Chicken satay and peanut sauce — sweet, crunchy, delicious

At a friend’s home in October, members of our local photography club gathered to shoot pictures, snack, chat and enjoy the fading rays of an Indian summer. In addition to the many fabulous desserts and pasta salads was Thai chicken satay — hunks of delicious chicken marinated in coconut milk, curry powder and . . . some other spices we weren’t totally aware of. A kind friend told us a brief outline of her family recipe.

Spencer, my adventurous boyfriend, is never one to back away from a culinary challenge. After feasting on the chicken satay and sharing appreciative glances, Spence began mentally preparing that tasty meal for us in the future.

It just took a few months for it to come to fruition.

On Monday night, I was on “peanut sauce” duty. Because what’s delicious chicken without something to dip it in? Buffalo wings need bleu cheese. Grilled chicken needs barbeque sauce. It’s the way of the world.

Spencer prepared the chicken satay marinade on Sunday, leaving our dinner to settle in the fridge for 24 hours. The recipe below only calls for two hours of chillin’, but I can attest that the day-long yum bath didn’t hurt our meal one bit.

So while he was skewering all the chicken onto sticks, I was pulsing a blender full of onion and minced garlic. We’re not spicy eaters, so we left out the hot chili pepper — but I’m sure that would have given it a nice kick! After the mixture was pureed (and quite intense smelling), into the sauce pan it went. I stirred while trying not to get hot, popping peanut sauce all over my torso, then we added in peanut butter (crunchy!), vinegar and lots of sugar. I like peanut sauce to be more sweet than tangy, so I might have been a little heavy-handed with the sugar crystals. A cup of water was the last thing into the mixture, and then it was left to simmer . . . and that’s it!

Not bad at all, really.

Monday brought a freezing rain/sleet mixture to our neck of the woods in Maryland, but that didn’t deter Spencer from starting up the ol’ grill. The man is primal. Donning our coats, hats and gloves, off to the backyard we went — and the satay was placed over an open flame. It took about a half hour for them to cook, I’d say, which wasn’t bad . . . except we had to keep running into the garage to keep warm. Spencer’s mom, Alex (hi Alex!), called, and we were giggling like children while trying not to freeze and checking our slabs of meat like cave people.

I felt like a cave person.

But it was worth it. The chicken satay was delicious — creamy, but with a nice kick from the curry powder Spencer added to the marinade, plus all the other delicious spices. The peanut sauce had a good blend of sweet and savory (the perfect combination). We made rice to accompany the meal and added in a little curry powder for some color. Satay is a bit ambitious for a week night, but worked out well because Spencer had enough enthusiasm to prep the chicken on a Sunday.

For me? I’m more of a pour-some-spaghetti-in-a-pot and heat-up-some-canned-tomato-sauce sort of girl.

Oh, and cupcakes. I could totally do cupcakes for dinner.

Better stick with Spence so I don’t starve.

Chicken Satay

Recipe from The Perfect Pantry

1 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp kosher salt
A pinch of fresh ground black pepper
2-3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut against the grain into 1/8-inch-thick slices
12 long bamboo skewers, or other skewers of your choice
Peanut sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together everything except the chicken, until the ingredients are incorporated and the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the chicken, and transfer all to a Ziploc bag. Squeeze out the air, and seal the bag. Massage the chicken until it’s coated all around, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Soak skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat your grill to high heat, or prepare a stovetop grill pan. Thread 4-6 pieces of chicken on each skewer, keeping the chicken bunched toward the bottom end of the skewer. Grill the chicken, turning frequently, until crisp, 2 minutes per side. Serve with peanut sauce for dipping. Serves 6-8 (can be halved or doubled).

Thai Peanut Sauce

Recipe from

4 teaspoons corn oil
1/2 cup minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon hot chili pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup of water

In a blender, combine corn oil, onion, garlic and hot chili pepper; blend for 1 minute

Empty the mixture into a saucepan and place over low heat until the mixture starts releasing aroma. Add peanut butter and mix well over low heat.

Add water and let it simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened.

Stir in vinegar and sugar; continue to simmer for another 1-2 minutes. Taste and add more vinegar and sugar if the mixture does not have the sour and sweet taste.

Place sauce in a shallow plate for satay dipping or pour over fresh salad.

S’mores cupcakes? Put a little teddy in it

While I’ve stalled out a bit on my whole “learning to cook” plans, I definitely have not given up on the baking side of things. Riding high off the success of our macaroons, I sauntered back into the kitchen to try my hand at s’mores cupcakes last weekend.

Now, I’ve made an incarnation of these before — from a recipe I found on Bakerella’s (love her!) site. Y’all remember those? They were quite tasty and very, very chocolatey. It was probably all that cocoa powder I had to add.

These were faster, less intensely chocolatey — and cuter, honestly. I mean, teddy grahams? Stuck in homemade frosting? I couldn’t resist. You’ll see that I used miniature chocolate chips both in the cupcake batter and in the frosting instead of chopping up chocolate bars. You know, ’cause I’m a little lazy. They turned out great and I had plenty to share with my hungry family members, boyfriend and coworkers. Loved universally, my coworker’s 12-year-old daughter already told me that I “must make these again!”

And hey, who am I to disappoint the kids, you know?

S’mores cupcakes

Recipe from

Ingredients for cupcakes:
1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® yellow cake mix
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
4 bars (1.55 oz each) milk chocolate candy, finely chopped

Ingredients for frosting:
1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow creme
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 to 2 teaspoons milk
1 bar (1.55 oz) milk chocolate candy, if desired
24 bear-shaped graham crackers, if desired

1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups. In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil and eggs with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Fold in graham cracker crumbs and chopped chocolate bars. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

2. Bake 18 to 23 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

3. Remove and discard lid and foil seal from jar of marshmallow creme. To soften marshmallow creme for easy removal from jar, microwave on High 15 to 20 seconds. In large bowl, beat marshmallow creme, butter and powdered sugar on low speed until blended. Beat in enough milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, to make frosting spreadable. Spread over tops of cupcakes. Divide chocolate bar into rectangles. Cut each rectangle diagonally in half and place on top of each cupcake. Top each cupcake with bear-shaped cracker. After frosting has set, store loosely covered at room temperature.

Please, ma’am… can I have s’more?

OK, I know that was a lame joke… but I don’t know any other way to describe these delicious S’more Cupcakes by Bakerella other than to say that the moment you finish your first one, you’ll already be thinking about the next. And the next.

I’ve gotten a little more adventurous in the kitchen lately, trying my hand at homemade soup, pasta dishes and, now, dessert. These cupcakes took me a little less than two hours to craft, start to finish, but that’s partially because I started out with very little clue what was going to be required of my limited skills . . . particularly when I had to actually break out the mixer. I’ve done it before — and it wasn’t too traumatic — but I try not to get too arrogant about what I’m actually capable of making.

But these turned out great! After I mixed up the two separate batters and carefully combined everything with the marshmellow and graham cracker topping, they were already looking very pretty . . . and when I popped them out of the oven? My little food photographer’s heart started pounding!

If you have the time and don’t mind the fact that these won’t be on your counter for very long at all, I definitely recommend whipping up a batch.

And I may have had one of these for breakfast this morning . . . Trying not to dwell on what that says about my willpower.

S’more Cupcakes

original recipe by Bakerella

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup cocoa
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup oil
6 jumbo marshmallows cut in half, plus more for decorating

Graham Cracker Crumb topping
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda together with a wire whisk. Separate the mixture in half into two bowls.

Stir cocoa into one bowl and the graham cracker crumbs into the other. Add 1/2 cup milk, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/4 cup oil to the cocoa mixture and beat on medium until combined. Repeat adding the same ingredients to the graham cracker crumb flour mixture.

Prepare the graham cracker crumb topping. Add the brown sugar and crumbs in a small bowl and pour on the melted butter. Stir until combined.

Pour a little graham cracker cake batter into the bottom of your baking cups and then sprinkle the topping mixture lightly on the surface. Place a marshmallow half on top and then cover the marshmallow with the chocolate cake batter until it is about 3/4 full. Sprinkle with more topping mixture.

Bake cupcakes for about 15 minutes. Place a cookie sheet underneath when you bake just in case.

Recipe will make at least 12 cupcakes (I made 16 with my batter).

Just can’t beat the peach milkshake

peach_milkshakeLooking for a little slice of heaven during the hot, sticky days of summer? Travel no further than your local Chick-Fil-A, where I gained about 10 pounds on Tuesday consuming one of the most delicious confections mankind could dream up.

Oh, yes — I’m talking about the Great Peach Milkshake. I’m happy to report that this delicious treat is available in both a small and large size, but that “small” will just about make you bust a gut regardless. And to be honest, the calorie count isn’t too different for both of them (I say just go for the gusto).

News of the Great Peach Milkshake spread like wildfire around my office a few weeks ago. Chick-Fil-A wisely ran an ad in our paper, and Brandon stuck it on a message board near our collective desks. He was the first to try one and kind enough to let me get a taste. That spoonful was enough to send me over the edge . . . but as I’m working hard to get in shape, I dutifully refrained. Even when I went to lunch with my cousin and grandmother last week, I steadfastly refused their kind offers to get my own shake — which required Herculian self-control I didn’t know I possessed!

But I cracked.

Oh, I cracked.

Crumbled. Completely betrayed myself, consuming a peach milkshake on Tuesday with the ferocity of my dog around a full, unattended plate of barbeque chicken (he knows good BBQ, what can I say?).

And it was worth every whipped-cream-covered, cherry-rich, fruity spoonful! It reminded me so much of this amazing peach ice cream I once had from a local market with my sister and grandmother — completely intoxicating! (Maw Maw, if you’re reading this, it’s impossible to forget that dessert!)

My only caution? Don’t check out the nutrition facts — it’s hard to forget what has been painfully revealed! (But if you’re not the type to respond well to mandates, click here.)

Pumpkin Pie Blizzard? Are they trying to kill me?

So I know I’m always harping about delicious pumpkin-flavored foods, but that’s just because they’re so insatiably delicious I can hardly catch my breath around them! Palmer and I were out running errands last night and, as a special treat, he suggested we run over to Dairy Queen for some little snacky treat. Sure, innocent enough. He wasn’t really too hungry and I wasn’t either, but when has that ever stopped me from getting dessert?!

Honestly, I wasn’t planning on getting anything. I’m going to be taking a break from my busy retail job in the near future — so I will be spending more and more time at my desk at my day job (I got a promotion, though — yay!) and less time walking around and on my feet, getting what little exercise I can. This roughly translates to “I really, really should be better watching what I eat.”

But HOLY GOD — what do we have here?!

A Pumpkin Pie Blizzard?! Are they trying to kill me? If you think I got a bit overly excited about the Pumpkin Spice Latte, you should have seen me standing there palpitating with my poor boyfriend on my arm. I literally couldn’t order it fast enough. I was stringing word after word after word together with hardly any of them making sense. The agony — but the ecstasy! Who knew they even had such a thing.