Category Archives: Snacks and Appetizers

Party Like a Toddler

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His Majesty had a Halloween Party at play school yesterday, which gave me the opportunity to try out two new recipes that I pinned to my Halloween Board.

The first was a twist on our Valentine’s Day success: I call it “Monkey Munch”, but my husband, and the recipe that I used, call it “Puppy Chow”.  The other play school parents just called it “Really Good”.  The source of the recipe is a blog called Your cup of Cake, and it’s written by a college student at BYU.  She has tons of recipes for sweet treats, like this one for hot chocolate truffles.  Betcha Santa would take those over the same old chocolate chip cookies we leave him every year!

The recipe is very easy to follow.  The only thing I did differently was to mix the coated cereal and the powdered sugar in a (clean, unused) kitchen trash bag.  It’s bigger, so it’s easier to spoon the cereal into it, and there is more room to shake the cereal around and coat it evenly in the powdered sugar.  I just used one trash bag for the white chocolate mixture and one for the chocolate chip mixture.  I used about 2/3 of a big bag of Reese’s Pieces, but you could add M&Ms, candy corn, pretzels, whatever you want, to dress it up to your satisfaction.

The second recipe I tried was this pumpkin shaped cheese ball from Family Fresh Meals.  I served it with pretzels, crackers, bell pepper slices, and nacho chips.  It looked so pretty that people will think it takes you a lot of work to create it, but it doesn’t.  Not including the time it spent in the fridge overnight, it took me about 20 minutes, including time to cut up the peppers and set up the crackers on the platter.   It was a hit with the kids, and His Majesty tried to eat some of the leftovers with a spoon.

These two snacks went over very well with both adults and kids.  I still can’t get over how much toddlers eat, those little ones sat down around the table and gorged themselves to their little costumed hearts’ content.  Even so, these recipes make a lot of servings, so if you are watching your waistline, I’d definitely suggest that you have a plan for how to pawn the leftovers off on your friends generously gift the leftovers so that you aren’t tempted to overindulge.  These treats are can be dangerous!

Happy Halloween!

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Pumpkin Frappuccino

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I’m one of “those people” whose idea of coffee is a little bit of coffee and a lot of cream and (sugar free) flavor syrup.  I try not to consume a lot of carbs that 1) I can’t chew and 2) that aren’t dessert, so every year at this time, I get serious pumpkin frappaccino envy every time I pull up to order a coffee.  They don’t offer a sugar free variety.  And that really sucked for me, and no doubt for diabetics.

Until I saw this pin for how to make your own low calorie, high flavor pumpkin frappaccino over at Peanut Butter and Peppers.   This is a great site to peruse if you are looking for low calorie spins on your favorite meals and treats.

This recipe couldn’t be easier.  Honestly, the hardest part was figuring out how to freeze the coffee my husband made the night before I made these.  I ultimately used tupperware containers, but that was a mistake, I had to wait way too long for it to thaw enough in order for it to reach down to the blender blades.  Next time I won’t be lazy, and I’ll dig out the ice cube trays.

I slightly modified the original recipe to accommodate what was in my pantry and here’s what I used, in addition to the partially thawed coffee.

Here’s the very complicated process for creating this delicious frozen coffee.

1 1/2 cups coffee, frozen, partially thawed

2 Tbsp. pumpkin, canned

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice, ground

2 tsp. splenda

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

whipped cream to garnish

Toss all of your ingredients, except the whipped cream, in the blender.  Blend until it is all nice and smooth.

I guess the color of the paint really lives up to it’s name: Pumpkin Butter!

Pour it into your serving cups (This recipe makes 2 servings).  Top with whipped cream.

Enjoy.

It’s that easy.

When you’ve had your fill of pumpkin (anything is possible), try the Peanut Butter and Peppers take on the Gingerbread Frappaccino.

Ahhh, autumn, my favorite season. Beautiful, cooler temperatures, and tons of seasonal goodies to tempt to you get a little too comfortable in those yoga pants.

Bring on the gluttony.

Getting Caught Up

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Whew, am I behind on blogging.  As life happens, sitting down to blog has taken the back burner for me.  Summer is just about over, our (home) school year is in full swing, and we have been packing our days full.  Christopher is involved in all sorts of activities, His Majesty is in play school a few mornings a weeks, and is able to tolerate being out and about for daily outings with friends, and my husband and I are enjoying the ride.  While I haven’t had time for much crafting, one thing that I have found time to do is to try a few new recipes that are worth talking about.

Pizza stuffed crescent rolls: Super easy appetizer, and a hit with kids and adults (don’t let make them ahead and then try to warm them up, they are definitely better a few minutes after they’ve come out of the oven).  Check out the recipe over at Plain Chicken.

Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies:  Salty and Sweet, these babies were a hit with my brother and his girlfriend when they visited us this summer.  I’d have taken a photo of them when they were finished baking, but they disappeared pretty quickly, and I didn’t get the chance!  Find out how to make them at Sugar Cooking (isn’t that such a great name for a blog?).  You know how after you drop regular chocolate chip cookie dough in rounded spoonfuls, it will kind of flatten out as it bakes?  I guess these won’t really do that, so I read the comments, and it was suggested that you flatten the dough out a little bit with your palm or a cup if you want them to have a thinner appearance.  It doesn’t really matter though.  People are going to eat in pretty much any form.

Chickpea and Tomato Basil Salad: Christopher is not a fan, but my husband, His Majesty, and I could eat our weight in it.  At least, His Majesty would eat his weight in the garbanzo beans (which is hilarious to hear him pronounce, by the way), as evidenced by this photo of him picking them out one by one and loading them onto his spoon.  The recipe is from Green Lite Bites, and it is a great summer salad, not to mention a good way to use up grape tomatoes, which, if you’ve ever grown them, you know can become an issue.

“P.F. Chang’s” Style Lettuce Wrap from Iowa Girl Eats:  Messy, and lots of prep work compared to my usual meals, plus you have to watch the skillet, which I’m definitely not used to doing, but oh boy, is it worth it.  These are incredible, and I mean incredible.

Make Ahead Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies: They are supposed to be a healthier recipe, and they don’t taste like a “real” cookie, which is why they are suggested as a breakfast cookie. I didn’t like the taste of them, personally, but His Majesty did, and they froze well, which made them very convenient to have on hand for quickie morning meals with very little effort or clean up.   You can read about how I made them at Parents Connect.

Peanut Butter Brownie Trifle from Taste of Home: This is sinfully delicious, and way too easy to make for as amazing as it is.  Chocolate brownie and peanut butter cups, how can you go wrong?  You could do them in small plastic tumblers for an easy party dessert, too!

Sneaking Zucchini into Everything (and freezing lots of zucchini bread for winter):  Our zucchini crop peaked early this year, and then died off rather suddenly, but not before we had picked almost 100 of them.  I had to get creative with how to use it, so I took a cue from a pin of The Daily Spark and shredded it up like noodles so that I could then sneak it into pretty much every sauce I made.  This allowed me to serve my family an extra veggie serving without altering the taste of the dishes themselves.  Christopher, who doesn’t like zucchini served by itself also apparently doesn’t pay too much attention to what I do in the kitchen, or what’s on his plate, because he went most of the summer without realizing what was going on, and I never got a complaint out of him.  I just popped the “noodles” in the slow cooker about 45 minutes before we ate, stirred it into the sauce, and let it go.  This worked with cream based/alfredo sauces and red sauces.  

Another way I used up zucchini was by making a bunch of blueberry zucchini bread (see the recipe here at All Recipes).  I had to make a bunch because it is so good that we ate a whole loaf in two days, then another loaf went at a game night we hosted, and my husband wanted to take some to work and… well, you get the point.  As fast as I could make it, they ate it, which makes it a great use for extra zucchini– or any zucchini for that matter!

So, as you can see, while I’ve been absent from the blogging world, I’ve been busy in the kitchen, and in the home caring for my family, which is my true love.  As things settle, I hope to be able to pop on for more than a check in, but you know how life is, and how quickly days pass.  Before we know it, it will be Thanksgiving!

I’m sure you have been busy over the past several weeks, too.  What have you been up to?  Trips?  Books?  Lessons?  Let’s catch up!

Smooth(ie) Mornings

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Breakfast is my least favorite meal of the day. Not because I don’t like to eat it, don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE to eat breakfast.  Eggs, bacon, sausage, and a few slices of a nice, ripe tomato picked straight from the garden.  Yum.  That would start my morning off right.

No, it’s definitely not my least favorite meal of the day because I don’t like to eat it.  It’s my least favorite meal of the day because it starts the morning off with a mess to clean up.  And since I clean the kitchen really thoroughly every night, I want to keep it reasonably clean at least through the mornings, which means that my kids get very simple breakfasts that are easy to clean up.  Cereal and fruit, oatmeal, or yogurt and peanut butter toast.  Things like that.  Unless my husband is home and feels like making breakfast, which he usually does on the weekends.

Recently, I was looking through my food pins and saw this smoothie recipe, from Sing for Your Supper, and I thought that smoothies would be a perfect quick, easy to clean up breakfast option.  And low and behold, I had everything I needed to try Sing for  Your Supper’s recipe:  Ice, honey, unsweetened vanilla soy milk (you can also use the sweetened variety, or even cow or almond milk), Greek yogurt (adds protein and gives it a creamy consistency), strawberries (I used frozen because it was what I had), blueberries, a peach, a banana, and raw spinach leaves.

Smoothies are pretty hard to mess up.  You basically just blend your ice with a little of each of the various fruit that you want to add, a squirt or two of honey, your milk, a few spoonfuls of yogurt, and a handful of spinach.  The spinach may sound like a strange addition to you, but it does nothing to the flavor and adds all sorts of vitamins and nutrients.  Just slop everything in your blender, put the lid on, and start blending.  It’s thick, so I stopped it periodically and stirred it to be sure everything got nice and uniformly chopped and blended.

he likes it A blender full of smoothie goodness will make about four 8-ounce servings.  His Majesty drinks portion of smoothie served in “his” “shot cup”.

Yep.  I serve my two year old smoothies in a shot glass.

 

It may sound strange, but it was too thick for him to drink from a straw cup, and he’s not quite ready to handle a larger cup (see above about how I don’t want to clean up a mess in the morning…), so the 2 ounce shot glass holds a perfect amount.  He devours it, and then asks for more.  We keep topping him off until we run out of smoothie, and in the end, he gets about an 8 ounce serving… well, maybe 7 ounces.  About an ounce ends up on his face and placemat, which is pretty minimal given the damage the boy can do with even something simple like a piece of toast.  He really likes smoothies, though, and now asks for one every morning.

Christopher was skeptical of the spinach addition until he tasted it.  Then he sucked his drink down, too.  You can’t taste the spinach at all, and it adds tons of vitamins and nutrients to the blend.  The more spinach you add to your mixture, the less pink your smoothie will be, but it will still taste good even if the color looks a bit funky.  He didn’t really care for smoothies until I started adding peaches to them, after having been inspired by this recipe.  Before that, I’d only made them with berries and bananas.  The peaches are a perfect addition.  The riper the better, too, so if you have a peach that is too squishy to eat, toss it in the blender.

If you don’t have everything in the recipe, no worries.  Smoothies are very forgiving.  Give it a try.  Clean up will consist of cleaning the blender and the cutting board.  Oh, and here’s an easy way to clean you blender.  Fill it up about 2/3 of the way with warm water, then put the lid on and turn it on.  Then dump the liquid off, and you won’t have to scrub your blender as much to get it all clean.

What is your favorite breakfast meal?

 

Strawberry Pineapple Summer Salad

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This dish will get you an invite to everyone’s summer cookout!

It might sound strange at first: Strawberry Pretzel Salad.  But it is so good.  My Grandma makes a version of this that doesn’t have a cream cheese layer like this version, from Rebecca Crump at Ezra Pound Cake.  The cream cheese layer takes this dish over the top.  Does the inclusion of strawberries and pineapple qualify this dish as a side of fruit, rather than a dessert?  Hmmm…

Rebecca’s recipe uses all of the good stuff: butter, sugar, pretzels, cream cheese, cool whip, strawberry gelatin, frozen strawberries, crushed pineapple, and whipped cream.   Holy goodness.  (And speaking of Rebecca, her website has an amazing recipe index, including everything from crab dip and hot chocolate to sweet tea and couscous.  She also has easy to follow recipes for several classic cocktails.)  I modified Rebecca’s recipe to use generic Splenda, which measures 1:1 with sugar in baking recipes.

Here’s what I did to make Strawberry Pineapple Pretzel Salad (recipe from Rebecca Crumb at Ezra Pound Cake):

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish (I used real butter).

Make your crust.  Start by mixing 2 cups crushed pretzels (I added a cup at a time into a zip lock freezer bag, and pounded it with a cooking mallet to get the pieces nice and small without turning them into fine crumbs), 3/4 cups melted butter, and 3 tablespoons (generic) splenda in a bowl to coat all of the pieces evenly.  Then press the mixture into the bottom of the greased pan, and bake in preheated oven for 7 minutes.

Set your crust aside to cool.

While your crust is cooling, mix your cream cheese layer.  Combine 8 ounces of whipped cream cheese, and 3/4 cup of splenda, and whip until smooth.  Then fold in 8 ounces of Cool Whip (or, in my case, generic whipped topping).

Once the crust is cooled, spread the cream cheese mixture over your cooled crust. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to evenly chill. 

Combine 2- 3 ounce packages of sugar free strawberry gelatin with 2 cups of boiling water.  Stir to dissolve the gelatin, and let sit for 5 minutes to cool.  Add 2- 10 ounce packages of frozen strawberries and 8 ounces of crushed pineapple, and gently combine.  Then pour the fruit and gelatin mixture over your chilled cream cheese layer.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until serving time.

Look at this baby.  Nice and frosty and delicious.

I took Rebecca’s advice and serve it with whipped cream on top.

It was a hit with my taste tester, so I made it again for a cook out, where it was gone in a matter of minutes.  People loved this stuff.

It does take some advanced planning, since you have to chill it for a few hours, but it’s so easy that it’s worth planning ahead.

This would be a great recipe to keep on hand if you freeze fresh strawberries when you can’t eat them fast enough.  It’s fatty, and rich, and sweet and salty.  Perfect combination.

And there’s fruit.  It’s got to count as a serving of fruit…

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

What’s your favorite dish to share at a cook out or summer party?

Batter Up! Another Swing at Cake Batter Dip!

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Earlier this year, I told you about how Funfetti Dip (which I learned about from Shannon at Adventures in Food, and pinned here) was a hit at a play date I hosted. Well, this past week, Christopher asked me to make some more, but I didn’t have any more funfetti mix or plain yogurt.  I did, however, have a box of yellow cake mix, and some vanilla flavored yogurt.

Cake batter is cake batter… and yogurt is yogurt… Sooo….why not change it up a bit, do a little ingredient experimentation?

I decided that there was nothing to lose by giving it a whirl with yellow cake mix and vanilla yogurt.

I used the same ratio as the Funfetti Dip:

3/4 cup dry yellow cake mix

1/2 cup vanilla flavored yogurt

1/4 cool whip

And I mixed it for about a minute on medium speed.  It was pretty thick.

I served it with animal crackers and pretzel crackers.

I let Christopher taste test it, and the results were favorable.  But really, who doesn’t like cake batter?

His Majesty certainly does.

I’m pretty sure that you can use any dry cake mix and come up with a dessert style dip.  You can mess around with different yogurts and give it your own flair.  Strawberry pound cake mix, strawberry yogurt and cool whip perhaps?  Or butter pecan mix, vanilla yogurt, and cool whip?  There are so many flavors of yogurt and cake, you could really make it interesting.

Have you made any new recipes, lately?  Or put your own twist on an old one?

Bountiful Harvest

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Remember when I told you about the garden boxes my husband made for me earlier this year? 

Back when they looked like this:

Well, now they look like this:

And they are producing like crazy.  Since the first of June, we’ve found ourselves knee deep in zucchini, cucumber, and tomato, and our pepper plants are starting to pick up their production.  While we’re thrilled to have such a bountiful harvest, we also have had to get creative in terms of how to use all of our crops.

Zucchini are pretty easy to use up.  They don’t have a powerful flavor on their own, so you can put them in anything and not really alter the taste of the finished product.  I’ve shredded them and added them to every sauce I’ve made over the past few weeks.  Spaghetti sauce?  Yep.  Alfredo sauce?  For sure.  Bacon Ranch chicken?  You betcha, just toss it in during the half hour or so.  I made Italian Vegetable Soup, which calls for 3 of them, and then I added some to Italian sausage and white bean soup, which is one of my family’s favorites.  (I shredded up the zucchini and added it during the last 15 minutes of cook time.)  I tossed some into Tuscan chicken stew.  Basically, I put it in everything, but even after all of that, I still had a bunch of zucchini left over.

So, I tried some new things.

Like this Chocolate Zucchini Bread from All Recipes.  The 2 cups of shredded zucchini really just serves as a binder, and you can feel good about eating chocolate while you simultaneously up your daily veggie intake.  

I don’t know why my breads always crack like this.  It’s ugly, I know, but this bread is g-0-0-D, so don’t let the appearance turn you off.  My husband taste tested it for me, and he gave it excellent reviews, even eating some that evening as a bedtime snack when he could easily have had ice cream instead.  That is a pretty high compliment coming from him.

Then, we tried our hand at making dill pickles, using this crispy pickle recipe from Alice and the Mock Turtle.

The process involved icing the pickles for several hours before canning them, which adds additional prep time, but definitely seemed to pay off by adding additional “crunch” to the finished product (we still added pickle crisp to half the batch, just in case, and honesty, it wasn’t necessary.  The recipe produced crispy pickles even without the pickle crisp.)  Cutting them up and cramming them into jars was the most difficult part of this recipe, which is to say that it was really easy.  My husband handled the heat bath component, and got the hang of it really quickly.  We have lots of pickles in the pantry now.

Then, I used some of our tomatoes to make tomato, mozzarella and pesto grilled cheese pitas, inspired by a post from An Edible Symphony. This was such a perfect summer meal, and it was quick and easy to make.

I used regular pita bread for my husband and kids, and a low carb Hungry Girl “Fold-it” bread for myself. I bought the pesto from Trader Joe’s, the mozzarella from Aldi, and those beautiful tomatoes came from my garden 🙂  The yellow tomato is a low acid variety, great for people who have acid reflux issues.

Slice your tomatoes and mozzarella, slather your pesto on your bread, stuff your pita/add your toppings, brush some olive oil on the outside of the bread, and grill ’em up until the cheese is nice and melted.  I used a panini maker that my dad bought me for Christmas, but you could just as easily do this in a skillet.

Ooooh, this was sooo good.  I can not wait to make this again.

I still have quite a few recipes I want to try.  Like stuffed zucchini,  bite sized mozzarella caprese, Greek Nachos,  zucchini tots, Tzatziki saucezucchini, carrot, and black bean quesadillas, cucumber salsa, and zucchini crisp (think apple crisp, but with zucchini).  There’s also a recipe for a blueberry zucchini bread that a friend is going to email me that sounds like it will be delicious.  Hopefully, with this many new ideas to try, I won’t find myself in a rut, and we’ll be able to enjoy all that our harvest has to offer this season.

How is your garden growing?  Anything you’re doing that seems to be working? Anything you’re doing that is not working?  Tips, hints, warnings?  Good recipes that you care to pass along?