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Archive for January, 2009

Super Bowl XLIII Food #3: Finger Foods

Posted by Reese On January - 28 - 2009

Generally when I think Super Bowl party I’m not thinking so much about a big meal so much as a bunch of tiny snack foods throughout the game.  Snacks are great because you can make a range of different items and people can munch to their hearts content.  Clearly it would be impossible for me to go over all the possible finger foods you could make so I’ll touch on some of the ones I like best and some of the tried and true favorites.


Little Smokies – These are an absolute classic.  The general plan is to dump some Little Smokies into a pot, toss in some flavorful sauce and cook them on low until you’re ready to eat.  There are about 14 hojillion recipes for the sauce, but of them all this one sounds the best to me.  One of the recipes calls for chili sauce and grape jelly.  If anyone has an idea what chili sauce is, let me know. I have no idea.  Another classic use for the Smokies is tiny Pigs in a Blanket, always tasty.

Water Chestnuts and Bacon – A coworker recommended this recipe.  Although I’ve never had it, I am a huge fan of bacon, so I’m in.  Buy some whole water chestnuts (3 cans) and some lean bacon (2 packages, turkey works good).  Wrap each water chestnuts in a half slice of bacon, secure with a tooth pick.  Bake chestnuts on a cookie sheet for 45 minutes at 400, turn after 30 minutes.  Mix up 1 1/2 cups of white sugar and 1 1/2 cups of ketchup.  Place chestnuts in a baking dish, cover with sauce.  Bake at 350F for an additional 15 minutes.

Chicken Wings – Okay, so yeah, hot wings are a whole new level of awesome.  The classic sauce is mixture of butter and Frank’s Red Hot.  There are however a lot of other sauces you can choose from.  I just saw an episode of Good Eats that had a great method for cooking the wings without a deep fryer.  Here is Alton’s recipe and you can watch the video here and here if you like.

Baked Havarti – This is another old family favorite and its dirt simple to make.  Buy two tubes of crecent roll dough and a block of havarti cheese (I like havarti with dill for this).  Slice the cheese in to four equal slices (should be about 2″x3.5″x.5″).  Unroll one package of rolls and place the full sheet on a baking sheet.  Place the cheese in the middle, side to side, cap with the other sheet of dough.  Bake at 350F until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Slice and enjoy.

Guacamole – No party is truly complete without guac.  This is another favorite that has many many recipes.  Here is one recipe that is good.  The recipe calls for either lemon or lime juice.  I’d go with lime, more of a classic flavor that way.  Another option is to buy the prepackaged guac in the produce section of your grocery store.  Side note, it’s good I’m not a food blogger or I might get strung up for that one.

Salsa – This goes hand in hand with guac.  If you’re going to buy premade get the stuff in the refrigerated cases.  Since these haven’t gone through the canning (jarring) process they don’t have to be cooked.  This will result in a fresher tasting salsa.  Seriously though, salsa is another one of those items that is really quite easy to make once you get the hang of it.  Here is a good basic salsa recipe.  From this you can branch off in any number of directions.  Add some fruit perhaps, other veggies, more chiles (yes please!), anything you like.

Cheese Dip – Or as Ted always called it, Spicy Chez.  This is another one that would get my foodie card taken away were I food blogger, but hey, it works for me.  Take a small loaf of Velveeta or a half of a large loaf and chop in to 1/2 inch cubes.  Place in a sauce pan with one can of Rotel tomatoes, your choice on the heat (go hot).  Melt over medium heat until creamy and combined.  If you want to make this a little more interest consider adding some cooked chorizo, ground beef or pork, or other sausage.

Popcorn – Don’t over look this simple snack.  The great part about popcorn is that it’s relatively healthy.  Since your guests are likely to be snacking for quite some time with popcorn they can eat a bunch and not consume a huge amount of calories.  If you’re looking to spice things up a bit try sprinkling some spices (chili powder or cayenne would be tasty) over the top of the freshly popped popcorn.  The small bit of oil (assuming you’re using microwave popcorn) on the corn should help the spices stick.

Clearly there are a lot that I’ve missed and I’ve really only glossed over those that I have suggested.  As with the other posts, if you have suggestions, by all means send them my way.

Super Bowl XLIII Drink #2: Punch

Posted by Reese On January - 27 - 2009

Think of all the parties you’ve been to in your time.  I would imagine that at a minimum one of those parties had a large cut glass bowl filled with a an alcoholic concoction.  Floating in this deliciousness was likely a ring of ice and some fruit slices.  What was this wonderful elixir you ponder, punch of course.  Punch, originating from the Hindi word Panch, was originally a drink made from a base spirit, sugar, lemon, water, and tea or spices.  The word became anglicized to punch in the early 1600’s and has been used as such since.

There are nearly as many punch recipes as there are people alive today and I can’t claim that I have a lot of experience with any of them.  Thankfully there are people on these here interwebs that can offer some suggestions.  In looking at the recipes they vary in difficulty from very easy (Rocky Mountain Punch) to quite involved (David Wondrich’s Regent’s Punch).  There are even non-alcoholic recipes, but that’s for another post.

Pretty much any punch is going to be perfect for your party so long as you have enough for the crowd.  The recipes range in alcohol content so you could easily make one that could be consumed all day.  Some of the recipes even have caffeine in them (David Wondrich’s Rum Punch), so once you’ve gorged yourself on tasty food you’ll be able to stay awake for the remainder of the game.  My thoughts?

I don’t think you can go wrong with either of the recipes by David Wondrich.  Wondrich is the author of Imbibe! and generally wise cocktail dude.  If neither of those sound particularly tasty then take a peek at some of the recipes listed on the Saveur site.  There are quite a few and the recipes have a wide range of ingredients and flavors.  Still want more?  You could always get historical and go with Martha Washington’s recipe for Rum Punch.  Or, if you’re still needing more, Jerry Thomas lists 59 recipes in How to Mix Drinks.  I’m betting you can find one there that you like.  Me?  I think I’d go Winter Berry Punch.  Just sounds really tasty.

One final thing to keep in mind.  Toss a container full of water in the freezer the night before.  Rings are pretty traditional but you could go with a simple bowl full of water or get all kinds of crazy and go with a platonic solid.  I recommend a icosahedron for super bonus points.  You can even embed some flowers or fruit in the ice if you’d like a touch more decorative.  However, since this is for a Super Bowl party I’m guessing decorative isn’t super high on your list of priorities.

Super Bowl XLIII Food #2: Chili

Posted by Reese On January - 27 - 2009

When I hear someone mention the Super Bowl the first thing that springs to mind is cold.  Seems to make logical sense since the game is played in the middle of the winter.  Now, this year certainly isn’t the best example seeing as the game is being played in Tampa, FL where the temperature on game day is supposed to be in the high 60’s.  Not exactly wintery.  But, I’m guessing that a large portion of the viewers will be somewhere wintery.  So this post goes out to you.


On a cold day there is nothing tastier than a well prepared bowl of chili.  To be clear, I’m not talking about Chili Verde or Texas beef chili here.  I’m talking all American chili with beans, meat and sauce.  This dish fits our criteria perfectly since the initial prep is very minimal, it can cook all day on the stove or in a crock pot and is ready whenever folks are ready to eat.

Where to begin though?  There are so many options.  If I can be perfectly honest with you all, I generally wing it when I’m making chili.  I buy some meat (beef, pork, turkey, chorizo, you name it), some beans (pinto usually) and some tomato sauce.  I sautee up an onion, a couple peppers and some garlic.  Add that mixture to my crock pot and add all the remaining ingredients.  Then I start adding herbs and spices; chili powder, cayenne, cumin, oregano, and salt to name a few.  Lid it up and let the whole deal cook for a while tasting it about once an hour and adjusting my seasoning appropriately.  If it needs to be a bit thinner I’ll add some chicken stock, thicker, some tomato paste.

I’m guessing however, that my method isn’t going to help you make chili for the first time so here are a few recipes that I think look good.

Halftime Chili

Boilermaker Tailgate Chili

Smokin’ Scovilles Turkey Chili

There are tons of ways to make this dish all your own.  Change up the meat; beef, pork, chicken, sausage, even faux meat, the sky truly is the limit on that one.  Vary your beans; nearly any beans can make a good chili.  Finally the most closely guarded secret of the chili masters is the spice blend.  Add what you like, make it scorching hot, or mild but super flavorful.

Another take away from this post is that Chili isn’t the key here, its the class of food, stew/soup.  There are a nearly endless number of recipes that you could make for the big game that would be just as easy to prep as this one.  Maybe a beef stew, chicken chowder, seafood chowder, jambalaya, you name it.  Hope this has inspired you to get your crock pot fired up.

Drop a comment below if you’ve got some awesome recipes I should know about.  I’m always up for fantastic food.

Super Bowl XLIII Drink #1: Beer

Posted by Reese On January - 27 - 2009

I imagine that were I to ask 10 people randomly what alcoholic beverage I should get for a Super Bowl party 9.5 of those people would say beer.  For the record, one guy was kinda on the fence between beer and green tea, but I think he might have problems.  All kidding aside, beer is the most popular beverage consumed during the Super Bowl, and I’m willing to go out on a limb and include all football games in that statistic.  It makes sense too.  Beer is relatively cheap, there are a zillion different types to choose from, and it tastes good, or so they claim.

Thing is, the Super Bowl is a long event.  If you figure in some pre-game and post-game TV you’re looking at a possible six hours of football.  You and your buddies clearly can’t be hammering back a beer with an ABV of 9% for that amount of time.  No one would be able to get home, even if they’re walking.  You also don’t want a beer that has a huge or exotic flavor to it.  You’d end up drinking a couple and be done for the day.  Again, not going to work.  The solution?  Session beers.

Pabst Blue Ribbon

Lew Bryson of Seen Through a Glass has a series of posts on his site called the Session Beer Project.  In his outline of the project he details what he considers to be the qualities of a session beer.  In summary:

  1. Alcohol under 4.5%
  2. A flavor that doesn’t overpower
  3. The beer doesn’t overpower the conversation
  4. Reasonable price

Basically, the beer should be inexpensive, flavorful but not overly powerful or so interesting that it takes the focus away from the activity at hand and fairly low in alcohol.  The benefits of going with a beer like this?  Well, for one, you can drink them all day and not get exceedingly drunk.  Second, the beer isn’t all that pricey so you don’t feel bad buying a bunch for when your mooch friends show up empty handed.  Third, the beer has a good flavor that isn’t overly powerful.  You can drink them for the duration of the game and not get “beered out” as it were.  Finally, the flavor isn’t so off the wall that it causes you all to stop watching the game and discuss the subtle nuances of the brew.

So what do you choose?  Well, since I’m not much of a beer guy I can’t give too much input on this one so I turned to my friends first.  Chris, who generously offered his input for the beer tasting, had this to say “Why on god’s green earth would you want low alcohol beer?”  Which, although a valid point, doesn’t help much.  Being from the great state of Arizona he did profer one suggestion that might be worth checking out if you’re a Cardinals fan, namely 8th Street Ale from Four Peaks Brewing Company.  Which at 4.5% ABV comes in at the top end of our scale.

Next I turned to my cousin Tara and her husband Steve, both natives of Pittsburgh and huge Steelers fans (Yes, they even have a drawer full of “Terrible Towels“.)  Steve’s initial suggestion is Iron City Light (4.15% ABV) which is still consumed regularly among locals.  Although Iron City Lager (4.5% ABV) fits our rules and is claimed to be “the ‘Burgh’s signature beer” my local sources are telling me to avoid it.  The exact review was “It’s terrible.”  Good enough for me.  If you’re wanting to go with a microbrew instead, Penn Pilsner (4.0% ABV) from the Penn Brewing Company comes highly recommended.

That should at least get you started and you’re looking for some other suggestions, take a peek at the Top Session Beers list put together by BeerAdvocate.  Lew also has reviews on his site of each of the beers he’s tried in the Session Beer Project.  Definitely worth taking a look if you’re wanting to try something new.

Super Bowl XLIII Food #1: Lasagna

Posted by Reese On January - 26 - 2009

When I’m thinking about food that will work good for the Super Bowl I have a few criteria.  The food in question should:

  • Be easy to prepare
  • Appeal to a wide group of people
  • Require a short final prep during a break
  • Scale to various group sizes

There are lots of foods that fit in to these categories, but first I’d like to share one with you that has been a favorite of my family for years.  Whenever we’re planning a large family gathering where prep time will be minimal my mom makes up a batch of her lasagna.  I think there is little that speaks of classic Italian American food like the lasagna made here in the US.  The recipe you find below is what we use, but there are nearly endless variations that can be made.  Experiment, I’m certain you won’t be disappointed.

Easy Lasagna - Marie Gambon
2 lbs Ground Beef
2 lbs Italian Sausage
3/4 tsp Pepper
1/2 tsp Oregano
2 cloves Minced Garlic
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Minced Parsley
1 tsp Basil
1 tsp Tabasco
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 20oz can Tomatoes (Diced)
1 small Diced Onion
1 6oz can Tomato Paste
[Remaining Ingredients]
1 package Lasagna Noodles (No boil work fine)
1 cup Sour Cream
3 cups Grated Mozzarella Cheese
Grated Parmesan Cheese
1) Brown meat, onion and garlic.
2) Add tomato paste, tomatoes, herbs and spices.
3) Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
4) Cook noodles as directed on package (if needed).
5) Heat oven to 350F.
6) Alternate layers of meat sauce, noodles, sour cream, and cheese in
an 11x7 baking pan, beginning and ending with meat sauce.
7) Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
8) Bake until top is bubbly and golden brown (~45 - 60 min).

This recipe will easily feed about 6-8 people.  I’d suggest making a small salad to go with it, assuming you’d like to pretend you’re being slighly healthy.  The nice thing about this recipe is that it can be scaled up easily to accomodate a large group.  Also, it can be made ahead of time and either refridgerated or frozen until you’re ready to cook it.  Although, if you decide to freeze it you’ll probably need some extra time in the oven.  I’d plan an extra 30 minutes or so.

Well, I hope this first installment has at least spurred you to start thinking about what you’ll cook for the big game.  Stay with us, we’ve got more coming as the week goes on.