Spicy-Sweet Chicken Lettuce Wraps {and a green goddess dip}

Football season is here and that means I’m whipping up a lot of “football food” in my kitchen on Saturdays.  Because let’s be honest, while I’m a huge ECU fan, I’m more of a food fan.

The term “football food” covers an array of food – everything from veggies and dip to messy ribs.  To me, the food depends on where you are – whether it be outside of the stadium in 40 degree weather or inside your living room.

But one thing is for certain, if we’re watching football, I’ve made something to nibble on.

Last weekend we had an away game at noon with plans that Saturday evening.  So I decided to keep the “football food” light.

The menu:

Spicy-Sweet Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Green Goddess Dip with veggies

chicken wraps

The chicken used a little help from the grocery store with a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken.  In a saucepan bring the following ingredients to a boil: apple cider vinegar, water, sugar, jalapeno slices, salt and garlic.  This is the spicy-sweet part of the recipe.  Allow the mixture to simmer for about 20 minutes and then remove from the heat and add in the grated carrots.  Let those soften for about 10 minutes and then add in the shredded chicken.  Once the chicken as “soaked” for about 5 minutes, drain and discard the remaining liquid.  Simply divide the chicken among the lettuce (I used romaine but I really wanted to use Bibb lettuce) and top with cucumber slices and peanuts.  The recipe called for mint, which I have growing abundantly outside, but I totally forget and did not remember until the plate was empty.

I thought the preparation was so weird for these chicken wraps but they ended up being delicious.  Super light with a little bit of sweet and a kick of spice with each bite.  The peanuts were the perfect amount of crunch while the cucumbers provided some freshness to the sweet-spicy chicken.

green goddess

And because no football food spread is complete with a dip – a Green Goddess dip.  The dip is so incredibly easy to make and would make a perfect salad dressing or condiment for so many dishes.  I chose to serve mine with a variety of dippers.  In a food processor, simply blend together an avocado, green onions, lemon juice, vinegar (I used white balsamic), water, EVOO, basil, parsley, chives, garlic, salt and pepper.  Add more water to thin out the dip.

I love this dip for so many reasons!  Not only was I able to use a variety of herbs from the garden but this dip is dairy free which means it’s safe to leave out on a table for hours without worrying about it going bad.  This is crucial if you’re outside tailgating on a hot day in the early months of football food season.

If you wanted the Green Goddess dip to be more Mexican-esque, add in cilantro instead of basil and use lime juice instead of lemon juice.  Use the herbs you have on hand – you really can’t go wrong!

Tomorrow’s tailgate scene is going to be a little different than the one above.  We have a home game which means we’re going and we have family coming into town to go to the game.

ECU vs UNC in 2010

Here’s the menu for our tailgate tomorrow:

Mimosas (duh).  Beer.

Chicken Salad (the same as the last time we played UNC – it seemed to have brought us luck)

Game Day Turkey and Cheese Sliders

Masters Pimiento Cheese

Ham Biscuits (thanks to the in-laws)

Smoked Salmon Dip (I’m really making this for myself – so good!)

Veggies and Crackers for dipping

Brown Sugar Dip with Fruit Kebabs

Pumpkin Spice Chex Mix (now this is specifically for my MIL and my sister-in-laws!)

Coconut-Cashew Oatmeal Cookies (I made these last weekend to repay someone for a favor and Big Guy was not happy that I only saved him three.)


Happy Football Food Eating!!!



Roasted Tomato Grilled Cheese

Imagine one of the most classic combos – grilled cheese and tomato soup.  Now combine the two and you have an ooey-gooey roasted tomato grilled cheese.    

This is officially my favorite grilled cheese sandwich to date.

And I loved using up some of what will probably be the last of our tomatoes (yep, they’re still growing and producing) in this summer-to-fall transition.

The sandwich couldn’t be easier to prepare but you do need a little bit of time in order to roast the tomatoes.

Simply halve and deseed a handful of plum tomatoes (I used 6 of our homegrown plum tomatoes).  Toss with garlic and olive oil and roasted at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the mayo, cream cheese and cheddar cheese.

Once the tomatoes have roasted, pulse in a mini food processor along with fresh basil leaves, salt and pepper.

I veered off from the original recipe and I added the tomato mixture to the cheese mixture and mixed.  I then slathered 1/4th of the mixture onto a slice of bread and topped with another slice of bread.  (p.s. Udi’s Gluten-Free Millet-Chia bread is amazing!!!)  Cook the sandwiches on a panini press until toasted and all the cheese was melted.

This sandwich has all the flavors of your favorite soup and sandwich combo in each and every bite.  I loved the roasted tomato flavors with the sharp cheddar.  And the fresh basil gave the sandwich freshness.

I typically don’t like hot soup unless it’s cold out so this is the perfect sandwich for when you want the comforting combo but it’s “too hot out.”



One Bowl Carrot-Apple Muffins

Baking can be intimidating.

I’ve messed up a plenty of recipes in my kitchen because I just don’t like how precise you have to be in baking.

But this one bowl muffin recipe is fool-proof.  Seriously.

And they’re gluten-free.  And packed with goodness.

These carrot-apple muffins are full of texture from the grated carrot and apple and loaded with natural sweetness.

I served my muffin with a big spoonful of peanut butter – because that’s how I roll.  But these are great for breakfast on-the-go or a quick afternoon snack.

The muffins will make your house smell amazing and they kind-of-sort-of got me in the mood for fall.  I’m not quite there but these helped.

The warmth of the cinnamon and the nuttiness of the walnuts were perfect for a cooler morning.

Some changes I made to the recipe:  Instead of the flax egg, I used a real egg.  I also mixed my walnuts into the muffins so that they wouldn’t fall off – no one wants to lose their walnuts.  And I went the real apple route and grated the apple on a box grater and for the sweetener, I went with agave.

Go whip up a batch of these one-bowl muffins – it won’t take you long and you’ll have breakfast prepped for the rest of the week.

And the best part – there’s only one bowl to clean.



Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff

It’s beginning to feel like fall and I find myself wanting a hearty meal.  Stroganoff is one of those meals that is ultra comforting.  It makes you feel like you’ve been wrapped up in a blanket.  Warm and cozy.

Beef stroganoff can be heavy though.  And despite wanting it to be hearty, I’m not a fan of heavy meals.

Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff is not heavy at all.  The beef tenderloin is seared to perfection and then added to a silky smooth sauce that’s made from a combination of beef stock that’s thickened with cornstarch and them made creamy with sour cream (I actually used 2% Greek Yogurt).  You will think that this sauce is full of cream but it’s not.

I loved the addition of mushrooms and leeks in this stroganoff – the mushrooms gave it an even more meaty taste without the heaviness.  I used gluten-free noodles that were thin and reminded me of the traditional egg noodle that you would serve stroganoff over.

They secret to this recipe is really good beef tenderloin.  Big Guy purchased our beef from a small butcher shop in Durham called Rose’s Meat Market and Sweet Shop.  The minute you start buying quality meat (and cheese and eggs) you won’t go back to the mainstream products.  You can actually taste the difference.

We served our beef and mushroom stroganoff with an incredible red wine that enhanced the smokiness of the paprika in the dish and really brought out the flavors of the beef.

Dinner is served.

Corn Frittata with Parmesan

I’m in denial that Fall officially starts on September 22nd.  In fact, I am holding on so tight to these last couple of weeks of summer that I pulled out the summer corn that I froze when corn was in season to make dinner.

This dinner is light and would be perfect for a brunch with friends.  And if you don’t have fresh parsley, any herb would pair with the sweet summer corn.  Basil, dill, thyme – use whatever fresh herb you have on hand.

The frittata comes together in no time so make sure to prep all your ingredients before you start cooking.

Dice your onion (I used a red onion because that’s what I had) and grate your Parmesan before you turn on the stove top.

I had to defrost my corn but it took only a couple of minutes under warm water.  Once defrosted, the corn and onion are sauteed in a small amount of olive oil and then seasoned with salt, pepper and smoked paprika.

I love smoked paprika.  It has a distinctive smoky taste but it’s still sweet.

The eggs are whisked with milk (I used almond milk) and then the corn mixture is added to the egg mixture.

Wipe out the pan that you used for the onions and corn, and melt a small amount of butter.

All the ingredients are then poured into the pan and allowed to cook until set.  Once set, sprinkle with cheese and broil until cooked and browned.

Served with an extra sprinkle of smoked paprika and fresh herbs.

Flavors of summer in every bite.

Loooong Weekend

Do you remember the Berenstain Bears?  The book The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday totally sums up how I feel at this moment.  And tonight I have one more celebration with the best friends in the world.  It’s the birthday that never ends.

But it was such a lovely weekend.  And here’s a peak at how I celebrated:

On Thursday night, my friend, Leann, took me out to dinner at Mandolin in Raleigh.  I dined at Mandolin in January but we had brunch that time around.  This time we started with pink bubbles and a cheese plate and ended with a trio of sorbet.  The cheese plate was incredible.  The service was fantastic and I love the feel of the restaurant.  It’s a place I would return to again for dinner.

On Friday morning, a sweet co-worker of mine took me out for coffee.  Pour over for the the win.  With just a touch of cream, this was the perfect start to the weekend.

On Friday night, Big Guy was in charge of dinner.  We started with Prosecco and bacon wrapped stuffed goat cheese dates.  So good.

And for dinner, Italian Sausage Stuffed Bell Peppers and a bold Malbec.  p.s. How perfect is the cutting board that Leann gave on me Thursday?

On Saturday morning, we were up and at ‘em.  I headed to the gym for a workout and then it was back home for a morning full of tailgate prep.

Saturday evening was the opening ball game for the Pirates so of course I had to toast to a great season.

There’s a new Pirate in the family.  My sister-in-law just started at ECU and it was so good to see her.  I can’t wait to tailgate with her this season.  p.s. It was a hot game.

Post-Pirate win, we hit the road and headed for Durham.  I wanted to spend my birthday eating and drinking and that’s just want Big Guy planned.

On Sunday morning, I started my “golden birthday” with pour over coffee and avocado toast from Scratch.  It was quite the happening place.

We walked around Downtown a little bit before getting showered for the day.

For lunch, we decided to try Rue Cler, a French restaurant in Downtown Durham.  We started with an order for beignets and a round of drinks.  The beignets were so delicious.  But honestly, how can fried dough not be delicious?  For my main meal, I went with the Chicken Paillard: Seared Chicken Breast with Brie and Crispy Onions over Salade Verte.  I know, boring.  But I knew there was more to come.

Lunch was followed by more walking (which is a very good thing) and chatting and just seeing the city on foot.  We finally made it back to the hotel around 4:30pm and it was time to get ready for a night out.

We started the night at Alley Twenty Six, one of my favorite bars.

The bartender made me a French 75 and I just might have a new favorite cocktail.  Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and bubbles.

Post-cocktails, it was time for dinner.  We had reservations at Revolution where we did the 5-course tasting menu with wine pairings.  I kept my phone in my purse the entire meal and it was wonderful to enjoy the food and wine with Big Guy.  Sometimes it’s good to disconnect from the rest of the world.

Monday had a slow start.  Thank goodness for a three-day weekend.

We ended the weekend long celebration at Mura where I tried a new roll, the “919” roll and enjoyed an old favorite, “Sin City.”  Sushi is always a good idea.

It was early to bed last night and I was back to my usual routine this morning.

But I have to end with this – Thank you to everyone, my friends, my family, my co-workers and especially my husband, for making my birthday so special.  I cannot wait to make even more memories in the coming year.


Friday Favorites.

Let’s jump right on in…

Favorite Truth:  


Favorite View:  Can you imagine eating dinner on the 63rd floor overlooking the city of Bangkok?  Spectacular.

Favorite Statement:  Every time I wear this bracelet, someone asks “where did you get it?”

Favorite Transition:  Thai Butternut Squash Wraps.  I really don’t want summer to end.  But if I must start to move into the “fall” way of life, let’s make the transition easy by using fall butternut squash and dunking it into a decadent sauce.


Favorite Must-Have:  I am so old school sometimes.  Despite having an iPhone and an iPad, there is no way I would trust technology with my schedule.  You will always find me with my Lilly agenda in hand.

Favorite Twist:  Thai Shrimp Tacos.  Blending different cuisines is always fun and I especially love entertaining with tacos because they’re so versatile.  And you always know what cocktail to serve.


Favorite Adventure:  It’s time to finally check the last item off my Summer Bucket List….In 2015, Big Guy and I are traveling many miles to see part of the world that I’ve never dreamed of seeing.  We’re going to explore new territory and eat our way through towns where Open Table probably doesn’t exist.  We’re going to spend a few days living with elephants in their world and finish off our two week excursion by relaxing in a tropical paradise.  It’s official…we’re heading to Thailand in 2015!!!!!!!


Eeeeeek!!!!  There are still many details to iron out but we have the skeleton of the trip planned along with the dates.  Unfortunately, there are only a couple of really good months to visit Thailand in order to avoid their holidays and celebrations, the rainy months and high-traffic times so we won’t be heading there until later in the year.  This is the first time that we will have traveled and “bounced” around from city to city but I am so excited about the experience.  It is unlike any trip I’ve ever been on.  My only current fear:  not having a suitcase that is big enough.

And with that I’m off to celebrate a weekend full of football and birthday fun!