So That’s What the Burner on the Gas Grill is For!

It’s summer and I can’t even think about heating up the oven or making a mess on the stove. But I wanted to try to make homemade potato chips in a healthy oil, but deep fat-frying is not something I ever do.

Eureka! So that’s why they put a gas burner on the gas grill! Make the chips and serve them hot while dinner is cooking on the grill. Hot chips, a savory blue cheese dip and cold beer – what a hit (and dinner hadn’t even started yet!).

Potato Chips with Savory Blue Cheese Dip

Season your chips with anything like Old Bay, pepper, BBQ dry rub, etc. I used sea salt because of the blue cheese dip. You can also make any kind of dip or use a fresh produce-section blue cheese dressing. Even basic Heinz Ketchup makes a great dip with chips seasoned with freshly-ground black pepper.

Chips

  • 2 large baking potatoes, peeled, sliced lengthwise thinly on a mandolin slicer (hold at room temp, no need to put in water, it’s okay if they turn a little brown)
  • 3 cups of canola oil

Heat the oil in a large saucepan to very hot, about 375 degrees. A good test is to splash a few drops of water in the oil and if it sizzles and spurts, it’s ready to go.

Fry small batches of potatoes, turning as they brown to the desired color (about 5 minutes)

Drain on paper towels, season with salt or desired seasonings and serve immediately.

Blue Cheese Dip

  • 1/2 cup shallots, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups milk, warmed to almost simmering
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or fresh chives, chopped

Saute shallots in butter until soft, about five minutes. Add flour and whisk for a minute. Whisk in one cup of milk until thick, add extra milk for desired consistency. Serve warm or chilled. Top with fresh herbs and more blue cheese if you wish. You can make this first on that same outdoor burner before you start the chips. Or make the day ahead.

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Me and the girls were putting on a celebration dinner for a friend. I had eight sunflowers I hastily picked up at the grocery store. I had no idea what I would do with them beyond putting them in a vase.

I grabbed some scissors and went foraging through a strange yard and found fresh mint growing wildly in long stalks. (The owner of the home said, “I had no idea I had mint in my yard!”) I found a Magnolia tree and cut some grand, green shiny leaves.

Wrap a little burlap around the whole spontaneous display and we had a summer centerpiece.

Like I said, bloom where you’re planted. Have a wonderful summer day! Thank you for reading.

Patriotic Popcorn

Here’s three flavored popcorn recipes — all dressed up in red, white and blue for Memorial Day. These bags of yum make great gifts. Pop your corn in Canola or coconut oil. No time today to do this? Bookmark it for Fourth of July.

One more thing – thank you to all who served our country in the military and died for our freedom. “Some gave all …”

Popcorn Recipes Picture Here
Chocolate and M&M’s Popcorn – click for recipe

White Chocolate-Peanut Popcorn
This recipe was inspired by Chef in Training who has captured many popcorn recipes from across the blog world. 

  • 8 cups popped popcorn
  • 12 ounces of white chocolate candy melts
  • 1 – 2 cups peanuts, depending on taste, coarsely chop or not
  • Sea salt to taste

Melt the white chocolate candy melts according to package.

Mix half the popcorn with half the chocolate and half the peanuts. Mix the other half together. Salt to taste.

Line two baking sheets with wax paper. Pour the popcorn on the trays so the chocolate can set.

Store in air-tight container.

Salted Caramel Popcorn
Recipe from Six Sisters’ Stuff. These girls can cook!

  • 1 cup unpopped popcorn
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 cups light brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Sea salt to taste

Pop popcorn and place in a large mixing bowl.

In a saucepan over medium heat melt butter. Add brown sugar and whisk together until mixed. Add water.

Continue stirring until it comes to a full boil and whisk continually for 5-10 minutes, until mixture hits the soft-ball candy stage. (Put a few drops of the cooked mixture in a glass of cold water until the drops form a soft ball.)

Remove mixture from heat and mix in vanilla extract and baking soda. Continue stirring as the mixture goes puffy.

Drizzle cooked caramel mixture over popcorn and lightly stir until evenly coated. Salt to taste.

Cool on two baking sheets lined with wax paper. Store in airtight container

It’s Corny but Yummy

I’m not breaking any ground here because flavored-up popcorn has been a favored treat for a long time. The gourmet stores are charging a hefty price for a bag of the sweet stuff. It’s so easy to make at home for a fraction of the cost.

The Chef in Training blog has captured popcorn recipes from all around the blog world. Check them out. One of the recipes inspired the one I made here.

My hints: I use Wilton Candy Melts instead of chocolate chips for the melted chocolate. I find them easier to work with. You can find similar products in the grocery store produce section.

I don’t prefer microwave popcorn; it’s too full of chemicals and seasonings I don’t want. Pop the corn in a kettle on the stove with either Canola oil or coconut oil. A bag of unpopped popcorn goes a long way.

This isn’t the last you’ll hear from me on popcorn, I’m just getting started!

Chocolate and M&M’s® Popcorn

  • 8 cups popped popcorn
  • 11 ounces of chocolate candy melts
  • 9-ounce bag of M&M’s® Crispy
  • Sea salt to taste

Pulse M&M’s® in a food processor or coarsely chop M&M’s® (put in a plastic bag and pound with a rolling pin).

Melt the chocolate candy melts according to package.

Mix half the popcorn with half the chocolate and M&M’s®. Mix the other half of the ingredients together.

Line two baking sheets with wax paper. Pour the popcorn on the trays so the chocolate can set.

Store in air-tight container (if it lasts that long!).

Serendipitous Hospitality

In this sequestered nook how sweet
     To sit upon my orchard seat
And birds and flowers once more to greet.

William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

Every home has a story. I had this birdhouse stashed away for 15 years in the basement until one day my husband said, “What’s the story with this house?”

I offhandedly quipped, “It’s from an old boyfriend who made it for me. I don’t know what to do with it.”

My husband unabashedly replied, “Well let’s bring it out to the yard and see what we get!” (Now that’s hospitality!)

We placed it cavalierly on the deck rail and within a few days bluebirds came shopping for a home. They bought while we watched. But, it’s not a bluebird house!

Did you know that the male and female bluebird mate for life? Do you think it was coincidence that they found our house? It’s not an ordinary bluebird house high up in the tree – it’s more like a rambling Victorian with many rooms built for a large family. And, it sits in plain sight of where we can watch up close. They’ve never been timid or spooked. They are love on display. There are four blue eggs in the nest inside right now.


When you lay out the welcome mat, the most unlikely guests show up.

This is the fourth year for the house and its resident bluebirds. It was looking worn so I remodeled it last fall before putting it away for the winter. Same colors, just a few added wooden touches.

When the eggs hatch the parents will feverously go in and out to feed the babies insects, crickets, and larvae. After about 30 days the parents stop feeding the birds. Ready to fly, the baby birds leave the house to find their own food. We remove the roof and clean out the house and watch…a second family usually moves in before summer’s end.

Remodeling the birdhouse after three years of occupation.

Remodeling the birdhouse after three years of occupation.

See photos about “Bluebirds: From egg to empty nest.”

Jam n’ Cheese

Keep the ingredients on hand for a quick and easy appetizer. You can substitute another soft cheese like goat cheese or cream cheese, depending on your taste and what you have on hand. In winter, use pecans. These morsels of good will get big YUMS and an A+ in Hospitality.

Jam and Cheese Appetizers

  • Filo dough shells (These are mini shells about 2 inches in diameter and can be found in your grocer’s freezer, usually one dozen to a pack.)
  • 1/2 pound Brie cheese (do not remove the rind)
  • 1/2 cup apricot jam
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted

Thaw filo cups for about ten minutes, and place on baking sheet.

Toast almonds by spreading them in an ungreased pan. Bake in a preheated 350⁰ oven for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally until brown. Set aside.

Cut Brie into one-inch chunks and place one chunk into each filo shell. Do not remove the rind from the Brie as it gives the warm cheese a pungent flavor.

Top the cheese with a teaspoon of apricot jam, then top with slivered, toasted, almonds.

Bake for 10 minutes at 350⁰ or until bubbly. Serve immediately.

[Photo by Cindy Dyer.]

Nothing Bundt Flowers!

Welcome spring with a flowery, colorful cake! Make your favorite Bundt cake, add some silk flowers, butterflies, garden picks and other spring accents (walk the aisles of Michaels for inspiration), and let your ideas bloom.

Make a two-layer cake by using a smaller Bundt pan for the top layer. Place the smaller cake on a cardboard cake ring. Chocolate lady bugs, mossy grass, and garden picks add some garden fun!