It’s that time of year again. 

If you’re planning to serve more than chips and dip at your upcoming tailgate (and we hope you are!), you need to do some planning. That means making as many dishes as possible the day before the game. These should be dishes that need just a quick bit of reheating or dishes that can be served cold or at room temperature. 

These recipes, all of which can be made ahead, will get you started. They also transport well if you’re traveling to the game. The Barbecue Chicken Sliders are just as good cold as hot. The Avocado Dip is guacamole with a twist or two. And the No-Bake Pretzel bars will help give your party a sweet ending. 



Makes: 12 sliders / Prep time: 15 minutes / Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

This is a super-easy recipe that you can make a day in advance. Cooking the chicken with the skin on helps keep it moist. It’s discarded after cooking. 

2 large bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 1 pound each)

4 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon paprika

1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce, divided

12 small pretzel rolls or dinner rolls

Coleslaw, optional

Crispy French fried onions, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken on a sided baking sheet. Flatten it to press down on the bone so the chicken breast is almost an even thickness. Loosen the skin. Mix together the chili powder, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, brown sugar and paprika. Set aside half of the mixture. Rub the other half all over the chicken on all sides and under the skin.

Bake about 45 minutes or until chicken is thoroughly cooked through. Remove from oven and cool completely.

When cool, remove the skin and discard it. Shred the chicken meat and put in a bowl. You should have about 4 cups of meat. Sprinkle in some reserved rub mixture. (You may not use all the rub.) Add about 1 cup barbecue sauce to chicken and mix thoroughly.

Cut the dinner rolls in half. Spread a little bit more barbecue sauce on the bottom roll. Top with about 1/3 cup shredded chicken, coleslaw and crispy fried onions.

From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.


Serves: 12 / Prep time: 15 minutes / Total time: 15 minutes plus chilling time

You can serve this twist on guacamole with whole-wheat pita bread, fresh vegetables or baked tortilla chips.

2 ripe avocados

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 ounces (4 tablespoons) reduced-fat cream cheese

2 cloves garlic, peeled, coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup salsa

2 tablespoons snipped cilantro, optional

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pit and scoop the flesh into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the lime juice, sour cream, cream cheese and garlic and process until smooth. Place in a bowl and season with salt. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing wrap onto the surface of the dip. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving, allowing flavors to blend.

To serve, make a small well in the center of the dip and add salsa. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Created by Darlene Zimmerman, MS, RD, for Heart Smart and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.


Makes: 36 bars / Prep time: 25 minutes / Total time: 25 minutes plus 2 hours chilling time

Nonstick cooking spray

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter

6 tablespoons butter, melted

2 cups crushed pretzels

1 package (10 to 12 ounces) caramel bits or butterscotch-flavored pieces

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup coarsely crushed pretzels

1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts

Line a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with foil. Lightly coat the foil with cooking spray and set aside. 

In a large mixing bowl, stir together powdered sugar, peanut butter and melted butter. Stir in the 2 cups crushed pretzels. Press mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan.

In a medium saucepan, combine the butterscotch or caramel pieces and whipping cream. Stir over low heat until pieces are just melted. 

Carefully spoon and spread the caramel mixture over the crumb mixture in the pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup coarsely crushed pretzels and the peanuts. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Cut into bars. These store well in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. 

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens. 

Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. 


©2018 Detroit Free Press

Visit the Detroit Free Press at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.