Appetizers Archives | Parsley, Sage, and Sweet

Homemade Chevre, Cheeseballs, and Cheese filled Turkish Flatbread for Cheesepalooza, plus Part 17

September 30, 2012 at 7:04 am | Posted in Appetizers, Breads, Middle Eastern, Twelve Loaves, Vegetarian, Yeastspotting | 46 Comments
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So..I’m making cheese, goat cheese – chevre to be exact.  Valerie from A Canadian Foodie has challenged a bunch of us to start making cheese from scratch with her Cheesepalooza challenge.  I was extremely excited when she announced this challenge because I’ve always wanted to dabble a little in artisan cheese making.

No, the Red Hot Chili Peppers will not be performing, but they will be making an appearance in my cheese!

Continue Reading Homemade Chevre, Cheeseballs, and Cheese filled Turkish Flatbread for Cheesepalooza, plus Part 17…

Pulled Honey Sesame Chicken Sliders with Rainbow Slaw for SRC..and Part 14B

July 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Posted in Appetizers, Asian, Breads, Dinner, Lunch, Rainbow, Salads, SRC, Vegetables | 78 Comments
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We’re all familiar with loads of twists on pulled pork, pulled beef, pulled chicken – pulled any meat that can be shredded into juicy strands after being simmered in a sauce for a few hours – then slopped on a bun, which soaks up some of that sauce.  I’ve seen riffs on Asian pulled pork and chicken, but I’ve never seen the following Asian take on it until I scrolled through my blog assignment for this month’s Secret Recipe Club.

Pulled Honey Sesame Chicken Sliders with Rainbow Slaw
Does any carnivore NOT love Sesame or General Tso’s chicken?  Well, the blog I was assigned, Eat Little, Eat Big..authored and photographed by Susie, who just so happens to live on the beautiful island of Maui (lucky!), came up with this brilliant idea.  She simmered chicken breasts in a similar sauce used for sesame chicken – in a crockpot- for a few hours.  Voila, Slow Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken!

Initially, I was going to make her Crunchy Oven Baked Fish Sticks, but then  decided that there was no way I was turning on the oven in this oppressive heat.  We’re talking 98 – 100 degrees the past week, so I loved that this dish was slowly simmered in a crockpot..or slow cooker, whichever you prefer to call it.  Potatoes, puhtatoes.

Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  First, I toasted the sesame seeds, then I omitted the ketchup and used tomato paste instead.  I used Chili Paste (Sambal Oelek) in lieu of chili flakes, added rice wine vinegar for a bit of acid, and a little chicken stock for more sauce.

I also changed the cooking time since I was starting with semi-frozen chicken breasts, plus…to get that really shredded texture, more time was needed, semi-frozen or not.  To thicken the sauce after simmering, I made a slurry of cornstarch and chicken broth, instead of using cornstarch alone.  I grated some fresh ginger into the sauce simply because I couldn’t fathom sesame chicken without ginger.

Before I even finished reading the recipe, I had decided to pile this pulled chicken on buns.   At the bottom of Susie’s recipe – she suggested doing just that.  SO, I piled this chicken on buns, but not just any buns.  Back in Dec, ’11, I baked some plain buns using an extra batch of dough I made from the Daring Bakers Char Siu Bao recipe  and froze them.  Instabuns! For the sliders, I used store-bought slider sized potato buns.

I love Asian bun dough.  It’s soft and so velvety, so I knew they would make great vessels for burgers or sandwiches. Use any kind of bun you’d like, even a doughnut if that suits your fancy, since it, ummm, it seems to be all the rage, but I’m not really recommending it, so, proceed with caution, and an adventurous palate!  Oh, sprouted buns are also nice and  work very well because they’re sturdy, leaving lots of leeway for sauce soakage, without falling apart,  I highly recommend those along with the two aforementioned buns — not doughnuts.

Finally, you know how much I’ve waxed on and on about my love of natural rainbows incorporated into dishes?  What better than an array of colorful vegetables to pile on these buns with the chicken?  We’ve got shredded red cabbage (the purple), a mix of red, yellow and orange bell peppers, and blanched snow peas -  all tossed together with a light vinaigrette.

This is my summer of Eat the Rainbow.  Well, I’m trying to Eat the Rainbow.  More to come soon.

In conclusion, these honey sesame chicken sliders are pretty, darn amazing and perfect for any party, so I do recommend you proceed without caution!  If you’re GF, eat it out of the slow cooker, like I did at one point.

Pulled Honey Sesame Chicken Sandwiches with Rainbow Slaw
Inspired by Susie of Eat Little, Eat Big
Makes a ton of sliders, a half-ton of average sized sandwiches and maybe 6-8 unhinge your jaw, sandwiches 

Pulled Honey Sesame Chicken
4 semi-frozen chicken breasts, cut in half (starting with semi-frozen chicken seems to help it shred better once cooked), OR, about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic finely minced
2 teaspoons fresh, grated ginger
1 teaspoon chili paste (more if you like a lot of heat)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons chicken broth or stock
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds, the amount depending on your preference
burger buns or slider buns

NoteIf your chicken breasts are kind of big, I would suggest doubling the sauce ingredients poured over the breasts in the crockpot.  The cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of chicken stock for the thickening slurry remains the same, but add 2 tablespoons sesame oil instead of 1 when the sauce is thickened and done.

Rainbow Slaw
1 small red bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, sliced thin
1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, sliced thin
1 small orange bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, sliced thin  (OR two carrots, peeled and shredded)
About 1/4 a small head red cabbage, shredded
1 very small red onion or half a red onion, sliced thin
1/4 lb snowpeas, blanched, each snowpea sliced in half vertically and horizontally.  No worries about peas falling out – it just makes it better

Note – Slice and chop vegetables smaller for sliders.  If you want a really shredded slaw, use the shredding disk or very thin slicing disk in your food processor for all the veggies (stack the snowpeas to shred).  I used a knife that needed to be sharpened so I couldn’t slice the veggies as thin as I would have liked.  It’s much easier to pile a more shredded slaw on the sliders or sandwiches and much easier to eat.

Vinaigrette
5 tablespoons peanut oil
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced with kosher salt until it’s a paste
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 3/4 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
squeeze of lime juice
freshly ground black or white pepper (to taste)

SLAW AND VINAIGRETTE DIRECTIONS:
1. Combine all of the vegetables in a bowl.

2.  Make Vinaigrette.  Place all ingredients in a jar, cover tightly, and shake vigorously until blended.  Drizzle your preferred amount over vegetables and toss.

3.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let the flavors blend in the fridge for a few houes.  You can use it immediately, but it’s much better after marinating for a few hours.  SO, make this salad while the chicken is cooking.

PULLED SESAME CHICKEN DIRECTIONS:
1. Season frozen chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and place in the crockpot.

2.  Mix all the sauce ingredients together except for the sesame oil, sesame seeds, cornstarch and 2 extra tablespoons of chicken stock.  Pour over seasoned, frozen chicken in the crockpot.

3.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours, until the chicken starts to fall apart.  Remove chicken from sauce and shred with two forks.  Set aside in a bowl.

4.  Pour sauce into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Stir together the cornstarch and chicken stock until smooth, then pour into the simmering sauce.  Cook until the sauce has thickened, whisking constantly – it only takes a minute or two.

5. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds.  Pour over shredded chicken and mix well. Season with more salt and pepper if it needs it.

6.  Assemble sandwiches.  Cut buns in half – toast if you like.  Place a heaping spoonful of rainbow slaw on the bottom bun.  Top that with a heaping spoonful of the pulled chicken.   Pour some extra sauce over chicken and top with other half bun.  Enjoy with plenty of napkins!

Click on the blue frog below to see what my fellow SRC Group A participants chose from their assigned blogs.

Now to Part 14B (I know, I know – will it ever end?)) of Bad Boy First Love. If you’re just tuning in, Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE , Part Three is HERE, Part Four is HERE, Part Five is HERE, Part Six is HERE, Part Seven is HERE, Part 8 is HERE, Part 9 is HERE, Part Ten is HERE, Part 11 is HERE, Part 12 is HERE, Part 13A is HERE, Part 13B is HERE, and Part 14A is HERE.

I decided, for all parties involved, there was no need to say anything.  It wasn’t fatal, no harm was done, but if I opened my big mouth, there’d be plenty of harm done and it wouldn’t be pretty.

I fell asleep to his sexy voice.

The next morning I woke up with the phone cord wrapped around my neck and the handset hanging off the edge of the bed.  Although I had cordless phones..I was kind of attached to my eclectic, multicolored corded phone.  It meshed with my bedroom..you know, the important stuff when you’re teenager.

Great, I could have strangled myself in my sleep and college would be off.  Scratch that, I wouldn’t be alive to realize that college was off.  I wondered if the roommate ‘death’ rule would apply to roommates who had not yet met me?  I bet they’d love me anyway, considering the straight A’s for the semester thanks to my untimely and generous demise.

I realized I never got to say a proper goodnight/goodbye to him, but I didn’t want to wake him up.  He had two more days of work left before he came home to North Jersey, where I would no longer be.  A bit of sadness struck at that thought.  I even had a moment where I wanted to call the whole thing off and ask him to marry me, but I decided I’d phone him as soon as I got to Boston, instead, a much more logical decision, I reasoned, since I was officially a college student now.

It was already 11 am, and I hadn’t done my final ‘scan’ and felt completely overwhelmed and unprepared.  This led to several hours of ‘scanning’, which led to many fights with my parents, which led to me taking off in the car to bid one last adieu to my friends, which led to us not leaving until 5 pm.

To add insult to injury, the large SUV my father had rented, since I basically packed my whole life into several suitcases and trunks, was not there.  The guy at the rental car place made a mistake and rented it to someone else and all they had left was a medium hatchback.  This meant the backseat went down, so my whole life was crammed in so tight that some of it was spilling over the front seat, where I had the misfortune of sitting…in…between…my…parents.

I don’t have the kind of relationship with my parents that most do, so this was pure hell on top of hell, with a side of red hot forks poking every cell in my being. The whole drive was literally hell on wheels..so much so, that at one point, I insisted they let me out of the car on some highway in Connecticut.  I walked along the grassy divider in the dark for about 15 minutes before they were able to find an exit to turn around and come back, but truth be told, it was the most serene 15 minutes I’d had all day.

There was actually one positive side to all of this wrath..it distracted me from missing Dreamboat.  The anger was like a warm blanket shielding me from the cold pain that was looming deep in my soft, mushy core – tapping me every so often (Yo, is this mic on?), trying to break through.

Around 8 pm, my father decided he didn’t want to drive anymore..and being a stickler of rules, wouldn’t allow me or my mother to drive since his name was the only name on the rental agreement.

He pulled off at an exit..having no idea where he was going, until he saw the bright lights of a Howard Johnsons.  We were in Worcester, MA, only an hour away from Boston.  I begged him to keep going since there was a freshman orientation the next morning at 9 am, but he refused. Well..at least I could try and call Dreamboat later on that night.

Not so fast.

He let me know, in no uncertain terms, that there was no way he was paying for any long distance calls from a motel phone.  Between the disappointment of not getting to school the night before the first day to start meeting people and my roommates and the melancholia of missing Dreamboat, there was not much more I could do than sleep it away.  Sleep didn’t come easy, so I watched movies until 3 am, when my body finally started to shut down and I was able to doze, but it wasn’t sound, and I must have woken up at least three times, tossing and turning,

I heard my room phone ringing incessantly and sporadic banging on my door throughout my slumber, but ignored it all so I could sleep more.  I finally woke up at 11 am.  My parents had already spent 4 hours going out to breakfast and walking around.  I’d missed orientation – so  there was no need to rush anymore.  I relaxed.  Oh, wait..checkout was at noon, so I was told I better start rushing.  Figures.

When we finally arrived in Boston, I found out I had been assigned to an upperclassman dorm since I had changed schools at the last minute. All of the shiny, modern housing and towers of freshman dorms were already filled up by the time my father sent them the dough. My new home was an old, shoddy, broken down, building, and my dorm room was a kitchen, tiny bathroom. and two bedrooms – mine with a bunk bed.

Sound familiar?  I spent two Augusts with a kitchen, bathroom and tiny sleeping quarters, but that never mattered because I was there to be with Dreamboat.  Now, I just had to endure it and enduring it might have been easier if the whole place didn’t have tilted floors.  Yep, tilted floors..a permanent slope in my dorm/apartment.  I thought about roller skates.

I still wish I had staged a fall and sued.

By this time, the anger between me and my parents had reached a breaking point.  After unloading my life, with some help from some nice, strong upperclassmen, and dumping it..along with me, into my new, tilted dorm room/apartment with a kitchen – they left me sitting on the lower bunk – alone.  There was no phone hooked up to call Dreamboat or my friends, so the alone soon turned to lonely.  My roommates were nowhere to be found.  My bunk mate had already unpacked and taken the bottom bunk I was sitting on.  Great, I had to sleep with the ceiling in my face.

Laissez-faire, I thought, as I slowly started to unpack my life into this dump.

My roommate turned out to be a freshman who changed schools at the last minute too, and the two in the other bedroom were a sophomore and a junior.  Unfortunately, the only thing me and my freshman bunk mate had in common was being freshman, but that was good enough for the time being.  We stayed up talking a while and then I wrote a letter to Dreamboat to let him know my phone wouldn’t be hooked up for a few days.

If only cell phones were what they are today, and we had the worldwide web, video calls etc..the transition would have been seamless.

The next morning..I woke up feeling rejuvenated – a whole new life was starting for me.  I quickly showered and dressed, skipping breakfast because I needed to be in a certain hall by 9 am.  They were gathering freshman in alphabetical order per lecture hall.


As I walked to the main quad where this Hall was located, I was feeling more and more excited with each step.  Fellow students at my university packed the streets and campus.  It was like lunch hour in NYC – not to mention, Boston is rife with colleges and universities, all within a short distance of one another, so it wasn’t unusual to walk by students with other school logos emblazoned on their shirts, knapsacks, baseball caps..etc.

I took a right turn into the quad, and I was blown away.  It was akin to what I felt it would be like stepping into Willy Wonka’s chocolate river room for the first time.  All the students – bright and shiny, from measly freshman like me, to huge, hulking, athletes walking in packs , bags slung over their shoulders for practice later.

A group of guys were playing hacky sack.  Is there a college quad anywhere in the US where there isn’t a bunch of guys playing hacky sack on a nice day?  I’d put money on it that there isn’t.

Regardless, I was so mesmerized by it all, I barely made it to the hall on time.  I broke out of my spell, and ran to my assigned surnames names beginning with R to U lecture hall, tripping up the steps several times, my outer klutz always on display..and grabbed a seat.

Within minutes of taking a seat, I met the girl who would become one of my best friends throughout my freshman year.  Finally, something positive!

After being assigned counselors to help put our schedules together and a long visit to the campus bookstore where we spent mucho dinero on the books we needed for our classes, and of course, lots of other frivolous stuff, including almost everything with the university logo on it, we went back to her dorm.

She was living in one of the beautiful, modern freshman dorms, so in time, I was practically living there too.  I met a bunch of great people in that dorm who also became good friends, and soon, I was considered part of that dorm..although I was living a hobo lifestyle between dorms.

The good thing about having my shoddy, upperclassmen dorm to go back to occasionally, was the quiet.  We all went there when we wanted a little peace or had to study for an exam.  The other good thing was  my upperclassmen roommates.  They guided us where to go for fun..introducing us to the ‘big’ pub on the main avenue of our campus where they let everyone in.  They would simply blow a horn if the ABC showed up so we could all sneak out the back before they could check for ID’s.

This was the place almost everyone went after hockey, football and basketball wins.  Weekend nights, the place was  packed to the gills with students of all ages and lots of athletes checking out the new freshman crop of girls.  It was hard to tell who played for what team, outside of the hulky giants, who were obviously football players.

The first night there was a blast.  We danced in front of the video jukebox..checked out the guys (well..they did), drank, well, ‘drank’ for me would be the one sea breeze I sipped all night long.  Like I’ve said many times on this blog, I can’t hold my alcohol, and one more sea breeze would have had me outside, introducing my dinner to the pavement.


Eventually, I hit the bottom of the drink with a few loud sips of air, so I walked to the bar to return my glass.  The bartender, whom they called ‘Sully’, slid another sea breeze my way.

“Umm..I didn’t order that, there must be a mistake.” I said, not relishing the idea of half digested chicken stroganoff pounding at my cheeks.

Sully motioned behind me “It’s from him. He bought it for you.”

I turned to see a tall, dark-haired, handsome athlete sitting on a divider facing away from the jukebox.

Right at that very moment, I realized our phone had been hooked up two days before, and I hadn’t called Dreamboat.  The excitement of meeting new people, new classes, and the city of Boston, had dominated my first week of school so much, I actually..and it was SO hard to fathom this..

FORGOT about him a little.

I turned to this handsome stranger, smiled and said “Thank you.”

I didn’t want to pursue it further than that, but he walked over and introduced himself, so a pursuit was unavoidable.

He was in his junior year, from a town on Cape Cod, a hockey player, went to prep school, and was a draft pick for the Bruins..but decided to finish college first.  Before I knew it, we were conversing like old friends, even after the bar closed, sitting on the edge of a fountain in the courtyard of his dorm which was less than a block from my tilted dorm.

I made fun of his New England accent, like I did with all the people from MA or any New England state, I’d met.  He loved my imitation of it, then told me I had no accent, so he made fun of Jersey instead.  Nothing new…everyone does.  “What exit?” being a favorite.

We were laughing a lot in between the lighthearted chat, and before I knew it, a good two hours had passed, which alarmed me a little.

Dreamboat and I never had two hour conversations like this, even on the first night we met.  In fact, most of our conversing was lip to lip. Dreamboat’s voice blasted in my head..

“..you’ll meet other guys..rich college guys, you won’t want me anymore.”

Damn, I missed him, but I think I had just met a rich college guy.  Hmm…

That looming pain that had been stymied by the fierce anger at my parents, then all the newness of college life, finally broke through, and it hurt, it hurt like the sting of a thousand jellyfish – which brought me back to that magical summer night we reconnected. My eyes started to well up.  Time to exit!

I abruptly stood up, told hockey guy it was a pleasure to meet him, but I needed to get some sleep.

He stood up too..then asked, “Can I get your number?  I’d like to take you to Faneuil Hall and that restaurant in the North End I told you about.” Silence from me, then..”I want to show you around Boston. Let me be your tour guide.” He finished, gallantly, with a silly half bow.

I wasn’t lying when I told him this..

“We just got our phone hooked up, so I don’t know the number offhand, plus, I have a boyfriend back home whom I love very much.”

I hated the conflicting feelings that were coming on like gangbusters and confusing the hell out of me.  I loved Dreamboat so much it hurt, but this guy was intriguing to me..I loved the conversation we had.  What was happening?

He smiled, not quite as dazzling as Dreamboat’s, but nice.

“Everyone has a boyfriend or girlfriend back home when they’re freshman.  They usually don’t last, well, mine didn’t” He said with a chuckle.

Then some weird fate kicked in.  My junior year roommate came walking by with some friends..calling my name out in jest when she saw I was talking to this cute guy.  She walked over since she apparently knew him, using his name when she greeted us..and started extolling my virtues to him.

She gave him our phone number.

I gave her the evil eye.

I walked back to our dorm with her and her friends, now listening to her extol his virtues.  She was tipsy..

“Lisha..you don’t undershtand, he’sh not a womanizer, he’sh such a good guy, and SO cute..you’d be crazshy not to go out with him!”

I adamantly stood my ground.  “I’m in love with Dreamboat – not gonna happen.”

As she started skipping sprightly ahead of us, she uttered the words I’d heard far too many times the past week..

Those relationships never last – you’re young, you’re in college now..enjoy it!”

I called Dreamboat the next morning..which was Saturday. I had forgotten he’d nailed down a cushy construction job from a man who owned a company near him in North Jersey, and spent weekends in Toms River, a few doors down from his shore house. Part of that job entailed working Saturdays.  I tried again around 6 pm.  He answered..my heart fluttered.

“Hi, baby.” I nearly squealed, which seemed o have become the norm with him.

He responded with happiness and surprise..

“Hi, killer, I got your letter, but then I heard nothing so I thought you’d already met some rich college boy and cast me off.” He said, in lighthearted jest, but I knew he’d meant it just a little,

I thought of the hockey player..the timing was uncanny.

Suddenly, I needed to see him more than ever..those weird, conflicting feelings were front and center and I wanted them to go away.  I grabbed the teddy bear with his t-shirt and pressed it to my face..inhaling. His scent was fading.

“Come see me, baby…drive up here next weekend..I miss you..need you.” I said with my mouth pressed against the receiver, trying to get as close to him as I could.

He seemed relieved that I still loved and wanted him..

“I want to, sweetheart, I need you too- BUT..”

Ohhh, shit..the inevitable ‘BUT’!

“…I don’t think the Mazda would make it both ways.”

OK, not that bad a ‘BUT’.  He was right.

“Then fly to me.” I whimpered pathetically

“You know I work Saturdays, baby. I just started, I can’t take time off after 1 week. Why don’t you come home and spend the weekend with me?” He asked, adding an edge of sexy come hither to convince me.

My parents would never pay for a flight home after only 2 weeks of school.  I would have to stick it out until Thanksgiving.

I dropped the subject, then started telling him about my first week of school.  I guess my enthusiasm bothered him a little.  He was sort of hoping I wouldn’t like it so I’d transfer to a local college and told me that in a half-joking way.  His tone changed from sweet, loving and happy, to sad and kind of cold.

The conversation was turning morose rather quickly, plus, as I mentioned in a previous part, he wasn’t a phone person.  The phone for him was for making plans to meet up, not two hour conversations that most women think nothing of.  He did try with me..I’ll give him that.

I didn’t know what else to say..so I told him I loved him.

He responded in kind..but added “..maybe too much.”

What was that supposed to mean?

He read my mind..”It sucks knowing I won’t see you for 11 weeks..really sucks.”

I whispered softly “It sucks for me too.”

Then silence.

I hate awkward silences (and still hate them to this day), so, I started rambling, which is what I always do when there’s awkward silence.  I can’t help it.

“I bought you a bunch of t-shirts and  sweatshirts at the campus bookstore.  I can mail them to you if you want – one is red with…”

He interrupted..he knew this part of me very well, but couldn’t kiss me to stop it.

“Thank you, but you can give them to me when you see me – I want them from you, not a box.” He said, the coldness still lingering a bit.

This was the most uncomfortable conversation I’d ever had with him.  I settled down and responded with an “okay”, feeling utterly beaten.

We said our goodbyes since the call was about to get very expensive, (like I mentioned – lucky college kids with internet and cell phones these days), and made plans for him to call me the following Wednesday.

I sat on my top bunk for a long time, dissecting and analyzing the conversation in my head, interspersed with the infamous mantra I’d been hearing since I arrived..

Those relationships never last..Those relationships never last..Those relationships never last..

Dreamboat called that Wednesday, but it was another awkward conversation.  I had to keep convincing myself he wasn’t a phone person and to not take it to heart.  We spoke more times, for weeks after, but it was just never the same.  He was hurting, I was hurting. It had now been a month and the seven or so weeks left before we’d see each other again, seemed like an eternity.

After our last phone call..I felt down for the next couple days – too down, and to such a great degree, that my energy was sapped.  I wondered if I was falling into a depression.

I ran into hockey guy many times in the quad during those weeks, when he was on his way to hockey practice. He always found me on the same bench, flipping through my notes before my last class of the day.  One day he convinced me to walk with him to the arena. It soon became a ritual.  It was always nice to hang out with him..he lifted my spirits.

When the following Friday night came around..I was sick as a dog with a raging cold.  Well, that at least explained why my energy sapped.

My friends from my other dorm/home came by to check on me.  They were going to the pub.  They took along my freshman bunk mate and about 20 minutes after they left, my two upperclassmen roommates went to join them, so I had the place to myself… to suffer miserably in.

I fell asleep…my own snoring, gurgling and runny nose waking me up sporadically.  I finally gave in and took some cold medicine to stop it.  In a short time I felt a little better and started to doze off again, buried in a cloud of crumpled up tissues.

Somewhere in my stuffy head…I heard the phone ringing.  I crawled pathetically to the end of the bed, where one of my new friends put it just in case I needed to call anyone, to answer it.

“Hello?” I croaked

“Hey you, I hope you don’t mind me calling, but I just saw your friends down at the pub, and asked where you were.  They said you were home sick.  I was worried.” A nice, friendly voice with a New England accent, chirped.

Yep – it was hockey guy.  Why did I smile?

“Yeah..I’ve got a really bad cold.  There was no way I was going out tonight.” I snorfed into the phone.

“You want some company?  It stinks being alone when you’re sick.” He asked, sweetly.

I couldn’t believe it, but there was the word, spilling effortlessly from my mouth..

“Sure.”

“OK..I’ll be there in about 15 minutes.” He said quickly, then hung up.

I started to doze again after we hung up.  What was I doing?  Wait, I did nothing, he was a friend and it was going to remain that way.  Then I realized how gross I was and jumped out of bed and into the shower.  He’d be here in less than 10 minutes.

Why did I care??

I started rushing, pulling on my favorite pair of jeans and a cute top..tripping over my feet as I hurried.  I had to at least blow dry my hair and put a bit of makeup on to cover my red nose and dark circles.

Why did I care??

There was a knock on the door. I was mortified with my mop of wet hair and sick face.  I had no choice..I had to answer it.

Why did I care??

I opened the door slowly, practically plastering my wet hair over my swollen nose and greenish, pale skin.

Stop it…you shouldn’t care how you look, he’s just a friend.

There he stood with a container of chicken soup in one hand, a flower in the other, wearing a tight, beige V-neck sweater and perfectly worn jeans, which showcased his well-muscled, hockey player thighs and………..flip-flops.


I found the flip-flops, coupled with his sweater and jeans, incredibly endearing.  His upper body was also tight and muscled – but not in any kind of steroidal ‘Schwarzenegger’ way, just a nice, fit way.  This guy was an athlete, a well- chiseled athlete..a manly man in every sense of the word.

Don’t get me wrong, Dreamboat had a great body, but when one is an athlete who  practices and works out every day, there’s not an inch that can be pinched. I could almost see the outline of a six-pack beneath his sweater.  Dreamboat had a slight six-pack, but two beers were missing.  A four-pack, I guess.

I looked up into his chocolate brown eyes.  He had such a sweet, handsome face and short, thick, dark curly hair. that I kind of wanted to touch. His skin was smooth, not a mark anywhere. He’d obviously shaved and he smelled great too – a definite bonus.  I love light cologne on guys.

Wait..bonus?  Where was I going with this?

He immediately commented on my wet hair and scolded me gently, asking where he could find a towel.  When I showed him..he grabbed one and  draped it over my head and then started ruffling it through my hair, drying it as best as he could, while I sat on a tall kitchen chair.  I felt like I was at the salon.

“You have a bad cold, this is going to make it worse..you didn’t have to shower for me, silly.” He said, ruffling the towel like my father used to when I was a kid, after my Mom released me to him post bath.

I know..why did I?

I just blew my nose and didn’t respond.

This was not good, I was feeling something.  Nothing even remotely close to what I felt with Dreamboat – no jelly legs, no intense butterflies..but it was something.

Part 15 coming soon.

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Focaccia with Bacon, Cheddar and ‘Eggs in Wells’ and Part 12

May 31, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Posted in Appetizers, Breads, Breakfast, Lunch, Rainbow, Vegetables, Yeastspotting | 46 Comments
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There’s a new bread challenge in town.  It’s called the Bread Baking Society (Twitter handle @Breaking_Bread – hashtag #BreakingBread), - founded by Lora from Cake Duchess and Shulie from  Food Wanderings.  This month the bread they asked everyone to bake is focaccia and of course, I wanted to take part. Thankfully I got it in on the last day, last minute, of the month.  Once again, there was humidity, but not as bad as last week.  But, no braiding or shaping of focaccia – just dimpling (awww) – so humidity foiled.  Ha!


Of course, there was free creative reign, so the variety of focaccias linked up, sweet and savory, is pretty amazing, from sweet potato to southern charm.

I made a Focaccia McMuffin.  I call it that because it’s all bacon, eggs and cheddar.  What makes it kind of cool is, the eggs are in focaccia wells.  I scrunched up 6 large pieces of tin foil into 3-inch balls, coated each one generously with olive oil, then stuck them into the cheese and bacon filled dough before rising.  When fully risen, I pressed them down again, and baked the focaccia for 20 or so minutes, then removed the tin foil balls –  giving me perfect wells to crack 6 eggs into.  I put the focaccia back in the oven for 8 to 10 more minutes, and voila, six  perfectly cooked eggs, in six bacon – cheese bread squares (when cut), per person.

Of course I had to make it pretty, so before baking the focaccia, I topped it with some roasted red peppers, arugula, more bacon – and a few drizzles of olive oil.  When done, the eggs were seasoned with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and chopped chives.

Finally, I used Nick Malgieri’s focaccia dough in this recipe, which Lora also used. But, due to the humidity, I had to add an extra cup of flour.  I also took down the salt because of the bacon.  I’m sure Nick wouldn’t mind..he’s a pretty awesome pastry chef and guy. He left a comment on THIS post back in 2010…thanks to Meaghan from The Decorated Cookie, alerting him to the post.  I was pretty stoked since I’m such a fan girl when it comes to my favorite chefs.

By the way – please excuse the poor photos.  Ego Lights never do well with yellow or white.  Yellow (cheese and eggs) in this case, not to mention I really rushed it, I didn’t give it the time it deserved.

Bacon, Cheddar and ‘Eggs in Wells’ Focaccia
Basic focaccia recipe adapted from How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri, with my revisions
Copyright (c) Nick Malgieri 1995, All Rights Reserved
6 individual servings

1 1/3 cups warm tap water (about 110 degrees)
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour ( I ended up using 1 more cup due to humidity)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
6 to 8 oz cheddar cheese, cubed
10 slices cooked bacon, chopped

Topping
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese plus 6 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese for the egg wells (1 tablespoon per well)
4 slices cooked bacon, chopped
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and sliced (optional, or add your favorite vegetable(s)*
arugula leaves (optional, or use your favorite greens)*
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 medium or large eggs
chopped chives
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

*If you don’t want to add greens or veggies of any sort, top with extra bacon and cheese.  Herbs would be nice too.

101/2 x 151/2-inch jelly roll and parchment paper

DIRECTIONS:
1.  In a small bowl,water sprinkle the yeast over the water.  Add the 3 tablespoons olive oil and stir.

2. In large bowl, combine the flour and 1  1/2 teaspoons of salt; whisk together or mix together on low speed in your mixer.

3. Stir the yeast, water and olive oil into the flour and salt until you have a dry dough.  Slowly add the 1 1/3 cup of water while mixing, until you have a soft, but slightly raggedy dough.  You may or may not use all the water.

4.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl.  Cover and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

5.  When dough has doubled, fold it onto itself, then flatten it on a floured board.  Scatter the cheddar cheese cubes and 2 pieces of chopped bacon all over the flattened dough.  Fold it over a few times, adding flour as needed.  Use a bench scraper because you will run into stickiness.  Keep folding and kneading until the bacon and cheese is disseminated throughout the dough evenly. If bacon and/or cheese pops out during kneading, just shove it back in.   Let rest, covered for 5 to 10 minutes to relax the gluten.

6.  While the dough is resting, oil the jelly roll pan, then cut a piece of parchment to fit.  The oil will keep the parchment paper down.  Flatten the ball of dough onto the parchment lined pan and spread it as best you can until it almost reaches all four corners.  If it resists, let it rest a few minutes, then start pushing and spreading again.  Tuck in any cheese or bacon that pops out.

7.  Make 6 tin foil balls..about 3 to 4-inches each, and coat each one with olive or any oil, generously (I used spray olive oil) Press each tin foil ball into dough, deep..two on each row, equally apart.

8.  Cover pan with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.

9.  Prehaet oven to 425 degrees F.  Once risen, press the foil balls down again (they rise with the dough), then dimple focaccia and drizzle with olive oil.  Top with remaining chopped bacon, pepper strips, and arugula.

10. Bake at 425F for 20 minutes, then remove pan from oven..keeping oven at 425F, and pull out foil balls.  Sprinkle a 1 tablespoon shredded cheddar cheese in each well. Crack each egg, one at a time, into a ramekin or small bowl, then slowly and carefully pour each egg into a well, until all six are filled.

11.  Place pan back in the oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes, until the whites are cooked and the yolks are still jiggly, like a sunny-side up egg.

12.  Remove pan from oven, sprinkle all over with remaining shredded cheddar cheese (the heat will melt it), and salt and pepper each egg.  Sprinkle with chopped chives, if desired. Serve immediately, cutting the focaccia into 6 squares, each containing an egg.  Gently reheat leftovers, as not to overcook the egg.

Now to Part 12 of Bad Boy First Love.  If you’re just tuning in, Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE , Part Three is HERE, Part Four is HERE, Part Five is HERE, Part Six is HERE, Part Seven is HERE, Part 8 is HERE, Part 9 is HERE,  Part Ten is HERE, and Part 11 is HERE.

Once again, he read my mind.

“Wanna get going, honey?”

Ahhh..he was good.  I was called sweetheart so many times that night, he had to mix it up with honey.

Honey, sweetheart, baby…it didn’t matter.  He could call me dingbat, and I’d be putty in his hands.

After a half hour of goodbyes, we were finally alone.  My head was still filled with the cacophony of ‘youse guys’, ‘dose guys, ‘deez guys’, and ‘dem guys’. One guy even called a toilet a ‘terlet’.  Sounded more like a bird than a porcelain waste station.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored his friends, they were vibrant and they were real.  No phoniness, no airs, no BS, and under their tough exteriors, genuine warmth.  I was just a little overwhelmed and intimidated that first night.  Within a week, I was as comfy as a kitten in a quilted basket, talking almost as fast as they did.

Unfortunately, the girl I connected with, the bride-to-be, broke off the engagement and relationship, so I never saw her again.  J was a hurting puppy for a long, long time.  He fell hard for one of my friends later on, which I’ll get to in another part.

Through his friends, his ‘bad boy’ was confirmed.  The stories they told me were scary, but again, thrilling, because that ‘bad boy’ thing was my weakness.  The knife to his leg was nothing compared to the other tales they weaved.  It would literally take up 8 pages telling all of you.  He’d almost been arrested a few times, once for almost killing a guy who was attacking his cousin so violently, his cousin ended up in the hospital for weeks.

WHOA.

Truth be told, he didn’t like to fight.  It’s not like he got his jollies kicking ass, he was just very protective of friends and loved ones and if someone or someone(s) were  bullying or attacking them, as one of his friends would say, ‘fuhgeddaboutit’.

The ironic (although his friends thought it was funny) part of the story was the that the perpetrator ended up in the same hospital as his cousin, right across the hall.  Soon the cousin, and the guy who nearly killed him, were talking and buddies.  That’s just how these people were.  They could forgive most anything.

That being said, my relationship with Dreamboat was better than ever – it was almost gross in its saccharine salacity.  We saw each other at least once every weekend, because I had to hang out with my friends too (You know..the old ‘friends come before guys’ teenage rule/mantra).  But, we’d also sneak in weeknights (school nights for me, my curfew was midnight, and work the next day for him), so, I’d sneak him into my bedroom once my parents were fast asleep, or I’d sneak out after he dropped me off by 11 (1 hour early to make it look good), just to spend more time with him.  When we weren’t together, we were on the phone for hours, even though he wasn’t a phone person.

I showed him where I used to stack my pillows against the window, put on his favorite radio station, and cry myself to sleep missing him.  He laid down on the pillows next to me, the cool night air caressing us as he wrapped me up in his arms.  Like clockwork, Stairway to Heaven came on.  It was almost all too surreal – he was lying next to me in my year long ‘mourning’ space for him.  Now it was a space of love, joy and content, especially when I could smell him on my pillows after he left.

He finally told me he loved me on a chilly autumn evening in early October, parked on the side of a dead-end street with a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline.  Just as he said the words, “I love you, Lisa” my diamond stud earring caught on the shoulder of my sweater when I wrapped my arms around him - ready to make this moment as perfect and disgustingly romantic as possible - and popped out, hitting the floor of the Beetle somewhere.  They were a gift from my grandmother and they were very expensive, but, the sentimental value far outweighed the price.  I loved her dearly.  I couldn’t lose one of them.

I was bent over in seconds, blindly running my hands all over the floor in front of and underneath the passenger seat, hoping to feel the sharpness of the stud against the flattened, coarse carpet.

So, I’d been waiting desperately for the ‘I love you’ moment and when it finally came, I was scouring the floor of a Volkswagon Beetle – now scraping my fingers across the rug, bemoaning the possible loss of this earring.

Like I always say, it figures,  This is my life to this day.  Welcome to it.

He opened the door for light as we searched diligently.  I sat up quickly to really dig between the seats – forgetting about the  dashboard.

THWACK!

I slammed my head against it hard. I saw spots for a moment and then my eyes started to tear because it hurt like a bitch.  Dreamboat started examining the area.

Dr. Dreamboat in the house again!

I started to panic.. “Is it bleeding?  Is there a gash?  Does it look like I need stitches??”

I couldn’t believe how perfect the first ‘I love you’ moment was turning out!

“No, sweetheart, it’s just a bump..you’ll be fine.” Dreamboat said with a soft smile, as he continued to evaluate my rapidly forming goose egg.

I loved him so much.  Oh, wait, I could tell him that now.

“I’m not dunking my head in the East River and I love you too.”  Not exactly romantic, but I’d just banged my noggin hard.  I don’t think I was all there for a few moments.

But, I finally got to say what I’d been feeling since I’d first laid eyes on him.  We had a good laugh at my East River barb, then the romantic and mushy talk followed.

I completely forgot about my earring.

As he rubbed my head, he told me he had known he loved me for a while, but wanted to make sure it wasn’t rushed – such serious words.  That made me love him even more, so I said it again, and again, and again..I think I must have said it like 10 more times that night, just to hear him say it back.

was and am such a sap.

He found my diamond stud a few days later and presented it to me in a box with a beautiful, thin gold chain with one simple, matching diamond stud attached to it.  I’m not a bling girl, I like delicate, understated jewelry, so it was perfect.  I still occasionally wear it to this day.

Bacon, Cheddar and 'Eggs in Wells' Foccaccia

My senior year was amazing, mostly because of him.  I was so happy, you could stick a needle in my eye and I’d tell you not to worry about it.  The year before, my miserable junior year, I never would have thought it would turn out this way. How did I get so lucky?

However, there was a problem.  The more I snuck out during the week, staying out or ‘in’ super late on school nights, the more exhausted I was, and I couldn’t get up for school no matter how loud my mother screamed or how hard she tugged at my blanket. I was late to school about twice a week.

My mother thought I was doing drugs and wanna know how I found that out?

I opened my eyes one morning to see my freakin’ guidance counselor sitting on a chair in the middle of my bedroom, surrounded by dirty clothes I’d thrown on the floor the night before and a plate with a half-eaten crusty tuna salad teetering precariously on the edge of a table next to her.  I almost wanted it to fall on her lap.

I rubbed my eyes several times, I MUST be dreaming.  This was crazy!  Teachers and any ‘school employees’ weren’t supposed ever see your bedroom, much less be in it!

I was going to kill my mother.

To make matters worse, I’d fallen asleep in my bra and panties, too tired to fully undress and put on a T-shirt.  I pulled my blanket up to my chin.  She didn’t even leave to let me put some clothes on.  I know, woman to woman, but when you’re in high school, teachers and guidance counselors aren’t human beings, they’re just teachers and guidance counselors.  For instance, if you saw one out shopping or picking up a pizza, living their life outside of school, it was almost like spotting an alien shopping or picking up a pizza.  Just plain bizarre.

Once I convinced her I wasn’t on drugs, could barely drink alcohol without puking, and there was no one or no situation at school that was upsetting me, she started veering into other areas.  Pregnant? Sick?  Oh, come on now…I finally stopped her..

Im up all night having sex with my boyfriend, okay?

But I didn’t say that.

“I have a boyfriend and we stay on the phone for hours late at night, plus I talk to my friends too.” I lied, gauging her expression while pulling the blanket tighter around myself.

She seemed to accept that explanation, her faintly lined face softening, human for a brief moment. She let out a sigh, “Young love, I remember it well…”.  Then she sort of stared into space for a minute.  I was waiting for a good story, but then she snapped out of it and said,”…BUT, you need to get up on time for school. so cut the phone calls short, okay?”

I agreed, waited until she left, then tore into my mother for embarrassing the hell out of me.

My father later solved this problem by taking my phone out of my room  at 11 pm each night.  I’d gotten away with it and continued to sneak with him, but made sure I got up on time every day, torturing my body under a blasting, ice cold shower for a few seconds to shock myself wide awake.  Worked like a charm, but those few seconds were hell.

So, except for that small fork that almost led me down rehab road, my senior year was happy and breezy.

One day in January, the Beetle met it’s maker, it just died and was beyond repair.  Hey, he got almost three years out of a junkyard mess he restored into working condition, not too shabby, but I still think she died of a broken heart.  I stole her man.

Now that I had my driver;s license and full use of my parent’s cars, I would drive to him then let him take over the driving because I liked it that way.  I’m sure my parents wouldn’t have liked it, but like I said in the previous part, teenagers in love don’t usually think rationally or weigh the possible consequences of their actions.  Besides, I was always more of a passenger seat gal since I like to play with the music and well, look at him instead of the road.

When prom time was approaching, I didn’t bring it up because there was no way I thought he’d want to spend the evening with a bunch of high school kids.  I was too nervous to ask him to take me, so I was either going to skip it, or maybe go with a guy friend – but then I changed my mind, Dreamboat was the only man I would to go to prom with.  I’d skip it.

Remember that scene in Pretty In Pink where Annie Potts talks about the girl who missed her prom going through life feeling like something was missing every.single.day, not understanding why, then realizing it was all because she didn’t go to prom?  We had the movie on video, and that scene haunted me when I thought of not going.

Lo and behold, he brought it up one Saturday night on our way to see a movie.

“Hey, isn’t your prom coming up?” He said, not taking his eyes off the road,

I started twirling a strand of my hair – a nervous habit, “Yeah…but I don’t think I’m going to go..it’s stupid anyway.” I replied, trying to convince him and myself.

He kept driving..awkward silence, still not taking his eyes off the road. Then he finally spoke..

“Why skip it?  I’ll take you.”

My heart did a little flip. “Really?  You wouldn’t mind hanging out with a bunch of 17 and 18 year olds?” I asked, unconsciously biting on the twirled strand of hair.

He smiled “I’m hanging out with a 17 year old now.”

I laughed, he had a good point.

So, he took me to my prom.  He looked just as hot in a tux as I imagined he would when I conjured up images of of our future wedding.

I was a little worried he might experience some snootiness from some of my insanely wealthy classmates, but the opposite happened.  The guys were drawn to him..maybe because he was older and tough, and the girls couldn’t stop telling me how gorgeous he was.

I couldn’t help thinking that these girls would love a piece of him, but would never marry him.  He wouldn’t be able to give them the lifestyle they were used to and had no plans of giving up.  They’d end up marrying wealthy men with similar cultural/religions backgrounds and/or investment bankers with roman numerals following their name.

Soon summer was upon us and I graduated – for real this time.  It was a bittersweet time in so many ways, but what hurt the most was that I had so little time left with him. I was leaving for college in Florida in the Fall.  I had applied early, my junior year, and only applied to one school in the northeast because I wanted to attend a college in a warm weather state, near a beach.  All the schools I applied to, outside of Boston, were in SoCal and Florida.  Not the best reason to choose a college, but I was thinking more sun and fun than academics.

My priorities were about as straight as Lombard Street.

Then, I chickened out.  I couldn’t be that far away from him, the thought of it made me queasy.  It would be too expensive or damn near impossible to see him at times other than school vacations, so I changed schools at the last minute.  Boston was still a 4-hour drive, but only a 45 minute to 1 hour flight before 9/11 and all the security.  It actually turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made because I think Boston is one of the best cities to attend college in, but I’ll get to that later.


He was going to work on the pier again that summer, but wasn’t going down until mid-July, so we could spend lots of time together before I went to our place in Florida with my friends, mother, sister and her friends, for 2 weeks.  Me, and two of the three friends from the summer before, rented a bigger, better apartment in the same apartment complex we stayed at the previous summer, for the last three weeks of August., So, although I wouldn’t see him for 2 weeks, it worked out perfectly, or so I thought….

I need to stop here because several people have told me I’m shortening the memories to finish my story, stuffing an elephant into a sausage casing, so to speak, diluting it – the Cliff Notes of my first love.

I deleted the second half of this post, the end of the story, because it was a bunch of quick paragraphs finishing everything up, no substance – no meat.  By forcing it – I’m cheating myself and cheating anyone who’s reading it..so, there is going to be a Part 13.

Bacon, Cheddar and 'Eggs in Wells' Flatbread

I’m submitting this focaccia to Yeastspotting, hosted by the talented Susan of Wild Yeast.

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Crunchy Coconut Lime Chicken Strips (or nuggets) for SRC, and Part 9

April 9, 2012 at 11:58 am | Posted in Appetizers, Dinner, Poultry, SRC | 66 Comments
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Crunchy Coconut Lime Chicken Strips with Spicy Yogurt Dipping Sauce

For this month’s Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the blog, Edesia’s Notebook  (love the name) authored and photographed by Lesa.  For the first time since I joined, I didn’t have the urge to grab some gorgeous dessert, which Lesa has plenty of, and play with it.  Instead, the same thought kept going through my head.

Just.make.dinner.

You don’t often see posts where I just make dinner, nothing fancy, nothing outrageous, nothing you would only make for a special occasion.  It’s not that I don’t have a decent amount of simple recipes, but I just felt the need to cook dinner and blog it.  I chose her Crunchy Lemon Chicken.

Of course, I ended up futzing with it, because I truly believe it’s nearly impossible for me not to futz with recipes.  I cut each breast into strips, used limes instead of lemons, and added soy sauce and garlic to the marinade.  I also added dessicated coconut to the panko bread crumbs and beat the eggs with coconut water for the breading station.  Add to that a few other minor alterations, like the baking time and temperature, and there you have it.

Otherwise, it’s just dinner, and it was delicious.  I think these are the crunchiest, most delicious baked chicken fingers I’ve ever had, and kids would go absolutely berserk over these.  Just my completely unbiased opinion..I swear.

Even though they were flavorful enough as is, I decided to made a dip to go with them – what I call a garbage dip, where you rummage through your fridge and cabinets and just throw something together.  It was interesting and tasty, (it looks kind of gross in the photos..like Thousand Island dressing that sat out too long, doesn’t it?), but, again, the chicken fingers had so much flavor, it really wasn’t needed.

Crunchy Baked Coconut Lime Chicken Strips with Spicy Greek Yogurt Dipping Sauce.

Now to Bad Boy First Love Part 9.  If you’re reading this for the first time, Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE , Part Three is HERE, Part Four is HERE, Part Five is HERE, Part Six is HERE, Part Seven is HERE, and Part 8 is HERE.

Between the kissing, hugging, talking and staring into each other’s eyes (I didn’t laugh or look away once, for the first time in my life.  His eyes were so blue and clear in the dark, I can still picture it perfectly to this day), for hours, it was absolutely, unequivocally, the best.night.of.my.life.

Soon the sky started to lighten a bit, and I was exhausted.  So much raw emotion had been dumped in less than 24 hours, so many instant highs and sudden lows…the wine and beer certainly playing a small part too.  I couldn’t prevent the constant yawning, no matter how hard I tried . BUT, I wanted this night to last forever.  I wanted to fall asleep in his arms, right there..even if we were to wake up to harsh sunlight, screaming kids, the smell of suntan lotion, and beach balls landing on us.  He held me for a while as I started to fade, then gently kissed me awake, stroking my hair.

“I think we better get you home, sweetheart – you’re starting to crash” he said sweetly.

“Huh? No..I’m awake.. just resting my eyes!” I lied.

The above is my usual line when someone wakes me up, whether in person or by phone.  No idea why I always say that, and still do to this day, as if it’s a bad thing to admit I’m falling asleep or that they woke me up from a deep sleep.  I’m strange that way.

On our drive back to the luxurious penthouse, he suddenly pulled over.  I was so busy staring at his beautiful profile, that I hadn’t even noticed the scuffle going on between 4 guys, one of them apparently being ganged up on by the other three in a somewhat dark, out-of-the-way area near the beach.

One of the three was holding what looked to be a baseball bat, but he was leaning on it.  Maybe they were fighting over a late night-early morning baseball game that just ended?  Of course I said that to him, feeling like a total idiot once the words left my lips.

Crunchy Baked Coconut Lime Chicken Strips with Spicy Greek Yogurt Dipping Sauce | Parsley, Sage and Sweet
He looked at me calmly and said, “I’ll be right back”, in a tone that suggested more that he was going to get me a soda or a candy bar..not play vigilante.  The feeling of unease that came over me was too much to ignore.  I just got this guy back!  I couldn’t lose him again! I reached over and touched his arm..

“No, don’t..please, let’s just go.” I pleaded, suddenly terrified.

He smiled and kissed my cheek, “I’ll be right back.” He said, again, calmly.

OK, he meant business.

Nothing rattled this boy.

I heard the trunk open and close, then watched in the rear view mirror as he pulled something out.  Upon further inspection, it looked like a tire iron.  He walked toward this scuffle like it was no big deal – such confidence, completely void of fear, I thought.  Now I was really scared, but in a strange way, it turned me on.  West Side Story with tire irons and baseball bats was about to come to life, and I was slightly turned on..what the hell was wrong with me?

Oh, I remember, I liked bad boys, and this was most certainly bad boy behavior, but he was a good bad boy, he was going to protect someone.  Then the thought of him getting really hurt brought back the fear.  I opened the window and called out to him meekly.  He didn’t hear me, but I couldn’t hear me either since my voice box suddenly ceased to exist.

I watched intently as he walked up to them and stood in front of the victim, protecting him from their irate tones and most importantly, the baseball bat.  He still looked calm, but so damn tough.

I was excited again.

I couldn’t hear what they were saying outside of my now even sexier guy commanding them to “‘Keep walking” when the bullies started to back off after trying to get tough with him and apparently not succeeding.  Tire iron > baseball bat.

Then they came forward again and I couldn’t take it anymore…he was going to get hurt!  I do have to admit I liked how he didn’t back up, not even one inch, when they came toward him.

Just as I was about to open the car door so I could run over and fling myself in front of him in the most dramatic fashion ever, he pushed one of them in the chest.  I was shocked to see the guy stumble back quite a ways and fall when it seemed like such a light push, with one hand, no less.  Then they took off and that was it.  Wow, that was too easy. How did he do that? I thought, although insanely grateful that it was over.

I guess they realized that if he could push that lightly and send the guy back that far and on his ass, one swing of the tire iron could be pretty fierce.  Then again, I didn’t hear what was said, so that probably played a part too.  It didn’t matter, there was no way he was going to let three guys beat up on one, and that made me want him even more.  I actually trembled, in a good way, at that thought, knowing that he would always protect me, and maybe, if I was lucky, fall in love with me.


He walked back to the car with the victim.  Turns out, after an introduction, the kid, who couldn’t have been more than 16 (well..a little younger than me) worked in one of the booths on the pier and he knew him well.  The kid got into the car and couldn’t stop thanking Dreamboat.  I was in awe of how cool, calm and collected Dreamboat remained, as if he simply bought the kid a slice of pizza and there was no need to make anything of it.

Apparently, this kid owed a some long overdue money to one of the guys, and that guy brought along his two friends, and a bat, to collect, when this kid couldn’t have weighed more than 120 lbs soaking wet.

“No problem. I don’t care what you owe him, if he can’t collect on his own, he’s weak. Let me know if they ever give you a hard time again, okay?” Dreamboat said, again, calmly.  How did he continue to remain so cool after that? I thought, as I stared at him adoringly.

The guy was an ‘effin chickenshit according to Dreamboat.  Damn, he grew sexier by the minute!  If I didn’t marry this guy one day, they may as well move me in with a horde of cats, because no one would ever compare to him - no one.

Once wee dropped the kid off, and we were alone again, I couldn’t keep my hands off of him..I hugged and kissed him as he drove, almost to the point where he almost drove off the road.  I was even more crazy about him than before, and frankly, I didn’t think that was possible.  I thought I had already reached the apex of love, longing, lust – or whatever you want to call it, with him, but, apparently, that wasn’t the case and it was only going to get better.

When he pulled up to my mini ‘party central’ apartment complex (there were parties still going on and the place was hopping..at 5:30 am), after about a 20 minute goodbye (our goodbyes would become legendary, to us, that is) I reached to pick up a little purse I had brought with me and left on the passenger seat floor.

Cut to 6 months prior..during my sad junior year of high school.  My friend bought me one of those white button pins with an I HEART Dreamboat on it – aka I LOVE plus his real name, when we were at the mall one night.  I always kept it in my purse, for no reason other than I did HEART him and being a little superstitious, felt that maybe it might bring us back together again (like the cup holder!).

I bet you can guess what happened next.

I forgot that I had opened the purse before getting out of the car to walk, well, trip over my own feet, to the beach, to grab a few orange and cinnamon tic-tacs.  The button came flying out of my open purse and landed right on his lap.

I wanted to die.

He picked it up and looked at it, not saying anything for about a minute.  Why, why, why?  Now he would think I was some obsessive, stalker child!  Why would a supposed 18-year old be carrying something like that around? 

Maybe there was a slight chance he was illiterate?  I had never wished someone to be illiterate that desperately, at that moment.  I could teach him to read, kissing him every time he read a word correctly!

Crunchy Baked Coconut Lime Chicken Strips with Spicy Greek Yogurt Dipping Sauce.
I braced myself, my face burning like a marshmallow ready to be s’mored. I desperately wished I could to turn back the clock two minutes and do it over again, gently picking up the purse.  Maybe I could say it was another Dreamboat!  Yeah..I could hear myself now..trying to act all cool..

“Well, during our time apart, I just so happened to meet a guy named Dreamboat, what a coincidence, huh?  I thought I was never going to see you again, so I thought I loved him, but I didn’t, and I forgot it was still in this purse .I rarely use this purse!” *confident flick of my hair*.

He interrupted my momentary lapse of logical thought….

“You shouldn’t have one of these unless you mean it” He said with a serious look in his eyes.

I DO MEAN IT!  I’m madly in love with you!

Instead…I told him the truth, without confessing my love for him.

“I know, D bought it for me, and I kept it in my purse hoping it would bring me luck and I’d see you again.” I whispered weakly, hoping I didn’t sound too stalky.

He smiled.  I relaxed.

Whoa, that was easy, why was I so freaked out about it?

He pulled me to him and hugged me tight, then whispered in my ear..

“I guess it worked then, like the cup holder.” Hellooogoosebumps.

I smiled, a wave of relief washing over me.  I decided I’d drop the age bomb the next night.

Part 10 coming soon.  I’m sorry I left you all with the same cliffhanger as last time, but I started this post before everything happened, and couldn’t finish it, which would have included that story, due to the current circumstances.  I didn’t want to give you all something half-assed.  I promise Part 10 soon!

Crunchy Coconut Lime Chicken Strips or Bites

Adapted from and Inspired by Lesa from Edesia’s Notebook
Yields about 4 servings

2 limes, zested and juiced
1/4 cup light olive oil
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped finely
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 chicken breasts (About 1 lb) cut into 1-inch wide strips.  Cut each strip in half to make ‘nuggets’.
1 1/2 cups Panko breadcrumbs
2/3 cup dessicated coconut shreds
3/4 cup flour
salt and pepper to season flour
2 eggs, beaten with 4 tablespoons of coconut water (you can use coconut milk if you can’t find coconut water)
Oil spray, doesn’t matter what kind

DIRECTIONS:
1.  In a bowl, stir together lime juice, zest, light olive oil, ginger, light soy sauce, garlic and salt.  Add the chicken strips and stir until they’re completely coated with the marinade.  You can also pour the marinade  with the chicken strips, into a ziplock bag, which is what I did.  Marinate for 4 to 5 hours at the most..stirring the strips in the bowl of marinade or squeezing around the bag every hour to an hour and a half to insure even marinating.

2. Line a large baking sheet with foil sprayed lightly with oil. Mix the flour, salt and pepper in one bowl, the beaten eggs and coconut water in a second bowl, and the panko and dessicated coconut in a third bowl. Remove the chicken strips from the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

3. Lift up each chicken strip and shake off some of the marinade so it isn’t overly-saturated  (I just ran two impeccably clean fingers down each strip, sliding off the extra marinade). Coat each chicken strip in flour, knocking off the excess, then dip and coat well in the egg mixture and then dredge it in the panko - dessicated coconut mixture, pressing it onto each strip. Place each chicken strip on the oiled baking sheet and continue until all chicken has been coated.

4.  Lightly spray some oil on the breaded chicken strips, then bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.  IMPORTANT – Do not let them sit on the baking sheet once out of the oven.  Transfer them to a rack if not eating within a few minutes, or the bottoms will get soggy.

Spicy Yogurt Dip
1 cup greek yogurt
2  to 3 tablespoons Asian chile-garlic sauce
1 small handful cilantro leaves, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS|:
1.  Mix all the ingredients together, then cover and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors blend.

If you get a chance, please click on the blue frog below to see all the amazing dishes recreated by Group A of The Secret Recipe Club.  Also, click on over to Edesia’s Notebook for some fantastic sweet and savory recipes!

Crunchy, Baked Coconut Lime Chicken Strips with Spicy Yogurt Dipping Sauce

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Mile High Chocolate Flecked Popovers and Bad Boy First Love Part 6

February 28, 2012 at 7:00 am | Posted in Appetizers, Breads, Breakfast, Daring Bakers, Dessert, Dinner, Fruit | 58 Comments
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These are what I made for this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge..Popovers, but not just any popovers, popovers with flecks of chocolate in them. Cool, huh?  Even though you can barely see the flecks until you split them open.

Mile High Chocolate Flecked Popovers

Below was my original plan for this months Daring Baker Challenge.  That original plan is now known as minor failure.


I have a tendency to experiment at the last-minute..always confident that it’ll work out – no problem!  More than half the time, there’s some kind of problem that I can either fix in time, or I end up making something else – quickly.  I’ve always been a last minute person and  I’d like to say I thrive under pressure, but I’d be lying.  When it doesn’t work out the way I hoped it would..major potty mouth may ensue.

My plan was to add chocolate chunks, then pipe peanut butter cheesecake batter from this recipe, into a really great banana bread batter.  It worked as far as taste, texture and flavor went, but it sunk in the middle because I think I used too much peanut butter cheesecake batter, and frankly, it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing – which is pretty important when you’re a food blogger.  BUT, I will have a refined recipe for it eventually.

SO, when you have only a few hours to pull something off, something quick is your saving grace.  What better than popovers?  Honestly, who doesn’t love popovers?  Not only are they easy to put together, but the dramatic appearance usually elicits oohs and aahs when you pull them from the oven.  Just look at how tall and whimsical these are!

Mile High Chocolate Flecked Popovers

There’s a supposed secret to getting them this tall and crazy poofy, well, two secrets really, maybe three – ok, four.  One, baking powder – just a little bit.  Two – bread flour instead of AP flour.  Three – room temperature eggs and milk. Four - letting the batter rest an hour before filling and baking

I usually use a simple formula of 1 cup AP flour, 1 cup milk, 3 eggs and a pinch of salt – foolproof, beautiful popovers..every.single.time.  However, after trying this new recipe,, and seeing how some of my popovers did the crazy dance once they rose above the rims (maybe it was the chocolate?), has certainly made me want to use it again.  It’s amazing how much higher they would have risen had I not added the chocolate.  There are photos of the popovers at the linked recipe, so you can see how high.

Another key to tall, crazy and dramatic popovers is giving them some interior drying time in the oven.  You poke a tiny hole in the side of each popover (the bottom part – I call it the ‘stand’) to let the steam escape.  If you don’t do this, they will eventually slump and the interior will be soggy.

Once you pierce them, give them 5 to 10 more minutes in a low oven on a baking sheet to dry.  They will now hold shape, no shlumping and no soggy interiors, just crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside with lots of wonderful air pockets.

Mile High Chocolate Flecked Popovers

I froze some grated chocolate, tossed it in flour (shaking off the excess in a strainer), and added it to the batter just before I filled the wells of the pan.  I love the slight speckled effect and the streaks of chocolate on the inside, but most importantly, they’re tasty – like pulling apart a pain au chocolate, with less chocolate (and a lot less butter!)  Those little bits of chocolate dispersed throughout the fluffy interior and crispy, golden exterior, will make you really happy.

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was Lis (my wifeypoo). Lis stepped in last-minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites, encouraging us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.  That’s right up my culinary alley.  I never fully follow a recipe.

I served these with leftover vanilla bean cream cheese spread and fruit.  You can serve them with whatever you want, or just eat as is.  I wanted to eat them all.  I didn’t.  Shock.

Once again, it’s time to continue my ‘Bad Boy First Love’ series.  Series?  Yep, that’s what it’s come to because so many details have risen from the hallows of my brain.  If I tried to finish it off in one or two posts, it would swallow my whole blog.

Mile High Chocolate Flecked Popovers

NO IDEA.  Use your imagination.

For the 5th time, if you’re just tuning in for the first time – Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE , Part Three is HERE, Part Four is HERE, and Part Five is HERE.

After I broke out of my happy stupor (much, much, much better than the year of sad stupor, obviously), I invited the girls to stop by our glorious beach penthouse to hang out with us.  One of the sisters had a new boyfriend from upstate NY, and he was coming down.  Plus, a few of their friends were coming by, could they bring them too?

“Sure!” *there’s plenty of room in our 10 by 12 ft kitchen with a couch!*

I ran back to our luxury pad, almost busting the rickety stairs as I stomped up them rapidly – man, I was one happy chick.

I threw open the door excitedly.  The girls were setting up the place and it actually looked cute..for a kitchen with a couch.  We would share the bunk bed levels, two on each level.  A little squished, but no big whoop.  The bathroom was the size of a closet.  This could be a problem with 4 girls, 4 blowdryers, 3 curling irons, loads of lotions, oils, deodorants, make-up, powders…not to mention all of our shampoos, conditioners and cream rinses.  Yep..we were girls, and a schedule would have to be worked out.

We decided that make-up and blow drying could be done in the kitchen with mirrors, since there were plenty of outlets, so if someone had already staked claim of the bathroom mirror, that’s what we’d do.  We definitely wouldn’t be cooking in this kitchen.

“He’s here guys, he’s working on the pier” I said as calmly as I could..my heart doing yet another somersault as the words spilled from my mouth.

They all stopped what they were doing.  Then a barrage of hugs, high-fives and happy exclamations.

One friend took me by the shoulders and stared deep into my eyes.

“Lisa, just think..after a year, you’re going to SEE HIM TONIGHT!”

Tonight?  Uh uh..no way. Not only was I nervous he might not want me anymore, but I’d rather postpone the possibility that he might be seeing someone, for the next night, after I was able to spend some time on the beach to get some color.  I wanted to ‘at least’ look hot for the inevitable throw-up and die.  Dreamboat was too gorgeous not to have someone.  I was suddenly convinced that would be the outcome.

I expressed this to them.  They disagreed and tried to convince me otherwise, but I wasn’t budging – NO WAY.

We showered and dressed.  To further prove my point that there was no way I’d set foot on the pier that night, I put on a pair of raggedy cut-off jean shorts and a faded red t-shirt.  Not ‘first sight in a year’ attire, by any stretch.  I let my hair dry naturally, shaggy and messy.  This would prevent me from even sneaking to take a peek in fear he might see me this way.

The pounding up the steps was loud as our local girlfriends, their friends and one of the new boyfriends came-a-calliin.  They had bags of cheap wine and a case of beer (the boyfriend from upstate NY was 21).  Our kitchen with the couch was like a sardine can with a few stray fishies seeping into the bedroom.


I guess we were having a party.  Good – no boardwalk.

I needed to relax since I was now absolutely convinced I’d be rejected for leaving him without a word, or even worse, another girl.

After half a paper cup of apple wine, since we didn’t have any Baccarat crystal wine glasses on hand, I was feeling pretty relaxed. Another half cup, I was buzzing.  I’m a lightweight aka a cheap date.  I hold booze about as well as a plastic bag holds cement blocks.

Soon I started to hear buzzes of..

“Let’s do something, go somewhere, it’s too crowded in here and it’s only 9 o ‘clock.”

Lots of affirmatives.  I just sat there, loopy and mum, waiting to hear anything BUT, boardwalk.

“Let’s hit the boardwalk!”

No.

“Yeah..let’s walk around and just see where it takes us”

No.

OH, please, I know where it’ll take us, but there I was within minutes, walking up the ramp to the boardwalk with everyone.  It was either that or stay home alone.  Besides, there were so many places, so many things to do, that the Casino Pier could easily be avoided.  We could go to the other pier further down if they feel like going on rides, although the rides were pretty lame on that one, outside of the log flume.

When we hit the part of the boardwalk near the carousel, next to the Casino Pier, I inwardly pleaded with everyone to keep moving.

Just keep going..just keep going…don’t even look at the pier..nobody, please!*

Suddenly a brouhaha of voices broke through my attempt to guide everyone past and away from the pier via telekinesis.

“OMG!  Hiiii!  What are you guys doing here??”

I looked up.  Two of my friends had run straight into some upperclassmen from school who had just graduated and some who had graduated the year before, about 8 of them.

There was excitement, disbelief, like, OMG, we live in the same town and we just ran into each other at the beach, 2 hours from the ‘same’ town we live in!!  This is so amazing, so unexpected, so rare!  Yeah, okay, if this was Paris, I could see it, but come on.

Not only that..none us of knew any of these people very well, outside of muddled ‘Hi’s’ in the hallway at school or the occasional 5-minute bathroom chat;

“I love that lip color, is it MAC?”

But, since we lived in the same town and we ran into each other in another town two hours away, naturally, we had to hang out for a bit!  This is just SO COOL!  We’re from the same town and here we in another town, so now we’re friends for a few hours!

Yeah, the fear of running into Dreamboat looking like I did, made me a little cranky.

Mile High Chocolate Flecked Popovers

Of course, they wanted to go on the Casino Pier and hit the rides.

“SH*T.” I muttered audibly

They all looked at me.

A cacophony of..”What’s wrong?  “Do you not like the rides?”  “Do you get sick on rides?  “OMG, I used to throw up every time I rode the Jet Star and…” came shooting at me like bullets.

Our new hometown besties were hurling so many questions and stories at me, I started to feel really woozy.  Finally, with a look of approval from me, one of my friends chimed in and started to give a quick synopsis of my situation – then another chimed in, and soon the Full Monty was out and swinging like a pendulum.

One of the hometown guys, whom I actually had a crush on for about 3 days when I was 14, stepped forward, very close to me.  He smelled like pot.  Scratch that, reeked of pot.

“As a guy, I’m going to give you a little advice.  We don’t care if you’re not tan or wearing a ratty t-shirt, okay?”  THEN…

“If he isn’t with someone already, tonight could be the night he meets someone he really likes.  There could be another you on that pier this very moment, scoping him out or vice versa.”

That second gem of advice hit me like a boulder to the cranium.  Suddenly I was completely sober. This was the sagest advice ever.  My fear was quickly replaced by panic, and  I needed to see him now, ugly or not.

“Let’s go” I said to everyone, leading the way to the pier.  I was an apple wine induced General Patton leading my troops into a life or death situation, except the only life or death situation was mine – after throwing up, if necessary.

I turned left onto the pier – away from the Tilt -A-Whirl.  I needed time to work up to this….

Part 7 coming in a few very short days!

Chocolate Flecked Popovers
1 recipe for these popovers – dijon mustard omitted plus 2/3 cup grated or finely chopped chocolate, frozen, then tossed in flour, shaken in a strainer, and stirred into the batter.

If you have a moment, please check out some fantastic quick breads created by other Daring Bakers members, by clicking on the links to their blogs, HERE.  For some great quick bread recipes that Lis compiled for the challenge, click HERE.

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