Healthier Options for Your Super Bowl Party

Hosting a Super Bowl Party?

It’s that time of year! College football (my favorite) is over, and there are just a couple more weeks of NFL games…division championships and the Super Bowl on February 2, Groundhog Day. This year, it’s Super Bowl LIV…that’s 54 for those of you who can’t read Roman numerals. Plus, it looks kind of cool that it’s LIV…makes me think of LIVE! I’m probably the only one thinking that, so I’ll move on.

Once the Super Bowl is over, we have to wait months for football to start up again, so let’s have a party!

I remember lots of past Super Bowls. The earliest one I remember is Super Bowl XII, between the Dallas Cowboys with Roger Staubach playing quarterback and Tom Landry coaching, and the Denver Broncos and their “Orange Crush” defense. I had likely watched other Super Bowls, because my parents were big sports fans, but that’s the first one I remember…maybe because it was the first one played in prime time? And boy, was it hyped! It was also the first one played in a domed stadium, the Louisiana Superdome, and the Cowboys won 27-12. I remember others too, and I wish I remembered Super Bowl X, in which Kenny Stabler, at quarterback, led the Oakland Raiders to victory over the Minnesota Vikings, but I don’t remember it. I remember Super Bowl XXXVIII for the wrong reason: Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. I remember it, because we were at a friend’s house who had previously played for the Carolina Panthers, and the Panthers were playing the Patriots. I had a 3-month-old baby, and I was tired, but I wanted to go, so I took the baby with me. I took the baby home right after the wardrobe malfunction, but that night lives on in my brain.

So this year, we don’t know yet who will be playing, but we can at least start planning our menus for parties! Since it’s just two weeks ago, I need to wrap my brain around a few recipes for the big day. I don’t go all crazy with a gigantic spread, but I want to have a few tasty snacks. Using Hungry Girl as my guide, here are a few I plan to use:

Buffalo Chicken Chili. Sure, I could make regular old chili, and I’m sure most folks would think it’s great, but why not change it up a bit? You can make Buffalo Chicken Chili in your slow cooker, and will be gobbled up by all your guests. It takes two things sports fans love, chili and Buffalo chicken, and mixes them together for a unique flavored chili that’s super easy to make. You can see the recipe here.BuffChili1_web

Cheeseburger Meatloaf. Not gonna lie…anything with “cheeseburger” in the title sounds good to me, and this is no exception. Cheeseburger Meatloaf? Yes, please! And have no fear…just because these are better for you than a normal fatty cheeseburger, they’re still delicious! I’ve made these several times, and the flavor is incredible. Plus, they are made in muffin pans, so the portion sizes are perfect. In fact, you can eat two of these and still stay under 200 calories! Mmm mmm good! Every man at the party will thank you for these hearty, flavorful treats. See the recipe for Cheeseburger Meatloaf here. Hungry Girl has other great cheeseburger-y recipes too. Maybe you’d like to make the Layered Cheeseburger Dip (recipe here)? Or serve the Air Fryer Cheeseburger Egg Rolls (recipe here)?retina_hungry-girl-cheeseburger-mini-meatloaves-20170220-1619-32204-3223-2

Veggie Chips. Nope, not the packaged ones you buy in the store. Hungry Girl has some great recipes for veggie chips made in your air fryer! I love the Air Fried Ranch Zucchini Chips (recipe here), and even my daughter liked them. Trust me, she’s a picky 16-yr-old; if she likes them, they are really good. Or maybe you love fried pickles at your favorite sports bar. Make a healthier version of them, Faux Fried Pickle Chips, in your air fryer with this great recipe from Hungry Girl (click here)! If you don’t have an air fryer, you need one. I just moved into the 21st century myself and purchased one…greatest invention ever!

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Faux Fried Pickle Chips

Healthier Super Bowl Spreads. Everybody knows that for a Super Bowl Party, you need to have dips, and Hungry Girl doesn’t disappoint in this category. I’ve made several of the recipes on the site, and one of my personal favorites is in her book, Hungry Girl Clean & Hungry Obsessed. It’s called the For the Win Spinach Artichoke Dip, and the flavors are fabulous. You can purchase the book at Amazon here. In the same book, she has the Ultimate Ate-Layer Dip, a healthier version of the seven layer dip we all know and love. I highly recommend the book, and you can still order it in time to make the recipes for Super Bowl. On the website, though, she has Turkey-rific Taco Dip, a great mixture of flavors (see here), and Buff Chick Hot Wing Dip, which has been a big hit when I’ve served it. See the recipe here.

 

 

Pitcher Cocktails. I find it’s easier to make cocktails by the pitcher to save myself running back and forth to the bar. Hungry Girl has some great options for that too! The Sassy n Spiked Pink Lemonade Pitcher is a great choice…who doesn’t like spiked lemonade? See the recipe here. And I also love the Sparkling Sangria…also made in a pitcher. See the recipe here.

 

And don’t forget, to keep it fun but healthier, you can always serve veggies for dipping instead of chips. See in photos above that Hungry Girl has carrots, celery, and bell peppers for dipping.

Happy Super Bowl! And as Hungry Girl would say, “Chew the right thing!”

***All photos courtesy of Hungry-Girl.com. To sign up for daily emails from Hungry Girl, click hereOn the pull-down menu asking where you heard about Hungry Girl, click HG Ambassador, and enter my name (Kelly Mattei). Thank you!***

Hungry Girl Breakfast Ideas

Y’all know I’ve loved Hungry Girl for a long time, and I really love the breakfast recipes, because it can be difficult to get creative with breakfast and keep it on the healthier side at the same time. Who wants the same old thing every day? So, if you’re ready to change things up a bit in 2020 while sticking to your resolutions for the new year, read on. I’m going to tell you about some of my favorite recipes and provide links, so you can make breakfast a little more exciting at your house too. They’re great for when you have houseguests too! They’ll think you’re the most creative host ever!

Blueberry Muffin Overnight Oats. In a hurry every morning and think you don’t have time to worry about changing things up? Well, you do. Hungry Girl offers lots of recipes for overnight oats, but my personal favorite is the recipe for Blueberry Muffin Overnight Oats. It’s easy to make, and it doesn’t leave you feeling flat an hour later like waffles and pancakes do. And these have way more nutritional value than a muffin. My daddy would have said overnight oats “stick to your ribs.” With just nine ingredients, many of which you always have in your cupboard, it’s easy to throw this together the night before and stick it in the refrigerator. On your way out the next morning, just grab it and go! I love blueberries, but I also love that these oats have a little almond/cinnamon flavor. You’ll love it, and your picky-eater kids might even like it too! My picky teen loves it. See the recipe here. And see the recipes for other overnight oats here.

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Blueberry Muffin Overnight Oats…photo courtesy of hungry-girl.com

 

Breakfast Pizza Mexicali. Wanna spice up your mornings? The Hungry Girl Breakfast Pizza Mexicali will do it! It’s easy, with a prep time of just five minutes, and the cook time is only ten minutes! I prefer this one on weekends, when I have time to sit down and enjoy it. It’s a big hit with guests who like spicier foods too. I’ve had some who even added a little hot sauce! With just four ingredients (plus one optional garnish), it’s super easy to make, and it just makes me happy! See the recipe here.

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Breakfast Mexicali Pizza…photo courtesy of hungry-girl.com

Cinnamon Maple French Toast in a Mug. Sounds unhealthy, I know, but stick with me. Because this recipe is totally portion-controlled, it’s easy to stick to a lower calorie count…and no joke, it’s as delicious as it is easy. It’s basically made by adding the listed ingredients to a mug before adding the pieces of bread…then stirring and heating before garnishing. Make it for the kids, and they will think it’s a treat. Make it for yourself, and well, you’ll think it’s a treat too! If you like French Toast, this is an easy way to have it without all the calories, as each serving has just 145 calories! See the recipe here.

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Cinnamon Maple French Toast in a Mug…photo courtesy of hungry-girl.com

Healthy Superfood Breakfasts. If you want to supercharge yourself with some healthy superfood breakfast choices, these two options are easy, delicious, and super healthy! I’m listing them together, because Hungry Girl lists them together. One is the Pumpkin Pie Overnight Flax Oat Surprise, and the other is the Apple Berry Yogurt Bowl. You might think those sound like obvious choices, but Hungry Girl adds extra flavor, so you will want to make these again and again. The Pumpkin Pie Overnight Flax Oat Surprise is easy to put together and chill overnight, so you can grab and go in the morning. In fact, it’s so good, I might have it again tomorrow morning. And the Apple Berry Yogurt Bowl, while simple, is crunchy, juicy, healthy, and delicious…all in one bowl. See the recipes here.

Try a few of these recipes and let me know what you think. And while you’re at it, take a moment to sign up for Hungry Girl emails  here. And after you put in your email address, where it asks how you heard about Hungry Girl, click “Hungry Girl Ambassador,” and then enter my name, Kelly Mattei. I’d love for them to know you’re learning more about them from me!

***For more great Hungry Girl breakfast recipes, click here.***

 

Complimentary Letters

How many times have you called a business and complained about something that happened while you were there? How many times have you emailed an online retailer to complain about the quality of a product or the slow shipping time? How many times have you complained about bad food at a restaurant? How many times have you complained about bad service on an airplane? How many times have you complained to an administrator at your child’s school about a teacher, an incident, or just something you felt was substandard?

Now…stop and think about how many times you have written an email or letter to compliment someone for offering outstanding service. How many times have you told the manager of a restaurant that your server did an excellent job? How many times have you told administrators at your child’s school they are doing an outstanding job or that a teacher is making a difference in your child’s education?

It’s easy to get into a habit of complaining. It’s easy to call and say your child is being treated unfairly at school. It’s easy to tell an airline how mad you are that your flight didn’t go as planned. It’s easy to send your food back in a restaurant. Complaining is easy.

Let’s try an experiment for the month of December.

Starting now, let’s make the last month of this year…this decade, even…the most positive month we can make it. Sure bad things are going to happen, but unless they’re really going to affect someone’s life long term, let’s try to see the sunny side of things. Let’s try to give recognition to the people who make a difference in a positive way. I know what you’re thinking…”Who would that be?!?” A lot of people are likely making a positive difference in your life every single day. I believe in writing complimentary letters or emails when someone offers me exemplary service, and I do it regularly. My family makes fun of me, in fact, for always writing complimentary letters, but I always remember that people are quick to tell someone when they’re angry, but not so quick to tell someone when they’re happy.

  • The barista at your local coffee shop who starts making your coffee when she sees you drive up every morning? She’s helping you start your day right…with caffeine…and without having to talk before you’ve had it!
  • The teacher who smiles and waves as you drop off your child at school in the morning? He got up extra early to work carpool duty, and he’s doing it with a smile, so your child will see a smiling face when he arrives.
  • The TSA agent at the airport who is at the end of her shift but still smiles and tells you she likes your shoes? She could just herd you through like cattle, but she makes a conscious choice to be friendly with everyone who goes through security.
  • The food truck employee who helps you pick up all the belongings that fell out of your handbag and onto the sidewalk? He could have looked the other way.
  • The administrator at school who decides to close the school because inclement weather is expected? And maybe the weather never arrives? That administrator was looking out for the welfare of your child and others based on the information he had.
  • The waiter at your favorite restaurant who greets like an old friend when you arrive? And then brings your favorite drink before you order it? He could act like he has never seen you before and give you standard service, but he chooses to go above and beyond.
  • The employee at the dry cleaner who helps you carry your dry cleaning to you car, because you have twenty items, and they’re heavy? He could have let you struggle with it all.
  • The teacher who stays late at school to help your child who has fallen behind in math? She has kids of her own who will need her help when she finally gets home.
  • The airline reservations agent who works extra hard to find you a seat on a good flight after your flight cancelled? She could have taken one look and decided you would have to leave the next day. Instead, she got creative and found a way to get you home that day.
  • The nurse who is caring for your terminally ill mother, but takes time to check on your emotional well being? She could be uncaring. She could do what’s required of her and nothing more, but she knows it’s hard for you.
  • The airline employee who pushed your grandmother’s wheelchair from the airplane to the curb when she came to visit? And they seemed like old friends by the time they got to the curb? He could have pushed her in silence, but he chose to engage her in conversation instead…and she had a big smile on her face, even though you were a few minutes late picking her up.
  • The grocery store employee who walks you to the item you’re looking for instead of giving vague directions to the aisle? She could have just said “aisle 3” without even making eye contact, but she dropped what she was doing and walked with you to the item.
  • The hotel employee who, upon finding out your child has the flu, sends up a complimentary bowl of chicken soup through room service? And some hot tea for you? He wanted you to be comfortable and went above and beyond to make it happen.
  • The hotel employee who has your favorite bottle of champagne waiting in your room when you arrive? She’s making you feel special.
  • The Walmart greeter who has been greeting you for years with a big smile every single time.

For the month of December, take notice of all the folks who make your day a little brighter…and write those complimentary letters or emails. Talk to their managers. Tell the administrator you think she’s a good leader. And if you’re in a situation that calls for tipping, tip extra to those who make you feel special while telling them you appreciate their kindness and outstanding service. You will likely make their day, and you’ll feel a lot better too!

Maybe a month of positivity will make it a habit! 

 

 

My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2019: Teens/Young Adults

Ahhh….youth. Remember trying to have a private phone call when you were a teenager? Stretching the cord connecting the handset to the wall phone as faaaaaaaar as it would stretch out of earshot of your parents? And then, I had to hope my brother didn’t pick up on the extension. When I was in college, we were excited to get call waiting! And we had to answer the phone without knowing who was calling, because, well…no Caller ID. Now, everyone plans their lives on their smart phones, including me, but I’m not as technologically advanced as my 16-yr-old. Heck, I knew that when she was two or three and could operate a DVD player way better than I could! But sometimes, those very same technologically advanced teenagers and young adults still like good, old-fashioned comfort in the form of warm blankets and slippers. Sometimes, they actually want to interact over an old-fashioned game. Below, I’ve shared what I think could be some big hits with the teen and college set this holiday season! But be forewarned…I’m listing a lot of items, so settle in and make your list now!

Cornhole Game. Teens and young adults love to play cornhole. And I’m just glad they want to do something besides stare at their phones or play video games. Cornhole games come in a wide range of prices, starting at about $30 on Amazon, but the highest rated ones are between $100 and $130. Search for them here. And Uncommon Goods offers a tabletop version for $48. Could be a lot of fun in a dorm room! See it here.27131_1_640px

Bluetooth speakers. Whether they’re waterproof or decorative, bluetooth speakers are here to stay. And for good reason. Teens and young adults love music and want to share their playlists with the world! If they’re looking for a great, quality speaker to use out by the pool, the JBL Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker could be the perfect gift. Get it for $119 from Amazon here. If it’s more important to have a speaker that’s cute, the Flower Pot speaker from dormify might be the best option. Get it for $19 here.

Lighting. And since we are talking about dormify.com, they have lots of special lighting (and other products) for teen rooms and dorm rooms. Some favorites I have actually seen in some friends’ kids rooms are the Clip String Lights ($14) and lots of different versions of fun neon lighting. Check them all out at dormify.com here.

Big O Clear Bag. I listed this in my Women’s Accessories gifts last week, but it’s worth sharing again, because I think it will be a big hit with teens and young adults. Most sports arenas/stadiums don’t allow big handbags anymore. In fact, spectators need clear bags, and this Big O Clear Bag is perfect…it’s small…it’s clear…and it can hang from a wrist, so it’s virtually hands free! It’s great for concerts and sporting events…or just for going out to the local hotspot. Get it for $79.95 at Swoozie’s here.258340-500

Air Candy Inflatable Chair. There are lots of different versions of this chair, but my favorite is the faux fur version. Priced at $49.99, it’s a great gift for a young person’s bedroom. Get it at Tilly’s here. OrAmazon offers other versions of the Air Candy Inflatable Chair. See them here.  Or get a similar inflatable chair called the Illuminated BloChair from Poolcandy.com for the same price…and it lights up! Get it here.

 

RSVLTS shirts. I know lots of teens/young adults who like to be a little different. Don’t get me wrong…RSVLTS offers some “normal” flannel shirts/hoodies/tshirts, but their line of “cult” shirts is especially fun and will appeal to those teen boys and college students. They pay homage to The Sandlot, Saved By The Bell, and Ghostbusters...among other television shows, teams, personalities, and movies. Their t-shirts start at $27, and their cult shirts are around $60. See the website here.

 

Jackery Bolt 6000 iPhone Charger. If your teen or college student has an iPhone, I’ve read lots of places that this is the best portable charger on the market for the iPhone. According to some websites, it charges twice as fast as Apple accessories. Priced at $32.99 on Amazon, it’s good. One friend tells me she will never use another portable charger for her iPhone. Get it at Amazon here.51w3zK98wTL._SL1250_

Urban Decay Naked Honey Eyeshadow Palette. I don’t know what it is about Urban Decay Naked palettes, but teens and young adults love them. The latest sensation is the Naked Honey Eyeshadow Palette. Priced at $49, it will be a hit with any fashion-forward young person on your shopping list. In fact, there’s an entire Naked Honey line. Purchase it all at Ulta here.

Away luggage. This is something I discovered last year, and it should be on everyone’s list. Heck, if you wanted to give everyone in your family a piece of Away luggage, they would all be thrilled. Lots of these pieces are outfitted with ejectable batteries, so you always have a charger handy. And they’re ejectable, because if you decide to check your bag, you can’t leave the lithium battery attached…per FAA regulations. They’re durable. They are lightweight. And they’re attractive! The bags come in lots of colors, but I prefer to go with less popular color…less change of confusion at the luggage carousel. Prices for the suitcases start at $225, but there are other great accessories for less. Color shown below is limited edition color starting at $275 on the carry-on bag. Get yours here.IMG_5299

Comfortable Loungewear. Loungewear has come a long way since the sweatpants and Jamz shorts (remember those?) of the 1980s. These days, it’s a staple in the wardrobes of anyone under 30. And there are lots of options out there. Because there are so many options, it can be hard to decide. Well, here are a few I recommend: Ugg Scuff slipper for Men, $90 here. Ugg Scuffette slipper for women, $84.95 at Nordstrom here. MeUndies Lounge Pant for Women, $68 direct from MeUndies here. MeUndies Lounge Pant for Men, $68 direct from MeUndies here. Pajama Pants for men and women at Old Navy, starting at $15…I love getting PJ pants there, because they have so many options (flannel, cotton, etc) at such great prices…click here. The Original Comfy, a giant, sweatshirt/blanket all in one…I have one, and it’s glorious… $39.99, here.

 

Coma Inducer Duvet Cover. Several of my friends have told me about this duvet cover after buying it for their own teens. My daughter doesn’t even know about it yet, but she will come Christmas morning…and she will thank Santa! My friends tell me it is the softest, coziest, plushest duvet cover ever! I’m afraid my daughter might not ever want to get out of bed after she receives this cozy gift. About $85. You can purchase on Amazon here.14b7fbdf-37fe-42c7-b922-0cc3c59b9172_1.b58e929358fada28da5d488ac86cfc53

Polaroid Originals. Truly, my new favorite thing is something I totally stumbled upon in a store recently. I was browsing through gifts in Nordstrom and came across the Polaroid Originals Holiday Everything Set, which includes a OneStep 2 viewfinder camera and two packs of film, for $129. Purchase here. Anytime I see Polaroid anything, I get nostalgic, so I fell in love with the set. Then, as often happens, I started seeing ads on Facebook for different vintage Polaroid cameras. Sold! A little nostalgia goes a long way with me. And who doesn’t love a Polaroid picture?!?! And vintage?!?! Give it to me, baby! See the vintage and new Polaroid cameras here. Yes, I totally want the MTV Polaroid camera, because “I Want My MTV!” And I think teens and college students are fascinated by vintage items (and new too!). You have to check them out.Polaroid-600-Camera_MTV-Stereo-004982_angle_600x600

 

Mini Refrigerator. Last year, I was excited to encourage folks to purchase the small refrigerators for their teens/college students’ rooms, and those are great. We got one for our daughter, and it’s great for holding a bunch of small water bottles. But some students need a larger version. Frigidaire offers a larger version with a freezer and built-in bottle opener for $125. You can get it here.

 

 

Concert/plays/sporting event experience. Teens and college students love concerts, plays,  and sporting events. I’m a big proponent of gifting “experiences.” Sure, it’s fun to give them things they like or need, but lots of them get really excited about experience gifts. For example, my daughter loves music festivals, so she will get tickets to one of her favorites for Christmas this year. She’ll be thrilled. She would also love tickets to sporting events…this is always a no-brainer at our house.

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Card Games. Just like when I was in college in the 1980s, college students still love silly distractions from their studies…and they need them! When I was in college, my friend, Angela, and I played Yahtzee relentlessly. Now, they love games like Never Have I Ever (which we played without cards when I was in school) and Cards Against Humanity. You can find both games at Amazon and Target. Priced at $32.95 and $25.00 respectively, they’re great gifts with a low price tag.

Mason Jar Garden. This is a fun gift for just about anybody. Teens and students can add a little sunshine to their dorm rooms or bedrooms with this indoor garden that’s simple to set up. And it won’t break the budget at $20. Get it at Uncommon Goods here.42998_1_640px

Ridge Wallet. I know, men are funny about their wallets, but this one is different. It’s metal, and while it’s slimmer than most wallets, the company claims it holds the same stuff. Starting at $75 for the aluminum wallet, it’s a cool, different gift, and the wallet fits well into front pockets. Get the Ridge Wallet here.

Apple Airpods. If they don’t have AirPods yet, this is a pretty safe bet, but they’re pricey. My own daughter realized she would lose them, so she didn’t even ask me for them, but all her friends seem to have them. They’re cordless bluetooth earbuds, and this phone-dependent generation loves them for music while they study. There are different versions, and the latest AirPods Pro claims to have noise-cancelling technology, which one of my friends says actually works…for $249. Not in the market to spend that much? The regular AirPods with charging case starts at $159, and the AirPods with wireless charging case is $199. Get them all direct from Apple here.MWP22

Subscriptions. There are lots of different subscriptions you can give, and they will be appreciated, for sure. Here are a few that I know would be great for teens and young adults: Amazon Prime, because Amazon has almost everything…the subscription is $119, and they can order goods (extra charge) and watch various original series…at Amazon. FabFitFun for the young ladies on your list…a quarterly box of full-size beauty products, and its arrival is always highly anticipated…$200/yr. here. DripDrop…yes, a subscription for an Oral Rehydration System, because lots of college students need to rehydrate the morning after a night of fun, and high school students need to rehydrate after sports…am I right? Get it at Dripdrop.com for the amount you choose. And while you’re there, order the Drip Drop Camelback, which works perfectly with the product. I have one of my own. Cravebox, a regular shipment of lots of snacks to your hungry college student…Amazon offers subscriptions. Check it out here.fall-2019@2x

Eno Hammock. A great gift for almost anyone, a hammock is always welcomed by teens and young adults. It’s a great way to relax or even study outdoors. Eno has been on everyone’s radar for a long time. The single “nests” start at about $30 at REI, but you also need to get the suspension system, which can run an extra $20. See it all at REI here.507da8cf-24fe-4106-8e4d-698598e96b2a

Gift Cards. Teenagers and young adults love to dine out or grab a quick bit with friends. Gift cards might seem impersonal to you, but they love them. Here are some favorites: Chick-Fil-a, Taco Bell, Cheesecake Factory, Panera, California Pizza Kitchen, PF Chang’s, Dunkin Donuts…and the almighty Starbucks. You can purchase them in different dollar amounts at your local Target or on Amazon.41g1u7SJubL

Cash is king. And when in doubt, you can always rest assured that cash is king. Teenagers and young adults love cash, because it gives them the opportunity to purchase or do something they might otherwise feel guilty splurging on.photo-1515606378517-3451a4fa2e12

 

Most of all, enjoy the shopping experience! They will appreciate whatever you do, but if you get them something they love, they will appreciate it that much more. And for more ideas, see last year’s recommendations here. 

Daddy’s Birthday

“Tough row to hoe.” I’ve heard it my whole life. My daddy loved idioms, and “tough row to hoe” was one of his favorites, and sometimes he would say it as “long row to hoe.” Either way, it means someone is facing a difficult situation. If you’ve never been on a farm, you might not get it, but to “hoe a row” on a farm means you’re turning the soil in a row for planting.

Someone might say, “They have a long/tough row to hoe cleaning up the Bahamas after the recent hurricane.” You get it.

I thought of that just now, because I’m watching a news show, and one of the commenters said “tough ROAD to hoe.” That would have driven Daddy crazy. Who ever heard of using a hoe (the farm implement) on a ROAD?!? It is clear that commenter hasn’t ever spent any time on a farm.

Daddy’s birthday is today…his 81st birthday, but he is no longer with us. He died 2 1/2 weeks after his 68th birthday….pancreatic cancer. I’ve written about him before, and I’ve written about the misery we all experienced as he suffered. I don’t like to dwell on that, though. I like to think about the things Daddy taught me and the things we all learned from his illness.

For many years, on his birthday, I remembered the illness, the suffering, the sadness, but I am finally at the point that I remember happy, healthy times. I remember how he laughed…something I couldn’t recall for a long time. He did love to laugh, and he loved to tell stories. Most of all, he loved to tell stories that made us laugh.

And that’s one thing we learned from Daddy during his illness: laughter can cure a lot of ills. It can’t cure cancer, but it sure can make it easier. He said it. He wanted us to keep laughing with him as much as we could. We talked about old times. We laughed about old stories. My brother told his usual crazy stories. Having my then-two-year-old daughter and my brother’s then-eight-year-old twins around helped too. They gave him something to smile about. He loved those grandchildren. When we were growing up, he had to travel for work a lot, so he wasn’t able to enjoy us as much, but after he retired, he got to spend time with his grandchildren…and that brought him great joy.

Incredibly, we have a lot of happy memories from his illness. He turned 68 a few weeks before he died. His brothers and sister came over to Alabama from Florida to be with him on his birthday. He didn’t know they were coming, and when we awoke from a nap to find them standing in his room, he looked around and said, “Well, this is a motley crew!” We have laughed about that for years. In fact, I recently visited his oldest brother in a rehab facility (he broke a hip) in Florida, and I reminded him of that moment…and we laughed again.

But I have lots of happy memories of Daddy in general. When we were little and living in Brewton, Alabama, he would take us to the “candy store” on Saturdays. It was really a locally owned convenience store called Murphy’s. In fact, now that I think about it, we only called it the “candy store” on Saturdays. The rest of the time, we called it “Murphy’s.”  Sometimes, he would take us to fly kites in a nearby pasture. I remember holding the kite string one time, and of course, I accidentally let it go. I can still see Daddy chasing it and catching it! He took us fishing at the pond in our neighborhood and cleaned the fish we caught. Mother would fry it up in the kitchen afterward. He helped us climb high up in the sycamore tree in our backyard. He rode a tandem bicycle with us. We had a lot of fun.

And when I was an adult, he helped me whenever I needed it. Heartbreak? Call Daddy. Bad day at work? Call Daddy. Stressed out about a test in college? Call Daddy. Sometimes, I just needed to talk. Sometimes, I needed him to “rescue” me when I had a flat tire or a car accident. And whenever I visited my parents, he always gave me WAM (walking around money) as I left. It was usually $20 or $40, but I was happy to have it, and he was happy to give it to me. In truth, we were always fortunate to know Daddy was our safety net…emotionally and financially.

Just like Mother, Daddy loved the happy faces of sunflowers. Most of my Mammoth Sunflowers have already bloomed this year, but there is one that’s holding out. Incredibly, one of my Evening Sun Sunflowers started opening today…the first of that variety to open. I’m in New York, but I called my husband in Charlotte and asked him to walk outside and see if it was opening, and it is…on Daddy’s Birthday. It made my day when he sent the picture of the bloom just beginning to open.

We have lots of great memories of Daddy. His laughter was contagious, and his sense of humor was awesome. His strength was unrivaled, and his love for his family was great.  I hope God lets him get little glimpses of his beautiful grandchildren. He would be so proud of them. And I remind them all the time that Big Ken (as they called him) would want them to enjoy life…sure, save for a rainy day, but enjoy today.

Happy 81st Birthday to Daddy in Heaven.

 

*****

Would You Eat This?

I have had a great time trying my hand at gardening for the past two summers. My husband helps me get everything started, and then, I tend the garden and harvest everything. This year, we have some beautiful sunflowers (three different types!), some zinnias, some delicious tomatoes, two varieties of sweet corn, and huitlacoche (also known as corn smut, a fungus on corn ears). While I’m proud of the flowers, tomatoes, and corn, I am just as excited about the huitlacoche (pronounced wheetlacochay).

For those who don’t know, in the US, huitlacoche, or corn smut, is considered a blight on a corn crop. It’s ugly…no doubt about it. And it certainly doesn’t look like something you should eat. The first time I saw it, in fact, I felt a little sick just from looking at it. But for centuries in Mexico, dating back to the Aztec culture, they have eaten it. Basically, it is a fungus that invades the corn plant, and as a result, the corn kernels grow into bulbous galls, which contain the spores of the fungus. It renders the corn useless, but if you know how to cook huitlacoche, it can be a delicious mistake in your garden!

Last year, I found a little on one ear, but this year, I found a lot on two ears, so I harvested it Monday, and yesterday, I cooked it. After finding it, I texted a friend from Mexico, who sent me several recipes for a few different ways to cook huitlacoche, and I opted to make tacos using a combination of some recipes…using onions, garlic, chilies, corn and cheese. You can learn more about huitlacoche here.

I know what you’re thinking. Is huitlacoche safe to eat? Trust me when I say I did a lot of reading before I cooked it. I talked extensively with a friend from Mexico, who assured me I would not die from eating the corn truffles, as they are sometimes called.

For research, a friend went to lunch with me at a Charlotte restaurant called Bakersfield. See its website here. It’s located on the corner of East Boulevard and Kenilworth…right across from Berry Brook Farms. I wanted to see what it was supposed to look like and find out how it is supposed to taste before trying to cook it. After having a Huitlacoche Taco at Bakersfield, I was completely sold! I could hardly wait to make my own at home!

img_9869.jpg

Bakersfield’s Huitlacoche Taco

Many of my friends couldn’t believe I would cook it…and they really couldn’t believe I would eat it! They saw the “before” pictures of the corn smut and decided they would not be eating it. But I cooked it with some chilies, corn, garlic onions, a little oil, and some cheese, and I ate it!Huitlacoche tastes a little like smokey corn…like a mushroom and corn mixed, and cooked with the other ingredients in the recipe, the flavor is amazing. So I was excited to cook it myself! While I’m sure there are some who would not like it, I found it delicious…and I was so proud of myself for not only harvesting it, but also cooking something really good with it. That being said, the rest of my family would not eat it, but they aren’t very adventurous eaters anyway. I’m not sure they believed me when I told them it was safe. Maybe they thought they shouldn’t eat it in case I needed to go to the hospital. But their worries proved unfounded.

img_9996

Huitlacoche Taco at my home! Success!

And frankly, they missed out on a culinary adventure. I’m sure my friends from Mexico would know my version of huitlacoche tacos wasn’t perfect, but they’re impressed I tried. And I’ve impressed myself this time! My friend, Cesar, who grew up in Mexico City, said, “You’re the only American woman I know who can grow it!” Of course, it was purely accidental that I became a huitlacoche farmer, but I’m so glad I did!

If you would like to try huitlacoche but don’t want to do any corn farming, you can get huitlacoche tacos at Bakersfield.

Or maybe next year I will harvest my own huitlacoche again, and you can come over and help me cook them!

 

 

Eat Corn Fungus? You Bet!

I have had a great time trying my hand at gardening for the past two summers. My husband helps me get everything started, and then, I tend the garden and harvest everything. This year, we have some beautiful sunflowers (three different types!), some zinnias, some delicious tomatoes, two varieties of sweet corn, and huitlacoche (also known as corn smut, a fungus on corn ears). While I’m proud of the flowers, tomatoes, and corn, I am just as excited about the huitlacoche (pronounced wheetlacochay).

For those who don’t know, in the US, huitlacoche, or corn smut, is considered a blight on a corn crop. It’s ugly…no doubt about it. And it certainly doesn’t look like something you should eat. The first time I saw it, in fact, I felt a little sick just from looking at it. But for centuries in Mexico, dating back to the Aztec culture, they have eaten it. Basically, it is a fungus that invades the corn plant, and as a result, the corn kernels grow into bulbous galls, which contain the spores of the fungus. It renders the corn useless, but if you know how to cook huitlacoche, it can be a delicious mistake in your garden!

Last year, I found a little on one ear, but this year, I found a lot on two ears, so I harvested it Monday, and yesterday, I cooked it. After finding it, I texted a friend from Mexico, who sent me several recipes for a few different ways to cook huitlacoche, and I opted to make tacos using a combination of some recipes…using onions, garlic, chilies, corn and cheese. You can learn more about huitlacoche here.

I know what you’re thinking. Is huitlacoche safe to eat? Trust me when I say I did a lot of reading before I cooked it. I talked extensively with a friend from Mexico, who assured me I would not die from eating the corn truffles, as they are sometimes called.

For research, a friend went to lunch with me at a Charlotte restaurant called Bakersfield. See its website here. It’s located on the corner of East Boulevard and Kenilworth…right across from Berry Brook Farms. I wanted to see what it was supposed to look like and find out how it is supposed to taste before trying to cook it. After having a Huitlacoche Taco at Bakersfield, I was completely sold! I could hardly wait to make my own at home!

img_9869.jpg

Bakersfield’s Huitlacoche Taco

Many of my friends couldn’t believe I would cook it…and they really couldn’t believe I would eat it! They saw the “before” pictures of the corn smut and decided they would not be eating it. But I cooked it with some chilies, corn, garlic onions, a little oil, and some cheese, and I ate it!Huitlacoche tastes a little like smokey corn…like a mushroom and corn mixed, and cooked with the other ingredients in the recipe, the flavor is amazing. So I was excited to cook it myself! While I’m sure there are some who would not like it, I found it delicious…and I was so proud of myself for not only harvesting it, but also cooking something really good with it. That being said, the rest of my family would not eat it, but they aren’t very adventurous eaters anyway. I’m not sure they believed me when I told them it was safe. Maybe they thought they shouldn’t eat it in case I needed to go to the hospital. But their worries proved unfounded.

img_9996

Huitlacoche Taco at my home! Success!

And frankly, they missed out on a culinary adventure. I’m sure my friends from Mexico would know my version of huitlacoche tacos wasn’t perfect, but they’re impressed I tried. And I’ve impressed myself this time! My friend, Cesar, who grew up in Mexico City, said, “You’re the only American woman I know who can grow it!” Of course, it was purely accidental that I became a huitlacoche farmer, but I’m so glad I did!

If you would like to try huitlacoche but don’t want to do any corn farming, you can get huitlacoche tacos at Bakersfield.

Or maybe next year I will harvest my own huitlacoche again, and you can come over and help me cook them!