slow cooker party mix

It’s fourth and goal on the two-yard line with three seconds to play in the third quarter. My team has the ball and they’re down by six. While not a do or die situation, the next play could prove pivotal in the ongoing pursuit of momentum. They’ve elected to pass up an easy three points with a chip-shot field goal and go for a touchdown. This decision is either going to be genius or disastrous. Just before the play clock winds down to zero, a time out is called. I reach my hand into the closest bowl for a quick snack. PENALTY! The bowl is empty. How could this be? I’m hungry and it’s only the third quarter! Personal party foul, on the host, 15 yards, automatic first down (in this situation, I’m not really sure what a “first down” would be, but I committed to this metaphor, so doggone it, I’m seeing it through).

The Super Bowl, while not officially recognized, is a de facto national holiday that revolves around the biggest football game of the year. There’s pomp. There’s circumstance. There’s a concert. There are commercials. There’s the Puppy Bowl. There are friendly wagers (nothing illegal, I hope). And, of course, like any other major holiday, there are parties. These parties, due to their raison d’etre are a bit different in that the game isn’t just playing in the background, it’s the show! Therefore, it’s all but guaranteed that many guests will be at your party for the long haul, often arriving during pre-game festivities and staying through all the intros, the halftime show, the end of the game, and, maybe even some of the trophy presentation and post-game hoopla. Because of the event’s length, there’s an undue amount of pressure on the host to ensure that guests are not wanting for sustenance.

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As I wrote in a recent article, the secret to throwing a wildly successful party lies 70 percent in making sure your guests are satisfied and satiated (i.e. fully fed) and 30 percent in making sure your guests are entertained (i.e. have fun). Additionally, I also believe quality hosting is predicated on ensuring you never run out of food. For a marathon fete, this means making sure you adopt an endurance mindset and let your snack game lead you to victory. The following lays out a solid strategy to make sure your guests’ cravings are covered for the duration.

Cooking and Beer

Depending on how you set up the day, you might have guests arriving a couple hours before kickoff. This preserves ample visit time and pool setup (again, nothing illegal, of course) so as to allow for focused and attentive game-watching. If that’s the case, you’re going to want to have something out. You could chance it that folks won’t be ready to eat upon arrival, but it’s risky. After all, it’ll probably be several hours since lunch/brunch and folks are likely to be on the cusp of hunger. As a result, something to nosh on is the safest bet. I’d recommend a fruit and veggie platter (“For your health,” as the fictional Dr. Steve Brule would say), an assortment of sweet and savory dips (clearly not for your health), and chips, popcorn, nuts, and/or trail/Chex mix. Here are three things you might want to try this year:

  1. Chili cheese dip. My sister-in-law makes this stuff and it’s phenomenal. Try this recipe here.
  2. Creamy fruit dip. A lot of dips go great with veggies. This one works with fruit. Try this recipe here.
  3. Puppy chow. Sweet trail mix? Yes, please! This article has all sorts of great Chex Mix ideas, and puppy chow is number seven.

Love Grows Wild

You’ll probably want to put out some sort of main course for dinner right before kickoff because you won’t want to distract from the game, and it would be unreasonable to wait until halftime. Different from other major holidays, no one expects a massive meal. Besides, they’ve probably been chowing down on your pre-game snacks already, so they shouldn’t be famished. You might be thinking of making a roast, a lasagna, or another large meal, but before you do, keep in mind that the Super Bowl is more a grazing holiday. It’s not Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or the Fourth of July. It’s not a holiday where you teeter on the cusp of uncomfortable, beached on the couch falling in and out of sleep. It’s a day where you engage with others, watch the game, laugh at the commercials, and analyze the halftime performance, so that’s what your guests expect. You want to leave them satisfied, but not stuffed. You also want something that does not require you to be in kitchen (preparing or cleaning up) in the midst of your party. If you’re looking for solid options, check out my recent article on team-inspired dishes here.

Now, the game is going to take a while. According to The Verge, the average Super Bowl lasts an average of 3 hours and 44 minutes (this decade). To put this in perspective, that’s roughly the time between breakfast and lunch. I bring this up to hammer home the point that folks are likely to be hungry somewhere after halftime if you take the satisfied-but-not-full route for dinner. Because you’re a solid host, you likely don’t want your guests leaving hungry. To account for this, there are three things to consider.

First, you might want to think about what my friend Andrew calls “snack-friendly meals” for dinner. SFMs are built for endurance because they can be prepared ahead of time, left out, and grazed on for hours. For meat, ham is great because it can be enjoyed warm, on its own, or cold, on a sandwich. Slow cooker dishes like chili and pulled pork work well too. Second, you’ll likely want to put out snack-type desserts at halftime. Think cookies, bars, and brownies over cakes and pies. Things people can grab and eat with their fingers, on the couch, without having to worry about knives, or forks, or plates, while watching the game are encouraged. Third, you’re going to want to replenish some of the pre-dinner snacks. Always make sure you have full bowls of chips, popcorn, nuts, and/or trail/Chex Mix. If someone reaches into a bowl that once housed trail mix for a late-third-quarter snack, they better come out with a handful. Otherwise? Penalty!

As you may have noticed, food is important for your Super Bowl party. But, unlike Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or even a Saturday night dinner party, the food need not be extravagant. What’s important is that it’s available and plentiful from start to finish. Grazing is encouraged, and longevity and endurance are highly valued on this day. There’s still going to be a lot of food, but there probably isn’t going to be a huge, heavy meal. Because of this, snacks are crucial for this party, perhaps more than any other you throw. Enjoy the game. With the right snack strategy, your guests will!

To celebrate Super Bowl LIII on CBS, Chowhound is joining with CBS Sports, TV Guide, and CNET for a prize package giveaway that includes an LG OLED 65-inch TV (courtesy of Daily Steals), a 6.5 Liter Air Fryer, and $125 in gift cards for CBS All Access. Enter to win before 3:30 p.m PT on February 3, 2019!

Related Video: How to Make the Perfect Dip for Your Super Bowl Party

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Greg is a Chicago guy who likes to cook, dine, and help others navigate their food choices. Why? Because food is an integral part of our lives, he's the best version of himself when he's well fed, and he wants to help others more consistently make a routine activity into something special. When he's not writing, he's watching sports, searching out ways to laugh, offering unsolicited-yet-rational positions on social media, handling the domestic responsibilities of a husband and dad, and figuring out his next meal.
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