Countdown to Football Season


Back, Back, Back, Back Ribs by Chris Berman and Texas Caviar by Gale Sayers

Adapted from The NFL Family Cookbook, published by SMITHMARK Publishers, New York, NY

Well it is finally here, that time of year that all of us sports fans live for, football season.  College football kicks off next week, and the NFL kicks off the week after that.  Whether you are tailgating, watching a game with friends, or screaming at the tv with 100 other patrons in a sports bar, one thing is for sure…there will be food.


If you are planning a football party, know this; there must be food before the game, snacks for during the game, something special brought out at half time, and a little dessert to nibble on throughout the day.  I always try to make as much food ahead of time as possible and have Mark operate the grill so that I’m free to watch all the pre-game stuff, and visit with the guests.


Two of the following recipes come from The NFL Family Cookbook.  The first recipe is Back, Back, Back, Back Ribs from Chris Berman, the humorous ESPN sportscaster who is so well-known for giving the players funny nicknames in his broadcasts.  The second recipe is Texas Caviar from the legendary NFL Hall of Fame Running Back, Gale Sayers.


Ribs and Brats, along with the Pasta Salad are great for eating before the game.  Texas Caviar with tortilla chips can be munched on all during the game, along with a veggie tray that includes your favorite dip.  Make some Chili in a crock pot and have all the fixin’s (shredded cheese, chopped onion, crackers, macaroni, etc.) ready before the game starts, then at halftime you can serve a great Chili Bar with very little effort.  Peanut Butter Cookies and Buckeyes are yummy at any time and will be gone before you know it, so make extras.  Here’s hoping your team has a great season…and Go Bucs!  Enjoy!


Football Party Menu

  • Ribs
  • Brats
  • Pasta Salad
  • Halftime Chili Bar
  • Texas Caviar
  • Veggie Tray
  • Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Buckeyes



Baby Back Ribs Ingredients

6 pounds baby back pork ribs (each rack is about 3 pounds)

32 oz. ketchup

1/3 onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 Tablespoons lemon juice

3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 Tablespoon Liquid Smoke

1 Tablespoon Louisiana pepper sauce



1. Set up your gas grill for indirect cooking with the setting on low.  Cook the racks of ribs for about 2 1/2 hours.

2. After 1 1/2 hours prepare the BBQ sauce. Bring the sauce to a low boil and then simmer for about 1 hour.


3.  Brush the BBQ sauce on the ribs and cook over a medium, direct heat for about 5 minutes. Flip the ribs, brush on some more BBQ sauce, and cook on the other side over the direct heat for about 5 minutes or until the ribs are browned to your liking.  Keep basting the ribs with sauce and move them to the back of the grill ( indirect) if necessary to allow the sauce to cook in to the ribs.



Texas Caviar Ingredients

2-14 oz. cans black-eyed peas, drained

1 -15 oz. can white hominy, drained

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

4 green onions, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped (I used the tame jalapenos)

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped or snipped (cilantro would work well in this recipe, too)

1 8 oz. bottle Italian dressing



1. In a large bowl, combine the black-eyed peas and hominy.


2. Add the tomatoes, green onions, and garlic.  Mix well.

3. Add the green pepper and jalapeno peppers, onion and parsley (or cilantro).  Toss well.


4. Pour the salad dressing over the vegetables and toss gently to coat well.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.


5. Drain, and serve with tortilla chips.

Pasta Salad


Recipe courtesy of Elizabeth Levesque

Pasta salad is our favorite comfort food.  Over the years I have made it about a zillion different ways and they were all yummy. To make pasta salad, you have to begin with pasta; Spiral pasta (fusilli) works well, as do bow-ties (farfalle), but this corkscrew pasta (cavatappi) caught my eye at the store so that is what I’ll be using this time. It is really important to only cook the pasta until it is just al dente.  There is nothing worse than mushy pasta in a pasta salad or just mushy pasta in general.

I add the cheeses in last, along with delicate things like the marinated artichokes. In the picture above I have just added the pasta to the meat and veggies.  Today’s pasta salad was an homage to an antipasto platter ( hard salami, mozzarella cheese, black olives, red peppers, marinated artichokes, etc.), but it is equally good made with grilled chicken and broccoli, ham chunks and pepper jack cheese, or tuna with cucumbers and halved cherry tomatoes.  The sky is the limit.  Plus, pasta salad is a great meal for the hot, hot, dog days of summer.  It can be prepared early (before it is too hot) and refrigerated.   If you add enough goodies it becomes a one dish meal, nice and easy for dinner.  Enjoy!




1 pound pasta of choice

veggies of choice;

artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, beans, mushrooms, olives (all kinds), onions (every type), fresh peas, peppers, squash, tomatoes (especially the grape and cherry tomatoes, halved), zucchini…

protein of choice;

grilled, fried, canned, baked, or leftover rotisserie chicken/ chunks of ham/ deli cold cuts (like hard salami), sliced/ tuna, crab, lobster, or other fish, flaked/leftovers of any kind-except maybe roast beef

cheese of choice;

Asiago, Cheddar, co-jack, pepper jack, swiss, mozzarella, etc.

Italian dressing of choice (we normally use Kraft Zesty Italian, but the marinated artichokes were in their own dressing and I just used it)

Parmesan cheese




1. Cook the pasta al dente, drain, rinse it if you want, and cool.


2. Chop all veggies, protein, and cheese.  Use your imagination to chop things in an interesting and appetizing way and not all the same (matchstick, slices, julienne, chunks, ,etc.)


3. Put the chopped goodies in a big bowl, add the cooled pasta.  Add just enough dressing to keep the ingredients from sticking together.  Don’t go overboard, you don’t want your pasta salad floating in dressing.

4. Add parmesan cheese.  Start with about 1/2 cup and go from there ( I was a little heavy-handed with the parmesan cheese today).

5. Mix everything together and transfer mixture into a container for the fridge, or stand at the foot of the stairs and yell, “come and get it”

Tuna and White Bean Salad


Recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart

It takes about five minutes to put this salad together and it does taste really yummy.  The tuna, beans and bread make it a very filling meal, while the lemon juice, garlic, tomatoes, and parsley are so nice and fresh tasting.  Enjoy!


12 oz. tuna, packed in water

15.5 oz can Cannellini beans, drained

1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half

salt and pepper

2 Tablespoons capers

3 cloves raw garlic, minced

3 Tablespoons olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

about 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 slices thick bread, toasted



1. In a large bowl, combine tuna, beans, tomato halves, salt and pepper, capers, and garlic.  Stir gently to mix, being careful to leave tuna in large clumps.

2. Pour olive oil and lemon juice over salad.  Combine gently to moisten salad,  add fresh parsley and mix.

3. Serve salad with thick chunks of toasted bread.

Jerri’s Chicken Salad


Recipe courtesy of Jerri Parker

My sister Jerri is a great cook; She can walk through a kitchen, grab random stuff along the way from the fridge and pantry, and put it together almost effortlessly into a wonderful meal (she’s also a great pie baker).  I called her today and this is what she was making for dinner.  It didn’t occur to me to add grapes and nuts to chicken salad, but Mark loves it.  I like to use sandwich pocket bread for this salad.  I place lettuce leaves inside the bread to act as a barrier against the moist chicken salad, and also to give the sandwich more crunch. My sister also suggests that it can be served with crackers and celery sticks in place of the bread.  Either way, this is a nice variation on an old classic and a wonderful meal to serve when you’re trying to beat the heat.  Enjoy!



4 chicken breasts, cooked, cooled and cubed or torn into bite-sized pieces

25 grapes, either green or red (must be seedless), cut in half

1/3 cup nuts (pecans or walnuts work the best), chopped

2 Tablespoons onion, diced

celery seed, to taste (1 used 5 good shakes)

salt and pepper

slightly less than 1/2 cup mayo or Miracle Whip

2 Tablespoons mustard

hard-boiled eggs, diced (optional)




1. Shred or chop the chicken and place in a large bowl.  Add the grapes, nuts, onion and celery seed, and diced hard-boiled eggs.  Look at your combination in the bowl…does it need more of anything?


2. After you are happy with the quantities of your ingredients, add enough mayo to hold it all together and a little dab of mustard to give it some zing.  Salt and pepper it to your taste and serve in pocket bread, or in a bowl with crackers and some celery sticks.


Baby Spinach and Tortellini Salad


Salad recipe courtesy of

Taste of Home’s 2004 Quick Cooking Annual Recipes

Taste of Home Books, ©2004 Reiman Media Group, Inc., Wisc.

Vinaigrette recipe courtesy of CLEAN FOOD by Terry Walters

published by Sterling Epicure, NY, NY

This salad is so good!  At first you may be thinking…fruit in a vegetable salad?  Believe me, the taste is incredible.  My friend, Carol, made this wonderful salad at one of our craft/sew/eat/talk, get-togethers (emphasis on talking and eating).  The recipe suggests a poppy seed dressing, but I really like Pomegranate Vinaigrette with it.  I’ve included both recipes.

This salad is one of those recipes that can easily be stretched (add more spinach), or adapted to your family’s preferences (add more tortellini).  Start with the amount of spinach needed for the servings you wish to make, using roughly 2 cups of spinach per person, and go from there.  If you’re not a fan of strawberries, try canned mandarin oranges instead.  Enjoy!

Salad Ingredients

baby spinach leaves, washed and drained
cheese tortellini, cooked and cooled
strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
blueberries, washed and drained
fresh grated parmesan cheese


Vinaigrette Ingredients

1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/3 cup pomegranate juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used grapeseed oil)
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon zesty honey mustard (I used Dijon mustard and added a drop of honey)
sea salt


Spinach and Tortellini Salad Directions


1. Cook tortellini, drain and allow to cool.  Place spinach leaves in a large bowl.



2. Add strawberries (or mandarin oranges) and blueberries.  Grate fresh parmesan over the salad.  Add cooled tortellini to salad and gently mix all the ingredients.  Serve with Pomegranate Vinaigrette.


Pomegranate Vinaigrette Directions


1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients except salt.  Season to taste with the salt.  Vinaigrette will keep refrigerated for 1 week.




Joe’s Crackers and a Carpet Picnic


Cracker recipe courtesy of

Cucumber Salad recipe courtesy of Bob Whitaker

Bruschetta recipe courtesy of Elizabeth Levesque

Using Joe’s recipe, I made five different crackers;  parmesan herb, garlic and herb, butter and salt, whole wheat sesame seed, and whole wheat butter and salt.  I made two separate batches of dough using the food processor; the basic white dough, and a part whole wheat flour dough.  The first ones I made were the garlic and herb crackers.  I was afraid of overbaking them and they turned out kinda soft, a little like bread.  That’s okay though, because I made some bruschetta and we ate them that way.  All the rest of the crackers turned out light and crispy, yet very filling.

These crackers were served as part of a cold-plate dinner because it was in the 90’s and I could not bear to turn on the oven to cook that night.  I bought a rotisserie chicken in the morning, and put it in the fridge to get nice and cold.  The menu included chicken, Joe’s crackers served with various cheeses and bruschetta, Grandpa Bob’s cucumber salad, grapes, and cherries.  I’ve included the recipes for all the cracker variations, the bruschetta and my Dad’s cucumber salad.  So go throw a blanket on the floor and have a picnic.  Enjoy!


Cracker Ingredients

1 1/2 cups flour ( I used half all-purpose and half white whole wheat flour for the second batch)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon sugar

2/3 cup water

4 Tablespoons softened butter

Toppings: melted butter, fresh herbs, fresh minced garlic, grated parmesan cheese, sesame seeds, and fleur de sel (or coarse salt).

Cracker Directions


1. Combine flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, water and soft butter in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and even.  The dough should be very moist and soft.


2. Put the dough in a bowl and refrigerate it for at least two hours.

3. Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Working with one-third of the dough at a time (and keeping the remaining dough refrigerated until time to use it), roll the dough out on a floured surface (use lots of flour) to about 1/16th inch-so thin you can almost see through it.  Fold the dough in thirds, letter-style, and re-roll the dough back out to about 1/16 inch.  Joe says that the fold helps to make the cracker flaky.

4. Cut out the dough.  A pizza cutter works great for this, I used a ravioli cutter, it gave the crackers a cool wavy edge.  Or you can use cookie/biscuit cutters.  Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined (or Silpat lined) baking sheet.  Using a fork, pierce the dough several times.


5. Now the fun part; brush the melted butter on the dough and put your favorite toppings on right away.  The butter helps to hold seeds, herbs, cheese and coarse salt in place.

I used melted butter on all the crackers and topped the white dough with:

  • fresh minced garlic and thyme leaves
  • grated parmesan cheese and thyme leaves
  • fleur de sel.

I topped the whole wheat dough with:

  • sesame seeds
  • fleur de sel

6. Bake at 375°F. for 15-20 minutes (mine took around 18 minutes).  Cool and top with your favorite cheeses, bruschetta, etc. or just munch on them like they are.



Bob’s Cucumber Salad

4 large cucumbers (I used 6 pickling cucumbers), sliced

1 plum tomato, diced

1/2 onion, diced

salt and pepper

1 Tablespoon sugar

1/3 cup oil

1 Tablespoon vinegar


1. Put tomatoes and veggies in a bowl.  Add salt, pepper, sugar, vinegar, and oil; stir to combine.  Taste and add more sugar or vinegar if necessary.  Refrigerate.  Serve chilled.


Elizabeth’s Quick and Easy Bruschetta

2 large plum tomatoes

minced onion, about 2 Tablespoons

minced fresh garlic, about 2 Tablespoons

fresh cilantro or parsley, snipped

sea salt and fresh ground pepper

a few splashes of a good Balsamic vinegar

olive oil, about 1 Tablespoon


1. In a bowl, place tomatoes, onions and garlic.  Add salt, pepper, cilantro, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Refrigerate for at least an hour so that the flavors can mingle.


Pan-Fried Cheese, Tomato, and Onion Sandwich


Recipes courtesy of Food, by Mary McCartney

Published by Sterling Epicure, 387 Park Avenue South, New York, N.Y. 10016

This is a beautiful vegetarian cookbook.  Mary McCartney is a photographer and her images of farm stands and fields in this book are so sweet and nostalgic. I’m including the recipe for the sandwich as well as the salad that I made for lunch.  I used an aged sharp cheddar for the sandwich and it just melted in our mouths.  Enjoy!

Sandwich Ingredients

2 slices sandwich bread
1 Tablespoon butter
6 slices cheese, such as sharp Cheddar, goat Cheddar, or Gouda
2 thin slices red onion
4 thin slices ripe tomato
fresh ground black pepper

Salad Ingredients

mixed greens (I used the 50/50 mix; baby spinach and spring greens)
Blue cheese, cubed or crumbled
red grapes, halved
walnuts, broken and lightly toasted


Sandwich Directions


1. Butter both slices of bread and lay one of them, butter-side down on a chopping board.



2. Lay the cheese on one of the slices of bread (unbuttered side), then top with onion, tomato, and black pepper.  Place the second piece of bread, butter-side up, on top.




3. Heat a medium-sized frying pan over medium-high heat.  When the pan is hot, place the sandwich in the frying pan.  Fry on one side until it is golden brown, about 2 minutes, occasionally pushing down the sandwich to help melt the cheese.  Flip the sandwich over and fry on the other side until golden brown and the cheese has melted.




4. Remove from pan and slice diagonally.




 Salad Directions

1. Place greens on serving plate.  Sprinkle Blue cheese, red grape halves, and toasted walnuts over the greens.