Get out the tents, tables, and chairs all in red, blue or even purple … it is time to tailgate. Games are great, but as you know half the fun is in the parking lot before and after the game. This year don’t sacrifice your favorite tailgating recipes just because you’re trying to eat healthy. With these recipes you can enjoy the bold flavors of traditional recipes but with a fraction of the fat and calories. Tailgaters come hungry and enjoy the hearty recipes.
Sausage Mushroom Caps
24 medium-size button or cremini mushrooms (about 1 lb. total)
1/3 pound seasoned bulk pork sausage
3 tablespoons seasoned dried bread crumbs
About 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
24 flat-leaf parsley leaves
Preheat broiler. Rinse mushrooms. Scoop out stems with a small spoon and save for another use.
In a small bowl, mix sausage with bread crumbs. Mound sausage mixture in mushrooms, then place, filled side up, in a rimmed 10- by 15-in. baking pan.
Broil 6 to 7 in. from heat until sausage is well browned, about 5 minutes. Lift mushrooms onto a platter, brush with oil, and top with parsley leaves.
Serves 12, each serving contains: Calories 73, Protein 2.8 g, Fat 5.7 g, Carbohydrate 2.5 g, Fiber 0.2 g, Sodium 116 mg, Cholesterol 9 mg.
Warm Cheesy Spinach Dip
1 (10 oz.) bag Frozen chopped spinach – defrosted and squeezed dry 
Pinch Salt & Pepper
1 tsp. Garlic, minced (or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder)
1 (5 oz.) can Sliced water chestnuts – diced into small pieces
1/2 Small onion, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup Low fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/8 cup Feta cheese (or mozzarella)
1/2 cup Mozzarella, grated
2 tbs. Parmesan cheese, grated
Combine spinach, seasonings, onions and 1/4 cup water in sauté pan and cover. Steam until spinach wilted and onion is softened, stirring occasionally. Remove cover and continue to stir and cook until water is completely evaporated (or cooked off). Add water chestnuts, stir to combine, and turn off heat.
Meanwhile, blend cottage cheese in the blender or food processor until smooth. Add to the sauté pan, along with the rest of the cheeses. Pour into baking dish and top with cheese.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and lightly golden brown on top. Enjoy warm with pita chips, veggies, or whatever you choose!
Serves 12, each ¼ cup serving contains: Calories 57, Fat 3 g, Carbohydrate 3 g, Fiber 1 g, Sugar 1 g, Protein 6 g.
Buffalo Chicken Fries
2 medium Sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
1 Egg white, lightly beaten
1 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Pepper
1/2 tsp. Garlic powder
1 cup Cooked chicken, shredded or diced
1/2 cup Buffalo sauce 
1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, grated (or mozzarella)
1/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
Optional: Low fat plain Greek yogurt of low fat sour cream for drizzling, green onions or chives for topping
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil (for easy clean up) and spray with cooking spray. Cut potatoes into wedges and place on baking pan.
Brush potato wedges with the egg white (this will help seasoning to stick, and help them get crispy!) Sprinkle seasoning evenly over potatoes. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until they begin to get lightly golden brown and crisp. When finished baking, remove from the oven.
Meanwhile, mix the hot sauce and chicken together in a small bowl, and toss to coat.
Evenly distribute the chicken/hot sauce mixture over the fries. Top with both cheeses, and return the fries the oven for five minutes, or until cheddar cheese melts. Remove from the oven and top with Greek yogurt and chives/green onions if desired. Enjoy!
Serves 4, each serving contains: Calories 179, Fat 6 g, Carbohydrate 12 g, Fiber 2 g, Sugar 5 g, Protein 18.5 g.
Tex-Mex Beef and Bean Dip
1/2 pound ground sirloin
2 tablespoons no-salt-added tomato paste
1 to 2 teaspoons chipotle Chile powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled queso fresco
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
3 ounces bite-size baked tortilla chips (about 60, such as Tostitos Scoops
Cook beef in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain well; return beef to pan. Add tomato paste and next 4 ingredients (through diced tomatoes), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally.
Spoon meat mixture into a serving bowl; top with crumbled cheese and green onions. Serve with tortilla chips.
Serves 12, each 1/4 cup dip and 5 chips contains: Calories 99, Fat 2.5 g, Protein 7.3 g, Carbohydrate 11.7 g, Fiber 1.9 g, Cholesterol 15 mg, Sodium 216 mg.
Mini Deep Dish Pizzas
3-4 Whole wheat wraps
1 (15 oz.) Can pizza sauce
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. Basil/oregano mix or Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. Garlic powder
3/4 cup Shredded mozzarella cheese
48 Mini turkey pepperonis (or 12 whole turkey pepperonis each cut into 4 even pieces)
- Put your own spin on these by adding anything that you would normally like on a pizza just before popping them in the oven!
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 12 count muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
Start by laying each tortilla out individually on a flat surface, and use an empty can, cup, or cookie cutter to cut 3-4 medium circles out of each wrap. I used the empty pizza sauce can, which worked well! Press firmly enough, using a rocking motion, until it cuts through the wrap.
Press each wrap circle into muffin tin using your fingers. Pour pizza sauce, Parmesan cheese, and the spices into a medium sized bowl. Stir until everything is well combined.
Drop about.1-2 tbsp. of sauce in each wrap. Divide mozzarella cheese evenly over each mini pizza
Place 4 mini pepperonis on top of each pizza.
Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Wait for pizzas to cool, and remove from muffin tin using a fork or knife. Pizzas should pop out with ease! Serve warm and enjoy!
Serves 12, each serving contains: Calories 66, Fat 1.5 g, Carbohydrate 7 g, Fiber 3 g, Sugar 2 g, Protein 6 g.
Toffee Blond Brownies
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup egg substitute
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup toffee baking bits (such as Heath)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; stir just until moist. Spread batter in an 8-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with toffee bits. Bake at 350° for 22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
Serves 12, each serving contains: Calories 168, Fat 5.4 g, Protein 1.6 g, Carbohydrates 28.4 g, Fiber 0.3 g, Sodium 120 mg.
Tammy Kelly is director of the Lenoir County Cooperative Extension Center, 1791 N.C. 11/55, Kinston, NC 28504. Reach her at 252-527-2191 or Tammy_Kelly@ncsu.edu.