(L-R: 3-cheese mac & cheese being dressed and layered; 2nd pan of cooked mac & cheese almost gone)
You all know how much I love entertaining, right?! If I’m not chatting away in front of multiple cameras or doing a live cooking class with 20 or so eyes fixated on my mile-a-minute hands moving from pan to oven to counter, then hosting a private soirée for some foodie friends with a tremendous appetite and some socially active colleagues is always a fantastic platform to be more relaxed. I’ve been so busy traveling I’ve not had a chance to sit down long enough to strategize my entertaining goals, but I did finally host another “Eat & Tweet” two weeks ago and I’m thinking this one was the most talked about and certainly the one where I was left with no leftovers; a perfect way to end a crazy day of cooking. The theme this go-around: cooking with chips!
But not just any chips, my friends. We’re talking about SunChips®. I remember when they started getting really popular around 12 years ago (at least that’s how far back I can go) and all I wanted to do was devour the French Onion flavor every time one of my crunchy cravings attacked. I haven’t seen them as much lately in my local stores in Atlanta or DC, so I’ve been snatching up the Garden Salsa flavor whenever I see them.
I got more excited when they asked me to be one of the first to taste their latest Sweet & Spicy BBQ flavor, which just debuted on February 10. Once I got a feel for them, I pushed the French Onion aside and allowed my mind to break into happy dances while I designed ideas in my head.
Let’s just say they are my new fave of all chips and the perfect excuse to indulge those crunchy cravings at the most inopportune times — like 1 am. With espresso in hand.
I thought of some creative and funky ways I could incorporate them into my dishes for the event – dishes my guests would double up on – like baked honey & BBQ chicken wings crusted with the new flavor, picadillo-stuffed mushrooms with a crunchy topping, and one of their tried and a true creamy ricotta cheese dip.
(picadillo-stuffed mushroom caps with Original crunchy topping)
(One of two ricotta dips — good with Original or Garden Salsa snacks)
(Clockwise: Winner of basket; featured new flavor: key cards; Sangria; endive cups with nutty picadillo and arils)
I also used the harvest cheddar flavor to hook up a 40-year-old three-cheese mac & cheese family recipe I tweaked with a fancy element. I added some truffle oil to the béchamel and then drizzled some more on the top layer. Instead of panko, I crushed some of the harvest cheddar multigrain snacks and used them as a middle layer and a crunchy topping. Two pans of mac & cheese… both cleaned out, just the way I like to see my dishes.
(Prepping process shared on Instagram. Clockwise: Endives; prebaked mac & cheese; béchamel; pomegranate arils)
Funny thing is I’m not a fan of mac & cheese in the least, but considering the revered recipe and more queso, I mean who wouldn’t become one, even if for one fun night?!
After almost three hours of hugging the table with the full spread, sipping a really fresh sangria, tweeting pictures, replenishing the stuffed mushrooms, endive cups with a different picadillo recipe and pomegranate seeds, and bowls of varying chips to snack on, debating over the favored flavor (collectively we threw our hands up for the new Sweet & Spicy BBQ flavor) and sharing some pertinent facts about the featured snack – mostly their nutritional information (18g of whole grains per serving and 120 calories per serving– something I can live with) I switched things up a bit and threw out a question to my guests for a chance to win this:
A colorful picnic basket full of bags of the new flavor, recipe key cards, really practical tumblers and a $50 gift card. It quickly got really intense and everyone started bribing each other for the right answers. I should have had audio on my friends and guests… the answers suggested were a a combo of perfectly poised elementary school children taking copious notes of everything I said and not-so-good multi-taskers thinking they were listening while making two and three plates of food.
(Clockwise: Foodies tweeting for the prize; flowers, endive apps, recipe key cards; guest eating)
(Guest eating and tweeting!)
(Clockwise: Foodie guest and me; Ricotta cheese dip; bowl of chips for light snacking; me trying to help guest Tweet; prize basket; endive cups — all c/o guests’ Instagram)
After much rush to tweet the right answer in a matter of seconds, I gave away the fun basket. Seeing the energetic effort put into winning it, I extended the contest to my awesome online followers also… Two twitterlings tied but only one happy girl was lucky enough to claim her goodies.
Of the 6 dishes I fancied up, the baked honey & BBQ chicken wings and three cheese mac & cheese were the hits! Everyone loved the idea of a healthier chicken wing option made with a crunchy snack as a doable crust. And for the mac & cheese, let’s just say the added Harvest Cheddar on one batch made it the cheesiest noodle dish you’ll ever eat. The Sweet & Spicy BBQ topping on the 2nd one just took it to another level of flavor bomb balance!
While the evening was a chill one, spending time with foodies, friends that trust what I share with them is bona fide goodness, I was mostly inspired by introducing them to the new SunChips® Sweet & Spicy BBQ flavor. One of the gratifying parts of my job is teaching everyone how they can use every day snacks to create memorable and versatile and yummy snacks. I did that with these.
Everyone walked away with these lovely laminated recipe key cards, full of tried and true SunChips® recetas anyone can make for themselves. The walking taco sounds like that app I’d serve at every Latin-themed event. You can’t ever go wrong with a nacho situation.
(Keepsake key cards)
I didn’t share all of the recipes I made that night, but if you’re interested in more fun and creative recipe ideas, check out their Facebook page or SUNCHIPS.com! I guarantee you’ll be making plans to pick some and try.
And if you do, let me know! I love seeing what you guys come up with! But first, check out the the new bold, sassy, picante y dulce flavor. You’ll thank me for it. I promise.
Thanks to all whom attended and enjoyed eating, tweeting and learning about SunChips. I’m still so tickled we worked together on this event. I live and love by this: Good food, good drinks, great company and life-changing memories!
HONEY & SWEET SPICY BBQ SUNCHIPS-CRUSTED BAKED CHICKEN WINGS
- 2 lbs. frozen chicken wings
- 2 cups. orange blossom honey
- 2 - 10. 1/2 oz bags of SunChips® Sweet & Spicy BBQ, crushed to really small crumbles
- 1 pack taco seasoning
- 10 cloves garlic, mashed (paper on is optional)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 bay left
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Fill large stock pot with water and bring to boil. Add chicken wings, seasonings and garlic. Cook on medium heat for 25 minutes until chicken is cooked and tender, but not falling off bones.
Remove chicken from heat and drain completely. Using tongs, transfer to deep casserole dish or deep large bowl. Saturate wings with honey, making sure they are well covered. Stir in taco seasoning mix. Pour crushed BBQ chips all over and cover each wing with the snacks. Repeat again until wings are generously covered with chips. Place all wings on cookie sheet and bake on 350 for 30 minutes until golden brown.