Football season is in full swing. No matter who you're cheering for, game days are always a perfect time for a party.
Over the past few decades, tailgating has become one of the most popular party styles for celebrating a favorite team. Groups of family and friends regularly gather in parking lots of stadiums for a fun feast hours before a game.
These days, tailgating has taken on a slightly new spin with consumers setting their parties on home turf. The concept called Homegating revolves around presenting festivities in your own home — whether that's in your kitchen, living room, basement, family room or even backyard.
"Everyone wants to celebrate their home team. That's part of the fun of the game," said Maureen Petrosky, lifestyle expert/spokeswoman for NFL Homegating.
NFL Homegating features a variety of products including bowls, trays and coasters to glasses, plates and other decorative home items that are emblazoned with team logos. The company helps to enliven the tailgating experience at home.
NFL Homegating recently made an appearance at the food/wine festival Chicago Gourmet in Millennium Park. At the booth, guests watched various recipe demos by food experts, including former NFL player Eddie Jackson, who also stars as a chef on the Food Network. Consumers also had the chance to make their own burgers, and creatively topped them with assorted ingredients suggested by NFL Homegating burger meister Angie Mar.
Petrosky said she originally wasn't a huge sports fan but she always liked the festivities associated with tailgating parties.
She said "half of the people (at a tailgating or Homegating party) are there to celebrate and half are there to pay attention to the game."
One of Petrosky's favorite things is to decorate and cook in her own home. She said many people also feel that way. So, creating a party atmosphere for football festivities in your own house is the perfect thing for homebodies at heart.
But don't hesitate to ask others for help in presenting your Homegating party, she said.
"Entertainment is a team sport. Never think you have to do it all on your own," she said. "When people offer, say yes." It always makes it more fun to get others involved.
When it comes to ideas for different party foods, Petrosky cautions, "Don't go out on a limb and do something you haven't done before."
Petrosky suggests setting up various drink and snack stations and serving easy and appealing items.
One of Petrosky's suggestions, which she often does at her parties, is to take a Crockpot and make a drink she calls a "Crocktail." Home party planners can mix different ingredients in the Crockpot, whether it's an alcoholic beverage or not, and come up with a tasty drink. The drink can then be served from the pot.
"You can even use a Crockpot with your team emblazoned on it," she said.
Another creative idea from the lifestyle expert is to set up a Tater Tot bar, which also appeals to the kids in the group. "You can use barbecue sauce, gravy (and other sauces) inspired by your home team," she said.
Petrosky said home cooks who want to eat healthier can aim to make their party foods that way as well. Rather than deep frying items such as meatballs, Petrosky suggests baking them.
She said burgers are also a great choice for parties. NFL Homegating recently debuted 32 creative burgers, which were developed by Mar of "Chopped" fame. Mar came up with different recipes that correspond with NFL teams.
Among burger ideas from Mar are The Chicago Classic for Bears fans. The Bears-inspired burger features beef patties, pickles, beefsteak tomatoes and cheese. The Indy Insanity, for Indianapolis Colts fans, stars veal patties, horseradish mayonnaise and beer-braised onions.
"These burgers are just an easy way to show your team spirit," Petrosky said.
On former NFL player Jackson's section on the Food Network site, the chef suggests a number of recipes for Tailgating/Homegating, including Kicked-Up Guac, Tomatillo Beef Nachos, Buffalo Mac 'n' Cheese, Spicy Pesto Wings and more. Visit foodnetwork.com/hosts/eddie-jackson.html for more information and recipes from Jackson.
The following recipes from different sources are among good ideas for a Homegating/tailgating party. Also visit NFLShop.com/Homegating for more tips, recipes and other information.
Chicken and Pepper Kebabs with Nando’s Peri-Peri Sauce
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
16 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups bell peppers, cut into squares
1/2 cup red onion, cut into cubes
1/2 cup Nando’s Peri-Peri sauce
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
DIRECTIONS: Cut each chicken breast into 1-inch strips; thread strips alternately onto skewers with peppers and onions.
Stir together Nando’s Peri-Peri sauce (pick your personal heat level), butter, lemon juice and garlic in small saucepan; cook over low heat until butter is melted. Set aside half the mixture in small bowl.
Brush skewers with remaining Peri-Peri sauce mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Grill skewers 4 to 5 minutes on each side or until chicken is cooked through and lightly charred.
Remove from grill and brush liberally with reserved sauce.
From Nando's Peri-Peri Sauce
Super Spicy Popcorn Snack
8 cups air-popped popcorn
Butter-flavored cooking spray
1 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
DIRECTIONS: Combine mustard, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl; mix well.
Spray popcorn lightly with butter-flavored cooking spray; immediately sprinkle with seasonings and toss to coat and mix.
If desired, place popcorn and seasonings in zip-style bag and shake to coat.
Notes: If your football fans can handle the heat on the field, they’ll love this recipe for Super Spicy Popcorn Snack. It’s a flavorful snack that’s a cinch to tackle in the kitchen.
1 cup Karo® Light Corn Syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
6 cups crispy rice cereal
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon Mazola® Corn Oil
Optional, 1 cup flaked coconut tossed with 1 teaspoon water and 3 to 5 drops green food coloring
DIRECTIONS: Spray a serving plate or shallow tray with cooking spray.
Cook corn syrup and sugar together in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter; mix well. Add cereal; stir until evenly coated.
Pour onto prepared plate and let cool 3 to 5 minutes. Spray hands with cooking spray and shape cereal mixture into an oval shaped football, about 12 x 7-inches.
Melt chocolate and butterscotch chips together in saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Spread over football top and sides. Combine white chocolate chips and oil in a small plastic bag. Microwave on HIGH for 30 to 60 seconds until smooth. Snip off one corner of bag with scissors and carefully squeeze to make seam and laces for the football.
Cool at least 45 minutes, or until firm. Cut into bars.
If desired, combine coconut, water and food coloring in a large plastic resealable bag. Gently toss until coconut is uniformly green. Sprinkle coconut on plate around football to make the grass.