Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls

Fall is my favorite time of year.  I love the leaves changing, the smell of fires in the air and the cool temperatures.  Every now and then, I will even watch a football game (go Pats!), but what I really love and it’s mostly the idea of, is a tailgate party.  How fun is that?  A group of people at the back-end of a car with good food, drinks and lots of laughs.

I need to digress here.  (Don’t worry, the two tales will eventually come together.)  There is a restaurant in upstate NY called The Boatyard.  A favorite of my dad’s and my brother’s, so we would go there at least once every time I was up there.  They are known for several dishes, but one of my personal favorites (and that of my entire family’s) are the Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls.  Yes, I did ask for the recipe, but no…they apparently didn’t want to share.  It was okay, I thought I could figure this out on my own.

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This is where the two stories come together.  It was Sunday afternoon and we were watching a football game. I decided that we were going to have a tailgate party…in our home.  It was just a casual day to make fun finger foods and along with the hot wings I was making, I decided I was going to figure out what these egg rolls were all about.

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It did take several tries (so the first tailgating, although good, wasn’t exceptional), but I think once you make this you will find that this is well worth the time and trouble and calories.  People are correct when they say that anything fried is good.  I don’t eat fried food…but I definitely would eat these on occasion.  The nice thing about these are that you can make them ahead of time and freeze them.    So try these on your next tailgating party, or cocktail party, or just a party of two.  You will want these again and again….they are that good. They are spicy, crunchy and tasty.  All the things your taste buds will need from a tailgating party.

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Go Pats, happy tailgating and a very happy Fall season to all of you!

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What’s in the Pantry?

Let’s face it.  There are always going to be those times where you just don’t feel you can find another minute to get things done.  For the last two weeks, it seems I did not have any time at all.  I had been overwhelmed with baking (cheesecakes for a friend), taking a continuing education course for my profession (it certainly would have helped if I had not waited until the last-minute), food judging for the area home shows and the list goes on and on.

The other night I came home and my husband asked me what was for dinner.  I just looked at him, probably like a deer in headlights.  I hadn’t even considered dinner and now it was already late.  I didn’t want to go back out to the grocery store, so we had to figure out something.  That’s when operation pantry surprise went into action.

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We have always kept something in the pantry we can work with.  You never know if there would be people collecting for a food drive or the electricity is going to go out.  I took a look in the pantry to see how my creative juices were going to flow.  I had soup, noodles, canned chicken and a jar of roasted vegetables.  The creativity started to flow.

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I was able to put together a meal that was easy, fairly quick and satisfying for the family.  The next time you don’t have time, but you have hungry eyes waiting for you to feed them, don’t order a pizza.  Look in your pantry and see what you can find.  I’ll bet it will be something good.

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Sunday Dunk

It was a Sunday afternoon and it was cold and rainy.  Fall was definitely here and the weather was definitely matching my mood.  Football games were on and I really didn’t want to spend my day cleaning (even though we all know that is what I should have done), so I started focusing on what I could make for dinner.  When in doubt, cook.

It was a perfect day for comfort food, but I wanted something different from my standard go-to pasta dish.  I didn’t feel like soup and I was really over cooking chili.  And then that momentary flash-back occurred and I remembered the garlic show I had seen the day before.  There were a couple of dishes that I liked but didn’t like either of them enough to make one.  I did however like parts of them enough to combine them and create a dish that was exactly what I was looking for.  A warm, comforting, sit on the couch and dunk dish.

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Who doesn’t like garlic?  This was a perfect combination of a warm soup, a hearty dish and the feel good that you get from a pasta.

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You could easily pour this over pasta or rice, even mashed potatoes and make a nice dinner out of it. For me, however, sitting there dunking my crusty bread loaf into the roasted garlic yumminess was the inside tailgating atmosphere I had been looking for.

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The Patriots won a great game and much to my husband’s disappointment the Giants lost….again.  It can’t get any better than that.

 

Smokey Chicken Stuffed Shells

It seems like I’ve been out of commission for a little while, although it’s only been a week.  I have no excuse except the cool crisp air has made me want to go to bed earlier.  It’s darker in the morning when I wake up and darker in the evening so my evenings feel shorted.

What is great about this however, is I love the Fall!  I want to have a fire in the fireplace, wear sweaters and cook comfort food.  I’m seriously ready to wear jeans and boots but living in the south I feel ridiculous doing that now….especially when everyone else is still wearing shorts and flip-flops.

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The one thing I can do when it’s colder in the evening is make a satisfying dinner that makes the soul warm.  That usually involves some form of pasta because I am apparently a carb freak, but in trying to make it semi healthy, I have adapted this recipe so I don’t feel so guilty.

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Leaves are changing color, nights are cool and despite the fact that your neighbors are still wearing flip-flops, you can still enjoy the Fall with comfort.  That will include a satisfying dinner.

So turn up the air, put on a sweater and enjoy!

 

Spiced Honey Cake with Caramelized Figs

I was in Fresh Market the other day and saw they had fresh figs.  I’m not sure where they were from and honestly I didn’t care.  It was the last hurrah of summer and I was going to make something with them.

I brought my delicious little turkey figs home and immediately started looking through my hoard of recipes. (yes, I am a recipe hoarder). I had so many, but I wanted something different from the jam that I had made previously and I finally settled on this Spiced Honey Cake.  It was from CHOW.com and posted by Kate Ramos, although I’m unsure if she was the actual creator of this cake.  Whatever the case may be, this was an incredible looking cake and I was anxious to see if it was going to taste as good as I thought it might.

It did.

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I want to let you know that the honey liqueur that it requires is not the turkey honey whiskey stuff my husband likes to bring out at the boy’s card games.  There is a real honey liqueur and I would recommend Celtic Honey, a product from Ireland, or Bärenjäger.  Either one will work well.

This was a very nice, moist cake and the fig mixture on the top really enhanced the flavor of the cake.  If you love figs, you need to make this.  Well, even if you don’t like figs…you should still make this.  It’s that good.

I am already looking forward to next year’s crop of figs.  Yum.

Chocolate Temptation Cake

There are some days when everything just goes so right.  This was one of those days.  I had my first piece printed in the local newspaper and although it doesn’t seem like much, it meant a lot to me.

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It all came about when an acquaintance,  Lorraine Eaton, wrote a cookbook titled “Tidewater Table.”  She happens to work for the local paper.  They came up with the idea that if anyone made a recipe from her cookbook and wrote about it they would publish the piece in the paper.  Well, I certainly wasn’t going to turn down a chance at notoriety for a day, so of course I had to get the book out and figure out something to make!

There were many good ideas, but I made my decision when I saw the picture of the “Chocolate Temptation Cake.”  Who doesn’t love chocolate?  I for one could live on chocolate but what made this even better was the fact it had hazelnuts and raspberries in the cake.  This recipe was from Williamsburg’s Marcel Desaulniers, the author of several chocolate-centric cookbooks, including “Death by Chocolate.”   I had to try to make this, despite the fact it was a bit of a challenge.

It really wasn’t that hard to make, just time-consuming.  The hardest part for me was skinning the hazelnuts, if you can believe that.  Those skins just didn’t want to come off!  The taste however, was well worth the time into it and would be a great ending to any dinner party you had.

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Try this recipe, try the cake and buy the book.  It will be a great addition to your collection!

 

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

If we all had one thing from our past that we all agreed was a favorite, I would have to guess that it would be warm chocolate chip cookies just pulled from the oven.  Add to that, a cold glass of milk and that chewy, gooey cookie was the only thing that seemed to make homework tolerable when I would walk in the door from school.

As the years went on, I made chocolate chip cookies for college roommates, my husband and finally my children and the cycle continued.  Well, okay….I really didn’t make them that often but when I did they still loved them like I had when I was their age.

Like most people, I always used the Toll-House recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag.  I mean, what other recipe was there?  However, I have to say over the last few years I haven’t thought they were very good.  I’m not sure if it was me or the recipe, but they just didn’t taste the same.

It was time to change tradition.

As luck would have it, I was watching the Food Channel one Saturday morning and there it was on the show “The Best Thing I Ever Made.”  Chef Elizabeth Falkner was making Chocolate Chip Cookies and calling them the best ones ever.  Yes, you and I both know what happened next.  I made them.

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They were the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies ….EVER!

The edges were crisp and the inside chewy.  They were gooey and easy to make and so good I wouldn’t change a thing about this recipe.  It does seem a bit sacrilegious to say, but I will never go back to Toll-House again.

Trust me. Ditch the bag of chocolate chips and try these.  It’s worth the break in tradition.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Green TomatoesI grew up in the North where things like okra, hush puppies and fried green tomatoes were a foreign language.  The first time I even heard about fried green tomatoes was when the movie by the same name came out.  I watched it, and I saw the things she was putting on the plates and I wondered at the time why anyone in their right mind would want to eat something like that.  Fried tomatoes?

Living in the south you have to adjust….most times in a good way.  What’s that saying?  When in Rome…..?  I’ve been here long enough that I feel I am a southerner, so when the time came a few years ago and I saw Fried Green Tomatoes on the menu, I had to try them.  Well, either the southern humidity finally got to me or we were on to something good.  Fried Green Tomatoes?  OH YES!

As it usually is in my world, once I like something, I have to try to make it.  And it has must right.  I have tried many recipes but I believe I have finally got one that has become my favorite.  With a few tweaks here and there I have adapted this from Southern Living to a point where I think it’s worth sharing.   It’s got a nice tang, a little spice and a lot of crunch and you can always add a garlic aioli or basil mayonnaise for added enjoyment.

So for you Yankees…..you may have won the war, but you’re missing out on some good eating.   I hope you try this because you will be glad you did.

Bon Appétit Y’all!

View/Print Recipe Here

Fantastic Fig Spread

When I was growing up my closest connection to figs were in the Fig Newtons my mom used to buy.  I wasn’t a big fan.

Then came the bunko game a few years ago.  We all brought a dish to share and the only thing I remember from that night of eating was the basket my friend Leigh brought.  It had a small dish of fig jam in it and I don’t recall, but I’m sure I ate the entire thing myself.  I could not believe that was what figs really tasted like.

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After that I became obsessed with figs.  We bought a small fig tree the first year, with no results.  The next year we bought more fig trees and solicited advice from the sales rep.   He knew more than we did apparently, because that year I harvested five figs.  (yes, I did say the number five).  This year, we tried netting, something for the bugs and some fertilizer and we have a bumper crop!  I have so many that I can make Fantastic Fig Spread!

I don’t know where Leigh got this recipe from but I’ve made it before and it truly is fantastic.  In the past when I have made it (from store-bought figs) I have followed the recipe exactly.  This year I opted to add a little orange flavor to it and it was…..dare I say it?…FANTASTIC!!

This is an easy recipe and if you’ve never canned anything before this would be the one to start with.  Give it a try.  You will love it so much that next year you’ll be planting fig trees like I did.

As Ina Garten would say, “How easy is that?”  Enjoy!

Tomato and Onion Pie

There is nothing better than tomatoes.  I love walking to the garden and picking a sun-kissed tomato off the vine, sprinkle it with a little salt and bite into it, tasting the acidic sweetness and feel the juices run down my chin.  Or, I slice them and place them between two pieces of bread with gobs of mayonnaise.  I purée them into sauce or bake them into a dessert tart tatin.  There are just so many ways to enjoy ripe tomatoes.

And now we have tomato pie.

I remember a few years ago at a girls’ night having my first taste of a tomato pie.  A friend had brought it and I’m ashamed (or happy?)  to say I went back for seconds and wanted thirds, it was that good.  After that night I never really thought of it again unless I’d see a recipe about it.  I would rip it out of the magazine and add it to the stack of “someday I’m going to make this” pile.

This year was different.  From the moment we planted the garden, I decided I was going to make a tomato pie.  Of course every time I thought about it we were eating something else or not at home.  Finally however, last weekend I put my foot down and I made ” The Pie.”

It was like the sun had risen, the stars came out and fireworks lit up the sky.  I don’t think a word was spoken between us because we were just too busy eating.  In fact with my son and husband at the helm, leftovers didn’t exist since the entire pie had been eaten.  This definitely is one of those recipes that you will make over and over and always get rave reviews on.

So, while you’re standing in your garden and feeling the warmth of the sun,  tomato juices running down your chin and staining your shirt, remember to save yourself a few of those tomatoes so you can make a Tomato Pie.  It will be well worth the sacrifice.

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