Photos by Aimee Broussard

Aimee’s Pretty Palate: Football favorites

If there’s one thing for certain here in the South, it’s that the return of football reigns supreme. High-school Friday night lights, Saturdays in Tiger Stadium, “homegating” with all your favorite people, and of course, the food that gets your pompoms shaking.

Even though I tried and failed to include an entire tailgating chapter in my Picnics, Potlucks & Porch Parties cookbook, that did not mean some of my favorite gameday snacks weren’t snuck in there via tailgating “picnics.” For me, there is nothing more exciting during football season than finding ways to elevate a tailgate, and I think we can all agree: it begins with the food.

My Gameday Muffuletta Dip is hands-down a crowd pleaser you’re going to want to work into your gameday menu. All the taste of a muffuletta sandwich in an easy-to-eat and easy-to-transport dip. Have you ever heard of anything more spectacular?

The Maple Pecan Popcorn is the perfect salty/sweet snack for passing the time prior to kickoff. Last year, I wrapped individual portions into plastic-wrapped popcorn balls, tied them with cellophane and ribbon, and put them inside festive Styrofoam “Geaux Tigers” gold foil cups. It’s the perfect hostess gift when tailgate hopping while leaving your friends with something sweet.

And my Twisty Pretzels with Beer Cheese Dip? Your guests will think they’ve died and gone to gameday heaven when you pull out fresh-from-the-oven homemade pretzels. These take a bit of extra preparation, but I promise the smiles on people’s faces will make it all worth it.


1 (0.25-oz.) package active dry yeast
2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 1⁄8 tsp. salt
1 1⁄2 cups warm water
3 cups plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup bread flour
2 cups hot water
2 Tbsp. baking soda
1 1⁄2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. coarse kosher salt
1 bottle beer (12 ounce)
3 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, cubed and softened
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste


Dissolve yeast, brown sugar and salt in 1 1⁄2 cups warm water in a large bowl until foamy. Stir in 3 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup bread flour. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine 2 cups hot water and baking soda in a shallow bowl or pan.
Turn dough onto a floured surface and cut into 12 equal-size pieces. Roll each into a thin rope and twist into pretzel shape. Dip each into baking soda mixture. Transfer to baking sheets, 6 per sheet and 2 inches apart.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, stopping to turn baking sheets halfway through baking. Brush pretzels with melted butter and sprinkle with kosher salt. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
For cheese dip, in a saucepan over medium heat, bring beer to a simmer. In a bowl, toss cheese with 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour. Add cheese mixture to beer with remaining ingredients. Stir until all cheese has melted and texture is smooth, about 5 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Keep warm until ready to serve. Makes 1 dozen pretzels.


1 cup Italian olive salad, drained
1 cup (about 4 oz.) diced salami
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1⁄4 cup chopped pepperoncini salad peppers
1 (2 1⁄4-oz.) can sliced black olives, drained
4 oz. provolone cheese, diced
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1⁄2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley
French bread crostini


Stir together all ingredients except parsley and crostini. Cover and chill for 1 hour, or up to 24 hours before serving. Stir in parsley just before serving. Serve with French bread crostini. Store leftovers (if you have any!) in refrigerator for up to 5 days. Makes 4 cups.

8 cups plain popped popcorn
1 cup pecan halves, toasted
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 1⁄2 cups pure maple syrup
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1⁄2 tsp. maple extract
1⁄2 tsp. cinnamon

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly oil a rubber spatula and combine popcorn with pecans in a large bowl.
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat; add maple syrup. Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Add salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium to maintain a gentle boil, and cook without stirring until temperature reaches 290 degrees, about 20 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid scorching.
Stir in maple extract and cinnamon, then pour over popcorn, stirring with spatula to help coat. Season with additional salt if desired. Spread on a lined baking sheet, allowing to cool completely before breaking into bite-size pieces. Store in an airtight container. Makes 8-10 servings.

Aimee Broussard is a Southern food blogger and award-winning author. Her recent cookbook Picnics, Potlucks & Porch Parties debuted exclusively on QVC. Join Aimee for weekly recipes with a side of Southern hospitality on her blog,