Goat Cheese and Olive Tapenade

My KICK with appetizers is coming to an end, as is the holiday season. This extremely TASTY starter is from Lisa, a friend at work. The combination of FLAVORS is totally divine and always keeps me coming back for more.

Goat Cheese and Olive Tapenade3/4 cup black olives
3/4 cup green olives with pimientos
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces goat cheese, softened
1 baguette, thinly sliced

Place the olives, oil, vinegar, and garlic in a food processor and process until combined but still chunky. Spread 2 teaspoons goat cheese on each baguette slice. Top with 2 teaspoons olive tapenade. Serves around 6-8.


Italian Biscuit Bites

These bites are QUICK to throw together, especially if you realize at the last minute that you need an appetizer for the people that are coming over SOON. Feel free to experiment with different CHEESES, and don't worry if you need to skip out on the marinara sauce. These little babies stand on their own! Look for this recipe and many others in my upcoming book, 101 Things To Do With Cheese.

Italian Biscuit Bites
1 (16-ounce) tube jumbo buttermilk refrigerator biscuits
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon basil or oregano
5-6 tablespoons butter, melted
Marinara sauce, for dipping (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut each biscuit into fourths; set aside. Combine the cheese and seasonings; set aside. Dip each biscuit in the melted butter and then roll in the cheese mixture. Bake for 10-12 minutes on a baking sheet prepared with nonstick spray, or until golden brown. Serve warm with marinara sauce on the side. Makes 6-8 servings.

TIP: I often double the cheese mixture because I'm totally obsessed with cheese and want to make sure every last possible biscuit is completely coated with the stuff. Feel free to do the same!


Cheesy Bacon Fondue

While growing up, it was always a TRADITION to have fondue on Christmas Eve with my grandparents. As we all sat in a circle around the fondue pot, we'd take turns dipping big cubes of savory breads into the cheese. If somebody dropped a piece of bread in the pot, they'd have to KISS the person sitting to his or her left, or at least say something NICE about that person. It was a fun tradition, and one that makes my mouth WATER to this day. (P.S. This recipe also appears in my upcoming book, 101 Things To Do With Cheese!)

Cheesy Bacon Fondue
5 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 can (10.5 ounces) cream of mushroom soup, condensed
1 cup milk
5 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Fry bacon until crisp. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender. Stir in condensed soup and milk and whisk until smooth. Add the cheese, Worcestershire sauce, and dry mustard. Blend thoroughly and keep warm in a fondue pot or slow cooker. Serve with French bread cubes. Makes 12 to 14 servings.
TIP: Try substituting different cheeses for a whole new range of flavors!


Sharon's Killer Cheeseball

A friend in my old neighborhood always delivered cheeseballs and crackers as her Christmas gifts to everyone. We always looked forward to this NUMMY snack and downed it pretty fast once it arrived on our doorstep. Hopefully you enjoy it as much as my family!

Sharon's Killer Cheeseball
1 bundle green onions (about 6-8)
2 packages Budding Beef or Ham lunchmeat
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temp
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of garlic salt
Chopped pecans or walnuts

Chop the onions and meat, and then stir all ingredients except the nuts together. Form 2 balls and then roll in the nuts. Serve with your favorite crackers!

TIP: Try using Budding Pastrami for a little different taste. You can even roll the cheeseballs in more chopped lunchmeat if you'd rather skip the nuts.


Sweet and Sour Meatballs

This time of year is usually full of parties and fun holiday get togethers. One of the best things about those parties are the YUMMY appetizers! Last week I posted my husband's favorite appetizer, and, over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting my favorites. You'll be able to serve them at ANY party, and, of course, they will all be SUPER EASY to make! This week's recipe is from Natalie, a friend of mine. She brought these little beauties to just about every potluck lunch we had at work.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs
1 pound ground beef or turkey
3/4 cup breadcrumbs (or rolled oats)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 BBQ sauce (any kind will work)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together all the meatball ingredients. Form into 1-inch balls and place in an 8 x 8-inch baking pan.

Mix sauce ingredients and pour over meatballs. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until done.

TIP: These little meatballs go pretty fast, so doubling the recipe is definitely something you should consider! If you do make double, just bake it all in a 9 x 13-inch pan instead. And, if you want to keep the meatballs warm throughout your party, pour them into a crockpot and leave them on warm. Also good over rice for a yummy dinner!


Christmas Tree Cake

Photo © Zac Williams

This super cute cake can be found in my book, Easy Christmas Cut-Up Cakes for Kids. It really is very easy to make and just may be a new tradition you'll want to start with your family. And, it will definitely be a hit at your holiday party this year!

Christmas Tree Cake
1 chocolate cake mix
Green frosting
1 King-Size Snickers or Milky Way bar
White frosting
Red candies, like M&Ms, striped peppermints, Red Hots, etc.

Make cake mix according to package directions. Bake cake as directed on box for a 9 x 13-inch pan. Cook cake in pan for 10 minutes, and then invert and cool completely on a wire rack.

Cut the cake according to the diagram. Position the two smaller triangle pieces together to create one large triangle and then frost the top green. Place the other large triangle on top and frost the entire cake green. Cut candy bar in half and then stack on top of each other. Place candy bar at the bottom center of your tree to make the trunk.

Using a decorator's bag with a star tip, frost a white garland diagonally across the tree as shown in the photo. Decorate the tree with candy as desired. Serves about 8 to 10.

TIP: For a different taste, frost the tree with green mint frosting and decorate with mint-flavored M&Ms. For a different look, sprinkle on shredded coconut that has been tinted green to look like real pine needles.


Sweet Fiesta Salad

This salad is SO good! This can be found in my book, 101 Things To Do With Salad. It's another easy recipe that you may already have all the ingredients for in your pantry (minus the lettuce of course!). Hope you like it as much as my family does!

Sweet Fiesta Salad
1 large head romaine lettuce, washed and torn into bite-size pieces
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced or chopped
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 (10-ounce) bag Fritos
1 (16-ounce) bottle Catalina dressing (light or fat-free work fine and taste just as good as reg.)

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except chips and dressing. When ready to serve, sprinkle the chips over top. Gradually add dressing over top and toss. (You may not need all the dressing.) Serve immediately. Makes around 10-12 servings as a side dish, fewer if using as your main course.

TIP: If you want to make this into a more substantial meal, stir in some cooked taco meat, diced tomatoes, and sliced olives. It'll be delicious! And, if you don't have Fritos, try substituting other types of chips such as Nacho Doritos or regular tortilla chips. All seem to taste pretty good to me!


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I found a PUMPKIN pancake recipe on allrecipes.com a couple years ago, but decided to make a few adjustments. My favorite addition—CHOCOLATE chips. This is such a yummy breakfast, and PERFECT if you have some extra pumpkin handy.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes
2 cups flour
4–5 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
Semisweet chocolate chips

In a bowl, combine all ingredients except chocolate chips. Heat a large frying pan, griddle, or electric skillet and prepare with nonstick spray. Using a 1/4-cup measuring cup, scoop batter onto heated pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over batter and slightly press with fingertips. Flip when bottom side is browned and then brown other side. Serve warm with butter and homemade maple syrup. Makes around 18 small pancakes.

TIP: The semisweet chips taste great in this recipe, but feel free to use milk chocolate if you prefer. Also, try adding some chopped nuts or serving with chocolate whipped cream!


Pretty Pomegranate Salad

This recipe is from my book, 101 Things To Do With Gelatin. I think it's pretty tasty, and not your usual Jell-O salad. Since pomegranate is now in season, this just might be THE perfect dish to take to one of your holiday get togethers. I promise you'll get compliments!

Pomegranate Salad
1 large box cherry or black cherry gelatin
2 cups boiling water
2 cups cold pomegranate juice (100% juice)
1 (8-ounce) container Cool Whip, thawed
1/2 cup sliced almonds or chopped walnuts (I prefer the walnuts)
1/2 to 1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds

Dissolve gelatin in boiling water. Add cold pomegranate juice. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch baking pan and chill until set, about 3-4 hours. Spread Cool Whip over top and then sprinkle with nuts and pomegranate seeds. Makes around 12 servings.

TIP: If pomegranate isn't in season, just skip the seeds sprinkled over top. It'll still taste great without them.


Cinnamon Peach Waffles

Our friends told us about some waffles they had for breakfast while on vacation in New York City, and we thought they sounded pretty nummy. My husband and I decided to try and make our own version, and they turned out DEEELISH! What makes these waffles extra special is the cinnamon cream and candied nuts that top it off. It's to DIE for!

Cinnamon Peach Waffles
2 large eggs, separated
2 cups flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup whipping cream
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 can peaches, drained and mashed (fresh can also be used)
Maple syrup, warmed
Pecans, lightly chopped and candied (see TIP)

Beat your egg whites in a bowl until foamy, fluffy, and almost stiff; set aside. Combine remaining waffle ingredients in another bowl and beat until just smooth. Gently fold beaten egg whites into mixture. Pour batter onto waffle iron as usual.

While waffles are cooking, whip the cream with powdered sugar and cinnamon until light and fluffy. To serve, spread a large spoonful of mashed peaches over each cooked waffle, then drizzle with the warm maple syrup. Top with a large dollop of cinnamon whipped cream and a handful of candied pecans. Makes 6 waffles.

TIP: To make candied nuts, simply scoop 2 or 3 tablespoons sugar in a small frying pan and heat over medium until it melts. Stir in nuts until nicely coated and then let cool. You may also throw the nuts in the broiler at this point to help brown them a bit more and to give the sugar coating an extra crunch. Just don't let them sit in the broiler for too long or they'll burn!


Family Favorite Breakfast Casserole

This casserole is something my FAMILY looks forward to all year, as it's a tradition to have it for breakfast Christmas morning. You can prepare it the NIGHT BEFORE and then take it out the next morning to bake, or you can do it the morning of and it's still VERY EASY! It's also a dish that is just as good for dinner. Oh, and always I like to eat mine with a bit of ketchup . . .

Breakfast Casserole
1 package (32 ounces) shredded hash browns, cooked according to package directions
1/2 pound sausage, browned and drained
1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
10 to 12 eggs
salt and pepper, to taste
1 1/2 to 2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place prepared hash browns in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan prepared with nonstick spray. Spread the sausage and bacon over top. Scramble the eggs in a skillet until almost cooked through, but not quite. Season with salt and pepper and then stir in 1/2 cup cheese. Pour eggs over meats and spread remaining cheese over top to cover. Bake for 30 minutes and then serve with ketchup if desired. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

TIP: You can use 1 pound of any favorite breakfast meat, such as sausage, bacon, or ham, or any combination of breakfast meats to equal 1 pound. AND, if making it the night before, just try to pull it out of the fridge about 30-45 minutes before baking it so it can come to room temp.


Luscious Lemon Cupcakes

These cupcakes are so moist and refreshing, it's hard to eat just one. I often wonder what could possibly make them better, and then I remember, they are very EASY to make!

Luscious Lemon Cupcakes1 box lemon cake mix
Ingredients called for on box
1 small box lemon or vanilla instant pudding
1/3 cup sour cream
4 cups powdered sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temp
1/2 cup butter, room temp
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Prepare cake batter according to package directions. Stir in the dry pudding mix and sour cream. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners or spray each cup with a generous amount of nonstick spray. Bake according to package directions and then let cool completely.

In a bowl, beat together the cream cheese, butter, and lemon juice until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes and serve! Store any leftovers in the refrigerator. Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes.

TIP: To make your cupcakes look like they came from the bakery, put your frosting in a plastic baggie, snip off one corner, and then pipe the frosting around the top outside edge of the cupcake, swirling in one continuous motion while working your way to the center. This way the cupcakes look amazing and you get to eat more yummy frosting because it lays it on pretty thick!


Raspberry Pretzel Salad

This has become one of my FAVE holiday recipes. I had the delight of eating this yummy dish at my first Thanksgiving dinner with my husband's family. It's a tradition for them to serve it, and now it just doesn't feel like turkey day without some on my plate! It makes an appearance in my book, 101 Things To Do With Salad, as a strawberry variation. The best thing about this "salad" is that it is really more like dessert!

Raspberry Pretzel Salad
2 cups chopped/crushed pretzels
2/3 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temp
1 cup sugar
1 (8-ounce) container Cool Whip, thawed
1 large box raspberry gelatin
1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 bags frozen raspberries, mostly thawed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together the pretzels, butter, and sugar. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch glass pan. Bake 6 minutes and then let cool.

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar, and Cool Whip. Spread over pretzel crust. In another bowl, combine the gelatin and boiling water until gelatin dissolves. Stir in raspberries (and liquid) and then pour over the cream cheese layer. Chill 3-4 hours or until set. Makes around 10-12 servings.

TIP: You might try DOUBLING the cream cheese layer to make it EXTRA good! :)


Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

This is one of my ALL-TIME favorite salads. I whip this up for potlucks or just for an easy dinner. I think what makes it taste extra AMAZING is the Brianna's Asiago Caesar Dressing. Other brands will work, but I would add more asiago cheese to give it some extra TANG.

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
12 ounces bow-tie pasta, cooked, drained, and completely cooled
1/2 to 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked, cooled, and cubed
3 to 4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves (really pack them in there!)
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1 bottle Brianna's Asiago Caesar Salad Dressing
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated asiago cheese

Mix together the pasta, chicken, spinach, and peas. Gradually pour dressing over top and stir to coat. (You may not use all of it.) Sprinkle cheese over top. Chill until ready to serve (but you should probably serve within an hour or two of making in order for it to taste its best, though it's usually still good the next day). Makes 8-10 servings.

TIP: Cube chicken before you cook it and then saute with a dash of olive oil and a sprinkle of Montreal Chicken Seasoning (McCormick Grill Mates) for maximum flavor!


Cakes, Tips, Recipes, and More!

Hi there! In the next few weeks, this blog will become your new favorite place to look for fun ideas for making cute and easy cakes, cupcakes, tasty recipes, cooking and baking tips, and so much more. Check back in the next few weeks for some of the first FANTASTIC posts! Thanks for stopping by!