Tailgate Thursday {fried pimiento mac ‘n cheese plus dueling ribs}

Last Saturday was a good one.  Especially for the Pirates.  As I mentioned on Monday, my youngest brother was in town visiting for the weekend.  Logan loves South Carolina football at about the same intensity as Big Guy loves East Carolina football.  Unfortunately, Logan wasn’t so happy after their noon game but thankfully he rallied and enjoyed the rest of the football-filled day.  And when I say football-filled, I mean every moment from noon until about 11 pm was filled with football.  We had quite the set-up in our living room:  we moved the t.v. from another room into the living room so there was no chance of missing anything.

{pic stolen from Big Guy’s instagram}

In addition for sharing a love of college football, Big Guy and Logan also share a love of pimiento cheese – specifically Palmetto Pimiento Cheese.  It really is the best store-bought pimiento cheese (though I disagree with their spelling of “pimento”) ever.  I was pretty darn excited to tell Logan my plans for fried pimiento mac ‘n cheese bites as an appetizer while watching all the games.

On Saturday morning I prepped the pimiento mac ‘n cheese so that it would be ready to fry that afternoon.  Simply cook macaroni according to the box directions then drain and set aside.  For the pimiento cheese sauce, make a roux with butter and flour and then add the milk, stirring until thick (seriously – stir continuously to avoid burning the sauce).  Once thickened, add in the pimiento cheese (I used the original pimiento cheese) and remove from the heat.  Stir and add salt and pepper, as needed.  Add in the cooked noodles and then cover and cool until you’re ready to fry up some mac ‘n cheese bites.

This is where it gets a little tricky (just being honest) and it’s also where I am really glad that Logan was in town to help.  Big Guy was no help when it came to these nuggets of deliciousness.

To make the bites, take a scoop of mac ‘n cheese and form into a ball (about the size of a golf ball).  Note:  these need to be tightly packed and this is where my brother’s strength came in handy.  Then roll in Panko.  Fry in oil at about 350 to 360 degrees.

We were able to fry two or three at a time and they don’t take long in the oil.  Under a minute each.  Some fell apart – but that’s okay.  The end result is so worth the effort.

I’m drooling just looking at that picture from Saturday.  I served the mac ‘n cheese balls with more Palmetto Pimiento Cheese (this was the jalapeno version).  To make into a sauce, simply place in the microwave until melted.  So simple – I told Logan this needs to be his new “go-to” appetizer if he ever goes to watch a game at a friends house (one ingredient = man’s best friend).

These were incredible.  Holy delicious.  The texture was perfect.  The flavors were perfect.  And they were worth every.single.calorie.

During all the football watching, Big Guy and Logan were also manning the smoker that was busy smoking ribs.  We thought it would be fun to have “dueling ribs” and tested out two different recipes.  The ribs weren’t done until about 9 pm – which worked out because well, fried pimiento man’ n cheese bites happened.  And also we were in luck because Sarah and Ryan (our travel buddies) stopped by to watch the ECU game and ate with us – there was a TON of food.

I’m going to warn you – ribs don’t take pretty pictures, especially at night.  But they were delicious.


Here are the links to both recipes that we used:

Grilled Baby Back Ribs with Root Beer BBQ Sauce (the sauce was awesome)

The Ultimate Barbecued Ribs

And since man can’t survive on ribs and fried mac n’ cheese bites alone, I whipped up a quick salad was the perfect side dish for the ribs.  The salad and dressing recipe are loosely based off these recipes from Southern Living.

harvest salad

The salad base was a mix of iceberg lettuce and romaine lettuce that was topped with shredded white cheddar, feta cheese, spiced pecans, and apples.

The dressing is definitely one you should try.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find sorghum, but I subbed in molasses.  After tasting the dressing, I ended up adding a few more tablespoons of apple cider vinegar for a little more tang.

Another successful “tailgate at home” for the books.  And the Pirates are now 3 – 2 going into another away game this weekend.  On Saturday we face the BYU Cougars in Utah with a 7:30 pm kick-off.

Go Pirates!

Fiery Chicken Thighs with Persian Rice

On Instagram, I referred to this dinner as “on fleek.”  Big Guy totally had to Google what that meant.

“on fleek” – the quality of being perfect, or on point

Totally on point.

Or “on fleek.”

That’s exactly how I would refer to these Fiery Chicken Thighs with Persian Rice.  


The rice proved to be a little tricky when it came time for me to “dump” it out of the pan but the taste, thankfully, wasn’t affected.  Cooked rice is mixed with onion that’s been sauteed with cumin and turmeric (this is where the rice gets the yellow color) and Greek yogurt before being added into a pan that’s been “seasoned” with oil and butter.  The rice is spread out on the bottom of the pan and packed down.  Then you leave it alone!  Don’t touch it.  Don’t even try to peak.  Just pray to the rice god’s and hope that it does what it’s supposed to do.

After about 30 minutes, the rice has created a golden crust on the bottom of the pan that is incredible.  So much texture.

While the rice is cooking (and to prevent you from peeking) – prepare the chicken.  It’s no surprise that prefer chicken thighs of chicken breasts.  (read:  so much flavor)  But when you keep the skin and the bone-in the flavor is even better.  I can almost 100% guarantee that you won’t have dry chicken if you use skin-on and bone-in chicken thighs.

The chicken thighs quick marinate in a mixture of oil, cumin, garlic, coriander and ground chile paste.  Use as much or as little of the chile paste as you like – but the rice really helps to balance out the heat.

The chicken is then broiled for about 12-15 minutes total.  The skin gets nice a crispy while the inside stays perfectly tender and full of flavor.

The plate was made complete with a sprinkle of parsley for some freshness and color.

I promise you’ll think this dinner is on fleek.

Tailgate Thursday {caramel apple cream cheese spread plus three other recipes}

Last Saturday’s win was well earned.  By the players and the fans.

In what might be the rainiest game I’ve ever sat through, I cheered the Pirates on to see them victorious over Virginia Tech.

But don’t think a little rain kept us from tailgating.  At 8:30am, the truck was loaded, my rain boots were on my feet and we were ready to hit the road for Greenville.

And by 10am, I was in need of a mimosa.

And around 11:30am, I finally set out the food (I was kind of scared of everything getting wet and being deemed inedible, so I waited longer than usual to set up).

On the menu:

Mimosas and Screwdrivers

Hot Ham and Cheese Party Rolls

Cold Roasted Veggies with Herbed Yogurt Dip

Cream Cheese Sausage Balls

Pirates Booty Popcorn and Nuts

Caramel Apple Cream Cheese Cheese Spread with Pretzels

I was unable to snap a picture of the hot and cheese party rolls but they were incredibly easy to make.  I assembled them the night before by rolling out a Pillsbury pizza crust and layering sliced ham and swiss cheese.  It was rolled up and then sliced.  The rolls were placed in a baking dish and topped with a mixture involving melted butter, mustard, poppy seeds and few other ingredients.  The rolls rested overnight and I simply baked before we headed to the game.  They reminded me a lot of another tailgate favorite.   ( <— better presentation!)

rees veg

The cold roasted veggies and dip were one of my favorites last weekend.  I simply roasted the veggies (red onion, carrots and zucchini) the night before with olive oil, salt and pepper.  After allowing them to cool, I placed them in large ziplock bags making them the perfect transportable snack.  The dip was SO good and I used a mixture of basil, parsley and a little bit of mint.  Be sure to use 2% Greek yogurt – it’s so much richer and creamier.  I promise that I’ll be making this “healthier” tailgate snack again.

I also did not snap a picture of the cream cheese sausage balls.  But I have made them so many times I can’t count.  Whether for football games or Christmas morning, they are a HIT and always a favorite (if not THE favorite).  The secret ingredient is obviously the cream cheese – but I almost always use less Bisquick than the recipe calls for and I’ve used the gluten-free version with lots of luck.  I prepared and baked the sausage balls the night before and then placed them in a ziplock bag.  The next morning, I microwaved them (in the bag, with the top opened) for about 3 minutes then sealed the bag and placed in an insulted cooler.  They were still warm hours later. (p.s. why am I sharing all my secrets with you?!?!)

crm chz caramel

The caramel cream cheese treat was definitively a favorite of the ladies at the tailgate.  And guess what – it couldn’t be easier.  I assembled this one on the spot!  Are you ready for this?  One block of cream cheese.  A drizzle of store-bought caramel sauce.  A sprinkle of toffee bits.  And pretzels for dipping.  Sweet, salty, creaming and totally addictive.

So with a 2-2 record, we head into this Saturday humble and hopeful.  It’s an away game at SMU with a 4pm kick-off.  And I have one word for this at-home tailgate:  RIBS.

It’ll be worth coming back next Thursday for the full menu and recap.

Friday Favorites {first fall friday}

Wednesday officially marked the first day of Fall so I guess I can’t tune out all the pumpkin spice this and apple that any longer.  Our first weekend of fall includes a low-key Friday night with a football-filled Saturday.  Sunday I am meeting up with one of my best friends who lives in Houston.  She’s in town visiting family and I’m so glad we’re able to squeeze in a lunch date.  The last time I saw Natalie was when she and her husband came to visit last November.  Between then and now she’s gone from a family of three to a family of four.   In the spirit of fall, my favorites this week are all fall-inspired.



Favorite Slice:  Sweet ‘n Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash Pizza with Cider Caramelized Onions and Bacon.  Pizza is an anytime food – summer, spring, winter or fall.  But when you put these toppings on the pizza, it becomes a fall pizza.


Favorite Crunch:  Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Granola.  The perfect yogurt topping.  And I love that there’s actually real pumpkin in the recipe.


Favorite Tips:  6 Ways to Make Instagram Both Beautiful and Bearable.   Last, it’s (just) Instagram.  More specifically it’s your Instagram.  Do what feels good to you.  Stand on a chair in a restaurant, style your friends hands just right.  Forget the photograph and just dig into those cheese fries.  Do what feels good to you. Perfection has it’s charm, but so does a real real life.  Ain’t no shame in the game.


Favorite Flavors:  Mustard Burgers with Crispy Goat Cheese and Fig-Onion Compote.  That crispy goat cheese, though…


Favorite Cheeeeese:  Roasted Green Chile Queso Dip.  This totally has nothing to do with fall except I’ll make it as a tailgate snack.  But what I really want is a bowl of dip, a platter of chips and a big margarita.  With salt.


Favorite Cozy:  Basic Rolled Turtleneck.  Summer clothes are my best friend.  But I do adore a comfy sweater or turtleneck.


Favorite In Season:  Garlic Spaghetti Squash with Herbs.  Winter Squash > Summer Squash


Favorite Tex-Mex:  Veggie Fajita Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with a Chipotle Drizzle.  These kind of “bridge the gap” between summer and fall.  And Big Guy will love ’em because, well, sweet potatoes.


Favorite Twist:  PB&J Sandwich Donut.  And because now that it’s fall and I’m not laying out at the pool, it doesn’t matter if I gain 5 pounds.


Favorite Cocktail Hour:  Blackberry and Meyer Lemon Gin and Tonics.  This may just be a drink that Big Guy and I can agree on.


Happy Fall, Y’all!!!!

Tailgate Thursday {bourbon-candied ginger and onion dip with homemade sweet potato chips}

With a drink in hand, we cheered loudly for the Pirates this past Saturday but we just couldn’t stand up to our competition.

Regardless of who wins any football game, the food and drink around our house is always winning.

On the drink menu, a French Tropics Summer Punch.  But I like to call it Pirate Punch for a fun tailgate cocktail.

In a pitcher, or small punch bowl, combine 3/4 cup vodka (we are partial to Tito’s), 3/4 cup St. Germain, 1 cup pineapple juice, 1 cup orange juice and 2 cups prosecco.  Serve over ice.

This is a fantastic drink for a tailgate because you can multiple the amounts to make a big batch and it’s a great make-ahead drink.

Warning: this is a potent drink!

(and yes, I have a chipped nail – I promise I will get it fixed this week.)

And to munch, bourbon-candied ginger and onion dip with homemade-homegrown (!!!) sweet potato chips.

This dip is another great addition to any tailgate because you can make it ahead.  (and some parts of this recipe you need to do in advance – like the candied ginger.)

For the candied ginger, thin slices of ginger are simmered in a combination of water, bourbon and sugar.  After simmering for 25 minutes, the ginger is removed from the bourbon simple syrup and transferred to a drying rack.  After about an hour, combine the ginger with 1/4 cup sugar and toss.  Spread that back out and allow to dry.  I did this the night before and let them dry overnight on the drying rack.

For the dip, onions, scallions, shallots and garlic are cooked over medium for about 20 minutes or until golden and caramelized.

The onions are transferred to a food processor and pureed.  The remaining ingredients are then added to the food processor, including Worcestershire sauce, Greek yogurt (I used 2% but you could also use sour cream), Duke’s mayonnaise, soy sauce, a little lemon juice, and the candied ginger.

Pulse until all the ingredients are combined.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed (I added more pepper than salt).

Allow this to chill.

sweet potatoes

During halftime, we fried our thinly sliced homegrown sweet potatoes.  How gorgeous is that purple sweet potato?!?!


This recipe worked perfectly (and the BBQ seasoning was incredible).

The end result was perfect for any tailgate.

And I have to admit – I was a little skeptical of this recipe.  I honestly was afraid that the bourbon-candied ginger was going to overpower the dip.  But the good news is that it didn’t.  I’d consider this an upgrade on a typical onion dip.

Now we’re 1-2 and facing Virginia Tech at home on Saturday.  Kick-off time is 3:30pm so I’m preparing a tailgate menu that includes food that travels easy (since we have an hour drive) but that’s hearty enough to count as lunch since we all know Big Guy will probably make me leave the house at 8:30am.







jalapeño-pineapple pizza with bourbon bbq drizzle

I’m not sure when Pizza Sunday became a tradition but I am sure that I don’t want it to end.  This particular pizza recipe comes from one of my favorite bloggers turned cookbook authors.  Her recipes are some of my favorites and I can always count on her for amazing appetizers and fantastic pizza recipes.

For this pizza, I used her favorite pizza crust recipe (also in the book but here’s a link to another pizza crust recipe of hers) subbing bread flour for all-purpose flour.  It was an experiment and it worked phenomenally.  The crust  was tender and doughy without being too thick.   This is our all-time favorite crust.

There isn’t a sauce for this pizza.  Instead the dough is drizzled with olive oil before piling on the caramelized shallots, shredded mozzarella, pineapple chunks, jalapeno slices, feta and a homemade bourbon-vanilla BBQ sauce.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Bourbon-vanilla BBQ sauce.  It was weird and totally fun to eat.  The base of the BBQ sauce is ketchup (duh!) and bourbon.  The secret ingredient is a splash of vanilla extract plus the seeds from a vanilla pod.  So much flavor.  And yes, this pizza is meatless but you totally won’t miss the meat.  And if you’re afraid you will, throw on some bacon or some shredded chicken.  Pepperoni would be tasty, too.

This pizza had so many flavors.  Spicy jalapeno, sweet pineapple, salty feta, bourbon-vanilla BBQ sauce that’s so weird yet so right.  And the perfect pizza crust.

Pizza Sunday, I love you.

Tailgate Thursday {jalapeño honey hummus with spiced olive oil tortilla chips + wonder wings with buttery Nashville hot sauce}

Tailgates aren’t just for home games!  Big Guy and I love to have mini-tailgates at home, even if it’s just the two of us.  When talk of the Pirates playing in the Swamp first started Big Guy had big plans of us going to that game on the road.  But in the end, we just couldn’t make it happen with our busy schedules.  At the end of the day, I’m kind of glad we weren’t in Florida because holy rain buckets – it was a messy, wet game in the Swamp (how appropriate!).

I’m fairly certain that the neighbors (10 doors down) could hear Big Guy screaming and hollering at the television but it was a great game to watch.  The Pirates put up quite a fight and despite a loss, they really gave me hope for this next game.  (My brothers and Dad should be so proud of my football talk.)

In between all of the jumping around and yelling, there were delicious bites of food!

Hummus may not sound exciting enough for a football Saturday but when you had roasted jalapenos and honey, I promise it’s good enough.  And then you add homemade tortilla chips to the mix and you have yourself a dippin’ good time.  The hummus is so easy to make thanks to your food processor and tahini + olive oil makes it incredibly silky, smooth.  The chips were super crunchy and flavorful and I added a new spice to my massive spice collection thanks to these babies – dried jalapeno pepper.

To wash the hummus and chips down (and to make Big Guy more tolerable), a Pirate Salty Dog (simply blueberry puree + fresh grapefruit juice + vodka and a salted rim).

Later on in the game, we cooked the most traditional football/tailgate food I can think of – WINGS!  But these were wonder wings.

I made two different sauces for the wings but there was surely a favorite of the two.  I recommend tossing your wonder wings with Buttery Nashville Hot Sauce – finger lickin’ good.  (The other wings were good – but we couldn’t get over the smell of the fish sauce that overtook the entire house.)

This weekend we face Navy in another away game at 3:30pm on Saturday.  I’m busy planning my tailgate menu – listen for Big Guy’s yelling because we’re apparently taking this tailgate to the backyard.