Getting ready to watch the big game? Don’t forget the snacks! From chicken wings to dips, I’ve picked out a few that are a spin on classic recipes. They are quick and easy to make for your watch party, with a focus on snacks that are bite-sized and hand-held to make it easy to grab them between passes and touchdowns. Settle in with your favorite beverage and a few things to much on. Continue reading for ideas and recipes!
Chicken drumettes & wings with BBQ sauce
Get the recipe: Cranberry BBQ sauce
Buffalo wings: they’re a game day tradition.
When it comes to wings, most people are either on Team Spice or Team Nice (read: mild, usually with barbecue instead of buffalo sauce.) Me, I generally lean towards spicy but appreciate the best of both worlds: spice that comes with flavor, instead of raw, knock-out spice that can’t be tamed.
If you’re looking for something different that is the best of both worlds, try a fruity, sweet and tangy take on regular barbecue (BBQ) sauce made with a totally unexpected ingredient: cranberry sauce.
Yep, I said cranberry sauce.
Nope, cranberries aren’t just for Thanksgiving—contrary to popular belief.
Compared to the dark, mahogany or maroon red colors of most BBQ sauces, the sauce is a dark pinkish hue from the berries. It is complex, with warming spices, a tart sweetness from the berries, and a smoky flavor from chipotle. You can spice up the sauce even more by adding extra chipotle powder or chipotle in adobo sauce.
I always have at least one, if not multiple, cans of chipotle in adobo in my pantry, which I use in just about everything. Use both the adobo sauce and the peppers in chili, mix in a few tablespoons with mayo as a quick sauce for deli sandwiches or mix in with sour cream for serving with quesadillas. If you have leftover, you can put a piece of plastic wrap or reuseable wrap over the top of the can, secured with a rubber band if necessary, for short term storage in the fridge. I generally pour out the can into a freezer-safe plastic bag or other kind of freezer-safe container and store it in the freezer, where it can last for months although it generally doesn’t last that long in my house.
As far as the wings, there are about a million ways to make them: double-fried, air fried, baked, grilled…
Fried are, of course, delicious, but as far as I’m concerned, doing it at home makes too damn big of a mess. If there was an excuse to go “all out” and make a mess, I think it would be for the Big Game, but this is usually a method I decide to skip.
“Air fried” are another option that also yields crispy, light skin. Essentially, when you are air frying, you are convection baking. For similar results, especially if you don’t have an air fryer, you can turn on the convection bake setting on your oven and place the wings on a baking rack, like this baking rack, which has a small grid that the food doesn’t fall through.
Finally, grilling also yields crispiness, with a bonus of being able to smoke them very easily, with the help of some wood chips and simple tools, like heavyweight aluminum foil or an aluminum tray. There are easy, step-by-step instructions for how to do that just a quick web search away from most grill manufacturers, like Weber. It works on either a charcoal or gas grill, too.
Grilling also frees up your kitchen for other cooking, too, and if you make a mess, you can do it outside (unless, of course, you’re using a grill pan on your range.) Dave and I grill outside year-round. Snow or no snow on the ground, our grill is operational 24/7/365.
If you grill your wings, indoors or outside, make sure that the chicken is “naked”, with no sauce, when you start cooking. This will ensure that you are cooking the chicken first, instead of ending up with raw chicken and burnt sauce.
- Pat your chicken dry of any liquid that it was packaged with. Do not rinse your chicken under water! It’s not necessary. A dry, clean cloth or paper towel is all you need.
- If you have time, leave the chicken wings, uncovered, on a plate in the refrigerator for a few hours. This sounds a little scary until you do it; it is a similar technique I also do when cooking turkey and have done for years. It helps to dry the skin out and ensure that it will be extra crispy when cooking. It truly works wonders. Just make sure it is away from other food, on an empty shelf and if possible, the bottom shelf of your refrigerator.
- To prevent sticking, coat the chicken lightly with vegetable or canola oil, and ensure your grill grates are clean—pre-heat the grill, then after about 10 minutes, wire brush to remove stuck-on food.
- Coat chicken in a dry rub of equal parts salt, coarse pepper, granulated garlic, granulated onion, and paprika. This will flavor your chicken as it cooks, and the flavors will complement nearly any sauce you put on them after that.
- I add the sauce during the last five minutes of cooking so it gets warmed up and the sugar in the sauce caramelizes but doesn’t burn like it would if it cooked on the chicken the entire time.
Want to skip the wing cooking process entirely? Buy naked chicken wings from your favorite restaurant (it’s important to support your local restaurants, especially now!) if you are still able to, and sauce them yourself. This may be a stretch to do, given today is game day, unless you order first thing in the morning, so you can also try the hot foods section at most grocery stores, too.
Need a boneless option? Chicken tenders, breaded or not, are great when baked or fried and served with this BBQ sauce, too.
Need a vegetarian option? Try roasted cauliflower florets, tofu, vegetarian “chicken” nuggets, or falafel balls (homemade or pre-made from the grocery store, frozen or can also be found in the produce section)
Baked pimento cheese dip
Get the recipe: Baked pimento cheese dip
I have lived in the Northeastern, U.S. all of my life but think a small part of me is a Southerner at heart. Pimento cheese is one snack that is at the top of my list.
You can mix this up and serve it cold with crackers or fresh veggies, like carrots and celery sticks, which is also delicious. Heating the dip up takes it to a whole ‘nother dimension of deliciousness—with a hot, bubbly, crusty cheese topping and melty, creamy cheese underneath.
Elotes, as “bites” or a salad
Get the recipe: Elotes (Mexican Street Corn)
In the winter months, you can still enjoy corn if you look to your frozen section. I like to buy the small ears of corn that have been cut in half from a larger cob, which are perfectly sized for serving on a snack platter as Elotes, or Mexican street corn, coated in a creamy sauce and sprinkled with cheese, cilantro and seasoning. You can also make the same recipe as a corn salad or salsa, which I have done many times.
Either way you serve it, Elotes is amazing as a side dish to serve with enchiladas, chili and other Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes. In its salsa or salad form, I love it as a topping for tacos or nachos.
Chocolate peanut butter cookies
Get the recipe: Chocolate peanut butter cookies
This is a quick recipe that you could make basically in a commercial break—everyone knows that there are a ton of them.
Making these in the toaster oven is my preference because it is a small batch. Alternatively, you can also mix up the batter earlier in the day and scoop into balls, refrigerate or freeze, and pop in the oven later on when it’s time to have a sweet treat.
You can always eat a cookie alone, with or without milk, or try these ideas that don’t even need a recipe to follow, they’re so easy:
- Ice cream sandwiches—two cookies, and a big scoop of your favorite flavor in between, like chocolate gelato with peanut butter swirl (now there’s an amazing idea…)
- Cookie sundaes—put one cookie in a bowl, scoop ice cream on top, then top with chocolate syrup or chocolate shavings, whipped cream, a cherry, and sprinkles or crumbled cookie on top.
- Cookie milkshakes—in a blender, add two cookies, 1 cup ice cream (chocolate, vanilla, or your favorite flavor), and 1/2 cup of milk. Blend until smooth, then serve in a glass, topped with whipped cream and a crumbled cookie.
For more ideas, see also: my menu inspiration for a Comfort Food Feast