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The Smoking Musket Tailgate Menu: A cool fall night in Waco

As the fall weather comes in, we celebrate the flavors of the season.

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Can you feel it, Mountaineer fans? The crisp, cool air has finally come and fall has descended upon the rolling hills of Appalachia. However, our Mountaineers aren’t playing in West Virginia this week. Instead, we’re playing on banks of the Brazos River in Waco. It’s not quite time to break out the cold-weather meals yet, but it is time to cook up some sizzling food perfect for a big gameday crowd. I’m also going to give you some finger foods to entertain your tailgaters before the main course. This is the week 7 tailgate menu:

Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

As a single guy who doesn’t like to clean, sheet pan dinners are basically my lifesaver. It’s stress-free to prepare, throw it all on one sheet pan, and cook all together. This principle translates to tailgating very well.

Because we have an 8 p.m. kick, we can afford to cook things on-site, but that doesn’t mean you have to prep everything at your tailgate. You can buy pre-cut chicken tenders OR you can buy chicken breasts, butterfly them, and slice them yourself (which is what I would do). For this recipe, I highly suggest cutting all the ingredients beforehand and then assembling and cooking at the tailgate.

Pro tip: for color and portion purposes, use one bell pepper of each color. Stores usually sell a package of red, orange and yellow peppers, so purchase a green pepper separately. One extra pepper isn’t a whole lot, but it’s better to have more peppers than too few.

At your tailgate, put the chicken in a bowl with the sliced veggies. Add some olive oil and the spices and give them a good toss to combine them all. You should have preheated the grill to about 425 degrees. Pour the chicken and veggies onto a sheet pan and put on the grill for 20 minutes. With about five minutes to go, wrap as many tortillas as you need in aluminum foil and put it on the grill to heat the tortillas. After 20 minutes, remove the tortillas and crank up the heat as high as you can to “broil” the sheet pan mixture to give it that char we all love on our fajitas.

The other advantage to this cooking method is that serving is a breeze. Take the sheet pan off the grill, put it out on a table to serve and put the tortillas and limes next to it. Your guests can assemble their meal themselves.

Recipe

Cheese Straws

I think we all agree that cheese is amazing but baked cheese dough sounds delicious. This is my mom’s recipe and she gave me the opportunity to make these for a party last weekend. You should definitely make these ahead, but you could make the dough and bring it to the tailgate with you and cook it there. I’d say make them all before heading to the party so they’re ready to serve ASAP.

The tip here is to use room temperature cheese so it creams better. The second tip is to beat the ever-living hell out of the cheese and butter until there are no chunks or shreds of cheese, about 20 minutes. These two tips will make the cheese taste pop—I promise!

Recipe

Pumpkin Cheesecake Ball

The time has come…it is pumpkin spice latte season. To celebrate, we’re making this dessert cheese ball to satisfy all the basics at the tailgate.

To make this pumpkin cheesecake ball, room temperature butter, and cream cheese. You will need to beat them until completely smooth. This will take a while, but not as long as the cheese straws. Next, beat in the pumpkin and sugar to make a nice blog of sweetness. Shape it into a ball using plastic wrap, then chill for a few hours to firm up. Serve at the tailgate with gingersnap cookies, graham crackers or other cookies.

Recipe

This should be a great day to celebrate WVU football, and it starts with a great tailgate. With a combination of make-ahead dishes and food to throw on the grill, you’ll have a plethora of treats to serve your tailgate guests.