SHHHH! THIS IS A SECRET RECIPE

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SHHHH! THIS IS A SECRET RECIPE

A plateful of these is a fantastic treat that will make someone's day: they are rustic and magnificent. Unexpected, and of course, delicious.  Put this one in your repertoire. It's easy, it is a medium amount of time/work because there are several steps to the process, but it's SO worth it. You can choose the flavor of your ice cream filling, the cookies have a super compelling and satisfying texture that is a combination of crunchy and chewy. You can make then whatever size you want, but I make them small so you can eat more than one and feel OK about it.

 MY MOM'S SECRET RECIPE FOR ICE CREAM SANDWICHES

WHAT YOU NEED: 

1 egg 

½ cup shortening (I actually didn't have any shortening when I made these recently so I used all butter, and the texture was a little off but it worked great. Also thinking coconut oil would work) 

¼ cup butter (the original recipe actually calls for margarine. Hey—it was the 80's) 

1 tsp. Vanilla 

1 chocolate cake mix (YES: a cake mix!) 

½ gallon ice cream (I recommend Mooville, of course) 

WHAT YOU DO: 

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

-Beat egg, shortening, butter, vanilla, and ½ of dry cake mix until smooth.  

-Stir in remaining cake mix. 

-Divide intoequal parts. 

-On a lightly floured surface, roll each into a 10" x 6" rectangle. 

-Cut into 3" x 2" pieces. (or any size you like) 

-Bake on ungreased cookie sheet (I use parchment paper, but you don't have to) for 6-8 minutes. 

-Remove from oven and prick with fork. Let them cool completely. 

-Soften ice cream on counter for about 20 minutes, then pair up your cookies, and fill each pair with softened ice cream. I use a large knife to actually cut the ice cream into squareish shapes to fit into the cookies. Wrap each cookie in wax paper or parchment paper and store in freezer.  So. Delicious.

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FRIED FISH.

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FRIED FISH.

Pan-Fried Fish. Do I have your attention now? If you love fried fish like I do, then you must get into Jaddin's Precious Soul Cafe (701 Riverview Drive)asap. Last night I was driving home from work (ironically, trying to think of someplace where I could grab a healthy meal to take home for dinner...whoops) and I decided to stop into this place--I had been meaning to for a while and thank goodness I finally did. This. Place. Rocks. It's a family restaurant from start to finish and little Jaddin (whose Mom owns the restaurant) was working behind the counter with his older cousin when I arrived. They were both sweet as pie, I told them it was my first visit and they were welcoming and helpful, enthusiastic and ready with the recommendations. You basically can pick your meat, and then choose two sides to go with (can't be a vegetarian easily here--sorry!). We got Fried Swai (crisp, delicious whitefish and NOT greasy at all, which is almost impossible to find), black-eyed peas (rich and flavorful), okra (fried--yum), Fried Pork Chops just like my mom used to make, but smothered with home-made BBQ sauce which was sweet and flavorful with a bit of a kick, greens (delicious), and the MUST TRY recommendation of the boys, the Baked Mac-n-Cheese. I thought I had tried every style of mac and cheese under the sun, and I personally make a MEAN baked mac-n-cheese but I'll be damned if those kids weren't right. I don't know what they are putting in that baked mac-n-cheese but it is really, really good. I had to wait maybe a half an hour for the food (which I appreciated because clearly everything was made to order), but it was actually kind of fun hanging out and watching the people come and go. They seem to have a pretty regular group of customers, and the place just had a homey and friendly vibe about it. I overheard several people who were disappointed to find rib tips weren't on the menu that day (the menu changes daily), but I guess they only serve them on the weekends, so if you love rib tips, go on a Friday or Saturday. Something tells me it will be worth your while.

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POPCORN. DINNER.

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POPCORN. DINNER.

If you are like David and I, and love a good Popcorn Dinner every once in a while (or more often), this is a must-try. Since I've made it this way, I'm simply not interested in popcorn any other way. And...if you're wondering if using the Snow Pea Farms Heirloom Popcorn Kernels makes a difference, I challenge you to do a taste test (plus this is a very fun activity to do with kids). Buy Orville Redenbacher's, and a couple of other kinds of corn if you feel like complicating it up, and buy the Snow Pea Farms, pop them all up and do a blind popcorn tasting. It's amazing the difference a kernel can make. Each popcorn will be visibly different, and each will taste completely different, with a completely different texture. Did I just say different like four times? Yes, it's that amazing...and different. The Snow Pea Farms Heirloom Popcorn pops smaller kernels that are more substantial in flavor, and they read to me almost nutty. Anyway, here's the recipe:

IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT! POPCORN

  

WHAT YOU NEED: 

Your favorite heavy popcorn-popping pan with lid 

2-5 Tbs. Butter or Bacon Flavored Olive Mill Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

½ Cup Snow Pea Farms Heirloom Popcorn plus 3 test kernels 

2-3 tsp. Everything Nice West Indies Rub 

 

WHAT YOU DO: 

-Pour 2 Tbs. Butter or Bacon-flavored Olive Oil into Heavy Popcorn Pan.  

-Put three test kernels into the pan, and heat on high until you hear three POPS! Now, quickly: 

-Pour ½ cup Snow Pea Farms Heirloom Popcorn Kernels into the pan, and sprinkle about 2 tsp of the Everything Nice West Indies Rub onto the kernels. Cover pan and wait until you hear popping. 

-Shake pan regularly to keep the kernels moving, so they don't burn. I have no idea if this is really necessary, but it's how I learned to make popcorn, and I make good popcorn so why mess with a good thing? Plus it gives your arms a little exercise before you veg out in front of the TV, eating popcorn, for the next few hours. 

--When the POPS are less frequent, remove from heat. Tell the the dog to go away (ho won't listen to you), since he's at your feet now because he knows when you take off the lid, a few kernels are going to pop out and onto the floor where he can eat them.  

--Remove the lid, pour into your favorite popcorn bowl or bowls, and taste. Does it need more oil? Does it need more West Indies Rub? Add to taste and enjoy. Warning: go slow with adding the West Indies Rub. This popcorn goes from delightfully and mildly spiced to wildfire in your mouth pretty easily. 

 

  

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LASAGNA!

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LASAGNA!

Lasagna! It's quick, it's easy, and you can walk the dog (or do the laundry or drop the kids off at soccer or...enjoy a beer with someone you love...or if you are really good, you can do all of these things) while it is baking. And, I'm excited to say, we now sell EVERY ONE of these ingredients at Beer and Skittles. So here's my recipe for: 

20-MINUTE PREP AND CLEAN TIME WEEKNIGHT LASAGNA, A LA BEER AND SKITTLES 

What you need: 

Bag of frozen spinach (YES, of course you could use fresh spinach—if I use fresh, though, I saute it first just barely, so you can drain off a little of the liquid and so it takes up less room in the pan) 

6-8 Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles (if you don't do gluten, you can use spaghetti squash instead and it is terrific!) 

1 can of Crushed San Marzano Tomatoes 

15oz Ricotta Cheese 

2 eggs 

1 Tbs. Everything Nice Mediterranean Herbs 

1 TBS Olive Mill Basil Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

Optional 1# Cooked Ground Beef, Venison, Sausage, whatever you like or have (I actually made this earlier this week with leftover turkey and it was amazing!) 

4-8oz Morel & Leek Jack Cheese, grated 

1 big casserole dish 

Optional: Bottle of Chianti, I suggest the one we have in stock now, La Maia Lina, with a cute little picture of a pig on the bottle.  

What you do: 

--Set your timer for twenty minutes. If it takes you longer than that to get this into the oven and the dirty dishes in the dishwasher, you're going too slow! Speed it up next time!  

--Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

--If using frozen spinach, put spinach in colander and run cold water over it to thaw it a little. Set aside and let it drain. If using fresh, saute very lightly, then put in colander. 

--Boil a large pot of salted water, and cook lasagna noodles al dente. 

--While water is boiling and noodles are cooking, make the filling: squeeze excess water out of spinach and mix it in a large bowl along with the ricotta cheese, the eggs, the herbs and part of the olive oil. If you like your lasagna with meat, you can add cooked ground beef, venison or sausage at this point, too. You can also add whatever other vegetables you might have on hand and want to get rid of. I've used sweet potatoes, corn, green beans, any other green, carrots, onions, peas, extra tomatoes, pretty much anything is good in lasagna. That way, every lasagna you make is unique, and you can clean out the fridge at the same time. 

--Drizzle the rest of the olive oil in the bottom of the casserole dish. Pour ¼ can of San Marzano Tomatoes into the bottom of the pan. Place half the lasagna noodles on top of the tomatoes for a bottom layer. Spread filling evenly over noodles. Place the rest of the noodles on top of filling, pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the top layer of noodles and spread evenly to cover. Cover casserole dish with a lid, tin foil, or I use my giant Charles Viancin Dahlia casserole cover, which is adorable. 

--If you are like me and rinse the dishes before you put them into the dishwasher, rinse the dirty dishes now and put them into the dishwasher. If you don't rinse, then just put them in the dishwasher. If you don't have a dishwasher, this recipe may take you 25 minutes instead of twenty, as you will need a few extra minutes to wash the dishes by hand. By now it should be about twenty minutes, the timer you set at the beginning of this recipe will go off, meaning you're done: it's time to relax or be productive, as the evening requires, while your dinner bakes. 

--Put the lasagna in the oven and go about your business for the next 50 minutes or so, while the lasagna turns into dinner and makes your house smell fantastic! If you need a few minutes longer to finish your walk or your talk, or your beer, don't worry—this lasagna is very forgiving and won't suffer for an extra few minutes in the oven.  

--Remove the lasagna after about fiftyish minutes or a few more, and immediately sprinkle with the shredded morel and leek cheese. Let it sit for a few minutes, and the cheese on top will become melty and wonderful and the insides will cool down to eating temperature. Pour an optional glass of Chianti (or another beer), and enjoy. 

 

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

"Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and may every new year find you a better man." (Or woman.) There: who knew I could improve upon Benjamin Franklin?

I remember when I was in high school, how every year New Year's Eve, we never had a plan, but were always out looking for some action, some great party that just never quite materialized. And New Years' Eve was always this big disappointment, nothing ever "happened," until finally one year, we did something different. My friend Amy and I were out doing the same again, wondering what awesome thing we'd be doing at Midnight, and nothing seemed to be working out, so we decided to say screw it, and we went to the store, bought a box of Zingers, Twinkies, Creme Horns, Ice Cream, Hot Fudge and Whipped Cream (I'm not even kidding--there might have been more.), like just a ridiculous amount of sugary treats for no reason at all, and we went back to her house where her parents were hanging out, and at midnight,  we four just rang in the New Year with a bunch of junk food--but more importantly, we were together with kindred spirits (and a bunch of "good" food), and it was super fun.

Ever since that New Years Eve, I don't look for that New Years Eve Party, but rather, take the night to count and celebrate my blessings. I'll remember loved ones who have passed, particularly this year our store manager Kali McCaleb, and I will be thankful for the light she brought to Beer and Skittles and to my life. And with that keen awareness of the passing of time, I'll raise a glass tonight to lifelong friends, to family, especially David the world's best husband of nineteen years (today is our anniversary!), to Beer and Skittles, to our staff, to the McCarty family, and to the crazy tapestry of people I've had the pleasure of getting to know as a result of opening the store. Cheers to what matters! Wishing you and yours a 2017 filled with love, peace, light, and some really good food.

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