Many moons ago, eight years to be exact, my entire life as I knew it changed. I remember it vividly—we were in the midst of a lovely snow storm; I had stayed up far too late reading Harry Potter and woke up mere hours later, realizing my daughter-to-be was ready to meet the world.
And meet the world she did—in her characteristic eager fashion—less than twelve hours later, just after 10am on Super Bowl Sunday. My little touchdown baby! Needless to say, Super Bowl Sunday took on a whole new meaning for me after that day.
“Devout Football Enthusiast” was not much of a moniker for me but, like a vast amount of people around the globe, I always tuned in for the Super Bowl. In fact, even after only a few hours of sleep, and all the baby stuff that followed, we still tuned-in for the game later that day. My viewing was in tiny snippets between naps, but nevertheless, the occasion went on as planned.
I’ll admit it; I’m not the greatest spectator. To the displeasure of some of my diehard football fan friends, I didn’t really care who won, as long as the game was exciting, and the score was nail-bitingly close. And worse, I always root for the underdog, even if they are playing against the home team. Unless, of course, the other team had a “cooler” uniform.
My exasperated friends would jokingly threaten to disinvite me when I based my allegiance on uniform color scheme or which team had the player with the most awesome-sounding last name. But I confidently knew they never would. Because they loved me.
And also, I always brought the best snacks.
I came up with this incredible concoction while brainstorming for tasty Super-Bowl-type snacks that weren’t the usual: deep-fried, heavy, and/or crust-laden. I wanted something that was special and indulgent, without the parts that make me feel bad afterward.
Here we have veggies, a sharp bleu cheese bite, a spicy kick, and a hint of sweetness. Also, bacon. These Brussels Sprout Bites are pretty much a well-rounded complete meal. They are so good, in fact, that I’ll be making them again the following weekend, for my daughter’s birthday party!
Appetizers are one of my favorite ways to nosh. I would be content with nothing but small bites to graze on throughout the day, rather than a meal. And appetizers that are almost easier to make than they are delicious, and can be made in advance, are even better. These babies contain a handful of ingredients and can be adapted to suit your tastes.
The recipe includes a touch of honey for a bit of sweetness, but could easily be made without, if you’re not into added sugars. Don’t like bleu cheese? Use another cheese with some flavor (though nothing too strong; sharp cheddar or a smoky gouda would work well. Even a soft boursin, brie, or cream cheese would be awesome. I’m not a huge bleu cheese fan myself, preferring more mild bleus, so for this recipe, I used my all-time favorite, Bleu D’Auvergne, which is very mild and creamy. Cambazola would be the closest cheese in flavor and texture.
Look for nice big Brussels sprouts for the best results, as smaller ones will be overwhelmed by the other big flavors and are likely to overcook as well. Use any bacon you like, but I’ve found that a thinner cut seems to work best for the most cohesive balance of taste and texture.
With Super Bowl Sunday about a month after many of us have started focusing on healthier habits, it seems unfortunate so many of the gatherings we attend for the game offer nothing more than junk to eat. By bringing these Brussels sprouts to the party, you can assure you’ll have something good to eat that isn’t too heavy, and they will be the star of the halftime show.
Sweet-and-Spicy Brussels Sprout Bites
Makes 2 dozen
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15-20 minutes
12 large Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
Salt and pepper
1½ tablespoons hot sauce (Sriracha, Cholula, etc)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½–1 teaspoon honey, to taste (optional)
6 slices bacon
4 oz. creamy bleu cheese or other cheese of choice, cut into 24 pieces
Toothpicks, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven.
- Lay bacon slices on a baking sheet and cook on lower rack until almost cooked through, but not crispy, about 8–12 minutes, depending on thickness. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Line another baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange Brussels sprouts cut side up. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast on upper rack until lightly golden, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine hot sauce, honey, and lemon juice in a small bowl.
- Cut cooled bacon slices into 4 pieces each. Spoon hot sauce onto each Brussels sprout. Top with a chunk of cheese, then a piece of bacon. Spear each with a toothpick. May be made in advance to this point.
- To finish: Bake at 400°F until bacon is crisp and cheese is melted and hot, about 5–10 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Image from Briana Goodall.