By Chris Rich, Vice President of Development, GIG
Everyone loves summer and the certain “freedoms” that it brings with it. Freedom from school for the kids. Freedom from work when on summer vacation. Freedom from your house when there is not three feet of snow on the ground. So, when the calendar flips to September and the introduction to the fall months, I am, like most people, upset to see the change in seasons.
But secretly, I’m also a little giddy. You see, the fall season for us followers of professional and college football means the start of a new year for our favorite teams. Our gridiron heroes have been off the field of competition for eight to nine months and the coming of September means that during the next three months of the year, our weekends will be filled with enough highs and lows to make up for that lengthy absence during winter, spring, and summer. All fans are full of optimism and will tell you multiple reasons as to why their team is going to win the championship this year, even if you didn’t ask them to share this information.
I went to college at one of the powerhouses of college football so, for me, watching or attending games on a fall Saturday is a given ritual. My wife has grown to accept and embrace this fact and we affectionately call fall our “social season.” It is when our friends who we went to college with come back to town and we have a chance to re-live our glory days on campus. It is when I get to take my kids to the games and introduce them to the traditions that I have known for over 20 years. And finally, a personal favorite of mine, it is a time to go to tailgate parties and see the ideas that people have been thinking about for nine months come to fruition.
Tailgating is as much a part of the football experience as the game itself. The art of parking your vehicle and setting up a full spread of inspired food options takes on a life of its own in some locations. I have been fortunate enough to “hit the road” and visit several different stadiums when following my team. At each locale we go to, tailgating is both unique and beloved. From fields filled with RV’s as far as the eye can see, to campus green spaces being transformed into tent cities, it is an exercise of one-upmanship. But no matter the size, be it a catered event under a giant canopy or a simple card table against the back bumper of your car, tailgating is all about the food.
Themes of tailgate food vary depending on the region where you are watching the game. Down in the Bayou, crawfish and shrimp boils are the norm. In Wisconsin, cheese and brats are a staple. And what’s a Texas tailgate party without beef? No matter the geographic location, the person throwing the tailgate party has put tremendous effort and thought into what they are providing and the guests are happy to help themselves to these delights.
But what about someone on a gluten-free diet? Unless you are at a very specialized tailgate event, much of the food and beverage served contains gluten. For people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, cross-contamination risks are abundant as numerous guests help themselves. Does this mean you should miss out on the chance to socialize and trash-talk the other team with fellow fans? Absolutely not. Here are some tips that I have come up with to turn a great fall afternoon into an even better tailgating experience.
No matter where you are tailgating, at a college venue or outside a professional stadium, beverages are aplenty. Walking through a main tailgate area will allow you to see armies of people holding Solo cups filled with their drink of choice. At times, these cups will contain coffee (for early morning kickoffs) and soft drinks, but the majority of them have an adult beverage of some type. If you are gluten-free, bring your own certified gluten-free beer with you to the tailgate. Pour it into a Solo cup and enjoy the pre-game festivities.
2. Pre-arrange with your host
Chances are that when you go to a tailgate, you know the person who is hosting the event. Reach out to that person earlier in the week and remind them of the safety measures that you need to follow and see if there’s something they can do for you. Whether it be a bag of gluten-free snacks or a side dish in a separate container put aside just for you, the host is usually very accommodating. Yes, there are those times where you are going as a friend of a friend of a friend but, in that situation, take the opportunity to teach someone new about living gluten-free.
3. Bring your own tongs and aluminum foil
The grill is the quintessential cooking area for many tailgates. Whether it be connected to a huge RV or a small portable version, you will see wafts of smoke and smell savory aromas throughout a tailgate parking lot. While many traditional grilled items are gluten-free, you can never be certain what someone else has placed on their grill. To create a more safe environment for you, bring your own set of tongs and make sure that the host has aluminum foil. Ask the grill-master for five minutes, put your foil on their grill, and use your own tongs to create your perfect gluten-free grilled burger or brat.
4. Have your own GF tailgate!
Why should someone else have all the fun? If you have the means, create and host your own tailgate party! Invite your friends and introduce them to wonderful gluten-free recipes and share a certified gluten-free beverage with them. It’s a great way to make sure that you are not getting cross-contaminated and an excellent opportunity to show others how good gluten-free food can be.
Where are the best places to tailgate? According to Bleacher Report here are the top 10 tailgate venues in college football (ranked in 2014).
Tennessee – Knoxville, TN
Ole Miss – Oxford, MS
LSU – Baton Rouge, LA
Texas A&M – College Station, TX
Florida – Gainesville, FL
South Carolina – Columbia, SC
Michigan – Ann Arbor, MI
Georgia – Athens, GA
Nebraska – Lincoln, NE
Penn State – State College, PA
Recipe by Kaylee Hance
6 oz cream cheese
One 14oz can artichoke hearts, chopped
1/2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 Tbsp chopped rosemary
1 cup chopped spinach
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
3-6 cloves chopped garlic or 1 Tbsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp crushed gluten-free corn flakes
Coat baking pan with oil.
Mix together cream cheese, artichokes, parsley, rosemary, spinach, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
Fill mushrooms with mixture and then add crushed corn flakes on top.
Bake at 350 for about 10-12 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.
Pulled Pork Tacos
Recipe by Patrick Hurst
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp ground black pepper
1 – 4 pound boneless pork shoulder trimmed of excess fat
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup coleslaw
barbecue sauce of choice
1 bag corn tortillas
Combine 2 Tbsp of brown sugar, 1 Tbsp salt, ½ Tbsp ground black pepper with additional spices and rub the spices into the pork shoulder.
Whisk remainder of ingredients in a small bowl and add to the slow cooker with the pork shoulder. Be sure to coat pork shoulder with liquid when added.
Place lid on slow cooker and cook on medium for approximately 8 hours, until the meat is tender. Remove from slow cooker, shred with a fork and set aside.
In a small non-stick pan, warm tortillas until soft and pliable. Add in meat filling to tortillas with coleslaw and approximately half a tablespoon of barbecue sauce. Serve immediately or wrap in tinfoil to take to the game.
Sausage Cheese Balls
Recipe by Katie Rich
8 oz cheddar cheese – freshly grated
1 lb. roll of spicy sausage (I use Bob Evans)
2 cups all purpose gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Splash of milk
Grate cheese and mix well into sausage with hands.
Add dry ingredients and work dough hard until crumbly.
Add small dash of milk and work more until it forms into dough.
Use large cookie scoop or roll 1 1/2” balls and place on foil lined jelly roll pan.
Bake at 375 degrees for 25 – 35 minutes until browned.
Yield: 30 2” balls.