Turkey Stuffed Eggplant

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Cooking for one is tough! Ty has been out of town for what seems like forever (away during the weeks, here on weekends)… he literally proposed, then left. A sign?? Hope not!

The filling will easily fill 2 medium eggplants, which will feed 4, but I packed the extra filling away to use later. It was flavorful and filling yet light and healthy. If you make this, I hope you have someone other than a sleepy dog to share your company with.

Turkey Stuffed Eggplant

2 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise

1 lb ground turkey

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic

4 roma tomatoes (or a small can) diced

1 tsp crushed red pepper

1 tsp each, fresh basil, parsley, and oregano

evoo

fresh Parmesan

1. Preheat over to 400°F. Slice eggplants lengthwise and remove seeded sections (pulp). Keep about 1/2 of the pulp and finely dice. Drizzle a little olive oil inside each half of eggplant and sprinkle with s&p. Place cut side down and cook in oven for 10 minutes. Flip each over and cook an additional 10 minutes. Remove.

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2. In a large skillet, heat about 1 tbsp evoo and garlic. Add any eggplant pulp. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add onions and pepper. Saute until onions start to soften. Add turkey and herbs until cooked through, then add diced tomatoes and cook until warm.

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3. Lower oven temp to 375°F. Scoop turkey mixture into the eggplant halves and top with fresh Parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes.

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Grilled chicken quinoa with roasted corn, peppers, and pine nuts

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I’m back! Well… hopefully for more than one post a year! Woo wee has it been a year!! Long story short, I completed my first year teaching chemistry, I started a Master’s program, our garden is now over 3000 square feet, and I am now engaged to the maple syrup man 🙂

Putting the busy aside… Not much is being produced in the garden as of yet. We are drowning in sugar snap peas, lettuce, and herbs, but are close to harvesting onions, beans, and tomatoes! I love watching the cabbage fold over and the squash plants blossom – it is just too beautiful! After spending 5+ hours weeding today (we were away for a week and the weeds decided to hold my veggies hostage), a light, yet filling dinner was needed. Enter the filling AND light quinoa! I roasted corn that I froze last year in a 400°F oven with a little evoo and s&p for 15 minutes. I used pre-roasted peppers, grilled chicken thighs, fresh basil, and straight-from-Russia pine nuts. Trust me when I say that a small bowl of this is filling.

Chicken Quinoa and Pine Nuts

3-4 grilled boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts)

1 cup quinoa cooked according to package

1 1/2 cups roasted corn (or 2 roasted ears)

1/2 cup pine nuts

1 small onion, finely diced

1 pepper, roasted and chopped

bunch of fresh basil, chopped (approx 10 leaves)

crumbled goat cheese

evoo and S&P

The recipe is as easy at is sounds. Cook the quinoa, chicken, and corn (and peppers if using fresh).

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Saute onions over medium heat in about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Once translucent, add pine nuts until slightly browned.

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Toss all ingredients together, season with salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and top with crumbled goat cheese.

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Grilled Vegetable and Italian Sausage Pasta Toss

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I wasn’t sure what to call this dish. It’s a mish-mash of vegetables we have in the house, grilled, tossed with some pasta, and enjoyed either warm or cold. I’d call it a pasta salad, but I always correlate pasta salad with raw veggies on a hot summer day. Enter the ‘pasta toss’. A while back my Mom made a grilled veggie salad with Israeli Couscous and a balsamic dressing. I guess after eating that, I realized how good/easy it is to grill a plethora of vegetables and toss it with pasta.

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Although it is not yet summer in Vermont (not even close… it snowed two days ago!), it was 54 degrees today and sunny, so it felt pretty warm! It’s also been insanely windy, so our grill took yet another ride off the porch and rolled about on the ground. I hauled it back up, put all the grates back in, hooked up the propane, and somehow, it lit! The $80 grill that could! So, with a cutting board full of vegetables and a pot of pasta on the stove, dinner was prepped and ready in about 20 minutes.

Italian Sausage and Vegetable Pasta

1 lb sweet or spicy italian sausage

1 lb pasta (bow ties, ziti, rotini, etc.)

1 bell pepper, cut into large chunks

1 zucchini, cut in half

3-4 carrots, peeled

1 onion, cut in half with skin removed

1/3 lb asparagus, trimmed

any other grill-able vegetable (I added 3 stalks celery)

1/4 cup + evoo

s & p

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 splash balsamic vinegar

parmesan cheese, finely grated

1. Cook pasta. Drain and set aside.

2. Preheat grill on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. Grill sausage links for about 5 minutes per side, or until charred lightly. Move to upper rack.

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3. Lightly brush vegetables with olive oil and generously salt and pepper all pieces. Lower the grill heat to medium/medium-low and place vegetables on lower rack. Grill for about 5-7 minutes, if starting to char, rotate and continue grilling until lightly charred on all sides (this is like a tetris game… if you have small grill, all pieces need to fit without falling through!). Remove vegetables and sausage when cooked.

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4. When the vegetables and sausage are cooled enough to handle, chop into bite-size chunks. Add to the pasta. Give a good ‘glug’ of evoo, about a 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, and a dash of balsamic. Toss. Season with salt and pepper (fresh basil would be delish!). Serve either warm or cooled.

IMG_1464p.s.- You can substitute about anything you want in this dish. Instead of sausage, how about grilled chicken? You could grill up some broccoli or cauliflower, or add some corn or frozen peas… play with it!

Fish Tacos with Spicy Slaw

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It’s been almost a month since I have posted and WOW have I missed all of you… my readers!! I have also really, really, really, really (really x 10^28) missed having the time or energy to cook or craft.

To fill you in. I am an officially licensed grades 7-12 science teacher!! With the culmination of my teaching program, which included hours upon hours of portfolio writing, and getting offered a long-term substitute job, I have been overwhelmed. I’ll also throw out there that we may be moving (yes, that’s right, after 5 months) because of unforeseen BS. I’ll leave it at that. My point is that between teaching over 120 sophomores/juniors chemistry and biology and getting up at 5am daily, life got a wee busy.

With such a drastic change, I realized that we were eating like crap. Not to mention Ty has been doing the maple-syrup-making-thing pretty much 24 hrs a day, which has left all meals up to me. So, finally getting caught up on grading and planning and looking at a week off, I thought of having something tasty, yet simple – fish tacos! Some frozen flounder and an easy spicy cole slaw all wrapped up in a flour tortilla was just what I needed. It reminded me that I actually can cook! I thought I forgot for a while there!

Spicy Cole Slaw

1 small head green cabbage, shredded

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

2 carrots, shredded

1 jalapeno, minced (optional)

1/3 cup mayo

3 tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 tsp celery seed

1 tsp cayenne

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

2 tbsp brown sugar

s & p

1. Mix all of the veggies in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk the dressing until smooth. Combine with the veggies and toss until coated. Season to taste. Let sit for at least an hour (longer will soften the cabbage a little).

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Fish Tacos

1 lb frozen flounder (or other light, white fish)

1/2 cup flour

s & p

evoo

taco size flour tortillas (corn would be good too!)

1. Mix flour and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Coat each fillet of fish with the flour and drop into a hot pan with a good coating of olive oil (enough to cover the bottom – 3-4 tbsp).

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2. Let fish fry on one side until browned, approx. 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes. This should be plenty for a thin fillet. Remove onto paper towels. Repeat until all fillets are cooked. You may find you need to add a little more olive oil to the pan.

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3. Add the fillets back to the pan and break into bite-sized pieces (the oil should be long soaked up!).

4. Arrange your tacos. Heat the tortilla a bit, add some fish, top with a good helping of cole slaw, and if desired, a dash of Sriracha or Cholula sauce! Enjoy a light and tasty meal!

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Apple Stuffed Pork Chops

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I finally learned how to stuff pork chops! Apparently, Ty had learned this at the restaurant he worked at a while back… he has neglected to show me all of his cooking skills. Weak, I tell ya! For some reason, I’ve wanted stuffed pork chops lately… just sounded good. So I started making the stuffing, then Ty stepped in to show me how. (fyi – there are a lot of pictures below)

This should work with both boneless and bone-in pork chops. They have to be thick cut; I’d say a minimum of an inch and a half. The recipe is good for two VERY stuffed chops, though it could probably stuff 4.

Apple Stuffed Pork Chops

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped

2 tbsp butter

1.5 cups whole wheat bread crumbs

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

1 cup apple, finely diced

1/2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

1/3 cup chicken broth

S & P

evoo

2-4 extra thick pork chops

1. Make the stuffing – In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the onions until fragrant and soft. In a bowl combine bread crumbs (I lightly toasted 3 slices of whole wheat bread, then pulsed it in my food processor until small-ish crumbs were made), celery, apple, parsley, and a little pepper. When onions are soft, add to bread crumb mixture and stir. Slowly add chicken broth while stirring until moist. *this will be a crumbly mixture

2. Preheat oven to 350°F (use convection roast if possible). Prep your pork chops… using small pairing knife, make a small slit in the middle of side of the chop. Do not cut all the way open or in half!! Without moving the knife to make a bigger hole, angle it towards one end of the chop, then the other. Then using your finger, make the hole bigger. (This is confusing… hopefully the pictures will help!)

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make a slit using a pairing knife on either the non-fatty side (boneless) or non-bone side (on-bone)

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slide knife to either side trying not to make initial hole bigger

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create a cavity to stuff using your finger

3. Stuff little bits of stuffing into the chop until full. Like I mentioned, we fit almost all of the stuffing into two chops. They were huge and tasty! Season both sides of the chop with salt and pepper.

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stuffed vs unstuffed… see how there is just a small hole?

4. Heat about 1 tbsp of evoo to scalding (if you have an oven safe pan, use this). As it just starts to smoke, add the chops to sear for about 45 seconds. Flip, repeat. Using tongs, try to sear along the edges. Toss the pan in oven or move chops to an oven safe pan…. now, we have two options 1) If you have a convection oven, bake for about 25-30 minutes or 2) In a regular oven, cover the pan with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes, remove tin foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes. The internal temperature should be about 160°F when done. Let rest for a few minutes before serving.

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the pork should be well seared before baking

We had the pork with parsley smashed potatoes and mashed butternut squash (from our garden!).

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And yes – Ty drinks his wine in a mason jar. Classy!

Spicy Sausage and Vegetable Pasta

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*pardon the pictures… Ty didn’t feel like ‘posing’… or letting his food ‘pose’

I’m not really sure what to call this; our “go-to spicy sausage pasta dish”? Ty introduced me to this pasta dish a little over a year ago and I fell in love. I am sure there is some name out there that describes this dish, but we’ve never used a recipe… therefore it’s unnamed. Maybe I can name it?? How about, spicesausageness? pasta fra di sausage? Pepionsausage pasta? Get it.. pepper, onion, sausage?… yea I’m that lame AND unoriginal!

It’s an easy, sausage and vegetable-filled pasta dish. Whenever we have spicy sausage in the freezer, this dish becomes a go-to on a lazy night. It is hearty and filling, but super easy! Please mind my ingredient list…. it’s as exact as I can get it, but know that if needed, substitutions can be made. Additionally, if you have some yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, or other veggie lying around, chop it up and toss it in!

Sausage and Vegetable Pasta with a Cream Sauce

1 lb spicy italian sausage (removed from casing if needed)

1 bell pepper (any color will do), sliced

1 onion, cut in half then sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 to 1 lb small pasta (bow ties, ziti, etc. – adjust to your needs)

3 tbsp butter

1/4 cup flour

3/4 cup milk (or 1/2 cup light cream)

1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper (more if you like spice)

s & p

fresh basil or parsley, chopped (optional)

grated parmesan

1. In a large pan, saute sausage until cooked. Remove from pan, set aside, and drain any remaining grease from pan.

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2. Add garlic and crushed red pepper to hot pan, stir for a minute. Add peppers and onions, and saute until just softening (3-4 minutes). If you have any other vegetables, add and saute until they start to soften. Season with some S&P.

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3. In a stock pot, bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to directions. Meanwhile, in a small pot, melt butter. Remove from heat and whisk in flour until it is mixed well. Return the mixture to medium heat and add milk. Continue to whisk occasionally for about 5 minutes… it should start to thicken.

4. Drain pasta when cooked and return to pot. Add sausage, vegetables, and white sauce. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, if additional is needed.

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5. Serve with parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh herbs (basil or parsley).

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Meatless Monday: Layered Ratatouille

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Who didn’t love the movie Ratatouille?? With that cute little Remy, who wanted nothing more than to cook his little heart out!! I lived in a place a few years ago where there was evidence of mice… as I set the trap one night, I thought to myself, maybe the little guy just wants to cook! Ha. Animated, cooking mice in movies are adorable. Little, scurrying, mess-making, disease-carrying critters on your kitchen counters…. NOT adorable.

Back to the cute, animated mouse… this recipe is a recreation of that gorgeous layered ratatouille. I discovered it a few years ago over at Smitten Kitchen, but haven’t made it since. Served over yummy whole grain pasta with extra sauce and some fresh grated asiago cheese, it makes a beautifully presentable meal.

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Ratatouille

1 small italian eggplant

1 zucchini

1 yellow squash

1 red bell pepper

1 small shallot, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 large can crushed tomatoes

fresh thyme

evoo

fresh asiago cheese

cooked pasta

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. If you have a mandolin, great! If you don’t (like me), using a very sharp knife, thinly slice the eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash into rounds. Cut a circle around the top of the pepper and remove the seeds, leaving the remainder of the pepper intact. Thinly slice the pepper into rings.

2. In a shallow baking dish, like a 9×9, add one cup of tomato sauce. Stir in a drizzle of olive oil, shallot, and garlic slices. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange the sliced veggies, alternating between vegetable types, concentrically from the outer edge of the dish.

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3. Drizzle olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and a generous helping of thyme leaves. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 25 minutes.

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4. On the stove, heat the remaining tomato sauce (add garlic and spices to taste, if desired). Cook the pasta.

5. In a shallow bowl, spoon some extra tomato sauce on top of pasta. Top with a serving of ratatouille and some fresh grated cheese.

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Meatless Monday: Stacked Vegetarian Enchiladas

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Meatless Monday (well, it was Tuesday for us) number 3 done and done… successfully! I have been enjoying the challenge each week to make something meatless, but filling and tasty. So far so good… no flops yet!

This recipe is versatile; you can add any vegetable you have on hand. It also fills a 9×13, but enchiladas (especially, stacked) are easy to adjust. I am also super happy to report (or brag… sorry) that I used our own canned salsa, jalapeno, and tomato sauce, our frozen corn and zucchini, and homegrown beans!!

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Stacked Vegetarian Enchiladas

18 corn tortillas
2.5 cups enchilada sauce
(taco sauce works too or spice up some tomato sauce with cayenne, chili powder, and cumin)
2 cans beans (I used dried cattle beans) 
evoo
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet potato, finely diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 cup corn
1 jalapeno
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (divided)
fresh cilantro
dried cumin, chili powder, and cayenne
 

1. Cook beans, if dried. Drain and rinse. Coarsely mash with a sprinkle of cumin, chili powder, and cayenne. Adjust to taste.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large fry pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil, add garlic, sweet potato, and a teaspoon each of cumin, chili, and cayenne. Saute for 4-5 minutes or until the sweet potato starts softening. Add onion and peppers (bell and jalapeno). Saute for another 3 minutes. Add zucchini and corn – heat for another 2 minutes.

3. In a 9×13 pan, start assembling the enchiladas. Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of enchilada sauce – about a 1/2 cup. Add 6 corn tortillas to cover the bottom. Spread half of the mashed beans over the tortillas. Top with half of the veggies and sprinkle 1/3 of the cup of cheese. I added some fresh cilantro here. Add another 1/2 cup enchilada sauce, another 6 tortillas, remaining beans, veggies, and another 1/3 cup of cheese. Add another 1/2 cup enchilada sauce and the last 6 tortillas. Finish off the casserole with the remaining sauce (and maybe a little salsa) and cheese. Sprinkle with some cilantro.

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4. Bake for 35 minutes until the edges are browned. Serve with a dollop of salsa and sour cream.

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Beet Risotto (for your Valentine!)

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Would this not be a perfect side to serve your honey on Valentine’s Day? Look at that gorgeous red color! Pictures can’t do it justice (at least mine can’t…. I need that photo class!)

Don’t be afraid of risotto – it’s not that scary! It takes about 30 minutes to make and trust me, there is no need to continually stir for 30 minutes (like I always believed!). It only takes two pots (three in the beet risotto case) and is essentially fool-proof.

Beet Risotto

3 medium-sized beets

1 small onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

evoo

1 cup arborio rice

1/4 cup dry white wine

2-3 cups chicken stock

2 cups water

1 tbsp butter

1/4 tsp thyme (1/2 tsp if fresh)

1/4 tsp rosemary (1/2 tsp if fresh)

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

pepper to taste

1. Cut the root end and tops off of the beets. Place on a large sheet of tin foil. Drizzle with evoo and sprinkle with coarse sea salt and fresh pepper, and wrap tightly in the foil. Roast at 425°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour… or until a fork easily breaks the beets. When they are done, move on to the following.

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2. In a small saucepan, mix water and 2 cups of chicken stock and heat until warm (not boiling). Keep the last cup as backup if more liquid is needed. In a large sauce pan, heat a good dollop of evoo over a medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute until onions become translucent. Add rice and continue to saute for 3-4 minutes or until slighty changing in color.

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3. Here comes the fun. Add the white wine and stir well. When the wine is evaporated, add 1 cup of the stock/water mixture. Stir well for a minute. Let simmer until evaporated. Add another cup of the stock, stir for a minute, let it soak into the rice (technically it doesn’t evaporate…). While this is occurring, peel the skin off the cooked beets and coarsely mash (a potato masher works great!)

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4. When 3 of the 4 cups of stock/water have been used, add the mashed beets, butter, thyme, and rosemary. Stir. Add the remaining cup of stock, stir well, and let simmer until soaked in. I recommend tasting the risotto here. If it still needs a few more minutes, add a little more stock (the 5th cup that was reserved). Remove from heat and right before serving add the parmesan cheese and stir well. Garnish with a spring of fresh thyme or rosemary.

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The hard part of making this risotto was attempting to clean up with two pups guarding the sink…. (I think they wanted to be the dish washers!)

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Spicy baked buffalo wings…

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Ty and I are not superbowl people. We aren’t really football people (eh, Patriots I guess, only because I grew up 30 minutes from their stadium). We are hockey people… scratch that, I am a hockey person… Bruins to be exact. I’m still working on getting Ty on the hockey train. It’s growing on him.

Needless to say… we were not that excited for the super bowl, the puppy bowl maybe, but mainly the fact that it is a great excuse to eat party food! We settled on vegetarian nachos and buffalo wings. Buffalo wings that I baked. Buffalo wings that didn’t include a eight cups of butter! Woo, semi-healthy buffalo wings… all the better!

I was too busy munching on buffalo wings to watch… who won anyway??

Spicy Baked Buffalo Wings
(adapted from the Diva’s)
 

1.5 lbs buffalo wings (we mixed in some large drumsticks)

1 tbsp crushed red pepper

2 stalks celery, chunked

1/2 onion, sliced

1/8 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1/2 cup hot sauce (Franks would work well)

2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tbsp dried parsley

more crushed red pepper- to taste

1 tsp garlic powder

black pepper

tobasco sauce (to kick it up a notch if you want)

1. In a large saucepan, add celery, onion, crushed red pepper, and buffalo wings. Toss to coat in the pepper. Give a couple extra grinds of fresh black pepper.

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2. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the wings. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Remove the wings and let dry completely. Place on a broiling rack (cover the bottom pan in tin foil for easy clean up!). Broil on LOW for 10 minutes on each side.

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4. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Once melted, remove from heat. Stir in hot sauce, parsley, garlic powder, and cayenne. Add crushed red pepper, black pepper, and tobasco to taste (keep in mind that the red pepper will slowly infuse the hot sauce).

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5. When wings are cooked, toss in the buffalo sauce and sprinkle a little more parsley on top. Serve with ranch or blue cheese dressing and celery and carrot sticks (these are much needed when you make them as spicy as I did!).

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