By Donna Cornelius
Journal features writer
When Alabama and Auburn face off on the football field, at least half the fans will go home disappointed.
But when tailgating gurus like Judy Leesburg and Marsha Yeilding bring their food to pre-game parties, everybody’s a winner.
The two Vestavia Hills residents have come up with tasty tailgate recipes designed to appeal to Tide and Tiger fans. Both women have fun with their food, tweaking dishes to show their team colors.
Yeilding’s allegiance to Auburn University goes deep. She, her late husband and their four children—Meagan, Sutton, Ashlan and Grant—all are Auburn graduates, she said.
“We started tailgating in 1999 when my oldest daughter was a student at Auburn. We had a group of Vestavia families whose children were at Auburn, and we started tailgating together,” Yeilding said. “We started with about 30 couples. That’s decreased some since kids have graduated.”
She and her tailgating group have a spot reserved near the middle of the AU campus, she said.
“It’s so much fun. You see people you haven’t seen for 40 years,” Yeilding said.
For home games, Leesburg loads her food into coolers—“lots of coolers,” she said—and spends the day in Auburn.
Judy Leesburg didn’t start life as a University of Alabama fan. The Mississippi native went to Judson College in Marion, where a boy she met swayed her allegiance to the Crimson Tide.
“His dad was friends with Bear Bryant, and he invited me to go to a game with him,” Leesburg said. “I went to that first game, and I was hook, line and sinker for Alabama. That was my first experience with tailgating, and I thought, this is the life!”
Leesburg said she and fellow fans tailgated for years at an Episcopal church on the UA campus.
“Now, I’m into condo-gating,” she said. “Some friends have a condo about two blocks from the stadium. It makes things easier to have access to a refrigerator and stove.”
Leesburg and her friend Mandy Adams often team up for UA road trips, she said.
“People call us Lucy and Ethel,” she said. “We love to travel and are planning to go to the Ole Miss and LSU games this year.”
Leesburg has two children, Amanda and Will, and a grandson, Charlie. She’s the owner of Judy Leesburg Interiors.
Yeilding is a former home economics teacher who now works at Red Mountain Technologies.
“Because I’m a designer, I think I like the tablescape aspect of tailgating best,” Leesburg said. “Marsha is into the food. I’ve watched her develop her cookies over the years, and they’re fabulous.”
Whether they’re gathering in T-Town or Auburn, seeing friends and people-watching are some of the best parts of tailgating, both women said.
“It’s just a Southern tradition,” Leesburg said.
Marsha’s War Eagle Recipes
Aubie’s Favorite Iced Sugar Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ¾ cup plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Combine first 4 ingredients. Combine flour and baking powder. Cover and chill. Roll out. Chill on baking sheet lined with parchment paper 10 minutes before cooking.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
2 cups powdered sugar
4 teaspoons milk
4 teaspoons light corn syrup
Mix to combine. More milk can be added to reach desired consistency.
Tiger Claws Cheese Straws
2 sticks butter
16 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 ½ cups plain flour
Place butter and grated cheese in mixing bowl and cover. Leave out 24 hours to soften. Combine all ingredients and cover. Chill in refrigerator overnight.
Remove from refrigerator and, using a press, shape mixture into lines on baking sheets covered in parchment paper.
Bake at 375 degrees in a convection oven, turning halfway through until cheese straws have a light orange tint. Cook about 10 minutes, but be careful not to overcook.
Toomer’s ROLL-Tel Swiss Bacon Cups
One can Ro-Tel tomatoes, drained
1 bag Hormel bacon bits
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
3 packages phyllo shells, thawed
Mix first 4 ingredients. Fill shells ¾ full. Bake on a baking sheet for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
Gus Bus Grilled Chicken Skewers
12-16 chicken tender pieces, marinated and skewered
Marinade (mix ingredients to taste):
Montreal steak seasoning
Grill chicken skewers for about 12-15 minutes on low heat. Serve with Boom! Watermelon Pico de Gallo.
Boom! Watermelon Pico de Gallo
½ whole small seedless watermelon, diced
½ whole red onion, diced
1 whole red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 whole green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 whole yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 whole jalapenos, seeded and finely diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1-2 limes
½ teaspoon salt
Toss all ingredients in a large bowl and chill. Serve with Gus Bus Grilled Chicken Skewers and blue corn organic chips.
Judy’s Crimson Tide Creations
Rammer Jammer Hot and Spicy Thighs
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground red pepper
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
6 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken to bowl; toss to coat. Place chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil chicken 5 minutes on each side.
Combine honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well. Remove chicken from oven; brush 1/4 cup honey mixture on chicken. Broil 1 minute. Remove chicken from oven and turn over. Brush chicken with remaining honey mixture. Broil 1 additional minute or until chicken is done.
Mount Cody Red Velvet Cupcakes
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1 ½ tablespoons red food coloring
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
Make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin and 4 cups of a 6-cup muffin tin. Fill 2 empty muffin cups halfway with water.
Mix flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder. In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in yolks, food coloring and vanilla. Alternate adding dry ingredients and milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Beat just until all ingredients are incorporated.
Divide batter among cupcake liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pans to rack to cool completely.
Make frosting: Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add sugar and beat until easy to spread.
Judy’s notes: “I use the large six-cup pan. There are some really cute Alabama liners you can use. Also, for fun, poke the end of a wooden spoon down into the top of the cupcake. Take a pastry bag with a tip and, using the leftover icing, squirt down into cupcake before icing the top. Voila: crimson and white cupcakes!”
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup chili sauce
½ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon onion powder
Mix mayonnaise, chili sauce, garlic salt, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and onion powder together in a small bowl until well combined.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Makes 1¼ cups.