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Football season has always been really big in my house. All the men in my family have been super loyal to either a specific college or professional team and followed their games religiously basically since I was born. Personally, I’ll be 100% honest, I’m not the biggest “sports” person, but I am a huge tradition person. Having the games going on a Sunday and making some great food to share with family and friends who come over to watch games with us is the one thing that actually helps me look forward to football season.
Since I am really big on tradition, it’s important for me to keep certain things alive, like tailgating, or grill-gating at home since honestly, these two little boys make it difficult to get to a live game over here. To me there’s nothing quite as magical as the feeling you get on a cool fall day when you smell the grill going and can hear crowds cheering for their home teams on the TV. It takes me back to my simple childhood days and getting the opportunity to recreate these special memories for my two little boys is something I truly live for.
Growing up, I learned to love certain teams and despise our enemies, so while I don’t always “get” the game, I know which team I want to win and have always had a blast planning outfits to support my team of choice (whomever it may be that day). While everyone else is getting into the game and screaming at the refs, you can find me happily in the kitchen, refilling chip bowls and creating some of my favorite savory snacks for us all to enjoy.
One of my go-to game day treats is Grilled Honey Garlic Wings. I recreated a recipe for these amazing wings, after having them at a 5-star resort on a trip to Key West. They were so amazing that I came home and immediately got to work mastering a dupe of those slightly sweet and oh-so-savory wings. You can make them at home too for your game day group following this simple recipe:
1 lb raw chicken drumettes (these are what I prefer, but you can also use regular wings)
1 cup honey + 1 Tbsp for finishing sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp white vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup olive oil
1 stick butter
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt & pepper
- Create a marinade for the wings by mixing honey, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, salt & pepper, and 2 tbsp of minced garlic
- Place wings in Glad® Press’n Seal bag and cover with marinade, let chill in fridge for 4-12 hours. (personally I always like to marinade them overnight, but getting started on the marinade first thing game day morning is totally fine) Glad Press’n Seal bags are by far the easiest and safest way to make sure you keep that marinade in the bag and not all over the shelf in your fridge.
- Get your grill going. You cannot replace the flavor of a charcoal grill, it adds such a great smokiness that really brings out the amazing flavors in this dish. Kingsford® Charcoal has always been a crucial part of my family’s game day traditions, forget tailgating it’s really all about the grill-gating. I grill my wings directly on the flame for 17-25 min per side (depending on heat of grill and if you’re “doming” it or not), to get a nice crispy coating on the skin.
- Finishing Touches. To add a whole lot of extra flavor, melt 1 stick of butter with 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tbsp honey and 1 tbsp minced garlic. This finishing sauce for the wings helps accent those grilled in flavors from the marinade and brings out all the flavors.
Sometimes family and friends decide last minute to join us for a game, so I always like to go above and beyond on the BIG game days just in case of company. Here are a few ways I get the house prepared for a tailgating party or grill-gating as we like to call it. 😉
Grab inexpensive football themed serving dishes. I love these football themed bowls and chip/dip trays. They come out every single game day. I also grabbed a few of these awesome giant “beer” mugs. We’re not really drinkers, but I love the sport’s bar feel of these mugs, we often just use them for soda, sundaes, floats & milkshakes to keep game day festive. (ps- If you’ve never tried a Dr Pepper® float you need to, like ASAP)
Decorate with Astroturf. Ok so I know it seems a little out of the box, but I found these little inexpensive rolls of astroturf at a craft store and got a few. Lining serving trays and using it as a centerpiece is a great way to bring the love of the game to your home decor without going overboard, let’s be honest we’re all just counting down the days to pull out our fall pumpkins anyway, right? If you can’t find any astroturf simple green tablecloths with team coordinated napkin/plate colors is another great and simple way to pump up the spirit of game day at home.
Always have extra. I basically live by the motto “it’s better to be over prepared than under” (see also: over-dressed), so on game day especially I’m sure to have all the fan favorites for my little league. We always have plenty of Dr Pepper to ensure no guests go thirsty. Y’all know I am a sucker for a theme and Dr Pepper actually has the cutest football themed cans and 2 liters right now, matching your drinks to the game day decor is totally essential, seriously.
Snacks over Meals. While most of the time I’m all about a dinner party style get together, on game days I like to prepare a few rounds of snacks throughout the day. Since all eyes are glued to the game, it’s hard to get everyone to sit down together for a full meal anyway, and little snacks are key to keeping everyone satisfied, making it super easy for anyone to grab a quick bite during an instant replay. One of the easiest ways to create a bunch of different snacks at the same time is to grab a few boxes of RITZ crackers and let your creativity flow. You can top RITZ crackers with basically anything for an out of this world snack experience. Some of my favorite combinations are: peanut butter, mini chocolate chips & fresh strawberry for my sweet tooth, and sharp cheddar with roast beef when I’m feeling savory. I also love to throw a simple veggie tray together with carrots, grape tomatoes, celery and Hidden Valley® Ranch, can never go wrong with veggies & ranch with football.
Team Colors. This one was weird one year when both teams at the big game had basically the exact same team colors, but aside from that for me a lot of the fun of tailgating parties is seeing all the cute and creative team themed outfits. If you don’t have a jersey or tee shirt, you can still easily support your team of choice by wearing version of their team colors. Sometimes I’ll grab a solid dress and accessorize with a belt or scarf with a team color, while other times I enjoy going all out in full on color-blocking team fandom madness. Anyway you do it, showing your support in your outfit is always a great way to get you into the friendly competitive spirit of the game.
My one stop shop for game-day is always Walmart, I can get all the essentials (plus a few things I probably don’t need, but need anyway) in one trip and always get the best prices on my favorite products.
I also love to keep the party going (because we all know that Sunday isn’t the only game day in the season) by storing my leftovers with Glad Press’n Seal and reheating them in the following days. My chicken wings stay good refrigerated up to 3 days after you make them, so they’ll last you from Monday to Thursday night football, easily. What are some of your game day traditions? Do you go all out like me with the grill-gating for company or keep it more low key? No matter what you do Dr Pepper, RITZ, and Kingsford® Charcoal are all essential to throwing the perfect tailgating experience. Use #GrillGatingHero & #GrillGating on Twitter & Instagram to be featured on the Grill-Gating website yourself! You can also check out this cool video featuring Emmitt Smith himself giving you grilling & tailgating tips for this football season.