Food and Entertaining

Peep-ology: The Science and Art of Sugar-coated Marshmallow

It’s almost Easter. That means it’s hunting season at local grocery stores for those sweet, sweet creatures called Peeps. You know that marshmallow goodness shaped vaguely like baby chickens and smothered in neon-colored sugar crystals.

To check out the manufacturing process of these sweet little guys and gals, check out this Chicago Tribune slide show.

Not only does MentalFloss.com give us 16 delicious facts about our favorite Easter candy, they verify what we all know: That yellow is still our favorite color Peep, but they do offer Peeps in a variety of colors.

This year, the company behind Peeps announced it will introduce a light green variety. How does lime fudge float your boat?

If you are lucky enough to live by a Target that showcases this chromatic display, you should have no problem finding a color to fit your Easter theme…and taste buds, of course.

Peeps & Co. in Mall of America

You are even luckier if you live in Minnesota and frequent the Mall of America because you can visit Peeps & Company– one of three flagship stores from Peeps originator, Just Born.

Other locations are located in National Harbor, Maryland, and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Outside of the traditional marshmallow candies, you can find apparel, office gear, scented Yankee candles, and sporting equipment.

As you’ll note, Just Born is also the parent company of Hot Tamales and Mike and Ike.

If one little Peep — or a 4-pack– may not cut it, curb your Peep craving by constructing this giant Peep cake from the Food Network.

Peep Cake

BaconToday.com shows us how to enjoy this sugary confection covered in chocolate…and of course, BACON! Could it be true that even Peeps are better with bacon?

I have the same issues with Easter Peeps that I do with Thanksgiving Turkey– What do I do with the leftovers?

PopSugar.com has some suggestions for you, including Peep-za,

Peep-za

Peepshi,

Peepshi

or S’mores.

S’mores

Of course if you are competitive eater, Matt Stonie, wouldn’t have leftovers.

Peep Milk does a body better than any other form of Peep. Not sure that pouring this on your Fruit Loops will taste like…perhaps trying it as flavoring in your coffee?

Perhaps you would rather drink your Peeps in a “harder” form. Check out WikiHow to learn how to make Peeps Vodka.

Peeps Vodka

Have yet to find a Peep to fall in love with? This year, the company behind Peeps tweeted it will introduce the white Peep. These chicks are mysterious, and we know that every man loves a girl shrouded in mystery.

If you aren’t into eating them as much as playing with them, you enter the Washington Post’s annual Peep diorama contest. I love the masterpiece that celebrated the anniversary of Pride and Prejudice zombie style.

Artist David Ottogalli hosts the site PeepsShow.com where he showcases his own art and photography of Peep creations. His KF Peeps or “All Cooped Up” are definitely worth a closer investigation. (His images are copyrighted or I would have included an example here, but scoot on over to his website here.  It’s worth a quick view for the background alone.

BadCasserole.com will show you how to use Peeps to completely cover your cubicle.

They not only covered the entire ceiling, they blocked out the window, covered the desk and the keyboard platform as well. Funny that their friend wasn’t necessarily a fan of the legendary Peep.

Too much work?  How about a Peep-themed video game…or two? At I-Mockery.com, you can play Peepsteroids or Peep Invaders computer games.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 1.36.42 PM

Interested in learning more? PeepResearch.org houses studies on how Peeps react to cold and hot, low-pressure environments, and Quintuplet separation surgeries. Perhaps most scientifically entertaining is their 3-part study on the effects of Alcohol and Smoking on our favorite little marshmallow sinners.

Study of the effects of smoking and alcohol on Peeps

Seems many people are obsessed with the science of Peep torture. TenHolder.net will show you how to take your traditional yellow peep and turn it into poop. That’s right, poop.

 Or you can do what Chief Scientist, Carl Nelson, did and put Peeps in a vacuum chamber.

And if those aren’t enough ways to torture a Peep, this blog gives you 100 ways to Kill a Peep, including by Jeep, grated, and of course, Luke Peepwalker.

Millikin University took it to a new level when they did research on Peeps’ abilities’ to do research.  You can check that out here.

Research on Peeps Doing Research

But don’t think these sweet divas want to stay in the laboratory, they have dreams of stardom as well. Filmmaker Adam Rifkin has optioned film and TV rights along with his partners for the Peeps candy. Just Born, the company pushing out Peeps all over the country, has sprung for a full-length family feature film in the style of the Lego Movie. The film will show the story of “a wayward Peep gets misplaced and must adventure through the fantasy lands of different-themed dioramas before the contest’s judging begins,” according to Deadline.com.

This wouldn’t be their first foray in Hollywood though. They guest starred on South Park’s Fantastic Easter Special where they were microwaved and saved the day.

South Park

They already know how to handle the paparazzi. ABC News featured pictures snapped from Peeps all over the world. Apparently, what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay there too long.

Photo by Kristen Hanson/National Geographic Traveler

Photo by Kristen Hanson/National Geographic Traveler

Psst! Hey, you…yeah, over here.  Wanna see the back room?

It’s NSFW (not safe for work) but you can see Peeps pinned to female parts here.

And yet, if none of this does anything for you…I mean, AT ALL, you can always join Ivan Knauer, who is probably the most vocal anti-Peep activist on Earth.

RECIPE: Super Easy Pasta Sauce

by Pitmaster Jimi James

In this day and age, everyone seems to always be in a rush.  Whether it’s work, sports, household chores, or just plain life, it seems the last thing we want to do is figure out the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?”.

It’s too easy these days to just to go to a fast food place and get something. Quick but always unfulfilling.

I sometimes do that myself too, but for me anyway, I HAVE to cook. It’s therapy for me. Plus when you make the meal, you’re the one putting smiles on everybody’s faces, and you’re the reason everyone is enjoying that meal.

And of course, I truly believe it brings a family closer together. After the meal is made, everyone sits down and has a conversation about the day. It’s just more relaxing to make the dinner and enjoy your family than rush through another vat of deep-fried stuff with sauce that covers up the flavor.

Today, the sauce IS the flavor. I’m sharing my super easy pasta sauce. No. This isn’t one that is slaved over for hours and all from scratch, but I guarantee your family will eat up. It won’t matter if you put this over spaghetti, add macaroni noodles to it or use it to make a lasagna. It’s simple, and I just gave you three ideas to use it for a dinner.

So let’s get to it.  Shall we?

Ingredients

Here is what you’ll need:

  • 2 lbs. ground beef or chuck
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 tsp. salt
  • 1 – 45 oz. jar traditional pasta sauce
  • 2 – 14.5 oz. cans of Italian stewed tomatoes
  • 2  – 4 oz. cans of mushrooms
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced fine
  • 2 Tbsp. Sweet Basil
  • 2 Tbsp. Oregano
  • ¾ cup Parmesan-Romano cheese
  • 1 – 10 oz. can tomato soup
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ Tbsp. sugar (to take the edge of tartness) ** optional

1.  Let’s start by browning the ground beef.

Meat

 

Don’t forget to season the beef. The rule of thumb for ground beef is 1 tsp. black pepper and 2 tsp. salt for every pound of ground beef. We are going to cook the ground beef on medium-high heat. After the beef is browned, go ahead and drain the grease from the beef in a colander.

2.  Now, add the beef to a 5- to 8-quart sauce pot.

3.  Next, add your diced onion to the beef and cook for about 2 minutes on medium heat– just so the onions start getting soft.

4.  Add the pasta sauce.

5.  Open and drain the mushrooms and add them to the sauce.

6.  Open the stewed tomatoes and just drain half the sauce from each can.  Crush the tomatoes by hand and add to the sauce.

7.  Now, add the rest of ingredients to the pot and simmer for 30 minutes on medium low.

 

Like I said, once done, you can put this sauce over spaghetti or use it to make lasagna. It’s super easy and won’t take forever to make a meal.

Sauce

Stay hungry, my friends. Until next time…

Chicken and Biscuits Casserole

Pitmaster Jimi James

 

 

by Pitmaster Jimi James

 

Well this week, I’m feeling a little under the weather with a sinus cold, so I decided that instead of chicken noodle soup from a can, I would be more creative and make something that would stick to my ribs.

Ribs– now that’s a previous article, you can check that one out here.

Back to this dinner though.

This is a meal that is quick and easy, packed with flavor, and everyone will love it!!!

The best part is you can put it together in a matter of minutes. This is the perfect dish for fall, the cold weather that is ahead, busy evenings, or you could bring it to a friend/family member just for the hell of it.

Here is what you’ll need:

First, let’s grab an 11×7 baking dish and a cookie sheet.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and grab these:.

  • 1 (10.5 oz) can of broccoli cheese soup
  • 1 (10.5 oz) can of cream of potato soup
  • 2/3 cup of whole milk
  • ½ tsp. seasoning salt
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
  • 2 cups chicken, grilled and diced
  • 1 package biscuits (I used Pillsbury Grands)

Okay, let’s put this together, and you’ll be bashin’ before ya know it!!!!

1.)  Grill enough chicken for 2 cups. I used two breasts. Make sure you cook the chicken until done. Check with a thermometer. The internal temp should be 150 degrees.

2.) Once the chicken has cooled down a little (about 15 minutes), dice into bite-size pieces and set aside. Now, let’s move on to our next step.

3.) In a medium to large bowl, combine the broccoli cheese soup and cream of potato soup.

Soups

4.) Next we’re going to add the whole milk.  Then fold it together. Don’t over-mix, or you’ll break up the potatoes too much.

Milk

5.) Add in all the spices. I measure all my spices out on a paper plate and then add them to the mix I have started all at once.

6.) Add the mixed vegetables and carefully fold them in.

Vegetables

7.) Next, add in your diced chicken.  The mixture will look thick and creamy.

8.) Now get your 11×7 baking pan.  Pour the mixture in the pan, and level it out.

9.) Bake the mix for about 20 minutes, or until it’s bubbling.

10.) Now get those biscuits out, and put them on a cookie sheet. Follow the directions on the can of biscuits.

Biscuits

OOOOHHHHHH…it’s almost done at this point. Who’s hungry???

Let’s plate our meal.

I put my biscuit or biscuits on a plate and spoon the chicken casserole mixture over top.

Plate

That’s it!!!!! Now you can make something quick, easy, and delicious, and it won’t take you all day in the kitchen.

 

Stay hungry, my friends!!!  Until next time…

Back to Basics: Boiled Eggs

Pitmaster Jimi James

 

 

by Pitmaster Jimi James

 

I know we are going into fall, which by the way is the best season of all the seasons we have (if I haven’t told you enough yet).  Of course, where I live it can change seasons four times in the same day!

Welcome to Ohio

 

One question for recipes that comes up more than any other is:

“How can I make perfect boiled eggs?”

Well, you’re in luck.  I’m gonna share my way to make perfect boiled eggs, and it’s simple and very easy. Your eggs will peel easily, come out soft and the yolks will be a nice bright yellow color– not that greenish Sam I Am color!!!

So go grab these ingredients, a pot, and a timer, and then come on back!!!

Pot

Get a pot with a lid, big enough for 6 eggs . . . .

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tsp. distilled vinegar
  • 1 tsp. salt

 

1.) Put the eggs in the pot and cover with cold water. Turn the heat on medium high to slowly let the heat build in the water.

Eggs in Pot

2.) As the water heats up, you’ll notice bubbles starting to form. Once you start seeing little bubbles, add 2 tsp. of distilled vinegar and 1 tsp. of salt.

Eggs in Pot Boiling

SaltVinegar

3.) Now you will want to grab that timer I talked about earlier when you grabbed that pot.

Timer

4.) When the water comes to a rolling boil, set your timer for two minutes.  (Not one minute like shown above…two!)

5.) When the timer goes off, put the lid on the pot and take it off the heat.

6.) Now set the timer for 15 minutes and just walk away.  When you return, they will be done cooking.  What you are doing is finishing the eggs without overcooking them.

7.) After the timer goes off, dump out the water carefully and run cold water over the eggs until you can hold them in your hands. This should take about 10 minutes or so.

8.) Now just crack the shell on the side of the sink and peel.  At this point, you’ll see why we added the vinegar and salt.  They help the shell come off the egg so easily.

Boiled Eggs

The eggs on the left are what we are creating. The eggs on the right is what many of you are used to.

Follow this recipe to a “T”, and you’ll always have perfect eggs from now on.  And yes, I do hear some of you out there already asking: “So how do I turn these into perfect deviled eggs?”.

I’ll get on that soon.  Baby steps.  It’s a Back to Basics lesson.

Final Egg Pic

 

Stay hungry, my friends.  Until next time!!!

RECIPE: Crock-Pot Orange Chicken

Pitmaster Jimi James

 

 

 

by Pitmaster Jimi James

 

What do you do when you want Chinese?  Make it at home in your very own slow cooker/Crock-Pot, of course.

Today I’m sharing an easy recipe that goes well over long grain rice, brown rice or instant rice.  Personally, I like brown rice.  Of course, I don’t do my brown rice by the box, but that’s a different article!  This is a chicken recipe you can get going in the morning and have it ready by game time!!! FOOTBALL and FALL– my two favorites of the whole year.

Let’s look at this easy Orange Chicken.

What you will need:

You will need a frying pan and a Crock-Pot and…

 

Ingredients:

2 lbs. boneless/skinless chicken thighs, cubed into 1.5” to 2” pieces

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 to 4 Tbsp. canola oil

 

1.  Take your frying pan, add your oil and set the pan on medium to medium-high heat.  We are not going to cook the chicken all the way.  We are just browning the chicken and giving it texture for the sauce to stick to.

2.  While your pan and oil are heating up, dice your chicken.

Chicken

3. Now, dredge your chicken in your flour.  Once you have all your chicken pieces covered in flour, slowly put them in your frying pan.  SLOWLY!!! Cooking safety is first. Remember, we are just browning the chicken– not cooking it. Once all your chicken pieces are browned, put chicken on paper towels to get extra oil off.

Cooking Chicken

4. Put your diced chicken into your Crock-Pot.

Crockpot

 

Now for the sauce…

(I can’t wait for the game!)

 

Ingredients:

1 can of Orange Juice concentrate unthawed

¼ cup + 1 Tbsp. Orange Marmalade

¼ cup + 1 Tbsp. Dark Brown Sugar

¼ cup your favorite BBQ sauce

1 tsp. Balsamic vinegar

½ tsp. ground ginger

  • add some heat with a tsp. of crushed red pepper

 

In a bowl, add all the ingredients and whisk until everything is mixed and combined together.

BBQ Sauce OJ Orange Marmalade

 

 

Now, pour the sauce over the chicken and turn the Crock-Pot on high for 3 to 4 hours.  Make sure you stir the chicken every 30 to 45 minutes. The sauce will thicken and make your place smell awesome.

When time is just about up go ahead and make you rice according to the directions on the box or bag. When chicken is done, put the chicken on top of your rice and BASH!!!!

Orange Chicken

 

Stay hungry, my friends.  Until next time!!!

RECIPE: Snickers Caramel Apple Salad

Pitmaster Jimi James

 

 

by Pitmaster Jimi James

 

 

It’s September now, and we are slowly saying “goodbye” to summer and “hello” to fall (which in case you didn’t know is the best season of the four we have). Apples, pumpkin pies, trick-or-treat, leaves changing, and more desserts–what’s not to love???

Well, Snickers just happens to be my favorite candy bar of all time.

Snickers

So any time I can eat one, or make something from one, I’m all for it!

Remember kids, chocolate starts as a bean, that means chocolate is technically a vegetable. So eat plenty of chocolate every day!!! (Please don’t send me hate mail . . . Chocolate starts as a bean, look it up!!!!)

So this time, we are gonna make a dessert that incorporates apples and Snickers into one dessert!  Now this salad may not technically be a salad, but hey, we’re here for the sweetness, not the health.

Make this for a fall dessert, birthday parties, baby showers, Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  When others are bringing pies, cakes and cobblers, you are sure to be a hit at your party or dinner when you arrive with this sweet treat.

If you love Snickers and apples, you will realize this recipe is AWESOME!!!! It’s super easy, and you can whip it up in about 10 minutes and then chill it until it’s ready to serve.  It’s a great dessert salad that combines different textures and flavors.  The best part is, you can play around with the recipe and add, or subtract, what you like, or don’t like, and completely make it your own.

 

Here is what we’re gonna need:

Ingredients:

  • 6 regular Snickers bars (4 for the salad and 2 for sauce)
  • 4 medium-sized apples (Red Delicious or Granny Smith are great.)
  • 1 (5.1 oz.) package vanilla instant pudding, dry
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 (16 oz.) tub Cool Whip, thawed
  • ½ cup caramel ice cream topping

Directions:

First thing we’re gonna do is pour the dry instant vanilla pudding into a bowl. Add ½ cup cold milk–the colder, the better– and for desserts, I prefer whole milk. Keep the 2% for everyday use.  We want rich and creamy for decadent desserts.

Whisk the milk and pudding mix together.

Pudding

Next, you’re going to add the 16-ounce tub of Cool Whip to the pudding mix and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Now, go ahead and pop this in the fridge until we’re done with the next step.

Cool Whip

Next, chop 4 of the Snickers bars and the apples into bite-size pieces.

[NOTE: Please make sure you remove the apple core before chopping the apples, or you won’t like this dessert.  Apple seeds contain cyanide, and you don’t want to make anyone sick.  You want them talking about how great this was.]

Snicker Salad

 

Stir the apples and Snickers bars into the pudding mixture and transfer from your mixing bowl to a casserole dish or a 9×13 pan.

The last part of this recipe is this: Chop the last 2 Snickers bars and put in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for 10 seconds at a time until the Snickers are completely melted.  Now, drizzle the melted Snickers over top of our dessert, PLUS take that caramel sauce and drizzle it over top of our dessert too.

Now, pop this in the fridge for an hour or two before serving. Enjoy!!!!

Snicker Salad Finished Product

Stay hungry, my friends.  Until next time…

 

RECIPE: Apple Marinade Pork Chops

Pitmaster Jimi James

 

 

By Pitmaster Jimi James

 

One of my favorite meats to make is pork chops. Pork chops have been baked,

Baked Pork chop

fried,

Fried_pork_chop

smoked,

Pork_chops_baked

and grilled.

Grilled pork chops

Nothing…and I mean NOTHING…goes with pork like apples do. Whether it’s a seasoning, a brine or a marinade, apples are a mainstay with pork!!!

Today, I’ve decided to share one of my basic, yet amazing, marinades for pork chops.  If you tried my recipe for easy pulled pork cooked with apple juice, then you already know how the end of this story turns out. You’re going get a ton of compliments and probably not a lot of chops, because everyone is gonna want seconds and thirds and maybe even fourths.

What You Need:

2 medium size bone-in or boneless pork chops (If you plan on making more than two pork chops, just double the recipe for the marinade.)

You’ll also need a grill–charcoal, electric or gas. Use what you enjoy grilling on.

And of course, Ingredients for marinade:

  • 2 cups apple juice
  • ½ cup apple juice concentrate
  • 3 Tbsp your favorite hot sauce
  • 1 Tbsp regular salt

 

Put all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.

Place 2 half-inch pork chops in a one-gallon storage/freezer Ziploc bag. Then, pour the marinade over the chops. Make sure to push all the air out of the bag and seal it shut.

Put the bag in a bowl and put the bowl in the fridge for no more than 2 hours. Mix marinade (by swooshing the bag around and making sure the marinade is covering the meat) into the chops every 30 minutes.

After 2 hours, put on your grill at a medium–low heat.  Each side should grill for 7 to 10 minutes.

Make sure to use a digital thermometer to check the temp of the chops. They are done when the internal temperature reaches 150 to 155 degrees.

Let the meat rest a few minutes before serving and enjoy!

Stay Hungry, My Friends…Until Next Time!

RECIPE: Healthy Alternative Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo

by Kristie LeVangie

 

Healthy Alternative Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo

Plated Chick Alfredo

 

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 boneless, skinless grilled chicken breasts, but into chunks
  • 2 cups roasted broccoli (tops only)
  • 8 ounces fettuccine
  • 2 TBSP. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 TBSP. flour
  • 1 cup fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan

 

What to Do: 

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta, drain, ice bath, and set aside.

Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add garlic and cook until golden brown.  This should take just a minute or two.

Whisk in the flour until the mixture is smooth (about 2 minutes), and then gradually add the chicken broth.  Now, add Greek yogurt, milk, pepper and nutmeg.

Bring to a low boil and simmer until the mixture thickens.  Continue to stir periodically.

Once it’s a good consistency, stir in 3/4 cup of the Parmesan.

Add cooked chicken and broccoli to the sauce, as well as the pasta and toss it all together.

Chick Alfredo Prep

 

Serve with a sprinkling of the remaining Parmesan.

 

RECIPE: Broccoli Cheddar Jalapeno Fritters

by Kristie LeVangie

Broccoli Cheddar Jalapeno Fritters 

Serving Size: About 10 fritters
Serve with alone or with lime wedges and sour cream. 

What you will need:

  • 1 cup of steamed broccoli, slightly cooled and diced into very small pieces
  • 4 green onions, finely diced
  • 1 fresh jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 lime, for both its juice and its zest
  • 1/4 cup of finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups cooled cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/3 cups of self-rising flour
  • Salt
  • Olive or vegetable oil for pan frying
What to do:
Place the cooked broccoli, cooked quinoa, cheese, jalapeno pepper, green onions, lime zest, cilantro, milk, salt and eggs in a large bowl. Add the self-rising flour to the bowl and stir everything together. (NOTE: Feel free to add a bit more flour if it seems too wet.  They should have the consistency of salmon cakes.)
Ingredients
Heat a large nonstick frying pan on medium-high heat with about 4 tablespoons of oil.
Oil in Pan
Drop the batter into the hot pan. I suggest using a 1/3 or 1/2 cup measuring cup to ensure even portions.
Fritter in Pan
Cook until golden brown. Then, flip.
I served this up with a marinated chicken breasts and more steamed broccoli for a healthy and nutritious, fiber-packed meal.
Fritter on plate
Add a bit of Mexican flair and substitute the sour cream with Greek yogurt for a healthier, more protein-ramped option.
You will not be disappointed with this one.  These are addictive!