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Spicy Crispy Chicken Strips

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Time: 20-30 minutes

Serves: 12-15 as an appetizer / party finger-food

Inspired by: I’ve always liked crispy chicken tenders/nuggets/strips, but wished there was a non-greasy version that had real chicken inside that was safe to eat. I thought it might be fun to use my blackening spice for this and try making them for a small party. I love the crispiness, and the spice gives them an awesome kick!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless, organic chicken breasts
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (4 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup (16 tablespoons) of crispy bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of Spice it up …by Karen™ (more if you like super spicy)

Preparation:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees (or if you have a good toaster oven, there is no need to preheat, but you will need to cook these in batches)
  • Get a non-stick cookie sheet or rub a bit of olive oil on a cookie sheet so your chicken will not stick as it cooks
  • Lightly beat the eggs with a fork or whisk, and mix with the olive oil in small bowl
  • In a low, wide bowl (such as a soup bowl), mix the bread crumbs well with the spice
  • Cut chicken into strips – approximately 1.5 inches wide by 3 inches long
  • Dip the chicken into the egg/olive oil mixure to coat and then roll in the breadcrumb mix
  • Lay the chicken strips a half inch to an inch apart on the cookie sheet
  • Bake until golden brown – probably at least 12 minutes, possibly as long as 20

Notes: Because these are getting so much more surface area covered with spice than making blackened chicken with whole or half chicken breasts, these can get pretty spicy – so if you like spice, but not too much, I suggest using a bit less spice and a bit more of the bread crumbs. For parties, I have prepared these on the cookie sheet early in the day and kept them refridgerated and then took them out to bake when ready to serve. You can bring them to room temperature first, but it really isn’t necessary.

Wine Suggestions: A medium bodied red with some good fruit and spice on it would be perfect. A Syrah or Southern Rhone blend, Zinfandel or a spicy older Barolo. Off dry whites are often a fantastic pairing for spicy foods such as a Riesling or Viognier/Condrieu.


Frosted Butter Cookies with a Hint of Lemon

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Time: Approximately 2 hours active: 30 minutes to make the dough, 30 minutes to rollout and cut cookies, 30 minutes to bake, 30 minutes to decorate. Also allow at least 2 hours to chill the dough before rolling it out and at least 2 hours after decorating for the frosting to dry.

Serves: 1 batch makes 20-25 medium sized cookies. These pictures show a double batch.

Inspired by: My family, like many, had a tradition of decorating cookies together at Christmas. Since I love everything lemon and have a Meyer lemon tree, I decided to add my own twist that gives these just a hint of lemon. I never make them at Christmas, but do enjoy making them around other festive holidays.

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup softened unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups unsifted all purpose flour

Frosting Ingredients:

  • Confectioners sugar – approximately 1 cup
  • Fresh lemon juice – 1-3 teaspoons
  • Food dye if you want to color your frosting, and any other sprinkles, sparkles or decorations you’d like

Cookie Dough Preparation:

  • Measure butter, granulated sugar and salt into bowl. With electric mixer, beat until smooth.
  • Add egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon extract and vanilla extract and beat until fluffy – 2 minutes.
  • Gradually add flour, stirring with mixer or wooden spoon until well combined and smooth.
  • With hands, shape dough into ball. Place on waxed paper or plastic wrap. Flatten into disc and wrap.
  • Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight until dough is firm.

Bake Cookies:

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • On lightly floured pastry board, roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick and press together cracks at edges. Use cookie cutters for cut outs. Place cookies 1 inch apart on uncreased sheets (using parchment paper can help keep them from burning).
  • If cookies start getting soft while making them, it can help to put the cookie sheet with the cookie cut outs into the freezer for 5 minutes before baking. This will help them will hold their shape better while baking.
  • Bake 10-15 minutes or until edges are just barely golden.
  • Remove to wire rack to cool.

Icing:

  • In a small bowl or coffee cup, mix 1 cup of confectioners sugar with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Add lemon juice and continue stirring until you get your desired consistency. A thinner icing will be more like a glaze. A thicker icing will create better color.
  • After cookies have cooled, use a pastry brush for glazing/painting, and dust with sprinkles/sparkles while the frosting is still wet.


Gingerbread Cookies – Updated

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Serves: This is a double recipe and makes 75-100 fairly large cookies. When I did a half-batch and made smaller 2″ and 3″ hearts, it still yielded about 50 cookies.

Time: This can be a 6-8 hour project if you use all of the dough, take your time cutting the cookies by hand (using a knife to cut around cardboard cut outs, like these wine bottles and glasses), and then taking your time to decorate. But if you are doing a half-batch of the ingredients below, plan about 30-45 minutes to make the dough, then it should be refrigerated for at least an hour, and plan for about 2 hours to make and decorate the cookies if you use standard cookie cutters, use both racks in your oven, and decorate very simply.

Inspired by: I’ve always thought gingerbread cookies at the holidays are fun. This time I wanted to try something that I haven’t seen before. I used a Martha Stewart recipe for the cookies and the icing and doubled it. However, I’m not a fan of being overpowered by molasses and all of the recipes I saw used quite a lot of it. I substituted one more egg and 3/4 cup of brown sugar for the second cup of molasses and was happy with the outcome.

Ingredients:

DOUGH

  • 12 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter (take out of fridge early to soften)
  • 2 3/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar
  • 8 teaspoons ground ginger (if you like a strong ginger flavor, use two extra teaspoons)
  • 8 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons course salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup unsulfured molasses
  • Fine sanding sugar or eatible glitter, for sprinkling

ICING

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 8 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 lemons, juiced

ADDITIONAL SUPPLIES

  • Cookie cutters or cardboard cut outs of the shapes you want and a small sharp knife.
  • Non-stick cookie sheets.

Preparation:

  1. Sift or whisk together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Whisk together salt and spices in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend brown sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add the spice blend, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. You may need to finish mixing the dough by hand. Divide dough into six round balls, flatten to discs, and wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold – about 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to 1/4-inch thick. Use cookie cutters or trace around cardboard cut outs with a knife to create shapes. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets and refrigerate until firm (about 15 minutes).
  5. Bake cookies until crisp, but not dark, 12-14 minutes. Immediately remove from cookie sheets and cool on wire racks.
  6. To make icing – beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. (Then reserve about 1/2 -1 cup of these stiff whites in a separate bowl). Add sugar (but reserve about 1/2 cup) and lemon juice; beat for 1 minute more. If icing is too thick, add more of the egg whites from the reserve. If it is too thin, add more of the sugar from the reserve. The icing may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  7. Ice the cookies after they are cooled. Put icing in a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip (such as a #2 or #4). Pipe designs and immediately sprinkle with sanding sugar before the icing dries. You can also take some of the icing and put it in a small bowl, add a bit of the reserved egg whites to thin it if needed, and paint it on with a small art brush. Let icing set at room temperature for about 1 hour. Store cookies between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Spiced Cashews

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Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Inspired by: I’ve always loved cashews and almonds, but my favorite is when they are salty and spicy. I was headed out to a party a few nights ago and thought it would be fun to try my spice blend on some cashews. We loved them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound bag of unsalted roasted cashews
  • 1-2 tablespoons Spice it Up …by Karen™
  • 1 teaspoon of melted butter (I used unsalted because the spice already has salt, but if you like salty go for the salted butter)

Preparation: Set the oven to about 200 degrees. Toss the cashews in the melted butter – just barely coat them. Then toss with the spice blend until they are covered well. Spread on a cookie sheet and put in the oven for about 5 minutes. Watch them carefully – they will brown very quickly with the butter. This gives them a slightly toaster look and taste and dries the butter out a bit.

Notes: I think anything salty and fatty is fabulous with wine – so these are perfect to nibble on while sipping wine!


Spicy Shrimp – Pan Fried

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Spicy Shrimp - Pan Fried

Time: 5 -8 minutes

Serves: 2 – 4

Inspired by: Minimal ingredients in the kitchen and being so hungry that I want to make something yummy in minutes! These are great on salad, pasta and quinoa or just to nibble on their own. Normally I prefer not to cook during a party, but I hosted a party last night and it was so easy to make these while everyone was hanging around the kitchen because it just took minutes.

Ingredients:

Preparation: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet or saute pan. Once it is hot, add the shrimp. Sprinkle with the spice (any amount to your liking – a small amount goes a pretty long way) and cook for about 2 minutes on each side and serve.

Wine Suggestions: These are yummy with any off-dry white such as a Riesling or possibly a Viongier or Condrieu. They are also nice with a medium-bodied red with some nice fruitiness or spice such as a fairly ripe Spanish Rioja, Southern Rhone or Merlot.


Meyer Lemon Cupcakes

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Meyer Lemon Cupcake

Time: approximately 1.5 hours start to finish; 30 minutes to prepare batter and distribute into cups; 25 minutes to bake and make icing; 20 minutes to cool; 10-15 minutes to frost

Serves: 24-30 cupcakes

Inspired by: Arnie and Alice gave us a whole basket of beautiful Meyer lemons last night. Thank you Arnie and Alice! It’s Shannon’s birthday gathering tonight in a couple of different places so I decided to get started using a few of the lemons for cupcakes. I’ve always loved anything super lemony and the icing on these accomplishes that. This is a mishmash of a lot of different recipes I’ve noted over the years for lemon cake and icing with my various tweaks. This recipe will use 2-5 Meyer lemons depending on the size and amount of juice. I used three small lemons that were pretty juicy when I made this today. There are of course many things you can do to make these look very pretty, but I prefer to keep them very imperfect and very “homemade” in appearance.

Meyer Lemons

Ingredients for the batter:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter – softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3-5 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (or cake flour might make them even lighter)
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream (1 small 8 oz container)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (1 small 8 oz container)

Ingredients for the frosting:

  • 1 half cup unsalted butter – softened (1 stick)
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar (1 16 oz box)
  • 4-5 tablespoons juice of the Meyer lemons
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Preparation:

  • Start by grating the outside of the skins of the Meyer lemons until you have enough zest (approximately 6 teaspoons – only grate the yellow skin, not the white part under that as it can be bitter).
  • Then juice the lemons in a small bowl until you have enough juice (approximately 5 tablespoons).
  • In a large mixing bowl; mix the butter and sugar until creamy.
  • Beat in the eggs.
  • Add the lemon peel and vanilla extract. (When the lemons peel has a nice flavor use more, if it’s too bitter use less).
  • In a separate bowl – combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar/egg mixture and mix well. Batter will be thick.
  • Add the sour cream and yogurt and mix well.
  • Fill paper-lined muffin cups with 1/3 – 1/4 cup of batter (depending on whether you want 24 or 30).
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes – until they are barely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes.
  • You can make the frosting while the cupcakes are cooling —
  • Combine the butter and confectioners sugar in a medium sized mixing bowl.
  • Add the vanilla, half of the lemon juice (reserve half), 1/2 teaspoon of the lemon peel (reserve the other 1/2 teaspoon) and beat until smooth and creamy. Keep adding additional lemon juice until you get your desired frosting consistency and flavor. (I like a lot of lemon juice for a very lemony frosting, but if add too much the frosting will be runny. If it does get runny, add additional confectioners sugar to thicken.)
  • Once they are cool, frost the cupcakes and sprinkle each one with just a few tiny pieces of grated lemon peel.

    Meyer Lemon Cupcakes Pre-Baked

    Meyer Lemon Cupcakes Pre-Baked


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