Thank you for all of your bug research and suggestions, from Wednesday’s post. I think that we have determined that it was a Wheel Bug (from the Assassin Bug family). The good news: it eats aphids and Japanese beetles. The bad news: it bites and the paralyzing enzyme that it injects makes it hurt “ten times worse than a hornet’s sting, and can take up to 6 months to heal.” The upshot of all that is that you can hope that you have them in your yard to control the pesky bugs, but steer clear of them yourself. (And use the zoom on your camera if you need to photo it.) I hope I never see another one.

I have two things to tempt your palate today. The first: THESE have got to be the very best caramels I have ever had in my entire life, bar none. (Yes, that’s quite a strong endorsement. And I mean every word of it.) The salted caramel flavor (Fleur De Sel) is unbelievable. I also ordered the English Tea flavor, and wondered how in the world “tea” and “caramel” could combine into something good. It does. Amazing. When you need a good caramel fix, try them out.

A couple of weeks ago I tried a new recipe from The Pioneer Woman’s Blog. (Digression: Do any of you read her blog? How in the heck does she have the time and energy to blog that much?  I know that her blog is broken down into different sections, but holy cow. When I came home from the Sock Summit, I checked my Google Reader to see which of the blogs that I read regularly, had been updated while I was gone for a week. In that time, a couple of the blogs had been updated once, most had not been updated at all, and the Pioneer Women? 25 updates. TWENTY FIVE unread posts. In the 7 days that I was gone. The thing is, they’re all interesting and I do read them. She has a good thing going there.)

As with almost any recipe I make, I tweaked this. Not because it wasn’t good as is, but I’m a tweaker. I tweak. With this one, I added in cooked chicken breasts, a little more onion and cheese, and doubled the dressing. I also thought that it would be delicious (and colorful) to add in chunks of avocado. I might try that the next time. I hope you enjoy it!

pioneer-woman's-pita-chip-panzanellaPioneer Woman’s Pita Chip Panzanella (tweaked by Loopy)

1 oz. bag Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips (or the pita chips that you like)
5 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 1″ chunks
3/4 cup medium red onion, sliced thin and chopped
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
4 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 Tbl. red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
kosher salt
(note to self: try adding in avocado chunks the next time)

Combine chips, tomato chunks, onions, Parmesan and chicken in a large bowl. Mix together oil and vinegar with a dash of salt, and pour over the ingredients. Add freshly ground pepper and toss to mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes before serving.

It has been fun to read all of your comments from Monday’s blog contest! (If you haven’t added one yet, there is still time. We’ll draw for the winners on Monday.) We do one prize for every 250 entries and we’re up to 7 drawings for prize packages, so far. How fun!

Sheri doyoufollowarecipesaswritten,orareyouatweaker,too?


  1. You should, the next time you are in Indiana, head down to Hagerstown and go to Abbots Candy Shop – they’ve got some delicious caramels (and a wonderful caramel apple chew) and other candies.

    I don’t cook much, so I would follow the recipe to a t. I might tweak one if I do cook more often.

  2. I’m a recipe tweaker! Sometimes the results are great and sometimes, not so good.

    Your bug might be a squash bug. I get them around my house this time of the year and they are scary-looking (they give me the heebie-jeebies!) but they are harmless.

  3. I can’t believe you mentioned those caramels. I’ve had a bunch of items from that shop in my “favorites” for a while (the marshmallows look amazing as well), but haven’t ordered yet.

    In other news… I’m so happy b/c I know I’ll be getting a LoopyEwe package today and tomorrow… with Wollmeise and my groupie goodies… it can’t get much better than that!

  4. That sounds like dinner tonight!

    Caramels? My absolute favorite thing in the world. And salted caramels even more! Barefoot Contessa has a recipe on how to make them and it’s heavenly. But that’s the kind of thing I cannot keep in the house in any kind of quantity because any shred of self-restraint I have goes out the window!

  5. It depends on where the recipe is from. There are few recipes that I follow to a T- unless it is written by Ina Garten. Her recipes are pretty amazing as is. Most other recipes I do love to experiment and make them fit more what we eat.

  6. I read Pioneer Woman too! I usually stick to “confessions” and “recipes” but sometimes I read the others. She’s got a great sense of humor. In a fit of boredom, I read her entire story about her and Marlboro Man met in one day. Great story!

  7. I am totally a tweaker, and sometimes it drives my husband crazy. I tend to change things and not be able to repeat them because I don’t write it down. I am a “pinch of this, a dash of that” type of person.

  8. I tweak most recipes, unless it is for something I’ve never made before. Didn’t tweak the first yeast bread I made, or my first ice cream, but every subsequent one gets a bit of a change. Most of the time, I know the basics enough that my changes are just tasty without being alarming.

    I’m going to pretend I didn’t see anything about delicious caramels, because they are a weakness. I am just not tempted. I promise!

  9. I definitely tweak. Never know exactly how much of anything I use. The exception being certain things where tweaking can be catastrophic, like with a souffle or a cake. Those I tweak with caution if at all. BFF Liz tells me I channel Julia Child. **shrug** Maybe. 🙂

    It’s actually a valuable skill to have. Means you can make recipes with nearly impossible to find ingredients without going on the hunt for them and have them come out close, or you can buy the first edition of a new cook book and find an error in a recipe and STILL have it turn out right. (Yes, I did. 🙂 ) Great for patterns, too. Making something out of the current VK, and have found half a dozen errors in the pattern.

    So, yea, I think we need t-shirts that say “Tweaking = GOOD STUFF, MAYNARD!!!!”

  10. I usually try out a recipe as is and then tweek unless it sounds a bit bland and can use some help. I love Pioneer Woman Cooks and make her Spanish Green Beans every Thanksgiving (and also when I have an excuse).

    Oh, speaking of salted caramels, Starbucks has this drink called the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. It’s so good I pick it OVER COFFEE and that is truly a rare joy!!

  11. Nine times out of ten, I’m missing an ingredient (or two) so I ALWAYS end up tweaking. And y’know what? It ain’t half bad!

    I adore The Pioneer Woman and am in awe of everything she does. I wanna be her when I grow up.

  12. Thanks for posting that Pioneer woman link! I had forgotten about that Marlboro Man’s favorite sandwich, which I am determined to make, and the cheese breads she posted.

    I love that woman, especially her “Miracle Whip is from the devil” comment. Made my day with that one.

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