Superbowl Snacks

By: Stacy Thompson

Football

At the writing of this blog, I may be really, really happy about the competitors involved in Super Bowl LI (if it’s the Packers/Patriots) or just looking forward to a good game. But for many people, the biggest game in the National Football League doesn’t signify the game between the two best teams, but something much greater, much more lasting. Not just the commercials, my friends, but the food served before, during and after the big event!

Ideal Super Bowl commercials generally include a monkey, kid or Clydesdales (Career Builder/Monkey Office, The Force/Mean Joe Green/Like a Girl, and pretty much every Budweiser commercial ever, most of all the post-911 tribute). The commercials keep us in our seats through the breaks in play and sometimes are more entertaining than the game itself. Regardless, the food can bring a good game home or take minds off of the fact that the next football competition is many, many Sundays away…

So, without further ado, here are some suggestions for your Super Bowl menu:

CRISP AND SPICY SNACK MIX

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups crisscross of corn and rice cereal (such as Crispix)
  • 1 cup tiny pretzel twists or sticks
  • 1/2 cup wheat crackers (such as Wheat Thins)
  • 1/2 cup cheddar crackers (such as Cheez-It)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon ginger stir-fry sauce (such as Lawry’s)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 250º.
  2. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a bowl. Combine butter, stir-fry sauce, powder, cumin, and salt; drizzle over cereal mixture, tossing to coat. Spread mixture into a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 250º for 30 minutes or until crisp, stirring twice.

HOT ARTICHOKE – CHILI DIP

Ingredients:

  • 1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained & chopped
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 c. mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • 1 (4 oz.) can diced green chili peppers, drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Triscuit crackers or tortilla chips for dipping

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl stir together artichoke hearts, Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise and chopped chili peppers. Transfer artichoke mixture to a casserole dish.
  2. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven about 20 minutes. Top with shredded parmesan cheese and broil until browned.
  3. Serve warm with crackers or tortilla chips.

CHILI RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground beef (season with salt/pepper)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 large green pepper diced
  • 1/2 large red pepper diced
  • 1 can rotel – Mexican flavored diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 can dark beer
  • 4 tablespoons ground chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1/2 square Bakers unsweetend chocolate
  • Garnish—sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, green onions
  • Serve with or without rice

Directions:

  1. Brown beef, peppers, and onion. Drain off any grease.
  2. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Add the beans last.
  3. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to VERY low.
  4. Cook with the lid off for an hour. Then cook 1 hour with the lid on. Can be cooked in a slow cooker on low heat for 2 hours.

Buckeye Nuts

By: Rachel Sircy

buckeyes

If you ever want to get a hysterical laugh going in my family, especially around the holidays, just tell someone near to you that there are Buckeyes in the kitchen. This inside joke works best if my mother is just within earshot – my mother will become indignant and everyone else will start laughing.

The story behind this joke is the famous Christmas when our family was inundated with gifts of Buckeye candy from my mother’s friends. For those of you unfamiliar with this treat, Buckeye candy is made to look like the nut of a Buckeye tree. I don’t know how popular they are in South Carolina, but in my home state of Ohio (the Buckeye State) these chocolate peanut butter confections are the staple candy gift at the holidays. For some reason that Christmas my mother’s best friend and her husband decided to make countless dozens of them. When they realized they had more than they could handle, they foisted them off on us. We had candy coming out of our ears. My mother harassed the whole family and all of our guests that year trying to get us to eat the candy just so that she could be rid of it. By the end of the season we were so sick of chocolate we couldn’t stand to hear the word “Buckeye,” and still my mother harped, “Hey guys, if you have a sweet tooth, there are Buckeyes in the kitchen.” Nobody had anything resembling a sweet tooth for months after that Christmas.

Nevertheless, if you are looking for a delicious, easy to make edible gift, Buckeyes are great choice. The best part is that they are gluten free!

Since my family threw out all our recipes for Buckeye candy after the famous Buckeye candy incident of ’03, I am going to share a link to the Allrecipes website. This is a pretty authentic looking recipe and it will make quite a bit of candy.

Easy Vacation Dinner After a Long Day of Hiking

By: Azure Stilwell

crack-chicken-recipe

This past weekend we took full advantage of the beautiful weather and went on a family mini-vacation to Helen, Georgia. The cabin we stayed in was absolutely beautiful, with breathtaking views of a lake in a little valley. Helen itself was cool but it was the winding back roads and color changing trees that made the trip for us.

During our trip, each family took turns cooking dinner. On my parent’s night my mom made “crack” chicken. This stuff was delicious. We used Hawaiian Sweet Bread Buns, lightly buttered and toasted in the oven as our base for the filling. A nice vinegar salad or coleslaw will balance out the richness of the chicken mixture very well. Below I will post the recipe for “crack” chicken but I also wanted to let you know that I hiked up almost a mile up to Anna Ruby Falls and it was absolutely gorgeous. (Though I nearly died from an asthma attack, the view was so worth the breathlessness). The hike was a not-so-friendly reminder that I have got to get into better shape, but eating “crack” chicken is not the way to that path. Just sayin’. 🙂

Crack Chicken

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breasts (4 or 5) or you can use chicken strips (but maybe change cook time to 4 hours)
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 1 packet of ranch seasoning mix (2 if you really like the ranch taste). We used Hidden Valley.

Instructions:

  1. Mix ranch and cream cheese together. Place chicken in crockpot and cover with cream cheese mixture. Set crockpot to low and cook 6 hours. Once this mixture is on, go have fun. Come back and move to step 2.
  2. Fry up 1 pack of bacon and break into tiny pieces (you want it to be kind of crunchy)
  3. Lightly butter and toast your buns of choice.
  4. Shred chicken mixture with two forks, place on toasted sweet bun, top with bacon bits, and enjoy the best chicken sandwich ever.

You’re welcome.

A Fall Treat

By: Azure Stilwell

pumpkin-muffins

This is my favorite month of the year! I love the cool weather, the festivals, the fair, and Halloween. It’s all about yummy foods and fun.

One of my favorite muffins to make during the Fall is so simple I didn’t think it would actually work when I found the recipe on Pinterest. All you need to make these pumpkin spice muffins is one can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, but real pumpkin) and one box of spice cake mix. You mix both ingredients together, bake, and enjoy. They look like rustic muffins because they come out all lumpy on top, but they taste fantastic. My boys love it when I make cinnamon cream cheese icing to go on top but they taste great with or without the icing. If you want to dress them up then pipe on the icing and top with a candy corn pumpkin. So cute!

To make the muffins:

  • 1 can of Libby Pumpkin
  • 1 box of spice cake mix

Combine ingredients with a large wooden spoon. (Your mixer will thank you for not using it.) Spoon the mixture into greased muffin cups.Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

To make the icing (optional):

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, and then cinnamon and vanilla; mix until smooth.

Necessity, Insanity and The Road Less Traveled

By: Rachel Sircy

If necessity is the mother of invention, then I think that insanity must be invention’s father. Below is a picture of a gluten free chicken pot pie casserole that was invented (sort of) by yours truly in an attempt to recreate a favorite dish from my childhood.

gluten free casserole

The inspiration for this concoction was a casserole that my mother used to make on busy weeknights and that my sisters and I always looked forward to. The casserole consisted of a chicken pot pie-like filling and it had stuffing on top instead of a pie crust. I am not sure where she got her recipe – probably The Pampered Chef. That was her main source for everything culinary in those days. In any case, it seemed easy enough for her and it was just delicious to me.

My version of it looks pretty good if I do say so myself. And it ought to look pretty good since it took me 3 ½ hours to make it. It took 3 ½ hours of mostly active cooking time even using rotisserie chicken as a short cut so that I didn’t have to cook my own chicken. What I would love to tell you is that I got carried away by my own creative genius and just lost track of time, but about halfway through I started to despair. My feet hurt and I wondered what kind of world it would be even if I did make it to the other side. Would the world be one whit bettered by the invention of a gluten free chicken pot pie casserole? Probably not. But here I was, every surface of the tiny galley kitchen in my tiny apartment was covered with food, measuring equipment, pots, pans, mixing bowls…

gluten free casserole

I had to press on and finish for my own sake. I don’t know how soon into the project I realized that I had bitten off (so to speak) more than I could chew. I think I told my husband pretty early on that he should go get us something to eat and that the baby could have a peanut butter sandwich for dinner.

gluten free casserole

gluten free casserole

gluten free casserole

You might wonder what would make such a simple-looking casserole dish take so long and cause a grown woman to despair of life and her aching feet. The answer to that question is precisely why I chose to tell this seemingly pointless story of domestic failure. The answer to that question is that living and cooking gluten free is HARD. A lot of gluten free literature will tell you that gluten free living doesn’t have to be hard and that you can have (almost) all your old favorites, just in new forms. And I appreciate what that literature is trying to do. It is trying to keep newly-diagnosed celiacs from curling up into the fetal position and weeping. Most newly diagnosed celiacs will do that at some point anyway – say – the first time a loved one eats a hot Krispy Kreme doughnut in front of you and says, “Wow, this is so good. I mean, like SO good. Do you want…oh no, you can’t have any. Sorry.”

It’s hard to live without the things that you love and have grown accustomed to. And the truth is, you just can’t have all your old favorites in new forms. No matter how many GF doughnuts you unwrap and thaw, you’re not going to get that same airy, fatty, perfectly textured doughnut that you once took for granted. And celiac disease can make you feel lost in the kitchen, even if you once knew your way around pretty well. All your old short cuts and easy substitutions are suddenly gone. For the first few years, it feels like you are reinventing the wheel every time you attempt to put any kind of a meal together. I used to have a small, but tried and true repertoire of dishes that I loved both to cook and eat. I loved inviting people over for dinner and feeling like I had nailed the meal. But when I got my diagnosis and the very, very long list of things that I could no longer eat, I panicked. It was as if I had suddenly lost my sight and was going to have to figure out how to navigate the world in total darkness. For my first few years, I clung desperately to a cartoonish picture of a healthy plate that a dietician had given me. She had said to take the starches and grains you know are safe and just insert them into this picture. So we had rice and boiled potatoes with every meal for longer than I care to remember. I used to really like rice and boiled potatoes. But I got to a place where I was eating just to survive. All the food that I loved seemed off limits to me. Even acceptable foods could not be cooked the way that I used to cook them, the way that I used to like them. So, eating became another chore to be checked off at the end of the day. Sometimes I even ate vitamin-fortified, gluten free cereal instead of having to chew my way through one more tasteless meal.

But, to any new celiac out there reading this, things get better. Not easier, but better. I made a pretty good casserole. It didn’t taste like Mom’s, but that is both bad and good. In some ways, it tasted better. My mom used to make this stuff using canned chicken, canned vegetables, canned cream of chicken soup and Stove Top stuffing. That’s what made it such a perfect dish for weeknights. You just open a box and a few cans and you’re already halfway done. That’s just not possible for a celiac. This recipe took me over 3 hours because I had to make gluten free stuffing from scratch for the casserole’s topping. I chopped chicken, potatoes, celery and carrots to go inside the casserole, I had to cook them down to the right consistency in a cream sauce that I made from scratch before assembling the casserole to go into the oven. Each of these tasks is time consuming, especially when you’re looking at two different recipes and using them as guideposts to make a completely new recipe. But, in the end, homemade stuffing beats any of the boxed stuff by a mile. And no can-o’-partially-congealed chicken soup could beat a homemade cream sauce. Mom’s stuff was cheap, easy and the processed food that bound her casserole together satisfied my cravings for fat and salt – which is something that my casserole didn’t quite do. My casserole was good, but in a real food sort of way. It didn’t give me that junk food high. But, there is something about eating real food that you worked hard for. This casserole of mine wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever eaten (neither was my mom’s version), but it was pretty good. More importantly than that though, it is something that I’m proud to have made. It took some time and attention to detail and some real nuttiness to come up with it in the first place, but it was all my own.

Celiac disease is not fun, but I am thankful that the damage it causes to a human body can be controlled without medicine. In fact, the damage can be reversed by a change in diet. It’s not a simple change, for sure, but it is something that an individual can control. Celiacs don’t have to rely on expensive medication or treatment by a specialist. Each celiac is in control of her own health. That feeling of self-sufficiency is one of the great gifts of celiac disease. It comes only with time and perseverance, as does anything worth having. I can tell you that I would never have left the rut of eating processed food or cooking without the aid of boxed and canned everything if I had not been forced to do so. If I hadn’t been forced out of that rut, I would never have known what it feels like to think up a dish and then figure out a way to create it on my own. That feeling, by the way, is awesome.

gluten free casserole

If I ever remember exactly what I did to make this casserole, I will share the recipe. Until then, get in your own kitchen (gluten free or not) and get in to a recipe that is over your head. It may turn out, or it may not. But the food isn’t the point. Independence is only achieved through practice, and it is well worth a few botched dinners.

PS: It may be a hammy suggestion, but the suggested reading for this post is Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By: Stacy Thompson

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

There’ll be much mistltoeing

And hearts will be glowing

When loved ones are near

It’s the most wonderful time

Yes the most wonderful time

Oh the most wonderful time

Of the year

Eddie Pola and George Wylie (as sung by Andy Williams) had it right, with the exception of one word — remove the “mistloeing” and insert “football-tailgating” and it is clearly the perfect song.  Yes, friends, it is Christmas in September, that Most Wonderful Time of the Year — Football Season!!!

Football season

Since my family moved to South Carolina (when I was a mere 6 years old) we spent our fall Saturdays together in the shadows of Williams-Brice Stadium or in front of the TV with only the Garnet and Black on our minds. Winter and Spring was spent cheering on basketball or baseball, but once August hit, we looked forward to two things — school supplies (who doesn’t love a brand new box of Crayolas or brightly colored Mead folders?) and football season. With the exception of a big guy named George in ’80 and the glorious ’84 season (can we pretend the Navy game never happened?), maybe our team hadn’t had too much to crow about, but that didn’t stop us from turning each Saturday into an event and an opportunity to come together.

Tailgating evolved through the years, as did our family. The early years were marked by dirt-laden tracks in the State Fairgrounds parking lot. (Seriously, we had to hold our breath and cover Mom’s succulent deviled eggs every time a car went by!) As the years passed, dedication to our team landed us in a prime paved spot in the shadows of the Willy-B — so close my brother could launch a football into the upper-deck concourse and we could make the most of game-day access to actual restrooms. (Yes…major score. Are Port-o-Johns ever tolerable???) Later we moseyed into the big-time with cable access, electrical boxes and the most gorgeous vista one could have! (Yes, that’s me, laying on my parking spot.)

USC Tailgating

Our new tailgate homes are beyond amazing, but the highlights, as always, are the camaraderie and opportunities gather together. Carolina Park may be the ultimate draw for fans, but look around and you’ll see families and friends savoring time together and experiences shared, even when our team isn’t victorious. (OK, I’ll admit, my ‘experiences shared’ may at times include me moping around and giving a stink-eye those in the vicinity if my team loses. Give me a break, I’m ultra-competitive and take these things personally!)

I loved and still love every single second of the football games on the field, but treasure even more the before and after. To me, Fall means spending time with friends and family while making the most of the season. Regardless of the team you support (or if you could care less about sports!) cherish the time you have when your loved ones are near! Each and every season can be that Most Wonderful Time of the Year — you simply have to find the joy in it.

I’ll finish by sharing two of my favorite tailgate munchies — one passed down from my mom and the other a gem I discovered a few years ago. 

Chili Relleno

Ingredients

  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 or 4 green onions (1 bunch), chopped
  • 2 small cans black olives, chopped
  • 1 small can green chilies (jalapeños)
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped (can be mild or hot)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot peppers

Directions

  1. Mix well, chill, and serve with tortilla chips.

Slap yo mommas  (Not condoning any actual violence, but using the colloquialism — these are just so darn good, you’ll want to….)

Ingredients

  • 1 sleeve Club crackers
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 pound thinly sliced bacon
  • (You can substitute a teaspoon of brown sugar or pimiento cheese for the Parmesan)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Lay the crackers face up on a large rack over a baking sheet (or broiler pan).
  3. Scoop about 1 teaspoon of the grated Parmesan (or brown sugar or pimiento cheese) onto each cracker.
  4. Cut the package of bacon in half and wrap each cheese-covered cracker with one half piece of bacon.
  5. Place the bacon-wrapped crackers onto the rack. Place the baking sheet in the oven for about 2 hours.
  6. Serve immediately or at room temperature!

A Pantry Essential

By: Brady Evans

When you think of a pantry item you should never be without you may immediately picture flour, rice, canned vegetables or soup. I’m here to tell you that the pantry item on your
grocery list you should never be without is SALSA. Salsa is cheap, adds tons of flavor and salsafiber to meals, can be used a million different ways, and you will soon see why it is the MVP of your pantry.

Recipes you can make – from slow cooker feasts to quick and dirty snacks – with salsa are endless. Whether you are a vegetarian or live on meat, salsa is here to turn your dinner dilemma into a dinner you can’t wait for!

Here are some of my favorites that feature salsa as the main ingredient:

Salsa chicken – Combine one jar of salsa and chicken breasts (or a couple of cans of black beans) in the slow cooker and allow it cook all day.  Chicken breasts can even start frozen.  Serve over rice, in tacos, or in burritos when it is dinner time! Protein, veggies, and flavor!  What’s not to love?

Scrambled eggs and salsa – Scramble some eggs and top with salsa for a spiced up spin on your usual breakfast. Or have this breakfast for dinner.

Salsa soup Recipe here – Salsa, protein, and some chicken broth are combined to make an awesome soup. Top with a squeeze of lime, avocado chunks, and some cilantro and you’ll feel like you are eating at a restaurant.

Salsa chicken chiliRecipe here – Warm up with salsa chicken chili. You’re only four ingredients away from your new favorite meal.

These four recipe ideas should add some spice to your meal routine!