Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Orange Almond Granola

Inhaling as I wander past my blooming orange tree, visions of spring flash through my mind.  The white blossoms cover the tree from head to foot, well... from top to bottom anyway, and lend their scent to the entire side yard.  Little, baby oranges make their way out of the center of the blossoms and in a few months, they will be the juice on my table.  Or perhaps they will be the peel in my granola as I'm certain that this last batch of Orange Granola won't last long.  

This year I'm lucky to have my Dad's tree supplement my orange crop, as my crop totaled 3.   Yep, 3 whole oranges.  Unfortunately, our usually prolific tree received a cut from the gardener last year just as it was blooming.  I didn't think it was possible to be moved to tears over a mere tree, but as I walked outside and saw the leaves and blossoms lying on the ground I could hardly hold it in.

Next year's orange peel...
The guy was new and in my broken Spanish I begged him to stop cutting, but the damage was done.  He was only trying to shape the tree in a "pretty" way, but... well... but.   Words can not describe my disappointment at seeing my entire orange crop on the ground, however, a year later the tree has regenerated, and is, I might add, thicker and even more prolific than ever due to its untimely trimming.

With a bowl of Dad's oranges on our counter and the granola bin empty, inspiration hit late this afternoon.  Granola has been popular around our house as of late, as well as at the dance studio where one of my daughter's friends has been gushing about our flavorful Maple version.

Taking that maple version, adding a little of this and deleting a little of that, today's Orange Granola took on a delightfully light orange flavor.  Keeping the crunch brought by the baked egg white, this granola truly hit the spot.

Low in fat, yet filled with whole grain oats and nutrient-rich almonds, the granola has been my snack of choice each time I've passed the overflowing jar.  Tomorrow we'll share some with Liv's Maple Granola-addicted dance friend, Ellie, and see what she thinks.

I'm thinking it's a good thing next years crop is looking to be bigger than this year's...

Monday, January 30, 2012

The 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro, Encinitas, California - Review

Just 25 minutes (on a traffic free day) north of downtown San Diego, lies Encinitas, California, a quintessential surf town featuring streets lined with restaurants, shops, cafes and about six miles of gorgeous California coastline.  A popular tourist destination, Encinitas has stepped up its restaurant offerings bringing numerous choices for a good meal.

Drawing me from the neighboring city of Carlsbad, The 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro has been my dining venue of choice no less than three times in the last month, and is bound to be a favorite for food and wine enthusiasts alike.  The 3rd Corner web site seems to sum it up best:

The 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro is a restaurant revolution. Like the cell phone to the land line, The 3rd Corner has made eating out fun again. Our living wine list, fine food and affordable pricing all add up to the perfect dining and wine shopping experience. Food critics and wine writers alike agree that The 3rd Corner is an idea whose time has come.

With tables nestled around a veritable wine shop, one dines among the surrounding bottles and has the option to order wine by the glass or by the retail priced bottle (corkage fee applies).  With over 800 bottles to choose from, finding a bottle to your liking and within your budget is nearly guaranteed.  Might I add that the '09 Elk Cove Pinot, with its hints of cherry, blackberry, cream and espresso, remains my current favorite.

Offering lunch, Happy Hour, dinner, and Sunday Brunch, The 3rd Corner presents menus featuring fine, fresh food at prices that will not break your wallet.  From salads to fish tacos to juicy New York Steaks, choices abound and should please everyone from the vegetarian to the meat eater in your party.

Beginning two of my three visits with the Artisan Cheese Plate, I've gushed to friends about the bountiful, higher end, cheese offerings paired with apples, walnuts and a delightful sweet, date spread.  For our Mom's Night Out, the cheese plate was plentiful enough for 3 moms to snack on as we enjoyed a glass or two of wine while enjoying our conversation.  The artisan plate also served to appease the hunger of my husband, Father-in-law and myself after a particularly stressful afternoon as we de-stressed with our wine after ordering our meals.

Wild Arugula Salad with Grilled Salmon
Each of my three visits provided excellent service and always with friendly, knowledgeable, servers who have made us feel as though we were returning friends.  My choice of the Wild Arugula Salad with pickled red onions, hard boiled eggs, bacon, croutons and a balsamic vinaigrette became a bit more substantial with the addition of a grilled to perfection salmon fillet.  My Father-in-law has proclaimed the 3rd Corner Burger one of his favorites (the salty/crunchy French fries were addicting), while my husband thoroughly enjoyed the Pan Roasted Salmon atop a caramelized onion potato cake with a tomato and fennel confit.

Lunch, just this afternoon, has me gushing once again.  This time it's the Grilled Fish Tacos accompanied by cabbage-jalapeño slaw and aioli with a side of black bean salad that has my attention.  My two lunch mates (also tired moms in need of a good meal out) enjoyed their lunches just as much as I did complimenting the 3rd Corner Steak Sandwich (thin sliced N.Y. steak, peppers, onions, aged cheddar cheese, jalapeño aioli) and the Roasted Portabella Sandwich (boursin, goat cheese, roasted red peppers, greens, balsamic glaze served on a fresh roll).

While I have only sampled desserts to share with my dining companions, I can definitively say that the Vanilla Creme Brulee was as good as described, and the Chocolate Turtle Torte exceeded expectations with those fought after candied pecans.  Rumor has it that the Chocolate Chip Croissant Bread Pudding is also not to be missed.

Chocolate Turtle Torte with Candied Pecans and Vanilla Ice Cream
My visits to The 3rd Corner have focused on meals, however I've heard over and over about the popularity of the bar venue for evenings and weekends, and have been advised that reservations are in order for peak hour dining.  Leaving the restaurant around 10 PM on our Mom's Night Out, I can vouch that the bar was indeed packed with a demographic of mixed age locals - meaning my mid-40's aged self was not the oldest to be found.

Located in the Lumberyard Center on South Coast Highway in downtown Encinitas, I'm deeming The 3rd Corner one of my new favorite places.  Fine wine, fine food, a beautiful wine-flaired decor and friendly service will have me returning often.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cinnamon Marshmallow Rice Krispie Treats with Cinnamon Glaze

Life is often filled with opinion and controversy.  Lately our radar has shown rather strong opinions as to whether dance should be considered a sport or an art form.  The news if filled with people on all sides of the issue as to whether Obama should be in the White House.  But more importantly, we've recently had great discussion and fairly strong opinions on the issue of whether cinnamon belongs in marshmallow krispie treats.

A post on our Facebook Page regarding the cinnamon issue left me with a majority of responders on the "give it a try" side along with a few on the "absolutely not" side.  After serious discussion and begging from Liv to leave the cinnamon out, I plowed forward and added a simple teaspoon (a generous one at that...) into our very "marshmallowy" after school krispie treats.

Not really looking any different than usual, we spread the marshmallow coated cereal into our pan and decided if we were going to go cinnamon, we were going to go big.

Pulling powdered sugar from the pantry and adding cinnamon, a touch of vanilla and milk, we soon had a sweet, cinnamon glaze ready to be drizzled over the treats.  Her interest piqued, Liv had a hard time waiting for the glaze to set, and she actually cut into the treats as my back was turned.

Her exclamation of, "Yes!!!  These are awesome!" had me turning to find her smiling ear to ear as she cut even further into my unphotographed pan of treats while muttering the phrase all moms love to hear:  "I guess you were right...".

The hug that followed was even better than the acknowledgment, and as I helped myself to my own unphotographed piece, I concurred.... Cinnamon Marshamllow Krispie Treats rock!

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Atlantis Resort Bahamas, Reef Hotel & Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Review

These cold winter evenings have me dreaming of warm tropical waters, swaying palm trees and islands in paradise.  With those thoughts in mind, how about a trip to Paradise Island?  Come along as we reminisce...

Closing out the summer of 2011 with a tropical blast, Liv Life traveled across the US and met up with two other families at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas.  With 6 adults and 7 kids ranging in age from seven to fifteen, we had five hurricane-free, tropical days at the resort, returning us home tanned, rested and lighter in the wallet.

The Atlantis Resort is pure fun.  Not much culture to be had on property, days are spent lounging by one of the many pools, riding the rapids, or swimming in the warm, turquoise waters off the white sandy beaches.

After a late afternoon respite back in our room the evenings had us meeting friends for cocktails and dinners before heading to bed and starting it all over again.  All three families made different reservations at the resort, and while we had similar experiences, each family had its own aspects that worked for them.  Such are the possibilities at this immense destination.

With two early teens and restaurant costs little less than outrageous, the Reef Hotel with suites featuring full kitchens was the perfect choice for our family.  Complete with a living area (with pull out bed), full kitchen, master bedroom, master bath (larger than my bedroom at home), 2nd full bath in the living area, a washer and dryer and a full balcony, the Reef's one bedroom suite suited us just fine.  Using our American Express Blue Cash Card we even received a room view upgrade.

Internet research sent me to Food Store 2 Go, an online grocery and food delivery service out of Nassau, and the morning after our arrival found our fridge full of the necessities - eggs, bacon, milk, yogurt, and decently fresh fruit, all delivered with a warm and welcoming smile for a decent price.

Bringing pancake mixes from home (click for one of our favorite pancake recipes - simply place dry ingredients in a zippy bag for travel), breakfast was set, and while the rest of the resort was fighting for a spot at the buffet, we had our pancakes, bacon and eggs, or French toast on our balcony while the morning ocean breezes kept us cool.

Lunch was solved with either sandwiches from our room or salads, burgers or chicken sandwiches at one of the many cafes by the pool (we found one with healthier options near the Baths Pool).  Dinner found us joining  friends at one of our "residences" or at one of the many notorious restaurants such as Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill (wonderful), Casa D Angelo (Awesome), or Bimini Road (not so good...).

Leap of Faith
While the beach is most definitely beautiful with warm turquoise waters, powdery white sand and numerous beach chairs ready for tired moms, the pools and water park slides are really the main attraction.  The Leap of Faith with its near vertical 60 foot drop from the top of the Mayan Temple seemed to be the kid's favorite with its finish sliding through a tube in the middle of the shark pool.  Liv's scream was heard across the park as she made her first drop, followed shortly by Christine and then Celeste, all screaming along the way then running back up the steps for more.

The Abyss takes you down another near vertical drop, only this time it's in complete darkness as you take the 50-foot plunge from the top of the Power Tower, splash through waterfalls and then finish in a sort of underground lair.  Or how about The Falls?  After taking the "people mover" while relaxing in your inner tube, one takes a 58 foot plunge through a roller coaster of twisting tubes back to The Current - my personal favorite place in the resort.

James riding The Current
The Current, a mile long river where guests meander through the lush resort grounds, has guests propelled at times by a wave machine or rapids, all while seated in giant, blue Atlantis inner tubes.  At times relaxing and at times exciting, the Current is my favorite place to be.  Life Guards and hotel workers are present throughout The Current and keep guests moving when they inevitably get stuck in eddys, push you into the waves and generally make sure everyone is safe.

Lazy part of The Current
The wave machine provides a blast of water that "pushes" the current and occasionally pushes you over if you catch it in the wrong (or is it right?) spot.  Along the way one travels through tunnels filled with steam and over rapids before finding yourself in a nice, serene stretch ready to start the whole thing over again or returned to the exit nearest your beach chair.  Want a change of pace but don't want to walk up any steps?  Take the Power Tower "turn off" and a conveyor belt will take you to the top where you have the option to take one of two slides back down to the river without ever getting out of your tube.

Mesa Grill - Bahama Style
After a day of sun and fun, choices for dinner abound.  From the more budget friendly Murray's Deli in Harborside to the higher end Nobu and Bahamian Club, the resort offers options for everyone - and with everyone looking for an option, reservations are highly recommended.

With a visit to the Las Vegas Mesa Grill under our belt (Liv's current favorite restaurant), Bobby Flay's place was our preferred dining option.  An adult dinner beginning with Bobby's special margaritas was followed by his tasty Pork Tenderloin or Coffee-rubbed Fillet, while later in the week our second visit had Liv enjoying her very own specially prepared fillet - Bobby  style.

During our adult dinner some of our friends had the fish (deemed delicious) and fillets (tender,  juicy and cooked to perfection) along with sides of Cilantro Corn and a to die for Sweet Potato Tamale with Crushed Pecan Butter.  Bringing a bit of Bahamian flair to this restaurant, Mr. Flay has offerings such as Crispy Conch which you won't find on his mainland menus.

Although I didn't personally eat at Casa D'Angelo, our friends enjoyed a wonderful meal with their kids and gushed about the quality of the food and the friendly (though island-time) service.  They had participated in the meal plan, which while it didn't work for us, does work for many.  Deals are occasionally offered with kids eating free and can be a good option with families.  Prices will vary by season and special offering, but our friends enjoyed kids under 11 eating free, and for about $200 a day they had breakfast and dinner covered for the family enjoying such restaurants as Mesa Grill and Casa D'Angelo (each dinner served 3 courses per person - appetizer, main and dessert).

The Baths Pool - Adjacent to Cove Beach
The third family in our party was a family of 5, bringing its own difficulty in finding a room.  The mom desperately wanted to stay in the Reef with us, however room restrictions of 4 people per room except in the top of the line and over our budget 2-bedroom suite, left few options.  The Harborside Resort, set just across the marina from the Atlantis grounds was their answer with condo-type dwellings and beautifully furnished lodgings featuring full kitchens, views of the harbor and luxury yachts, and shopping nearby.  Large enough to fit our entire group of 13, the Burke's kindly hosted dinner on our second night after walking over the bridge from Paradise Island and into Nassau to find fresh Bahamian Lobster.  Talk about fine dining!

From upper left, clockwise: The Power Tower, Adult Pool at The Cove Hotel, sunset on Paradise Beach
Back on the beach the next morning and towards the far end of Paradise Beach, jet skis and para sailing are available through local vendors.  Cash only, though American dollars are fine, the price is not haggled about with one either taking or leaving the $80 fee.  Taking advantage of both activiteis, our kids enjoyed their first parasailing experience and had their feet dipped into the warm waters after sailing high above the resort.  Daddy then took them on the jet ski (though I think he did it just as much for himself as he did for them!) as I stood on the shore taking photos and smiles were had all around.  The local vendors were friendly though persistent while trying to sell rides, but seemed to have safe equipment in good shape and were friendly to work with.

With our days (as well as our dollars) numbered we did not visit the Dolphin Cay, though we heard numerous guests talk about the enjoyable times they had during their day with the dolphins.  In addition, the resort offers numerous kids only activities, baby sitting and Crush - a nightclub for the 13-17 crowd. 

A walk through the Marine Habitat, a giant aquarium rivaling many that I've visited around the country, features over 50,000 aquatic animals representing over 250 marine species.  Free of charge, the Habitat is well worth a visit and will remain a wonderful memory from your trip to the resort.

All in all, Atlantis is a wonderful place which, in our opinion, is best enjoyed with friends or family, and makes a super fun group destination.  The kids enjoyed their freedom and spent hours a day in the water park while the adults enjoyed a ride or two and then a lounge by the pool or on the beach.  Meeting up for a trip down The Current (appropriate for all ages) provided endless hours of laughter and time together as we giggled at the moms attempts to gracefully enter the inner tubes while the kids popped in without effort and pulled us along to move us ahead of the crowds.

Our second stay at The Reef proved to be just as wonderful as the first with the staff being just about as friendly as one can ask for.  Smiling Bahamian faces greet you around every corner and everyone from housekeeping to maintenance to the front desk is a true pleasure to work with, making us feel like we were family returning home.  If you are so lucky to meet Zeldarain or Christopher from the front desk, you will be well taken care of.

The resort is big, so expect to walk for a while to get where you need to go.  The resort is busy with people of all kinds from all over the world, so expect a few crowds.  And the resort is expensive - expect to return home with your wallet far lighter than when you arrived.  However, if you are aware of these issues upfront, you will know exactly what to expect when you arrive and your Bahamian destination will not disappoint, and will send you home with a wonderful few days of family vacation and a yearning to return.

Paradise?  Maybe.  A fun family destination with activities to keep everyone happy?  Definitely.  All of the kids in our group have already asked when we will all be returning... I think that speaks for itself. 


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Maple Granola with Pure Maple Syrup

Liv's love for everything Maple has only grown over the years.  Rich and robust in flavor, pure maple syrup satisfies her sweet tooth while adding a depth and complexity beyond that of granulated white sugar.  And with 1/4 cup providing generous doses of Manganese (necessary for brain and nerve function) and Riboflavin (produces energy and works as an antioxidant) in addition to a decent dose of immunity fighting zinc, this sweetener (lower in sugar than pure honey) is one I can feel good about giving her in moderation.

To be sure you are purchasing pure maple syrup, always check the ingredients listed on your product where you should find one (1), and only one, ingredient - maple syrup.  Many imitation syrups, or pancake syrups, do not contain any real maple syrup at all, and some of those claiming to be made from pure maple syrup may have as little as 5% of the real stuff.

Maple syrup, actually the boiled sap of the sugar, black or red maple tree, is harvested by tapping, or piercing, the tree to allow the clear, almost tasteless and low in sugar sap run freely from the tree.  After collection, the sap is boiled and the water evaporated leaving the various grades of pure maple syrup that we find in our local stores.

In general, syrups tapped at the beginning of the harvesting season are clearer and lighter in flavor, such as Grade A.  Grade B provides a darker, stronger and more complex syrup that remains a favorite with mixologists when crafting bourbon, rum and whiskey cocktails.

Whichever grade your prefer, maple syrup adds a special, "homey" flavor to your baked goods and an additional depth and complexity to soups and savory dishes.  Wonderful in so many recipes, our favorite remains the simple pancake or waffle drenched in our favorite Grade B Pure Maple Syrup and topped with a sliced banana.

With thanks to Pure Canadian Maple Syrup, who so kindly sent us samples of Grades A and B Pure Maple Goodness, we present to you some of our favorite Maple recipes in addition to a tasty new creation made with the samples - Maple Granola.  Pure Canadian Maple Syrup's web site is an excellent source for additional maple syrup health benefits and they feature a collection of recipes.

Do you have a favorite use for Maple?  Let us know!

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Friday, January 20, 2012

Food Photography and Styling - The Challenge

Challenge 1, Fruit on a white background - no props 
Launching Liv Life a year and a half ago I was fairly confident in the photography arena.  Shooting at the school or local soccer games brought an immense amount of satisfaction as parents constantly sent requests for copies of my photos and poured on the compliments. Then moving to the dance stage I provided candid shots of our girls from competitions and events, and again, many parents showered me with love and compliments when I shared these photos.  Landscape, however, remained my passion as my camera traveled with me all over the world, and I even sold a few prints.

With the launch of Liv Life, my first project had me taking a photo of Korean Style Pork with Asian Slaw.  The recipe was wonderful, my photo... not so much.  Taken later in the evening in my somewhat darkened kitchen I popped up my flash for a brighter shot, and much to my embarrassment I actually posted that image and at the time, was fairly proud of myself.

Since that day I've worked to improve my photography in the food arena and currently have a sense of immense awe for professional food photographers and stylists.  Time and again, my fellow bloggers as well blow me away with stunning shots and set-ups, and though I feel my photography has improved, I still have a long way to go.

Hence, when Laurie, of A Favored Life, asked me to join her new Food Photography and Styling Group I jumped at the opportunity.  Joining this group of extraordinarily talented ladies I suddenly felt, again, very inadequate.  Spectacular shots of all kinds have me once again in awe of the sheer talent of these professionals and hobbyists and I'm honored to be a part of the group.  As an example, please take a peek at Elaine Melko's gorgeous shot of a pear on white, our first photography challenge.

For our first Food Photography & Styling Challenge, the directive had us photographing fruit on a white background - no props.  I was lucky enough to have a recent image already prepared from our Margarita Lime Jello Cube post with sliced limes on the white background.  With my biggest struggle usually being White Balance and Lighting, this method is far from easy.  My lime image (shown above) was literally a one-shot-wonder and taken almost as an afterthought along with the Margarita Jello Shots.  I'm fairly pleased with the color and balance, though the photo is not as sharp as I would have liked.

Margarita Lime Jello Shots (totally addicting!) shot also on the white background with similar settings.  As they are not totally fruit, they are not eligible for the challenge, leaving us with the beautiful lime slices instead.
For my lime shot, I photographed the slices on the white board that came with my non-professional, yet ever-so-helpful, light (Lowel EGO Digital Imaging, Tabletop Fluorescent Light Unit) and the natural afternoon light that pours into my kitchen.  The lime image turned out fairly nice - shot with my favorite food photography lens, the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro Digital SLR Lens at ISO 500, f/10, and 1/100.

The pomegranate at the top was a last minute addition to the post and will be revealed further in a salad post that is upcoming (Grapefruit, Avocado and Arugula with a Lemon Vinaigrette).  For this image the info reads: ISO 800, f/6.3, 1/30.  Shot with the same lens as the limes.

I'm eager to get a start on next month's challenge... something including vegetables and a collage.  Stay tuned, and let me know your thoughts about photography... what do you enjoy and what are your biggest challenges?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Football Food - Super Bowl Food is here!

Around the first grade my boy discovered football.  After his first touchdown pass at the Y his head was filled with dreams of becoming a famous quarterback, and collecting football cards by the dozens became an all consuming obsession. Simply throwing the football with Daddy could go on for hours after Daddy's arm gave out, and the Super Bowl?  Well, it became the pinnacle of life.

Since throwing our first Super Bowl party some nine years ago, times have changed.  The first party found a couple of 6 year old boys dressed in their favorite jerseys embracing the game with their dads, and deeming the day "Our Day of Eating Junk Food".  Pringles, M&M's, and sugar-filled soda filled the tables and everyone was happy.

Fast forward nine years and those cute little boys have transformed into handsome young men with car keys.  Their football interest, however, has waned and now they don't even show up for the game, preferring to spend their afternoons at the beach surfing.  While the parents may have matured slightly as well with a little extra gray in our hair and more pronounced smile lines around our eyes, we can still rock a football jersey.

At its peak, the Liv Life Super Bowl Party had no less that 50 guests squished into our average-sized family room around our old-fashioned, non-HD TV with pieces of Becky's Famous Football Stromboli in our hands.  Those Pringles and M&M's have remained a staple on our football table, but these old favorites are now accompanied with some higher end football food choices such as homemade sushi, Coconut Shrimp, Margarita Jell-O Shots and of course my husband's old family Queso recipe (shhh... don't tell anyone, but it's cream cheese melted with a can of Hormel chili - we have it once a year.).

Unfortunately, this year my husband's schedule has him out of town on Super Sunday, and as such we will not be hosting our special group of friends for what has become a tradition for the last 9 years.  As he flies off to some far away city, I think I will be a bit sad in my empty house, but the special memories of years past will carry me through.  As a change of pace... maybe Liv and I will actually go shopping.

Over the years we have lived an evolution of our Super Bowl Party and have discovered what works well along the way.  With just a little planning you too can have a table set for a feast and perhaps even outshine those 49ers.

Planning your Party

First of all, don't try to undertake everything yourself - have your guests bring a dish.  In the past we organized guests and assigned salads, main foods, desserts, etc., but with our Super Bowl Party Evolution came a more relaxed attitude and we simply asked everyone to bring whatever they deemed their favorite Football Food.  Yes, some years we had lots of chicken wings and stromboli.  Other years though, brought an even balance of all things football.  Either way it was alway fun.

The Party Store.  While I'm not usually a paper/plastic disposable product fan, I do allow myself to be a little less green on Super Bowl Day.  Football themed appetizer plates and napkins from the Party Store don't cost much, save lots of cleanup time and bring a football party flair to the table.

Plastic cocktail sized cups save broken glass on the floor during those inevitable dropped cup moments, and a cheap, football emblazoned plastic table liner makes cleaning up a breeze.

Liv Life Note:  I couldn't bring myself to drink wine out of a plastic cup, so real wine glasses are always on our football table.

Soda and water - always popular with kids as well as adults, however buying full sized cans of soda often left me with half full cans scattered around my yard and house at the end of the day.  Our Super Bowl Party Evolution had me buying litre bottles of soda in place of full sized cans and supplying plastic cups (place a sharpie in the cup area for people to write their names on the cups).

For water I placed pitchers of tap water around the food table and drink area, and filled the cooler with the smaller, almost kid-sized, single serving water bottles which I found would more often be emptied than the larger sized single servings. 

Cocktails.  Each year our Super Bowl Event featured a special cocktail in addition to beer and wine.  Margaritas are always popular and our Sunny Citrus Blush was also an oft requested libation.  The goal though, is to not have the host also be bartender, hence spending nearly the entire game filling drink orders.  Coolers of beer become self serve with an attached a bottle opener to the side of the cooler and a stack of those familiar red solo cups.

If you would like wine at your party, place a few bottles out along with the glasses and put the opener within reach.

For our mixed cocktail of the day, our only requirement was that it must be mixed ahead of time.  My husband obtained a not-so-pretty but ever-so-useful plastic blue camping jug which made its appearance every year on my "pretty" buffet table, but which also gained a reputation for always containing something worth trying. 

Chips and Dips.  In the early years I found that I over did the food.  I worried that someone might not like a certain type of chip or dip, hence I provided several choices which filled up our table and ended up leaving decent portions of each remaining at the end of the game.  Evolution brought tortilla chips with one or two dips along side and then empty bowls and less waste.

Hot food.  Keeping hot food to a minimum allows the hostess to spend more time with her guests rather than cooking in the kitchen.  With as much prep work done in advance as possible, I would have a dish or two that could to be popped into the oven in a flash, then simply served when done.  I would usually plan a hot dish (stromboli, shrimp, wings) to be ready as people arrived, then prepare another to be ready at half time as the half seemed to bring on a sort of grazing frenzy with everyone fueling up to get through the 2nd part of the game. 

Pools and Betting.  Betting pools are always popular and seem to increase interest in the game.  Everyone, even those not really interested in football, would be watching scores and keeping track of plays as they checked their numbers.  Lucky to have a neighbor takeover this responsibility, we had the simple "square" pool which scored on the game quarters and finish, in addition to a trivia/luck pool. 

With the trivia/luck pool, the first page included 6-10 historical trivia questions (amazingly, someone always seems to know things like "What player has won the most Super Bowl MVP awards?"  - Just FYI, it's my man Joe.).  The back page included more luck-type questions like, what type of commercial will be first?  Will the first score be from a pass, run or other?  Will the winning team win by more than 10 points?  etc.

Liv Life
Football Food and Drinks
With the Evolution of our Super Bowl parties, or perhaps simply our maturing ages, our tastes have changed (I would say improved!) and have included all of the following "football food" over the past few years

- click the title to be taken to the recipe -

click here to see Becky's (Baking and Cooking, A Tale of Two Loves) version of this dip including sun-dried tomatoes!