On Cooking Southern: Italian-Style Super Bowl Foods Spice Up the Party

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SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK
Suck it up and go: Classic Southern Dad admonition to ignore all the booboos, distractions and roadblocks, and keep on plugging, coz “nobody likes a quitter.” Nobody can say the Denver or Carolina players are quitters. After all, both teams are led by Super-smart Southern quarterbacks.

PAR-TEE. PAR-TEE. It’s time for styling some homemade gridiron flavors.

I love Super Bowl time. That’s because the annual gridiron confrontation enables us Southern cooks to work our party themes to the max. We need this because we have so few opportunities to shine anymore. Modern males are not particularly interested in retro cocktail parties or country club dances. And most female millennials would rather skip the cream teas and luncheons.

But everybody – young and old, male and female – enjoys working get-together magic to the background cacophony of a ball game. Throw in world-class entertainment and fireworks, and we have a perfect American event, best viewed on big screens while sipping suds.

February 7 marks the golden anniversary of the now-classic American football Super Bowl matchup between the two winning-est teams of the season. At age 50, this year’s Super Bowl is a far cry from its beginning in 1967, when a ticket cost $12 and seats were plentiful at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers. Super Bowl 50 tickets still available through the official NFL ticket exchange as of Tuesday, Feb. 2 range from $3,150 to $15,000 apiece … and only in limited stadium sections.

I’ve been to more than a few Super Bowls, and yes, the bowl swag is fab – from the logo’d seat cushions to the special radios and other giveaways. The NFL Experience is loads of fun, and the various parties – for partiers lucky enough to be invited – are over the top. Joining a junket on a bowl-bound plane reserved for the first however-many fans is a hoot, too.

But frankly, my dears, there’s no place like home when it comes to enjoying the event. Just give me a few close friends, good food that doesn’t cost the moon (such as $9 for a slice of cheap-brand pizza) and a great HDTV. And throw in those entertaining commercials. I might not even care who actually wins the game. There’s always next year….

SLOW COOKER LASAGNA
This recipe works just as well with low-fat cottage cheese. I use a Rival 6-quart slow cooker. Friends have told me they have tried other versions of slow cooker lasagna in various sizes of crockpots, with variable results, including tough noodles. That’s why I highly recommend checking for doneness sooner rather than later!

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2 T butter or olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb sweet Italian sausage
2 c chopped onion
4 cloves garlic
29-oz can tomato sauce
6-oz can tomato paste
1-1/2 to 2 T Italian seasoning, to taste
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
24-oz container of small-curd cottage cheese
16-oz box lasagna noodles, uncooked (not the pre-cooked version)
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1 c fine-shredded Mexican fiesta blend cheese
1 c paper-thin sliced small zucchini
Two (9.5-oz) pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and all liquid squeezed out
1 c or more of fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Combine cottage cheese, mozzarella and fiesta-blend cheese in a bowl and set aside. Grease inside of large (6-qt) slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray (I use the olive oil version).

Lightly brown the ground meat, sausage, onion and garlic until just browned. Mix in the tomato sauce and spices. Heat long enough to warm the sauces but do not overcook.

Spoon about one cup of the sauce mixture evenly over bottom of slow cooker. Top with a double layer of uncooked noodles, positioned lengthwise facing the short sides of crock. Break noodles to fit entire surface, using small pieces to fill gaps. Spread half the cheese mixture over the noodles.

Spread half of remaining sauce (about 3 generous cups) over the cheese mixture. Repeat with another double layer of noodles and remaining cheese mixture.

Break apart the squeezed spinach and dot it evenly over the cheese mixture. Layer the zucchini slices evenly over the spinach, working a spiral pattern from edges to center, slightly overlapping each slice. Cover zucchini with a single layer of noodles. Don’t worry if there is one remaining unused noodle. Pour remaining sauce over noodles and spread evenly to cover. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Cook, covered, on 4-hour cycle, but check for doneness at 3-1/2 hours. Reduce heat to warm setting until 4-hour mark. Turn off cooker and remove cover about 10 minutes before serving to allow casserole to set up.

PEPPERONI PIZZA DIP
Versions of this recipe have been popular since the cream cheese folks first developed it. If you don’t have Italian seasoning, use dried oregano and garlic powder with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper. This recipe may be made ahead and frozen, uncooked, until needed.

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8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 to 3/4 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 c+ mini pepperoni slices
1/4 c chopped green onions
1/4 c sweet mini peppers, chopped fine
1/2 c shredded mozzarella cheese

Mix cream cheese, sour cream and spices until blended smooth. Spread in a 9-inch pie plate or oven-safe serving dish. Spread pizza sauce evenly over the cheese blend. Top with pepperoni, onion and optional bell pepper. Bake in preheated oven at 350˚F for about 10-12 minutes until bubbly. Sprinkle with dots of the mozzarella and return to oven until cheese melts. Serve with breadsticks, toasted bread slices, or dipping chips.

GARLIC PARMESAN BREADSTICKS

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2-1/2 c all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 c plus 2 T water
1 T Canola oil
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Extra flour for dusting and rolling
1/8 tsp black pepper
4 T salted butter, melted
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chopped parsley (fresh or dried)

Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. Sift together the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Whisk after sifting to blend completely. Set aside.

Combine water and oil in a separate nonreactive mixing bowl. Slowly add the water-oil to the flour blend, using a wooden spoon to mix. Gently fold and stir, using hands as needed, to blend until dough forms a soft, but not sticky dough. Sprinkle in more flour if dough is too sticky (literally sticks to hands and bowl). If too dry and tough, add more water, a tablespoon at a time.

Line a counter work surface with parchment or waxed paper. Sprinkle with flour and 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan. Transfer the dough ball to the prepped work surface and knead it for five minutes, folding dough and using palms of hands to press each fold.

Form kneaded dough into a rectangle and roll it out with a rolling pin. Spread dough to approximately 12 inches long by 8 inches wide. Sprinkle top of rolled-out dough with remaining Parmesan and pepper. Press the toppings into the dough surface, using palms of hands.

Cut 1-inch-wide strips with a pizza cutter. Transfer strips to baking sheet. Bake about 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned.

While sticks are baking combine melted butter with garlic powder and parsley. Drizzle seasoned butter mixture over baked strips, turn strips over and repeat until all sides are coated.

CAROLINA TOUCHDOWN BROWNIES
The easiest way to make touchdown brownies is to bake up a brownie mix and use a football-shaped cookie cutter to cut out the brownies before decorating with store-bought icing. This scratch version using foil cupcake liners is from Kathy Poe of Charlotte, shared by Charlotte Observer food editor Kathleen Purvis. I found Betty Crocker cake decorating blue icing to work best… just need to hone my decorating skills.

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1 c (2 sticks) salted butter
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa
1 c packed light brown sugar
1/2 c white granulated sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c all-purpose flour, sifted after measuring
1 c fine-chopped pecans
Ready-to-decorate blue or white icing

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Place butter in a large microwave-safe mixing bowl. Microwave on high (100 percent power) about 1 minute, then 10 to 30 seconds at a time until melted. Whisk in cocoa, then whisk in brown sugar and granulated sugar until smooth. Whisk in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour and pecans just until blended.

Use two spoons to place 2 tablespoons of batter in each foil cupcake liner. Smooth the tops. Pinch the opposite ends of each foil cup to create a football shape. Position each cup on baking sheet, pulling pinched ends down to the sheet. Bake for 22 minutes.

Remove sheet from oven and reshape any brownie cups that baked too round. Cool on a rack. Once cooled, brownies may be removed from foil cups or left in the cups. Using icing, add strips to each brownie for football marks. VARIATION: Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and spread batter evenly. Bake about 15 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool and cut. Either method yields about 20 brownies.

DENVER MILE HIGH CHEESE BALLS
This is a 21st Century Broncos amped-up twist on a classic recipe served at all the Delta cocktail parties in the 1960s! The cheese balls turn out golf-ball size and pair well with craft beer, in keeping with Denver brew culture.

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10-oz jar of jalapeño-stuffed olives (the olives are quite large)
1 tsp salt, to taste
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp red chili powder
2 c all-purpose flour, sifted
4 c grated sharp Cheddar cheese
2 sticks (1 c) butter

Drain olives well and place on paper towels. Blend butter and cheese with paprika and salt. Add flour. Wrap enough dough around each olive to cover complete. Pinch edges closed and roll into smooth balls with hands. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart (the dough spreads when baking). Cover cookie sheets and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Bake in a preheated 400ºF oven for about 20 minutes for large jalapeño-stuffed olive balls, about 10-15 minutes for small jalapeño-stuffed olive balls. Best when served warm. Yield: About 26-27 of the large-size stuffed olive balls; about 75 normal-size olive balls.


Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ website and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter.

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