Though it's not yet technically fall, I tend to think that Labor Day signals the unofficial end of summer. (Starbucks' beliefs are slightly different, apparently.) Autumn is still a few weeks down the road, but one very important season kicked off last weekend: college football season!
So far, a very warm, humid, and slightly rainy college football season at that. And a downright embarrassing one. Ahem. But I'm not bitter. I'm not bitter because, regardless of how poorly Pitt's football team may fare, there are so many other totally awesome things about football season.
Like season tickets. In the club level. With a roof!
And having a legitimate excuse to purchase fun non-work clothing clad with Pitt logos of both the unoriginal and totally classic kind.
But, my absolute favorite thing is spending time with great friends from college and beyond, both pretending we're still in college and complaining about current college students while uttering things like, "We were never that bad." News flash: Yes, you absolutely were that bad. And it was awesome. :)
All of those things being said, there is one essential part of college football season that I must discuss. And, you're here so I bet you can guess what I'm going to hail next -- tailgating food!
As I learned after last season, my first as a regular tailgate treat maker, there is a fine science to the cuisine eaten in stadium parking lots.
Foods must be super portable. This is not the time for desserts requiring last minute assembly like strawberry shortcakes. Things that can be stacked and packed are going to do well on game days.
Minimize the importance of utensils. For main dishes, this isn't always possible; however, for desserts, side dishes, and everything else, make 'em finger-friendly. They'll disappear faster, too, so you don't have to worry about storing leftovers.
Take the weather into account! I realize this may seem like the most obvious statement of them all, but it's totally worth mentioning. If the forecast is calling for 90 degree heat and blistering sun, don't bring homemade ice cream sandwiches for 20 of your closest friends. It doesn't matter how epic those chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes may be, melting buttercream and smearable chocolate aren't appealing. Plus, folks tend to gravitate toward lighter things when it's warm and heartier things when it's chilly.
Finally, know your crowd! This may be tricky if you're a guest and unfamiliar with the cast of characters, so think along the lines of something appealing to many and familiar. Never underestimate the popularity of, say, a really moist brownie -- it's considered a classic for a reason... because it's delicious!
With lots (and lots) of serious thought, and many emails and text messages to friends throughout the week leading up to the game, one recipe stood out and was crowned that week's winner: trail mix Rice Krispie treats with salted caramel!
Uh huh, uh huh, mmmmm hmmmmmmmmmmmm! It may be a mouthful, but I'm only preparing you for the joy you'll encounter when your mouth is full of one of these sure-to-become-a-favorite Krispie treats. Get ready to practice talking with your mouth full,
Rice Krispie treats may be the most crowd-friendly dessert I can think of, even more so than brownies. (Can you believe some people don't like chocolate? Gasp!). Jazzing them up with almonds, salty peanuts and pretzels, M&Ms, and gooey caramel only made them more enticing to everyone. And they're a cinch to make.
One year ago: The best zucchini bread; Homemade breakfast sausage patties
Two years ago: Walnut shortbread wedges
Salted Caramel Trail Mix Rice Krispie Treats
(adapted slightly from Cookies & Cups)
-makes 16 treats
A few notes: The original recipe utilized the new M&M Snack Mixes (3 cups or 2 packages of the stuff) for the trail mix. I actually bought one of each bag but wasn't very impressed with the contents, so I made my own trail mix. Feel free to create your own mix using nuts, chocolate candies, pretzels, other cereal, or even dried fruit, just make sure to use 3 cups of the mix. Finally, regarding quantity, for double the number but thinner treats, use a 9-by-12-inch pan.
1 (10 ounce) bag marshmallows
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
3 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
1/2 cup almonds
1 cup plain M&Ms
1 cup mini pretzels, broken in half
1/2 cup caramel candies or caramel bits
1 teaspoon milk
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Lightly coat an 8-by-8-inch pan with nonstick spray and set aside. In a microwave safe bowl, melt butter. Add marshmallows, toss to coat in butter, and return to microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring between, until marshmallows are completely melted and mixture is smooth. Set aside and allow to cool slightly so chocolate candies don't melt when added.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, melt caramels with milk in microwave for 1 minute, stirring until smooth. Stir in coarse sea salt into caramel.
Immediately pour in Rice Krispies and trail mix (nuts, M&Ms, and pretzels) into marshmallow mixture, stirring until evenly coated. Drop melted caramel by the spoonful into the marshmallow trail mix. Without stirring the caramel in, pour mixture into prepared pan and press evenly into pan. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into squares. Krispie treats will keep in a covered container at room temperature for up to 5 days.