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Fall Cake


Hubby won this cute and yummy Orange Cake in a game at the Fall Festival. And no, it was not store-bought. My good friend made it from scratch!

 Happy Halloween!

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Spider Web Cupcakes


These cupcakes were super easy to make and so delicious! Perfect for halloween. But aside from the creepy design, the best part of the cake was the taste - when you bite on it, you get a yummy dose of fudge and chocolate morsels in the middle. Thank you, Duncan Hines. ;-)


What you need:
  • 1 box (21 oz) Duncan Hines Triple Chocolate cake mix
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • chocolate frosting
  • 2 Tbsp chocolate morsels
  • decorating icing (white)


What to do:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Put 14 to 16 cupcake liners in two muffin pans. 

Mix batter according to directions. Spoon batter into muffin tin, about 2/3rds of the way full. 

Just before going into the oven. Pardon my mesiness!
Mix chocolate pouch (already included in the package) as directed on box. Add the chocolate morsels and mix well.  Spoon a heaping teaspoon of this chocolate fudge on top of the batter. Do not mix into the batter. Allow the fudge to sit on the surface of the cupcake.

Bake for 21-24 minutes. Cupcakes will be golden brown and will spring back when touched in center. Remove from the pans and cool for about 5 to 10 minutes.


Glaze your cupcakes with the chocolate frosting. Then squeeze circles of the white decorating icing on top of the chocolate glaze. Pull a toothpick from the center outward to make a web. Enjoy!




Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Use white frosting and brown decorating icing for the spider web. Or use orange. Actually, any color will do!
2. Make mini spiders on top of the webs by using a gumdrop for the body and some Twizzlers for legs. (I didn't cause I don't like spiders haha).
3. Use halloween cupcake liners!  


Mmmm, fudge!

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Savory Oatmeal with Egg


I made this "luxurious" breakfast one lazy Saturday morning (the only day I could actually eat breakfast without rushing!). It was delicious, and thanks to the oatmeal, it kept me full till lunchtime!

This recipe is from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food Magazine (October 2010 issue), tweaked to suit my taste. ;-)


What you need:
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled bacon

What to do:

In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add oats and a pinch of kosher salt. Stir, reduce heat and simmer until tender (about 5 minutes). 

Meanwhile, heat a small non-stick pan over medium. Coat lightly with butter, then add the egg and cook according to your desired doneness (in my case, I cooked mine until the white is set but the yolk is still runny). Season the egg with salt and pepper. 

Serve oatmeal in a bowl topped with cheese, egg, green onions and crumbled bacon. Enjoy!


Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Try using grits instead of oatmeal.
2. Add salt to the oatmeal if you don't want a hint of sweetness.
3. Don't like eggs? Skip it!

 

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Beef with Tofu


Most of our meals are based on what we have in the fridge/pantry. Today, I dug up some beef buried in the deep recesses of my freezer (tadaaa! I didn't even know it was there!) and paired it with a block of tofu (that had been staring at me for the longest time as well). 

The result was a delicious, saucy meal that we thoroughly enjoyed with hot steamed rice. Yum!


What you need:
  • 1 pound beef, sliced into bite-size pieces
  • 10 cloves of garlic + 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lite soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 cake (14 oz) firm tofu
  • enough canola oil to fry tofu
  • 1 cup beef broth

 What to do:

Fill a pot with about 6 to 8 cups of water and add the beef slices, 10 cloves of garlic, onion, peppercorns, salt, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then drop heat to LOW and simmer for about 2 hours (or until meat is tender when poked with a pork).

Meanwhile, cut the tofu into 1 inch cubes and deep fry until golden brown. Drain on a cooling rack and set aside.

Heat about 1 tablespoon of Canola oil in a wok. Add the beef (save the broth), minced garlic, fried tofu, and onions. Cook for about a minute, then add a cup of beef broth and the rest of the ingredients. Stir constantly to avoid sticking to the bottom of the wok. Cook until the carrot is tender (according to your preference). Enjoy!


Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Add more veggies - try broccoli or baby corn.
2. To make it soupy (instead of saucy), add more water.

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Pulled Pork Soft Taco


We had some leftovers from the pulled pork I made a few days ago, so I decided to turn Mexican and make some tacos. It's amazing what a few added ingredients can do to your meal - case in point, ours turned to be one of our simplest yet tastiest home-made Mexican dish ever. 


What you need:

  • pulled pork, minced coarsely
  • lettuce, shredded
  • diced tomatoes
  • yellow onions, diced
  • grated Cheddar Jack cheese
  • green onions, sliced
  • few sprigs of cilantro, chopped
  • avocado slices
  • dollop of sour cream
  • soft taco wrap

What to do:

Just layer the ingredients on top of the soft taco wrap - as much or as little as you want. Top with a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!


Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. You might wanna secure your taco by wrapping a paper around the bottom.
2. Cilantro has a strong flavor - use sparingly.

4 comments
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Shari's Donuts


This donut recipe was named so because it was my friend Shari who told me about it.The recipe was simple (if you know how to fry, you can do this!), and all I had to do was make the glaze. It was easy and delicious, but you have to eat them while they are still hot!


What you need:

For the donuts:
  • 1 can (17.3 oz) Homestyle biscuits
  • canola oil (enough for frying)
  • glaze (recipe below)
  • candy sprinkles
For the sugar glaze:
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon milk
For the chocolate glaze:
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons milk

What to do:

In a sauce pan or deep fryer, heat enough oil to fry the donuts. Meanwhile, separate the canned 
 biscuits and poke a hole in the middle using your fingers. 


When the oil is hot enough, add the biscuits and fry them until one side is golden, then flip to cook the other side. Make sure your oil is not very hot, as it will burn the dough immediately. Remove from oil and drain on cooling racks.

Make the glaze. For the sugar glaze, combine milk and vanilla in a bowl. Stir in the confectioners sugar while whisking until well combined. 

For the chocolate glaze, add the sugar and cocoa powder to the milk and whisk until well combined.

Dip the donuts in the glaze and top with candy sprinkles. Enjoy!


Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Don't throw away the donut holes! Fry and glaze them as well.
2. Keep an eye on your dough as it burns easily. 
3. Use regular-sized canned biscuits. Jumbo biscuits might not cook through when you fry it.
4. Wait a few minutes for the donuts to cool down a bit before glazing them. 
 5. Eat them fresh. The longer they sit out, the denser they get.



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Mango


Most mangoes here are red. They are from South America. I miss our sweet yellow ones, though.

1 comments
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Pulled Pork


Pulled pork cooked using a smoker is delicious, but since I don't have a smoker, my trusty old crock pot did the job for me. And it was delicious! Lesson learned: You don't need an expensive BBQ smoker to make excellent pulled pork, just a slow cooker and a good recipe!

This recipe is from the website "The Other White Meat". It is interesting to note that the meat Americans prefer most is beef, followed by chicken, then pork. Last on the list are turkey, seafood and lamb. But in our household, pork would probably be tops. We love the pig!


What you need:
  • 2 1/2 pounds boneless pork butt shoulder
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup of water

What to do:

Combine all seasonings in a small bowl and rub evenly over the meat. Place it in a slow cooker. Add water and cover. Cook on LOW for 8 hours or until pork is very tender.

Place pork on a large cutting board or platter and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Pull, slice or chop to serve. Enjoy!

Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Too spicy for you? Reduce the amount of cayenne pepper to half.
2. You can also cook it on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours.
3. Serve in buns with  your favorite BBQ sauce.

1 comments
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Squash Soup in Pumpkin Bowls

 

The season is Fall, and there are pumpkins aplenty! I thought I'd take advantage of this marvelous season by using the best produce it has to offer. This dish is hearty and delicious, and hubby said it was "delightful." The toppings were also a great addition as they provided texture and more flavor to the soup.

This recipe was from the Food Network Magazine October 2010 issue, tweaked to suit our tastebuds. ;-)
Jimmy Gourd, is that you?


What you need:

For the bowls: 
  • 4 sugar pie pumpkins 
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • kosher salt
For the soup:
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 of a Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the toppings:
  • Pepitas (hulled green pumpkin seeds)
  • croutons
  • paprika
  • crumbled bacon
  • fried onions
Pepitas or Butong Pakwan

What to do:

First, you have to make the bowls. Start by preheating the oven to 400°F (time it so it would be ready about the same time you are done with the pumpkins). Cut a large circle around the stem of each pumpkin. Remove the lid and scoop out the seeds and fibers. Sprinkle the inside of each with 1/2 teaspoon each sugar and salt. Place the pumpkins and lids on a baking sheet and toast in the oven  until tender, about 20 to 35 minutes, depending on their size.

Meanwhile, make the soup. Begin by melting the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the thyme, increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft (about 5 minutes). Add the squash and sugar, and cook, stirring, until glazed, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender, crack the lid to let steam escape and puree until smooth, then return to the saucepan. Stir in the heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper, and top as desired.



Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Instead of butternut squash, use kuri squash.
2. Soup too thin for you? Reduce the amount of water to 4 cups.
3. Use an immersion blender so you don't have to transfer the soup to the blender and back to the pot.

2 comments
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Product Review: Dove "Unconditional Chocolate" Ice Cream


"Unconditional Chocolate" is probably the best ice cream from Dove that I have ever tried. I couldn't think of a name more apt for such a product. It is so good, you would have to exercise a great deal of self control to stop from eating. Seriously. Here are my thoughts:


What I liked:
  • Thick layer of ganache on top. Soooo inviting. I just want to peel off that whole layer of ganache and eat it like a cookie!
  • The chocolate ice cream is smooth, rich, and so creamy!
  • Decadent chocolate swirls under the ganache layer.
  • Chocolate chunks. Lots of them. You will get at least one chunk (but more likely 2 or 3) in every bite. I kid you not.
  • Although this flavor is chockful of chocolates, it is not overly sweet. There is actually a semi-sweet/dark chocolate undertone to it.


 What I didn't like:
  • Half a cup of this (overly delicious) ice cream has 300 calories. Oh, yeah. You will pay for something as delightful as this.
  • A serving would give you more than half (55%) of your daily value of saturated fat.   

The Verdict:

I really enjoyed Unconditional Chocolate immensely, and I am sure any chocoholic out there who tried this product would share the same sentiments. However, thinking of the nutritional value, it is safe to say that you should eat this treat sparingly, or double your gym time to burn off the extra calories. Apart from that, I couldn't say anything negative about the taste, as it was really divine (and on a personal note, it tasted like they broke up pieces of their Dove chocolate bars and put it in the ice cream). If you love chocolate, and if you love Dove, this is a must. Would I recommend this product to a friend? I think I just did. Would I buy this again? Yes, yes, yes.

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Is it Halloween Yet?

Everybody wants a piece of halloween...


Orange-colored chocolate candies for Chips Ahoy! (I noticed that these special edition cookies are smaller and thinner than the usual ones).

Ü.C.U. (Über Close Up)
Palmer's Chocolate Candies 

My favorite thing about halloween is all the candies! What's yours?

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Curry Steak Fajitas



I was looking for an interesting Fajitas recipe when I came across this dish by Bobby Flay. And interesting it was, indeed. I would have never imagined marinating beef in curry paste, as traditional fajitas usually call for lime juice or mojo. But I tried it, and I liked it! (Of course, I tweaked it to suit our preference!)


What you need:
Red Curry Paste
  • 3/4 pound skirt steak, cut into strips
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (divided)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons wildflower honey
  • flour tortillas
  • red and green bell peppers, cut into strips
  • Cheddar Jack cheese
  • avocado crema (recipe below) 

What to do: 

 In a bowl, whisk together the curry paste, canola oil, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Transfer to a ziploc bag, add the beef and marinate for at least 6 hours.

In another bowl, whisk the honey and remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Set aside.

Heat grill or cast iron pan over high heat. Remove the steak from the marinade and season with salt and pepper. Grill the steak until slightly charred on the sides, brushing with the honey-lime glaze. Place the meat on a platter and drizzle with more of the honey-lime glaze. 


Assemble your tortillas by putting a few slices of beef down on the center, adding veggies, cheese, and a dollop of avocado crema. Yum!


Avocado Crema recipe

What you need:
  • 1 ripe Hass avocados, peeled, pitted, and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

What to do: 

Combine the avocados, water, lime juice, rice vinegar and honey and in a blender and blend until smooth. Add the cilantro, salt and pepper and blend a few seconds just to incorporate. 


Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Use lime instead of lemon! (I didn't have lime when I made this dish so I substituted)
2. Add BBQ onions or pickled roasted peppers for greater flavor.
3. When buying meat for fajitas, get a whole slab of meat instead of buying the pre-cut ones. Then have your butcher cut it for you.
4. The avocado crema is a bit tangy so cut down on the rice vinegar if you wish.
5. Wildflower honey has a deep (dark) taste compared to other honey varieties. But you can definitely substitute with whatever kind you have!



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BLT Salad


I like to keep salad veggies in the fridge for light lunches. This BLT salad is a semi-light meal, due to the addition of bacon. It's easy to make and delicious. As they say, everything tastes better with bacon!


What you need:
  • 3 cups torn romaine lettuce
  • about 8 pieces grape tomatoes
  • 3/4 cups garlic croutons
  • 4 strips cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup Cheddar Jack cheese
  • Caesar Salad dressing

What to do:

Layer the lettuce, tomatoes, croutons, bacon and cheese in a large bowl.

Drizzle with dressing just before serving. Toss lightly. Enjoy!

View from the top
 Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Cut the grape tomatoes in half if it is too big for you. (I didn't because I love popping them in my mouth like m&m's).
2. Use cherry tomatoes for a smaller but sweeter tomato variety.
3. Substitute Cheddar Jack cheese with Colby, Monterey, etc. Whatever works!
4. Make sure your veggies are washed! You don't want to eat dirty produce.

2 comments
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Sliders

This was how hubby enjoyed his sliders. With lime-mayo and onions!
I first had a taste of White Castle's Sliders in a sporting event. They are those mini burgers with square patties that have 5 holes in them. The Travel Channel featured them on one of their shows, and I found out that the secret to their delicious and mouthwatering patties are the white onions that permeate the meat through those 5 holes. GENIUS! No wonder Harold and Kumar went to all that trouble just to have them.

We don't have a White Castle here in our state (or if we do, please let me know!), the nearest I can get to a slider is a Krystal Burger. However, our local grocery store carries pre-packaged frozen White Castle Sliders, but it's not as good as getting it fresh from the greasy fast food griddle. So we decided to make some in our own kitchen.

What you need:

  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2/3 cup beef broth
  • 2 cups white onions, diced
We used potato bread
 
What to do: 

In a mixing bowl, combine the ground chuck and pork.  Add the beef broth and mix well. 

Line a 13x10x1 baking tray with plastic wrap. Put the meat on the tray and flatten, until the meat is just about half an inch thick. You can do so by covering the top with plastic wrap and using a rolling pin to flatten it. Using a plastic knife, make small squares by scoring the meat. Freeze for about 30 minutes to firm them up and hold their shape while cooking.

Heat your electric griddle to 350F. Add the diced onions and place the square patties on top of them. Make sure you watch the onions because you don't want them to burn. Finish frying the patties by placing them on the griddle when the onions start turning brown.


So yummy...
 Build your burger by putting your choice of condiments on the bread, then add the patties. Enjoy!


Don't forget the mushrooms!
Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. For a juicier burger, double the amount of beef broth.
2. Want authentic-looking sliders? Make holes in the patties using a straw to poke them.
3. You can also cook these patties in a pan instead of a griddle.
4. Toast the bread (with butter on one side) for a greasier but yummier burger.


This was how I enjoyed my sliders. Burnt, and with American cheese!

1 comments
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Breakfast

Cereal, milk, orange wedges, and OJ
Nothing but a good breakfast to start your day right.

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Asian Street Pork Chops

Guy Fieri made this dish on his show "Guy's Big Bites." He described it as a street food in Asia (I think he said Vietnam), but instead of pork chops, he used pork loins sliced very thinly. Sort of like shaved meat for a sandwich. I thought I'd give it a try, but with chops instead.


What you need:
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 pound thin sliced pork chops
What to do: 

In a medium bowl, mix soy sauce, sugar, ginger, oyster sauce, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil and pork chops. Transfer to a ziploc bag, remove all the air, seal and refrigerate for 6 hours (or more).

Heat your grill to high. Remove the pork from the marinade and arrange on the grill. Reserve the marinade. Grill the pork chops according to your desired doneness. Remove from the grill and place on a serving platter.

Meanwhile, pour the reserved marinade into a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and let reduce until it starts top thicken, about 8 minutes. Drizzle it on top of the pork chops. Enjoy!

Ü.C.U. (Über Close Up)
 Tips, Tricks and Tweaks: 

1. Use thinly-sliced pork roast and make it sandwich meat!
2. Too hot for you? Reduce the amount of chili garlic sauce to 1/2 teaspoon.
3. Use sriracha or tabasco if you don't have chili garlic sauce.

3 comments
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Triple Chocolate S'mores Brownies



Out of boredom, I decided to whip up some (fancy schmancy) brownies. Don't be fooled, though - this was actually semi-homemade because I used a brownie mix. I called it Triple Chocolate because of the 1) brownie, 2) chocolate graham crackers; and 3) crushed Hershey's chocolate bar on top. Yumminess!!! 


What you need:
  • 1 box (1 lb) Betty Crocker Brownie Mix
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
  • water, vegetable oil and egg called for on Brownie Mix
  • 3/4 of a (10 oz) bag marshmallows
  • 4 chocolate graham cracker squares, broken into small pieces
  • 3 bars (1.55 oz each) milk chocolate candy, broken into small pieces

Hurrah for bonus box tops!
What to do:

Heat oven to 350F. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x9 baking pan with butter.

Make and bake brownies as directed in the box (don't forget to add the semi-sweet chunks in the batter). After removing the pan from the oven, set the oven to broil. Immediately top the brownies with marshmallows and chocolate graham crackers. 

Broil 5 to 6 inches from heat for about 20 to 30 seconds, or until marshmallows are toasted. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with chocolate candy. Cool for a few minutes before serving.


Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

  1. When you broil the brownies, watch it very carefully. It is hard to see if the graham crackers are already toasted since they are brown. And the marshmallows brown so quickly!
2. Use miniature marshmallows for a thinner layer.
3. When cutting brownies, grease your knife so it wouldn't stick.

4 comments
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Chicken Nuggets Asian-Style


I am constantly on the hunt for dishes that son would like. Since chicken nuggets are one of his favorites, I decided to make it - Asian style.

This wasn't the regular chicken nugget made of ground-up chicken or "mechanically reclaimed meat" according to Jamie Oliver (Food Revolution). I used chicken tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces and battered the Asian way. ;-)

This recipe was inspired by Jen's Asian Chicken Nuggets recipe. It worked for my whole family - son loved it, and hubby enjoyed the ginger flavor. Win - win! P.S. Don't tell your kids that there's ginger in it. What they don't know won't scare them!

What you need:
  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • Canola oil (for frying)
  • Corn starch (for dredging)
For the marinade:
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine
  • 1 teaspoon ground fresh ginger
For the batter:
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 3 stalks green onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground fresh ginger

What to do:

Cut the chicken tenders into one inch squares. Set aside.

Mix all the marinade ingredients and transfer to a  ziploc bag. Add the chicken and marinate for about an hour in the fridge.

Start the batter by beating the egg whites. Add 2 tablespoons corn starch, ground ginger and chopped green onions. 


Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high. Dredge the marinated chicken pieces in flour, then drop in the batter and coat evenly. Transfer to pan and deep fry for about 1 to 2 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken. Drain on a cooling rack. Enjoy!

U.C.U. (Über Close Up)
 Tips, Tricks and Tweaks:

1. Wash your hands (and utensils) with hot soapy water, especially when dealing with poultry.
2. To make sure that your chicken is cooked, the internal temperature should be at least 165°F. (Always keep your meat thermometer handy).
3. As a dipping sauce, try soy sauce with lime. 

3 comments
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Disney Caramel Apples

Hubby surprised me with these...

They were actually the same size.


They were really delicious. Probably one of the best caramel apples I have ever had. I thought it would be overly sweet, but I was wrong. There was a good balance between the tartness of the Granny Smith apple and the sweetness of the chocolate / sugar.





$9.95 each. I thought Minnie would be pricier.


Minnie Mouse was almost too cute to eat...

 

My favorite parts were the  marshmallow ears!





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