No Time Outs

Are you ready for the fast action plays? You know the ones.... the commercial starts, you jump up from the chair, run to the kitchen, open the refrigerator door, survey the shelves and come up with a fast snack and drink, dash back to family room and slide into your chair, just in time for the next play.

It's that time of year again, the annual feast in front of the television for about 9 hours of straight football! Starting with the pre-pre game show, until the wrap up, football fans and families are glued in their seats. This year, don't be like the waterboys that fetch everything for the team, instead become the quarterback and call the kitchen plays. You definitely don't want to miss the football action or all the new inventive commercials that air during the game. What about the spectacular half-time entertainment with fireworks and special effects? Don't find yourself trapped in the kitchen creating sandwiches and replenishing drinks.

Just like the "big game" a lot can be accomplished during pre-game week. First off, get an estimate on how many people will be munching on game day in your family room. It is easier to serve larger groups by using more that one location for food - for example, separating the drink table or bar from the food allows for less congestion during breaks in play. Second, decide on easy-to-serve drinks, sandwiches, and snacks for your menu as well as easy-to-clean up serving ideas. Ask for ideas from family and friends on their eating preferences and definitely ask for help in preparation and clean-up.

Here are a couple of suggestions for your 'food' play book. Make a large batch of your favorite soup, chili or stew. Something warm and nourishing keeps the tummy full and content. One easy to make and less expensive soup idea is corn chowder.

Corn Chowder - Serves 3-4

  • Fry 6-8 pieces of bacon in large skillet, remove and crumble*
  • Use 1 Tbsp. of bacon drippings and saute medium onion until translucent and remove
  • Add 2 large diced potatoes with 3/4 cup water to pan
  • Cover and boil for 10 minutes until potatoes are tender
  • Return onions to pan along with 1 can (16 Oz.) creamed corn, 1 can cream of mushroom soup and 2 cups milk
  • Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Top each serving with crumbled bacon bits and pat of butter (optional)
*For those who prefer less calories, substitute 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil for bacon drippings and use bacon bits. You can also use skim milk.

If you want to keep your kitchen time to a minimum, offer cold cuts with a variety of breads, tortilla wraps or buns so your football fans can make their own unique individual sub sandwiches. With a Maverick food slicer you can easily carve a roast, ham or turkey breast into luscious thin slices to pile high on sandwiches. Slicing can be done a few days before and kept fresh in plastic bags. On game day you can keep the meat chilled in a small cooler.

Remember - eating could go on for hours, so finger food snacks are great. Offer a tray of cut-up vegetables for a nice break between all the sweets and salty potato chips. Salsa is also very low in calories and is wonderful for those who seem to always want to dip. Fresh salsa is easy to make with the simple salsa mix. Just chop up some tomatoes and onions and add the mix. You have salsa in 5 minutes.

Fresh fruit is refreshing for the buffet table and can be used as decorations as well. Use apples, oranges, bananas as a table runner down the middle - along with the usual football motif. Bowls of popcorn, nuts and candy can be set around the room ready for a quick handful as guests pass by. If you are inviting the younger age group - children under 12 - a nice treat would be finger gelatin snacks in the shape of footballs. If you have a cookie cutter in the shape of a football, it works really slick, but you can easily carve football shapes with a cutout piece of parchment paper or waxed cardboard. Simply make a jellyroll pan of the finger gelatin (in your favorite team's colors) and place cutout on top to cut around. The kids will love the treat - so will some adults!

Beverages are very important. Offer a variety of cold and at least one hot drink. Most of us have preferences when it comes to what we like to drink with what we are eating. Healthy fruit juices are a great alternative to a lot of carbonated or alcoholic drinks. All of these can be easily chilled in large coolers of ice - just like on a picnic. If you want to be inventive, have your blender available for guests to create their own smoothies with fresh fruit available, yogurt and ice. Bottled water is still the best thirst quencher.

And for dessert - something simple and easy. Cookies, brownies, and cake are all easy to serve because they can be left out - nothing to keep hot or cold. Cookies can be decorated in team colors or cut in football shapes. For fun, a cake in the shape of a football with your teams' colors is always a winner and helps decorate the table. Use an oval springform pan to make your favorite cake mix or homemade cake, trim the ends to shape more like a football and decorate!

With all this prep work completed ahead of time, maintaining the food playing field will be easy. To prepare the field, choose the bounds of the family or television room that will be the designated "refreshment area." For large gatherings, you may want two opposite sides especially if there is some apparent team rivalry. Use small coolers to store the cold cuts and ice. Use large coolers to store the beverages. You can easily keep some of the coolers under the "food game table". Use disposable plates, dishes and glasses to keep clean-up to a minimum (there will be enough crumb vacuuming - don't add dishwashing time.)

When the last buzzer sounds, be sure to have all the 'players' run off the field with something in their hands to help clean up. It usually is a short dash to the kitchen or garbage can. This kind of short play is great for team momentum and for eating up the yards of mess in your family room!

Remember the quarterback holds a key position and it's not on the sidelines looking on. Call the food plays and enjoy all the cheers, touchdowns, and special effects together. The only thing left to chance is the toss of the coin to see who gets the most comfortable recliner for the first half!