One of my new favorite snacks are Koolickles.
My mom told me about this little treat after watching an episode of Alton Browns on the Food Network. She remembered that it called for "the big jar of dill pickles, two packets of cherry Kool-Aid, and a couple cups of sugar". Intrigued, I looked at the Food Networks website but wasn't able to find the recipe anywhere. So, I decided to wing it.
My first attempt at the Koolickles I just got a normal sized jar of dill pickle spears, dumped in one packet of cherry flavored kool-aid, some sugar (didn't measure), shook the jar until it was all well mixed, and put it in the fridge. They came out okay, Grandma liked them, but I wasn't overly impressed.
However, I did like them enough to give it another try. This time I decided to follow my moms loose recollection of the recipe a little closer and I got the big 80 ounce jar of dill pickle spears and two packets of cherry kool-aid. I removed all of the spears from the jar, leaving the brine, and added the packets of kool-aid. The only dilema was how much sugar to add. I decided to follow the guidelines on the kool-aid packets and added two cups, put the lid back on the jar and shook the heck out of it until it was all well mixed and it appeared as though the kool-aid and sugar were both completely dissolved. I put the spears back in the jar, and put it in the fridge. This was this past Friday night, I had my 9 year old cousin for the weekend and it was a fun project for us to do together.
Tonight, Monday, we sampled the Koolickles. HUGE hit. They were much better than the first batch even though they haven't sit for as long as is recommended. Before writing this post I decided to Google the recipe rather than to just rely upon the loose interpretation provided by my mother and found this recipe.
I know it sounds weird - cherry pickles - but trust, they are tasty. The only other variation I may try is to use Splenda in place of sugar because I'm sure my diabetic sister would like these.
The other cooking project I did with my younger cousin was my famous (okay, so its not really "famous", but my Grandma loves it as does my mom and now my younger cousin... so, its getting there) "Poppy Seed Chicken".
A while back I read a cooking tip that recommended using ranch dressing in place of an egg bath for homemade chicken nuggets. I thought that sounded delicious and was anxious to try it, BUT Grandma doesn't like ranch dressing. The only salad dressing that Grandma likes is Maries Creamy Poppyseed. A light bulb went off.
Take your chicken pieces (breast, thigh, leg, all work equally well - the only piece I haven't tried this with is wings) and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper then place in a marinade of creamy poppyseed dressing - I use about 1/2 a bottle of Kraft brand simply because it's cheaper than the Maries brand. I typically allow this to marinade for about an hour.
Once the chicken pieces are done marinading, dredge the chicken pieces in a mixture of Italian Seasoning flavored bread crumbs and shredded parmesan cheese - the good stuff in the little tubs, not the crap in the can on the shelf in the pasta section...you should NEVER use that stuff for anything.
Bake the chicken on a cookie sheet. Heres where my grandma thinks I'm weird, when I cook meats of any kind I almost always start off at a low temperature, in this case 200F, for about 45 minutes, THEN I turn the heat up to 400F until the juices run clear when cut. I really need to time this some time - I think I cook it at 400F for another 30 minutes, but I could really be off here. The reason I start off with the lower temperature is that it seems to start the cooking process without drying out the meat. I read this technique somewhere and it stuck with me, I don't know how accurate it is but its worked well for me the majority of the time.
Whenever I make this chicken it gets rave reviews, my grandmother will talk about it for a couple of days afterwards. I think thats a clue that I need to start making it more frequently.