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Finding your own game day traditions is a great call for NFL fans

Texas-style barbecue party with smoked brisket, ribs and sausage in Takoma Park, MD. Photo by Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Every week is an event for the 17 games over 18 weeks of the NFL season.

For me, as an Arizona Cardinals fan, each game represents a new experience for homegating.

For instance, for the last home against the Philadelphia Eagles we hosted a couple of good friends and had some family members over.

Homegating is always a good time, and for me the main course is always something I have to smoke.

This week, it was a nice prime brisket. 16 hours on the smoker with apple and pecan wood is always a great call for a big crowd.

If you smoke meat you should always plan for at least half a pound per guest, but I typically go with one pound per guest just to make sure.

For me, a dalmation rub is always the go to, which is simply a salt and pepper rub. I go heavy handed; the beef can handle it.

However, when you are doing low and slow barbecue, you don’t have a lot of control, so you better come with pregame food as well.

We always have a veggie tray for the group, but this week we had a couple extra things.

First was everyone’s favorite buffalo chicken dip.

2 cans shredded chicken

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup Frank’s RedHot

1/2 cup ranch dressing

1/2 cup shredded colby jack cheese

We don’t use the blue cheese but feel free if you like it.

We mix everything in a bowl, then put in a disposable pan and heat at 400°F until everything is bubbly, melty and ready to go.

The other thing this week was spinach artichoke dip.

We use the recipe from The New York Times that you can check out at the link.

That gives you a couple of great options while you patiently wait for your brisket to get done and rest.

We enjoyed the first half of the game with the appetizers and it just worked out that at halftime the brisket was done.

The brisket gets served with homemade bbq sauce that I would love to reveal the recipe to you but I don’t write it down or measure anything and then I doctor it up to taste.

I will use apple cider vinegar, Meat Church’s Honey Hog rub, mustard, brown sugar and ketchup. Then honey on top of it til it tastes right.

It also gets served with freshly pickled onions and jalapeños.

The pickling liquid is something I can share with you because it is simple.

1 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup white sugar

1 cup water

1 tablespoon all spice

1 tablespoon black peppercorns (whole)

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt to taste (usually 1 tablespoon)

Bring the mix to a boil, pour over a whole diced red onion and two whole jalapeños. If people don’t like spicy, make sure you separate them into different bowls.

Strain the liquid to get rid of the peppercorns and let soak for a couple hours.

I make sandwiches with my briskets.

Sliced or chopped doesn’t matter, on some Hawaiian rolls, pickled onions and jalapeños and then top with barbecue sauce.

Every week is a chance to enjoy and spend some time with your friends and family.

The Arizona Cardinals haven’t been playing like we want, but when every week is a new opportunity to enjoy homegating with friends and family, you can get through a rough stretch of games.

What are some of your game day traditions and do they focus more on the NFL, college or even high school/youth football?

Our other weekly event is after our youth football games, we end up at our favorite local watering hole with our friends group to enjoy dinner and unwind from a long day of football.

That is what makes football special for me.

What about you?

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