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Tailgating swaps: Try some healthier options for your next game day

By ALETHEA PRICE

Boyle County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences

Are you ready for some football? Fall is exciting for many reasons, but one of the best would be tailgating. There’s something so magical about finger foods and football — they’re a match made in heaven. I’m down for any reason to break out some buffalo chicken dip or pigs in a blanket.

Do your guests a favor by serving some healthier options at your next event. Healthier options don’t have to be difficult or flavorless. A smarter tailgating menu is easy — but it does take a little planning. Here are some easy swaps that skimp on calories but not on flavor:

• Marinated grilled chicken vs. fried chicken wings: This matchup is an easy trade since you still get to have a tasty meat dish at the party. Boneless, skinless chicken can be marinated in advance and takes practically no time to cook on a hot grill. You can marinate chicken in a spicy sauce and still cut calories by grilling instead of frying.

• Turkey sliders vs. bratwurst: Everybody loves brats because they taste good, right? Well that delicious flavor comes from fat. Turkey sliders have loads of flavor, minus the fat. Turkey is a lean meat that makes a mean burger. Toast slider buns on the grill for a tasty crunch.

• Homemade pizza vs. take-out pizza: Sure, it’s easy to enjoy the convenience of a pizza delivered right to your door. Trust me, I’m a fan, but remember my motto — “everything in moderation.” A healthier option that isn’t much of a stretch is making pizza at home. I like to use a whole wheat tortilla as the crust and top with any fresh veggies I have on hand. Red bell peppers and jalapeños always make the cut. Toast those in a 400-degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until the tortilla is crispy and the cheese is melty. This is a personal pan pizza sure to please.

• Chips and salsa vs. nachos with cheese: OK, let’s be real, I’m not going to be the one to turn down liquid cheese. But when it comes to a tailgating party, it’s likely that there will be cheese in some form on the menu, so don’t worry. Chips and salsa is a great alternative since the need for cheese will probably be satisfied by another dish such as…

• Caprese skewers vs. cocktail wieners: Fresh mozzarella cheese plus cherry tomatoes plus basil all drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette equals a super fresh flavor party on a stick. Simple math never tasted so good. Did I mention there is cheese involved?

• Hummus and pita chips vs. potato chips: Tailgating is all about finger foods, with the most popular being chips and dips. Aside from chips and salsa, the newest most delicious trend straight out of the Mediterranean is hummus with pita chips. Commonly made with chickpeas, hummus is a protein-packed bean spread that goes well with just about anything. Try serving with toasted whole grain pita chips for a fiber-filled snack.

• Sweet potato chili vs. beef chili: I know it must sound crazy, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Sweet potato chili is an exciting new twist on a crowd favorite. It’s just as filling, just as flavorful, and packed with nutrients such as beta-carotene.

Desserts can be made to support your favorite sports teams by making fruit kabobs with team colors. Blueberries and banana slices can be used to make a UK or Danville Admirals-themed skewer. Blackberries and pineapple chunks can show team spirit for the Boyle County Rebels. Feel free to get creative with any fruits to make a healthy dessert for your tailgating party.

It’s possible that you may be having a tailgate party in a stadium parking lot instead of your living room, in which case, please remember to stay food-safe.

No matter where you are, try to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Keep raw meats separate from raw vegetables and always use clean cooking and serving utensils. Be sure to wrap leftovers properly and store accordingly.

Autumn sweet potato chili

1 can (15 ounce) sweet potatoes (do not drain)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 jar (16 ounce) salsa

2 cans (15 ounce) black beans (do not drain)

Water to achieve desired consistency

1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream (optional)

Shredded sharp cheese to garnish (optional)

Dried or fresh chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

1. Combine sweet potatoes with liquid, chili powder, and salsa in a large saucepan.

2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook until thoroughly hot, stirring as needed.

3. Add beans with liquid and cook another 3 minutes to blend flavors.

4. Thin with water if needed. Heat through.

5. Serve with sour cream, cheese and cilantro on the side.

Makes 8 servings

Serving size: 1 cup

Turkey sliders

Yield: 12 sliders; serving size = 1 slider

1½ pound ground turkey

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

2 tablespoons each fresh basil and oregano, chopped

1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, minced (optional)

Dash salt (optional)

12 small whole-wheat rolls

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, mix thoroughly. Pat into small circles; grill until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Serve on mini whole-wheat rolls; if unavailable, cut whole-wheat sub buns into halves instead. Add your favorite toppings. Spinach, spicy mustard, banana peppers, and red onions make great additions.

If you have questions or comments about the column, or if you’d like more information feel free to contact me by email at a.price@uky.edu