How to throw a healthier at-home tailgating party, plus 4 recipes


Cilantro-Lime Quinoa Salad

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In many households, this time of year means one thing: football. From Friday night high school games, through Saturday college and Sunday NFL games, the sounds coming from many TVs during the fall include whistles, roars of the crowds and referees.

The next time you host a group of people to watch football, why not go all out with a surprisingly healthy at-home tailgating menu that will please everyone’s palate? Rebecca Gordon, a former Test Kitchen director at Southern Living magazine and writer and recipe developer behind Buttermilk Lipstick, shows us how to create the perfect menu. And, as a die-hard Alabama Crimson Tide fan, Rebecca knows firsthand that the extra decorations and special touches will make your football party the one that true fans will want to return to year after year.

“That’s my focus — is having this all at home because most people watch the game at home anyway,” Rebecca says.


The menu

Rebecca suggests starting off with a few munchies to get the party started. Her Homemade Salsa served with tortilla chips, plus a Lemon-Garlic Hummus with veggies will keep guests happy until the main dishes are served. “Anytime I can eat homemade salsa, that’s what I go for,” Rebecca says.

Start with two side dishes comprised of a healthy grain — Mediterranean-Style Quinoa Salad and Cilantro-Lime Quinoa Salad. The use of quinoa for both will make preparation easier on you, while the different flavor profiles will make it fun for your guests (see recipes below).

The main stars of the at-home tailgating fiesta will be Barbecue Shrimp and Chipotle Ranch Chicken Skewers with a Cilantro Lime Sauce. Rebecca suggests using reduced-fat mayo to make the chicken recipe lighter (see  recipes below).

Finish off with a touch of something sweet with yummy peanut butter and chocolate Confetti Crunch Bars. Cut these into mini squares to keep the calorie-count low, and decorate the top with colorful sprinkles in your team’s colors.


The decor

Rebecca recommends easy-to-do crafts to turn your party into a team-spirited event. Simply go to your nearest crafts store or party store and choose crafting paper, ribbon and paper goods in your favorite team’s hues. Then, break out the scissors and create fun “button” napkin rings, toothpick flags to label dishes or decorate the mini Confetti Crunch Bars, and cups containing a napkin with plasticware for each guest. Rebecca suggests collecting Ball jars for this last project, as they are cheap (usually a dozen or so for less than $20) and you can use them to layer salads, present plasticware or store leftovers. “I think the Ball jars are a great idea because you can use them over and over again,” she says.

Don’t forget to tell your guests to wear their favorite team’s T-shirt or jersey! Go team!


Mediterranean-Style Quinoa Salad

Makes 6 servings

Quinoa salad


  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa

  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 {15.5-oz} cans chick peas, rinsed & drained

  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes, cut in half

  • 2/3 cup diced & seeded cucumber

  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion

  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

  • 1 {4-oz} package crumbled feta


  1. Cook the quinoa according to package instructions. Season with a pinch of kosher salt. Let cool 30 minutes.

  2. Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, garlic & salt in a large bowl. Stir in the chick peas, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and parsley. Fold in the cooled quinoa and feta.

  3. Season liberally w/ freshly ground pepper. Add a smidgen of salt to taste.


Cilantro-Lime Quinoa Salad

Makes 6 servings

Cilantro lime quinoa salad


  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa

  • 2 {15.5-oz} cans chicken peas, rinsed & drained

  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

  • 3 scallions, sliced

  • Zest of a lime

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon honey

  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco

  • Extra: pepitas, avocado, lime wedges


  1. Cook the quinoa according to package instructions. Season with a pinch of kosher salt. Let cool 30 minutes.

  2. Combine the chick peas, cilantro and the scallions in a large bowl. Whisk together the lime zest and the next 5 ingredients. Toss the dressing together with the chick pea mixture. Fold in the cooled quinoa and the queso fresco. Season liberally with freshly ground pepper. Add a smidgen of salt to taste.

  3. Just before serving, sprinkle with pepitas, additional queso fresco, chopped avocado tossed in a little lime juice and salt.


Barbecue Shrimp

Makes 2 to 4 servings

Barbecue shrimp


  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into 8 pieces

  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • 3 small garlic cloves, pressed

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

  • 1 tablespoon creole seasoning

  • 1 1/2 pound {16-20 count} unpeeled shrimp


  1. Combine butter and next 7 ingredients in a large skillet over medium high heat. Stir until the butter melts and begins to bubble.

  2. Add the shrimp to the skillet, tossing to coat with the butter mixture. Saute until the shrimp turn pink and they’re cooked through, about 5 to 6 minutes.


Chipotle Ranch Chicken Skewers

Makes about 1 dozen

Chipotle Ranch Chicken Skewers


  • 12-14 {4-inch} wooden skewers

  • 2 pounds frozen chicken tenderloins, thawed and rinsed

  • 1 {1oz} package ranch dressing mix

  • 1 cup whole buttermilk

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder


  1. Soak the wooden skewers in water at least 30 minutes or overnight. Cut the chicken tenderloins into thirds and thread onto skewers. Place in a shallow dish and set aside.

  2. Whisk together the dressing mix, buttermilk, oil, salt and chipotle powder in a small bowl. Pour over the chicken and coat well. Refrigerate 1 to 4 hours.

  3. Grill the skewers over medium-high heat 4 minutes per side {350-400 degrees} or until chicken is no longer pink. Serve with Cilantro-Lime Sauce.


Cilantro-Lime Sauce

Makes about 1 cup

{stir together}

  • 1 cup mayonnaise

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 1 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

  • freshly ground black pepper