Although it's not a typical football year, everyone is still excited about their favorite team playing, whether it's on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. In the South, football season is a backdrop for fun, festive food. While cheering on that favorite team, your family and friends may prefer to have burgers on the grill, jambalaya on the stovetop, or little smokies simmering in a crock pot. Whatever you choose to prepare for your tailgate parties, just make sure to have plenty on hand for a second helping at halftime.

Party Crackers

• 2 (9 oz.) packages of oyster crackers

• ¾ cup of vegetable or canola oil

• 1 (1 oz.) package Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix

• ½ tsp. garlic powder

• 1 tsp. dill weed

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Whisk together the oil, dressing mix packet, garlic powder and dill weed. Pour over the crackers and toss to coat. Place crackers on a baking sheet lined with foil and place in oven for 5 minutes, stirring halfway through. Store in an airtight container. Scoop a few in a bowl with your favorite soup, too.

Pimento Cheese

Sausage Balls

• 1 lb. pork sausage, uncooked

• 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened

• 1 ½ cups Bisquick

• 1 (12 oz.) container Palmetto Original Pimento Cheese

• Hot sauce, 3-4 dashes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients until well combined. I use the dough hook attachment on my mixer. Use a small scoop to make 1 1/2-inch balls and place on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-19 minutes, or until browned. Yield: 5 dozen

Hot Bacon and

Swiss Dip

• 1 (8 oz.) package of cream cheese, softened

• ½ cup mayonnaise

• 1 ¼ cups Swiss cheese, shredded

• 2 Tbsp. green onion, chopped

• 8 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled

• ½ cup Ritz crackers, crushed

Mix softened cream cheese, mayonnaise, green onions, and Swiss cheese until well blended. Spoon into a lightly greased 2 ½ cup casserole dish. Sprinkle with bacon and cracker crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Serve with pita chips or crackers.

Mexican Street

Corn Nachos

• 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

• 3 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)

• Kosher salt

• Freshly ground black pepper

• 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

• 2 Tbsp. lime juice, plus wedges for serving

• ¼ cup sour cream

• 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise

• 1 (9 oz.) package corn tortilla chips

• 2 ½ cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

• 2 Tbsp. crumbled (or grated) cotija cheese

• 2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet, heat oil, add corn, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until just cooked through, about 2 minutes. Place warm corn in a bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of lime juice and jalapeno. In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, mayonnaise, and remaining tablespoon lime juice. Season with salt.

Layer tortilla chips and Monterey Jack cheese in a casserole dish, baking pan, or ovenproof skillet. Bake until cheese is melty, about 5 minutes. Top broiled tortilla chips with (warm) corn mixture. Garnish with mayonnaise mixture, cotija, and cilantro.

Calzones

• 1 (11 oz.) roll of Pillsbury refrigerated French Bread

• 1 lb. mild Italian sausage

• 1 cup shredded Provolone cheese

• 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

• ½ cup and 2 Tbsp. Ricotta cheese

• ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

• ¼ tsp. dried basil

• ¼ tsp. salt

• ¼ tsp. pepper

• 1 egg white

• Pizza sauce or marinara sauce for dipping

Roll out the bread dough on a sheet of parchment or nonstick foil to ¼- ½ inch thickness, . In a medium skillet, cook sausage and drain. Combine sausage, cheeses, basil, salt and pepper and mix well. Spread over dough. Roll up carefully so loaf looks like long loaf of French bread. Seal long edge and tuck under ends. Place rolled loaf seam side down (should be able to pick up the loaf on the parchment or foil and place it on a large cookie sheet). Glaze with egg white. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. Slice into ¾ inch slices.

— Amy Fischer has worked as an educator and librarian in the Fort Payne City School system the last 27 years. She loves to cook, plan menus and host large family dinners or small luncheons for friends. Her column, Set the Table, appears in the Times-Journal Wednesday editions.

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