Week 1 – Denver, CO

I miss Reno.  I will always miss Reno.  It’s one of the coolest places I’ve ever lived.  Living in Denver is certainly an adjustment; the traffic, the crowds, the pollution.  We may or may not have circus elephants living above us in our temporary condo.  But at least the bed is extremely uncomfortable, so I can hear it all!

All aside, the people have been friendly so far (okay, the people, not the drivers), and we’ve had a chance to see a few friends, so it was a good week.

Here’s my no-make-up selfie for awareness, I’m not sure of what.  I don’t wear a lot of make-up anyway, but felt naked without my bright red lipstick (not available at my nearest Wal-Greens).

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My husband is a fabulous restaurant-chooser. We went to PhoLee Monday and were treated to amazing Vietnamese food with very friendly service.  I had only eaten pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) once, and apparently I was doing it wrong.  Thanks to our kind server, it was an amazing experience.

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Beef Pho

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My baby Lexus arrived via transport on Monday.  I missed her!
Sadly, it is still too cold here to put the top down yet.
In Reno, it was warm enough.

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I tried to find beauty in a smoggy sunset.  Reno’s sunsets were beautiful.
We won’t mention the terrible restaurant I chose for this night’s meal.
I fired myself as restaurant chooser, and promoted my husband to Chief Restaurant Chooser of our household.

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His next choice was Domo, an absolutely beautiful, authentic, and wonderful Japanese restaurant.
Every aspect of this restaurant was amazing, including the instruction card for parents who insist upon bringing their children to fine dining establishments.

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More art at Domo

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Our first “course” consisted of 7 small dishes of perfectly cooked, seasoned, and prepared meats, vegetables, and noodles.

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I had beef sukiyaki with a side of teriyaki.  Delightful!

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So the closest wine bar is easy walking distance from our temp living.  Only it’s not really a wine bar.
It is a wine store with lots of great Central Coast Cali wines and Napa/Sonoma wines.
It’s not L’uva Bella in Reno, but we were spoiled there.
We couldn’t drink inside the store, so we bought a bottle and sat outside in the cold (yes, it is cold).

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There was a cool cloud formation.

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And I got to eat Asian food a third time this week at Miyama.
I do love my tepanyaki.  You can see exactly what goes into your food.

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So, that’s what I’ve been up to.  How was your week?

Toto, We’re Not In Nevada Anymore

Toto, we’re not in Nevada anymore.  I believe that was my first message to my friend Toby when arriving in Denver Friday.  But it is a new adventure, and to catch you up on the shenanigans of a week on the road, I present to you the week in photos …

Last Sunrise from our Home in Reno
The movers packed and loaded us in two days easy … easy for them.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I shed a tear or two as I locked up the house.

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Meanwhile, Somewhere in Nevada
It’s a beautiful landscape.

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Somewhere Outside Salt Lake City
Familiar territory for us, having lived in SW Wyo for several years.

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Lunchtime in SLC – Squatters
One of our fave restaurants, local ingredients, great brew pub.

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Outside Green River, WY
We spent six years in desolate GR.
It was the first time I’d been back since we moved away two years ago.
No, it hasn’t changed.

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Josh’s Birthday Party – Krazy Moose, Green River, WY
We had about 20 friends stop by, and I forgot to take a photo op until the end.
A good time was had by all.
Our friend Blair owns the place, and it is spectacular!

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Our Old House – Green River, WY
Of course, we had to drive by our old house, site of many great parties.
It looked exactly the same. 

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Mikey and Me – Mansface Liquors
This was our equivalent of “Cheers.”
Everyone knows our name.

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Just One More … Liquid Emotions Lounge
There may or may not have been JagerBombs involved.

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Su Casa – Small Combo
One of my favorite restaurants, hands down, ever, in all the land -
Su Casa in tiny Sinclair, WY.
We never pass up a chance to eat here.  Yep, it still rocked my socks (if I wore socks).

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Where it Begins – Guernsey, WY
Okay, so I wasn’t born here, but it was where I spent my formative years age 6-18.
We stopped by to see my folks.  No, this town does not change.

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Laramie Peak
Yes, I climbed it.  When I was like 17 and in killer shape.

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My First Cocktail as a Colorado Restaurant – A Shocker at Fuzzy’s
We met our good friends for dinner and libations
for our first official Colorado resident restaurant meal.

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Fajitas at Fuzzy’s
Yes, there is a theme in this trip – Mexican fare happens to be our favorite.

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NCAA Tournament Viewing at Varsity Inn
What do the Johnson’s do when they first soak in a new culture?
Visit a bar for several hours to stimulate the local economy.

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Doug’s Day Diner – Real New Mexican Food – OH YEAH
I chose this morning’s breakfast.  He had me at “New Mexican Cuisine.”
All homemade – I had the Cowboy Papas, Christmas (red chili and green chili for you gringos).
This is my new favorite place.

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Best Biscuit Ever – Doug’s Day Diner
Since I don’t eat eggs, I subbed a biscuit – best ever.

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The Rocky Mountains
It was a clear, pollution-free day (probably since it snowed yesterday).

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The Kitchen in our Temp Housing
Brand spanking new unit, but lacking in the finest culinary products to which I am accustomed.
No worries, I can cook anywhere!

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Temporary Dining Room Table
Not exactly dinner-party-sized, but it will do for now.

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My First Cooked Meal as a Colorado Resident
We both needed some comfort food -
Fried chicken with mashed potatoes & gravy it is!
With salad.  After my trip to Whole Foods.

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So there you have it.  It was a long, emotional week, but I am glad to be somewhat settled, at least until our new house is ready.  Stay tuned for innovative recipes using whatever the corporate temp housing gurus provided for me in the kitchen.

Bon Appetit!

Super Simple Sunday – Apple Muffins and BBQ Pork Sliders

I’m still in denial that my beautiful Reno home is only mine for two more days.  The movers come tomorrow to pack us up, and Tuesday we’ll be off to our next adventure in Denver.  I’ve spent the week saying more good-byes and enjoying everything I love about Reno.

Today is about simple cooking and using up ingredients in my kitchen without generating the inevitable leftovers that naturally come with my kitchen forays.  I promise, these are my simplest recipes ever!

I woke up craving muffins.  You can use any fruit you have on hand.  I happened to have a delicious Granny Smith in the fridge.

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APPLE (or any fruit) MUFFINS

Makes 6 muffins

1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup milk
1 apple, peeled and diced (or whatever fruit you have on hand)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt).

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Then add the butter, egg, and milk.

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Stir just until the ingredients are mixed (any more and your muffins will not be fluffy).

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Gently fold in the diced apples.

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Add a generous spoonful to a muffin tin (either lined with a muffin cup or well greased).

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Pop in the oven for 20 minutes.  You can serve with butter and jam, if you’d like.

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BBQ PORK SLIDERS

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Serves 2-4

2 pounds pork short ribs (or shoulder or butt)
1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce (I use Stubbs because I love it and I’ve been to the joint in Austin)
6 fresh dinner rolls

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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a braising pan (or any shallow saute pan with a lid), add your pork.  IMG_3406_fotorNo seasoning is needed, as the BBQ sauce will have you covered.  Pour the contents of your fave BBQ sauce over the pork, making sure every last inch is covered.  Cover the pan, and put it in the oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

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Remove from oven, shred, and add to the buns.  Serve with the extra sauce.

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Enchilada-Sauced Steak Burritos (in Under 30 Minutes)

So I’ve not been cooking as much as usual, which bums me out.  Moving is stressful, even when the company pays to have someone pack and load us up.  I am using up as many perishables as I can before we head back the the Rockies, and this was dinner the other night.  Remarkably simple, but tasty and filling.

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Enchilada-Sauced Steak Burritos
Serves 2 (double, triple, quad the recipe easily)

3/4 pound steak, cut into cubes
1/2 bell pepper (I used red, use any color you’d like)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon olive oil
4 tablespoons chili powder (you can use a few different kinds)
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups+ chicken stock
tortillas
cheese

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Add the olive oil to a large saucepan on medium-high, and add the steak, bell pepper, salt, cumin and 1 teaspoon chili powder.  Stir and cook till meat is browned.  Remove meat from the pan into a bowl.  Add the 1 teaspoon olive oil, chili powder, flour, and stir on medium heat for 1-2 minutes.  Then add the chicken stock.  Stir until combined.  The mixture will bubble up and thicken.

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You can make homemade tortillas, as I do, or use store-bought.  Heat on a cast iron skillet until browned.  Add the steak and pepper mixture into a tortilla.  Roll up, add cheese to top, if desired, then spoon on the delicious sauce.

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Beautiful weeknight dinner that will fill you up!

 

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Dinner in Under 20 – Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese

Seriously, IMG_3178_fotorif you are still buying mac ‘n cheese in a box, consider making this recipe.  Should your cheese be florescent orange?  I don’t even eat cheese, but this is a travesty!  Especially since it is super easy to whip up killer mac ‘n cheese with fresh ingredients in under 20 minutes!  My husband and chief taste-tester declared it a hit.

Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese

Serves 2 as an entree, 4 as a side

2 cups pasta (I used shells, use what you have on hand)
1 teaspoons salt
3 slices bacon
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup shredded cheese (use whatever you have in the fridge)
1/4 cup of cream (sub milk, if you’d like)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
salt & pepper to taste

In a medium-sized soup pan, boil some water on high heat, add the salt. Add the pasta when the water is boiling and reduce to medium-high heat.

Depending on the size of pasta, cook according to the directions (medium shells take about 12-14 minutes at high altitude).  In the meantime, microwave your bacon (I use paper towels on a plate for this easy dish), 3 slices of bacon should take 3-4 minutes.  When done, let cool slightly, then chop into bite-sized pieces. When the pasta is al-dente, fork tender with a slight bite, drain the pasta.  Immediately add the pasta back to the pan, along with the butter, cheese, cream, onion powder, salt and pepper.  Stir continuously on medium-low heat until everything is melted and combined, about 2-3 minutes.

  IMG_3176_fotorIMG_3175_fotorRemove from heat.  Add to a bowl, and top with the bacon pieces.  Delicious, fresh, and really not more effort than it would take to open that blue box with florescent orange cheese powder (what is this, anyway?).

Delicious Dinner in 20 – Buffalo Steak with Mushroom Cream Sauce

IMG_3172_fotorYes, you can make a totally delicious, healthy, decadent dinner on a week night in just 20 minutes!

Buffalo Steak with Mushroom Cream Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, and Green Beans

For 2

1 buffalo steak (sub beef if you’d like, I used a 3/4 pound rib-eye; sirloin also works well)
1 tablespoon olive oil (I used a Rosemary infused EVOO)
salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Worcesteshire sauce
5 mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup of green beans, chopped into 2 inches
2 potatoes (I used Russet, sub Yukon gold or red)
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Better-than-Bullion beef (or 1 teaspoon or 1 bullion cube), plus 1/4 cup water combined
1/4 cup of cream

Peel the potatoes (or not, if you like them rustic – Yukon Golds have a thin skin that lend themselves well to not peeling).  Chop them into 1-inch cubes (they cook quicker).  Add them to a pot of boiling water with a teaspoon of sea salt.  Time Saver Tip:  In a micro-wave safe bowl, you can add the potatoes and water to cover and cook for 10 minutes.  On the stove, on high heat, they will take about 15-20 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat.  Slice the meat thinly and add to the pan.  IMG_3171_fotorSprinkle with salt and fresh-ground black pepper.  Cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and green beans, continuing cooking, stirring frequently until the meat is browned, about 10 minutes.  The green beans will be crisp.  Add the bullion mixture and cream, reduce heat to medium-low, and stir.  Sauce should thicken slightly in just a few minutes.

Drain the potatoes (reserving just a bit of the water), and immediately add the butter, salt and pepper.  Mash with a potato masher.  Add a mound of potatoes to each plate, then spoon over the meat, vegetable, and mushroom cream sauce.

A lovely weeknight meat that makes you feel like a Top Chef labored all day.  Or maybe not, just enjoy the simplicity of the ingredients, and the company of your dining partner!

Chinese New Year Fare

IMG_3165_fotorIt’s the Year of the Horse!  I’m not sure what this means.  But I need very little reason to make something new in my kitchen.  Yesterday is was Korean Fried Chicken, Homemade Dumplings, and Egg Drop Soup.  I know, Asian food is one of the most varied and complex fare out there.  I am certain I mixed regions and ethnic traditions, but it was all very tasty.

I made the dumpling wrappers from scratch — that’s how serious I was about homemade!  Now, I will tell you they were so delicious; tender, flavorful, and knowing that I made them with own bare hands made them even more special.  However, unless you really enjoy laboring in the kitchen, I would recommend buying the wrappers at the store.

I chopped up a whole chicken, breaded it, and fried it.  I will include a recipe soon, but I found that cornstarch and vodka were the secrets to making a really crisp, airy crust.  The sauce was also divine – garlic-chile paste, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, ginger, and garlic all contributed to a unique flavor.

Recipes to follow soon.

Sunday Pork Roast with Apple Cider Sauce

IMG_3139_fotorA Sunday at home is the perfect opportunity to make a meal that can cook a bit longer than a weekday meal.  It’s one of my favorite things to do before the Sunday night slump (you know, lamenting the fact that it will soon be Monday and you don’t get to spend your day cooking and blogging and social media-ing – or is that just me?).  The pork roast came from my wonderful family ranchers at Diamond Mountain and the rest came from the great local purveyors from Great Basin Community Co-Op.  Inspired by the beautiful, fresh, sustainable ingredients, I created a lovely Sunday pork roast.  It’s the perfect meal to have before we head to the Dolly Parton concert in downtown Reno tonight.

Sunday Pork Roast

Serves 4-6
Prep Time:  10 minutes
Cooking Time:  1.5 – 2 hours
Finish Time:  15 minutes

Ingredients:
3 pound boneless pork roast (I used pork leg)IMG_3128_fotor
1 medium-sized onion, white or yellow, cut into 2-inch slices
2 large Russet potatoes (can also use Yukon gold or red), cut into 2-inch slices
2 apples (any variety, I used Granny Smith and Pink Lady)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
6 ounces hard apple cider
6 ounces regular lite beer
1/2 to 1 cup of chicken or turkey stock (you can use water, or add a bullion cube, or 1 teaspoon Better-than-Bullion)

 

IMG_3131_fotorPreheat your oven to 450 degrees.  In a large saute’ pan or roasting pan, add the cut onions.  They will be a base for the pork to sit upon so it roasts evenly.  Add the pork on top, along with the olive oil and generous amounts of salt and pepper.  Turn the roast and make sure each side is coated with the oil, salt and pepper.  Leave the fat side facing up; the juices will help braise the meat during cooking.

IMG_3132_fotorAdd the cut potatoes and apples around the pork.  Then add the cider and beer.  I like to add a digital meat thermometer with a timer (insert the thermometer in the center), and then set the timer for 145 degrees.  Put in the oven, uncovered.  Roast on high heat for 15 minutes (this will help seal in the juices).

Reduce heat to 350 degrees and roast for another 45-60 minutes, until you get to 145 degrees.  Note, many factors contribute to cooking time (your oven – oddly enough 350 degrees in yours may not be 350 degrees in yours), altitude (I’m around 5,000 feet), and how many times you open up the oven to check on the roast (I’m guilty of this).  This is why I recommend the meat thermometer.  IMG_3134_fotor

When the roast is at temperature, remove the entire pan from the oven.

IMG_3136_fotorPlace the roast on a cutting board and cover tightly with foil (the juices will redistribute and the temp will increase a bit more).  Remove the potatoes and place them on a baking sheet, and set the oven to “Broil” for 5-10 minutes to get a crisp crust.

IMG_3137_fotorUsing an immersion blender (or carefully transferring to a regular blender), blend the remaining liquid, onions, and apples.  You want a smooth texture.  On the stove on medium heat, slowly add 1/2 cup of the stock.  Bring to a light boil, then assess.  You may need to adjust the amount of liquid if your sauce is too thick.

IMG_3138_fotorCut the pork into thick slices.  Serve with the roasted potatoes and sauce.
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Ode to My Childhood – Peanut Butter Fingers

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My husband unearthed a lost treasure for me yesterday, while he was preparing for our move to Denver, CO.  I’m still in shock that I have to move to Denver, CO, and after two months of knowing, I’m still not ready.  I’m not ready to be done with Reno yet.  But I digress.  My sister made me a cookbook for Christmas, 1996 to be precise, that contained the “lost” recipes of our childhood.  It is one of the coolest, most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received.  Yesterday, I was reunited with this gem, and plotted which recipe to make first.

Peanut Butter Fingers won.  I can remember the small paperback book the recipe came from – Pillsbury, perhaps?  A quick Google search yielded nothing.  It was one of my favorite desserts, combining peanut butter with chocolate.  It’s super easy and will receive rave reviews.

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I made a few modifications as I went along.  My husband declared it delicious, and with my consensus, I’m declaring it a hit.

Peanut Butter Fingers

For the  Bars:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup oats (I used whole oats, you can  also use quick-oats)
1 cup sugar ( you can do 1/2 cup white, 1/2 cup brown)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter (cut into pieces, straight from the fridge)
2/3 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky, your preference)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/4 – 1/2 cup of water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter (or spray) a 9 x 13 inch pan. (*Note, I halved the recipe, since it’s just two of us, so the pictures reveal a smaller pan).

Combine the dry ingredients.

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Cut in the butter and peanut butter, and mix well with a fork.  You should have pea-sized chunks when combined.

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Add the egg and vanilla.  Stir to combine, then add 1/4 cup water.  Stir until it is a sticky dough.  Add more water if it seems too dry.  You want something that is more sticky than a cookie dough.  Press the dough into the buttered pan.

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Bake in the preheated over for 25 minutes.  The bars will be slightly soft, but golden brown.  I don’t like to overcook my dough, so if you prefer a firmer bar, cook for another 5-7 minutes.

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For the Glaze:

6+ ounces of chocolate chips (we used milk chocolate growing up, I now prefer dark, so I used 60% cocao)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons peanut butter
3-5 tablespoons milk

In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, peanut butter, and milk.  You may have to adjust these ingredients.  You are looking for a somewhat liquid-y consistency, this is meant to be a glaze.

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When the bars are ready, immediately sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over them.  Let them set for 5 minutes to melt.

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Then spread with a knife, until the bars are evenly coated.

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Add the glaze on the top, you can be fancy, or not.

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You can serve warm or cold, they will be decadently sweet and delicious.

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Award Winning Chicken-Fried Chicken with Gravy

It’s that special time of year when Hollywood displays their best and worst dressed and their epic and not-so-epic picks on what we simply MUST be watching, Dah-lings.  I’m not an “award-winning” movie aficionado, never have been.  I usually disagree with the critics on what constitutes great entertainment for me.  Usually my husband and I don’t even watch most of the movies given these awards.  This is a banner year, though; we’ve seen three.  American Hustle is an instant classic for us.  Well written, acted, directed, and a killer soundtrack.  We enjoyed Gravity — great acting, amazing cinematography, and what’s not to love about Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.  This is where it veers off course — Her.  Her is quite possibly one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.  Let me qualify — it’s probably not the worst ever, it’s just the worst I actually sat through without changing the channel.  Since we were in a theater, I stayed.

I made my chicken-fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy for our viewing of the Global Globes, and my husband gave me the award for best gravy ever.  I’d like to thank my parents, my husband, my friends, Julia Child, Ina Garten, the makers of All-Clad pans and Wusthof knives … oh wait, they’re playing that music that obviously means, Get on with it.

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Chicken-Fried Chicken

For 4

2 large chicken breasts, fat removed, and cut in half (to make them thinner)
2 cups of milk

Cut the chicken breasts and soak them in the milk for a few minutes.

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In a cast-iron pan (you can use any, really, I just love cast iron for frying chicken), add enough fat/oil (my favorite is coconut oil, lard, bacon fat, or olive oil) so that there is about 1/2 an inch of oil covering the bottom of the pan.  Heat on medium-high heat until the oil starts to shimmer.  You can add a bit of flour, and if it sizzles, you’re ready to add the chicken.

Dredging the chicken:

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2 cups flour
1 or 2 teaspoons salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground sage

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Mix the dredge on a large plate.  Take a piece of chicken out of the milk, coat it with flour, and then for an extra crispy crust, repeat dipping it in milk and in flour again.

Turn the heat to medium.  Add each piece of chicken to the hot oil, being VERY careful not to burn yourself.  For four breasts, you may need to use two pans, or fry in batches.   Let the chicken fry for about 7 minutes on medium heat, then turn over and cook another 7 minutes.  Every pan, stove, and temperature will be different, so it’s hard to give you exact cooking times.  I prefer to cook the chicken until it is golden brown on both sides, and then stick it in a 400 degree oven for another 10-15 minutes until the chicken is completely cooked.  Sometimes you can burn the crust trying to get the chicken up to temperature, and that’s no bueno.  I use a meat thermometer because I don’t want undercooked chicken.  I take the chicken out of the oven or off the heat when it reaches about 165 degees.  Cover and let it set while you prepare the gravy and it will rise to about 175-180, the “safe” temperature.  Don’t overcook the chicken, it will be dry and stringy!

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Chicken Gravy

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The gravy I have perfected is divine.  I could almost drink it.  Really, it’s that good.  Gravy is something you really have to experiment with and make your own.  It’s as personal as any homemade recipe handed down through the generations.

Reserved 2 cups of milk (used to coat the chicken)
Reserved 6 -  8 tablespoons flour dredge
1 heaping teaspoon “better than bouillon” (chicken flavored)

(Stir together until smooth)

Additional milk
Salt & pepper, paprika to taste

In the same pan you used to fry the chicken (keep it warm in a 225 degree oven), drain all but about 2 tablespoons of the oil (keep the crusty brown bits in).  On medium heat, add the milk-flour bouillon mixture, and stir constantly.  Add another cup of milk (you can substitute chicken stock, or even the water leftover from boiling potatoes for mashed potatoes), and continue stirring as the gravy thickens.  Don’t worry about the milk and flour being in proximity to the raw chicken, as you are heating the gravy enough to kill any bacteria which you might fear.  Sprinkle some more fresh ground pepper and paprika.  The gravy should thicken as you stir over heat.  You may need to add more liquid if it is too thick, and if it is too thin, don’t be afraid to add more flour (stir it into a little warm water to remove the lumps).  Taste as you go along.  Serve with fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

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