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March is Here and It’s Time for the Madness!




March is Here and It’s Time for the Madness!

For sports fans everywhere, there’s nothing better than the last three weekends in March and the first in April. NCAA March Madness is a college hoops marathon, beginning with the tournament pairing announcements on Selection Sunday, the filling out of brackets in office pools across the country, and then days of single elimination basketball games until the Final Four on the first weekend in April.

Even if you’re not a huge basketball fan, the drama of The Big Dance is enticing. Will the best teams in the country get knocked off and humbled by the Cinderella from a school no one has heard of? It happens every year. The only question is who will go home and who will keep dancing, and that’s why they play the game. Will there be broken hearts? Absolutely! Will there be a massive celebration on the first Monday in April? Certainly!

As with almost anything sports, NCAA March Madness is a perfect excuse for a party…or parties. Even if you’re not obsessively following your alma mater or the local team, the tournament makes for a fun party theme to bring people together for food, drink, and an afternoon or evening of game-watching.

Table of Contents

The Menu

if you want to host a watch party, the first step is to decide on the menu. Keep it simple so you can enjoy the games and your guests, too. A menu heavy on appetizers means you can do most of the work ahead of time and allow your guests to graze as they will.

Some of our favorites:


The easiest and most attractive way to serve appetizers is with charcuterie boards. Arrange a selection of meats like sliced ham, bacon roses, and kielbasa on a large wooden cutting board and add your favorite cheeses. Accent with fruits like grapes and cherries. Include crackers (you can put them in baskets or bowls if you don’t have room on the board) and condiments like stone ground mustard, pickled vegetables, and spicy mayo. For a fun idea, try this hot dog charcuterie board.

To balance the saltiness of the meats and cheeses, do a separate veggie platter with a bowl of Million Dollar Dip in the middle. Use grape tomatoes, carrot and celery sticks, slices of bell pepper—make it colorful and fun.

million dollar dip

The Nacho Bar

A nacho bar is an easy way to let guests make their own creations without you having to do too much work. Start by cooking up some meat. Coleman Natural spicy sausage is a delicious option, or for a fun change, make a batch of pulled pork. Crisp up and chop a package or two of Coleman Hickory Smoked Uncured Bacon. While the meat is going, spread a thick layer of tortilla chips on a large sheet pan, cover them with shredded cheese, and pop them into a 350-degree oven until the chips are golden and the cheese is melted. Depending on how many people you’ll have, you might want to have more than one tray ready.

Place the meat into a crockpot or warming dish—keeping it hot will help any added cheese melt—and heat up some black beans, pinto beans, or refried beans. You’ll want to keep those warm also. (See the tips below for keeping foods hot and cold.)

Along with the tray of cheesy chips and the meat and beans, arrange a selection of toppings for guests to choose: the chopped bacon, more shredded cheese, sliced jalapenos, diced avocados (sprinkled with lime juice to keep them fresher), chopped tomatoes, sliced olives, and sour cream. You might even want some chopped cilantro and green onions, along with plenty of your favorite salsa.

Encourage your guests to pile up their plates with whatever combination they please.

The Slider Bar

If you’re not bothered by a little additional prep work, a slider bar is the way to go. Pile some small sliced Hawaiian rolls or brioche rolls into a large basket, then offer a selection of fillings like ham salad or ham slices with cheese, and/or meatballs (either our Hoisin meatballs or apple cheddar meatballs with a side of barbecue sauce). Pulled pork with coleslaw and even bite size chili dogs offer something for everyone. For the chili dogs, grill the hot dogs and then cut them into 1-inch pieces. Mix them into a pot of chili, pop it into the slow cooker, and include some grated cheese on the side.

The Bloody Mary Bar

Your guests will need beverages as well as food, so set up a Bloody Mary bar. Make a pitcher or two of pre-mixed Bloody Marys (with or without spirits, or one of each), and then set out plenty of condiments like horseradish, hot sauces, and chile powder so people can get to their own level of heat. Make sure you have a bucket of ice and plenty of skewers along with lemon and lime wedges, green olives, cornichons, celery and carrot sticks, and pickled jalapenos. And don’t forget the final touch—a basket full of chile-spiced bacon straws.

Chile Bacon Straws

An Appetizer Selection

If you want to keep things a  little more casual, we have plenty of appetizer recipes on our website. Some of our favorites:

Pizza rolls

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers

Ham, Egg, and Cheese Wontons

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp Crostini

Jalapeno Cheddar Kielbasa Bites

Tips for Making Your Party the Best Ever

Decide when and what you want to celebrate.

On the first weekend of the tournament, games are almost non-stop from morning to night, so you might want to pick a particular team or conference to follow and plan your schedule accordingly. On the other hand, once Final Four weekend arrives, there are only  two games on Saturday afternoon/evening followed by the championship game on Monday evening, making a more limited few hours of party time more feasible.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Use a slow cooker or Instant Pot to keep dishes warm. You can also find electric warming trays that make attractive serving spots on your counter or buy a disposable chafing dish set-up. If you entertain frequently, you might want to invest in the stainless steel version.

If you have cold foods like dips or salads, you can buy sets to keep them cold, or you can use nesting bowls with the larger bowl filled with ice under the serving bowl. You can also find serving trays and cooling mats that work on the same principle. Make sure cold foods are well-chilled in advance and put them out right before serving. Also, put out small amounts and replenish the serving bowls more often.

Keep an eye on the set-up.

Replenish the foods and neaten the counter tops periodically so everything appears fresh and inviting. If you’re planning to use disposable utensils, cups, and plates, make sure they’re compostable and put out a separate bin for your guests to dispose of them. If you’re using washable dishes, put a couple of small tubs next to the sink and place everything there to make clean-up easier.

Finally, have relax and have fun! March Madness only comes around once a year, so make the most of rooting for your team! And be sure to include lots of Coleman Natural products in your celebration.

The Coleman Way, since 1875, is our commitment to quality, taking pride in humanely raising animals on family farms in the U.S.A. with no antibiotics ever, no growth hormones, and 100% vegetarian fed. The result is premium, great-tasting, all-natural meats in a variety of cuts and flavors that can be easily prepared and that you can feel good about serving to family and friends.

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