Friday, April 29, 2011

Butterfinger Cheesecake Bites

Don't you lay a finger on my Butterfinger...cakes...

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. melted butter
1/8 tsp salt

8 oz softened cream cheese
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp. heavy cream
1/8 tsp salt

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp heavy cream
8 fun size Butterfinger candy bars, crushed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cookie crumbs, sugar, butter and salt into a bowl; mix to combine. Spoon mixture into bottoms of mini cheesecake or muffin pan and press down to firm the crust. Bake for 5 minutes and remove from oven.

Reduce heat to 300 degrees. Beat cream cheese and peanut butter until smooth. Add sugar, egg, cream and salt until well combined. Evenly spoon batter into crusts (about 3/4 full). Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheesecake is set.  Let cool for at least an hour.

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second intervals until smooth. Stir in cream. If needed, return back to the microwave for 15 seconds or so until smooth. Spoon the chocolate mixture over the cakes, then sprinkle crushed butterfinger over the top.  Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.

I like to use the mini cupcake tins that have the outer foil, so that you don't have to use a special pan (or wash extra dishes!).  Those are available in the baking section at the grocery store for like $1 and well worth the time savings.

Try to make the crust on the bottom of these thin - thick enough to hold together, but thin enough that you have a nice proportion of cheesecake to chocolate and crust.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chorizo and Black Bean Phyllo Cups

Yummy and easy to make! These bite size phyllo cups (or you can use the shells, which are much larger, to make this a more substantial recipe) can be found in the frozen aisle at the grocery store, near the phyllo dough.


2 packages phyllo cups (12 per package)
1 package chorizo, cooked and drained
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup cheddar cheese
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook and drain chorizo. Heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and add all of the vegetables except the black beans. Cook the vegetables until soft and translucent. Season with salt and pepper to taste. In a large bowl, combine chorizo, rinsed black beans, and cooked vegetables. Stir until combined and then fill phyllo cups with the mixture. 

Sprinkle with a decent amount of cheese, and place cups on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until cheese has melted and cups are hot. Serve immediately. 

Tips - Make sure to drain the chorizo really well as it is very greasy - I usually put it on a pile of paper towels, layer more paper towels on top of it, and press down to really squeeze out the majority of the grease.

Gorgonzola Bacon Truffles

  • These are tasty, and easy to make!


  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (4-oz.) container crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup cooked and crumbled bacon

  • Beat first 5 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until well combined. Cover tightly, and chill at least 1 hour or until firm (can chill up to 3 days).
  • While the cheese is chilling, fry the bacon in a pan until very crispy.  Drain grease and place on paper towels to dry.  Once the bacon has firmed, crumble into a bowl, removing any overly fatty or still soft pieces.
  • Roll cheese mixture into 3/4-inch-round balls. Roll each ball in bacon. Serve immediately, or cover and chill until ready to serve. If chilled, let stand 30 minutes before serving. Serve with crackers and/or fruit slices.

Tips -  These can be rolled pretty quickly, I only waited 15 minutes rather than the whole hour the first time I made these.  However, they won't form into such perfect balls if not chilled long enough, so it just depends on how pretty you want them to be!  Also, I made this recipe once with blue cheese, as gorgonzola can be a little intense, and I preferred the blue cheese version personally, though other people didn't seem to notice the difference.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mad Hatter Tea Party

I hosted an afternoon tea party last weekend in the spirit of Alice in Wonderland.  This was a lot of fun to prepare for.  I actually started decorating about a week in advance (what can I say, I'm crazy!)

I dressed as Alice, with a blonde wig, blue dress, patent leather Mary Jane's and a key and locket necklace.  And Kyle dressed as the Mad Hatter!

I re-read the book in advance to remind myself of some of the finer details, and found it just as engrossing as I did as a child.  I think when I was younger, I was enchanted by the sheer magic of it, but as an adult, more able to appreciate the genius of the wordplay and imagery.  All in all, a fantastic book and great inspiration for a party!

We decorated the front door like a mirror (with aluminum foil, easy!) and made signs that said "Enter through the looking glass," and "This way to wonderland!"
I made dozens of tissue paper flowers, to give the entire place the appearance of a psychedelic garden. I had never made these before, but was told by a number of people that I should have learned to do this in elementary school...
We made a bunch of nonsensical signs pointing in all different directions, including one where Kyle wrote, in really tiny script, "thanks for reading".  Unfortunately, I don't think anyone noticed there was lettering on the sign - as you can see above, it just looked like a blank piece of cardboard when hung.  A sign in the bathroom read, "To flush, shout I'm done three times!".  So that created a bit of additional entertainment during the party.
I hung a Cheshire Cat doll from the chandelier with fishing wire.  And there is the Mad Hatter beneath it, enjoying a cup of tea!
I put the extensions in my dining room table to make it as ostentatiously long as possible, and bought dozens of different shapes, sizes and colors of tea cups and saucers from a thrift store. 

They were dirt cheap and I also managed to snag several silly tea pots that cost just a few dollars each.  Of course, I had to stuff a dormouse in one!
I laid out a couple of chess boards, scattered playing cards around the house, and turned on the movies in the background (one in each room - the Disney version and the Tim Burton version). 

The scene setter on the wall was actually a jungle setting, but it had a melty, psychedelic look to it that I thought resembled Wonderland.
I bought the majority of the other decorations (large playing cards, flamingos, cheap paper doilies, flowers and butterflies, etc) from the same site.  The giant mushroom and clock standees were from a website I just discovered, which has awesome, larger than life party accessories: Shindigz Wonderland Supplies.  Right up my alley!
I have posted the full menu in the menus section of this blog.  For beverages, I made several types of tea, spiked lemonade, and Long Island Iced tea.  Here's a link to the menu:  Tea Party Menu

One thing that I learned about having a tea party, with my friends at least, is that no one has any interest, whatsoever, in actually drinking tea.  They did drink their beer, wine and spiked lemonade out of the tea cups though, so the place settings did not go to waste!
Throughout the day I served tea sandwiches (crustless, naturally!), stuffed mushrooms, cheese balls, scones, several salads, a prime rib, and tiny toasts filled with peanut butter.  
I placed "eat me" and "drink me" signs all over the place, and created a glorious dessert bar with cupcakes, flower candy pretzels, and petit fours (which took FOREVER to decorate!). 

The candy molds were easy, you can buy those in the baking section of any craft store and they really didn't take very long at all to make.
I printed out my menu with funny names like, "The King's Carnivorous Dreamwich" and "Cunning Croquet Balls" and laid out copies of it so the guests knew what was being served next.

I also made tiny, edible tea cups (see below).  These were really easy to make... and even though mine didn't turn out nearly as pretty as the ones pictured in the recipe, I still thought they were cute.  People pretended to think so too!  Here is the "recipe" -  Edible Tea Cup Instructions.
I knew my friend Kara was bringing her two adorable sons, so I set up a "garden" for them in the living room, with coloring books, crayons, candy, playing cards, and other things to entertain them.
When the guests started arriving, I gave out hats for them to wear.  I got some plain black top hats (a dollar each!) and some other silly hats from the party store.  I also found some mini-top hats online for the ladies that were quite fun.

Of course, I had prepared in advance and was ready to outfit little Jake as my dormouse.  He was happy to oblige:
The March Hare mingled with the guests.  And then the Red Queen and White Rabbit showed up as a couple, which was awkward for everyone.
Amber is holding a tiny teacup that I got online - it's probably intended for a dollhouse, but was perfect for an inexplicable tiny place setting at my tea table!

I also made a playlist for the party, but no one seemed to notice.  As a good hostess, I guess I can't complain if people were talking too much to really hear the music. 

Some related songs are Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit", Florence and the Machine's "Rabbit Heart", Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More" (which, you may recall, features Alice in the video), and of course, The Beatles "I Am The Walrus". 
Before the party started, I printed out a bunch of old fashioned riddles, cut them into strips, wrote a question mark on the back, and then placed them all over the table upside down.

When people arrived, I let them know that if they solved a riddle, they would win a prize. Those riddles are harder than they seem, so this took a while, and created a fun, competitive atmosphere.

A few examples are:

Though not a plant,
Has leaves.
Though not a beast,
Has spine.
Though many wouldn't need this thing
'Tis more valuable than wine.

The answer is - a book.

Here is another:

I can sizzle like bacon,
I am made with an egg,
I have plenty of backbone, but lack a good leg,
I peel layers like onions, but still remain whole,
I can be long, like a flagpole, yet fit in a hole

The answer is - a snake.

I had created prize bags in advance filled with themed treasures, such as packs of mini-playing cards, candy watches and rings, heart shaped lollipops, gummy rabbit teeth (yes, such a thing exists!), and assorted candy.

There is a section on this blog about prize/goodie bags if you need more ideas.  Each time someone solved a riddle, we all clapped and I awarded them a prize bag. Hooray!
Kyle was in character for most of the party, shouting out riddles and reciting things he remembered from the book.  He forced everyone into a disorganized game of musical chairs by continually shouting out "New cup!" and demanding to move over a space, just like in the story.  I'm not sure if everyone found this funny, or merely annoying, but either way it was quite apropos.

The Mad Hatter also made up a game of his own, starting off wearing one tie and by the end of the night, he was wearing four, as he had stuffed them all into his hat and brought them out, one by one, throughout the night.  Eventually one ended up tied to his hat.
I must say, the party was a great success.  The children had a blast and the adults ate themselves into a food coma.  

I would do it again, particularly now that I have all the decorations, tea cups and madness securely packed away!  Not to mention the blonde wig, which I had gotten secretly addicted to by the end of the night.  Don't pay any attention to those black eyebrows.....

Here is a good web site for more Mad Hatter Tea Party Ideas: Alice in Wonderland Site

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Caprese Salad Skewers

This is one of my favorite salads because of the fresh, bold flavors. Serving it on skewers is a unique way to showcase the vibrantly colored ingredients.


1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes

Fresh Mozzarella balls

(if you cannot find these, you can use a mozzarella log and slice it into cubes roughly the same size as the cherry tomatoes - I've also used string cheese as a replacement!)
4 tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Sea salt and black pepper
Wooden skewers

Chop the basil into one inch pieces. Thread a tomato, a mozzarella ball, and a piece of basil onto a skewer. Repeat. Place the skewers on a plate and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Next, transfer the skewers to a serving dish or bowl.

If you can find cherry tomatoes in different colors (the grocery store sometimes has them), you can also coordinate colors like I did above. It also looks pretty with just the red and the green!

Tips - Don't drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar onto the skewers until you are nearly ready to serve them, as the vinegar will soak into the mozzarella and change the color and consistency.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mad Hatter Tea Party Menu

The Mad Hatter's Menu
Executive Chef: Alice

Appetizers             The Caterpillar's Delight     
                                      spicy stuffed mushrooms with bacon

                           Mock Turtle Shells
                                      chorizo and black bean phyllo cups

                           Cunning Croquet Balls   
                                      gorgonzola and bacon truffles
                                      cheddar and sun dried tomato truffles
Salads                   Painting the Salad Red
                                      caprese salad skewers

                           Jabberwocky Slaw
                                      polynesian coleslaw with peanut-sesame dressing

Tea Sandwiches      The Hatter's Dirfteenth Sandwich
                                      curried chicken salad sandwich

                           King's Carnivorous Dreamwich
                                      italian sandwich with basil pesto
Entrees                 All Rise for the Roast Beast!
                                      rib eye roast
                           Leg of Flamingo
                                      sweet and spicy drumsticks
Desserts              The Queen of Hearts Cupcakes                   
                           Checkered Chocolate Mousse Cups                   
                           Curiouser & Curiouser Cinnamon Scones    
                           Pilfered Petit Fours
Drinks                 Long Island Iced Tea          
                           Strawberry Vodka Lemonade 
                           Vodka Lemonade        

Sorry, jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but, no jam today!

Asian Coleslaw with Peanut Butter Dressing

This is a tasty alternative to regular coleslaw, with an intense, nutty flavor!


3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
6 green onions, chopped
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
8 cups shredded cabbage
2 carrots, julienned
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Stir together peanut butter, garlic, salt, sugar, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and hot pepper sauce until smooth. Fold in cilantro, green onions, and red pepper. Add shredded cabbage, and toss until well coated. Scoop into a serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1 hour. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

Tips - Do not put the dressing on too far in advance, as the salad will wilt.  You can add more sugar to make this sweeter, or more tabasco or even a minced jalapeno to make it spicier.  Another ingredient I have added is ginger.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

This is like the easiest recipe in history and is delicious and decadent.  Plus, bonus, they look pretty!  Thank you, almond bark.

1 pkg of almond bark (vanilla or chocolate, either are great with the peanut butter)
1 box of Ritz crackers
1 jar of smooth peanut butter


Use a knife to spread a generous helping of peanut butter on a Ritz cracker, then add another on top to create a sandwich. Squeeze so that the peanut butter is distributed evenly and wipe off any excess peanut butter that might overflow.  Repeat until all the crackers have been used.

Lay out some wax paper and then follow the directions on the package to melt the almond bark in the microwave.

Using a fork, balance one sandwich on the fork, dip in the melted chocolate until covered and then set on the wax paper.  Allow the sandwiches to harden and then inspect them - some of them may need to be dipped a second time, or you can use a knife to fix any imperfections by spreading just a little bit more chocolate on (sometimes there are fork marks on the bottom, I like to cover those up). 

Tips -  If you are making these around the holidays, you can also add sprinkles to the top when the chocolate is drying, or dye the vanilla bark fun colors.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin Skewers

This is a very easy and delicious recipe - pork wrapped in pork, how can you go wrong!?!

Yield:  About 30 bites

1 pork tenderloin (1.5 - 3 lbs)
1 package center cut bacon
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp olive oil
BBQ skewers

If you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 15 minutes before assembling, so they won't burn.

Take the pork tenderloin and gently slice it into bite-sized pieces.  They may not all be the exact same size, so if necessary, cut any thicker pieces in half to make them bite-sized.  

Once you have cut up the tenderloin, s
lice the bacon in half right down the middle, as you will only need a 1/2 slice for each piece of pork.  Wrap each piece with bacon around the outside, making it into a circle.  Skewer through the bacon and pork, placing about 4 pieces on each skewer, and being careful not to crowd them too close together so that they will cook evenly.

Once you have assembled all of the skewers, drizzle with olive oil on both sides, and then season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Grill on high for about 4 minutes per side, until the bacon is crisp.  Remove and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Mmm.... grilled pork with.... grilled pork!

Spicy Black Beans

 Here's a simple way to spice up some plain canned beans for a tasty, healthy side dish.

1 16 ounce can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1 small white onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped (or substitute 2 tbsp canned tomato puree)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cayenne powder.
1 tbsp olive oil

Heat olive oil in a skillet.  Chop onion and add to pan.  While onion is cooking, since it takes a bit longer than the other vegetables, chop the rest of the fresh veggies.  Add those to pan.  Cook all of the vegetables until translucent and soft.  If using fresh tomato, add it along with the other veggies - if using tomato puree, add it at the end, once the vegetables are cooked through.

Add the beans, and spices, and mix gently.  Cook until just heated through, about 10 minutes, being careful to stir without squashing the beans.  Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.

Tips:  I like to serve to serve this as a side dish with fish tacos, but it can also be served in tortillas by itself.  Another thing I have done to make this a bit more flavorful is add about 1/2 cup of chicken broth.