Slow Cooker Bacon Cheeseburger Soup. Photos by Aimee Broussard.

Aimee’s Pretty Palate: March Madness Munchies

I learned very quickly that by marrying someone who not only works in sports but also lives and breathes watching sports, I would somewhat need to find a way to enjoy these activities, too.

That compromise came in the form of food for me. Give me a gathering of friends and food and I could care less what’s happening during the game, or on the television screen. I’m #teamsnacks and I make no excuses for it.

So, naturally, it’s March and that brings us March Madness and constant chatter about basketball brackets. While my husband attempts to explain to me, for the millionth time what all of that means, I let my mind wander to what March Madness snacks I’ll prepare should our team make it into the playoffs.

Both my pulled pork and my Bacon Cheeseburger Soup are prepared in the slow cooker, meaning each of them is a great opportunity to fix it and forget it, while knowing that it’s going to be ready and right on time when you need it. Allow your guests to layer that pulled pork magic onto some DIY Pulled Pork Skillet Nachos and you’ll hands-down secure your role of sporting-event watch-party host in the future.

And of course, you’ll need to wash things down, and there is nothing more refreshing than my signature Almond Tea. It’s a combination of lemonade and sweet tea, but with a kick that’ll leaving you wondering how you’ve ever lived without it.

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
8 oz. cream cheese, cubed
6 oz. bacon, cooked until crispy, then chopped
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 cups potatoes, cubed
1 cup peeled and shredded carrots
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 tsp. black pepper
1 cup milk
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
In a medium skillet, cook ground beef until no longer pink, then drain and add to a 6-quart slow cooker. In the same skillet as the beef, sauté onion until soft and translucent. Add onion to slow cooker.
Add cream cheese, cooked bacon, chicken stock, potatoes, carrots, garlic, salt and pepper to slow cooker; stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
In a small bowl, whisk together milk and flour to create a slurry. Slowly stir into cooked soup. Add shredded cheese. Cover and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until soup has thickened and cheese has melted.
Garnish with extra cheese, bacon and green onions, if desired.
Makes 6-8 servings.

8 cups cold water, divided
9 tea bags (or 2 family-size tea bags)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ tsp. almond extract
Juice of 3 lemons
Sliced lemon and fresh mint for garnish (optional)
In a saucepan, bring 2 cups water to a gentle boil. Add tea bags; cover and remove pan from heat. Steep for 10 minutes. Take out tea bags but don’t squeeze them. Pour tea into a 2-quart pitcher and add sugar; stir until dissolved. Add vanilla, almond extract and lemon juice; stir to mix. Add remaining 6 cups water and stir. Let tea cool to room temperature, then chill in refrigerator. Serve in glasses over ice. Garnish with a sliced lemon and sprig of mint if desired.
Makes 8-10 servings.

1 (4-lb.) Boston butt pork roast, boneless
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. pepper
1 (12-oz.) can Coca-Cola
1 bottle barbecue sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
1 bag tortilla chips
1 (8-oz.) package shredded cheese (I like the easy-melt combo sharp and mozzarella)
Assorted toppings of choice
Cut away any thick portions of fat from outside of pork roast. In a small bowl, whisk together spices and rub all over pork roast. Place pork roast in a slow cooker. Pour can of Coca-Cola over roast. Cover and cook on high for 5 hours or on low for 8 to 10 hours. Remove roast from slow cooker and place on a cutting board. Reserve ½ cup of juice remaining in slow cooker and discard the rest. Using 2 forks, shred pork, then return to slow cooker. Add reserved juice and bottle of BBQ sauce. Mix. Reduce temperature to low (if not on already) and continue to cook for an additional 30 minutes.
To prepare skillet nachos, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a cast-iron skillet with tortilla chips, layer with 1 cup cheese and 1 cup shredded pulled pork, then repeat layers. Top with a bit more cheese, along with jalapeños, olives or other desired toppings. (If adding sour cream, add just prior to serving and not before placing in oven). Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or just until cheese is melted and bubbling.
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,