Who would have thought that having sandwiches and drinks in the parking lot of a stadium before a game would turn into a social event for all ages?
It’s that time of year again; gather your family, friends, food and drinks, drop the tailgates and get ready for some tailgating.
Tailgate parties can be as simple or elaborate as you would like. The key to success is to huddle up and plan your event.
And, tailgating doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. One budget-friendly idea is to make your party a potluck. The cost and work of the event can be split among the group by assigning each person a dish, drink or other task to contribute to the party. When serving a crowd, team up with friends to buy and cook food items in bulk. Also, making your own appetizers and desserts instead of buying them pre-made will help lower costs. Keep your teams party decorations simple by shopping at the local dollar, craft or party store.
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Popular tailgating foods include picnic-type staples such as hamburgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, potato salad, baked beans and coleslaw and, in cold weather, chili. However, parking lot chefs are stepping up their menus by expanding game day food into culinary adventures. There are even parking lot food competitions between football rivals.
One of my favorite appetizers for any game day party is my brother’s recipe for Mediterranean dip. It is extremely tasty with its Italian dressing base and goes well with tortilla chips.
One of my favorite tailgating main dish foods is bratwurst and onions steamed in beer. I think bratwursts and tailgating go together. The brat protocol is to surround yourself with friends, cheer for your team, grill some brats and converse with friends as you eat and meander around to neighboring tailgate parties. No knife or fork is needed unless you are indulging in side dishes. Post-game munchies can include finger food desserts that range from cookies to cupcakes and all sorts of sweet treats in between.
Marinated flank steak is another easy grill recipe. It makes a great steak sandwich when sliced thin (make sure you slice it across the grain and cook it medium rare) and placed on a bun with a raspberry chipotle sauce.
Dips and chips are easy appetizers and the slow cooker can be your best friend for hearty main dish meals.
Some tailgate party preparation ideas to get your event started include preparing foods ahead of time, having them packed, wrapped and ready to roll. Stick to finger foods, if possible, and make sure they are in easy-to-eat pieces.
Bring along plenty of napkins, or better yet, a roll of paper towels; disposable sturdy cups; utensils and toothpicks.
A tailgate tablecloth in your team’s colors is a nice touch for displaying your wares and don’t forget a couple heavy-duty trash bags for your garbage. And, have a plan to keep food hot or cold. Before heading out to the game, place warmed up hot drinks, soups or chili into an insulated container.
Even in the coldest weather, you will want to be sure to have cool beverages, such as water and juice boxes for the kids, as well as ice.
It is a good idea to bring two coolers; one filled with ice and drinks and the second filled with foods you will be cooking and/or any sides that should stay cold such as mayonnaise-based salads.
Some other things to remember are condiments, salt and pepper, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, plastic baggie, disposable containers, bottle and can openers, slicing knife with cutting board, chairs, folding tables, blankets and protection from the sun, rain or snow.
If you are grilling, don’t forget to pack charcoal, matches, grilling utensils and, of course, the grill. A first aid kit is an extra that can come in handy for an accidental burn, cut or scrape.
Diann Greene, whose column appears weekly in Accent, can be e-mailed at email@example.com.
q 1 dozen bratwurst
q Beer, to cover
q 2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
q 1/2 stick butter
q Disposable 9-by-13 aluminum pan
n Preheat your grill to a medium high heat.
n Place the brats, onion and butter into the aluminum pan then cover the ingredients with beer.
n Set the pan on the grill; let the mixture simmer until the brats are cooked.
Remove the brats from the beer and place them on the medium hot grill (spray the grates with oil).
n Grill the brats until they are golden brown.
n Serve hot off the grill or return them to the beer mixture until ready to serve. Place each brat on a fresh baked brat bun topped with the cooked onions and your favorite condiment (spicy brown mustard is my favorite).
n Source: Recipe adapted from Food Network
q 1 small can of chopped green chilies
q 1 small can of chopped black olives
q 8 ounces crumbled feta cheese ( I use 2- to 4-ounce containers crumbled feta)
q 3 small fresh tomatoes, chopped
q 1 bunch scallions, chopped
q 1 packet Good Seasons Zesty Italian Dressing Mix
q Olive oil
q Balsamic vinegar
n Place and mix the chilies, olives, feta, tomatoes and scallions together in a medium bowl.
n In a separate container, make the dressing by following the directions on the packet using balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
n Mix the dressing into the feta mixture (I use almost the whole bottle however adjust to your taste).
n Serve with scoop tortilla chips.