Gifts from the Edible Givens Kitchen



It's almost Christmas!  It's almost Christmas!  I love Christmas.  Jesus' birthday is the best one in history.  It's been really special this year going through Advent at church- first year I think I've done that.

If you're looking for some edible gift ideas, try these:


Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti (pictured)
Lenox Almond Biscotti
Chocolate Truffle Cookies


Condensed Milk Fudge
Oreo Truffles
Buttermilk Fudge
Chocolate Orange Truffles (pictured)
Cake Balls


Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate Mix (pictured)- One of my favorite ideas on this list!
Cherry Almond Snack Mix
Chex Mix- can't go a Christmas without some of this!
Maple Pumpkin Butter - refrigeration required
Cinnamon Rolls

There are also several baked goods options- quick breads, muffins.  You can find those by clicking through the labels on the right hand side, breads/breakfast/good for gifts.

Merry Christmas, and maybe see you back here Monday or Tuesday for another idea!

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti


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Biscotti is so great with coffee...or tea, hot chocolate, or alone.  Homemade biscotti leaves store bought biscotti in the dust.  I've had this recipe for years, and I make it each year at Christmas to give as gifts and to enjoy some for myself.  It's delicious.  If you like Nutella, you will love this one for its nod to the hazelnut-chocolate combination.  I actually like giving biscotti more than other cookies/homemade candy because it's kind of unique.  It's twice baked, so it keeps longer than other candies and cookies.  That is, if it lasts that long, which in my house, it doesn't.

Shaping the "logs"

There are a couple steps involved in biscotti, but it's still easy.  Make this for yourself and the coffee lovers in your life!

Instead of makin' it rain...makin' it snow!

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
courtesy of Food Network/ Gourmet Magazine, circa 2006

Makes approx 30 biscotti

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
6 Tb (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup blanched hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 Tb. confectioner's sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 F and butter and flour a large baking sheet, or line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another bowl with an electric mixer, beat together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and beat until combined well.  Stir in flour mixture to form a stiff dough.  Stir in hazelnuts and chocolate chips.

On the baking sheet with floured hands, form dough into two slightly flattened logs, 12 inches long and 2 inches wide.  Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar, if using.  Bake logs for 35 minutes, or until they are slightly firm to the touch.  Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes.

On a cutting board, cut biscotti diagonally into 3/4 inch slices.  Arrange the biscotti, cut sides down and up, back on the baking sheet, and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes.  Cool on a rack.

The biscotti will keep in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week and frozen up to a month.


  • I've made these with very few tweaks, but the one small tweak I know I've made is to not blanch the hazelnuts.  Do you know how much trouble it is to remove the husks off hazelnuts?  I prefer to save the time- I have made it both ways, and I can't tell a significant enough difference. 

Condensed Milk Fudge


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Between now and Christmas, I'll likely be just posting Christmas goodies- good for gifts, parties, or eating yourself...not that I'd know anything about that.

So this fudge isn't real fudge.  You don't need a candy thermometer or a perfect, sunny day for it to work out.  It is, however, quick and easy, and will set up on the rainiest of days, which is good, because the past two Christmases around here have not had the best weather surrounding them.  Most importantly, while the texture is a little different from true fudge, it's still very tasty, and nobody has refused it yet.

Drew's grandmother is one of those people who you find it difficult to buy gifts for, because she has no hobbies, every square inch of her house is packed with stuff, so there's not a lot of room for anything else.  She does, however, have a big sweet tooth, and loves fudge, and she does not care about the semantics of fudge.  I have made this for her pretty much every year since I've been part of the family, and she has come to expect it.  When she gets my gift of fudge she literally squeals with delight and promptly eats a piece and hides the rest behind her back so that no one else in the family can eat any.  It's pretty funny.

So without further adieu, from the Eagle Brand recipe collection, I give you their recipe for chocolate fudge.

Chocolate Fudge (Condensed Milk Fudge)
from Eagle Brand recipes

makes approx. 2 pounds of fudge

1 can condensed milk
18 oz (3 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Line an 8 or 9 inch square pan with foil, wax paper or parchment; set aside.

In a medium pot, combine the condensed milk, chocolate chips, and salt.  Melt over medium low to medium heat.  Once melted and smooth, remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Pour and spread the mixture into a prepared pan to make an even layer.

Chill the fudge 2 hours or until firm.  Cut into bite sized squares.

Lasgna Soup


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Baby, it's cold outside!  Sorry for calling you baby.  When it's cold, about all I want to eat is soup (which, when I say soup, I mean soups, stews, and chilis).  They're just so good- warm, filling, diverse.  As I type this, it's chilly and rainy.  A perfect soup day.  I had chicken chili for lunch.

This soup is a unique one, and it's a good addition to the Givens' soup repertoire.  What makes it good is its resemblance to lasagna.  What makes it unique is the addition of a ricotta- Parmesan mixture to the soup bowl just prior to serving.  Yum!

It's easy to make, and makes enough for a small army.  We didn't end up freezing any, but instead ate on it all week.  I am sure it freezes well, but I'd recommend only boiling the amount of noodles you'll need at any given time, or, if you're lazy like me and don't feel like doing that, reduce the amount of noodles the recipe calls for by 1/3 to 1/2.

Lasagna Soup
adapted from the book, 300 Sensational Soups via A Farm Girl's Dabbles blog

1 1/2 lb ground beef or Italian sausage
2 tsp. olive oil
3 c. chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 T. tomato paste
1 28-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
6 c. chicken stock
8 oz. mafalda or fusilli pasta
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
 8 oz. ricotta
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add ground beef, breaking up into bite sized pieces, and brown for about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomato paste turns a rusty brown color.

Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente. Do not over cook or let soup simmer for a long period of time at this point, as the pasta will get mushy and absorb all the soup broth. You may even want to consider cooking the noodles separately, and then adding some to individual bowls before ladling the soup over them. This would be an especially smart move if you are anticipating any leftovers. Right before serving, stir in the basil and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheese mixture. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

To serve, place a dollop of the cheese mix in each soup bowl, sprinkle some of the mozzarella on top and ladle the hot soup over the cheese.

  • We omitted mozzarella since there was other cheese.  I don't think I missed it, but if you're in a real cheesy mood, go for it.  
  • I reduced the amount of noodles called for by about half, using only slightly more than a cup.  It seemed like a good move.  I also used radiatori pasta, because they looked fun and were on sale.
  • The original recipe calls for Italian sausage.  Drew doesn't like sausage, so we used ground beef, which is also our traditional lasagna filling.  It worked well.

Quick party trick- Pesto Turkey Pinwheels


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We had a Christmas party this past weekend in which we all brought dishes.  When completing the list of who would make what, the theme pretty quickly turned from dinner to hors d'oeuvres and desserts.  I decided to bring black eyed pea salsa (can't believe I haven't shared this before- recipe coming soon!) and these pinwheels, which I sort of made up on the spot.  I had seen different recipes on The Pioneer Woman and floating around on Pinterest, but pinwheels are the sort of thing that just seem to not need precision or a recipe- they're like a sandwich and encourage customization.

Plus, who doesn't love pinwheels?  My grandmother used to buy some from Sam's Club and serve them at family get togethers.  They were my favorite.  I have good memories of times where pinwheels are served.

Anyway, they were a pretty big hit- all of them were eaten, and they're on the healthier end of party food- lower in fat, not fried, no mayo.

Pesto Turkey Pinwheels
Makes 25 pinwheels/ 5 tortillas

1/2 block (4 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup prepared pesto
5- 8-10 inch tortillas
1- 8oz package deli turkey- not shaved
1 or 2 roasted red peppers, cut into thin strips
8 oz package sliced provolone, meunster, or cheese of your choice
Asiago or Parmesan cheese, shredded or ribboned

In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese and pesto until well incorporated.

Working 1 tortilla at a time, lay tortilla on a flat surface and spread the pesto/cream cheese mixture onto the tortilla in a thin layer, leaving about 1/2"- 1" border.  Add 3-4 turkey slices, spreading out evenly over the pesto mixture.  Layer with the cheese slices and the red bell pepper strips, using the bell pepper strips every few inches (see photo, above).  An optional variation is to leave out the cheese slices and instead to cover the turkey and red pepper strips with the Asiago or Parmesan shavings/shreds.

Beginning with 1 end, tightly roll the tortilla up, slice into 1 1/2" slices, and pin with toothpicks to keep together.  You should have 7-9 total slices, including the ends.


  • I had a lot of cream cheese mixture left over, but that will work well with any wraps you may want to make yourself, maybe as a pasta sauce, a veggie dip, etc.  Or just make more wraps.
  • I alternated use between the meunster cheese and Asiago cheese in the wraps, partially for experimentation and partially because I didn't have that much sliced cheese on hand.  I am not sure which I preferred, and I am not sure the crowd had a preference either.  
  • I used spinach and herb wraps, but any soft tortilla shell will do.  I liked the green color, especially here at Christmas.

Sole Meuniere


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Sole meuniere is a classic French dish, likely made popular in the US by Julia Child.  It's fairly simple and straightforward in its preparation, but like so many simple dishes, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  It's just good.  I had a recipe bookmarked in the April 2010 issue of Bon Appetit and when I found sole on a trip to Trader Joes, I grabbed it, knowing exactly what I'd be doing with it, and was glad that I'd be crossing off another recipe on my ever-growing list of recipes to try.  Please tell me I'm not the only one who does that- saves recipes seen in magazines, cookbooks, on tv, or the internet for years.  We should have a contest for how long we've saved a recipe before making it!  Winner makes the recipe?

Anyway, the recipe comes from Molly Wizenberg, who writes the blog Orangette and was a columnist at one point for Bon Appetit.  It's a definite winner, and it's another one of those "kitchen cred" recipes, where when you make it, you'll feel for a minute like a kitchen whiz and that you're really eating something that came from a restaurant that has white tablecloths and linen napkins, with prices that don't end in decimals and usually are reserved for special occasions.  Molly Wizenberg writes about how her father would often exclaim that they ate better at home than most people do in a restaurant.  Make sole meuniere and serve it with a simply dressed salad and maybe some roasted potatoes, and you might feel that way too.

Sole Meuniere
from Molly Wizenberg via Bon Appetit
serves 2


1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 sole fillets (each about 3 to 4 ounces)
Coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or canola oil
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Lemon wedges

For fish:

Place flour in pie dish. Rinse fish; pat with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides of fish with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Dredge fish on both sides with flour; shake off excess. Place on platter.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until oil is hot and shimmers. Add butter; quickly swirl skillet to coat. When foam subsides, add fish and cook until golden on bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Carefully turn fish over and cook until opaque in center and golden on bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Divide fish between 2 warmed plates; tent with foil. Pour off drippings from skillet; wipe with paper towels.

For sauce:

Place skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter; cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in parsley and lemon juice (sauce may sputter). Spoon sauce over fish. Serve with lemon wedges.


  • While it is a white fleshed fish that is inherently lean, this is not the absolute healthiest preparation, but don't let that deter you.  
  • I didn't use parsley.  I don't actually like the taste.  Mine is not garnished.  There goes the kitchen cred.
  • Molly Wizenberg cautions you to have everything ready, because in less than a minute, your fish can become too browned or your butter can become burned rather than browned.  I followed her advice and it seemed to go well.  
  • While I did reheat this with some success and good taste, this is a dish that is best right after it's made.

Meatless Monday: Winter Vegetable Soup


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How was your Thanksgiving?  Can you believe Christmas is already here?  Do you still feel a bit weighed down by the food you just ate and the thought of all the food you're about to eat during this holiday season?  I know I am, but here's a good soup that is easy and filling but healthy.  It's restorative.  It's a good meal to make for eating on those days you're not at a Christmas party or family dinner.  It's also good if you've experienced the thing that is going around these days that includes anything from stuffy nose to sore throats to worse.

More reasons to make this soup?  It's easy and has a short list of ingredients.  It's good with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated Parmesan to finish it.

I think we ate just the soup, but it'd be good with toast or bread, a salad, etc.  This one is a keeper.

Winter Vegetable Soup
from Everyday Food, November 2009 issue
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 bunch kale ( 3/4 pound), ribs cut away and discarded, leaves torn
5 1/2 cups (43.5 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (14 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed
3 sprigs thyme

Grated Parmesan, for serving (optional)

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter over medium. Cook onion and garlic until fragrant, 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add squash and kale and cook until kale is wilted, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add broth, beans, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash and kale are tender, about 12 minutes. Season soup with salt and pepper and serve with Parmesan, if desired.

  • The original recipe says that the entire thing takes 30 minutes from prep to table.  I'm a slow chopper, but my experience was more like an hour.  
  • You'll definitely want a big pot.  The kale, going in, is very voluminous.  It cooks down.  

Gingerbread Waffles


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This was one of those recipes that I've had in my "to make" file for a few years now, and am just now getting around to making.  I'd guess that based off the paper I printed it on and the show it came from, I've had it for something like 7-8 years now.  Better late than never?

Anyway, this is a perfect recipe for a fall or holiday season breakfast.  I fiddled around with it a little to make it lower in fat, and it turned out a bit dry, so I don't recommend cutting back on the fat like I did.  Go all out and use the amount of butter you're supposed to use.  I would, however, make this again.

The recipe comes together like most non-yeasted waffles, and so it's fairly straightforward and easy.  Rachael made a mulled syrup to accompany the waffles on the original show.  I didn't make that but would like to one day.  Here's the recipe if you want to go all out.

I'll post the recipe as Rachael Ray made it and let you know my changes in the notes.  I'd recommend trying the original recipe and not my variation.  My version's flavor was good, but it was a little dry.  Nothing a little more syrup won't fix.

Gingerbread Waffles
from Rachael Ray and 30 Minute Meals

3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, eyeball it
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter, plus some to butter the iron

Syrup, whipped cream or fresh fruits for topping, to pass at table

Preheat waffle iron.

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and brown sugar until fluffy, then beat in pumpkin, milk, molasses and melted butter. Stir the wet into dry until just moist. Do not overstir the waffle batter. Brush the iron with a little melted butter and cook 4 waffles, 4 sections each. Serve with toppings of choice.

Thanksgiving Recipe Prep: ATK's Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie


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Here's another one for your upcoming holiday meal planning:  pumpkin pie!  It's an institution, right?  If you're Southern and also accustomed to sweet potato pie, this recipe combines the best of both worlds, which I believe is where lies one of the secrets to the pie's success- it contains both pumpkin and candied yams.

This is a variation on America's Test Kitchen's Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie, by way of Smitten Kitchen, and while it's simple, it does involve a few steps, so be warned that you will put in a little effort for this, but it's well worth it.  It always gets rave reviews!

The recipe title is also a link to the Smitten Kitchen page with this recipe and Deb's (is it OK to call her Deb even though I've never met her but have read her blog for something like 5-6 years?) beautiful photography.

Silky Smooth Pumpkin Pie
adapted from a recipe by America's Test Kitchen
makes 1-2 pies (see notes)

Pie dough to make one 9 inch pie
2 cups half and half
3 lg. eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
1 cup of candied yams (from a 15 oz can), drained from syrup
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1- 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. table salt

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Prepare crust: roll out dough onto a floured surface to make a circle of dough approx. 12 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick.  Place into pie plate/dish- the easiest way is to roll it loosely around the rolling pin and unroll it into the dish, leaving about an inch overhang all around.  Gently ease the pie crust into the dish until it is fitted to the dish.  Trim the crust until there's about a half inch overhang on all sides.  Flute or press the crust edge to your liking.  Refrigerate crust until firm, about 15 minutes.

Remove crust from the fridge, line with aluminum foil, and place pie weights into dish.  Plac pie plate/dish onto a baking sheet lined with foil and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the foil and weights, rotate the pie crust, and continue baking another 5-10 minutes, until crust is golden brown and crisp.  Remove from oven.

While the crust is baking, begin to prepare the filling.  First, combine half and half, eggs and yolks, and vanilla in a medium bowl (my quart sized measuring cup is perfect for this).  In a large saucepan, combine the pumpkin puree, candied yams, sugar, maple syrup, and spices/seasonings.  Bring to a sputtering mixture over medium heat, approx 5-7 minutes.  Continue to simmer, while stirring constantly and smashing yams up against the side of the pot, until the mixture is thick and shiny, about 10-15 minutes.  

Remove the pan from the heat.  Mix in the dairy/egg mixture slowly, until fully incorporated.  Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl, using a spoon to press the solids through the strainer.  Re-whisk the mixture and pour into baked pie crust.  Return the pie plate, still on the baking pan lined with foil, to the oven.  Bake at 400 for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 300.  Continue baking pie until the edges are set (a thermometer would read 175), another 20-35 minutes.  Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and cool at room temperature for 2-3 hours.  

  • It could be me, but I often have enough filling left over that I could make 2 pies.  If you're using a deep dish pie crust/plate, then you'd most likely just get one.  Here would be a good time to make mini pies with a muffin tin, or just have a little less filling in a second, full-sized pie.
  • I have made this pie 3-4 times, and each time I have used a refrigerated pie crust.  Very un-food-bloggery of me I know, but when you're making several recipes at once, it's nice to just pull that out.  To use, though, I treat it like a homemade crust- I unroll it, roll it out a bit to get it evened up and get the factory look off it, and then place it in the pie dish.  
  • I use a glass pie dish for this pie.  Often my crust needs a longer baking time as a result.
  • Instead of pie weights, you can use lentils and even coins.  Make sure you line it pretty well, though, so that the sides of the crust don't bubble out.  
  • This recipe has been so forgiving!  The first time I ever made it, I accidentally bought pumpkin pie filling.  I compensated by not putting in the spices.
  • I also didn't have a strainer with me the first time, so I blended it in a blender.  Still worked really well!

Thanksgiving Recipe Prep: Apple and Onion Stuffin' Muffins


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Thanksgiving for us Americans is such a time honored tradition, and I'd bet that most of you already know what will be on your table, and who will make what dish.

For my side of the family, there's always my grandmother's dressing (that's stuffing for those of you in other parts), there was until last year my great grandmother's green beans, a turkey prepared by my parents, sweet potato and broccoli casseroles by my aunt, and pies by Sarah Lee, with the occasional wild card dessert or bread thrown in by me.  It's a true feast and honestly a day of unabashed gluttony.

What food traditions do you hold and look forward to each year?

I'd like to submit a new classic:  Rachael Ray's Apple and Onion Stuffin' Muffins.  I first made this recipe 8 years ago, for a staff Thanksgiving lunch at my first "professional" job.  It was a total experiement and they were the guinea pigs.  Thankfully it turned out great, and is pretty foolproof, which is good for a then novice like me.  This is a good recipe for any skill level.  I have since made these little guys 1-2 other times, and the latest was for my office building's Thanksgiving lunch today.

This recipe is easy, relatively quick, and can be made ahead of time.  The ingredient list is not ridiculous and the flavors are close enough to standard to not rock the boat while being innovative enough to reinvigorate your dressing/stuffing routine.

The recipe title is also a link to the original recipe.  I am posting as I made it.  If you're more a visual learner, there's a video link near the top of the page that will allow you to see Rachael Ray making the stuffin' muffins (which is a concept that Sunny Anderson has adopted with vigor).

Apple and Onion Stuffin' Muffins
makes 12-24 muffins, depending on your scoop size and tin

2 Tb Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 stick butter, divided in half
1 bay leaf (original calls for fresh; I used dried)
4 ribs celery, chopped
1 med-lg onion, chopped
3 apples, chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1 tsp each dried marjoram, dried parsley, and dehydrated onion (or 2 Tb poultry seasoning)
8 cups stuffing mix (such as Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing)
2-3 cups chicken stock

Preheat an oven to 375 and butter the cups of 1-2 muffin pans.  In a wide pot with sides (dutch oven, saute pot), heat oil and butter over medium to med-high heat.  Add in bay leaf, celery, onion, and apple and season with salt, pepper, and other herbs/spices.  Allow to cook and soften, approx 5-6 mins.

Add stuffing mix into the pan and stir.  Moisten the entire pan with chicken broth, so that the bread and other ingredients are softened and moistened but not wet (not soupy).

Use an ice cream scoop or cup measure to scoop out stuffing and mound into the muffin tins.  Bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until browned on top.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  These can be made ahead and reheated.


  • Original recipe called for McIntosh apples, which I can rarely find around here.  Use your favorite "cooking/baking" apple.  I used gala, and they worked well.
  • Original recipe also called for poultry seasoning, which I didn't have and didn't want to buy.  I looked up a couple DIY recipes online and improvised using what I had on hand.  Still good!
  • I used approx 2 cups chicken broth.  

Chicken and Rice with Swiss Chard



Do you have those dishes that you remember (and loved) as a kid, but as an adult you don't make it for whatever reason?

Chicken and rice was one of those for me.  My parents made it pretty regularly in our house, and it was a 1 dish meal that consisted of nestling chicken breasts in a rice mixture, and was all baked together in this creamy sauce.  Our whole family loved it, even those of us who don't usually care for rice.  Now that I am all adult and such, I remember fondly the chicken and rice of my childhood, but know that it's not the healthiest of meals.  It's got ingredients that are more processed than I want to use.  I didn't really think much about it, until the fall of 2011.  Inside the September issue of Everyday Food, I saw a dish that reached off the page and grabbed me.  One-pot Chicken and Rice With Swiss Chard.  It was everything I loved about the old dish- chicken, simplicity, straightforwardness, without the not-so-good-for-you stuff.  It also used swiss chard, which I love.

After two years of having this recipe bookmarked, I have finally gotten around to making it, and as with so many of the Everyday Food recipes that I've tried, it's a winner (winner, chicken dinner).  The chicken and rice actually taste better the next day- bonus!

The one thing I'll warn you about is that the prepping of the vegetables took a long time for me- I'm a slow chopper.  I also had the unfortunate setback that my chicken wasn't fully thawed, so dinner prep took about 2 hours, and we didn't eat until almost 8 pm.  If you're more streamlined, and if your chicken is not frozen, you can count on less than that, but this may be more of a weekend meal for us, or in the future I'll make sure that everything's prepped ahead of time.  I'll post as I made it, but click on the recipe title for the original.

One Pot Chicken and Rice With Swiss Chard
from Everyday Food, Sept 2011 issue

2 pounds chicken thighs (bone in, skin on), patted dry
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 bunch (10 oz) Swiss chard, stems cut into 1/2 inch pieces and leaves torn into 2 inch pieces
1 small yellow onion, diced small
2 medium carrots, diced medium
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus wedges for serving
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
3 cups chicken broth
1 Tb fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp. dried thyme

Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Heat a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot with a tight fitting lid over medium-high.  Add chicken, skin side down, and cook until browned on both sides, approx. 12 minutes, turning once.  Transfer chicken to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium and add garlic, chard stems, onion, and carrots.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until chard stems and onion are translucent, 4 minutes.  Add chard leaves, lemon zest, thyme, and rice.  Cook 1 minute.  Add broth and bring to a rapid simmer.  Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and season with salt and pepper.  Arrange chicken, skin side up, on top of rice mixture and cook, covered, until chicken is cooked through and liquid is absorbed, about 25-40 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit about 5 minutes.  Serve with lemon wedges.


  • The cooking time varies so greatly because the original recipe called for 25 minutes, but after 25 minutes, my rice was still crunchy and the liquid was absorbed.  I had to add some liquid (making total 3 cups) and let it cook a little longer, maybe 10-15 minutes.  It could just be my stove though.  
  • Even the recipe notes in the magazine suggest that you can use any long grain rice as a sub for the basmati.  Cooking times should be about the same.  

Chicken Paillards with Arugula Salad



Being raised in the rural South, the first time I learned what a chicken paillard was was this year.  I saw Rachael Ray make the recipe I'm posting about on her talk show, and it looked simple, pretty, and good.  A sort of taste and presentation bang for your buck.  I Googled "chicken paillard" and saw that it's a French term, apparently in reference to a chicken breast that has been either butterflied or pounded flat, grilled, and is topped with vegetables or salad.  In this case, a flattened chicken breast was not only topped with salad, it was over a puddle of a sauce.  It was good, and it's a technique or concept I'm glad I know.

So, try out this recipe, or some related one, and get ready to look like Julia Child was your mentor.  This makes me a big nerd, but it's dishes like this that make me feel like I have some kitchen cred, which is like street cred, but in the kitchen.  You probably got that.

Is it just me or does this particular chicken breast look like the state of SC?

Bonuses- they're quick cooking, and the whole dish can come together in 30 minutes or less.  The prettiness of the dish makes it a good candidate for having some friends over.  The taste will back up its good looks.  The one thing I'll likely change is that I'll probably not make the sauce again.  I don't know if it was the tarragon or something else, but it didn't really do anything for Drew and me.  The actual chicken breast and the salad, though- yes.  Loved it- fresh, light, but satisfying.

Not complete without the parmesan shavings!

Chicken Paillards with Arugula Salad
from the Rachael Ray Show

6 tablespoons EVOO Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated or pasted
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • 4 small skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar or white vinegar
  • 6 cups of arugula
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a large, shallow dish, combine 4 tablespoons EVOO, half of the lemon juice, the lemon zest, garlic and thyme. Preheat a grill pan or griddle over medium-high heat.

Cut into the chicken breasts horizontally to butterfly, opening them up like a book. Firmly but gently pound
them into very thin cutlets; season with salt and pepper. Add them to the lemon-garlic marinade and let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook until thickened; whisk in the chicken stock and season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the mustard, then stir in the tarragon. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.

On the grill pan or griddle, working in batches if necessary, grill the chicken, turning once, until cooked through, 4-6 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining lemon juice, the vinegar and the remaining 2 tablespoons of EVOO; season with salt and pepper. Add the arugula, peas, radishes and shallot, and toss gently with your hands to lightly coat. Top with cheese.

To serve, ladle some of the sauce onto plates. Top with the chicken. Pile the salad over the chicken.


  • The original recipe calls for thinly sliced radish to be added to the salad, but I'm not crazy about radishes, so add if you really wanna.
  • My chicken breasts were small, so I did not butterfly them/cut them.  I just pounded flat.  The way I do it is to put the chicken breast in a gallon sized plastic bag (or between two layers of plastic wrap) and use a small but hefty skillet to do the work.  

Patty Melts


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This may be one of those recipes that you read and wonder just how bi-polar my diet is.  Occasional indulgences are (I hope) OK, and they're probably even more OK when you make them at home, able to control your ingredients.  That's at least what you can tell yourself to make yourself to feel better about making diner classics like patty melts at home. 

I'm not even sure if I've had a patty melt in a restaurant, but when I saw Pioneer Woman make it on her Food Network Show, it seemed like the right thing to do was to make one ASAP. 

These were so good, and easy! and they were even so good reheated.  If you make burgers at home and are looking for a way to jazz up burgers, this is it.  I'm in love and I don't care who knows it.  I made some changes, but encourage you to visit PW's site for the original recipe, as well as a plethora of other great recipes and reading.

Patty Melts
inspired by The Pioneer Woman
Makes 4 sandwiches

1 lb ground beef (I recommend lean)
1 large or 2 medium white or sweet onions, thinly sliced (rings or slivers, it doesn't really matter)
8-16 slices of provolone cheese
8 pieces rye bread
Butter/olive oil
Salt, Pepper, Worcestershire Sauce

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 1-2 Tb. butter (or olive oil, if you prefer) and add sliced onions.  Cook over medium or even medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized, approx. 30-45 minutes.

In the meantime, prep your ground beef:  preheat a grill pan or other skillet to medium-high.  In a medium-large bowl, add beef, approx 1 tsp. Kosher salt (1/2 tsp table salt), freshly ground black pepper, and a few dashes Worcestershire sauce.  Lightly mix to incorporate, and form into four equally sized patties.  Grill the patties to desired doneness (approx 10 minutes total for med-well to well done), flipping halfway through.  This could vary for your stove, or even your own personal tastes.

Wipe off grill pan.  Once the onions are done, assemble and grill sandwiches:
Butter 1 side of each slice of bread.  Place buttered side of four pieces facing down.  Top with 1-2 slices cheese, then the hamburger patties, and then the caramelized onions.  Top with more cheese and the other slices of bread, buttered side up.  Grill in grill pan (or skillet), over medium heat, until cheese is nice and melted.


  • Caramelizing onions is almost alchemy.  Low and slow is the name of the game, and it's worth it!  They go from sturdy, crisp, and white/yellowish to an almost velvety-soft, medium to deeper brown color.  The flavor is mellowed and sweeter.  Here is a good visual guide.  If you don't want to wait that long, you can of course use slightly higher heat and cook for a lesser time.  The effect won't quite be the same, but it'll still be good.
  • My husband can handle 3-4 slices of cheese on his patty melt, which really covers both slices of bread and is ooey gooey and delicious.  When you think about the cheese, plus the beef, plus the butter used in the recipe, you get that this isn't exactly diet food.  Feel free to make it a little less bad for you by using 2 slices per sandwich.  I did that and didn't feel deprived.
  • To reheat:  wrap in foil and place into a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until center is warm and cheese is melted.
  • Serve with fries, a salad if you're like some Givenses who believe the two will balance out, or chips.

Meatless Mondays- Slow Roasted Tomatoes + Pasta


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Not too long ago I discovered Brit + Co, which highlighted a recipe for slow roasted tomatoes, which is an at-home method for making "sun dried" tomatoes.  If you like sun dried tomatoes, these are a great recipe for you.  The slow roasted tomatoes have the intensity and complexity of flavor that sun dried tomatoes have but have a softer texture, which can be nice.  They're also a good way of using up or preserving tomatoes you have lying around that might otherwise go bad.  I made the recipe as is:

Slow Roasted Tomatoes
from Smitten Kitchen

Cherry, grape or small Roma tomatoes
Whole gloves of garlic, unpeeled
Olive oil
Herbs such as thyme or rosemary (optional)

Preheat oven to 225°F. Halve each cherry or grape tomato crosswise, or Roma tomato lengthwise and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to make the tomatoes glisten. Sprinkle herbs on, if you are using them, and salt and pepper, though go easily on these because the finished product will be so flavorful you’ll need very little to help it along.

Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about three hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left inside–this could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes.

Either use them right away or let them cool, cover them with some extra olive oil and keep them in the fridge for the best summer condiment, ever. And for snacking.

* I don't know how many tomatoes I started out with, but I ended up with 1- 8 oz jar.  I filled the jar with the tomatoes, surrounded them with olive oil, and stored them in my fridge.

The only problem with making a recipe that isn't necessarily a dish in itself is that you then have to put some thought and effort into what else you're going to make with them.  I mean, you could eat these by themselves, and they might make a good accompaniment on a meat and cheese tray or something, but I wanted to use them as a star in a dish.  It took me forever to get around to making something.  I used half the tomatoes to make Drew and me a pasta dish.  It was a good choice.  A really good choice.  We both said we would eat and want this again, and Drew's heart doesn't leap at the thought of pastas like mine does.

I made a variation on spaghetti aglio e olio (spaghetti with garlic and oil), and used the slow roasted tomatoes it it.

The more I look at some of my pictures, the more I realize I am a terrible photographer.  Don't let that deter you from making this tasty and simple dish!

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with Slow Roasted Tomatoes
feeds 2

4 oz. long pasta, such as spaghetti or fettuccine (or a mix, if you're like me and have a little of both)
1/2 jar (4 oz) slow roasted tomatoes and oil
6-10 cloves garlic, depending on your own love of it
1-2 Tb olive oil
Grated/shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Boil noodles until al dente in a large pot of salted water.  Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.  Slice your garlic cloves into slices and your oven roasted tomatoes into strips.  In a large, shallow pan, pour the oil from the tomatoes into the pan and add additional olive oil to coat the bottom.  Heat over medium to medium low and add garlic.  Saute on low, being careful not to brown the garlic.  Add the tomatoes just to heat.

Toss in the pasta and reserved pasta water if needed to coat the noodles.  Add cheese.  Serve and eat with a green salad.

Coconut Chicken Cutlets



Are you a recipe hoarder?  Do you have lots of cookbooks, subscribe to food magazines and keep most to all the issues, print off recipes and keep them in a special place, and have a Pinterest recipe board (or boards) composed of hundreds of pins? 

We used our 8-inch skillet to pound the chicken

No?  Oh, well nevermind then.  Forget I asked.  Oh, you might be?  Maybe we can start a club.  This particular recipe comes from my collection of recipes I have hoarded.  I try to eventually get around to them, and I'm glad I got to this one.

Maybe I'm more of a food trend follower than I thought, but the increasingly popular coconut seemed ubiquitous, and I loved how Rachael Ray incorporated it into this dish.  It's quick, easy, and is great for summer or when you're just longing for warmer days. 

I made the pineapple preserves from scratch, and have to confess I overcooked them, but they still worked pretty well.  Drew and I both agreed that we'll be looking forward to making this recipe again. 

Since I didn't want to buy certain ingredients, I modified the recipe a little.  I'll link to the original in the recipe title and post as I made it.

Coconut Chicken Cutlets
from Rachael Ray
to serve 4 or more

8 chicken cutlets, slightly pounded
Salt and pepper
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup grated unsweetened coconut
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/2 cup pineapple preserves    
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar 
1-2 tablespoons chicken stock
2 scallions, whites and greens sliced

Pre-heat the oven to 250˚F. Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet and place them in oven. Arrange three shallow dishes: Place about a cup of flour on the first dish for dredging the chicken. Beat the eggs with a splash of water in second dish. Combine the panko breadcrumbs and coconut in the third dish.

Heat a thin layer of EVOO (eyeball it) in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper, then coat them in the flour, then the egg and lastly, the breadcrumb-coconut mixture.

Fry the cutlets in two batches until deep golden in color, 3-4 minutes on each side. Keep the chicken crisp in the warm oven and repeat with the remaining chicken.

In a small skillet over medium-high heat, stir together the pineapple preserves, rice wine vinegar, and chicken stock. Reduce until thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the scallions. To serve, arrange the chicken on a platter and pour the sauce over the top.

  • Rather than buy chicken cutlets, I used four chicken breasts.  The larger ones, I cut in half (thickness wise) and pounded slightly, and the smaller ones I just pounded out.  
  • You can find pineapple preserves at the grocery store with the jelly/jam section, but all the ones I found contained high fructose corn syrup.  As an alternative, I decided to make my own and used this recipe:  Combine 1- 10 oz can crushed pineapple in juice and 1 cup sugar in a medium saucepan.  Heat to boiling over high heat, and cook 20 minutes, stirring constantly until thickened or until mixture reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.  You may need to turn the heat down to med or med-high once it reaches boil.  You do on my burner. 

Inside-Out Pumpkin Muffins


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Not to sound too Pollyanna, but the changing of one season into another is just a special time.  The transition into fall is a great one, isn't it?  Days are still warm, but not sweltering while mornings and evenings are invigoratingly crisp.  Humidity decreases or disappears altogether.  Produce changes.  Food flavors change.  One of my absolute favorite fall treats is the pumpkin muffin from Starbucks.  Warm from spices, full of pumpkin flavor, and with a touch of cream cheese, it's something I look forward to all year.  The pumpkin seeds on top are also a nice touch. 

I was almost inconsolable last year because I didn't get to buy a muffin.  I did, however, find an at-home recipe that is as good as the Starbucks muffin, and probably healthier since it's smaller and homemade.  If you like pumpkin things, do try this.  It's also a lot more affordable, since the Starbucks muffins are $2.25 a piece, and I'd bet these are 50 cents or something each.

Inside-Out Pumpkin Muffins
from King Arthur Flour

1 cup pumpkin purée
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup boiled cider (for best flavor), or dark corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice; or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves + 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with muffin papers or grease pan.

Whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, oil, boiled cider or corn syrup, salt, spices, baking powder, baking soda, and milk. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the flour and mix until well combined.

To make the filling: Beat cream cheese and sugar together with a blender until well blended and fluffy.

Drop about 2 tablespoons of the batter into each muffin cup, spreading it to cover the bottom. Dollop on a heaping tablespoon of filling, then cover with another 2 tablespoons of batter.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out crumb-free. Remove the muffins from the oven. Let cool in pan approx. 5 minutes and remove to a cooling rack.

  • Being from the South, I had never heard of boiled cider, but it's the result of slowly reducing cider down until it resembles a thick syrup.  It's good.  It's worth making, but like so many good food products, time is your main ingredient.  Here's how:  Bring 1/2 gallon apple cider to a boil over medium-high heat in a large, non-reactive pot.  After it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, 4-5 hours.  The cider should reduce down to about 1 cup and be a thick, syrupy consistency.  Just do a Google search to find out how else to use boiled cider, aka apple molasses.
The boiled cider- I think I halved the recipe above since I wasn't sure how it would turn out.

  • I made the recipe as written, minus using all King Arthur Flour and related brand products.  
  • If you're feeling particularly lazy or want more of a Starbucks look, where the cream cheese is exposed, just fill the muffin tins 2/3 full with batter and then add the filling on top.  It will sink down some as it bakes.

For Fall- Honey Apple Cake


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Finished cake- I only lament I couldn't take a picture of the inside for you, but that's against family reunion rules.

This past weekend was a family reunion, which of course is a good opportunity to catch up with family, but a good opportunity to experiment with recipes.  I've got two new ones to share with you, and this is the first of the two.  It's a great introduction into fall recipes. 

While the pumpkin is currently enjoying a reign of fall produce homecoming queen, the apple shouldn't be overlooked.  I love apple recipes, from the sweet to the savory.  It's such a versatile fruit, eaten both raw and cooked.  One particular favorite is the apple cake, and I've probably made 3-4 different recipe variations.  I love it heartiness, moisture, and even that it's a bundt cake.  This year's version comes from a 2010 special periodical publication of Southern Living Recipes.  It's Honey Apple Cake, drizzled with a sauce made with honey, butter, and brown sugar, and it's delicious.  I wanted to share it with you as soon as possible.

The delicious honey-sugar mixture

It's easy to throw together, and not temperamental.  It has a relatively short ingredient list, and even after two days, it's moist and flavorful.  What's not to love?!

Honey Apple Cake
from Southern Living

1 cup chopped pecans, divided
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup clover honey
3 large eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and chopped
Honey Sauce (recipe to follow)

Preheat your oven to 350.  Grease and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan; sprinkle bottom of pan with 1/4 cup pecans. 

Beat the sugar, oil, and honey at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until well blended.  Combine the flour and next 4 ingredients in a bowl .  Gradually add to sugar mixture, beating at low speed just until blended.  Stir in vanilla, remaining pecans, and chopped apples.  Spoon batter over pecans in pan. 

Bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes.  Remove from pan, and place on a wire rack over wax paper.  Drizzle 1/2 cup Honey Sauce over warm cake.  Let cool 1 hour or until completely cool.  heat remaining Honey Sauce and serve cake with sauce, and if desire, ice cream. 

Honey Sauce
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup honey

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil, stirring constantly, for 5 mintues.

  • Know your oven.  My oven has four possible rack placements.  I started the cake out on the next to lowest rack (where the top of the cake pan is about middle of oven) and after 45 minutes, the cake wasn't done in the middle, but the top of the cake was very dark.  I moved it up a level and it finished baking on the next to highest rack position, which was a good place to finish.  Total baking time for my crazy oven: 55 minutes.
  • I used Granny Smith apples rather than Golden Delicious.  They were a better price and I like them better.

Grilled Salmon with Cucumber-Pineapple Salsa


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While our favorite salmon recipe is this one, I like a lighter, fresher take on salmon and other fish in the summer.  Can you identify with that?  The desire to have a simpler, fresher, lighter take on your food so that the freshness of the summer produce shines?

While summer might be fading into fall, hang onto that summer simplicity a little longer with this dish.  The cucumber pineapple salsa is also fine as a salsa/dip, or a topper for other meats.  I made as-written and have linked to the original recipe.

Salmon with Cucumber-Pineapple Salsa
originally from Everyday Food, June 2007 issue

1 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Kirby cucumbers, finely diced
1/2 cup finely diced fresh pineapple (about of a whole pineapple)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno chile (ribs and seeds removed), minced
2 Tb cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 skin-on salmon fillets (6 to 8 ounces each), patted dry

In a medium bowl, whisk together lime juice, honey, and 1 tablespoon oil; add cucumbers, pineapple, scallions, jalapeno, and basil. Season with salt and pepper; toss gently to combine.

While the salsa melds together, generously season salmon on both sides with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium-high; add salmon, skin side down. Cook until skin is crispy and salmon is opaque about 3/4 of the way through, 4 to 6 minutes. Turn salmon over, and continue to cook just until opaque throughout, 2 to 4 minutes. Serve salmon topped with salsa.

  • Since it's just two of us, I halved the recipe and still ended up with quite a bit of salsa.
  • I also pulled a Rachael Ray and eyeballed everything. I tried to have an even amt. of pineapple and cucumber.
  • As you can see from the picture, I did a pretty fine dice on the pineapple by cutting it into slabs, then sticks, and then little cubes.  I just like my pieces small.