Football season is up and running. Literally! With college games beginning before the NFL Season and running until Feb 3, 2019, ending with the Super Bowl, the football hostess has essentially 5 months of the year in which to hone her hors-d’oeuvre and snack talents. Fortunately, other snacking events occur during the interim – Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and yes, Valentine’s Day and provide an opportunity to reuse and refine recipes. Tis the season! So for the smart hostess, the effort invested in preparing and serving delicious one bite morsels and savory entrees is not wasted.
- Defining the Favorites
Where I live in the South, football party food may just be more important than the game itself. From chips to dips to desserts whether you roll with the Saints or cheer for the Patriots, there’s a football party food sure to please. The savvy hostess will try to avoid the quintessential party mistake of serving the entire menu at once. I suggest dividing your offerings into quarterly serving to make serving and cleanup a breeze. And if tailgating is your game, then we’ll line some delightful dishes if you’re rooting “Geaux Tigers” or rolling with the Tide in our next blog.
Hot wings (those tasty little bites of chicken smothered in just the right sauce) is probably the #1 football party food followed closely by sausages (plain, smothered in cheese and onions or BBQ sauce) in a hoagie roll or a simpler meaty slider. Of course, chips and drinks to accompany are a given. Chili, gumbo, pizza, meatballs and nachos (with sour cream and guacamole of course) round out the top picks. Pork ribs are normally reserved for special championship games and the Super Bowl since they are more difficult to prepare, expensive, and a bit harder to eat without a mess.
Knowing that not every football hostess has the time, inclination or cooking skills to pull of a completely homemade spread, I thought we’d begin with the simplest solutions to hosting a football party.
- Get it Fresh
Supermarkets are great sources for already prepared party trays. Make your choices from vegetable or fruit trays (even combo trays), sandwich trays (be sure to order fresh the day before), cheese trays, salsas, dips, and deli-prepared hors-d’oeuvres. Place the foods on your own platters and voila! A fresh layout to serve in the first quarter of the game.
- Check the Frozen Food Aisle
Although we may enjoy heaping platters of wings and piles of cheesy nachos, we may find ourselves suddenly serving to a crowd for whom we have no time to prepare a game worthy spread. Luckily for us, the frozen food aisle of our local grocery is home to snacks, dips, wings, and more as well as take a fraction of the time to prepare and taste just as great. With national restaurant brands you’ve come to know and love, it’s a good bet they’ll be easy to choose, to prepare and delicious to serve. Having them at the ready in the freezer makes for less stress should a crowd unexpectedly appear ready to cheer on your favorite team!
- Prepare Ahead
Nothing like planning ahead – effortlessly. Let’s say chili (or in the South – gumbo) is on the family’s menu this week; why not make an extra pot or two of this game day staple and freeze it for when it’s needed? Other freezable entrees include mini meatballs (make extra when serving family spaghetti), enchiladas – vegetable or beef – freeze quite well as does taco meat filling and are a delicious second quarter offering. If you miss serving them for the game, then dinner another night is quickly prepared!
If you are diehard DIY hostess, the internet has a plethora of recipes for you to try – who knows? You may be voted the “hostess with the mostest” and next year you’ll be hosting all of the parties! One of my favorite sites for game time recipes is https://www.browneyedbaker.com/80-football-food-recipes.
Football Party – Pulling it Off
- Plan Menu in Stages
Thinking that you’ll lay out the entire menu on the table at game time to save yourself time and energy is a mistake. Think of the game as occurring in stages. For the first quarter, serve lighter offerings of fruits, vegetables, cheeses or chilled mini bites with small portions of chips and/or dips. Serve only finger foods on small paper plates with napkins and try to avoid the use of utensils for eating at this point. It may also be wise to avoid serving drinks in paper cups since once they’re put down, the owner’s identity is suspect. Instead, try individually distinctive glassware that will last the evening and can be easily identified.
For the second quarter, you may wish to lay out small sandwiches or meatballs and freshen up the chips and dip. Again, avoiding the use of utensils. Tidy up remaining fruits, veggies and cheeses for lunch use during the week.
At half-time, bring on the hot foods – chicken wings, chili, gumbo, sausages, pizza, and nachos. If you’re going to stick with a no-utensil menu, choose accordingly but supply plenty of paper towels or napkins. Bag up the sandwiches and mini meatballs and refrigerate for later use.
By the end of halftime, you should begin seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Clear up the debris from the heavy portions, bag trash, and reserve any leftovers. Wipe up the countertop and bring out the finger-sized desserts. Cookies (deli-bought if necessary), small cuts of a sheet cake decorated in the team’s colors, and cheesecake squares are all easy sweet treats to end the meal. Start brewing coffee for those who may need a few sobering moments before heading home.
By the time the game has concluded, the majority of your serving and kitchen cleaning will be over and you will have enjoyed preparing and hosting your football party. Of course, there’s bound to be an extra hand or two in the kitchen and that makes it all the merrier.
- Enough Seating
If the purpose of getting together for a football game is to sit and watch the game, it is essential to have adequate seating. Take time the day before the event to arrange furniture, bring extra chairs, pillows or stools so that everyone can have a place to sit during the game – hopefully, keeping them from standing around in the kitchen eating and watching the game while standing. Not having all your guests underfoot in the kitchen while you’re trying to serve is a real attitude maker or breaker! And a happy hostess makes for a satisfied guest!
Enjoying the Game
Elevate your mood. So often, whether you enjoy your own party depends on the way you prepare for it mentally. If you dread what’s coming and fret anxiously about the menu, the venue or whether anyone will like what you’ve prepared, chances are that you won’t have much fun. Be sure to invite at least one of your own friends as a companion and helper.
Wear something comfortable. Decide in advance what you will wear and assure that you have comfortable shoes. Chances are pretty good that you’ll be on your feet most of the game.
Plan rest periods. Being a hostess does not mean relegating yourself to the servant mode for the entire game. Menu planning and organization will go a long way toward allowing you to plan opportunities to engage with the game and sit, rest and interact with your guests.
So game on! Tis the season! Enjoy!