Archive for the ‘Entertaining’ Category
Yep, just checked the calendar and it is December 23. How did that happen? Are you ready? Do you need a quick appetizer? You just might have all of the ingredients on hand for this one, and it is quick and easy! If you have a food processor, it will be even quicker and easier!! This cheese ball is always a crowd favorite — as in, they-practically-lick-the-plate-clean favorite! We call it “Aunt Christine’s Cheese Ball” because I got the recipe from my sister about 20 years ago.
1 – 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
½ tsp. season salt
1 ½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 green onions
1 package luncheon meat, thinly sliced (the cheap stuff!)
Finely chop the green onions. Chop the luncheon meat (I like to use Buddig beef), reserve half. Combine the remaining beef, onions and all other ingredients.
Refrigerate for a while so that it isn’t “sticky”; form into a ball and roll the ball in the remaining chopped beef. Serve with crackers.
Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a health, safe, and Happy New Year with friends and family.
Or in English…”Let the good times roll!”
It is times like these that I really miss Pensacola (Florida). Today is Fat Tuesday. If you live anywhere other than Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, or Mississippi, this might mean a few beads and some masks. However, if you are a true southerner, Mardi Gras season is a lifestyle. The New Orleans’ influence spread throughout the south and it is not unusual for people to take a day or week off of work to celebrate. Beads, beer, bushwhackers, beignets, and more are found in abundance at parties, on the streets, at masquerade balls, in parades, schools, and workplaces. Mardi Gras is a time for everyone to celebrate life and happiness and for many, the preparation for Lent. Fat Tuesday is a day of serious indulgence before Ash Wednesday.
You cannot throw a Mardi Gras party without the ultimate Fat Tuesday centerpiece…the King Cake. This cake is a Danish creation rolled up jelly roll style and filled with cinnamon, raisins, and more.
The tradition is that each person takes a piece of cake hoping to find the plastic baby inside (I think my cake was cut perfectly…the baby reaching out for someone to pull it from the cake!). Whomever finds the plastic baby in their piece is crowned King or Queen for the day. They are also supposedly obligated to host the Mardi Gras party the next year and supply the King Cake.
You can order your cake from an authentic bakery in New Orleans or elsewhere in the south. They are shipped all over the nation around Mardi Gras. OR you can make your own! It really is not difficult, though it does involve yeast and rising time. I found an excellent recipe here at allrecipes.com.
Instead of doing all the proofing, rising, and kneading on my own, I stuck the ingredients in my bread machine. For most machines you start with the liquids first (I did use warm milk and softened the butter in the microwave). Then you put all the dry ingredients in and make a well in the top of the mound of flour. This is where you put the yeast (no proofing and letting it bubble in with the sugar, etc.). When using a machine you do not want to let the yeast and liquids mix (I also keep it away from the salt) until the heat is spreading through the dough.
You see though, I only have a 1.5 pound bread machine. The most dry ingredients (I think all combined) you are supposed to put in the machine is 4 cups. The recipe calls for 5.5 cups of just flour. Guess what happens when you don’t follow directions?
Oops! Hee hee, silly me! Really though, I would probably do it the same way again, even though my dough tried to escape from the machine! It was still a time saver and still rose perfectly fine.
After the first rising you roll the dough out into a rectangle and sprinkle the crumb mixture evenly over the rectangle. Then roll it up jellyroll style beginning on a long side, pinching the seam firmly together.
Repeat the process with the second half of dough and place on a piece of parchment paper on a large cookie sheet, forming a ring. Again, press the two ends together on each side of the ring, firmly sealing the ring. Here is the ring after cutting slits in it, and again after the second rising.
HOW DO I LET MY BREAD RAISE??? Thank you for asking! I preheat my oven to 175 degrees and then turn it off! Crack the oven door open with a wooden spoon and after it has had about 5 minutes to air out, put the dough in the oven. This should provide the perfect temperature for the next hour or so to allow your bread to rise.
After it has fully risen, bake it in the preheated oven, cut a small hole in the bottom and stick the baby inside and drizzle the topping over it. I let my cake rise for a LONG time. This caused two problems. One, I should have baked it for about 5 minutes less (possibly even shorter). The outside was SO tough. But the inside was still great and it tasted wonderful. Two, I had to quadruple, yes, quadruple the icing recipe so I would have enough to cover the cake.
Make sure everyone knows there is a baby in the cake before they start eating! These days with choking precautions, etc, a lot of people will simply put the babies on top as decorations.
Decorate it with some beads and Mardi Gras colorfulness and you are ready to party with the best of them! So here is my ode to Pensacola Mardi Gras…I’m with you even if only in spirit.
Holy Cow, I have a new favorite cookbook! Well, dessert book! Recently, while searching for inspiration, I went to my local library and checked out a few of the cookbooks. I have been looking for books that will not just give me recipes, but teach me how to bake. Why baking powder and not soda? Why eggs or just the yolks or only the whites? Paddle attachment versus whisking balloon? Though I LOVE to bake and can reproduce pretty much any recipe, admittedly, I have no idea how these people came up with this stuff. I am tired of reproducing recipes and ready to start creating my own. Why re-invent the wheel? I don’t know…a new sense of ownership in what I am working so hard on all the time? As you can see, I have a lot of questions when it comes to baking.
Well, now a LOT of them are being answered. By Sherry Yard. Although I do not know anything about this woman except what the biography in the book says and the little I have looked at online, I can tell you she is most certainly good at what she does. Just Google her name and see what you find. Her book,
is phenomenal. Not only does it provide wonderful recipes, but for me, the main attraction is the fact that she gives you wonderful details about how to do things, why you are doing them, what you can do differently, and how you can personalize it to make it your own. I enjoy the way she has the cookbook organized. One recipe leads to the other with a great fluidity. For instance, the ganaches are all grouped together, then categorized by soft, medium and firm. All the recipes that are similar to ganache, or use ganache as a base to build on, are also put in these categories. She recommends which recipes you can combine and how. It is simply fantastic!
This is no new book, in fact, it was published 8 years ago. But it is new to me and I am in love! I will be trying a great deal of recipes from it and checking it out from the library over and over again.
I will go ahead and post the first recipe I made from the book, but I think after this one, I will just continue posting a link to places you can purchase the book. So go buy it, or go look for it at your local library!
Baked Whiskey Tortes
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted (or Pam)
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I purchased the Ghirardelli chips)
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 5 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons whiskey (I used Johnny Walker Black Label)
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- Whipped crème fraîche for serving
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Adjust the rack to the center of the oven. Brush the inside of four 6 – ounce (medium) ramekins with melted butter (I used Pam and it did just fine).
- Using a serrated knife, finely chop the chocolate into 1/4 inch pieces and place it in a medium heatproof bowl (I didn’t do this since I purchased the bittersweet chips).
- Bring the cream and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Immediately pour the cream over the chopped chocolate. Tap the bowl on the counter to settle the chocolate into the cream, then let it sit for one minute. Using a rubber spatula, stir in a circular motion, starting from the center of the bowl and working out to the sides. Stir until all the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes.
- Combine the whiskey and eggs in a bowl. Whisk them together then gently stir them into the ganache. When the eggs are thoroughly incorporated, pour the mixture into the ramekins, filling them three-quarters full.
- Place the filled ramekins in a large baking pan. Carefully pour hot water into the large pan until it comes halfway up the ramekins. Bake the tortes for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they feel firm to the touch (mine took right around 30 minutes I think. I started watching them at 20 and my finger was still sinking into the torte when I touched them. I waited until it barely gave at all and didn’t stick to my finger when touched). Allow the tortes to cool slightly before serving. The tortes can be made up to one day in advance and rewarmed before serving in a 325 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with a small dollop of whipped crème fraîche (I used vanilla ice cream and it was lovely!).
This recipe was VERY easy to make, even if you don’t know what you are doing. The chocolate was so smooth going down and blended very well with the ice cream. Prep and bake time took no more than an hour. Any company you have will most certainly call you a gourmet baker if you prepare this for them! Though, it should be noted that this is NOT a low calorie dessert!!! The recipe makes 4 servings and each one is over 675 calories! YIKES! Glad I looked that up so I could plan my whole daily caloric intake around eating one of these tonight!
Are you ready for some football??? Okay, so the game is really over and the Packers won already. However, my big task of the day was creating a Super Bowl cake for a party and I wanted to share it before I got into bed tonight. The party was for some die-hard Steelers fans. Hopefully, they’ll atill be friendly people tomorrow after the loss! It was a close, good game and fun was had by all, so I would definitely deem it a success! Here is the Super Bowl cake I made. I basically copied a cake I found on the internet related to Super Bowl 2009. I made very few changes to work with what I had and this was the result:
I was pretty darn happy with the result and so were the people hosting the party. No fancy flavors here…just one layer of chocolate and one layer of vanilla (11 x 15). The icing is all fondant except for the black and white lettering. This took four cake mixes, two batches of fondant and three batches of buttercream icing. A LOT of sugar to deal with today!!!
Maybe next time Steelers!
My husband jokingly calls this the most expensive Christmas gift I gave this year. It is actually one of the cheapest gifts I made but while a friend and I were making them, I broke my foot. I was walking outside to spray the coasters and as I walked out my front door I fell flat on my face. I had to have an xray and have been in a cast and on crutches for five weeks now with no end in sight…probably about another 4 weeks and then another 4 in a walking cast. Hence the reason this is the most expensive gift I gave this year!
Aren’t these tile coasters great? And they are cheap to make!
What you need:
- stamps of your choice
- StazOn Stamp Pad
- clear acrylic spray
- tiles of your choice (I wanted a smooth look so I spend a little bit more on tumbled tiles)
- small circle furniture protectors
First, clean off your tiles. They are going to be very dusty.
Using your StazOn stamp pad and stamps, decorate the tiles however you would like. I went with an easy pattern and just covered the whole tile with a flower stamp. After that, I put a stamp in a different color that read “You only live once, but if you do it right once is enough”. You will want to use StazOn stamp pads so it will not rub off of the tile. They are a little bit more expensive than regular stamp pads, but with a coupon it will only cost about 5 dollars!
After the ink has dried on the tiles, take them outside and spray them with clear acrylic spray. This is where I recommend you only carry a few at a time so you won’t fall out your front door and break your foot!
Once the tiles have dried completely, put a little furniture protector on each corner of the tiles.
A quick, inexpensive gift!
Here is my last cookie post for a while…I promise! I figured I should probably share with you one of the recipes I made for my 1st Annual Cookie Exchange! I tried something that I have never made before (which is ALWAYS scary when you are preparing for a party). I highly recommend testing new recipes PRIOR to the time you are going to make them to share with people. Who knows, these could have turned out to be more like Messy Brown Chips instead of Macadamia Brittle Cookies.
Luckily for me, they turned out exactly as they should have. At least they tasted great to me! They are a definite toss back to the great taste of pralines. This cookie has many different layers of taste. You first get a taste of crunchy butter cookie, but then as the praline mixture starts to dissolve in your mouth it has the fantastic vibrancy of the macadamia nuts…true Hawaiian delicacies. The after taste, I cannot quite pin down, put it is pretty darn great too. I would not rate this as one of my favorite cookies ever or anything, but it is rare to find a treat with such fanciful layers. A wonderful addition to a holiday party!
Macadamia Brittle Cookies
- 8 ounces coarsely chopped, toasted macadamia nuts
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate morsels, melted in microwave or double boiler
- In a heavy saucepan, cook sugar over moderate heat: shake the saucepan 2 or 3 times until the sugar melts, then cook without stirring until the sugar becomes caramel colored. Remove from heat and add ½ cup of macadamia nuts. Pour the praline nut mixture onto a cookie sheet covered with wax paper and let cool completely.
- Grease 2 cookie sheets. Break apart praline mixture and grind in a food processor. Add the remaining toasted macadamia nuts and continue grinding until medium fine.
- In a large bowl of an electric mixture, cream together butter and confectioners’ sugar on medium speed. Add flour and praline mixture and combine until well blended.
- Roll tablespoonfuls of dough into 2 ½ inch logs. Arrange them 1 inch apart on cookie sheets and flatten each log slightly. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly colored.
- Let cookies cool in pan for 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. When cool, dip in melted chocolate and let cool on wax paper.
Here is yummy recipe #2 from my first annual cookie exchange. I think it is a fairly well known cookie. Chocolate crinkles are basically a brownie mixture that you chill for HOURS. After waiting and waiting and waiting, you take the dough out of the fridge, roll it into balls and coat it with powdered sugar before baking. It is totally worth the wait. This was the other cookie from the exchange that was gone the first day I had them. So yummy and addictive! Thanks H.B. for contributing!.Chocolate Crinkles
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- In a medium bowl, mix together cocoa, white sugar, and vegetable oil. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the cocoa mixture. Cover dough, and chill for at least 4 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough into one inch balls. Coat each ball in confectioners’ sugar before placing onto prepared cookie sheets.
- Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand on the cookie sheet for a minute before transferring to wire racks to cool.
These cookies have a wonderful cracked texture with the powdered sugar. They will add beauty and taste to any holiday place setting!
My family is famous for cookie swaps. I think Jennifer is on her 8th? year of hosting her annual cookie exchange. Down South they are serious and take cookie swapping to a whole new level. It has evolved into it’s own living breathing cookie creature. The first year a couple of us got together to bake cookies. I think by year two we already decided that was too much work and we would just bring cookies to share. Then some people started packaging stuff a little more cute than usual and then she started having prizes for who’s was the most creative. Of course, the gauntlet had been thrown down! Now people plan months in advance for the best tasting cookie, most clever packaging and tackiest Christmas sweater (everyone decided they had to compete with mom’s sweaters) :o). Those are only a few of the highlights too! There is a gift exchange and more! It is a great time for friends to get together, share great recipes and eat good food. Unfortunately, I moved away a year and a half ago and this was my second year missing the cookie party. They gave me the option last year to send my cookies in to compete, but there was just too much going on!
This year I decided it was high time I continue the tradition on my own and I threw my first Christmas Cookie Swap. It was planned a little on the fly so I didn’t have time to incorporate all the things I wanted to, but there is always next year! I had a great turn out and there were AWESOME cookies. I love any excuse to hang out with my neighborhood ladies and today was no exception. A few of the highlights of my party:
- 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place for most creative packaging/beautiful cookies (this was included in the invite) and because we all have a great sense of humor, a prize for “maybe next year!”
- Each guest brought 4 – 6 cookies per person attending pre-packaged for easy “grab and go” as well as enough printed recipes for each guest to take home with them (I made it clear if people did not RSVP by a certain date they would not be able to attend and emailed the number of guests out a few days before)
- Guests were also encouraged to bring their “leftovers” on a tray for the ladies to snack on during the party
I had a small amount of meats, cheese, olives, and crackers to snack on as well as mimosas, coffee, wine, etc.
Things I will be prepared for next year:
Cute name tags, probably designed to look like recipe cards
A “theme” such as tacky sweater or maybe even holiday cocktail…we all have those dresses we have to wear to holiday parties, why not get an extra use out of them!
Next year I will probably switch and do it late on a Sunday afternoon like they do back home; I just think it would be easier
I am so blessed with so many amazing friends. I love my neighborhood and I am so thankful I have these woman to support me and my family in the good times and the not so good times. Thank you everyone for helping me make my Christmas even more special this year!
I am including some of my favorite pictures from the party and it was so hard to choose! I plan, it time allows, to post my favorite three recipes over the next week or so. There were so many fantastic cookies!
Mamma Mia! Looking for a fun, inexpensive thing to do with your kids on a Friday night? Or even a great party idea to have friends over? How about make-your-own personal pizzas? Been there, done that, you say? Well, don’t just have everyone stand around and put some toppings onto some dough. Instead, turn your kitchen into a pizzeria straight from Little Italy! While visiting Grandma over Thanksgiving weekend, she set up a fun evening for the whole family.
Things she had ready to go:
chef’s hats (I know I don’t have these on hand, so here is a make-your-own version)
felt Italian style mustaches
picnic style vinyl tablecloth
packaged, refrigerated pizza dough
rolling pin (also a necessary part of the costume) :)
small can tomato sauce
traditional Italian music, candles, etc. would also do a lot to make it a fun night
With the kids all decked out in their Italian gear, we sang silly sounding Italian songs (okay, just made them up as went along), talked in Italian accents (my son’s is sounding less and less like Russian the more practice he gets), tossed pizza dough in the air (don’t be afraid to eat dough that landed on the floor…come on, just dust it off! or clean your floor first!), and had a LOT of laughs. The pizza turned out fantastic and the kids gobbled it up like there was no tomorrow. And let me tell you, my kids don’t usually jump on food like this when they usually can get it as a special treat at a fast food place. They BOTH said it was the best pizza they ever had.
That’s what happens when all that love and laughter goes into it!
While I’ve never been a big user of napkin rings (or my husband a user of napkins), I still love them. I used to have a neighbor that always used cloth napkins. After they finished eating, they would fold them in half and hang them on the back of their chairs. I always thought this was so neat and “fancy but casual”. I’ve tried it, but because I’m always using the kitchen table as my craft table, the napkins fall to the floor, the dog claims them, and I later find them in the backyard. But…Thanksgiving is a different story. Thanksgiving calls for all kinds of fancy; honestly, other than Christmas, when do you insist on hand washing the dishes instead of putting them through the dishwasher?
I found the idea for these napkin rings in a craft magazine I grabbed at a yard sale. (Hello, my name is Kelley and I’m addicted to Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications.) Although I didn’t come up with the idea on my own, I did put my own little twist to them. So here ya go:
Beading Wire: You’ll need the kind that is malleable. I bought 20 guage. The higher the number, the finer the wire. You want the stiffer stuff, but you don’t want it too big for your beads.
Beads: Use whatever suits your fancy.
Head Pins: These are what you use to make drop earrings.
Needle nose Pliers and Wire Cutters
Decide on your bead layout and string them on your beading wire. Don’t cut the wire yet.
Once you have the desired length of beaded string (mine was about nine inches), make a small loop on the end of your wire. This is where you’ll attach the head pin.
Get a bead (or two) that matches your ensemble and put it on your head pin. Cut the head pin to leave the right about needed for a loop. Make sure you don’t close the loop before you hook it onto your beading wire. Personally, I found that closing the loop on the head pin last was easier than the beading wire. The head pin will take more “strength” to close, but if you do it slowly and carefully, I think you’ll end up with a nicer looking product.
Here’s where I give my other two cents’ worth: Instead of using a toilet paper roll to wrap the wire around, use a spool of thread. And here’s why: When you wrap the wire and then release it, it’s going to expand a bit. Using a spool of thread allows it to expand to the normal size of a napkin ring. When I tried using a toilet paper roll, it expanded to something that looked like a bracelet.
When you wrap your wire around the spool of thread take into account how much you’ll need for a loop on the end and then cut your wire. You don’t want to cut it before wrapping because you’ll need more length as you wrap. Put more beads on another headpin, cut, loop, and attach to the other end of your beading wire.
I did put my own twist to the these napkin rings. I decided to personalize the rings for each person. I know that it’s somewhat impractical if you aren’t sure who will be dining with you or if you plan on using them for regular meals, but I wanted to add a little extra. There’s also the fact that Marissa and her kiddos traveled down to have a big Thanksgiving with Jen and Debbie. And even though I wasn’t there, I wanted it to be super special for them. So…I thought I’d go ahead and send these napkin rings on over for them to use.
And so here’s what we have:
Debbie, Jen, and Marissa’s rings are made with various styles of pearled beads…because they really are pearls.
Jen and Marissa’s daughters are the two girliest girls you’ll ever meet. I made theirs with pink beads.
Jen’s son is a master soccer player. He has soccer beads with his team colors.
Marissa’s son is really into cub scouts (future eagle scout, I’m sure!). He has blue, yellow, and wooden beads.
Jen’s husband has a purple belt in Brazilian Jujitsu. Although I made his with purple and black beads, don’t laugh, because he can totally kick your butt…or twist you into a pretzel…whichever you prefer.
Marissa’s husband is in the navy, and although he is deployed and won’t be there for Thanksgiving, he still get’s a spot at the table. I made his with red, white, and blue beads (they also have stars and stripes on them!).
A little tacky? Maybe.
A little extra special? I really hope so.
Thankful for all of them? You have no idea.