Category Archives: Appetizers

Healthy New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve Entertaining with a Healthy Twist

Healthy New Year's Eve

On set at Let’s Talk Live in Washington, DC.

It’s officially 2 days till the New Year and I’ve seen the countdown all over social media….”2 more days till my detox starts!”  “48 more hours till the Big Diet!”  Time’s ticking down to D-Day. Diet Day, that is.  So why go cold turkey and suffer through an unsustainable juice cleanse when you can incorporate healthy, in season elements that keep you on track?  Give up dessert?  NO WAY! Cut out all the cocktails?  Uh, NOT SO MUCH.  These recipes are not only perfect for your New Year’s Eve party, they can help inspire some realistic goals for getting back to goodferya meals in 2016.  And, lemme be the first to tell you, they cut the calories without skimping on flavor.

Mandarin Cider

Spicy Merry Mandarin Cider


1 1/2 cups Wonderful Halos mandarins juiced

1 1/2 cups apple juice

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

1 stick cinnamon

1 star anise

1 tsp whole allspice

Thinly sliced mandarins


Juice Wonderful Halos mandarins and lemons. Strain out pulp and set aside.

Combine all ingredients in medium sauce pan or crock pot.

Heat over medium-low heat until sugar has dissolved and juices are hot.

Serve garnished with sliced mandarins.

Grapefruit Brulee

Grapefruit Brulee with Whipped ricotta and caramelized grapefruit is a healthy dessert option!


For Ricotta cream:1 cup Ricotta, 1 cup Mascarpone Cheese, 3 tbsp Confectioners sugar (powdered) 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tbsp of Lemon (a bit of zest) Pinch of sea salt

For Grapefruit Brulee: A few grapefruit wedges, 1/2 cup Brown Sugar, ½ cup crushed Pistachios


Combine Ricotta cream ingredients in a small bowl and chill for 30 minutes.

Using a food processor, pulverize peeled pistachios.

Sprinkle brown sugar across peeled grapefruit wedge.  Using a culinary torch or oven broiler, melt the brown sugar.

Garnish with crushed pistachios.

Pistachio and Cranberry Popcorn Balls.

Healthy Pistachio and Cranberry Popcorn Balls.


12 cups popcorn

1 cup shelled pistachios, lightly chopped

1 cup dried cherries or cranberries

½ cup light corn syrup

¾ cup dark brown sugar

¼ cup unsalted butter

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp. baking soda


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large roasting pan combine popcorn, dried cherries and pistachios, mixing thoroughly.

In a medium saucepan, combine syrup, sugar, butter and salt. Over medium heat bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue stirring and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. Be careful as mixture will bubble up.

Pour syrup mixture over popcorn and stir to coat well. Popcorn will still be warm from the syrup. To keep your hands clean, slip them into two plastic bags and coat bags with cooking spray or butter. Working quickly, form popcorn mixture into balls about 3-inch (6.5 cm.) in diameter. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet to cool.


Pomtini Royale


1 oz. freshly squeezed pomegranate juice* or POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice
3/4 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. liqueur (like Chambord)
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup


Assemble the first five ingredients in a mixing glass and shake well with ice. Strain into a flute and top with champagne. Serve and enjoy!

*I was compensated by The Wonderful Company for this post and segment, but all opinions are my own.

Here’s the segment on Let’s Talk Live!  



Barking Bloody Mary and Sweet Honey Ham & Cheese Biscuit

Barking Bloody Mary

Barking Bloody Mary with Seared Smoked Brats and Fresh Okra.

Bloody Mary’s are the perfect cocktail to personalize and make utterly unique, because it’s all about the garnish.  And this tailgate season, sausage is the stand out!  (Bacon Bloody Mary’s are so last year!)  I teamed up with Johnsonville to come up with team themed Bloody Mary recipes and this might be my favorite Bloody Mary EVER.  It helps that the signature ingredient is Sweet Tea Vodka.  I mean, Georgia is the Sweet Tea State, after all!  I’m all about the combo of sweet and savory, so the the sweet tea flavor with the savory bite of the smoked brats is Bloody Mary perfection.

If you’ve spent any time in Georgia, you’ll know that okra is a favorite ingredient– so paying homage to the southern veggie, I’ve used it as a fresh garnish, along with a little bit of spicy, tangy okra juice.

Pairing with this Georgia favorite is a honey brushed ham and cheese biscuit.  Can I get an AMEN, y’all?  I mean, seriously.  In my humble opinion, the best biscuit recipe on the planet is from Southern Phenom Chef, Virginia Willis.   But, if you’re not up to the task to make them homemade, then grab a DIY ready bake version, slather on some honey mustard, a little shaved black forest ham and some swiss cheese.  Just make sure you brush a little melted butter and a drizzle of honey on the top of the biscuits and no one will notice they’re not homemade!  

But don’t think I’m partial to Georgia just cuz I’ve lived here for the last 9 years….Yesterday, I told you about my favorite Florida recipe for a Bloody Mary and Gator Eggs.  No matter who you’re rooting for this weekend in the Georgia/Florida match-up, these recipes are going to keep your friends and family cheering (to make you the full-time game day caterer!)

Ham and cheese biscuit

Sweet honey biscuits with melty swiss cheese, ham and slathered with honey mustard.

*This is a sponsored post but opinions are my own.

Barking Bloody Mary and Sweet Honey Biscuits with Ham and Cheese
Serves 4
Taste of the South! Signature Georgia Bloody Mary with Flaky biscuits slathered with honey mustard and melty swiss cheese and ham.
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
For the Barking Bloody Mary
  1. 1 cup sweet tea vodka
  2. 3 cups Bloody Mary mix or tomato juice
  3. 1/4 cup okra juice
  4. 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
  5. 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  6. 1 teaspoon celery salt
  7. 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  8. 4 JOHNSONVILLE Smoked Beef Brats Links , grilled
  9. 4 okra spears
  10. 1 lime, sliced into wedges
  11. 1 lemon, sliced into wedges
  12. 4 skewers
For the Honey Ham and Cheese Biscuits
  1. 8 biscuits
  2. 1/2 pound black forest ham shaved
  3. 1/4 pound swiss cheese sliced thin
  4. honey mustard
  5. 1/4 cup melted butter
  6. honey to drizzle
For the Barking Bloody Mary
  1. In a shaker or pitcher, mix vodka, Bloody Mary mix or tomato juice, okra juice, worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, celery salt and black pepper.
  2. Pour into 4 glasses with ice.
  3. For the garnish, place Johnsonville Smoked Beef Brat link and okra into glass. Place a lime and lemon slice on rim of the glass.
For the Biscuits
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Prepare biscuits.
  3. Spread honey mustard on top and bottom insides of biscuits.
  4. Layer with shaved ham and swiss.
  5. Brush with melted butter
  6. Drizzle tops of biscuits with honey.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is melted.
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Gator Eggs

Chompin’ at the Bit Bloody Mary and Gator Eggs

Chompin at the Bit

Fans will be “chompin’ at the bit” when they taste this delicious Bloody Mary!

Gator Eggs

Nothing like a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth Gator Egg washed down with a delish Bloody Mary!

It’s one of the most famous college rivalries EVER.  Florida vs. Georgia.  Georgia vs. Florida.  The game was first played in 1915 and has been played every season since 1926 with the exception of a war interruption in 1943.  Pretty cool history, eh?  The match up attracts huge crowds to Jacksonville, Florida (because the Dawgs and the Gators need to play on neutral ground!) which happens to be where I am spending a couple days showcasing some scrumptious “rival team inspired” drinks and dishes!

I actually got accepted to the University of Florida back in 1993, but I didn’t get assigned on-campus housing and my parents weren’t about to let my 18 year old self live off campus (and out of state) so young!  So, I never became a Gator– and by default, after living in Atlanta for almost a decade, I’m this close to being considered a Georgia fan!  (Just don’t call me a DAWG, y’all!!)

I teamed up with my friends at Johnsonville to make a Bloody Mary spread that will have you cheering with capital TEAM SPIRIT!  You know I have called myself the Bacon Babe from time to time…well, I have a new title.  Sausage Siren.  Oh yeah, baby!  Bacon Bloody Mary’s are soooooo last tailgate season.  Adding some smoky sausage as a garnish adds so much flavor to the drink, combined with a bit of Gatorade (emphasis on the GATOR!) makes it a smoky, citrus concoction that will have you and all your friends “chompin’ at the bit!”  What’s great about these Johnsonville sausages are that they’re already cooked, so it makes prepping so simple– you can just slice and go!  Garnishes are what make Bloody Mary’s so unique and such a stand out cocktail….the sausages look so good skewered on the top of the glass, don’t they?

Bloody Mary and Gator Eggs

Garnishes make a Bloody Mary a signature cocktail – I love the skewered Johnsonville sausage with cocktail onions.

Deviled eggs are one of my favorite things on the planet— if I’m at a restaurant and they have deviled eggs, I always have to order them and sample a new version, a different flavor.  When I make them at home, I add in a secret ingredient: Soft, salted butter.  It makes the yolk filling super velvety and rich!  Give these gator eggs a try– I loved them so much I scarfed down a few in my car on the way to my cooking segment at The Chat!  See video below and stay tuned for the Barking Bloody Mary tomorrow— I’m not playing favorites, y’all!

*This is a sponsored post but all opinions are my own.

Chompin' at the Bit Bloody Mary and Gator Eggs
Serves 4
Florida fans will be chompin' at the bit with this smoky, citrus infused Bloody Mary and melt-in-your-mouth deviled eggs.
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Total Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
For the Bloody Mary
  1. 1 cup Vodka
  2. 3 cups Bloody Mary Mix or tomato juice
  3. 3/4 cup lemon lime Gatorade
  4. 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  5. 4 JOHNSONVILLE Beddar with Cheddar Smoked Sausage Links, grilled and sliced in one inch pieces
  6. 1 lime, sliced into wedges
  7. 1 orange, sliced into wedges
  8. 8 gimlet onions
  9. 4 skewers
For the Gator Eggs
  1. 12 eggs
  2. 2 Tb softened, salted butter
  3. 1/4 cup mayo
  4. 1 Tb dijon mustard
  5. pinch kosher salt
  6. 2 Tb sweet red pepper relish
  7. black olives for garnish
  8. smoked paprika for garnish
For the Bloody Mary
  1. In a shaker or pitcher, mix vodka, Bloody Mary mix or tomato juice, Gatorade and hot sauce.
  2. Pour into 4 glasses with ice.
  3. For the garnish, assemble each of the four skewers with pieces of Johnsonville Beddar with Cheddar Smoked Sausage and gimlet onions on a skewer. Place a lime and orange slice on rim of the glass.
For the Gator Eggs
  1. Put eggs in a large sauce pan and cover with water.
  2. Bring to a boil and then turn heat off.
  3. Let sit in simmering water for 12 minutes.
  4. Take shells off and slice hard boiled eggs in half.
  5. Scoop yolks into a bowl and mix with butter, mayo, mustard, salt and red pepper relish.
  6. (I like to use an electric hand beater to really whip it all together for a nice texture.)
  7. Put filling in a plastic bag and pipe into hard boiled egg whites.
  8. Garnish with black olives and a sprinkle of smoked paprika.
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Buffalo Blue Cheese Bites

Buffalo Chicken and Cheese Wonton Bites

Buffalo Blue Cheese Bites

Creamy, tangy buffalo chicken stuffed into crispy wontons topped with blue cheese and scallions.

There’s nothing quite like a juicy, tangy buffalo chicken wing dipped into blue cheese dressing.  It’s like a little morsel of Americana and I just love to dig in– whether it’s while I’m watching the big game or having a late afternoon snack.  I love the flavors, so it inspired me to create a different version of my old fave.  Meet buffalo chicken and cheese wonton bites.  That signature spicy, chicken kick is combined with the smooth texture of cream cheese with the crunch of wontons.  

This tailgate season, I’ve been making a lot of bite size recipes, because they’re easy to serve and even easier to eat.  These can be served hot or cold– I prefer them warmed up so the cheese gets all melty and delish!  Instead of cooking chicken, I make it easy by picking up a rotisserie chicken and chopping it up.

buffalo chicken bites

The perfect buffalo chicken bite!


When you want to pair these munchy little morsels with a beer, go with an IPA.  The buffalo chicken bites are big on flavor so they need a beer that can stand up to it!  An IPA has juicy hop notes that accentuate the spicy kick of the buffalo sauce and the earthiness of the blue cheese.

IPA with Buffalo Chicken Bites

Pair buffalo chicken and cheese bites with an IPA beer.

Buffalo Chicken and Cheese Wonton Bites
Tangy, creamy buffalo chicken and cheese stuffed into crunchy wontons
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  1. 8 oz cream cheese (use 4oz if you want less creamy/cheesy and more chunky chicken)
  2. 2 Tb butter
  3. 2 cups chicken chopped
  4. 1 tsp white vinegar
  5. 1/2 cup buffalo sauce
  6. pinch of kosher salt
  7. wonton cups
  8. Blue cheese crumbled
  9. 2-3 scallions chopped up
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray muffin/cupcake tins with cooking spray and press wonton wrapper into each cup. Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan, add cream cheese, vinegar, salt and buffalo sauce and stir until melted and combined on medium heat. Add chicken and stir to coat.
  3. Stuff wonton cups with buffalo chicken cheese mixture and top with blue cheese and scallions.
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Team Tailgate Trees

Light up Your Tailgate Like a Christmas Tree

Team Tailgate Trees

Turn your tailgate ON with gorgeous team themed trees and decorations from At Home!

Christmas in October?  Nope!  It’s Tailgate Season, y’all!  This is the hottest trend since bacon stuffed burgers!  At Home is selling these 4′ trees in multiple colors for only $24.99 that you can decorate in licensed decorations in both NFL and SEC team colors and logos.  Score!

Dallas Cowboys Tree

At Home Tree decorated in Dallas Cowboys licensed decorations.

Texas Longhorns Tree

At Home tree decorated in Texas Longhorns licensed decorations.

Not only does At Home have all the licensed team decorations (check out the adorable Tailgate Trailer in the above pic!) but they have lots of tailgating accessories like this 18″ football grill.  

Football Grill

18″ Football grill from At Home.

Aaaaaaaand, just consider At Home your one-stop-shop for plates, platters, beer mugs, and table accessories. I mean, football shag rug, anyone?  Hello Man Cave! 

Check out the video here from Daytime @ 9 in San Antonio….

*This is a sponsored post but all opinions are my own.


Beer Skewers

Oktoberfest Entertaining

Beer Skewers

Skewer your Oktoberfest favorite eats like brats and bread to dip in a rich, beer and cheese fondue

Oktoberfest runs through this weekend, so PROST!  (That’s German for Cheers, y’all!)  One beer style reigns King at Oktoberfest– the Oktoberfest Marzen.  It’s a beautiful copper colored lager brewed by 6 select breweries in Munich– aged for 3-4 months and traditionally served in 1 Liter mugs.


With Jamarcus from Studio 62 and traditional 1 Liter mugs of beer.

German Weissbier, or wheat beer is really popular as well– it has hints of cloves and a little spice– it just tastes like fall and the hops are mild, so it really lets whatever you serve with it be the star.  If you don’t have access to some of the more authentic German Beers, you can pick up the American versions we all know and love, like Stella and Beck’s.  

Stell and Beck's

Look for American favorites like Stella Artois and Beck’s!

For a really fun display, cut the top off a pumpkin, scoop it out, fill it with ice and fill with your favorite beers!  Let’s Grab a Beer has awesome advice and info about all things beer and Oktoberfest!

Bernhard’s Bread Bakery has all the yummy fixings for your Oktoberfest spread…

Bernhard's Bread Bakery

Stunning assortment of bread and pretzels from Bernhard’s Bread Bakery

Some of my earliest and fondest memories growing up were in my German grandmother’s kitchen– well, I walked into Bernhard’s Bread Bakery and I was immediately transported to Grandma Ronnie’s kitchen.  Bernhard Bleeken, the owner and exquisitely talented baker is one of those people you meet and you are immediately drawn in by his sheer passion for what he does– you can taste the LOVE factor- baked into every single bite.  This is a guy who was doing the corporate thing in Germany– but was spending every single weekend baking– he’d make his dough on Friday, bake all day Saturday and then his friends and family would be lining up to taste the goods every Sunday.  Well, he took a chance– moved his entire family here in 99 and launched his passion project….16 years later, he has a fantastic location in Marietta and he’s been wowing the community with his bread and baked goods. THIS is the place to go to order for your Oktoberfest party.  Forget the cooking– let Bernhard do it for you!

His bread has no sugar– it’s also bromate free– and certified organic.  It simply doesn’t get better than that.  His most popular bread is called Harvest Festival– filled with pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, which have such beautiful texture.  And– you want brats and authentic German meats?  He has it all.  Imported groceries and the best German delicacies you can imagine.

Try his classic Bavarian Breakfast- Weissworst— or white sausage with Pretzels (breitzels) dipped in sweet mustard.  Or double dip in his Bavarian cheese dip and homemade mustard.   Fleischkaese which is like German Bologna, is delicious with sauteed onions on a kaiser roll….And of course you have to have your brats.

So turn your Oktoberfest into Oktoberfabulous– if you go to Bernhard’s and order your Oktoberfest spread– you’ll get 10% off your order of $50 or more, just mention Atlanta & Company!

Oktoberfest Bounty!

Oktoberfest Bounty on the set of Atlanta & Company

Looking for fun stuff to do with the kiddos?  

Atlantic Station always throws a fantastic Oktoberfest Party– but the fun doesn’t end when Oktoberfest does.  They have 3 family friendly festivals going on this month. 

  • Annual Fall Festival – Celebrate fall at Atlantic Station on Oct. 30 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. with this family-friendly festival. Purchase festival activity tickets in Central Park for face painting and mask and necklace decorating hosted by Midtown Bridge Church to benefit City of Refuge. Activity tickets range from $1 – $5. Retailers are also getting in on the fall fun: decorate cookies with Great American Cookie Company and enjoy a rice krispy treat from Kilwin’s. Afterwards, settle in for Hocus Pocus on the big screen in Central Park as part of the Spooky Film Festival.
  • Spooky Film Festival – Every Friday evening starting on Oct. 9 at dusk, a spooky movie will lure guests into Atlantic  Station’s Central Park, where they’ll find fall family fun, giveaways and much more. Bring a blanket and snacks to enjoy a night under the stars with a variety of family-friendly spooky flicks.

The movie schedule is as follows:

  1. Oct. 9: Edward Scissorhands
  2. Oct. 16: The Goonies
  3. Oct. 23: Addam’s Family
  4. Oct. 30: Hocus Pocus
  • Trick or Treat with Atlantic Station –  On Halloween night from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., guests are invited to don their best costumes and trick or treat around Atlantic Station, visiting participating retailers for treats and goodies. Look for the Trick or Treat decal on the retailer’s door!

Here is my Beer and Cheese fondue recipe– it only has a few ingredients and it’s scrumptious!

Beer and Cheese Fondue
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  1. 2 garlic cloves minced
  2. 1 tsp butter
  3. 1 10 oz bag or 2 1/2 cups, shredded sharp Cheddar
  4. 1/4 to 1/3 pound, 4 to 6 ounces, Gruyere, grated
  5. 1 rounded tablespoon all-purpose flour
  6. 1 cup German lager beer
  7. 2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
  8. 1/2 tsp hot sauce
  9. 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
For skewers
  1. Mini sweet Gherkins
  2. Bratwurst cooked and chopped into bite size pieces
  3. Cocktail onions
  4. Your favorite bread diced
  1. Saute garlic in butter until golden in large saucepan.
  2. Mix flour in with cheese in a bowl.
  3. Pour beer into saucepan and bring to a simmer.
  4. Stir in cheese/flour mix.
  5. Keep stirring until cheese starts melting.
  6. Add rest of ingredients.
To serve
  1. Alternate meat, gherkins, brats, bread and onions on skewers.
  2. Serve with fondue for dipping!
  1. Don't omit the flour-- it helps prevent the oils from separating from the cheese when it melts.
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Asian Meatballs

Asian Meatball Sliders with a Hoisin Glaze

Asian Meatballs

Juicy Asian Meatballs get a fresh boost from Thai Basil, cilantro and hot peppers.

These meatballs are a show stopper tailgating dish, just sayin’.  I mean, hello, tender, juicy meatballs with an Asian Persuasion vibe that makes you wanna shout, “Kanpai!”  Yup.  Your welcome!  You can do all pork, all beef or even a turkey or chicken version.  The combo of flavor power is going to deliver, no matter what meat you choose!


And when you decide you want to throw back a cold one?  

Beer Pairing

Pair the Asian sliders with an Amber Ale.

Pair Asian Meatball Sliders with a Hoisin Glaze with an Amber Ale.  An American Amber Ale has a malty backbone which brings together the exotic, spicy flavor of  the sliders.  Fruity, caramel notes accentuate the sweet, tartness of the Hoisin sauce while the fuller body of this beer balances each bite.



Asian Meatballs with a Hoisin Glaze
Juicy Asian meatballs with a fresh pop from Thai Basil, cilantro and hot peppers with a savory Hoisin glaze.
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For the meatballs
  1. 1 pound ground pork
  2. 1 pound ground beef
  3. 2 Tb fresh ginger
  4. 1/4 cup plus 1 Tb chopped scallions
  5. 1 jalapeno chopped (no seeds)
  6. 4 garlic cloves minced
  7. 1 cup shiitake mushrooms (sauteed until browned in 1 Tb butter)
  8. 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  9. 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  10. 1 egg
  11. 1 Tb tamari or soy sauce
  12. 1 Tb chili garlic sauce
  13. 1/2 cup panko
  14. sesame seeds for garnish
For the sauce
  1. 1 cup hoisin sauce
  2. 1 Tb chili garlic sauce
  3. 1 Tb tamari
  4. 1 Tb rice wine vinegar
  5. Slider buns (optional)
For the meatballs
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Fold in ingredients until well mixed (do not over handle the meat or it will get tough)
  3. Shape into golf size balls.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes until cooked through. (Turn over after 15 minutes to brown evenly).
  5. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.
For the sauce
  1. Mix ingredients together and spoon onto meatballs when ready to serve.
  2. Top onto slider buns.
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Jalapeño Corn Muffins Topped with Pulled Pork and Slaw

Mini corn muffins topped with pulled pork

Mini jalapeño corn muffins topped with pulled pork and slaw.

It’s pretty much the perfect bite.  A sweet, spicy jalapeño corn muffin topped with savory pulled pork and a crispy, sweet slaw on top to refresh the palate.  Bring. It. On.  

Corn Muffin Sliders

Perfect combination of textures and flavors!

The great thing about this recipe is that you don’t actually have to make anything from scratch.  Got a great BBQ joint?  Pick up the pulled pork with sauce and some slaw.  Grab a dollar box of Jiffy corn muffins, add some jalapeños and bake in mini muffin tins.  Cut the top off those baby muffins and then top with pulled pork and slaw.  Done!  My favorite recipe for pulled pork is done in the oven and cooked overnight.  It’s more work than ordering from your favorite BBQ spot, but I personally think it’s worth it.  The coleslaw recipe I always come back to is Emeril’s.  I haven’t found a better, more delicious version! 

Turning this meal into a “mini” version with the tiny muffins makes it even more of a crowd pleaser.  It’s perfect for your tailgating party because these are bite-size and easy to manage.  The rich pork BBQ is off-set by the tiny portion, so dig in!

Beer and Pork Pairing

Pair BBQ pork muffins with a Farmhouse Saison.

Pair Jalapeño Corn Muffins Topped with Pork BBQ & Slaw with a Farmhouse Saison.  Saisons are earthy and spicy with a fruity tartness that bring together the smoky, layered flavors of these mini pork corn muffins.  The finish is crisp and quenching, a perfect companion to these savory morsels.

Bacon Bites

Bacon-licious Sausage Bites Stuffed with Cheese

Bacon Bites

Crispy Bacon wrapped around sausage stuffed with cheese

Introducing my latest edition of Tailgating Fabulous, Bacon babe reporting….

These might be illegal in 11 states.  We’re talking pieces of kielbasa wrapped in bacon and then stuffed with a mixture of cream and Mexican cheeses, sprinkled with a little brown sugar and BBQ rub.  OH yeah, baby.

When you wrap the bacon around the kielbasa pieces, the bottom of the bacon is flush against the sausage so there’s room to pipe the cheese and green chili mixture in.  You can secure them with toothpicks or put them on a skewer.

Bacon wrapped kielbasa

Once you wrap the bacon around the kielbasa, you’ll have room to pipe the cheese on top. *Pic courtesy of Egg Head Forum.

If you don’t have access to a grill, just put these bad boys in the oven at 300 for 45 minutes to slow cook that bacon– then crank it up to 450 for about 10 minutes to crisp up the bacon.  

Bacon Bites of Awesome

Warning: You won’t be able to eat just one!

Now, let’s talk beer….

Bacon Bites Paired with Lager

Pair these baconlicious bites with an American Lager

Pair Baconlicious Sausage & Cheese Bites with an American Lager.  A classic American lager has a malty sweetness that highlights the smokiness of the bacon and the savory, creamy sausage and cheese layer.  The lager’s balance of crisp hoppiness accentuates the rich flavors without being overpowering.

Bacon-licious Sausage Bites Stuffed with Cheese
Mini bites of smoky, savory, creamy delish!
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  1. 2 (8oz) packages of full fat cream cheese
  2. 1 package thick cut bacon
  3. 1 package of kielbasa sausage (cut into 1/2 inch slices)
  4. 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese
  5. 1/2 cup mild green chilies drained
  6. BBQ rub, brown sugar & cayenne to sprinkle
  1. Preheat grill (or oven to 300 degrees)
  2. Cut up kielbasa and wrap with bacon. Secure with a wooden toothpick.
  3. Mix the cream cheese with the Mexican cheese with green chilies. Put in a Ziploc bag or a Pastry bag. Fill cheese mixture to the top of the bacon.
  4. Sprinkle with your favorite BBQ rub, some brown sugar and a little cayenne.
  5. Grill until bacon is done to your favorite level of crispy!
  6. *Alternately, you can bake at 400 on a tin foil covered baking sheet for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until cheese is slightly browned and bacon is crispy.
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Chili in Mason Jars

Chipotle Chili Layered with Cornbread in Mini Mason Jars

Chili in Mason Jars

Layer chili with cornbread in mason jars for awesome presentation and convenient clean up!

I’ve been a pretty good cook for a long time, but presentation is the one part of the culinary process that doesn’t exactly come naturally.  I’m so consumed by making sure my dishes taste fabulous, that the prettying up the presenting is sort of an after-thought.  I know, I know, that goes against every culinary instinct that most chefs have– your food should look as stunning as it tastes, right?  Maybe it’s my ADD brain– I can only focus on one thing at a time, LOL!  Anyhoo, when presentation is easy, I’m all about it.  Chipotle chili layered with cornbread?  Oh yeah.  This is a brilliant way to not only make your chili look incredible, but you get to combine bites of my delish cornbread for added texture and flavor, AND it’s easy clean up.  Didn’t finish the whole jar?  Put the lid on and put it in the fridge or back in your tailgating cooler…Doneski.

I’ve posted the recipe for my cornbread before– it’s sturdy (not a muffin-like or crumbly texture) so it’s easy to cut into the shape of your mason jars.  I didn’t have a biscuit cutter, so I literally just took the top of each mason jar and pushed through the cornbread to cut out the exact shape of the jar.  

Cornbread layered Chili

Use the top of the mini mason jar as a makeshift biscuit cutter and your cornbread will be in the exact shape to fit inside.

I always come back to this chili recipe…not just because it’s won two awards, (let me just brag for a minute!)  but because it’s That. Damn. Good.  Recently, I sent the recipe to a girlfriend of mine who made it for a potluck party.  She promptly declared– and I do quote: “Oh dear God, Parker.  I’m not kidding.  That’s the best chili I’ve ever tasted!  And I live in Texas.  I’m giddy with excitement to take it tomorrow!”

I never get tired of hearing applause compliments for my recipes— mostly just because it makes my heart happy to share food, and for me, it’s sharing pure L.O.V.E.

The show-stopper ingredients in this chili are the hint of chocolate (1 Tb cocoa) and the chipotle peppers.  Once you brown all the ingredients and combine, you can let it simmer on the stove or in a crockpot on low for about 3 hours, but don’t keep it going in the crockpot all night or it will dry it out.  Just put it in the fridge and thin it out in the morning with a bit of beef stock.  I know there are a LOT of ingredients, but don’t let that intimidate you.  Aside from a little chopping and browning of meats, you pretty much just dump it all in there.  DO it.  You won’t be disappointed!

Pale lager paired with chili

Combine a pale lager with chipotle chili to bring down the heat and cool your palate.

Pair Chipotle Chili & Cornbread layered in Mini Mason Jars with a Pale Lager.  The depth of smoky spice that explodes in this chili/cornbread combination will be well balanced with a pale lager that cools and quenches.  A lighter Lager will celebrate the powerful combination of ingredients with a refreshing dryness that is clean tasting and crisp.

Chipotle Chili Layered with Cornbread
Layer the flavors (and textures) of scrumptious chipotle chili and homemade cornbread in mini mason jars.
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For the Chipotle Chili
  1. 2 pounds ground beef (sometimes the butcher will label it “chili mix”– the beef is thicker than regular hamburger meat)
  2. 1 pound spicy sausage (I use Jimmy Dean HOT sausage)
  3. 3 Tablespoons butter
  4. 2 medium or 1 large yellow/white onion diced
  5. 4-5 garlic cloves diced
  6. 2 jalapeno peppers diced (not seeds)
  7. 2 cans Rotel tomatoes (original)
  8. 1 (6 oz) can of tomato paste
  9. 1 can of red beans with juice (Kidney)
  10. 1/4 cup honey
  11. 4 Tablespoons BBQ sauce
  12. 1 Tablespoon Tabasco sauce
  13. 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (diced with seeds), plus 4 Tablespoons of sauce (if you want to cut down on the spice, omit the actual peppers and just use the sauce.
  14. 1 12 oz bottle amber beer
  15. 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  16. 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  17. 1 Tablespoon Cocoa
  18. 2 cups of beef stock (I prefer using “Better Than Bouillon” paste. You boil 2 cups of water and add 2 Tablespoons of the paste and mix.)
  19. 2 Tablespoons Cumin
  20. 4 Tablespoons Chili powder
  21. 1 Tablespoon Garlic powder
  22. 1 Tablespoon Onion powder
  23. 2 Tablespoons Paprika (Hungarian/spicy is best)
  24. 2 Tablespoons Brown sugar
  25. 1 Tablespoon Cayenne pepper
  26. 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
  27. 2 Tablespoons Black pepper
  28. 4 ears corn on cob, cut off cob
  29. Bunch of Scallions chopped to garnish
  30. Shredded cheese to top
  31. Sour cream to top
For the cornbread
  1. 6 slices bacon
  2. 2 cups Cornmeal Mix (not plain cornmeal! I use White Lily’s Buttermilk Cornmeal Mix)
  3. 2 1/2 cups Buttermilk
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1-2 jalapeños chopped up with seeds (optional)
  6. 1 egg
For the chipotle chili
  1. In a large saucepan, brown chili meat and sausage. Do not drain.
  2. In a separate frying pan, melt butter and saute onion, garlic, jalapeno and corn until soft, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add to beef saucepan and stir to combine.
  4. Add all the spices to the beef mixture and saute over medium heat until combine.
  5. Pour in everything else and simmer for 2-3 hours!
  6. Top with chopped scallions, sour cream and shredded cheese.
For the cornbread
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together buttermilk, egg, salt, cornmeal mix and chopped jalapeños. It should be about the consistency of pancake batter.
  3. In a cast iron skillet, cook 6 bacon slices on medium high heat until they’re crisp and all the fat is rendered in the pan.
  4. Take out the bacon and turn up the heat until the bacon drippings start to smoke.
  5. Pour cornbread batter into the skillet immediately. (The hot bacon fat makes a decadently crispy crust to the cornbread.)
  6. Then put the skillet in the oven uncovered and bake at 400 for 40 minutes.
To layer in mini mason jars
  1. Using one mini mason jar as a "biscuit cutter" push into cooked cornbread to cut a perfect circle of cornbread to fit into bottom of the mason jar. Spoon chili on top. Repeat with a second circle of cornbread, spoon more chili into jar and top with sour cream, chives and cheese.
  1. Make sure to keep the mason jar tops-- you can simply put the tops back on to save leftovers and pop the jar into the fridge or back into your tailgating cooler.
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