Football Sunday, Time for the Big Game!
Want to know how I enjoy the “Big Game?” Only the best way I know how, with FOOD! Oh and I plan to keep my ears pealed for commercial breaks.
I enjoy the sounds of the game, the smell of good food and a house full of people. The people are the best part. If you're ever invited to a football party hosted by my mom’s side of the family, you are in for a people treat. WARNING:Parents with small children and sensitive adults, there may be some very loud and foul language. Uncle Tom is passionate for his football and usually the quietest fella in the room, a room without football on the t.v.
This year we will have a football party of 10. For those who live in the dark, the “Big Game” is Sunday, February 5 at 6:30 PM Atlanta Falcons vs. New England Patriots.
To prepare a menu for our upcoming game day, I did a Google Search for the types of foods popular in New England and Atlanta. I found a few things New England is known for; cranberries, maple syrup, lobster, oysters and clams. The search for Atlanta foods was less about the areas staple ingredients and more about all the restaurants you must put on your bucket list. From that search, I found a food I believe will represent Atlanta well.
Then, I turned to the people and asked what their ideal game day party food would be. What I gathered, most people want finger foods and small bites. They want to pick at food throughout the game while they drink a few cocktails and hang out with their friends and family.
FUN PARTY TIP:
This grazing mentality will keep your guests blood flowing with lots of movement from couch to table. Guests will also have the opportunity to engage with other people at the party. Where there is food, there will be people. Certainly, a recipe for keeping guests happy and entertained.
THE PLAY: I am going to create a menu that incorporates many flavors, textures and a balance between healthy and deliciously indulgent.
I choose cranberries as my ingredient to represent the Patriots and pimento cheese for the Falcons. Which dish will win the crowd?
Baby kale and spinach salad with sliced gala apples, roasted butternut squash, blue cheese crumbles, red onion, toasted pecans and a cranberry vinaigrette
Hot pimento cheese bacon bites
Andouille sausage wrapped in puff pastry (aka Cajun Hogs in a Blanket) served with a mango chutney mustard.
Fruit and veggie platter full of strawberries, pineapple, bluebberries, carrots, cucumbers, mini sweet peppers served with vanilla Greek yogurt for a fruit dip and chipotle lime creme for a veggie dip
TIME OUT: Hold the phone, didn’t I mention something earlier about serving finger foods? Why did I put a salad on the menu? Yes, I did say finger foods are good way to keep people moving around and engaged with other guests. I also know Homer Simpson says, “You don't make friends with salad.” However, I deem this salad will make the play and win over the crowd.
At this point, I am a week away from the "Big Game" but I have a few things I want to prepare in advance.
PLANNING AND PREPARATION TIP:Advanced preparation will save you time and energy on the day of your celebration.
I know we will have about 10 people, four of whom will be kids.
PLANNING AND PREPARATION TIP:A rule of thumb, an adult person will eat about a pound of food. Children will eat less. I have four items and I project each person will eat about a quarter pound of each menu item. This is an estimation and I may have more of one menu item left over than another. The idea is to limit the amount of food that is left at the end of a party.
PLANNING AND PREPARATION TIP:Creating a timeline of events eliminates elements of your menu being forgotten and can reduce stress for an upcoming celebration. The timeline you see below is an example of the type of timeline I would set up for myself. When a job is complete, I check it off. Gratifying!
Monday, January 30, 2017
1. Make puff pastry.
TIME OUT: You can check out my blog post, “Puff Puff Pastry My Friend” to learn how to make your own. You can skip this step if you choose to use the puff pastry in the freezer section of your grocery store.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
1. Bake the bread for the hot pimento cheese bacon bites.
TIME OUT: Coming soon, "A Little Science Breaducation," a blog post on baking a crusty loaf of bread. However, if you have a favorite loaf of bread or you are reading this post the night before the “Big Game,” skip this step.
Friday, February 3, 2017
1. Shop for ingredients.
2. Make cranberry vinaigrette.
3. Make pimento cheese spread.
4. Make mango chutney mustard.
5. Make chipotle lime creme.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
1. Take the puff pastry from the freezer and refrigerate.
TIME OUT: If you choose the store bought puff pastry option, read the package directions for thawing.
2. Cut veggies and fruit for platter. Bag each separately and refrigerate.
3. Roast butternut squash and refrigerate.
4. Toast pecans and store in a tightly closed container.
5. Slice scallions and refrigerate.
1. Cook bacon and crumble in the morning.
TIME OUT: Try not to be tempted to eat all of it for breakfast. Store in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator.
2. Prepare the cajun hogs in a blanket.
ALMOST GAME TIME:
**About 1 Hour before you want to serve your guests:
1. . Finish the cajun hogs in a blanket.
2. Finish the hot pimento cheese bacon bites.
3. Plate your fruit and veggie platter.
4. Slice apples thin and build your salad. Lightly dress the salad with the cranberry vinaigrette.
Now, time to welcome your guests, eat some food and watch some commercials. I mean the “Big Game.”
Active time: 15 minutes
Inactive time: 30 minutes
2 bags of baby kale and spinach salad mix (Find this in the bag salad department of your grocery store.)
Small butternut squash, peeled, chopped and roasted. (See below for roasting instructions.)
1/2 Gala Apple, thinly sliced. (“CALLING ALL MY CHILDREN! Come and eat the rest of this apple.”)
About 3 tablepoons of minced red onion
About 3 tablespoons of toasted pecans, chopped roughly
1/3 cup of blue cheese crumbles
Put all this stuff in a bowl, lightly dress the salad with the vinaigrette and EAT.
Active time: 5 minutes
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, thawed
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
2 tablespoon Orange Blossom Honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all but the vegetable oil in a food processor, blend until smooth. Continue blending and slowly pour in the oil. This will help emulsify the dressing and keep it from separating.
Roasting Butternut Squash:
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Peel and cut the butternut squash into 1 inch pieces. Dress the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast the squash for about 20-30 minutes, flipping the squash half way through. I like my squash roasty and toasty, the doneness of your squash may vary.
TIME OUT:If you choose not to use all the butternut squash in your salad, refrigerate the remaining squash for up to three days and eat it another time!
HOT PIMENTO CHEESE AND BACON BITES:
Active time: 15 minutes
Inactive time: 3-5 minutes
Servings: 20 slices
Recipe for pimento cheese spread (See below)
1 loaf of crusty bread ("A Little Science Breaducation")
6-8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
3-4 scallions, sliced thin
Preheat broiler. Slice bread thin and spread on the pimento cheese and top with bacon. Place bites on a prepared baking sheet and put under the broiler until hot and bubbly. About 3-5 minutes. Keep a close eye when you broil food, the line between golden delicious and bitterly burnt is thin.
TIME OUT: The Crusty bread I used is about 4-5 inches long. I estimate 2 slices per person. If your crusty bread is smaller in diameter, increase the number of bites you make.
Place the bites on a platter and top scallions. Serve immediately.
Pimento Cheese Spread:
I get a lot of inspiration from Bobby Flay. He hangs in my pantry, not Bobby Flay but a picture of Bobby Flay. He is another celebrity chef I would stalk, I mean go totally fan geek if I could meet him. This is his recipe for pimento cheese spread.
Active time: 10 minutes
Inactive time: 30 minutes
1/2 cup of mayo
1/2 tsp cayenne powder, more if you like it HOT!
1/4 tsp garlic powder (My addition!)
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 cup of jarred roasted red peppers, drained and diced
6 ounces of grated extra sharp white cheddar
6 ounces of grated extra sharp yellow cheddar
Whisk together the first four ingredients and then fold in the peppers and cheese. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to a week.
TIME OUT: I cut Bobby's pimento cheese recipe in half. It makes exactly 20 rounds that are 4-5 inches long.
CAJUN HOGS IN A BLANKET:
Courtesy of Food and Wine Magazine. (Adapted. I found many inconsistencies in their recipe. Also, I like it better with the mango chutney and ground mustard left whole, not blended.)
Active time will vary. Did you make or buy your puff pastry?
Servings: About 16 large bites
4 andouille sausages or about 1 pound
1 prepared puff pastry (1/2 batch of puff pastry from "Puff Puff Pastry My Friend")
1/2 cup of Major Grey’s Mango Chutney (You can find this in the international isle of the grocery store or on Amazon.)
4 Tablespoons whole grain mustard
Slightly beaten egg to use as an egg wash.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out puff pastry dough to about 16” x 12 “ square then cut into 4 equal parts.
Brush the top edge of the puff pastry with the egg wash. Place a sausage on the bottom edge and roll up, pressing to seal the edges. Repeat for each sausage. Put in the freezer for about 10 minutes or until firm.
TIME OUT: In my time line above, I have this set up as a “morning prep” item. If you choose to prep these in the morning, skip the freezer step. Place the wrapped sausages in the refrigerator until game time.
Slice the hogs into 1 inch slices and place them cut side down on pan lined with parchment.
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Place them on a paper towel once out of the oven. Transfer to a serving dish with the mango chutney mustard.
Mango Chutney Mustard: Mix the grainy mustard and mango chutney together and transfer to a serving dish.
FRUIT AND VEGGIE PLATTER:
Active Time: 20 Minutes
Inactive time: 30 minutes
Servings: Purchase 3 kinds of fruit/3 kinds of veggies for a party of 10. I used an 9"x 9" platter.
1 small container of vanilla whole milk Greek yogurt
1 small container of plain whole milk Greek yogurt
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped (Add more, if you like it hot.)
1-2 tablespoons of cilantro, chopped
1/2 of a lime, juiced (Slice the other half of the lime and serve with your beverages.)
Ladies and gentlemen, there are no set of ingredients for this. Use what you want! Use what is fresh! Use what is in season! This platter is as versatile as a Swiss Army knife.
PREPARATION TIP:Pineapples ripen from the bottom up. If you go looking to purchasing a pineapple, smell the bottom of the pineapple. If it smells sweet, then your pineapple will be sweet. I read somewhere in a Thai cookbook to use the bottom half of a pineapple for desserts and the top half in cooking. Particularly, for the reason expressed above.
Arrange fruit and veggies on a platter and serve the fruit side of the platter with a small container of vanilla Greek whole milk yogurt. Serve the veggie side of the platter with the chipotle lime creme.
PREPARATION TIP: Any fruit and yogurt left over can be used for a grab and go snack. Check out my post, “Do Some Flips Over This Yogurt Snack,” coming soon.
PREPARATION TIP:Let’s just say you have decided to get one of those pineapples you’ve been standing around sniffing while the other patrons glare at you funny, cut the top off and save it for decoration. As pictured below, snip a small piece of each leaf at an angle. This cleans up the leaves and makes for a more dynamic visual for your platter.
Chipotle Lime Creme:
Mix the plainwhole milk Greek yogurt with the chipotle peppers, cilantro, juice of 1/2 a lime and salt and pepper to taste. Let refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 4 days. Serve with the veggie side of the platter.
Find more uses for this awesome sauce in other posts. This is used in the empanada recipe in the post, "Puff Puff Pastry My Friend."