Thursday, January 30, 2014

My No-Stress Gameday Spread...Featuring My Best Party Prep Tips!

This weekend is one of my favorite events – The Super Bowl! For me, it ranks right up there with the Oscars and the Grammys, only the commercials are a lot more fun! Today, I’m sharing my No-Stress Gameday Spread…featuring some of my favorite tips and recipes that let me enjoy the big game and still make sure my guests are well fed. All it takes is a  little bit of planning to create a tasty menu that everyone will love…and won’t leave my kitchen looking like a disaster area! I hope some of my tips and suggestions help you maximize your fun on Super Bowl Sunday, while minimizing mess and stress. Sound like a plan? Then, let’s get started!

My first tip is to watch for takeout specials at your favorite restaurants. One of the best deals I found this playoff season is the Carrabbas Festa Party Platter. For just $25, you get a variety of Italian appetizers that will easily feed 6-8 hungry football fans. This hearty Italian platter contains the following goodies: Meatballs & Ricotta, Roasted Tomato Bruschetta, Caprese Skewers with Pesto, and Arancini (fried risotto balls). Simply pick up the platter, then transfer the appetizers to a colorful serving platter. A bonus is that two of the appetizers offered are veg-friendly! To sweeten this deal, Carrabbas will add two wood-fired pizzas to this platter for just $10 – pepperoni, Margherita or cheese. For the quality and amount of food you receive, this is an amazing deal. So you don’t miss out, make sure to call your local Carrabbas a day or two ahead to reserve your platter for the big game this Sunday!

My second tip is to make sure the foods you put out are easy to eat. I love to serve bite-sized goodies that are easy for picking up and enjoying out of hand. Face it: nobody wants to deal with bulky food when they’re concentrating on football. RITZ crackers to the rescue! RITZ is teaming with four iconic New York restaurants to share fun and delicious gameday recipes. We love visiting Carnegie Deli when we’re in New York, so I’m serving these yummy RITZ Pastrami and Corned Beef Mini Sandwiches. You can get this recipe, as well as recipes for Lombardi’s RITZ White Pizza Meatball Dip, Dinosaur BBQs RITZ Country Fried Ribs with Ranch Dressing, and Serendipity 3’s RITZ Humble Pie with Peanut Butter Mousse, by visiting The RITZ NY Blitz Game Day Bites page at Allrecipes. I was able to locate Carnegie Deli pastrami and corned beef at a local deli, so my bites are 100% authentic! They feature a simple homemade thousand island dressing...and I added a bit of Swiss cheese to the mix. 
My third tip is to feature dishes you can prepare ahead of time, either the day before or morning of your party. This tip alone will save you tons of stress by allowing you to spread your party preparations over two days. You'll feel much less frazzled by kickoff, I guarantee! This Sunday, I’m featuring  Deluxe Taco Cups featuring Ortega’s brilliant new Fiesta Flats. These are cup-shaped taco shells that fit easily into your hand…and the raised edges let you really pile on the toppings. All of the chopping and prepping for these tacos can be done the day before. Simply reheat the creamy corn and beef filling just prior to kickoff…and set up a condiment bar with all the festive toppings so people can customize their tacos with their favorites.

Deluxe Taco Cups
a Weekend Gourmet Original
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 tbs. chopped cilantro
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 2 tbs. Ortega taco seasoning
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • ½ cup Ortega taco sauce
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 package Ortega Fiesta Flats
  • Shredded Colby-jack cheese
  • Diced tomato
  • Diced avocado
  • Sliced green onion
Step 1: Add the oil to a large non-stick pan over med-high heat. Add the cilantro and corn. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is browned. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Reduce heat to medium, and add the cream cheese and taco sauce. Stir until the cream cheese melts and is well combined with the beef and corn. At this point, this can be refrigerated in a plastic container until you’re ready to assemble the tacos.
Step 2: Chop the tomato, avocado and green onion and place in small bowls, along with the shredded cheese.  Just before serving, heat the Ortega Fiesta Flats according to package directions. Reheat the meat mixture if it’s been made ahead. Place the warm meat mixture into a serving bowl, place the Ortega Fiesta Flats on a serving platter, and arrange the bowls of toppings nearby.
Step 3: To assemble, place some of the creamy meat mixture into the bottom of each Ortega Fiesta Flat. Add desired toppings and crunch away between plays!
These festive tacos are super fun to eat! The filling is creamy and spicy, and the pan-roasted corn provides a nice earthiness that works really nicely with the corn tortilla shells. The size of the Fiesta Flats makes them perfect for eating out of hand, and we were impressed with how sturdy they were – they didn’t break, despite our tacos being really piled high with ingredients!

My fourth tip is to make sure to include something sweet to counterbalance the savory foods being served. Rather than spend time baking, I let my favorite bakery and convenience items do the heavy lifting for me. That saves me time in the kitchen and lets me focus on the rest of the menu. You can pick up cupcakes or brownies from your favorite local bakery, but I also love Jen & Joe's Cookie Dough. It comes frozen in dough rounds that you pop in the oven to bake. They taste amazing, and they save me time whipping up cookie dough…here’s what the Oatmeal Toffee cookies look like when they’re baked up. Everyone will think you baked them yourself…because  you did! All I have to do before the game is pick up some football-themed cupcakes from a nearby bakery, and everyone’s sweet tooth can be satisfied without me picking up a single measuring cup.
My final tip is to use colorful paper plate, plastic utensils…and fun keepsake drinking glasses. Paper plates and napkins are recyclable, and plastic cups and utensils can be washed and reused at other parties. Not only are these items colorful and convenient, they also save me tons of time during my postgame cleanup. When I say that my menu is stress-free? Trust me...I mean business!

Disclosure: The brands included in this article provided me with complimentary products to facilitate inclusion. I received no further compensation, and all opinions expressed are my own.

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