Kicking off football season: Tailgating food and fun


We are a football family! Plain and simple. I grew up in Texas – home of Friday Night Lights, and Craig grew up in Illinois in the 80s. Think Walter Payton, Ditka and the SuperBowl Shuffle. We then added on a 4-year stint at Notre Dame with Fighting Irish football, and the mania only gets worse.

This year, Notre Dame kicked its season off against University of Texas.  Given where I grew up, this was a big deal for our family. Since we couldn’t go to the game, we hosted the season kick off party at our house. Think outdoor screen with projected game, food, and fun.

The best part was that the food part was inexpensive, quick, and easy.  And its something you can do as well!  If you want to host a football party, think in threes.

Quick and easy  nacho bar
Quick and easy nacho bar

1.) Texas Nacho Bar: I decided to build out a basic nacho bar with THREE core ingredients and then all the fixings (salsa, sour cream, jalapeno, tortilla chips AND Fritos). It took 15 minutes to set up, and then I just let the slow cooker finish it up.

  • Ground Beef: I simply browned 1.5 lbs of ground beef with taco seasoning, then threw it in one slow cooker. Finished this about 30 minutes before the party and left it on warm.
  • Black Beans: I threw two 15oz cans of black beans in the slow cooker with a teaspoon of garlic salt and a can of Rotel. Four hours on low, and they tasted amazing. Best part was day-after bean burritos.
  • Nacho Cheese Sauce: This was the simplest part of the process. I cubed a brick of Velveeta cheese and added a can of Rotel. Four hours on low and you have awesome cheesy goodness!
Cocktail Meatballs
Cocktail Meatballs

2.) Amazing Cocktail Meatballs: You may have noticed that I find slow cookers my best friend. This recipe is always a winner, and ironically, my husband told me about it years ago. I have found a million iterations of recipes for it online, but in essence it comes down to three ingredients.

  • Whisk together 1 bottle of Barbecue Sauce and one jar of grape jelly in a slow cooker. This time, I added a little dry mustard (maybe 1 tsp) for extra zing too.
  • Add about 1 pound of frozen meatballs to the slow cooker and stir them in the sauce.
  • Then, cook on high for about 4 hours and enjoy.

3.) Quick add-ons: To help the budget stretch, and because we had over 20 families planing to drop by, we added a few simple things to the food plan.

  • BYO… – Ultimately, we asked each family to bring their own beverages and one snack to share. For something impromptu (or even something planned), most people don’t mind this at all
  • Lemonade and Water: We had a cooler of lemonade (an inexpensive store mix) and water for everyone if they wanted it.
  • The Freggie Musts: I always include one veggie tray and some type of fruit option. Adults, and some kids, tend to nibble on the veggie tray throughout the party and the kids devoured the watermelon slices!

Overall, we entertained over 45 people (kids and adults) for under $100, and I’d say it was a success.

We get them started early...Go Irish!
We get them started early…Go Irish!

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