home cooking recipes                                            home cooking recipes

Game day faves that scores!

Story and photos by Angie Sutton


The time is nearly upon us my friends. College football and those epic Saturday tailgates are just under the flip of a calendar page. College football fans take their tailgating seriously and for many, the events before the game are just as important as the battle taking place on the field.

Tailgating is something that is impossible to do wrong. Okay, so maybe we’ve all witnessed some instances that have turned out not so good like the pressure cooker torso burn requiring the EMT’s to visit our tailgate. We can all agree though that not all tailgates are created equal. I think the saying is “Wherever two or more people gather in celebration of the game, the spirit of tailgating shall be there.” So by all means, pop the trunk, fold out your chairs and celebrate.

Some tailgating rituals however are simply above and beyond the rest. These folks take the pregame ritual to a new level. We’re talking themes, menus, tent towns, decorations and specially-selected music pumping from beneath the proudly-erected flag pole waving the team’s colors. Of course at this point I have the Wabash Cannonball running in a loop in my head. Gives me goosebumps to think about it!

No matter your team’s colors, here are some simple gastronomic suggestions to make your celebration the envy of the neighbors across the parking lot aisle.

Hand-held food. Serve food you can hold in one hand like a wrap or burrito. This is a great solution if you want to avoid having a hot grill in your space. They are easy to eat, kids love them and you can do the prep at home. Serve chili in a bread bowl or do a walking taco. For breakfast wrap a sausage or bacon and eggs in a pancake.

Dips, dips and more dips. Think beyond the traditional cheese dip and go with a hearty version. My friend Jason calls these “man cave worthy” dips. Make transporting, serving and eating convenient when you do individual seven layer dip servings in short, clear plastic cups arranged in a muffin tin.

Make it a team effort. Giving your friends a place on the culinary team not only gets them involved but lightens the financial and work burden for the weekly gathering. For a family already packing kids and strollers, their contribution can be plates, forks and a few bags of chips.

Put it on a stick. If you can put it on a stick then it’s a no-brainer for the tailgate. Of course it’s a quick way to grill meat like cubes of precooked ham and hunks of fresh pineapple with a brown sugar marinade. Fresh strawberries and cubes of angel food cake with a can of spray whipped topping for dessert?

Think quick! Perhaps it is my impatience influencing this thought. Noshes should be quick to the table. Nobody wants to spend the entire tailgate in front of the grill waiting for a hunk of something to get done and people need their grub now. And did I mention I’m impatient?

Theme it up! What’s more fun than a football-shaped stack of cheese and crackers? After an hour or so on that idea sharing website you can pin a number of ideas—some good and some crack me up. However, I really like the food-on-a-stick, Mexican and Italian cuisine and New Orleans fare. A few things I suggest you avoid are a cluster of helium balloons, themed hats—particularly pirate swag and anything that requires your husband to wear something that will embarrass him.

Whether you are tailgating on location or enjoying the big game from your armchair, food is central to the fun. Always keep in mind food safety guidelines and have a second batch of non-perishable rations ready to roll for half time at the stadium. Best of luck to your teams this fall.

Ham and Fresh Pineapple Skewers

1 lb. precooked ham steak, cut into cubes
1 fresh pineapple, cut into cubes
Bamboo skewers, soaked in water 10 minutes


3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. prepared mustard

Preheat grill to 450 F. In a medium-sized bowl mix together brown sugar, vinegar, vegetable oil and mustard. Thread ham and pineapple alternately onto skewers. Place skewers on the prepared grill and brush liberally with brown sugar mixture. Cook about 8 minutes on each side, until heated through.

Strawberry Shortcake on a Stick

This is so simple and portable. Cut angel food cake into cubes and thread a skewer alternately with strawberries. Dot with dollops of whipped topping or take a can of spray dairy whipped topping. Make it extra good with chocolate sauce.






Man Cave Worthy Dip

Serve this hearty dip with corn tortilla chips or the scoop chips.

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (16 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (10 oz.) diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained
1 c. frozen corn, thawed
1 can (4 oz.) chopped ripe black olives
3 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce (more if you like)
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
1 pkg. (16 oz.) process cheese, cubed

In a large skillet, brown and crumble ground beef. Add onion and simmer 5 minutes longer. Dump in a slow cooker. Add all remaining ingredients, except cheese, and stir until combined. Cover and set slow cooker on low for 3 to 4 hours, until heated through. Stir in cheese cubes. Continue to heat on low until cheese is melted, about 30 minutes.

Individual Fiesta Layered Dip Cups

This classic 7-layer dip recipe is enough for about 8 cups. I transport them in a muffin pan in my cooler. Serve with the smaller round corn tortilla chips.

1 (16 oz.) can refried beans
1 (1 oz.) package taco seasoning
1 c. guacamole
1 (8 oz.) container sour cream
1 c. chunky salsa
1 c. finely shredded fiesta blend cheese
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 c. green onions, sliced
1 can (4 oz.) diced black olives
8 (9 oz.) clear plastic tumblers

In a bowl, mix taco seasoning with refried beans. Add a few dashes of hot sauce if you wish. Layer ingredients in your cups: 2 Tbsp. each of beans, sour cream, guacamole, salsa and cheese. Top with 1 tsp. of tomatoes, green onions, olives. Cover with plastic wrap.

Onion-Sesame Snack Mix

This recipe submitted by Teresa Zimmerman, Plevna, Kansas, is the perfect half-time snack. Serve in a large bowl or provide guests each with their own releasable snack-sized bag. Makes 5 cups.

3 c. oyster crackers
2 c. dry-roasted peanuts
1/2 c. margarine
1 pkg. dry onion soup mix
1/4 c. sesame seeds

In a large bowl, combine crackers and peanuts. In a small saucepan, melt margarine; add soup mix and sesame seeds. Stir well. Pour heated mixture over crackers; toss to coat all crackers. Spread mixture evenly on a cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes, or until lightly browned, in a 350 F oven. Cool completely on pan. Store in an airtight container.

Slow Cooker Tailgate Chili

Serve with cornbread or crackers.

1 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 lb. ground pork
2 cans (28 oz.) beef broth
1 jar (16 oz.) chunky salsa
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz.) southwest corn, drained
2 c. frozen diced hash browns with onions and peppers
1 can chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin Toppings: sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped avocado

Brown ground beef and ground pork. Stir in remaining ingredients until heated through. Transfer to a 5-qt. slow cooker. Serve with toppings.

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