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Avid tailgaters share 4 touchdown-worthy recipes

While all of the chaos that surrounds tailgating can be overwhelming, avid tailgaters suggest to keep meals simple at first. Forum File photo1 / 3
Among the tailgating meals Bartholomay has planned, the most time consuming was the sandwich stadium – a custom-built wood structure filled with various foods and a homemade green sheet cake as the field. Megan Bartholomay / Special To The Forum2 / 3
Since 2009, Megan Bartholomay has been tailgating with her group which has won awards for Best Tailgating Setup and Bison Pride Award through the NDSU Athletics Department. Megan Bartholomay / Special To The Forum3 / 3

FARGO — Fall is officially here. What does that mean for Fargo? Tailgating season.

As the leaves take on beautiful golden, rust and red velvet hues, Fargo-Moorhead and surrounding cities come together to socialize, eat delicious food and unite with other football fans before kickoff.

Joan Achtenberg of Fargo is one of them. Legal assistant by day and avid tailgater by weekend, the co-organizer has been tailgating with her group since 2010. With 10 tailgating spots, three community spots, seven couples and a 10- by 20-foot trailer to haul equipment, their group makes college football Saturdays a force to be reckoned with. Wonderful food and drinks enhance the fun.

"By the time we get done, we feed — just inside our group — anywhere between 25 and 30 people every week," Achtenberg says.

Megan Bartholomay, who has been tailgating with her husband since 2009, knows the amount of work that correlates with feeding a large group of people. When starting out, Bartholomay was first in charge of food — a natural role that coincided with her love for cooking. But she quickly found that planning, preparing and feeding a large group of people wasn't a cakewalk. All too soon she got burned out.

"Cooking for 25 people at every home game is a ton of work, so now each family takes turns," Bartholomay says.

Her advice? Start simple. "We started tailgating out of the back of a van and had a camping grill," she says. "Now our group has grown to around 25 people and we have two large custom trailers complete with a heated tent, a power generator, an insane speaker system, a full bar and lots of other very cool tailgating (equipment)."

As a partner of the 12th Man Tailgating Team, Paul Hannaher of Fargo has been tailgating with his group for 12 years. Each year he looks forward to making his special, bacon-wrapped pheasant bites. "I usually prepare this the weekend before or the weekend of the opening of pheasant season in North Dakota," he says.

Check out some of the avid tailgaters' favorite recipes to get you started.

Bacon-Wrapped Pheasant Bites


12 to 14 pheasant breasts (thighs optional)

1 bottle zesty Italian dressing

2 pounds thick-cut bacon

¼ cup virgin olive oil

¼ cup Cajun seasoning

1/3 cup minced garlic

2 tablespoons minced garlic juice

1 cup white wine

1 box think, round toothpicks


Cut bacon strips into thirds. Cut pheasant into 1- to 1½-inch cubes. Wrap the pheasant in cut bacon and secure with toothpick.

Mix all ingredients except bacon-wrapped pheasant in a large container with lid that seals tightly (Tupperware works best). Stir thoroughly.

Add in bacon-wrapped pheasant and gently mix the meat into marinade. (Be careful not to mix too aggressively or bacon may come loose.) Put lid on container and place in refrigerator. Allow to marinate overnight.

Place pheasant on medium-hot grill until bacon is fully cooked.

Tip: Bacon may cause flare-ups so don't put too many on the grill at one time.

Recipe submitted by Paul Hannaher

Ziploc Omelette


Large or jumbo eggs


Desired fillings, such as ham, onion, green pepper, tomato, salsa, hash browns


Set out eggs and other desired fillings. Have each person write their name on the outside of a quart-size Ziploc freezer bag (toward the top). Crack 2 eggs into each bag (no more). Mash and shake well to combine.

Fold the top edge down so the bag remains open. Have each person add their favorite ingredients. Remove all air from bag and close. Shake well to combine all ingredients.

Place the bags into rolling, boiling water for exactly 13 minutes. (You can usually cook 6 to 8 omelets in a large pot.) Open bag and omelet will roll out easily.

Recipe submitted by Joan Achtenberg

Cheesy Chicken Tender Melts

Serves 24 individual sandwiches


4 loaves French or baguette bread

1 package frozen chicken tenders

1 package sliced mozzarella cheese

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons butter


Bake or fry chicken tenders according to package directions. Let cool and set aside. Cut each loaf of bread into 6 equal sections and hollow out each section by removing bread inside.

Take 1 chicken tender and wrap in 1 slice of mozzarella cheese. Stuff tender and cheese into 1 section of bread. Finely mince garlic and combine with butter. Microwave for 10 to 15 seconds or until butter is melted. Brush stuffed bread section with butter and garlic mixture. Wrap sandwich in aluminum foil and place on baking sheet. Repeat until all sections have been stuffed, brushed with mixture and wrapped.

Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Serve immediately or keep warm in a crockpot.

Recipe submitted by Megan Bartholomay

Hoof Kickin' Buffalo Chicken Dip

Serves 8 to 10


1 package softened cream cheese

10-ounce can chunk white chicken, drained

½ cup Buffalo wing sauce

½ cup blue cheese dressing

2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese

1 bag tortilla chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread cream cheese into ungreased, shallow 1-quart baking dish. Mix in chicken, wing sauce, bleu cheese dressing and shredded cheese.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or cook on high for 1 to 2 hours in crockpot. Serve with tortilla chips.

Recipe submitted by Megan Bartholomay


For more tailgating recipes, visit

Tailgating tips

• Start simple. Feeding a group of tailgaters doesn't have to be Pinterest dreamy. "Bring a package of brats, a package of buns and a bag of chips and then see how you like it," Achtenberg says. "If you want to keep going with it then you just grow."

• When you upgrade grills, keep your old one. "Usually, if anyone buys a new grill, the old one we use for tailgating," Achtenberg says. "It doesn't have to be fancy and new."

• Don't forget to check the grill. While it might seem like common sense, Hannaher says it's easy to get distracted and burn what you're cooking.

• Bring dishes that travel well. "If it's something that needs to be served hot or cold, find out what kind food storage situation is available," Bartholomay says. "I once made the mistake of bringing something in a crockpot only to find out there was no power."

• Think long term. Achtenberg's group buys chips in individual bags. "That way we can store them in the trailer from week to week," she says. "We don't have to worry about those open bags of stale chips."

• Be weather appropriate. North Dakota temperatures can change quickly. "Don't bring a mayo-based potato salad if it's going to be 90 degrees," Bartholomay says.