What’s For Breakfast? Portobello Bacon Avocado Breakfast Sandwich


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UPC’s Portobello Bacon Avocado Breakfast Sandwich

Believe it or not: I didn’t wear a suit today. I know, it’s shocking, right? That wasn’t tongue in cheek – it really is shocking! Today is the first day in almost a year that I’ve been to work without a suit. Well, admittedly I did go to work in a pair of good jeans, a tie, french cuffs, and a vest; on two occasions. It’s an interesting feeling for me. I almost feel under-dressed, though I fit in perfectly with my colleagues here. I was overdressed before. Despite being overdressed, according to the work environment, I actually like wearing a suit. I’ve been in more jobs than not where wearing a suit was normal, so I’m quite comfortable with my suits every day. Shoot: I even run to the ferry in the mornings with my suit on; if that’s not a statement of comfort, I don’t know what is!

I woke up yesterday morning feeling energized and excited. I ended up coming up with three really great recipes, and I started marinating some ribs for a fourth! It was an amazing day for me! The other side of that, of course, was that my wife got to enjoy my culinary adventures, with only the minor annoyance of having to wait while I took pictures. She jokingly said to me:

I’m going to post on Facebook that there actually IS a downside to having a Foodie Blogger for a husband: You have to wait while he takes pictures of the food before eating…

I commiserate. She’s not the only one waiting! As much as I love this blog, I have to be honest and point out that, at least once a week I devour my food before the thought of “Oh, right, I should take a photo for the blog” manages to weasel it’s wait into my head… From time to time I post an apology note on Twitter, to the tune of “I just had _____, and it was awesome… Sorry, forgot to take pics!” That happened yesterday with some St. Louis style slow-cooked ribs that I put together for lunch. They were so delicious, I just forgot to take pictures! Fortunately, I didn’t forget the pictures of this breakfast sandwich!

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As I said: This is a real sandwich!

UPC’s Portobello Bacon Avocado Sandwich; What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 lb Bacon (Only the best!)
  • Avocado, 2 thick slices
  • Lettuce, several leaves (or some other greens)
  • 2 Portobello Mushrooms

Serves: 1
Cook and Prep Time: 35 minutes (Same total time for 2-4)

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1. Cut the bacon strips in half, and cook them, covered, as you like them.
Note: I like my bacon slightly chewy, so I cook them covered for about 20 minutes on medium heat.

2. Remove the bacon and let it drain on a plate.

3. Pour off most of the bacon grease (for use some other time!) and put the pan back on the heat to keep hot.

4. Slice the stem of the Portobello mushroom caps off, so that the whole cap is flat and level.

5. Cook the Portobello mushroom caps in the bacon pan for about 2 minutes on medium heat.

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6. Put the caps on a plate, stack the lettuce, avocado, bacon, and the top cap on. In that order.

Serve, and enjoy!

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Questions:

  • What do you wear to work?
  • Do you match your attire, generally, to your co-workers?
  • Do you try to keep yourself looking like a well-dressed professional at all times?
  • Is “well-dressed professional” a match for your workplace? Or would it be out of place?
  • Should I do this with eggs next? Tomato? A caramelized tomato glaze or chutney?
  • What kind of bacon is your favorite commercial brand?
  • Is your bacon good enough that you re-use the grease?
  • Do you use Portobello Mushrooms for buns with your burgers, breakfast sandwiches, etc.?

What’s For Dinner? Ginger Chicken Soup


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UPC’s Ginger Chicken Soup

There are a million varieties of chicken soup. That’s an accurate count, too, I think. Actually, if anything, I’m underestimating. There are probably at least 1 million and 1 varieties. At least. In fact, my wife and I end up with a new variety of chicken soup almost every night. Lately, we’ve been cooking up some chicken soup every night, re-using the leftovers from the night before, and adding in a new set of ingredients – some the same, some different. We’ve had some really delicious versions, and some that aren’t really worth getting all excited about. That’s cooking for you!

This Ginger Chicken Soup was one of the more impressive versions that we’ve put together over the past week. The way that the ginger brightened the flavor of the soup was amazing! It brought out all the best flavors of the other vegetables that I used. And the way that ginger works with chicken is like magic! I’m really going to have to use some ginger on some baked chicken now – I’ve done it extensively with stewed meats, chicken included, but now I have got to try it baked!

UPC’s Ginger Chicken Soup:

  • 2 Whole Chicken Legs (skin, bones, everything)
  • 2 inches Ginger, diced
  • 1/2 Jicama Root, chopped (would work with a sweet potato or diakon too; though that would result in a very different flavor)
  • 1 medium Carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium Golden Beet, chopped
  • 1 medium Zucchini, chopped
  • 3 sprigs Basil Leaves
  • 3 sprigs Basil Stalks, diced
  • Spices: Sea Salt, Turmeric, Sage
  • 6 cups Water

Serves: 2-4 (2 with a lot of leftovers)
Cook time: 45 minutes

1. Put the chicken legs and spices in the water and cook on high, covered.

2. While the chicken is heating up, chop the ingredients and add them to the pot. Here is the order that I add ingredients:

  • Ginger first (need the flavor!)
  • Carrots (hardest; needs the most time in the water to soften)
  • Jicama (or Sweet Potato)
  • Golden Beet (Very different flavor profile from red beet – I would use Sweet Potato or Rutabaga instead of Golden Beet if you need to substitute)
  • Diced Basil Stalks (Yes, dice up the stalks of the basil sprigs – these cook quite well, and the flavor is subtle but delicious)
  • Zucchini

3. Let the water boil, still on high heat (use a big pot) for 10 minutes.

4. Take the chicken legs out of the pot and pull them apart, shredding the meat and extracting the bones. Put the chicken back into the pot once it’s been shredded.
Note: I do this step right in the pot, shredding the chicken and extracting the bones all without removing them from the pot. If you’re going to do this, be very careful not to get burned by the steam or splashing.

5. Let the soup continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Now serve and enjoy!

Questions:

  • How much do you enjoy chicken soup?
  • Seriously, how much do you love chicken soup?!?
  • Is chicken soup a year-round comfort food for you, or do you typically start turning to it as the weather turns?
  • What other soups are your fall and winter comfort foods?
  • Are you adventurous with your chicken soups?
  • Are you adventurous with your other soups?
  • What kinds of adventures have worked out well for you?
  • What has failed miserably?

What’s For Dinner? – Basil, Bacon and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Mushrooms


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UPC’s Basil, Bacon and Caramelized Onion Stuffed Mushrooms

Inspiration can come from a lot of different places, for a lot of different things. I love it when inspiration strikes me, and I am most definitely the kind of guy who will pull over to the side of the road to take a picture or write something down. I’m not so much of a sing-in-the-shower person, but you shouldn’t be the least bit surprised if I were to break into song while standing on the subway platform, or walking down a crowded street. Why? I was inspired. Interestingly, most often when inspiration strikes me, I’ve completely forgotten what inspired me by the time the inspired action begins. It’s one of the reasons why I believe in inspiration so thoroughly. Fortunately, for those really life-changing events, the ones that have a lasting impact on my life, I usually remember the inspiration for those. For instance: I remember what inspired me and my wife to go Paleo. In fact, I can trace that particular decision through an interesting path of choices, all made possible by one single moment of inspiration (and not a terribly pleasant one, I might add) almost a year before we did finally make the decision. And, depending on how you look at it, that particular moment, that inspiration, may in fact be responsible for my blogging as well. Sometimes it’s amazing to consider the implications that one action may have such lasting impressions! If I could, I’d go Paleo AGAIN – though I’m certainly not willing to give it up first…

My inspiration, as small as it may seem, for today’s meal was a box of mushrooms. Some mushrooms just say to me “I want to be chopped up in little bits and eaten in a salad.” Some of them say “I want to be sliced thin and made into a soup.” And these mushrooms that you see here, they were jumping up and down, screaming to be made into stuffed mushrooms as loud as they could! Honestly, I don’t understand how everyone else in the grocery store wasn’t annoyed by all the ruckus.
On a slightly more serious note: I saw these mushrooms and was instantly and immediately inspired to make stuffed mushrooms with them. Unlike bursting in to song, stuffed mushrooms take some preparation, consideration, and planning. I knew that they wanted to be made in to stuffed mushrooms, but I still had to figure out what to stuff them with! Not to worry; it came to me. Or, rather, my wife and I spent an agonizing 30 minutes spit-balling ideas back and forth until one stuck. Like inspiration, I knew it once we had it. So, here it is!

UPC’s Basil, Bacon and Caramelized┬á Onion Stuffed Mushrooms; What you’ll need:

  • Large Mushrooms (I used 20 oz) – any large cup-mushroom (white button, crimini, etc.); or cake the stuffing on top of a cap-mushroom (portobello, shiitake, etc)
  • Mushroom Stems, diced
  • 1 lb Bacon, cooked and crumbled (Top-Quality only! ­čÖé )
  • 1 large Red Onion, diced and caramelized (also called “Spanish Onion”)
  • 1 medium Rutabaga, finely chopped.
  • 2 cloves Garlic, diced
  • 5-6 sprigs Fresh Basil, diced (including the stems – they add to the texture)
  • Several Fresh Basil Leaves, diced (keep separate from above)
  • Spices: Savory, Anise, Marjoram, Turmeric

Serves: 4-8
Cook and Prep Time: 60 minutes

2GarlicOnionBaconStuffedMushrooms-Bacon1. Cook and crumble the bacon. Drain the pan of most of the bacon grease (to be used in some other culinary creation!).

2. Add the onions and rutabaga to the remainder of the bacon grease and begin cooking on medium heat. Stir regularly (every 1-2 minutes).

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Remove the stem, cut out the lip, and scrape out the gills.

3. Remove the stems of the mushrooms, cut out the lip of the cup, then scrape the gills off the inside of the cup (or cap, if you’re using caps) of the mushroom with a spoon. This makes more room for the stuffing.
Note: Don’t know what the gills are? Check here.

4. After about 10 minutes of cook time, add the garlic and mushroom stems to the onions and rutabaga and continue to cook and stir for another 5 minutes, or until the onions are thoroughly caramelized.

5. Turn off the heat, add the spices and diced basil and mix thoroughly.

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Stir in the spices and basil with the caramelized onions and rutabaga.

6. Pre-heat the oven to 350.

7. Spoon some stuffing in to each mushroom, making sure that they’re filled to the top, but not over filled. The mushrooms will shrink while baking.

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Don’t over-fill the mushrooms; they shrink while baking.

8. Grease the bottom of each mushroom thoroughly (yes, you can use the bacon grease ­čÖé ) and place the mushrooms in a baking pan with enough space between them so that they’re not touching.

9. Put the pan in the oven once it’s up to temperature; set the timer for 15 minutes.

10. When the timer dings, sprinkle the remaining diced basil on top of the mushrooms, and serve and enjoy!

Optional: If you’re a cheese person: you can add cheese to the recipe at the end, while you’re adding the basil and spices to the stuffing.

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Questions:

  • What kinds of inspiration strikes you?
  • Do you ever have inspiration that you can act on immediately? Do you?
  • Do you ever have food inspiration?
  • How would you use this stuffed mushroom recipe?
  • How might you change it to suit your needs?
  • Are there other stuffed mushroom recipes that you like?
  • Would you serve this as a meal, or an appetizer?
  • What would you serve this with?

Chicken Soup for the… Just Chicken Vegetable Soup


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Just Chicken Vegetable Soup

I hope you enjoyed the post title! I had fun with that. I also had a short story all thought up to go with the title, and I thought it was pretty funny at the time. Unfortunately, all I can remember right now is that I thought up a story and thought it was pretty funny. Sometimes writing does that to me. Sometimes it clears my mind of all other things, and something surprising comes out of my fingers (yes, I write with my fingers, not a pen). Almost like magic. And sometimes I don’t forget the story, and I can relay it back to you all with a humored grin on my face, despite that there’s a pretty good chance that no one else thinks I’m funny…

Just chicken vegetable soup. I really enjoy soup season. Fall, winter, and spring here in NYC is prime soup season for me and my wife. And we always know that soup season has kicked off with aplomb once I’ve made the first chicken soup of the season. It’s almost a “Soup Season Tradition” for us. Perhaps we should call it that.
One of the things that I like the most about Soup Season is the use of spices. I do a lot of steak with nothing but turmeric or pepper. I like the flavor of steak, and only really want to hide that flavor with spices when I’m making something “fancy”. But when it comes to soups, it’s all about the spices! Of course, you don’t just grab a random handful of spice jars and just use them. You carefully, artfully choose the spices you’re going to include in order to maximize your enjoyment, and the specific flavors, of the dish. Today’s key players are: fresh sliced lemongrass, fresh chopped rosemary, and turmeric (sorry, not fresh).

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb Chicken Thigh Meat
  • 2 medium Yellow Squashes, sliced
  • 10 oz Crimini Mushrooms, sliced
  • 3-4 medium Carrots, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced Fennel Bulb
  • 1 cup sliced Celery
  • 4-6 tablespoons fresh Rosemary, sliced
  • 4-6 tablespoons sliced fresh Lemongrass
  • 2 tablespoons Turmeric
  • Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Serves: 6-8 (I always make plenty for leftovers)
Cook and Prep time: 60 minutes (I prep the spices and vegetables while the soup cooks)

1. In the soup pot, add the chicken and several cups of water and cook on high, covered.

2. Slice the lemongrass first, and add it to the soup as it is ready, followed by adding the turmeric, then chopping up the rosemary and adding it to the pot.

3. Let the chicken and spices cook for 5-10 minutes, on high heat, before adding anything else to the pot.
Note: This is a good time to prepare the other vegetables.

4. After the chicken has had some time to cook through, add the carrots, fennel, and mushrooms to the soup, as well as refreshing the water. Always make sure that there is more than enough water to fully submerge all of the ingredients (keeping in mind, of course, that the vegetables float…).

5. Allow another 5-10 minutes of cook time, then uncover the pot and using a serving fork and some tongs, fish out the chicken chunks, and shred the chicken back in to the pot, leaving it as shredded as you have the patience to make it. I do this instead of cutting it in to chunks, because I like the texture of the shredded chicken much better than chunks of it.

6. About 15 minutes before meal time add the remaining ingredients to the soup. Again, refresh the water in the soup so that there is plenty of water to cover all of the vegetables.

7. Just before serving, add the salt and pepper, and increase the water of the soup to the point that there’s the right amount of broth to suit your tastes (some people like a lot of broth, some people like less…). And serve and enjoy!

Questions:

  • Do you ever forget something right as you’re about to say it? Or write it?
  • What is your favorite kind of soup?
  • When you do chicken soup, which spices do you use?
  • Do you prefer your chicken soup to be a “slow-cooked” meal, or something you throw together in a quick 30-minute prep session, just before dinner time?
  • What meal really personifies the beginning of soup season for you?

What’s For Dinner? Slab Bacon and Steak Heaped with Caramelized Onions


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Slab Bacon, Steak Heaped with Caramelized Onions, and Avocado

If your mouth is watering just looking at that picture, you’re not alone. As much as I enjoyed the food, looking at it is almost as good – believe it or not! I had had a hard day at work, as had my wife. We were both coming home a bit late; my wife a bit later than me. So, what better way to unwind at the end of a really long day than with some of the most savory of the savory food category? Well, this slab bacon, as I’ve mentioned in my Slab Bacon Bacon Project Post, has been treating me and my wife every bit as well as it did when we first bought it and tried it. Without a doubt, this is the best commercial bacon we’ve had the pleasure of eating.

This meal does very well with additional cook time, so if you know that dinner may be delayed, this is a great meal to allow to simply keep cooking on a lower temperature. It’s a great meal to prepare for dinner parties, allowing the host to let dinner time be socially dictated, rather than when the dinner bell rings (it also allows the friends who got caught in traffic get there and still eat with everyone else!).

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb Slab Bacon
  • 1 lb Grass-Fed Rib Eye Steak (can use other cuts)
  • 2 medium Onions, chopped
  • 1 large Avocado
  • Spices: Turmeric, Black Pepper (fresh ground), “Herb De Provence” spice mix

Serves: 2-4 (depending on how hungry you are…)
Cook and prep time: 70 minutes

1. Heat the steak up in a pan on high until the steak is sizzling loudly.

2. Turn the heat down to medium-low, about 3 out of 10, and as soon as the sizzling stops, flip the steak.

3. Put the slab bacon in a separate pan and cook, covered, on medium-low heat, or about 3 out of 10.

4. Add the chopped onions around the steak in the steak pan.
Optional: Using 4-5 medium chopped onions, you can cook them in the bacon pan instead. This will produce leftover caramelized onions for quite a few meals.

5. Spice the steak liberally and cover the pan allowing the steak to cook.

6. Lay the bacon down on a new side every 10 minutes.

7. About 5 minutes before meal time, turn the steak pan up to high heat, take the steak out, and stir the onions thoroughly.

8. Alternately leaving the steak on top of the onions, and stirring, keep the onions cooking and stirring for 5 minutes on high heat.

Now serve and enjoy!

Questions:

  • What is your favorite dinner-party meal?
  • Which is the “Side Dish” in this meal: the steak, or the slab bacon?
  • Would you use something other than caramelized onions? How would you cook them?
  • How do you and your friends determine dinner time during dinner parties? When the food is ready, or when the guests are ready?
  • What kinds of drinks would you serve with this meal? Any specific brand/year?
  • Is there a difference between friends for dinner parties, and family? Do you cook differently? Do you clean, or set a different table?

UPC’s Pocket Guide To: Sprucing up your Leftovers


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Sprucing Up Your Leftovers – Today’s meal: Chicken Croquette

As you may or may not recall, I made some Paleo Crispy Chicken Croquettes last week. They came out delicious, and my wife immediately started to get excited about what other ways we could start to re-incorporate chicken in our diets. Truth be told: we eat very little white meat. Most of what we eat, as what you see me post recipes about, is red meat. It is not uncommon in the UPC household to eat a healthy serving (6-10 ounces) each meal. In fact, the only time we ever really indulge in chicken or turkey is either as a salad meat, or in a sausage. There are some really delicious chicken sausage flavors sold at Trader Joe’s, and I definitely see myself continuing to patronize their chicken-sausage shelf!

So using the Paleo Crispy Chicken Croquettes I made last week, I made several meals for myself and my wife throughout the week and weekend. These Paleo Crispy Chicken Croquettes were absolutely delicious (and perhaps better!) when they were reheated for subsequent meals. We ate them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; not consecutively, of course.
In the above picture you’ll see that I roasted up some carrots in coconut oil for several minutes, and then served the carrots over some mixed salad greens with the re-heated Paleo Crispy Chicken Croquettes. The meal was quick, delicious, and easy; and best of all, it was completely home-made!

So back to today’s topic: Sprucing up leftovers.

Here are some simple steps you can take to turn some leftovers in to an appetizing and delicious meal:

1. For meat leftovers: Add greens, the add colorful veggies.

  • More often than not, the leftovers in my refrigerator consist of the uneaten meat from my last meal. In fact, I frequently make quite a bit more than my wife and I will consume, specifically for the leftovers.
  • Step 1: Add some greens. These could be in the form of salad greens or cooked veggies, but the first thing you add to a meat leftover meal is something green.
  • Step 2: Add some colorful vegetables. A great way to satisfy both of these requirements would be to mix up a quick tomato, avocado, and arugula salad, and serve it alongside your leftover beef or other meat. In today’s picture, you see the green salad base with roasted carrots.

2. For cooked vegetables: Add a protein source.

  • When I have vegetables left over from a meal, 90% of the time it’s a cooked vegetable. Again, like when I cook up extra meat when I’m cooking, I often prepare extra vegetables as well.
  • Step 1: Add a protein source. For me, I often save my leftover cooked vegetables for my Salad Eggs the next morning. There is little I enjoy more than a delicious Salad Eggs meal to start off my day. And what easier way to do it than with vegetables already prepared from the night before?
  • Step 2: Add some more vegetables. When I am not making Salad Eggs with my leftover vegetables, I am adding them to a salad, or serving them alongside a meat dish. In either case, this usually means that I’ll need salad greens to complete my plate.

3. For raw vegetables: Cook them, then add more greens and a protein source.

  • It is very, very rare that I ever prepare more raw vegetables than I’m going to eat. In those rare occasions, I’m most likely to cook whatever vegetables are left over from my previous meal.
  • Option 1: Make a soup,┬áSalad Eggs, or an omelet. A great way to use raw vegetable leftovers is in a soup. Cooking the vegetables in water will rehydrate them, hiding any wilting that may have happened in between your food prep for the previous meal and the current meal. I love making a soup or salad eggs with leftover vegetables.
  • Option 2: Make a salad. This can work very well with a Hot & Cold Salad, where you cook up some of the ingredients of the meal (along with a protein source), and serve the salad all mixed together, combining the cooked flavors with the raw flavors.

I highly recommend making enough food to have some leftovers each night for dinner. It can make meal-prep for Breakfast and Lunch so much easier than the daunting task of preparing and making 2 meals for yourself (and your family) all while getting ready for work and catching up on the tweets and facebook updates from the night before. Leftovers can save an impressive amount of time when faced with all of those priorities in an already-tight morning scheduled.

Questions:

  • Do you make extra food intentionally for leftovers?
  • How do you deal with your leftovers when you have them?
  • Do you make a whole extra meal of leftovers, or do you selectively make leftovers from specific portions of your meal?

Coconut Crusted Chocolate Covered Lychee


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UPC’s Coconut Chocolate Lychee

I was given this idea by Hari Qhuang, of Hari’s Got Tales!” in a comment he posted on my blog not too long ago. I was so excited by the idea that I asked him how it was done. He responded that he didn’t really know, and gave me “creative license” to go and try my own version of it. Well, this is what happens when you give UPC some Creative License! Let that be a lesson to all you who are considering asking me to come up with a way to make this or that!

CoconutChocolateLychee-Background

CoconutChocolateLychee-LycheesCoconut Chocolate Lychee; What you’ll need:

  • 10-15 Lychee Fruits, peeled, halved and pitted (bonus points if you can get the pit out without cutting the Lychee in half!)
  • 4 oz Dark Chocolate (Only the best! I used Organic Nectars 70% Dark)
  • 1 cup Shredded Coconut (Organic please!)

Serves: Umm… 1? 2? 5? It depends on whether you let other people taste it before you do!
Cook and Prep Time: 120 minutes, at least.

1. Peel, half, and pit the Lychees. Put these on a plate to dry for an hour.
Note: If you have the patience: put them in a dehydrator for the hour, or in the oven at 150 or so for the hour. If you can’t do that, it’s ok. I just let them sit, and the recipe works fine if they can air-dry for an hour.

2. Put a thick bed of shredded coconut on a large plate.

3. Heat up the chocolate bar in a pot and let it cool for 5-10 minutes until the chocolate is thick, like molasses.

CoconutChocolateLychee-ChocolateAndCoconutChocolate4. Drop the now-dried (or air-dried) lychee halves in the chocolate and roll the chocolate around to cover them with a thick coat of chocolate.

5. Rest the lychee halves on the shredded coconut carefully.
Note: I used chopsticks to pull the chocolate-covered lychee halves out of the chocolate; tongs likely will work well too.

6. Cover the chocolate covered lychee halves with a copious amount of shredded coconut, pushing the coconut up around the outside of the lychee. You should have little mounds of shredded coconut on your plate, with the chocolate covered lychee  in the middle.

7. Cover the plate (lightly!) with tin-foil or wax paper, and put it in the fridge to let the coconut-chocolate-lychees cool and harden.

8. After about an hour, take them out and “break up” the shredded coconut mounds, and brush off the extra coconut from the chocolate covered lychee halves. There will be quite a bit of leftover shredded coconut (for you to munch on, of course!).

9. (Optional) Use the leftover chocolate as a “garnish” on the chocolate covered lychee halves.

Now serve, and enjoy!!

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