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"Whether you're watching the Super Bowl for the commercials or to see the teams actually play, it's a long time from kickoff to the end of the game," says Food & Wine's executive food editor Tina Ujlaki. "You want to make sure there's something for everyone." Tina happens to be known for her Hall of Fame-worthy Super Bowl parties. Here, the professional hostess reveals her top tips for throwing fantastic, stress-free game-day bashes.
1. Serve foods that are great warm and at room temperature. "You never want to worry that people are eating a dish when it's not at its best," says Tina.
Ribs, chilis, stews, chicken wings, Cuban sandwiches, macaroni and cheese and baked pastas are crowd-pleasers that won't deteriorate quickly. Leave toppings and condiments on the side for guests to add themselves: "You can have seven people over and each person's plate will look different."
2. Think creamy, crunchy, cheesy and fresh. When planning the menu, choose easy-to-eat snacks with a variety of textures: creamy (caramelized onion dip, guacamole), crunchy (chips, nuts), cheesy (gooey queso dip, a great runny cheese) and fresh (healthy crudité, salsa). "It's a challenge not to have all gut-busting foods, so this rule helps balance the menu," says Tina. Another fresh element can be a big salad with lots of crunchy ingredients, like nuts and raw vegetables. "It's refreshing and a good counterpoint to the rest of the foods," says Tina.
Slideshow: Party Dip Recipes
3. Opt for simple dessert. "Fancy food never seems to work out," says Tina. Stick to cookies, brownies, blondies and fruit on skewers, which are easy to pick up. "If you're dying to make a Super Bowl-themed dish, bake an easy sheet pan of brownies, cut out football shapes and decorate them with white lines," she says.
Slideshow: Portable Desserts
4. Put everything out at once. "It's not the time for highfalutin entertaining," says Tina. Put dishes away as everyone stops eating them, but leave the dessert out.
Slideshow: Fast and Easy Desserts
5. Keep the beer cold. "Punch and wine are great, but there seems to be a magical combo of football and beer, so restock the refrigerator at halftime," says Tina.
Slideshow: Party Punch Recipes