Tailgating Time! 

Everyone’s favorite time of the year, tailgating season, is fast approaching. Warm, late-summer breezes still linger in the air, and football season is ramping up. Time to gather with family and friends and root for your favorite team with some festive food and beverages.

Picture this scenario: It’s a warm, sunny weekend, and there’s an important game that afternoon that everyone is looking forward to. Friends are driving in from out of town, and a tailgate party is totally expected. It’s up to you to create a fun, laid-back, stylish spread. Tailgating suggestions run the gamut—from salty, fatty, unhealthy menu options to tacky logo decorations. There’s some great inspiration to be found on the Web (in particular Pinterest), so start scrolling! Whether you are having a picnic in your backyard or are tailgating at the stadium, there’s no reason why your food and decor needs to be unhealthy and unimaginative. Now, I know what you’re thinking; Tailgating food is not supposed to be healthy—it’s supposed to be messy and hearty. Macho food (mostly meat) that sticks to your ribs. Well, I say it can, in fact, be both.

The challenge lies in creating a healthy, yet delicious casual menu. Incorporating fruit, fresh veggies, lean protein and hydrating beverages is the direction you want to head in. There are, of course, some traditions that should be upheld, like beer and Bloody Marys! In keeping with this safe and healthy-ish direction, here are some guidelines for pulling off a great tailgate party.

  • Everyone needs to stay hydrated. Serve plenty of non-alcoholic beverages like water, coconut water, sparkling water, iced tea or lemonade.
  • Incorporate lots of colorful fruits and veggies. Not only do they provide some low-calorie nutrients, they also have high water content and help everyone stay hydrated.
  • Go easy on the salty snacks and unhealthy fats. Try substituting avocado, yogurt, humus and salsa-based dips and spreads. Don’t fall prey to snack foods that claim to be healthy but are actually the opposite, such as “veggie” chips, muffins, granola bars and high-sugar beverages.
  • Pack a first aid kit. Be prepared for insect bites and include sunscreen, Band-Aids, aspirin and eye flush. It’s best to be prepared for the unexpected.
  •  Make sure to apply and re-apply sunscreen for protection.
  • Keep food at the proper temperatures to avoid contamination. Have lots of ice on hand, and keep the food refrigerated until the last minute.

Tailgating Menu

  • Mozzarella and Tomato Bites
  • Assorted Sandwiches on Baguettes
  • Tropical Fruit Skewers
  • Individual Tossed Salad with “House” Dressing
  • Turkey Chili with Rice and Cheddar Cheese
  • Homemade Parmesan Popcorn
  • Quinoa Tortilla Chips and Tomato Salsa

Beverage Bar

  • Bloody Mary’s
  • Beer
  • H20
  • Coconut Water
  • Assorted Cold Press Juices

Turkey Chili Recipe

A simple and healthier version with the same big, bold chili flavor! This is a great make-ahead dish because the flavors meld and improve with time.

Yields 6 servings

  • 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 pound of freshly ground turkey breast
  • 1 can of organic plum tomatoes (crushed by hand)
  • 1 can of cannellini beans
  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of chicken broth
  • Salt, pepper and Tabasco to taste

In a Dutch oven over medium heat, add oil and brown turkey meat. › Add onion, and sauté until translucent. › Add garlic, and sauté until the garlic aroma is in the air. › Add chili powder and cumin. › Add beans and tomatoes. › Add water and broth. › Bring to a boil, and then reduce and simmer for at least 30 minutes. › Adjust seasoning if necessary. › Garnish with your favorite toppings: rice, cheddar cheese, cilantro or sour cream.

Robin Fannon is a New York culinary school trained-chef and a successful party planner with decades of experience. You can visit her popular blog at rsvprobin.com for healthy recipes, party tips and lifestyle articles. Or check her out on Facebook or Instagram. rsvprobin.com


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