No Sweat Game-Time Gathering



From Family Features

Sports fans know that the best game-watch gatherings offer a winning combination of camaraderie and great food. Celebrity chef Sandra Lee says the role of a host is a bit like that of the coach. When strategizing for the big showdown, it's a fine balance of preparation, discipline and spirit that ultimately yields a successful gathering. Start with a playbook that's heavy on convenient, make-ahead dishes.

"My secret to winning game-time entertaining is semi-homemade cooking. Take a no-sweat approach by combining convenient store-bought or ready-made ingredients with fresh and creative personal touches. It's my secret for delivering easy, delicious dishes that spectators love," Lee says.

Although the menu may not call for a sit-down meal, the spread should still provide the fuel spectators need to survive into overtime. Smaller, handheld servings of protein-packed favorites, such as Home on the Ranch Pork Sliders and Show-Stopping Barbecue Shrimp Skewers will help satisfy big appetites.

Lee's recipe for Benchwarmer Artichoke Ranch Dip offers a creative twist on a classic baked dip with extra tangy zip thanks to a packet of ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix.

For a game day gathering that's easy on the host while still delivering all the good food and fun guests expect, Lee suggests a few easy tips:

  • No Interference. In the heat of the action, spectators need free hands for clapping and high-fiving, so nix any recipes that call for flatware and focus on handheld foods.
  • Defend the Viewing Zone. Keep die-hard fans in good spirits by setting up multiple viewing and seating areas for guests. Dedicated game watchers will appreciate a conversation-free zone around the TV during regularly scheduled play, while casual spectators may prefer an area where non-sports chatter is acceptable.
  • Assemble a Starting Line-Up Near the TV. For spectators who don't want to miss a moment of the action, be sure to stock essentials -- such as extra napkins, condiments and beverage refills -- within viewing distance of the game.
  • Pre-Game Warm Up. Novice fans don't have to feel intimidated. Hosts can provide fodder for game-time banter by providing the day's sports section and printing online game previews so that everyone has access to team trivia and key stats on star players.
  • Show Your Team Spirit. To help rev up fans, show spirit by decorating with team colors. Lee also suggests creating an unexpected tabletop twist by securing rolled up napkins with terry cloth sweatbands in team colors.

Benchwarmer Artichoke Ranch Dip

Makes: 10 servings

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

1, 1-ounce packet Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix

1 tablespoon lemon juice, or more if desired

2, 15-ounce cans artichoke quarters in water, drained and chopped

1/2 cup chopped roasted red bell peppers

1-1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

1-1/2 cups french fried onions, divided

Tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 1-quart baking dish with olive oil cooking spray; set aside.

In medium mixing bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, seasoning mix and lemon juice until smooth. Stir in artichokes, peppers, cheese and 1/2 cup french fried onions. Transfer to prepared baking dish and top with remaining french fried onions. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, until set and top is golden brown. Serve with tortilla chips.

Recipe created by Sandra Lee on behalf of the makers of Hidden Valley Original Ranch dressings.

Home on the Ranch Pork Sliders

Makes: 4 to 5 servings

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons sour cream

2, 1-ounce packets Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing & Seasoning Mix, divided

1/2 cup cracker meal

2 eggs

1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed, sliced 1 inch thick

1/4 cup canola oil, for frying

8 to 10 Hawaiian sweet rolls or dinner rolls

In small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, and 2 teaspoons seasoning mix. Refrigerate ranch mayonnaise until ready to serve.

In shallow bowl, combine cracker meal and 1 tablespoon seasoning mix; set aside. Lightly beat eggs in shallow bowl; set aside.

Between two pieces of plastic wrap, pound pork tenderloin slices to 1/4 inch thick; set aside. Heat canola oil in large frying pan over medium-high heat. Empty remaining seasoning mix packets onto large plate. Dredge each pork patty into seasoning mix to coat both sides. Dip each into egg mixture then press into seasoned cracker meal.

When oil is shiny, place pork patties in frying pan. Cook 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Serve on desired rolls with ranch mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato and condiments of your choice.

Recipe created by Sandra Lee on behalf of the makers of Hidden Valley Original Ranch dressings.

Polenta Crostini with Sausage Topping

Serves: 12

1/2 pound Italian sausage, removed from casing

1/2 cup onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped and seeded

1/3 cup KC Masterpiece Original Barbecue Sauce

1 package (1 pound) prepared polenta

3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook sausage in skillet over medium heat 7 minutes or until nicely browned, stirring often. Remove sausage to a cutting board and coarsely chop. Drain fat and return sausage to skillet; add onions and cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in tomatoes and barbecue sauce. Heat until bubbling; set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice polenta into 12, 1/2-inch-thick rounds and place in single layer on baking sheet. Top each round with 1 tablespoon sausage mixture, sprinkle with cheese and bake 10 minutes or until hot.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Show-Stopping Barbecue Shrimp Skewers

Serves: 6

1/2 pound bacon slices

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup KC Masterpiece Original Barbecue Sauce

1/4 pound snow peas, optional

Preheat broiler and line broiler pan with foil; set aside. Partially cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat about 5 minutes, without crisping. Drain on paper towels and cut bacon strips in half.

In small bowl, toss shrimp with barbecue sauce until coated. Wrap bacon strip around shrimp with one snow pea, if desired. Secure with toothpick. Broil wrapped shrimp 3 to 4 minutes turning once or until bacon is crisp and browned.

For more tips, recipes and a downloadable guide to hosting winning game-time gatherings, visit and

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