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!