Monday, October 1, 2012

I was introduced to the tradition of tailgating as a young girl. Our family has had season tickets to Iowa State football games for over 60 years. My grandparents, James and Connie Wilson, were the original season ticket holders.

Growing up, many weekends in the fall, my mom woke early to pack the car with tailgate necessities. I have never been a fan of football, but before the game, I amused myself by waiting for the marching band to come by on the way to the stadium and munching on tailgate tidbits prepared by my mom.

Once inside the stadium, I would often ask to sit on the grassy hill as it was more comfortable. If I sat in the stands, I kept busy by people-watching. I was mesmerized by the cheerleaders and baton twirlers. If I had a little bit of my paper route money to spend, I headed to the concession stands for some nachos or a Sprite.

My tailgating experience also includes rooting for the Hawkeyes. I attended the University of Iowa from 1993-1997, and Hawkeye fans are notorious for extreme tailgating. The setup around Kinnick Stadium is a bit different from Jack Trice Stadium. Many students congregate along Melrose Avenue where there are food vendors and plenty of crowds and excitement. The students have been known for getting pretty rowdy on the lawns and streets of the surrounding houses. Fans pay to park and tailgate on the lawns.

One of the biggest draws on game day in Iowa City was known as the Magic Bus. Students would often meet up at the Magic Bus before and after games. Unfortunately this Hawkeye tradition ended in 2011 due to a city ordinance issue.

The following recipes are super-easy snacks to have on hand whether you and your fellow fans are watching the game at home or hitting the road on game day.

Antipasto Kebabs

My colleague, Jen Wagoner, a second-grade teacher, brought these kebabs for treat day. Jen is always bringing fun and creative food to share with staff.
sliced pepperoni
salami (cut into square cubes)
mozzarella cheese (cut into square cubes)
cheese tortellini (sold in refrigerated section near dairy)
black or green olives (or both)
Italian dressing
wooden skewers
Cook tortellini according to package directions, but be sure not to overcook. Pasta should still be firm. Run cold water over pasta and set aside to drain completely. Cut salami and mozzarella into cubes. Toss cherry tomatoes and pasta in Italian dressing. Begin to skewer meat, cheese, and pasta onto wooden sticks in pattern of your choice. Chill until ready to serve.

Marinated Mushrooms

I remember as a child, my mom often brought these mushrooms along to Ames. I didn’t like mushrooms back then, so I never tried them. I am now a fan of mushrooms and realize what I was missing all along.

Wash and quarter 2 pounds fresh mushrooms. To make vinaigrette dressing, whisk together the following ingredients:

¼ cup olive oil
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup vinegar
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ teaspoon each of oregano, tarragon, basil, and marjoram leaves crumbled.
Pour dressing over mushrooms and marinate two to six hours before serving. Recipe may be reduced or enlarged as needed. Serve with toothpicks.

Crab Dip

I asked my former colleague Mary Sieloff, a third-grade teacher at Capitol View Elementary in Des Moines, for this recipe after she brought it to school. I was surprised to hear the “secret” ingredient was salsa.

1 pkg imitation crab meat
¾ cup salsa or picante sauce
¼ cup milk
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese
Chop crab meat into small pieces. In a microwave safe bowl, combine all ingredients and microwave on high until cream cheese is softened enough to stir together all ingredients, but do not heat until bubbling. To serve as a warm dip, transfer to small crock pot and set it to low. To serve as a cold dip, transfer to serving dish and refrigerate until game time. Serve with crackers.

Tortilla Pinwheels

After I graduated from the University of Iowa, I returned for about one game a year to meet up with old friends. This was a pre-game snack I always brought. As soon as I set the plate down, they were gobbled up by hungry Hawk fans.

large flour tortillas (at room temperature)
soft flavored cream cheese in a tub (garden vegetable, chive and onion, or sundried tomato and basil)
deli turkey or ham

On a cutting board, spread softened cream cheese onto tortilla. Arrange deli meat on top of cream cheese. Starting on one end, roll up tortilla and secure tortilla with small amount of cream cheese (to act as “glue”) on other end. Using knife, slice roll into slices about one inch wide. End pieces can be discarded or eaten. Arrange pinwheels on plate. Julienne strips of red or green pepper, carrot, or cucumber can be added for crunch factor.

Sesame Seed Spread

This is a super-easy cheese spread to serve with crackers. My father, Bob Burns, still makes this to serve at happy hour.

1 (8 oz) block of cream cheese
Worcestershire sauce
sesame seeds
In a small skillet, heat sesame seeds until they become toasty, but not dark or burned. Place block of cream cheese on a small plate or serving dish and thoroughly cover cream cheese with Worcestershire sauce. Liberally sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Best when served at room temperature to give cream cheese time to soften. Serve with Toasteds crackers.

Grape Jelly Meatballs

For something warm to offer football fans, try these sweet and sour meatballs. Guests will never know how easy it was to make the sauce or guess the ingredients included chili sauce and grape jelly.

1 (12 oz jar) Heinz chili sauce
1 cup grape jelly
frozen meatballs (about 40)
Put chili sauce and jelly in a large pot, heat until jelly is melted and sauce is smooth, stirring often. Add frozen meatballs; heat until meatballs are thawed and then simmer for 3 hours. Or add chili sauce and jelly to crock pot whisk to combine, then add meatballs and heat through.