Archives for posts with tag: entertaining

My Mom wasn’t much of a cook, but…wait for it…she did make a mean batch of pickle wraps.  So when I found this recipe on Pinterest to make a pickle wrap dip, I knew I had to give it a try.

Did I nail it or fail it?  Well, it’s hard to tell.  It involved slicing and dicing, so you know I didn’t do that right.  Let’s view that photo again to see what it was supposed to look like.  And, as you can see below, it doesn’t look like that at all.  And mine are served with Fritos.  Hmmm…

I did one package of cream cheese, one package of beef (in the lunchmeat aisle), and one jar of whole pickles.

Picke Wrap Mix

And did I mention I served it with Fritos?  I don’t recommend this.  But in my defense I had already eaten the Triscuits with K-Hubs’ help.  And Toodlebug had already eaten the last of the tortilla chips.

Pickle Wrap Dip

We usually eat better than this.  Really, we do.  And we will start eating well again around January 2nd of next year.

But the dip itself was actually really good.  And, bonus, I thought this was a lot easier to prepare than good old-fashioned wrapped pickles. Those always took forever, and I always managed to get more cream cheese on the palm of my hand than on the pickle.

But a word of warning – the temperature of the pickles makes a difference on the outcome.

I prefer the refrigerated, crunchy pickles. Because they aren’t room temperature to start, I found it harder to mix the ingredients together. And although the dip was amazing, it had a firmer, not-so-dippy consistency.  So, you may want to stick with a jar of pickles that can be stored at room temperature prior to opening to make blending easier.

And look who found a way to use the word “dippy”  in a sentence.  Bah-zing! My work here is done.

Yesterday I featured four recipes with three ingredients or fewer.  Except when I cheated.  Today I’m featuring recipes for the holidays with just two ingredients.  Except when I cheat.

Big-Time Punch

Big Time Punch

I have loved this recipe for what seems like decades.  Perhaps I love it because it is inherently good, or maybe I love it because I love the family who first introduced me to it.  You know how you have your own biological family, and then as you develop friendships over the years you become a part of your friends’ families?  Well, the Big Times are a second family to me.  And I have nothing but fond memories of growing up around them with this recipe at the center of every celebration.

When I was looking for a nonalcoholic punch to serve at Toodlebug’s birthday party, this is the one I served.  It makes enough to fill a small liquid dispenser.  I found one at Costco that looks like this but for a fraction of the price shown.

I have a smaller batch pictured above in carafe also purchased at Costco.  I got a package of two for less than $20.  The silverware caddy in the background of the picture is, you guessed it, also from Costco.

Ingredients

  • 4 liters Ginger Ale
  • 1.75 liters nonalcoholic Margarita mix

Directions

Mix ingredients in large liquid dispenser or large punch bowl.

Variation

I borrowed a little ginger ale ahead of time and froze it into cubes.  Then I added them to the punch to keep it chilled during the party.  You could also do the same thing with an ice ring if your serving container is large enough.

Rolo Pretzel Bites

Rolo Pretzels First Layer

I have seen these topped with M&Ms, and K-Hubs’ sister tops hers with pecans.  To die for.  You’ll always know where to find me at family events.  This time, I topped with another pretzel, and it tasted wonderful.

Ingredients

  • Small pretzels (double the quantity of Rolos), set half your quantity aside for after baking
  • Rolos (1/2 the quantity of pretzels)

Directions

  1. Set oven to about 300 degrees (I have seen anywhere from 300-400 degrees).
  2. Lay pretzels on baking sheet and top with Rolos.
  3. Bake for about 3-4 minutes until the Rolo is soft but not melted.
  4. Pull out of oven and top immediately with remaining pretzels.

Rolo Pretzel Closeup

No-Bake Oreo Snowballs

Size of Oreo Snowballs

A former neighbor served these during a baby shower.  She had dyed the almond bark to a pale blue and topped with chocolate sprinkles.  They were delicious and looked professionally created.  I remember thinking I would do that one day and maybe do each color in my box of food coloring.  I’d get really creative and top these with all kinds of decorations, drizzling amazing concoctions over the tops of each like she did.

The truth is, I will never do that.  Ever.  I’m lucky, as you’ll see, if I can make it all the way through the recipe without a mishap.  Truthfully, the recipe isn’t that complicated, but in spite of it’s amazing taste, I manage to find out each time I make them what not to do!

Oh, and I’m cheating again.  I forgot the almond bark.  So we’re going to call it 2.5 ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 1 package Oreos
  • 1 package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 package almond bark, melted

Directions

  1. Crush Oreos in sealed plastic bag (I use a small can or a rolling pin).
  2. Knead crushed Oreos by hand into softened cream cheese.
  3. Roll into small balls.
  4. Place in freezer to set (I did mine for an hour and they worked really well when it came time to dip into the almond bark).
  5. Melt almond bark according to package directions.
  6. Dip each Oreo snowball into the almond bark and place on sheet of wax paper.*
  7. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

*I have tried different dipping techniques over the years with this recipe and found that fondue tongs work well.  Otherwise the snowballs break apart as you try to dip them in the almond bark.  My neighbor said she used a fork with hers, but that never worked for me.  Shocker, I know.  I think another crumble-prevention technique is to evenly knead the cream cheese and Oreos, avoiding excess crumbs around the outside of the ball before freezing.

It’s also a good idea when placing them on the wax paper to make sure they are far enough apart so they don’t melt back together as evidenced by this photo.  In spite of the mishap, K-Hubs and I went on to enjoy them just the same.  Melted back together, frosted in pastels, or however you choose to serve them, they taste wonderful!

Finished Oreo Snowballs

Stay tuned because while some people choose to run marathons or climb mountains, I dared myself to do seven Pinterest projects before the holidays.  And starting tomorrow, I’m going to show you the results of my endeavors.  Seven Pinterest projects over seven days.  Yep, the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly!

There may or may not have been a Christmas when I came home with loads of groceries only to tell K-Hubs he couldn’t eat any of the food because it was for Christmas recipes to be shared at family gatherings. He reminded me we didn’t have any food to eat in our house in between these gatherings.  Oops.  Since then, I have been on a quest to find simple, quick, few-ingredient recipes.  I didn’t have to search far.  The Gram had me covered.

The Gram’s Seasoned Oyster Crackers

This one of The Gram’s is great if you just want people out of your hair. These crackers are addictive.  So you needn’t worry about someone asking when you’re going to get a real job or have a baby or finally get married or move closer to home.  You’re welcome.

Oh, and I’m cheating on this one.  I forgot to include the seasonings. We’ll combine them together and call it 3.5 ingredients.

Seasoned Oyster Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oil
  • ½ tsp onion salt
  • ½ tsp garlic salt
  • ½ tsp lemon pepper
  • 1 package Hidden Valley Ranch dressing, dry mix
  • 2 packages oyster crackers

Directions

  1. Mix seasonings with oil.
  2. Add Hidden Valley Ranch dressing.
  3. Mix together.
  4. Add oyster crackers.
  5. Bake in oven at 200 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

The Gram’s Cheese Ball

It’s never a good start to a recipe to say, “Keep an open mind.” However, much like you can’t judge a book by its movie, you can’t judge this recipe by its photo.  To this day, I think this cheese ball looks horrendous.  But it is such a delicious guilty pleasure I rarely make it because I would eat nothing else.  While pregnant I stayed away from deli meats, which meant I stayed away from this recipe during the holidays, and it nearly killed me to do it.

K-Hubs is the resident slicer/dicer in our family.  He wasn’t in when I made this batch, so you’ll notice the meat and green onion are a bit chunky.  The recipe is better if you can slice and dice them finer than what I did.  Serve it with whatever crackers you like.  I have used Townhouse, Ritz, and Triscuits.  But I think just about anything will do. True confession, K-Hubs and I have run out of crackers before and just eaten this by itself.  It doesn’t present well but man is it good.

Grandma's Cheese Ball

Ingredients

  • 1 (8) oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (2) oz. package thinly sliced beef (usually in the lunch-meat section)
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Dice beef into small sections and add to softened cream cheese.
  2. Add green onion.
  3. Shape into ball by hand.*

*The cheese ball is at its best when all the ingredients are mixed well together.  I’ve skimped on the kneading/blending by hand before, and it doesn’t turn out the same.  To reap the full yumminess, spend a few extra seconds mixing all three ingredients together.

Snackwiches

We’ll revisit 8th grade and check out this fun little finger food Mrs. Whosit called Snackwiches.  I made them for Mom’s bridge club one time, so proud of myself for broiling something.  I love this recipe when I don’t have a lot of time to prep or cook, and when I want the flexibility to make as many or as few as I want.

I experimented with this simple recipe and found that if you want them to look more presentable when they’re cooked, try a longer slice of cheese.  I figured tis little gem out after I took the photos.  Play around with it to see what you like best.  I also experimented with the type of cheese used.  The original recipe calls for Swiss cheese, which I didn’t have.  So I played around with sharp cheddar, provolone, and mozzarella.  Each tasted great, however if you prefer a more intense flavor, go with the cheddar or provolone.

Snackwiches - Layer Ingredients

Snackwiches

Ingredients

  • Triscuits
  • Summer sausage, sliced approximately 1/4 inch thick and then cut into half circles
  • Slices of cheese

Directions

  1. Set oven to “broil.”
  2. Place summer sausage on top of each cracker.
  3. Place cheese on top of summer sausage.
  4. Broil for 60-90 seconds while oven door is still slightly open.*

*These broil quickly, so Mrs. Whosit wasn’t joking when she said to keep the oven door ajar, and you’ll want to have oven mitts at the ready to pull them out.  I burned the first batch in the time it took to get my potholder out of the drawer.

The Gram’s Shrimp Dip

This is another great recipe if you’re short on time.  The Gram always served hers with Ruffles Potato Chips.  I made it one time and only had Tostitos Tortilla Chips in the house.  The combo tasted great.

And here’s a picture of my beloved blue bowl, part of the family of bowls that also includes the yellow bowl.

Shrimp Dip - Combine Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 (8) oz. container toasted onion dip
  • 1 can tiny shrimp (approximately 4 oz.), rinsed thoroughly
  • Garlic powder, to taste

Directions

  1. Pour toasted onion dip into small serving bowl.
  2. Add rinsed shrimp.
  3. Stir together.
  4. Add garlic powder to taste.

NOTE:  Leftovers should be refrigerated quickly.  It loses consistency after sitting out for extended periods.

For those with a sweet tooth, tomorrow I’ll be sharing three saccharine recipes with just two ingredients each.

I’ve mentioned before that my oldest daughter, Toodlebug, is a discerning eater.  I deem her readiness to eat Muffin Puffs proof of their worthiness. If you’re still unsure, let me just say when we made these, Toodlebug asked for them at each meal, again before bed, and first thing the next morning.  K-Hubs was even worse.  They are that good.

Earlier this week, we went back in time to 9th grade science class where my good friend, Gail, and I first met.  Today, we’re going back to 8th-grade home ec.  I hadn’t met Gail yet, but I was just as silly.

The teacher, Mrs. Whosit, was formal and prim.  She knew her subject well, but our class was um, colorful, not formal.  And certainly not prim.  She was saddled with class clowns and social butterflies.  As classmates we got along great.  A little too great.  Most of the time someone had a crush on someone else.  And then we dished about it during class.

The course consisted of cooking and sewing.  Mrs. Whosit didn’t like me much, yet, coincidentally, I love to sew and cook.  Ha!!!!!  We didn’t get along for two very specific reasons.  One, I was a chatterbox.  And two, I snapped the tray holding the sewing machine.

See, Mrs. Whosit told our class in no uncertain terms that we should never pop the tray as we pulled it out from our cupboard.  It was on hinges that allowed you to push it down or pull it up and out.  Each tray held its own sewing machine and if you snapped the tray, you ran the risk the machine and tray would separate and the tray would then separate from its hinges and everything would go flying.

She gave us all a practice run, and, well, I tried conscientiously not to snap my tray.  But…I totally snapped my tray.  Nothing went flying, however there was a loud popping sound, and I became the class example of what not to do.  The clowns and the butterflies thought it was hilarious.  Mrs. Whosit did not.  I wasn’t sure what to think.  But I thought it was safe to say, in spite of the fact that I usually got along very well with my teachers, she and I were never going to be buddies.

At least her recipes were good.  And that’s what I’m sharing with you today.  Muffin Puffs at their greatest.

You’ll need melted butter and a cinnamon sugar mixture.  You’ll actually need the butter for two separate steps.

Butter and Cinnamon Sugar Mixture

Any crescent rolls will do.  Depending on the shape and size of your marshmallows, you might have to lay them horizontally instead of upright.  You might also have to fight a little harder to close the seams once you wrap the crescent around the marshmallow.

Marshmellows on crescent rools

You can use a muffin tin if you have one.  Or if you don’t, foil baking cups will do the trick, too.  NOTE:  line your baking sheet (if you use foil cups) with foil or lay foil underneath your muffin tin.  These puffs are delicious, but they’re also messy.

Line baking sheet with foil

Once you have wrapped the crescent rolls around the marshmallow, dip them in the butter again before baking.

Dip wrapped marshmellow back in butter mixture

Depending on the size of your marshmallow, you may get an ooey, gooey center like the picture below.  Or sometimes, the marshmallow adheres to the crescent and the center appears hollow.  I’ve experienced both and, although the texture is different for each, the overall taste is the same.

Oooey Gooey Goodness

This time the marshmallow stayed in the center.  It also doesn’t look like it exploded in its tin, but that is a common occurrence.

Dish Delish

I’ve got these served and ready to go on china (I think Mrs. Whosit would be proud).  But I will also tell you, we’ve served these up for food day at K-Hubs’ work and as tailgate treats on chilly Saturday mornings. Muffin Puffs are versatile.

And look!  I have the original 8th-grade recipe, Magic Marshmallow Crescent Puffs.  K-Hubs and I kept mispronouncing them Puff the Magic Marshmallow Crescent Puffs.  So, he changed it to Muffin Puffs.

The original Muffin Puff Recipe

And Mrs. Whosit thought I wasn’t paying attention in class.  Look who’s blogging now!

Ingredients

5 tbsp sugar
2-3 tsp cinnamon
16 crescent rolls
16 large marshmallows
4 tbsp butter, melted
5 tbsp chopped nuts, if desired

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Combine sugar with cinnamon.
  • Dip marshmallows in butter and lay them on individual crescent rolls.
  • Wrap crescent around each marshmallow, closing all seams.
  • Dip in melted butter and place buttered-side down in deep muffin cups.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Serve warm.

Chic, sleek, and totally functional.  That’s what you’re going to find in today’s post.

Dinette table

I’ve tried to tell this story in a logical order.  It just won’t do.  We’ll get to Gail’s kitchen…eventually.  Above is a picture to tide you over.

Okay, Gail, a fellow Spirit, and I go way back.  I mean way way waaaay back.  We had 9th-grade science together with Mr. Murph, our teacher, and yes, we called him Mr. Murph.  Everyone did.  I think.  Anyway, we had 9th-grade science together and sat in rows.  Gail sat behind me, which came in handy because we didn’t have cell phones back then to text during class (which if we had, of course, we wouldn’t because that would have been rude and distracting).  Anyway, we didn’t know what cell phones were so we did the old-fashioned handwritten-note thing.  But there was always the risk the teacher would swipe the note and read it aloud for the class.

So Gail, in her infinite wisdom, shoved the notes in my bra strap.  And then I’d toss my notes back on her desk like I was swatting at a fly.  Psht, don’t look at us that way.  We were in stealth mode. Mr. Murph probably saw this happening, and God love him, he rarely called us out on our behavior and never swiped our notes.  He was dumb as a fox and probably didn’t want to know what we were writing.  He tolerated our uncontrollable giggling like a pro.  And since he was a wrestling coach, I guess he was intimidating enough that we really did try to be good in his class.

We both liked Mr. Murph as a teacher, and probably learned a lot, although I couldn’t tell you what.  And if he had taught more than 9th-grade science, I would have signed up for more science classes with him.  Because his wife was expecting (a second daughter – explains a lot) he also carried a pager, and we thought that made him even cooler.

But like a lot of relationships, things changed.  Mr. Murph left teaching to go into the world of finance.  And Gail and I lost touch after graduation.  Sad face, I know.

So, it was a fluke and rather fortuitous that we would run into each other at Target earlier this year when we were each VERY with child.  She was 41 weeks along and delivered the NEXT DAY.  I was 31 weeks along with Twinkleberry, and willing to deliver in the middle of the cosmetics aisle if it meant my cankles would go away.

We were there in the aisle with her husband, Alex, who was, coincidentally, a fellow high school classmate of ours (and college classmate of mine – although I later learned they didn’t start dating until after college – are you getting all of this?), and we were swapping eggo-preggo stories as we both sweated to death under the air conditioning.  And it was like old times.

So after we each delivered our children, we got together.  Happiness, I know!  We ponder life’s quandaries; like whether salmonella bacteria can jump off the pound of hamburger thawing in the fridge, over other items on the shelf, and land on bottles of breastmilk, and then proceed to find their way into these bottles and contaminate our little ones’ food sources.  Or the fact that little ones seem to be perpetually sick.  Like, maybe it’s an ear infection.  Or, maybe it’s bubonic plague.  And of course we just Google these symptoms only to find out our children have Avian bird flu.  These are serious issues, people.  You no longer need trained medical professionals now that you have Gail and I to solve all these mysteries for you.  I mean, if Gail and I don’t think about these issues, pray tell, who will?  Gail is so much fun, it’s no wonder Toodlebug loves her.

So, you may be wondering what her husband is like.  Well, Alex is a lot like K-Hubs.  He’s the calm one, too. Alex is also one creative dude.  I remember standing in line with him at the university bookstore in college as we bought our semester supplies, betting on who was going to have the larger bill.  I was a history major so my bill was only $25439340.  He was a design student, so his bill was in the neighborhood of $45303819.  Alex for the win!

I also remember that Alex and I went to student services in high school with mommy notes getting us out of 8th-period study hall.  I don’t remember his excuse, but mine was that Dad had sent me a birthday present and the UPS guy, or whoever it was, gave us the “final warning” note that said we’d have to drive downtown to get my package if he missed us again.  Mom thought that was a good enough reason to skip 8th-period study hall and actually wrote on my slip, “She has a package to pick up”.  Good enough for me.

Back to Alex’s college experience.   All that moolah paid off because this guy knows how to design a kitchen that is actually lived in.  And let’s remember he has a seven-month-old, so it needs to be functional, too.  Well done, Alex and Gail, well done.

This kitchen is totally fun!  And as I pointed out to Gail, it looks professionally done but is still a place where you can cook.  And burn a few creme brûlées or casseroles or whatever you fancy.  And talk about sick kids.  And drink a glass of wine.

Gail's Kitchen 2

The picture below hardly does justice to the skylights in the kitchen. Another way to add warmth when you use cool colors.  The picture below also depicts what is to the left of the picture above.

And the oversized spoon!  I love it.

Skylight

And an oversized fork!  Naturally, if you have an oversized spoon, then you definitely need a fork of the same size or larger.

Gail's Kitchen

Stainless steel appliances are all the rage now, and I admit I like the stainless look too.  But the black appliances contrast so nicely with the gray-black counters and lighter gray subway tile backsplash.  LOVE!

Subway tile and burgundy flowers

Bright accessories offset the gray.

In addition to stainless steel, also popular is chalkboard paint.  What a clever idea to add it to standard white jars.  It’s a nice alternative if you aren’t ready to commit to an entire door or wall.

I think these jars would make great gifts this holiday season.

Flour Sugar

This festive setup below is to the right of the sink.  Simple, fun, effective.

Halloween Countertop

Speaking of sinks, here’s a picture of hers.

Be Smarter than the Faucet

No, there’s nothing magical about it, except I couldn’t figure out how to turn the faucet on.  Jeez!  I was trying to wet a paper towel to rescue Gail’s shirt from baby spit-up and couldn’t figure out the nozzle.  Turns out, you just pull on the side handle to get water.  I was moving it up and down and then pulled the nozzle out while Gail’s daughter spit up all over her.  We laughed like 9th graders.

And the dinette, to the right of what you see above, is simple, elegant, and inviting.

Larger Dinette Updated

Gail has an equally elegant formal dining room that screams awesome. I’ll be featuring that in a future post.  For now, you can imagine yourself in her kitchen talking about snow, Christmas music on the radio before Thanksgiving, or if you’re like Gail and me, whether humidifiers or fans are better in your child’s room, only to decide that, since you can’t decide, you’ll just do both.

Note to self:  If you take pictures of food, it might be worthwhile to find out if your camera has a food option in its menu.  Well, life is full of discoveries, and my camera does indeed have a “take photos of food” option. So, here’s hoping yellow foods won’t always look orange, red foods won’t always look blue, and white foods will be discernible in future pictures.

I’ve heard people say they are a little pumpkined out with all the recipes floating around the Internet for Halloween and Thanksgiving.  I can’t say I blame them.  We’re not even halfway through November, and, yes, a little pumpkin goes a long way.

But, I came across this awesome pumpkin parfait recipe by chance when Toodlebug and I attended a kids’ cooking class at our local zoo.  And it has the word “parfait” in it, so you know it has to be good.  It’s so high brow.  So high society.  Parfait.  You can wow your guests this holiday season with references to parfait and palate and delicious and addicting and whatever else strikes your fancy.

Toodlebug has a “discerning” palate, so, naturally, she didn’t try it.  This was the turning point because had she eaten it herself, I would never have known the joy that is a pumpkin parfait.  I mean, it was just sitting right there, looking at me in all its cookie goodness, so I had to eat it. Sure, it was for kids, but let’s be honest with ourselves, some of the best snacks in the world are supposedly for kids.  Like Nilla Wafers and vanilla frosting.  You’re welcome.

After inhaling it and holding myself back from licking the little container it was in, I found I was thinking about it the rest of the afternoon.  The next day just happened to be grocery day, so I stocked up on ingredients to make this as often as K-Hubs and I wish.  However, I did forget the gingersnaps, and I will say the parfait is better with them.  K-Hubs says it’s like eating pumpkin pie.  I would agree.

Parfait Final Product

Ingredients

¼ AND ¼ cup pumpkin, keep separate
½ AND ⅓ cup vanilla yogurt, keep separate (depending on size of your container, you could make each portion ½)
⅛ AND ⅛ tsp cinnamon (adjust up or down for personal preference), keep separate
3-4 graham cracker wedges
3-4 gingersnap cookies

Top with graham crackers, gingersnaps, or your favorite cookie, crumbled.

Almost finished. Top with graham crackers, gingersnaps, or your favorite cookie, crumbled.

Directions

  • Mix ¼ cup pumpkin and ⅛ tsp cinnamon, set aside
  • Repeat with remaining ¼ cup pumpkin and ⅛ tsp cinnamon, set aside
  • Pour ¼ cup pumpkin mixture into glass
  • Pour ½ cup vanilla yogurt on top of pumpkin mixture
  • Pour remaining ¼ cup pumpkin mixture on top of yogurt
  • Top with remaining ⅓ cup yogurt
  • Decorate or serve with graham cracker wedges and gingersnap cookies

Yields one parfait

Variations

  • Add dash of ground cloves for flavor
  • Add sugar to cinnamon (I didn’t do this but found I needed to really watch how much cinnamon I added to the mixture because when mixed with the pumpkin it was a little tart.)
  • Eat layered as it is or crush the crackers and combine all ingredients (The latter is an especially good choice if the cinnamon is too strong for your liking – the vanilla yogurt tames it)
When I make this now, I combine the cinnamon with the pumpkin.  It gives it an even flavor.  If the vanilla yogurt doesn't sweeten it enough, add a little sugar.

When I make this now, I combine the cinnamon with the pumpkin (unlike what you see in this photo). It gives it an even flavor. If the vanilla yogurt doesn’t sweeten it enough, add a little sugar.