Gluten Free Super Bowl? Yes! Recipes from the Virginia Gold Cup Tailgating Competition Winner

Gluten Free and “Gettin’ Nauti” at the Virginia Gold Cup Tailgating Competition by Alexandra Mannino, special to Edible DC

Editor's note: Alexandra Mannino was the winner of this fall's Virginia Gold Cup Tailgating Competition. Edible DC served as one of the judges for that event, and fell in love with her winning recipes. We asked if she would share them and a recap of her adventure. We were so happy she agreed and said, "Many of your #superbowl party favorites are naturally gluten-free! Try a crowd pleasing chili, a mile-high stack of nachos with corn chips, or pair a beautiful cheese and charcuterie plate with some fruit." Her recipes are at the end of this article. Did we mention the candied bacon?

I was blessed to spend the summers of my youth in the waters of Virginia. My family’s long history of boating has evolved since my sister and I have grown up and moved, but my parents have kept their hobby alive since joining the Occoquan Yacht Club (OYC), and I’ve had a couple great “tag-along” experiences to spend quality time with my parents, both on, and off, the water. Ironically, however, one of my favorite events is actually not water-related. In 2011, my parents and I were first invited to the fall International Gold Cup by friends Pat and Christie, members of the OYC who own the tailgate spots. They have hosted this race for OYC friends since 2001.


Too often, because of my dairy and gluten dietary restrictions, I find social events challenging. My goal was to create a menu that everyone, regardless of diet, could enjoy. I started cooking on Friday morning and didn’t stop until after midnight. My sister Christina helped assemble some pieces for the tailgate, while my boyfriend Michael prepared the BBQ. After a late night preparing for the Gold Cup, we got moving early on Saturday; to calm my competition jitters, I headed into the kitchen to bake a batch of grain-free peanut butter muffins. When we arrived to the South Rail, cocktails were mixed, tables were set, and sternos lit. The finishing touch to the table décor was some ropes from a member’s boat.

About our theme: When I first attended, I noticed that our tailgate possessed many of the same qualities as being out on the open water. Instead of water, we were in a field. Instead of anchors, we had horseshoes. The sound of waves was replaced with running horses and cheering crowds. When I decided to enter the tailgating competition, I developed our theme, “Gettin’ Nauti at the Races,” because I wanted to bring some nautical flair to the OYC’s Gold Cup tradition. To convey this, I designed a custom wood logo that intertwined a horseshoe with an anchor and had them made from an Etsy supplier. I also incorporated the logo on menu identifiers. I wrote “S.S. Gold Cup,” on sailor hats for a cohesive group-look and had custom cups (which also doubled as a take-away gift) made from another Etsy supplier.

Set-up flew by and before I knew it, the judges were arriving. The roasted squash and apple soup, thickened with coconut milk instead of cream, was nearly gone after judging. The meatballs and candied bacon were a hit as well (Editor’s note: Edible DC’s publisher is still raving about that candied bacon!). Our signature cocktail, a rum punch, was served in the custom cups with anchor stirrers.


I was notified that I placed and immediately told Michael, my parents, Pat and Christie. I grabbed the nautical entourage, a rum punch to go, and we walked up Member’s Hill in our hats. It was an enormous honor to then find out that I had come in first this year. And although, somewhat jokingly, I said that if I came in first, we’d just have buckets of fried chicken next year (gluten-free, of course), I couldn’t help but start planning and daydreaming a menu and theme for next year as I exited the winner’s circle…


Candied Bacon--and yes, it is absolutely delicious!

The Recipes


Michael smoked 13 lbs. of pork shoulder, covered in a pork seasoning, coconut sugar (instead of your typical brown sugar) and smoked for 4 hours in the convection smoker made by Orion —super portable and a city dweller’s BFF. Here's the link:

Candied Bacon

From Ina Garten

Gluten-free, Dairy-free


½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

½ cup chopped or whole pecans

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1/8 tsp cayenne (I omitted)

2 tbl pure maple syrup

½ lb. thick sliced applewood-smoked bacon

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and place a wire baking rack on top.

Combine brown sugar and pecans in food processor and process until the pecans are finely ground. Add salt, pepper and cayenne and pulse to combine. Add the maple syrup and pulse again to moisten the crumbs.

Cut each bacon slice in half crosswise and line up the pieces on the baking rack without touching. With a small spoon, evently spread the pecan mixture on top of each piece of bacon, using all of the mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is very browned but not burnt. If it is underbaked, the bacon won’t crisp as it cools.

While it’s hot, transfer bacon to plate lined with paper towels and set aside to cool. Serve at room temp. Can be made early in the day and stored at room temperature.

Race Track Crack

adapted from Southern Living’s Graham Nut Clusters

1 box honey nut Chex*

1 ½ boxes Cinnamon Chex*

1x16 oz. canister of honey roasted peanuts

2 oz. of honey roasted pecans (or you can use normal pecans, the original recipe calls for 1 cup, if you do, coarsely chop the pecans)

½ cup almonds (I added these because I had them. The original recipe does not)

1 bag of pretzel sticks (I omitted these this year because I couldn’t get to the right store to get the gluten-free ones!)

2 bags M&Ms, I like using a mix of peanut and regular — to add extra flair, you can get the special colored ones if you have a theme.

*You can really use any type of cereal. The original calls for Golden Grahams. I bet Cheerios would be good, too. I chose Chex because they are gluten-free.

The good stuff caramel sauce:

I tripled this recipe to ensure I covered the cereal mixture, the original recipe didn’t yield enough of the good stuff.

½ c. butter (I always use unsalted)

1 c. firmly packed light brown sugar

¼ c. light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a sheet pan or cover sheet pan in foil and then spray with pam.

Combine cereal, peanuts, pecans, almonds (if using) in a LARGE bowl. (you may want to divide over two bowls to make less of a mess)

Melt butter in saucepan. Stir in sugar and corn syrup. Boil 2 minutes. Pour this mixture over the cereal mixture. Stir quickly to coat. Spread on greased/foiled sheet pan. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes.

Transfer to wax paper (you can sometimes skip the wax paper step, I did this time and it turned out okay). LET COOL fully.

Break into pieces. Add the pretzels and M&Ms. This mixture holds really, really well and can be made up to two days in advance.

Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup with Roasted Apples

Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Vegan (optional), Make-ahead

2 butternut squashes (around 3 pounds, total)

1 acorn squash

2 apples (I used 1 Fuji and 1 Granny Smith) – sliced very thinly – you can leave skin on or off

Olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 large leek (white parts only)

½ cup carrots, shredded

½ cup of white onion, diced

3-5 cups of water OR chicken stock OR vegetable stock (depending on how thick you’d like your soup)

1 can of full-fat coconut milk



Cinnamon (optional)

Nutmeg (optional)

Ground ginger (optional)

Preheat oven to 450°. Slice butternut squashes in half, remove seeds, place on roasting pan face up. Slice acorn squash in half, remove seeds, place on roasting pan face up. Roast for 35-45 minutes, until the inside can be scooped out with a spoon. Place the thinly sliced apples on a separate roasting pan. When the squash is almost finished, add the apples to roast them until they are brown and softened up.

Scoop out the flesh of the squashes and place in a bowl with apples.

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot to coat the bottom of the pan. Add garlic, leeks, carrots and onion. Soften but do not brown them. Add the squash and roasted apples. Stir to combine. Begin to add water (or liquid of choice) one cup at a time. In between additions, use an immersion blender to create a smooth soup, or remove a couple of cups at a time to purée in a blender and then return to the pot. When you are finished with the water additions, add the can of coconut milk. Blend well. Season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg to your taste.

Sweet & Sour Meatballs

Adapted from Southern Living, December 1999

Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Make-ahead

(this recipe yielded 79 meatballs, I counted!)

1 pound extra lean ground beef

3 pounds ground turkey

1 small onion, minced

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs (if you can find Italian-seasoned, omit the next three ingredients)

1 heaping tbl. dried oregano

1 heaping tbl. dried basil

1 heaping tbl. garlic

Combine the breadcrumbs with the spices, if needed, before proceeding with the recipe.

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

Sweet and Sour Sauce

You can always use the same ratio for less sauce, I made a bit extra to keep the meatballs fresh for the tailgate and kept in a jar…taste as you go when making this sauce.

3 cups ketchup

¾ cup of white balsamic vinegar

1 ½ tbl. Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ heaping tbl. coconut sugar (the recipe called for regular)

½ tbl yellow mustard

1 tbl honey mustard

Combine first 6 ingredients; shape into bite-size meatballs.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in pan. Brown meatballs in batches in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove from skillet.

Stir together sauce ingredients. Add to skillet (or dutch oven), bring to boil. Add meatballs, reduce heat to simmer 5 minutes or until meatballs are no longer pink.

Note: These can be made one day in advance with the sauce and heated up prior to service. The original recipe also notes that the meatballs may be thoroughly cooked without sauce and frozen. Thaw and reheat with sauce.

Gold Cup Chili

Adapted from Jamie Deen’s award winning chili

Gluten-free (if omitting beer)

2 tbl olive oil

¾ cup white onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 yellow pepper, diced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 lbs. lean ground turkey

4 hot Italian chicken sausages, casing removed and chopped

¼ cup chili powder

1 tbl ground cumin

1 tbl dried oregano

3-4, 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes

1, 4oz. can of tomato paste

12 oz. beer — optional*

15 oz. can of corn, drained and rinsed

32 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed

15 oz. can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

15 oz. can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Add olive oil to large Dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add onions and peppers, saute until soft, about 4 minutes. Add garlic until fragrant. Stir in the ground turkey and chicken sausages, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon, and cook until browned.

Drain the pepper/meat mixture through a colander — I feel like this step was important to the overall texture of the final product.

Add the pepper/meat mixture back to the Dutch oven and stir in the chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Cook it for about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste; this will “toast” the chili. Add beer now, if using, and bring to a simmer.* Add the diced tomatoes, beans and corn. Simmer on medium-low for 2 hours, stirring on occasion to keep bottom from sticking.

* Editor's note: Alexandra did not add beer due to her gluten allergy, but there are gluten-free beer options available that might work.