Monthly Archives: September 2014

Snickers Popcorn

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We’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with different popcorn flavors. One we’ve made a few times now is Snickers popcorn. Caramel, chocolate, and some real candy stirred in… it’s a fun snack for movie nights at our house. It’s a hit with our local friends, too!Ingredients

1/2 cup popcorn kernels

3 Tablespoons oil

1/4 cup caramel, melted

40 grams dark chocolate (China friends, that’s about 8 rectangles from a Dove bar here)

optional, but recommended: Snickers candy bar of any size, chopped into small pieces

Directions and Notes

1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil and 3 kernels of popcorn over medium-high heat.

2. When the first kernel pops, add the 1/2 cup of kernels and cover the pot immediately. Give the pot a quick shake to coat the kernels with oil and then allow the pot to sit still while the rest of the kernels pop.

3. When the popping almost stops, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the heating element.

4. In a double boiler, or carefully in the microwave, heat the chocolate and caramel. (I’ve melted them both together and separately for different batches in the past and we prefer the way it tastes when they’re melted and added separately.) I used the caramel made from condensed milk from a previous post and it was a little thick, so I stirred in just a touch of milk.

5. Pour the chocolate and caramel over the popcorn and stir until evenly distributed.

6. Stir in Snickers candy bar pieces. Enjoy!

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“Applebee’s at Home” Date Night

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In September we continued our Date-Around-the-World tour and took a trip back to our college days in Kentucky. We pretended to visit Applebee’s, one of the favorite hot-spots for Asbury College students. I put together a menu for some Applebee’s Half-Price Appetizers and did a bunch of prep work ahead of time so things were more-or-less ready. When date time arrived, we had a 6-hour period for movies and time together during which Austin  could, at any point, order from the appetizer menu, and I’d go to the kitchen to pop them in the oven or finish any prep work needed. It was fun to taste some of our old favorites (or at least something close).

Here are some ideas of things that made it onto our menu if you want to give this date night a try:

Soft Pretzel Sticks with Cheese Dip

Veggie Patch Pizza

Mozzarella Sticks and Marinara Sauce

Chips and SalsaClassic Wings with Celery Sticks and Ranch Dressing

Hamburger Sliders with a Side of French Fries

Onion Rings

Spinach and Artichoke Dip served with Fried Wonton Chips

We had chocolate lava cake for dessert… as though we were still hungry!

Our dress code for this date was “Friday night college student.” We had fun music and printed a big Applebee’s sign and had Applebee’s coasters for our drinks.

And here’s a printable PDF if you want to use the same menu we did. If you want the Word version for editing, e-mail me and I can get it to you.: Applebee’s

Mozzarella Sticks

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Mozzarella sticks bring back lots of memories… like the summer days at the lake and running over to the “Snack Shack” to buy them… Or my 13th birthday when my dad took me out for a special father-daughter dinner and I ordered mozzarella sticks and then almost choked to death… Or the college nights in Nicholasville getting half-price appetizers at Applebees with Austin and friends. We hadn’t enjoyed this little treat for several years, so I decided to cook some for us on our recent “Applebee’s at Home” date night. They were just as good as ever, and we even managed to eat all them without choking to death!Ingredients:

3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

1 1/2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

roughly one pound of mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2″ sticks (It’s important to keep them thin so you have a good cheese to breading ratio)

3 large eggs, beaten

vegetable oil for frying

marinara sauce

Directions and Notes

1. Prepare a small baking sheet or plate by lining it with baking paper.

2. In a medium bowl, mix the panko, Italian seasoning, Parmesan, and salt.

3. Dip the first stick of mozzarella cheese into the beaten eggs to coat it completely. Allow the excess egg to drip off.

4. Roll the cheese stick in the panko mixture, pressing the mixture into the cheese so as much sticks as possible.

5. Dip the coated cheese back into the egg mixture and then into the panko mixture once more, so there are a total of 2 layers of egg and 2 layers of panko mixture on the cheese stick.

6. Lay the cheese stick on the baking sheet and repeat this process until all cheese sticks have been prepared.

7. Cover the baking sheet or plate and freeze for at least 2 hours or until completely frozen. Freezing them half a day in advance or overnight works great if possible!

8. When the cheese sticks are completely frozen, heat oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. The oil should be roughly 2 inches deep.

9. When the oil is hot, working in batches, fry the cheese until the surface of each stick is golden brown, about one minute on each side. Remove carefully with tongs.

10. Drain and serve with marinara sauce.

Onion Rings

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Here’s yet another post about one of the items featured at our “Applebee’s at Home” date night. I LOVE onion rings and fell in love with these. The pictures look a little different than normal onion rings because I used panko rather than regular bread crumbs. They tasted the same but just didn’t turn completely golden brown. We dipped these in several of the dips we had around… spinach and artichoke dip, marinara sauce, cheese dip. These can be changed up a little by adding some different spices (Italian seasoning, ground red pepper, etc.) into the bread crumb mixture for the final dipping. Ingredients
2 small onions, cut into 1/4″ slices and separated into individual rings

1 1/4 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt, plus more for final seasoning

1 egg

1 cup milk, more if needed

1 1/2 cups panko or regular bread crumbs

oil for frying

Directions and Notes
1. Mix the flour, baking soda, 1 teaspoon of salt, egg, and milk in one bowl. Add more milk until the mixture is neither too thick nor too thin. It should be the consistency of a thick liquid that can coat the onion rings but is still thin enough to drip off. Put the panko in a separate dish.

2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a medium pan. The oil should be 1-2 inches deep.

3. When the oil is heated, dip the onion pieces into the flour mixture. Allow any excess batter to drip back into the bowl and then roll them in the panko until they are well-coated.

4. Place the onion rings, several at a time, into the hot oil and allow them to fry 1-2 minutes until light golden brown, then flip and allow them to fry one to two more minutes.

5. Remove from oil and drain. Continue until all of the onion rings are prepared.

6. Salt the onion rings to taste and serve hot!

The Very Orange Smoothie

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I wanted a smoothie for lunch today and found that we had a whole lot of orange food in the fridge. Some steamed pumpkin left over from a recipe last night, the remainder of a cantaloupe from breakfast this morning, a couple of oranges left over from a fruit basket we received for Teachers’ Day last week, and a carrot that had been hanging out in the veggie drawer for who knows how long! I decided that if all of these foods could agree in color, why not try combining the flavors, too? And thus, “The Very Orange Smoothie” was born. The taste was a great balance of fruits and veggies, and the oranges and ginger added a little sour and spice. We made sure we got some other colors of veggies for dinner!Ingredients

1/2 cup steamed pumpkin/ pumpkin puree

3 cups chopped cantaloupe

1 carrot, chopped

2-3 oranges

1″ ginger root

1/2 cup water

7 large ice cubes

Directions and Notes

Combine all ingredients except for ice cubes in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the ice cubes and pulse until they’re blended up.

Veggie Patch Pizza

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One of our dates this month was a trip to Applebee’s, one of our favorite places when we were in college and the place where Austin asked me on our first date. Yes! Like all of our other dates, this one took place right here in our own apartment. Veggie Patch Pizza was definitely on the menu and brought us lots of happy memories!
Ingredients
Recipe is for 1 pizza

one 8″ tortilla

2 teaspoons oil

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

black pepper, to taste

1 clove minced garlic

salt to taste

1/3 cup hot spinach and artichoke dip

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 cup diced tomato

1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese

Directions and Notes

1. Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Saute the mushrooms and add the minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

2. Spread the spinach and artichoke dip over the tortilla.

3. Top with mushrooms, Italian seasoning, and tomatoes.

4. Add the mozzarella.

5. Bake the pizza at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

6. Cut into wedges if desired and serve.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

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In true China form, we managed to adapt a recipe to a point that tasted pretty amazing without several of the key ingredients called for by similar recipes (or the recipe name). On our recent “Applebee’s at Home” date night, I made this spinach and artichoke dip and it was a hit!Ingredients:

3/4 cup cooked, drained & squeezed, and chopped “spinach” leaves, packed (We don’t have spinach per say here, but we used some similarly shaped greens with great success. The 3/4 cup is the measurement after the leaves are cooked, chopped, and packed into the measuring cup.)

1/2 cup chopped asparagus (about 1/2″ long segments), boiled until very soft and drained (This was our substitute for artichoke, which isn’t the same but worked great here。)

1/3 cup Parmesan and Romano grated cheese

3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1 cup alfredo sauce (I used an alfredo packet for this and reduced the milk it called for by 1/4 cup to yield a thicker sauce.)

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 block tofu (about 1/2 cup if packed into a measuring cup)Directions and Notes

1. In a blender or magic bullet cup, combine a little of the alfredo sauce and the tofu and blend until smooth.

2. Combine all ingredients and pour into a 9″ round baking dish.

3. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until the dip is bubbling. Serve hot with chips, like these wonton chips.