Parkway to their Harbor Boardwalk. We found this little big gem - McGuire's Irish Pub.

Leave it to my clan to find an Irish pub on a beach.

Now, this isn't just one small building with a restaurant, it is practically an entire block that has several parts that interconnect inside, but also have individual outside access.  These parts include the main pub house, a gift shop, and even a pizza and pasta place next door called Vinnie McGuire's Pizza Pub.  We didn't get a chance to try Vinnie's, but not for lack of want, I only really had 3 days to try and cram in all the culinary goodies the Emerald Coast had to offer.  So, back to McGuire's... the first thing I fell in love with was the ambiance.  The lighting was dim and perfect for a classic pub-like feel and it's walls were lined with wood, stone, and dollar bills.  Yes, I said lined with dollars! There are over one million dollar bills hanging from the ceiling and lining the walls signed by the customers that have dined their over the years.  You can read how this tradition began on their menu found here.  You simply pull out a dollar, sign your John Hancock on it and the date of your patronage, then ask your server for a stapler and pick a spot.  Here is where we tacked our little bit of tradition:

Now, for the food.  I can honestly say that I have never tried a new pub without getting fish and chips.  That is how I generally size up a pub - by the quality of their fish & chips and ale combo. However I saw some items on their menu that I could not pass up.  Don't get me wrong, I definitely sampled the pub's home brewed Irish Red pint from their traditional oak and copper brewery, and enjoyed it, but I also tried a frosty mug of their homemade root beer as well - yum!  But as far as food goes, I started with their famous "Senate Bean Soup".  I have never in my life ordered bean soup off of any menu ever, but this one had a story - and I can never resist a dish with a story.

**Please forgive the quality of my photos of McGuire's, as I said, the lighting was magnificent for a true pub experience, however, not really camera friendly.**

Anyway, back to the story.  Legend has it that this is the exact same recipe of bean soup was served in the United States Senate back in the day for $.18 cents.  McGuire's has been selling this homemade soup for that same price since 1977, and that is how much I paid for it when I went.  However, if that is the only thing you are ordering from the menu, be aware that you will be charged $18.00 for a bowl.  It was so delicious, that I might have considered paying $18 per bowl for it, however, I was much happier paying the 18 cents.

As I mentioned, I couldn't help but forgo my traditional fish & chips when I saw the Irish Pie on the menu.  McGuire's "Irish Steak and Mushroom Pie" is made up of choice tenderloin beef tips with an array of wild mushrooms baked in a flavorful Irish Stout Demi-glaze topped with a homemade puff pastry crust with giant candied carrot slices on the side.  How could I NOT try this???

I wanted to try some of their amazing sounding desserts, but I was so full I could barely walk out of there, and I only got through half of my Irish Pie.  

Speaking of desserts, my sister and I have a tradition when we go to a beach, it's more like a mission where we find a local establishment that makes frozen daiquiris to go and then we do that, we get "adult slushies" to go.  When we went to Hilton Head, SC we had Frosty Frog and if you have been to H.H. and managed to miss this place, it is reason alone to make a trip back...I'm not even kidding.  Okay, so down in Florida on the Harbor Boardwalk we finally found a family-owned daiquiri bar with locations in New Orleans and Destin, Fl. called Jester Mardi Gras Daiquiris.  Their "adult slushy" menu is not near as extensive as Frosty Frog, but it definitely hit the spot!  They have one mix called "The Jester" which is touted as being the most alcoholic frozen daiquiri on Earth.  I had a sample and they weren't kidding!  It's a kiwi strawberry flavor base mixed with 151 dark rum and Everclear, if that gives you any idea about its potency.  I decided ultimately on the "Hurricane" which is cherry fruit punch and 151 dark rum and it was delicious, even at 9 bucks a pop!  And you can get it to go so you can walk around the boardwalk with a bit of extra happiness in your hand on your vacation.

Next up at Destin's Harbor Walk Village was The Fudgery.  When you walk in you are welcomed bombarded by several employees thrusting bite-sized spoonfuls of fudge samples at you.  And believe me, no matter how full you are you will be powerless to resist them.  They make the fudge right there on sight and you can watch and talk to the fudge makers as they work.  And it smells so good in there!  The one guy that was there making the fudge the few times we went had an excellent sense of humor and great showmanship.  You can even buy a warm slice directly off the marble slab.

Oh, there's one more tasty oddity I had the benefit of trying during the weekly Mardi Gras parade on the Harbor Walk my last night there.  It's a brew called "Not Your Father's Root Beer".

It's a 10 point beer bestowed upon us mortals by the Small Town Brewery company out of Chicago. It tastes just like a good old-fashioned root beer with a kick at the end.  It was smooth and sweet, but way too sweet for my taste, so I couldn't drink it all.  However, I'm glad that I got to try it and for anyone who does not want an "adult slushy" you can have your choice of an "adult root beer" instead.

Well, that about sums up my culinary adventures down in Florida's Emerald Coast.  I have one more awesome foodie thing happen to me on my flight back home though, but of course it requires a bit of a back story...

Once upon a time several decades ago when I was a child, my most favorite place in all the world was Baskin Robbins Ice Cream.  My grandparents used to take me there as a treat every weekend and even with all of their 31 flavors, there was only one that I would even consider - Chippermint.  For those who don't speak Baskin Robbin-ese, it's mint chocolate chip.  Sometime in my tweens our Baskin Robbins in Piqua, Ohio closed it's doors and more across the country sadly soon followed. There are still several left, but none that I have found to be easily gotten to for me.  So for years I have been searching for a store-bought mint chocolate chip ice cream manufacturer that could re-produce that perfect Chippermint flavor to no avail.  One time, on a road trip from Ohio to Oklahoma, I was very excited to see several billboards on the interstate for Baskin Robbins ice cream parlors.  We pulled off the highway every time I saw one and was disappointed each time, because when we would get to where the billboard said they were located, each one was shut down, permanently closed for business.  

On that trip we even took a detour down to Silver Dollar City in MO., and found a glorious, fully-functioning Baskin Robbins!  I was so excited!  I flung open the door, patiently waited in line and when I told the lady what I wanted, she made a sad-face and said, "I'm sorry, we're out of Chippermint."

What?  I just drove 900 miles for this!  How can you be out of Chippermint?  It's part of your original 31 flavors!!!!  I didn't say any of that out loud though, I just thanked her and sulked back out to the car.  That was like 8 years ago and I had since halted my quest for Chippermint ice cream, I just couldn't take that kind of disappointment again.

So, on my way back from Florida a couple of weeks ago, I had a layover at an airport I'd never been in - Love Field, TX.  I was wandering around looking for a place to get some lunch between flights, and suddenly, the heavens parted and light shown down upon my Holy Grail...

I stood there staring at it for several minutes, my mouth was surely agape.  But I had been fooled once or more and I knew I had to walk in to see before I got my hopes up.  There it was! Chippermint!!  My old friend, where oh where have you been all these years?  I basically threw my money at the girl behind the counter before she even got it dipped.  And then suddenly, there it was, in my hand in all it's unnaturally blue-green glory.  My quest fulfilled and my vacation complete.

Happy June, Everyone!!!!

Monday, May 4, 2015

May The Fourth Be With You

Well, today's the day.  No...THE Day.  Of course I'm talking about May the 4th, also known as Star Wars Day!

Why is May the 4th called Star Wars Day?  Because it's punny.  Get it?  If you want to know more about this sacred pun day in Star Wars history, get it right from the source at

For me, celebrating Star Wars Day is really a weekend-long extravaganza.  It consists primarily of wearing Star Wars shirts/accessories, watching all of the movies (in original order most of the time, but sometimes I change it up to chronological order), and of course, making Star Wars themed foods.

Even though most of the goodies I make for this celebration are finger foods, I'm still going to break them up into categories of Appetizers, Main Courses, and Desserts.

The Apps:

This first one is simple.  I call it - Sarlacc Dip.

Open up a container of your favorite hummus (here I used Cedar's brand Roasted Red Pepper).  Then stick some Hot Veggie Stix haphazardly around the edge of the dip, to represent the Sarlacc's many threatening tentacles and some tortilla bits inside to show what big teeth it has.  Done.  See, that was easy.

The next thing on the appetizer menu was originally called Yoda Bites, however, they didn't turn out to look anything like the Jedi Master, so I changed it to just Random Alien Bites.  Here's a pic after prep, before being baked, and the other one is after baked.  See what I mean?

These are buttery crescents wrapped around a delicious filling made from spinach, cream cheese, and some savory flavors.  You can also do a variation of non-spinach ones with different kinds of cheeses (including parmesan) and some garlic.  As you can tell, the ears just weren't long enough to warrant a title dedicated to Yoda, and honestly, they look kind of creepy, so Random Alien Bites it it!  Even though these may not be pretty, they are super tasty and gone before the middle of the first movie.  So, if you would like to give them a go, I recommend this recipe by Di Jinx for a quick and easy, yet delectable dish, found here.  Then shape them however you want or can.

Okay, on to the main courses...

The Main Attraction:

The theme of the main course items is all about Han Solo, but mostly, it's about his ship.  One of the most iconic ships in the Star Wars universe is the Millennium Falcon.  See here, I made some pizzas.

I used some packaged crust to make the dough.  Then I was going to use one of the awesome Star Wars sandwich cutters sold exclusively by Williams-Sonoma, many lightyears ago.  They are no longer carried by the company, however, you can still find some floating around the internet if you get the hankering to get your own.  However, I didn't feel like the personal pizzas would be quite big enough.  Luckily I had another option in my geek collection at my disposal.  Williams-Sonoma also (still) makes the Star Wars pancake molds that I decided to use for shaping my pizza dough and they worked very well.  

Just roll out the dough as thick or thin as you like, throw on your favorite pizza toppings, and bake according to package instructions - or until it looks done.  Ta-da, Millennium Falcon Personal Pizzas!

Next up, we've got our Mexican-style hot pocket, the Corellian Quesadilla.  What does this have to do with the Millennium Falcon?  Well, Han's famous ship was made by the Corellian Engineering Corporation, one of the 3 largest starship manufacturers in the galaxy.  But that's enough for the history lesson, let's see what kind of tasty treat this entity helped to inspire. 

I actually should call them Imperial Star Destroyer-dillas, because they look like those warships, but it just doesn't sound as catchy...or does it? Some of these pics are a bit dark, so here's a different shot - not near as fun though.

You can find the recipe for these on a previous blog post here.  Just scroll down the page until you get to the entry for Chicken Quesadillas and you'll find step-by-step instructions on how to make these babies, just minus the cool Star Wars name.

The Final Chapter:

For dessert, why not make some Thermal Detonators?  Now I made these for Star Wars Day before, but it was the Oreo truffle kind.  You can see that blog post here.  But here's a different kind of truffle you can do to mix it up.  It's a brownie-based center with salted caramel goodness drizzled on top and melted throughout. 

Salted Caramel

Just get a box (or 2 bags) of brownie mix, whichever brand takes your fancy, and whip them up according to the instructions given.  Before putting them into the oven, unwrap about 16 caramels.  I used Milk Maid, but any kind will do.  Place caramels into batter in the pan evenly spaced and bake according to package instructions.  When they are about half way done, run a butter knife up and down the rows to marble the melty caramel throughout the batter.  When done, remove from oven and let cool completely or until you can handle them safely.  You can use an ice cream scoop for the next part or clean hands, or both.  Scoop out brownies and form into balls then place onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Refrigerate for about an hour.  In the meantime, melt about 2-1/2 cups of chocolate chips in the microwave.  If the chocolate is really thick after melting, add a tiny bit of vegetable oil to thin it out.  DO NOT add milk or cream or you will have a big mess - trust me!  Ok, next, pull the brownie balls out of the fridge and dip them in the chocolate until covered and return to wax paper.  Heat up a couple of tbls. of caramel sauce, put it into a plastic baggy, snip the tip, and drizzle the caramel back and forth over the truffle balls.  Then set your course salt grinder to the biggest setting and grind it over the caramel-drizzled-chocolate-covered-brownies.  Refrigerate for another 30 minutes and viola!

So there you have it folks, another Star Wars themed entry in homage to May The Fourth.  Oh, that reminds me, I bought this game last year, because I like tabletop gaming, however, after reading through the instructions and watching the numerous YouTube video instructions provided by the company that made it, I'm still at a loss for how to play.  It just seems too confusing compared to other card games I've played.  So, if you have any tips, I'm all ears.

Happy Star Wars Day, Everyone!  And May The Fourth Be With You!