My Not-So-Traditional Football Cuisine for One of the South’s Biggest Holidays

Major. Withdrawal. Where has my college football gone? 😩😩

In the spirit of true transparency, I will admit that I was a bit of a “Mellow Melanie” this football season (y’all, I’m cheesy, I know this!). Growing up, I was raised watching Alabama football. I did the “Dirty Bird” dance in my elementary school parking lot when Atlanta went to the Super Bowl in the ’90s. My parents taught me how to throw a wobbly spiral when we would play in the front yard. I saw my dad’s Alabama State Championship roster in his office because they were high school state champions back in the ’70s (it wasn’t that long ago, Dad!).

I think I’ve made my point. I LOVE FOOTBALL. I joke that I’ve lost years off of my life as a fan that hangs on every play, and one who has not learned how to control the roller coaster of emotions. In reference to college football, I must credit Cliff for teaching me that I’m placing so much stock in 18 and 19-year old kids who aren’t machines. Granted, I am an Alabama football fan, so forgive me if they give off the impression that they are, in fact, machines. His perspective has helped, but I wonder if I’ll get some early grey hairs thanks to the many years of tension leading up to this point.

Now, with the CTE issues and injuries plaguing college and pro athletes, I’ve been a bit of a downer when it comes to watching the games. I oscillate between thinking – “BOOM, great hit!” to “Oh no…if he’s ok now, will he be ok 20 years from now?” These are legitimate issues that need addressing, but I will save that for another post.

One of the most regarded “holidays” in the South is the National Championship game, especially if an SEC team is in the “Big One.” Everything feels like Christmas morning in the days leading up to the game…the hype videos, the media coverage, the watch party plans, etc. Granted, most game days in the SEC evoke the same excitement, but the National Championship is like every game day rolled into one giant ball of fun.

Just like Cliff wears a certain shirt and hat combination depending upon whether we are “home” or “away,” I’ve gotten in the habit of turning to cooking for my new game day inspiration. We are on a strict budget and unable to make it to many games in-person, so I’ve stumbled upon a more domestic approach to showing my pride. I like to make food that incorporates hints of red (or, crimson). Weird? Maybe. Fun? YES!

Just like my love for football, I can’t help but enjoy the traditional BBQ tailgate cuisine. There will always be a special place in my heart for that next-level comfort food. This year, I decided to make some random dishes (that were pretty carb-heavy, as you will see). I’ve always wanted to learn how to make focaccia bread and for some reason, I saw this year’s National Championship game as my opportunity. Here are the “red-infused” foods that were on the menu:

Let’s ignore the fact that our opponent, The University of Georgia, could probably lay claim to these colors if they wanted, but I made sure I said “Roll Tide” enough while making these.

Besides leaving the big focaccia loaf in the oven a little too long, and trying to make the pavlova with too much Truvia and not enough sugar, everything turned out really well! It was tasty, and I felt like a good fan for the color theme. We won, which means something, right?

I’ve linked the recipes to the names in the above list. Here are some additional thoughts:

(1) I added the roasted red pepper, and ultimately sprinkled some garlic powder over the top of the bread. I left it in the oven a few minutes too long, so it was a little tough on the bottom, but that one is on me.

(2) The twists were harder for me to do than in the video, but I was a little rushed for time and ended up with squares of focaccia pre-twist, when it should have been more rectangle pre-twist. That didn’t change the taste, though! Instead of the topping Chef Anna Olson puts on hers, I put a honey glaze on the top of mine. We really liked it!

(3) The pavolva was fun to make, but I was a little disappointed it deflated some. I think my ratio of Truvia to sugar was “off.” Since sugar is a structural element in any recipe, decreasing it too much could have been the problem. Someone (cough, Cliff) also shut the door to the oven when the pavlova was supposed to be cooling, and it might have altered the final product. I love you, babe!

I will be trying all of these recipes again, and hope you will, too!

Are you hosting a watch party for the Super Bowl? What will be on your menu to see the Eagles take on the Patriots?

Until next time, I hope you enjoy your #hearthhealthhappiness! 🤗

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