Sunday, February 1, 2004

Keep the party simple

These last-minute tips can make Super Bowl gatherings go smoothly

Gannett News Service

Today's the big day. If you're planning a Super Bowl gathering at your place for four or 24 or more, you will want to keep it fun and relatively simple to manage. You can make it fancy or simple, but these last-minute tips can help your TV football fest go smoothly.

• If you have a gang, set up every TV you own in every room where you allow guests. Arrange the chairs and couches for comfy viewing and bring in floor pillows if necessary. If spouses or significant others who aren't interested in the game come along, they can gather in another part of the house for conversation, alternative TV programming or board games.

• Plan to have about a pound of ice for each grown-up to accommodate several hours of eating and drinking.

• If you allow smoking at your home, consider setting up smoke-free zones.

• Set up a separate table for beverages. Keep your offerings simple. Beer, white wine and bloody Marys along with soft drinks and bottled water should be enough.

• Plan to serve appetizers during the pre-game and the first half, serve a hefty buffet on your kitchen counter or dining table during halftime, and offer plates of chocolate chunk cookies during the second half to those with a sweet tooth.

• Disperse appetizers around the house and close to TV seating areas. There's no need to be super fancy. Bowls of popcorn, salted nuts, pretzels and chips can fill in between the crisp crackers, hot crab dip and chili.

• Play upbeat music before the game when your friends start arriving.

• Make sure there are easily available trash cans and lots of plastic garbage bags on hand.

• Clean out the refrigerator in advance of anything dead or dying, and make room for your party food. The same goes for the dishwasher. Empty it. You might want to be doing several loads during the course of the day.

• Plan on using paper or plastic plates, napkins and utensils. This is no time for the family china. You will want to have lots of paper towels on hand, too.

• Pull out platters and bowls in advance, and have them ready for last-minute filling.

This party salsa may require a trip to the grocery, but still comes together fast.

Mango Tango Black Bean Salsa

1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 7-ounce can whole kernel corn with peppers, drained

1 medium mango, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4 inch cubes*

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Combine all ingredients in bowl and chill briefly. Serve with tortilla chips.

Note: If you can't find fresh mango, substitute equal amount of fresh papaya, peaches or nectarines.

Canned Food Alliance

If you're looking for an easy, last minute appetizer for your game party, this recipe from Live! From Marilyn's Kitchen (Pelican Press; $24.95) by Marilyn Harris fits the bill.

Santa Fe Hot Bean Dip

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

2 1-pound cans pinto beans, drained and pureed

1 large roasted onion, (see note) chopped

3 cloves roasted garlic, (see note) chopped

1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

11/2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese

Salt, to taste

Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Heat olive oil in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add chili powder and cumin, and stir 1 to 2 minutes. Add pureed beans to saucepan. Stir in chopped onions and garlic, and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally over low heat.

Stir in hot pepper sauce and 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Season to taste with salt. Place dip in small casserole and sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Cover and refrigerate until serving. At serving time, heat casserole in microwave or oven until cheese melts. Serve hot, garnished with cilantro, with tortilla chips. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Note: To roast onion, rub large, unpeeled onion with oil. Wrap in foil tightly and roast in 400-degree oven until soft, 1 to 11/2 hours. Cool and peel. To roast garlic, cut top off large head of garlic, exposing tops of cloves. Place garlic on foil, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Wrap in foil tightly and roast in 400-degree oven about 30 minutes, until soft. Cool, and squeeze garlic from skins. Refrigerate unused roasted garlic.

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