Super Bowl Survival!

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superbowl51pats

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: Harvest Chicken Skillet

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We’ve officially reached uncomfortably cold temperatures here in New England- which has prompted me to go seeking out warmer comfort foods to chow down on while I bundle up in as many layers as possible and crawl under every fleece blanket I own. I stumbled upon this recipe from Well Plated– a seasonal dish similar to one I used to order from a small, family-owned restaurant in my hometown a few years ago during lunch breaks at one of my former jobs- and one I haven’t had in a while (but have always wanted to try and replicate at home!)

This recipe takes less than an hour to prepare and cook (and serves four) which is perfect for people like me who want something warm and filling in a hurry- and really- who ISN’T super busy this time of year?

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 3 cups Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered (about 3/4 pound)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

OKAY, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

1. Heat the olive oil in a large, nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium high, until hot and shimmering. Add the chicken, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Cook until lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to plate lined with paper towels.

2. Reduce skillet heat to medium low. Add the chopped bacon and cook until crisp and brown and the fat has rendered, about 8 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the paper towel-lined plate. Discard all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan.

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3. Increase skillet heat back to medium high. Add Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, onion, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender and the onions begin to look translucent, about 10 minutes.

4. Stir in the apples, garlic, thyme, and cinnamon. Cook 30 seconds, then pour in 1/2 cup of the broth. Bring to a boil and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes.

5. Add the reserved chicken and remaining 1/2 cup broth. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in reserved bacon and serve warm.

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There are so many flavors in this dish and all of them are fantastic- the chicken and the bacon are salty and crisp, the vegetables are sweet and soft- and the cinnamon and garlic just melt in your mouth and bring everything together so, so perfectly. I had a lot of this left over after getting my fill at dinner- and it tasted just as incredible re-heated for lunch at work the following day.

I’d like to try this recipe again but maybe incorporate some other ingredients, as well- like Yukon gold potatoes or zucchini. It’s such a versatile dish and it definitely helped keep me warm while I ate it!

xx

Quick Eats: Cheesy Cauliflower Bread

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It’s been a short while since I’ve shared a recipe post, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped experimenting with new ideas and ingredients in my kitchen. My current “flavor of the month” is cauliflower. When I’m not eating it raw or mixed in as part of a vegetable stir fry- I’m researching the ways I can include it in my diet with new and tasty dishes I wouldn’t have thought to try before.

I love garlic bread, and I definitely love cheesy bread- so finding a recipe that combined both, but without the actual “bread” part- pretty much made my week. This low-fat, low-carb, healthier-with-cauliflower-substituted-for-dough combination takes just under an hour to prepare and cook- and the results are so good- you’ll never guess that this isn’t really bread at all!

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WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

  • 4 cups of riced cauliflower (about 1 large head of cauliflower)
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese (1-2 cups will be used for topping)
  • 3 teaspoons of oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dipping sauce(s) of your choice

OKAY, HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

1. Preheat oven to 425°F degrees. While the oven is heating, prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Make sure your cauliflower is chopped in florets. Add the florets to your food processor and pulse until it resembles rice.

3. Place the cauliflower in a microwavable container and cover with lid. Microwave for 10 minutes. From there, place the microwaved cauliflower in a large bowl and add the 4 eggs, 2 cups of mozzarella, oregano, garlic and salt & pepper. Mix everything together.

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4. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and shape into a rectangle for the bread sticks.

5. Bake the crust (no topping yet) for about 25 minutes or until golden. Once done, sprinkle the top of the “bread” with the remaining mozzarella cheese and put back in the oven for another 5 minutes- or until cheese has melted.

6. Slice and serve with dipping sauce of your choosing.

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I can’t stress how good these things taste (without making you feel bloated or gross the way typical bread sticks can.) If I hadn’t prepared them myself, I would have just assumed they were a thinner, crispier bread instead of a vegetable. They were crunchy and cheesy with just the right amount of garlic- and when topped with marinara or ranch- I could have eaten the entire pan all on my own (for the record: I shared these!)

I’m thinking this recipe may make another appearance at Thanksgiving if I have the time to bake them before my family gets here. I’d like to see how many of my relatives would be able to tell if these were actually made out of cauliflower or not!

xx