After catching the playoffs last weekend, it was time to start gearing up for the Super Bowl festivities on Feb. 1. A spread of great munchies and finger foods is a necessity. While you could go with fresh veggie sticks and sliced fruit, something about it just doesn't seem right. It's nice to be able to splurge a few times a year on fried, cheesy, salty foods that we work so hard to resist. Still, you can incorporate some healthy ingredients without guests suspecting a thing. Sliders are among my favorite Super Bowl foods. These mini burgers are simple to make, easy to eat and actually not all that bad for you. The patties can be prepared in advance and either cooked to order or pre-grilled and kept in the oven warmer to be enjoyed throughout the game. A condiment station allows guests to pick their own toppings.

We are fortunate to have locally raised beef at the Tuesday Santa Barbara and Saturday Santa Barbara farmers markets. It makes for some of the juiciest sliders or burgers you can imagine. Rancho San Julian and Rocky Canyon Ranch produce some of the cleanest and most delicious ground beef I have ever tasted, raised naturally, free of hormones and antibiotics. Just by looking at the color of the meat in the package (deep red) you can tell the difference between farm-raised beef and what's often found on a large scale at grocery stores.

Because of their size, sliders are a lot of fun to make. They should be about a third the size of a regular patty. I season the beef quite a bit to enhance the flavor, but if you have a basic burger mix that you are fond of, that will work great. For the buns, I prefer using the healthier mini wheat roll, which is available from Creekside Apple Ranch at the Tuesday Santa Barbara, Wednesday Solvang and Saturday Santa Barbara farmers markets. Otherwise, most grocery stores sell slider buns in the fresh bread section.

Game on!

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