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This blog is no longer active. For newer recipes, go to johnsonchesack.com/recipes.

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Chicken Paprikash

I’ve been making chicken paprikash for years using a recipe from an old Betty Crocker cookbook. I recently came across an alternative version in Bon Appetit, which I’ve modified slightly.

Ingredients:
1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces (remove skin)
1 tablespoons butter
1 thinly sliced onion
5 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Melt the butter in an ovenproof skillet just large enough to hold the pieces in one layer. Brown the chicken, but don’t cook through.

Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the onion and paprika. Cook, stirring often until the onion is soft.

Add chicken broth to the skillet and bring to a simmer.

Return the chicken to the pan and transfer to the oven. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, 25-30 minutes.

Remove pan from oven, remove chicken from pan. Bring the liquid to a boil and cook until it is reduced by a third (5 to 7 minutes). Remove from the heat and whisk in the sour cream and lemon juice.

Spoon sauce around chicken and serve.

German Apple Cake

This is a very simple, quick-to-make cake that’s helpful for work parties and potlucks.

Ingredients:
4 cups peeled, diced apples (about 4 large)
2 cups sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans work well)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour a 9×13 pan and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. Add the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and mix well. Stir in the apples and nuts by hand. The batter will be very thick.

Spoon the batter into the pan, smooth the top with the spoon and bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes.

Recipe courtesy of Penzey’s Spices.

Wordless Wednesday: My kitchen mess

Kitchen

G. took this photo. He says it looks like a tornado hit the kitchen when I cook.

My local food wedding

We bought burgers and hot dogs for our cookout-turned-reception at L&M Meats

We bought burgers and hot dogs for our cookout-turned-wedding reception at L&M Meats.

I got married. It was a surprise wedding, a spur-of-the-moment, low-key, low-budget affair.

G. and I were supposed to get married next year. We wanted to get married in the spring so that we’d have nice weather for a ceremony at his house, and I didn’t think I could manage it this spring because I was moving and starting a new job. (A job, by the way, that is still kicking my ass. Hence, the lack of blog posts.)

We set a wedding date for May 2014, but then a friend who is getting married in June 2014 totally shamed me. She had a place, food, photographer, DJ, bridesmaids and a dress all lined up, and I had . . . nothing. Then we went shopping for bridesmaid dresses for her wedding, a process I found more stressful than fun, and I realized that the move and my work schedule were only part of the reason I had done nothing. I’m also just not that into big weddings. Or, really, weddings at all.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m into G. I’m into being married. I’m into being married to G. It’s just the relationship that I dig, not the ceremony or the show.

So, a couple of weeks before my mom was flying in to help plan the wedding that G. and I were supposed to have, I suggested we just get married at the cookout that we’d already scheduled during her visit. G. agreed, and when my mom and her boyfriend landed on a Wednesday evening for six days of what they thought would be cake-tastings and meetings with photographers, I told them that what we really needed to do was buy a dress because I was getting married in two days.

The next morning, I found a nice white sundress on sale for $50 at Talbots. We spent the rest of the day hunting for a sundress for Mom. Then we had one day to pick up odds and ends and set up the pole barn and yard for the cookout.

Luckily, G. had already done most of the work. I am probably the only bride ever whose groom planned 80 percent of the wedding reception. My contributions were sending out the initial invitations to the cookout, finding a minister (it helps to have one as a best friend) and ordering ice cream from Purple Door.

G. and I both splurged on one thing when we decided the cookout would be a reception. I ordered ice cream in single-serving cups from Purple Door, which has some of the best ice cream in Wisconsin — and this is a state where people know their dairy products. G. rented a Toy Story-themed bounce house.

The ice cream was more expensive than the bounce house.

But worth every penny.

On Saturday morning, I was driving around picking up burgers, hot dogs and buns when I realized we had achieved one of my initial goals for our wedding celebration. Back when I thought we were going to have a formal wedding, I decided I wanted to make every effort to highlight local food at the reception. I mean, that’s a lot of what G. and I are about, right? We grow a lot of our food in the garden, and we patronize farmers markets and locally owned restaurants because we want to support community businesses.

My foodie politics got thrown out the window though when we decided we were getting married at a party only 21 days down the road. But then, just naturally, we did it. We ordered burgers and hot dogs from L&M Meats, a butcher shop recommended by the woman who cuts G.’s hair. Our buns came from Paielli’s Bakery, where G.’s family has been buying pecan rolls for decades. Lettuce and onion to top the burgers came from our garden, as did the zucchini I used to make cake. Purple Door supplied the ice cream, and that was about it. Our guests were already planning to bring side dishes to the cookout, so we were set.

It worked out really well. We got married in the morning, and the party started about 2 p.m. After everyone had their fill of burgers, hot dogs and elk brats brought by a friend of G’s, we made the announcement and showed a short video with clips from the ceremony. Then we had ice cream and more drinks (another friend showed up that morning with cases of hard cider and Mike’s lemonade left from a party he had — awesome!) . Before you knew it, there were a pile of adults in the bounce house. It was a good night.

Creamed chipped beef

I ordered creamed chipped beef at Rosie’s restaurant in New Buffalo, Mich.

Creamed chipped beef seems to be something you grew up with and like, or don’t. I grew up with it. When I was little and my mother was divorced and broke, we would have Stouffer’s creamed chipped beef for dinner on toast.

As I got older, it became one of my favorite comfort foods. I used to think this was very odd because I didn’t know anyone else who ate creamed chipped beef, but then one of my cousins told me that she too loved it. She would buy Stouffer’s and eat it by herself because her husband wouldn’t touch it.

When G. and I were in Michigan a couple of weeks ago, we had breakfast at Rosie’s restaurant in New Buffalo. They have creamed chipped beef on the menu.

“Creamed chipped beef!” I exclaimed.

“What?” G. said.

I pointed to the item.

“SOS?” he asked.

I read, “SOS — creamed chipped beef. I love that. My mom does too. And my cousin Jennifer. It’s a family thing.”

“Is that what they call shit on a shingle?”

“We call it creamed chipped beef,” I said primly.

“But SOS, that’s shit on a shingle.”

Sometimes, G. doesn’t know when to give it a rest. I changed the subject with, “What are you ordering?”

He had blueberry pancakes. I had creamed chipped beef. Rosie’s version was much creamier than the Stouffer’s. I suspect the restaurant actually uses cream instead of milk to make the white sauce. It was probably about 2,000 calories of deliciousness. I loved every bite.

Later I texted my mother, “In Michigan. Had creamed chipped beef and blue moon ice cream.”

She replied, “Don’t like blue moon. Am jealous of creamed chipped beef.”

Wordless Wednesday: Blueberries

Blueberries at Moss Funnel Farms in southwestern Michigan, where you can rent your own blueberry bush for a season. Find them online at joesblueberries.com.