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Chocolate Pillows

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Valentine’s Day is Sunday and if you’re anything like me, you want to make something chocolate to serve your sweetie for dessert on this most romantic of evenings. But if you’re also like me, you don’t really want to spend too much time making it. After all there are much more important things to get to after dinner. Well, thanks to the folks at Melissa’s Produce, I have a dessert that doesn’t take too long to make and is absolutely delicious.

Melissa’s was nice enough to send me a package of their won ton wrappers in anticipation of Monday’s Chinese New Year. But I didn’t want to make your standard won ton filled with shrimp or cream cheese. Instead I’d recently seen a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens that stuffed the wrappers with chocolate! I thought it was such a neat idea, I decided to do the same thing.

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They were sooooo yummy. These little pockets are crunchy on the outside and filled with hot, melted dark chocolate on the inside. While each pillow takes a little time to put together, it only takes about a minute to cook them. But don’t let the effort involved dissuade you from making this dessert. Maybe instead of going out to an overpriced dinner, you stay in and have a cooking date. Making dinner and dessert together is way more satisfying than simply buying it, and you get to enjoy the process as well as the finished product. For my money that’s a win win and a really fun night in.

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Chocolate Pillows

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup port
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup dried bing cherries
  • 1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 14 wonton wrappers
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • Powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan bring the port to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 3 to 4 minutes or until reduced to by half. Whisk in the sugar and cook for another minute. Add cherries and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat until the temperature reaches 350°.
  3. While the oil heats, lightly brush the edges of one wonton with the egg. Place a handful of chocolate chips (I used 9) in the center of the wonton wrapper. Place another wonton wrapper on top and press the edges together to seal.
  4. Cook the filled wontons in the oil, one at a time, for 1 minute or until golden brown, flipping at least once so they brown evenly. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat the process with the remaining won ton wrappers and chocolate until you have 14 chocolate pillows.
  5. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with the cherry port sauce.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. Melissa’s provided me with the won ton wrappers for recipe testing. As always, any opinion expressed is my own and is not influenced in any way by the manufacturer/PR firm as I only review products that I have personally tested and endorse.

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What are the two most common drinks served at Super Bowl parties? Beer and more beer with maybe the occasional cider thrown in. But what about those people (like me) who don’t like beer? Yes, I love cider but cider isn’t usually an option when it comes to Super Bowl parties. Unless I’m the host or bring my own, it isn’t usually even a choice. So, this year I decided to give those who don’t like beer, a cocktail they can enjoy while watching the game. The fact that it’s called the Sunday Morning Cocktail No. II pretty much made it a no brainer.

What’s really cool about this cocktail is that it’s made with coffee, so it’s the perfect choice with which to start your party. I know the Super Bowl isn’t until the afternoon, but with all the pre-party shows and lead up about which team is better, most Super Bowl parties start well before noon. I don’t know about you, but if I’m up before noon on a Sunday, I usually need coffee. A lot of coffee.

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Charles H. Baker must have felt the same way, because he was kind enough to add close to an ounce of coffee to this cocktail. But coffee isn’t the only elixir inside that glass. There’s also cognac and port. Since you can’t just have liquid for breakfast (unless you’re on an all liquid diet) there’s also one whole egg.

Yes, this is another classic that uses a raw egg. But unlike most of the classics seen here, this one uses the whole egg, not just the white. So, not only do you get that beautiful froth on top, you also get a thick, rich drink that’s actually got some protein in it. And if you think about it, coffee and eggs are what most people start their day with anyway. If the thought of drinking a raw egg makes your stomach flip, don’t worry. As I’ve mentioned before, the odds of you getting salmonella are very, very minute.

So, thanks to Charles H. Baker, you and your guests can get the party started early and have a delicious breakfast in a glass. The fact that there’s a little alcohol thrown in, makes it the perfect choice for Super Bowl 50, don’t you think?

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Sunday Morning Cocktail No. II

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/4 oz. cognac
  • 3/4 oz. port
  • 2/3 oz. black coffee
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

Directions:

  1. Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds.
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

Mango Guacamole

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The Big Game is Sunday and if you’re anything like me, you’re probably having people over to watch. Whether they’re there to watch the game itself or the commercials and half time, your guests are going to eat. The popular choices of course are hot dogs, burgers, chili, chips and dip. While there are a variety of dips to choose from, the most popular choice seems to be guacamole.

I’ve made many different kinds of guacamole in the past and other than avocados they’ve all had the same thing in common: they’ve all been savory. As a matter of fact, the only guacamole I’ve ever had has been savory guacamole. Up until recently I didn’t know there was any other kind.

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Then I received some Australian mangos and Seville Oranges from Melissa’s Produce. At first I wasn’t sure what to do with the mangos other than add them to smoothies or eat them plain. And while that might work for the mangos, I couldn’t do that with the oranges. See, unlike most oranges out there, the Seville aren’t sweet. They’re actually quite sour and are usually used to make marmalade. But I’m not an orange marmalade fan. I like my jams and jellys sweet, so I knew making marmalade was out of the question.

Luckily I remembered that mangos and avocados are often combined to make delicious smoothies. But I didn’t want to make a smoothie. I wanted to do something different. I usually use avocados for guacamole, so I thought what if I turned that savory party dip I love so much and made it sweet. Turns out it was a wonderful combination. It was light, refreshing and paired really well with the tortilla chips. But the mangos weren’t the only change I made to my favorite party dip. Remember those sour oranges I mentioned? Well, I always add lime juice to my guac because I strongly believe guac just isn’t guac without a little citrus. So, instead of the lime juice I used the Seville Oranges. It was delicious! So delicious in fact, I can’t wait to make it again for the big game this Sunday. And while my team won’t be playing, at least I’ll be able to drown my sorrows and stuff my face with a dip I just can’t seem to get enough of.

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Mango Guacamole

Ingredients:

  • 5 avocados, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped purple onion
  • 2 tablespoons Seville Orange juice
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons minced jalapeño
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 mango, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped

Directions:

  1. Mash the avocados with a fork in a large bowl until almost smooth.
  2. Stir in the onion, juice, jalapeño, salt and pepper until well combined.
  3. Fold in the mango and cilantro. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

Peach Flambe

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Peaches may no longer be in season, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy them in a hot cocktail. How can you have a peach cocktail when you can’t get peaches? Well, today’s cocktail calls for dried peaches.

These days dried peaches (or any dried fruit for that matter) can be found at most farmer’s markets. But if your farmer’s market is buried in snow or drenched with rain (it is January), have no fear. You can get your peaches the same way I did – from Melissa’s. They have a variety of dried fruits including apricots, strawberries, cranberries and, of course, peaches. While dried fruit is usually saved for snacks or trail mix, they also make an excellent drink. All you have to do is soak the dried fruit in some hot water for a few minutes to plump it up, then add your liquor of choice, and voila – a delicious cocktail.

That’s what Charles Baker did when he came up with the Peach Flambé. While Baker doesn’t talk about how he came up with the cocktail, he does list it among his “hot helpers” in the wonderful Gentleman’s Companion, originally published in 1939. That means according to my rules, this drink is a classic.

Baker calls it a Hot Helper because it uses both hot water and warmed cognac which means it’s perfect for those cold winter nights. And since you can get dried peaches year round thanks to Melissa’s, there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t warm up those peaches and taste for yourself. Trust me, it’s a winner.

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Peach Flambé

Ingredients:

  • 2 dried peaches
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2-1/4 oz. cognac, divided
  • 1 pinch of ground cloves

Directions:

  1. Soak the peaches in hot water to plump them up.
  2. While the peaches are soaking, warm up 3/4 of an ounce of cognac in a small saucepan.
  3. Place the plumped peaches in a glass mug and sprinkle the sugar over them. Pour the warm cognac over the peaches and sugar and set aflame until the sugar starts to melt.
  4. Add the remaining cognac. Top with the hot water used to plump the peaches. Give a quick stir, sprinkle with the ground cloves and serve immediately.

Autumn Sausage and Apple Pie

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A few months ago when fresh apples were just starting to show up at the farmer’s market, I decided to make a pie. But this wasn’t your standard apple pie. I wasn’t testing out desserts for Thanksgiving. Instead, I wanted to make a savory pie for dinner. Something that used the autumn fruit (hence the “autumn” title) but used meat as well. So, I took an old recipe I made with pears, and substituted apples instead.

slice of pie

Switching from pears to apples subtly changes the flavor of the pie.  Since pears tend to be on the sweeter side and certain apples are a little more tart, the flavor is definitely more earthy and has a distinct autumn feel. I’m not sure if it’s the apples or the cheese or even the meat that give the pie those earthy flavors. All I know is that I loved this pie, and my family loved this pie. It’s delicious. It’s sweet. It’s savory and it’s easy as… well… pie to make.

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Autumn Sausage and Apple Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 store-bought pie crust
  • 1 pound bulk sausage
  • 1 yellow onion,  chopped
  • 3 ripe apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Place the pie crust in a greased 9-inch pie plate and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. While the crust bakes, cook the sausage and onion in a skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink, about 7 minutes. Spread the sausage/onion mixture into the prepared pie crust.
  4. Arrange the sliced apples in a design on top of the sausage mixture. Sprinkle the cheese over the whole pie and bake until the cheese is melted and the apples are tender, about 25 minutes. Slice and serve immediately.