The Kitchen Prep

Friday, February 12, 2016

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Soda Bread | Divine Chocolate + Stonyfield Organic

My husband's food weakness is bread. Mine? Chocolate. {And cheese. And wine. And French fries, if I'm being honest.} Since he doesn't care for chocolate at all, I almost never make anything using chocolate as an ingredient because I'll be the only one who eats it.

But, in honor of Valentine's Day, I decided to try out a recipe that's a representation of both of our food loves coming together. A food baby of sorts. {No, that's not weird or anything.}

Bread and chocolate lovers, rejoice!  Dark Chocolate Raspberry Soda Bread.

Similar in preparation to Irish Soda Bread {but not at all falling into that category since traditional ISB fans get quite offended when you call un-authentic ISB by that name}, this quick bread comes together without the inconvenience of rise time that's necessary in making a yeast bread. I guess that's why they call it "quick."

When I was trying out Whole Foods' version of this recipe, I accidentally misread the directions and doubled {!!!} the amount of butter it called for. Whoops! Luckily, the result was still a tender, biscuit-like bread that is ready in under an hour. The addition of Stonyfield  whole milk yogurt gives the bread a similar tang to buttermilk, and the Divine Dark Chocolate with Raspberries? -- well, that just brings it home for those of us who are chocolate lovers.

{P.S. I originally purchased two Divine Chocolate Bars since I wasn't entirely certain which flavor I'd use. When I devoured the Milk Chocolate Hazelnut within the first 48 hours of buying the bars, my decision was made for me. If you prefer a different flavor of chocolate, by all means, use that instead! But I thought the Dark Chocolate Raspberry worked perfectly to keep this bread on the cusp of breakfast and dessert appropriate.}

 So there you have it. Our food love child. Too bad Steve won't accept it since there's chocolate involved.

Darn... guess I'll have to finish this off all by myself!

Disclosure: As a Stonyfield blogger, I received complimentary Divine Chocolate Bars for use in this post. As always, all opinions here are my own!

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Soda Bread
Adapted from Whole Foods
Yield: 2 medium loaves

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks {12 tablespoons} cold butter, diced into small pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 bar Divine 70% Dark Chocolate with Raspberries, roughly chopped
1 cup Stonyfield plain whole milk yogurt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by lining with a piece of parchment paper and dusting lightly with flour.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add cold butter and mix until the butter is somewhat blended into the flour {there should still be small pieces of butter and the flour should resemble wet sand when squeezed together between your fingers.}

3. Add in chocolate chunks and then mix in yogurt until the dough just comes together. Do not overmix. There may be a little bit of dry mixture left at the bottom of the bowl; it will get incorporated when you knead the bread.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. With floured hands {the dough will be slighly sticky}, lightly knead the dough to ensure all the flour is incoroprated and divide it into two equal pieces.

5. Shape the dough into two round loaves and place on prepared baking sheet. Lightly dust the top of the breads with flour, then cut a deep cross in the top of both loaves.

6. Bake for 45-50 minutes until the tops are browned and the loaves are baked through. {You can insert a skewer in the middle to check and make sure the dough is not wet and sticky.}

Let cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Creamy Southwestern Chicken | Birds Eye® Protein Blends

Time-saving items are essential around here these days, especially when it comes to cooking dinner. If you have a kid or two {and even if you don't!} you probably know what I mean. That last few hours of the day can get pretty hectic as everyone gets home, gets settled and gets hungry.

We seem to have our routine down {for now}, but even so, I find myself standing in front of the refrigerator looking for solutions to completing our meals. The "main" part of dinner isn't usually a problem as we tend to rotate between chicken, fish, ground turkey, lean pork chops, etc., etc. But filling the space on the plate next to the entree is usually where it gets tricky.

Almost on cue every night, you can hear me ask, "What do you want as a side?", to which my ever-so-helpful husband replies, "A vegetable."

Yeah... thanks, dear.

Meanwhile, the growling stomachs and hunger meltdowns begin and soon we find ourselves venturing into very crabby territory, which doesn't help my kitchen creativity. The result? Plain, sauteed veggies. Drab, unappealing side dishes. Lackluster, uninspired add-ons.

Unless, of course, you find something that can swoop in to the rescue and be ready in minutes...

Enter Birds Eye® Protein Blends. I found these at Walmart and thought they'd be worth a try, and boy was I right.

Last week I found myself in a pinch as the day was winding down, dinnertime was approaching and my toddler was trying to eat crayons. {Non-toxic, sure, but definitely not nutritious.} And then I remembered this was in the freezer. Score!

Since the veggies were seasoned with a Southwest Style sauce, I went with the theme and made a quick, simple chicken and lightened up creamy sauce to go along with the side. Everything was so zesty and flavorful that I'm sure this meal will become a regular on rotation.

Right now you can save .50 off Birds Eye® Protein Blends with this iBotta offer. Save money, time and sanity and treat yourself to an easy dinnertime routine.

Now the only thing my husband will hear me yell from the kitchen is, "Dinner's ready!" Music to our ears!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Pinnacle Foods Group LLC. The opinions and texts are all mine.

Creamy Southwestern Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon chipotle powder, divided
Salt to taste

1 can diced tomatoes
Juice from 1/2 a lime
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/3 cup Greek yogurt {I used 2%}

1. Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season each chicken breast with 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder {or your favorite southwestern seasoning} and salt.

2. Place chicken breasts in the pan and cook on the first side for about 4-6 minutes or until browned, then flip and brown the other side another 3-5 minutes. {It's ok if they're not fully cooked through as you will be returning them to the pan.

3. Remove chicken from pan and set aside on a plate.

4. To the pan, add all the sauce ingredients except yogurt and whisk to combine, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a bubble, then reduce the heat to medium-low and return the chicken breasts to the pan, nestling them into the sauce.

5. Cover pan and simmer for another 8-10 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked through.

6. Remove chicken once again and whisk yogurt into the sauce. Pour sauce into a blender {or use an immersion blender} and blend until completely smooth.*

To serve, ladle sauce over chicken. Serve with Birds Eye® Southwest Style Protein Blends.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Pear-Chardonnay Compote

Valentine's Day is coming up this weekend and that means that lots of guys and gals are panicking at this very moment wondering if they should do something for their significant other.

Though I'm not a super Valentiney kind of girl, my advice is to err on the side of caution and prepare something special for your sweetheart, whether that means a pint of their favorite ice cream, a bouquet of flowers or a romantic dinner date if that's more your speed.

As time has passed, the gifts that I consider thoughtful have changed some {think: 12 consecutive hours of sleep and maybe time to go get a quick pedicure}, but when in doubt, my husband knows that wine and cheese are my love languages. Add chocolate for bonus points.

A lot of times, I've found that we both get a little disoriented in the wine aisle with all the options and price points that are available. My "extensive knowledge" of wine goes as far as knowing that I like it a lot. I've told you everything I  know, folks.

But I do know that wine doesn't have to break the bank to be good. That's good news for all.

A few weeks ago I received a shipment of wine from my friends at Benson Marketing, and after doing a happy dance and getting an odd look from the delivery guy, I knew I had some "work" ahead of me. Since then, I've spent some time tasting and learning about different wines and what they go well with so that I can take out some of the guess work for you. Aren't I thoughtful?

I wish I could say I came up with the descriptions below, but they were provided for me and I was super grateful for the cheat sheet. {Also, I decided that in my next life I'm going to be a wine description writer.}

Crémant de Limoux ($12-25): Add some sparkle to the most romantic day of the year with Crémant de Limoux from the Languedoc region of Southern France. Champagne quality for Prosecco prices – there’s no better way to say “I love you.”

2012 Balletto Vineyards Brut Rosé ($42): The only thing better than bubbles for Valentine’s Day? Pink bubbles. This delicious combo of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is made in the traditional method, so you get full flavor and a fuller texture, with a crisp, lasting finish.

Picpoul de Pinet ($9-13): Picpoul goes with oysters, and we all know what oysters are good for…chill down a bottle of this light and refreshingly acidic white wine from Languedoc and see where the evening leads.

2013 Landmark Vineyards “Overlook” Chardonnay ($25): A lush, layered Chardonnay to pair with whatever you’re cooking up for a special Valentine’s Day meal, from scallops to cheese fondue.

2013 Hahn SLH Pinot Noir ($30): Pinot Noir is a sexy and silky wine, and this offering from Santa Lucia Highlands is particularly voluptuous, ready to please any palate.

2014 Balletto Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir ($20): Drink pink on Valentine’s Day with rosé made from 100% Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. But make sure to get the sweetness from your significant other, because this wine is made in a dry French style.

2013 Overlook Pinot Noir ($25): This medium-bodied Pinot Noir exhibits bright acidity with intense aromas of raspberries, red cherry, with hints of cola and mahogany. Pairs well with slow roasted pork roast, duck a l’orange, eggplant parmesan, grilled summer vegetables and aged cow’s milk cheeses.

2013 JUSTIN Cabernet Sauvignon ($27): A favorite from Paso Robles, this Cabernet Sauvignon is a perfect go-to red for Valentine’s Day, from the winery that Wine Enthusiast named 2015 Winery of the Year.

So far, I've only had the chance to open up the Picpoul de Pinet {which I really enjoyed}, the JUSTIN Cabernet Sauvignon {which my husband and I both adored}, and the Landmark Pinot Noir {which my husband drank in place of beer for the Super Bowl. I mean, that says something.} and I can tell you this: No matter what wine you prefer, it tastes best when you're having fun and enjoying it with someone you love.

If your girl or guy happens to have the same appreciation for wine and cheese that I do, then I suggest combining the two and impressing them with this easy to make Pear-Chardonnay Compote over goat cheese. {Don't be scared, compote is just a fancy word for fruit cooked with water, sugar and spices.}

You don't have to use fancy wine for the recipe, but do make sure that you choose one that you like because the flavor intensifies as the wine cooks out. I loved how the creamy, tart goat cheese tasted with the sweet flavors of pear from both the actual fruit and the notes of the Chardonnay. Yum.

Wine and cheese may not be everybody's thing, but I hope you'll find a thoughtful way to treat your favorite person on Valentine's Day and always. :)

Pear-Chardonnay Compote 
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma 

1 Bosc pear, peeled, cored and diced
1/3 cup your favorite chardonnay {like Landmark Vineyards Overlook}
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cinnamon stick
{Optional} 1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1 log goat cheese
Crackers or Toasted Crostini for serving

1. Mix together all ingredients except vanilla bean paste in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the pears are softened and slightly caramelized.*

2. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla bean paste if desired.

Note: I took about 1/4 of the pears and blended them to make a puree of sorts that I mixed together with the rest of the simmered pears to give it a creamier consistency. You can do this if you'd like or leave the compote as is.

Cool slightly and serve over a log of goat cheese with crackers or toasted bread.

*If the liquid evaporates before the pears are fully softened, add a few more tablespoons of wine and continue to cook until they have reached the desired consistency.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Hot Cajun Shrimp Dip

My relationship with spicy food has not always been a positive one. Maybe it's because I didn't grow up eating foods with a high heat factor; contrary to what some think, Cuban food is generally not spicy. But, I did experience a little -- let's call it, trauma -- as a kid that I like to refer to as The Jalapeno Incident of 1990 that could certainly have had something to do with the aversion.

During a family Disney trip, my dad accidentally mistook jalapenos for pickles as he loaded up my burger with toppings at a lunch buffet. How you mistake the two, I have no idea... but if you know my dad, you know the flub is entirely feasible for him. 

Anyway, I took one bite of that "loaded" burger and I.Saw.Stars. First, a strange tingling. Then an intense burning that started at my lips and spread like wildfire through my entire mouth within seconds. Five alarm. 

Though I was old enough to communicate, I couldn't even verbalize the problem because my tongue was too busy feeling like it licked a smoldering log. So I cried. Maybe even whimpered. Needless to say, it was a while before I {purposely} ventured into the world of spicy food again. {And an even longer while before I let my dad fix my burgers for me. Parenting fail.}

I'm happy to say that since then, I've "warmed up" to spicy foods, so to speak. I eased in with "quick heat" like wasabi and horseradish, then graduated to using small amounts of cayenne and red pepper flakes in my cooking, and finally dove into the world of hot sauce. 

Now, I actually like adding some spice to my food. So there's hope for you if you, too, have been scarred from a bad jalapeno experience.

This Hot Cajun Shrimp Dip is a great place to dip your toe into the hot sauce and test the waters. {Ew, not literally.} Not only does the creamy cream cheese help to tame the heat, but you can also control your spice level by adding more or less hot sauce to the dip. {The folks at Tabanero send me a sampler pack and I went with the original recipe, but they also have Extra Hot and Sweet & Spicy.}

I can see this shrimp dip served up on SuperBowl Sunday or even for upcoming Mardi Gras celebrations... just make sure you warn your guests so there are no unwanted surprises! Unlike the infamous burger, I have a feeling they'll be going back for a second bite.

Disclosure: I was sent a complimentary pack of Tabanero Hot Sauce to try. As always, all the opinions here are my own. :)

Hot Cajun Shrimp Dip
Adapted from Southern Living 

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 scallions, thinly sliced {plus extra for garnish}
1 small green bell pepper, finely diced
3 tablespoons diced pimientos
1 glove garlic, grated or minced 
1/2 pound peeled, deveined shrimp, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 {8 oz. block} cream cheese*
1 to 2 teaspoons {or more if you dare!} hot sauce, such as Tabanero 

1. Heat butter and olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add scallions, bell pepper, diced pimientos and garlic and cook until tender and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.

2. Add chopped shrimp and Cajun seasoning. Stir to combine. Cook until shrimp is opaque and cooked through. 

3. Add cream cheese and stir until the cheese is completely melted and smooth. Mix in hot sauce.

Garnish with extra chopped scallions if desired.
Serve with crackers or chips. 

*Using the whole block of cream cheese makes for a very creamy dip. If you prefer a chunkier dip with more focus on the shrimp, use only half to 3/4 of the cream cheese.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Chocolate Orange Pudding Cups

Saturday marked The Kitchen Prep's 5 year anniversary. Five years of stories, recipes, eating and tasting. Two hundred-sixty weeks {give or take} of meeting new friends, going to conferences, attending dinners and covering food events. One thousand eight hundred twenty five days of molding this space, and being enamored with this space, and detesting this space, and wondering if it's worth all the work, and knowing that it's the only work I've ever truly loved.

If it were a kid, I would be packing its lunchbox and sending it off to Kindergarten, though sometimes I feel like it's been around long enough to have earned its Ph.D.

This space means an awful lot to me. It has been the cause of many tears, but even more smiles, and it has given me the chance to make some dreams that I couldn't imagine coming true become realities.

All from sitting here typing my thoughts. From being candid about my life and sharing personal things, ridiculous things, and things you shouldn't wait another minute to take a bite out of. {Oftentimes, while using terrible grammar and horrendous sentence structure.}

And though I would continue to do it for myself even if no one else read one word, it's so nice to know that you are out there on the other side of this screen letting me take up a second of your life so that I can add some purpose to my own.

That's a pretty big deal.

Until about 3 years ago, I didn't even know this could be the kind of thing it's become. To be honest, I am in a constant battle with myself, contemplating going full-steam ahead so that I can potentially become as successful as some of the other bloggers I have come to know, or keeping this a sacred place and "doing it my way." {I wish it could be both. It can't. Or at least I haven't figured out how to make that happen.} I've had to practice "staying in my lane" and avoiding constant comparison to others I admire. I'm sort of the toughest boss I've ever had.

I've sold out a little bit in the past year because diapers are expensive and so are college funds. I've made myself feel bad enough about it sometimes, so I'm thankful that you haven't. {Note: There's never been a time when I've tried to sell you on something I think is gross. Nothing is worth that kind of deception.}

While the past five years have been full of all kinds of changes, adjustments, ups and downs... this blog has been a constant, slowly becoming a bigger and bigger part of my identity.

So, I guess what I'm saying is thanks for getting to know me while I continue to figure out who I am. Or at the very least, thanks for letting me share a meal with you, because few things make me happier than chatting and sharing food with people.

Except maybe chocolate. Chocolate makes me pretty happy, too.

Chocolate Orange Pudding Cups
Adapted from Food Network 

3 cups whole milk
1/3 cup milk chocolate chips, melted
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier

1. In a medium pot, heat milk until steaming over medium-high heat. Stir in both kinds of chocolate and whisk until completely incorporated.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, corn starch and cocoa powder until smooth. Add about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture, whisking the whole time, to bring the egg mixture up to temperature. {Otherwise you'll get scrambled eggs.}

3. Pour the heated egg/milk mixture back into the pot with the remaining milk. Reduce the heat to medium-low and whisk continually until the mixture has thickened. {It'll be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but will continue to thicken in the refrigerator as it chills.}

4. Remove the mixture from the stove. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the pudding to ensure a super-smooth texture a little at a time over a large, clean bowl.* Whisk in vanilla extract, orange zest and orange liqueur.

5. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on top of the mixture to cover the bowl, {this will keep it from forming a "skin."} and refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours or overnight.

Serve in individual cups topped with a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with extra orange zest and a slice of orange if desired.

*This isn't absolutely necessary, but I like to do it to make sure there aren't any lumps or scrambled egg bits in the pudding.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Citrus Pork Stir Fry

It's happening.

In the past week I have:

- Honked at "irresponsible kids" skateboarding in the middle of the road
- Pulled silver hairs from my head
- Slathered my face in expensive moisturizer before bed
- Thought to myself that my new comforter was the best Christmas gift I've gotten in a while
- Realized that Josh Duhamel looks even better with salt & pepper hair
- Admitted {out loud} that my favorite radio station is Legends 100.3 {think Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennet... etc.}
- Fallen asleep before 9:30pm

I also saw a photo of myself from just 5 years ago and thought, "Gah, I look so... rested."

I'm a mom. In my mid-thirties. And there are times I see young girls and think that their shorts are inappropriately short.

::: Buries head in laundry pile composed entirely of yoga pants :::  

Getting to this part of life has made me realize the importance of quick dinners. Mostly because by the time my husband gets home, I cook, we eat, clean up and go through the playtime-bath time-bedtime routine for our kiddo, we have about 45 seconds left before both of us "shut down" for the night. {Meaning, we pass out on the couch while attempting to watch something.} I'm all for anything that will shorten the evening "to do's" and lengthen our downtime together.

Whether or not you're facing the realities of aging, this Citrus Pork Stir Fry will be a welcome addition to your weekday cooking repertoire.

I never used to know what to do with thin-cut boneless pork chops because they're so easy to overcook if you're pan searing or baking them, but I love how they work with this stir fry. They're the perfect thickness for cutting into thin strips like you'd get in a takeout meal. If you're not into pork, you can sub it out for chicken or even portobello mushrooms for a veggie version. You can also use any vegetables you have on hand to toss into this dish: peppers, zucchini, snow peas, you name it!

I used orange juice and zest here, but I've also made it with lime juice and it turned out just as good {though a little more on the tart side}.

The citrusy sauce brings it all together for a fast, filling meal that will leave you with plenty of time for doing whatever it is you'd rather be doing after dinner... or let's face it, for getting some extra shut eye.

Maybe that'll get back that "rested" look I haven't seen in a while.

Citrus Pork Stir Fry
Adapted from Martha Stewart 

1 pound thin-cut boneless pork chops, sliced into strips
1 small onion, sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup carrots, sliced into strips {I used halved baby carrots}
4 scallions, chopped {plus extra for garnish}

For sauce:
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 teaspoons sriracha
1 garlic clove, grated or minced
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon rice vinegar {or white balsamic}
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a wok or a large pan over high heat. Add pork to hot oil and cook until lightly browned {it doesn't have to be all the way cooked through at this point}. Remove pork from pan with a slotted spoon and place on a plate. Set aside.

2. Add onion, broccoli and scallions to the hot oil and cook until the vegetables are beginning to become tender.*

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine all sauce ingredients. Whisk until smooth, making sure you don't have any lumps of cornstarch.

4. Add pork {and juices that have accumulated on the plate} back into the pan with the vegetables. Pour in sauce and toss together to coat. Cook until the sauce thickens a bit, about 1 to 2 minutes. Cover the pan and turn the heat down to low to allow the pork to cook through, about 3-5 more minutes.

Before serving, add the remaining scallions for a fresh crunch.

Serve hot with a side of rice or quinoa.

*If the pan is too dry or beginning to burn, add about 1/4 cup water to the pan and scrape up the brown bits.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Game Day for Girlfriends | #ScoreMoreFans

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ScoreMoreFans #CollectiveBias

Gathering with girlfriends has come a long way from the days of Tupperware parties with gelatin molds and sleepovers in frilly pajamas. The modern woman can have many of the same interests as her guy friends like grilling, lifting weights and watching football... but there are times that she may prefer the dainty details that guys tend to overlook when it comes to planning celebrations and parties.

With the big game just around the corner, guys and gals alike will be throwing game-watching parties to root on their team with friends and family. And while a bag of chips served with jar of salsa poured over a block of cream cheese is perfectly acceptable football food for a party of dudes, {and surprisingly tasty} the presentation might leave something to be desired if you're expecting to wow guests. {Apologies to my brother-in-law who claims this as his signature dish.}

This year, I say let the men do their own thing. Gather up your girlfriends and "take it to the house" -- YOUR house! -- and host your own game day soiree with a "RITZy", effervescent twist!

You don't have to go crazy with expensive decorations or fussy details to set the stage for an impressive football fete. Just a few basic supplies are all you need to decorate for the big game! I found just about everything I needed from food to festive touches at Walmart. 

For very little money I was able to transform ordinary party supplies like wrapping paper, paper plates, plastic cups and decorative toothpicks into a spread fit for a gridiron goddess.

I took the playbook theme to the next level and used lots of blackboard and chalk details to tie the look together and stick with a game day motif. Chalkboard stickers made it easy to label cups for each guest and also served as a great way to amp up table signage.

Nothing says "Go Team" like a glittery pom poms, so I used those as table decor along with some simple letter cutouts that I found in the craft section of the store. A piece of scrapbook paper made to look like a football field added a pop of color in the center of the table, along with hints of red and white from the serving dishes.

Black wrapping paper covered my table {which is fantastic for easy cleanup at the end of the night}, and I used a white chalk pen to scribble directly on the surface to showcase some of the tasty bites.

I wanted to keep my menu simple but clever, so I got to work on creating some bite-sized snacks that kept with the game day feel. Classic messy Sloppy Joes popped into my mind immediately... but then so did stained furniture and rugs. Ugh. I solved the problem by serving up the appetizers on RITZ® Crackers, which made them more cute than clunky!

Buttery RITZ® Crackers worked perfectly as a vehicle for sweet and saucy Mini Coca-Cola Sloppy Joes. I assembled some ready-to-go joes for immediate snacking on a platter, but also set out toppings for gals who want to add a little something extra. {Scroll to the bottom of the post for the recipe!}

No party of mine is complete without something sweet! The solution? A DIY Coca-Cola Float Bar that doubled as a beverage and a dessert.

Setting it up is simple: Offer a few ice cream options {I chose Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Brownie Chunk. YUM.}, set out some bottles of classic Coca-Cola or Coke Zero {just $5 for two 16.9 oz. 6-packs at Walmart}, and display a few topping options like whipped cream, chocolate and caramel sauce, chopped nuts and fancy cookies for guests to create their own fizzy float! 

I jazzed up each cup with a personalized chalkboard sticker and added a little extra pizzazz with chocolate sauce/sprinkle rims that are a breeze to make before guests arrive. Add a cute striped straw and a cherry on top and watch the girls sip with pure joy!

Just in case the game goes into overtime, it never hurts to have a little something extra on hand for nibbling. I used the same RITZ® Crackers that were part of my savory snacks and gave them a sweet makeover by filling them with sweetened whipped cream, dipping them in melted chocolate and adding some sprinkles for good measure. A few minutes in the freezer is all it takes for these popable treats to set up. {You can also fill these with your favorite frosting, nut butter or dessert spread! Keep an eye out for more detailed instructions later this week!}

My party turned out like no game-watching party I've ever been to, and though this event was meant for girls only, I have a feeling the guys will be asking for invites the next time around! So ladies, whether you decide to make the dress code "Jerseys and Pearls" or keep it casual with team colors and sweatpants {your best girls won't judge}, throw your own football social and enjoy the big game in style!

For more amazing {and adorable!} football party ideas with Coca-Cola and RITZ® Crackers, head over to!

Mini Coca-Cola Sloppy Joes

1 small onion, finely diced
1 pound ground turkey or ground beef
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced or grated
3/4 cup Coca Cola or Coke Zero
RITZ® Crackers

Optional: Diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese for topping

1. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  Add onion and saute until starting to caramelize, about 5-7 minutes.

2. Add ground meat to pan and break up with a spoon to crumble. {I like using a potato masher.} Sprinkle salt over meat and cook until browned and no longer pink.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together tomato sauce, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and garlic. Pour into meat and mix to coat meat. Cook for about 2 more minutes.

3. Pour in Coca-Cola, scraping up any brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Bring to a bubble and simmer until the sauce has reduced and thickened a bit.

Cool slightly, then assemble mini sloppy joes by sandwiching a scoop of meat mixture between two Ritz Crackers. Carefully skewer with a toothpick or create a DIY setup with diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce cheese and other toppings.