Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Big Gameapalooza!!!

Greetings Homegaters!

Super Bowl Sunday is this weekend!!
And while there's a lot of drama going on in the background leading up to it this year, nothing's going to take the air out of my enthusiasm. It is my most favorite day of the year! I've been hosting Super Bowl parties for a lot of years. I don't even send out invitations anymore because everyone knows that the party is happening. If you need some tips on hosting a party, you've come to the right place. So grab a beer, pull up a chair and let me guide you to some Big Game party success....

Hosting a Super Bowl party can be as simple or as complex as you care to delve into. I've learned over the years that preparation is absolutely key regardless of which way you go. You can send out fun invites, decorate your house (inside and out) and have halftime contests with prizes. But the star attraction (besides the game) will be the food that you serve.

First of all, a few really good dips and/or spreads are a Big Game must:

Triple Play Onion Dip

Tuscan Tuna Spread

Beer Cheese Dip

Secondly, finger foods totally rock:


Grilled Bologna Sliders

Spicy Chicken Puffs

And don't forget a few heavy hitters:

Spicy Meatballs

Make sure that you prepare everything ahead. You can keep it warm and ready to serve with either hot buffets, steaming trays or crock pots. People will be able to help themselves. That will allow you to enjoy the party as well so you won't miss any of the action on the TV. 

Place an ice-filled cooler for your beverages where everyone can get at it (it can also double as a chair if you have limited space). If you don't have a cooler, a bathtub can do double duty.

Have coffee brewing all day. Some folks might go for the dessert first or some might just need their java fix throughout the festivities. If you have the time, you might even want to whip up this special little coffee concoction:

Coconut Spiced Rum Mocha Latte

No matter what you wind up doing, make sure not to stress yourself out. Keep it simple. Keep your recipes simple. Use as many disposable tablecloths, cups, plates, utensils as you can because there's nothing worse than staying up for hours after a great party with a massive cleanup on your hands.

Most of all, remember to have FUN and enjoy the game - especially if your team is in it! That's what it's all about: a great time with great friends and great grub!

And so next week we shift gears a little and start focusing on some of the other sports that you and your friends like to get together for.  What? You thought it ended with football? No way! Fasten your seatbelts and get ready for more gameday get-together food and fun. See you next week!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Beer Brats Plus Big Game Party Tips & Tricks!!!


This past Sunday some of the gang came over to catch the NFC & AFC Championship games. Occasionally I like to prepare a dish that has a culinary connection with one of the teams playing and so I went with Beer Brats because the Green Bay Packers were one of the teams playing (bratwursts are a staple at Packer games). While unfortunately that might have put the whammy on those poor guys, the brats themselves were a winner.

Beer Brats are easy to make and don't take very long. Just grill the brats, then prep the beer and onion sauce. Merge the 2 and you have a really nice dish. Keep them warm in a slow cooker and people can help themselves throughout the day. They can be enjoyed as is or in a hogie roll. You can also serve them with a few condiments:  hot sauce, ketchup, mustard, relish and/or cole slaw (or anything else you can come up with).

Beer Brats
(serves 6)

6 bratwursts                                            
2 medium onions, sliced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 12-oz cans of lager
1.5 oz container of Demi-Glace Gold
2 tbs canola oil


1.  Grill brats on all sides and let sit.

2.  Heat the 2 tbs of canola oil and saute the onions until translucent. Salt and pepper to taste.

3.  Add the Demi-Glace Gold and let melt down a little. Add 1 can/bottle of lager and stir until the demi-glace is all melted and incorporated into the beer sauce. Add the second can/bottle of lager at this point and bring to a low boil.

4.  Return the brats to the sauce and bring back to a low simmer.

5.  At this point you can place the brats and sauce in a slow cooker and keep on low.

6.  Serve as is or on a hogie roll with mustard, hot sauce, relish or any other condiment you like!

Hope your try these Brats. As a matter of fact, they'd be perfect to serve on Super Bowl.

And speaking of Super Bowl, read below for Part 1 of tips and tricks for a successful Big Game Party...


Homegating 101's Tips & Tricks on prepping for The Big Game (Part 1):

The Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots are meeting in the Super Bowl on February 1. For me, this begins a 2-week period of party preparations. While the hardcores come by every Sunday to watch the games, the number of people coming to Homegating Headquarters for the Big Game almost doubles. Hey, whether you're a football fan or not, there's something about going to a Super Bowl party that no one wants to miss out on.

During this time I develop my menu, begin shopping and start cooking/freezing dishes so that I don't have a lot to do on the weekend of the party. By that time, all I have to do is defrost whatever's frozen that Saturday and reheat them on Sunday.  I want to be as prepared ahead of time as possible so that I'm not stressed out for the party. I want to enjoy the party as much as my guests.

This is the time when I usually start inviting people. I used to send out invites that I'd either make or buy, but I've been having these parties for so many years that I've reached a point where I don't have to do that. People actually contact me confirming what time the festivities begin! But this is a good time to start reaching out to people because this will determine how much food needs to be bought/prepared.

I make the menu as simple as possible. I don't stress myself out by making TONS of food and then wind up with enough leftovers to feed a third world country. I used to do that in the past and my coworkers loved me for it the next day.  But now I make foods that are easy to prepare and easy to serve. I use hot buffet trays and ice trays. That way I'm not running back and forth to the oven or fridge and missing out on the game itself. The food will stay hot or cold and people can help themselves when they want to.

I start perusing the supermarket circulars for Big Game sales. All the stores are going to be running them now. I'll start picking up chips, soda, beer and paper goods ahead of time so that I don't overload myself a day or 2 before the party. I don't want to wind up schlepping bags and bags of groceries into my house at one time. I also don't wait until the last-minute to shop because then I'm stuck competing with the other procrastinators who waited until the last minute and are panic shopping as if a 10ft blizzard were on the way (believe me, I've experienced it). This is also the time that I start checking out the party stores for fun decorations and accoutrements. I try to get as much done ahead as I can. I make a grocery list and and a "To-Do" list and I keep checking them off. Organization is key. It prevents a lot of freakouts in the end.

So those are a few tips on how to prepare in the days leading up to the party. Next week I will provide tips on what to do the day of the party. We will also be revisiting some of the dishes that were posted during the NFL season to hopefully provide you with some menu ideas for your party.

See you next week!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Spicy Bean Dip!!


Divisional Round Weekend had it's share of exciting endings and shockers and upsets. We saw a little trickeration from the Pats as they put on a show. The Seahawks showed us why they ran away with the whole enchilada last season. The Packers made us that believe magic is still alive and well on the frozen tundra. The Colts and Andrewl Luck in particular are making us think that perhaps we are finally witnessing a changing of the guard in the AFC. So now we're all set for Colts vs Pats and Packers vs Seahawks for this Sunday's Conference Championship games. So what to whip up for the gang for this one? This is a good ol' stand-by, but one that will get lots of thumbs up:  Spicy Bean Dip!

Although I've already done a couple of dips/spreads here, you can never have too many dips. They were, are and always will be a mainstay when the gang comes over to watch the games. This dip is a real easy one and can literally be whipped up in the food processor. The nice thing about this dip is that you probably already have most of the ingredients in your pantry already.

Spicy Bean Dip
(serves 4-6)

1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 can red kidney beans, drained & rinsed  
1/4 small red onion, chopped
1 small jalapeno, chopped (remove seeds
if you don't want it too hot)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp chipotle puree*
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tbs lime juice
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 tbs chicken stock
1 tbs cilantro


1.  In the bowl of a food processor, add the onion, jalapeno and cilantro and pulse until finely minced.

2.  Add remaining ingredients and mix until completely blended. Taste and adjust seasonings.

3.  Serve with chips and/or crackers

*Empty a can of chipotle chiles (including the adobo sauce) in a food processor and puree. Strain puree to remove the seeds (there are usually a lot).

There you have it! This is quick and easy, will go with a variety of chips and/or crackers. And it doesn't hurt that the spiciness of the dip will go great with an ice cold, chilly beer!

Hope you feel inspired to try this! I will see you back here next Wednesday for more gameday grub!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Divisional Round Cheesy Pasta Bake!!


The Wild Card Round is in the rearview mirror and what a wild one it was! Gotta feel bad the way it ended for the Cardinals. Who'd a thunk the Steelers wouldn't advance? The Colts keep chugging along. But how about that insane pass interference call reversal in the Cowboys game? Lots of intrigue and drama came out of those games and up next is the Divisional Round this Saturday and Sunday. Well buckle your seatbelt kiddies, because here comes another great weekend of football featuring Manning vs Luck, the Pats vs the Ravens (again), the Pack vs the Boys on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field and the Panthers vs the Seahawks and the 12th Man in Seattle. Who's going to move on? We shall see...

So with 2 days worth of feeding to do, I need to keep things easy on myself. I want to make something satisfying, comforting and fun. Say hello to: Divisional Round Cheesy Pasta Bake!

This pasta dish is a riff on mac & cheese meets pasta bolognese. Don't worry, it's easy to make and cook. You can double and triple the recipe to accomodate your crowd. It's all in the sauce, which calls for sauteed ground beef, tomato sauce, evaporated milk, tomato paste, onion powder, garlic powder, hot pepper flakes (optional) and shredded cheddar cheese. Toss over your par-cooked pasta, bake for 40 minutes and you have a winner. You can use any kind of pasta shape that you like. I used fusili pasta, but you can go with anything that has a shape that will grab onto the meat sauce.

DR Cheesy Pasta Bake
(serves 6)
1 lb ground beef                            
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
20 oz tomato sauce
2 tbs tomato paste
10 oz evaporated milk (skim is okay)
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
1 lb spiral pasta (par-cooked)
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
cooking spray


1.  In a sauce pan on medium heat, heat the oil and brown the ground beef. Break the meat up into very small pieces. Add the salt, garlic and onion powders and mix thoroughly. Then add the tomato paste and incorporate throughly.

2. Add the evaporated milk, bring to a boil and imediately reduce to a simmer.

3. Cook the pasta until just before it's al dente. Drain.

4. While the pasta is cooking, add the shredded cheese to the sauce and heat until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is creamy.

5. Pour the sauce over the drained pasta and mix until the sauce is thoroughly incorporated throughout the pasta.

6. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray and add the pasta to the pan.

7. Bake at 375-degrees for 40 minutes.

This can be made ahead and then put back in the oven to reheat.

Watch the gang go crazy. Any leftovers (if there are any) can be frozen (like the Tundra at Lambeau).

So there you have it! Hope you feel inspired to try this!

Have a fun Divisional Round weekend! Good luck to your teams or to the teams playing against your arch rival teams!

See you next Wednesday!