Gourmet game day

Super bowl food ideas

The best thing about game-day parties is the excuse to stuff your face and guzzle beer with zero guilt. Don’t show up to your Super Bowl party empty-handed. Seriously, don’t be that guy/gal.

I’ve even taken you half of the way there, with this handy-dandy Super Bowl recipe list:

You can thank me in free game-day betting squares.


Jalapeno popper dip

Greek 7-layer dip

Loaded bake potato dip

Hot spinach dip

White queso dip

Sliders and sammies

Spicy whiskey BBQ sliders

Out-of-this-world veggie burgers

Cheeseburger sliders

Fried pizza sandwiches

Philly cheesesteak with garlic aioli

Crock Pot faves

Slow-cooker carnitas

Crock Pot picante chicken

Crock Pot chicken, rice and green chile casserole

Crock Pot chicken taco chili

Slow cooker buffalo chicken sandwiches

Party staples

Italian deviled eggs

Potato salad

Tomatillo salsa


Bacon mini quiche

Mexican munchies

Chicken tostadas

Double-decker taco cupcakes

Won ton tacos

Mac ‘n’ cheese tacos

Mini fish tacos


Greek pizza

Prosciutto, arugula and parmesan pizza

Red pepper and goat cheese flatbread

Buffalo chicken pizza

BLT pizza


Sweet potato cakes with BBQ brisket

Bacon wrapped potatoes

Potato rings with ranch

Bacon and blue cheese french fries

Mac ‘n’ cheese french fries

Miscellaneous bites

CB&J crostini

Bacon cheddar hush puppies

BBQ chicken cornbread pie

Corn dog tots

Sweet potato chorizo hand tarts


Guava orange margaritas

Bourbon bomber

Dark and stormy

His and her whiskey cocktails

Lights-out punch

Super Bowl sweets

Brown butter and bourbon blondies

Football cookies

Salted caramel cheesecake shooters

Bacon apple pie

Dessert nachos


Luck of the Chi-rish

There’s nothing quite like St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago.

Starting at the crack of dawn, the city is a blur of green beer, irish whiskey and way more Flogging Molly music than should be legal. Our tradition is to wake up early, gather at someone’s house, eat green eggs, get a good buzz on and head for the bars. This year, I’m bringing a special pre-party treat that should have everyone feeling lucky.

Courtesy of Jelly Shot Test Kitchen (with which I am OBSESSED), I give you, the Luckytini jello shot:


You’ll need:

3/4 cup pear flavored vodka

1/2 cup Midori

1/2 cup diet Sprite or diet 7-up 

1/2 cup 50/50 mix of lemonade from concentrate and water

2 envelopes Knox gelatin

Combine the soda and lemonade mix in saucepan and sprinkle in gelatin. Let sit for several minutes. Heat over very low heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is fully dissolved (approximately 5 minutes). Remove from heat. Add the vodka and Midori. Pour into standard loaf pan, and refrigerate until fully set – several hours or overnight.

Cut into cubes (it helps to run a butter knife under hot water, then cut the jello squares with the warm, still slightly wet knife. Otherwise, the knife creates jagged edges). Garnish with edible gold glitter.

Like a Virgin—fed for the very first time

I’m a pretty loyal Southwest Airlines flyer, but with the frequent-flyer program revamp and climbing fare prices, I’ve been feeling a little … restless. So when Dave and I found cheap flights for our trip to California through Virgin America, I was ready and willing to be deflowered.

I thought Southwest peanuts and pretzels were the last vestiges of edible airline snacks, so imagine my excitement over Virgin’s great food and drink selection and nifty personal touch-screen ordering.

Regardless of the fact that we were sipping them from plastic cups, the specialty cocktails made us feel fancy. Along with expected snack-food stand-ins, Virgin stocks natural, off-the-beaten-grocery-aisle bites and libations. Best of all, I felt no judgement from the flight attendant when accepting my sixth bag of 479° Fleur de Sel Caramel Popcorn. Everything is free for us Main Cabin Select passengers (told you I was fancy), and I took full advantage.

The cheese plate was also surprisingly delicious—with smokey gouda, cheddar, brie, swiss, an adorable little dried fig, grapes and rosemary lavosh (which, dare I say, was better than mine). Dave’s BBQ roast beef wrap was good also—far more exciting than your typical turkey croissant (which they also offer, in case you’re feeling bland).

I can now say that nibbling on brie, sipping a Cloud Hopper cocktail (Honest Ade Pomegranate, vodka and ginger ale) and watching The Sitter on your own personal TV really is the only way to fly.

The one day a year when bingeing is socially acceptable …

… is nearly upon us!! Hip-hip-hooray!!!

As far as food goes, holidays don’t get much better than Thanksgiving. Last year’s Thanksgiving post pretty much covers things so I’m posting the link again (hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). There’s also my Southwest Thanksgiving post and the Paula Deen post to give you a little turkey-day inspiration. Also keep an eye out for a special Thanksgiving Day post. Happy gorging!

Nothing’s better than Effen on a rooftop

OK, so I stole my post title from the concept for Effen’s new cheeky ad campaign. I’m sure they won’t mind.

Recently, I had the pleasure of enjoying some “Liquid Luxury”—courtesy of Effen and the Effen awesome folks at Zocalo Group—while contemplating sustainable design, really cool succulent party favors and apple and bacon pizza.

And let me tell you, the chefs and mixologist at ROOF at The Wit aren’t Effen around (OK, I’m done with the Effen jokes, promise). The food and drinks were fantastic. And the bottles of Effen (again, courtesy of Zocalo and Effen) we got beforehand weren’t so bad either. Who gets a bottle of vodka messengered to their office?? This girl. I may or may not have gone home and immediately poured myself a stiff, impossibly smooth screwdriver.

Anyway, back to the party at the Wit, where copious amounts of vodka cocktails on a Tuesday were unabashedly encouraged.

We had more than our fair share of Sustainable Sours, Green City Gimlets, Chicago Caipiroskas and Second City Sparklers (recipes below for your imbibing pleasure). The general consensus was that the Green City Gimlet was the frontrunner. And the food, ohhhhh the food. Most of it didn’t live to be photographed, unfortunately … Funghi pizza with roasted oyster mushrooms, mozzarella and thyme; Salsicia pizza with house-made sausage, cured tomato fennel and havarti cheese; Apple and bacon pizza with sliced apple, smoked gouda, cobb smoked bacon and rosemary; Roasted sweet pepper and goat cheese crostini; Marinated rock shrimp crostini with white bean puree and parsley salad; Grilled cheese panini with tomato fontina soup; and PLT: Crispy pancetta, arugula, cured tomatoes, lemon aioli …

It was all soooo good. So, so, sooooo good. Or maybe it’s just the fact that my pre-wedding diet and workout regimen has exponentially intensified my cravings for anything cheesy and carby.

Once I’d settled down from the pizza frenzy, I was able to focus (using the word focus very loosely, as I was at least three cocktails deep at this point) on a presentation on the past, present and future of sustainable architecture and design in Chicago from Jonathan Boyer of Farr Associates, and one from clever ROOF mixologist Jonny Abens on the night’s libations. And let’s not forget the fabulous view:

I’ve always loved Effen, but after this event, I had a newfound appreciation. As a matter of fact, that bottle in my freezer is calling to me right now …

Sustainable Sour

You’ll need:

1 1/2 oz. Effen Vodka

1 oz. St. Germain

1/2 oz. simple syrup

3/4 oz. fresh lemon

Pour ingredients over ice, shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon and cherry.

Green City Gimlet

You’ll need:

1 1/2 oz. Effen Vodka

1/2 oz. Cointreau

3/4 oz. fresh lime

2 basil leaves

Muddle one basil leaf and add remaining ingredients over ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a fresh basil leaf.

Chicago Caipiroska

You’ll need:

1 1/2 oz. Effen Black Cherry

1 oz. brown sugar

2 lime wedges

2 dashes cherry bitters

Muddle lime wedges and add remaining ingredients to shaker. Shake all ingredients and pour over ice into a rocks glass.

Second City Sparkler

You’ll need:

1 oz. Effen Black Cherry

1/2 oz. Domaine De Canton

1/2 oz. fresh lemon


Pour first three ingredients over ice, shake and strain into a champagne flute. Top with prosecco and garnish with a lemon twist.

Blushing bride

No not me, the drink:

Pama cocktail

For Valentine’s Day I cooked dinner. It was good, but this is really the only thing worth posting about, if you ask me. Even Dave, not a big fan of sweet, girly drinks, loved it.

I told you about my excuse to use my frozen pomegranate. Well, as it turns out, I got lazy, and ended up taking the easy route and using them as a garnish in this drink. Just as well, because I used them straight out of the freezer to act as the ice cubes, and I found myself munching on them as I sipped. Plus, they float at the top so they make the drink look that much prettier. All in all, a good use of the frozen pomegranate seeds.

Blushing Bride

(adapted from recipe courtesy of PAMA liqueur)

You’ll need:

1 oz. PAMA liqueur

2 oz. vodka

6-8 oz. grapefruit soda

frozen pomegranate seeds

Mix all ingredients together. Enjoy!


Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Giving gracias

fried turkey

I’m still recovering from the 48-hour cooking marathon, gluttonous spread and absolute debauchery that is our misfit-full, southwestern Thanksgiving celebration.

Let me paint the scene: Colorful characters mingling over excessive amounts of tequila, criminal quantities of turkey (2, 15-pounders and a 20-pounder to be exact), all the trimmings with a southwestern flair, ridiculously perfect, sun-shiny, 75-degree weather, football broadcast on a backyard pool-side cabana bar TV…


… and me slaving away in a hot kitchen. I kid, I kid. I have to admit I enjoy it. Besides, if I didn’t cook, we’d be eating pies from Costco (no offense Don) and canned cranberry sauce. OK, so we ate those things (and LOVED it) anyway, but I digress.

Anyway, back to my food. You simply can’t mess up Paula’s corn and potato casseroles, so I surrendered those to my sister. I made Rick Bayless’ Chocolate pecan pie, which I first attempted for me and Dave’s anniversary dinner, acorn squash and goat cheese tamales, chorizo stuffing, fiesta salad with avocado jalapeño ranch dressing, Mexican five-layer dip and chorizo bean dip. Let’s not forget the tequila: our poison came in the form of three different tequila cocktails.

My mother, who taught me the fine art of microwaving, muttered “my poor baby,” and looked on pityingly the entire time, as if all this cooking was some sort of cruel and unusual punishment.

Everything was a big hit, especially the chocolate pecan pie with Kahlua whipped cream, which my mom hid from our guests to save it all for herself. You think I’m kidding—I had to sneak inquiring party-goers out to the garage fridge to smuggle a slice behind her back. You already have that recipe, and here are the others:

Acorn squash, corn and goat cheese tamales

corn tamales_5

You’ll need:

1 1/2 cups masa harina

1/2 cup shortening

3 tablespoons softened butter

1 roasted acorn squash

2 cups corn

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin

3/4 cup water

20-25 dried or fresh corn husks

about 6 oz. goat cheese

about 3 oz. cream cheese

1/2 jalapeño minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

First, brush the squash, cut in 3-4 pieces, with a mixture of half butter, half olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in a 375 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes or until the squash is soft. Meanwhile, soak the corn husks (if dried) in water for 1-2 hours. Once the squash has cooled, mash and mix in thoroughly with the shortening, butter, masa, corn, baking soda, salt and cumin. Slowly whip in the water with a mixer, and beat the mixture for about 5 minutes.

The mixture should be light a fluffy. To test it, drop a marble sized chunk in water—if it floats it’s ready. If not, continue to beat the mixture and add a little more shortening if necessary.

Make the filling by mixing the goat cheese, cream cheese, minced garlic and jalapeño. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pat each corn husk dry  and cut 3-4 into long strips that can be used to tie the tamales. Spread a 1/2-inch layer of the masa mixture in a 4-5-inch square on a corn husk, spread a teaspoon-sized portion of the goat cheese mixture on top of the masa. Roll the corn husk so that the masa encompasses the goat cheese, twist each end of the husk and tie off with a strip of husk.

2009_11_25You can cook these several different ways, and if you’re like most normal people and don’t have a tamale steamer, this is as good a way as any: lay your tamales on a sheet of foil (you can stack them), add 3 tablespoons of water for every ten tamales, lay another sheet of tin foil on top and roll up each side tightly to create a foil packet. Cook at 350 degrees for about 30-45 minutes. These freeze well too.

2009_11_26Chorizo stuffing

Chorizo stuffing

You’ll need:

2 packages of jiffy cornbread, prepared

1 tablespoon thyme

1 teaspoon cumin

salt and pepper

1 stick of butter, divided

1/2 pound chorizo

3 cups chopped onions

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 each chopped green pepper and red pepper

1/2 minced jalapeño

2 cloves minced garlic

2 cups chicken broth

Cut the cornbread into 1 inch cubes and spread on a sheet pan. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter and brush on the cornbread, then season with thyme, salt and pepper and toast under the broiler. Watch carefully—they burn easily. Set aside. Cook the chorizo in a stock pot until browned and set aside. Pour out excess grease and cook the vegetables in the same pot with the remaining butter for 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and heat until the broth is hot but not boiling. Stir in the chorizo and cornbread croutons and mix thoroughly. Use to stuff your turkey, or pour into a casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes before ready to eat.

Chorizo stuffing_4

Fiesta salad and avocado jalapeño ranch dressing


You’ll need:

1 bag romaine lettuce

1 red pepper, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

1  green pepper, chopped

1/2 large red onion, chopped

one cucumber, chopped

2 avocados, chopped

shredded mexican cheese

tortilla strips for garnish


1/2 bottle of ranch dressing

1 avocado

1 jalapeño

1 teaspoon cumin

Mix all salad ingredients together in a large salad bowl. Blend dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and toss on salad or serve on the side.

Five-layer dip

5 layer bean dip

For the longest time, we called this seven-layer dip. Alas, it’s really only five. We’ve been know to add a sixth layer in the form of seasoned cream cheese (cumin, garlic powder and chili powder), green onions or diced tomatoes, but I’m not really sure where this mythical seventh layer comes from. Anyway, this is an easy, fool-proof crowd pleaser at any party and it always makes an appearance at ours.

You’ll need:

1 can refried beans


sour cream


shredded cheese (Mexican blend, pepper jack or colby jack)

Layer the ingredients in a dish in the following order: refried beans, guac, sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese. I like about a 1-2 inch layer of beans, an inch layer of guac, a half-inch of sour cream, a thin layer of salsa and a generous sprinkling of shredded cheese. Serve with tortilla chips.

five layer bean dip

Chorizo bean dip

chorizo bean dip

You’ll need:

1/4 pound cooked chorizo

8 oz. cream cheese

1 cup shredded mexican cheese

16 oz. Velveeta

1 teaspoon cumin

Mix all ingredients, minus 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Spread in a oven-safe dish. Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese on top of the mixture. Heat in a 375-degree oven until the mixture is bubbly and golden brown on the top. Serve with tortilla chips.

Phew. That’s a lot of food. Now onto the cocktails. You may remember the description of the different varieties (plata or silver, reposado and anejo) from my tequila tasting post. As a refresher, silver lends itself to typical vodka mixers, reposado: rum and anejo: whiskey.

I got a list of recipes from our gracious Tres Generaciones tequila ambassador, Mando, and I tweaked a couple to make my own recipes. As far as my personal brand recommendations go: Tres Generaciones, Don Julio, and 1800.

Silver/Plata: El Cosmopolitano


You’ll need:

2 parts plata tequila

1 part triple sec

1 part cranberry juice

½ part fresh lime juice

Mix all ingredients together in a shaker over ice and strain into a glass. This was my sister’s favorite


Reposado: Mojitarita and Pina reposado



You’ll need:

2 parts reposado tequila

8 mint leaves per cocktail

1 part simple syrup

1 part club soda

½ part fresh lime juice

Muddle mint leaves and mix all ingredients over ice. This is a refreshing and less sweet version of a mojito—my dad couldn’t get enough of this one.

Pina reposado

pina repasado_2

You’ll need:

1 1/2 parts reposado tequila

2 1/2 parts pineapple juice

1 tablespoon brown sugar per cocktails

Mix all ingredients together in a shaker with ice. Strain into a glass. My mom, who rarely drinks, was guzzling these like a drunken sorority girl. They’re my favorite too.

Anejo: Prickly ginger


You’ll need:

1 part anejo tequila

1 1/2 parts ginger ale

½ part prickly pear syrup

Mix the tequila and prickly pear syrup together in a shaker with ice and add the ginger ale. Strain into a glass.

1 tequila, 2 tequila, 3 tequila … no hangover??

Tres generacions repasado tequila

I consider myself a pretty savvy tequila drinker—after all, I did learn from the best (thanks dad). I got an early education and managed to avoid the requisite Jose Cuervo binge in college that’s resulted in a whole generation of young adults who gag at the slightest whiff of tequila. So obviously, I jumped at the chance to attend a tequila tasting at Sunda sponsored by Tres Generaciones tequila.

As a self-respecting native Arizonan, and Tucsonan specifically, I have a discerning taste for the stuff. Like a fine wine or scotch, good tequila has a unique and complex flavor profile that should be savored slowly. I know the basics of enjoying a good tequila, but even I learned some new tips and tricks.

Here’s the room before we started dancing on tables and hanging from the rafters in a tequila-induced frenzy. Just kidding—only functional, self-respecting drunks in this bunch.


Armando, or Mando as we like to call him, a national tequila ambassador from Tres Generaciones, was our host for the evening. Tequila neophytes, listen closely—there are a few things you should know about good tequila:

  • Good tequila comes from 100% blue agave. This is true for all of my favorite tequilas—Don Julio and Oro Azul, specifically—not only Tres Generaciones.
  • There are three types of tequila: Blanco (or Plata), Reposado and Anejo:
    • Blanco is an un-aged, clear tequila and you will probably favor this type of tequila if you like gin or vodka.
    • Resposado is aged in oak barrels for at least four months, no longer than 11. You may like this type if you like rum.
    • Anejo is aged in oak barrels for at least 12 months. Being a whiskey drinker, this is my personal favorite.
  • Tequila by law must be double-distilled, and some tequilas are triple-distilled, including Tres Generaciones. Some say triple distillation isn’t necessary, or that it takes away some of the agave flavor, but Mando made me a believer. After more than five shots I woke up without the slightest trace of a hangover.

We started the night with some cocktails, conversation and appetizers. Here was my personal favorite, the Pina Reposado:

Pineapple tequila cocktail

Spicy Raw tuna with jalapeno on top of crispy rice. YUM.

Tuna and crispy rice

Indo corn fritters, also fabulous.

Thai corn fritters

We met some great people at the tasting—Melissa and Enrique from Factio (I loved them even more after we saw them hightail it to the sushi bar after a forgettable salad and beef entree. If you go to Sunda, skip anything from the land. I repeat: order the fish and sushi. They are WORLDS better.); Matt from Thrillist Chicago; Jennifer from Second City Soiree; and four lovely ladies from Oprah Radio and the Chicago Tribune whose names are escaping me …

Anyway, they served three courses, each with a different Tres Generaciones tequila. Before we began, we got a lesson on how to properly taste tequila from a very passionately animated Mando:

Tres generaciones tequila tasting

How to sip a tequila:

  1. Swirl the tequila to release the scent, part your mouth slightly, and inhale deeply (just don’t snort the tequila, because that would be really painful).
  2. Bring the glass up to your lips and let the tequila touch the tip of your tongue. This is where you taste sweetness, so you’ll get notes of agave first.
  3. Then take a small sip and let the tequila run down your tongue and around your entire mouth—don’t swallow immediately.
  4. Swallow only after the tequila has coated your entire mouth.

For those of you who are vomiting in your mouth at the thought of prolonging a tequila shot, I promise you, it’s smoother and much more enjoyable when consumed this way. But that’s assuming it’s a good tequila, so don’t try this with Jose Cuervo.

For our first course, we had the Southeastern Chop Chop Chicken with the Plata:

Thai chicken salad

Again, very forgettable, but not completely inedible. At least it came with a shot of tequila.

Tres Generaciones tequila

Then the shaking beef wok, even more underwhelming than the salad.

Beef at Sunda

Again, it didn’t hurt to have good tequila to wash it down with:

Tres generaciones repasado tequila

In a favorable twist of fate (for Dave and me, at least), the wonderful woman sitting next to me was a non-meat eater and had a gluten allergy, so she was unable to eat her fish dish (it had soy in it, which apparently contains gluten). I honestly felt awful for her, but how could I resist when she shoved the plate our way?? I mean, if you’re gonna twist my arm about it …

Cod at Sunda

This was the most delicious cod I have ever had in my life. It just melts in your mouth. I’m still salivating over it. Amazing how a restaurant that serves this could also serve the Benihana-style mediocrity that was the salad and beef. OK, I’ll stop bashing Sunda—as I said, they deserve major praise for the fish and sushi. Go there for that. Also, the dessert, avocado mousse with lychee shave ice and avocado coulis wasn’t bad at all:

avocado mousse_2

tres generaciones tequila_3

All in all, a fun time. As always, Dave and I were the first to show up and the last to leave. You can count on that when tequila’s involved.

Sunda menu

Pulled pork, Baklavian treats and aptly named cocktails


Advertising folk and the people who love them are pretty damn fun to hang out with. On the eve of the first day of my new full-time copywriting job, I hung out with some of my favorite people from my old full-time copywriting job.

Marc—marketing guru, general jack-of-all trades, and personal copywriting mentor—was gracious enough to have us all over for a Sunday, North-Carolina-style BBQ.


The air was crisp, the hickory chips were fragrant, the baklava was, errr, “baklavian” (thanks Dana), and the drinks were … uhh … hot tranny messes?

Michael snatched my camera and took some action shots as I, sadly, was more interested in capturing the pork than the people.


“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whaaa?? Hot tranny messes? Get back to that part!” you say. OK. It really isn’t all that scandalous.

Fred the Hot Tranny Mess is the cocktail creation of Marc’s lovely and hilarious wife, Chris. It’s a mixture of unknown measurements of tequila, cranberry juice, lime juice, Cointreau and pink champagne. Yeah, exactly.

Cranberry margarita

OK, now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s get back to the BBQ.




After the unbelievably tender, 4-hour-slow-cooked pulled pork and delicious potato salad and coleslaw a la Chris, there were cupcakes from Phoebe’s (thanks Liz) and my homemade baklava.

Seems that whenever I’m in the same room with a pastry, it doesn’t live to be photographed. Remember this poor scone? The red velvet cupcake suffered the same fate:

Red velvet cupcake

This event also marked my baklava rematch—a long story which I’ll tell when I post the recipe (coming soon).


Mango Mojitos

Sky and Water

I am clinging on to summer for dear life. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the fall, I just hate that season whose name we won’t speak that follows it.

I figure if I keep posting summer recipes I can hang on a little longer.

And we can thank our friend Mike’s mom, Mrs. Truckenmiller, for this one. I forget the exact measurements, but this is the gist of it:

Mango mojito

Mango Mojito

(Makes four small drinks. If you’re my kind of people you’ll double this. Or triple it. No judgement.)

You’ll need:

several fresh mint leaves

6 oz rum

2 cups club soda

4 oz simple syrup (2 parts sugar 1 part water, mixed over heat to dissolve the sugar)

4 oz mango nectar

Muddle the mint, mix all ingredients together and serve over ice. And party at your friend’s lake houses until you’re absolutely forced to take refuge inside.

Mango Mojito_2

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