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how to SET UP A 5 MINUTE BIG GAME SPORTS BOOK AT HOME

How to Host a Big Game Sports Book at Home

Have you ever wanted to host a big game sports book at your own home? As a native Nevadan, I always like to add a little gambling to my football parties. I’m not sure why, exactly. There’s just something fun about losing three different bets immediately because somehow the Giants forced Tom Brady into a safety in the first drive of the game. Of course, you don’t have to gamble with money. Some people have it, some people don’t, you know which one you and your friends are. You can also gamble with drinks, food, pride, or you know, whatever else you can come up with. We personally choose money or beer, depending on who we’ve invited, but to each their own.

This year I’m not hosting a Super Bowl party, as I’m living in a tiny, dark rental house for one more month. But, my friends did ask me to bring some Vegas type games with me. Since I don’t have to cook, I should have plenty of time – oh wait! I’m a frenzied hostess! It’s tax season and I’m a bookkeeper. I have NO time for anything (including this – which is why it’s late this week!). But, I said I’d do it, so here we go. Enjoy my ideas for making your own big games sports book, and please, don’t feel like it should take all day.

Big Game Sports Book Ideas

Are they a little crazy looking? Sure, but see what I have to work around?

1. Super Squares

If you’ve ever had coworkers, been to a restaurant with TVs in January, or casually glanced at game day ideas, you’ve seen these before. You won’t see them in a Las Vegas sports book, but they’re still fun and easy to get people’s toes wet in the gambling arena. I’m not going to go through the whole process – the folks over at Super Bowl Squares have that covered. Follow those instructions. Now, here’s my input: Get some poster board, don’t waste your time measuring squares because no one cares about that, and then tape it to a wall in an obvious place. You should also have some squares filled out beforehand so people get interested. Yes, you do have to pony up if you place the bets. Then direct your first couple of guests right to that big beautiful grid and get the game going.

2. Prop Bets

I took an extra two seconds per football. Fancy!

Prop bets are my absolute favorite. They are the reason I somehow managed to lose all those bets at once back in 2012. They’re basically just random things you can bet on, like what color Gatorade will get dumped on the winning coach or how long the national anthem will last. Here’s a good list of bets for 2017 specifically, but you could update this each year, minus perhaps the entertainment ones. I would not choose too many. It would get confusing, because you are not actually a sports book. Instead, pick about five, making sure to pick some from both game and non-game related bets. Then throw them on another poster board and have the bettors write their answers on it.

One other little addition I might add this year is to set up a couple of bets about the guests. Not everyone there is going to be a football fan, so to keep them entertained, I thought it might be fun to make some prop bets like “Who will start the backyard football game?” and “Who will cry at a commercial?” If you have big drinker friends, you can incorporate that as well. Since this is your own private big game sports book, you might as well involve everyone.

3. Who Will Win?

Okay friends, you should be doing this even if you aren’t going to make a big game sports book. Why wouldn’t you bet on who’s going to win? Now, there are a couple ways of going about this. The easiest, obviously, is to simply pick who’s going to win. I typically don’t collect any money for this, but when I have guests they write their name on a slip of paper and put it in a bowl dedicated to the team they think is going to win. Once the game is over I pull out a name out from the winner’s side and they get a prize. You could actually collect money and split it between winners; I would give them all something the color of their team, like a pin or beads, to prove they won.

4. Vegas Style

On the other hand, you could get crazy and go real sports book style. Here’s a link to the current odds. I can’t advise you to actually pay out on those odds, unless you’re a rich person, in which case you may want to consider something other than poster board for your sports book. I can tell you what those numbers mean. The line is pretty easy. According to that site, New England is favored by 3, which is the -3 you’re seeing.  Basically you bet on the Patriots if you think they’ll win by 3 or more. You pick Atlanta if you think they’ll win, or even if they’ll lose by less than 3 points. It’s not much of a spread, so good luck with this one.

The other fun part of trying to plan a big game sports book  is taking bets on the over/under. Usually the over/under is what Vegas thinks both teams are going to score combined. In this case, it’s 58 points. Fifty-eight! That’s a high scoring game they’re suggesting. The good news is, the betting part is much easier than the scoring. Do you think there will be more or less than 58 points scored during the game?  You can write down people’s bets for this if you want, or have people put their names down somewhere, or whatever you want. Again, I wouldn’t suggest you spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to pay like the sports book would. I’d just settle on a wager from the beginning; perhaps pair over bettors with under bettors and let them choose their own terms.

Well, that’s about it! Enjoy your big game sports book, and don’t forget your amazing bookie visor! 🙂

 

Pepperoni Stuffed Turkey Burgers

Recipe for Pepperoni Stuffed Turkey Burgers

I created my own pepperoni stuffed turkey burgers when I accidentally bought Italian seasoned ground turkey. I guess I could have just had Italian seasoned burgers, but I wasn’t in the mood. Pepperoni pizza burgers also weren’t for me, as I hate pizza sauce. I hope pizza sauce doesn’t take this personally; it’s actually tomatoes I hate. I don’t even like ketchup. Anyway, I’ve never found that particular ground turkey again, but I figured out how to season it myself, and now my husband and I will occasionally enjoy our own little Italian burger.

As far as using ground turkey over ground beef goes, that’s really up to you. I started using ground turkey in college because one of my roommates was (and still is) super into healthy eating. I’m not particularly careful about that, but unless ground beef seems absolutely necessary, I now prefer turkey. There’s only one reason for that. It’s less greasy. Unfortunately, less grease also means it’s a drier meat. Plus, you can’t cook it medium – it’s got to be done. So, feel free to use ground beef if that’s your thing. The important part of this burger is the pepperoni, so it should taste fine either way.

Pepperoni Stuffed Turkey Burgers

Ingredients (2-4 servings)

1 lb ground turkey
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/8 tsp pepper
pepperoni
mozzarella

 

Instructions

  1. Mix all seasonings with ground turkey. You do not need to spend much time on this; in fact, it is better not to over mix it.
  2. Shape four-eight thin patties. They should be bigger than your bun. Four patties = two burgers.
  3. Place pepperonis to taste on half of the patties. Do not go all the way to the edge of the burger; you are going to need that edge for combining patties.
  4. Add mozzarella to taste on top of the pepperonis (or vice versa).
  5. Put one plain patty on top of each pepperoni/mozzarella patty. Use the outer edges to close up the burger so you can no longer see the mozzarella or pepperonis.
  6. Put the patties into individual plastic wrap. You can reshape here if you want to. Then put them in the fridge for a hour or two, or freezer for at least twenty minutes, and let them set.
  7. Grill your burgers. You should only need to flip once. Inside should be 160°F when they are done.
  8. Eat!

 

Notes

As I mentioned before, turkey meat can be a little drier than ground beef. I rely on Worcestershire and cheese to be my moisteners, but I’ve read that you can put in a little mayo or butter to help with it as well. Of course, that seems to me like it’s missing the point of using healthier meat, but to each her own. This is a pretty good article about making juicy burgers if you’re interested.

I usually only make two burgers out of a pound of turkey. Do they wind up being half a pound each? I don’t know. Maybe, sometimes. Other times I don’t let the patties sit long enough and part of it falls into my grill before I even start cooking. I call that a forced diet, frenzied style. I also like to use shredded mozzarella because I always have some on hand, but it might be less of a mess to simply cut a few slices off a block. Lastly, once my patties are in the wrap, I like to beat them down a little so they get thinner and easier to cook. That’s it! Go enjoy your pepperoni stuffed turkey burgers!

Why i'm hosting my own birthday party

Why I’m Hosting My Own Birthday Party

I’m turning 32 in a couple of weeks. Last time I checked, no one cares when you turn 32. That is why I’m throwing my own birthday party this year. I usually do this anyway, as it would be a lot to ask someone else to do every year, but I’ll be handling everything this time around. That means I’m the greeter, the chef, the baker, the decorator, the clean-up, and the designated driver. What?! The designated driver at my own birthday party?! Sounds crazy, I know. But I’m pregnant, so it’s really not that big a deal. Typically someone else would get that job, as well as cleanup and baking, but I’ve run into a few issues this year.

The first issue is that I’m preggo. I already have one child and I don’t need a second shower, but I know my family is going to do at least a “sprinkle,” because that’s just how they are. So I don’t need them throwing another party for me. I also happen to be finding out the sex the weekend before my birthday. Since we like to reveal with blue or pink cake, it just makes sense for me to combine that with my own birthday party.  The second issue is I’m still new to Tennessee, and I don’t feel like letting one of my recent acquaintances come up with a guest list to introduce me to people. Regardless, there is nothing wrong with throwing your own birthday party! Just follow a few rules so you don’t come off as needy. Unless you are needy. Then do what you want.

Rules I Have for Hosting My Own Birthday Party

1. No Requesting Gifts

Did you know some people out there still bring gifts to birthday parties? I feel like in college all my friends and I were so broke we just gave up on that tradition and never picked it back up. Then I moved to the south and guests kept bringing me things, whether it was for my birthday or housewarming or whatever. I might bring a bottle of wine if I’m invited somewhere, but I’m not  into gift giving for every occasion.  I don’t want gifts either – unless it’s wine, obviously. So, when I host my own birthday party, I not only don’t request gifts, but I specifically tell people not to bring them. Maybe it’s tacky, maybe it isn’t. Either way, I don’t want you to stress when you come to my party.

2. Don’t Go Overboard

This, my friends, is the opposite of going overboard!

If I’m throwing a party for someone else, I almost always buy more food and/or decor than I will have time to deal with. I want everything to be perfect for them. But guess what? When I’m throwing my own birthday party, I’m usually just impressed I thought of inviting people ahead of time. I feel like it’d be weird to hang a whole bunch of birthday banners for myself, so I’ll definitely skip that. I get to pick my own favorite foods, whether I pick it up or cook. It’s also nice not to have to deal with some fancy bakery – I don’t like a lot of cake frosting, but bakers love it. So I’ll slather some buttercream on it and be done.  No fuss, o headaches, just all my favorite things.

3. Don’t Feel Bad Combining With Another Event

This year I’m doing a little gender reveal during my birthday. Last year I had a newborn and have legitimately no memory of my birthday as I was very sleep-deprived. The year before I enjoyed the big 3-0 at the same time as the Big Game. I know not everyone has a championship to watch on their birthday, but if there’s something else to combine it with, why not? I feel like it takes the spotlight off me, plus it keeps us “old” folks from getting partied out. If I was still in my early twenties back-to-back parties might be fun, but that’s not the case anymore. I had two Christmas parties in three days this December and it about killed me. Maybe that will change once the kids are older, but that seems so far away.

4. Don’t Get Caught up with Etiquette

Why do I say don’t get caught up with etiquette while I’m posting rules that are basically about etiquette? Well, look. Some people get really stressed about what society has to say about throwing your own birthday party. Miss Manners is particularly gruff on this point. There are whole discussion boards in forums dedicated to how tacky it is, and yadda yadda yadda. But who cares? If Miss Manners is your friend, just don’t invite her. Tell those forum people to stay home too. Not everyone knows how to throw a party, and even if they did, not everyone has friends who would want to throw one for them. Feel free to ignore advice that is simply too old-fashioned to listen to.

5. Have Fun!

This one’s actually important. You know what the worst part of hosting my own birthday party is? It’s that I’m a hostess. I like hosting, obviously, but it’s a lot of work and running around. You have to check on people and make sure your guests are okay, specifically your guest of honor. So how do you check on the guest of honor when it’s you? Don’t feel bad if you get caught up with someone and don’t make constant rounds to other people. This is your show, so you might as well enjoy it and let them come to you if you want. That’s about it for rules. So go out, have fun, and plan your own party!

 

Busy Hostess, Green Hostess

Can a Frenzied Hostess be a Green Hostess?

In my mind, I’m a green hostess. Not the color; I mean environmentally friendly. In reality, I’m pretty sure that’s not true at all. France banned paper cups and plates at the end of 2016, an ever since I read that I’ve been wondering how terrible these little life savers really are. There has to be some kind of a trade-off, right? Maybe washing a whole bunch of dishes is worse than using paper plates…

Nope! Not even close! Every single article I read trying to make myself feel better about using paper plates helped me feel the opposite. Reusable, they said. Use ceramic plates, they said, and wash them in your environmentally friendly dishwasher that you totally have (I actually do have one. But I know that’s not true for everyone). These are good intentions. But are they realistic? Can a frenzied hostess like myself ever really be a green hostess too? I already spend enough time trying to get everything else together. How am I supposed to worry about the environment when I’m in such a time crunch?

Tips to Becoming a Green Hostess

Okay, so these are not going to be earth-shattering revelations. You’ve probably heard all of them before. But sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of things, and to go in with a specific plan to be environmentally friendly instead of feeling guilty about it later. I’m not the only one who feels guilty, right? When you take out bags and bags of trash after a barbecue, don’t you cringe just a little? I would say if you don’t feel a bit remorseful, this isn’t for you, but on the other hand, if you don’t care at all maybe you’re exactly who should be focusing on being a green hostess.

1. Buy Eco-friendly paper plates.

You think I’m crazy now, don’t you? I just spent all that time talking about paper plates and I still want to buy them. Look, here’s the thing. I can pretend to be a green hostess all I want, but the truth is, I already have enough dishes to do after a party than to have to worry about every single guest and how many plates they want to dirty up. If it’s a small party, yes, by all means, use the good dishes. But a big barbecue or Halloween party, or anything involving 20+ people, is going to make being a green hostess much more difficult unless you get a caterer who does all the cleanup for you. These plates aren’t  necessarily the cheapest options, but you will have to get tips about cheap somewhere else. I like these and these.

2. Set up signs for “Recycle” and “Trash.”

Whenever I go to a party, I always ask if the host recycles. I think in some places it’s a given that they do, but it’s not everywhere. I couldn’t even get my trash company to pick up my recyclables when I lived in North Carolina, so I just gave up. Make it easy on everyone. Put up some big garbage bags (or trash cans, if you have multiple) with signs above them so everyone can easily deposit their used goods. This is going to be environmentally friendly, plus less time consuming for you. If you make it obvious where you want their garbage, guests will be more likely to throw stuff away. Have you ever been to a hostess’s house where they put the trashcan in a pantry or under the sink? No one wants to go through your stuff to find the garbage, so it gets left out.

3. Skip the Streamers.

You already know this one’s my favorite, right? I’ll take any excuse not to decorate, and this is a great one. Leave all those paper products on the shelves of the party store, friends, and tell everyone you’re a green hostess. I’m not saying you can’t decorate at all, but why not get some reusable decor or try out some garbage? Wine bottles are my favorite decorations saved from the trash. Just peel all those labels off and stick some candles in them and you’ve become super fancy. Then you shove them into a cabinet somewhere and use them again next time (or drink more – also fine). Now you’re saving paper, plus the headache of having to tape all those nonsense strips of paper all over your house.

4. Take your Reusable Bags when Food Shopping.

Look, I’ll be honest. I have no idea what to tell you about environmentally friendly food, other than buy local and don’t buy things individually wrapped in plastic 15 times. But I can tell you this. Reusable shopping bags are great. Your house won’t become crowded with plastic bags, plus there’s less to carry because they hold more. I sincerely don’t understand why everyone isn’t already using them. They save time loading and unloading, and they save the environment by not getting thrown into landfills. Seriously, if you don’t already have them, get them! Then use them every time you have a party, and eventually you’ll remember to use them every time you shop. Now that’s a green hostess!

GOUNELLE

Game Day Food by Football Team Cities

Have you ever tried to plan your game day food by NFL city? The play-offs are fast approaching, which means most people will have their eye on the big game. But, if you’re like me, your team will only be hosting the game, not playing in it. So, I celebrate them in earlier rounds. I try to be fair in my game day food, even when I have a preferred team. I’ll use one signature dish from each team’s city (or state, or region if that’s what they represent). I do this all of January every year, yet I never remember my research. It was high time to make a comprehensive list, and I had to share it. There are lists like this out there, I know, but I don’t want to buy specific ice creams or make cabbage rolls, so here we are.

The great thing about having a list like this is you can use it all year. Some teams see the play-offs all the time; others are Cleveland, where the best game of the season is game 1. (Sorry Cleveland! At least you have basketball.) Why not enjoy a little city-specific game day food all year long? It doesn’t have to be a big party; in fact some of these would be better for just a few friends. When it comes to game day food, it can be really fun to color coordinate things like cupcakes or punch, but it’s also fun to get  cultured. I tried to find three ideas for each team, using main or side dishes where possible. Some were easy – think Philadelphia or  New York. Some were ridiculously difficult – I’m looking at you, Jacksonville. If you know of better ideas, feel free to let me know!

List of NFL Game Day Food

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals play in Glendale, but since they claim the whole state I didn’t feel obligated to stick to the area. You might think of Mexican when you think of the Southwest, but there’s also a heavy Native American influence to give you more of a variety of dishes.

Chimichangas
Fry Bread
Cheese Crisps

Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta is a great food city. I would legitimately drive there right now just for dinner if my child enjoyed the car.  You can likely find any kind of food you want there, but when it comes to it’s signature dishes, think Southern.

Fried Chicken
Biscuits
Grits

Baltimore Ravens

I feel like it would be cheating if I wrote three different types of crabs, but friends, they have at least that many signature crab dishes. I listed Lake Trout here, although there seems to be an argument as to what that actually is. Have fun with that if you just can’t stand crab!

Crab Cakes
Pit Beef Sandwiches
Lake Trout

Buffalo Bills

When you think Buffalo, I’m sure you think buffalo wings, and that is a good option. But it’s not the only option! There were actually quite a few dishes the city claimed to be good at, although they didn’t all seem like game day food.

Chicken Wings
Beef on Weck
Charcoal Broiled Hot Dogs

Carolina Panthers

The Panthers are supposed to encompass both Carolinas. I was tempted to only do North Carolina since I lived there for five years, but I decided to be nice. When I say barbecue, you should be aware, there are very distinct types from each state. Choose wisely!

Barbecue
Shrimp & Grits
Pimento Cheese Sandwiches

Chicago Bears

Did I even need to bother with Chicago? I’m not sure that I did. It has so many signature dishes, you might as well make anything you can think of and just call it “Chicago-style.”

Deep Dish Pizza
Chicago Style Dogs
Italian Beef

Cincinnati Bengals

I was recently in Cincinnati and determined to stop by one of their chili places, but I didn’t make it. Their chili fascinates me though – they put it on spaghetti! Who thinks of this stuff?

Cincinnati Chili
Goetta
Montgomery Inn-Style Barbecue

Cleveland Browns

I thought I was going to have a hard time with Cleveland, but they surprised me. They have several dishes that not only make sense as a game day food, but they’re also pretty easy to make, even for a group.

Polish Boys
Pierogies
Pizza Bagels

Dallas Cowboys

Ah, Texas. So much food, so little time. Luckily there are two Texas teams to fit it all in. I tried to split them appropriately, but they both have that Tex Mex style to them and love meat. Perfect for games, right?

Brisket
Burgers
Tex Mex

Denver Broncos

I love Denver’s restaurant scene, but they have a lot of influences from all over the place, so it was hard to narrow it down. If you’re on the east coast, you’ll probably prefer a Denver sandwich over the omelette, but west coasters might enjoy them for an early morning game.

Bison Burgers
Green Chili
Denver Sandwiches/Omelettes

Detroit Lions

I always thought a Coney Dog was a Coney Island thing, but either I’m wrong or confused about the history. Apparently they’re Detroit’s signature dish. I’m kind of vague about apples, I know, but it gives you a chance to be creative.

Coney Dogs
Square Deep Dish
Apple Dishes

Green Bay Packers

The team’s fans are called Cheeseheads, and if I wasn’t sharing this list, it would be all cheese. Since I am, I did my best to find some other dishes. Wisconsin sounds like a good place for game day food!

Fish Fry
Cheese Curds
Brats

Houston Texans

Houston’s food is all over the place due to it’s history of immigrants from everywhere. There’s a big Cajun influence along with their Tex Mex, and of course regular ole’ Texas chili.

Chili (no beans)
Cajun Shrimp
Pecan Pie

Indianapolis Colts

Every source I looked at claimed Indianapolis loves breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches, so I would have to say this one is actually definitive. Of course, if pork isn’t for you, there are other options.

Corn on the Cobb or Sweet Corn
Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
Sugar Cream Pies

Jacksonville Jaguars

Oh Jacksonville. You all claimed you have no specific dish, and after a morning of searching, I believe you. In fact, I picked shrimp for you because you had a lot of vague “seafood” comments. But your baseball team is the Jumbo Shrimp, so the crustacean must be cooked somewhere, right?

Camel Rider Sandwiches
Shrimp
Lubi Sandwiches

Kansas City Chiefs

I’ll be honest with you. After researching Kansas City food, I’m pretty sure all they eat is barbecue. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, it doesn’t matter. In fact, if you are a vegetarian, you might cease to exist once you cross city limits. I added some broader Kansas/Missouri foods to round it out.

KC Barbecue
Fried Chicken
Zwieboch

Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles claims to be good at everything, so go ahead and make whatever you want. I left a ton of stuff off this list, like tacos, but other cities needed foods too, so LA has to share.

Ramen
Thai Food
French Dips

Miami Dolphins

To me, Miami is all about Cuban food. They might serve something else, but I’ve never looked. I know some of these things look difficult and not like what a frenzied host might want to make, but they aren’t that bad. If you don’t have time to try them, make any Cuban dish and call it a day.

Ceviche
Croquettas
Fried Plantains

Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota has a ton of regional food. A lot of it comes from Nordic influences, which is perfect for the Vikings. They may be hard to accomplish. But the other parts are kind of like what you would expect at a state fair or an unhealthy potluck (think Jello salad), so you have a variety of foods to choose from.

Lefse and/or Lutefisk
Deep Fried Cheese Curds
Tater Tot Hot Dish

New England Patriots

Friends, if you don’t have a good recipe for clam chowder or know of  a can worth serving to people, let your eyes skim right past that option. Pretend you saw oysters or cranberries. There’s probably many more choices as well, since the Patriots are greedy and represent a whole region.

Clam Chowder
Lobster Rolls
Boston Cream Pies

New Orleans Saints

You know what’s great about New Orleans food? No other city claims it. They have a rich history of Cajun/Creole cooking that’s really distinctive, and it sure was nice not having to read about what kind of tacos they serve.

Gumbo
Jambalaya
Muffulettas

game day food

New York Giants

You may be aware that there are two New York teams. Two! And they play in New Jersey! It’s nonsense. But, I’m perfectly okay with it in this situation because New York has a ton of food they can claim as their own. Add a few more teams, I’m sure I could find a few more options.

Pizza
Hot Dogs
General Tsos Chicken

New York Jets

If you’re wondering, these are listed completely at random. I don’t feel like the Jets would be more likely to eat bagels than the Giants, or that the Giants would be more likely to eat pizza than the Jets. Wouldn’t it be kind of funny if they were though?

Pastrami on Rye
Chicken & Waffles
Bagels

Oakland Raiders

Yes, that’s right, I gave taco truck tacos to Oakland. All the forums I read were pretty insistent about this, so it is what it is. I’m not sure precisely what kind of tacos appear in those trucks, so I guess that means you can choose whatever you want.

Taco Truck Tacos
Barbecue
Oysters

Philadelphia Eagles

Philly’s really adamant that they’re more than cheesesteak, so please don’t feel like that has to be your only choice. Pretzels for game day sounds amazing. By the way, Irish potatoes aren’t Irish or potatoes. I wonder what the Irish think of that.

Cheesesteak
Irish Potatoes
Soft Pretzels

Pittsburgh Steelers

You are reading this right. Pierogies are appearing on the list for a second time. Who knew this country had such a love of pierogies? I ate them in North Carolina once and no one else knew what they were. Primante is a restaurant, but you can find their recipes online.

Pierogies
Primante Sandwiches
Fried Zucchini

San Diego Chargers

Do I remember something about San Diego moving to LA with the Rams? I might have to change this soon. Until then, enjoy some more California food with a beachy vibe.

Carne Asada Burritos
Fish Tacos
Turkey Avocado Sandwich

 

San Francisco 49ers

I miss San Francisco clam chowder in a bread bowl. I ate clam chowder all over Boston, but nobody served it like they do on the pier. Cioppino’s a pricier meal, but it’s actually pretty easy to cook. Just remember to clean your shellfish.

Clam Chowder with Sourdough
Cioppino
Mission-Style Burritos

Seattle Seahawks

Seattle folks couldn’t seem to agree on anything other than salmon, so serve that however you want. They also kept mentioning coffee, but last time I checked you can’t eat that. They do say their vegan food is great, so if you are feeling like it’s time to try something animal product-less, might as well start with this.

Salmon
Fish and Chips
Vegan

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

I bet you’re surprised to see Cuban sandwiches here instead of Miami. They actually started out there, but the more I read about Tampa, the more I realized this is where they belong. And yes, that says enchilado, not enchilada. Don’t ask me why, I didn’t create it.

Cuban Sandwiches
Crab Enchilado
Spanish Bean Soup

Tennessee Titans

Here’s my current home team (although not the one I root for). With these three dishes you’ve got Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville covered. I’m not a super fan of cornbread, but it is a nice and easy addition to a game day meal.

Memphis Barbecue
Hot Chicken
Cornbread

Washington Redskins

Our nation’s capitol is known mostly for food of other country’s. Neat, huh? Everyone agrees the main signature dish is the half-smoke, although they claim locals don’t actually eat it. But then, D.C. isn’t exactly full of locals anyway.

Half Smoke
Ethiopian
Mumbo Sauce

Well, that’s it! I hope this gives you enough game day food ideas for at least a couple of years.

3 Lessons for Bachel

Bachelorette Parties & Knowing Your Bride

I’ve been a maid of honor three times. Yep. Three times as not just a bridesmaid, but the maid of honor. You can bet I have some thoughts and opinions on bachelorette parties. I thought this would be a good time to write about them because I’m about to have my fourth. There’s a possible fifth in the works too, if my sister doesn’t decide to elope. Actually, I might throw her a bachelorette party anyway. They’re just so much fun. Now, I’ll admit, I wasn’t as time crunched when I did the first three. I am slightly freaking out about how to find time for these new ones, but when the bride calls, you answer.

The girls I’m planning parties for could not be more different in personality. This is going to make these parties even more time-consuming than usual, and bachelorette parties are already no joke. Normally, my busy friends, I say host the way you want to host and throw the kind of party you want to throw. But, the bachelorette party is not normal. You have to know your bride, and you have to cater to her. There’s a reason four separate women have asked me to be their maid of honor, and it’s not because I’m the best friend they’ve ever had. It’s because I know how to throw a party.

Lesson 1: Bachelorette Parties are not about You

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Mojitos not your cup of tea? Too bad.

This should go without saying, but what does the bride want? I’ve thrown your typical Vegas bachelorette (just an FYI, I’m from Nevada – I don’t think it’s reasonable for everyone to go to Vegas and your bride shouldn’t either). But then, I’ve also thrown one at Disneyland. I’m currently thinking about one in Memphis, not because I particularly like Memphis, but because my sister loves jazz. Personally, I would have loved to have mine in Napa. I love wine and I was almost thirty when I got married. I didn’t need to do the whole matching T-shirt thing and go to nightclubs. But, that was exactly what we did.

So, there’s the first thing you need to think about. I would have enjoyed my bachelorette party much more if I’d been just a few years younger. I had moved away by that point, so I forgive my friends for not recognizing how much I’d calmed down.  It makes sense to consider age and personality when planning though. Is your bride still young and wild, even if you’re not? I know I’m about to throw one of the tamest bachelorette parties ever, because my sister hates people. She has approximately one friend who isn’t me. That’s not an exaggeration. On the other hand, I’m also about throw one of the wildest for my friend. Which reminds me…I have to travel across state lines to see her…Ug.

Lesson 2: Okay, so they are a LITTLE about you (and the guests)

scheduling bachelorette parties
Now look through twelve more of these and pick your date!

I have to find a babysitter who’s willing to cross state lines to watch me throw a party they won’t be invited to. That requires a little give on the bride’s part, don’t you think? Coordinating with other bridesmaids and guests to pick a date is fine, but the bride has to be willing to let us choose.  Since I’ll only be able to travel once, it will be a bridal shower/bachelorette.  This happens frequently when the maid of honor isn’t in the same city as the bride. If you’re in the same city, maybe you don’t need that kind of flexibility. For one friend in my city, I held two bachelorette parties and a separate bridal shower without being inconvenienced. So, think about the bride, but don’t be afraid to schedule it at a time that works for you and her friends, even if it’s not her ideal date.

I feel like some of you brides are about to go bridezilla on me, but if you’ve never been a maid of honor before, you should know it’s exhausting and expensive. If someone’s throwing up a whole bunch of time and money in your honor, you shouldn’t be too crazy about dates. Obviously you get to choose the wedding date; other than that, help us out! For my own bachelorette party, which was co-hosted by my best friend and sister, I had literally no say in the date. It was two months before my wedding, in the middle of summer, in Las Vegas, which by that point was completely across the country from me. Did I complain? No. It was the only way they could both get the time off.

Lesson 3: Enough about you, back to the bride!

In a perfect world, all maids of honors know exactly what their brides want. But, sometimes, they’re new to the club. Other times the bride may be hiding some secret desires she’s either embarrassed about or, for some reason, thought was obvious. My recommendation? Ask! I made a quick little survey you can have the bride fill out. I think it gets to the important questions, so you can start planning a little. It’s best to do this now, because girl, the bride doesn’t touch the budget. You need to do that yourself. We’re going to have to save budgeting for a future date, though, so you’re on the own for the moment!

Bachelorette Questionnaire

Okay, short-on-time readers who also have very important parties coming up, you have two tasks to get you stated. First, survey the bride. Next, start working out a schedule that’s going to work for you, your bride, and her other guests. If she throws a fit that she can’t pick the date, tell her her party budget just dropped $100 (kidding!). You should also get a good idea of how many will be on the guest list – you can do a great trip to Disneyland with a few people, but it’s going to be impossible to accommodate a giant group. Once you know those things, you can move on to the fun stuff…And the money stuff. We’ll talk about those soon!

 

 

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Hosting Casual Viewing Parties

As you’ve probably noticed by now, the easiest way for me to host something is to make sure it’s small and easy rather than large and extravagant. That seems pretty obvious, but seriously guys, you can dress up any little gathering as a party and practice your hosting. Do you have any favorite TV shows or a movie you want to watch with friends? Why not throw a casual viewing party? Here’s my favorite part of viewing parties: there’s no reason to decorate. I mean, you’re all going to be facing the TV the whole time. If you want to jazz that up, go ahead, but your co-viewers might get annoyed. Just saying.

casual viewing parties
Too much? Or just improper bow placement?

 

Viewing Parties: Get in and Get Out

You could serve popcorn and be done with it. If you have a weekly viewing party for a show, maybe that’s all you should do. Do you really need to impress your friends every week? There’s the opposite approach, like those insane Walking Dead-style parties where everything is themed. That’s too much work for me though. I also think they must party longer than the one-hour show lasts. If I’m inviting you to watch one show or one movie, I don’t want you there more than an hour before, and you better be gone an hour after. It’s nothing personal; I’ve got stuff to do. If you’re like me, make this clear in your text or email invitation. Luckily, most of my friends won’t have time to stay longer anyway. I’m not the only one who constantly says, “I’m too busy.”

The Fun Part

I’m not decorating for a viewing party, but I think only popcorn is boring. So what exactly am I going to do to impress people without going overboard? I’m going to pick either one dish or one drink to tie it all together and call it a day. For my example, I’m using a Shonda Rhimes show. Anyone watch How to Get Away with Murder? If not, here’s a quick breakdown: They try to get away with murder. This might just be one example, but feel free to hit the comments up with more, or contact me if you can’t come up with anything for your favorite show.

Special Food:

Philly Cheesesteak Sliders

Why? The show takes place in Philadelphia.  Since Philly is known for their food, I might as well take advantage of it.

Special Drink:

Vodka Tonic 

Why? The main character is an alcoholic and she chugs vodka straight like nobody’s business. Because I don’t want to serve straight vodka, a vodka tonic is a super easy solution.

 

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Holding an Easy Mini Wine Tasting Party

If you aren’t a drinker, then a post about wine tasting is not the one for you. I try to make food and booze interchangeable, but unless you’re going to do a mini-prepackaged food party, it would take a lot more work to incorporate food. I’ve talked about having mini-cooking competitions before, so maybe that is the way to go for you. But if you do like wine, one of my favorite ways to have a classy little gathering is to host a wine tasting.

Readers, you do not have to be a wine expert to do this. You honestly don’t need to know anything about wine at all, as long as you can read the labels when you’re buying the bottles. If you do want to know a little something before you start, you might want to pick up The Wine Bible or Wine for Dummies. Be warned: They’re not quick reads. There are other books about wine that are a lot smaller, but I haven’t read them so I can’t recommend any. When my sister and I started drinking wine, we went all in. You don’t have to read the whole book to host a little party though; once you decide what you’re tasting you’ll be able to find that specific chapter.

Preparation

Okay, so this is going to be a super easy prep. First choose, your guest list. I usually invite a couple or two, or friends that really love wine. Sometimes I’ll do a combination, but I try not to make anyone a fifth wheel during a wine tasting. I don’t personally mind being a third or fifth wheel, normally, but if you put me in Napa Valley with two couples and not  my husband, I think I’d wind up drinking too much.

Anyway, who you invite isn’t really that important, except for their level of wine knowledge. Do they like wine, but basically know nothing past red or white? Are they so advanced you’ll have to impress them with a tasting of Bordeaux’s by year? (Good luck with that one.) Knowing this will help you pick what wine to drink. Now, you can ask them to bring wine, or buy it all yourself, but that’s up to you. Just make sure they know what to bring. Last time I did various white wines; we each picked one and tried to see if we could guess what it was. Fun fact: We could not.

Execution

You already decided whether or not you’re buying all the wine or not. If you are, better go get some! You also absolutely need to make sure you have enough wine glasses. Guys, this is the easiest kind of gathering to throw. You’re not cooking or decorating anything. It would just be silly to your good wine in plastic cups to avoid cleaning a few glasses. Everything else is going to go straight in the garbage, so get out the good dishware.

Next, you’re going to want some kind of a palate cleanser (like oyster crackers), or even little bites to go with the wines. Again, this is something you can ask your guests to bring if you like. Sometimes if I get the wine, my sister will get cheese, or vice versa. If you don’t already have a wine guide, a quick Google search will tell you what to pair with which wine. Set it out nice and pretty, and then cut a few pieces of printer paper in half for tasting notes. If you want to get really fancy, you can print out your tasting notes instead. That’s it! How easy is that?

Wine Tasting Example

White wines

Need: 3 bottles of wine (1 chardonnay, 1 sauvignon blanc, 1 pinot grigio)
Cheese Pairings: Brie & chardonnay; mozzarella & sauvignon blanc; ricotta & pinot grigio
Tasting notes: You’ll definitely want to list what type of wine it is, along with taste. Some other ideas are aroma/smell, taste, finish, appearance, and points. I’m attaching a downloadable version of my own super simple notes here. Notes for Wine
Things to write on tasting notes if you are not into wine but want to feel like you are: fruity, leafy, earthy, oaky, buttery. Or, my personal favorite, bramble. A sommelier once told me to call all wines brambley and everyone will be confused enough to agree.

I really do hope you can enjoy a little tasting party like this. There’s not a lot of effort to it, but you know what? Making wine the focal point of the event honestly does make it seem like it’s a high class affair. I don’t know why that is – I guess rich people have succeeded in their trickery of getting us to believe whatever they want to tell us. We’ll talk about beer tastings at some other time; strangely enough, I do not throw those the same way. If you don’t drink at all, I do apologize! I’m sure you could come with an alternate; apple cider maybe? That actually sounds kind of fun, it is a little chilly right now. Maybe next time…

 

 

 

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Achieving Christmas Baking Success

Friends, if you don’t own any Post-Its, you better run out and get some if you plan on doing some Christmas baking. I don’t know about you, but I like having all the cookies and breads and fudge and whatnot when it’s Christmas season. I spread them to my neighbors and friends, so whether I actually host anyone or not it feels worth it. But, I have learned an important lesson since I had a kid – it has to be planned out. I can’t take fifty trips to the grocery store. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to get to the oven when the timer goes off if my husband isn’t home. The mess is going to be, in a word, ginormous. So, if you are as obviously insane as I am, here’s my tips to getting your baking done:

Be organized.

Wondering what Post-Its have to do with baking? Well, after I pick what I want to make, I put a Post-It with a recipe name on a Tupperware container. When I get a chance, I start taking out my dry ingredients and measuring them for the appropriate Tupperware. If I’m lucky, I can get the amount of flour I need for each recipe in just one sitting, but if not, it doesn’t matter because I’m not cooking yet. Last year I did my ingredient sorting three days before I started baking, but you could take longer. The best part is you’ll know if you’re short on anything ahead of time and only need one trip to the store for forgotten items. It doesn’t work quite as well for wet ingredients, but it’s easier to eyeball vanilla and eggs than a bag of flour.

Don’t be difficult.

I mean, don’t pick things above your cooking ability! If you’re still at “easy,” then please, do not pick this particular extravaganza to up your game. It will only stress you out more.  Baking 5,000 cookies is stressful enough, isn’t it? Actually, even if you are a professional baker, would you really want to make a whole bunch of “difficult” recipes? I doubt it. Maybe one or two, but who has time for more? I like making multiple recipes because I’m insane (2 cookies, 2 fudge or brownie, and 1 bread), but there’s also the possibility of simply making a ton of one or two specific recipes. That’s actually my plan this year – I’m in a tiny kitchen at the moment, and I don’t know a lot of people here anyway, so I think it’s a good choice.

I also don’t recommend anything with frosting, unless you’re a pro. It’s just too time-consuming, so I definitely won’t add that to my list. I know there are so many options for frosting; here’s alternatives, here’s tips, here’s blah blah blah. There are so many recipes for cookies and sweets without frosting out in the world, I don’t know why a time-crunched person like myself would bother. If you’re looking for a new cookie, you can try my Lazy Cookies ‘N Cream Cookies. Yeah, the name is about as long as the recipe.

Don’t worry!

So what if it takes you more than a day to get through your baking if you big? It might even take you another day or two to distribute the goods. Some of you perfectionists will worry about staleness, but how many recipients will eat everything at once? They will probably blame any staleness on themselves. How great is that? They’ll also be grateful that you thought of them, unless they know you are a terrible baker, in which case you obviously hate them. Kidding! I know it seems odd to let your recipients take the blame, but once you’ve finished, you have enough to deal with other than worrying. Look at your kitchen. It’s a disaster. You can clean that instead of thinking about the perfection -or lack thereof- of your baking. Of course, this is one caveat to this. Don’t serve stale baking at a party.

Don’t eat all your Christmas Baking!

Seriously, isn’t this the hardest one to follow? Now get out there and start baking!

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Fun and Easy Cookoffs and Mixology Competitions

One of my favorite hosting tasks is cookoffs or mixology competitions. You know why, right? Because I don’t have to do all the work. I only have to provide a space and my own little entries. Even the cleaning takes care of itself, since most guests will bring their own dishes or something disposable. It’s also a fun way to get rid of things you have too much of. For example, the whiskey my husband drinks kept trying to push honey whiskey on us by attaching mini-liquor bottles to what we wanted. We built up quite the collection. What we were going to do with that? Drink it? No. We were going to have a competition instead. Here’s how to do it:

Pick an Easy Theme

Don’t ask your guests to do anything too specific unless you know they have all the ingredients, or you’re going to purchase everything for them. If someone invites me to an eggroll cook-off, I might go, or I might just order Asian and watch TV on my couch. Of course, if you’re only going to invite professional chefs, go ahead and call for that Top Chef Quickfire challenge game. Who am I to stop you? I’ve held appetizer competitions, chili cook-offs, and martini and hors do’oerves pairings to name a few themes. Those are both pretty broad. Even your non-cooking friends can probably whip up a dip or something.

Keep the Guest List Manageable

I keep these really small. I don’t have a lot of time to make up fancy invitations, figure out which group of friends would be best for this, or figure out some miraculous time when none of my intended guests have anything planned. This way I can do it on the fly. Now, if you and your friends are childless, mostly childless, and/or all work Mon-Fri, 9-5, that’s a different situation. In that case, you could easily turn this into a big shindig. But what I really like about keeping it small is if I see an opening one weekend, I can easily dial up a friend or two and act like I’m having a fancy theme party, when what I’m really having is a potluck.

Have the Right Equipment for Cook-offs or Mixology Competitions

What theme did you go with? Was it anything to do with mixed drinks? If so, you need the right bar equipment. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect your guests to bring pre-made food, but should they really be mixing a drink before they get to your house? Probably not, unless you like all your drinks served warm and/or watered down. My husband picked up this set when he was in a mixologist phase, and it hasn’t steered us wrong. It’s got everything your basic drink needs, plus it doesn’t take up too much room.

This should probably go without saying, but folks, also make sure your microwave is working if you want people to bring over precooked food. If you’re okay with being a little environmentally unfriendly, I’d also go ahead and get some paper plates and cups. It’s going to make cleanup so much easier. I do reuse mine for each entry, if that makes you environmentalists feel any better.

To Judge or Not to Judge?

I’m calling these cook-offs and mixology competitions, but I’ll be honest here – we don’t actually judge anything at my house. We say we’re going to, and we certainly all have our favorites, but no one is competitive enough to need to declare a winner. Scratch that. We’re all too competitive – it’s quite possible we’d battle to the death to win. This is all about fun! You know your guests better than I do. Designate a judge if you want, or just spend the day patting each other on the back for your creativity.

That’s about it. This is such an easy way to entertain! It’s almost like tricking people into believing you’re them a party, when really they’re doing just as much work as you are. This actually seems so easy, I feel like sharing a little recipe from my honey whiskey competition I mentioned at the beginning. Here’s the “winner” we selected – long after the party was over, of course, when I asked which one I should post. Thanks to my sister, the trained bartender, for concocting this one. It’s based on this amazing appetizer recipe we like, so feel free to serve with bacon!

Honey Whiskey Pear Drink

drink from mixology competitions

1 part pear liqueur
2 parts honey whiskey
2 parts Sprite or Club Soda
Thyme
Pepper

  1. Pour pear liqueur, honey whiskey, a sprig of thyme, and soda into shaker.
  2. Fill shaker with ice (3/4) of the way full, add top and strainer, shake.
  3. Pour drink through strainer to glass; add pepper to taste.
  4. Enjoy!