The Chick-Fil-A One App…Winning!

Anybody who knows me knows I love to win. I don’t care about winning an argument. I don’t care about getting my way. But if there’s a competition of some kind, I like to win. A friend of mine has a dog in an online photo competition? I vote as many times as I can. Another friend has a child trying to get votes for soccer player of the year? I’m sharing it and voting every chance I get…even when I wake up in the middle of the night. And I do it, because I want to win…or at the very least, I want someone I know to win.

I have always loved Chick-Fil-A. The first one I ever visited one was in Eastdale Mall in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1977. The mall had just opened, and I was 10 years old. One of the employees was outside the store, in the mall corridor, holding a tray full of tiny bite size pieces of a Chick-Fil-A chicken, so I took one…and I never looked back. I ate there every time I went to the mall, and that was pretty often. But back then, they didn’t have waffle fries. They had shoestring fries, and really…I liked those better, but when they changed them, it was OK…i got used to them. I think they changed them at about the same time I visited my first free-standing Chick-Fil-A on Windy Hill Road, in Marietta, Georgia, in 1990, but I could be wrong on the timing. That was the first place I had their waffle fries, and I didn’t love them, but I have developed a taste for them. They had yummy cole slaw then too. It has since been removed from their menu, but I tried their new mac and cheese last week, and it was pretty darn good. I’ll always miss the cole slaw, though.

And a couple of years ago, we got the Chick-Fil-A One app. Oh, it’s a total game changer. Download it to your phone and have it scanned every time you purchase food there…or better yet, load money into the app from your debit card, and you can even purchase food using the app. That’s where my winning comes in.

My goal is to have more Chick-Fil-A points than anybody else. OK, so I know I’m not really going to ever have the most Chick-Fil-A points. I have one child. We can only eat so much, and even if her friends are with us, there’s only so much they can all eat. But I’m giving it the old college try. I am the mom who refuses to part with any of my Chick-Fil-A points. I’m just letting them add up. My favorite Chick-Fil-A location was closed for a few months last year, because of a remodel, and that really cut into my points accumulation, but I have red status, meaning that I have accumulated enough points to get 12 points per purchase on the app…two points more than just a regular member.

And I really love sports season or parties, because if someone needs a volunteer to bring in a nugget tray, I’m your gal! Yes, I know…I’m spending lots of money to get those points, but it’s not like no one eats it. Every single time I’ve ever delivered a nugget tray to a team or group, no nugget has been left unturned. With a sports team, every nugget is usually gone within five to ten minutes…so it’s money well spent. Teens love Chick-Fil-A.

So without telling you how many points I have right now, I can tell you this: my plan is to accumulate enough points that our daughter can get free sandwiches all the way through college when she goes in three years. I’m still trying to figure out exactly how many that will be, and I have nowhere near enough points, but I’m on my way!

An added bonus? I don’t have to get out my credit or debit card every time I go through the drive thru! Before I had the app, I would hand them my card to pay, and then when they handed me back my card, I would get in a rush and just put it in the wrong pocket of my handbag or wallet, and the next time I wanted to use it, I would panic, thinking I had lost it. With the app, I just hold up my phone to pay, and they scan it right from there…no more fumbling for my debit or credit card, and no more panic later when I can’t find it.

But here’s more motivation for you to get enough points to become a red member on the Chick-Fil-A One app: when you reach red status, you get even more special stuff! Once you reach red status, you and five guests can get a “backstage tour” of the Chick-Fil-A home office in Atlanta…just give 30 days notice. And as if that’s not enough gratitude, you also get two free tickets to the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta! If you are a football fan who has never visited, it’s a must-see. I took my daughter a few years ago, even before I had the Chick-Fil-A One app, and we both loved it!

So yes, I have a problem…I like to win. And even though I know it’s costing me money every time I get those points, I know I am accumulating points in the process…and I’m on my way to free sandwiches for our daughter when she will need them most. She won’t have to feel guilty one bit about going to Chick-Fil-A when she’s in college, because it will be FREE!

Winning!

Thanks, Chick-Fil-A!

 

 

 

 

Lessons From The Florida Panhandle

The Florida Panhandle. It’s a place I know well. It is a place that is near and dear to my heart.

My daddy, his siblings, and all my first cousins grew up there. I was born there. My grandparents lived there. My daddy is buried there, and my mother’s ashes are there.

When I was five months old, my family moved to Brewton, Alabama, and I never lived in the Panhandle again, but we visited family there regularly. We also vacationed at the beaches along the gulf coast in the Panhandle. I learned a lot in the Panhandle.

This past week, I took my teenage daughter on a road trip through the panhandle. Neither of us had been there since 2007, and she had no recollection of that visit. I also showed her some places she had never been. She didn’t act particularly interested in all my stories, but maybe she will remember some.

Maybe she will remember my telling her about doodlebugs in the Panhandle. Nope, I’m not talking about VWs. I’m talking about antlions, insects whose larvae dig pits to capture prey. If you’re not familiar with them, this will be as confusing to you as it was to my daughter. But doodlebug pits look like tiny holes in the ground with a small crater around them. When my cousins and I were little, our Granddaddy showed us how to get doodlebugs to come out of what we thought were their homes. He told us to put a tiny stick down into the hole and stir it while saying, “Doodlebug, doodlebug, come out and get a cup of coffee. Doodlebug, doodlebug, your house is on fire.” After a few stirs and a few chants, the doodlebug would emerge! We thought it was because of our chanting, but as an adult, I know it was because of the stirring. I think Granddaddy was just giving us something to do, so we wouldn’t bother people, but we spent hours bothering doodlebugs…and we had fun and made memories!

I also learned about biddies in the Panhandle. Nope…not gossiping old ladies or hot girls (urban slang). Biddies…young chickens. I must have been about six or seven the first time I heard young chickens called “biddies” by my cousin, Patti. I think we were visiting her house when she suggested we go see the biddies. I followed her to someone’s barn…I have no idea who it belonged to. I don’t remember much about the biddies, but I do remember there were cats there…and hay. I also know my mother must not have known where we were. She would have been worried about snakes. I don’t think we stayed long, but I learned that some folks call young chickens “biddies.”

When my Granddaddy died, a family friend took some of the cousins to get a milkshake at cousin Patti’s other grandparents’ store in Sneads while the grownups talked. They didn’t have a chocolate shake, so I ordered a strawberry shake. I feel sure the folks at Patti’s grandparents’ store knew how to make good milkshakes, but on that day, I learned I don’t like strawberry milkshakes.

On the beach in Panama City Beach one year, when I was a teenager, I learned that tar sometimes washes up with the tide. There had been an oil spill in the Caribbean, and the jetstream pushed a lot of the tar into the Gulf of Mexico. I knew nothing about it, until I was walking the beach near the Fontainebleau Terrace and got some tar on my white sneakers. Had to throw those away…tar doesn’t just wash out easily.

Also in Panama City Beach, at Miracle Strip Amusement Park, I learned a Scrambler amusement park ride is a lot more fun when it’s enclosed in a giant building shaped like an abominable snowman with loud music playing and mirrors on the walls…and bright lights flashing. I also saw a chicken play a piano at Miracle Strip and rode the Starliner roller coaster.

Miracle_Strip_Amusement_Park

Miracle Strip Amusement Park in 60s or early 70s

And everywhere in the Panhandle, I learned that gnats will congregate around your eyes, your nose, and any cuts or scrapes you have. Natural springs are naturally cold (Blue Springs Recreational Area). And more info here. I learned that Spanish moss is beautiful, even though it’s not a moss at all…it’s a flowering plant. I learned about stalactites and stalagmites at Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna. In Quincy, I learned about a banker who loaned folks money to buy Coca Cola stock….eventually making them millionaires. Many years later, I became friends with that banker’s great granddaughters purely by accident, after meeting one of them at a party in Charlotte! From my daddy and his siblings, I learned what life was like in the rural Panhandle after the Great Depression. I learned about peach trees right outside the door whose limbs were used as switches. I learned about the one room schoolhouse in Bascom and Faye Dunaway’s being a student there. Yes, that Faye Dunaway…of Bonnie and Clyde fame. I listened to speculation about how a community called Two Egg got its name, and I ate as much pound cake as I could when I visited a great aunt in Two Egg. In my grandmother’s house, I learned what an antique sewing machine looked like, and I heard stories about my grandmother and aunt playing organ and piano at folks’ weddings and funerals…oh, one funeral story I’ll have to share another time. At the beaches in the panhandle, I learned how much fun it is to bunk with all your cousins in one house on vacation. And I used my first crosswalk button to cross the beach road in Mexico Beach when I was six…it was malfunctioning and shocked the stew out of me. On that same trip, I learned about wading out into a bay to catch scallops on the same trip. And I learned that fireworks are pretty on the beach.

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Blue Springs Recreational Area and Park, Marianna, Florida

The coastal Panhandle looks different now. There are planned communities and high rise condos where beach houses and roadside motels used to be. The original Miracle Strip Amusement Park is long gone from Panama City Beach, but there is a new Miracle Strip located near Pier Park on the beach road. Shipwreck Island waterpark and Capt. Anderson’s Restaurant are still there, and even the old Fontainebleau Terrace is still standing…it was a beauty in its heyday.

A little farther north, along Highway 90 in Jackson County, one big difference is that most motel/hotel accommodations either closed or moved over to I-10 after it was completed through the area. Well, that and the Hurricane Michael damage that is everywhere from Panama City to Jackson County…lots of devastation. In Marianna, lots of the downtown businesses were damaged and/or destroyed. I have lots of memories there…getting my first Florida State University sweatshirt at Daffin’s, seeing the RCA dog on top of one downtown business, and watching Mary Poppins in the old movie theatre there. The theatre has been gone for a long time, but I remember. Say a prayer for the folks who are still affected by that terrible storm. Lots of people are still suffering, including my aunt, whose house in Panama City was badly damaged by the storm.

The Panhandle taught me a lot. All this, and I didn’t even mention Tallahassee, Destin, and other places yet! Whew! I’ll share stuff about those places soon. Big lessons from all over the Panhandle. Mostly, it taught me my aunts, uncles, and cousins are keepers. Maybe we need to plan another beach vacation for the whole bunch!

I hope my daughter will remember some of it…

***Some friends asked me about the planned communities along the Gulf Coast. You can find lots of rental information here.

 

 

 

 

 

*****

Squash It

I’m no chef. I can barely even call myself a cook.

But I love reading Hungry Girl cookbooks and magazines, and I love the website, http://www.hungrygirl.com. I’ve written about the site before. I’ve learned a lot about ways to swap high-calorie/high-carb foods for lower calorie foods over the years, and one of my favorite swaps is veggie noodles.

I was slow to buy into veggie noodles. I love my pasta.

But recently, I started to question whether it’s the pasta I like or the stuff that goes with it. Red sauce? I love it. Tomatoes? I love them. Bolognese? Yes, please! I even like Alfredo sauce, but it’s not my favorite.

So I started experimenting with some of Hungry Girl’s veggie noodle ideas. For months, I ate zucchini noodles. I didn’t buy them in the grocery store. I actually purchased the zucchini and brought it home to make my own noodles. I bought a handheld veggie spiral slicer, and I stayed busy making my own zucchini noodles. The first few times I ate them, I was so proud, and I liked them…but that changed. For some reason, the zucchini noodles just didn’t do it for me. I gave up.

Then a few weeks ago, after reading some info on Hungry Girl about spaghetti squash, I went back to the grocery store and picked up a couple of spaghetti squash. I will openly admit that I had no idea what a spaghetti squash looked like. I actually had to read the labels on the produce shelves, but I found them. They look like the gourds they are. I grabbed two and brought them home. Following instructions I found online, I cut them, cleaned them, brushed on a little olive oil and sea salt, and baked them, face down, in the oven. After I took them out of the oven and scraped the “spaghetti” out of them, I knew I had found my true veggie spaghetti love.

The difference in the zucchini and the spaghetti squash? The spaghetti squash absorbs the flavor of its pairing. The zucchini…not so much. There’s something about the texture of the zucchini that prevents it from absorbing the other flavors, but the spaghetti squash texture is perfect. It absorbs the flavor of tomatoes, onions, Alfredo sauce, red sauce, garlic…whatever I put with it! In fact, the texture of it is so perfect that I have actually fooled my teenager with it. I served it to her once with chicken, butter and sea salt, and she didn’t even realize she was eating squash instead of traditional pasta.

That is a win!

After cooking it in the oven several times, I tried cooking it in my Instant Pot. I got the directions from the Hungry Girl website here. Even before trying it, I knew it would be a little lower in calories, simply because it eliminates the need for the olive oil. I wondered how that would affect the flavor. But I wasn’t disappointed! I was thrilled! The Instant Pot method was super easy and super tasty! Hungry Girl wins again!

So now I need to get creative with the spaghetti squash. I’ve prepared it with marinara sauce, Alfredo sauce, Rotel tomatoes, and even chicken/butter. Taking a look at the Hungry Girl site, I see lots of different recipes I need to add to my repertoire. Spaghetti Squash Shrimp Scampi? Yes, please! Spaghetti Squash a la Vodka? Bring it on! To see them all, click here.

Try cooking some of them without telling your family, and see what kind of reaction you get! My super-picky teenager didn’t even turn her nose up at it!

 

 

Friend Chicken

Yep…you read it right, “Friend chicken.” With an n.

I didn’t coin the phrase, but I use it all the time now.

Anybody who grew up in the South knows we deal with everything…funerals, new babies, illness, new neighbors…by sharing food. Nothing makes us feel good like sharing food. Somebody has a baby? We set up a meal schedule for their friends to take them dinners for a few weeks. Somebody loses a family member? Same thing. Surgery? You guessed it…meals. In fact, one of my mother’s friends has a daughter who discovered the joy of taking food to someone who needed it. After she had delivered the meal, she called her mother and said, “Wow! That was awesome! I can’t wait to get to do it again!” Unfortunately, in her case, she was taking food because of a death in the family, and she realized what she had said, correcting it to, “I can’t wait for somebody to have a baby!”

Another friend, Joe, had a father who was very patient with his wife (Joe’s mom). They lived in a small town in Alabama, and the dad was very well-liked by people (including the widows) in the community. The mom would often joke that if something happened to her first, the widows of the community were going to “casserole him to death.”

Friends have delivered food to us on many occasions: birth of a baby, loss of my dad, my husband’s brain surgery, the loss of my mother…and I’m sure I’m missing some. And every time, I am grateful.

And I’ve been “fooding people up” for years. To me, nothing says “I care about you” like a good meal. And here’s where friend chicken comes in…

Several years ago, I met a woman from Memphis when I was visiting Los Angeles. She told me she had a friend in Charlotte and asked if I knew her. I told her I did not know her, but I knew we had a mutual friend. The Memphis woman and I became Facebook friends soon thereafter, and I noticed that often, her friend in Charlotte and I would comment on the same posts on her page, so I “friended” her friend. She didn’t accept my request immediately, instead sending me a message asking how we knew each other. I explained the connection, and we became Facebook friends too!

In fact, after becoming her Facebook friend, my Facebook feed became infinitely more fun and interesting! I follow her worldwide travels with fascination and read her beautifully woven stories, often laughing and crying along the way. She is a remarkable woman…a physician, a world traveler, a mother, a wife, a friend to the homeless, and lucky for me, an incredible storyteller.

And then one day, the Facebook friend in Charlotte posted that her husband was having surgery. Being from the south, I did what I do…I offered to take them a meal, and she graciously accepted! I set it up for a Wednesday, because there is a place near my house that has the world’s greatest fried chicken every Wednesday night. I knew I could cook something for them, but since I knew she was from Kentucky and her husband is from Alabama, they were likely to enjoy the fried chicken more than anything I could prepare.

Wednesday came, and it was pouring down rain. Her husband had gone home from the hospital that morning. She texted me, telling me not to get out in the rain, but I would have none of that. I lived in Mobile, Alabama, for years, where it rains all the time. I wasn’t going to let a little rain stop me. I picked up the chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, mac and cheese, and biscuits, and I drove to her house. When I arrived, she greeted me warmly on her beautiful front porch, and I helped her carry the food into her kitchen. It was our first face-to-face meeting, but we felt like old friends because of Facebook. We chatted a few minutes, but I knew they didn’t need company after coming home from the hospital, so I left.

Soon thereafter, I received a message from her thanking me for the “friend chicken,” a typo, but an accurate description, nonetheless.

Now, whenever I opt to get takeout from that particular place for someone who has had surgery, or a baby, or is dealing with a death in the family, I tell them I will be bringing them “friend chicken.” Because really…what better way to say “we are friends” than with some good old, homestyle comfort food?!?!

So, I made a friend in Charlotte through a friend in Memphis, whom I met in LA…and I’m so glad I did! I learn a lot from her Facebook posts, but she also coined the term, “friend chicken.”

There are lots of good places in Charlotte to get good fried chicken (or “friend chicken”). Here are a few:

Price’s Chicken Coop, website here.

Mert’s Heart and Soul, website here.

King’s Kitchen, website here.

South 21 Jr, website here.

Publix, any location.

My favorite places for fast food fried chicken are Bojangles’, Popeye’s, and Hart’s Fried Chicken in Mobile, Alabama.