Friday, September 4, 2015

Are You Ready For Some Football Tailgate Recipes?

At our house, we take our football seriously.  Even more so, as the chef de cuisine of Casa Smith, I take my game day food planning just as seriously.

For me, ease of preparation and taste are the big concerns when I'm planning the weekend sports-watching menu.  That generally ends up meaning two little words:  slow cooker.  Through the years, I have managed to put together some yummy game day munchies that can be mostly done in the crockpot and that frees me up to do what I really want to do -- watch the game.

Pre-made salads, pasta salads and sandwiches can also be great for the same reasons:  ease of preparation and hands-off self-serving during the game for everyone you happen to be feeding.

This weekend, for the kick-off of the Mountaineer football season, I'm thinking a taco bar may be in our future.  I'll brown some ground turkey and onions in a skillet, spice it up, add a bit of salsa and pop it in the slow cooker to allow the flavors to meld together for an hour or two.  While that is cooking, I'll get the toppings and fixings together:  tortilla chips, taco shells, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, sliced olives, sliced jalapeños, salad fixings, guacamole and salsa.  Then we can decide if we want nachos (chips, cheese, taco meat, fixings), taco salad (large pile of lettuce, meat, cheese and some crushed tortilla chips), or tacos (shredded lettuce, meat and cheese with salsa and guac).

There are a lot of other options, though, several of which can be made healthier with just a few simple substitutions -- lower fat cheeses, more veggies and less bread, leaner meat choices.   Here are some recipes ideas and my tweaks on making them healthier in parenthases beside the links and ideas:

-- Sandwich fillings:  lots of ideas for these below, but you can't get much easier than a warm crockpot full of filling and a tray of sliced rolls.  (choose lean meats, low fat broth and whole grain rolls for healthier option)

-- Salads, including pasta salads that eat like a meal or veggie salads that get something healthy into your guests and sometimes even satisfy the vegetarians in your crowd, too.

-- Chili bar:  This one is an easy one -- big pot of chili in a crock pot, and smaller bowls of toppings like sliced green onions, grated cheese, crushed tortilla chips, diced regular onion, oyster crackers, etc.  That way folks can mix up their chili the way they really like it.  More here and here.  (lean ground turkey or grass-fed lean ground beef makes a healthier chili)

-- This is a West Virginia classic, but for an easy-to-eat and satisfying nibble?  You can't go wrong with a pepperoni roll.

-- Or the world's easiest appetizer recipe:  throw frozen, pre-cooked meatballs in a crockpot.  Mix together a biggish jar of grape jelly, a bottle of Heinz chili sauce, a little lemon juice.  Turn on low, and cook until meatballs are hot and jelly has melted, stirring here and there to coat the meatballs and cook them evenly.  We never have leftovers for these.  They aren't exactly gourmet nor are they healthy, but they are easy, tasty and...did I mention easy?

-- Or, in the alternative, frozen pre-cooked meatballs in a crockpot with a jar or two of marinara sauce and some extra Italian seasoning.  Let things heat up until the meatballs and sauce are well heated through, and serve with crusty rolls and some provolone cheese slices for easy sandwiches.  Don't forget the napkins, though!  (using leaner turkey meatballs makes a big difference in calories for this, too!)

-- Dips, veggies, fruits, cheese trays, chips...pretty much anything you can grab, dip and munch on will work.  Although if you can find a way to make it healthier, all the better for you and your friends, right?

-- Hot drinks:  given how cold football weather can get here some years, having something hot to dip into can be a godsend on a cold evening.  Especially for thawing out your hands, if nothing else.

-- Lots more ideas in the following previously published posts: Here are some past posts on slow cooker recipes, tailgating and game day food ideas that don't come from your slow cooker but are fairly easy nonetheless, and easy entertaining ideas:

-- Tailgate and Pot Luck recipes
-- Crockpot Recipe-O-Rama
-- More Tailgating and Crockpot recipes
-- Superbowl recipes
-- More Superbowl recipes (healthier version)
-- Slow Cooker Red Beans And Rice from scratch
--  New Orleans Recipe Round-up
-- Antipasto/Muffaletta Pasta Salad
-- Super Bowl Food and Mardi Gras Recipes
-- Slow Cooker Soups
-- Appetizers and Party Fare Ideas
-- Healthier Slow Cooker Recipes
-- Slow Cooker Ideas For Chicken Thighs (including a delicious recipe for butter chicken and tikka masala)
-- Crockpot Dal Recipe

But enough about category planning and prior posts.  Here are some recipe ideas to get you going (a [V] denotes an ovo-lacto vegetarian option):

-- Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Sandwiches
-- BLT Wraps
-- Chicken And Roast Beef Muffulettas
-- Cheeseburger Sliders
-- BBQ Pork And Coleslaw Hoagies
-- Three Pepper Feta Roll-Ups [V]
-- Grilled Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches
-- Braised Cranberry-BBQ Beef Sandwiches
-- Easy Mini Muffulettas
-- Slow Cooker Pastrami Sandwiches
-- Mini-BBQ Sandwiches
-- Slow Cooker BBQ Pork Sandwiches
-- French Dip Sandwiches
-- Muffin Tin Crabcakes
-- Mediterranean Wraps
-- Buffalo Chicken Wraps
-- Creamy Avocado And White Bean Wrap [V]
-- Asian Chicken Salad Wraps
-- Zesty Chicken Wrap
-- Easy Slow Cooker Beef Tacos 
-- Cuban Pork Wraps
-- Slow Cooker Italian Beef for Sandwiches
-- Slow Cooker Spicy Shredded Beef for Sandwiches
-- Chinese Orange-Beef (serve with flour tortillas)
-- Ham, Soppressata, and Two Cheese Stromboli

-- Muffuletta Pasta Salad
-- Roasted Potato Salad With Bacon-Mustard Dressing
-- Mixed Greens With Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette [V]  (keep dressing separate until serving)
-- Crunchy Buttermilk Coleslaw [V]
-- Tabbouleh Salad [V]
-- Creole Potato Salad [V]
-- Pesto Pasta Salad [V]
-- Confetti Pasta Salad With Chicken
-- Pizza Pasta Salad
-- Crunchy Bok Choy Slaw [V]
-- Garden Pasta Salad [V]
-- Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad 

--  White Bean And Turkey Chili
-- All-American Chili
-- Southwestern Chili
-- Chunky Two-Bean And Beef Chili
-- Cheddar Cornmeal Biscuits With Chives (the ultimate chili side munch)
-- Black Beans and Yellow Rice [V]
-- Salsa Rojo [V]
-- Party Bean Dip With Baked Tortilla Chips [V]
-- Easy Black Bean and Corn Salsa [V]
-- Pico de Gallo [V]

-- Potato Potluck Casserole
-- Swiss Enchiladas
-- Blazin' Baked Beans
-- Fiery Chipotle Baked Beans With Chorizo
-- Tex-Mex Summer Squash Casserole
-- Green Chile Chicken Casserole
-- Chicken Tamale Casserole
-- Slow Cooker Red Beans And Rice
-- Hash Brown Casserole with Bacon, Onions, and Cheese
-- Chili And Cheddar Bow Tie Casserole

-- Cowboy Caviar [V]
-- Grilled Pepper Poppers [V]
-- Pimento Cheese Stuffed Celery  [V]
-- Quick, Creamy Vegetable Dip [V]
-- Pigs In A Blanket With Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce
-- Cheddar Cheese Straws [V]
-- Chile Cheese Spread
-- Smoky Hot Ranch Dip  [V]
-- Avocado-Tomatillo Dip With Cumin Tortilla Chips  [V]
-- Beer Cheese Spread
-- Spicy Black Bean Hummus [V]
-- Cheese And Guinness Spread [V]
-- Creamy Dill Dip With Pita Chips [V]
-- Bacon-Blue Cheese Dip
-- Pesto Dip [V]
-- Goat Cheese Spread [V]
-- Hummus [V]
-- Colby-Pepper Jack Cheese Dip
-- White Bean Dip With Rosemary Olive Oil [V]
-- Brown Sugar Fruit Dip [V]
-- Red Pepper Hummus [V]
-- Black Bean And Mango Salsa [V]
-- Southwestern Layered Bean Dip [V]
-- Creamy Spinach Dip [V]
-- Chili-Sour Cream Dip [V]
-- Artichoke-Pepper Toasts [V]
-- Olive Medley Pinwheels [V]
-- Fiesta Dip [V]
-- Lemony Spinach-Artichoke Dip [V]
-- Hot and Sticky Wings (that stay warm in the crockpot)
-- Best Ever Onion Dip [V]
-- 50 More Dip Ideas

-- Bloody Marys
-- Spirited Hot Mocha
-- Warm Homemade Lemonade
-- Spiced Hot Cider (I do this in the crockpot, with or without any alcohol.)
-- Shortcut Sangria

(Photo via RPavich.)

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