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Tailgate soup and sandwich

It’s football season again and if you’ve been following the games, they’ve really been exciting. What else is exciting is a good pre- or post-game tailgate party, at the stadium or in front of the television. For either, make it easy on yourself and serve everyone’s favorite soup and sandwich, tomato and grilled cheese, but with a twist. Let the happy tailgaters create their own sandwiches.

Imagine a spread of assorted breads, meats, cheeses and a variety of tasty condiments like mushrooms, roasted peppers and spreads, sandwiched together and buttered-up (with real butter) to be slow-grilled to golden perfection. And what goes with grilled cheese? Why a bowl of hot and hearty Italian Sausage Pasta Soup ready for the dipping.

For perfect sandwiches I recommend cooking in a nonstick frying pan or griddle on a camp stove. It’s also great for reheating the soup. A gas grill works, too, but under a watchful eye.

Team the soup and sandwiches with plenty of crunchy snacks and beverages and a batch of bar cookies for dessert and everyone will be saying, “Grilled cheese. What a novel idea!”

Italian Sausage Pasta Soup

3/4 cup uncooked radiatore or other hearty pasta

3/4-pound Italian sausage links, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 cup chopped onions

1 green bell pepper, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 (19-ounce) can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 (14.5-ounce) can beef broth

1 (14-ounce) jar pizza sauce

Directions: Cook pasta to desired doneness as directed on package. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in large saucepan, brown sausage over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell pepper and garlic. Cook 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in beans, broth and pizza sauce and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Add cooked pasta and continue to cook till thoroughly heated. Serves 6.

Ham and Apple Butter Grilled Cheese

2 slices thick sliced white bread

Butter

Apple butter

Dijon Mustard

2 slices Swiss cheese

1 slice deli ham

Directions: Spread one side of both pieces of bread with butter. Spread the other side of one slice with apple butter and the other with mustard. Sandwich with one slice cheese, then the ham and the other slice of cheese. Cook, flipping once, over medium low heat till golden. Makes 1 sandwich.

Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese

4 slices Italian or sourdough bread cut 1/2-inch thick

2 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 T. mayonnaise

2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 small can diced jalapenos (add to taste)

2 T. butter, softened

1/2 cup shredded Colby-Jack cheese

Directions: In small bowl combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, jalapeno and crumbled bacon. Set aside.

Spread 1 side of each bread slice with butter. On unbuttered side of 2 of the slices of bread spread cream cheese mixture then top with shredded cheese. Top with remaining slices of bread, butter-side-up.

Preheat skillet over medium heat. Place sandwiches in hot pan, reduce heat to medium-low and grill until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip sandwich and continue grilling till cheese is melted and sandwich is golden brown. Makes 2 sandwiches.

Roast Beef and Brie Grilled Cheese

2 slices sourdough bread

1 slice deli roast beef

Brie cheese (remove the rind)

Dijon mustard

Caramelized onions

Directions: Spread one side of each piece of bread with butter. Spread the unbuttered sides with mustard and brie. Top with caramelized onions and the roast beef. Cook on medium-low, flipping once, till golden. Makes 1 sandwich.

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