There's nothing worse than a boring Super Bowl game -- except a boring Super Bowl party. If you want yours to stand out, sideline your typical dips, wings and chili, and try some of these easy ideas from A.J. Rathbun, author of Party Snacks! 50 Simple, Stylish Recipes to Make You a Popular Party Host and Party Drinks! 50 Classic Cocktails and Lively Libations. Check out these tasty Super Bowl snacks -- substitutions guaranteed to please fans of either team.
Instead of chili and cornbread:
Dish out some hearty New Orleans favorites: Red beans and rice, jambalaya or gumbo (which can be made with chicken, shrimp or veggies). Serve with warm biscuits.
Instead of take-out pizza:
Set up a build-your-own-pizza bar -- your crowd needs something to do during all those time-outs! Bake packages of store-bought biscuits according to directions, and then split each biscuit in half. Have an assortment of toppings ready: marinara sauce, pesto sauce, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, basil, red peppers, onion and prosciutto. Keep a roll of tinfoil next to the oven and let people heat and melt their creations whenever they're ready.
You can also bake pizza casseroles. First, line a greased casserole dish with quartered biscuits. Cover with sauce, sprinkle with toppings and cheese, then bake at 350 F until the cheese is melted. Serve with extra sauce on the side.
Instead of old-school dip and chips:
Freshen up a favorite. Combine tried-and-true onion soup mix with sour cream, and then add fresh parsley and garlic to taste. Serve with jicama, radishes, zucchini slices, bagel chips, melba toast or Boboli slices.
Instead of nachos and bean dip:
Keep the crunch with a platter of bruschetta. Go the classic route with chopped tomatoes, olive oil and basil on toasted slices of Italian bread. Or, branch out and use pesto topped with chopped tomatoes.
Instead of chicken wings:
Get out the bamboo skewers and grill or broil shrimp brushed with smoky or spicy sauce. You can also skewer strips of chicken for satay and serve them with a peanut dipping-sauce.
Instead of the same old brew:
Hold a mini beer-tasting. Choose six beers: They can be from different countries or states, and they can range from light to dark -- whatever piques your interest. Supply guests with a menu (a sheet of paper with the name and origin of each beer) and leave space at the bottom so they can take notes.
Instead of brownies:
Mix up the flavor with chocolate-chip and oatmeal-raisin cookie sandwiches with Nutella hazelnut-chocolate filling.
Or, make everyone happy with Super Bowl sundaes. Sometime after halftime, put out a few gallons with all the fixings -- grownups and kids alike will be glad you did.
Louise Tutelian has written for many publications and websites, including Parenting, Working Mother, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, CBS.com and MoneyWatch.com.