Game Day Guacamole

So, it’s that time of year again… (Don’t brag about New England, don’t brag about New England…)

That special day, when friends & family gather around the TV to chow down and cheer… (Don’t say Brady is the greatest, don’t say Brady is the greatest…)

Yes, the Super Bowl is upon us! (OK, I can’t help it…)

GO PATS! BEAT LA!

Whew, sorry about that. It’s a little hard to keep the level of humility under control when your team is once again headed to the big game. In all honestly though, I love Super Bowl Sunday no matter who is playing (but it’s always the Patriots).

Game day is the perfect excuse to pig out while the pigskin flies. One thing that is on many menus is good ol’ fashioned chips and guacamole, so I decided to share an easy recipe for the green stuff, with a little Lara twist to it, of course. Here’s what’s going to be in my bowl on Sunday:

  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 2 limes, zested & juiced
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup mango habanero salsa
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1-2 tsp chili powder
  1. Remove the avocados from their skins & place in a large bowl. Add the lime zest & juice. Mash with a fork until fairly smooth (some texture is just fine).
  2. Add the onion, salsa, garlic & chili powder. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated. Add a generous pinch of salt & pepper to taste.

YES, I added salsa to my guacamole. YES, I know that’s not really traditional. But my garden has been popping out habaneros like crazy this season, so I am always making my mango habanero salsa, which you can get the recipe for by clicking here (or above in the recipe). Sometimes I make it with pineapple instead of mango, equally delicious.

Since the salsa is always in my fridge, I’m always looking for new dishes to use it in. Feel free to use a store-bought version, or leave that step out if you want it to be more mild.

One ingredient you can’t skip it the fresh lime juice. Not only does it add flavor, but it actually keeps the avocado from turning brown quickly. Make sure you get that lime on there fast.


Keep that beautiful green bright

And of coooourse the easy thing to do would be buying a bag of tortilla chips, but it’s really easy to make them yourself. Just cut corn tortillas into triangles, place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a touch of lime juice, chili powder and salt, and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until crispy. It’s like instant restaurant quality chips, and you can control the seasoning and salt levels.



Baked tortilla chips, before & after

Usually I like a make-ahead type recipe for party situations, but this is so quick to put together, I don’t mind making it the day of. Guacamole doesn’t last very long in the fridge, only a couple days.

Fun fact though, you can totally freeze it for a couple months. Just put it in a freezer safe bag and make sure to squeeze all the air out before sealing. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going that route before a party, but if you happen to have a lot leftover, it’s a good way to save it. Then down the road you can thaw it out for taco night or something else (because we all know how expensive avocados can be).

Well, whether you are into the game or not, I think we can all agree that Super Bowl Sunday is fun for everyone if you have the right snacks. What are you more excited for, football or food? I’m know ready for both.

(Go Pats!)

 

Sweet & Spicy Chicken Wings

Let’s start with the kitchen update: it’s still not finished.

I’ll be honest. I’ve watched enough HGTV remodel shows that I should know nothing ever goes right or on schedule, but the optimistic side of me thought maybe we could bang this kitchen out in a couple weeks. Well, the optimistic side of me is dead now.

We had a damaged cabinet to reorder and a lot of rainy days causing rescheduling. I have my oven and fridge, thank goodness, but can I please tell you how unpleasant washing dishes in a bathroom has been for the past 3 weeks? I will be crying tears of joy when my new farmhouse sink and dishwasher get installed.

Venting aside, I know all this hard work and inconvenience will pay off in a big way. I’m so excited to get it up and running, because I have a lot of recipes I am itching to try out.

Despite our house being a work in progress, we decided to have a couple of friends over to watch the Super Bowl a little while ago. When you have no kitchen and the big game is on, the only logical solution is to set up your deep fryer in the backyard and make wings.


When I made these yesterday, there was a sudden change in the weather. “I’m fryyyyin’ in the rain, just fryyyyin’ in the rain…”

We already had buffalo chicken dip on the menu, so I wanted to stray from the traditional hot wing flavor. I grabbed a bottle of sweet and sour sauce from the grocery store thinking it might be good, but at home I realized it was way too sweet, so I got creative. I threw all this extra stuff in from my fridge and panty (which right now is a bunch of bins in the front bedroom) and the sauce turned out better than expected.


The outcome of the game wasn’t great, but at least the wings were.

I guess you could say I…. winged it. I didn’t take notes that day, but I managed to recreate the magic for today’s post. Let’s get started!

  • 6-8 whole chicken wings, split into wingettes & drumettes (12-16 pieces)
  • oil for frying
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/2 cup pickling liquid*
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sweet & sour sauce (I used this one)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 lime, zest & juice
  • sliced green onions (optional)
  • pickled red onions (optional)

*I used the liquid from my pickled red onion garnish. If you do not have anything pickled to borrow the juice from, increase the water to 2 cups and the salt to 2 Tbsp

  1. Stir salt into the water until dissolved. Combine with 3/4 cup of pineapple juice (save the rest) and the pickling liquid. Pour over the wings in a large glass bowl or container and cover tightly. Refrigerate for 2-6 hours.
  2. Heat oil in a fryer or a large pot to 375 degrees. Discard the brining liquid and place the wings in large ziploc bag full of flour. Seal the bag and toss the wings around until they are evenly coated. Fry 6 to 8 pieces at a time in the oil for 8-10 minutes, until cooked through and crispy.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, combine the sweet and sour sauce, soy sauce, sriracha, garlic, red pepper flakes, lime zest, lime juice and the leftover 1/4 cup of pineapple juice. Simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to marry all the ingredients.
  4. When the wings are cooked, drain them on paper towels before tossing them in the sweet and spicy sauce. Serve immediately, topped with thinly sliced green onions and pickled red onion, if desired.

If you are having a large party, you obviously need to double (or triple) this recipe. In that case, you can keep cooked wings in the oven on the warming setting while you fry the rest of the them. Also, I highly recommend getting some of those deep aluminum foil pans from the store to carry these babies back and forth in. It makes clean up so much easier, especially if you pour the sauce over the wings in one of those instead of another bowl getting messy.

The first time I made these for the Super Bowl, I didn’t add any onions at the end. I put out some blue cheese for people to dip with, but honestly, I wasn’t feeling it. When I was gathering what I needed for this second trial, I happened to notice I had some green onions to use, so I tried those first. YUM!


I could use a heart-shaped eye emoji right about now.

Then I got crazy and decided to throw some pickled onions on there too, and oh my goodness. The two kinds of onion added another level of texture, aroma and freshness to cut through the sticky, rich sauce. Maybe I’m the only one who’s this in love with pickled veggies, but if you have been following me for a while, you know I always have something pickled in the fridge. Red onions, carrots & celery cut into matchsticks, sweet peppers, hot peppers… all my leftovers end up in a jar.

Here is a great guide to quick pickling if you are interested in trying it out! It’s super easy and then you always have awesome stuff to top off a dish (especially sandwiches).

If you are not into deep-frying or don’t want to deal with mess, you could always bake the wings. Frying really get the wings crispy fast though, which locks in all the flavor. Also, when you are smothering something sauce, I don’t see the point in adding a bunch of seasoning to the coating. Simple flour is all you need.


Wings straight out of the fryer, looking good enough to eat without sauce.

Brining is the other key to having yummy, juicy wings. Even if it’s only a salt water brine, do it. I added the sweet pineapple juice and vinegar-y pickle juice to impart more flavor and because the sugars and acids would tenderize the wings. I swear, when I bit into a couple of them, I got this amazing burst of pineapple right before the spice kicked in.

I’m not going to lie, wings aren’t the easiest, breeziest thing to execute. It takes a long time and some patience. You’re going to make a mess. But once you start eating these, and reap the benefits of all that hard work, it’s worth it.

It’s a little bit like remodeling a kitchen that way.

Boom, mic drop. Tied the wings right back to beginning of my post. Too bad I don’t take myself seriously enough to write a three paragraph poetic metaphor about chicken and kitchens. You’re not here for that anyways, you were here for these:

I’m so glad to be posting recipes again. I’ll be back in a couple weeks with more food and more updates! See you then.

Puff Pastry Party Food

I’m sad, but I’m happy. I’m sad that next week football season will be coming to a close, but I’m happy that my boys, the Patriots, are playing yet again. I love having people over for games, even though outside the realm of New England, it’s hard to find friends who will actually root for the Pats with me. Playful rivalries are what make watching so fun though!

No matter what team you support, everyone can agree that Super Bowl parties are a lot of fun. Why’s that? Because in my opinion, every good football party has two things: ice cold beers and amazing snacks. Beer isn’t for everyone though, so let’s talk about some easy appetizers to put out for the game.

Before I hosted a get together for the playoff last week, I was looking through my fridge for ideas for an appetizer. I found a box of frozen puff pastry sheets and all of a sudden it was no brainer.

In anticipation for the weekend, I had a container of shredded chicken that I had made in my slow cooker with buffalo sauce & diced sweet onion. To me, football and buffalo chicken go hand in hand, so I made it knowing I would use it in some dish. What I did was add some light cream cheese and mixed the buffalo chicken into it (about a 2-1 ratio of shredded chicken to cream cheese) and folded it into the puff pastry to make, essentially, a turnover.

They were good. My girl friends and I took down a platter of these in no time. Of course, being me, I had to switch it up and try to make it better. I decided to redo my puff pastry appetizers, to try to make them even easier to make and even tastier to eat.

I turned to my old friend, the muffin pan. I’m pretty sure mine has been used more for miscellaneous kitchen endeavors than actually making muffins or cupcakes. I thawed out my puff pastry sheets (usually come two in a box) and cut them into nine even squares which were lightly pressed into the muffin pan.


You don’t have to mold them too much, just make sure there’s a little of the dough going up the sides to form a bowl shape.

Here comes the fun part: stuffing them. I knew I wanted to keep going down that buffalo chicken road I started on, but then I thought, what if I made more than one kind? I could potentially make all my Super Bowl snacks at one time. Here’s what I came up with:

Buffalo Chicken

Of course. You start with shredded buffalo chicken. I make mine with chicken thighs in the slow cooker with a packet of ranch seasoning and buffalo sauce, cooked on low for about 6 hours until it falls apart easily. I added diced sweet onions this time around too, but that’s optional. You could also use rotisserie chicken tossed in sauce as a short cut. I like to make it and keep the leftovers for quesadillas, sandwiches, pizza toppings… yum.

I mixed the chicken with cream cheese (again, 2-1 ratio). All you need to fill the pastry is about a tablespoon, so consider how many you want to make when you mix the ingredients together. Once I filled them in, I topped each with a little shredded cheddar and blue cheese crumbles. Everything is better when you add some cheese.

Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza? Plus, this is a great option for kids and for vegetarians. I simply sprinkled the puff pastry with dried oregano while it was in the pan. Then I added about a tablespoon of marinara sauce in each cup and topped it with a healthy dose of shredded mozzarella. Fill the pastry about halfway up, because it will expand and you don’t want it to overflow.

This is an easy one to customize. You could bake half of these with a slice of pepperoni on top, or do what I did and add a pickled banana pepper on top after they come out of the oven. Whatever you like on top of your pizza, throw it on there.

Again kids, would love these, any day of the week. They aren’t much harder to make than those frozen pizza bite things, and trust me, they are way more satisfying.

Cinnamon Sugar

You have to have a dessert! But who knew you could make them at the same time as the appetizers? Usually desserts can be complicated but this was the easiest one of the day. I took some more of my light cream cheese and whipped in cinnamon sugar to taste, filling each pastry with a tablespoon.

I love a dessert that isn’t overly sweet, and this was perfect to me. It was flaky and airy like a croissant but the flavor was like having a warm cinnamon bagel with cream cheese. My only regret is I was out of honey, if not I would have drizzled a little on at the end. You could also sprinkle on some powdered sugar to up the sweetness factor and make them look pretty.

I baked all three of these pastries in the same oven at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, until they were golden brown. They all came out fantastic. Granted, if you are making a bunch you will probably need more than one muffin pan or time to do them in batches, but it’s the same cooking process for all of them.

You could make one kind, you could make all three. If you are hosting, these will cover a lot of bases. Have your friends bring some chips and salsa, maybe some veggie dip, and you’d be all set. They aren’t just for football parties either! Everyone has that box of puff pastry hanging out in the back of the freezer, doing nothing. Use it! It’s the easiest way to make something in 5 minutes that looks like it took all day.

What are some other ideas we could stuff into puff pastry? Let me know what you think, or if you try any of mine! Whatever you are doing next weekend, whether it involves the big game or not, I hope it involves great food.

Not Your Average Artichoke Dip

Happy Halloween everyone! Today I have my take on a classic, crowd favorite appetizer: spinach & artichoke dip. This would be the perfect thing to bring to a Halloween get-together, or to snack on at home while waiting for trick or treaters. Or you can just bookmark this little recipe for one of the many holiday parties that are right around the corner.

Before I get to it, I wanted to say how randomly this post came about. It was all by chance. I was looking at these greens that were only going to be good for a couple more days, and trying to think of something fun to do. That’s when a jar of artichoke hearts caught my eye. I had bought them a few days ago with the intent of using them elsewhere, but forgot about them.

I scanned the rest of my fridge… yup. I was pretty sure I had everything I needed for dip. I even had tortilla chips that a friend had left behind, because I don’t keep a lot of snacks around. I cook meals, and my friends bring me chips. (And wine. It’s a good deal.)

The stars aligned in my kitchen that day, and thus, my dip was created.

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup spinach (packed)
  • 1/4 cup arugula (packed)
  • 12 oz jar artichoke hearts (drained & chopped)
  • 2 roasted jalapenos (diced)*
  • 1 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 cup cream cheese (room temp)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • salt & pepper to season
  1. Heat oil & garlic in a small skillet over medium low heat. Add the spinach & arugula & sprinkle with a dash of salt & pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes, tossing often, until greens start to wilt. Strain any liquid you can from the greens.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the sauteed spinach & arugula with the chopped artichoke hearts, diced jalapenos & parmesan. In a separate bowl, mix together the cream cheese, mayo & sour cream with a sprinkle of salt & pepper. Gently fold in the veggie mixture until evenly distributed.
  3. Carefully pour or scoop the dip into an 8″ cast iron skillet. Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered. Sprinkle the mozzarella over the top, then broil on low for 3-5 minutes, or until cheese turns golden brown.

*I roast jalapenos over the open flame on my gas oven until they are blistered & begin to char. You could alternatively roast them in the oven, use them raw, or omit them completely. I like a little extra spice & the pop of texture they add to the dish.


Spinach, arugula, artichokes, jalapeno & cheese mixture

Honestly, this entire recipe is based on having things in my fridge to use up. A lot of people make dip like this with frozen spinach, which is totally fine. I just had fresh spinach on hand. I also had arugula, which has a more peppery flavor, so I figured I’d throw that in too. Frozen spinach is a great shortcut though.


Before cooking… creamy & dreamy

I highly recommend having a small cast iron skillet on hand for things like this. It gets really hot (be careful!) which makes for evenly cooked food that will stay warmer, longer. Plus, it’s a great presentation for dishes like dips, cheese fries, pot pies… aka bar food. They require extra care and cleaning, but I love a cast iron skillet. Definitely a great investment.

I’m writing this as my beloved New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills, & it occurs to me that I should have restocked my fridge. This dip would have been awesome for game day, but there will be endless reasons to whip this up again during the next couple months. Let me know if you try this out for one of your next parties!

 

Crab Cakes with Mango Apple Salsa

I’ve been doing a lot of posts about the number three… three ways to make grilled cheese, three marinades for shrimp skewers…  I really like the number three. Today we’re getting back to a nice straight forward recipe. But guess what? There are three components! Today it’s crab cakes with mango apple salsa and a spicy remoulade sauce.

I’ve shared before that a big factor in my recipe posts is what I find on sale at the store. There’s nothing wrong with trying to save a little money! This week I found lump crab meat. I was psyched. I’ve been dying to take a stab at making crab cakes.

Yup, that’s right. I have never made crab cakes before. I’ve eaten them a lot, I’ve seen them made, I’ve skimmed some recipes… Basically, I knew how to make them, I just never did it. But I know what I like, and I cook what I like, and guess what? So I just kind of winged it, and it actually turned out pretty darn good.

Let’s start with the salsa and sauce first, because you can make these ahead of time.

  • 1 cup finely diced mango
  • 1 cup finely diced apple*
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • pinch of sea salt
  1. Combine mango, apple and scallion in a bowl. Add lime zest, lime juice and salt, tossing until well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

*Use whatever kind of apple you want! I went with Fuji. Red apples in general tend to be sweeter, while green apples lean more towards tart, so pick whatever appeals to you.

  • 3/4 cup mayonaisse
  • 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp prepared horseradish
  • 1 Tbsp pickled jalapeños, finely diced
  • 2 tsp pickling liquid
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth and well incorporated. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Well, those parts were easy, huh? And I know, more mayo. I declared I hate mayo in my last post, but the disclaimer is I hate it on it’s own, just spread onto things. When I started cooking I realized how many sauces and dishes secretly had mayonaisse buried within them. I had been consuming it without even knowing. But if I find a big glob of the stuff on my sandwich, it’s going back. (I’m looking at you, Wendy’s.)

If you don’t want the sauce to be spicy, you can substitute the jalapeños with regular pickles. Or use a fresh jalapeño and regular pickle juice. I know I’m kind of a weirdo and not everyone has a jar of homemade picked peppers always on hand.

Onto the main event!

  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp mayonaisse
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried parsley
  • 2-3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 8 oz lump crab meat
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped Hawaiian roll (about one roll)
  • 2 Tbsp panko bread crumbs
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup canola oil for cooking
  1. In a bowl, whisk together egg, mayo, lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper, garlic, parsley and green onions. Gently stir in crab meat until combined. Add the bread and panko, slowly folding it in, until evenly distributed.
  2. Using your hands, form 4 patties (about the size of your palm). Try to keep them as uniform as possible. Sprinkle each pattie with a little salt and pepper. Place on a plate or pan lined with parchment paper, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil over medium-low heat in a skillet. Cook patties in the skillet, about 3 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy. Don’t overcrowd the skillet, cook 1 or 2 at a time if you need to. Transfer to baking sheet or pan, and let them warm through in the oven for 3 minutes.
  4. Serve the crab cakes over the remoulade sauce with mango apple salsa on top, with an optional side of micro greens and a slice of lemon.

Crab cakes can kind of seem intimidating to make, but trust me, it’s pretty easy. Taking the time to make the homemade salsa and sauce also gives this dish a wow factor. I love when there’s a lot of different texture a flavors on a plate. The sweet, cool fruit is perfect top of the warm, soft crab cake. Then that little kick from the spicy remoulade just rounds it all out. It’s got a little bit of everything all in one bite.

I’m also going to pat myself on the back, because I think this is one of the prettiest plates of food I think I’ve ever made.

You can make the salsa and sauce the night before, the morning of, or even during that hour when the crab cakes are setting in the fridge. It’s definitely not as time consuming as you would think. All three parts to this recipe are essentially dumping everything in a bowl and stirring it up, and the actual cook time for the crab cakes is about 10 minutes.

A lot of crab cake recipes use butter crackers or plain bread crumbs. I like the idea of fresh bread to really soak up the flavor, and using Hawaiian rolls adds that buttery element. You could certainly use white bread or whatever you gave in the pantry. The addition of the panko bread crumbs was for that crispy texture the crackers would have provided.

These are great for an appetizer, but honestly, two of these guys were a pretty satisfying dinner for me. You could even skip the micro greens and do a heftier simple side salad to really give it the look of an entree.

The best part of this recipe for me? I have another container of crab meat still in my fridge. I have a feeling these crab cakes will be showing up again very soon on my dinner table. Let me know if you try this recipe out- tag me on Instagram or Twitter if you get a photo, or tell me about in the comments!

End of Summer Shrimp Skewers

It’s September already? I always mixed emotions because on one hand it’s my birthday month, but on the other hand, summer is coming to end. Before it does, we have Labor Day weekend… AKA one more excuse to grill out.

One of my favorite things to grill is shrimp. I always show up to barbecues with containers of marinating shrimp to skewer and throw on the grill. I mean, everyone else always has hamburgers, hot dogs and potato salad covered… and since I don’t eat red meat, I like to give myself some more variety than just chicken wings and side dishes.

I love playing around with different flavors for the marinades, and here are my three favorites. For grilling, you want to use large or jumbo shrimp. I went with jumbo and each of these marinades works for about 10-12 shrimp. Obviously you can cut the amounts in half or double them, depending on how much food you want to make.


Top to bottom, #1, #2 & #3

#1 Sweet & Spicy

  • pinch of salt & pepper
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sriracha
  • 1 shallot, finely diced

#2 Lemon Garlic

  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  • pinch of salt & pepper
  • juice from 1 lemon (set aside)

#3 Teriyaki

  • 1/4 cup mirin/rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • pinch of salt & pepper

To make the shrimp, whisk the ingredients of the marinade together in a small bowl. (Except the lemon juice on recipe #2, the acid will start to cook the shrimp.) Place your tail on, deshelled, deveined shrimp into a ziploc bag and pour in the marinade. Shake them around a little to make sure they are well coated. Refrigerate for about a half an hour.

Skewer the shrimp and cook them over medium heat, about 350 degrees, on the grill. Reserve the leftover marinade (and at this point, add the lemon juice to #2) to brush over the shrimp while it cooks. After a 2-3 minutes, flip the shrimp and brush on more marinade. Cook another 2-3 minutes, until opaque and cooked through.


Top to bottom, #1, #2 & #3

This is great to bring to a cook out because, like I said earlier, it’s different and it’s easy to transport. Once you have your marinade baggies all set, you can put them on ice or in a cooler and take them to the party. Easy clean up too, since all you have to do is toss out the bag.

I think it’s really fun to make two or three different flavors at the same time. People can try them all and pick their favorite. These little flavor bombs will really stand out from all the typical cook out dishes people expect.

Once summer ends, you can still get down on these. Use your grill pan and make them on the stove top. Serve them over some rice or stir-fried veggies for a really easy and fun meal.

I hope you all enjoy your last days of summer! Get outside and make them count. I know I will, I’ve actually got to wrap this up and head to a picnic today! Then in the next few weeks, I can start brainstorming fun fall recipes to share. Stay tuned!

Game of Wings

If there’s one thing I like as much as cooking, it’s HBO’s Game of Thrones. Ever heard of it? I have a feeling you have. I’ve never really done a theme post like this, but a dear friend of mine suggested on Twitter that I come up with something for the finale. Challenge accepted!

I started by looking up medieval foods, but it wasn’t getting me anywhere. Then I got more specific and searched for Game of Thrones foods and found a list of every meal mentioned in the book series and show. It was interesting, but if you are a fan, you can imagine that most of these meals were extravagant feasts. (Or a stallion’s heart, blech!) Now I don’t mind a big feast for a party, but watching GoT on Sunday night is something my husband and I set aside as time for us.

Then I started to think that instead of eating something the characters would eat, why not use the characters as inspirations for flavors? My husband had joked that we should just eat big turkey legs like at Medieval Times, and all of a sudden it clicked. Wings.

We love going out for chicken wings, but I don’t usually make them at home. I had played around a couple weeks ago with making buffalo wings and they came out great, so this time around I decided to try and come up with my own flavors. Three flavors actually. One of the best things about Game of Thrones is there are badass female characters, so here are my tributes to three of my favorites.

Cersei Lannister – Golden Garlic Parmesan Wings

I started off with 8 wings, which I had marinated in a brine of salt water (like sea water salty), with about a tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder and white pepper. I also added 1/2 a cup of beer, because Cersei does love a drink. She favors wine, but I choose a golden wheat beer to get that alcohol element in there. Make sure all the wings are submerged in the brine before refrigerating overnight.

I coated the wings in flour and fried them up in canola oil heated to 375 degrees. You can do this in a large pot on the stove, but I got my deep fryer out for this project. After frying for about 8-10 minutes, until they were cooked through and crispy golden brown on the outside, I tossed them in a sauce made from a 1/2 cup of melted butter, a 1/2 cup of Parmesan and 1 Tbsp of garlic powder.

My inspiration came from the fact that the Lannisters have a thing for gold, from their armor to their blonde hair. The garlic gives it a strong, punchy flavor without any heat, which is a little like Cersei. She is usually cool and collected, but definitely not to be ignored.

Sansa Stark – Sweet Lemon Ginger Wings

I started with 8 wings again, in the salt water brine with a tsp each of ground ginger, lemon pepper, tumeric and brown sugar. They marinated overnight, were dredged in flour and fried up the same way as before.For the sauce I used 1/4 cup of melted butter, 2 Tbsps of brown sugar and 2 tsps of ground ginger. I also whisked in the juice from a lemon and a splash of soy sauce.

Although this does have kind of an Asian flair to it, hello, sweet ginger is basically a description of Sansa herself. She is Winterfell’s resident redhead with a kind heart. It’s also mentioned a couple times that her favorite food is lemon cakes, hence the addition of the lemon pepper and juice.

Daenerys Targaryan- Spicy Cayenne Dragon Wings

Again, 8 wings overnight in the salt water brine. This time I added two Tbsps of hot sauce and a tsp each of cayenne, paprika and garlic powder. They were coated in flour and fried, then tossed in a sauce made from 1/4 cup of melted butter, 1/8 cup of hot sauce (whatever your favorite is, I used a Louisiana style hot sauce), 2 tsp of cayenne and 2 tsps of garlic.

Obviously the mother of dragons is going to have the hottest sauce on the plate. She’s got three fire breathing dragons and Dany herself can’t be harmed by flames. There’s not much else to explain! If you don’t want it to be too spicy, skip the extra cayenne in the sauce.

Extra Tips!

  • To keep things simple, you could just use plain salt water and brine all the wings together. The sauces will give them plenty of flavor, but adding spices infuses it right into the meat.
  • If you do try to make multiple flavors at once and marinate them separately, make sure you don’t mix them up! They all look the same once they are floured and fried. You will also have to fry them seperately, but you can keep the first batches warm in the oven while you finish up the rest of the wings.

OK, you don’t really need to be a Game of Thrones fan to enjoy these wings. I served mine up with celery, carrot sticks and a side of blue cheese dressing. (It is the superior side for wings, not ranch, in my opinion.) I didn’t even dip them that much, because I was really digging the sauces. The spicy cayenne was the only one that needed a little cool down!

So whether you are sitting down to watch Game of Thrones in a couple days or just hanging with friends, these wings are all so different you will certainly have something for everyone. If any GoT fans out there can think of other character inspired flavors, please share! The countdown is on for the finale!

Muffin Pan Party Hacks

Hellooooo summer! I hope everyone had a lovely Memorial Day weekend. Mine was great: mini golfing, happy hour, quality time with my guy and a big surprise birthday party/cook out for a friend. Most people I know kicked off the weekend of summer with a party and there will be plenty more between now and Labor Day.

It got me thinking about easy ways to feed a crowd, besides a package of hot dogs and a bag of chips. The best kind of food for a party is something people can just grab and go. Individual portions, cute presentation, easy transportation… It all brought me to my muffin pan. Here’s three ideas I have, and trust me, they aren’t muffins.

Baked Mac & Cheese

If you are headed to a cook out, you can pretty much expect a big bowl of slimy pasta salad, sitting out in the sun all day. But if you were going to an authentic barbecue spot, you’d be served warm, gooey mac & cheese.

I started by making a big batch of macaroni and a sauce of cheddar cheese, milk & butter. Use whatever recipe you like or you can make the kind out of the box if you want to keep it even simpler. I lined the muffin pan with cupcake liners and sprayed them all with a little cooking spray. Fill the cups with the pasta, making sure you don’t go over the rim. Then I mixed equal parts Italian bread crumbs & Parmesan cheese, with a dash of Cajun seasoning, and sprinkled it over the top of each cup.

At this point, you could cover with foil if you are traveling somewhere. All it takes to finish these up is to bake them for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I’d love to see how they turn out by putting the pan on the grill. The pasta is cooked, so it’s really just about getting that bread crumb topping crunchy & golden.

What you get is an adorable side dish that’s so easy to serve. It stays contained and doesn’t spread all over the plate. It’s so easy, but guests will be so impressed. They are great for dinner at home too, because they help with portion control and kids will love them.

Mini Calzones

These probably aren’t the first thing I would think of for a cook out, but a rainy summer day? A game night with friends? A casual pot luck dinner? These will blow everyone’s minds.

I used store bought pizza dough, the kind that comes in a 13 oz tube. I needed two of them. I divided it equally into a dozen parts and flattened them into circles. At this point, you can stuff these however you’d like. I made three kinds.

  • Mozzarella, fresh basil & pesto
  • Cheddar, bacon & pickled jalapeño
  • Mozzarella, spinach, carmelized onion & blue cheese crumbles

Put the ingredients in the center of a dough circle, then carefully stretch the edges over the stuffings and pinch together. Place seam side down in a greased muffin pan. Brush the top of each calzone with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan (or garlic powder, or Italian seasoning, or all three!). Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until golden brown.

I served mine with some marinara (great for the pesto) and ranch dressing (great for the bacon/jalapeño) to dip. The spinach/onion ones were so creamy from the two cheeses inside, I didn’t bother to dip those in anything at all!

These were so delicious and a huge hit all around. I still recommend a fork and knife, but my husband dove right in and ate it by hand. Just beware of molten hot cheese! These also keep in the fridge really well for a couple days, so you could totally make these ahead of time and reheat them.

French Toast Cups

This is kind of a French toast/bread pudding mash up. Everyone loves French toast, everyone can make it, but this is a fun, new way to present a classic.

I used cinnamon raisin bread and cut it into small, uniform cubes. Then I whisked together a tradional French toast batter of milk, eggs, sugar & vanilla in a large bowl and added the bread cubes. Let them soak for about 5-10 minutes, stirring a couple times to make sure they all get saturated. Place the mixture into a greased muffin pan and bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees. I serve mine with maple syrup and a little powdered sugar.

This is awesome for a breakfast or brunch with friends and family. French toast can be messy and tedious, because you can only cook a couple pieces of bread at a time on the stove top. This way everyone has a perfectly sized, perfectly warm helping of French toast at the same time. You could even plastic wrap the pan and travel with it before baking it off. I had leftovers, and reheated them later at night, topped with some cinnamon ice cream. Yum! Double duty, breakfast & dessert!

I hope you try some of these tricks out. They are three well-loved and familiar recipes, simply scaled down to, well, muffin size. I promise these will be the star of your summer gatherings. Do you have any ideas for a creative muffin pan hack? Let me know.

Party on!

Twice Baked Potatoes

I am finally feeling back on track after the last crazy few weeks. I’ve unpacked, organized wedding souvenirs, caught up with my DVR (my favorite part) and dove back into cooking and the blog. To list a few, I’ve made pancakes (check the last post!), a veggie lasagna for the week, grilled chicken, fresh smoothies and I have bagel dough resting in the fridge, that I’ll be boiling and baking later today. Ahhhh. Definitely back in my happy place.

On our drive back last week, my husband really wanted to get barbecue for lunch when we were going through Texas. I was indifferent. Barbecue is a lot of red meat that I don’t eat, but there’s usually a good chicken option and, hello, the sides are awesome, so fine by me. What I didn’t expect to find was this glorious creation:

That’s the biggest potato I’ve ever seen, crusted in pepper & spices, stuffed with smoked pulled chicken and topped with a sweet barbecue sauce, cheese, & sour cream from Baker’s Ribs outside of Dallas. I don’t think I have to tell you it was out of this world.

Now I’m home and for some strange reason I’ve been craving cheesy, melty, crispy potatoes this past week. Hmm. My husband suggested something he loves from growing up: twice baked potatoes. So here’s what I came up with!

Yields 4 servings

  • 4 medium russet/baking potatoes
  • 4 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup bacon bits
  • 1 Tbsp dry minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp dry minced onion
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped chives
  • salt & pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Clean, pierce and bake to potatoes for 45 minutes to an hour, until tender and cooked throughout. (Optional: use canola oil or spray to coat the potatoes for a crispier skin)
  2. Let the potatoes cool, cut them in half and carefully scoop out the middles, making a canoe shape. Leave about a quarter inch of potato in the skin. Place the skins on a lined or greased baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. In a bowl, mix the butter, sour cream, bacon, garlic, onion & paprika together. Take the potato that was scooped out and mash it into the sour cream mixture. Really work on getting it smooth and fluffy. Add the cheese, chives and a dash of salt and pepper, and stir until blended.
  4. Stuff the skins with the potato mixture, piling it high. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees, until golden brown. Serve with optional extra sour cream, bacon or chives on top.


I actually made two different potatoes because I didn’t want bacon. I divided up all the ingredients & amounts above into two bowls and only added the bacon to one. Of course you can omit the bacon entirely too if you are a vegetarian. Trust me, it’s still delicious.

If you really work on whipping the potato mixture until it’s smooth and creamy, you will end up with an incredibly fluffy and surprisingly light result. I didn’t use a ton of butter, cream or cheese when you look at it distributed over four potatoes. Using seasonings and a flavorful cheese is a must. I chose a mix of Monterey & cheddar jack.

Obviously these are easy to customize with whatever seasoning & cheeses you like. These are great on their own if you want two, or three, or even four. They are also an impressive side dish to make for a crowd. I’d like to try tiny twice baked potatoes as a party food, that would be amazing! I’m getting so many ideas just writing about it.

I’ll be back after the weekend with a new post. Let me know if you try these, or if you have any other awesome ideas for potato dishes!

Sriracha Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

Back to back recipe posts, I’m getting ambitious! Normally I try to shuffle between catergories, but with my wedding celebration drawing closer I might not have a ton of time to cook for a couple weeks. I have a few “I Love” posts waiting on the back burner and I will definitely have a travel post soon because in two weeks I’ll be road tripping across the country with my best girlfriends to get to MA for the wedding! I’ll be at my mom’s house for 3 weeks, so hopefully my family doesn’t mind me playing around in their kitchen if I have some free time.

Back to today’s recipe. It’s actually kind of a two parter. It started when I decided to make some slaw, just for fun and to put on sandwiches, see what it worked with. So let’s start with how to make that.

  • 1 small cucumber
  • 1-2 large carrots
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  1. Run the cucumber through a spiralizer, or alternatively use a mandolin to slice then a knife to chop into long strips.
  2. Use a peeler to remove the skin of the carrot. Continue to use the peeler to yield long thin strips of carrot.
  3. Chop green onions finely, both white and green parts.
  4. Combine all veggies in a glass bowl. You want fairly equal portions of each, hence the estimated amounts of carrot and green onion.
  5. Add vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper to the veggies and toss thoroughly to combine. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least an hour or two before use.

Here’s what mine looked like before adding the oil, vinegar, etc.

I greatly prefer vinegar slaw over mayonnaise based versions. I like that the vegetables maintain more texture but you still get that cooling effect when it’s with spicy food. This also can keep in your fridge for a few days.

Most of my recipes thus far have been big dinners. This is definitely more of an appetizer or a nice quick lunch. Now that we have a big ol’ bowl of slaw, let’s make lettuce wraps.

Yields 6 large wraps

  • 18 large shrimp, cleaned and deveined
  • 1 Tbsp sriracha
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 leaves of romaine or bibb lettuce
  • 1/3 red onion, sliced thin
  • 6 spoonfuls of vinegar slaw
  • sour cream for garnish (optional)
  1. Combine sriracha, garlic powder, paprika, onion powder and cayenne in a bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat.
  2. Heat oil over medium-low heat in a skillet. Cook shrimp about 2 minutes on each side until opaque. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Arrange the lettuce leaves on two plates or a platter. Divide red onion amongst the wraps. Add a spoonful of slaw and three shrimp to each wrap. Serve with a dollop of sour cream if desired.

Since the slaw is premade, this literally takes less than 10 minutes to put together.

Here comes all the options I like to give my readers. If you don’t have lettuce, you could use tortillas. Lettuce is a healthier option, but it might not be for everyone, like younger kids. The shrimp is very spicy, but the slaw and optional sour cream helps cool it off. You could always omit the cayenne, or use a different sauce altogether, like barbecue, teriyaki or a simple olive oil/lemon juice/garlic combination. If you are making a big batch for a party or large crowd, maybe make a couple different kinds of shrimp for people to choose from.

Sometimes home cooks shy away from shrimp but it’s really one of the easiest proteins to work with. They take only a few minutes to cook and when they are done, you can very visually see the difference. To make it even easier on yourself, buy them already cleaned and deveined. It’s not hard to do it on your own but it can be a little tedious. Also make sure you buy them raw. Cooking with the pre-cooked shrimp just makes them overdone, rubbery and hard to chew.

OK, enough talk. I made these a couple days ago, but just writing this post makes me want to go whip up some more for lunch today. I’ll be enjoying them in no time, and I hope you try this recipe out too!