Crowd-pleasing Dip for the Holidays!

If you are fortunate enough to know a member of the Junior League of Tallahassee, you may have had the pleasure of trying the famed JLT Feta Black Bean Dip. It’s a treat!

This dip is a winner among crowds. It might be the apple cider vinegar, the sugar or maybe the shoe peg corn. Oh heck, it’s everything! I highly recommend adding this to your list of favorite party dips. Served with Fritos (definitely the sturdy “Scoops,” since you won’t want to miss a drop), this dip tends to disappear quickly. Thankfully, the recipe serves 30 handily, making it great for larger gatherings, including holiday entertaining.

Here’s your how-to, courtesy of the Junior League of Tallahassee and its A Thyme to Celebrate cookbook, available for purchase (see details below).

Feta Black Bean Dip:
Serves 30

½ cup sugar
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cup vegetable oil
3 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
3 (15-ounce) cans shoe peg corn, drained and rinsed
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 (8-ounce) block feta cheese, crumbled

Whisk sugar, vinegar and oil in a large bowl. Add the black beans, corn, scallions, cilantro and cheese and mix well. Chill until serving time. Serve with tortilla chips or corn chips (Fritos Scoops are recommended).

To find this and more tried and true recipes perfect for all of life’s celebrations, purchase A Thyme to Celebrate, Tallahassee’s official cookbook. $20 each, all cookbook proceeds go to the Junior League of Tallahassee. Contact me for details!




No Celebration Penalties Here!

Tailgate season is in full swing, and inspiration to spruce up your spread can be found just about anywhere…no matter what your team colors.

During a recent tailgate, a few yards of burlap plus some orange and blue bandanas made for a casual-yet-colorful table dressing. The bandanas ended up being quite versatile, and at just 99 cents each at Hobby Lobby, quite a deal. A couple of clothespins, and presto!

I had to improvise on the location of my flamingo friends. They wouldn’t stand in the gravel but showed perfect posture perched inside the drink bucket.

Daytime cocktails included Bloody Marys, sweet tea vodka with lemonade, and gin and tonic. To hold a smattering of garnish options, including pom-pom drink stirrers, I used some sturdy orange and blue hand-blown glasses.

Customized cups – No celebration penalties here! – were a hit with our tailgate visitors. Visit the Oh My Goodness Goodies section for a coupon code on your own cup orders, plus some fun tailgate tagline ideas!

Extra bandanas helped decorate the food spread, which included the winning pepper jelly-cream cheese-and-cracker combo, sugar cookies, and salmon and herbed cheese pinwheels made from a Williams-Sonoma recipe.

Tailgate tips: A pop-up cooler lined with a trash bag makes a great collapsible, easy-store trash bin for tailgates. Add a paper towel holder to your tabletop for when a cocktail napkin will not do.




Pepper Jelly Perfection

The results are in! Thirteen experts, some with as much as 40 years of tailgating experience, donated time and taste buds as panelists to select the perfect pepper jelly. I am pleased to announce the top three fan favorites and enjoyed serving the first-place winner with Ritz crackers and cream cheese during our first tailgate of the season:

1st: Braswell’s Savory Sweet Heat Hot Jalapeno JellyGrocery Store
2nd: Tomato Land Hot Pepper JellyTomato Land, Tallahassee, FL
3rd: Lyman Walker Groves Hot Pepper Jelly Roadside Store, Monticello, FL

Recap of the contenders and the pepper jelly party.

It was great to see some local jellies represented in the winner’s circle, but the results show the more widely recognized Braswell’s brand must be doing something right. It was hailed for its spicy-sweet balance along with the jelly’s “attractiveness.”

We sure had fun picking pepper jellies. I hope you find these results useful when entertaining in the future, and please continue to submit your favorite brand(s) for consideration in any additional challenges. A big thank you to all who participated!




The Perfect Pepper Jelly: A Heated Competition

One of my favorite snacks, especially during tailgate season, is pepper jelly with cream cheese and Ritz crackers. It’s a quickly prepped and easily addicting treat with a perfect balance of spicy-sweetness and creamy-crunchiness. There are quite a few delicious pepper jelly options out there, so I recruited a pepper jelly panel to help select the fan-favorite prior to football season.

The Contenders:

  1. Redfearn Pepper JellyProduct of Dixie, GA | Purchased at Tomato Land, Tallahassee, FL
  2. Tomato Land Hot Pepper JellyTomato Land, Tallahassee, FL
  3. Braswell’s Savory Sweet Heat Hot Jalapeno JellyGrocery Store
  4. Braswell’s Select Red Pepper Jelly World Market
  5. Lyman Walker Groves Hot Pepper JellyRoadside Store, Monticello, FL
  6. Palmalito Jalapeno Pepper Jelly Grocery Store

After assembling highly experienced tailgate experts through a Paperless Post invitation, I conducted a semi-scientific study. Each pepper jelly was rated by the panelists with a score between 1 and 10, 1 being less enjoyable and 10 being pepper jelly perfection (multiple jellies could receive the same score).

The table numbers from our wedding (Save yours! They come in handy!) made great jelly identifiers – hand-painted numbers were inserted into the ever-versatile Tolsby frames from IKEA. Some burlap fabric laid over a hat box gave the tablescape some height and created sort of a rustic-veggie-stand texture. Some quick paper dots in peppery colors added to the fun.

Now, before you get all riled up because your favorite pepper jelly was not included, I will say this may just be the preliminary round. If you have a suggested, must-try pepper jelly, please send in your suggestions!

So. Are you ready to learn which jelly reigned supreme? I know the suspense is killing the panelists in particular. You will just have to check back soon to find the winner posted in the Food & Beverage section!