Football parties have long been the domain of grilled meats and beer. Arrive at a tailgate and announce that you’re vegetarian, and you risk standing around with chips and salsa all afternoon. A Sunday afternoon game party or tailgating picnic should have a few nonmeat options, for the sake of the guests and for the sake of some waistlines.
Most tailgate parties already have guacamole, nachos, and salsa on the menu. Round out the game plan with Tex-Mex themed appetizers. Start with individual huevos rancheros in baked tortilla cups, squash quesadillas, all-bean chili, jalapeno poppers, and end with spiced hot chocolate.
Huevos rancheros begin with soft wheat tortillas, stamped into rounds, pressed into a muffin pan, and baked until firm. Fill the crisp shells with a soft scramble and garnish with salsa and scallions.
Veg-friendly chili, with tomatoes, bell and chili peppers, and kidney beans, has a meaty texture from the addition of bulgur. Soy sauce and red wine lend umami flavors, though no one will be able to pinpoint these ingredients. Prep all the customary toppings so guests can sprinkle scallions, fresh cilantro, avocado, shredded cheese, and plenty of hot sauce onto their bowls.
Grilled jalapeno poppers are less mess and fewer calories than their deep-fried counterparts. Goat cheese lends a zippy tang while remaining a subtle part of the mix. To pack these treats for a tailgate, first grill the peppers until they are soft. Cool and fill with the creamy cheese spread. Store them in the cooler and reheat at your site. For quesadillas, choose any variety of canned, pureed squash or pumpkin. Assemble quesadillas with Monterey Jack cheese and white beans, then warm them in a heavy skillet until the wedges are crisp.
Spend the fourth quarter sipping spiced hot chocolate, which can be waiting in a large thermos. A sprinkle of chili powder in each mug adds gentle heat, or spike the chocolate with a splash of rum or whiskey.
If you’re reluctant to tinker with your well-established and well-received Sunday game ritual, perhaps the next day you could combine two trends. Turn this menu into Meatless Monday Night Football.