Foodball: Basic Queso Dip
Foodball: Basic Queso Dip

Basic Queso Dip

Did you make my Beer Cheese Soup last season? No? Well, if you haven’t, you should because it’s delicious and great in the cold weather. If you did make it, you’ve already got the basics down to make your own queso. A roux, some whole milk and some cheese. Boom. Installed.

 

Foodball Zesty Za’atar White Bean Dip
Foodball Zesty Za’atar White Bean Dip

Zesty Za’atar White Bean Dip

I’ve already sung the praises of za’atar earlier this season when I posted the recipe for Grilled Za’atar Chicken Pitas, and I wanted to give everyone a second recipe to use the beautifully earthy, smoky spice mixture in so you didn’t feel bought all this za’atar then didn’t know what else to do with it. I hate when a recipe calls for say, machalepi or fenugreek but then doesn’t suggest what else I could use those ingredients in. After I posted how to make Chicken Tikka Masala Wraps, I posted a recipe forGaram Masala Dip to inspire readers to find their own ways to use up the rest of their garam masala. So if you ever see me list an ingredient you don’t think you will use often, especially an unusual or expensive item, don’t hesitate to ask me what else you can put it in while creating in your own kitchen.

Foodball: Smoked Cheddar Jalapeño Crisps
Foodball: Smoked Cheddar Jalapeño Crisps

Smoked Cheddar Jalapeño Crisps

This is a combination of two previous recipes I’ve posted for the Football Foodie, Smoky Habanero Jalapeño Popper Bread and Parmesan Crisps. Smoked cheddar and jalapeños go together like Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, the perfect match of heat and savory. Crisps are something you can prepare ahead of time and without much effort, like working on a game plan against the Texans. Similes are a writer’s lazy tool, like Albert Haynesworth.

Foodball: Thanksgiving Scotch Cider
Foodball: Thanksgiving Scotch Cider

Scotch Cider

In addition to the physical heat radiating off your cider, this drink has warmth from both the scotch and the spices. Peppercorns help pick up the scotch and a add nice spark. Raw sugar is just a little more earthy than white sugar thanks to the molasses, which in turn echoes the peat in the alcohol.  In this drink I prefer using a clementine instead of an orange as its smaller size helps you tame the citrus notes of a typical cider. It’s not as sharp, nor does it have so much juice as to overwhelm the apple notes or the scotch.

Foodball: Herbed Cranberry Brie Sandwiches
Foodball: Herbed Cranberry Brie Sandwiches

Herbed Cranberry Brie Sandwiches

What make this sandwich work is sautéing the herbs in wine and olive oil to make the dressing. It cuts right through the sweetness of the cranberry and the richness of the cheese so you have a perfect balance of flavors. Not too filling, but not so light that after you’ve had one or two slices you’re looking for chips in the cupboard.

Foodball: Sweet Ancho Chile Roasted Cashews
Foodball: Sweet Ancho Chile Roasted Cashews

Sweet Ancho Chile Roasted Cashews

Out of all the nut recipes I’ve posted over the years, this is one of my favorites. The smoked paprika giving extra depth to the mildly hot ancho chile, a little extra heat from the cayenne; big, fat crunchy raw sugar crystals on the crust; just the right amount of salt to the sweetness. You can also use this spice mixture on peanuts if you like, but the butteriness of the cashew really is the best play with the ancho and cayenne.

Foodball: Roasted Serrano Artichoke Ricotta Dip
Foodball: Roasted Serrano Artichoke Ricotta Dip

Roasted Serrano Artichoke Ricotta Dip

As the season goes on, it’s easy to get sick of the same old sour cream based dips, guacamole or hummus, and you don’t always want a heavy baked spinach and artichoke dip made with cream cheese. The next best option for creaminess and taste? Ricotta.

By roasting the garlic, artichokes and some of the serranos, it tones down their sharpness and tames the heat so the peppers won’t overpower your palate. Fresh scallions round out the dip, but if you want a little extra bite of salt or brininess, fold in a tablespoon of chopped capers or kalamata olives.

Foodball Spicy Boozy Cafe Mocha For Tailgating (And Trick-Or-Treating*)
Foodball Spicy Boozy Cafe Mocha For Tailgating (And Trick-Or-Treating*)

Spicy Boozy Cafe Mocha For Tailgating (And Trick-Or-Treating*)

This drink was inspired by my buddy Josh in Albuquerque who one day last year talked about having a really good chile mocha on a cold morning. Of course you could booze that baby up for tailgating. Of course you want to. The heat from the chile reaches down into your bones while the cinnamon makes the chocolate feel fuller, warmer. The Kahlua brings an extra richness to the espresso while the tequila takes you full circle, bringing you right back to the chile and the cinnamo

Roasted Mezcal Bloody Marys
Roasted Mezcal Bloody Marys

Roasted Mezcal Bloody Marys

2013 Foodball Kickoff: Roasted Mezcal Bloody Marys

As I said last season when I wrote about Pizza Bloody Marys, there isn’t a better cocktail for tailgating or for morning brunch football on the west coast than a bloody mary. Still a little hungover from Saturday night? Need just a few vegetables to jump-start your metabolism with a touch of salt to balance out your dehydrated body and some booze to soothe your headache? Want to have enough energy to make it through the first game of the day? The bloody mary mini-meal in a glass is the perfect solution to all of your problems.

This bloody recipe calls for a smoky mezcal, rich and earthy as any scotch you will find. When paired with roasted tomatillos, meaty heirloom tomatoes, the heat of poblano peppers and the brightness of cilantro and lime, you get a refreshing, bracing bloody mary to jumpstart your day. Want a little extra heat and extra smoke? Add a chipotle pepper in adobe sauce to the blend, but honestly, I think the milder version pairs better with the mezcal. Poblanos have enough heat on their own to stand up to alcohol and tomatoes.

Super Bowl Recipe Month - Oven Roasted Gnocchi With Rosemary
Super Bowl Recipe Month - Oven Roasted Gnocchi With Rosemary

Oven Roasted Gnocchi With Rosemary

In the back of one of the fashion magazines I get they had one of those silly, “Let’s ask a bunch of different celebrities a dumb question so they can answer and we can make a montage of answers because we need something for the back page.” (Or maybe they’re all outtakes from interviews. I have no idea how magazine creation works.) Anyway, in this particular magazine they asked everyone’s favorite English chef (behind Gordan Ramsey, Jamie Oliver, Two Fat Ladies and that other guy) Nigella Lawson what her favorite snack was. She replied pan fried gnocchi, which was just gnocchi cooked in a small amount of olive oil until firm when I looked up her recipe online. Nothing else. Bland. City. (Again, English.)

Ficelle - Super Bowl Recipe Month
Ficelle - Super Bowl Recipe Month

Ficelle

Ficelle is a type of thin sandwich named for a thin baguette-style bread of the same name. (Ficelle means “string” in French if your guests ask.) If you can think of the combination, you can put on a ficelle, but the key to a good ficelle is not going overboard on sandwich filling since the bread is thinner. You want to pick just a few things and use the ingredients sparingly.

What’s great about these sandwiches is that you can mix and match a bunch of different types and then slice them in to smaller portions, giving everyone a chance to sample a variety a different flavors.

Super Bowl Recipe Month - Wilted Spinach and Mozzarella Tortellini Salad
Super Bowl Recipe Month - Wilted Spinach and Mozzarella Tortellini Salad

Wilted Spinach and Mozzarella Tortellini Salad

Over the past six or seven months I’ve brought this pasta salad to two football gatherings, a baby shower and a picnic, where it has disappeared every time. I usually find pasta salad, well. Hollow. Pasta and herbs. Bah. Nothing very satisfying there. By using tortellini in place of plain old corkscrew pasta, you suddenly get a very hardy side dish.

Super Bowl Recipe Month: Pizza Gougeres
Super Bowl Recipe Month: Pizza Gougeres

Pizza Gougeres

Don’t let this recipe intimidate you. French choux paste — the basis for eclairs, cheese puffs, cream puffs –  is shockingly easy to make at home. By adding herbs, cheese and sun dried tomatoes, you’ve just made one of the fanciest pizzas rolls around.

Super Bowl Recipe Month: Throwback Week - Classic Macaroni Salad
Super Bowl Recipe Month: Throwback Week - Classic Macaroni Salad

Classic Macaroni Salad

If you’re making barbecue, grilling or smoking anything for a Super Bowl or a playoff spread, few things compliment meats made over a fire like an old fashioned macaroni salad.  The mustard picks up the smoke, you get a nice bite of crunch from the celery, and the scallions and peppers help cut the creaminess of the pasta salad.

Most macaroni salads call for much more mayonnaise, but I have found a single cup is the right amount to soak into the macaroni noodle without everything turning to an overwhelming gooey mess. If you happen to keep celery seeds around for Bloody Marys, be sure to include them in your dressing. Brightens the whole salad.

Giant Cherry Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie
Giant Cherry Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie

During the regular season, I rarely make desserts or sweets for football. Even after nearly ten hours of games, it never seems like dessert time out here in Pacific Time. But during the Super Bowl when you have a few hours extra of just hanging around and socializing, you’re going to want a dessert.

By using dried cherries which typically are very tart in this recipe helps cut through the sweetness of the dough and the chocolate chips. You can use either light brown sugar or dark brown sugar depending on how rich you like your cookies. Feel free to reduce the amount of chocolate chips because I used a heavy-hand with the chocolate when developing this recipe since people tend to like more chocolate than less chocolate, but not everyone likes a lot of chocolate in their cookies. (Weirdos and Seahawks fans would be my guess.)

Salt & Pepper Biscuit Bites
Salt & Pepper Biscuit Bites

This is an update on a recipe I posted a couple of years ago, Rosemary, Chive and Cheese Biscuit Bites, which is one of my dream items snack items served for free like beer nuts if I were to ever have own sports bar. Over the summer when I was in New York City, I stopped at a bakery that served pepper and Manchego biscotti. I loved the combination and realized this would be a perfect change to the small biscuits I already loved. The result is an addicting snack item which are better for settling a stomach full of beer and soda than chips.

You may be worried that the small dough ball won’t make that many biscuit bites, but this recipe yields about five dozen of these savory little treats. If you’re having a large party, the recipe is easily doubled or even tripled.

Warm Lentil Crostini: Football Foodie Coasts Into The Playoffs
Warm Lentil Crostini: Football Foodie Coasts Into The Playoffs

Personally, I’m looking forward to an easy weekend of football. We’ve been traveling for nearly two weeks now; cross-country flights, 12 hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in a snow storm, going to the symphony, tailgating with my fantasy league and a hockey blogger in a Santa beard, cooking for my family, cooking for my in-laws, multiple bar outings with friends which — even as I type this post — have left my stomach and my head spinning. (It’s tough keeping up with Ape’s drinking, but I guess that shouldn’t be surprising. Apes are known for having quality livers.) I had planned on making one last spread of the season, but instead I think I’m to make something easy this Sunday to snack on. Crostini it is.

Tart Cranberry Deviled Eggs: Football Foodie Holiday Snacks at KSK
Tart Cranberry Deviled Eggs: Football Foodie Holiday Snacks at KSK

I can’t put my finger on the exact date, but sometime during the Great Craft Cocktails and Brown Liquor Resurgence of the past five or six — maybe even seven, we’ve all been drinking so much it’s difficult to remember — years hard-boiled eggs and deviled eggs made a comeback, especially at bars that served craft cocktails and brown liquor. Not deviled eggs like your grandmother serves at Easter under a layer of paprika, but rather wasabi deviled goose eggs, Sriracha-blue cheese deviled eggs, truffle and chive deviled eggs, and petite smoked salmon deviled quail eggs.

Tapatio Lemon Chips, Thanksgiving Leftovers and Pimento Cheese: Football Foodie Shortcuts
Tapatio Lemon Chips, Thanksgiving Leftovers and Pimento Cheese: Football Foodie Shortcuts
If it’s Friday and this post is going up, it’s safe to assume neither me nor my husband killed anyone during the Thanksgiving feast — thank you Patriots blowout for being there during a stone cold thirty minute silence between us and a family member we’re not talking to! — and we’re ready to be lazy the rest of the holiday weekend, just as soon as we clean out grandma’s garage, battle traffic past the outlets in Camarillo on our way home to Los Angeles, and do all the chores we swore we’d do this weekend since we supposedly have all this extra time on our hands.

It’s enough to make one look forward to Rams-Cardinals.

Savory Mushroom Pithiviers: Football Foodie Thanksgiving
Savory Mushroom Pithiviers: Football Foodie Thanksgiving

Two sorts of Thanksgiving diners, ones who believe in eating early and having leftovers again later in the day and those who don’t have their celebration until late afternoon or evening. The former means getting up at 5 am to start roasting a turkey, the latter means torturing yourself with cups of nuts as not to spoil the feast. It also means considering going through the early game of Houston-Detroit — and perhaps even Washington-Dallas, depending on your time zone — without having a snack.

Nonsense. You’re going to need game time snacks that can feed a crowd and also not spoil your appetite, and perhaps one that is relatively healthy. Ones that compliment the autumn table. Earthy tastes of mushrooms, herbs and wine, warm butternut squash and sage spiced with cayenne and chili.

Roasted Butternut Squash Sage Dip
Roasted Butternut Squash Sage Dip

Butternut squash sage dip is a healthy choice on a day that is already filled with calories. Interceptions are especially fatty, so you might want give this recipe test run when Tony Romo (13 INT) faces Brandon Weeden (12 INT) this Sunday.

 Kolokythokeftedes with Lemon Dill Greek Yogurt Dip: Football Foodie Fritters Away
Kolokythokeftedes with Lemon Dill Greek Yogurt Dip: Football Foodie Fritters Away

Over the last couple of seasons I’ve been making Seared Queso Blanco at home in place of mozzarella sticks, but this year has been all about the Greek kolokythokeftedes. Bright zucchini, salty feta, fresh bits of dill, parsley and mint come together and offer the right balance of crunch and soft chewy texture we crave in our football snacks. You can pair kolokythokeftedes with a tzatziki sauce if you like, but I prefer this pared down version of a lemon dill dip, the extra kick from the lemon zest pulling all the flavors together in sharp relief.

Lemon-Chili Corn: Football Foodie Fall
Lemon-Chili Corn: Football Foodie Fall

If you grew up in a Midwest/Mid-Atlantic household like mine, the only way had corn on the cob growing up was husked, boiled in water in the kitchen while everything else was on the grill and then served with about three pounds of butter and salt. (We had one neighbor who put out a separate stick of butter on the table for people to spin their cobs in at the table.) It’s nonsense, corn on the cob shouldn’t be about laboriously husking cold ears, scrubbing with a brush and then using up six gallons of water when there is a perfectly good fire going outside. Corn on the cob is easy, tasty and doesn’t need a lot of fat to make it taste delicious.

Roasted Garlic Cheese Spread: Fancy Football Foodie
Roasted Garlic Cheese Spread: Fancy Football Foodie

Over the years I’ve found sometimes it’s good to have a snack that it a little more substantial than chips and dip between a big football brunch and the late-afternoon or evening football meal. Items that satiate small nagging hunger without spoiling your appetite later. Luxurious creamy French cheese infused with the flavors of roasted garlic, herbs and crisp white wine spread over crostini or crackers fit the bill perfectly, and if you’re watching the game with your in-laws, makes your game day feel a little classier than the usual canned-salsa-in-Velveeta routine.

Pasta Chips: Football Foodie Snacks
Pasta Chips: Football Foodie Snacks

Sports can make you a nervous eater. Salt is good. Crunch is even better.

Unfortunately plain chips –  while delicious — don’t quite give the full emotional satisfaction of a hard crunch and aren’t filling enough to signal any sort of “stop you’ve had enough!” reaction until you’ve consumed the whole bag watching Peyton Manning being sacked for about the twentieth time. Season corned chips are better this way, but are covered with so much salt you don’t taste anything after about fifteen minutes and you may as well just go eat the rock salt in the garage. (Not that I’ve ever done that, but let me say that if you do try it, make sure it’s the plain rock salt and not the kind that has chemicals added to it for easier ice melting. Not that I’ve ever done that.)

This is why pasta chips are great for stressed sports eaters like myself.  They have a thick, hard crunch with heat from the red pepper flakes, depth from the thyme and rosemary, brightness from basil and just enough salt to balance out your drink.

Cointreau Grilled Pound Cake with Strawberry Sauce: Football Foodie Kickoff
Cointreau Grilled Pound Cake with Strawberry Sauce: Football Foodie Kickoff

There have only been a couple of desserts ever posted on the Football Foodie, Maker’s Mark Manhattan Mini Cupcakes and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies, not because we don’t like sweets (we do!), but because we so very rarely make them for football. However, after a week of grilling recipes, we’d be remiss not to include one of our favorite, easiest, fastest desserts you can toss over the fire, pound cake brushed with liqueur and topped with a fruit-liqueur sauce. Even if you’re tailgating, this is an easy dessert you can do before the game, just make the strawberry sauce the night before and chill before heading out.

Roasted Jalapeno Avocado Dip: Football Foodie Kickoff
Roasted Jalapeno Avocado Dip: Football Foodie Kickoff

College football kicks off tonight, which means our crazier friends are crazier than usual getting ready for the start of their football season. While there is a lot of overlap between college and pro fans, they are on the whole, different breeds of fanatics. Of course they are of the same football code and one group is not any better or worse than the other, but mannerisms — the shibboleth — are what make the two groups different, although I would like to think we’re the same on situational bourbon.

Lentil Beer Chili: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes
Lentil Beer Chili: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes

Consider blasphemy if you like, but for the most part I prefer lentil and bean chili over beef chili. Beef chili weighs you down, sitting in your stomach as if you had swallowed a bowling ball whole. Lentils and beans are filling without being heavy, spicy chipotle provides the heat and beer gives the chili a rich, smoky taste.

This chili can be made in either the Crock-Pot or in a heavy kettle on the stove, depending on your kitchen needs on game day. I made this batch on a day when I was using the oven and the stove for other things, so the slow cooker it was.

My guests? Yeah, they’re lentil and bean chili converts too, even though they’re all heavy meat eaters.

Artichoke and Leek Goat Cheese Spread: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes
Artichoke and Leek Goat Cheese Spread: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes

Tender artichoke hearts are given a boost by bright lemon juice, herbs and meaty olives while tender leeks give a nice sweetness and tang without the overpowering taste of onion in this great cheese blend. Make a day or two ahead of time to save time and sanity on game day!

Sweet Potato Pie Bites with Toasted Marshmallow Creme: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes
Sweet Potato Pie Bites with Toasted Marshmallow Creme: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes

You’re going to need a dessert for your Super Bowl party, but one that is not so sickly sweet it doesn’t go with beer, cocktails and soda. Sweet potato pie with a touch of toasted marshmallow creme make a great addition to the buffet without a lot of work, and can even be made a day or two ahead of time and refrigerated for game time.

This makes a good 50-60 bite sized pies which sounds like a lot of pie, but the first tray of these disappeared before we even got the brisket off the grill on Sunday, so don’t worry about having leftovers. Or worry about having leftovers and hide a few for yourself to have for breakfast the next day, which is what I wish I would have done.

Homemade Beer Nuts: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes
Homemade Beer Nuts: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes

Not that it matters to anyone else other than me, but I’m 7-8 in playoffs picks (the one loss, obviously being the Steelers Wild Card Weekend).

Baltimore Ravens – New England Patriots

I’ve seen some late-week picks going for the Ravens after early predictions had the Pats heavy favorites, despite Ed Reed calling out his quarterback Joe “Ed Hardy of Unibrows” Flacco for being scared against the Texans. Sure, New England has a pretty weak defense compared to Baltimore, but all four of the Ravens 2011 losses came on the road, including giving up games to the listless Jaguars and San Diego Chargers. Picking the Patriots over Baltimore 31-17, but really rooting for a meteor/bird flu outbreak in Foxboro on Sunday. (I guess the Patriots are a lesser evil. YOU MEMBER I SAID SOMETHING NICE ABOUT YOU NEXT SEASON PATS FANS.)

Vegetable Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce and Garlic Soy Sauce: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes
Vegetable Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce and Garlic Soy Sauce: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes

They’re like little bright salads on your buffet, giving you (and probably more than a few thankful guests on a New Years diet) a happy respite from the heavy pizza sitting next to it on the table.

Spicy Pickle Dip: The 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes
Spicy Pickle Dip: The 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes

It’s true, pickle dip is generally considered one of the more Canadian-centric snacks of North America, like poutine and, um, poutine, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t one the most perfect chip dips for football. Canadians and the CFL get many things right — overtime rules, letting teams with better records in one division bump out weaker teams from another division in the playoffs, one year split of paternity and maternity leave for new parents — so we shouldn’t be so quick to judge this potato adornment from the north.

Arugula, Carrot, Olive and Herbed Cheese Provencal Wraps: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes
Arugula, Carrot, Olive and Herbed Cheese Provencal Wraps: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes

In my years of entertaining and eating, I’ve found small vegetable wraps offer nice reprieve on the buffet. Easier to serve than a green salad at a party, more filling due to the lavish or tortilla wrapping, and frankly, they’re just tasty. The bite of the arugula, the sweetness of the carrot, salt of the olives with the creaminess of the cheese all come together in perfect harmony with this handy little wraps.

Htipiti – Greek feta and roasted red pepper delight: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes
Htipiti – Greek feta and roasted red pepper delight: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes

One of he nicer things about serving htipiti as a football snack is that it never feels too heavy. The lemon and the heat of the peppers give a freshness to the feta that almost makes the dip feel refreshing. A palate cleanser almost between more substantial snacks, if you will.

Roasted Rosemary Almonds
Roasted Rosemary Almonds

A few seeds and nuts go along way to filling out any Super Bowl spread, and these savory rosemary almonds are incredibly addicting. Not a fan of almonds? Many people use this same blend and method on cashews.

A few seeds and nuts go along way to filling out any Super Bowl spread, and these savory rosemary almonds are incredibly addicting. Not a fan of almonds? Many people use this same blend and method on cashews.

Pierogi Lasagna: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes
Pierogi Lasagna: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes

Longtime Football Foodie readers know we’re no strangers to matching pierogies with football around these parts. Making traditional homemade pierogies is easy enough and we’re still making special blue cheese pierogies in Buffalo sauce when the craving hits around game time.

But the only problem with making pierogies from scratch is that it’s quite a time commitment. What if you want the taste of pierogies, but don’t want to spend a couple of hours in the kitchen? Easy. You make a pierogi lasagna. All the cheese, onions and potatoes you could ever need layered between lasagna noodles gives you the same taste without all the work.

Strike that. This version has way more delicious, creamy cheese melted between fluffy potatoes with the soft bite of onion and garlic.

Smoky Habanero Jalapeno Popper Bread: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes Kickoff
Smoky Habanero Jalapeno Popper Bread: 28 Days of Super Bowl Recipes Kickoff

One of my favorite local wine bars (Shut it!) here in Los Angeles shares an open kitchen with their sister restaurant next door. One night over a bottle of pinot, I watched the chef make this enormous jalapeno popper panini with about two pounds of white cheddar and a dozen jalapenos for the grilled cheese night they were hosting. Watching her slice jalapeno after jalapeno, I couldn’t wait try to make a similar cheesy bread at home.

Veggie Sloppy Joes
Veggie Sloppy Joes

I’m not a fan of sloppy joes with ground meat, as they tend to be rubbery and spongy. I’m also not a fan of sloppy joes made with tofu or seitan. However, I am a huge fan of sloppy joes made with veggies, beans and mushrooms. By mincing the all the ingredients, you get a nice texture that is reminiscent of ground beef, but with a more toothsome feel from the beans, some crunch from the celery and a meaty taste from the mushrooms at the finish of cooking. The spice from the chili powder pared with just enough heat from the the cayanne pepper with the sweetness of the brown sugar make a nice substitute for the barbecue sauce you see in many sloppy joe recipes.

Fresh Pumpkin Quesadillas
Fresh Pumpkin Quesadillas

It didn’t feel heavy or greasy like a typical cheese-and-meat quesadilla, but you also didn’t feel like you were being cheated into eating something lighter. I can see this snack going into heavy rotation as we head into the holidays, especially as we start getting even more weeknight college football games and Thursday night football returns to the NFL.

Seared Queso Blanco
Seared Queso Blanco

Mozzarella sticks are problematic.

While great in a bar, mozzarella sticks are a ton more work when you’re at home. First, you have to make sure you get a good mozzarella that will hold up to frying. Then you have to bread them. Then fry them with a ton of oil, or worse, try to bake them in the oven where they inevitably melt into goo. Then they pretty much only taste like whatever marinara or ranch you pair them with for snacking. A lot of work for very little reward. Which is why my favorite fried cheesy snack to make at home is queso blanco.

Cancha – Andean non-popped popcorn
Cancha – Andean non-popped popcorn

The problem with most popcorn is that it doesn’t taste like anything other than what you put on it, which means it usually tastes like a salted turnpike doused in Paula Deen’s tears. Long time readers of the Football Foodie know I love salt and butter as much as the next person, but sometimes you want to a crunchy snack to actually taste like what it is made of; in this case, something that tastes like toasted corn.

Maple Sage Sweet Potato Chips
Maple Sage Sweet Potato Chips

Before I start into this Friday’s Football Foodie, I’d like to take a second an express a little sympathy for our basketball loving friends who experienced a pretty tough blow this week when NBA Commissioner David Stern canceled the first two weeks of the NBA season due to lockout. Fans will lose 100 hundred games and seasonal employees will probably go without work the nights games were scheduled as it is unlikely building management will be able to arrange for a Disney on Ice or concert to fill those dates on such short notice.

The Odd Chips of Europe: Football Foodie Abroad
The Odd Chips of Europe: Football Foodie Abroad

Somewhere early in our trip to Europe I got this idea in my head that I wanted to know what sort of snacks I’d be munching on if I were an American ex-pat during football season.

Note that I said “American ex-pat” and not a “European NFL fan” because from what I saw during two game days in London and one in Prague, the only people who care about the NFL in Europe are ex-pats, despite what Roger Goodell tries to tell us in his push for a second game a season in London, even though this season’s game still isn’t sold out. Of course my experience is only anecdotal at best, but when we went to what was supposedly one of the biggest NFL bars London, it was only the Americans watching the NFL. Everyone else was busy with the Premier League, Italian soccer, Spanish soccer and yes, German Bundesliga. (Which is just a fun word to say. BUNDESLIGA! Those kids were really upset over Brennen losing.)

Chipotle Grilled Corn Salad
Chipotle Grilled Corn Salad

When tailgating and bringing food to parties, the refrigeration and cooling situation is always a bit dicey. At some point, you’ll need more room in the cooler for beer and as much as I love potato salads and macaroni salads, the last thing I want to leave out in the sun during a pre-game round of cornhole or pin-the-tail-on-Rex-Ryan is any sort of mayonnaise or cheese dressed food.

Baked Pizza Falafel Bites
Baked Pizza Falafel Bites

If you watch enough football and snack enough while watching football, you start to run out of ways to have variation of pizza. Pizza loaf, pizza dip, pizza galettes, sfincione, pizzettes

Homemade Roasted Salsas
Homemade Roasted Salsas

Once I started messing around with Josh’s basic salsa recipe, I found my own way to make both a hot and mild salsa perfect for game day. It’s easy to make ahead of time and yields far more salsa for your dollar than anything in a jar.

(Although a great salsa recipe didn’t prevent Josh from drafting both CJ Spiller and Braylon Edwards.)

Greek Nachos
Greek Nachos

Over the summer I was one involved in a pretty serious debate about what was the perfect bar food for watching sports. The usual suspects had their supporters; wings, mozzarella sticks, personal pizza (awful, never in my life have I had good bar pizza) and rather vocal contingent for fried pickles that oddly enough, was not headed-up by me.

Me? Nachos. Nachos go with sports like all the cliched pairings you can think of to list here. Hearty, cheesy, salty, doesn’t need silverware, some vegetables; plus they’re cheap and easy to make. Sometimes though, you don’t want something as heavy as typical bean and cheese styled nachos.

Chocolate Stout Ice Cream with Chocolate Bourbon Swirl
Chocolate Stout Ice Cream with Chocolate Bourbon Swirl

Of course, beer and bourbon make even ice cream tougher and more rugged sounding. When put together, chocolate stout and bourbon sounds like an ice cream that even James Harrison would eat, after he forced you back ten yards, of course.

Sriracha Crackers
Sriracha Crackers

When players and pontificators talk about football, “pain” is usually one of the words most often used to describe the game. The pain of training, the pain of playing, the pain of recovery. Under normal circumstances, pain is the body’s warning system telling the brain that something is wrong. Don’t touch a hot stove, don’t kick your toe against a chair, don’t eat too many jelly doughnuts, don’t drink nine Mai Tais.  The resulting pain reminds the brain not to do those things again. But in football, pain is fetishized and celebrated to an almost unconscionable degree. Pushing through pain to in the pursuit of victory is what builds heroes on the playing field.

The same can be said for Sriracha sauce.

Derby Disasters: Kentucky Beer Cheese
Derby Disasters: Kentucky Beer Cheese

You may find yourself face to face this Derby weekend with one of the worst of sports snacks of all time. One that should be avoided at all costs whether it be homemade or store bought. Traditional recipe? Modern (read: fancy) recipe? Served with pretzels, crudites or chips, nothing is going to save this food.

Kentucky Beer Cheese, also known as Kentucky Ale Cheese.

On paper, this should be one of my favorite snacks of all time. It’s made with cheese blended in cheese with even more cheese whipped in with beer and spices. But it’s not. It’s awful.

Football Off-Season Diet Food: Stuffed Zucchini “Pizza”
Football Off-Season Diet Food: Stuffed Zucchini “Pizza”

After a huge brunch this afternoon of hangover eggs, toast and hash browns, I wanted to make something lighter and remotely healthy for dinner tonight. Also because all of yesterday’s calories were spent on a yogurt, brown rice, a Mallow Cup and Jameson. (Mostly Jameson.)

Tomato-Cannellini Dip
Tomato-Cannellini Dip

In the four-plus years of doing the Football Foodie, I’ve tried to make a point out of not relying on a lot of kitchen appliances in the recipes I post. Stove, oven; heavy pan for frying instead of a deep fryer, knife or pastry blender instead of a food processor. I haven’t always succeeded. The mini-chopper is used quite often, as is the stick blender and the mixer, and yes, a traditional blender. My thinking has always been that most of my readers are young, may not have a huge kitchen (I certainly don’t), and might be single sports fans with just a knife and a can opener.

Why the explanation? Because it’s the second post in a row using my new food processor and I’m feeling guilty for getting away from one of my own personal guidelines. Just know that a good pastry blender or potato masher can work just as well as a food processor/blender/stick blender/mini-chopper with this recipe.

Toasted Sesame Edamame Dip With Wonton Chips
Toasted Sesame Edamame Dip With Wonton Chips

We’ve been experiencing a bit of radio silence over here in Football Foodie land after the Super Bowl, and for that I apologize. I’ve been trying to wrap up a few other projects this month that sadly don’t involve cooking and posting recipes, but now that it’s Bracket Season* we all have an excuse for a little extra snacking to go along with our sports.

There is still time to make a chèvre cheese plate
There is still time to make a chèvre cheese plate

Maybe you’re like me and completely worn out. Maybe you haven’t even started getting your Super Bowl snacks together. Maybe you have got your snacks together, but you feel your table needs just a little something more. Maybe you already ate the snacks you made.

You still have time to make a chèvre cheese plate. Creamy goat cheese cut in to rounds and rolled in herbs and pepper, topped with olives or preserves, plain or with honey.

Guest post over on SB Nation today! Steelers and Packers Jelly Jello Shots and Texas Rose Punch for the Super Bowl
Guest post over on SB Nation today! Steelers and Packers Jelly Jello Shots and Texas Rose Punch for the Super Bowl

Still looking for Super Bowl themed cocktails for tomorrow? Over at SB Nation I’ve got you covered for Steelers and Packers Jelly Jello shots and Texas Rose Punch.

Sriracha Fried Pickles
Sriracha Fried Pickles

Possibly one of the all-time greatest bar foods is fried pickles, a snack I hold above mozzarella sticks and fried zucchini.

So when The Gurgling Cod told me about how they preferred making pimento cheese with Rick’s Picks products a few months ago, I scouted their online store for local distributors to make sure I bought the proper prescribed pepper. Imagine my amazement when I saw they sold sriracha pickles. Could it be? A way to improve my beloved fried pickle? I could barely contain my excitement as I bought a jar at my local cheese shop. Spicy, cut thick enough to endure frying, locally sourced pickles? Okay, so I bought more than just one jar.

Blue Cheese Pierogies with Buffalo Sauce
Blue Cheese Pierogies with Buffalo Sauce

Over the summer, Bryan and I had a chance to take a couple of weeks off to take a road trip across the country. See some friends and family, go to a ballgame, stop by Steelers training camp in Latrobe, have some sweet tea in Tennessee. Obviously having a lot of time in the car, I started to toss around ideas for the 2010-2011 season of the Football Foodie series with both Bryan and with my readers on Twitter. I don’t quite remember how it came up, but somehow we got stuck on Buffalo-style pierogies and how could you do them aside of the usual way of just putting hot sauce on a box of Mrs. T’s. Someone suggested chicken, which I rejected even though I know a few cooks make pierogies with poultry in them. Beef or pork is a common filling in Eastern European pierogies, but chicken? I wasn’t convinced.

Baked Artichoke Bites
Baked Artichoke Bites

Right now, we’re in the middle 42-7 Pro Bowl blowout which surprisingly enough, makes today’s NHL All-Star defense-free 11-10 final seem competitive in retrospect.

Busy week this coming up for football and food planning. I’ll be posting recipes both here and over at SB Nation for all of your Super Bowl party needs, so keep an eye out for upcoming posts covering Blue Cheese Pierogies with Buffalo Sauce, Sriracha Fried Pickles, Oven-Baked Mini-Burritos, Coffee Glazed Chicken Legs, cocktails and more. So let’s get to it, we only have one week left to get our Super Bowl menu ready!

Grilled Fruit Kabobs
Grilled Fruit Kabobs

Quick intro because, well, mostly because it’s Saturday and on the weekends we should all try to take as much as of a break from information age as possible, and secondly because I’m working on getting the rest of the week’s posts ready ASAP so I can give everyone a comprehensive Super Bowl planning guide on Monday or Tuesday.

Also, we all need to save all of our energy for tomorrow’s ProBowl and NHL All-Star Game. Back-to-back games like that are sure to be exhausting.

What Happens When A Yankee Makes Pimento Cheese
What Happens When A Yankee Makes Pimento Cheese

When football and foodie raconteur The Gurgling Cod declared November Pimento Cheese Awareness Month, I was intrigued. All I knew about pimento cheese was that it was the stuff sold in small jars next to the Velveeta and that you’d see it in Southern cookbooks, often served on crustless white bread. I figured it was something reserved for ladies who lunch and The Masters. Turns out, people take pimento cheese very seriously.

Rosemary, Chive and Cheese Biscuit Bites
Rosemary, Chive and Cheese Biscuit Bites

I can’t lie, I’ve long imagined that if I were to ever open a local watering hole, these biscuit bites would be our bar nibbles instead of peanuts or pretzels because they go so well with beer and cocktails.

You may be worried that the small dough ball won’t make that many biscuit bites, but this recipe yields about five dozen of these savory little treats. If you’re having a large party, the recipe is easily doubled or even tripled. And if you are not a fan of cheddar, these are very similar to the Parmesan Crisps I posted a couple of years ago, but with sour cream instead of egg.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Chip Pretzel Cookies
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Chip Pretzel Cookies

Just because it’s the Super Bowl doesn’t mean it should be all chips, wings and pizza. You’re going to need something sweet to counterbalance the savory.

Fortunately the salt from the pretzels prevents these cookies from being overly sugary tasting and they keep their crunch nicely in during baking, matching well with the softness of the dough.

Orzo Pasta Salad
Orzo Pasta Salad

I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I’ve brought this salad to a tailgate, football party, or picnic in the eight years since one of my mother’s Orange County cousins shared with me the general recipe for this dish. I’ve tweaked it some since then, added more olives, and incorporated in some balsamic vinegar, garlic, cucumber and parsley. I can tell you it vanishes at ever party I’ve ever brought it to.

Savory Palmiers
Savory Palmiers

Listen, you may think this doesn’t look like a football snack food. That craving for bread your guests get after about their third beer? Yeah. These disappear in a heartbeat.

Baba Ghanoush
Baba Ghanoush

Lots of recipes that involve eggplant list all the ways you can help keep your eggplant from turning bitter. Resting them in salt, water, then salt again, waving a candle over the vegetable and saying a prayer, what have you. To be honest, I’ve never encountered a bitter eggplant so I don’t worry about all those steps, but you can go through the anti-bitter rituals if you like.

Also, some baba ghanoushes are fluffy white, some are nutty brown. They both taste the same, so don’t worry too much about the color here.

You will need…

Poblano Veggie White Bean Chili
Poblano Veggie White Bean Chili

It’s always important to have just as many meat-free options at a party as it meat options, or one that can easily accommodate vegans if you set aside a portion of the finished dish before adding any cheese. Take away the tortillas and you’ve just helped out someone with a gluten allergy.

And just because it’s meat-free, doesn’t mean this chili is lacking in testosterone for a football party. Poblanos are tricky peppers. Most of the time they can be somewhat mild, but sometimes, BAM! Right in the kisser. This chili had everyone reaching for extra sour cream to take the edge off of heat.

Stuffed Peppadews
Stuffed Peppadews

This past weekend, fellow Steelers THUNDERDOME fantasy football league member Joshua Rivera was in town with his buddy for a Laker game and a long weekend visit, which means we got to play host for Saturday’s Steelers-Ravens rematch. Since I wanted to make sure they got the full LA experience and didn’t get stuck inside our place while the weather was so nice, we headed out to Big Wangs to meet up with some fellow black and gold fans. (Don’t worry, I cooked and had people over for Sunday’s games and the Golden Globes so they could get a feel for what our usual football party is like.) Great game, great people and way too many shots from Big Wang’s resident mayor, Smokey.

Roasted Dill Brussel Sprouts
Roasted Dill Brussel Sprouts

Well, my long winded intro for this post was spun-off into its own entry, Yes, you should have an opinion on the upcoming lockout, so go read that post then come back here for a surprisingly healthy Football Foodie post about brussel sprouts.

So assuming you went back and read that particular post, understand that being an informed consumer is just like having healthy snacks. It’s not that hard and frankly, you’re going to enjoy it more than you think you’re going to.

Hot Olive Bites
Hot Olive Bites

I used up all my energy earlier with Scientists Claim NFL Did Not Take Into Account Earth’s Wobble in Realignment, so this post is nothing but the recipe!

Potato Rosemary Pizzettes
Potato Rosemary Pizzettes

So in the spirit of hoping the Jets and the Patriots completely beat the crap out of each other on Sunday, I’ve come up a list of Henny Youngman-style insults in case either team (read:Patriots) needs some inspiration while improving their own trash talk.

Cheddar Herb Potato Chips
Cheddar Herb Potato Chips

If there is already one story line I’m already sick of in the 2010-2011 season playoffs, it’s that the 7-9 regular season record — yet NFC West champs — Seattle Seahawks don’t deserve to be in the postseason, much less upsetting the Saints in the Wild Card. It has been suggested in many quarters that perhaps the NFL should look to Canadian Football League playoffs and their system of “crossing-over” teams with winning records from the East to the West divisions for a balanced and fair postseason, or more accurately, usually a team from the West ends up in the East. Or perhaps the teams should be re-seeded in the postseason.

Doug Farrar for Yahoo! Sports:

Pizza Stuffed Mushrooms
Pizza Stuffed Mushrooms

Steelers fan paranoia week is finally here. Thank goodness it’s a short week with the AFC North rematch scheduled for Saturday, because frankly I don’t think I could keep it together until Sunday. As I said yesterday, you just knew it was coming. It could be a Tuesday in July and everyone would want Steelers-Ravens.

So while we impatiently wait for the next round, there is a whole work week to slog through, Pens-Bruins (twice, with one of those match-ups also on Saturday), a BCS championship game that the NCAA will probably disavow and vacate at some point, and probably a good $2-$3 million dollars worth of ad buys for Vince Vaughn’s THE DILEMMA. What a horrible rivalry week.

Spicy Roasted Vegetable Dip
Spicy Roasted Vegetable Dip

So, it’s the first weekend of the playoffs and you’re trying to stick with some sort of New Year’s resolution to lose a few pounds, or at the very least, not gain any new pounds. Maybe you have already pinned your swimsuit to the wall as a reminder that summer will be here sooner rather than later, living your life like a “thin-perational” ad for either Special K or Yoplait. And here at TSW HQ (am I still allowed to stay that?) I don’t judge. Or at least, I try not to. It’s hard to not roll one’s eyes at hamburger stuffed with bacon, wrapped in bacon served on a bacon donut bun or conversely, 54 calorie grungy tap water beer.

Sicilian Christmas Pizza, Sfincione
Sicilian Christmas Pizza, Sfincione

While the sting over yesterday’s loss to Jets should have been softened by the Steelers being only the second team to be ensured a playoff spot, (the first team being the New England Patriots, who received quite a scare from the Rodger-less Packers last night), all it did was remind me how little football is left and how precious our remaining time with the NFL is right now. The last two weeks of the regular season — which between a Thursday night game against the Panthers, the holidays, the Winter Classic and finishing on the road in Cleveland — will fly by in flash, and then it’s the playoffs.  So depending on when the next loss happens, we as fans may not be cheering for months, or even years depending on how the 2011 lockout shakes out. Enjoy every win like it’s the last you’re going to see for a long, long while. (Now the official motto of the NFC West.)

College Bowls of Nuts: Cocoa Bourbon Pecans and Spiced Cocoa Almonds
College Bowls of Nuts: Cocoa Bourbon Pecans and Spiced Cocoa Almonds

Originally this week I had planned on doing a snack guide for the entire college football bowl season, but when I realized I could only make so many BYU/Utah Jello jokes I decided to fall back on lazy jabs about college football fans being nuts. (Which as we will see later in this post, they are.)

Considering there are approximately 273 bowl games, you’re going to need a snack that you can make in large batches and will keep for days. Some people are big fans of heavy holiday noshing – the carb-and-salt-loaded Chex Mix and sugary “white trash” come to mind, but I prefer items that are both filling but not too heavy this time in small doses this time of year. A small handful of nuts not only go well with beer, they are also substantial enough to make a football watching food. (A good trade off since you’re not going to spend a lot of time planning football entertainment around Christmas and New Year’s aside of the bowl games, and if you’re anything like me, going to be sick of being in the kitchen after all the holiday cookie baking.)

Thursday Football Dessert, Vanilla Ice Cream, Single Malt Scotch and Ground Pepper
Thursday Football Dessert, Vanilla Ice Cream, Single Malt Scotch and Ground Pepper

Just a quick Thursday Night Football dessert suggestion if you are looking for something sweet to finish off the Colts season tonight’s Indianapolis-Tennessee game. Good vanilla ice cream, about an ounce of single malt scotch (it doesn’t have to be the good stuff), and a few turns of the pepper grinder yields a sweet treat which surprisingly tastes of caramel with a slight bite of ground pepper. Delicious.

Maker’s Mark Manhattan Mini Cupcakes
Maker’s Mark Manhattan Mini Cupcakes

December is also when football watching all weekend, every weekend starts to become an iffy proposition because of all the aforementioned holiday parties, cookie exchanges and treats for the office you’re baking for. Which is why I start looking for treats in December that can pull double duty between bringing to a football event (boozy) and something that seems festive and colorful for the holidays (mini cupcakes). Recipes that can be easily doubled, satisfy a large group of people, and are relatively easy to make.

Arrogant Bastard Beer Battered Mashed Potato Balls
Arrogant Bastard Beer Battered Mashed Potato Balls

This week’s Football Foodie recipe was inspired by Stone Brewery Bistro’s Spud Buds, their interpretation of classic mashed potato balls which are usually given a bread crumb coating and baked. I first tried these treats on a tour of their brewery a couple of summers ago and have been in love with them ever since.  The strong — but not overpowering –  hoppy, malty taste of Arrogant Bastard stands up really well in cooking and provides much more punch than you’re typical beer batter made with lighter brews.

Since mashed potatoes are usually one of the items every makes way too much of at Thanksgiving, this is an easy way to use them up for a football watching snack without feeling like you’re eating the same leftovers for three days in a row.

Potato Leek and Tomato Cheese Rustic Tarts
Potato Leek and Tomato Cheese Rustic Tarts

Unlike a lot of people, I like Thursday Night Football. Sure, it stinks if you’re on the East Coast or live somewhere in the middle of the country and football goes up against your favorite shows, (we’ll leave the ‘Community’ vs ‘Big Bang Theory’ debate for another day), or if you’re on the West Coast and football starts at 5:20pm while you’re still at the office. The trade off is that if your team plays on Thursday, you’re under a lot less pressure to watch football on Sunday and this is the time of year when Sundays start to become very, very valuable.

Homemade Pumpkin Sage Crackers & The Existential Crisis
Homemade Pumpkin Sage Crackers & The Existential Crisis

I don’t want anyone to get hurt, but truth of the matter is the only way to avoid destruction is not to play the game.

Now to crackers.

Usually, I post a whole string of photos on how to make these recipes, fill it with some half-funny jokes and vague references to fat players.

Considering the long walk I took above, well.  Just look at the photo set here and read the below directions. You’ll figure it out. These are really awesome crackers and I’d be lying to say I haven’t eaten an entire other batch of them while typing this post.

Roasted Garlic Hummus
Roasted Garlic Hummus

If you are buying pre-made hummus, you are overpaying for your football snack.

$4.99-$8.99 for a paltry 7 ounce container of hummus is Al Davis paying for JaMarcus Russell or Gibril Wilson. Shameful.

Beans or chickpeas? Cheap. Lemon juice? Cheap. Garlic? Cheap. Salt and pepper? Cheap. Paprika, cumin and dried herbs for your pita chips? (Do not waste money on store bought baked pita chips!) Very cheap, and even cheaper if you keep away from the spices in fancy glass jars and buy the brands that come in little bags. Salt and pepper? Practically free. Tahini? Okay, tahini isn’t the cheapest thing in the world, but you’ll get a lot use out of it. If you want to go even cheaper, you can toast your own sesame seeds and then blend them together with olive oil to make your own. But still? Cheap-ish.

Chipotle Black Bean Hummus
Chipotle Black Bean Hummus

Making your own hummus is like getting LaMarr Woodley for half a million.

First up, a spin on traditional hummus, Chipotle Black Bean Hummus. As far as I can tell, as long as you include tahini, you can call it all hummus. Tahini in your morning coffee? It’s hummus.

Buffalo Chicken Wontons and Cream Cheese Wontons
Buffalo Chicken Wontons and Cream Cheese Wontons

So on that note, WONTONS! I love fried wontons for Living Room-Gating — yes I am going to keep using those words all season until it catches on — with a bunch of people. Easy, quick, and they feed a ton of people. It took five big eaters to go through a tray this size during the All-Star Game this past summer.

Add a little Old Bay
Add a little Old Bay

In my circle of friends, everyone has stories about a guy named Britt and his obsession with Old Bay.  You’ll be at a party and if there are some plain chips out, suddenly Britt’s there flavoring them with Old Bay.  Not at his own house mind you, but in your living room with Old Bay.  Summer BBQ and you’re standing near the grill?  “You should put some Old Bay on that.”  At our friend Jason’s bachelor party,  he gave the groom a can of Old Bay on which he had written on the bottom of the can, “Put it on… everything.”

And he’s right.  Old Bay is perfect and you need something fast for the game.  On kettle-fried chips (although try to use it on unsalted chips or lightly salted chips), popcorn, the chicken or veggies you just grabbed at the market twenty minutes before kickoff, it will be your savior.

New Orleans Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya vs Indianapolis Sugar Cream Pie
New Orleans Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya vs Indianapolis Sugar Cream Pie

For Indianapolis, I’ve made the regional favorite, sugar cream pie.  At first glance, the recipe made me break out in hives.  Out the hundreds of sugar cream pie recipes I looked at, all of them called for a pre-made frozen pie shell.  Sacre bleu!  The filling is made out of heavy whipping creme, sugar, flour, whole (!!!) milk, butter and a touch of nutmeg and/or cinnamon.  Only a few of the recipes I saw even called for the very racy ingredient of vanilla.

Mixed Fruit and Blueberry Salsas
Mixed Fruit and Blueberry Salsas

I’m planning on enjoying these last few days of the Steelers championship.  All of my complaints about what went wrong with the 2009 squad are going to be tempered by the joy that last year’s Super Bowl win gave me for just a little bit longer.  I’m going to make annoying comments about how great the Steelers are around other websites, on Twitter (annoying rival fans along the way), wear my Steelers purse around town, dress my Spaniel in her little Steelers collar, and listen to “Steeler Ladies” as if it won the Grammy for song of the year instead of Beyonce’s version.  And it is my hope that all of my other Steeler-loving friends do the same.

Because in less than a week, it will be someone else’s turn to crow.

Pro Bowl Pretzel Bread
Pro Bowl Pretzel Bread

Hooray!  I’m watching a substandard Pro Bowl — which by pro-football standards is already a very, very low standard — with third-choice players, a rainy field and tens of thousands of other football fans who all agree; even bad football is better than the best the Grammys have to offer.  (By the way, how is it that even with moving the Pro Bowl to the week before the Super Bowl, it manages to be the same weekend as the Grammys again?)

The good news is we’ve decided to stay in for this years Pro Bowl.  The last time Holly and I blogged the game from Big Wangs, we had to ask the waitress to switch from “Napa Wine Today” for the game.  This also means we have an excuse to revisit one the best recipes from this year’s Friday Football Foodie series, Ham and Cheese Pretzel Bites with Beer Floats! Do you remember how awesome they were?

Wasabi Peas
Wasabi Peas

The quiet before the storm.  Less then eight days left to come up with a plan for the Super Bowl.

If you are a Saints fan, you’re checking room rates, ticket brokers and staring at maps looking for ways to shave time off the 13 hour drive from New Orleans to Miami.

If you are a Colts fan, you’re debating purchasing the game day package from Costco that includes game tickets, plane tickets, hotel room, and a pre-game bar.

Everyone else?  Well, we’re still figuring out what type of food to serve next Sunday.

New Orleans Style Pimm’s Cups & Cucumber Tapas
New Orleans Style Pimm’s Cups & Cucumber Tapas

Unfortunately, I made the mistake of flipping on Kurt Warner’s press conference to announce his retirement.

Forty minutes later and I cannot put together a single cohesive thought to save my life.  I cannot think of any other profession where one person’s decision to leave a job — other than late night talk show hosts, and we can all admit that is a relatively rare occurrence  — receives as much press coverage as when an athlete retires.  Football fans love to trot out the overused canard “football is a team sport” and “play as a team, win as a team”, but deep down we know it is not true.  One player or one coach can change an entire team.  The foundation of talenljwrjklasdijpxamxsa’MKNFLDSndjkla HOW CAN PEOPLE WRITE THIS WAY?!?@!?@1

See up there? 20 seconds ago? Where I said “cannot put together a single cohesive thought to save my life” before the rambling started? Watching forty minutes of a football retirement speech has reduced me to nothing but a pile of cliches.  No wonder “your local sportswriter sucks” was such a hit a few years ago.  Where is the research on the damage caused by attending x-amount of pressers over the years?

Smoky Cowboy Caviar
Smoky Cowboy Caviar

Just solid, rugged, football talk.

Which segues right into today’s theme:

14 Days of Super Bowl Recipes: Smoky Cowboy Caviar

Citrus Marinated Warm Olives
Citrus Marinated Warm Olives

Sure, I am undercutting my entire argument because I am writing my opinion about Super Bowl coverage in a post about recipes you can use for a Super Bowl party (two things that certainly have no effect on the outcome of the actual game), but I would like to think that in my own little corner of the sports blogging world, it is more about having fun and being an engaged fan in a way that plays to my strengths.  If I wrote about all the dishes I had to do after each game, no one would ever read my site.  By telling your readers the story is boring before you get to the meat of the topic, what chance do you have of anyone reading through to the end?

Anything — sports, sex, music, cooking, writing, flying a kite, rambling on and on –  is immediately less interesting when you make it sound like a grind.  Maybe as writers and readers, we wouldn’t be so bored if the stories weren’t already framed in such a negative light.

You know what are not negative?  Olives!  Beautiful, glorious olives!

Fried Chickpeas (Ceci Fritos)
Fried Chickpeas (Ceci Fritos)

When you first throw your chickpeas in the oil, you will think the world is ending.  Move quickly and cover.  A few chickpeas will pop and go flying.  Neither you, the oil, or the chickpea have done anything wrong.  These things happen.

Salted Honey Roasted Pecans
Salted Honey Roasted Pecans

WELL SUCK IT UP NANCY BECAUSE THIS IS THE LAST TIME YOU CAN EAT LIKE A PIG UNTIL NEXT SEPTEMBER.  You either start planning and cooking now or you will be stuck fighting some I-don’t-care-football-but-maybe-I-will-get-laid-if-I-get-out-of-the-house douchecake in an American Apparel hoodie over the last bag of Cool Ranch Doritos at the Silver Lake Vons next Saturday.

Mac & Cheese Bites with Sage and Scallions
Mac & Cheese Bites with Sage and Scallions

Internet, you have failed me.  Searches for “melted cheese head”, “melting Packer cheesehead”, or “melting morons wearing foam food for a hat” came up with bupkus.  I refuse to believe that no one has ever melted a cheesehead.

Let’s take a step back here.

Am I really talking about melting a Packer cheese head? After five losses in a row, am I really that confident?  Am I predicting a win over the Packers?  Does this mean I am hopeful the Steelers can turn their season around and finish above .500?  Do I believe they can finish 9-7?  Yes, I am and yes, I do.

Pear and Blue Cheese Squares
Pear and Blue Cheese Squares

YES, IT IS YOU PANSY.  The players haven’t stopped playing, so where the cuss do you think you get off!   Three seasons of the Football Foodie, so these recipes better be second nature to you now, especially this week’s two easy snacks.

Caramelized Onion with Apple Tart
Caramelized Onion with Apple Tart

Likewise, it is one of the toughest months to cook for football games.  Between the parties, cookies at the office, and eggnog it is a month of pure fat, something you had reserved for your one “free day” of Sunday.  (Or Saturday, depending on your football orthodoxy.)  Calories aside, if you’re already interested in cooking for football, you’re probably the person making cookies, helping the hosts with canapes and bringing the extra bottle of gloog to your office party.  Is it too much to rest when you watch football now?

Homemade Pierogies
Homemade Pierogies

The Steelers having this week’s Monday Night Football stage gave me all day to make the most powerful lucky dish known to Western Pennsylvania (outside of Dan Bylsma’s lucky burrito); pierogies.  Pierogies may be one of the few dishes to be featured on both bar and church fundraiser menus alike around Pittsburgh.  There are dozens of filling options.  Different secrets on how to make the pasta part just right. Some people fry them.  Some people boil them.  Some boil and then sauté their pierogies.  (My preferred method making pierogies.) Served with sour cream or farmer’s cheese.  There are few things more Pittsburgh than pierogies.  Did I have a Polish or Russian Nana? No.  Did I still have pierogies for dinner at least every other week growing up?  Absolutely.

Why are pierogies a great football food?  Hearty and carb-y enough to soak up extra beer in your stomach.  If they’re fried they are just as good – if not better -  than any other bar food, i.e. a snack you can grab and stuff in your mouth without having to look away from the television.  They even look like little footballs if you squint hard enough.

Cherry-Streusel Coffee Cake
Cherry-Streusel Coffee Cake

Long time Friday Football Foodie readers know that I love the football brunch. NFL games start at 10 am!  College games at 9 am!  Premier League starts at… Eff it! You’re probably still drunk from the night before for a 5:45 am start.  And full of In-N-Out!  Or House of Pies!  Or Fred 62!  Or Cafe 101!  Or Del Taco! Better yet, let’s go to a taco truck!  WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Artichoke, Olives, and Capers Crostini
Artichoke, Olives, and Capers Crostini

It is incredibly important to have a sound base.  A solid running game (THAT CAN PICK UP TWO YARDS ON THIRD DOWN MISTER-BRUCE-THROW-TO-THE-END-ZONE-ARIANS), some money stashed away in savings just in case you quit your day job, and bread that has been properly toasted.

Mexican Fondue
Mexican Fondue

Mexican Fondue, a nice variation of spinach artichoke dip. Consider it the wildcat formation of hot dips. Seen here with its buddy guacamole, aka Shotgun Dip.

Blue Cheese Potatoes
Blue Cheese Potatoes

For some reason people want to see Jessica Simpson in the stands cheering on Tony Romo. Others want as many shots as possible of Brady Quinn sitting on the bench.  (By my count, the networks have only cut to him once or twice all season.)  And some sick puppies don’t believe they rerun the footage of Joe Theisman breaking his leg enough.

Fans of the Friday Football Foodie apparently want more cheese. Both of these recipes are so easy that if you need second batches during your party, you will have more than enough time at the half to get these going and check your fantasy score

Parmesan Crisps
Parmesan Crisps

Start making second batch right away because this plate will last six people about ten minutes.

Tostada Cups
Tostada Cups

Pretty much whatever you have handy that you would love to have on a tostada.  It’s still early in the season so you have plenty of time for experimenting with new formations.

Spinach-Artichoke Dip
Spinach-Artichoke Dip

This recipe was given to me from a friend – who can be seen in the background of the homemade corn dog FFF – who got it from Cooking Light magazine. It is possibly the best spinach dip recipe I’ve ever come across and works just as well if you make it their “light” way or if you go ahead and use full fat cheese and sour cream. Which I do. And I use way more spinach than they call for.

Lite Veggie Dip, Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Lite Veggie Dip, Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Put that together with a few parties each week – anything from your friends tree decorating gathering complete with egg nog to the work parties that by 2am you’re splitting the last bottle of Patron with the blonde in from Annex while gobbling up the last of the Coconut Shrimp – and you’re looking at packing on 5-8 pounds before Nate Washington has dropped his first ball of the game.

Pear Tart
Pear Tart

I actually served it with a savory bacon, cheese, and caramelized onion tart. You can find the recipe for that – and the same step-by-step directions I usually provide – here at The Amateur Gourmet.

Overnight French Toast
Overnight French Toast

Part of the beauty of this dish is all the work – what little work there is – is done the evening before brunch, leaving you to sleep in until past 9am on game day for a change. (And I bet Paula Deen would cry less than Leinart over sharing the creation of this breakfast.)

Four Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Quiche
Four Cheese and Roasted Red Pepper Quiche

One of the greatest thing about living on the West Coast is the football brunch. Wake up, walk out to couch, turn on TV, football is there.

Mexican Pinwheels
Mexican Pinwheels

Refrigerate for at least one hour. The longer they chill, the easier the next step will be. If you plan on leaving them overnight, (which you totally can do), wrap the pinwheels in plastic so they don’t become as dry as the Raiders’ playoff hopes. Much like how Al Davis sleeps. In plastic. Or something funnier.

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