Friday, December 31, 2010

A Rice like no other.

Rice. It seems so bland - just an after thought, hidden in a casserole as a filler or something you have to place your stir fry on. I get it for free or just cents on the dollar with my careful couponing tactics and normally give it to a food bank. It wasn't until 2 weeks ago that I had a rice dish that rocked my narrow minded rice world. I gazed upon a dish that just looked like a bland bowl of boring rice and I took a scoop out of obligation. It wasn't until I sat down and began working my way around my plate that my palate was forever altered in favor of this amazing new discovery.

My friend Jessica makes the best rice in the history of mankind. Period.

Now THAT is an accomplishment. I literally didn't want dessert - I went back for seconds on this rice and begged, literally pleaded for the recipe. She gladly handed it over and I made it for the fam much to their delight. I have to share it with you - have to. You need your rice life altered.

Sutton Rice
1 c. boring long grain rice (I used Mahatma because it was free and lounging in my pantry)
1 can of Beef Consomme (pronounced Con-SUM-May - fun!)
1 can of Beef Broth
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 onion, chopped

Saute the onion in the butter and pour it in an oven safe dish. Pour the rice and two cans of beefy business over the top and cover it. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes COVERED and then 30 minutes UNCOVERED. Watch it around the 50 minute mark as your oven may be hotter than others - you want the liquids to be absorbed but the rice to not be dried out.

Now, feast your tastebuds on this amazingness. I served it with a marinated steak and it was restaurant good. (How fun are my Sur la Table Christmas Plates?!)


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas...and there goes the size 4

Happy almost New Year friends! I hope you've had a a wonderful Christmas. I've spent the last few days crawling out of wrapping paper and shirt boxes, stepping over talking dinosaurs, remote controlled cars and praying that the batteries in the singing dogs and fire truck would fizzle quickly. I'm still on vacation and loving the time spent going to bed late after a Christmas movie, waking up late and making a big breakfast, and enjoying lots of fun family time. (Not to mention sneaking cookies and candy at ALL times of the day).

Christmas Eve was hosted at my humble abode with my family and I made a lasagna that truly is the best in the world. It's my great grandmother's recipe and she was an immigrant from Italy in the early 1900s. You don't get more authentic than that. Each bite made me feel as if I were walking down the streets of Venice. I can't tell you the recipe - family secret. Shh! I also attempted two desserts that were both amazing - a White Russian Pie and the Apple Danish with the flakiest of all crusts. Why eat one piece when you can have a sampler of two?

Christmas morning is a long standing tradition of Moravian Sugar Cake, heated until the brown sugar is just starting to melt and served with a side of eggs and bacon. Delish! As soon as those dishes clear, I wade through gift wrap into the kitchen to begin the meal I'm taking to my in-laws. I'm making the turkey this year! This is a life altering event for my mother in law who has made it for the last 30+ years. Popping that bird into the oven and whipping up the Cranberry Sausage Apple Stuffing, Corn Souffle and a Pumpkin Pie leaves me just enough time to blink before it's over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go!

I am pleased to report an exceptional meal and a WHITE CHRISTMAS! It's a first for the Carolina's in over 50 years. Of course sledding was sure to ensue.

Now that I'm catching my breath, I look forward to New Year's. A self proclaimed pajama and appetizer day! My husband and I make a list of all our favorite appetizers and we make them and watch movies. There are two that will for sure be on the list - Hot Blue Cheese and Pecan Dip & Artichoke Parmesan Dip. I made both as appetizers for Christmas Eve and could barely take a picture in enough time as it was disappearing so fast.

Here are the recipes for you to enjoy as well. The pictures are remnants of what was perfection until savage wolves came in and devoured the dips. I was able to keep them at bay long enough for a photo before the plates were licked clean.

Hot Artichoke Parmesan Dip
2 jars of marinated artichoke hearts, drained
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 pinches of salt
1-2 dashes of Cayenne Pepper
1 clove of garlic, mashed
1/2 - 3/4 c. mayonnaise

Coarsely chop the artichokes and mix all of the remaining ingredients together with them. Spread in a small baking dish and sprinkle additional Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake at 350 degrees fro 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Serve with crackers, toasted baguette bread or bagel chips. Enjoy!

Hot Blue Cheese and Pecan Dip
2 8oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
8 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 T. butter
1 c. soft bread crumbs
1/4 c. fresh parsley
1 T. butter

Toast pecans in 2 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Keep stirring them so they don't burn. Remove them from the heat and allow to cool as you mix the cream cheese and blue cheese together with a mixer. Stir in pecans and butter and spoon this mixture into a greased baking dish (a pie plate did the trick for me).

Combine the breadcrumbs, parsley and 1 tablespoon of butter and sprinkle it over the cheese dip. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and serve with apple slices (trust me) and crackers. OH MY WORD this is so good. If you love blue cheese, this is your dip of all dips.

I am now off to enjoy a date with my hot husband. The kids just left with Grammy and we're going to paint the town with a dinner and movie. Yahooo!

Have a safe and Happy New Year and I look forward to chatting again real soon!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Well, you can all stop holding your breath - I didn't place in this weekend's Cookie and Cupcake Competition, but boy did I have a great time.

The non-cake eater that I am wrestled with even submitting a cupcake recipe, but I did it anyway. After all, I've got just as good of a chance as anyone, right? I concocted a "Hint of Lime" cupcake that was a variation on 7 up cake, with a lime cheesecake icing adorned with fresh dried lime zest. It was pretty tasty, if I do say so myself. The cookie lover I am made an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie with Dried Cranberries - a HUGE hit!

Now, let the following scene play out so you can feel like you were at the contest with me: The contest starts at two o'clock Sunday and I decide at 12:30pm as I'm clearing away lunch dishes, that I don't like my cupcake recipe that I made the night before. So I start from scratch and bake something completely different. Have I lost my mind? Yes. The icing was already done, so I figured I could just ice the cupcakes when I got to the competition to allow them enough time to cool during the car ride there.

With literally 9 minutes before I have to walk out the door, I pop my cookies in the oven so they are nice and fresh and the chocolate chips are melted bliss for the judges. In the midst of this, I freak out and tell my husband that I am completely overwhelmed and need his help. He helps pack the car with the laundry list of items I've pulled together for my display, as well as goes to work printing out labels for my entries so people know what in the world they are looking at and tasting. I've since re-named him Saint Rob.

With no time left to spare, I speed to the competition and am precariously balancing everything in my snap 'n go stroller - who said they were just for hauling children? Here is where I basically lose the contest. I didn't realize it was first come, first serve on the tables, so I grab an empty one near the back of the room.

MISTAKE! Even with two sets of judges, after eating 25+ cookies, by the time they get to me, one of the remaining 3 contestants, they are so full of cookies they can't even see straight and have all gone into diabetic comas. Clearly next year I need to get my snap 'n go into the room a little quicker to secure a better spot - all winners came from the front part of the room when the tastebuds were fresh and hadn't succumbed to diabetic shock.

I knew I had a winning cookie, and this is how: I'm enjoying a casual conversation with my mother in law and one of my girlfriends who had also entered the contest this year, when LO AND BEHOLD, a Cookie Monster of a woman sidles up to my table - my perfectly displayed table that had been untouched by human hands and was waiting in expectation for the judges. This woman loses her presence of mind and begins taking my cookies!

I cried out in utter shock and disbelief "MA'AM!!! PUT THAT BACK! I haven't been judged yet!" She turned and gave me a confused look and without missing a beat replied, "But they were so delicious looking, I wanted one. I kept walking by and I just wanted one." I told her that she first needed to ask permission before just helping herself, and secondly, she needed to put the cookie back, as I was still waiting for the judges. She merely stood there dumbfounded, so I took the cookie off her napkin and promptly entered it back into my display. Call me a miser, but there were only a few cookies on display (they require 6 to compete) and presentation is a huge determining factor!

Wouldn't you know, of the cookies on display in my lovely silver dish, they choose the man-handled one from the crazy woman. Of course! Why would they choose anything but? I had the most perfect looking cookies displayed by hand placing the chocolate chips and dried cranberries in each blob of dough so they baked to perfection and they looked worthy of a cover shot in Southern Living. I got rave reviews of how gooey the chocolate chips were (Ya think? I only made them 5 seconds ago) and the Pastry Chef said 7 up cake was her favorite in the world. Clearly it was an overdose of sugar that made them choose others - but that's ok. I was in it to have fun and it's only fair that others have a chance in the limelight.

Once the competition was over and well deserving winners announced, I was pounced on by other contestants to eat my cookies. The oohs and ahhs made me feel like a winner, despite returning home with nothing more than a good Cookie Monster Story. I had a great time and loved seeing the innovation and creativity others poured into their work. It's an inspiration to enter again next year!

Thanks for cheering me on!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Airing on the side of a cookie - TV style!

I could hardly fall asleep last night. With the combination of a successful Christmas party, eating my weight in the most divine chocolate truffles EVER and the anticipation of being interviewed and filmed for the Ballantyne Cookie competition this morning, it was a little more than I could handle.

Being the extremely health conscious mother I am, I gave my children cookies for breakfast before sending them off with my mother-in-law. This way we could tape without interruption of flying beach balls, silly bands and monster trucks (all common occurrences otherwise).

I'm putting their coats on and sending them out the door as a WBTV car pulls up to my house. My stomach jumps into my throat and I begin asking myself important questions like "Is my blush too excessive? What if my underwear shows when I bend over to put the cookies in the oven? Will anyone notice the fingerprints on my oven door from my 18 month old's cookie fingers? Will anyone notice the chocolate truffle batter from last night stuck to my Kitchen Aid when they do a close up of the cookie batter? What if I throw up?"

I think they're all valid concerns but everything fell into place as WBTV Reporter and Anchorwoman Kristen Miranda graciously took me through the shoot. I was amazed that 30 minutes of shooting would be whittled down to 50 seconds of air time. We all got a laugh at the cameraman's inability to plug in the special lighting due to my child proof socket protectors. When in doubt - use a butter knife! (Kids, do not try this at home!)

I was interviewed in the comfort of my kitchen, surrounded by cookie ingredients and a great crew. The cookies turned out PERFECT. (Praise the Lord). I didn't have any mishaps as I originally feared and the spot airs tonight at 5:30 eastern on WBTV.

Now, since I've shared the recipe for these famous Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies two days ago, I'll let you in on the magical truffles that make you fear skinny jeans. I made two kinds for the dessert last night to finish off the Italian Feast - Chocolate Cheesecake and Oreo Cheesecake Truffles.

Chocolate Cheesecake Truffles
8 oz. cream cheese - softened
8 squares of semi-sweet baking squares
2 cups of semi sweet chocolate chips
1-2 tablespoons of shortening

Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until creamy. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate baking squares until smooth and add to the cream cheese - incorporating until it's a smooth, chocolaty consistency. Try to avoid spooning down all the batter right then - tempting, but you'll want to save it for the finished product. Chill until firm, several hours.

Melt the chocolate chips and shortening in the double boiler and have two forks ready and waiting. Using a melon baller, form truffle balls and throw them into the melted chocolate. Use the forks to dip each truffle and coat it well, tapping off the excess chocolate. Move truffle to a parchment lined plate and repeat until all truffle batter has disappeared. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Now for the Oreo Version!
1 package Oreo Cookies - crushed to oblivion
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1-2 teaspoons of shortening

Combine your crushed Oreos and cream cheese until it's a paste-y mess. Refrigerate until firm and melt your chocolate chips and shortening like you did in the above recipe. Same song and dance - form melon ball sized truffles and toss them in the melted chocolate. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Presenting these luscious bites of Heaven on a few platters after eating a sumptuous feast will have your guests absolutely forgetting their names. It's quite possibly the best little party dessert you've ever popped in your mouth. Here's a picture - a REAL picture of what a real amateur person made - they don't always turn out smooth like the ones at the Godiva counter or in the fancy magazines but they taste just as good if not BETTER. I promise - and I know these things as my sweet tooth is the size of Texas.

Have a delicious day!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I love cookies. Oh, and being on TV (?!)

I seriously might hyperventilate and pass out right this second. Remember that nifty cookie contest I wrote about yesterday? Well, it turns out it's getting some great media coverage this year, since the proceeds from the contest benefit the Levine Children's Hospital. This is the 3rd year the contest will run and it gets bigger and better each year.

I won second place last year (which completely floored me) and so I thought I'd attempt it again this year since I love cookies so much. And truffles. And chocolate. And cheesecake...oh wait, we're talking about cookies. Focus! What I would give for a milkshake right about now.

Local news station WBTV is covering the event and asked the hosting hotel, Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge, if there were any returning contestants who won last year that might be up for a television interview. HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOO! In walks The Musing Foodie. I've been booked for a 30 minute taping tomorrow morning at my home and from there it will mostly get sliced, diced and consolidated into a fun little clip that will hopefully air sometime this weekend. We'll promote the contest that runs this Sunday and I might put in a little itty bitty plug for my blog. We'll see. I might be passed out on the floor, remember?

Now in the midst of this, I'm throwing a Christmas Party tonight. If any of you have seen my cooking in action, you know the kitchen is an utter disaster when I'm done. (Which equals a late night of clean up to have a beautiful kitchen for a camera crew in the morning). I've gone for an Italian Theme this year and here is the menu to tantalize those tastebuds:

CC's Italian Soiree

Appetizers - Brie en Croute and Deep Fried Lasagna Bites
Main Course - Hot Italian Sandwiches with Marinara Dipping Sauce and a Tortellini Salad
Dessert - Oreo and Chocolate Cheesecake Truffles (and a gooey chocolate cake if I'm able to get my super woman cape to work correctly)

So there you have it - a party and a tv spot. WOW! Please pray I don't pass out.

I'm off to go make some truffles, vacuum the house and conjur up a milkshake...and maybe a Twix Bar.

Can't WAIT to tell you how the taping goes - pray for me y'all!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I love cookies.

Last night's dinner was going to be something miraculous with chicken. Seeing how the chicken was still frozen at 5:30 and I still needed to buy a book for the Preschool Christmas Party Book Exchange today, return $33 of nuts I didn't need (long story), and pull together all the teacher's Christmas gifts because there might be snow tomorrow, dinner miraculously turned into a swing through the drive through of Taco Bell. C'mon Mexican Pizza with a Hard Taco Supreme!

I currently have "Perfectly Pulled Pork" cooking for dinner and the jury is still out on how that will taste. A 6 pound Boston Butt was massaged with a homemade dry rub and it's basking in the warmth of my slow cooker. It's a new recipe as my last one was nothing short of a disaster. We might be gracing Taco Bell again tonight! Keep your fingers crossed.

I have some fun things I'm pulling off the back burner that I'm quite excited about. There is a Christmas Party I'm hosting with a snazzy Italian Theme, so stay tuned on those menu items - as well as the Ballantyne Hotel Cookie and Cupcake Challenge. I placed second on my Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe last year and I can't wait to return and compete again! I'm going to let you in on a little secret or two...for my Christmas shindig, I've asked guests to bring non-perishable food items to be donated to my church's foodbank. It takes the pressure off them to cook a dish and it ends up feeding people who really need it! My other secret? My cookie recipe! This might be my favorite ever - I get rave reviews from friends and family and a 2nd place win is a nice little perk too. Here's a shot of last year's competition - it felt very Food Network-ish!

Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c butter, softened
1 c chunky peanut butter
1 package semi sweet chocolate chips
1 c sugar
1 c firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2.5 cups all purpose flour
2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract

Beat butter and peanut butter at medium speed with mixer until creamy. Gradually add in sugars, beating well. Add eggs, beat well. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl and add to butter mixture, beating well. Stir in vanilla and chocolate chips by hand.

Cover and chill for 2 hours. Shape into 1 -2 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-9 minutes. This will make about 6 dozen.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fajita fizzle - Potato Panache

I'm thoroughly disappointed with a steak fajita attempt I served for dinner last night. Such lofty expectations fell flatter than a pancake. I'm still trying to figure out if it was the meat, the marinade or a combination of both. There were nifty packages of pre sliced beef marked boldly that they were perfect for fajitas - so I bought two and threw them in the freezer. The fajita mood hit yesterday and I marinated them in a new recipe, only to eat them in utter disgust. Tough and not the best flavor.

The avocados I used in the guacamole weren't fully ripened yet and literally turned into chameleons and donned an ugly shade of gray about 5 minutes after I made the dip...making the family question what in the world it even was. Not a good scene and I pouted on the couch after dinner, thoroughly irritated that it wasn't a better meal. You win some, you lose some and my husband reminded me that every meal can't be the best. But I want it to be, so I'm hoping something miraculous will take place with the chicken I'm still figuring out for dinner. Stay tuned.

Now, I DID have a winner over the weekend for a Christmas party I attended. We have a potluck style get together with long time friends every December and I signed up for a side dish - a tried and true side dish as the new recipe for macaroni and cheese I tried last year was a disgrace and left people picking at it and smiling politely as they tried in vain to make it disappear from their Chinet. Note to self: Don't try a new recipe on people before you've tasted it yourself. It saves you the heartache and embarrassment of horrible flops.

Not this year! I fixed Mrs. Goodan's Potato Casserole from my 11th grade Home Economics class. Clearly, I'm a dork to have held onto the recipe since high school, but I liked it that much. I've tried no less than 15 different versions of potato casserole and this is the one I always go back to.

11th Grade Potato Casserole
5-6 medium potatoes
1/2 c. butter
1 can cream of chicken soup
1.5 c. grated cheddar cheese
16 oz. sour cream
1 T. minced onion
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

Boil potatoes in the skin. Cool, peel and chop them into smaller than 1 inch cubes. In a saucepan, heat 1/2 cup of butter, soup and cheese. Stir until melted. Remove from the heat and add sour cream. In a large bowl, mix potatoes, onion, salt and pepper. Pour the cheese mixture over the potatoes and fold in until it's well blended. You can top this with cornflake crumbs and a little melted butter at this point if you wish, but if you were out of cornflakes like I was, omitting is still just as delicious. I topped it with a little extra cheddar for fun.

Bake at 350 degrees for an hour and then devour. It's rich and delicious.

Have a delicious day!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sympathy Baskets

I think I should carry a box of Kleenex with me everywhere I go these days. Sentimental moments seem to hit more than usual for me this Christmas season. I'm a strong advocate for giving back and making a difference. My wonderful church has a project they roll out each year at this time to remember those families who have lost loved ones within that calendar year. It's a special way of letting people know that we understand that the holidays will be a little difficult with one less card to send, one less gift to buy and one less place to set at the table.

They create and package something called Sympathy Baskets and have volunteers deliver them all over the community. The basket is a classy package filled with savory and sweet baked goods; snack mix, brownies, Russian tea mix, cheddar biscuits and cookies. Beautifully wrapped in cellophane with a big bow and an ornament attached, it's a loving reminder that people are cared for, thought of, prayed for and loved. This year marks the fourth basket we've received and fourth ornament we will be placing on our tree as a reminder of loved ones who have gone on to be with the Lord. Every ornament evokes fond memories and sentiments that are gentle reminders of God's goodness.

This year I volunteered to help deliver some of the baskets and I had no idea what to expect as I went house to house. There was such pleasant surprise on behalf of the recipients. I shared tears and a hug with a woman who lost her sister and was having a hard time coping with the loss. With tears spilling down her cheeks she was blessed beyond measure to receive this small token of kindness. I had to pull out the Kleenex box again as I pulled up to another house and discovered it had burned to the ground. Not only was this family coping with the loss of a loved one, but their home as well. Each basket represents a story, a life, a memory.

I have one more basket to deliver and I have to tell you how much this project has warmed my heart. I see the blessing that baked goods can bring and am humbled to be part of such an amazing effort to help grieving families. I share all this to encourage you to look for those subtle opportunities to reach out to those who are hurting this Christmas season. They are all around us and something as simple as a batch of cookies can make all the difference.

Talk to you soon,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Heavenly Hash or Tomato Basil Bisque?

I'm sitting here cuddled up next to a half gallon of Heavenly Hash. Clearly it's 28 degrees outside and I've lost my mind. For some reason I thought it would have a ribbon of marshmallow flowing through it and they scammed me with vanilla instead, but who am I to descriminate against this's not the ice cream's fault they forgot the marshmallow, right?

I'm in the midst writing the narration for my church's Christmas program coming up this weekend - a tall order that has me sitting here feeling very small and inadequate. Words can bring life, hope and encouragement and I want to get it right. Pray for me, okay?

Boy did I hear about it yesterday by not posting the Tomato Basil Bisque recipe. Shewwwweee! I have included it today for all of you just waiting to pelt my home with inflatable snowmen and candy canes. This recipe will take away the winter chill in no time.

CC's Tomato Basil Bisque
2 cups chicken broth (Or throw 2 chicken buillon cubes in 2 c. of water if you're in a bind)
1 32oz. can of diced tomatoes
1/4 cup dry white wine
4 oz. cream cheese (you read it right!)
4-5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 T. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 a small can of tomato paste
Salt and Pepper and a dash or two of Italian Seasonings to taste
1 teaspoon or two of sugar if you feel it needs it (taste it first though!)

Bring your chicken broth, wine and garlic to a boil. Add in the entire can of diced tomatoes, chopped up basil leaves, olive oil and tomato paste. Season with salt, pepper and italian seasonings. Whisk in the cream cheese last (immersion blenders of which I do not have come in very handy for should see me with my poor little battery operated frothing whisk!). Garnish each bowl of soup with some fresh basil and serve with a grilled cheese. Delightful and Delicious!

Note: this is a chunky soup since it has diced tomatoes in it. Feel free to put the tomatoes in your blender if you want a smoother soup...I personally like the heartiness of a diced tomato. (Thank you for the photo!)

Stay warm out there and have a delicious day!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chilly Me and some Cheez-It Chicken

The weatherman said it was going to be 16 degrees last night. That's a might chilly for the South. I had my kids bundled up so well you could just make out their blue eyes as I shoved and packed them into car seats for school. (Easier said than done with puffy coats on). In light of the bitterly cold weather, I'm enjoying a grilled cheese sandwich with mozzarella, cheddar and provologne cheeses and a nice cup of tomato basil bisque that I whipped up. I have a husband home sick, so grilled cheese and soup were the get-well-soon foods of choice.

I blinked and yesterday was gone, so here I am today getting caught up and I wanted to share an OH-so-good chicken casserole that is a favorite in our house. Cheez-It Chicken. My boys love it because it incorporates their favorite cracker - Cheez-Its! I've tried the store brand knock offs and none can compare to the perfection of a Cheez-It. We go through many a box in our house.

Here's the recipe - I pair it with a side of green beans and we gobble it right up.

40 Cheez-It Crackers, crushed (approx. 2 cups for those of you who don't want to count to 40)
2 T. Poppy Seeds
1 Stick of Butter
3 Chicken Breasts, cooked and shredded
1 Can of Cream of Celery Soup (I've never in my life used Cream of Celery before this recipe)
8 oz. Sour Cream
Salt and Pepper

Crush the crackers and toss in the poppy seeds. Melt one stick of butter and pour it over the cracker mixture, stirring to ensure every bit is covered in fattening delicious butter. Set aside.

Combine shredded chicken with soup and sour cream, plus salt and pepper to taste. Place half of the Cheez-It mixture in the bottom of a greased casserole dish. Carefully spread all of the chicken mixture on top of this. Sprinkle the remaining cracker mixture over the chicken and bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dipitty Do!

Good morning fellow foodies! I promised some appetizers this week and these will surely make you do a happy dance. I love dip. Chips and Dip, Spinach Dip, Mexican Dip, Artichoke Dip, Sausage Dip...shoot, give me a bag of chips and a container of sour cream and I'm happy. Dip is a fun finger food and feels oh-so-party-ish that I pull out various recipes throughout the holidays and go crazy.

I have two newbies to add to my collection and just have to share them. The first comes from water cooler conversation at my husband's office. A lady told him this was indeed fabulous and I have to indeed agree. I was scrambling for everything but the kitchen sink to dip into this recipe - my favorites ended up being Triscuits, toasted Baquette Bread and Grapes (sounds odd but it pairs beutifully with the blue cheese).

Blue Cheese Spread
8 slices of bacon
4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
2 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese
1/3 c. half and half
2 t. minced garlic (put through your garlic press)
2 t. minced onion
Walnuts or Pecans for garnish

Cook 8 slices of bacon in a skillet and break into small pieces. Drain and cook the garlic and onion for 1-2 minutes. In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth and mix in 1/3 cup half and half. Stir in bacon, garlic, onion, and blue cheese.
Put in 2-3 large ramekins and bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.
Sprinkle toasted walnuts or pecans on top and serve with sliced french bread, crackers and grapes.

The next recipe comes from yet another work soiree...gotta love lunchtime potlucks. My mom's boss brought this one in and the crowd went wild! We had it over Thanksgiving as one of the mandatory appetizers and it will alas, become a staple. It's got a touch of heat to it, so fasten your seatbelt and grab a box of crackers!

Cream Cheese Jalapeno Dip
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
2 ounces canned diced jalapeno peppers, drained
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Combine cream cheese and mayonnaise in a large bowl, mixing until smooth. Stir in green chiles and jalapeno peppers. Pour/spread mixture into a pie plate sized serving dish. Combine Parmesan and Panko and sprinkle over the top. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until hot and delish! How easy is this?!

My non-mayonnaise eating husband couldn't even tell it was in the mix...and I'm not spilling the beans! Live life on the edge and fix this on a weeknight. Parties aren't only for the weekend.

Have a delicious day! (and thanks for the photo)