Appetizers


I finally had a cookie exchange!!!

I have wanted to go to one or have one for a long time now. Read this.

Since this summer and back-to-school was so carefree–haahahahahahaha!–I decided this was the year to have a cookie exchange.

Had I lost my mind? Possibly.

I invited all the ladies from church because I knew they would love me even if there was dust on my end-tables.

Not everyone could come, but we had a pretty good turn-out. Some of them had never been to a cookie exchange either!

cookie friends

I had fun getting ready for the party.

teacher vest

I even wore my “teacher” vest I made when I was an elementary school teacher in the ’90s.

vintage school books

Old school books and a pencil “vase”

bake

Don’t you love these vintage flip cards?! More below.

back to school napkins

I found these adorable notebook paper napkins in the $1 bin at Target several years ago with the intent of having a back-to-school cookie exchange! Can you believe it?!

send

I provided some recycled Sister Shubert aluminum pans for the ladies to haul their cookies home.

gab

Gab–we did LOTS of this!

pray

chalkboard

We filled up this giant chalkboard with our kids’ names and schools. Some shared verses of encouragement. At the end of the night we spent time praying for the students as they were starting school.

chalk

For some reason my colored chalk only showed up white. I guess it was the cheap kind.

I asked the ladies to bring an appetizer as well as cookies.

I made these spinach balls. It was a recipe from  library cookbook. Sorry, I don’t remember the name of the book. Really, I’m not sorry. These looked cute but didn’t taste all that good. And the cute part was MY idea.  The spinach balls had Stove Top stuffing in them. Guess they just tasted a little too processed.  I thought the pretzels were a cute idea and made the spinach balls finger-friendly. As time went on, however, the pretzels got soggy. Points for cuteness. Negative points for flavor and sogginess. I’m not making THAT recipe again!

spinach balls

spinach dip

Thank goodness Nicole brought her yummy Spinach Dip!

guacamole

Jami made yummy guacamole. She brought it in a Tupperware bowl, so she tried to fancy it up with the napkins. We all laughed pretty hard at her!

sliders

Tammy brought these amazing ham and cheese sliders. I’ve made these sliders before but not like Tammy’s. She put soy sauce and brown sugar on the top. OH MY WORD! So yummy!

Now for the cookies…

peanut butter cookies

oatmeal cookies

salted caramel shortbread cookies

chocolate chip

variety of cookies

Someone already had labels on these cookies.

white chocolate chip oatmeal

flu fighter cookies

The little cookie name plates were left-over materials from a project similar to this one.

Some of the cookies were store-bought, which was just fine. All of the cookies were delicious!

I’ll have to check back with the ladies about the recipes. I’ll be sharing the recipe for my cookies, the Flu Fighter Cookies, soon.

What a fun time! We may have to do it again sometime.

 

 

When I was a kid, my grandmother gave me a set of Rook cards for my birthday. I never played. The cards looked weird. They were different from standard cards. I could never get anyone to play with me, probably because they didn’t know how. The instructions were long and confusing.

rook cards

Last weekend, we were invited to our friends’ house for dinner and a Rook tournament. Yikes!

Dinner I was excited about-but Rook?!

It did help to learn that none of the other folks attending knew how to play either. (At least that’s what they said! I think John and Leta had played a time or two!)

We knew, of course, that we would have fun regardless of the game.

I asked what I could bring (I took Carrot Cake) and didn’t bother to ask what we were having for dinner.

Boy, was I excited to find John in the kitchen making Petitzas! Leta has mentioned John’s Petitzas several times. Always saying “Oh, we’ll have to make them for you!” Finally that day had come!

chef in action

If I had known it was a Petitza Party, I would have brought the good camera! Thank goodness for smartphones!

John has been making Petitzas for YEARS! He learned from his brother when he was seeing this Italian girl.

frying pizza dough

The Petitzas don’t seem too hard, just a little time-consuming.

I’m sure you have to get a feel for exactly how long to leave the dough in the pan before flipping it.

Don’t those pizza shells look yummy?!

pizza shells

petitzas

Leta and John have the serving of Petitzas down pat!

Check out those crock pots! Homemade pizza sauce-Italian Sausage-Hamburger

crockpots

Leta also had a sectioned Tupperware dish for all the other toppings–ham, cheese, pineapple, olives, peppers, mushrooms-whatever you like!

This was how Leta showed us to assemble a Petitza. Sauce-Meat-Toppings-more sauce

Leta's Petitza

John goes a little more extreme with his toppings!

loaded pizza

Mine was rather conservative.

meat lovers

Nice air pockets!

air bubbles in pizza dough

John said the record Petitzas anyone had eaten at one of their Petitza Parties was seven. Ugh! I ate two.

We had a great time eating Petitzas AND playing Rook. Thanks, John and Leta!

By the way, the girls won!

Petitzas
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. oil
3 ½ cups flour
1 cup water (warm)

Dissolve yeast in very warm water.  Stir in sugar, salt and oil and 2 cups flour.  Beat until smooth.  Stir in remaining flour to make a soft dough.  Turn out on lightly floured board.  Knead until smooth and elastic.  Place in a greased bowl; brush top with oil.

Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. When doubled, punch down; divide in half.

Shape into hand-size shells and deep-fry.

Toppings include:

Your favorite marinara sauce
Cheeses
Onion
Sausage
Ground beef
Bell pepper
Pineapple
Mushrooms
Jalapeños

John’s Pizza Sauce
1 8 oz. can tomato paste for every 16 oz. can tomato sauce
Oregano, basil, garlic salt, onion flakes, salt, pepper, honey, Parmesan and Romano cheese.

 

Well, I did it! I made Thanksgiving dinner!

I know it was a big sacrifice for Mom and Dad to give up their personal Thanksgiving traditions of doing all the cooking to come be teachers for the next generation.

I am so thankful they agreed to this little project. I am very glad to know how to do things “Mom and Dad’s way”.

Our table wasn’t too fancy. I had planned to get out the good china and change the tablecloth. The table looked plenty festive and our everyday dishes were dishwasher safe!

We did use fancy little butter dishes.

butter dish

Thanksgiving table

Please notice the tiny Thanksgiving table next to the glass of water.

tiny table

I found this idea on Pinterest more than a year ago. I let the girls make them. They didn’t mind the sprinkle sorting as much this time. The little tables turned out really cute, I think!

Thanksgiving crafters

Thanksgiving table decor

The cheese ring appetizer is one of Chip’s favorite parts of Thanksgiving! When I told him that Mom was going to make the Cheese Ring he panicked! He was afraid it wouldn’t be the right cheese ring. I assured him it would be okay since I had gotten the recipe from her.

Cheese ring

He was the first one to test it out. Two thumbs up from the Critic.

eating cheese ring

Well, here is the feast…

feast 1

feast 2

chef

You might have noticed a couple of items on our buffet that were not mentioned in a specific blog post.

Green Bean casserole, Mashed Potatoes and Green Fluff.

I felt obligated to have a green vegetable on our buffet. The green bean casserole recipe can be found here or on the back of the French’s Fried Onion canister.

As far as the mashed potatoes go, I’m pretty plain. Boil some Yukon Gold potatoes. Mash them up. Add butter, milk, salt and pepper to taste. Some folks get all fancy with cream cheese or sour cream or garlic or cheese. Plain is the preferred method at our house.

The green fluff is a MUST HAVE at all our holiday gatherings. It’s just the old Watergate Salad recipe.

watergate salad

Ooo, I can’t forget the bread–giant Sister Shubert rolls! They are the best for leftover turkey sandwiches.

How do you like my buttering method-rub a stick of cold butter on top of the rolls right after the come out of the oven.

buttering rolls

Katie was trying to take pictures for me. For some reason she was not able to see anything on the camera. Mashed potatoes will do that to ya.

iphone hazard

Guess who LOVES rolls?!

bread lover

What a feast!

full plate

Don’t forget dessert. I had to try half a piece of each pie.

pieces of pie

group minus one

Some folks chose to have their sparkling grape juice with dinner, others with dessert.

bubbly

We gobbled ’til we wobbled!

empty dinner plate

empty dessert plate

lick the plate clean

Thanksgiving naps are the best!

snooze

In case you missed the Thanksgiving 101 series, here are all the posts. You can also find them by clicking on the This and That tab at the top of the page.

Lasagna Cups

I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but….

this was my very first time to use won ton wrappers.

It won’t be my last though!

I don’t know why I’ve never used won ton wrappers before. I guess I thought they were hard to find or use or something.

I was in the big city when I picked up these:

won ton wrappers

I really hope I’m able to find them at my local Supercenter.

I had some ground beef in the freezer that I had cooked up one day.  Boy, was I glad it was there. Now that school is back in session, we tend to meet each other coming and going! The time I spent days ago frying up that meat was definitely recouped when I made the Lasagna Cups!

I also had about a 1/3 of a jar of pasta sauce in the fridge.

Pasta Sauce

The recipe called for the won ton wrappers to be cut into circles. I did not have time for that. I didn’t even have time to get out the good camera. These pictures were shot with my cell phone.

It’s pretty much Lasagna 101–the won tons take the place of the noodles.

Won Ton

Cheese Mixture

Meat Mixture

Layering lasagna

Repeat

Ricotta cheese mixture

Top with Cheese

Bake

Lasagna Cups with melted cheese

I loved these! So did the family. I did miss the noodles a little. However, the fact that the won ton substitute saved a ton of calories made me forget all about the noodles!

Bonus: the leftovers worked well in lunch boxes the next day.

I served these with a Caesar Salad (bagged).

Since these can be fork or finger food, they would work well as appetizers, too.

Lasagna Cups

Ingredients:

24 won ton wrappers

Cheese Mixture

  • 1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 3/4 cup Ricotta Cheese

Meat Mixture

  • 1/3 pound ground beef, browned
  • 1 cup of your favorite pasta sauce

Topping

  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Directions:

• Preheat oven to 375˚

•Spray 12 muffin cups with non-stick cooking spray

•Line muffin cups with won ton wrappers, one per cup

•Fill cups with half of the cheese mixture. Just enough to cover the bottom.

•Spoon half of the meat mixture on top of the cheese mixture.

•Repeat for second layer–won ton, cheese mixture, meat mixture.

•Top with cheese topping.

•Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden!

Let the Lasagna Cups cool a bit before you try to remove them from the pan. You might even need a knife to help get them started.

If you have basil growing in your garden, grab some for the top to make it look all fancy!

Critics’ Corner

Chip: You really got the flavor of the cheese and meat without all those annoying noodles to get in the way–delicious! Maybe better than lasagna!

Megan: It’s not quite as good as with the noodles, but it’s much more fun to eat. (Plus it tastes pretty darn good!)

Katie: These are amazing little inventions of life!

 

It’s that time of year! Back to School!

school bus

Some folks cheer as they send their little ones back to school–others cry.

I do a little of both. I am glad to have some routine back in our lives. However, I miss my kids when they go back.

When I dropped them off on the first day, I told them it was a very sad day for me–no one to talk to–no one to eat lunch with. My oldest felt really sad for me and sent me a text on her lunch break. THEN the tears came!!!

With regularly scheduled chaos back in play, I decided to do a little preparedness cooking.

This meatball recipe comes from a good old Taste of Home magazine.

Taste of Home

I picked up a large package of hamburger patties from the clearance bin last week. It seems like the patties go on sale more often than the by-the-pound packages. Nobody said I had to keep them as patties though! I didn’t really have a plan for 4 pounds of meat at the time. I just couldn’t resist the $2.97/pound bargain!

bargain meat

As the “best by” date approached, I figured I had better do something with all this meat–either cook it or freeze it. I gathered the rest of the ingredients and went to town! I just so happened that my meatball recipe called for 4 pounds of lean ground beef. You can easily cut this recipe in half if you don’t wan to make as many as I made.

meatball ingredients

Beat 4 eggs in a large bowl. LARGE BOWL. You are dealing with 4 pounds of meat here!

four eggs

I have a large bag of bread crumbs that I keep in my freezer. These are actually left over from this event. When I have leftover bread from dinner or heals that nobody wants to eat, etc. I dry them out in the oven. Then I whirr them around in the food processor. I leave them unseasoned so that they can be used in anything. Seasoning can always be added later.

You will need 2 cups.

breadcrumbs

Add the breadcrumbs, onion, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce to the eggs. Mix it all around really well.

breading mixture

Add your meat.

meatball mixtures

This is where it gets messy, at least it did for me. Pull off your rings and start squishing everything together. I guess you could use a spoon. It just seems that hands do better for me. I can feel where the breadcrumb mixture is still in a clump. Squishing the meatball mixture together was rather therapeutic. It reminded me of making mud pies when I was little.

Once everything was mixed up, it was time to make the meatballs.

recycled styrofoam

I had what I thought was a good idea. Reuse the meat tray as my prep board! One less thing to wash!

I took half of the meat mixture on pressed it evenly into the tray.

tray of meat

Then, using a knife, I scored the meat into 36 equal portions. (I wish I could take credit for that idea. It came from the Taste of Home folks.) Roll each portion into a ball. Of course you could use a kitchen scoop if you would rather.

scored meat

rolled meatballs

After rolling a few meatballs, I decided they were too big. I went back and divided them in two.

Repeat the process with other half of the mixture.

My “equal” radar must have been a little off. I ended up with 153 meatballs.

prepared meatballs

At this point you can either cook them or freeze them.

I chose to cook them all. (400˚ for 10-15 minutes) You are supposed to cook them in batches so they aren’t so crowded on the pan. My crowded pan took a little longer than the pan with more space.

cooked meatballs

Use about 30 meatballs to make something yummy like Sweet and Sour Meatballs. Enjoy your dish while the rest of the meatballs cool completely.

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

After dinner, package up the rest of the meatballs and put them in the freezer. Now when that school schedule gets a little on the crazy side, you have something easy to fix for dinner. (Meatball Subs, Spaghetti and Meatballs, party appetizers, the list goes on and on!)

freezer meatballs

I ended up with 9 dozen meatballs for the freezer!

Keep your eyes on the clearance bin and have a great school year!

Back to School Meatballs

4 eggs

2 cups dry bread crumbs

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

4 pounds lean ground beef

-Beat eggs

-Add everything but the meat

-Add the meat

-Shape into meatballs

-Bake on an ungreased baking sheet with sides at 400˚ for 10-15 minutes, turning often,  until no longer pink.

-Drain

-Cool before freezing.

Spring tart wih peas

 

Well, that’s pretty! huh?

I recently had the privilege of being part of a fund-raiser Tea. When I say “being part of” I mean “making the food for” the Tea. It was loads of fun! This was the second year for Top of the Rock to host a Spring Tea. You can read about last year’s tea here, here, here, here, here, and here. Last year was fabulous! However, I didn’t want to have exactly the same food this year.

It was so much fun to plan for the Tea. I have a Pinterest Tea Party board where I gather ideas. After planning for the first Tea, I was hooked on finding fun Tea Party ideas. My board has quite a bit on it. That really made it kind of difficult to figure out what we should have this year. There were too many choices!

I knew we would have three courses–savory, scone and sweet. The scones were so yummy last time. I decided not to reinvent the wheel on that course.

We used 6 1/2″ clear plastic plates over the fancy china. That made for easier clean up and service. The size of the plates helped determine what would go on them. It had to all fit!

savory tea food

At last year’s event, we had a couple of people on gluten-free diets. Gluten intolerance seems to be an issue for lots of people these days. With that in mind, I thought it would be nice to have a few gluten-free selections at the Tea.

My friend, Susi, made her fabulous chicken salad. Instead of serving it in a puff pastry like before, the chicken salad was scooped onto a sliced apple and topped with a pecan half. It was different and GF! And it looked good, too.

tea sandwiches

Last year someone mentioned that they would have liked more savory than sweet at the Tea.

Well, to me, the dessert plate is THE BEST!

In the interest of being different, we had a little roast beef canapé. It was e-a-s-y to make. I bought loaves of French bread at the grocery. They sliced it for me at no extra charge. That was a great time-saver. Remember that for when you are fixing snacks for 100! Since my budget was slim, I bought prepared horseradish spread, store brand. I spread just a tiny amount on the toasted bread slices. I topped that with deli roast beef and a small piece of provolone cheese-then into the oven to melt the cheese. YUM! The little roast beef sandwiches were not GF, but folks sure raved about them.

tea party food

 

The Pea Tart was a bit of a risk. I found the recipe on Pinterest one day. The link led me to a beautiful website, Gourmande in the Kitchen. I was totally intrigued! Sylvie’s photography is just stunning. She has so many amazing sounding recipes.

I was unsure how I would like the beautiful recipe. Goat cheese was a bit of a stretch for me. I had to do a test run. (You may have noticed that the first picture on this post did not have a clear plastic plate. I’m glad I took pictures while I was testing. Making 100 tarts shells got a little intense. I didn’t take any pictures.)

individual pie pans from canning lids

Since I was making individual tarts, I needed tart pans. In lieu of spending lots of money on tart pans, I used canning lids and rings. The picture above, from my testing, shows two different sizes. I ended up using the smaller lids and rings. I did use a bit of parchment paper in the bottom. I  didn’t want the rubbery part of the ring to be an issue.

In my trial run, I discovered that the almond flour crust was very fragile. This had me terrified to try to make them for people. I determined that I probably made the test batch a little too thin. So, when I made the “for real” tarts, I actually did math! Sylvie’s tart serves about 8. I figured I could get 13-15 tarts out of one batch of dough. I filled a canning lid with a little more dough than I used for my test. Then, I weighed the dough. I weighed out 100 little dough balls and stuck them in the fridge until the next day. After a good night’s sleep, I was ready to look at the dough again. I spent that day pressing the dough balls into the canning lids. They baked up nicely. I only broke a couple of them.

Herbed Goat cheese spread

I waited as late as I could on the tea party day to spread the filling into the shells. Doesn’t that look fresh and inviting?! The combination of herbs and creamy stuff was delicious!

spring peas

 

The Pea Tarts looked pretty with just peas. Sylvie used micro greens to top off hers. My grocery only had spring greens, no micros. The lacy micro greens looked prettier. Nobody at the Tea saw the micro greens though. (Well, they might now.) Anyway, I used the spring greens and was pleased with the outcome.

Spring tart with herbed goat cheese

Compare this picture to the one above it. You will see a difference in the thickness of the crust.

Sylvie was sweet enough to let me share her recipe here. Be sure to go visit her beautiful blog. Thank you, Sylvie!

Pea and Herbed Goat Cheese Tart Recipe (Gluten Free and Grain Free)

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

The tart features a creamy filling laced with fresh herbs, balanced with a layer of blanched peas and a handful of colorful micro greens.

Ingredients

For the Tart dough:
    • 2 cups (224g) almond flour
    • 3 Tablespoons (42g) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
    • 1 egg white
    • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the Tart filling:
  • 6 ounces (168g) fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (56g) Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon (15ml) extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (190g) frozen or shelled English peas
  • 1 cup of micro greens (for garnish)

Instructions

Make the Tart Shell:
    1. In the bowl of a food processor, add the almond flour, butter, egg white, and salt and pulse until the mixtures starts to come together.
    2. Place dough in a well greased tart mold, pressing down firmly with your fingers up and around the edges to create an even layer. Prick the bottom of the shell all over with a fork. Put the tart shell in the freezer for 20 minutes while you heat the oven to 350 degrees.
    3. Place the frozen tart shell in the oven and bake until golden, about 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool on a rack.
    4. Allow to cool completely before unmolding and filling. (Placing the tart shell in the fridge will speed cooling and make unmolding easier)
For the Tart Filling and Assembly:
  1. In a food processor, blend together the goat cheese, Greek yogurt, fresh herbs, olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper and pulse briefly to combine.
  2. Bring water to a boil. Blanch the peas for about 2 minutes, then shock them in a bowl of ice water and drain.
  3. When the tart shell has cooled, spread the herbed goat cheese filling evenly over the surface with an offset spatula, then cover the entire surface with a layer of peas. Top with the micro greens, drizzle with a little extra olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cut the tart into slices and serve.

 

This recipe is not from MY Aunt Liz. It is from my kids’ Aunt Liz, who is actually my sister.

I have never been a fan of guacamole. I’ll wait while you start breathing again.

I don’t know why I didn’t like it–maybe the fact that guacamole is green and made from vegetables.

One summer, Liz was at our house for a visit. She has been living in Texas for quite a while, so she has learned a thing or two about guacamole.

Not wanting to be rude, I tried her guacamole. I’m sure I looked like a cat eating glue! But guess what…I liked it! I wasn’t the only one. The whole family liked it!

guacamole ingredients

Fresh ingredients are a must!

I like cutting open an avocado. Give it a slice around the pit.

cut avocado

Twist the halves apart.

Stick your knife into the pit and lift. The pit will pop right out! Do this carefully. Don’t let the knife slip off the side of the pit and onto your thumb. If it does, then you will have to wear a band-aid on that nasty gash. Then the band-aid is just in the way while you are trying to finish the recipe without adding an “extra ingredient”. Just sayin’!

You can score the avocado flesh while in the skin before you scoop it out if you are using chunks. Otherwise, just scoop out the whole thing.

scoop out avocado meat

Orange and lime juices keep the avocado from turning brown. I think this is the real reason I liked Liz’s Guacamole. The citrus made is so fresh tasting.

citrus

orange juice

Chop your onion fine to hide it from family and friends, or leave it large enough for them to pick out if they don’t like it.

fresh ingredients

Aunt Liz’s Guacamole

2 avocados, mashed

juice of 1/2 a lime

juice of 1/2 and orange

dash of garlic powder

red onion, chopped-however much you like. I think I used less than a 1/4 cup

salt and pepper to taste

Liz used cilantro in her recipe. I, however, HATE cilantro.

I’ll wait for you to breathe again, again. If you like cilantro, feel free to add some.

Chop it all up. Mix it all up. Serve it all up. Gobble it up!

guacamole served in an avocado shell

Cute! Look what I did! I stuffed the guacamole back into the avocado shell with a little garnish! Fancy, huh?!

Do you eat guacamole? Have you ever had it like this with orange juice in it?

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