Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wild Card Weenies!!!

Welcome to The Playoffs, Homegaters!

Okay, so your team didn't make the playoffs. They were so abysmal this season that even a lingerie league team would have beaten them. Your coaching staff are dead men walking. You're living for Free Agency and the Draft. I understand. I get it. But get off the ledge and have a hot dog. Hot dogs make the whole world seem brighter - especially my Wild Card Weenies.

We now begin the home stretch to the high holy day of the NFL: The Super Bowl. The first stage of weeding out the pretenders and wannabes from the true champions begins with Wild Card Weekend (2 games this Saturday and 2 games this Sunday). If your team is in contention, congrats, this is a very exciting time. Even if your team isn't in it, it's still a fun time to either root for or against the teams that are in it. Invite the gang over to check out the games.

Hot dogs are a fan favorite at sporting events. They're a standard at every stadium and arena in the country. You can have them plain, or with an infinite number of toppings. I've come up with a combination of toppings that includes my version of a chili sauce along with a spicy celery slaw. For this recipe, I purposely made a mild chili sauce because the celery slaw is spicy. You can certainly spice your chili sauce up and tone down the celery slaw. It's up to you. If you have the time, try to make the toppings a day ahead because it will give both a chance for the flavors to develop.

Wild Card Weenies
(8 weenies)

1 package of your favorite hot dogs
1 package hot dog buns

Chili Sauce:
1 lb ground beef
1/2 medium onion, minced          
2 tbs canola oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder                        
2 tbs chili powder
1 bottle of lager
6 oz tomato sauce
salt & pepper to taste

Spicy Celery Slaw:
2 cups celery, thinly sliced
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white vinegar


1.  Place the hot dogs in a slow cooker on low setting, cover with boiling water. These will stay hot for the rest of the day. If you don't have a slow cooker, boil a pot of hot water, add the hot dogs and reduce the heat to simmer. The dogs will stay hot that way as well.

2.  Chili Sauce: in a sauce pan on medium heat, heat the canola oil and add the minced onions. Saute until translucent. Add the beef and enough lager to cover the meat. With your hand (comeon, all good cooks use their hands), break up the meat until it turns into tiny "granules." Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and then immediately lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings according to your own taste.

3.  Spicy Celery Slaw: in a pint jar, add all the ingredients. Place lid on jar and shake until thoroughly mixed.

4.  Assemble the hot dog on the bun, place chili sauce on top, then top with the celery slaw.

5.  Enjoy with your favorite beverage and pals.

This is just one of the many toppings you can place on the hot dogs. I make several kinds of toppings and set them up as a hot dog bar so that my guests can make any combination of toppings they like. I also like the idea of using the slow cooker because it keeps the dogs hot all day. If you have multiple slow cookers or a slow cooker buffet, even better because then you can keep several toppings hot. That way you don't need to keep fussing with anything which makes it easy for you to enjoy the games.

So there you have it! If your team is playing this weekend, good luck! If not, enjoy the games anyway! See you next week when we get ready for the Divisional games!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The "Spirits" of the Season!!

Happy Holidays, Homegaters!

Tis the season! Homegating Headquarters has been crazy-busy getting ready for lots of holiday festivities. As a result, I would like to provide you with a rerun of a previous post that I received a lot of positive feedback on:  Bacon Devil Eggs. Thank you very much! These little devils are fun for a regular homegate and they're also perfect to serve for any holiday gathering.

Bacon Deviled Eggs

In the meantime, I want to direct your attention this week to my friend Anita's "A Cocktail Life" blog. It is a treasure trove of wonderful drinks which are perfect for this time of year - and all year 'round for that matter! I know you'll enjoy perusing her blog and getting "spiritually" inspired.

I want to take this time to wish you all a Happy Holiday and I will see you again next week when we shift into high gear with the NFL Playoffs!!

See you next Wednesday!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Balsamic 'Shroom & Carmelized Onion Pizza!!

Greetings Homegaters!

As you know, pizza is one of the basic food groups for the sports-watching crowd. But you know once in a while, you have to shake things up when you cook for the gang on a weekly basis. I was originally planning on making a regular good ol' basic cheese pizza, when I started going off on a culinary tangent (as I have been known to do) and wound up with this creation:  Balsamic 'Shroom & Carmelized Onion Pizza. Why not?

There are a couple of steps to prepare this pizza, but you can saute the mushrooms and carmelize the onions ahead of time, or you can even prepare them the day before you plan on making it.  I used store bought pizza dough, but you can certainly make your own if you want.

What's cool about this pizza is that you have a couple of taste explosions going on that work really well together. The sweetness of the carmelized onions and the balsamic vinegar compliment the meatiness of the mushrooms, while the fontina and mozzarella cheeses anchor the flavor palate. Your buddies are not going to know what hit them when you unleash this on them. They'll be so preoccupied with how great it tastes that they won't be so depressed about their team missing the playoffs for the 10th year in a row and is a soap opera worthy of a plot line on "General Hospital." But I digress....

Balsamic 'Shroom & Carmelized Onion Pizza           
(serves 4-6)                
10 oz package sliced crimini mushrooms              
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp powdered rosemary (optional)
2 large onions, chopped finely
12 oz shredded fontina cheese
10 oz shredded mozzarella
4 tbs canola oil
1 package of pizza dough


1. For the balsamic mushrooms: heat 2 tbs of canola oil in a saute pan on medium heat. Add the mushrooms, garlic powder, powdered rosemary (if using) and salt. Continue to saute for 7-10 minutes until the liquid that renders from it dissolves. Add the balsamic vinegar and let reduce. Place in a bowl and let cool.

2. For the carmelized onions: heat 2 tbs of canola oil in a saute pan on medium-low heat. Add the chopped onions. Salt the onions at this stage because you want the salt to draw out the liquid in the onions. Continue to saute down until the onions turn a dark golden color. Depending on the pan you're using, you may have to lower the heat a little because you want the onions to cook low and slow. You don't want them to burn. This usually takes about 15-20 minutes. Place in a bowl and let cool.

3.  Roll and stretch out the pizza dough on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the fontina and mozzarella over the top of the dough. Next, add the mushrooms on top, followed by the carmelized onions.

4.  Place in a pre-heated 550-degree oven. Because of the high heat, start checking the pizza after 3 minutes. Depending on your stove, you may need to rotate the pizza to make sure that one side doesn't cook faster than the other. The pizza should be done within 7 minutes (or sooner).

5.  Remove from the oven, take the pizza out of the pan and let cool on a cooling rack.

6.  Slice up, sit back and wait for accolades.

So there you have it! Hope you decide to check this out. Let me know if you do and how you like it!

See you next Wednesday.....

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Triple Play Onion Dip!!!

Greetings Homegaters!

Onion dip. A moment of silence, please. It's appeared at almost every gathering you've ever gone to in your entire life. It's about as essential as air. Seriously. Think about it. Everybody serves onion dip. Everybody wants onion dip. I'll bet there's a bowl of it in front of the Pearly Gates when you get there.

Up until now, we've been accustomed to the mixes and the pre-made concoctions passing themselves off as onion dip. Ditch 'em. I'm going to enlighten you, dear Homegaters. I'm going to show you how to reach onion dip nirvana. It's going to blow your minds. It takes just a short while to prepare, but trust me, you will become an onion dip idol once you unleash this on the gang. I present to you the:  Triple Play Onion Dip. Take a moment to let that sink in. You're welcome.

As the name suggests, this recipe calls for 3 different types of onions:  carmelized onions, scallions and chives. Can you handle it? I know you can. Take a deep breath (but not too deep because your eyes might water) and let's move on. Next, the creamy goodness comes from a combination of sour cream and cream cheese. When all these ingredients come together, something magical happens and your company won't know what hit them. Check their vitals once in a while to make sure that they don't get so caught up in their onion dip trance that they miss the action on tv. As a matter of fact, you might want to double this recipe to make sure you don't run out and cause a riot in your fan cave. Just a bit of friendly advice.

Triple Play Onion Dip
(makes 16 oz)

1 medium-large yellow onion, chopped
2 scallions, minced (white part only)
2 tbs snipped chives (save a little for ganishing)  
16 oz container of sour cream
4 oz (1/2 package) cream cheese (softened)
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/8 tsp garlic powder
2 tbs canola oil
2 tsp salt


1. To carmelize the yellow onions: heat the canola oil in a saute pan on medium-low heat. Add the chopped onions and garlic powder. Salt the onions at this stage because you want the salt to draw out the liquid in the onions. Continue to saute down until the onions turn a dark golden color. Depending on the pan you're using, you may have to lower the heat a little because you want the onions to cook low and slow. You don't want them to burn. This usually takes about 15-20 minutes.

2.  Once the onions have achieved that golden color, add the balsamic vinegar and continue sauteeing until the balsamic has cooked out. Remove the onions to a bowl and let them cool.

3.  In another bowl, mix the sour cream, cream cheese, scallions and chives. When the carmelized onions are cooled down, add them and mix thoroughly. Serve with chips, pretzels, veggies,...

NOTE:  The flavors will improve if you make this a couple of hours ahead of time (or even the day before) and let sit in the fridge.

And there you have it! This is definitely a winner. Let me know how you like it!

See you back here next week for more gameday ideas!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Clammy Jammys!!

Greetings Homegaters!

I was tooling around the supermarket the other day when I came across a package of wonton skins and my imagination started running amuck. I decided to do a riff on a sophisticated little baked clam spread appetizer that used to appear at frat parties during my college days. Why something so elegant was served at a frat house party while all the guests were dodging flying beer bottles is beyond me, but those little clam noshes were pretty awesome. So in true homegating fashion, I deconstructed it, turned it into a wonton and renamed it the:  Clammy Jammy! Now it's gameday worthy!

These little bundles of seafood goodness contain cream cheese, canned minced clams, worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, hot sauce and a little clam juice. They're wrapped in the wonton skins and deep fried for mere seconds. Because they fry up within seconds, they absorb hardly any oil.

Clammy Jammys                                                          

(makes 48)                    

8oz package of cream cheese (softened)            
8oz can minced clams, drained (save the juice)
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp hot sauce
1 package wonton skins
canola or vegetable oil for frying


1. Soften cream cheese and add the remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly. If the cheese is still too thick, you can loosen it with a little clam juice. Add a teaspoon at a time until the cheese is smooth, but not loose.

2.  Refrigerate cheese for 1 hour to let the flavors develop and to thicken up the cheese again.

3.  After one hour, take a wonton skin and place 1 teaspoon of the cheese mixture in the center of the wonton.

4.  Wet all 4 edges of the wonton skin with the reserved clam juice and fold the wonton skin over the clam filling, forming a triangle. Press the edges together to seal.

5.  When all the wontons are filled, place them on a sheet pan and put in the refrigerator.

6.  Heat oil in a deep saucepan (or use a deep fryer if you have one) to 375-degrees.

7.  Begin frying the wontons. These will brown in literally seconds, so you need pay close attention.

8.  Drain on paper towels and plate.

9.  Get ready for rave reviews.

And there you have it! Another gameday munchy that's relatively easy to prepare and will be a hit with the gang.

I'll see you back here next Wednesday. Until then, enjoy your games!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Coconut Spiced Rum Mocha Latte!!!

Hey Homegaters!

I was at a loss about which recipe I wanted to share with you for this weekend, what with Thanksgiving and all. Most of you are probably cooked out for the weekend and might not want to start whipping up munchies for gameday. On top of that, the gang might not be as ravenous as they usually are when they come over, either. So I rattled the ol' noodle and decided to share with you a pretty cool latte drink that you can serve: Coconut Spiced Rum Mocha Latte! Hey, who's not going to want to check out one of these with those turkey leftovers?

Blue Chair Bay Rum recently released a Coconut Spiced Rum Cream. Holy freakin' moley! This is a tropical holiday in a bottle! It's crazy good. The minute I tasted it, I knew that it would be perfect in a coffee drink. After a couple of trial and errors (and a caffeine buzz to send me into next Thanksgiving), this java jolt evolved.

Coconut Spiced Rum Mocha Latte                                

(makes 6 mugs)

10 cups brewed coffee or espresso
1/3 C chocolate syrup
1 cinnamon stick
2 tsp vanilla
Steamed or Frothed Blue Chair Bay Coconut Spiced Rum Cream 


1.  Brew the coffee or espresso.

2.  Add the chocolate syrup, cinnamon stick and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

3.  Steam or froth Coconut Spiced Rum Cream and pour into each mug.

4.  Slowly pour the coffee into each mug.

5.  Take a sip, kick back and enjoy.

(Note:  between the chocolate syrup and the rum cream, the coffee is already sweet, but if you want to make it sweeter, you can add more sugar. I recommend brown sugar.)

And there you have it, Homegaters! Pretty quick and pretty simple.  Hope you try this and let me know how you like it.

Have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy all the games!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Spicy Chicken Puffs!!

Greetings Homegaters!

I was brainstorming on what to make for the gang last weekend, so I decided to rummage through my freezer for inspiration. I came across a box of puff pastry and the ideas started to flow. Puff pastry is very versatile for both sweet and savory dishes. For this recipe I went savory:  Spicy Chicken Puffs. These little snacks are packed with flavor. They're a great finger food and as you know, finger foods are perfect for gameday. They were a hit with the gang. As a matter of fact, I'll have to double the recipe next time because they went in no time and people were looking for move. That's a good sign!

Spicy Chicken Puffs are relatively easy to prepare and serve. Place the chicken breasts (or thighs) in the slow cooker and cover with hot sauce. Cook on slow for 2-3 hours until the meat can be shredded with a fork. While the chicken is cooking, take the puff pastry out of the freezer and follow the instructions on the box for same-day defrosting (or you can defrost it in the fridge the night before). Let the chicken cool and then shred it. While the chicken is cooling, saute some chopped onions and garlic and fold into the shredded chicken. Take a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle a little flour on it. Unroll the puff pastry onto the parchment and cut in half. Sprinkle a layer of shredded jack cheese down the middle of each half and then place the chicken mixture on top of the cheese.

Roll the dough over the filling and pinch the edge of the dough to make sure the seam is sealed. Slice into bite-size nuggets and cut a tiny hole on the top of each one.

Brush each nugget with a little egg wash, place on a baking sheet and bake at 425-degrees for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden. You can make these ahead of time and freeze them. That way they're ready at any time. All you have to do is reheat them in the oven when the gang comes over.

Spicy Chicken Puffs
(Serves 4-6)

2 lbs chicken breast or thighs
32 oz bottle of your favorite hot sauce          
1/2 medium white onion, minced
1 small clove of garlic, minced
8 oz package shredded jack cheese
(or any melting cheese)
2 sheets of puff pastry


1.  Place the chicken in a slow cooker and slightly cover with the hot sauce. Turn slow cooker on low and let cook 2-3 hours - or until chicken can be shredded with a fork.

2.  Place the frozen puff pastry in the fridge and let defrost overnight. If preparing the same day, read the instructions on the box for same-day defrosting.

3.  Sautee the minced onion and garlic until translucent. Fold into the shredded chicken.

4.  Roll out the puff pastry onto a sheet of lightly floured parchment paper and cut in half lengthwise.

5.  Sprinkle a layer of jack cheese down the middle of the dough.

6.  Sprinkle a layer of the chicken mixture on top of the cheese.

7.  Roll the dough over the filling and pinch the edges to seal the seams.

8.  Cut into 2" nuggets and with the tip of a sharp knife, pop a little slit on top of each one.

9.  Bake in a 425-degree pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.

And there you have it! Easy little snacks for the gang to pop in their mouths and enjoy! Hope you try this. Let me know how you like it!

I'll see you back here next week for some more gameday inspiration!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Chicken Sausage Bread!!

The other night a couple of pals showed up unexpectedly to watch the hockey game. Personally, I think they came over more because they were hungry, rather than to watch our team get creamed that particular night. But because I am a good homegater, I was prepared for this little last-minute surprise so I got right to work before those 2 started eating my livingroom furniture.

I decided to whip up a little Chicken Sausage Bread which consists of sauteed chicken sausage, provolone cheese, onions, garlic, red wine and roasted peppers on top of Whole Foods sperlonga bread. The chicken sausage was previously sauteed and frozen (I had leftovers from another dish) so I just needed to nuke it a little to defrost it. I also had the bread in the freezer so I popped that in the oven and got that defrosting as well. Once everything was defrosted (which took about 10 minutes), I layered the provolone on top of the bread, followed by the sausage, roasted peppers and a little more provolone. The guys Hoover-ed it down (I think one of them might have downed a napkin during their feeding frenzy). It was a hit.

Having things on hand in the freezer takes the angst out of unexpected company. You can always prepare ingredients and fillings ahead of time and freeze them until you need them. That way you're not wigging out if someone shows up unannounced or if more people than you were anticipating show up on gameday. That way your day/evening is freakout-free.

Sausage Bread
(makes 6 servings)

2 lbs sausage meat, removed from the casings (can be either chicken, turkey or pork sausage)
1/2 large onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced                                              
1/4 cup red wine
1 tbs olive oil
1 loaf French Bread, Italian Bread or Sperlonga Bread (available at Whole Foods), sliced in half length-wise
Roasted red peppers (home made or jarred)
1/4 lb provolone cheese


1.  Pre-heat the oven to 450-degrees. In a medium-sized saute pan on medium heat, heat the oil and add the onions and garlic. Saute until translucent. Add the sausage meat and saute, breaking the meat up into small pieces as it cooks.

2.  When the sausage is cooked through (about 10 minutes), add the red wine and continue sauteeing until the wine is absorbed (about 5 minutes). Remove from the heat and let it cool down slightly.

3.  Cut the bread in half length-wise and place slices of the provolone on top of the bread. You can add as much cheese as you like. Since my cheese was sliced relatively thick, I made one layer.

4.  Sprinkle the sausage on top of the layer of cheese, until most of the surface is covered.

5.  Place slices of roasted peppers and thin strips of provolone on top of the sausage.

6.  Place the sausage bread on a sheet pan and place in the oven. Heat through until the cheese melts and slightly browns around the edges.

7.  Slice and serve.

There you have it. It doesn't take much to whip up and will get rave reviews when you serve it.
See you again next week!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Stuffed 'Shrooms!!!

Finger foods are really popular when homegating. They're easy to prepare, easy to plate and easy to grab and pop in the mouth. They can act as appetizers to the main dish that you might bring out at halftime or between periods. Mushroom caps are perfect finger food because they act as vehicles for a variety of fillings.

This time out, I decided to go with a ground turkey filling because around this time of year, turkey is in abundance and it's on the light side. If you want, you can make the filling ahead of time. Once the gang comes over, you can stuff the 'shrooms and pop them in the oven because they don't take long to cook.

Stuffed 'Shrooms
(serves 4-6)

1 package whole white button mushrooms (stems removed and minced)
1/4 lb ground turkey
1/2 medium red onion, minced
1 medium clove of garlic, minced                                        
1/8 tsp dried ground sage
1/2 cup dry vermouth
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheeese
2 oz monterey jack cheese cut into tiny cubes
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste


1.  Pre-heat oven to 350-degrees. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and mince.

2.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a heated skillet on medium heat and add the onions, garlic, sage and minced mushroom stems. The mushrooms will release some liquid. Add the vermouth and continue to sautee untl the liquid almost completely evaporates.

3.  Add the ground turkey to the skillet and cook through (about 10 minutes).

4.  Add the bread crumbs, grated parmesan and broth. The stuffing by now should be mixed thoroughly and moist.

5.  Place the mushroon caps in a shallow roasting pan. Spoon the stuffing mixture into the cap. You can fill each mushroom as much as it will take.

6.  Pour some chicken broth (about a 1/2 cup) into the bottom of the roasting pan and place in the oven. Cover the pan with foil. Roast for 15 minutes, remove the foil and then continue roasting for another 15 minutes.

7.  Remove the stuffed 'shrooms from the oven and place a tiny cube of the jack cheese on top of each one. Return to the oven until the cheese melts.

8.  Remove from oven, place on a serving platter and unleash on your guests.

And there you have it! Easy peasy! Enjoy!

See you back here in next week with some more homegating inspirations!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Grilled Bologna Sliders!!

I'm learning that when you write a food blog, people will offer suggestions on what to make and write about. A lot of the ideas are really great and I will definitely get to them all at some point. This one hit a nerve because one of my cousins reminded me about this totally retro concoction that my mom and uncle used to scarf down with wild abandon and not gain an ounce of weight while doing it: fried bologna sandwiches. When this was suggested to me, my little organic-loving soul plummeted to the third level of hell because God knows, this ain't anywhere close to natural.

Your basic fried bologna sandwich is pretty much just bologna fried up in a pan with butter and plopped on a roll (with more butter). And while I enthusiastically indulge on gameday, even this little cardiac on a kaiser was pushing the envelope. I needed to figure out what I could do to tone down the danger level. So I pulled out my good ol' grill pan and got to work...

After a little brainstorming, I came up with: Grilled Bologna Sliders with a Garlic Avocado Spread. And you thought you couldn't glam up balogna!

First of all, my biggest concern was making something less greasy. By grilling the bologna in a dry grill pan, I succeeded in that regard. On top of that, the grill marks looked pretty nice. Next I wanted to add a condiment that was lower in fat and would compliment the bologna. I decided that a garlicy avocado spread would do the trick. Finally, I reduced the size by putting it on a slider roll and adding a little lettuce to it so that it isn't the belly bomb it originally was. They're now perfect for gameday because they've been reduced to finger food. You can never go wrong with finger food on gameday.

Grilled Bologna Sliders with a Garlic Avocado Spread
(serves 4-6)

1/2 lb sliced bologna (make sure not to have it sliced too thin)
1 avocado (soft)
1/4 small red onion, finely minced
1 very small garlic clove, finely minced (or passed through a garlic press)
1 package of slider or dinner rolls (I used potato dinner rolls)
salt & pepper to taste


1.  Place slices of bologna on a hot grill or grill pan and heat through until grill marks form. This happens quickly, so keep an eye on them. Flip over and do the same on the other side. Remove to a plate and repeat until all the balogna is grilled.

2.  To make the avocado spread:  mash 1 soft avocado. Finely mince the onion and garlic and add to the mashed avocado. Mix thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste. I used white pepper for this because I like the milder flavor.

3.  Cut the slices of bologna into quarters (to fit) and place on top of the rolls. Add the avocado spread and a slice or 2 of the lettuce (trimmed to fit the roll). Arrange the sliders on a platter and let the games begin.

I think you'll have fun making these and your guests will definitely enjoy taking a trip down Memory Lane with a new twist. And that ain't no baloney!

There you have it! See you back here next Wednesday for more gameday entertaining inspiration!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tuscan White Bean Tuna Spread!!

I don't know about you, but my fantasy teams are killing me. I'm full of angst every Sunday morning making the decision of who to play and who to sit. I worry more about them than my own real football team - who I really should be worried about at this stage! But at least I can control who the players are with my fantasy team! My real team, not so much! Oh well, that's all part of the fun of the season!

While I'm angst-ridden about fantasy football, there's something comforting about a good spread on a cracker or a piece of toast. That will take my mind off how many points my wide receiver did or didn't get. Out of everything that gets wolfed down on gameday, spreads always go fast. It's almost mandatory to have them for the games. Gotta do it. And they are so simple to prepare because they're all done in the food processor.

 I came across this recipe for Tuscan Tuna Spread when I was in culinary school. We were working with the robot-coupe (commercial food processor) and I was loving how you could turn pretty much anything in a tasty spread or pate with it. Our assignment was to develop a spread using Tuscan white beans and tuna. We were all allowed to go off on a culinary tangent using various ingredients, as long as we included the white beans and tuna. I came up with this version and it's served me well over the years.

My spread consists of (besides the white beans and tuna) red onion, fresh rosemary, a small clove of garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil and black pepper. It all goes into the food processor and the magic happens. Try to let this sit a couple of hours before serving because it'll have a little time for the flavors to develop. The spread can be served on crackers or you can use a baguette, cut it into thin slices and toast them in the oven until crispy.

Tuscan White Bean Tuna Spread
(serves 4-6)

1 can of tuna (any kind you like in either water or oil), drained
10 oz can of Canellini Beans (or any white beans that you like) - drained and rinsed
1/4 small red onion
1 tbs fresh rosemary leaves
1 very small clove of garlic, crushed
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1/4 cup (or less) light flavored olive oil
salt & black pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Slice the baguette into thin rounds and place on a baking sheet. Bake until the bread becomes slightly golden in color.

2.  In the food processor, add the onion, garlic and rosemary and pulse until they are all finely minced.

3.  Add the tuna and beans. With the processor running, add the red wine vinegar and drizzle the oil in a little at a time until the mixture begins to resemble a spread. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off processor and spoon spread into a small bowl.

4.  Serve with the baquette toasts.


There you have it! This is an easy one, so I hope you try it! And I also hope your fantasy teams are doing better than mine  -  unless you happen to be playing against me!

See you back here next week!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Homegating101 Traveling Roadshow: Touchdown Totchos!!

As you guys know, Homegating101 is a blog about entertaining at home on gameday. It was inspired by the weekly gatherings at my place during football season. So while my home is the official Homegating Headquarters, once in a while I'll take it out on the road. Hey, it's always good to spread a little Homegating101 love. Such was the case this past weekend...

My good buddies Ang and Lou invited me over to create the Homegating101 vibe at their place. I showed up armed with lots of food and lots of accoutrements (I think I may need a van next time.) We proceeded to whip up the usual lineup of gameday favorites, but the star attraction were the Touchdown Totchos. Oh my...

Touchdown Totchos are my riff on nachos, but using potato tots instead of tortilla chips. I also swapped out the taco meat for shredded beer braised short ribs. After that, it's the usual cheese, scallions and jalapeno slices. This dish is super simple to put together. The only time consuming part is braising the short ribs, although that's pretty hands off as well.

Assembling the totchos is a cinch, first brown the tots in the oven (follow the package directions for that). Once the tots are done, place them in a baking pan or tin and begin layering the tots with the meat and cheese. I used sliced American cheese, but you can use any cheese(s) you want. Keep creating layers until you either reach to top of the pan or you run out of tots, meat and/or cheese. Place the pan back into the oven and heat through until the cheese is melted. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with scallions and jalapeno slices. You can also top it with pico de gallo, beans, guac, sour cream and/or hot sauce - or let your imagination run wild. It's up to you. Just make sure you have enough on hand because I almost lost one with everyone digging in to get some.

The Road Show turned out to be a success. Everyone had a great time - even though our teams went down in flames. At least the food was a winner! Hey, it's a long season. We'll see what happens this weekend.

Touchdown Totchos
(serves 4-6)

20 oz bag of potato tots
3 lbs beef short ribs, braised (recipe below)
6 slices of American Cheese or 8 oz package of shredded cheese
2 scallions, sliced
pickled jalapeno slices
16 oz of lager or ale (don't use dark beer)
8 oz beef stock
1 medium onion sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat the tots according to the package directions.

2. In a baking pan, begin layering the meat, cheese and tots until you reach the top of the pan. Place in the oven and heat through until the cheese is melted.

3.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle the scallions and jalapenos on top.

Braised Beef Short Ribs:

The day before, brown the ribs on all sides in a dutch oven on medium heat. Once they're browned, add sliced onions and garlic. Cook through then add the beer, beef stock and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Put the cover on the dutch oven and place it in a 300-degree oven for 4 hours. Depending on your oven, start checking the meat after 3 hours. Test the tenderness of the meat with a fork. Once you can pull the meat apart with the fork, it's done. Let the meat cool and then fridge it for the next day.

And there you have it! Hope you get a chance to try this at one of your gatherings.

See you right back here next week!

Enjoy the games!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wheat Ale Beef Stew!!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the grand opening of a new brewery in upstate New York:  Westtown Brew Works. My krazee kuzins are friends with the owner (it's always good to have friends in high places) and they were nice enough to extend the invitation to me. Westtown Brew Works is a farm brewery, meaning that they grow their own hops. Along with using their own hops, they acquire the remaining ingredients from other farms in the region. Everything is local. You've heard of farm to table, well this is farm to pint glass. The beers are fresh, the flavors are robus and of course it didn't take too long for me to get inspired to create a gameday dish with one of their wheat ales (Farmhand Wheat Ale). As we all know, everything tastes better with beer on gameday, so I came up with a Wheat Ale Beef Stew. The heartiness of the ale will add a richness to the stew gravy. This is going to be perfect to serve to the gang on Sunday.

Beef stew takes a little while to prepare and it's done in stages, but with a little patience, your efforts will be rewarded. Brown the meat in batches. Don't crowd the pan. Once the meat's browned, remove the meat to a plate or bowl and then brown the veggies in the same pan. You'll notice a lot of browning collecting in the pan. That's good. That's all added flavor. You want to sautee the veggies until they get a little golden and then add tomato paste and let that cook through. Once you get to that point, add the beer and scrape up all those browned bits because that's the good stuff. Once you do that, bring it to a low boil, and let it reduce down to almost nothing. Return the meat and juices to the pan and add beef stock. Don't completely submerge the meat in the stock. You want about an inch of the meat showing. Bring it to a boil, add an herb/spice sachet and reduce to a simmer. After an hour, add the carrots and potatoes. Continue to simmer for another hour. Begin to check the meat at that point. You want the meat to be tender and easy to cut with a fork. Once it gets to that stage, it's done. At that point, add the vinegar and stir through. I like the vinegar because it brightens the flavors. I don't add any flour to the stew because the russett potatoes are starchy enough to naturally thicken the gravy. If you feel you want the gravy even thicker, you can add a slurry of flour or arrowroot  and water to thicken it at the end.

One of the nice things about a stew (or any braise for that matter) is that it tastes better the next day. So if you have the time, get this going the day before and let it sit in the fridge overnight to let all the flavors intensify. Another nice thing about fridging it overnight  is that the fat will come to the top and harden, so you can remove it before you reheat it and you can get rid of all that unwanted fat.

Wheat Ale Beef Stew
(serves 4-6)

4 lbs chuck roast cut into bite-sized cubes
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 celery stalk, minced                                                    
1 small carrot, minced
1 tbs tomato paste
1 tsp Worchestershire Sauce
2 cups amber wheat ale
32 oz low-sodium beef stock or beef broth
2 large russet potatoes, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 large carrot, cut into small pieces
Sachet: 1 thyme stem, 1 large garlic clove, 5 dried juniper berries, 8 black peppercorns crushed, small handful of fresh parsley (wrapped in cheesecloth)
1 tbs red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste


1. In a medium-sized dutch oven, on medium heat, brown the meat on all sides (do not cook through) and remove to a bowl.

2. Sautee the onion, celery & carrot until golden brown.

3. Add the tomato paste and cook through (about 3 minutes).

4. Add Worchestershire Sauce and the wheat ale. Bring to a boil and let reduce down until the vegetables are visible.

5.  Return the meat and any collected juices to the pan and add enough beef stock to just below the top of the meat. You don't want to completely submerge the meat. Bring back to a boil, add the sachet, then reduce to a low simmer. This will simmer for 2-3 hours. Stir occasionally.

6.  After 1 hour, add the carrots and potatoes.

7.  Start checking the meat after 2 hours. Once the meat is tender and easy to cut with a fork, it's done.

8.  Taste for seasoning, adjust and add the red wine vinegar. Stir through.

You can keep the stew warm in a crock pot or buffet server and let your guests help themselves throughout the day. I pretty much guarantee that you won't have any leftovers. Hope you give it a try!

Join me back here next Wednesday for more gameday grub inspiration!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Roasted Pumpkin Soup!!

Welcome Homegaters!

I love Fall for many reasons. But one of the main reasons why I love Fall - besides football - is because of pumpkins. I dig cooking with pumpkins. One of my favorite dishes to make is roasted pumpkin soup. There is nothing more comforting than coming home on a chilly day to a hot bowl of roasted pumpkin soup.

I was cruising around Whole Foods the other day and came across a most sincere display of pumpkins. The Great Pumpkin would be proud. I felt the need to get one and make soup for my gameday gang this Sunday.

I like to roast the pumpkin because it intensifies the flavor. It also makes it easier to remove the skin. Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees. Cut the pumpkin into quarters, place on a sheet pan, drizzle with a little olive oil and roast for about an hour. Remove the pumpkin from the oven and let cool. Once it's cool, you can easily remove the skin and cut the flesh into chunks.

One of the many nice things about my roasted pumpkin soup is that it's low calorie, yet tastes really decadent. It's all about the veggies and spices. I use the usual mirepoix (onions, celery, carrots) along with garlic, ginger, sage and 1 medium-size cayenne pepper (because you know I'm a fan of all things spicy). Once it is thoroughly cooked through, I add the pumpkin and vegetable stock and simmer for about 30 minutes. Once that's done, I run the soup through the blender in batches (see caution below) to puree it. I return the soup to the pot, check my seasoning and adjust if necessary.

You can make this ahead of time and freeze it. All you'll have to do on gameday is reheat and serve in bowls or mugs.

Pumpkin Soup
(makes 4-6 servings)

3 lb pumpkin, roasted, peeled and cut into small pieces
1/2 large onion, minced
1 1/2 stalks of celery, minced
1/2 carrot, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 inch knob of ginger, grated                      
4 sage leaves or 2 tsp dried sage
2 tbs olive oil
32 oz low sodium vegetable broth
1 cayenne pepper, minced (optional)
pumpkin seeds (optional)
salt & pepper to taste


1.  Heat 2 tbs olive oil and add the onions, celery, carrot, garlic, ginger, sage and cayenne (if using). Sautee until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are softened.

2.  Add the pumpkin chunks and the vegetable broth. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Simmer on low for 30 minutes.

3.  Place soup in the blender in small batches and puree. (Caution: to avoid any mishaps with hot liquid, fill your blender only 1/4 full at a time, remove the middle cap from the lid and cover the top with a towel). Return the puree to the pot and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. If you feel the soup is too think, you can add a little more stock or water to reach the consistency you like. Heat through one more time. Pour into bowls or mugs. Top with a couple of pumpkin seeds (optional) and enjoy!

So there you have it. See you next Wednesday!
Enjoy the games!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Captain's Stromboli!

Derek Jeter. The guy epitomizes how professional athletes should conduct themselves on and off the field. Great player, great teammate and great guy with rockin' good looks. This week marks the end of an illustrious 20-year career that has seen him stay loyal to one team, break records and pick up, oh, about 5 World Series rings along the way. Whether you're a Yankee fan or not, ya gotta show a little love to The Captain.

While MLB showered Jeter with some pretty cool parting gifts throughout the season, no one came close to the culinary tribute that Homegating101 is about to bestow on #2:  The Captain's Stromboli.

The Captain's Stromboli is a mixture of all that Derek Jeter is about: smooth, yet complex. This stromboli is filled with mozzarella, pepperoni, roasted peppers, sauteed mushrooms and provolone cheese. It's all wrapped up in pizza dough, baked and sliced. Perfect finger good. Sounds like a home run to me.

For this recipe I used pre-made pizza dough and a jar of roasted peppers, but you can certainly make your own for both if you have the time. I sauteed fresh mushrooms, but again, you can use canned mushrooms if you'd like. A jar of pickled mushrooms would work really well, too.

The Captain's Stromboli
(serves 4-6 people)                    

6 oz shredded mozzarella
1/2 lb sliced deli pepperoni  (not the little pre-sliced disks that come in the package)
1/2 lb sliced provolone
2-3 roasted red bell peppers, or 1 jar of roasted red bell peppers drained and patted dry
8 oz mushrooms (any kind) sauteed with minced fresh garlic, or 1 8oz jar of pickled mushrooms, drained
1 lb pizza dough
1/4 cup flour for counter
olive oil
sheet pan
parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil


1.  Pre-heat oven to 425-degrees. Place the parchment or aluminum foil on a sheet pan.

2.  Bring the pizza dough to room temperature. Sprinkle the flour on a flat surface and roll the dough out to about a 1/16" thickness. You want to try to keep the dough as close to a rectangle shape as possible. Place the parchment paper in the sheet pan and lay the dough on the parchment.

3.  Sprinkle the mozzarella down the middle of the dough, then lay the pepperoni over that, then the roasted peppers, sauteed mushrooms and finally the provolone.

4.  Bring one side of the dough over the top of the filling and then bring the other side of the dough over that. Pinch the seams closed and roll over to place the seam on the bottom the pan. Make a couple of slits along the top of the dough. Brush the entire roll with olive oil.

5.  Place the stromboli in the oven. Depending on how hot your oven gets, start checking the stromboli after about 15 minutes. You want the crust to be golden. The cheese and/or the pepperoni might start leaking through, but that's why it's called a stromboli. Stromboli in Italian means volcano, so don't freak if you see some cheesy-lava leakage.

6.  Once the stromboli is ready, remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool down a little before slicing. I've found that when I cut into it immediately after taking it out of the oven, the melted cheese runs all over the place. Give the stromboli about 10 minutes before cutting into it.

7.  Cut into 2" wide slices, serve to the gang and show a little RE2PECT to The Captain.

Thanks Derek!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bacon Deviled Eggs

As the temperatures around a lot of the country are cooling down, the football season is warming up. Week 2 had its share of interesting moments. Injuries were a factor for some teams. They certainly were a factor for my fantasy teams (don’t even get me started on that). We’re beginning to get an idea what direction some teams are going in, which might or might not be a good thing. But I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet. There’s lots of football left and lots of excitement to come. Hey, we even had a Johnny Football sighting! We’re rollin’!

We all know that bacon can elevate anything you make to another level. Bacon and eggs is a classic combo, so why not devil it? Well I did just that and the gang wolfed them down. I guess they liked them! People don't want to admit that they dig deviled eggs, but when they're served at gatherings, they always seem to disappear. Just watch when you roll out these guys.

My preparation took a bit longer because I created a bacon mayonnaise the day before to give the bacon a chance to really infuse the mayo. You can hard-boil your eggs the day before as well, then all you’ll have to do is mix and assemble the eggs right before your crew comes over.

Bacon Deviled Eggs                                                                                                                       (makes 24)

1 dozen eggs (hard-boiled)
4T bacon mayo (recipe below)
2 tsp brown mustard
1 1/2 T cider vinegar
salt & pepper to taste


1.  Cook eggs until hard-boiled. Let cool (can be made the day before and refrigerated). Slice in half and pop the yolks into a bowl.

2.  Add the bacon mayo. Mustard, cider vinegar and salt & pepper.

3.  Mix well. Adjust ingredients to suit your taste.

4.  Spoon or pipe egg mixture back into the egg whites and sprinkle with reserved bacon bits.

Bacon Mayo:  cook 5 strips of bacon until slightly crispy. Let cool and place in a food processor. Process until minced well. Remove 1 tablespoon of the minced bacon and save for the garnish. Add ¼ cup of mayo and process until well mixed. Place in a small container and refrigerate overnight.

There you go! Hope you try it and let me know the reviews!

Join me next Wednesday for more game day recipes and ideas!