Super Bowl Survival!

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via The Patriots’ Instagram account.

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! This weekend couldn’t come fast enough for me- not only because I have fun plans with friends tomorrow just outside the city- but because Sunday night is the Super Bowl! After last year’s devastating loss to the Broncos during the AFC Championship Game- The Patriots are taking on the Atlanta Falcons in Houston. It’s essentially considered a holiday here in New England- even though I have to be at work bright and early on Monday morning (not too thrilled about that one!)

I digress- it’s always a thrill when your team makes it all the way to the big game (and Lady Gaga is headlining the halftime show? Yasssssss!) so I took the necessary steps to guarantee the get-together I have planned goes off without a hitch. I’ve put together a short guide for anyone else looking for some pre-game tips and tricks so that they don’t get stuck in traffic, trampled in the grocery store while picking up that last minute bag of chips, or stranded in the back of a bar trying to peer over a bunch of other peoples’ heads to see the score on the TV everyone is crowded around.

And I’ve included a quick and delicious recipe for those who are looking for something a little different to munch on or serve guests!

THE SCREEN:

Nobody wants to crowd around a tiny TV to watch the game. That doesn’t mean you have to run out and purchase a huge flat-screen to appease everyone, but making sure everyone has a clear view of the score is pretty important. If the viewing situation or standards aren’t exactly up to par- the problem can easily be solved with a blank wall or by hanging up a sheet like my friend Stef did during the Patriots/Seahawks game a couple of years ago when she streamed the game through a projector synced up to her laptop and onto a wall she’d cleared in her living room. The picture was perfect, the sound was great- and everyone could see what was happening- even from the next room over while they were grabbing snacks.

I’ve heard of other scenarios where people have brought their own large TVs over to friends’ houses to set up for the game- which sounds like a lot of work- but desperate times call for desperate measures. If it comes to that: just make sure they arrive early enough to guarantee the TV is working properly. There’s nothing worse than getting no picture/static or no sound when you’re just a few minutes away from kickoff.

THE FOOD:

Okay, this is probably the most important thing. If you’re hosting your own Super Bowl party- then a half a bag of potato chips and some cheese slices just isn’t going to cut it. People are going to be amped up- and they’re going to get hungry. That doesn’t mean that you have to pay a small fortune for take-out (or wait 2 hours for the delivery person to arrive since you know they’re going to be SLAMMED with orders.) Go to your local market and pick up a couple of frozen pizzas. They take no time at all to cook up and they taste just fine. I promise you- no one is going to complain.

Stuck on appetizers? Check the frozen food section in the market while you’re there. A lot of stores take advantage of Super Bowl Sunday and have buy one/get one specials leading up to game day on frozen appetizers like mozzarella sticks, buffalo wings and loaded potato skins. Like the pizzas- you just toss them in the oven for a few minutes and they’re good to go. Serve them with some sour cream and marinara sauce and you’re all set!

I typically take advantage of the deli in my local market when it comes to snack foods for special occasions, too (i.e. my weekly ‘The Walking Dead’ feast when the show is back on.) I can get everything I need for a meat/cheese platter, cooked potato wedges, onion rings, tempura chicken, or salad kits for anyone coming over who might not be into the whole “Football Foods” thing.

Baked goods are also nice to have should anyone with a sweet tooth get a craving. Cookies, brownies and cupcakes are easy enough to bake/decorate or buy in bulk at the store. Right now my local market has some yummy looking chocolate TB12 cupcakes available in honor of Tom Brady.

Fair warning though: you need to get to the store today or tomorrow to avoid crazy lines or worse- the food selling out. It happens. Believe me.

If you do have time to whip something up, though- you can’t go wrong with a gigantic plate of nachos, some shrimp cocktail, or even something as simple as mixing up a couple of fresh dips or cheese balls to dunk your chips and crackers in. Below, I’ve included a recipe for buffalo cauliflower nuggets- a lighter alternative to hot wings in case you want to leave more room for pizza and potato skins.

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I love buffalo wings and I love cauliflower- and while browsing the web for some new snacks to incorporate into this coming Sunday’s menu- I came across this quick recipe that combines both things. If you want something light, spicy, and with just enough crispy goodness to satisfy your crunch-craving without filling you up- these are seriously awesome and worth checking out/trying.

You won’t regret it!

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • Oil, as needed for frying
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-size florets
  • Buffalo/hot sauce
  • Bleu cheese dressing (for dipping)
  • Celery and/or carrot sticks (to serve with nuggets)

OKAY, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

1. Pour 2 to 3 inches of oil into a large sauté pan. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers on the surface and reads about 350°F on a thermometer. (Or you can test the oil with a piece of cauliflower: If it bubbles and stays at the surface after you drop it in the oil, then you’re good to go.)

2. Line a baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels. Whisk the eggs in a large, shallow bowl.

3. In another large, shallow bowl, whisk the flour with the garlic powder, salt and black pepper.

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4. Working with a few pieces at a time, dip the cauliflower florets into the egg until they are well coated. Then dip them into the flour mixture and toss well to coat. Repeat with the remaining cauliflower.

5. Working in batches, fry the cauliflower until the pieces are evenly golden brown, 6 to 9 minutes. Remove the cauliflower with a slotted spoon and drain on the prepared paper-towel-lined baking sheet.

6. Fill a small bowl with the buffalo/hot sauce. Add the fried cauliflower to the sauce and gently toss to coat.

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7. Serve the cauliflower immediately, hot, with the carrots and celery on the side and the blue cheese dressing for dipping.

8. Watch the game and enjoy!

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They taste incredible- and don’t make you feel too-full-to-function. I’ll be cooking up a fresh plate of these on Sunday!

THE ALCOHOL:

If your party is going to be 21+, then you’re going to need the proper amount of alcohol- which can be tricky if everyone likes to drink different things. I’ve found having a B.Y.O.B. rule works out well, so that everyone can bring enough of what they personally enjoy and you don’t have to foot what will surely be a very expensive liquor store bill- but it never hurts to have some spare booze and beer laying around. Just in case.

I keep it simple: a case of a generic beer/lager like Sam Adams, a 6-pack of something fruity/a hard cider (because there’s always someone who wants it), and a bottle of red and/or white wine for the non-beer drinkers. I try not to have too much hard liquor around during sporting events because you never know how someone’s going to react to the score when they’re 3 shots of whiskey or tequila in. If they want to bring it themselves, fine- but don’t throw up or break anything in my place because I WILL make you clean up after yourself/replace things.

And it goes without saying that there should always be one- if not more- designated drivers assigned to the party to make sure people get home safely. It’s also good to have an air mattress or a freed up couch available if someone has had too much to drink and cannot find a ride home so that they can crash somewhere familiar, warm and safe and sleep it off. Keep everyone’s car keys in a bowl so no one attempts to leave on their own after having one too many.

Also be sure that anyone not drinking alcohol have beverage options, too. Water, juice, soda- it’s good to stock up on a few different things so that everyone has something to chug while they’re eating their food.

Living in New England, I usually store the beverages in a cooler on my back porch to keep them really cold- but make sure you have plenty of ice- just in case. The weather and temperatures can get really unpredictable here and it might be warmer outside than anticipated this Sunday.

(via Pinterest)

(via Pinterest)

THE DECOR:

You don’t need to have every single inch of your living room covered with your team’s logo. Implementing their team colors in your decor is good enough- I promise. Pick up some paper/plastic plates, cups and utensils in one color- and then mix it up by adding paper napkins in the other hue. If you want to go a little further without having to blow up one of those gigantic inflatable football players on your front porch/lawn, you can always buy inexpensive paper tablecloths with your team’s logo on them to stack the utensils, food and beverages on. The whole theme here is convenience and everything being easy to clean up and dispose of once the game and the party are over for the night.

You don’t want to be up ’til 2 a.m. taking down color-coordinated Christmas lights or popping a bunch balloons or anything, do you?

Window decals and streamers also liven things up, but again- it’s not necessary to go overboard. People are going to be focusing on three things and three things only: the game, the food, and the beverages. They aren’t going to mind if you don’t have an ice sculpture carved into the likeness of your team’s quarterback sitting in the middle of your table.

THE WARDROBE:

Listen, it’s Super Bowl Sunday- not Fashion Week- and wearing leggings and an oversized team jersey is not only allowed, but encouraged. You’re going to be savoring some serious junk food, probably having some alcohol, and stressing out about the score. You don’t want to be uncomfortable, do you? Sport your team’s colors with pride- but don’t worry about having the perfect hair, makeup, or manicure.

Me? I’m shamelessly throwing on my Gronkowski t-shirt with my favorite pair of navy blue jeggings and a Patriots sweatshirt so I can move around and eat as much as I want. Since the Super Bowl is in Houston, I don’t think incorporating some cowboy boots into the ensemble is all that bad, either. How cute are these brown, knee-high equestrian boots from KING RANCH SADDLE SHOP, for example?

(via King Ranch Saddle Shop's website.)

(via King Ranch Saddle Shop’s website.)

Those are seriously my favorite types of boots to wear with jeggings. It’s like the perfect mix of cowgirl and comfort- and they match pretty much everything.

As long as you’re comfortable- that’s all that matters. Even if you show up to the party in a pair of fleece pajama pants with your team’s logo printed all over them and a hoodie- at least you’re still showing some spirit!

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And there you have it! My guide to hosting (and more importantly- enjoying) a stress-free Super Bowl party. No sweating the time, no pulling your hair out over the decorations, and no sink full of dirty dishes to take care of in the morning. Just a few easy and inexpensive methods to making sure everyone is fed, quenched, and ready to cheer and shout at the TV for a couple of hours.

Best of all? You might even have leftovers for Monday, too!

If you have Super Bowl Survival tips of your own- feel free to share them!

Have a safe weekend, everyone! Go Pats!

xx

Quick Eats: Parmesan Truffle Fries

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Last week, I had mentioned dinner plans I had made with friends at Grass Fed JP in Jamaica Plain- and how their Parmesan truffle fries were so good that they had made me want to try my hand at whipping up a batch of my own. Well, this past weekend- in preparation for the Chiefs/Steelers game (and I’m still pretty bummed out about the Chiefs losing!)– I picked up the handful of ingredients I needed to make my own version.

But here’s the thing- truffle oil is kind of a pain to get. I checked three different stores around where I live and none of them had the stuff. The closest place, a good twenty minutes out of my way- had some priced at about $35 for a small bottle. The oil is apparently like liquid gold and twice as hard to track down.

Fortunately, the internet had plenty of helpful suggestions when it came to substituting other oils for truffle oil that would still keep the fries tasting good. Below is a recipe I scrounged up that originally included truffle oil, but I added some notes for anyone else who has trouble finding some and/or doesn’t want to spend a small fortune to get it.

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 3 large russet potatoes (about 2 ½ pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-4 tablespoons truffle oil (**or substitute extra virgin olive oil)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

OKAY, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

1. Preheat oven to 425°F

2. Leave the skin on the potatoes. Cut each potato in half the long way, then each half in half the long way. From there, slice the wedges into strips- the width of your choosing depending on how thick you want the fries (I kept mine on the thinner side, but you can cut them into bigger wedges or shoestring pieces if you have the patience!)

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3. In a bowl, toss the cut potatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay out flat on a sheet pan and roast in the oven for 15 minutes. Turn each wedge over and roast for about another 15 minutes or until browned and tender.

4. Remove hot fries from sheet pan and place in a large bowl and toss with truffle oil (or extra virgin olive oil), chopped parsley and grated Parmesan.

5. Serve the fries hot and with your preferred dipping sauce on the side.

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Even without truffle oil- these fries tasted so good! They were crisp and full of flavor- and were the perfect pre-game snack to reach for instead of the usual chips, pretzels or crackers. What I like best about making these, apart from the fact that they don’t take long at all to prepare and cook- is that you can be pretty lax with the ingredients. You can substitute oils, add more or less cheese/parsley/salt and pepper/etc. and they’ll still taste great.

Of course, if you have any suggestions for these fries for the next time I prepare them (which will be in like a day or two, probably!) feel free to share! I’m always open to new ideas and suggestions!

xx

Quick Eats: Snack-Safe Chocolate-Chip Cookie Dough

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Do you like the taste of raw cookie dough but dislike the danger of salmonella that comes with it whenever you sneak a spoonful while you’re baking? Then do I have good news for you! In what is probably one of the quickest, easiest recipes I’ve stumbled across (three steps and only a handful of ingredients? Yes please!)– I have found an egg-free, safe-to-snack-on, and absolutely delicious alternative to raw cookie dough that tastes EXACTLY like the real thing.

Maybe even better than the real thing, actually.

Don’t believe me? Here’s the recipe. Try it fr yourself and see what you think!

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1½ sticks butter, at room temperature
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup light brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2¾ cups almond flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

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OKAY, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter with the sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and mix to combine.

2. Add the almond flour and salt; mix to combine. Add the chocolate chips and mix just until evenly incorporated.

3. The cookie dough can be served immediately or refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to serve (for up to a week).

That is legitimately all you need to do to make these. That’s it. The entire process takes roughly 30 minutes and then you’ve got yourself enough edible cookie dough to last you a week (or an hour, depending on how hungry you’re feeling.)

Want to take this recipe a step further? Try rolling some of the dough into balls, dunking them in melted milk/dark chocolate, and then freezing them for a couple of hours or overnight. You’ll get yourself some chilled chocolate-covered cookie dough bites when the chocolate coating hardens!

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xx

Quick Eats: Roasted Potato Crostini with Pesto Cheese

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Well hello, and Happy July! I hope my fellow Americans had a wonderful, fun, and firework accident-free Independence Day yesterday! I did what any true patriot in the U. S. of A would do and celebrated by eating a lot of (mostly unhealthy) foods, sweets, and sporting some red, white & blue while watching people set off illegal firecrackers they purchased across state lines.

You know. The usual.

My long holiday weekend actually extends through today, and I’m spending my last day off before returning to work tomorrow in NYC with Sean to do some shopping, a little sightseeing, and to try and hunt down these incredibly elaborate milkshakes everyone has been talking about lately. We’ll see how it goes!

Before I leave to catch my train into Grand Central, though- I wanted to share a recipe I tried my hand at this past week (as part of that aforementioned unhealthy food binge I went on in celebration of the 4th.) I randomly came across this appetizer in a local flyer recently, and being a fan of both roasted potatoes AND pesto- I knew I had to give it a go.

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1/3 lbs (4 medium) Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 6 ounces soft cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped prepared roasted red peppers
  • Snipped fresh chives (optional)

OKAY, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

1. Heat oven to 400ºF. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray or rub with olive oil.

2. On baking sheet, arrange sliced potatoes in single layer; spray/rub lightly with additional cooking spray/olive oil.

3. Sprinkle potato slices evenly with 1/4 teaspoon of garlic salt.

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4. Roast potatoes for 20-25 minutes or until they are are tender and browned- turning them over halfway and sprinkling with the remaining garlic salt.

5. While potatoes are finishing roasting, mix together cream cheese and pesto in a small bowl.

6. Once the potatoes are done cooking, spoon the pesto/cheese mixture on top of each slice. Top with chopped red pepper and sprinkle with chives. Serve immediately.

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To call this an appetizer is actually a bit misleading, since these potato slices are pretty filling and could actually be a meal by themselves, but they tasted delicious- a perfect combination of saltiness and cheesiness- crunchiness and gooey-ness. I plan on making these for the next get together or party I throw and/or attend since I know they’ll be a hit and go fast!

I’d also like to experiment a bit with the ingredients, like maybe substituting chopped onions in place of the red peppers or seasoning them a bit differently. There’s a lot of different ways these can be prepared!

xx

Quick Eats: Buffalo Chicken Dip

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Wow. That’s really all I can say about Sunday night’s nail-biter between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. Just wow. Despite living in Massachusetts, it’s well known among my circle of friends that I’m not the biggest Patriots fan (it has nothing to do with the team or the coaching staff- who I’ve grown to admire and respect throughout the years- but more with the often overwhelming, aggressive, and obnoxious behavior of some of their more vocal die-hard fans that all but ruin the fun for myself and others.)

Regardless, even though I had been low-key hoping the Seahawks would be victorious- I have to give credit where credit is due. The Pats played their hearts out and earned that win. I’m happy for them, and happy for their fans. I’d even go as far as showing my appreciation at the duck boat parade scheduled in the city for tomorrow morning, as is the tradition whenever one of our sports teams wins a championship- but with the recent blizzard 2.0 blanketing Boston shortly after the game came to an end and my having to be at work- it looks like I’ll have to live vicariously through my friends’ Instagram and Twitter photos. Have fun, everybody!

For the actual Super Bowl, my friend Stef had a bunch of us over her apartment to watch the game, eat some snacks, and have a couple of beers while we cheered and jeered touchdowns, interceptions, Katy Perry’s halftime show- and that really, really awful Nationwide commercial (seriously. What WAS that?) Not wanting to show up to the get together empty-handed, I put together a dish of one of my favorite, easiest, and quickest party recipes to make- buffalo chicken dip.

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YOU WILL NEED:

* Baking dish/pan

* 1 package (8 oz.) of cream cheese

* 10 oz. boneless white chicken (some people use chicken in a can, but that sounds a little gross to me- so I opted to purchase a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken from my local deli and carve that up instead. Whatever is left over can be used to make chicken salad, sandwiches, etc.!)

* 1/2 cup buffalo wing sauce

* 1/2 cup blue cheese (or ranch, depending on preference,) dressing

* 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

* Tortilla chips, crackers, or celery/carrot sticks to use for dipping

OKAY, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.

2. Spread the package of cream cheese into your un-greased baking dish/pan.

3. Layer the boneless chicken, the 1/2 cup of buffalo wing sauce, and the 1/2 cup of blue cheese (or ranch) dressing on top of the spread cream cheese. Depending on what particular degree of flavor you’re looking for- you can add or deduct any of the ingredients to make the dip spicier or more mild.

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4. Sprinkle the 2 cups of Monterey Jack cheese on top of everything.

5. Cook uncovered in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese on top is completely melted.

6. Let the dip cool for a 10-15 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, or celery/carrot sticks.

7. Dig in and enjoy!

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Overall I think the dip was a success (it was nearly gone by the time the game ended!) and it’s something that can be made again in no time at all before (or even during) the next party, too- be it sports-related or not!

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Spring Giveaway!

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With a few beautiful days behind me and the promise of even sunnier, warmer ones ahead- I thought I’d celebrate this beautiful and much-anticipated season by doing a giveaway for one lucky U.S-based “Legally Redhead” reader to make their Springtime even more sensational!

I am giving away a pre-paid three-month subscription to one of the following subscription services:

GlossyBoxGiveaway

For The Beauty Buff:

The Service: GlossyBox

The Price: $21 per month.

What It Is: GlossyBox is a beauty and makeup subscription service. They send out 4-5 deluxe and full size beauty products each month.

LootCrateGiveaway

For The Geek & Gamer:

The Service: Loot Crate

The Price: $19.37 per month.

What It Is: Loot Crate is monthly subscription service “for geeks and gamers.” Each month they send you collectibles, stickers, (sometimes t-shirts) and other fun items.

YumvelopeGiveaway

For The Foodie:

The Service: Yumvelope

The Price: $21 per month

What It Is: Yumvelope sends out some of the best-tasting artisanal food products to their customers monthly. $21 gets you a large USPS padded envelope sent to you filled with a minimum of six full-size products, including snacks, drinks, desserts, and chocolates.

Sound good? I certainly hope so!

This giveaway is going to run from today (April 15th) through Tuesday, April 29th at 11:59 P.M. EST., after which a winner will be randomly chosen via the giveaway’s Rafflecopter page. From there, I will contact the winner privately so I can set them up with the three-month subscription of their choice (please remember: the choices are between GlossyBox, Loot Crate, and Yumvelope.)

And now, for the most important part:

HOW TO ENTER:

1. Comment on this post with your first name, your e-mail address, and which of the three subscription services you’d like to try the most. (comment moderation is turned on to avoid spambots- but rest assured I will absolutely approve yours a.s.a.p!)

2. You can also tweet about the giveaway- but please provide a link to this post in your tweet.

3. Visit the giveaway’s Rafflecopter page to verify you’ve commented and/or tweeted. This is essential, because I am choosing the winner via Rafflecopter’s random selection process- and I want to be sure everyone gets a fair chance by having their entries show up accurately!

That’s it! Good luck to everyone who enters!

Side note: Don’t fret, readers outside the U.S! When this giveaway is done, I will be having another one (with a similar prize) especially for you shortly afterwards. I am in the process of researching subscription services that provide shipment to other countries (and I always welcome suggestions!)

Any questions/concerns can be sent to me directly at AshleyDeLarge@gmail.com

xox