Tex-Mex and Super Bowl parties seem to be a natural combination. Here are a few suggestions for a basic menu of homemade dishes to have ready at kickoff. Most, if not all, may be prepared a day or two in advance and re-warmed by appropriate means (oven, microwave, stovetop, etc.).

First, a couple of notes:

Use glass, stainless steel or plastic utensils/cookware for these, avoid aluminum because the acids in some ingredients tend to react with it and might cause a metallic taste.

Note for preparing jalapenos - wear gloves and long-sleeved shirt, especially when handling fresh peppers. Cutting fresh peppers causes a fine mist that will settle on arms and backs of hands and could cause quite a bit of pain. Do not touch sensitive body parts (eyes, nose, etc.) while handling peppers. Generally, the mist is not a problem with pickled peppers, however the pickle could get on fingers and then transferred to sensitive skin by touch.

That said, proceed to the treats:

HOMEMADE SALSA

I.

2 large tomatoes (Roma work well but are smaller so use twice as many; also Roma are not as juicy so extra liquid may be needed), or 2 14-oz. cans petite-dice tomatoes

1 small or medium onion - chopped fine

1/2 cup bell pepper - chopped fine

1 - 2 ribs of celery, chopped fine (use any leaves, too)

1 - 2 tbs. cider vinegar

1 tsp. salt

1 small can tomato sauce

tomato paste (keep in reserve)

II.

2 tbs. paprika (smoked is good, but any kind will do)

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. dried leaf oregano

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Chop the vegetables to a size suitable for dipping with tortilla chips; chop tomatoes in about 1/2-inch dice. Canned tomatoes with green chile work well but tend to turn to mush when mixing, which is ok for dipping but it loses texture. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add tomato paste if too thin. Best when made a day or two in advance

Quick version - Prepare group I; add a package of taco seasoning instead of group II.

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BACON-WRAPPED JALAPENOS

Thin-sliced bacon - usually 14 - 16 slices to a pound, figure for that many peppers.

14-16 Jalapenos - fresh or canned-whole-pickled (I prefer canned for the flavor)

1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese

1 lb. ground meat of choice

-Brown and drain the ground meat, set aside.

-While the meat is cooling, slit the peppers - remove the core and seeds.

-Blend the meat with the cream cheese.

-Fill each pepper with the meat/cheese mixture. Wrap each pepper with a slice of bacon; try to position the ends to be beneath the pepper when placed in the baking pan.

Wrap just tightly enough that there is no space between the bacon and pepper. The bacon will shrink while cooking; if wrapped too tightly before cooking the shrinking bacon will squeeze out the filling.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the peppers in a shallow baking pan (not a cookie sheet). Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

These work well when fixed beforehand, refrigerated for keeping, and then warmed by microwave (medium for 5 - 6 minutes for to heat evenly) when needed.

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CLASSIC RO-TEL® CHEESE DIP

No party, it seems, is complete without the classic Ro-Tel® cheese dip. There are substitutes for the tomatoes available, though the brand seems synonymous with the dip. This recipe comes from the Ro-Tel® Website http://www.texmex.net/Rotel/main.htm where there are many more:

1 lb. pasteurized processed cheese spread, (Velveeta®), cut into 1" cubes

1 can (10 oz.) Diced or Whole RO*TEL® Tomatoes & Green Chilies

In a saucepan, combine ingredients; stir over low heat until cheese spread is melted. Serve with tortilla chips, crackers, or vegetables.

Microwave: Place ingredients in a covered casserole. Microwave on HIGH until cheese spread is melted, about 5 minutes, stirring once.

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The basic recipe for my cheese dip is simply the milk and cheeses, which works well. The rest of the ingredients are for flavor.

WHITE CHEESE DIP

2 quarts milk

4 tsp. instant chicken stock or bouillon

3 tsp. onion powder

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. white pepper

2 lb. American cheese (I use queso blanco), cut into 1-inch cubes

1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese

Heat the milk (a double boiler is best for this) to steaming hot. Whisk in the onion powder, cumin, garlic powder and white pepper. Add the American cheese a few cubes at a time, stirring to melt. Add the cream cheese; stir to blend. Thin with milk or water as necessary. Best if allowed to steep, covered, for an hour or so before serving.

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UN-NAMED CHILI

I.

1.5 lb. ground beef

1.5 lb. pork sausage

2 cans of beer, or 3 cups ginger ale

2 cups chicken stock

2 cups tomato juice

II.

3 Tbs. chili powder

2 Tbs. paprika

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsp. black pepper

1 - 2 tsp. ground cayenne

1 tsp. ground coriander

III.

1 medium onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 jalapeño, chopped

2 - 3 6-oz. cans tomato paste

Break up the meat and put in a 3- or 4-quart stainless steel Dutch oven or similar pot. Pour in the beer/ginger ale and chicken stock. Simmer until the meat is cooked through; breaking into small clumps.

Add spices in group II; simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add group III; add tomato paste to desired consistency, simmer for about 30 minutes.

Serve.

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WHITE CHICKEN CHILI

2 teaspoon olive oil

2 medium-size white onions, chopped

2 yellow bell peppers, chopped

1 jalapeño, chopped

3 teaspoons ground cumin

2 cups whole milk

2 15-oz. cans navy beans, drained

8 oz. shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (white, if available)

2 cans white shoepeg corn

Salt and pepper

2 - 3 chicken breasts, cooked and diced

In a large pan, combine oil, onion, bell pepper, and jalapeño. Cook over med.-high heat, stirring often, until vegetables are tender. Add milk, cumin, corn, green chiles, and beans. Bring to a simmer; cover and simmer about 20 minutes; stir frequently. Add the chicken. Season with salt and pepper; serve immediately.

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While this is not Tex-Mex, I was happy to stumble across it a couple weeks ago in one of Shelly Magie’s 1994 columns; I had been asked to find it: "Lela Sue Roberts made this coleslaw and took it to her co-workers at the newspaper office last week. Everyone said it was delicious. Thanks, Sue, for the recipe."

RAMEN COLESLAW

2/3 cup oil

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup vinegar

1 pkg. slaw mix

2 bunches green onions

1 cup sliced almonds

1 cup sunflower kernels

2 pkgs. Chicken-flavored ramen noodle mix

The night before, make dressing (do not refrigerate). Mix oil, sugar, vinegar and flavoring from noodle mix. Next day. 30 minutes before meal, combine slaw, onions, nuts and crumbled noodles. Pour dressing over, toss and enjoy!

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This one I saved this one for last, not being sure what kind of reception it would get. Serve them in the same manner as cocktail sausages, with toothpicks:

CHICKEN GIZZARDS

2 lbs. chicken gizzards

2 tbs. adobo or salt

1 or 2 12-oz. bottle barbecue sauce of choice.

Cut the gizzard segments apart; place in a two-quart, lidded, saucepan, add enough water to cover, add the adobo or salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, let simmer 45 - 60 minutes until tender. Drain, put the gizzards into a serving bowl, add the barbecue sauce and stir to coat all. Serve.