Make it ahead or make right this second.
cranberry coleslaw
Credit: Southern Living

Football season is finally here, sports fans! And, as every proper SEC and ACC enthusiast knows, this season is about so much more than the actual game. We all appreciate the intricacies of choosing plays, the jaw-dropping athleticism displayed by the players, and the spirit-rousing music from the bands. But face it; the food is a big part of why we love Game Day Saturdays down South. A tailgate is a huge affair, whether you participate at the stadium or in your home. Choosing the right recipes is important in order to keep your friends and guests satisfied and nourished through every nail biting moment of the game. Kick the party off with easy appetizers, and keep sports fans hydrated with some big batch cocktails. I leave the grilling and smoking, which takes hours of prep and hands-on time, to someone more qualified, and instead prefer to create a fabulous bake-and-take sheet cake for an after-the-game dessert. When I need a quick and easy side dish for a tailgate, I always turn to this Almond Cranberry Coleslaw.

This is the ideal make-ahead or make-right-now recipe. Using packaged, pre-shredded coleslaw mix, it only takes a short 15 minutes to put it all together. It is delicious served immediately, but I like to let it chill in the refrigerator an hour or two (even overnight) to let all the flavors blend together. Needless to say, it transports well. If you are taking this to a tailgate event, mix the coleslaw in a large plastic bowl with a lid and store it in the cooler. Or use a large zip-top bag, and then pour the coleslaw into a pretty serving bowl once you are at the party.

This coleslaw is the perfect accompaniment to many favorite tailgate main dishes. It pairs beautifully with fried chicken, wings, and grilled burgers. Instead of the traditional coleslaw, try this one on top of a hot dog or pulled pork sandwich. Leftover coleslaw makes a tasty lunch item when you toss in shredded chicken or boiled shrimp.

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A good tailgate recipe is easily adaptable to whatever you have in your pantry. This recipe uses dried cranberries, but you can substitute raisins if you want. Don't have smoked almonds? Toast some pecans instead. Add a chopped apple to add even more crunch.