Touchdown: Tasty tailgating treats to tantalize football fans

Chocolate and orange marbeling is the finishing touch to a pan of Hawkeye-themed cheesecake bars at the home of Nina Swan-Kohler in Robins on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017.  (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Chocolate and orange marbeling is the finishing touch to a pan of Hawkeye-themed cheesecake bars at the home of Nina Swan-Kohler in Robins on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Kick off the football season with tantalizing new foods to prepare and serve at your tailgate party this weekend. Football fans are among the most devoted, loyal and intense of any sport. As football fans tailgate, stadium parking lots across the country play host each weekend to some of the tastiest foods in America.

I have a passion for creating great-tasting foods for tailgating that is as fanatical as that of any football fan. I’m sure that many football fans will agree that preparing for the tailgate party is half the fun of attending the big game. Making most of the foods you’ll be serving at your tailgate party, ahead of time, is the best way to go. It makes it so much easier and less stressful. I have provided three recipes below that can be made ahead of the game. If you want to serve the salsa over brats or other meats, you’ll likely want to pack a portable grill so you can grill them at your party. Nothing says game-on like the aroma of tasty grilled brats or burgers.

Several years ago, I wrote and published a cookbook entitled “Tailgates to Touchdowns: Fabulous Football Foods.” It features recipes developed especially for football fans and tailgaters. I like to think that anyone can tackle these easy and tasty recipes developed specifically for football fans. Most of the recipes can be prepared in less than 30 minutes. My recipes have been thoroughly tested and written with clear, concise instructions to ensure success every time. I’ve included a recipe from my book and some newly created recipes just for Hawkeye Fans. I’ve also included some tips or extra points to help you have success.

The recipes are sure to win compliments from your fellow football fans. Call a penalty if the crowd huddles too close to the serving platter!

Whether you’re having a party on your patio or at the stadium, you’ll want to make these fabulous new football foods throughout the season. Tailgating is Americana at its best. So, pick your spot, open the tailgate and set up the chairs. It’s football season.


Pregame Pinwheels

Makes 24 pinwheels.

Bake these spiral biscuits ahead of time and pack them in a heat-and-tote food carrier to keep warm.

3 cups buttermilk baking mix (Pioneer Brand recommended)

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves (or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves)

1 cup milk

3 tablespoons bottled Caesar or Ranch salad dressing

3/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese or finely shredded mozzarella cheese

Garlic salt

1 jar (14 ounce) prepared pizza sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large bowl, stir together baking mix, basil and milk to form a stiff dough.


Turn out onto surface dusted with flour; knead 10 times. Roll out dough into a 12-inch by 9-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Spread with salad dressing; sprinkle with cheese. Beginning with long side, roll up one half of dough toward the center (like a jelly roll). Roll remaining half toward center.

Cut down the center to make 2 rolls. Cut each roll into 12 slices; place slices on baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle slices with garlic salt.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until pinwheels are golden brown.

Meanwhile, heat pizza sauce until hot. Serve warm pinwheels with pizza sauce for dipping.

Extra Points

1. For quick and easy cutting of biscuit dough, use a piece of clean dental floss. Simply wrap the floss around the dough, cross over and pull in opposite directions.

2. Place these baked pinwheels, wrapped in foil, on a gas or charcoal grill to warm at your tailgate, if desired.

3. Purchased pizza sauce makes this appetizer a snap to prepare. Heat it at home, then pour into a thermos to keep it warm until serving.

Source: Nina Swan-Kohler

Hawkeye Black and Gold Salsa

Serve this as a topping over your favorite grilled meats or an appetizer with tortilla chips.

1 can (15 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can (15 ounce) corn, drained

1 cup seeded and diced cucumber (1 medium)

1 medium tomato, seeded and diced

1/2 cup chopped scallion tops

1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)

2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon canola oil

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pureed chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

In medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for several hours to blend flavors.

Serve over grilled pork, smoked bratwursts, grilled chicken or salmon. Or, serve with tortilla chips.

Extra Points

1. Be sure the rinse the black beans or you may have a muddy-looking salsa.

2. Chipotle peppers are roasted jalapenos that adds a nice smoky flavor, but be careful ... a little goes a long way.

3. Make a double batch of this recipe and serve it as a side salad.

Source: Nina Swan-Kohler

Iowa Hawkeye Cheesecake Swirl Bars

Makes 24 bars.

1 white cake mix (15 1/4 ounce)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 large egg

2/3 cup milk, plus 4 extra teaspoons (divided)

1/8 teaspoon yellow/gold gel food color

Zest of 1 orange

2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder

12 ounce cream cheese, softened (1 1/2 8 ounce packages)

1/3 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degree. Line a 9 x 13-inch pan with non-stick aluminum foil or parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray; set aside.


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In a mixer bowl, combine cake mix, melted butter, 1 egg and 2/3 cup milk. Beat on low speed until smooth. The mixture will be a thick batter.

Equally divide the batter into 2 bowls (about 2 cups each). Add gold food gel and orange zest to one bowl; stir to combine. Add cocoa to remaining batter; stir to combine. Scoop tablespoons of gold and “black” chocolate dough into bottom of pan, alternating colors as you go. (Reserve 1 tablespoon colored batter in each bowl; set aside.

When you have filled the pan, spray your hands with cooking spray and slightly press down on the batter balls to flatten. Add 2 teaspoons milk to each of the reserved gold and “black” batters to make a thinner batter; stir until smooth; set aside.

Meanwhile, in mixer bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar. Add egg and vanilla extract; beat until smooth. Pour over cake batter balls. Drizzle the thinned out colored batter over filling in a decorative design, then swirl using a spoon.

Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Cover pan with aluminum foil to keep top from browning. Bake another 15 to 20 minutes or until top is nearly set. Cool at room temperature for about an hour, then refrigerate for at 1 hour.

When ready to serve, cut into 24 bars. Pack these in a chill-and-tote food carrier to keep cool.

Extra Points

1. Use a football cookie cutter to cut out football shapes instead of bars.

2. To create the design pictured, place gold and black thinned out batters into separate plastic bags. Cut a tip on one corner; pipe on lines of gold and black lines. Then take a wooden pick and drag through every inch or so, reversing your direction each time.

Source: Nina Swan-Kohler

Nina Swan-Kohler of Robins is a professional home economist, recipe developer, cookbook author and cooking school instructor. She teaches cooking classes and offers team-building cooking classes out of her home. She is author of “Tailgates to Touchdowns.” For more information about her book or classes visit or contact her at

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