Next Saturday is one of the biggest days of the year for our family:  the Arkansas-Alabama game.  And it’s a home game.  And it’s going to be at 6 pm, which means… perfect Tailgating Day!  (Never mind that on that same Saturday we have one child with a baseball game and one with a conference volleyball tournament.  Those are secondary priorities.)

Football Saturdays are so fun in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  People take their tailgates very seriously (it’s the south, after all).  From barbecue & paper plates to full scale dinner buffets, I’ve seen some really delicious and over-the-top yumminess made in those parking lots!  After years of throwing together our own tailgating parties at the last minute, last fall we finally got serious. And the reason we got really serious is basically because of of one thing:  competitiveness. On one of our last-minute tailgates two years ago, when we pulled in a little late with “just enough” food and our old camp chairs that didn’t even have cupholders (!), our parking slot was next to a group that had it going on.  They were impressive:  Generator, television to watch all the other games, enough tables and chairs for all, tablecloths, hot food, coolers of well-iced drinks to last all day, and even a beautiful area rug inside their pretty red-and-white Razorback tent.  So that’s when we decided we needed to step up our game.

In the past we were always pulling together random things at the last minute – tables, chairs, coolers (are yours always dirty like mine??), etc.  But now we have tubs that are designated for football Saturdays:  paper goods/utensils; matching tablecloths; plastic bowls & trays; power strips; crock pot.  We also invested in a small generator to power our hot food prep and the television, where we watch all the afternoon games while the kids throw footballs around and get to witness some of the college students’ (mostly appropriate) behavior.  

When the weather is pretty, it’s a really fun day.  And now that we have organized gear, we can focus on the important part: the food.   Our family favorite is barbecue, because everyone loves it and it’s easy.

These are our top 5 recipes for a fun family tailgate:

(Disclaimer: tailgate foods are not low-carb or low calorie 🙂  )

Dr. Pepper Spicy Pulled Pork:  This recipe is from Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman) and I love it because I can make it ahead and then take it in a crock pot to heat up on site.  Just pour some of your favorite sauce on top (we love Sweet Baby Ray’s or Head Country) and serve it on Hawaiian rolls or straight on to the plate.  Our friends thought we brought professional catered barbecue!  It’s yum, yum:

Tailgate Cornbread Salad:  This recipe is from the Junior League of Northwest Arkansas cookbook and it’s delicious:
1 pkg cornbread mix
1 14 oz can whole kernel corn (drained)
1/2 cup picante sauce
2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup mayo
1 small onion (purple), chopped
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 3oz can chopped black olives
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Prepare the cornbread mix and bake according to the package,  Cool, then break into pieces in a large bowl.  Combine the corn, picante sauce, sour cream, mayonnaise, onion, pepper, olives and cheese in a bowl and mix well.  Fold into the corn bread, then chill covered, until it’s cold.

Cheese Dip 
This is easy and delicious, and can be served with crackers or veggies, so it’s perfect for a tailgate snack.
1 pound Velveeta cheese
1 C mayo
6 oz prepared horseradish
Melt the cheese, then blend in mayo and horseradish.  Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in a glass container.

Luscious Lemon Bars: This is a smashed-up recipe combining my favorite lemon square recipes through the years:
2 c flour
1/2 c powdered sugar
1 c unsalted butter
4 lg eggs
2 c sugar
1/2 c fresh lemon juice
1 tsp baking powder
4 TB flour
1 c sweet flaked coconut
Preheat oven to 350.  In a food processor, combine 2 c flour, powdered sugar, butter and process to fine crumbs.  Pat into a 9×13 baking dish and bake 20 minutes (or until lightly golden).    In a mixer, beat the eggs until smooth and yellow, then beat in sugar and stir in the lemon juice.  Blend in the baking powder flour and coconut.
Pour the filling over the baked crust, return to oven and bake 20-25 minutes until lightly browned. Cut when cool.

Annie’s M&M Cookies
I’m not a good cookie baker but Annie found a delicious recipe.  Cookies are great because they travel well and adults and children can grab one whenever they want something sweet:

Hope your team is having a winning season!  Happy tailgating!

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