Sweet Tea-Brined Hot Chicken Wings + Smoky Romaine and Avocado Salad

After hours of scanning recipes and trying to figure out what in the world we were going to fix for the Super Bowl, we settled on wings and salad (plus an unpictured dip).

And while the Panthers did not pull off a “W,” we had a true Sunday Funday and enjoyed ourselves immensely.


We popped open a bottle of a special anniversary bubbles by my favorite wine maker Iron Horse.  This bottle is amazing – 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay.  It was peachy in color and delicious.  I’m so glad I have a few more bottles stored away for later.

As for the food, we had wings and salad.  

We started prepping the wings the day before by mixing together a brine of sweet tea, onion and lemon along with garlic and cracked black pepper.  I actually combined two different recipes to get our final result.  Here is the recipe for the brine.  On Sunday morning, we removed the wings from the brine and dried them off with a paper towel and then placed them back into the fridge uncovered on a baking sheet so they could completely air dry.  When we were ready to eat, we tossed the wings in some canola oil and then tossed them with the spice rub.  The rub is a combination of ground cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper and salt.  The wings baked at 400 degrees for 40 minutes (flipping halfway through).

The wings were insanely crispy and full of flavor thanks to the brine and the rub.  We dipped the wings into a homemade ranch dressing.

As for a little bit of greens, a smoky romaine and avocado salad.  This salad could not be easier to assemble and the dressing is scrumptious.  In a bowl, toss together chopped romaine, a diced avocado and a sliced shallot.  Then drizzle with a dressing made with red wine vinegar, olive oil, agave, garlic, salt and smoked paprika.

The salad was fresh yet smoky, light yet full of flavor.


And now that the Super Bowl is over, it’s time to plan our Valentine’s Day menu….



The Hen and The Hog


We found ourselves another small-town gem on Friday night.  Big Guy took me out on a date to a new restaurant, The Hen and The Hog, in Halifax, NC.  We were blown away by the restaurant space and the decor was perfect.  It’s a huge restaurant and would be a perfect location for a rehearsal dinner or any other event.

When we arrived, we grabbed a seat at the bar for a pre-dinner drink.  Bubbles for her, bourbon for him.


I was not blown away by the wine list (pretty basic and all stuff you can find in a grocery store) but then again, I’m on the brink of being a wine snob.

The staff seemed a little anxious to make sure we sat down at our table exactly at the time of our reservation.  I asked if we could remain at the bar to finish our drink but I don’t think she quite understood – I didn’t push the subject.

The menu was broken up into small plates, large plates and dessert.  We decided to order two small plates to share.


Savory NC Cheesecake – Saltine & Oat Crust.  Red Wine & Spiced Cranberry Compote.  Pistachio & Gremolata.


Cheer wine Braised Heritage Pork Belly – House Hush Puppies. Spicy Greens.

I was absolutely blown away by the pork belly – which is rare.  Pork belly has become very underwhelming since everyone is doing it now but the chef got this right.  It was cooked to perfection, the sauce was amazing and the hush puppies were one of my favorite bites all night long.  I was a little unimpressed by the cheesecake.  It was too sweet for an appetizer.  I think it needed a more pungent cheese in the mix and perhaps something spicy in the chutney.


Pan Seared NC Flounder – Celery Hearts, Shiitake Mushrooms, Bonita Sweet Brussel Sprout Chiffonade & Scallion in a Bacon Dashi.  Chili Oil.

I finally decided on the flounder for my dinner and was so happy with my decision.  The presentation was the best of the evening.  The bowl was brought with the fish, brussels and sweet potatoes and then at the table the broth was poured in the dish and the oil was drizzled over top.  The flavors were amazing.  The fish was cooked to perfection and my only complaint were that the potatoes were a little undercooked.

And while I didn’t need dessert, I’m so glad we ordered something to share.


Toasted Parsnip Pound Cake.  Gingered Beet Ice Cream.  Bruleed Grapefruit glaze.

I adored this dessert.  The perfect balance of sweet and savory and a little spicy.

The menu changes seasonally, and we’re already looking forward to visiting again in the Spring.

Have you tried any new restaurants lately?

Friday Favorites

Well, well, well…Our first Friday in February.  The shortest month of the year.  And if it goes by as fast as January did, we’ll be entering into Spring in no time (heck yes).  I hope you have some fun plans for the weekend.  My weekend is a mix of work and play – date night tonight, working a wedding on Saturday and then there’s a bottle of bubbles with my name on it for Super Bowl Sunday.  #sundayfunday  And no, I still have no idea what our menu is – thanks for asking!

Here are my favorites from around the WWW for the week:


Favorite Crunch:  Cheddar Chive Crackers.  Cheesy carbs are my love language.  How fun would these be on a cheese plate?


Favorite Stuffed:  Peanut Butter Pretzels with Peanut Butter Ganache Filling.  I had not even considered making something sweet for Sunday.  Until now.  Because peanut butter + chocolate + pretzels equals the best idea ever.


Favorite Update:  The Dreaded “Boob” Light.  LOL.  We totally have a few of those.  And it didn’t bother me until now.  Erin featured some “affordable” options but I totally would rather have “fancy.”  I’m obsessing over #2, #8, #18.


Favorite Mini:  Baby Blooming Onions.  Bite-sized deliciously crispy onions. Aren’t they adorable?


Favorite DIY:  How to Make an Edible Football Stadium.  I couldn’t help myself.


Favorite Comfort:  Creamy Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese.  What is it with carbs and cheese? I want to dive in fork-first.


Favorite Dip:  Hot Bacon Cherry Pepper Hummus with Pizza Pita Chips.  Trashed up hummus?  I’m in.


Favorite Inspiration:  Artist Karin Olah.  So there is a funky little place in Raleigh called Furbish.  I get their e-blasts and this week she had a pop-up shot with this artist.  She had sold out by early afternoon but the coolest part of the painting is that she incurorates vintage fabrics into the works of art.


Favorite Simple Dinner:  Orange Marmalade Skillet Roasted Chicken Breasts.  I adore citrus and this would be a fantastic weeknight dinner.


Favorite Super Bowl Sunday:  Carolina Panther Blue Cocktail.  No explanation needed.


Go Panthers!

p.s. I will be watching – my Dad and brothers are in the stands!!!



BBQ Havarti Burgers with Sweet Potato Curly Fries

Do you know what you’re cooking (or eating) for Super Bowl Sunday yet?

I know – I can’t stop talking (or thinking) about our menu.  And it’s not even like we’re doing anything crazy.  It’ll be a Super Bowl party for two.  And one of us, (ummm, me), will probably dip out as soon as Beyonce finishes shutting it down during halftime.

But the menu is so important.  Almost important as the two teams showing up for the game.  At this moment, I think we’re leaning towards sweet tea chicken wings.  I know, I’m intrigued, too.  But what will we have with the wings?  So many things to consider.

So if you’re as confused as am I or you simply don’t care (most of you, I’m sure) here’s a burger that we had last weekend that is sure to be a touchdown with any crowd.

This burger is everything.  Messy, beefy, cheesy, savory.


But they’re not everything if you don’t add pickles or homemade sriracha aioli.  

Just kidding.

Kind of.  I’ve never been a huge mayo girl – in fact, it used to make me gag – but when you make it from scratch and call it something fancy, it’s amazing and delicious and I can’t get enough.


And the homemade fries just took things to a whole new level.  Crispy, crunchy, a little sweet, a little salty.  The perfect side to burgers.

So now that you know what you’re having on Sunday, can you help me make some decisions?

Cinnamon Roll Toast

There are more recipes on my radar than I’ll ever be able to actually make and try.  It’s actually quite sad.  And stressful.  Our most difficult decisions these days involve “what are we going to make?”

But sometimes there is a recipe that I can’t get off my mind – and sometimes it’s not really even a recipe.

When I posted cinnamon roll toast on Friday Favorites last month, I knew it had to happen.

It’s so, so simple and would be perfect for breakfast or a snack.  But I can’t lie – I had it for dinner.  With some scrambled eggs to round out the plate.


Here’s the 2-minute recipe:

– Toast up a couple slices of bread.  (I went with a gluten-free bread I had stashed in the freezer.)

– Slather on a little coconut butter.  (this mimics the icing on a cinnamon roll)

– Sprinkle with cinnamon.

– Dot with a few raisins.

Ta-da!  Cinnamon Roll Toast.

And it seriously tasted like a cinnamon roll.

Seared Flank Steak with Parmesan Polenta and Broccolini

Sorry about the disappearing act!  I totally checked out on Sunday (from my lap top, that is) and refused to let Monday ruin half of my weekend.  I sit here on Monday evening typing this up after a 10 plus hour work day and I can’t help but smile.  “A Sunday well spent brings a week of content.”

So today I bring to you a recipe that’s fancy enough for a weekend and a good bottle of wine but also simple enough that it would make a great week night dinner, too.  The key is quality ingredients (I know, I can be a broken record sometimes).

The recipe is from Cooking Light, but I jazzed up the flank steak with a recipe in one of my cookbooks.  (seriously – one of my favorite cookbooks ever.)  I let the beef marinate overnight in a marinade made up of tamari (or soy sauce), rice wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, ginger and honey.  Once it was time for dinner, I let the steak come to room temperature (sit out for an hour or so) and then cooked it in a hot cast iron skillet for about 3 minutes on each side and allowed it to sit in the pan until it reached the desired temp (medium-rare).  Allow the beef to rest for 10 minutes on a cutting board before slicing.

With the beef, I served parmesan polenta (simply grits cooked in milk with parmesan and chives stirred in at the end) and sautéed broccolini that were finished with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.


And now I’m off to brainstorm my Super Bowl menu.  And yes, it’ll take all week to make those big decisions.

Friday Favorites

Hello, Friday!  I actually have the day off (well, minus a few texts and minor things I’ll need to handle throughout the day) so I’m kicking off the weekend with a workout, lots of coffee and a massage (um, there is a knot in my back that is literally about to make me cry) before having lunch with a friend.  I’m also looking forward to Big Guy coming home after another long week in Cali.  I’m not sure what’s on the agenda for the weekend except for this:  a car wash.  Holy moly.  Between the snow and the salt and everything in between, my car is straight up nasty.

I hope you all have a fabulous weekend (the weather here is going to be amazeballs) and I’ll see ya Monday!


Favorite Brunch:  Cheesy French Toast.  Cheese.  Cheese.  And more cheese.  That little cheese “crisp” on the right side is killing me right now.



Favorite Comfort Food:  Baked Short Rib Manicotti.  Cheese + Carbs = Life.  Apparently I’m really craving cheese.



Favorite Lunch:  Asian Chopped Salad with Sesame Soy Vinaigrette (in a jar).  The perfect packable lunch.



Favorite Unexpected:  Black and White Nursery.  And no, I’m not expecting.  But I’ve never considered a black and white nursery.  Until now.



Favorite Craving:  BBQ Havarti Burgers with Sweet Potato Curly Fries.   I forgot to mention we’re planning to have burgers on Sunday for dinner.  With a side of Grease LIVE!  Oh, and probably a side of curly fries.



Favorite HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MAGGIE:  Everybody’s Birthday Cake.  My sister’s birthday is on Sunday and I really, really wish we could spend the weekend together.  But we can’t.  But if we were together, I would totally make her this cake.


Photo by Amy Bartlam

Favorite Day Dream:  What’s Gaby Cooking Home Office.  Now that I work from home a day or two a week, I’m dreaming of having my own little space.  It’s simple yet fresh and bright.



Favorite Super Bowl Sunday:  Best Beef Chili.  The Panthers are in the Super Bowl, so there’s no way I won’t be watching.  At least until halftime.  Because, let’s be real – 4:17am isn’t fun on Monday if I stay up for the whole game.  So now I need to make the Super Bowl fun…with FOOD.



Favorite Handheld:  BBQ Pulled Pork Pop Tarts.  I can’t help myself.  So many decisions to make before Super Bowl Sunday.



Favorite Cheers:  Mambo Taxi.  A margarita hugged in a sangria swirl.  I want that kind of hug.