Mini Monets and Mommies: College Basketball Tournament Party Planning!

Friday, March 13, 2015

College Basketball Tournament Party Planning!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #EasyBracketParty #CollectiveBias

It’s that time of year again – the big college basketball tournament is coming up! Celebrate with a sporty party that features basketball décor, a big bracket (your guests won’t vote on the teams, but the food instead) and some dressed up Coke to drink! I rarely let my 13-year-old have soda. So, he was super-excited to try the basketball themed crafty Cokes. He was so excited that he actually agreed to come with me on my weekly (ok, so maybe I’m there more like three times a week) shopping trip to Giant Eagle. Seriously – three times a week. The cashier actually said to me, “Haven’t I already seen you here a few times this week.” I pointed to my son (who at 13, is now taller than me) and said, “Yeah, I’ve got a teenager.” She got it.
College Tournament

On to the party planning… I went with a basketball bracket theme (read more about that in the décor/crafts section below), so I needed to have lots (and lots!) of different food choices. My goal was to give the guests a variety and let them vote on their favorite foods. With that in mind I put together a menu of sweet and salty treats that feature Ritz crackers, Wheat Thins, Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups and OREO Cookies. So, I hit the Giant Eagle for my party goodies. What did my menu look like?

Ritz Cheese Balls

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        Ritz crackers

·        8 oz. softened cream cheese

·        6 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

·        Soy sauce

Here’s What to Do:

1.     Mix the cream cheese and cheddar in a large bowl. Use your hands instead of a spoon to thoroughly combine the ingredients.

2.     Drop a few dashes of soy sauce (not too much – about a teaspoon) into the mix. This is my special secret ingredient. It adds a salty taste with a bit of mystery.

3.     Crush a handful of Ritz crackers into powder.

Cheese Balls
4.     Add the cracker crumbs into the cheese mix.

5.     Model the cheese mixture into one big ‘basketball’ or a few smaller ones.

Cracker recipe
6.     Set the cheesy cracker balls on a piece of wax paper and refrigerate for one hour.

7.     Take the balls out of the fridge. Crumble another handful of crackers, and coat the balls for an extra crunch!

Party treats
Oreo and Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Cup Dessert Dip

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        16 oz. vanilla yogurt

·        10 crushed OREO Cookies

·        1 bag of Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups

Here’s What to Do:

1.     Crush the Oreos in a food processor.

Cookie crumbles
2.     Mix the OREO Cookies and the yogurt in a large bowl.

3.     Pour the mix into a serving dish, smoothing the top to make it flat.

4.     Line up the mini peanut butter cups on top of the dip in the shape of your favorite player’s number or just make a number one- for first place!

5.     Add a few more cookies and wrapped peanut butter cups (you can use the unwrapped minis for the number) to the side for dipping.

Cookie Dip
Oreo Dessert
MVP Mini Ritz Sandwiches

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        Ritz crackers

·        Cheddar cheese

·        Cucumbers

·        Cold cuts

·        Cheese spread

·        Black beans or sour cream and black food coloring

Here’s What to Do:

1.     Trim the cheese into circles. Place a Ritz cracker on top and cut the cheese to match the shape.

2.     Peel the cucumber. Slice it into thin pieces.

3.     Make sandwich stacks. Start with a cracker and add a piece of cheese. Stack on either a cucumber or cold cut slice (make some no-meat options for vegetarian friends). Top the stack with another Ritz cracker.

4.     Spoon the cheese spread on top, flattening it.

5.     Pipe black beans or a mixture of sour cream and black food coloring onto the top to look like the lines on a basketball.

Cracker Sandwiches
Courtside Cucumber and Cracker Dip

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        1 cucumber

·        16 oz. plain yogurt

·        ¼ cup onion chopped

·        Dill

Here’s What to Do:

1.     Peel and finely chop the cucumber.

Party Dip
2.     Chop the onion.

3.     Mix the cucumber and onions with the yogurt.

4.     Add in a few springs of dill.

5.     Top with Wheat Thin and Ritz crackers. Leave some crackers on the side to ‘dunk’ in.

Basketball recipe
6.     Add a basketball backboard (see the craft directions).

Party crafts
OREO Cookie Basketballs

Here’s What You’ll Need:

·        OREO Cookies

·        6 oz. softened cream cheese

·        Butterscotch chips

·        1 white chocolate bar

·        Optional: Orange sprinkles

Here’s What to Do:

1.     Crumble the cookies in a food processor (I prefer the double stuff variety for this recipe).

2.     Mix the cookies and the cream cheese. Use your hands to get a good mix in!

3.     Form the mix into balls. Place them on wax paper and pop them into the freezer for an hour.

4.     Melt the chocolate and butterscotch chips. You can do this on the stove with a double boiler or take the easy way (like I do) and put them into the microwave. Mine took about 45 seconds to melt, but the amount of time varies depending on your microwave’s strength.

5.     Take the balls out of the freezer and roll them in the chocolate-butterscotch. Be careful, the chocolate-butterscotch will be very hot. Use a toothpick instead of your fingers to prevent burns.

6.     Optional: Add orange sprinkles.

Oreo Recipe
Sure, the food is key to your party. But what about the décor? I’m not into an overload of decorations, so I choose to keep the big college basketball theme low key. I went with a bare table because the wood reminded me of a basketball court. If you aren’t using a wooden table, feel free to substitute a plain colored table cloth.

Next, I added my theme – tournament basketball brackets! I made the entire table into one big bracket. Instead of the top college teams, I used my top recipes. I didn’t want to damage the table, so I printed out basketball themed title labels for each dish (MVP Ritz sandwiches, OREO Cookie basketballs, etc.). I used thin strips of white paper to connect them into the bracket format. I also printed out voting sheets for the party guests. Each sheet included all of the food choices. The guests could then vote on their favorites. We could move the table arrangement around to make the bracket reflect the guest’s choices!

Party games
You’ve probably noticed that something is missing – the drinks! I added a bevy of Coke beverages, giving my guests the choice of Coke Zero, Diet Coke or regular Coke in mini cans or bottles. To keep with the basketball tournament theme I made ball tags for the bottles. I created a simple basketball shape using a word processing program. Here’s my easy printable that you can use. Print the balls onto card stock paper in your team’s colors or go with orange for the traditional basketball hue. Punch a hole at the top, thread a thin ribbon through and tie around the Coke’s cap.

Ball art

Party crafts
Craft art
This type of décor didn’t work well for the mini cans. I created basketball backboards for these drinks (as well as the cracker and cucumber dip). Create one rectangle using shape art in a word processing computer program. Then add a smaller red rectangle inside. Print the backboard, cut it out and punch two holes at the bottom. Attach it around the top of the can (or the bowl for the dip) with pipe cleaners.

Craft party

College Party

My son was super-excited to hit Giant Eagle’s soda aisle! While diet wasn’t on his mind, I was more than happy with the low and no calorie options!

Grocery Store

Peanut Butter

Of course, we both had to keep from filling the cart in the candy aisle!

What are you big tournament plans? Tell us your favorite way to celebrate the big basketball games and what you're buying at Giant Eagle!



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