If you’re like me, you have been eagerly waiting for autumn to arrive because that means cooler days are looming right around the corner. Days will become shorter, leaves will begin to change and Saturdays will be spent cheering for our favorite teams.

The weather is just about perfect, which makes it absolutely ideal to enjoy activities with your family, such as tailgating. What better way to bring opposing fans together than by serving food?

Technically, “tailgating” is when food is served from the back of a parked vehicle, particularly at a sports stadium. (To me, tailgating is half of the fun of attending a football game.) However, you can tailgate anywhere, even in your own backyard. Fire up the grill, invite some friends over and watch your favorite game on the TV.

Below are some crowd-pleasing recipes that you can use at your next tailgate party. The first one is a Pepper-Jelly Dip recipe that I’ve had for several years. It is a family favorite, and is requested at my tailgate events. I am one of those who would never try pepper jelly, but I am glad that I gave this a try. The mixture of sweet pepper jelly, tangy green onions and sharp cheeses produces a great-tasting dip. I highly recommend ordering Rose & Ivy Southern Pecan Pepper Glaze online for this recipe for optimum taste, however, any pepper jelly will work.

The recipe for Cuban Sandwiches is one that a friend of mine, Heather Phillips, recently shared with me. She made these for a church potluck, and they were a huge hit. They would be good sliced into small servings at your game-day spread. There aren’t any measurements to this recipe. It is basically just assembling the sandwich, then toasting it in a panini press. I highly recommend you try this recipe. It was one of the best sandwiches I have ever eaten. Seriously.

Chicken & Steak Kabobs, which were grilled by my son-in-law, Levi Gamble, will make for easy finger food at your next tailgate. Chunks of seasoned chicken and steak are grilled with slices of fresh mushrooms, onions and zucchini. If you’ve never tried McCormick Grill Mates marinade seasoning packets, they are truly amazing. We used the Garlic, Herb & Wine flavor for the chicken and the Brown Sugar Bourbon flavor to marinate the steak tips and vegetables.

Greg Morgan lives in Oxford. His food column appears the first Wednesday of each month. Contact him at gmorgan@annistonstar.com.

PEPPER JELLY DIP

This makes a small dip, so you can double it for a larger crowd. Use freshly grated cheese for optimum taste. Use a high quality pepper jelly, such as Rose & Ivy Southern Pecan Pepper Glaze.

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup pepper jelly, divided
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 8 slices cooked and crumbled bacon
  • 6-8 Ritz crackers, crushed
  • Ritz crackers for serving

Mix cream cheese, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, ¼ cup pepper jelly, onions and bacon and pour into a 9-inch pie plate. Top with crushed crackers. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes. Drizzle with remaining ¼ cup pepper jelly. Serve with Ritz crackers.

HEATHER’S CUBAN SANDWICHES

You can use deli sliced ham and beef if you don’t have time to smoke the meats. Serve with chips, or your favorite pasta salad.

  • Boston butt, smoked and sliced
  • Spiral cut ham, baked and sliced
  • Mustard
  • Swiss cheese
  • Pickles
  • Hoagie rolls

Spread desired amount of mustard on each side of rolls. Layer with Boston butt slices, ham slices, cheese and pickles. Toast in a panini press and serve.

LEVI’S CHICKEN AND STEAK KABOBS

Soak your skewers in water ahead of time to prevent burning. Keep in mind that smaller pieces of meat will cook more quickly. You can add other veggies to the skewer, such as bell peppers or yellow squash.

  • 1 (2 pound) package boneless chicken fingers, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 (2 pound) package steak tips, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 packet McCormick Grill Mates Garlic, Herb & Wine Marinade
  • 1 packet McCormick Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon Marinade
  • 2 whole onions, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 pints fresh whole button mushrooms
  • 3 zucchini, sliced into ½-inch thick rounds

Follow the directions on the marinade packets and pour into two separate gallon-sized zip-top bags. You might need to add a little extra oil to make sure everything gets seasoned properly. Turn the bag a few times to distribute the marinade. Put the chicken in the Garlic, Herb & Wine marinade bag. Put the steak tips and veggies in the Brown Sugar & Bourbon Marinade bag. Marinate for 3 hours.

Take ingredients out of bag, discard bag and marinade, and thread the meat and vegetables onto wooden skewers in this order: meat, onion, mushroom, zucchini, then repeat until skewer is filled.

Grill the kabobs over direct medium heat, turning several times. Keep the lid closed as much as possible. Grill until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees for the chicken and 150 degrees for the steak.

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