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Sunday, July 14

Gapers Block

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I like Super Bowl parties. But not for the football. I like the commercials (although in the post-nipple/dot-com bust era they've been a bit lame) and I like the food. I love eating each of my friend's award winning chili recipes (even if the awards come solely from their friends), snacking on hot wings, eating artichoke dip and drinking beer. I get bored and chat during the game and then get quiet once the commercials come on. But I'm OK with that, and the true football fans in the group seem used to blocking me out so they can root and cheer and holler anyway.

But this year, several of my friends are modifying their diets due to their desire to run a marathon, or they're trying to get pregnant, or they want to take their doctor's demands to heart. And while the Super Bowl is one of those days that most people are willing to ignore their food intake, this year isn't likely going to be one of them for my Super Bowl crowd. So to make it easier for my friends to have snacks that satisfy that "being bad" Super Bowl urge without actually hurting their own larger goals, I thought I'd present a few recipes that come close to being good substitutes.

You can't have a Super Bowl party without chili. But a couple pounds of fried ground beef just isn't going to cut it this year. So I'll be making a pot of chili made with smoked turkey. The rest of the chili ingredients aren't too bad for you, and once you strip the skin of the turkey it's not so bad for you either.

And chicken wings are always a big hit, even if they are messy. But it's the sauce that people really like, right? A bit of crispiness and a dousing of that spicy sauce and you have what you want. So I'll substitute deep-friend chicken wings for baked chicken tenderloins rolled in crushed breakfast cereal flakes and seasoned with buffalo sauce.

In trying to cut back on potato chips and creamy dips, I was afraid I'd run into a challenge. I wanted something a touch healthier than a bag of chips and a carton of ranch dip from the grocery store. But I knew I'd want something dip-like and chip-like. The easiest chip-like thing I could think of were crackers. There are low-fat, whole wheat Triscuits, as well as baked pita chips and other whole grain crackers. To go with them, I modified a crab dip recipe from a '50s cookbook and did a more healthy, lower-fat version of a creamy spinach dip. And not only are these dips good for crackers, they're also good with chopped veggies. A tray or plate full of carrots, crackers, bell pepper, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. is sure to be a hit. If nothing else, you might be able to get your friends who don't care about their health to eat some veggies just so they can try the dip.

Smoked Turkey Chili
The problem with just substituting ground turkey for ground beef in most chili recipes is that turkey doesn't have the same rich flavor that beef does. Which means that the chili just ends up a bit bland. By substituting meat from smoked turkey legs (which you can either smoke yourself or find at the grocery already smoked) you add back some hearty flavor while still cutting down on fat content. The addition of more spices and herbs will also help carry the flavor over to this healthier version of chili.

4 smoked turkey legs
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 large yellow or white onion, diced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
1 large can of puréed tomatoes (28 ounces)
1 small can of tomato sauce (14 ounces)
2 cans of kidney beans (15 ounces)
1/2 of a beer or 3/4 ounces of chicken or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons of honey or brown sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of Hungarian paprika
2 tablespoons of chili powder

Remove the skin from the turkey and discard (while it is flavorful, it is high in fat). Chop the meat and discard any bits of bone or cartilage. Place a dutch oven or large skillet over medium high heat and add the bell pepper, onion and olive oil. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 5-7 minutes, or until the onion is translucent and the bell pepper is soft. Add the garlic to the skillet and let it cook for about 2-3 minutes, or just until you can start to smell it. If you plan on cooking this in your slow cooker, you can now turn your cooker on and add the contents of your skillet. If you're cooking this in the dutch oven on your stovetop, lower the heat to medium low.

Add the tomato products and stir. Open the cans of kidney beans and drain and rinse them. Add them and all the other ingredients in the cooking vessel. Stir to combine, cover and let cook. If cooking in the slow-cooker, your chili will be done in about 2 hours if cooked on high, or 4 hours if cooked on low. If cooking on the stove, it will be done in 1 1/2 hours over medium low or 2 1/2 hours over low.

It's even better to make the chili the day before and store it in the friedge to be warmed up the next day. To cool it quickly, place ice from several trays in your sink. Fill your storage container or containers with chili, then nestle them into the ice and then add water until at least 1/2 but no more than 3/4 of the dishes are underwater. Let them rest until the ice melts and stir the chili occasionally to cool it evenly. Once it's cool to the touch you can cover them and place them in your refrigerator. The next day, pour the chili back into your slow-cooker or dutch oven and cook on low for 30 minutes to an hour or until it's steaming and warmed through. The flavor will be significantly better, and you'll be able to taste it to determine if you need to adjust the spices or add salt or sugar.
Serves 8-12.

Crispy Buffaloed Chicken Bites
1 pound of chicken tenderloins or boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 egg whites or 1 large egg
several dashes of tabasco
2 cups of cornflakes or other flaked cereal, sweetened or unsweetened
Blue cheese sauce and buffalo sauce for dipping
celery sticks

Remove any bits of bone, cartilage, fat or tendon that may still be attached to the chicken. If using tenderloins cut them into pieces. To prevent double-dipping (especially during cold and flu season) I recommend making them large-bite sized, big enough to hold onto while dipping but not so large that someone will dunk it again. If using chicken breasts, place them on a sturdy surface and pound them with the bottom of a sturdy glass to flatten them out a bit. Or you can cover with parchment paper and pound with a canned-good item. Now cut them into strips that are about 1 inch wide. Cut those strips into bite-sized pieces or leave them slightly larger. Preheat your oven to 400° F and spray a jelly roll pan with a nonstick cooking spray or coat with a teaspoon of olive oil.

Stir the flour, salt and pepper together in a wide shallow bowl. In another similar-sized bowl combine the egg and tabasco and whip with a fork until the ingredients are combined. Place the cornflakes into a plastic zipper bag and crush using your hands, a rolling pin or a can of food. They shouldn't be a powder, but they should be small enough to coat evenly without leaving large chunks.

To prevent having the contents of these bowls end up on your hands instead of on the chicken, designate one hand as the dry hand and one hand as the wet hand. With your wet hand, pick up a few chicken pieces and place them in the flour. With your dry hand, sprinkle the flour over the top and once they're mostly coated use your dry hand to toss them so they're evenly coated, then pick up the chicken and place them into the egg mixture. Use your wet hand to coat them evenly before picking them up with that hand and placing them in the cornflakes. Use your dry hand to sprinkle cornflakes over them and toss them until they're coated, then move them from the bowl to your baking tray. Repeat until everything has made it though the system. Hopefully your hands don't end up all doughy and sticky. Sprinkle just a bit of olive oil (or spray with the cooking spray) over the tops of the chicken. Bake for 10 minutes (7 minutes if using chicken breast) before using tongs to turn the pieces over and cook for another 10 minutes (7 minutes if using chicken breast). The cornflakes should brown and become very crunchy.

Blue Cheese Sauce
1/2 cup of fat-free sour cream
1/4 cup of mayonnaise
6-8 ounces of blue cheese
1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and process on high speed or purée until smooth which should take about 2 minutes. Pour into a bowl and serve.

Buffalo Sauce
2 tablespoons of butter or margarine
2 tablespoons of corn oil
1/4 cup of tabasco or other hot sauce
1 tablespoon of vinegar
1 tablespoon of honey

In a small saucepan, combine all of the above ingredients over medium heat. Stir constantly while the butter melts and let it boil for about 1 minute. Pour into a bowl and serve.
Serves 8-12 as an appetizer.

Creamy Crab Dip
8 ounces of low-fat cream cheese (make sure it's room temperature so it's easier to combine)
8 ounces of lump crab meat (or imitation crab meat, choppsed)
2 tablespoons of horseradish
2 tablespoons of ketchup
Several dashes of a hot sauce of choice

In a serving bowl combine everything with a plastic spatula or spoon. Once everything is combined, scrape the sides of the bowl down, press plastic wrap over the top of the dip, and place in the refrigerator overnight. Once people arrive, remove the plastic from the bowl and place alongside some crackers.
Serves 8-12 as an appetizer.

Low-fat Creamy Spinach Dip
1 10 ounce package of frozen spinach
1 cup of plain fat-free yogurt
4 ounces of fat-free cream cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped scallion or chives
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder (or 1 minced clove of garlic)
juice from 1/4 of a fresh lemon

Thaw the package of spinach on a plate on your counter or overnight in your refrigerator. Place three or four paper towels on top of each other and place the thawed spinach on top of them. (Or you can use cheesecloth, which can be washed and reused several times.) Bring the sides up and slowly squeeze to get as much of the moisture out of the spinach as possible. Place that into a large bowl. Open the yogurt and pour off any liquid floating on top before adding to the spinach. Add the softened cream cheese and the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Stir to combine. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt as needed. If you desire, you can also add several dashes of hot sauce to the dip.

With just a little bit more work than is required to order take-out or open containers from the grocery store, you can reduce the fat, cholesterol, and calorie counts from the average Super Bowl gathering pretty easily. And all of these dishes can be prepared the day before, with just the chicken needing to be cooked before being served. So while this still isn't a spread that a nutritionist will jump up and down about, its much better than you're likely to find at a bar and likely to be accepted by your friends who aren't on a health kick as readily as by those who are.

Making these dishes at your house or a friend's house may not help make the Bears win the Super Bowl, but it can't hurt, right? And this year I might actually watch some of the game instead of just the commercials. But I'll definitely be eating. If you've got a recipe that you're excited about making for next Sunday, leave it in the comments.

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Andrew / January 29, 2007 10:35 AM

Instead of using corn flakes and hot sauce for the baked "hot wings," I'm going to try using crushed Flaming Hot Cheetos.

bean / February 1, 2007 10:26 AM

I vote for a dog and pony show:

A shot of 'the hair' to wake you up, followed by a pony of Jag to get you going; then trampled by some goat's head soup because, well, that's all you're going to get ;


About the Author(s)

Cinnamon Cooper is an untrained cook. Most of what she's learned has been by accident. The rest has been gained by reading cookbooks, watching The Food Network and by scouring the Internet. Oh, and she also hates following recipes but loves the irony of writing them down for others to follow.

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