The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

March 14, 2012

Game Day

Karen Freeman

TARBORO — We look forward to March at our house for two reasons. One is that it means warm weather is coming. Two – March Madness. I’m not totally sure which one is more important to us. We love both events. Anyone who knows me, knows that I bleed Carolina Blue. We are already planning our time during the ACC games. One of the things that you should plan is the food. It needs to be good, easy and game friendly. However, don’t forget to keep it out of reach when the scores are close or it could end up on the ceiling.

Our first dish is pizza casserole. Of course, you could just have pizza but where is the challenge in that? This is hot, gooey and delicious.

The second recipe is stuffed potato skins. Everyone loves potato skins. You have a lot of latitude with these. You can put about anything that you like on top of them, so be creative.

Recipe three is chicken fingers. This is just to give you something other than wings, although wings are good too. These are made with chicken breasts cut into strips and are very easy to make. You can spice them up more, if you prefer them hot.

Since we didn’t do pizza with the first recipe, we are doing pizza with the last recipe. Except that it’s the dessert. Of course, you can use cookie dough for the pizza crust, but this homemade crust is really good. You should give it a try. I make it with M&M’s and Reece’s peanut butter pieces but you can use almost anything. You can even use gummy worms!

Enjoy your game days. Even if you don’t invite people over to watch the game, you can still have game day food and make it a party!

Pizza Casserole

3 cups uncooked spiral pasta

2 pounds ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cans (8 ounces each) mushroom stems and pieces, drained

1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce

1 jar (14 ounces) pizza sauce

1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

4 cups (16 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided

1 package (3-1/2 ounces) sliced pepperoni

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the mushrooms, tomato sauce, pizza sauce, tomato paste, sugar and seasonings. Drain pasta; stir into meat sauce.

Divide half of the mixture between two greased 11-in. x 7-in. baking dishes; sprinkle each with 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers.

Stuffed Potato Skins

6 medium baking potatoes (6 ounces each)

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, divided

1 cup thinly sliced green onions

1 large sweet red pepper, finely chopped

1/2 cup fresh broccoli florets, finely chopped

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese, divided

Scrub and pierce potatoes. Bake at 400° for 40-50 minutes or until tender. Cool slightly; cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out the pulp, leaving a thin shell (save pulp for another use). Place potato shells on an ungreased baking sheet.

Combine butter and 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce; brush over shells. Broil 4 in. from the heat for 5 minutes or until edges are crispy and butter is bubbly. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine the onions, red pepper, broccoli, 3/4 cup cheese and remaining hot pepper sauce; spoon into potato skins. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Broil 2-3 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Yield: 12 servings.

Zesty Chicken Fingers

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves

1/2 Cup buttermilk

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. hot red pepper sauce

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

6 C. vegetables oil

1/2 Cup flour

2 large eggs

2 1/2 Cups instant potato flakes

Cut your chicken into 3/4 inch strips, removing the tenderloin (a white strip). In a large bowl mix chicken strips, buttermilk, 1/2 tsp. salt, hot pepper sauce and garlic. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Drain and discard marinade.

In a large pan, heat oil to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, on a large plate, mix flour and salt. In a medium bowl beat eggs. Place potato flakes on plate. Coat chicken in flour, then eggs, the potato flakes. In hot oil, fry about 8 pieces at a time, about 2 minutes, until golden brown and cooked. Drain on paper towels.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Candy Pizza


1 C. packed brown sugar

1/2 Cup butter or margarine, softened

1 egg

1 1/4 Cup all-purpose flour

1/4 C. unsweetened baking cocoa

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 Cup Spanish peanuts

1 1.63-oz. bag candy-coated peanut butter candies or candy-coated chocolate candies

1 1.6-oz. pkg. chocolate-covered peanut butter cup candies (20 candies), cut up

1/4 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled

Peanut Butter Sauce:

1 10-oz. bag peanut butter chips (1 2/3 Cups)

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, mix brown sugar, butter and egg with spoon. Stir in flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Pat dough in ungreased 12-inch disposable pizza pan.

Bake pizza for 10-12 minutes or until edge is set. Cool at least 30 minutes.

In 2-quart saucepan, heat peanut butter sauce ingredients over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until melted and smooth. Spread over cookie pizza. Top with peanuts and candies. Drizzle with melted chocolate chips.

Did You Know?

March Madness Party Ideas

March Madness Party Decorations

Part of the madness of March madness is the excitement of tracking which teams will make it to the Final Four. Get a large piece of poster board and draw all the brackets starting with the initial 65 teams. Streamers, basketball-shaped helium balloons and school pendants can help dress up your TV room. Add some foam basketballs and hoops to complete the look.

Support your favorite team, even if they didn’t make it to the championship game, by donning their colors.

Place a basketball hoop over the trash can. Your guests won’t be able to resist throwing away their trash.

You can also go down the crazy road for some funny flavor on the madness tip and dress like a ref in black-and-white stripes.

Supply plates and napkins in your favorite team’s colors, or be neutral and use both teams’ colors.

March Madness Party Food: If you want to have a dinner party, don’t do it on game day. March Madmen are going to be a lot happier if they can snack on stuff without getting up from the TV. That means you’re in shooting range with chips and dips and easy food. Remember, the TV will be the focus of your party – serve food that is easy to eat so that your guests can eat while they watch the game.

Serve the food in basketball-shaped bowls, and make sure that it is easily available to all guests. Keep the food separate from the TV area, so that guests watching the game won’t miss a second of the action. Basketball moves quickly, and missing a single play could be very upsetting!

If you are including children on your guest list, remember to offer kid-friendly food and drinks, such as juice and soda.

Use paper plates, napkins and glasses – with a basketball theme or team colors – to make cleanup easy.