Category Archives: Entertaining

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Mini Cannoli Cups

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Here’s an easy recipe I made with Nasoya® Won Ton Wraps. I had never used these wraps before, so I was interested in trying them out when I was offered some complimentary product from Nasoya® (they also provided all-natural-won-ton-wraps_0a gift card to cover the cost of other ingredients). I decided to try a dessert-like recipe from their site called Cannoli Cups and I also created my own recipe for an appetizer, which I’ll share with you in my next post. If you’re not familiar with these Nasoya® wraps, they are all-natural and super easy to use! You can find them in the produce section next to Nasoya® tofu and other products.

I made my cannoli cups a little differently from the original recipe, making them mini-size. I also added way more chocolate chips than the original recipe–actually by mistake! For some reason I thought the original recipe called for 1 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (it only called for 1/3 cup), so I started off adding 1 cup and mixing it into the ricotta cheese mixture before catching my mistake! But it was one of those happy mistakes, because the lightly-sweet creamy ricotta filling in these cannoli cups taste great with all those chocolate chips! And the won ton wraps make a nice little shell for this yummy filling. This recipe calls for 1 package of Nasoya® Won Ton Wraps and each 12-ounce package has about 52 wraps in it–this recipe will fill up just about all those wraps so it’s great to make for parties and other gatherings!

MINI CANNOLI CUPS adapted from Nasoya.com

Makes 48-52 cups

  • 3 cups fresh ricotta cheese (I used Part-Skim)
  • 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla or almond extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips, plus extra chips for sprinkling on top
  • 1 (12-ounce) package Nasoya® Won Ton Wraps

Place the ricotta cheese in a medium size mixing bowl. Stir or beat with a mixer on medium for about 2 minutes, until cheese is smooth and creamy. Add in the powdered sugar and blend well, mixing or beating until smooth.

Stir in the chocolate chips, then place in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Place each won ton wrap in the base of a mini cupcake pan, pressing down to create a mini bowl. Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from oven and fill each cup with a slightly heaping 1/2 Tablespoon of filling–then return to oven for 4 to 5 more minutes, until the cups are lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, then put on serving plate and sprinkle tops lightly with additional mini chocolate chips. Serve warm (if serving later, keep refrigerated until ready to serve, then warm them in the microwave). I prefer these warm, but you can also serve them at room temperature.

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These Mini Cannoli Cups are perfect if you’re wanting to serve something sweet and bite-sized. The other recipe I made with these wraps is a savory appetizer that I’m sure you’ll love, so look for it in my next post!

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Layered Black Bean Dip

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I have a big weakness for dips, so I try to just make them when I need to bring something to a party or get-together–that way, I have plenty of people to help me eat it!:) This Layered Black Bean Dip is really easy to make, and I like to think that the black beans make it a little healthier!:) I added a little plain Greek yogurt to the original recipe to make the base of the dip a little creamier and also topped it with some green onion slices. If you don’t have any parties coming up soon, this also makes a great snack when you’re watching football or other sports games on TV! This recipe probably serves about 6-8 people; if you’re making it for a larger crowd, you can double the recipe and make it in a 9 x 13″ baking or serving dish.

LAYERED BLACK BEAN DIP by NancyC, adapted from Kraft Foods

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese (regular or light), softened
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (10-ounce) can ROTEL Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, well drained
  • 1 cup finely shredded Fiesta-Style Four-Cheese blend
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced (both the white part and stem)

In a medium mixing bowl, blend the softened cream cheese with the yogurt, blending with a hand mixer or by hand until creamy. Spread this mixture onto the bottom of a shallow dish or pie plate. Layer the black beans over the cream cheese mixture; then layer the ROTEL diced tomatoes over the black beans. Top with the shredded cheese and then add the sliced green onion on the very top (you can also add some chopped fresh cilantro on top if you like). Serve with tortilla chips.

Note: If you’d like to add more flavor to your cream cheese/yogurt base, stir in some dry Taco seasoning mix or Ranch Dressing mix to taste.

Dips are great because they’re so easy to make. Do you have a favorite dip recipe?

Linked to Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener,  Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy, and Thursday Favorite Things at Katherine’s Corner.

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Mango-Jalapeno Salsa from The Daniel Plan Cookbook

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Now that the weather is warming up, I’ve been eating more fruit–there’s something about the warmer weather that makes me crave it more! I love all kinds of fruit and that’s what I like about this Mango-Jalapeno Salsa–there’s a nice variety of fruit–mango, pineapple, and apple–mixed in with some diced tomato and red bell pepper. It’s a little on the spicy side, so use half the amount of jalapeno and ginger if you want a milder salsa. Overall, I think this is a great, healthy mix of naturally sweet and savory flavors!

517gSVWkM3L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Speaking of healthy, this recipe is from a new cookbook out last month, The Daniel Plan Cookbook, by Pastor Rick Warren, Dr. Daniel Amen, and Dr. Mark Hyman. It’s a companion book to the New York Times Bestseller, The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life and has 100 easy recipes (with full-color photos) to help you eat healthy for life. “Food truly is medicine,” says one of the authors, Dr. Hyman. Eating real, whole foods can help reverse chronic disease, aid in weight loss, and even optimize brain health. In developing the book, the authors thought about what most people like to eat, then created healthy versions of popular dishes to show that healthy eating is possible in the “real world.” So there are recipes for Blueberry French Toast, BBQ Chicken Pizza, Spinach and Artichoke Dip, Classic Meatloaf, and Chocolate Coconut pudding, to name a few…that just goes to show you don’t need to feel deprived when you’re eating healthy!

I received a sampler of recipes from the book and decided to try the Mango-Jalapeno Salsa. This tropical-style salsa goes well with Mexican recipes using fish or chicken, like the Grilled Spicy Fish Tacos, another delicious-sounding recipe in the book. I really like it with those blue corn tortilla chips, too.

MANGO-JALAPENO SALSA from The Daniel Plan Cookbook

  • 1 mango, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup diced pineapple
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup seeded and diced tomato
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 4 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons minced seeded jalapeno (use half the amount of jalapeno and ginger for a milder salsa)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Place salsa ingredients in a bowl. Mix together well. Chill in refrigerator. (Keeps up to 1 week refrigerated).

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This makes about 3 1/2 cups of salsa. It’s really easy to make and so good! Have you tried making a fruity salsa before?

Spring Fever

I had to make a quick trip to the mall and ended up staying longer than I intended because I was admiring some pretty Spring and Easter tableware and decor at two of my favorite stores, Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma! Teal, light and bright greens, and nature-inspired neutrals seem to be big color themes for the spring season. These happen to be some of my favorite colors–no wonder I was so drawn to the store displays!:) (Photos shown in this post are from Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma)

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At Pottery Barn, I loved all the teal in the table settings displayed right by the front entrance. The tableware looked great with the natural color and texture of woven place mats, along with some burlap and twine accents–so springy and outdoorsy! The inside store display I saw looked very much like the set-up in the photo above, featured on the Pottery Barn website.

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And I thought these bunny cupcake stands were sweet–they also work great for mini pies and tarts or cookies!

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I also liked these nature-inspired basket fillers

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…perfect for creating your own woodland baskets!

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The teal-green-neutral combination also looked great in other home accessories…

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…like this brightly-patterned pillow.

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I thought this embroidered butterfly pillow had a great spring feel, too.

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And I loved all the glassware in spring colors, especially the teal!

img45cWilliams-Sonoma also had nature-inspired designs in some of their spring tableware

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…and they have a new Botanical Citrus Collection which looks very springy.

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You can always find fun baking accessories there, like this Buttercup Cakelet Pan. How cute is that?

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And I saw these cookies later on their website–some great Easter cookie decorating inspiration!

Do you have Spring Fever like I do? Have you found any inspiring Easter and Spring decorating, entertaining, or gift ideas out there?

I’m linking this to Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener.

10 Recipes for Valentine’s Day

Here’s a roundup of 10 recipes that your Valentine–or Valentines–will love…some are healthy and some are not-so-healthy (but very yummy)!

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If you’re wanting something sweet for your Valentine breakfast, try these Strawberry Yogurt Muffins–the strawberries on top look like hearts, so they’re perfect for Valentine’s Day!

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Or if you’re wanting something healthy, try this Cranberry-Pecan Oatmeal, made with dried cranberries and chopped pecans. You can substitute dried cherries for the cranberries if you want.

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Or make this Cranberry Almond Oatmeal Bake if you’re feeding a larger group.

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You can also use your dried cranberries (or cherries) in these Cranberry Almond Breakfast Scones for a mid-morning or afternoon Valentine snack!

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Since you may be eating lots of sweets on Valentine’s Day, you’ll want to include a healthy salad in your lunch or dinner menu–this Apple Pear Pecan Salad has dried cranberries in it too, but dried cherries would be yummy as well!

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Savory Strawberry Salsa makes a great appetizer with tortilla chips, and it’s also really good served over grilled chicken!

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Now you need some dessert ideas…Strawberry Cupcakes are just the thing!

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But lots of people prefer something chocolate, and you can’t go wrong with these Chocolate Cupcakes with Fudgy Frosting!

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If you want a healthier dessert, you could always make this Healthy Chocolate Shake

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But, hey, it’s Valentine’s Day–if you want to splurge, make these Dark Chocolate-Covered Cherry Swirl Brownies!

Hope you get a chance to try out some of these treats! Do you have a favorite Valentine recipe?

33 Different Uses for Mason Jars

I’ve become a mason jar-saver, and I have a small but growing collection of different shapes and sizes that have held jams, jellies, pickles, sauces, and other homemade foods that friends have given me. So I was glad to find a helpful guide at MidwestLiving.com on 15 Ways to Use Mason Jars. Then I found more ideas at a few other sites. These are all great ideas because they’re so simple!

Here are a few from Midwest Living that I plan on using…

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Silverware holders–use each jar to hold a napkin and “silverware setting for one”–the jar can also be used by your guest as a drinking glass. Or organize spoons, forks, and knives in three different jars for a buffet-style arrangement.

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Or you may just want to use the jars for serving your beverages in–they’re great for outdoor parties or picnics because they’re so sturdy!

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Use as containers for forcing bulbs. I love this idea!

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Make an easy centerpiece–just float a pretty blossom in a jar filled with water.

Other Midwest Living ideas include:

Using jars to store dry foods like oatmeal and other grains, rice, lentils, dried fruit, sugar, flour, salt, dried beans, pasta, etc. They come in handy if you buy bulk foods. Add your own homemade labels.

Keep your desk organized–use jars for holding pens, pencils, markers, paint brushes, and scissors.

I found more uses at a site called Care2. They list 50 uses for mason jars! These are the ideas from their list that I use or will use most:

  1. Storing cookies
  2. Storing homemade mixes
  3. Use for “recipe in a jar” gifts
  4. Storing saved seeds
  5. Use as containers for homemade soy candles
  6. Holding sour dough starters
  7. Storing homemade cleaners for the home (make sure they’re clearly labeled!)
  8. Storing cotton balls on the bathroom counter
  9. Storing bulk or homemade shampoo
  10. Storing bath salts
  11. Storing small office supplies
  12. Making sun tea
  13. Use as vases for fresh flowers
  14. Use as containers for homemade candy gifts
  15. Storing sewing notions-buttons and other small items
  16. Use as containers for loose change

These uses are from a site called Keeper of the Home. Here are some ideas I like from her list of 31 uses:

  1. Storing leftovers in the refrigerator–soups, stews, cooked rice, veggies–pretty much any kind of food that will fit in the jar (if you need extra lids, you can purchase some like these).
  2. Store leftover smoothies so you can drink later in the day or take to work.
  3. Keep track of how much water you’re drinking–if you drink from a quart-size jar, you can easily keep track of how much water you’re drinking each day.
  4. Sprouting seeds or grains (you can buy these special lids if you want).
  5. Storing homemade juice or iced tea in the refrigerator.
  6. Keeping herbs fresh in the refrigerator (like green onions, cilantro, etc.) by filling a jar 3/4 full of water, then placing your bunch of fresh herbs in it-the herbs stay fresh longer than if put in the produce drawer.
  7. Storing homemade spice mixes–use the 1/2 pint or smaller jars for this.
  8. Mixing and storing homemade salad dressings, marinades, and other sauces.
  9. Mixing and storing homemade syrups.

And then I found a few more ideas at Yahoo Voices:

  1. Start plant cuttings in jars filled with water (I do this a lot!)
  2. To be more eco-friendly, use mason jars instead of plastic containers for your lunch–they’re a great container for soups and salads.

So all together, that’s 33 different ways to use mason jars–plus all the other ideas at those sites that I didn’t mention!

Do you have a collection of mason jars? What different ways do you like to use them?

Creamy Salsa Yogurt Dip

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With all the sports games on TV, and with the Super Bowl coming up, you may be looking for some different dip recipes to snack on as you’re watching! It’s always nice to have some healthier options and this is a yummy dip that’s a little more on the healthy side. It’s made with yogurt, salsa, a little bit of light mayo, and some seasoning. Shredded cheese is optional, but I really like it with the cheese, even though it’s not quite as healthy that way! The dip shown here is made with Pepper Jack cheese, which gives it a little extra spice. So, keep this in mind for the games!

CREAMY SALSA YOGURT DIP by NancyCreative, adapted from Food.com

Makes about 2 cups of dip

  • 1 cup plain yogurt (use a thicker yogurt–I used Redwood Hill Farm Goat Milk Yogurt; you can also use Greek yogurt)
  • 2/3 cup chunky-style Salsa (use your favorite brand)
  • 2 Tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Ranch Dip Mix
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • Optional: 1 cup shredded Cheddar or Pepper Jack cheese

Combine yogurt, salsa, mayonnaise, Ranch seasoning, and chili powder in a medium size bowl, stirring until smooth. Add in cheese, if using, and blend well. Cover and chill for at least one hour or as long as one day before serving. Serve with assorted veggies (carrots, cucumber slices, sugar snap peas, cauliflower, broccoli) or tortilla chips.

What types of healthy snacks do you like to make?

OREO Holiday Chocolate Chip Cookie Balls

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OREOs are always a treat, and these cookie ball truffles are a great way to enjoy them over the holidays! So now that the Christmas season is in full swing, I thought this would be the perfect time to make them. They’re easy to make and all you need are a few ingredients–OREO cookies, cream cheese, and chocolate–plus an extra ingredient I added! I decided I’d make these cookie balls a little extra chocolatey by adding in some mini chocolate chips (you need to use the mini chips–the regular size would be much too big)! And I used both semi-sweet and white baking chocolate to coat them for a little variety. I topped these yummy treats with different kinds of Christmas sprinkles, coconut, and crushed candy canes. Chopped nuts would also be a great topping.

You can make these cookie ball truffles without the mini chocolate chips if you prefer; you’ll get about 48 if you make them that way. If you make them with the mini chocolate chips like I did, you’ll get at least 70 truffles, maybe a little more, so you may want to have an extra 4-ounce package of baking chocolate on hand in case you need more chocolate coating. I had just enough chocolate to coat all of mine with the 4 packages, but it never hurts to have a little extra on hand. I also added 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil per bar of baking chocolate–I mixed the coconut oil into the chocolate after it was all melted–it made the chocolate a little thinner and easier to dip the cookie balls in.

I also found it was easiest to dip these cookie ball truffles into the chocolate by using a regular spoon, turning each one over in the melted chocolate with the spoon until it was all coated. Then I immediately put it on a parchment-lined pan, using the spoon to drop it on. After dipping about 5 cookie balls, I adding toppings before the chocolate started setting–the toppings adhere much better when the chocolate coating is still very melty.

So that’s all there is to it! And I thought it would be fun to arrange these cookie balls in a tree shape–a great way to serve them at a holiday party or get-together!

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OREO HOLIDAY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE BALLS by NancyCreative, slightly adapted from the original OREO Cookie Ball recipe

Makes about 70 cookie ball truffles

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 36 OREO Cookies, finely crushed (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (this is an addition to the original recipe)
  • 4 to 5 (4-ounce) packages semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted (I used 2 packages of semi-sweet and 2 packages of white chocolate, melting the different chocolates separately; I also mixed in 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil per 4-ounce melted chocolate baking bar after the chocolate was all melted, for easier dipping–if you don’t do this, your melted chocolate will be thicker, and you may need a 5th 4-ounce bar to have enough chocolate coating)
  • Assorted toppings to sprinkle on the chocolate-coated truffles: Christmas sprinkles, crushed candy canes, coconut, nuts

Mix cream cheese and cookie crumbs until blended. Shape into 70 (1-inch) balls. Place in a shallow 10 x 15″ pan lined with parchment paper and freeze for 10 minutes.

For cookie balls, dip each ball into melted chocolate. Place in single layer in your lined 10 x 15″ pan (I dipped about 5 at a time, then sprinkled them, so the toppings would stick well before the chocolate started setting). You may need to use an extra lined pan, since you’ll need to leave more space between the chocolate coated cookie balls while they’re setting.

After dipping and topping all the cookie balls with your choice of sprinkles or toppings, refrigerate them on your lined pan or pans for 1 hour or until firm.

I partnered with Yummly and OREO on this post, but the opinions expressed here are entirely my own–I’m a longtime Oreo fan!:)

Do you like Oreos too? Have you made these cookie balls and do you have a special way of making them?

Linked to Christmas Cookie Swap at Katherine’s Corner.

Candy Corn “PayDay” Mix

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I really like the taste of sweet-and-salty things. I ate a lot of butter and jelly sandwiches as a kid, and I’ve always loved PayDay candy bars. I don’t eat candy bars that often, but every once in awhile I indulge in a PayDay. If you like PayDays too, then you will like this Candy Corn “PayDay” Mix because the candy corn and salted peanuts really bring to mind the taste of that candy bar!

I was needing to make something simple and quick for a little fall party, and when I saw this candy corn mix idea at About.com, I thought it would be perfect! It’s so simple to make–there are just two ingredients–candy corn and peanuts. How easy is that? It’s a perfect sweet-and-salty treat for any fall party, a great snack for game-watching, and a nice treat to package up in treat bags for giving. I like it better than just eating candy corn by itself–I feel like I’m at least getting a little protein with the peanuts in there!:) You can either use dry roasted peanuts or salted peanuts–I prefer using the dry roasted, but either works great! You can also substitute cashews for the peanuts if you prefer those.

Some of you have also told me that this mix tastes great with M&M’s, chocolate chips, or peanut butter chips, so I added those as optional ingredients for all of you chocolate and peanut butter-lovers!:)

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Here’s the very simple recipe…

CANDY CORN “PAY DAY” MIX slightly adapted from About.com

Makes 6 to 7 1/2 cups of mix

  • 3 cups candy corn (or use an entire 21-oz. bag, which comes to about 3 3/4 cups)
  • 3 cups lightly salted dry roasted peanuts or cocktail peanuts (or use an entire 16-oz. jar, which comes to about 3 3/4 cups; OR substitute the same amount of cashews)
  • Optional: 2 to 3 cups plain M&M’s or chocolate chips, depending on how chocolatey you want it! Or, if you want a stronger peanutty flavor, you could add the same amount of peanut butter chips

In a medium to large serving bowl, combine the candy corn and the peanuts, and stir together with a large spoon until they are well mixed. Add in the M&M’s (or chocolate chips), if using. Or, you can combine the candy corn and peanuts (and M&M’s/chocolate chips, if using) in a large Ziploc bag and shake them together until they are well mixed. Serve and enjoy!

Store any leftovers in an airtight container to snack on later.

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If you want to make this mix for treat-giving, use treat bags to package them in–I tied mine with a bright orange ribbon!

Have you made any fun fall treats? It’s always nice when they’re quick and easy to make, too!:)

Happy Autumn!

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The Bow Fold from Top 100 Step-By-Step Napkin Folds

Here’s a pretty way to fold your napkins for your holiday table or other special occasion! This Bow Fold idea is from a book called Top 100 Step-by-Step Napkin Folds by Denise Vivaldo, a seasoned food professional who has catered more than 10,000 parties. A creatively folded napkin adds such a special touch to your table setting and it’s easy to do, with the step-by-step instructions and photos that you’ll find in this book. I received a review copy of this book and it has a nice hardcover format with a concealed wire binding which lies flat when it’s open, making it easy to look at the photos and instructions while you’re trying out different folds.

I decided to try the Bow Fold, since we’re in the midst of the holidays and the bow shape reminds me of bows on Christmas presents! But it also works great for a special tea, ladies’ brunch, bridal shower, or baby shower.

Here’s the fold in a few easy steps–this is my condensed version…the book has much more detail! (Follow each row of photos from left to right).

1. You can use a plain or patterned napkin 2. Lay it out so reverse side is facing up 3. Fold napkin in half, forming a triangle 4. Fold left point over about halfway 5. Fold right edge back, cover the right tip slightly. 6. Fold right edge over left edge. 7. Fold bottom point over at an upward angle 8. Fold top point over at a downward angle 9. Pinch the center of the folded napkin together with one hand and, holding the napkin ring in the other hand… 10. …slide it through the ring 10. Pull tails of bow downward, forming a more distinct bow shape 11. Turn bow over… 12. …and arrange it on a plate!

I’m a very novice napkin folder, so if I can do this, you can, too!:) There are 99 other ideas  in the book, so you have plenty of folds to choose from!

Here’s a sample spread from the book:

image:  www.robertrose.ca

Have fun with your napkin folding!  Do you have a favorite napkin fold you like to use?

Linked to Create With Joy.