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    Here's a refreshing warm weather (or any weather!) cocktail that’s considered one of Cheddar's signature drinks. It's served in a huge 18-ounce schooner glass, but you can use any glass that will hold 18-ounces of liquid goodness. For the strawberries, find them in the freezer section and get kind that are frozen in sweet syrup, and let them thaw out before you measure. Be sure to include lots of the syrup when you measure the strawberries to help mellow the tart juice from the two lemon wedges.  

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    First impressions are important, and after my first bite of Denny's new buttermilk pancakes, I couldn't stop thinking about waffle cones. Back in the lab I mashed a standard waffle cone recipe with one of mine for buttermilk pancakes and was able to come up with the perfect hack for Denny’s new improved flapjacks. And because of their unique waffle cone flavor, these pancakes taste just as great doused with maple syrup as they do topped with a big scoop of ice cream.

    The recipe makes 8 big 6-inch pancakes which you will form by measuring one-half cup of batter into your preheated griddle or skillet. If you have a large griddle pan you may be able to make a couple of these at a time. With smaller pans though you’ll have to make one at time, which will take a little longer. And that’s why they invented Mimosas.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    The health concerns regarding microwave popcorn are a result of the way it’s packaged. For the corn to pop, the kernels are submerged in boiling fat inside the bag until a buildup of steam in the kernels causes them to burst. To prevent the liquid fat from seeping through, the bags are lined with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid, which, unfortunately for microwave popcorn lovers, has been linked to cancer and other nasty things.

    I set out on a mission to make better homemade microwave popcorn with only natural ingredients, and without using costly popping gadgets. I also wanted to avoid using plastic, tape, or metal, such as staples. My solution, like many others I researched, utilizes paper lunch bags, but with a new method for prepping the kernels. I was dismayed to find some discussions about the potential for problems using brown paper bags in your microwave oven, such as fire, but I had absolutely no issues any of the many times I did it. No smoke, no sparks, nothing looking at all dangerous was going on inside my magic cooking box. The USDA states that using paper bags in your microwave, “may cause a fire, and may emit toxic fumes,” yet the internet is full of microwave popcorn recipes calling for paper bags. So, I decided I will still share my recipe and technique, but ultimately leave it up to you to determine if it’s a hack recipe you feel safe using. 

    My hack starts with clarifying butter so that it’s pure fat, without any milk solids or water. Butter is about 16 percent water and if any of that stays in the mix, your popcorn will be on a fast trip to Soggytown. Once the butter is clarified, we’ll combine it with popcorn and salt and freeze it into pucks that can be saved for weeks, until you are ready to make quick popcorn.

    When it’s popcorn time, a puck goes into a small bowl, which goes inside two interlocking paper bags. After a warming session, you hit the “popcorn” button on your microwave oven and the popcorn will pop just like the store product (you may have to add another 30 seconds or so of cooking time). The first bag will soak up the excess butter that splashes around inside as the popcorn pops, and the second bag will keep the butter from messing up your oven.

    To serve, pull the bags apart over a big bowl, and you’ll have a fresh batch of hot microwave popcorn coated perfectly with real butter and salt.             

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    With a simple stack of meat, bacon, cheese, and secret sauce, the original BK Stacker was introduced in 2006 as a product targeted to men. Hungry men. The Stacker came with one, two, three, or four 2-ounce beef patties, and several slices of bacon on top, along with a slathering of the top secret Stacker sauce. Even though the sandwich had developed something of a cult following over the years, it was dropped from the menu in 2012.

    Today, the BK Stacker has been revived, but this time as a bigger, badder version with a new name, and beefier beef patties that weigh in at a whopping quarter-pound each. And just like the original, you can stack the patties, but this time up to a max of three because the patties are so darn big. Good luck getting your mouth around a triple with nearly a pound of meat between the buns.

    As with the original Stacker, this sandwich’s big secret is the Stacker sauce. Its base is a typical burger spread combo of mayo/ketchup/sweet pickle relish, but this one has a hint of celery flavor and rosemary not found in other burger sauces. To get the celery juice you can grate a stalk of celery on a grater or Microplane then press the pulp through a wire mesh strainer. You’ll get plenty of juice, but you just need a little bit to make your hacked sauce a perfect taste-alike. Just so you know, all other Stacker Sauce hacks I researched leave out the celery juice and rosemary.

    The recipe here makes four single hamburgers, but feel free to stack up as many patties as you can handle.

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    There’s one copycat recipe for these famous biscuits that’s posted and shared more than any other, and it’s downright awful. The dough is formulated with self-rising flour, baking powder, powdered sugar, shortening, and buttermilk, and many complain that the recipe creates dough that’s much too loose and the resulting biscuits are a complete disaster. Yet there the recipe remains on blogs and boards all over the interweb for unsuspecting home cloners such as yourself to waste time on. But that won’t happen anymore, because I have made a good recipe that works the way it should, guaranteeing you’ll get amazing golden buttermilk biscuits that look and taste just like a trained Bojangles’ pro made them.

    In addition to the obvious overuse of buttermilk, the recipe I found has many problems. The author gets it right when calling for self-rising flour, which is flour containing salt and a leavening agent (aka baking powder), but why would the Bojangles’ recipe be designed to use self-rising flour and then add additional leaving? Well, it wouldn’t. Biscuits are job #1 for self-rising flour, and the leavening in there is measured for that use, so there’s no need to add more. If you were planning to add your own leavening, you’d probably start with all-purpose flour. And let's just be clear: baking powder tastes gross, so you want to add as little as possible, not more than necessary.  

    It’s also important to handle the dough the same way that workers at Bojangles’ do. They make biscuits there every 20 minutes and there are plenty of YouTube videos showing the preparation technique. In a nutshell, the dough is mixed by hand (because their dough is so large, but for this recipe use a mixing spoon), then it’s folded over a few times on a floured countertop before it’s rolled out. This gentle handling of the dough prevents the gluten in the flour from toughening and adds layers, so your biscuits come out of the oven tender and flakey.

    For the best results, find White Lily flour. This self-rising flour is low in gluten and makes unbelievably fluffy biscuits. If you use another self-rising brand, you’ll still get great biscuits, but the gluten level will likely be higher, the biscuits will be tougher, and you’ll probably need more buttermilk. Head down to the Tidbits below for details on that.

    And I noticed another thing most biscuit recipes get wrong. For biscuits that are beautifully golden brown on the top and bottom, you’ll want to bake them on a silicone baking mat (or parchment paper) at 500 degrees F. Yes, 500 degrees. Seems hot, but this high temp works well with self-rising flour, and in 12 to 15 minutes the biscuits will be perfectly browned. Counterintuitively, it’s the lower temperatures that end up burning the biscuits, and the higher temperature cooks them just right. At lower temps the biscuits must stay in the oven longer to cook through, which exposes the surfaces to more heat, and they end up too dark on the outside, especially the bottom. For even better results, use the convection setting on your oven, if you have that. Set the temp to 475 degrees F. and your biscuits will look they came straight from the drive-thru.

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    The new Mac & Cheese at Chick-fil-A is baked fresh every day, and the recipe is more complex than you might expect from a fast food chicken chain. According to the official list of ingredients, the formula includes several different kinds of cheese including Parmesan, Romano and an award-winning hard cheese from Wisconsin called BellaVitano. The BellaVitano adds a subtle nuttiness to the mix and all three hard cheeses contribute heavy umami tones to compliment the bulkier blend of white and yellow Cheddars.

    Those five cheeses combine to make a great flavor, but the blend would melt into a greasy mess if it weren’t for the assistance of one more ubiquitous cheese: American. The benefit of American cheese—which makes up for its lack of flavor—is found in the sodium citrate it contains. This natural sodium salt is an emulsifier that keeps the fat in the cheese from separating (and it also happens to be useful in preventing kidney stones!). By first melting several slices of American cheese in the milk, we don’t have to mess with making a roux and bechamel sauce to create a perfectly smooth cheese sauce.

    As for cooking the macaroni, here’s another secret: don’t follow the directions on the box for al dente pasta, because you don’t want the pasta to be al dente, or slightly tough. You want to cook the elbow macaroni for 20 minutes so that it absorbs as much water as possible. This will ensure that the pasta won’t suck up liquid in the cheese sauce and the sauce will maintain its perfectly creamy consistency.      

    If you like this recipe, click here for more Chick-fil-A clone recipes.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 2

    This zippy mango salsa clone from America's "Fresh Mex" chain is great sprinkled over fajitas, burritos, tacos, salads, sandwiches—you name it. The salsa is so good on its own you may be tempted to eat it straight from the bowl with a spoon. A little bit of fresh habanero pepper brings the heat to this concoction, but if you can't track down fresh peppers use a couple drops of your favorite bottled habanero sauce.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 4

    Menu Description: "A grilled tilapia fillet brushed with a sweet and spicy glaze and garnished with red chili tapenade, cilantro and sesame seeds." 

    Here's a great way to prepare that next batch of fresh fish fillets when you're contemplating a new taste. If you and your diners love spicy food this is the perfect clone, since the top secret glaze and tapenade recipes I've included here both come packing heat. You can make the sauces several hours—or even days—ahead of time, and then when you're ready to eat, the fish will cook up in less than 10 minutes. Chili's calls this "grilled" tilapia on the menu, but don't expect to find grill marks on the fish. It appears the restaurant uses a flat griddle or saute pan to cook the fish, since the tender tilapia would fall through the grate on a barbecue grill. Don't limit this recipe to tilapia. The intense glaze and tapenade will perk up a variety of fish fillets, from sea bass to salmon.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 3 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Bob Evans built his first restaurant on a farm in Rio Grande, Ohio in 1962, primarily to sell his own brand of high-quality sausage. Business was good. Really good. There are now over 500 Bob Evan's Restaurants in 18 states, each one decorated in a country-living theme that reminds us of the original farm location. Customers seem to like it. They also seem to like the packaged baked goods sold at each of the restaurants under the Bob Evan's Farms brand, especially this top-selling, chewy, chocolate chunk cookie that can now be hacked in a snap by you.

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    Score: 4.86. Votes: 7

    You're grilling some steaks or baking some chicken and don't know what to serve on the side? Try out this simple clone for a dish that's served along with several of Applebee's entrees. Since the recipe requires converted rice because instant rice is gross, you have to plan ahead about 25 minutes to give the rice time to cook. It's worth the wait. The secret to an authentic, great-tasting rice pilaf is sauteing the uncooked rice kernels in butter first, before adding the liquid—in this case chicken broth. Then, as the rice is cooking, you have plenty of time to saute the almonds, celery, and onions that are tossed into the rice at the end.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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