Super sides

If you’ve had a teenage boy growing up in your home, you’ll connect with what I’m about to say. They eat. They eat a lot. They eat non-stop.

My son participates in sports and likes to shoot hoops with friends on the weekend. No doubt he burns an immense amount of calories. So I find him foraging in the pantry and refrigerator fairly often and coming up with treats that are not as healthy as I’d like for him.

We’ve started having “appetizer weekends.” This is a win-win for everyone. Tummies get full whenever they need refueled without holding out for the next meal. Mommy is happy that healthy foods are quick for the kids to grab. Oh, and it might be because she gets a break from cooking traditional meals for a day or two.

Super game weekend has a time-honored tradition of being the king of appetizer buffets and full-blown snack spreads. It’s fun to share the food and the preparation load by inviting others to join your party. There are healthy choices you can include like using carrots or celery as dipping sticks instead of potato chips.

The key for earning the Sutton Central stamp of approval is using quick and easy recipes with ingredients we can access at the local grocery. We check the grocery ads mid-week to see what items might be on special and lean toward recipes utilizing those. Using the slow cookers for two dishes allows us to keep them warm throughout the afternoon. We shoot for two entrée-type items and a few finger-food or dip items.

No matter which team you are cheering for the food always steals the show. A win for Mom!

Savory BBQ Slow Cooker Meatballs


2 lbs. 95% lean ground beef

1 1/3 c. ketchup, divided

3 Tbsp. seasoned dry breadcrumbs

1 egg, slightly beaten

2 Tbsp. dried onion flakes

3/4 tsp. garlic salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 c. packed light brown sugar

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

1/4 c. soy sauce

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1/4 c. apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 tsp. hot pepper sauce


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium-sized bowl, combine ground beef, 1/3 c. ketchup, breadcrumbs, egg, onion flakes, garlic salt and black pepper. Mix thoroughly, but lightly. Shape into 1-inch meatballs. Place meatballs in 2 (15- by 10-inch) jelly roll pans. Bake 18 minutes or until browned.

Transfer hot meatballs to a slow cooker. Mix remaining 1 c. ketchup, sugar, tomato paste, soy sauce, vinegar and hot pepper sauce in a bowl. Pour over meatballs. Cover and cook on low for four hours. You can serve with cocktail picks.

Pork Sliders


1 1/2 lbs. ground pork

1/2 lb. fresh Mexican chorizo sausage, casings removed

1/4 c. grated pepper jack cheese

Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

8-16 slices bacon, cooked crisp

16 dinner rolls or pretzel rolls, sliced in half

Leaf lettuce

3 sliced Roma tomatoes

Flavored mayonnaise


Preheat flat grill pan to medium-high heat or use an indoor griddle. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the ground pork, chorizo, cheese, shallot, garlic and salt and pepper. Form the mixture into small equal-sized slider patties. Cook the burgers for 4 minutes on each side. Serve on a split rolls and top with bacon, lettuce, tomato and flavored mayonnaise.

Note: You can purchase flavored mayonnaise but if you want to make your own simply combine 1/4 c. mayonnaise, 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika and 1 tsp. hot sauce and mix well. Do this the day before so the flavors can meld.

Cheese Oven-Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip


3 Tbsp. butter

4 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 bag baby spinach

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 cans artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained

3 Tbsp. butter (extra)

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 c. milk

1 pkg (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese

1/2 c. grated parmesan

3/4 c. shredded pepper jack cheese

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Pita wedges for dipping


Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in a skillet on medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium high and spinach, stirring until wilted. Remove spinach from the skillet and put it in a small strainer. Squeeze the excess juice back into the skillet. Set the spinach aside.

Dump in drained artichokes and cook over medium high heat for 4 minutes. Remove artichokes.

Melt 3 additional tablespoons of butter in skillet and whisk in 3 Tbsp. flour until it makes a roux. Cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes and add milk. Stir and cook until slightly thickened.

Add cream cheese, feta, parmesan, pepper jack and cayenne and stir until cheeses are melted and a smooth consistency. Chop artichokes and spinach and add to the cheese mixture stirring to combine. Pour into buttered casserole dish. Top with extra grated pepper jack and bake at 375 F for 15 minutes.

Veggie Pizza


2 (8-oz.) cans refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened

1/2 c. sour cream

1 tsp. dried dill weed

1/8 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 c. small fresh broccoli florets

1/3 c. quartered cucumber slices

1 Roma tomato, seeded, chopped

1/4 c. shredded carrot


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Unroll dough and separate into 4 long rectangles. In ungreased 15-by-10-by-1-inch jelly roll pan, press dough on bottom and up sides, sealing completely.

3. Bake 14 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely.

4. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, mix together cream cheese, sour cream, dill and garlic powder. Spread evenly over the bottom of the crust.

5. Arrange veggies evenly over the top. Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 2 hours before serving. Cut into small squares.