Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches, above, Chinese Honey Garlic Chicken Wings, right.
Contrary to popular opinion, you don't have to haul your grill to your favorite team's stadium parking lot on game day to have a terrific tailgate party.
Many new casual recipes are easy to prepare and transport. Some may be made ahead, and some may be assembled on site. Not one of them requires a grill.
Add to that a few basic tips for foods that travel well and ideas for making your tailgating more enjoyable, and the result is a winning afternoon of food, fun, and football.
A Curried Chicken Salad Sandwich is a delicious combination of chicken, mango, grapes, red onions, and cashews. Boneless skinless chicken breasts are poached (cooked in a liquid), then chopped and combined with curry, lemon juice, honey, ginger, and mayonnaise. The salad is packed in a plastic container and stored over ice in your cooler for transporting.
Chinese Honey Garlic Chicken Wings are a new take on a popular food. The wings are marinated in a sauce of Chinese five-spice powder, ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, and sesame seeds. The wings are roasted in the oven (they can be grilled, if desired) to a crispy, mahogany color. When traveling to a tailgate picnic, cool the roasted wings in the refrigerator and pack in a plastic container on ice in your cooler for transporting. These wings may be served hot or cold.
Your menu should include foods that can be kept cold or hot as needed. Bacteria that causes illness grows on moist, usually protein-based foods that are between 41 and 140 degrees. Minimize the length of time that foods are allowed to stay at those temperatures, advises the National Chicken Council and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association.
For side dishes, plan on an appetizer and a salad. Include foods that travel well, such as dips like guacamole and salsa that fit easily into plastic containers or may be transported in unopened jars, advises the registered dietitians at Meijer stores and Healthy Living Advisers Shari Steinbach and Janine Faber. They recommend gelled ice packs for the cooler. For kids pack individual containers of applesauce, crackers, and yogurt.
Mexican Layered Dip or Mexican cold pizza have become favorites for the party crowd. Mediterranean Delight Dip is a new twist on them.
Hummus made from canned garbanzo beans is the first layer, followed by tomatoes, Greek olives, yogurt, and cucumbers for a tasty combination of fresh flavors. You can buy hummus or make your own. Either way, transport all dip components in an ice cooler and assemble the dip on a serving plate or tray at the tailgate just before serving. Made with seasonal locally grown tomatoes, this can be a delicious and pretty dish.
Marinated salads are better picnic food than salads with ranch or French dressing. Oil and vinegar can be added at the last minute.
For sweet finales, pack fresh fruit such as strawberries and apples, or try a new fruit for a thirst quencher. Meijer stores are selling Muscato grapes. The Muscato is a sweet grape that is a cross between the Muscat and the traditional Thompson seedless green grape. Muscato grapes measure at a brix (sweetness) level of 25, compared to the average grape brix of 16, according to Meijer spokesman Kelly Durcan. The Autumn Royal Muscato variety has a hint of blackberry flavor. The grapes are grown in California and are from Melissa's World Variety.
Pack chocolate buckeye candy if you're going to an Ohio State game, a box of Michigan-made chocolates such as Sanders caramels for a Michigan State University or University of Michigan game, or a similar team-related regional confection.
Muffins, unfrosted cupcakes, bundt cakes, and homemade cookies are easy to store and need no refrigeration. They are easy to eat and don't melt or get sticky if your table is in the sun.
As for beverages, pack plenty of water, juices, pop, lemonade, and a carafe of coffee.
Consult your last-minute checklist to be sure you've packed everything.
Don't forget the paper plates, napkins, plastic ware, and cups.
Bring a bottle opener, first-aid kit, citronella candle, trash bags, chairs, card table, paper towels, and cloth for clean-up.
If hand washing facilities are not available at the picnic site, wet napkins will reduce - but not eliminate - the germs on hands. Be sure to pack a hand sanitizer.
Bring along extra utensils so you don't have to reuse these. Keep cold foods out of the sun. Don't store coolers in your trunk. When traveling, carry the cooler in the car, not the trunk.
Return leftovers to an ice-filled cooler as soon as possible. Bring along or buy extra ice to replace ice in the cooler that melts or use ice packs that are frozen solid.
Make your tailgate simple, safe, and delicious.
Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.
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