Serve hearty, make-ahead dishes for watching football games on television

Photo by Ann Cipperly When planning dishes to serve for watching football games on television, include a crudités platter with ranch dressing or hummus. To create green onion curls for garnish, trim the end of the onion, then cut lengthwise into the onion to form strips. Trim excess green top. Place the onion in a glass of ice water. The strips will fold back to form curls.

By Ann Cipperly

During the fall months, life in Lee County revolves around Auburn Tigers football and tailgating on game days. While this year is different without tailgating on the Plains and not as many fans attending games, we still need plenty of good food for watching the games on television with family and maybe a few friends (while social distancing).

Tailgating before Auburn games has been a tradition for many families in our area going back generations. Debra Whatley of Opelika has fond memories of tailgating with family. When her husband Alex was alive, they would take a whole pig for the Arkansas game for a special tailgate when each of their four children, Libby, Edward, Mary Kathryn and Walter, were seniors at Auburn.

Alex would cook a whole pig all night in a pit he dug by the lake at their home. The pig was split and placed between two racks that were turned throughout the night. The next morning, he took the pig in a pickup truck to the tailgate site.

Friends would help lift the rack with the pig off the truck and place it on concrete blocks. The meat was pulled off to eat with barbecue sauce made from Debra’s great-grandfather’s recipe.

Debra remembers one year when an Auburn fan removed the pig’s head, put it on a pole and took it to Toomer’s Corner.

With over 150 relatives graduating from Auburn University, Debra and Alex’s families have had tailgate traditions going back generations.

The first to graduate from Alex’s branch of the Whatley family was his uncle Wallace Whatley, born in 1898, who graduated from API in 1917 at age 19. Wallace’s twin brother, who was Alex’s father, graduated in 1920.

Every fall during football season in the 1950s, Alex’s father, uncles and grandfather, who owned Dairyland Farms, hosted the entire Auburn team for a huge barbecue with Brunswick stew. Dairyland was located where the Auburn Mall is now. Along with cows and a dairy, there were spacious barns where parties were held.

Debra and Alex’s son Edward and his wife Elizabeth have continued the family tradition by holding tailgate get-togethers.

Tailgating has also been popular for the Herring and Motley families. Libba and Dr. Ron Herring’s son, Will, and Dinah and Joey Motley’s son, Matthew, both played football for Opelika High School before playing for the Auburn Tigers. The Herrings and Motleys began tailgating when their sons played football at Auburn.

Dinah and Libba would take turns going to the Auburn campus on Friday afternoons before home games to reserve their plot until they would put up a tent.

At many of the games, Joey and Ron would fire up grills, cooking hamburgers and hot dogs. Many friends and family joined them and brought delicious dishes each week.

Some of the football players, who were Matthew and Will’s friends, would come by their tent with their families to eat with them after the game.

“We cooked 200 hamburgers and 200 hot dogs one night,” Dinah said. “We didn’t eat because I was afraid we would run out of food. We picked up a Krystal burger on the way home.”

Later, the Motleys began to tailgate with ten couples and use Tailgate Guys so they didn’t have to set up their own tents. The couples would e-mail each other what they were taking. With her busy schedule, Dinah started cooking on Wednesday nights.

The Motleys used a folding wagon to transport their food to the tailgate site. When they didn’t have as many people, it became easier, and they didn’t have to take the grill.

Will Herring went to the NFL and played for the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints. When he retired from football, Will and his wife Ashley moved to Auburn and continued his parents’ tradition of tailgating. With three small children, they would tailgate near the stadium or in the comfort of home with friends.

Families can look forward to tailgating again in the future, but for now the traditional will be held at home with good food.

When planning dishes to serve, select recipes that can be prepared ahead or assembled quickly. By having everything ready to serve or reheat, you will be able to relax with family and enjoy the game too.

The recipes on A10 from the Whatley and Herring families and other Lee County cooks will give you plenty of great ideas.

Ann Cipperly can be reached at

Cheese Straws

Debra Whatley

  • 1 lb. grated cheese
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • ½ cup ice water

Blend cheese and shortening together. Combine flour with baking powder, pepper and salt. Cut in flour mixture as for pastry. Add water. Use pastry tube to form into straw on cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

Easy Pimento Cheese

Debra Whatley

  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, room temperature
  • 4 oz. pimento, drained
  • ½ cup mayonnaise

Mix together and spread on crackers or bread.

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Debra Whatley

  • 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, divided
  • 1 pkg. Knorr Vegetable recipe mix
  • 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 8 oz. can water chestnuts, drained and chopped (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients except 1/2 cup cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese. Spoon into greased 2-quart casserole. Top with 1/2 cup cheese.

Bake for 35 minutes or until dip is hot.

Layered Buffalo Chicken Dip

Elizabeth Whatley

  • 3 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed (can boil with spices and garlic powder)
  • 12 oz. bottle wing sauce
  • 2 pkg. ranch dressing mix
  • Three 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese (can use light), softened
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Celery sticks, corn or tortilla chips

Mix cooked, cubed chicken with wing salads; set aside.

Combine ranch dressing with cream cheese.

In a greased casserole dish, layer the cream cheese mixture. Then top with the chicken mixture. Cover top with mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees  for 30 minutes.

Serve with celery sticks, corn or tortilla chips.

Mini Conecuh Sausage Dogs

Will Herring

  • 1 pkg. Conecuh sausage, grilled
  • 1 pkg. hotdog buns
  • 1 bottle mustard
  • 1 bottle honey

Grill Conecuh. Cut into 4-inch sections. Cut hotdog buns in half (or use mini hotdog buns). Assemble hotdogs topped with either mustard or drizzled honey.

Sausage Dip

Libba Herring

  • 1 lb. pork sausage
  • 10 oz. can Rotel tomatoes with chilies (reserve 1/4 cup liquid)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Fritos

Cook sausage: drain well. Stir together sausage, Rotel, liquid and cream cheese. Spoon into a lightly greased 8 x 8-inch dish. Top with Cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with Fritos.

Redneck Caviar

Dinah Motley

  • 2 cans black-eyed peas, drained
  • 2 cans shoepeg corn, drained
  • 2 cans Rotel tomatoes, drained
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 12 green onions, shopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. parsley flakes
  • 16 oz. bottle Zesty Italian dressing
  • 1 can black beans, drained (optional)

Mix all together in large container. Serve with Fritos or Tostado chips. Keeps in the refrigerator for long time.

Brown Sugar Wrapped Smokies

Ashley Herring

  • 2 ½ lb. bacon
  • 2 ½ lb. cocktail smoked sausage links
  • 2 ½ lb. light brown sugar
  • 2 ½ boxes round toothpicks
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut bacon into thirds and wrap each sausage. Place all wrapped sausages in a single layer in baking dish.

Mixed Nut Bars

Libba Herring

  • 1½ cups plain flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 12 oz. can Planter’s Salted Mixed Nuts
  • Topping
  • 6 oz. bag butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 cup white corn syrup
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Grease and flour a 9 x 13 dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together flour, sugar, salt and butter. Pat into bottom of dish. Bake for 10 minutes. Spread nuts over this.

Combine topping ingredients and warm on stovetop until chips are melted, stirring constantly. Pour over nuts and crust. Bake for 10 more minutes. Slice and serve when cool.

Beef Roast in Hawaiian Rolls with Whipped Cream Cheese and Pepper Jelly

Lynn Hammond

  • Hawaiian rolls
  • Whipped cream cheese
  • Pepper jelly
  • 1 chuck roast, cooked (recipe follows)
  • Slice roast and place in rolls with cream cheese and pepper jelly.
  • Chuck Roast in Crock-Pot
  • 4 lb. chuck roast
  • 1 oz. pkg. dry ranch seasoning
  • 1 oz. pkg. dry au jus gravy mix
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 jar pepperoncini or to taste

Place chuck roast in crock-pot. Add remaining ingredients. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Ham and Cheese Rolls With Poppy Seed Mustard Spread

Make the rolls the night before and refrigerate until ready to heat.

  • Slider buns or small party rolls
  • Shaved ham
  • Swiss cheese, sliced
  • 1 stick butter or margarine, softened
  • Dijon mustard, use about half the jar or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds

To prepare spread, mix together butter, Dijon mustard and poppy seeds. Slice rolls and spread with mustard mixture and fill with shaved ham and a small slice of Swiss cheese. Wrap rolls in foil and heat in a 300 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

These can be made ahead, refrigerated or frozen. If frozen, thaw before heating and allow extra time for cold rolls. Make the rolls the night before and refrigerate until ready to heat.

Crustless Spinach and Pesto Quiche

Elizabeth Whatley

  • 10 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup pesto (from a jar)
  • 5 eggs, slightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Press the excess moisture from spinach. Combine spinach, 1 1/2 cups cheese, cream, pesto and eggs in a bowl and mix well.

Pour the spinach mixture into a 9-inch pie pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until set.

Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over top; bake for 2 to 3 minutes longer or until cheese melts.

Peanut Butter Rice Krispies Treats

Dinah Motley

  • ¾ cup light corn syrup
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¾ cup peanut butter
  • 6 cups Rice Krispies

Heat syrup and sugar to boiling in heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Immediately remove from heat; stir in peanut butter until melted. Mix in Rice Krispies. Pour mixture into greased pan and let cool. Cut into squares.

These are great for putting into molds. I made these for my children’s classes while they were in elementary school. I put them in various molds and made eyes, noses, and buttons out of M&Ms.

Easy Italian Sausage Balls

Ashley Herring

  • 1¼ cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 lb. hot Italian sausage
  • 3 cups Bisquick
  • ¼ tsp. garlic

Mix ingredients and roll into small balls. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Can be frozen and reheated in microwave for 30 minutes. Serve with your favorite spaghetti or marinara sauce on side for dipping.

Mini Tomato Tarts

Judy Dickinson

  • 10 oz. can Rotel tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 3 oz. pkg. real bacon bits (prefer (Oscar Mayer soft ones, not hard ones)
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • Four 1.9 oz. pkg. mini phyllo shells

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine tomatoes, mayonnaise, bacon bits, and Swiss cheese.

Fill shells and bake 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature.

Jalapeno and Pimiento Squares

Susan Housel

  • 4 cups (16 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped, seeded jalapeno peppers (canned or from a jar)
  • 2 oz. jar diced pimiento, drained
  • 4 oz. can chopped green chilies

 Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir well. Spread mixture in a lightly sprayed 8-inch square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve immediately. (Can also be served chilled.) Makes 3 dozen.

Meatball Subs

  • Meatballs, homemade or purchased frozen
  • 1 jar pasta sauce
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Hoagie rolls

Warm meatballs in pasta sauce. Warm hoagie rolls or toast in oven. Fill rolls with meatballs and sauce. Top with shredded cheese. Bake or broil until cheese melts.

Teeny Tiny Tacos

  • 48 meatballs (purchased or made with favorite meatball recipe)
  • 48 Tostitos Scoops chips
  • 3 cups shredded lettuce
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 2 cups shredded cheese

Prepare meatballs according to recipe/directions on package. Arrange scoop chips on serving tray. Place tablespoon of shredded lettuce into scoops. Drop small spoon-size dollops of sour cream onto lettuce. 
Place prepared meatballs on top of sour cream. Top with salsa and shredded cheese. (Can change the order by putting salsa on lettuce and topping with sour cream and cheese.)

Red Pepper Hummus

  • 2 cans (15 oz.) garbanzo (chick) beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 jar (12 oz.) roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pita chips, fresh vegetables

Dry roasted peppers with paper towels. Add beans, peppers and remaining ingredients except chips and vegetables in a food processor or blender. Puree until smooth and creamy. Serve with pita chips and fresh vegetables.


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