Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Party Food: Spinach Balls

After all that talk the other day about parties and my Aunt Lynn's recipes, I thought it might behoove me to add her spinach ball recipe here.

I have the little newspaper clipping that she used with her notes scribbled on the top of when she first made these.... 1990 to be exact. They're very good and flavorful, I did tweak the recipe just a tiny bit as I had a spinach ball recipe, too, and enjoyed mine. So I married the two together. But to be fair, it's mostly her recipe that I use.

I mentioned before that while these are a great appetizer for parties big or small, they also make a great side dish! Kids love eating finger foods and this does have spinach in it! Give it a try... you make a big batch and keep them in the freezer and whenever you need a side dish to go with those nuggets, throw these in the oven with them!

Spinach Balls
sent into a local Pgh. paper back in the early 90's

2 boxes frozen spinach, well drained (the recipe says to cook it, why? I've never cooked the spinach and they turn out great)
2 cups Pepperidge Farm herb seasoned stuffing mix- might need to break up the larger pieces
4-5 eggs, beaten
4 green onions, chopped - I used white parts and green parts
1/2 cup butter, melted - this I changed from margarine
1/2- 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley)

Combine all the ingredients, mix well and form into small balls- about 1" in diameter (think one bite).
Place on a cookie sheet and flash freeze, then place in plastic bags in the freezer until needed.
Bake frozen in a preheated 375° for 12-15 minutes- you want them a little browned, but not burnt. I usually use parchment or a silpat as it's quick cleanup when you're having a party! You certainly don't want to washing dishes the whole time, right?


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Party Food: Tomato Canapes

If you're having a party, chances are you're going to need food. While it's very easy to go to a big box store and buy all those adorable little frozen appetizers that they've got all ready to go for you, there's something about making your own. I'm a big fan of "make some things, buy some things" as our time is truly precious and well, you just can't fit it all into a day's work (or sometimes even a week's work). I guess we just pick and choose what we have time to make and do. And I'm a big fan of slicing the work up into spurts: do a little this day, a little more the next and so on until the job is done.

That said, with a little planning and some extra freezer space, there are plenty of appetizers you can make and freeze ahead of time!

When I was growing up, my Aunt Lynnie had a yearly Christmas party at her home.  I can't quite remember the age, but at some point, I was asked if I might like to help out in the kitchen as one of the servers. It was A BIG PARTY. Aunt Lynn had dozens of appetizers and they were all made ahead, labeled and stocked in her big stand up freezer in the basement pantry. My teammate, Renee and I would bake and restock the warming trays as the guests devoured every single treat my Aunt had prepared. It was a labor of love and one that I cannot soon forget. I do believe I've adopted a lot of her interests over the years and making tasty foods is certainly one of them. To help me out, I have all of her copious notebooks where she's written down her menu plans for every party, Garden luncheon, bridge group and family dinner. In addition to those notes, I also have her recipes!

I've shared several of her recipes over the years and one of my favorite party food appetizers is Spinach Balls. I've even started making it as a side dish at dinner as my kids really do love them and well, it does have spinach in it!

When I was prepping for Sophia's first birthday party, I decided early on that it was going to be somewhat simple, as simple as Crafty can be at least. I went with a Sweets and Savories menu and the recipe that follows is a winner indeed! My friend, Marijke, shared Tomato Canapes with me while I was going over my menu plans-  I'm so glad she did. You can make these ahead and use some store bought bruschetta to make it even easier to assemble!

Tomato Canapes

Large jar of prepared bruschetta, drained
3 packages of mini phyllo shells
1/2 cup mayo
1 cup shredded mozzarella
8 slices real bacon chopped up into bits


1. If you've bought yourself some prepared bruschetta, I'd go ahead and drain the majority of the liquid from it so that these little phyllo cups don't end up all soggy bottomed. No one likes a soggy bottom.

2. Leave the phyllo cups in their trays and spoon a little bruschetta into each one, I'd say this is about a half of a regular sized teaspoon (not the measuring type of teaspoon, the one in your silverware drawer)

3. Stir together the mozzarella and mayo (I used light mayo) and use this to "frost" each of the phyllo cups

4. Chop up a few strips of bacon or open up a bag of bacon bits- whatever you've got time for and sprinkle that on top of the frosted phyllo cups

5. Now you can do one of two things, freeze them for later or bake them now! For freezing, I just kept them in their safe little plastic containers and used press 'n seal to seal them tightly. I then put them in a large freezer bag.
To Bake: preheat your oven to 350° and bake for 10-12 minutes. Serve hot.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Taco Salad Our Way

Tacos are a regular on our menu rotation but sometimes you just have to change things up a bit. We're big fans of this little number. It AMAZES me what I can tuck into this salad and still have my kids eat. I owe it all to the Ranch and Taco Sauce combo for the dressing. This couldn't get simpler folks. Just assemble all these ingredients, put out little bowls and have your kids pick and choose what to put in their salad and do it yourself. Either way, you're sure to enjoy taco night reinvented!

Here are a few choices: greated colby cheese, avocado, corn, grape tomatoes, Romaine lettuce : the oranges did NOT go into this salad but were part of a well balanced meal

Also, I had already cooked up my taco meat earlier in the day so this was a quicker dinner. I just use a homemade taco seasoning- check out pinterest for lots of choices there!

Step 1: prep your greens
wash them and cut or tear; throw them in a pretty bowl

Step 2: Grate your cheese
always. I don't care how fast I want dinner to happen, with the exception of mozzarella, I always grate my cheese or have one of my 4 sous chefs grate it
(BTW, that grater is from Pampered Chef and I love it!)

Step 3: Throw the veggies on and start the dressin'
Here I opted for Mom's choice of what goes in the salad.
Then I drizzled with my FAVORITE ranch dressing, Bolthouse Farms Classic Ranch
Than drizzled that with Taco Sauce, medium please.

Step 4: Eat!
Sorry for the blurry picture, I was HUNGRY!

other topping variations: black beans, salsa, edamame

What would you put on your taco salad?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Crunchwraps at Home

I really, really enjoy reading recipes and seeing all the amazing things people are cooking up all over the internet. It inspires me and motivates me to try new things with my family. Sandra, at Full Bellies, Happy Kids, never disappoints and I owe this recipe to her! I'm just going to show you how we recreate the fast food crunch wrap, which ironically, I've never eaten there! I've only heard about it and when I saw Sandra make it I knew I had all those ingredients and should give it a go in lieu of our regular taco night.

Making our own Crunch Wraps:

You'll need:
taco meat
sour cream (optional)
lettuce- shredded iceberg is better than green leaf (I was out for these pics)
refried beans for the non-meat eaters
burrito sized flour tortillas

Step 1: Warm your tortilla slightly in the microwave or on your skillet. If you like sour cream, go ahead and shmear it on your tortilla first, then top with taco meat and shredded cheese

Step 2: Add shredded lettuce and some chips, we chose Doritos because they're fun and tasty. You could also add some tomatoes on top of the lettuce and some more cheese on top of the chips, you're world.

 Step 3: practice origami with your tortilla. You're going for a hexagon like shape, so begin by folding in one side and then work your way around clockwise until all the food is tucked inside

Step 4: Carefully flip it onto a skillet, you could butter it or not. Press down slightly to seal it all in there!

Step 5: Pretty or not, bring them all to the table and CHOW DOWN!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chocolate Chip Muffins with Streusel

Valentine's Day is right around the corner and it's right after the beginning of Lent this year. So while we may not be feasting on chocolate all day, here's a great (and easy) recipe to make for your little love muffins!

To form the muffins into hearts, ball up some tin foil and pop it in between the muffin cup and the muffin paper, then scoop in your batter!

Mom's Super Easy Chocolate Chip Muffins (w/ Streusel)2 cups flour1 cup sugar1/2 cup butter2 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar1 cup milk1 egg1 tsp baking soda1/2 - 3/4 cup chocolate chips1) Preheat oven to 3502) Combine milk and lemon juice in a bowl, set aside.3) In a medium microwaveable bowl combine flour, sugar, and butter. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. With a fork crumble. Set aside 1/2 cup of mixture.4) Beat an egg into milk. Add baking soda, let froth. Add to flour mixture. Add chocolate chips. Stir until just combined - do not overmix.5) Divide evenly in paper lined muffin pan (12). Sprinkle with set aside streusel.6) Bake 20 minutes.