Top 5 Vegetarian Super Bowl Party Foods

Although I don’t care about the football part of the Super Bowl this year, I’m always looking for an excuse to make party foods. I’ve got to have something to munch on while watching three or four hours of commercials…I mean…football.

Here’s a lineup of my menu ideas, all of which are vegetarian (or can easily be made vegetarian):

1. White Pizza with Spinach and Bacon. What’s a football party without pizza? I realize bacon doesn’t qualify as vegetarian, but you can simply leave that off.

2. Crispy Healthy Baked Zucchini Fries. I think a Jalapeno Yogurt Dip would be great with these.

3. Skillet Black Bean & Veggie Nachos. One of my personal game day favorites. Crunchy, cheesy, filling and down right delicious.

4. Spicy Corn and Potato Chowder. Nothing like a hot bowl of soup during these cold winter days.

5. Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream. I don’t know about you, but it’s been far too long since I’ve made cupcakes. These little gems are calling my name. Plus, after eating all these veggies, we deserve it!

What are you making for the Super Bowl?

Fluffer Nutter Cookie Sandwiches

I know what you’re doing right now. You’re staring at that unbelievably creamy marshmallow fluff, puffing its way out the sides of those cookies. So light, and pure, and white. Heavenly, one might say. Like mounds of snowfall or a sky full of pillow-like clouds. 

That’s an awfully big coincidence, if you believe in coincidences I should say, because right now I am in Breckenridge, Colorado. Not only am I almost 10,000 feet high in the clouds, but I am also surrounded by powdery white snow.  
If only the clouds and snow tasted like marshmallow fluff, as my childhood self used to imagine. 

And then we have the cookies. If you’re eyes were closed while taking a bite, you might think you were eating peanut butter chocolate chip banana bread. The cookies couldn’t be more soft and gooey. They do their best to contain the marshmallow fluff, but they will inevitably fail. 
Sure, it makes for a messy snack. You may even prefer to eat these sandwiches with a spoon (I did!). In the end, you won’t care how it gets in your mouth, as long as it does. 

And now I will proceed to ski my heart out, hopefully burning off close to as many calories as I just consumed. Then again, the recipe doesn’t contain any flour or butter. On top of that, peanut butter is a healthy fat and there’s even a banana in the mix…the guilt is washing away as I speak! Can you say “health food”?

Fluffer Nutter Cookie Sandwiches
(Cookies adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

Makes about 6 cookie sandwiches

Ingredients:
1 large egg
1 medium extra ripe banana, mashed
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup marshmallow fluff

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with Silpat mats or spray with non-stick spray. Set pans aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg. Add banana, peanut butter, brown sugar, baking soda and cinnamon. Stir well to combine. Fold in the pecan pieces and chocolate chips. Place bowl in fridge for at least 10-20 minutes to stiffen up the dough.
3. Use a cookie scoop to drop dough onto the pans, spaced evenly apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes (I baked for 8 minutes for a very soft, doughy cookie; bake longer if you want a crispier cookie). Remove from oven and let cool at least 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
4. Add marshmallow fluff to a microwave safe bowl and heat for about 20 seconds. Stir well. Spread about two tablespoons of fluff onto the bottom of a cookie. Place another cookie (bottom down) on top of the fluff. Repeat with remaining cookies. Eat immediately!

*Warning:
-These are very delicate cookies. Things will get messy if you’re not careful.
-They are best consumed the day you bake them. If you are not going to eat them the same day, wait to form the sandwiches until you are ready to eat.

Coconut Fried Green Tomatoes

I remember staying home from school sick one day in sixth or seventh grade and my mom rented the movie Fried Green Tomatoes for me to watch. I didn’t have high expectations at first. It seemed like an “old” movie (came out in 1991, ha!). Wouldn’t you know, I watched every minute and loved it. 
If you’ve seen the movie, you know there’s a whole lot more to the story than fried green tomatoes. It’s a story of best friends, an abusive relationship, illness and even a murder. Lots of drama, but lots of love that warms your heart. The perfect sick-day movie if you ask me. 

At the time I first saw this movie, I was a picky adolescent girl living in the Midwest. I hadn’t heard of fried green tomatoes, let alone have any interest in tasting one. Fast forward a few years and I found myself not only in the South, but living in one of the most culinary rich cities in the country. My taste buds quickly expanded and fried green tomatoes became my friend…along with shrimp and grits, scallops and pralines.

There are many foods that define the South, and I’m fairly certain fried green tomatoes are one of them.

This weekend when I was picking up some produce from Boone Hall Farms, I spotted an entire bin full of the bright green fruit. I eagerly snagged a few for my basket and dreamed of some crispy tomato medallions the whole way home.  

These aren’t your typical fried green tomatoes though. The secret (not really a secret when it’s in the title), is shredded coconut. The sweet flakes add something special to this dish and only goat cheese could make it better. Of course the man in the house was disgusted with “the white stuff on top” so leave it off if you must, but I wouldn’t condone it. 


Coconut Fried Green Tomatoes
Makes about 4 servings
Ingredients:
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium/large green tomatoes
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/3 cup shredded coconut flakes
1 large egg
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese 
Directions:
1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. 
2. Meanwhile, slice tomatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices. In one small bowl, add the flour. In another small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and coconut flakes. In a third bowl, gently whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Dip each tomato slice first in the flour, followed by the egg mixture, and finally in the breadcrumb mixture. Make sure the entire slice is coated in each mixture before dipping in the next. 
3. When oil is hot, add tomato slices to the pan. Let cook about 2-3 minutes on each side or until slices are golden brown. Remove from pan and gently pat with paper towels to soak up extra oil. Top each slice with about one tablespoon of goat cheese and serve immediately. 

Sunday Blessings – Instagram Fast

Social media. 

Such a fancy name for such a time-wasting activity. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. I was a Communication major, after all. I learned about the importance of businesses having a social media presence in today’s day and age. I put that knowledge to practice in multiple internships, jobs and most prominently in this blog of mine. A blog technically is social media, so there literally is not a way to have a blog without being involved in social media.

Like all things in life, there needs to be a balance. Social media is a part of our culture whether you like it or not, but that doesn’t mean it needs to consume our lives. Balance the number of social media outlets you use, balance the time you spend on each one, and for goodness sakes balance the number of hashtags you use (hehe, don’t hate me).

I often catch myself going to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to post a link to my blog or look up one specific thing. Suddenly I’m mindlessly browsing my newsfeed and reading the most random information about the lives of people I hardly even know anymore or playing the comparison game with friends, family and other bloggers. Ugh. Sure, it’s nice to stay updated on your friends’ lives and fun to share about your own. But it’s all too easy to get swept away staring at your computer or phone screen when there are countless other more productive things to do. There is a real world out there and it’s beautiful. With social media at our fingertips, it can be easy to let gorgeous sunsets pass us by.

For the month of January, one of my friends is fasting all social media. I haven’t gone to that extreme, but I have been fasting Instagram for the past week or so, and decided to give up filtered photo sharing for the remainder of the month. It’s been refreshing and allowed me to focus more on the present.

Today I am especially blessed with the beauty of my city, exhibit A being the sunset picture at the top of this post. Scenes like that never get old. I am blessed for coffee dates (hi Erica!) and wine and cheese dates (hi Hannah!). I am blessed to be sitting here in my heated home during this cold time of year, NOT scrolling through my Instagram feed, enjoying my Sunday with real life human interaction.

I am blessed with social media outlets which allow us to all stay connected no matter where our lives take us, but I am more grateful for the other productive ways to spend my time as well.

25 Ways to Have the Best 25th Birthday

My list of 25 Ways to Have the Best 25th Birthday really should read: 25 Things I Did (or will do) to Celebrate My 25th Birthday.

1. Declare that your birthday is really more like your birthday week. Take a trip to visit your beautiful sister and grandparents in Orlando to celebrate.

2. One day during your trip, bond with your sister through an exercise class, relaxing with a short nap, drinking some margaritas, going to an Orlando Magic game, and grabbing some drinks downtown.

3. Also be sure to use your “free birthday meal” coupons all week. I was looking forward to using my coupon from First Watch since we don’t have them in Charleston. Brooke and I shared two of our favorite dishes: Floridian French Toast (so appropriate) and the Cherry Chicken Quinoa Bowl. Perfection!

4. Continue the delicious food consumption with sushi. Ohmygosh, how I had been craving sushi! This Hot Lava Roll from Bento Cafe in downtown Orlando hit. the. spot.

5. Be blown away by your sister’s gift to you: a behind the scenes tour and interaction with the BELUGA WHALES! What?! I didn’t even know that existed as an activity. Despite the 50 degree water, it was #amazing.

6. Eat Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. My pictures didn’t do it justice so just use your imagination. Pure indulgence at its finest.

7. When your trip comes to an end, don’t say, “Goodbye” to your sister and grandparents. Instead say, “See ya later!” Goodbyes are no fun.

8. Claim your Starbucks birthday reward drink to for a little pick-me-up during the drive (one of my most anticipated gifts every year).

9. Spend quality time with yourself in the car on a long drive home. Contemplate life, listen to an audio book, pray, and sing your heart out to worship songs…and probably some Katy Perry too.

10. Give your husband a big hug and kiss when you arrive home.

11. Greet your dog with some puppy-talk and receive lots of slobbery kisses. Try not to get tackled.

12. Go to Chipotle for a birthday lunch date.

13. Eat said Chipotle, savoring every single bite.

14. Shop for a real winter coat and gloves in preparation for a trip to Colorado next week (not the typical lightweight stuff that is good enough for living in Charleston).

15. Relax on the couch with your husband and avoid unpacking as long as possible.

(This is where I currently am, so no more pictures to share…)


16. Deem control over the remote for once in your life and watch Glee on Netflix.

17. Take a nap, consider unpacking or doing laundry, but quickly talk yourself out of it and go on a family walk instead.

18. Put on a fun, festive birthday outfit and head out for dinner at Coleman Public House, which by the way will be free for me with yet another birthday coupon! (I’m a pro at getting all the deals if you haven’t noticed.)

19. Meet up with friends for a drink or two.

20. The next day, remind your husband that although your birthDAY is technically over, it’s still technically your birthday week (as previously mentioned in #1).

21. Cleanse your bod with lots of water, fruits and vegetables after a few days of splurging. After all, taking care of you and your body is the most important thing.

22. Anxiously await any final birthday surprises…

23. …but don’t be disappointed if/when nothing else comes 😉

24. Thank the good Lord for blessing you with family and friends who make your birthday so special.

25. Thank God some more for giving you the past 25 years on this earth. Pray for another wonderful 25 and many more to come.

Truffle Oil Butternut Squash, Broccoli and Black Bean Tortilla Lasagna

I think I’m on a roll. Not to brag, but this little creation…jackpot.

As I sit here typing this, I’m a few margaritas into the start of an amazing three day birthday celebration for both my sister Brooke and me. Her birthday is the 22nd (“today” by the time this post is published) and mine is the 24th (Friday). I drove to Orlando to be with her and my grandparents for a few days this week since I have some time off between jobs.

Best decision ever.

Brooke completes me. Yes, I have a husband who truly is my better half. But the bond between sisters cannot be compared to anything else. Being able to celebrate our birthdays basically back-to-back is the best. We are soaking in all of the short time we have together, so I’m going to wrap this up fairly quickly today. 
These layers you see? They are layers of soft flour tortilla, melty Colby-jack cheese, and wholesome veggies roasted in sinful white truffle oil. 

Are you sold yet? Maybe I should mention this meal is “man approved’ too. Does that help? One of my biggest challenges in the kitchen is making something both Greg and I will enjoy. Sometimes that means getting extra creative in the kitchen to use what we have on hand without giving into the temptation of a frozen pizza just because anything else is too complicated. But this? Yes! Even Greg loved it. Maybe I should also mention I’m putting the word “love” in Greg’s mouth. He doesn’t often say he loves something, so I may be exaggerating. BUT! He did go back for seconds and help himself to leftovers the next day without me needing to ask. That, my friend, is saying a lot. 

If this vegetable and bean combination wasn’t delicious enough on its own, you can be sure the white truffle oil will make all the difference. I have never cooked with the heavenly substance before, but knew how amazing it is thanks to the life changing mac and cheese. It takes the meal to another level and will satisfy any appetite. Birthday, non-birthday, weekday, weekend…whatever day it may be, the day calls for a vegetables roasted in truffle oil then layered in cheese and tortillas. 
Can I get an “Amen!”?

Truffle Oil Butternut Squash, Broccoli and Black Bean Tortilla Lasagna

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:
6 small tortillas, cut in half and divided
1 medium butternut squash – peeled, seeded and diced (about 3 cups)
3 cups broccoli florets
1 teaspoon white truffle oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup mined jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 ounces shredded Colby jack cheese

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 9×9 inch dish with nonstick spray and set aside. Also line a cookie sheet with foil and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine diced butternut squash, broccoli, truffle oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, sage and rosemary. Stir until all ingredients are well distributed. Add this mixture to the foil-lined cookie sheet, cover with another sheet of foil, and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until vegetables become lightly browned. Remove from heat. Turn oven temperature down to 350 degrees.
3. While veggies are cooking, combine black beans, jalapeno, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cayenne pepper in a small-medium bowl. When veggies are finished roasting, combine them with the black bean mixture in a medium bowl. Stir well.
4. Spread out six of the tortilla halves evenly on the bottom of the 9×9 inch pan. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the shredded cheese on top. Add half of the butternut squash/broccoli/black bean mixture. Layer the remaining six tortilla halves on top of that, followed by 1/3 of the cheese, the rest of the vegetable mixture, and finally the last of the cheese. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for about five minutes. Slice in squares and serve hot.

Cookie Butter & Marshmallow Fluff Pie Crust Crescents

Sometimes I have something very specific in mind when I go to the kitchen. Other times I scan the cabinets and fridge and see what I can come up with on the fly. These? You can bet these are of the latter variety. The jar of crunchy cookie butter was first to catch my eye. Then I spotted the marshmallow fluff. Both of these ingredients can be a bit tricky to pair with other flavors, maybe that’s part of the reason they pair so well together. 

The final component of these easy, peasy mouth watering delicacies may look like crescent rolls, but you know what they say: Looks can be deceiving. And yes, I did call these delicacies. We’re being fancy today. Cookie butter calls for fanciness.

As I was saying, the final component is actually pie crust. (!!!!) Flaky, tender, store-bought pie crust. Whoops! Did I just confess to my store-bought crust? And I was supposed to be fancy today…so much for that.

Store-bought or not, I love me some pie crust. When it’s rolled up like this, the crust forms thick layers of flakiness that are truly drool worthy. One bite in and you’ll know what I’m talking about, because one bite in means you have the perfect ratio of pie crust, marshmallow fluff and crunchy cookie butter in your mouth. What more could you need?

Cookie Butter & Marshmallow Fluff Pie Crust Crescents 

Makes 8 servings
Ingredients:
Pie crust dough – I used one store-bought crust
1/2 cup crunchy cookie butter
1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray cookie sheet with nonstick spray and set aside.
2. Roll out the pie crust and slice into long, thin triangles. Drop one tablespoon each of cookie butter and marshmallow fluff onto the widest part of the pie crust triangles. Use a knife or the back of a spoon to spread the cookie butter and fluff down the length of the triangles (doesn’t have to be perfect). Loosely roll triangles from the wide end up towards the tip. 
3. Once all are assembled, place evenly apart on cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes, or until tops are lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool about 10 minutes before serving.