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Local Super Bowl parties will be relaxed without Steelers playing

| Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012

Without the Steelers playing, this Sunday's local Super Bowl parties will be more relaxed and sociable.

We can pay more attention to the creativity of the commercials than the examination of every blow-by-blow play and replay.

We can enjoy indulging in those wonderful fatty, crunchy, salty foods we love -- and not worry about the heartburn of bad calls and injuries.

With a buffet that combines everyone's favorite football snacks, you'll have a winning party regardless of who wins the game.

Super Bowl Stromboli

A stromboli is kind of a cross between a grinder and a calzone. Bread dough is rolled out, filled with sliced meats, cheeses and vegetables, then rolled up into a tube and baked.

To serve, stromboli are simply sliced like a loaf of bread, creating a spiral baked sandwich that is perfect for large parties. If you like, you also can serve sandwich condiments -- or even warmed marinara -- alongside the stromboli slices for dipping. We've offered suggestions for fillings; but mix and match to suit your group.

Just be careful with vegetables. Because you will be baking the fillings in the dough, watery vegetables (such as tomatoes) can release too much liquid during cooking. To avoid this, cook most vegetables in a skillet before adding them. Sun-dried tomatoes would be a good alternative to fresh.

This recipe is from the Associated Press.

• Nonstick cooking spray

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 2 cups chopped raw vegetables, such as peppers, onions and mushrooms

• 2 medium-size cloves garlic, minced

• 1/4 cup drained and chopped Kalamata olives

• 1 tablespoon drained and chopped capers

• 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb blend

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

• Flour for rolling out dough

• 20-ounce ball pizza dough

• 10 ounces sliced deli meat, such as salami and ham

• 1 cup grated provolone or mozzarella cheese

Coat a large baking sheet with the cooking spray.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the vegetables and garlic, then saute until tender and any liquid has evaporated, for 5 to 10 minutes depending on your choice of vegetables. Stir in the olives, capers and herb blend. Season with salt and pepper, then set aside to cool slightly.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12- by 16-inch rectangle. Arrange the sliced meat over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border on the longer sides, and the end farthest from you. Spread the cooked vegetables over the meat, then sprinkle with the cheese.

Starting with the side closest to you, roll the stromboli up like a log. Pinch the seam and ends to seal. Transfer the log to the prepared baking sheet, with the seam on the bottom. Using a paring knife, make three deep slits in the top of the loaf.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Allow the stromboli to rest for 20 minutes while the oven heats.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted at the center reads 180 degrees. The outside should be golden brown and should sound hollow when tapped. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

Makes 10 servings.

Creamy Mango-Marmalade Pulled Chicken Sliders

This sweet-and-savory pulled chicken can be done on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. For the slow-cooker version, combine the chicken and sauce ingredients as described below, then cook on high for 6 hours. You'll then need to transfer everything to a saucepan to boil for a few minutes to reduce the liquid. This recipe is from the Associated Press.

• 2 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

• 4 cups chicken broth

• 1 jar (13 1/2 ounces) mango-pepper jelly

• 1/2 cup orange marmalade

• 1/4 cup cider vinegar

• 1 teaspoon ground cumin

• 1 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika

• 1 teaspoon garlic powder

• teaspoon salt

• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1 cup sour cream

• 1 package (16 ounces) shredded cabbage coleslaw mix

• 2/3 cup mayonnaise

• Hot sauce, to taste

• 12 dinner rolls or other small buns, split

In a large saucepan over medium-high, combine the chicken, broth, jelly, marmalade, vinegar, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Continue cooking the sauce for another 10 minutes, or until considerably reduced and thickened.

Meanwhile, use 2 sets of tongs or 1 set and a fork to pull apart and shred the chicken breasts. After the liquid has reduced, return the chicken to the saucepan and mix with the sauce. Simmer until heated through, then remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the sour cream, then set aside.

In a medium-size bowl, mix together the coleslaw mix, mayonnaise and hot sauce.

Serve the chicken on the buns topped with coleslaw.

Makes 12 servings.

Super Bowl Cupcakes

These are not your girlfriend's cupcakes. They are big, bold, manly and totally down for a Super Bowl spread.

Because ease is key for Super Bowl feasts, we decided to start with a chocolate cake mix. To man-it-up, we made them big and added beer. And, instead of pretty buttercream frosting, we're dabbed and smeared whiskey frosting all over them. And, to really take it up a notch, bacon. Of course, salted peanuts, pretzels or crushed malted milk balls also would be terrific.

Nonstick cooking spray

For the cupcakes:

• 1 cup dark beer, such as stout

• 1/3 cup sour cream

• 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

• 3 large eggs

• 1 package (18.5 ounces) moist chocolate cake mix

For the frosting:

• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

• 3 cups confectioners' sugar

• 1/4 cup whiskey

• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the toppings (use any or all):

• Crisp cooked bacon

• Salted peanuts

• Pretzels

• Crushed malted-milk balls

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 24 regular muffin cups with cooking spray.

To prepare the cupcakes: In a large bowl, mix together the beer, sour cream, oil, eggs and cake mix. Mix until thoroughly combined and smooth, for about 2 minutes. Spoon into the prepared muffin cups and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

To prepare the frosting: While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, sugar, whiskey and vanilla until smooth and fluffy, for about 4 to 5 minutes.

When the cupcakes have cooled, add a smear of frosting to the tops, then sprinkle with your choice of toppings.

Makes 24 servings.

The Walking Taco

The Walking Taco -- in which a bunch of toppings are dumped into snack-size bags of Fritos and eaten from the bag -- is a great concept for a Super Bowl party. Simply offer guests bags of chips, and provide a buffet of toppings to let them assemble their own. The medium-size snack bags are the best bet for this approach.

This make-your-own-bar is dramatic, and is easy on the cook. Great homemade chili and guacamole are key, so recipes are included. Otherwise, most of the ingredients are just purchased and put out for guests.

Suggested toppings:

• Guacamole

• Pulled chicken

• Pulled pork

• Grilled shrimp

• Grated cheese

• Sliced scallions

• Chopped tomatoes

• Chopped white onions

• Chopped cilantro

• Sliced olives

• Black beans

• Pinto beans

• Refried beans

• Salsa

• Shredded lettuce

• Sour cream

Texas Bowl of Red Chili

This chili can be prepared as far ahead as two days, then slowly reheated over low.

• 1 pound ground sirloin

• 1 pound ground chuck

• 2 large yellow onions, finely chopped

• 1 bottle (12 ounces) Corona beer

• 2 cans (10 ounces each) chopped tomatoes with chili peppers

• 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste

• 1 tablespoon ground cumin

• 1 tablespoon dry oregano leaves

• 1 tablespoon garlic powder

• 2 teaspoons kosher salt (or more to taste)

• 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder

• 1 tablespoon New Mexican chili powder

• 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

• 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

• Water or beer to thin chili, if needed

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-high. Add the sirloin, chuck and onions and cook for 15 minutes, or until the meat is browned and the onions are translucent.

Add the beer, tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir and simmer for a few minutes, then add the cumin, oregano, garlic, salt, all 3 chili powders, and the cayenne pepper (if using). Stir well, then cover, reduce the heat to low and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

If the chili is too thick, water or an additional beer can be added. If so, add just a bit at a time, or the chili will get too thin.

Makes 8 servings.

1-2-3 Tomatillo Salsa Guacamole

• 3 to 4 ripe avocados

• 1 cup Frontera Foods tomatillo salsa

• 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

• Kosher salt

Cut the avocados in half, scoop out the flesh and combine in a bowl. Mash well. Stir in the tomatillo salsa, then the cilantro. Season with salt.

Ginger-Orange Glazed Chicken Wings

This recipe is from the National Chicken Council.

• 2 pounds chicken wings (about 24)

• 1/2 cup orange-juice concentrate, undiluted

• 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

• 1/4 cup Hoisin sauce

• 1 tablespoon canola oil

• 1/4 cup sugar

• 3 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

• 3 medium-size cloves garlic, minced

• 3 green onions, slivered

In a large plastic, resealable bag, place the orange juice concentrate, lemon juice, Hoisin sauce, canola oil, sugar, ginger and garlic. Seal and shake to mix. Add the chicken wings, seal and shake to coat evenly. Refrigerate overnight, or as far ahead as 3 days.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil. Spread the wings on the foil. Bake for 45 minutes, until brown and shiny.

Transfer to serving platter and sprinkle with green oniions.

Makes 6 servings.

Island Chicken Wings

• 8 chicken wings

• 1 can (4 ounces) diced green chilies, drained

• 1/4 cup chopped onion

• 1/4 cup golden raisins

• 2 tablespoons apricot preserves

• 1 tablespoon brown sugar

• 1 tablespoon lemon juice

• 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

• 1 large banana, peeled and cut into chunks

• 1 tablespoon garlic oil

• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut off the wing tips; discard or save for other purposes. Cut the remaining wings apart at the joints to make 2 pieces each.

To prepare the dipping sauce, in a blender, combine the chilies, onion, raisins, preserves, brown sugar, lemon juice, allspice and banana; puree.

In large skillet, heat the garlic oil. Cook the wings for 18 to 20 minutes, or until well-browned on all sides and the internal juices of the chicken run clear. Meanwhile, pour the sauce into a small saucepan and cook uncovered over medium heat for 10 minutes to thicken the liquid; stir frequently.

Sprinkle the wings with salt and pepper. Serve with the dipping sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

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