Teriyaki Chicken Wings and Asian-Style Succotash

I had big plans last Friday. I had a hankering for grilled steak with fresh corn, green beans and some perfectly ripe cherry tomatoes. In fact, I even bought all of my ingredients while I was at work (yay for being a meat distributor — a good steak is easy to find!) and biked them all the way home. The bike ride was not fun, and might be why you do not see a picture of a fat grilled steak at the top of this post.

See, when you bike a backpack brimming with goodies uphill 8 miles on a sunny Friday afternoon it does something to your motivation level — like kill it completely.

As I was unpacking all the groceries, I spied a bag of chicken wings in the fridge and suddenly the thought of starting up a grill seemed like too much effort. And the thought of chicken wings sounded like the most brilliant idea ever.

I have talked before about my serious love for my grandmother’s chicken wings. They are Heaven on Earth. They are the reason I keep five-pound bags of frozen wings on hand at all times — because it just doesn’t make sense to make any less than that. I can eat about a third of a batch in a single sitting. It’s not pretty, but it’s true.

So…my grilled steak turned into this:

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(Faux) Tortuga Rum Cake — My signature dessert

Chocolate Rum Cake

Everyone should have a signature dish. Back in college, my friend Oliver Lucky and I were infamous for attending potlucks, where other people showed up with something homemade, bearing a bag of tortilla chips and jar of salsa. And yes, I mean one bag and jar between the two of us. Hey, we were poor and living in the dorms — those were things we could buy at the on-campus convenience store with our food cards.

It’s a good thing that we’ve grown up since then. Not that there’s anything wrong with chips and salsa, but being known for making a bad-ass rum cake is a whole lot more fun.

My obsession with this dessert started on my first Caribbean cruise. I was with my husband, my friend Jenna and her husband. We would stumble off of the ship on our port days and be immediately greeted by several liquor stores, all providing complimentary rum and rum cake samples. Sure it was eight in the morning, but there was no way in hell we were going to turn down free booze!

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My Swedish grandmother’s amazing recipe for teriyaki wings

Chicken Wings 3

My grandma (also known to me as Mormor, the Swedish word for maternal grandmother) is responsible for bestowing upon my family our time-honored recipe for teriyaki-style chicken wings. Sure, her pickled herring, headcheese and potato sausage are revered as well (some more than others) but it’s her chicken wings that I remember most fondly from childhood. The pickled herring I only ate once on a dare. It was as awful as it sounds.

Anyways I’m not sure how the chicken wing recipe first came to be a family favorite. The vague explanation is that it was passed to her from my mother’s best friend’s mom more than fifty years ago. Where she found it, I have no idea and why she gave it to my grandma is another mystery — though a fortuitous one for sure.

Normally I would never do this, but it's just too fitting to this story

Normally I would never subject you to a plate of eaten food. But here’s a picture I recently sent my cousin (now in Texas) after I polished off a bunch of wings — I admit I wanted to torture him a bit.

It’s one of the dishes that my grandma makes every time I go to visit her and my grandfather (along with her Swedish hotcakes which she makes every Saturday morning without fail). As a kid, when we would visit them on vacations, she used to make the wings for my brother, my older cousin and me. My brother has always enjoyed them, but my cousin and I were obsessed. We would race to eat as many as we could — counting up the bones when we were done to see who was victorious. I think most of the time we actually tied — which looking back was quite a feat. It should be noted that my cousin is now taller than me by more than a foot and is a boy to boot and I can still eat as many wings as he can.

My mom also made them for our family. They were what I requested for every birthday or “special occasion” dinner. They were what I craved on my winter breaks during college. They were the first recipe my mom wrote down for me and the only reason I own an electric frying pan. It’s impossible to make them as good without one.

Three generations later and these wings are still one of the dishes I make, along with my mom’s chicken casserole, when I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. Which is fairly often.

Over the years, I have been spreading the chicken wing love. My best friend Nikki Sea had me email her the recipe a while back and I have now gotten my husband hooked on them as well. In fact I usually make about three times what the recipe calls for because I tend to hoard the leftovers so I can enjoy them in secret or sneak them to work for my lunch.

However these wings are so sticky and messy, they are difficult to eat covertly. My grandma always says we should serve them with finger bowls, though instead we just plunk down a huge pile of napkins in the center of the table. Last year for my birthday party, I set out a huge platter of them. We went through a lot of napkins that night and the wings were all but gone. Luckily there were a few left over for me to snack on the next afternoon while I cleaned. Though you better believe I had some tucked away in the back of the fridge, just in case…

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Everyone needs a party hive

Forget beer pong, king’s cup and playing rounds of quarters, I bring to you the greatest party game of all time…

Behold the Hive!

My hive, which was a key element in my birthday party this year, was a pretty intense project. It took two months of planning and two weeks of building to get roughly two hours of the most hilarious enjoyment from it. Thankfully since it’s only partially deconstructed, the hive is easily accessible for future hours of entertainment. In fact, even though my liver is shaking in fear, I may already be planning its next party appearance.

After the unspeakably ridiculous adventures my friends and I had with this hive, I have come to the conclusion that everyone should have one. Or at least know someone who has one. But since I’m a big believer in independence, here’s how to make your own:

First, decide on a shape. If you are fine with a straight-up square, just get a piece of poster board in the size you want. Since I was after a honeycomb shape, I bought two pieces of white poster board and cut one into two pieces to fashion the edges. I used a hole puncher and some metal brads to hold all the pieces together. Yes, it was a bit delicate, but it worked just fine. Just be gentle when moving it around.

Next up is to buy a ton of cheap plastic party cups. This is where I could have made my life slightly easier and gone with a solid color of cup. But since all I saw at the store was red, I went with clear instead. I’m sure I wouldn’t have had any trouble finding solid yellow if I had checked other stores, but I was anxious to get started. While my cups would eventually just contain slips of folded paper, if you decide to fill some of the cups with candy or prizes, you’ll have to then conceal the contents to keep your sneaky friends from cheating. And they will try. I promise.

The next step is attaching the cups to the board. I used a box cutter to cut a slit in the poster board and to stab a hole in the bottom of the cups. Then I got busy attaching each one by its base to the board with a metal brad. Helpful hint: this is a prime time to catch up on whatever trashy TV programs you have been waiting to watch. I highly recommend Gossip Girl.

This is what you should end up with…

Next is to start decorating. Even if you use solid cups, the crepe paper adds an extra bit of festivity. This is not very exciting to look at…

But this is!

Now that it’s looking colorful and you have your paper, prizes, whatever in each cup you get to move on to the final stage. Get out your bottle of Mod Podge, a foam brush, tissue paper and scissors. I went a little overboard and cut out the tissue paper in octagon/honeycomb shapes, but I would recommend just plain circles, ovals, whatever shape floats your boat. They don’t even need to be consistent sizes because eventually the paper will all blend together.

After everything has had a chance to dry, you’re ready to party! Get your friends together and take turns punching through the paper to see what’s in store for you. Here’s mine at the beginning on the madness…

As a warning, this is exhilarating and addicting. I expected us to leisurely take turns throughout the night, casually discovering we won a prize or needed to perform a dare. Instead the hive immediately turned us all into punch-happy maniacs who were quick to regulate the order of things so no one got an extra turn. Once it was over, we were all a bit exhausted and the hive itself looked like it had been through a war. Though that could be because a slightly tipsy Oliver Lucky sat on it halfway through the night. It’s hard to say.

Any any rate, you should make one! Your friends will thank you. And you will feel awesome because you will have the greatest party prop in all the land…