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DIY/ Events & Entertaining

PEEPS Art: DIY Easter Centerpiece for under $8

Peep Art - Easter Centerpiece_3

It’s nearly 60 degrees and mostly sunny in Chicago on this last Sunday of March. Earlier this afternoon, it felt so good to absorb the sun while watching the dogs play in the backyard. Almost good enough to forget what a polar vortex feels like…almost.

April starts this week and that means Easter is not too far off. As a kid, I enjoyed coloring eggs and – of course – all the candy-filled Easter baskets.

Have you noticed how artsy dyeing Easter Eggs has gotten over the years? I can appreciate the talent, and patience, it requires  to decorate an egg. But rather than mess with boiling, dyeing, drying, displaying, hiding and finding real eggs, I’m moved into the plastic egg camp. When you have 13 nieces and nephews like I do, it’s definitely easier and simpler to use plastic Easter eggs. Especially if you miss an egg under the coach for a few weeks. There’s only so much you can blame on the dogs before you realize that funny smell is your fault.

I’ve adopted this no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners approach to holiday centerpieces, too. Normally, I’d use a traditional Easter basket for creating a table centerpiece. But last week when I walked into my local Target, I found this really adorable plain picket fence basket in the $1-$3 bins section at the front of the store. That was the inspiration for this DIY Easter centerpiece that cost less than $8. And it’s (mostly) edible. Win, win.

Peep Art - Easter Centerpiece_1

I got some neon light green shredded paper grass to put inside the fence basket, a cute bunny PEZ dispenser and the new vanilla creme PEEPS chicks.

Confession time: I also bought a bag Hershey’s Easter Candy Coated Milk Chocolate Eggs. They were “under” the PEEPS for about 4 days before I ate them all. If they hadn’t been half covered up by the shredded paper grass, they wouldn’t have lasted as long as they did. They were in pastel pink, blue and green colors – and quite yummy. A minimalist at heart (and a pragmatist), I decided that less was more in this case so I was happy with how it turned out. Having all those candy-coated milk chocolate eggs just laying in the grass would have made the centerpiece “too busy.” That’s the story I’m sticking with.

Peep Art - Easter Centerpiece_2

The PEEPS will get hard as they are exposed to the air. But that’s my brother-in-law’s favorite way to eat PEEPS. When he gets a package, he’ll open it up and let the air harden them for at least a few days. It’s kind of like eating a semi-hard meringue cookie – if you can hold off for that long.

If you noticed in the last photo that there are only two PEEPS left in the basket, you might ask “what happened to the other?” Mind your own business, please! Sometimes PEEPS need privacy.

And – hypothetically – if someone were curious about what the new PEEPS vanilla creme-flavored chicks tasted like, you wouldn’t begrudge that search for knowledge. Right!?!

Share your favorite PEEPS shapes and flavor in the comments below and enter Baked Chicago’s drawing for a $50 PEEPS AND COMPANY® e-gift card. Just in time for Easter, the winner will be chosen on April 12.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

PEEPS® is a registered trademark of PEEPS AND COMPANY®

DIY/ Events & Entertaining

Do Green. Do Good. Chicago Flower & Garden Show Feels So Good!

Collective Bias Social Fabric

The Chicago Flower & Garden Show, presented by Mariano’s, is a much-needed reminder that spring will (eventually) get here. The Chicago Flower & Garden Show, which dates back to 1847, is all about inspiring people to “think green.” That may be to plant a vegetable garden or simply spend more time outdoors every day enjoying nature.  The theme of this year’s show (March 15 – 23, 2014, at Navy Pier) is Do Green. Do Good. 

The show is HUGE with over 20 inspirational gardens, a kids’ activities garden, culinary demonstrations, and the Marketplace filled with over 100 vendors. #MyMarianos is the official Flower Market at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show. But I was ready to explore the vast indoor landscape on this #shop for #CollectiveBias; I had on my sneakers and took my antihistamine/decongestant at breakfast. Let the hunt for floral inspiration begin!

One of my favorite flowering plants is an orchid. And there were so many beautiful colors on display. Orchids look very delicate, very simple – yet they make a big statement to any decor. If my pugs didn’t have impulse control issues (especially with anything that could be perceived to be food), I’d have orchids galore throughout my house.

#MyMarianos Flower Market #CollectiveBias #shop Chicago Flower & Garden Show

The colors of all the flowers on display were so vibrant, even indoors under artificial lighting. I guess there’s no way to hide nature’s true beauty.

#MyMarianos Flower Market #CollectiveBias #shop Chicago Flower & Garden Show

I didn’t do an official count, but I think I saw more tulips at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show than I did during my entire trip to Amsterdam.

#MyMarianos Flower Market #CollectiveBias #shop Chicago Flower & Garden Show

And who knew roses could get to be 5 feet tall!?!

#MyMarianos Flower Market #CollectiveBias #shop Chicago Flower & Garden Show

5-foot tall roses at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show!

This may shock you. [insert dramatic pause] But as a food blogger, I like talking with and learning from chefs and cooks. Each year, the Chicago Flower & Garden Show has a Garden Gourmet program with over 24 Chicago chefs sharing their best recipes that feature fresh-from-the-garden ingredients. Kicking off this year was Chef Bill Kim, the owner of Urbanbelly, bellyQ and Belly Shack. Chef Kim is also one of Mariano’s TasteMakers. He shared a recipe for Edamame Hummus that takes less than 10 minutes to make. Click for a complete list of participating chefs and Garden Gourmet demonstration dates/times.

Chicago Flower & Garden Show Tips

After a great morning at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show and with fresh flowers from Mariano’s Flower Market in hand, I headed home to see if I could put into practice what I learned. Here are some of the best tips I picked up from the floral design experts at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show:

  1. Reduce, Reuse: No space is too small to benefit from fresh flowers and plants. And there’s no need to purchase fancy vases; you can reuse everyday containers from your kitchen or pantry. I used my tall mixing bowl that came with my immersion blender (see image below) to add a pop of contemporary color for the arrangement I made for my dining room table.
  2. Get On The Grid: Place scotch tape over the top of the vase in a grid format. This helps to keep flowers in place and guide you in creating a more evenly spaced arrangement. No need for marbles or foam in the bottom of the vase.
  3. It’s Okay to Ask For Help: You’re not expected to know everything, and there are plenty of professionals who are glad to help. The staff at Mariano’s Flower Market inside the Chicago Flower & Garden Show were helpful and knowledgeable. Admittedly, I’m more confident in working with plants over fresh flowers – but they encouraged me to give a try at my own fresh flower arrangement. My insurance policy: I walked away with a palm-sized “do it yourself with Mariano’s” card with tips and instructions for how to create this look at home.
#MyMarianos Flower Market #CollectiveBias #shop Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Make a grid with scotch tape across the top of your vase to make arranging much easier.

After cutting the stems to similar heights and prepping the vessel, here’s what I came up with. What do you think? Not too bad for a newbie, if I say so myself. I obviously still have more to learn about flower arrangements, but I was proud of the effort. And the ambiance created by fresh flowers really makes a difference: my morning coffee and every meal is now so much more enjoyable.

In the past, I would periodically get flowers at Mariano’s while on a shopping adventure. I think they’ve got the best produce in town and – not to scare you, but – I’d live inside their bakery if the Health Department allowed such a thing. But my day at the Chicago Flower & Garden Show reminded me that it’s important to appreciate beauty and to let beauty into your life each day. That doesn’t always “just happen;” you have to take responsibility to make it happen for yourself. And flowers at Mariano’s is an easy way to regularly bring nature’s beauty into my home and onto my table.

#MyMarianos Flower Market #CollectiveBias #shop Chicago Flower & Garden Show

The Chicago Flower & Garden Show runs through Sunday, March 23. You can purchase tickets online or at the Navy Pier box office. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. And all the great floral varieties you see at the Mariano’s Flower Market inside the show are also available in your local Mariano’s store. Stay connected with Mariano’s Floral Department via Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.

Entrees/ Events & Entertaining

Find the perfect match for your Valentine’s Day menu at Mariano’s Chicago bakery

#MyMarianos, #CollectiveBias, #shop

Collective Bias Social Fabric

What's cookin' good lookin' #shop #MyMarianos slow cooker coq au vin

Does Valentine’s Day stress you out? Do you find yourself running around to every grocery store in Chicago, or calling every Chicago bakery on Yelp, to find the right romantic dessert for your sweetie? Well, stop it. Take 3 deep breaths, and just stop for a moment. You’re in need of a Valentine’s Day smack down – given out of love, of course! I totally understand because we’ve all been there before. With so many options and such high expectations (that we force upon ourselves), it can be challenging to know where to begin.

Valentine’s Day is not about how much money you spend on the one you love. It’s not about mindlessly following the crowd to celebrate the heart-iest of holidays with the masses. In the same way each relationship is unique, the way you honor your significant other and the way you celebrate Valentine’s Day together should reflect the uniqueness of the relationship you share.

I don’t like crowds, so spending Valentine’s Day with the rest of Chicago crammed inside a busy restaurant can cause a panic attack. For me, nothing speaks louder than thoughtful actions…like a quiet, home-cooked meal that reflects a shared experience. One easy way to create a Valentine’s Day menu is to build it around a theme like your favorite destination as a couple. Personally, I adore Chicago; that’s why I live here. But Paris is hands-down the most romantic city I’ve ever experienced. There is literally romance in the air throughout the City of Lights.

So for Valentine’s Day this year, I want to bring a bit of Paris into my home. Mariano’s makes that easy to do. I’m going to make a slow cooker coq au vin recipe for dinner using fresh poultry and produce from #MyMarianos. And with my Mariano’s Rewards Card in hand, I’ll supplement everything else (including flowers and wine) that I need for a romantic Valentine’s Day breakfast and dinner at home with items from the Mariano’s Bakery, Deli, International Market, Liquor and Floral departments.

Parisian all-butter croissants #MyMarianos #shop #CollectiveBias slow cooker coq au vin

In the Bakery Department, I picked up some Parisian all-butter croissants for breakfast and chocolate mousse cups for dessert. My Valentine’s Day authentic Parisian breakfast will start with:

  • French roast coffee with cream (French vanilla flavor, maybe?!)
  • orange juice
  • Mariano’s all-butter croissants
  • Bonne Maman® blackberry preserves
  • fresh blackberries from Mariano’s produce department

And don’t forget the butter! French cuisine focuses on simple, high-quality ingredients. If you’re going to have croissants made with real butter, then enjoy real butter ON them as well. Warm the croissants before serving, and consider having breakfast in bed for an indulgent start to Valentine’s Day. Oui, oui!

Slow Cooker Coq Au Vin

This recipe for slow cooker coq au vin is perfect for Valentine’s Day dinner because it only takes 20 minutes to prep; it’s easy to assemble before you head out the door for work. It cooks all day (8 hours), so it will be ready to enjoy with your sweetie when you get home. All of the ingredients for my authentic Parisian dinner menu are available at Mariano’s including:

Entrée / Side Dish
  • slow cooker coq au vin, with chicken breast, button mushrooms, pearl onions and baby carrots
  • Parisian parsley potatoes (recipe below)
  • chocolate mousse cups from Mariano’s Bakery
Drink and Table Décor
  • wine (at least 2 bottles of red, white or sparkling) from Mariano’s Liquor Department
  • bouquet of flowers from Mariano’s Floral Department

Most of the slow cooker coq au vin ingredients I purchased on this #CollectiveBias #shop at Mariano’s were already fully prepped, except for the carrots. To give your carrots a bit of sophistication (yes, carrots can have sophistication!), cut them on the diagonal. It’s a simple trick that makes them look a bit more special.

slow cooker coq au vin diced carrots and button mushrooms #MyMarianos #shop #CollectiveBias

Valentine’s Day Menu Ideas

ooh la la - Parisian parsley potatoes are the perfect side dish for slow cooker coq au vin #shopA traditional side dish served with slow cooker coq au vin would be Parisian Parsley Potatoes. This recipe takes about 30 minutes to cook and it continues the buttery decadence that Parisian food embraces. A definite must to add to your Valentine’s Day menu.

Coq au vin would normally use a Burgundy (red) wine but this recipe uses a white wine. There are variations of coq au vin that also use champagne. Use whichever you prefer. My suggestion is to buy 2 bottles of your favorite wine. Pour one cup into the slow cooker (that’s all it takes) when you’re ready to start cooking and save the rest for your dinner.

My Valentine’s Day menu is obviously inspired by Paris. But maybe another global destination holds a more romantic meaning for you and yours. Did you honeymoon in Italy or meet the love of your life in the Mediterranean? Mariano’s Bakery (my favorite department within the store!) has hand-made Italian cookies, biscotti and cannoli. And across the aisle at Mariano’s Deli you’ll find big, beautiful Greek olives and a variety of Mediterranean salads. The point is to fill your Valentine’s Day menu with items that have meaning for you.

Still need some inspiration? Just take a stroll in Mariano’s International Market aisles. Mariano’s has items from Italian, Hispanic, Asian, Polish, Kosher, Indian, Mediterranean, German, Eastern European, British and Southern cuisines. It’s the supermarket version of around the world in 80 plates! And any of these global goodies would be a perfect match for your Valentine’s Day menu.

Mariano's international market #MyMarianos #CollectiveBias #shop slow cooker coq au vin

If you know what kind of cuisine you want to prepare but you don’t know what wine or cheese to pair and serve, Mariano’s has a team of people who are ready with suggestions. They even have a Wine & Cheese pairings area in the store to kick-start your brainstorming.

Ideas and inspiration are plentiful at Mariano’s; that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy shopping there so much. It’s not just a grocery store. For foodies, it’s like an adventure theme park filled with all kinds of deliciousness. And when I’m not inside my local Mariano’s store, I stay connected to get ideas by following #MyMarianos on social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

What are you planning for your Valentine’s Day menu? Or if the proverbial oven mitt were on your significant other’s other hand, what dish would you want them to be making just for you?

Slow Cooker Coq au Vin

Rating: 51

20 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

Yield: 2 servings

Slow Cooker Coq au Vin


6 ounces button mushrooms, cut in half
10 ounces pearl onions, frozen
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper for seasoning
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound baby carrots, sliced on an angle in 3/4-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine (red wine works, too)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 cup chicken broth
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces


In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the mushrooms and pearl onions. Set aside.

Lightly season the chicken breasts (both sides) with salt and pepper. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high. Cook the chicken over medium-high heat until browned (about 10 minutes on each side). Place chicken over the vegetables in the slow cooker.

Using the skillet with the remaining drippings, add the chopped onion and sliced carrots. On medium heat, cook for 3 minutes or until the onion softens and becomes translucent. Stir frequently. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add the wine, tomato paste and bay leaf. Heat to boiling, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste.

Pour the wine mixture, followed by the chicken broth, over the chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.

About 15 minutes before you're ready to plate, cook the bacon in the microwave using a microwave-safe plate. Put 8 paper towel sheets on the plate and top with the bacon slices. I recommend cutting the bacon AFTER the cooking process. Put 4 paper towel sheets on top of the bacon slices and cook, following manufacturer's directions. For my microwave, 4 slices of thick-cut bacon will cook in 5 to 6 minutes. Cook until crispy, then cut into 1-inch pieces.

Remove the bay leaf from the slow cooker. Transfer the chicken, vegetables and sauce to a deep serving platter or plate immediately on individual plates. Sprinkle each serving with bacon and enjoy.


Let this cook during the day while you're at work. But if you need to whip it up faster, you can cook it on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.

Events & Entertaining

12 Game Day Recipes to Satisfy a Hungry Crowd

chicken wraps

game time

Who’s ready for some football? If you’re hosting a Game Day viewing party or just relaxing with family and friends in front of the big screen TV, you want easy options for delicious food that everyone’s going to love but won’t keep you in the kitchen.

I’ve put together a selection of 12 Game Day recipes that will satisfy any hungry crowd, but you’re going to love as well. Most can be made ahead of time, and many utilize one of my favorite kitchen appliances: the slow cooker. On a Big Game Day, a slow cooker will be your best friend by keeping the food hot, but letting you be in front of the action while the game is on.

For appetizers, I’ve selected:

Feel free to dunk your German Soft Pretzel Sticks into the Cheesy Beer-Salsa. So. Darn. Good.

Each of the entrees are cooked in your slow cooker:

Any of these entrees will score a touch down with your guests.

Last, but in no way least, I’ve selected four dessert recipes that are easy to eat with your hands and all are real crowd-pleasers:

You can probably tell that I’m partial to brownies. Guilty as charged. Not only are brownies so easy to make, everyone from kids to adults love them. So I can’t lose anytime they’re on my party menu.

What are you serving at your Game Day party?



plum-sauced chicken wings

Plum-Sauced Chicken Wings

cheesy beer salsa dip

Cheesy Beer-Salsa Dip

German soft pretzel sticks with bacon

German Soft Pretzel Sticks with Bacon

slow cooker lasagna garnished with Italian cheese

Zesty Italian Slow Cooker Lasagna

cheesy bacon corn chowder

Cheesy Bacon Corn Chowder

slow cooker sloppy joes with bacon

Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes with Bacon

six bean slow cooker chili

6-Bean Slow Cooker Chili with Sweet Peppers

football fumble nutter brownie bites

Football Fumble Nutter Brownie Bites

home-style cracker jack

Home-style Cracker Jack

deconstructed smores brownies

Deconstructed S’mores Brownies

root beer brownies

Root Beer Brownies

go team

Desserts/ Events & Entertaining

Football Fumble Nutter Brownie Bites will bowl over your Game Day guests!

Fumble Nutter Brownie Bites

You might have heard that there’s a small football game happening this Sunday. Not a big match up at all. Just some teams from Colorado and Washington state getting together for a quick game. NOT!

It’s amazing what a big cultural phenomenon and big business the Super Bowl is in the United States. At the heart of it, football is a team sport and big game days like the Super Bowl are best shared with friends and family. Like the 100+ million others who will be watching the Big Game (and I freely admit I like the commercials and half-time show best), I hoping to cook up some fun foods that will be enjoyed by all, but are also easy-to-make with little or  no cleanup. That’s my kind of game day victory!

This year I decided to do a twist on one of my classic brownie recipes from Baked Chicago’s Simply Decadent Brownies cookbook, and have some fun with Seattle green- and Denver orange-colored butter cream frostings.

Football Fumble Nutter Brownie Bites?

You’ve all heard of the fluffer nutter, right? A peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwich. I don’t know a lot of football terms, but one I do know is “fumble.” And when I do brainstorming, I tend to think in sound-alikes so I started thinking about what I might do with a brownie for the Big Game. My brain went from ‘fumble’ to ‘fluffer nutter’ to ‘fumble nutter’ in about 90 seconds, so this brownie recipe incorporates yummy peanut butter and it’s topped with a marshmallow butter cream frosting.

To add some fun for Game Day and to make it easy to eat (and hard to ‘fumble’ up), I decided that brownie bites were the perfect size for a sweet snack and to frost half of the brownies each with orange- or green-colored frosting to cheer on Denver and Seattle. I haven’t decided yet who I’m rooting for, but I’m leaning toward the Broncos. What do you think about that choice? Will I be crying in my brownies at the end of the game or doing an end zone dance in victory?

Fumble Nutter Brownie Bites 4

After you’ve baked the Football Fumble Nutter Brownie Bites, let them cool on a wire rack or platter. Then prepare your frosting.

Fumble Nutter Brownie Bites 6

Follow the directions on your food color packaging to get the right shades of green and orange. After I made the frosting, I divided it into two coffee cups and from there added the food coloring.

Fumble Nutter Brownie Bites 8

Frost half of your brownies in one team’s color, then the other. Let them set a bit after you frost them. I found they can set out for a few hours with no issues, but I recommend putting them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve them. We all know how long the Big Game can last and you want to make sure to practice proper food safety when entertaining your guests.

Fumble Nutter Brownie Bites 3

Football Fumble Nutter Brownie Bites (Peanut Butter Brownies with Marshmallow Butter Cream Frosting)

Rating: 51

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Yield: approximately 3 dozen

Football Fumble Nutter Brownie Bites (Peanut Butter Brownies with Marshmallow Butter Cream Frosting)


For Brownies:
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 ounces milk
For Marshmallow Butter Cream Frosting:
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 ounces marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
16 ounces confectioners' sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons milk, divided
food coloring (optional)


For brownie bites: Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees. Generously grease a mini muffin pan with non-stick spray.

Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the milk and eggs to the melted butter. Stir in the peanut butter. Stir in all the dry ingredients and mix just until blended.

Using a small cookie scoop, add batter into the prepared mini muffin pan. Do not fill the mini muffin cups more than 2/3 full, or it will overflow into the others as it bakes.

Bake for about 12 minutes or until the brownies are dry around the edges. Cool before frosting.

For frosting: Place the butter, marshmallow cream and vanilla in a small bowl. Beat with electric mixer on medium until well blended. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar, beating after each addition until well blended.

Blend in 1 tablespoon of milk. Add remaining tablespoon, if necessary, for desired spreading consistency. Frost brownie bite and let set.

Events & Entertaining

#ad Huddle Up with Tyson® Any’tizers and KRAFT Dipping Sauces for a Winning Big Game Snack

Collective Bias Social Fabric

Huddle up with Tyson Any'tizers and KRAFT dipping sauces for a winning big game snack

When I’m planning a party around the Big Game, I want my guests to have as much fun as possible. That means feeding them well while we’re all hanging out together rooting for our favorite teams. I know I’m going to have a winning Big Game snack every time when I serve Tyson® Any’tizers with some creamy KRAFT dipping sauces. So my first play is to stock up at my local Walmart. You’ll find special endcaps for Tyson at Walmart, and many Tyson products are on rollback for just $5.98.

You'll find Tyson Any'tizers at Walmart on rollback

There’s a Tyson Any’tizer for every taste, and having a well-stocked freezer gives me home field advantage. So I picked up some:

  • Tyson® Any’tizers Boneless Chicken Wyngz
  • Tyson® Crispy Chicken Strips
  • Tyson® Any’tizers Chicken Fries (my favorite!)
  • Tyson® Any’tizers Popcorn Chicken (maybe these are my favorite, too!)

KRAFT dipping sauces at Walmart

Then I headed over to the KRAFT dipping sauces shelves where I was blown away at some of the new flavors. Of course, I picked up the classic KRAFT Homestyle Ranch Dressing & Dipping Sauce. Then I also sacked two new flavors I couldn’t wait to try:

  • KRAFT Velveeta Cheesy Ranch
  • KRAFT Grey Poupon Dijon Ranch

When I’m getting my party playing field set up, I make sure I’ve got the entire team ready for action.

Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips and Any'tizers make a winning team

I want my guests to relax and have a great time. And I do, too. That means no dishes for me and easy serving options for my guests. I love disposable paper cups which can be both a vessel for your favorite beverage – or a portable portal for Tyson Any’tizers and KRAFT dipping sauce. I encourage my guests to create their own 2-dip immersions and try all of the KRAFT dipping sauces and combinations.

a 2-point conversion becomes a 2-dip immersion with KRAFT dipping sauces and Tyson Chicken Fries

There’s always the occasional fumble, but that’s why they invented napkins! The Big Game Day is all about celebrating sports and enjoying friends and family. So when there’s a fumble on the food field, you just run with it for the field goal.

There's never a fumble with Tyson Popcorn Chicken and KRAFT dipping sauces

It’s a Wrap!

Tyson Any’tizers and KRAFT dipping sauces are perfect football foods. And together they make a winning combination that can’t be beat, so I created a Make-It-Yourself Chicken Wrap Huddle station stocked with:

  • corn and flour tortillas (small and large)
  • diced plum tomatoes
  • sliced black olives
  • shredded mozzarella cheese
  • shredded Cheddar cheese
  • shredded baby spinach (you could substitute shredded lettuce, if you wish)

Guests have their choice of Tyson Crispy Chicken Strips or Tyson Any’tizers. Chicken Fries or Popcorn Chicken are especially great to quarterback a homestyle chicken wrap. Then guests pick their favorite fixings, and top it off with a KRAFT dipping sauce (or two!).  I couldn’t believe how many different Tyson/KRAFT chicken wrap combinations that you can make! You’ll see just a few of my favorite combos in this animated GIF:


For more ideas on how to create your own super moments with Tyson® Chicken and KRAFT Ranch Dressings & Dips, check out their Super Moments website.  Capture and share your own super moments by uploading them using the #SuperMoments hashtag for a chance to win an incredible prize package. You can also follow Tyson on Twitter (@TysonTweets) or Facebook.

Go for the touch down and check out this video for more super moments ideas for planning your Game Day Party!

Events & Entertaining

Chicago Auto Show’s First Look For Charity 2014

Chicago Auto Show's First Look for Charity 2014

The 2014 Chicago Auto Show is the nation’s largest and longest-running auto show. Its First Look for Charity benefit event (Friday, February 7, 2014 at McCormick Place) serves as a sneak peek to the hottest new cars, along with a generous sampling of delicious food and drink.

Since it started, First Look for Charity has raised more than $36 million for local Chicago charities and for 2014 the event is expected to raise more than $2 million. Tickets are $250 per person (black tie attire required). Special entertainment will be provided by American Idol Season 9 Winner (and Mount Prospect native) Lee DeWyze.

The theme for this year’s First Look for Charity Gala is “Winter Games.” Winter Games will celebrate a worldwide culinary collection of food and drink from Italy, Asia, Latin America, German and the United States. The “Opening Ceremonies” will include passed appetizers of chilled Asian spring rolls and potato galettes.

Chicago Auto Show First Look for Charity

Representing the USA at the American Tasting Stations:

  • Grilled Cheddar Sticks and Tomato Basil Soup, Artichoke Hearts Au Gratin from Catered By Design 
  • Pulled Pork and Coleslaw, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups from Bub City
  • Shrimp Ceviche from Devon Seafood
  • Hash Brown Potato Muffins, Mini Brioche from Real Urban BBQ

Representing Italy at the Italian Tasting Stations:

  • Waygu Beef Ravioli, Traditional Sausage and Peppers from SAVOR Chicago

Representing Germany at the German Tasting Stations:

  • Individual Beet and Sauerkraut Slaw, Angus Beef from SAVOR Chicago

Representing Japan at the Japanese Tasting Stations:

  • Black Rice Hokkaido Sushi Roll, Black Rice Devon Roll, Spicy Shrimp Sushi Roll from Union Sushi & BBQ
  • Individual Mueller Farms Soybean Tofu Noodle Salad, 7 Spice Marinated Beef Steak from SAVOR Chicago

Representing Brazil at the Brazilian Tasting Stations:

  • Flank Steak from Texas de Brazil
  • Individual Roasted Yam Salad, Ancho Seared Prawns, Slow Braised Beef Steak from SAVOR Chicago

And the “Closing Ceremonies” is a global assortment of desserts, sundries, gourmet coffee and espresso drinks from 676 Restaurant & Bar, Andy’s Frozen Custard, Butter Bella Gourmet Cookies, Cappuccino Catering, Catered By Design, Chicago Butter Cookies, Garrett Popcorn Shops, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, Roy’s Restaurant, Shen Yun Chicago and ZED 451. Beverage sponsors for the evening will include Wines by Trinchero Family Estates, American Harvest Organic Vodka, Sugar Island Rum, Tres Agaves Tequila, Antique Coffee & Vending Service, and Gentleman Jack and Jack Daniels Single Barrel Whiskey.

First Look for Charity 2014

The Public Show runs from Saturday, February 8 through Monday, February 17. Click to learn more about the Chicago Auto Show or to purchase tickets. And for a preview of the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, watch this video.

Events & Entertaining

Make Game Time Your Time: Be the MVP (most valuable party) host!

Goodies take the gridiron at your sports viewing party.

Collective Bias Social Fabric

Much like a quarterback leading a team to victory, being a host of a successful Game Day party will come down to preparation and teamwork. Now that we know Seattle and Denver will be playing in the Big Game, it’s time to start planning for your football viewing party. With the right preparation, you’ll easily be the MVP (most valuable party) host and – most importantly – you’ll be able to relax and enjoy game time with your guests.

Nestle game time goodies take the gridiron

Game Time Strategy

First, you’ll need a game plan for your party. You don’t want to worry about breaking glasses, doing dishes or being stuck in the kitchen when it’s time for the kickoff. Keep your party supplies basic, including:

  • a tablecloth (or astro turf) that will serve as the gridiron for your #GameTimeGoodies
  • disposable paper cups that can double as snack holders
  • napkins (or paper towels) for any fumbles your guests may make
  • paper plates and/or bowls for larger food items

Your menu also needs a game plan. You want food that will please the crowd, but easy for you to prepare and serve. And you don’t want to spend a fortune. Here are some considerations as you map out your football food strategy:

  • if kids will be attending, smaller portions will reduce waste
  • a crock pot will be your guard on the gridiron, letting you prepare food in advance and keeping it warm until the game ends
  • create a beverage station (or a beverage stadium!) with ice, cups and supplies so guests can serve themselves
  • pre-pour some snacks into small cups to make it easy for guests to start nibbling in the stands
  • decide if you want to serve the entree or main foods at kickoff or the half-time show [I recommend serving snacks immediately when guests arrive, and your entree(s) at kickoff. Then at the start of half-time, it’s easy to break out dessert.]

I found all of my Game Day party food supplies at my local Walmart, including:

  • DiGiorno Rising Crust Pizza (Supreme, 4 Cheese, 3 Meat, and Pepperoni) — on Rollback for $4.50
  • Stouffers Party Size Lasagna with Meat & Sauce
  • Hot Pockets Pepperoni Pizza with Garlic Buttery Seasoned Crust (12-value pack)
  • Hot Pockets Ham & Cheese with Croissant Crust (12-value pack)
  • Edy’s Limited Edition Touchdown Sundae Ice Cream
  • Nestle Crunch Dipped DRUMSTICK Cones (my DRUMSTICK kryptonite is the vanilla filled with caramel!)

stocking up for Game Day at Walmart

Cooking for your guests is fun. But not if you’re stuck in the kitchen during the Big Game. So I suggest making a hot dip that can work with many snacks, like potato chips, pretzel rods or sticks, tortilla chips or even veggie sticks. I found a (new to me) flavor of Hot Pockets with a pretzel crust at Walmart that I was dying to try. I cooked them per instructions on the box.  Then I cut them into 8 dipping strips to use with my hot queso blanco dip. Together they were a football fiesta of flavor in my mouth.

queso blanco dip with Hot Pockets dippers

Here’s how to make the queso blanco dip. You’ll need:

  • 16 ounces queso blanco (white American cheese), cubed
  • 4 ounces salsa (choose your favorite spice level)
  • 4 ounces beer

Combine the ingredients in a small crock pot on low heat. Cook for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

To keep dishes to a minimum, I recommend using disposable paper cups to ladle the queso blanco dip into. Then let guests take their favorite dippers and put inside the cup. It makes for a very portable and mess-less snack.

Fun should be the underlying theme for any party. But with a large crowd, you want to keep food prep to a minimum. An easy “upgrade” that can be a conversation piece is making a pepperoni football on top of your DiGiorno pizza before popping it in the oven. You can see from the images below that I took a 4-cheese pizza and layered 20 pepperoni in the center and topped it with thin strands of mozzarella string cheese. Then bake according to package directions.

make a pepperoni & mozzarella football on top of your pizza

And about 20 minutes later you have hot, bubbling and deliciously gooey pizza for the entire team!

DiGiorno Rising Crust Piza scored with bubbling, golden brown cheeses

Hot Pockets make a popular and easy entree alternative. I found some printable hot food holders on the Internet that I printed out and taped together. It acts like a safety for the Hot Pocket by deflecting any fumbles.

make the hand-off with Hot Pockets

I suggest keeping dessert simple. At the start of half time, break out the Nestle Crunch Dipped DRUMSTICK Cones and Edy’s Touchdown Sundae Ice Cream. It’ll only take 5 minutes to set up, which means you’ll be back on the sofa before the start of the half-time show. Yeah!

Put the DRUMSTICKs, tops down, on top of some ice in a medium-sized bowl. That will keep them cold until your guests grab them. But we both know they’ll be long gone by the time the ice has even begun to melt!

Nestle Crunch Dipped DRUMSTICKS make a great half-time treat

And setting up an Edy’s ice cream station is simple, too. Scoop the ice cream into small bowls, ramekins or coffee cups. Let your guests top with hot fudge or sprinkles, as they wish. They grab a spoon and go! You could even use the disposable paper cups to reduce the dishes to wash after the game.

make a play for Edy's grand ice cream touchdown sundae

How Do You Avoid The Quarterback Scramble?

A great party takes teamwork. Share your favorite Game Day party planning tips, favorite #GameTimeGoodies or which team you’ll be rooting for during the Big Game below.