As a kid, even though I grew up in Wisconsin, I was a small, but committed Bears fan, thanks to my parents’ Chicago upbringing. I have somewhat hazy and happy memories of dancing next to my younger brother in our living room with Jim McMahon and The Fridge doing the Super Bowl Shuffle.
And being the young and aspiring athlete that I was, I enjoyed watching games with my family…the TV muted while we listened to AM-radio announcers, turned up ear-wincingly loud for my contractor dad’s saw-impaired ears, because those TV announcers were just horrible, you know.
These were good memories.
But then things turned a bit sour.
When I was nine years old, in 1992, the Super Bowl fell on my birthday. January 26. And then, even more traumatically, it happened again five years later. It was sort of the perfect birthday storm:
The Packers played in that Super Bowl…
…and I lived in Wisconsin,
which meant that everyone around me was obsessed with the Super Bowl that year…
…and NOT so much with my birthday.
Add that to the fact that I was a typically emotional (and insecure) fourteen year old, and the three happy birthday wishes I got that day just weren’t going to cut it. I pretty much spent the whole day moping and decided that I hated the NFL forever.
And then I met Eric…who really legitimately enjoys watching football. And I would watch with him, because of course, it meant a really, really great two-hour nap on a recliner, all cuddled up with him.
As time went on, Eric would tell me the back stories of players, like how Player A had just been a bagger at the local grocery store, but three starters just got injured, and now he’s suddenly the starting running back…or how Player B has always been in his brother’s shadow, and now they’re facing off in the championship…or how Player C tragically lost his leukemia-battling Stanford girlfriend in a car accident on the same day that he lost his elderly grandmother, can you believe it?
And suddenly, I found myself rooting for these guys, willing them to get a first down, or catch the ball, but then Eric took it a step further.
He bribed me into forming my own fantasty football team, and here’s how: If I finished in last place, he’d take me out to McDonalds for a date. If I finished ninth, we’d go to Subway….all the way on up to first, which would win me a date to Forepaugh’s…a gourmet restaurant run out of an old Victorian mansion in St. Paul.
Talk of motivation. I was talking training camps, injuries, and waiver wires with the best of them all season, and the NFL and I were BFFs again, as I placed second and was treated to a fabulous Italian meal that year.
Fact: food makes football better.
Including the Super Bowl, which is coming up next weekend. So this week, we’ll be featuring some fun appetizers you could bring to or serve at a party, like these crispy cheesy bacon bites of goodness.
I’ll start by saying I made these multiple times, in because I wanted to improve on them, and in part because I wanted to keep eating them. The version I ended up settling on goes a little something like this: butter and brown sugar are creamed together with flour in a way that points to cookies…but wait! Then you add shredded cheddar, salt, pepper, onion powder, red pepper flakes, and the crown jewel !bacon! All of these ingredients are baked together into sweet-meets-salty goodness. These are great little hand-held treats that fall halfway between appetizer and dessert and will totally make your football watching experience this Sunday better, whether you’re football’s biggest fan or frenemy, like me.
(recipe adapted from The Great Big Butter Cookbook ) (yields one 9x13" pan of bars)
This easy recipe is the perfect salty-sweet appetizer, including brown sugar, cheddar, and bacon! I adapted the original recipe by cutting back on the flour, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes and adding more cheese, bacon. I also included a healthy amount of bacon grease and a little onion powder.
2 sticks salted butter, room temperature
1/3 heaping c. brown sugar, packed
2 c. flour
2 c. shredded cheddar
5 strips bacon, cooked crispy and then crumbled (grease reserved)
3 tsp. bacon grease
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. onion powder
dash red pepper flakes
Fry bacon until crispy; reserve the grease. Drain bacon on paper-towel-lined plate. Once cool, crumble into small pieces.
Preheat oven to 325*.
Cream together butter and brown sugar. Beat in flour GRADUALLY (it is really important you do this gradually or your batter will not form right!) Beat flour gradually until it is fully incorporated and dough is stiff.
Beat in the cheese, bacon bits, salt, pepper, onion powder, and red pepper flakes.
Spread the dough into a greased 9x13" pan, using your palms to spread it into the corners and flatten it. Bake for 40 minutes or until edges are browned and center is golden-brown. Remove from oven and immediately cut into squares, then let cool completely before removing from pan.
Stores well overnight in an airtight container.