I am a stalwart Chicago Bears fan, however embarrassing their on-the-field performance may be in any given game. I have always been deeply grateful for my grandfather’s foresight in buying season tickets the year the team was founded, which have passed down through the family over the years to my Dad, who takes my sister and me to all of the games. And yes, I do mean ALL of the games, including the below-zero-sleeting-foggy-sweet-fancy-MOSES-it-is-flipping-miserable-out-here games. I know all the words to Bear Down Chicago Bears by heart. I own a special pair of navy/orange/white Puma’s that I only wear to the games. My sister’s dog is named Payton, and his AKC name is Sir Sweetness, in honor of Walter Payton, one of the finest running backs to ever play the game.
I am a fan.
What I am not, is a tailgater. Schlepping all that gear to a game, getting there early and setting up a grill, adding extra hours to time in the cold, it was just never a part of our family routine.
But I do love a good party, and one of the great things about football season is the excuse to have football parties. I don’t mean Superbowl Parties, those are their own unique entities. I mean a good old fashioned random Sunday afternoon or Monday Night Football party, either watching a great classic rivalry, or just rooting for your home team with friends.
Today at noon, I will be appearing on the WGN news to do a segment about just such events, and wanted to be sure that the expanded version of my tips, tricks, and recipes were available in their entirety here on the blog!
Decorate the room with the television in the colors of your home team…plastic plates, cups, silverware and napkins easily found at the party supply store or at Target.
If you have one available, set up a second small TV in the kitchen (where people invariably gather) so that the game is on wherever people are.
Buy team hats (readily available online inexpensively) for your guests as party favors….if the logo hats are too expensive, buy plain baseball caps in the team colors.
Cover your buffet table in a green tablecloth and use white duct tape to make yardage lines, and white latex numbers to mark off the yard lines. Both of these can be found at Office Depot. You can also download team logos online and print them out to put in the “end zones”.
Make little labels for your food with fun names “Touchdown Dip” “Field Goal Drumsticks” “Monsters of the Midway Meatballs” “Goal Line Guacamole” “End Zone Empanadas” “Special Teams Salsa” “Defense Deviled Eggs” (someone stop me as I beat a metaphor to death…)
Set up a White Board with a standard betting grid (also easily found online if you don’t know how to do one already) but with the numbers covered up and have your guests write their names in a few squares. At the end of the first quarter reveal the numbers, and give out prizes for the people in the squares with the winning scores for each quarter, with a grand prize for the person in the square with the final score.
Think regional specialties. Every team has some foods that are special for their city or region, and using that as the basis for your menu planning is both fun and delicious. If you are like me, you will have a great time researching the recipes and whipping up your own versions. If you aren’t much of a cook, or if you won’t have the time, see if there is a local place to pick up the food or look online to see if you can get what you are looking for shipped in. I know I have mentioned them before, but Foods Across America is an amazing resource for this, they are often the exclusive distributor of the original and most authentic versions of some really incredible regional specialties. If you do decide to check them out for a party like this, or are looking for some great food gifts, you can get a special 15% discount on all of your purchases through the end of the year by using the code FAASBAL09 at checkout.
If you do like to cook, Chili is a great go-to option. There are regional versions from almost all over the country, so you can customize based on the game you are watching. Arizona Cardinals playing the Cincinnati Bengals? Do a southwest green chicken chili and a classic Cincy 5-way. Dallas Cowboys facing down the Oakland Raiders? Do an all-meat Texas style and a California Vegetarian version.
You can have a couple of your guests bring their “famous” chilis, pick up a vat from a local restaurant or just make my Almost-famous chili! (recipe below)
For an awesome over the top party, try this set up:
One meat chili, one vegetarian (you can add a third version, like a chicken or turkey or green chili if you are having a really big group). Put them in slow cookers on one end of buffet table.
My favorite toppings and add-ins:
Shredded Cheeses (sharp cheddar, pepper jack, goat cheese)
Chopped roasted chilis (jalapenos or Anaheim or pepperdew)
Chopped roasted sweet red peppers
Guacamole or Chopped Avocado
Nacho Cheese Sauce (one large brick of Velveeta melted with one can of Ro-tel diced tomatoes and green chilis with the juice until blended)
Black olivesGreen olives
Roasted Corn (cut off the cob)
Fresh chopped tomatoes
Red Pepper Flakes
Different Hot Sauces
Corn Bread Croutons (make or buy a not-too-sweet cornbread, let sit uncovered overnight, cut into squares, spray with cooking spray and toast in a 400 degree oven for 5-10 minutes until crisp)
Jalapeno Oil (blend fresh jalapeno with olive oil and strain)
For fun bases:
Baked Potatoes (regular and sweet)
Fried Tortilla baskets (corn and/or flour)
Shredded lettuce for making taco salads
Cooked Macaroni (toss in olive oil to prevent sticking)
Cooked Rice (toss in olive oil to prevent sticking)
If I’ve forgotten your favorite topping or base, I hope you’ll share with the class!
Stacey’s Almost-Famous ChiliServes 8-10, multiplies up beautifully
This is a mildly spicy chili, I prefer not to make mine too hot and let people who want more spice add it in to their preference.
¼ c olive oil
2 lbs. ground veal (or beef, or pork, or bison, or turkey…)
1 lb. sweet Italian sausage (turkey or chicken sausage also okay here, ditto the spicy versions)
2 c diced yellow onions
7 T chili powder
1 T dark cocoa powder (unsweetened)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 T ground cumin
1 T dried thyme leaves
1 T dried oregano
2 14.5 oz cans crushed tomatoes, San Marzano if possible
12 oz. beer
¼ c tomato paste
3 15 oz cans cannelini beans (great northern, black, or pinto also fine, I find kidney beans get tough in reheating), drained and rinsed
Heat oil in large pot till shimmering, then add onions and cook till translucent. Add garlic and meat (sausage meat removed from casing) and cook till lightly browned. Add spices and herbs and cook additional 10 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice, beer, cocoa powder, tomato paste and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. Add beans and cook 10 minutes to heat through. For best flavor refrigerate overnight and then reheat slowly over med-low heat on stovetop or in a slow cooker on low.
Some other handy recipes:
1 whole 2 lb. salami (I only use Vienna Beef for this, it is really perfect, but if you have another salami you like, it just can’t be dry aged or hard salami)
1 jar Heinz Chili Sauce
1 small jar grape jelly
1 tbsp. powdered mustard (I like Colman’s)
2 pkg. cocktail rye bread
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic casing from salami, and lightly score on both sides. Place it on a sheet pan and roast 20 minutes. In a small saucepan, heat chili sauce, half the jar of grape jelly, and half of the mustard until the jelly melts. Taste. It should be sweet and sour with a slight heat from the mustard. Need more heat? Add the rest of the mustard. Need more sweet? Add the rest of the jelly. When you like it, and then pour generously over salami, but try not to let too much puddle on the pan. Bake this for another 15-20 minutes. The glaze should be a mahogany color and the salami should be heated through. Take out of the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice thickly and place on slices of cocktail rye bread. Serve with extra sauce on side.
Bite Size Caprese Tomatoes
24 cherry tomatoes
24 bocconcini (mini buffalo mozzarella balls…you can substitute chunks of a larger piece of buffalo mozzarella or burrata, but do not use slicing mozzarella like you would use on pizza)
24 large basil leaves
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
White Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Slice top off tomatoes, and remove seeds and centers with melon baller or small spoon. Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper. Drip one drop of olive oil and one of vinegar in each cup. Wrap a basil leaf around a boccocini and stuff into tomato cup. Serve chilled.
3 T peanut oil
¾ c popcorn kernels
3 T nutritional yeast (this will be with the dietary supplements at your local Whole Foods or health food store, and while it sounds like a strange addition, it has a nutty flavor that is reminiscent of parmesan cheese and pairs great with popcorn)
1 t ground mustard powder
1 ½ t salt (and more to taste)
1 t dried thyme leaves (or herbes de Provence or Italian herb mix)
½ t garlic powder
¼ t cayenne pepper (optional)
Mix all of the spices and herbs with the nutritional yeast in a small bowl.
Put oil and popcorn in a large pot, shake to be sure all the kernels are coated, cover pot with tight fitting lid and turn the stove burner on high. Leave the pot alone until you hear the popping slow down, and then give it a shake or two just to be sure that you are getting all the kernels popped. When the popping slows to three seconds between pops, turn off the heat, remove the lid, and pour the popcorn in a bowl large enough for you to mix it around easily. Sprinkle hot popcorn with about 1/3 of the yeast/spice mix and toss popcorn thoroughly. Taste. Add more yeast mix and salt until you get the flavor you want. Once you have the right balance, let the popcorn sit uncovered at room temperature until completely cool. Store in Ziploc bags or Tupperware containers for up to 36 hours. You can toast on sheet pans in a 400 degree oven for 3-4 minutes to recrisp or if you want to serve warm.
White Bean Caramelized Onion Dip
2 cans cannellini beans or other white beans, drained
Juice of 1 ½ lemons
½ c extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 T fresh thyme leaves
½ c caramelized onions (about one large onion cooked in 2 T olive oil over med-low heat till deep brown)
S/P to taste
Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until creamy and smooth. Makes about 2 cups dip.
Austrian Style Potato Salad
3 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes peeled and cut into large chunks
1 red onion, diced as fine as you can get it
1/3 c rice wine vinegar
½ c canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch chives, chopped fine
Boil potatoes in heavily salted water till fork tender…do not overcook or they will get waterlogged. Soak onions in vinegar. Drain potatoes thoroughly, and pour over vinegar/onion mixture and oil, and mix gently, trying not to break up potatoes. Let sit at room temperature, tossing occasionally until cooled. Taste for salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped chives. This salad is better if it never gets refrigerated, and there is nothing in it to go bad or get rancid, so it is the perfect thing to bring to a party where food is likely to sit out.
Susan’s Apple Cake with Chocolate Chips
This is one of my favorite desserts, shared with me by my godmother who is the best home-baker I have ever met. It is a great fall cake, makes your house smell amazing, and is moist and delicious. Just try it, I promise you’ll love it!
2 c flour
2 c sugar
4 c cubed apples (3 large or 4 medium, gala, fuji, honeycrisp, anything sweet and crisp)
1 t baking soda
1 T vanilla
1 c vegetable oil
1 c chocolate chips (lightly dusted in flour)
2 t cinnamon
Combine flour, sugar, eggs, oil, cinnamon, baking soda, vanilla, salt. Add apples. Add chocolate chips. Spread into greased 9X13 pan. Will look like not enough batter. But it totally is. Do not worry. Bake at 325 for 40 minutes till skewer comes out clean. Cool before cutting into squares.