A Very "Farm Chicks" Labor Day

This Labor Day, I found myself planning a fun lunch. (Yes, like Market Day, but better, and not a frozen meal in a cardboard box). After struggling a few days prior to come up with a solid "menu", my cookbook collection served as "clutch" inspiration as I began prepping the day before. I love my cookbook collection. Ok, let's be real, I love books of any kind. But cookbooks are especially near and dear because they provide you with the outline to share your love for life (and of course, food) with others. However, sadly enough, all too often I find my cookbooks sitting on my kitchen bookshelf collecting dust. Partially because I don't always cook by a recipe and partially because cold cereal, peanut butter 'n jelly sammies, and cheese & crackers remain staples in my "I still order off the kid's menu" diet. And while some cookbooks certainly stay in a heavier rotation than the others, I don't use any of them nearly enough. So, for the holiday weekend, I found myself remaining as biased as ever, and gravitated to an old favorite, naturally.

I found out about the Farm Chicks when I first started becoming really passionate about food and baking a few years back, reading every blog and newspaper article I could get my eyes on. Then, over the holidays of 2009, I received their cookbook, Farm Chicks in the Kitchen, as a gift. I have yet to cover everything, but the recipes I have made from it have become staples (when I'm not eating like a child). Their cinnamon rolls seem like a marathon to make, but they are to-die-for. I make their Olivada Crostini on an almost weekly basis. And their butterscotch pie... well, need I really say more than that?

So (with the exception of the appetizer), I recreated some new Farm Chicks favorites, with my own twist for a "Labor Day Luncheon". For the appetizer (compliments of The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond), I made a small batch of BBQ Jalapeno Poppers. I would've taken a picture, but they didn't last long enough. Ree's recipe calls for wrapping the poppers in bacon, but since I tend to steer clear of eating things that have eyes, I opted for some Morning Star veggie bacon strips instead, slathered in some homemade barbeque sauce. For the main course, I made the Farm Chick's Roasted Chicken & Pesto Hoagies. With some Ciabatinni buns and ready made pesto from Trader Joe's, these sammies were a cinch.  (Yes, I used fake chicken too - Quorn chik'n cutlets are my personal preference.) For a side, I again took the Farm Chicks suggestion and spiced up some plain ol' store bought potato chips by adding some dill. Then, for the grand finale, I made one of the Farm Chick's many no-fail dessert options, a Blueberry Crisp (ok, they use fresh picked blackberries, but I improvised). Again, I would've taken a picture, but it disappeared a little too fast.

 Dill Chips and Chik'n Pesto Hoagies

All in all, whether you try one or all of these recipes, with your own twist of course, I guarantee you that they'll be crowd pleasers. Without a doubt. So give 'em a try... and let me know what you think!

BBQ Jalapeno Poppers
adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond
(makes 36 poppers)
18 fresh jalapenos
One 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 green onion, sliced
18 slices thin bacon, cut into halves
Bottled barbecue sauce
Preheat the oven to 275ºF. Begin by cutting jalapeños in half lengthwise (see warning in headnote). Try to keep the stems intact. They look prettier that way.With a spoon, scrape out the seeds and light-colored membranes. Remember: The heat comes from the seeds and membranes, so if you can handle the sizzle, leave some of them intact.Now, in a bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and chopped green onion. Mix the ingredients together gently. And don't feel you have to use an electric mixer. I do because I'm lazy and don't like to exert myself. Ever. (Too much scrubbing clothes on the washboard, I suppose.)Next, stuff each hollowed jalapeño half with the cheese mixture.rap bacon slices around each half, covering as much of the surface as you can. Be careful not to stretch the bacon too tightly around the jalapeño, as the bacon will contract as it cooks. Brush the surface of the bacon with your favorite barbecue sauce. Chutney or apricot jelly works well, too! Secure the jalapeños with toothpicks and pop them in the oven for 1 hour, or until the bacon is sizzling. Serve hot or at room temperature, and watch them disappear within seconds. 
Roasted Chicken & Pesto Hoagies
adapted from The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen
4 hoagie rolls (hero rolls)                                                                                                                             
1/2 cup basil pesto                                                                                                                                        
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken breast meat                                                                                              
8 thin slices provolone cheese  
Heat the broiler. Separate the rolls and arrange the halves on a baking sheet. Spread pesto on each half, dividing equally. Divide the chicken among 4 of the halves; top with 2 slices of the cheese. Place under the broiler, 4 to 6 inches from the heat source, until the cheese is melted- 1 to 2 minutes. Put the 2 halves of each sandwich together and serve warm.
Tasty Dill Chips
adapted from The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen 
Here's a quick, easy way to give plain potato chips a bit of an upscale taste: spread the chips on a baking sheet and evenly sprinkle with dried dill weed. Bake for 5 minutes in a heated 350 degree oven. We use a ratio of 1 teaspoon dried dill to a 4-ounce bag of kettle-style chips; you could use a different favorite herb, for instance rosemary, if you wish.
Blackberry Crisp
adapted from The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen
2 cups fresh blackberries or 1 16-ounce bag frozen blackberries                                                                    
3/4 cup all-purpose flour                                                                                                                               
3/4 cup packed brown sugar                                                                                                                         
3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats                                                                                                                  
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon                                                                                                                     
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into small pieces                                                                               
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (2 ounces)                                                                                                               
Vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the blackberries in the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Combine the flour, brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon in a medium-size mixing bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture forms large crumbs. Stir in the walnuts. Sprinkle the mixture over the berries in the baking dish. Bake until the topping is browned and berries are bubbly - 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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