My birthday is being eclipsed by the eclipse. That’s right, tomorrow is my birthday, and instead of scurrying about discussing the plans in hushed tones and taking care of the last-minute details of my surprise party, all I hear from family and friends is “the eclipse this” and “the eclipse that.” Looking forward, I’m certainly glad that my birthday is the annual event, and not the eclipse!

We have all heard of “the eye of the tiger,” but stand back, tigers. Because here comes the Eye of the Cheetah. Yes, there is a set of earrings and ring shaped to represent the “magnificent tail” of none other than Chester Cheetah – 18 karat gold; the ring has an almost 5 carat orange sapphire while the stones in the earrings are around 2½ carats. And between the three pieces, there are 200 small diamonds, some black and some white (I think they would be referred to as ”2-points”), necessarily very small in order to have that many of them on jewelry pieces this small.

The ad says the set is “worth” $20,000, but to me, worth only conveys how much an individual is willing to pay for something, while “valued at” tells me what kind of a deal I am getting. Either way, this set sells for $20,000.

I’m not a hard person to buy for, but I try to give my daughter Traci a hint or two as to what I would like for my birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, I-had-a-few-extra-dollars-in-my-pocket Day. You know, any time she gets the urge to splurge on me.

She and I were at our friend Jody Clark’s birthday party a couple of weeks ago, and I mentioned that I had found the perfect gift for me. She said, “I’m done with your birthday (she is disgustingly on top of all gift-giving occasions).” I told her about the cheetah jewelry anyway, on the off-chance that she would agree that it would be perfect for me, and she said, “I’m done with your birthday.”

I took that to mean that she knew about the jewelry and had already purchased it for me. It could happen ...

It’s really a moot point anyway, since I checked the Cheetos merchandise site online, and the jewelry, as well as the rest of the Chester Cheetah merchandise, was sold out. It wasn’t clear whether any of it would be available again at some future date.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Clarks are not averse to unabashedly campaigning for birthday (and any other day) presents.

All this talk of Cheetos bling made me a little hungry, for Cheetos, of course, and I wondered if there were recipes out there that used Cheetos as an ingredient. What a ridiculous question! Of course there are!

And now that I know about them, I feel compelled to share them with you.

The first chicken recipe is breaded with a crushed crunchy Cheetos/Parmesan cheese mixture. The other chicken recipe uses ranch dressing to coat the chicken. Then it is completely dressed with crushed flamin’ Cheetos before baking. The ranch tames the flames somewhat.

Georgianna Lowery, who devised the flamin’ chicken recipe, cautions “Although many spicy foods lose their zing when refrigerated, this is not the case with this recipe. If anything, it will get hotter when reheated. You’ve been warned.” She also suggests variations on this theme, saying “Try this breaded with pretty much any of your favorite chips or crackers. Try your favorite dressing, mayonnaise or even sour cream. Just make sure entire surface of chicken is covered. Try pork chops instead of chicken.”

You know, if people are eating bacon cupcakes with bacon frosting and cheesy hot dogs in Twinkie buns, Cheetos infused cookies are almost run-of-the-mill.

Ross Cantor, baker and co-owner of Cookie Good in Santa Monica, Calif., devised “the Cheetos cookie, a sweet and salty snack.” But the good news is that you don’t have to live in Santa Monica to try them, because Cookie Good “ships them across the country starting at $23 per dozen.” The better news is that “the people behind the Youtube channel Hellthy Junk Food recently posted a DIY Cheetos cookie recipe so you can recreate them at home (information from cosmopolitan.com/food-cocktails/a11648236/cheetos-cookies/).”

Hellthyjunkfood’s cookie recipe uses metric measures. I looked up conversion charts, but the amounts aren’t uniform. For instance, 2 ounces is 50 grams, so it would follow that 4 ounces would be 100 grams, but the charts I found list 4 ounces as 110 grams. I would advise using a metric scale if you decide to try that one.

The provider, who thinks there is actually healthy junk food, says of the cookies: “Try to imagine a sugar cookie with a sweet cheesy bite. Simple, different, delicious.”

Cheetos Chicken

3 cups crunchy Cheetos-type cheese-flavored snacks

⅓ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

¼ cup flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (12 to 16 ounces)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the Cheetos in food processor; process into small crumbs (about the size of Panko). Add cheese; pour into a plate. Combine flour and salt; dip chicken in mixture to coat. Whisk together egg and water until well-blended. Dip floured chicken in egg mixture, then in crumbs to coat. Place on a lightly sprayed or greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (cooking time will depend on thickness of meat). 2 servings (food.com/recipe/cheetos-chicken-262458)

Baked Chicken with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and Ranch Dressing

¼ cup crushed Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or regular crunchy Cheetos per chicken piece

¼ cup ranch dressing per chicken piece

Boneless skinless chicken, breasts or thighs

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Coarsely crush Cheetos to about the consistency of Panko crumbs, in blender or food processor, or place in resealable plastic bag, seal and crush with rolling pin. Dip chicken pieces in ranch dressing to coat both sides; dip chicken in Cheetos crumbs, pressing lightly to help crumbs stick. Place on sprayed or parchment-lined baking sheet(s); bake breasts 20 to 30 minutes, thighs 30 to 40 minutes, until juices run clear and chicken registers 165 degrees on kitchen thermometer. Variations: Try this with your favorite chips or crackers; substitute your favorite dressing, mayonnaise or even sour cream. Just make sure entire surface of chicken is covered. Try pork chops instead of chicken. Note: Although many spicy foods lose their zing when refrigerated, this is not the case with this recipe. If anything, it will get hotter when reheated. (Georgianna Lowery, delishably.com)

Cheetos Cookies—metric

100g flour

100g butter, at room temperature

150g sugar

5g baking soda

60g Cheetos

2 egg yolks

Finely crushed Cheetos

Orange food coloring

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grind up roughly 100 grams of Cheetos in a food processor. Whisk together butter, sugar, egg yolks and orange food coloring in a bowl (note from Alice: When using liquid red and yellow for the orange, I use a ratio of 1 drop red to 3 drops yellow until I have the shade I want). Combine flour, baking soda and Cheetos in another bowl. Fold flour mixture into butter mixture; roll dough into 100 gram balls. Roll balls liberally in Cheetos crumbs. Place on a sprayed or parchment-lined baking sheet; leave round or flatten slightly with fork, in criss-cross pattern. Bake 20 minutes; if cookies are cookies, check at 15 minutes. Let cool completely on pan. 6 cookies (hellthyjunkfood.com/cheetos-cookies)

Cheetos Cookies

1¼ cups flour

5 cups whole Cheetos puffs, divided

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon cream of tartar

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

¼ cup shortening

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg, room temperature

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place 3 cups Cheetos in resealable plastic bag; seal and crush with rolling pin. In medium-sized bowl combine flour, crushed Cheetos, salt, baking soda and cream of tartar. Use electric mixer on medium speed to blend. In separate bowl cream together butter, shortening and sugar. Add egg; thoroughly incorporate. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients in 2 batches, mixing well after each addition. Cover dough; refrigerate at least 1 hour. Place remaining Cheetos in plastic bag; crush with rolling pin. Pour into small bowl or plate. Using small ice cream scoop, scoop out dough for tablespoon-sized balls. Roll balls in Cheetos crumbs; place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes; cool completely. Store in airtight container at room temperature; can be frozen. (nestfullofnew.com/cheetos-cookies)

Send requests, recipes and/or cooking tips and techniques to Alice P. Clark at: Reader Exchange, c/o La Crosse Tribune, 401 N. Third St., La Crosse, WI 54601; e-mail: readerexchange@lacrossetribune.com.

Liven up your Thursday mornings by tuning in to Coulee Region Cooks from 10 to 11 a.m. on 1410-AM on the radio dial.

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