Put out a spread for the fall sports season

When preparing for the big game, try a tray of appetizers that still allow the crowd to cheer

    The Milwaukee Brewers are in the playoffs, the Green Bay Packers are playing and high school sports are in full swing.
    All that’s missing are the snacks to keep you and your family going through the fall  and winter sports seasons.
    For some people, that means throwing on a pot of chili. For others, it’s nothing more than chips, brats and burgers.
    But you can also put out a spread of hearty dips and finger foods. The key is to provide plenty of food that doesn’t require much prep time and isn’t too fussy. After all, who wants to mess with plates, silverware and special serving pieces when the big game is on.
    Concentrate on items that can be prepared in advance, then heated for the crowd.
    While game day foods aren’t always the healthiest, there are ways to add a little nutrition. Make nachos with plenty of veggies, for example, or put out carrot sticks, green pepper strips and celery with breadsticks and other more caloric dippers.
    And remember, vegetables for football fans should be raw. Crunching will help them work out their frustration.
    Buffalo wings are a perennial favorite. But instead of the usual red hot sauce, try a variation, perhaps with a sweet-sour sauce. These sauces will also work on chicken drumsticks or thighs, which make meatier snacks than wings.
    When it comes to desserts, think hand-held. Cookies, brownies and caramel-corn leave people free to concentrate on the game. If you want to make a cake, try a rich pound cake that can be pre-sliced, drizzled with glaze and held like a cookie.
    Consider an indoor tailgate party theme and have guests bring their own beverages and coolers. If you are short on seating, they can always pull up their cooler.
    Following are some game day recipes from www.myrecipes.com.



Cheddar Cheese Straws

1-1/2 cups butter, softened
1 pound block sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 to 2 teaspoons ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
4 cups flour

    Beat butter, cheese, salt, red pepper and paprika at medium speed with a heavy-duty stand mixer until blended. Gradually add flour, beating just until combined.
    Following manufacturer’s instructions, use a cookie press with a star-shaped disk to shape mixture into long ribbons on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Cut ribbons into two-inch pieces.
    Bake in a 350-degree oven for 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
    To make cheese wafers, combine ingredients as directed. Chill dough two hours, then shape into four eight-inch-long logs. Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill eight hours. Cut each log into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 13 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Store in an airtight container for as long as one week.


Bacon-Goat Cheese Jalapeno Poppers

2 ounces goat cheese, softened
2 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon grated red onion
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
8 medium jalapeno peppers, halved vertically and seeded
3 center-cut bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
2 tablespoons red pepper jelly
1 teaspoon water

    Combine goat, cream cheese, red onion, salt, pepper and garlic powder in a medium bowl. Stir well to combine.
    Arrange pepper halves on a jelly-roll pan. Divide filling among peppers. Broil on high for seven minutes, until peppers are tender and beginning to brown. Sprinkle with bacon.
    Combine jelly and water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave 30 seconds or until saucy. Drizzle evenly over peppers.


Bacon-Wrapped Potatoes With Queso Blanco Dip

2 medium-size red potatoes, cut into 8 wedges each
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 center-cut bacon slices
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 garlic clove, minced
12 ounces queso blanco pasteurized prepared cheese product, cubed
1 8-ounce block pepper Jack cheese, shredded
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 4-ounce can chopped green chiles
1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

    Sprinkle potato wedges with salt. Wrap each with one bacon slice. Arrange potato wedges in a single layer on a lightly greased wire race set in a 15-by-10-inch jelly roll pan lined with aluminum foil. Sprinkle with pepper.
    Bake in a 425-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until bacon is crisp and browned.
    Sauté onion in hot oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for five minutes, until tender. Add garlic and sauté one minute. Remove from heat.
    Combine queso blanco, pepper Jack, half-and-half, chiles and onion mixture in a large microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave on high for 2-1/2 minutes. Stir and microwave 2-1/2 more minutes, until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth, stirring every minute.
    Stir diced tomato and cilantro into queso blanco mixture. Serve dip with potato wedges.


Skillet Nacho Dip

1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons seeded minced jalapeño
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2/3 cup unsalted beef stock
2 cooked ground beef patties, finely crumbled
1 cup drained unsalted canned pinto beans
2 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
2 ounces shredded 2% reduced-fat Mexican-blend cheese
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup chopped avocado
2-1/2 cups baked tortilla chips

    Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add 1/2 cup onion and jalapeño to pan and sauté four minutes, until tender. Add flour, cumin and chili powder and cook one minute, stirring constantly. Add stock and bring to a boil.
    Reduce heat to medium and stir in crumbled beef patties and beans. Cook two minutes. Stir in mozzarella and cook one minute, until cheese is melted. Remove pan from heat.
    Sprinkle Mexican-blend cheese over pan and broil one minute, until cheese is melted. Sprinkle remaining red onion, tomato and avocado over pan. Serve with chips.

Buffalo Chicken Tacos

1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 cup thinly sliced baby bell peppers
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons unsalted ketchup
2 teaspoons hot sauce, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon crumbled blue cheese
8 corn tortillas, toasted

    Combine celery, bell peppers and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Toss with cilantro.
    Stir together butter, ketchup and hot sauce in a large bowl.
    Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add chicken and cook three to four minutes, until lightly browned on all sides. Sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper. Add chicken to hot sauce mixture and toss to coat.
    Stir together sour cream and blue cheese.
    Spread 1-1/2 teaspoons sour cream mixture on each tortilla. Divide chicken and celery mixture evenly among tortillas, then top with cilantro and hot sauce.

Crispy Cauliflower Bites With Herbed Yogurt Dip

For cauliflower:
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon berbere (Ethiopian spice blend)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup whole buttermilk
1 large egg
1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
1-1/2 cups panko
For dip:
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup grated Persian cucumber
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon grated garlic
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped roasted, salted pistachios

    Whisk together flour, cornstarch, berbere and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in buttermilk and egg until smooth. Add cauliflower and gently toss until completely coated with batter.
    Place panko in a shallow bowl. Dredge florets until completely coated with breadcrumbs. Place coated florets on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Bake in a 450-degree oven about 25 minutes, until crisp-tender, turning after 15 minutes.
    Stir together yogurt, cucumber, dill, mint, garlic, lemon juice and salt in a bowl until combined. Top with pistachios just before serving.


Shrimp-and-Andouille Gumbo Dip

1 tablespoon olive oil
9 ounces Andouille sausage, diced
1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup chopped green onions
1 cup frozen sliced okra, chopped (do not thaw)
1 garlic clove, grated
12 ounces peeled and deveined shrimp, chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 ounces Asiago cheese, grated
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup panko
Chopped fresh chives
Breadsticks, veggie strips, crackers or sliced baguette for dipping

    Heat oil in a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and sauté two minutes. Add bell pepper and celery and sauté three minutes. Add onions, okra and garlic and sauté three minutes, until vegetables are tender.
    Add shrimp and Creole seasoning and sauté two minutes, until shrimp is almost done.
    Reduce heat to medium-low. Add cream cheese and stir until cheese melts. Stir in Asiago. Cook three minutes, until mixture is bubbly. Remove from heat.
    Combine butter and panko. Sprinkle over dip. Broil one minute, until topping is browned. Garnish, if desired, with chives. Serve with desired dippers.


Yummy Sausage Cups

1 pound maple-flavored ground pork breakfast sausage
1 8-ounce package shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
16 ounces sour cream
1-ounce package ranch salad dressing mix
4 2.1-ounce packages frozen phyllo cups

    Brown sausage in a skillet over medium heat.Drain and return to skillet. Stir in cheese, sour cream and dressing mix.
    Fill each phyllo cup with a scoop of sausage mixture. Arrange cups on ungreased baking sheets. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes, until heated through and cups are golden.


Two-Cheese Veggie Nachos

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup chopped red onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped zucchini
1 cup fresh corn kernels
2 tablespoons thinly sliced jalapeño pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 14.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
8 6-inch corn tortillas, cut into wedges
Cooking spray
2 ounces shredded reduced-fat Mexican-blend cheese
3/4 cup diced peeled avocado
2 ounces crumbled queso fresco
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 medium tomato, diced
4 lime wedges

    Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place oil in pan and swirl to coat. Add onion and sauté five minutes, until tender. Add garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add zucchini, corn, jalapeño, cumin, chili powder and salt and cook five minutes, until crisp-tender. Add beans and cook two minutes, until thoroughly heated.
    Arrange tortilla wedges in a single layer on a large jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat tortilla wedges with cooking spray. Broil two minutes on each side, until lightly browned and crisp. Sprinkle shredded Mexican cheese evenly over tortillas. Broil one minute, until cheese melts.
    Top chips evenly with bean mixture, avocado, queso fresco, cilantro and tomato. Serve with lime wedges.

Louisiana Hot Crab Dip

1/2 pound jumbo lump crabmeat
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons minced green onions
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon hot sauce

    Combine ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir well. Transfer to a two-quart baking dish. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned. Serve with toasted crackers.


Sausage, Bean and Spinach Dip

1 sweet onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 pound hot ground pork sausage
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 ounces fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Corn chip scoops, red bell pepper strips, pretzel rods

    Cook diced onion, bell pepper and sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat for eight to 10 minutes, stirring often, until meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain. Stir in garlic and thyme and cook one minute. Stir in wine and cook two minutes, until liquid has almost completely evaporated.
    Add cream cheese and cook, stirring constantly, for two minutes, until cream cheese is melted. Stir in spinach and salt and cook, stirring constantly, two minutes, until spinach is wilted. Gently stir in beans. Pour mixture into a two-quart baking dish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
    Bake in a 375-degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with corn chip scoops, bell pepper strips and pretzel rods.




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