My hot wings are baked, not fried. Not that you're gonna save any calories, because I use a stick of butter for the sauce. And serve them with bleu cheese and ranch dressing.

Yikes, right?

Well, honestly, you have no business eating hot wings if you're worried about the calories. Hot wings are throw the diet to the wind and splurge for the big game food.

The advantage to baking, and not frying, is that baking is so much lower maintenance. I'm rarely in the mood to stand over a fry pan. So I bake instead, and I can guarantee you that everyone who tries these wings absolutely loves them. If I do say so myself. . .

For this recipe, you will need:

4 dozen chicken wing pieces, exluding tips.
Olive oil
Louisiana (or other) hot sauce, 2 12 ounce bottles (just to make sure you have enough!)
Spices of your choice: I use seasoned salt, pepper, red chili flakes, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and/or paprika
Butter, 1 stick
Bleu Cheese and/or Ranch Dressing

First of all, you'll prepare your wings. Take them out of their packaging and put them all on a big platter. Liberally season the wings all over with a generous coating of your chosen spices. I just sprinkle each spice over all the wings and them toss them around together with my hands to make sure they're covered evenly. With the red chili flakes and the cayenne pepper, I add pinches at a time to make sure I'm not using too much. I like a REALLY hot wing, but not everyone else I'm serving does, so I take care with these spices.

Next, divide the wings put them into two gallon-sized ziploc bags (they won't all fit in one) and pour in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil into each bag. Zip the bags and shake the wings around to coat with the olive oil. Next, pour about a half-cup of the hot sauce into each bag and shake again to coat. Leave the wings in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours to marinate.

When you're ready to prepare the wings, preheat the oven to 375 degress. Usse two baking sheets and place wire cooling racks inside them. Spray the surfaces with PAM (or other) cooking spray. Spread the wings over the racks inside the baking sheets and bake the wings for about 40 minutes.

When the wings are done, melt a stick of butter in a large mixing bowl. Then add a cup and a half of hot sauce and mix well. Throw the wings into this sauce mix about 6-8 at a time and coat them well. Next, the wings go on a platter. When you've got them all coated and transferred to the platter, they're ready. Serve with the bleu cheese and ranch dressing, for dipping. I also serve with celery and carrot sticks, for dipping in the dressings.

Also, make sure you reserve the butter and hot sauce mixture, in case your family/guests want extra for their wings. My older son likes to mix some of the sauce in with ranch dressing and then dip his wings. I've tried that, too, and it's pretty delicious!

In our house, we love our game food. And tonight's the National Championship. That's right. Number 1 Alabama and Number 2 Texas.

Since it's 5 degrees outside (and well below zero degrees when you factor in the windchill), and our world has been covered in snow since Christmas Day, we voted on chili as our go-to dish for tonight. This is my standard (and so simple!) chili recipe, but I'm titling it National Championship Chili because this is the first time I've published it. I think the name gives it a little swagger, too!

National Championship Chili

For a solid 6-8 hearty servings (I'm feeding big guys with big appetites), you'll need:
1 lb. ground beef
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can of tomato sauce
2 cans of Bush's Best Chili Beans in Chili Sauce (Medium) -- I like Bush's best, but use whatever brand of beans you like.
1 yellow onion
6-8 garlic cloves
2 fresh jalapenos
Chili Powder, Cumin, Red Pepper Flakes, Garlic Powder, Salt and Pepper -- all to your taste. I add the spices a a couple of points during the cooking, testing after the first addition to see how much more I might need (I always need some more!). If you're patient enough to do this, you'll end up much happier with your results than if you use a standard measurement.

Super Simple Prep

Brown the ground beef in the bottom of your chili pot (I know you have one!). When the beef is just about browned through, add the onion, garlic and jalapeno, all of which you will have chopped pretty fine while the meat is browning. At this point, I also add the first round of spices. I'm pretty generous with the chili powder and cumin (although less cumin than chili powder). I use just a pinch of the red pepper flakes. Then a liberal dose of the garlic powder (don't ask me why I use garlic and garlic powder, but it works for me), a liberal dose of salt, and a pretty liberal dose of black pepper. But you use the spices the way you like -- don't be afraid!

After the veggies have softened and the meat is fully browned, add your cans of crushed tomato and tomato sauce. Let it simmer for a few minutes and then taste. At this point, I always have another go round with the spices, but you be the judge of your own chili.

I let the meat, veggie and tomato mixture simmer together for about an hour, to let the flavors gather. Then I add the two cans of beans. I don't drain the beans, because I like the chili sauce, so it all goes in the pot.

I let this all simmer together for another 30 minutes or so. And we're done.

Serve with oyster crackers, tortillas, or tortilla chips.

Queso Dip So Easy I Can't Even Take Credit

Especially since I use Velveeta "Cheese."

Get out your crockpot (I use a smaller one) and throw in about 2/3 of a large brick of Velveeta, sliced. Then just add whatever chili-friendly ingredients you want. Tonight I threw in some chopped jalapenos and a can of Rotel tomatoes and chilis. Once the queso has melted down, I add about three ladles of my chili to the mix. Yummy.

Mix and match the chili, the queso, the chips, etc. any way you want.

Here are some simple ways to dress up steamed asparagus.

Before adding the dressing, however, make sure that you have steamed the asparagus according to instructions provided on this blog. Once the asparagus is done steaming, take it out of the pan or pot and run it under cold water for a minute. Then allow it to drain on paper towels for a minute or two, until dry.

Lemon Juice and Fresh Black Pepper
You can't get any more simple than this. Just take a fresh lemon or two (however many you need for the amount of asparagus you have prepared) and squeeze over the asparagus. then grind fresh black pepper over the asparagus, to your taste. Serve.

Lemon Butter
Still pretty simple. You're adding some calories with the butter, but I'm a big believer in using butter in moderation -- nothing else matches the taste. For this dressing, you melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan wide enough to accomodate the asparagus. Once the butter has melted and is bubbling, add 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Let the mixture simmer for a minute or two, then remove from heat and toss in the asparagus, turning gently to coat. Serve. This recipe is for 1/2 pound of asparagus, so multiply the amount of lemon and butter according to the amount of asparagus you have.