Serve Make-Ahead Dishes For Tailgating On The Plains

Marinated Cheese with Olive Oil, Pimento and Green Onion Topping has been a popular tailgate dish for Janet and Randy Bartlett. They also serve it during the holidays, and the marinade is good for dipping bread. PHOTO BY ANN CIPPERLY / FOR THE OBSERVER


During fall months in East Alabama, life for many folks revolves around Auburn Tigers’ football with plenty of good food for tailgating on game days. Since Saturday’s game against Penn State kicks off at 2:30 p.m., plan on serving a variety of hearty dishes for lunch. Whether tailgating on the Plains or watching the Tigers at home with friends, relax and enjoy the party with scrumptious dishes that can be prepared ahead.

As I was looking through files this past week for make-ahead appetizers, two caught my attention that are unusual, as they both have sauces for marinating slices of cheese. One is Marinated Cheese with Olive Oil, Pimento and Green Onion Topping from Janet Bartlett, and the other is Julia Pipes’ Marinated Cheese with Italian Seasonings.

Both these recipes use sliced cheese that is cut in a square to fit on a cracker. To save time look for packages of assorted sliced cheeses, including cheddar, Havarti, Monterey Jack or Colby. Then you can cut the slices in halves or thirds. Arrange the slices alternately in a dish with the slices standing on edge. Pour the marinade over the cheese and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When serving, carefully remove the slices to a dish and pour the marinade on top. While the olive oil is flavored from the topping ingredients, next time I make it I may not pour all of the oil over the cheese. It will depend on the serving dish, whether it is flat or curved to contain the oil. Keep this in mind if you are putting it on a flat platter, as the oil will spread.

Both of these marinated cheese recipes create a tasty and easy appetizer. You will want to use the cheeses listed and not a highly flavored cheese.

Janet and her husband Randy Bartlett were the original owners of Cock of the Walk in Opelika, and Janet was a church hostess at Trinity Methodist years ago. Randy’s sister made the marinated cheese for a tailgate, and it became popular for tailgating every fall.

“It is pretty for the holidays, too,” Janet said. “We love cheese, and the marinade is also good for dipping bread.”

The popular Cock of the Walk served catfish and cornbread in an iron skillet. The servers would ask customers if they would like them to flip the cornbread. Some would try to do tricks with the cornbread and flip it across the room.

The site of the restaurant is now where Botanic is located, which recently opened.

While spreads and dips are popular, try serving them in a hollowed-out round loaf of bread. It makes it easy to carry and serve. This will work with most spreads whether they are baked or chilled. Kay Johnson gave me a recipe years ago for one that is baked with cheddar, cream cheese, a jar of dried beef and green chilies. Just remember that any spread with meat cannot be served safely after being at room temperature for two hours.

If you try a spread in a hollowed loaf, you can serve it with bread cubed from the loaf, Fritos or crackers.

For hearty fare, serve sliders that are easy to pick up to eat. A delicious choice is Cherry Bruce’s Roast Beef with Horseradish Spread, with the roast and sauce made a day ahead. The chuck roast is seasoned, wrapped tightly in foil and baked until tender. Then it is sliced and refrigerated until ready to assemble into Sister Shubert’s dinner rolls. The spread is easy to prepare by mixing two ingredients: prepared horseradish and good mayonnaise.

Two delicious chicken sliders are Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sliders and Dr. Ellen Roya’s recipe for Slow Cooker Shredded Barbecue Chicken. Both of these recipes can be prepared the day ahead and slowly simmer all day in their sauce. These are also quickly assembled.

For a touch of fall, serve Jennifer Jones’ Pumpkin Dip with pecans, cinnamon, cloves and pumpkin pie spice. Serve it with apple slices and ginger snaps. The recipe is easy to double or triple.

Ashley Herring’s Pumpkin Squares with Cream Cheese Frosting is another sweet choice with fall flavors.

When tailgating, be sure to pack food in coolers, and it is better to replenish trays instead putting everything out at once. Watch that food doesn’t stay at room temperature for more than two hours. Clear covers are handy for keeping insects away from food. Always pack plenty of bottled water to prevent dehydration, as fall days are still hot.

Under the eye of the tiger this Saturday, invite friends to join in a festive tailgate before kickoff. When the long-standing tradition of the eagle takes flight around the stadium, it may take your breath away.

War Eagle!

Marinated Cheese with Olive Oil, Pimento and Green Onion Topping

Janet Bartlett

Randy’s sister made this for our tailgate, and now it is a must every fall. It is pretty for the holidays too. We love cheese, and the marinade is also good for dipping bread.

½ cup olive oil

½ white wine vinegar 

2 oz. bottle diced pimento, drained

3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

3 Tbsp. minced green onions

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. sugar

3/4 tsp. dried basil

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. black pepper

8 oz. cheddar cheese

8 oz. cold cream cheese, Havarti or Monterey Jack cheese


Mix all ingredients except cheese in a jar and shake vigorously to blend. Set aside.

Cut the block of cheddar cheese into half lengthwise. Cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices to form squares. Repeat with cream cheese or other cheese.

Arrange cheese alternately in a shallow dish with slices standing on edge. Pour marinade over cheese. Refrigerate at least 6 hours.

To serve, carefully remove cheese from marinade, then pour the marinade on top. Serve with crackers.

Marinated Cheese with Italian Seasonings

Julia Pipes

1 (16-oz.) pkg. sliced variety of cheeses (cheddar, Monterey Jack and Colby)

1 pkg. Good Season’s Zesty Italian dressing mix

Balsamic vinegar

Grape seed oil or other salad oil

1 cup green onions and tops, thinly sliced

½ cup chopped parsley

Prepare dressing as directed on package using balsamic vinegar and grapeseed oil. In a shallow serving dish, layer sliced cheeses in 3 rows, alternating cheddar, Jack and Colby cheeses. Slices are usually rectangular, so I cut each one in half to make a square that will fit easily on a cracker.

Once the serving dish is full, pour dressing over top of cheese. Sprinkle green onion and parsley over dressing. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve with a variety of crackers.

Pumpkin Dip with Pecans

Jennifer Jones

Two 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

½ cup light brown sugar

1/4 cup pumpkin (canned pure pumpkin), packed

2/3 cup toasted chopped pecans

1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1 Tbsp. vanilla

2 Tbsp. marshmallow crème

Apple slices and ginger snaps for serving

Mix all ingredients except apple slices and ginger snaps. Chill overnight.

Serve with apple slices and ginger snaps. Recipe is easy to double or triple.

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Sliders

6-7 boneless chicken breasts

1 medium size onion, diced

½ stick butter, cut in pieces

½ tsp. black pepper

½ tsp. garlic powder

½ tsp. celery salt

1 pkg. dry ranch dressing mix

1 ½ cups hot wing sauce, divided

1 pkg. provolone or Swiss cheese slices

1 pkg. King’s Hawaiian dinner rolls

Bleu cheese dressing or ranch dressing, optional

Shredded lettuce

Spray a slow cooker with nonstick spray. Place diced onion in bottom. Place chicken on top of onion. Sprinkle black pepper, garlic powder, celery salt and ranch dressing mix on chicken. Place pats of butter on chicken.

Pour 1 cup of the hot wing sauce over all. Reserve the other ½ cup for later. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low for 6 to 7 hours.

Remove chicken and shred it with two forks. Keep about 1 cup of liquid the chicken cooked in, and place the shredded chicken back in it in the slow cooker. Pour the reserved ½ cup of wing sauce over chicken and mix together.

Place a slice of provolone on each roll and then the chicken. Top with shredded lettuce and dressing of your choice or serve plain.

Slow Cooker Shredded Barbecue Chicken

Dr. Ellen Royal

Serve on rolls.

1½ lb. skinned and boned chicken thighs

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 cup ketchup

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp. cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. yellow mustard

1 tsp. ground red pepper

½ tsp. minced garlic

Brown chicken on each side in oil in skillet on medium-high heat. Place in 4-qt. slow cooker.

Combine remaining ingredients; pour over chicken. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce heat and cook 5 to 6 hours.

Remove chicken; shred. Return chicken to sauce.

Spoon chicken and sauce onto buns if choice and top with dill pickle slices, if desired.

Roast Beef with Horseradish Spread in Rolls

Cherry Bruce

2 sheets aluminum foil

5 lb. chuck roast, room temperature

2 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. Cavender’s AP Greek seasoning          

Sister Shubert Dinner Rolls

Horseradish-Mayonnaise Sauce:

1 to 2 heaping Tbsp. purchased horseradish sauce

1 to 2 heaping Tbsp. good mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking pan with one sheet of foil. Coat second sheet of foil with cooking spray. Place roast in the middle. Sprinkle all sides of roast with salt and then Cavender’s seasoning.

Wrap roast like a gift, folding one side over, and then the next until it looks like a package. Place on baking sheet.

Bake for 2 ½ hours, then reduce temperature to 300 degrees and cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Remove from oven and allow to rest. Slice into small chunks.

Combine purchased horseradish sauce and mayonnaise.

Spread sauce on dinner rolls. Add roast beef for making sandwiches.

To prepare ahead, cool roast and make sauce. Store both roast and sauce in refrigerator. When ready to serve, warm roast in oven and bake rolls. Assemble rolls as directed.

Layered Mexican Spread

Margaret Clark

1 can refried beans

McCormick bacon flavored pieces

1 small can sliced black olives, drained

3 large avocados

2 to 3 Tbsp. lemon juice

Garlic salt

1 cup sour cream

1 small jar Pace thick and chunky medium salsa

8 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese

8 oz. grated Monterey Jack cheese

Assorted toppings

Bite-size tortilla chips

On a serving dish, place the ring of a spring-form pan. Spread a can of refried beans on the bottom of the dish within the sides of the spring-form pan. (Can prepare with bottom in pan and transfer to serving dish.)

Sprinkle bacon flavored chips over beans, using sparely. Next, sprinkle black olives.

Mash avocados, adding lemon juice and garlic salt to taste. Spread over olives, and then cover with sour cream and salsa (may need to drain some of juice). Sprinkle cheese over salsa.

Decorate top in a pie wedge pattern using chopped green onions, chopped tomatoes (drained and seeded), green peppers, red peppers and yellow peppers.

Creamy Cheese and Beef Loaf

Kay Johnson

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1½ cups sour cream

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

1 bunch green onions, chopped

2 oz. jar dried beef, torn into small pieces

4 oz. can diced green chilies

2 oz. jar chopped pimento

1 loaf round bread

Slice off top of a round loaf of bread and hollow out to form a shell. Combine remaining ingredients and place in bread. Place top back on loaf and wrap in foil. Bake 350 degrees for 1½ hours. Serve with Fritos.

Sausage and Cheese Baked in Round Loaf

Lynn Hammond

1 lb. mild pork sausage

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

1 can Rotel, slightly drained

8 oz. sour cream

2 – 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided

1 large oval or round loaf unsliced bread

Toasted bread slices or corn chips

Brown sausage; drain well. Add cream cheese, Rotel, sour cream and 1 cup of the shredded cheddar cheese. Mix well. Cut around the top of bread loaf and scoop out the center of bread loaf, saving bread to use as dippers, if desired.

Pour sausage mixture into the hollowed out bread loaf and sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese on top of loaf. Place loaf on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with toasted bread slices or corn chips. Can prepare sausage and cheese mixture ahead.

Tailgate Antipasto Squares

Ellen Canada

Inspired by a recipe from Terri Neighbors

2 cans crescent rolls

About ½ lb. sliced ham

About ½ lb. sliced turkey


Swiss cheese slices

Provolone cheese slices

1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped

2 eggs

Shredded Parmesan cheese

Unroll 1 can crescent rolls (do not tear apart) and place in bottom of greased 9×13 pan. Place a layer of sliced ham in bottom of pan, then layer Swiss cheese, turkey, provolone, pepperoni and then peppers.

Beat eggs with Parmesan cheese and pour over layers. Top with second can of crescent rolls (do not tear apart). Brush remains of egg mixture on top.

Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes. Cut into squares.

Pumpkin Squares

Ashley Herring

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups flour

1/8 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

15 oz. can pumpkin

Mix together eggs, sugar and oil. Add sifted dry ingredients. Blend in pumpkin. Bake in a greased 12 x 18-inch pan for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and spread Cream Cheese Frosting on top.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

½ cup soft butter

1 box confectioners’ sugar

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup chopped walnuts

Mix and spread over cooled pumpkin cake. Cut into squares and serve.

Butterscotch Brownies

2 sticks butter

1 box light brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

2 cups self-rising flour

1 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat butter until fluffy. Add brown sugar and vanilla; cream together. Add eggs one at a time, beating well. Mix nuts with flour until coated. Add flour and nuts to batter; blend well. Pour into a greased 11-by-7-inch pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until done. Cool in pan. Cut into squares and serve. Freezes well.


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