Fall Party Appetizers

Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner and that means family gatherings and parties with friends. And if you’re like me whether serving a meal or simply a wine and appetizer affair there’s always a need to have in your arsenal some simple, impressive appetizers. So I’ve created for you a one stop shop blog with seven of my favorite appetizers.  These appetizers will brighten up any of your holiday get-togethers. All you need do is click on the individual picture(s) of the one(s) you like and it will direct you back to the blog I wrote about it that includes a printable recipe. It couldn’t be easier.

I specifically picked these appetizers out of the many in my recipe index for a few reasons. First they are incredibly easy to make. That is key as the holidays are busy enough as it is. Second I picked them for how they look. As I’ve stated over and over in my blogs you eat first with your eyes. I wanted these appetizers to have that holiday wow factor. And last I wanted them to be easy for your guests to put on a plate and eat.

Let me take you through my choices in the picture above by starting with the upper left corner of the collage. First is my tangy bacon cheddar yogurt dip. Next to it are my hard salami roll ups with olive garnish. In the center row left is my salted caramel cheese ball. Next is my Christmas creamy spinach and red pepper dip followed by my no bake pizza bites. Last on the bottom left is my vegetable pizza and finally my basic bruschetta. Make any or all of these and your party will be a hit. So let’s take each one individually…

TANGY BACON CHEDDAR YOGURT DIP:

I like this appetizer for a few reasons. First you have the option of making it as spicy as you like. Hot or mild it is absolutely delicious. Second if you use precooked bacon making this dip is even easier. Third I found that people really go for the veggies straws instead of the traditional crackers. It’s fun, tasty and easy to eat making it a great party appetizer.

HARD SALAMI ROLL UPS WITH OLIVE GARNISH:

I found this appetizer to be very popular not only because it’s tasty but also because of its pop in your mouth and go factor. All you have to do it grab it by its decorative pick and put it in your mouth. You don’t even need a plate for this one. You can just walk by and grab it. For the holidays you can add a little pzazz by using holiday themed picks. Any way you serve it, this appetizer will quickly disappear.

SALTED CARAMEL CHEESE BALL:

This one is a show stopper and a crowd pleaser! This appetizer touts the killer combo of granny smith apples, caramel sauce, cheese, lemon juice and nuts. And if that isn’t enough, drizzling caramel sauce over it takes this cheese ball over the top. Also, this can be made ahead of time so you don’t have to fiddle around with it the day of your party. And last but certainly not least, this can be served as an appetizer or dessert. You can’t go wrong with this one.

CREAMY SPINACH AND RED PEPPER DIP:

I will admit up front I got this recipe from another site. I acknowledge that in my blog and include a link to the recipe. I normally don’t do this but it was such a hit when I served it I just had to share. I also like it because it features the colors of Christmas. So if you’re looking to inject the color of the holidays not only in your decorations but also in your food, this is the recipe for you. Oh, and one last thing, it tastes divine!

NO BAKE PIZZA BITES:

This is one of my personal favorites. You can’t beat a simple to assemble appetizer that tastes like you’re eating a piece of pizza. You can be somewhat flexible in the ingredients you use (I used a basil and pepper feta cheese instead of just adding mozzarella cheese and fresh basil) and the results were fabulous. I’ve found that this particular appetizer is very popular with the younger set. It can be assembled in no time and you’ll be amazed at how flavorful it is!

VEGETABLE PIZZA:

Earlier this year when I first posted this recipe I got a lot of comments. People mostly said that they use to make this appetizer “back in the day” but have not made it in a long time and were not sure why. But how can you resist making something that looks as good as this and tastes even better. I also found this is a great way to use up some of stuff lying around in your refrigerator. This is another appetizer that allows your guests to just pick up a piece and go. But I guarantee you one thing. They will be back for more!

BASIC BRUSCHETTA:

And last but certainly not least my basic bruschetta. We tend to eat a lot over the holidays and that can lead to feeling full and bloated. This appetizer is different. It is refreshing, light and filled with simple clean ingredients your guests will love while not feeling stuffed. This is definitely an appetizer you should consider.

And there you have it – some of my favorite appetizer recipes just in time for your holiday get-togethers. I also have other appetizer recipes that you can find under my recipe index tab on the top of this page. I hope you make one or all of these during the holidays and as always, I would love to know what you think of them.

 

My Kitchen Remodel Saga And My Slow Cooker Favorites…

The saga of the kitchen, dining room, living room and den flooring projects continues and prevents me from posting some new recipes. I’ve lived through this many times before and even recognize the many ebbs and flows of this type of process. We are definitely in the “frustrated” stage of the project. The whole house is in disarray and will be for a few more weeks (the hardwood floor goes down next week) and it’s at this stage that you long for a clean, organized home.

I liken these types of projects to giving birth. Once the baby arrives you forget about all the pain and rejoice in the outcome. I am so waiting for that time. Before I go into some of my favorite slow cooker recipes I thought I’d share a few pictures of my kitchen to give you some perspective of what I am currently going through.

The picture below gives you somewhat of an idea of what the kitchen looked like when we moved in. Not bad you might say, but there were definitely some challenges. The gas cook top was not what was originally there. When buying a condo I told my husband I would not even consider one that did not have a gas stove. I’ve been a gas girl all my life and know that most if not all professional chefs cook with gas so there was no room for negotiation there.

We took out the cooktop you see in the picture below to install the gas cooktop in the picture above (the gas cooktop was the one the builder took out and replaced with the electric cooktop when doing the remodel). Our condo had been previously owned but purchased back by the builder and converted to the model for the development. (the development was done in two phases and our condo was in one of the first phase buildings). “Upgraded” appliances were installed as part of the conversion. I say upgraded in parenthesis because the new appliances were actually not very good and my husband and I wound up replacing all of them except the refrigerator. I also found it interesting that the electric cooktop they originally installed looked like Mickey Mouse, my bizarre sense of humor.

The original electric cooktop that was in our kitchen

The original kitchen design called for the cooktop and oven to be separate. You can see a small portion of the original oven on the far right of the very first picture above (note the stainless outline at the bottom far right of the picture). The problem with having the oven located there was the thermostat for our heating and cooling system was on the wall directly opposite the oven. Using the oven had a direct effect on the thermostat and we certainly didn’t want that. So we decided to eliminate the cooktop and separate oven combination and get a stove with an oven (see the picture below), install it in the space where the cooktop was (requiring removing the cabinets underneath) and adding cabinet space where the oven had been. It worked out great.

After that, the final problem we wanted to resolve was the engineered wood flooring (you can see it on the bottom of the first picture above). It really doesn’t look that bad in the picture but it was cheap stuff, scratched easily and was hard to clean. Both my husband and I have had wood floors in our previous kitchens and always wound up replacing them with tile. Tile is more durable and easily stands up to the wear and tear of work done in a kitchen. Just be careful not to drop your wine glasses, though. Tile is not forgiving in that regard.

So at this point the tile is laid and setting for a day before doing the grout. My husband does excellent work and is a perfectionist so the work sometimes is painstakingly slow. In the end I know I will be so pleased but in the interim living in a war zone has its ups and downs.

Where my stove/oven used to be

waiting for grout

The one thing we’ve already noticed is the tile is brightening up the kitchen. With the dark cabinets and the dark floor the kitchen was a pretty dark place. The tile is changing all that and brightening it up considerably.

And so, because of all this, once again I do not have a new recipe to share this week. But the good news is I have so many recipes amassed from the many years of doing this blog that I can share some of my recipes that have not seen the light of day for quite some time.

This week I decided to focus on some of my personal favorite slow cooker recipes. Over the years I’ve learned that slow cookers are actually very versatile. Years ago when I would make something in a slow cooker (or crock pots as we used to call it then) my food would come out bland and overcooked. Now I’ve mastered some techniques that have helped me create some wonderful slow cooker dishes. Those are the ones I want to share with you today.

So let’s talk slow cooker favorites…

I’ve chosen these particular recipes because they are easy, impressive and your guests (or family for that matter) will never think they were made in a slow cooker.

  1. SLOW COOKER GROUND BEEF STEW: I really like this recipe because the end result is a thick and luscious stew. The secret is using a large amount of tomato paste. For a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce I recommend using an entire 6 ounce can of tomato paste. For this recipe you want the sauce to be really thick before the stew starts to cook. If the sauce still looks a little thin after mixing the sauce and paste I recommend adding more tomato paste. Don’t be afraid if you think it’s too thick. The residual fat from the browned ground beef will loosen up the sauce in the cooking process but not to the point of making it runny. The consistency of this stew is similar to a nice thick chili. And the flavor of this stew is fabulous. I assure you, this recipe can easily become a family staple.

2. CREAMY MEATBALL AND TORTELLINI SOUP: Years ago I never would have thought of making soup in a slow cooker. But actually it is a perfect tool for making soup. This was the recipe where I learned I can vary my temperatures during the cooking process versus just cooking a recipe on low or high all the time. I made sausage meatballs for this recipe but if you don’t want to take the time to remove the casings and shape the meatballs you can just cut the sausage up in links and throw it in that way. This is a great dish for a chilly night. Serve with a salad and some crusty bread and you have one heck of a meal that takes virtually no effort at all to make.

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3. SLOW COOKER TURKEY AND DUMPLINGS: Remember when you only used to have turkey around the holidays? I happen to love turkey and so I try to find as many ways of serving it all year round. I used turkey tenderloins in this recipe, cooking them whole and then shredding them. The surprise ingredient is refrigerated biscuits that I cut up and used as the dumplings. This is a flavorful and hearty dish and a great way to incorporate turkey more routinely into your meal plans.

4. JAMBALAYA: This was my breakthrough recipe using a slow cooker. From past experience, this was the first time that I made something in the slow cooker that didn’t look or taste like mush. If you are inclined to try any of these recipes, I would start with this one. This is a traditional chop and drop slow cooker recipe. The difference is you don’t add all of the ingredients at once so everything is cooked properly but not overcooked. My husband and I absolutely love this recipe and I am sure you will too.

5. SLOW COOKER COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS: I have been making this recipe for years. It is definitely a recipe for someone who is just learning to cook as it is, if you follow the instructions, absolutely foolproof. The sauce is rich and thick and the pork is fall-off-the-bone delicious. You can serve this with rice or potatoes and a vegetable of your choice and have a superb meal. If you want a great recipe that is a complete no brainer, this is the one for you.

And there you have it – the saga of my kitchen remodel coupled with my favorite slow cooker recipes. I’m not sure if I will be able to post a new recipe next week, but I certainly hope to. If not, I will share some of my former recipes that have not surfaced for a long time and probably something sweet versus savory. We’ll just have to see how it goes. Thanks for hanging in there with me. Next stop, doing the grout and the hardwood floor installation in the rest of the condo!

 

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Readers Favorite Recipes…

My cooking and baking life is on a short hiatus. We’ve decided that we are going to tile our kitchen (it originally had an engineered wood floor surface that we hated) and remove the carpeting in our living room, dining room, den and hallways and put down hardwood floors. I’ve wanted these changes ever since we moved into our condo and am really excited that its finally happening, but the projects have upended our usual way of living. Right now my appliances are in the living room and dining area so that the tile can be laid underneath their footprints in the kitchen.

My beloved stove is smack dab in the middle of the living room. Perched on top is my husband’s knee pads and various other items (see picture below)…

So as you can imagine it will make it challenging to keep up my goal of one new recipe posted every week. But have no fear. Now is a perfect time to do another compilation post.

I love these kinds of posts as they are sort of a one-stop-shop of recipes that over time have proven to be my readers favorites. And quite often recipes that I think will not be very popular surprise me and get tons of hits on my blog. That’s why these days I never second guess my recipes. You just never know what will be a hit and what will only get a lukewarm response.

So here are some of my more recent reader favorites. I’ll write a short blurb about each but just click not he picture and it will take you directly to the post and recipe. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.

  1. BAKED EGGPLANT FRIES: I knew this one would be a winner right out of the box as people are always looking for that french fry crunch without the french fry fat and calories. I’d never worked with eggplant before and was pleasantly surprised at how easy these were to make and how tasty they were. Even the biggest veggie hater in your household will love these.

2. VEGETABLE PIZZA: I was surprised at how this recipe waxed nostalgic for so many people. I got lots of comments like “Oh I used to make this years ago. I stopped and I don’t remember why.” People also started sharing various iterations of how they used to make this based on their tastes and vegetable preferences. This is such a colorful fun recipe and it’s a great way to clean out the vegetable bin in your refrigerator. I brought this to a community gathering and it was gone in 15 minutes. This recipe may be a blast from the past but it certainly can still be a hit today.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

3. BROCCOLI CHEDDAR SOUP: When I first posted this recipe I had never made this type of homemade soup before. The only soup I ever made was my mother’s chicken soup recipe. I was surprised at how easy this was to make and how good it was. You could make a meal out of this, a salad and some crusty bread. A great dinner for a cool evening. I love this soup and have made it often.

Lithuanian Kugelis

4. LITHUANIAN KUGELIS: No one is happier than me that this recipe is so popular. I am of Lithuanian (and Polish) decent and this was my grandmother’s recipe. She would make kugelis for every holiday meal and it was gobbled up quickly. Be careful, though… it is an artery clogging recipe. But if you eat in moderation this is something you can definitely have every once in a while. In the old days it was a way to fill the bellies of the family without spending a lot of money. Today it’s just something super decadent and delicious.

5. EASY TANGY CUCUMBER SALAD: Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best. This recipe is definitely not rocket science but it’s a great accompaniment to almost any meal. Just a few simple ingredients coupled with a little time to let them all get thoroughly acquainted and you’ve got yourself something delightful and fresh. A former student of mine told me that her kids shy away from salads and vegetables but gobbled this up. This is a great recipe to have in your hip pocket.

6. DELI STYLE TUNA SALAD: If someone would have told me that this recipe would be one of the top 5 recipes searched for on my blog I would’ve laughed at them. But it continues to be a hit even after a couple of years. In this blog I reveal what I believe to be some of the secrets for making deli style tuna fish. Serve with some soup and baked waffle fries and you’ve got a killer meal!

Cheesecake With Fresh Strawberry Sauce

7. CHEESECAKE WITH FRESH STRAWBERRY SAUCE: I’ve made no bones about the fact that when writing this blog early on I was heavily influenced by Food Network shows. I’ve become less enamored with them over the years as they’ve really moved away from the format that I so enjoyed. But I still watch a few of them at times, namely Ina Garten, Ree Drummond and Trisha Yearwood. This particular recipe was included in one of Trisha Yearwood’s shows and it turned out perfectly the first time I made it (how often does that happen). This recipe gets a ton of hits and my stats go through the roof when they replay the segment that includes this recipe on the Food Network. Regardless it is one of my readers favorites and I guarantee it will be one of yours!

8.  PRIME RIB ROAST: If you were anything like me you dreaded making one of these babies for a special meal because this hunk of roast is just so darn expensive you don’t want to ruin it. But in my blog I de-mystify making prime rib. Just follow a few simple steps and it will turn out perfect first time, every time. This recipe is especially popular around the holidays but gets regular traffic throughout the year – definitely a recipe you should have in your arsenal.

9. HONEY BBQ PULLED CHICKEN SANDWICHES: The first time I made this recipe was for a Super Bowl party. It was a big hit. And a great recipe to make for a party as you make this in the slow cooker. The most work you have to do is remove the chicken in and shred it. The rest is done by the slow cooker. I like recipes like these because they don’t require a lot of work or supervision which gives you more time to spend with your guests. My readers must think so too as this recipe gets a lot of hits. I know you’ll like this one for it’s simplicity as well as its great flavor.

Cheesy Potato and Green Onion Casserole

10. CHEESY POTATO AND GREEN ONION CASSEROLE: I developed this recipe because I was getting tired of the using boxed varieties similar to this. Have you ever read the ingredients on those boxes? After about the fifth ingredient I could not pronounce I decided to create a potato side dish made out of fresh ingredients. With the help of a mandolin slicer this recipe becomes something quick and easy to prepare. And talk about delicious. I’ll never go back to the boxed varieties again.

11. GRILLED ROSEMARY GARLIC LAMB CHOPS: And ending this particular compilation is an all time favorite recipe of mine. I just love grilled lamp chops. They are so easy to do on the grill and serve them with a little mint jelly and you’ve got something special. Years ago it was harder to find lamb chops in you local grocery store but now you see them everywhere. We get our lamb chops at Costco. They do nice cuts and the price is the best as well. If you’ve never tried lamb you simply have to. This is one of my favorite summer meals and I hope it will become one of yours too!

Well that’s it – my readers favorites. I’m not sure I will be posting a new recipe next week as construction in the kitchen is taking longer than planned (and having been married to a private contractor I’ve come to expect that). But if not, I might share a few other recipes from my collection that are worth re-blogging. Hope you enjoy these, and if you try any or all of them, let me know what you think.

 

 

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My Best Holiday Cookie Recipes…

Ever since I can remember I’ve made cookies for the holidays. My mother started me out when I was in high school (I think she wanted to transition the job to someone else) and the rest is history. As you can imagine I’ve had many successes and failures over the years but I’ve also developed a short list of my all-time favorite cookie recipes. And that is what this blog is all about – sharing my favorites with you. Just click on the pictures and they will link you to my recipes. I hope you enjoy them and make all of them. I guarantee you, they will all be a big hit.

The first cookie I’ve made for as long as I can remember and it’s stayed tried and true through several decades – the Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. There is no better chocolate chip cookie recipe and I’ve tried a lot of them. I was having coffee with a friend the other day and we both agreed that if you’re going to make chocolate chip cookies this is the only recipe to use. And every year it has been my tradition to begin holiday baking by making these cookies. The cookie dough is divine (admit it, you eat this cookie dough), the cookie is to die for and they freeze beautifully so you can enjoy them for several weeks. I’m including the link to this recipe below the picture.  Making Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies means Christmas to me.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here’s the link to the recipe: allrecipes.com/recipe/174864/original-nestle-toll-house-chocolate-chip-cookies/

I love all of the cookies in this blog but I definitely have my favorite. In my estimation nothing beats my iced cinnamon chip cookie. The tartness of the cinnamon combined with the sweetness of the cookie topped with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting is as good as it gets. The challenge with making these cookies is finding cinnamon chips. My local grocery stores used to carry them but not anymore, so I have to order them online. But they’re so good it’s totally worth it. If you try any of these recipes, try this one. It is my absolute favorite!

Cinnamon Chip Cookie

Iced Cinnamon Chip Cookie

The iced cinnamon cookie recipe displaced my next cookie recipe as my all time favorite. For many years it was my triple chocolate brownie cookie. If you love chocolate, this is definitely the cookie for you. The three kinds of chocolate, the brownie-like consistency of the cookie and the semi-sweet chocolate drizzle are simply to die for. I make this cookie every year and it’s alway a hit.

Triple Chocolate Brownie Cookie

I also love my iced cranberry orange walnut cookies. The combination of cranberry and orange just screams the holidays to me. I love the tartness of fresh cranberries combined with the flavor of orange and the sweetness of the cookie dough. Add some walnuts and you have a killer combo! These cookies look festive and are easy to make. Drizzle them with some glaze and you have a holiday delight!

Iced Cranberry Orange Walnut Cookies

No respectable holiday cookie compilation would be complete without something that looks and tastes like peppermint. These cookies fit the bill. My peppermint twist kisses cookies not only boast the holiday colors but also bring together that great holiday combination of peppermint and chocolate. These cookies tastes divine and dress up any holiday cookie tray.

Peppermint Twist Kisses Cookie

And my last favorite is technically not a cookie, it’s fudge. I tried making fudge last year and could not believe how easy it was. This fudge brings together the classic combination of chocolate and peanut butter for a delightful holiday treat.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Home made cookies make great holiday gifts. Just put a few of them into a holiday bag, tie with some festive ribbon, and you’ve got a gift that’s better than most anything you can buy. Enjoy making them, enjoy eating them, enjoy sharing them.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who checks out my blog. I hope the recipes are fun and the information helpful. I wish you, your family and all of your friends a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And in the immortal words of Tiny Tim, “God Bless Us, Everyone!”

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What I’ve Learned After Three Years…

It’s been a little over three years that I have written this blog. It’s been fun, challenging and educational all at the same time. It started out as a blog sharing my thoughts and opinions, but I soon found out that I didn’t have as many interesting and provocative thoughts as I would like and no on really cared about my opinions.

During that time I became very interested in cooking and baking. I never had a talent for it and was never mentored in the kitchen so I learned many things the hard way. I decided I would be a recipe critic and review recipes I found on Pinterest. I did that a few times on my blog but quickly got bored with the idea.

Then it dawned on me that if I’d never been mentored in the kitchen there were probably a lot more out there like me who were struggling and just not intuitive in the culinary arts.  So I basically decided to make that the focus of my blog. I never looked back.

A staple of my posts are my lessons learned while making or perfecting a recipe. There are so many things that are not included in recipes that writers simply think one knows. That is not the case. My goal is to share those tidbits that, if unknown, can make or break one’s success in the kitchen. So in sticking to my format, let me share my lessons learned writing this blog over the past three years. Here we go…

Lesson Learned 1 – Have a focus for your blog: Once I had a focus posting became much easier and my readership increased. And if you are looking for people to follow your blog you need to post regularly. The goal I have with my blog is to post one new recipe a week. Sometimes I fall short, especially around the holidays. But most of the time I achieve my goal. I decided the best way to approach my blog was by helping folks avoid viewing cooking and baking as…

funny-cooking-quotes

Lesson Learned 2 – Market your blog and be patient: There are several ways to market your blog. I am not interested in paying for that service so I try just a few simple methods to get more readership. Anytime I publish a new blog I’ve set up parameters to upload the blog to my Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr accounts. I also have a Facebook page for the blog and I post links every time a new blog is published. I also use word of mouth as a tool. I happen to work part time in housewares retail and so I make sure my co-workers and even some customers hear about it. You never know who that connection will be that will get more readers to your blog.

Check out my Facebook page for this site. I could always use a few more “likes”. http://www.facebook.com/youbetchacanmakethis/

Lesson Learned 3 – Pictures, pictures, pictures: Your blog needs to be visually appealing as well or a new reader will immediately click off of your site. You heard the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words…” That couldn’t be more true. Don’t worry about needing expensive equipment. Every picture on this site was taken with an iPhone. Pictures tell a compelling story especially when it comes to cooking and baking.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Choose an eye catching featured image and incorporate as many pictures as makes sense. If you check out some of my posts you’ll see they have a minimum of 3 pictures. I also include the featured picture at the end of my blog. People who subscribe to my blog by email don’t see the featured picture as it is shown online and since that one is usually the best I want to make sure my subscribers get it to see it as well.

Strawberry & Raspberry Crumb Cake

Strawberry & Raspberry Crumb Cale

Plus, I don’t know about you but when I look at a recipe I want to see what the end product is supposed to look like. So make sure you use pictures. They are an effective tool.

Recipes on You Betcha Can Make This

Lesson Learned 4 – Never second guess what recipe will become popular: I remember when I posted the recipe for my cream cheese, bacon, spinach and scallion pinwheels. I thought to myself ” This is such a rudimentary recipe, everyone makes these so no one will be interested.” WRONG! This recipe is one of my most popular and it gets tons of hits especially around the holidays and Super Bowl. I almost didn’t publish that blog and now I know not to second guess myself. You never know what will be a hit with your readers.

Cream Cheese Bacon & Spinach Pinwheels

Cream Cheese Bacon, Spinach and Scallion Pinwheels

Conversely, when I posted the recipe below I thought it would be a big hit. And although it does get some face time, it wasn’t nearly as much as I’d expected. But I’ve also seen some of my recipes catch on at a later date. So, don’t give up hope. And don’t be afraid to post something simply because you think it will be of no interest. You may actually be surprised (as I certainly was) at the results.

Salmon and Cremini Mushroom Duxelle En Croute...

Salmon and Cremini Mushroom Duxelle En Croute…

Lesson Learned 5 – Take the time to proof read and edit your blog: I never post a blog the day I write it. I always come back the next day, reread it and incorporate edits. I’m always amazed to see my brilliant writing from the day before all of a sudden become not quite as brilliant. I also read my blog out loud. That way it slows down my reading and I catch typos or mistakes. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve left one ingredient out of a recipe. You certainly don’t want to post that. If you don’t take your writing seriously no on else will. So make sure when you post a blog you’re as grammatically correct and error free as you can possibly be. Also make sure that your blog flows and makes sense.

If you use these simple tricks chances are people will gravitate toward your blog. It takes time, so be patient. There was a point that I wondered if anyone was looking at my website. But now my stats assure me that they are. And it’s fun to know that people are looking at your site and trying your recipes.

So as we face the dawn of 2017 I look forward to another year of posting recipes. As always they will include any lessons learned so the newbies in the kitchen can become more proficient right out of the gate. I leave you with links to three of my personal favorites. May you all have a happy and healthy 2017!

Shepherds Pie Turkey Style...

Shepherds Pie Turkey Style…

Artisan No Knead Bread

Artisan No Knead Bread

Iced Cinnamon Chip Cookies

Iced Cinnamon Chip Cookies

happy-new-year-2017-images

Holiday Recipe Compilation…

Whether you want to admit it or not, the holidays are upon us. And if you’re like me, I’m always doing research on different recipes to make for the holidays. That takes a lot of time. So in an effort to save you time searching through this blog for holiday recipes, I’m compiling some of my favorites for you. From sweet to savory and even including a home made holiday potpourri, this blog can serve as your clearinghouse for many of the holiday recipes I’ve chronicled in the past.

17 Favorite Holiday Recipes From You Betcha Can Make This!

All you need to do is click on the caption underneath the pictures and it will link you to the corresponding blog entry and recipe. I’m also including a few thoughts about each of them as many of them have been tried and true holiday recipes over the years. I hope you enjoy this little holiday gift from my house to yours.

SWEET RECIPES:

In my mind, this cake is the perfect holiday recipe. It’s easy to make, colorful and ever so delicious.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. This is my all time favorite Christmas cookie!!  You will need to  be on the look out for cinnamon chips. I can only find them in the stores over the holidays. You may want to buy a couple of extra bags and freeze them in case you want to make these during the year.

This is my second all time favorite Christmas cookie recipe! This cookie has three kinds of chocolate and has the consistency of a brownie. What more can you ask for?

They are also fun to decorate and look very fancy with not a lot of work. I’ve made this particular recipe for years and these cookies never stay around for very long. You simply have to try these.

As you’ll see, I love to bake with cranberries over the holidays. This cookie combines cranberries, oatmeal and white chocolate chips. A killer combo! They are absolutely yummy.

I don’t think I need to say much about these bars. The picture says it all. And I’ll clue you in, they taste as good as they look!

This one is my husband’s favorite! Once again, they look very fancy but in actuality they are very easy to make!

A festive cookie that is not only delicious but boasts the colors of the season.

I just made these for the first time last week and they will definitely become part of my holiday baking repertoire. And whenever you combine cranberries with oranges and walnuts, how can you miss?

These are very easy to make. I make them all year round. They turn out perfectly every single time.

These bars are absolute butterscotch decadence. Make sure you hide a few because let me tell you, they won’t last for long!

SAVORY RECIPES:

This is a quick and easy appetizer that boasts the colors of Christmas. It is one of my holiday go-to make ahead appetizer recipes.

It took me years to figure out how to make a perfect roast turkey. I finally nailed it!

I used to love my mother’s stuffing but sadly I never got the recipe from her. I’ve experimented with various versions and finally put together a recipe only second best to mom’s!

I absolutely love this recipe and make it all year long! It is the perfect side dish for a holiday meal.

I’m not a big fan of brussels sprouts but my husband loves them. I finally put together a recipe that even I enjoy!

Making home made cranberry sauce is so easy. Don’t buy the canned stuff. This is so much better!

HOLIDAY POTPOURRI:

Forget the scented candles. Make you own home made potpourri and simmer it on the stove for hours of wonderful smells in your kitchen!


There are a wealth of recipes on this blog and one might argue any or all of them are fit for the holidays. What I’ve included here are my favorites but I encourage you to check out my recipe index for many more great recipes.

Here’s to the start of a wonderful holiday season. I truly hope you enjoy these recipes!

The Elves Are In The Kitchen…

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

It’s December 3rd. There’s a winter storm warning, clouds are ominously thickening overhead, the temperature is dropping and so naturally my thoughts are turning toward holiday baking. Making holiday baked goodies is something I’ve done since I was in college. It started out as somewhat of a lark and has now turned into a hard-and-fast holiday tradition. The cookies have to be made somewhat early these days as a batch needs to be shipped to my aunt in Chicago, but making and freezing cookies is just as good as having them fresh. The challenge is deciding what the 2013 cookie menu will be?

There are a few things I know I cannot fool around with, these cookies must be made every year – no questions asked. Namely they are the chocolate dipped sugar cookies, the chocolate chip cookies and the triple chocolate brownie cookies. Over the past couple of years another cookie has almost worked it’s way into must-have tradition status, the cranberry oatmeal cookie.  It is quickly becoming a real favorite with family and friends. My personal favorite has not quite yet  caught on, that is the raspberry walnut bars but I’m sure before long it will become a holiday staple as well. And every year there is an unwritten law that at least one new cookie recipe must be attempted. That’s the law and it must be obeyed!

So with the weather promising that tomorrow will be a day indoors, it’s time to start baking – but before that comes the planning. What will the cookie gift plates consist of this year? At this point a preliminary list has been developed. It is always up for adjusting, except for the big must-have three, but it provides a starting point for the cookie onslaught. So here it is, the unveiling of the preliminary 2013 holiday cookie list (with more additions or exclusions to follow):

Chocolate Dipped Sugar Cookies

Chocolate Dipped Sugar Cookies

THE BIG THREE: (can you see a chocolate theme going on here?)

THE PRELIMINARY MENU:

THE ON-THE-FENCE MENU:

  • Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
  • Spritz Cookies
  • Any Other Cookie Recipe I See As I Skim Pinterest or Facebook

So there you have it.  It took me two hours and two different grocery stores to amass all of the ingredients I’ll need but at least I have a solid plan for tomorrow, snow or no snow.  As I continue on my holiday baking journey I will post pictures of the cookies along with the recipes and any lessons I’ve learned along the way while making them. Up to this point, the biggest lessons I’ve learned deal with how to adjust these cookie recipes for high altitude. I won’t share those tips unless you ask for them. With over 30 years of making some of these cookies I’d say I have many of them down pat. Some I personally like more than others and I’ll share those opinions along the way. One thing never changes, though, and that is the joy of this time of year and the fun that I have making holiday cookies.

Raspberry Walnut Bars

Raspberry Walnut Bars

Fall – When Ovens End Their Hibernation…

What is it about Fall weather that makes you want to fire up the oven? The manner in which you cook totally changes from Summer’s outdoor grill mode to Fall’s indoor nesting and baking mode. And for me that usually means heavy duty oven time. Think about it. You move away from grilling chicken and steak to making pot roast and casseroles. And I think that is what I most appreciate about Fall – bringing all those marvelous smells back into the house. And if a Fall day also happens to be a rainy day, well then it is an absolute must to fire up the oven!

And so it was yesterday, that killer combination of Fall and rain and I knew I just had to make something. There were only two givens – one, it had to smell wonderful when it was cooking and two, it had to be a recipe I had not tried before. That doesn’t narrow the playing field very much but I happen to love endless possibilities. But how to proceed… hmm…

Then it struck me. My husband and I recently returned from a trip from Santa Fe, New Mexico. While we were there we stayed at a bed and breakfast and each morning my husband would have an English Muffin and a piece of coffee cake. My husband is not a sweets eater but he often talked about how much he enjoyed the coffee cake. The coffee cake had a cream cheese filling and so as I thought about what I would bake I began to think in that vein.

The finished product

The finished product

So off I went to one of my favorite sites on the web, Pinterest, in search of a cream cheese coffee cake recipe. Lo and behold I found one on a website called Bake or Break and like that my decision was made. There was no turning back, I succumbed to the trappings of Fall weather and rain by making a cinnamon cream cheese coffee cake.

As you can see the finished product was great and it tasted divine. I encourage you to try it. Here are some things I learned when making it:  1.) Be aware that it does take some time to prepare because basically you are making three separate things from scratch, the crumb topping, the cream cheese swirl and the cake. 2.) The cake mixture is much thicker than you might think – I poured it into the prepared pan and literally had to spread it out by hand in order for it to fit the entire pan. I thought this might make the cake tough, but it was not. 3.) Be very mindful of the cooking time – it helps to know your oven on this and really on almost everything else you bake. The recipe says to cook it at 350 for 40-45 minutes. Mine was done at 40 and could maybe have been in for even a few minutes less.

But anyway it turned out great – so much so that even though it takes a little more time to prepare it is definitely worth making in my opinion. My husband loved it, my co-workers are getting a treat today, and a newly formed cooking group that I just joined (something for a future blog) will be getting samples of it tomorrow night. So enjoy the coffee cake, it is definitely worth the work. Happy Fall baking!

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake Recipe

I’m Definitely In A Pickle…

About this time of year I begin to panic about using all of the bounty that comes out of my garden. It pains me to think that after taking all the time and effort to grow something that I will not use it just because I have much more than can be consumed within a short timeframe. So, what to do, what to do…

Before today I’ve never ventured into the world of pickling because I always thought it would be too difficult or too time consuming. Wrong… I searched and searched for something that would be easy, allow me to use some of the massive amounts of cucumbers coming out of my garden, did not involve boiling jars on the stove and could render something delicious and fast – and finally I found it and with a few tweaks made the recipe my own. So here’s an easy recipe for refrigerated dill pickled cucumbers that after five days gives you something delightful, crisp and definitely “dilly”.

Pickles Cucumbers with Garlic, Peppers and Onion.

Pickled Cucumbers with Garlic, Peppers and Onion.

Pickled Cucumbers With Garlic, Peppers and Onion

  • Servings: 2 quart jars
  • Difficulty: Easy
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INGREDIENTS:

2 medium sized cucumbers per quart sized jar

Sweet Pepper (any color)

Red Onion

2 cloves of garlic per jar

1 teaspoon dill weed

1-2 sprigs of fresh dill

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon mustard seed

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup water

DIRECTIONS:

1. With a fork, score the outside of the cucumbers from the tip to the base. Cut them into 1/8-1/4 inch rounds. Slice the red onion and pepper into strips. Remove the skin from the garlic.

2. On the bottom a sealable mason jar place the garlic cloves, dill weed and fresh dill.

3. Layer the cucumbers, onion and peppers into the jar making sure to pack it tightly.

4. In a bowl mix together the apple cider vinegar, water, salt and mustard seed.

5. Pour mixture into jar making sure that everything in the jar is covered.

6. Seal the jar and let stand in the refrigerator for 5 days. Once the jar is opened, make sure to use it within one week.

Fresh, Crisp Pickled Cucumbers

Fresh, Crisp Pickled Cucumbers