Are you ready for some football??

Ah, the fall season is quickly approaching and that can only mean one thing – pumpkin everything, hoodies, and football are back! I think every man on the planet looks forward to that last one. We were in church a few weeks ago and our minister was talking about how he couldn’t get into the Olympics. He said it wasn’t anything personally against the athletes, he just couldn’t get into it because his favorite sport was not represented – football.

I personally am a college football fan (go Noles!!), but the football parties always seem to get me into trouble. We all know what pairs best with football – beer, pizza, wings, and chips. And to anyone who’s watching their figure, these all spell out TROUBLE in big capital letters.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t like being told I can’t have something and unable to eat things. That’s why I’ve never done well with diets, especially around the holidays. I like to live life and enjoy myself, so I would fall off the horse and joint in on the festivities. Three months and 5-10 lbs later (yes, let’s be honest that’s possible during the holidays), I would regret my decisions.

Well, this year I refuse to go through that. I’m putting my foot down and taking charge of my menu. I refuse to sacrifice fun and my taste buds in order to keep my weight in check. Instead, I will make the menu confirm to me! I decided for this fall’s college and NFL kickoff season to try out some popular football finger foods and find ways to lighten them up. Again, I want to stress that I’m not getting rid of my favorite foods. Instead, I’m finding ways to make them healthier and contain less guilt!

Buffalo Chicken Bites with Ranch Dressing

1 small chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg

For the Sauce
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

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1. Preheat oven to 400 and spray a baking pan with cooking spray.
2. In a small bowl whisk the egg. In a second bowl mix the flour, garlic powder, cayenne and salt.
3. Dip each chicken piece into the egg and then dredge in the flour mixture. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes.
4. While chicken is baking, mix the sauce ingredients together.
5. Remove the chicken from the oven. Dip each piece of chicken in the sauce and return to the baking sheet.
6. Return to oven for 5-10 minutes. Serve and enjoy with your favorite ranch dipping sauce, or eat plain!!

**21 Day Fix counts: 1 red, 1/2 yellow, 1 teaspoon**

Ranch Dressing, version 1
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder, onion powder, and salt
1/4 tsp. pepper, parsley, and dill weed

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Ranch Dressing, version 2
1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese
2 T 1% or 0% Greek ought
1 T unsweetened plain almond milk
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp dried dill
1 T parsley
Salt and black pepper to taste

  1. In a blender, blend all ingredients until the mixture is smooth.
  2. Serve immediately or store in air-tight container up to 5 days.

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Autumn Calabrese’s Guacamole and Veggies

1 ripe avocado mashed
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 small tomato chopped

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl and serve immediately with tortilla chips or chopped veggies.

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Philly Cheesesteak Sliders

1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup medium onion, sliced
1/2 cup medium green (or red) bell pepper, sliced
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves, sea salt and ground black pepper OR
McCormick® Grill Mates® Steak Seasoning 
8 oz. raw lean beef sirloin, sliced very thin
2 slices provolone cheese or 1/2 cup shredded
2 small whole wheat rolls, toasted

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  1. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet (or griddle) over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper; cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until onions are soft.
  2. Add mushrooms. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano or steak seasoning. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 5 minutes until mushrooms are soft.
  3. Add sirloin to the pan. Sprinkle liberally with steak seasoning. Continue cooking for 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and spoon evenly onto two rolls. Top with cheese and let stand for 1-2 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

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Buffalo Cauliflower Bites

2 cups of fresh cauliflower florets
1 tsp garlic powder
A pinch of salt
A pinch of pepper
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot hot sauce

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  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Mix the garlic powder, salt, pepper, melted butter, and hot sauce in a small bowl.
  3. Place the cauliflower in a large Tupperware and pour the buffalo sauce over top. Seal container and shake until the cauliflower florets are fully coated. Spread on a baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes.
  5. Serve with your favorite ranch or blue cheese dressing.

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Buffalo Chicken Dip with Chips

1/2 red container Greek yogurt
1/2 red container shredded chicken
1/2 blue container shredded cheese
1 tsp favorite hot sauce

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  1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray small oven-safe bowl.
  2. Mix yogurt, chicken and 1/2 of cheese and hot sauce. Scoop into oven safe bowl and top with remaining cheese.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes until heated all the way through.
  4. Serve with your favorite veggies or whole-wheat tortilla chips.

**21 Day Fix counts: 1 red, 1/2 blue, and 1 green (if using veggies) or yellow (if using chips)!**

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In sum, I think everyone was quite pleased with the lightened up menu. My top three favorites had to be the chicken bites, sliders, and the dip! The Buffalo Chicken Bites were spicy, but the homemade ranch dressing really brought out the heat for me! I didn’t have cottage cheese, so I stuck with the Greek yogurt version. The Philly Cheesesteak Sliders were also a hit – my husband ate three! The steak seasoning really gave it a nice punch. I was really impressed with how tasty the Buffalo Chicken Dip – it tastes very close to the original! Now, if only this tasty food could help inspire my Seminoles to actually score in their opening season game…

Don’t forget to pop back every once in awhile for more lightened up tailgating dishes that won’t leave you feeling unhappy and guilty the next morning! Until next time, ya’ll! 🙂

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