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Tarragon Chicken Salad

Published April 9, 2014 by jenmatteson

“I’m not dead, yet!”

Monty Python, anyone?

Wondering where I’ve been?  If I’ve quit blogging?  Found another love besides cooking?  Dead?  Well, you’d be wrong.  Big news on the Pigzilla family front!  No…it’s not a tiny Pigzilla.  After being unemployed for almost 8 months, I have finally found a new position.  And I love it…so far anyway.  I don’t anticipate not liking it, but I’ve only been there for two weeks, so it’s hard to say.  That being said, I have not had a lot of time for my second love, this blog.  As you know, I’m in the midst of planning a baby shower for my girlfriend, as well as another dinner party for a small group.  In addition to feeding my husband and all the things that go along with being an adult, I’ve been basically vegging out after I get home and dinner is made.  I have to get back into the grove of writing…

I love chicken salad.  But this is one thing that I’m particularly picky about.  I don’t like fruit or nuts in my chicken salad, though I do enjoy a crunch, which is where the celery comes in.  Certainly, if you enjoy fruit or nuts in your chicken salad, feel free to add at your own discretion, but purely against my strong recommendation not to.

Tarragon Chicken Salad

This is another recipe I tried for the aforementioned baby shower – I’m sorry, you’ve heard so much about this in the last few weeks.  The pairing of tarragon and chicken salad were of my own genius, but I wanted to find a great basic recipe for the chicken salad itself.  This recipe comes from Note to Self, and claims to be the absolute best chicken salad, ever.  So I had to try it.  I just subbed the tarragon for the dill.  I really enjoyed it!  I think this salad goes well on a buttery croissant because of deep tarragon flavor, but it’s just as good on wheat, white, pita or even on a salad.  This is certainly not your ordinary chicken salad, and I love that!

Tarragon Chicken Salad

Tarragon Chicken Salad

Source: Adapted from Note to Self
Servings:

Ingredients:

3 cups chilled shredded chicken (I used two poached breasts)
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp. fresh tarragon, minced
salt and fresh ground black pepper

Directions:

1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Add additional mayonnaise to desired consistency and adjust seasonings to taste.   Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

Soft and Thick Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies

Published January 30, 2014 by jenmatteson

I’m 100% positive I found my very favorite peanut butter cookie recipe!  I often find they get too crisp, or flatten out to chewy crackers or potato chips.  This is the second time I’ve used this peanut butter cookie recipe, and it was no fluke that I loved them the first time.  I honestly think the second time was better.  That could also be because it’s January, and we’re all watching what we eat now, right? 😉

Soft and Thick Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies

Let me go back to the first time I used this recipe.  It was for our drink tasting party, and I had a hankering for peanut butter blossoms.  I honestly thought my grandma made the best, but I was wrong.  I made half the batch with peanut butter cups – I didn’t have kisses and wanted to use up what I already had in my baking cabinet.  The other half I got kind of creative with.  I have almost a case of Nestle Crunch bars (thanks, Dad!), so I figured I’d try chopping a few up and putting them in.  Yeah, it was the bomb.

Soft and Thick Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies

I made a double batch for my husband and his boys, who left me for the weekend to go on his annual ice fishing trip.  Too bad for him it’s -20 degrees, probably colder where he is going.  But maybe the cookies will help keep him warm, or the booze.  You decide.  Anyway, these cookies stay nice and thick, but remain soft and chewy – and not just for the day you baked them.  They stay soft for days, which is awesome!

Soft and Thick Peanut Butter Crunch Cookies
Soft and Thick Peanut Butter Cookies

Source: Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Servings: Makes 24 cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar at medium speed.  One at a time, mix in peanut butter, egg, then vanilla, scraping down sides as needed.  Slowly mix in baking soda and flour until just combined, careful not to over-mix.  **This is where I added two chopped up Crunch bars.  Use your own add-ins (chocolate or white chocolate chips, raisins, M&Ms, Kisses, caramel, or anything else you like) or just keep them deliciously plain.  Wrap dough tightly in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare baking sheet with foil, parchment paper or cooking spray.  Roll dough into approximately 1-inch balls, about 2 tbsps., and place on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes (mine took exactly 10 to be perfectly soft, but this will vary based on ovens and size of cookies).  Remove from oven, and if desired, press fork crosswise into each cookie softly.  Let cool slightly on baking sheet, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Simple Ingredients Make the Perfect Burger: Palapa Burgers

Published June 6, 2013 by jenmatteson

With our parents, Nate and I went to Belize last year…like last year February 2012, sadly, not this past winter 😦  I did quite a bit of research before we went to get in the know about the best places to go.  The Palapa Bar was highly recommended on Trip Advisor, not only for its excellent, friendly service, beautiful location, the fact that you can float in inner tubes in the ocean while drinks are lowered down to you in a bucket, and that you can leave your mark (if you can find a place to do so), but because of their burgers.  For all reasons listed, we hit this place one of the first days we were there.

Palapa Bar, Ambergris Caye, Belize

Well, we ended up spending the majority of the day here.  A quick recap of notable events: my mom got nice and toasted (and I don’t mean sunburned).My parents enjoying panty rippers at the Palapa Bar

I found a swimsuit twin,

My swim suit twin

we left several marks on the bar,

One of our marks on the bar

My mom's doing...still not sure what it says.

Our mark <3

we floated in inner tubes and had drinks lowered to us,

My dad enjoying his panty ripper in the tube

soaked up the sun,

Nate and I having fun in the sun at the Palapa Bar

and last but certainly not least, we had a burger.  Usually I’d be skeptical and say it was just the atmosphere that made these burgers so delicious, but I must reject that theory.  Why? Because we got the secret recipe from the owner and have made them at home.

Palapa Burgers

That’s right, it’s a very secret recipe that I am about to share with you.  The ingredients are so simple, and there are so few, you might actually think it couldn’t be true.  Well guess what?  It is.

Palapa Burgers

Now, I’m certainly guilty of loading my ground beef with seasoning and onions and whatever else comes to mind before making my patties, but sometimes, you must adhere to KISS (keep it simple sweetheart).  Sometimes adding ingredients is necessary if you’re making a turkey or chicken burger, mostly because they don’t have a lot of flavor alone, nor is there enough fat to keep them juicy.  But sometimes, a plain and simple beef burger is where it’s at!

So, here it goes – I’m giving up the secret ingredients now.  Ground beef (and not that lean crap that’s got no flavor; get the  fatty stuff, like 80/20), salt and pepper.  Yep, that’s it.  Aren’t you sad you didn’t think of this?  Don’t you feel stupid for looking up a burger recipe that is so simple?  Well, don’t.  I like people like you who keep me blogging about the stuff I’m blogging about.  And you trust me to give you good info, and well, this is GREAT info.  Best burger, hands down.

Palapa Burgers

Palapa Burgers

Source: Not at all adapted from The Palapa Bar
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb ground beef
Kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat grill to medium-high.  Divide beef into four equal parts and shape into patties.  Transfer to plate and season top side generously with salt and pepper.

Here’s a hint: Do you ever suffer from a bloated burger?  You know, when it shrinks in diameter but plumps up in the middle, almost like a slightly flattened meatball?  Well, if you gently press your thumbs into the center of the patty before grilling it, this will prevent the bloated burger, thus making it pretty and fit on your bun (and in your mouth) much easier.

Press thumb into center of patty to prevent burger bloat

2. Once grill is heated, place patties on hottest part of the grill, seasoned side down.  Season the top side of the burgers.  Grill over medium-high heat until you begin to see “burger sweat”.  These are juices that accumulate on the top of the burger.  It’s hard to say how long based on how you like your burger cooked and the temp you are grilling at.  About 5-6 minutes should be efficient for a 1/4 pound burger cooked to medium.  It’s time to flip**.  Grill for 1-2 minutes less than you did the other side.  If you want cheese, add it in the last 1 minute of cooking.  Close the top and cook until cheese is melted.

3. Remove from the grill and do yourself a favor.  Let the burger rest for at least 5 minutes before shoving it down your pie hole.  This will allow the juices to redistribute, making it a flavor explosion in your mouth.  Serve with desired garnishments.

**Two important things about flipping burgers, and more broadly, meat in general. 

1. If you cannot easily get your spatula under it because the meat is sticking to the grates, than guess what?  It’s not time to flip.  Do not, I repeat, do not try flipping it anyway, otherwise your poor burger is going to fall apart.

2. Please note that meat needs, and should be, flipped only once.  Just once.  Two is too many.  None is not enough.  Once.  And stop playing with it on the grill for God’s sake.  It’s already dead and will not play with you back.  Just let it do its thing and enjoy the weather.  The more you move, play with, and flip your meat, the more dry and sucky it will be.  For real.

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