Saturday, December 6, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

So if you've read my profile, you know that two of my favorite food groups are cheese and chocolate. I know the food pyramid doesn't really support this, but I stand by my taste buds.

Normally I wouldn't think of cheese and chocolate being yummy together, but I could easily eat this entire cheese ball in one seating. The recipe comes from my dear friend Melissa Walker, and was one of the items we had at the Girls Night Christmas Ornament Swap. I'm pretty sure I hovered over it the entire evening.

1 8oz cream cheese-softened
½ C butter (no substitute)-softened
¼ tsp vanilla extract
¾ C confectioners sugar
2 Tbl brown sugar1
1 1/2 C mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
Chocolate graham cracker sticks


In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter & vanilla until fluffy. Gradually add sugars; beat until combined. Stir in 1 cup chocolate chips. Cover & refrigerate for 2 hours. Place cream cheese mixture on a large piece of plastic wrap; shape into a ball. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Just before serving, roll cheese ball in remaining chocolate chips. Serve with graham cracker sticks.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Girls Night is Back

Before we all grew up and got married, Monday nights used to be our token "Girls Night". The boys played poker, and the girls drank wine and watched The Bachelor. As it often happens, lives got busier and busier and Girls Night occured less and less often. This depressed me.

So to get the month of December started off in the Christmas spirit (and put Girls Night back on the calendar), some of my favorite ladies and I planned a Girls Night Christmas and Ornament Swap party. It was a HUGE success, and I dare say, will turn into an annual event.

My favorite planning process of any party is deciding on the menu, and I’m lucky that my friends love food as much as I do. We had fun coming up with delicious hors d’oeuvres for our guests. I'll spread the recipes out into a couple of posts, so as to not overwhelm anyone (or have a post that goes on for days). I'm hoping you'll add these to some of your favorite snacks!

Chardonnay, Artichoke and Parmesan Dip

Probably one of the tastiest and EASIEST dips in all of the land is artichoke dip. My mom would make it for all kinds of occasions, and I would park myself right next to the bowl (and stare down anyone who dared to take my dip from me). Anyway, I started making it in college for my own round of parties, girls nights, showers, etc. and tweaked a few things along the way. I know there are a million other versions that are similar (I’m pretty sure the original recipe is on the back of Hellman’s Mayonnaise) but here is my take.

1 can artichokes, drained and chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup real mayonnaise
1 tsp. minced garlic (or however much you like--I love garlic so sometimes I add more)
½ tsp. hot sauce
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup dry Chardonnay (preferably from the bottle you've open to enjoy as you cook) =)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix ingredients together until well blended. Bake in Pyrex dish or casserole dish for 20-30 minutes, or until bubbly. Garnish with fresh shaved parmesan and serve with tortilla chips, crackers, fresh bread, whatever your fancy.

I could eat the whole dish in one sitting. I am not ashamed.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Pumpkin Pie Waffles

Williams Sonoma is one of my “happy places”. I have several…New York, Barnes and Noble, Target…any place where I can spend literally hours in peaceful contentment (or in this case, until the salespeople politely tell me they are closing and my husband has to drag me away from the Breville Panini Press I’ve been coveting).

One of my favorite things about Williams Sonoma is their handy-dandy recipe cards. I usually spend about the first 10 minutes of my trip picking up every recipe in sight, while the salespeople wonder "who is this strange girl and is she ever going to actually buy anything". I would gladly spend my whole paycheck in their store. Unfortunately, my husband and I have differing opinions on this subject--I believe that fancy cheese graters, vegetable choppers and espresso machines are necessities. Husband does not. But I digress...

Throughout my window-shopping I’ve collected numerous recipes that I am dying to try—everything from Grilled Ham and Cheese Biscuits to Shepherd’s Pie with a Stilton Cheese Crust. YUM. Though undoubtedly delicious, they are also slightly intimidating--lots of fancy-schmancy ingredients and whatnot (I'm still a beginner, here). So in an effort to avoid complete disaster, I chose my first attempt carefully.

The occasion: Thanksgiving morning.
The guinea pigs: My family, always willing test subjects.
The recipe: Pumpkin Pie Waffles (this is starting to sound like a game of Clue--it was Courtney in the kitchen with the waffle iron!).

The verdict: They were a little more time consuming than I anticipated but WELL worth the effort. The texture was almost like a warm custard--gooey and delicious. I was actually expecting a light and crisp waffle, but the pumpkin gives the batter more density. They are definitely smooth and filling.

A few things to keep in mind: 1. Measure all of the dry ingredients the night before and save some prep time (it took me a long time to make the batter--lots of sugars, spices, etc.). 2. With most waffle irons, you can only make one at a time. This is great if you're doing what I like to call a progressive breakfast--everyone can come in and eat at their leisure. If your goal is to have everyone sit down to eat at the same time, you'll want to keep the first few warm in the oven while you cook the rest.

Luckily, my family was patient with me. I served up waffles one at a time while they oohed and ahhed with the appropriate enthusiasm. Even Husband offered his compliments, and he refuses to eat anything pumpkin. After everyone tried at least one, we got a little impatient and decided to use the rest of the batter to make pancakes on the griddle. I think most of us actually liked the pancakes better-because of the difference in texture, the pumpkin flavor was more pronounced. Either way, they were a welcome twist to my favorite Thanksgiving dessert. Pumkpin Pie for breakfast? I'm in!

5 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 cup pumpkin puree (you can use canned puree)
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp. grated peeled fresh ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. double-acting baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup milk

1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 Tbs. dark rum
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Vanilla ice cream and/or maple syrup for serving

Preheat a waffle iron. If you want to hold the finished waffles until serving time, preheat an oven to 200°F. Melt the butter; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin, brown and granulated sugars, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt. Using a rubber spatula or handheld electric mixer, mix together well. Stir in the flour, baking powder and baking soda. The mixture will be thick and a little lumpy. Dont try to smooth it out; just mix until the ingredients are incorporated. In another bowl, beat together the milk, sour cream, eggs, rum and vanilla. Add the liquid ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and stir until combined. Fold in the melted butter. Whether or not your irons grids are well seasoned or made of a nonstick material, it is best to lightly butter or spray the grids for these waffles because the batter is quite sticky. Brush or spray the grids again only if subsequent waffles stick. For a Belgian waffle iron, spoon out 2/3 to 3/4 cup of batter (or the amount recommended by the manufacturers instructions) onto the hot iron. Use a metal spatula or wooden spoon to spread the batter evenly over the grids. Close the lid and bake until golden. If the waffle is hard to remove from the iron, peel it off gently and carefully. Serve immediately or keep the waffles, in a single layer, on a rack in the preheated oven while making the rest.

Adapted from Waffles from Morning to Midnight, by Dorie Greenspan (Weldon Owen, 2001).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thanksgiving Turkeys

In the spirit of Thanksgiving (my second favorite holiday), I decided to dedicate my first ever blog post to my latest craft project—Oreo Thanksgiving Turkeys. I wish I could say that I was the creative genius behind these adorable treats, but alas, I am not. There are several versions that can be found on the web, but I found my inspiration in First Magazine. I happened to be baby-sitting my cousins, Mary Katherine and Hunter, the weekend after I found the idea, so I knew they would the perfect helpers. We took a trip to Publix to find our supplies:

* Oreos (preferably Double Stuffed)
* Whoppers
* Reese’s Cups
* Candy Corn
* Chocolate Frosting
* Decorating Gel—Black, Orange and White

Step 1: Take two oreo cookies, and place one “standing up” on the back end of a flat oreo (which will act as your base). Use some frosting to “glue” the two oreoes together.

Step 2: Take the Reese’s cup and attach the bottom of the cup to the front of the “stand up” oreo. This is the body of the turkey.

Step 3: Using frosting again as your glue, place the Whooper on top of the Reese’s cup and against the standing oreo (making the head).

Step 4: Using the black and white decorating gel, draw eyes on the Whopper (note: I think the magazine version used Googly Eyes, which can be found at the Dollar Tree or a craft store, and probably work much better!).

Step 5: Bite a candy corn in half and use the smaller, pointed section as the beak. Glue to the front of the whooper.

Step 6: Stick 5 candy corns into the middle of the stand up oreo, making the feathers.

Voila! If you have any family gatherings this Thanksgiving, try making this with your little ones. The best part is, you get to eat them when you’re finished (or before…and during…).