Here are 10 store-bought snack saviors we love to sneak into semi-homemade recipes from time to time, and two must-have time-saving tools that seem like they were invented just for sports watch parties:
1. Rotisserie chicken
Have someone else cook the chicken – and we don’t mean a friend. The easiest tactic if you do it yourself is to simply grab a rotisserie chicken and shred the meat to use however you want.
Here are some particularly delicious rotisserie chicken recipe ideas:
2. Frozen pizza (the good stuff)
Getting a good quality frozen cheese pizza from your nearest Target, Trader Joe’s, or Costco and topping it with fresh vegetables or meat is a no-brainer. Try pancetta and bell pepper or marinated mushrooms and blue cheese to spice it up.
On the other hand, if you’re jumping for some truly gourmet frozen pizza – from Lou Malnati’s or Roberta’s, for example, which you can now have delivered straight to your door in this glorious time – there’s nothing you need to do but heat it up and see it to disappear. Check out Chowhound’s picks for the best frozen pizzas you can get delivered. And really, you can order all of your gamedaggrub online if you want. Make sure to check shipping and delivery times as we’re getting started for Super Bowl Sunday.
Flatbread – from naan to pita – is easy to find in most stores today, and it makes a great base for quality ingredients that make it a quick, easy entree (similar to but different from pizza!). Try something special like this creme fraiche, red onion and lox flatbread recipe or chorizo and olive flatbread recipe on your store-bought base, cut into bite-sized pieces, and place on a platter where guests can help themselves.
4. Microwave popcorn
Popcorn is a totally underrated snack for the day of the game because you can easily freshen it up and it takes seconds to make. Buy a no-salt and no-butter microwave popcorn like Newman’s Own, then make a spice blend like parmesan and black pepper popcorn recipe, black sesame and mustard popcorn recipe, or spicy cinnamon-sugar popcorn recipe if you have a sweet tooth. After popping the popcorn, put the popcorn and drizzle the mixture over it. Toss and serve. Boom (pop)!
Bonus: This fulfills the playbook rule for a game day party of eating something people can eat without having to look at it, in case they can’t take their eyes off the TV screen.
For an incredibly simple yet impressive appetizer or snack, buy a good quality regular hummus and process it with mix-ins, like the one in this easy chipotle hummus recipe. You can also just stir in the puffed pesto for a quick look at a spinach and basil hummus recipe. Or take a shortcut to eggplant and hummus pita bread by using store-bought hummus and store-bought eggplant dip.
6. Marinated steak strips
Pre-marinated steak strips taken from the meat bank can be seared and wrapped in corn tortillas for steak tacos or steak fajitas or used to top a steak salad with blue cheese). If you’re not convinced of the quality of your local options, you can always order steak online and toss in a good store-bought rub the night before.
8. Pre-cut vegetables
Hack your dip bowl by simply swapping out the foil-covered junk that comes with a store-bought vegetable dish for a flavorful homemade option like gooey queso, slow cooker French onion dip, or easy blue cheese dressing. Or go dip on your favorite game day. Lightly steam cauliflower, broccoli, or small waxy potatoes and serve alongside the raw, crunchy stuff to add some variety.
Just choose carefully when buying pre-cut vegetables – depending on how long they are on the shelf, they can be really dried out. But that’s less of a concern if you’re going to cook them (for example, if you’re setting up a taco or fajita bar).
8. Frozen limeade concentrate
Because you must have something besides drinking beer. (And you may not want to mess with game day wine pairings.) In that case, make a round of easy slushy margaritas by using frozen limeade concentrate instead of freshly squeezed limes.
Sure, you could serve it straight from the tub, but just a little more work will yield much more impressive results (don’t tell anyone how easy it actually was). For example, this pistachio strawberry ice cream cake looks beautiful, but it’s ridiculously easy to make if you use store-bought ice cream. Ditto these parfaits with raspberry brownie ice cream. Or you can always put on a football sundae.
10. Pre-cut melon
While not particularly seasonal, these booze-infused watermelon pops are always a hit at parties (and technically count as a healthy snack for game day). Use pre-cut melon and soak in vodka and chambord, then freeze. It’s a great dessert option if you’re not a baker – and other fruits like honeydew and pineapple chunks can also be used well in the alcohol infusion treatment.
11. A hot air fryer
Fried foods are the perfect game day companion, of course, but frying food is a famously messy endeavor. Believe me, you won’t want to deal with that crap the next day, especially if your team has lost. For crispy wings, tater tots (one of my personal favorites) and frozen snacks, a hot air fryer replicates frying in oil and couldn’t be easier to operate. You can get a good air fryer with enough capacity to cook for a group.
12. An Instant Pot
You knew this was coming in here, and for good reason: an Instant Pot (or whatever pressure cooker you have) is a perfect tool for making large batches of festive meals in a fraction of the usual time, from carnitas and queso to chili and Cheesecake. Right away, it can even make wings and fries crunchy on game day, so make good use of it!