Note from the Editor: Today's guest post comes from Lisa Newsome at Entertaining is Easy. She wrote a few weeks ago pitching an idea for an effortless "grillgating" menu. While this is a departure from our usual content, I loved Lisa's point of view and whole-hearted adoption of a true niche. Take a look at how every one of her recipes and ideas comes back to a central theme (easy entertaining!) and use that as a master class in distinguishing your blog's expertise in a crowded space!

It’s that time of year…again. Fall. The leaves are beginning to turn, the days are becoming shorter, there’s a slight chill in the air. More importantly, Football Season is finally here, and that means it’s time to tailgate! Can you think of anything more fun to do on the weekends? Transforming your car trunk into a veritable entertaining epicenter, hanging out with friends and family, and eating and drinking until kickoff. Does it really get any better than this?

For some of us, this visual may seem daunting, perhaps even a little overwhelming. I know what you’re thinking, “all that work.” Yes, a tailgate menu can become quite a task to prepare, but it doesn’t have to be the way. I believe in simplicity. Does that mean that we just do takeout? No way. I’m a purist at heart. But, we are going to keep it simple. I’m a real believer in the KISS Principle. Have you heard of this? Keep It Simple…SIMPLE.

Is there a way to tailgate simply? Absolutely! Have you ever tried grilling at a tailgate? I like to call it Grillgating and it is definitely my favorite way to enjoy a pregame feast! All you need is a portable grill. There is a wide variety to choose from to suit your needs. I highly recommend as a starting guide to best select that grill that is going to become your Grillgating best friend.

Next, all you need are some ideas about what to cook. That’s what I love about Grillgating the most: you really don’t need to have a planned menu…as long as (almost) everything can go on the grill, you’re all set! What I like to do is ask everyone who is Grillgating with us to bring two or three items from a preset list…this prevents your guests from all bringing hot dog buns. One can only eat so many grilled hot dog buns.

Bloody Marys by Lisa Newsome Entertaining is Easy - Chicory Blog

For instance, I always serve Bloody Marys & I ask everyone to bring a condiment, except for the shrimp and bacon. I love adding these to Tailgate Bloodies! Yep, grilled shrimp & bacon…these Bloodies are the BEST! I like to add a little extra horseradish & Old Bay Seasoning, then Tito’s Vodka. Grill the shrimp & bacon, and add to the Bloodies along with your favorite condiments (pickled anything, celery, olives, you name it!). It’s really fun to see what everyone brings! Before you know it, you’ll have a Bloody Mary Bar! How fun is that?

Grilled Bread with Tomatoes and Basil by Lisa Newsome Entertaining is Easy - Chicory Blog

With the Bloodies, serve grilled bread, slathered with goat cheese or brie, then topped with seasonal produce. For me, right now, it’s cherry tomatoes and basil. These are super easy to prepare onsite, are beautiful to serve and pair really well with the Bloodies. Now, let’s move on to main dishes that are fun and easy to grill. 

Maple Lime Sriracha Skewers by Lisa Newsome Entertaining is Easy - Chicory Blog

How about some Maple Lime Sriracha Chicken Skewers? Marinate chicken thigh pieces overnight and skewer them the next morning. Throw in the cooler and go! The skewers are ready to grill and only take about 15 minutes.

Seafood Grill (Oysters) by Lisa Newsome Entertaining is Easy - Chicory Blog

Another favorite of mine is a Seafood Grillgate! Have everyone bring a different seafood and put it all on the grill. In minutes, everyone will be feasting up a storm! Don’t these grilled oysters look amazing? Concerned about shells? Bring along a paper trash bag lined with a plastic trash bag. Throw that thing away before kickoff. 

Of course, you can always serve burgers! Keep it simple, though…

Burgers by Lisa Newsome Entertaining is Easy - Chicory Blog

Select a couple of cheeses, as that’s all you need to start! Then, have someone bring bacon pieces, have another person bring tomatoes, lettuce and hamburger buns, slaw, sautéed onions--there are tons of ways for your guests to lend a hand! I'd also definitely whip up Tasting Table’s Special Burger Sauce, which is the BEST! Mayo, mustard, ketchup, chopped pickles, cayenne, and paprika are mixed into heavenly deliciousness. What I like best is there is no need for a bunch of different bottles, just one. Everyone will love it, promise.

Potato Chips with Beet Horseradish Dipping Suace by Lisa Newsome Entertaining is Easy - Chicory Blog

What about side dishes? Oh, now I’m getting complicated, right? Not really. Keep it simple. I’m a big fan of kettle chips. They’re addicting. That’s all you need. Have you met anyone who doesn’t like a potato chip? That person doesn’t exist. It’s the perfect gluten-free carb. No dip needed. The best part is chips go with everything!

If you're serving a dip, I can’t think of anything better than cream cheese and beet horseradish whipped together. Beets add a touch of sweetness, plus the dip has a pink hue, which looks great presentation-wise, especially when a little lime zest is added. Pink & Green Dip is a natural with potato chips. And, who doesn’t like a 3-ingredient dip?

AirFryer French Fries by Lisa Newsome Entertaining is Easy - Chicory Blog

Can you get fancy with side dishes? Sure. My idea of fancy, though, is bringing a portable electric outlet (available at Walmart) and my new favorite kitchen appliance, the Phillips Airfryer, a brilliant invention, which is available at Williams-Sonoma. All you need are frozen French fries. That’s it. Place a bag of frozen fries in the basket, and 20 minutes later, you’ll have crispy fries that you’ll swear were immersed in oil. It’s amazing! There’s no clean-up, which is even better! I realize that, yes, you need a portable electrical outlet, but this purchase is a lifesaver! I cannot tell you how many times that little gizmo has saved our family during power outages.

Grilled Zucchini by Lisa Newsome Entertaining is Easy - Chicory Blog

If a power outlet and fryer are not your cup of tea, then why not consider some grilled veggies? Zucchini is an easy one to grill! Pre-slice the zucchini, throw on the grill, and serve. All you need is a little salt and pepper. If you want to get fancy, add a little chopped parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil. The zucchini will be delicious either way.

As far as serving pieces go, melamine and plastic stemware are the way to go. Pick what you like…you’ll have this stuff forever.

I hope you found my blog helpful! Grillgating is a lot of fun & the possibilities are endless! What I like most is that there is just a little prep work ahead of time. Everything can be made while you socialize, so you get to enjoy the party as well. Cheers!