10 July 2011

July 4th BBQ and Smack Down Challenge

 So here I sit unexpectedly home at 3pm with a post July 4th food hangover. Yup. I get food hangovers. Tight jeans, headache, a lack of sleep when holidays fall on a blasted Monday, fatigue and the inability to have a good attitude. For me, physical well being affects psychological well being affects the emotional well being or any combination of all the above. I had a very productive, very busy weekend...don't ask me what I did because...well because of the hangover. It hurts to think and I must nap before an evening of soccer practice but I am determined to share the fun I had at the famous Coleman 4th of July BBQ on Monday (check out Jill's blog here) and the first ever smack talk challenge that I gave my BFF Kelly prior to the holiday. Kelly is always telling me to shut it on her blog but it's because I know her just a bit too well :-) Little does she know how much our brains work the same...birds of a feather, right? We both LOVE to eat cook and when Kelly decided to start a food blog I proposed the idea that we give each other periodic "food" challenges just to keep us excited and, well, embrace our competitive sides. I had been entertaining the idea for months but I wouldn't commit since I have a habit of, well, over-committing and underachieving. What better way to take the plunge than to make it into a little cut throat friendly competition. Kelly is an amazing cook. Kelly's fearless personality to try new things has opened up doors for me I didn't know needed opening. She is an amazing cook and friend so whatever smack talk I give her, I know she can not only handle but will also return. Here's her blog. As you will find, her hubby is in the military and they just PCS'd (moved) to Guam. Lucky dawg! She has 4 kiddos and less gray hair than me (no fair!). Our differences start at our hunkering for what makes our bellies happy. We aren't completely divided but she definitely has Asian food (specifically Korean) at the top of her "love" food, I prefer Mexican or Italian. Either way, the challenges will sometimes be easy and other times, well, challenging. For now, life is crazy for both of us so we are starting with the obvious...the 4th of July smack down. But before I go there, I introduce to you a few pics from our Independence Day celebration here in the Pacific Northwest. The good news, it didn't rain. I can handle that. My daughter said the water wasn't warm, but she still sacrificed herself...

Cute kid! But there were lots of cute kids there :-) I won't post all their pics here simply because I'll enjoy it, but you'll be bored to tears. Let's carry onto the fun, fare and details of the day. Of course the biggest thing I was looking forward to was the grub. Jill had her eyes on a new slaw recipe and stuffed jalapeno poppers, Bret had the meat marinating in a dry rub and everybody was showing up with something different. I think the fact that I'm Southern Baptist worked out perfectly....and if you know Baptists, we sure like to eat. The table was scattered with everything from chips, baked beans, cupcakes, cake pops and all kinds of salads to sweet tea, lemonade and pie.Yea baby! Here's a glimpse at some of the goodies...

Our resident BBQ'r and smoking pro, Bret! When you want meat, he is your go to guy. He hunts all kinds of game, raises pigs and chickens, makes his own jerky (I can't get enough of it!) and brines his own fish. I'd want this guy on my team if I was stuck on an island. Who cares about the boat, a girl needs to eat ;-)

Please note the crowd around him. No, it's not because everyone was starving, it's because of the smell of cooking meat that teased you the entire time it was cooking. His awesome wife, Jill, is on your left and his Mom is on your right.

You see what I's the other white meat. Yum!

Ok, I'm a rotten friend. Jill asked me if I had a kitchen item that would julianne and I said "duh of course and yes, I would bring it over! I own a food processor with a julianne attachment and I thought "oh, I'll just bring my pampered chef mandolin...that will be easier to transport and just as quick". Well, that only works if you bring the correct blades. Fail.  I tried to redeem myself by cutting it all up by hand...which I do like to cut things up but lemme just say that I have appreciation for any and all kitchen utensils that save you time. Here's my tan (yes I'm jealous) friend Jill stirring up the zucchini/carrot slaw. Again, no picture of the final product since by then my overtired brain was in eat mode not picture/blog mode. Imagine that.

Here is some bacon wrapped jalapeno stuffed poppers that Jill found a picture of on Pinterest. If you haven't ever wasted even more time of your busy life checked out Pinterest, it's fun if you are the creative type. Check it out heremojo rolling. Kudos to Jill for seeing a mouth watering picture of something oooey gooey and delish and trying it AND for her uberly resourceful husband for improvising on the popper holder. I would have gone to Cabela's and paid way too much money for one, only to discover the jalapenos were too dang hot for me to eat. I liked the idea of grilled bacon and the aged white cheddar that filled the inside. On to dessert...There we lots of yummy items there with suga...I know I's not good for gives you belly fat, the more you eat the more you want and let's not talk about what it does to your heart rate...blah blah blah. One day maybe I'll snap out of it but for me the love baby...

Cupcake design by Annette...her husband bought a Harely and she decided to take up a new hobby and go full force. Ok, that's the short story but she did decide to sign up for a basic cake decorating class and Michaels. She "needed" support, so I did Maggie :-) I just want to point out that she did this BEFORE we even had the first class.

Again, this is Jennifer. A year or two ago she picked out a recipe for some berry nilla wafer combo stuff. Now when Jennifer was little she baked and cooked with me ALL the time. Next thing you know I realize she is hardly ever with me in the kitchen lending a hand and having fun. I wasn't going to say no. She wrote up a list of ingredients for me to purchase and I let her have at it. It is not only 4th of July festive and it's pretty but it has sugar is the only time the entire year I use this trifle bowl. Now I don't have to get rid of it cuz I DO use it :-) That's a win win.

Ah, the cake pop craze. It's a cake, it's a's a cake pop. Aren't they awesome. I personally haven't tried to make my own gf ones yet and frankly the idea of mixing together the cake and the icing and dipping it in chocolate doesn't sound that great to me. My friend Deanna and her son Bridger made them.

Now on the the finale'. I started this post 5 days ago but nothing in life cooperated with me :-( Dislike. I spent a few hours 2 days in a row but I just couldn't stop adding pics and blabbing with my fingers. In my defense my laptop doesn't upload pics very fast. This whole blogging thing has a bigger learning curve to it than I thought. I promise to get more efficient...some day. So here they are 4th of July challenge smack down contribution. Gluten free mini chocolate cupcakes (from scratch) with Chocolate Vegan Frosting.

I topped them off with yummy blueberries, chopped walnuts, white chocolate chips and fresh strawberries from a local farm. If you even sorta like strawberries and you are from this area you have had Spooner Farm strawberries. We joke around and say that you can actually sit and watch them rot which really isn't TOO far off from the truth. You buy them, you can or freeze them the same day or you will be throwing most of them out.

I bought these in the morning and by that night we threw away an awful lot of strawberries. Boo!

So here's the down low...I got the recipe out of my new gf cook book, appropriately titled Gluten Free Cupcakes. The cupcakes on the front looked good and the recipes didn't look difficult with a short list of ingredients. I figured that was a good place to start... with my new motto in life, keep it simple.,

Here's the recipe. I'm too lazy to type it out and hey, this works.

 The cat wanted to help by diggin stuff out of my "baking drawer".

Jennifer and my friend Annette were my first official taste testers. They said they were gooooood! All three of us took a bite on the count of three...I was more than pleasantly surprised the the Vegan Chocolate tasted just like ganache to me. It's a good thing they were mini...they were rich!

Jonathan got first dibbs at the party. Recently has gone gluten free too so I wanted to show him that gf can be good. He gave it thumbs up.

Carolee is another BFF that specializes in baby delivery (she's a midwife/ninja) but what smart woman doesn't like a chocolate challenge. She has had other vegan treats and she said there is some NASTY not so tasty vegan treats out there. This won her over. Score!

Jill is also a gluten avoider. I say that because she avoids it when possible but hasn't done much dabbling into the world of cooking or baking gluten free. She is willing to try anything I throw her way and again, she is a smart woman. Bring on the chocolate. I caught her with this big ol' smile on her face just after her first bite. Score!

Sooooooo Kel. What do you think? The reviews are in. I even got quite a few guys to eat some AND like it. BUT I loved your idea of thinking outside the box on an All American fav AND you included a tropical go to with the coconut in the crust. Check out her Apple Pie with a Twist here. Oh, let's not forget you had the grocery shopping challenges being on an island with limited choices. I say you win! I can't wait to come up with a gf version that I will sneak into a church potluck and not tell a soul ;-) Hope you enjoyed the culinary love folks!


  1. Ok, seriously, my hat is off! VEGAN cupcakes??? Who'd a-thunk it??? I miss all these lovely faces (where's yours) soooo much! And given the fact that only my family tried the pie and they HAVE to say I win, well, color me schooled!! They look awesome and I really need to get on the ball with Jay and his gluten issues - thank you for the inspiration! Nif - you are beautiful! Love you!! :)

  2. Love the food posts. Don't love how I look like I'm nagging at Bret over the BBQ.