Monday, November 23, 2015

How to Make a Christmas Tree Shaped Cheese Ball -Tutorial

Seasonal treats are truly the best and are worth the little extra time it takes to make them special. While I've added a recipe (or use your favorite), this post is really about playing with your food a little bit:@) As mentioned in a previous post, cheese balls are perfect party food, they're great nibblers and travel well. Let's give them some holiday flair by shaping them into a Christmas tree!

How to make a Christmas tree shaped ham and cheese ball:
Place about 1" of wax paper under the cheese ball on each side, tape the wax paper to the counter so it doesn't move when you start piping the cheese. This makes clean up easier as you can slide the wax paper from under the tree and the plate stays nicer.

Put half of the cheese mixture into a disposable icing bag and cut about 1/2" hole in the tip of the bag.

Make a first pass, shaping a tree by moving the icing bag back and forth.
(This also makes a quick icing decoration on top of cupcakes or a cake using an icing tip in the bag.)

Fill the bag with the rest of the mixture and make a second and third pass, each one closer to the center of the tree.
Fill in any empty spots with a dot of mixture.

Cover the tree with parsley, gently press it into the cream cheese, be sure to cover the sides too.
Once the tree is covered carefully slide the wax paper out one piece at a time. You'll probably need to hold the side of a knife against the cheese to keep it in place because it will want to stick a bit to the paper. 

Finish decorating the tree with bell pepper decorations. I used cookie cutters to cut the shapes out.
Brush any stray parsley off of the plate and serve.
Easy and cute!

Leftovers? Cream cheese spread is good on a bagel the next morning or could be added to mac and cheese.

Ham and Cheese Ball
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz cheddar, shredded
3-4 oz ham, diced
1 Tblsp onion, finely minced
1 Tblsp bell pepper, red and/or green, finely minced
1/4 tsp black pepper
fresh parsley, finely minced, enough to cover cheese ball
bell peppers cut into ornament shapes for decorations
Assorted crackers, bagel chips and veggies for serving
~Mix first six ingredients, roll into ball (or shape into Christmas tree), cover in parsley and chill until ready to serve.

Eat well and have a happy day:@)

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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Lighter Pecan Pie

True confession time... This Yankee never had pecan pie, nope, never. I'm guessing the main reason is I've always heard about how sweet it is, and secondly, here in Philly pecans ain't cheap! Well, I splurged on a big bag of nuts for the holidays and in an effort to cut back on the sugar made a Lighter Pecan Pie. Now my only question is, what took me so long to try it-this pie is great!
Please note that the title says "lighter", not diet-sorry:@) There is only one cup of sweetener in this pie (compared to more traditional recipes), but it does still call for 1/2 C butter. It also uses only one cup of chopped pecans instead of two, so it's a little more budget friendly. Don't hesitate to give this pie a try folks, I think you'll be pleased.

Lighter Pecan Pie-adapted from Glitter to Gumdrops and Weight Watchers
2 eggs
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
2/3 C brown sugar-I had light
1/3 C corn syrup-I had light
1/2 tsp molasses-added because I had light brown sugar
1 Tblsp flour
1 Tblsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 C chopped pecans
9" pie shell
  1. Beat eggs until foamy, stir in butter. 
  2. Mix in sugars well, stir in flour (I sifted it into the mixture), milk, vanilla and nuts.
  3. Pour into 9" unbaked pie shell and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 50 minutes (center should not be giggly).
  4. Cool and enjoy!
Have a sticky sweet happy day:@)

Friday, November 20, 2015


My turkey is safely tucked away in the fridge defrosting and I'm tweaking the final shopping list...

Last minute turkey crafts:
Tea Light Turkeys

Ferrero Rocher Turkeys

Turkey Pie Crust Decoration
Here's wishing everyone a productive weekend before Thanksgiving!

Have a happy day:@)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Holiday Cheese Balls -Appetizer

I wanted to group together some of Cheese Balls I've made over the years, ~just in case~ you need a last minute appetizer that travels well and whips up quickly, I like that kind of appy:@) You'll notice I don't always shape them into a ball or log but may spoon them into a bowl, that works fine. If you're hosting a smaller gathering, these recipes can be cut in half easily, and they all lend themselves to a festive coating of bacon, nuts, parsley, etc...

While technically not a cheese ball, it just had to be added because it's so darn good...

There's a Southwestern Cheese Ball that you may like, it was decorated for Halloween at that time, so I'll only share the recipe link.
If you need more appy ideas I have a Dip Label that may provide some inspiration too.

Eat Well and Happy Holiday Planning:@)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Cornbread Christmas Tree with Bell Pepper Decorations

I picked up a couple tree shaped cake pans for 68¢ at Goodwill and thought this Cornbread Christmas Tree with Bell Pepper Decorations would be a fun idea. I took the time to cut circles for ornaments for the first try, um, don't do that... The batter seeps under and around the peppers and you couldn't really tell they were ornaments. Simply sprinkle diced peppers into the pan first, use a generous amount, I completely covered the pan. This would be a simple and cute addition to any meal at the holidays:@)
 I was tickled to find out that each cake pan holds half of the batter!
My pan was sprayed with Bakers Joy, make sure you give it a good coating. 

1 C cornmeal
1 C A/P flour
1 C milk
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C butter
2 eggs
1 Tblsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Optional: diced peppers, enough to cover pan
  1. Spray baking pan well (or grease and flour pan) and sprinkle peppers into pan.
  2. Mix first 8 ingredients well, gently pour into prepared pan (or baking dish).
  3. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.
  4. Allow to cool for a couple minutes once out of the oven, then turn out onto baking rack to cool completely.
Happy holiday planning:@)

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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Chile Garlic Green Cabbage -new food to me

It's been a long time since I've posted a 'new food to me' item and I know a few of you have been curious for me to try fish sauce, well, the seal was finally broken on the bottle... But let's talk about this cabbage first, I love cabbage and am always looking for more ways to make it. This is a very flavorful recipe and one I'd make again... With a few changes:@) Most importantly, I'd cook it for a shorter amount of time, keeping the cabbage crisper. Use lots of fresh garlic and lime juice and I'd bump up the amount of sweet Thai chile sauce. This would be a perfect side dish for pork chops.

As for fish sauce, I really wish I tried it back when the windows were open! While it may add umami to food (or is that really "eeew-mami?), the fragrance is not pleasant. It's not something this Yankee sees herself using again, but at least I can say I tried it and cross it off the list!

To recap, this cabbage is a nice different side dish folks, don't hesitate to try it, with or without the fish sauce:@)

Chile Garlic Green Cabbage-from The Iowa Housewife
4 tsp fresh lime juice
4 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp smabal oelek or sweet red chile sauce-no idea what smabal oelek is and NO it won't be added to my list!
1 Tblsp dark brown sesame oil
8 C sliced green cabbage
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro, optional-I didn't use this
  1. Mix first four ingredients in small bowl, set aside (the three year old in me wants to say "set outside" if using the fish sauce:@)
  2. Heat sesame oil in large skillet, add cabbage and cook about seven minutes or until lightly browned.
  3. Add liquid mixture and cook for another four minutes, stirring well.
  4. Stir in cilantro if using.
Eat well and have a happy day!

My New Foods List:
(If my sons happen to read this... relax! I still promise fairly "normal" Sunday dinners...)
hominy ~ artichokes ~ fish sauce (I'm scared)leeks ~ almond paste ~ oyster sauce (scared again) ~ gorgonzola ~ dates ~ brisket ~ parsnips ~ adobo ~ meringue powder ~ fennel ~ goat cheese (I'm told to be scared) ~ souffle ~ red velvet anything ~ curry ~ capers ~ chow chow ~ pot stickers ~pho ~ ponzu sauce ~ fondant ~ fire roasted tomatoes ~ Gruyere ~ Quinoa ~ Tetrazzini any kind ~ Divinity ~ Meyer lemon ~ lemon curd ~ shallots ~ turkey tenderloin ~ Chipotle Powder ~ Smoked Turkey Sausage ~ ganache

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Italian Chicken and Peppers-with pressure cooker and slow cooker options

The minute I saw this recipe for Italian Chicken and Peppers I had to whip some up for lunch! The original version was made in a slow cooker, mine was made with frozen chicken breasts in about 35 minutes using the pressure cooker. It only calls for five ingredients and can be served over pasta, rice, polenta or as a sandwich. I'd say that's a versatile recipe! Don't hesitate to give this tasty meal a try folks, I don't think you'll be disappointed:@)

Italian Chicken and Peppers-adapted from Budget Bytes
3 bell peppers, cleaned and cut into 1/4" thick strips
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4" thick strips
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs-I used breast meat
1 tsp Italian seasoning-original recipe calls for 1 tsp basil and 1 tsp oregano
1/4 C water-only if using pressure cooker
24 oz jar of marinara/spaghetti sauce-your favorite brand
S&P to taste

~Pressure Cooker Version: Place frozen chicken in PC, add water, then spaghetti sauce, do not stir. Cook on high for 20 minutes. Release pressure (allow natural release if you have time, automatic if rushed). Add pepper, onion and Italian seasoning. Cook on high for 4 minutes. Automatically release pressure. Shred chicken and add S&P to taste.

~Slow Cooker Version: Lay half of the peppers and onions in bottom of SC, lay chicken on top, sprinkle with spices, add remaining veggies, pour spaghetti sauce over everything. Place lid on and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. Shred chicken and add S&P to taste.

Eat well and have a happy day:@)