A tailgating recipe challenge and cookbook giveaway

Hey, football fans! Got a favorite tailgating or game day recipe? Share it with Stir It Up!, and you could win a signed copy of ESPN's Todd Blackledge's cookbook, 'Taste of the Town.'

Cathy Edwins
Serve up this Mississippi State University spicy buffalo chicken dip at your next tailgate or game day watch party (from 'Taste of the Town' by Todd Blackledge).
'Taste of the Town, a Guided Tour of College Football's Best Places to Eat' by Todd Blackledge and JR Rosenthal (206 pp., Center Street, $20)

Nothing says fall like college football. Whether you've scored student tickets and are cheering on your team from the stands, or you're reliving your glory days from the couch, chances are you've got a favorite game day snack.

Maybe it's nachos with three types of cheese in honor of the Wisconsin Badgers, blackened chicken Louisiana State University style, or mango salsa for the University of Miami. We're talking about those tried and true football recipes that have been with you through the good times and the bad – the tailgates that got rained out, the championship games that ended in euphoria, and the never-ending patience of rebuilding seasons. 

Here at Stir It Up! we love a good tailgate or a watch party, and we know good eats go a long way at either – no matter who's winning. So when Todd Blackledge's "Taste of the Town" came across our desk we knew we'd scored big. The book is a spin-off from Mr. Blackledge's "Taste of the Town" segment on ESPN. A former quarterback for Penn State and the Kansas City Chiefs and a college football analyst, Blackledge began airing visits to his favorite restaurants while on assignment in college towns. "Taste of the Town" took off overnight.

"For 15 years I had worked diligently to carve my own niche as a respected college football analyst, and in a few short weeks I had become better known as a food guy than a football guy," Blackledge reveals in the introduction to his cookbook. He has over the past five years covered 60 different restaurants in a minute or less, leaving many details on the cutting room floor.

"This cookbook gives me an opportunity to expand on my thoughts about and memories of the people I met, the food I ate, and the character and charm I sensed inside so many of those place," he says.

The cookbook is a round-up of more than 100 favorites from restaurants and colleges nationwide, divided into sections by school. The recipes are full of regional flavor, from Dead End ribs from the University of Tennessee, to eggplant parmigiana for Boston College. The chapter we found most inspiring is a round-up of favorite recipes from coaches, past and present. To kick off our contest, we tested a buffalo chicken dip from Mississippi State University (it goes without saying that all the recipes can be used to cheer on any team). The verdict? Delicious!

Quick and easy, this recipe only uses five ingredients. It's also a good way to use leftover chicken. Don't have blue cheese salad dressing on hand? Substitute crumbled blue cheese mixed with ranch dressing instead. This dip also has quite a bite! To tone it down, go easy on the buffalo wing sauce.

Garnished with chopped green onion and loaded into a slow cooker set to low, this dip was ready when the Florida Gators took on the Tennessee Volunteers this past weekend. Served with corn chips, blue corn tortilla chips, and celery sticks, a crowd of hungry Gators all liked the warm, cheesy dip and commented on its piquant heat. 

The tailgating recipe challenge: How to enter

Send your favorite tailgating or game day recipe to food@csps.com. Please include an ingredient list, step-by-step numbered instructions, along with your name, hometown, and e-mail address. We also want to hear your football story, is the recipe tied to your college team? Your hometown team? An old family favorite? Please submit your recipe and football story by October 7. We will contact the winner. The winner's recipe will appear in Stir It Up! and he or she will receive a signed copy of "Taste of the Town" by Todd Blackledge. (This contest is not open to employees of CSMonitor.com or their families.)

Show us your creations: We love food photos. So feel free to send us photos of your game day recipes or your football memories. (Hint: natural light works best. For reproduction on the Web, photos should be 600 x 400 DPI.) Pin your photo on Pinterest or tweet your Instagram picture using the hashtag #tailgatingchallenge. Follow us on Pinterest and Twitter for contest updates.

We look forward to hearing from you! If you have any questions, please feel to be in touch: food@csps.com

Weekend buffalo chicken dip
Reprinted with permission from "Taste of the Town" by Todd Blackledge and J.R. Rosenthal
By Dan Mullen, Mississippi State University
Serves 8

1 12-ounce block cream cheese

1 cup buffalo wing sauce

1 large can of chicken (found on the tuna aisle) or 1 cup cooked chicken, diced

1 cup blue cheese dressing [*editor's note: may substitute Ranch dressing]

2 cups shredded sharp cheese – more for sprinkling

Optional: chopped green onion for garnishing, corn chips and celery sticks for serving

1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the cream cheese.

2. Stir in the buffalo sauce, blue cheese dressing, chicken, and shredded cheese – in that order. Stir constantly for 5 minutes, until all the ingredients are combined.

3. Pour dip into slow cooker and sprinkle with more cheese and green onions if using. Serve with celery sticks and corn chips. 

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