Broccoli Salad Dip

When most people think of Thanksgiving they think of family, turkey, all.the.pies., and football.  I remember growing up we’d finish our Thanksgiving feast at the beach with all of our family and then the men would retire to the living room to watch football.  Or maybe it should be “watch football” – because there was definitely some snoring coming from the living room.

And while you probably won’t be making an appetizer for a tailgate on Thursday, you might need one on Friday or Saturday.

Last Saturday, I whipped up a broccoli salad dip for us to nibble on while we watched college football.

Big Guy was dead set on me utilizing the broccoli in the garden so I was left with limited options.  Thankfully the dip turned out fantastic and was perfect paired with pretzels (gluten free!) and Wheat Thins.

And while the recipe is based off of the retro broccoli salad that we’ve all had before, it reminded me more of a pea pasta salad my Momma used to make when we were growing up.

Big Guy thought that a nice addition to the mix would have been raisins – which I have to agree with him.

This no-cook recipe (well, minus needing to crisp up the bacon) is perfect for a tailgate because you don’t have to worry about it getting cold.

Will you be watching football this Thanksgiving?


Gingered Sweet Potato Soup with Toasted Coconut and Pecans

I’ve never really been a soup person.  I mean, I’ll enjoy the occasional bowl during the Fall and Winter or a refreshing bowl of gazpacho in the Summer but it’s never been my favorite.

Until recently.

I’m craving soup – I even ordered soup in a restaurant.  (I never do that.)

Maybe it’s all the rain we’ve had recently.  Or maybe it’s because soup is just so darn comforting.

Whatever it is, I’m obsessed.

Gingered Sweet Potato Soup with Toasted Coconut and Pecans is the perfect end to a long work day.  It takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and it’s a super thick soup making it hearty and filling.  Even Big Guy adored this bowl of soup.

The soup is made up of onions, sweet potatoes, lots of fresh ginger, vegetable broth, white beans (this is the secret ingredient that made Big Guy think there was cream in the soup!), and some spices:  pepper, salt, cinnamon (I doubled the amount) and red pepper flakes.

On top, toasted coconut and pecans.  The flavors and textures were awesome.

A little kick from the ginger.

Warmth from the cinnamon.

Spice from the red pepper flakes.

Sweetness from the coconut.

Nuttiness from the pecans.

Here are some other soups that have caught my eye recently:

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Fresh New England Clam Chowder with Brown Butter Garlic Croutons

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Coconut-Curry Pumpkin Soup

Thai Butternut Squash Soup

Tailgate Thursday {biscuit bar and more}

I’m back with my biggest tailgate spread yet for 2015!  Last Friday night we hosted a BIG GAME party for the ECU and UConn football game.  I was more than excited to plan out a menu and even took the day off work to make sure I was able to execute the plans as perfectly and seamlessly as possible.


In addition to beer and bubbles, I made two signature cocktails.  One was a vodka based cocktail and the other was bourbon based.

For the Apple Cider Moscow Mules I mixed the ginger-infused vodka and the apple cider in a pitcher.  To serve, fill a copper mug with ice, pour in the vodka-apple cider base and top with ginger beer.  Garnish with a lime slice and a cinnamon stick.

The Shoo-Fly Punch starts with a base of bourbon, ginger liquor, simple syrup, lemon juice and a few shakes of bitters.  To serve, fill a glass with ice, add the bourbon base and top with ginger beer.  Garnish with an orange slice and a sprig of mint.


This was my second time making the Apple Cider Moscow Mules and they’re quite possibly my new favorite fall drink.  Sweet with a little spice and so refreshing.

biscuit bar

As I mentioned on Monday, we had a biscuit bar.  I was incredibly excited about my biscuit bar – especially after I found the perfect biscuits.  I picked up several packs of NC made biscuits at The Butchers Market in Charlotte.  There were several flavors including Cheddar and Honey, Cheddar, and Sweet Potato.  To stuff inside the biscuits – a pimiento cheese and  bourbon candied bacon combination and a country ham and red pepper jelly combo.  Also pictured, bread and butter pickles and pickled jalapenos.  The biscuit bar was a hit, to say the least.

the spread

Along with the biscuit bar we had another table full of food.  I can assure you that no one goes hungry at the tailgates we host.

The crock pot was filled with homemade sweet and sour meatballs that were incredible.  I used local ground beef (I doubled the recipe) and two eggs after reading the comments on the recipe.  I baked the meatballs for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees and then arranged them in the crock pot with the sauce and cooked on low for 2 hours.  I then transferred the heat to warm and let them hang out until party time.

In addition to crackers, Pumpkin Spiced Sweet Potato Chips, and popcorn, there was a cheese platter with a couple of local cheeses plus an amazing apple-cinnamon goat cheese from Trader Joes.

cheese board

The Apple Cinnamon Goat Cheese was hands-down the favorite cheese of the night.  I also served some fig and ginger game to pair with the bleu marbled cheese – which, along with the garlic, parsley and chive cheese came from my SoCo Farm to Door delivery.

roasted veg

The above veggie dip is a repeat from a tailgate in early October.  The Pioneer Woman’s Cold Roasted Veggies and Lemon-Herb Yogurt Dip is fantastic.  It’s probably my new favorite way to serve veggies at a tailgate.

watson dip

I had a last-minute request from Big Guy to make a recipe that’s been in his family since he can remember.  Watson “Birthday” Dip is a recipe that was passed on to me and I doubt I make it as well as Big Guy’s grandmother.  This dip was also a huge hit on Friday night.

For a little sweetness, I had some candy out (duh, it was the night before Halloween) along with a Pecan Pound Cake from the latest Southern Living.

As you can see it was quite the spread – but honestly, putting together the menu and cooking all day on Friday but a smile on my face.  There are few things I enjoy more than cooking for others.

We have one more home game left this season that we’ll be able to attend and since it’s a night game, I’m thinking a Chili Bar might be on the menu.

What would your favorite biscuit toppings include?

Mayan Sweet Potato and Polenta Bake

I typically need a hug by the end of Monday. And last night I not only got a hug but this dinner was incredibly comforting and satisfying.

Not to mention the flavors are out of this world.  I never imagined putting together refried beans, polenta and sweet potatoes – but boy did they work together in harmony to create a delicious Mayan Sweet Potato and Polenta Bake.

And there’s cheese.  And the most luscious sauce.

Big Guy compared the flavors and textures to a thick stew.  They reminded me a lot of enchiladas.

In case you’re not familiar with using polenta (in the tube) – here’s the brand I used.  

The recipe instructs you to use a 9 x 9 baking dish but I honestly thing a 13 x 9 dish would have worked better.  I was unable to use all the polenta in fear (yes, fear) that all the other layers wouldn’t fit.

The polenta is broken up in a bowl and then pressed into the bottom of your baking dish.  Top the polenta with half of the refried beans; slices of raw sweet potato; the saute of peppers, onions and garlic; half the shredded cheese and half of the sauce.  Then you layer on the remaining beans; sweet potato slices; sauce and cheese.

The casserole bakes for about an hour and 350 degrees.

I’m going to warn you – it’s not the most photogenic casserole – casseroles are rarely beautiful – but the taste is out of this world.

mayan bake

A sprinkle of cilantro and you’re ready to dig in.

Nutritious and delicious.

And almost as good as a hug.


Tailgate Thursday {a brunch tailgate menu}

After a win last Saturday, we’re back on the field TONIGHT.

But let’s rewind to our noon game last Saturday against Tulsa…

A noon game means that mimosas are totally acceptable at 8am.

It also means that your tailgate menu is breakfast-inspired.

Mimosas – a lot of bubbles, a splash of OJ

Banana-Nut Muffins – I left the frosting off of the muffins to make them more breakfast-appropriate.  Muffins travel well and can be made in advance.

Breakfast Casserole – I prepped all the ingredients the night before and simply combined and baked Saturday morning.  I love this spin on the breakfast casserole.  I used some habanero cheese for a little kick!

Apple-Spiked Monkey Bread  – I woke up at 4am for this slow-cooker recipe.  I know.  Crazypants.  It tasted amazing but wasn’t the prettiest dish I’ve ever made.  It was made boozy with the addition of rum.  If I had more time, I think I would have liked the looks of the end-results a little more.

Cream Cheese Sausage Balls – My go-to recipe for any and all tailgates.  I can make them the night before and simply heat them up before hitting the road.  Plus everyone loves these little nuggets of deliciousness.

With it being such an early game, it took awhile for all the fans to surface.

What’s your favorite pre-noon tailgate food?



{virtual} coffee chat

If we were having coffee this morning…I would wish that we could transport ourselves back to Ocean Isle Beach.  Big Guy and I had a glorious 4-day weekend and I wasn’t ready to return to reality.

If we were having coffee this morning…We’d chat about fun fall adventures – such as visiting the pumpkin patch like we did last week.  Our front porch screams “Fall Y’all” with hay, pumpkins and mums.

If we were having coffee this morning…I’d give you a recap of our weekend.  And of course, we kicked off our long weekend with lunch at Bento Box in Wilmington on Friday.  They were breaking down a tuna when we arrived and I couldn’t not have some.  It was so incredible fresh.  Bento Box isn’t necessary my favorite for inventive rolls but the freshness and quality of the fish is out of this world.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you all about an incredible night we had with my in-laws.  We laughed and shared drinks before heading to a new-to-me restaurant in Little River, The Parson’s Table.  The food was incredible but the company was even better.  The history on the restaurant that is in an old church is fascinating and I would highly recommend you visit if you’re ever in the area.  On Saturday morning, we headed out for coffee at my favorite coffee shop in the world, Drift.  It was wonderful spending quality time with Terri and Butch – thank you again for a lovely dinner and breakfast!

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you that we tailgated a little differently on Saturday.  Our game wasn’t until 7:30pm, so we headed back out once we ran some errands and got ourselves put together for a few appetizers.  We paid a visit to Sharkey’s and then ended back up at Drift to share a bottle of wine and a cheese plate.  Both were absolutely delicious and I can’t wait to have more happy hours at Drift.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you that it was so sad to see the Pirate’s lose on Saturday night but we weren’t going to let that (or Monday) ruin our Sunday.  We enjoyed another coffee date at Drift and then we were off on an adventure.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you all about the new Shallotte River Swamp Park that is a hop-skip-and-jump away from OIB.  The park opened earlier this year and when we were making plans for our long fall weekend at the beach, we thought WHY NOT?!?!  We spent a little over 2 hours soaring above the swamps including 10 zip line stations (one 90 feet feet) from one tower or tree to another.  The experience was well worth the money as the park is something you have to see to understand how intricate and well planned it truly is.  We were paired with another party of 2 and had 2 personal guides with us the entire time.  So fun!

pumpkin beer

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you that we spent the afternoon post-zip line living up to the term “Sunday Funday.”  While coming through Wilmington on Friday, we stopped at Lighthouse Beer and Wine to pick up a variety of pumpkin beers for a fall beer tasting.  Our line-up was pretty strong.  Unfortunately, I just don’t think Big Guy and I are craft beer people.  And I’m not embarrassed to say that.  We found ourselves pouring out a lot of beer.


If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you that we based our score on smoothness, uniqueness, quality of pumpkin flavor and whether we would buy the beer again.  At the end of the day, Shipyard Pumpkinhead won.  (I think next year we’ll stick to wine tasting.)


If we were having coffee this morning…I would share a super simple but awesome recipe for herbed cashews.  the cashews were tossed with a little oil, salt, lots of pepper, fresh rosemary and garlic powder and then baked until slightly browned.  The perfect nibble while beer tasting.

If we were having coffee this morning…I would tell you that we ended Sunday with an incredible sunset and a 4-cheese pizza.  We made the most of our Monday morning off work and headed back out for coffee, breakfast and a long walk on the opposite end of the island.

If we were having coffee this morning….I would assure you that I’m already trying to find another weekend to go back to Ocean Isle.

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!