Owner of the Columbus Gigi's Cupcakes shares her favorite tailgate recipes

dminty@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 20, 2012 

Jennifer Cooper and her husband Patrick have always shared a love of sweets. On their first date, when they were students at Auburn University, they went out for ice cream.

Today the couple is most likely to indulge in the Gigi's Cupcakes made at one of the four shops they own, including the newly opened store at the Landings shopping center in Columbus.

Don't expect to see the couple in the store on fall Saturdays, though. Those are reserved for football.

Jennifer shares her favorite football-viewing party spread with her readers this month.

Her dishes include Grandma's chili, her mother-in-law's cranberry cheese ball and the chocolate chip cake that her husband says is his favorite dessert, beside Gigi's Cupcakes, of course.

With four stores and 2 1/2 year-old son Clay to care for, Jennifer doesn't have limitless hours to spend in her home kitchen, so these recipes are quick and easy to make.

"It's all about gathering with good friends and having fun. We're hassle-free," she said.

Grilled hot dogs are often part of her tailgate menu and viewing parties at home usually feature grilled cheese sandwiches.

"We like to keep it comfortable and casual," she said.

She thanks her mom, grandma and mother-in-law for teaching her to cook and has fond memories of preparing -- and eating -- All-American favorites as a child.

Jennifer's maternal grandparents owned a pizza place in Memphis, so Jennifer grew up with an appreciation for food preparation.

The menu at Gigi's is seasonal and Jennifer's favorite fall cupcakes include Peppermint Patty, Chocolate Hazelnut and Orange Cranberry Walnut.

Stop by the shop to try the cupcakes or call a few days ahead to order in bulk for parties.

Gigi's offers 11 menu flavors each day plus one special. Cupcakes are made at the local store. To find out each day's flavor lineup, visit Gigi's Facebook page.

Gigi's

Where: The Landings, 2511-B Airport Thruway

Hours: 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday

Phone: 706-225-2565

Cost: Gigi's cupcakes are $3.25 each or $2.75 each if purchased by the dozen. Each purchase includes a specially designed gift box

Grandma's Chili

1 4-pound package ground beef

2 onions, chopped

2 bell peppers, chopped

4 cans petite diced tomatoes

2 cans chili hot beans

1 1/2 cups ketchup

2 tablespoons chili powder

4 packets sweet 'n low

Salt and pepper, to taste

Brown the meat, onions and peppers in a skillet until meat is cooked through and onions an peppers are soft. Add other ingredients and simmer for 1 to 2 hours until ready to serve.

Cranberry Cheese Ball

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese

1 cup (or more) craisins

1 cup powdered sugar

1 small can coconut

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 small can crushed pineapple, drained

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients. Chill at least one hour or until firm enough to form mixture into a ball or oblong shape. Serve with crackers, pita chips or bread. Jennifer likes to serve it with Wheat Thins.

Chocolate Chip Cake

1 box yellow cake mix

1 small box instant vanilla pudding

1 small box chocolate instant pudding

4 eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 8-ounce tub sour cream

1 cup oil

1/4 cup water

1 6-ounce bag chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients until smooth. Pour batter into a greased bundt pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.

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