Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

We love APPETIZERS at our house, so that's what we eat for dinner on NEW YEAR'S EVE every year. There is nothing BETTER than hanging out with our besties and eating yummy food! This DELISH recipe with crisp and salty bacon and a sweet sauce over top ALWAYS hits the spot!

Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts
1 pound bacon
2 cans whole water chestnuts
1/3 cup Miracle Whip
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chili sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a frying pan, brown the bacon until almost done and then drain on paper towels. (Just make sure you can still bend it!) Cut each strip of bacon in half. Wrap bacon around water chestnuts, secure with a toothpick and place on a wire rack that is on top of a cookie sheet with sides. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

While chestnuts are in the oven, mix together the Miracle Whip, sugar, and chili sauce. When chestnuts are done baking, transfer to a baking dish and pour sauce over top. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until sauce is bubbling around the edges. Serve warm!


Snickers Hot Chocolate

My favorite way to warm up on a cold day is to drink some yummy HOT CHOCOLATE. This chocolatey treat is AMAZING and it definitely fulfills any desire for SWEETS. Try surprising your family Christmas morning with this warm TREAT while they are waiting for breakfast. It will be the cherry on top of your already PERFECT morning!

Snickers Hot Chocolate
1 cup hot chocolate (I used a homemade milk chocolate mix made with skim milk)
Fresh whipped cream*
2 miniature Snicker's, chopped (not the fun-size!)
Caramel ice cream topping

Top your cup of hot chocolate with a scoop of cream, the chopped Snickers, and a drizzle of the caramel ice cream topping. Enjoy!

TIP: I made cinnamon whipped cream to go with some cinnamon french toast (that will be posted in a few days). Since it was already made, I just used some of the leftovers instead of whipping more cream. Try whipping 1/2 cup cream, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. AMAZING!

Hot chocolate


Oreo Mint Truffles

This is one of the EASIEST and yummiest treats to make for the HOLIDAYS. You've probably seen recipes LIKE this one all over. Try it and take some to your neighbors!

Oreo Mint Truffles
1 package regular Oreos, crushed or blended to fine crumbs
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 to 2 packages Andes Mints, unwrapped

In a bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs and cream cheese until well blended. (I use a big spoon at first and then move on with a fork to make sure it really starts sticking together.) Roll the "dough" in your hands to make 1-inch balls; set them on waxed paper on a baking sheet.

In a small pan, melt the Andes Mints over low heat and stir until smooth. Drop a ball or two into the chocolate and roll around with 2 forks until coated. Place back on the waxed paper. When done, place the tray of dipped balls in the fridge to harden. Makes 35 to 40 truffles. 

TIP: I like to fancy up my truffles with some melted green mint chips. Once they've set in the fridge, I melt about 1/2 cup mint chips in the microwave (stirring every 15 to 20 seconds until they are smooth) and then drizzle it over the truffles. It looks so pretty and festive that way!

BONUS TIP: Try other combinations with your favorite snack cookies! I also mixed a package of Nutter Butters with the cream cheese and dipped the balls in milk chocolate. Topped it with a drizzle of melted peanut butter chips and it turned out yummy! Obviously Mint Oreos would be great, but what about some lemon cream cookies mixed with the cream cheese and then dipped in dark chocolate? That could be REALLY good! :)


Gooey Caramel Corn

This GOOEY popcorn is probably the best caramel corn I have ever had! We LOVE to make it and SNACK all weekend. It would be a great NEIGHBOR gift for the holidays too. The caramel in a jar would be a great gift alone. If you ask, I might admit to digging SPOONFULS out of our jar of extra caramel. Maybe.

Gooey Caramel Corn
1/4 cup butter, melted (I usually use a little less and it still tastes great)
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
Dash of salt
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 quarts plain popped popcorn

In a saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Turn on the heat and then slowly add the condensed milk and vanilla, stirring while adding. Bring mixture to a boil for 1 minute and then remove from heat. Pour the caramel over the popcorn in a big bowl and stir. Serves lots!

TIP: This really does make a TON of caramel, so I just pop enough popcorn for my family and use whatever amount of caramel I need. Then I usually have a jar of caramel leftover for another quick batch of caramel corn, or to use over ice cream or other yummy desserts.


Easy Teriyaki Chicken Bowls

Here's another QUICK dinner recipe. It's full of veggies and my KIDS still love it! With all the extra sweets around this time of year, VEGGIES are definitely necessary. There needs to be some sort of balance, RIGHT?   

Easy Teriyaki Chicken Bowls
1/2 onion sliced
1 zucchini, halved and then sliced
1 other summer squash (I used a yellow)
1 cup sliced carrots (this time I had the matchstick variety)
1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas 
1 large can good-quality chicken
Black pepper
Favorite teriyaki sauce (I use Soy Veri from Costco)
Warm cooked rice

Saute the veggies in olive oil in a large frying pan until tender. Stir in the chicken and season with some black pepper. Gradually add the teriyaki sauce to taste and then serve in bowls over warm rice.

TIP: This recipe is soooo versatile. You can make it according to whatever you have on hand. During the winter when there's a little less fresh produce around, I usually throw in some bell peppers and broccoli instead of the squash. But like I said, put in whatever your family likes and I'm sure it will be good!  


Chocolate Chip Caramel Oatmeal Bars

These are my family's FAVORITE cookie bars. Period. There is seriously no bar out there BETTER than these. I'm tellin' ya. Don't LOOK any further. Chocolate. Oatmeal. Butter. Sugar. Caramel. SIGH. :)

Chocolate Chip Caramel Oatmeal Bars
2 cups flour
2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, melted
12 ounces chocolate chips (I like to do half semisweet and half milk)
1 jar Mrs. Richardson's Butterscotch Caramel Topping, warmed

In a bowl, combine all but the chocolate chips and caramel topping; mix with a fork until moistened and crumbly. Press half of the mixture into a greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes; remove from oven and then sprinkle chocolate chips over top and let melt slightly. Pour warm caramel topping over chocolate and then sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes more, or until golden brown and slightly bubbly around the edges. Let cool and then serve!

TIP: These are easier to cut when slightly chilled!


Christmas Tree Cake

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!

Photo © Zac Williams

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. And obviously you can use whatever cake you prefer as long as you bake it in a 9 x 13-inch pan. :)