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Appetizers

Like so many people out there, I consider January a time of renewal, of new beginnings. The hustle and excitement of the holiday season is over, and I try to return to what I consider a less-stress, healthier lifestyle. For me, that means finding a little bit of quiet time each week to do something I enjoy (knitting, blogging, reading), getting organized so that my to-do list doesn’t become out of control, walking outside (when it’s nice out), and cooking more.

With a baby and a toddler, it’s difficult for me to find the time to work out as consistently as I’d like (although I had been walking every weekend until the past week’s cold weather and Snowzilla), so instead, I’ve been focusing on healthier eating. I’ve been trying to menu plan and cook more often than not, and have made sure to have lots of healthy snacks on hand to deter me from the unhealthy snacks at work. Fresh fruit and veggies to into my lunchbox while I stock protein-packed nuts and dried fruit in my desk at work. And since we host friends for board games, knit nights, and assorted other activities almost once a week, I’ve been looking for easy, more health-conscious recipes to make for easy entertaining.

Peanut Butter Toffee Dip

Some of my go-t0, easy snacks for entertaining are dips. They take just minutes to throw together and can be paired with just about anything – from super healthy fruits and veggies to more indulgent crackers, cookies, and chips. Some of our favorites are homemade salsa, guacamole and chips; Mediterranean layer dip with pitas, a savory spinach or onion dip with bread and/or veggies; or a sweet dip (like this coconut cream dip) with fresh fruit. And I’ve been eyeing some other great, easy options Nuts.com to try on on some of our next game nights – vegetarian BBQ skewers and no-bake granola bars, just to name a few.

Anyway, this week, I have made for you a peanut butter toffee dip. It’s a little bit savory and a little bit sweet. Packed with protein from the cream cheese and peanut butter, I paired it was apple slices for a healthy(ish) snack. It was thoroughly enjoyed by the adults and children alike. 🙂

Peanut Butter Toffee Dip

Adapted from Oh, Sweet Basil

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. light brown brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. natural, creamy peanut butter
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. toffee pieces

Using a hand mixer or a rubber spatula, mix cream cheese, brown sugar, peanut butter, and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Fold in most of the toffee pieces, reserving a few to sprinkle on top. Transfer to a serving dish and top with remaining toffee.

Serve with apple slices, graham crackers, or munchie of your choice.

Recipe Note: Our daycare is nut-free, but I’d love to try this with sunflower seed butter in place of the peanut butter. I bet it would be great!

Disclaimer: This post was created on behalf of Nuts.com. I was not compensated for this post, and all opinions are my own.

Peanut Butter Toffee Dip

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These nuts are easy to make and crazy addictive. Try them for an easy holiday munchie.

Candied Pecans

Candied Pecans

Adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes ~3 cups of candied pecans

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 2 c. pecan halves

Preheat oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.Candied Pecans 1

In a medium bowl, whisk egg white until bubbly and starting to foam, 2-3 minutes. Whisk in sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cayenne. Fold in pecans, ensuring they’re completely coated.

Spread pecans in a single layer onto prepared baking sheet. Bake 30-35 minutes until toasted and golden brown.

Remove from oven. Allow to cool on baking sheet, before breaking into pieces.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Nuts will keep for at least a week.

Candied Pecans
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I love entertaining. I love having friends and family over, any time of year, any occasion – whether it’s a holiday or simply a Sunday. When people ask what they can bring, I usually tell them their appetite and a smile.

But as much as I love to entertain, making new recipes and old favorites, I recognize that entertaining can be a lot of work. Now with two kids under the age of three, I feel that more than ever. Over the past several months, I’ve been trying to simplify what I make – keeping the flavor but eliminating some of the time in the kitchen. I make whatever I can ahead so that I can enjoy my time with my family and friends.

These mini-cheese balls quickly became a hit in my house, and a line on my upcoming holiday menus. They’re easy and quick to throw together and can be combined well in advance. The spread has a slight heat from the addition of the cayenne, but being able to customize the coating to our tastes really made this a winner. Last time I made them, I went with a combination of salty-sweet with the pistachios and cranberries, and savory, mimicking an everything bagel. But the combinations are endless.

Check out the recipes at the end of this post, compliments of the Sunday Supper tastemakers, for more easy entertaining ideas. And please, leave a comment with your favorite easy holiday entertaining recipe!

Mini Cheese Balls - Two Ways

Mini Cheese Balls

Mini Cheese Balls

Two Ways: Everything and Cranberry-Pistachio

Base recipe adapted from Sweet and Savory

Coating by Books n’ Cooks

Makes 24 small balls

Ingredients for the Cheese Balls:

  • 4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 a bunch of chives, chopped finely
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for the “Everything” Coating:

I used a ration of 1:.5 for this coating – half the salt and onion. The below quantities are based on a 1/2 batch of cheese balls with this coating.

  • 2 tsp. poppy seeds
  • 2 tsp. sesame seeds (toasted, if desired)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. onion flakes

Ingredients for the Cranberry-Pistachio Coating:

I used a ratio of 1:1.5, cranberries-pistachios, for the coating. The below quantities are based on a 1/2 batch of cheese balls with this coating.

  • 2 Tbs. dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  • 3 Tbs. shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

Directions:

Mix coatings in small dishes. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients for the cheese balls. Use a mixer to thoroughly combine, if needed. Use a small cookie scoop (mine is a 2-tsp. cookie scoop) to portion out cheese mixture. Roll in prepared toppings and set on a serving dish.

Serve at room temperature with your choice of crackers.

Make Ahead: Cheeseballs can be made and stored in the fridge, covered, for up to 3 days.

 

Check out more easy, stress-free entertaining ideas from the Sunday Supper tastemakers.

Beverages

Appetizers

Main and Side Dishes

Desserts and Baked Goods

Plus a No Stress Party Checklist and Recipes for Easy Entertaining by Sunday Supper

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.
 

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Roasted Veggie Tart

Despite it being 90° here some days, September is the start of fall for me. I start craving fewer fresh fruits and less grilling. Instead, I become eager for the weather to cool off so that I can indulge in heartier dishes and simple roasts paired with roasted vegetables. Entertaining is a breeze as I throw dishes into the oven to cook slowly, while I enjoy cocktails and easy appetizers with my guests.

This weekend Sunday Supper is celebrating the start of fall with some of their favorite fall recipes. This roasted veggie tart isn’t exactly a quick appetizer, but it’s not difficult at all. And with all of the roasted vegetables, it just screams fall to me. If it’s a little too involved for your fall entertaining, then I’d encourage you to pair it with a side salad and give it a try for a light brunch or lunch.

Recipe Note: I used about 1 c. of butternut squash, carrot, leek, and bell pepper for this recipe, but I encourage you to pick the veggies and ratios according to your own preferences.

Roasted Vegetable Tart

Adapted from Fine Cooking, Issue 131

Roasted Vegetable Tart

Ingredients for the Filling:

  • Olive oil
  • 4 c. fall vegetables, ½-inch dice (i.e. butternut squash, carrot, leek, bell pepper, cauliflower)
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme

Ingredients for the Crust:

  • 1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour; plus more for rolling
  • ¾ c. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 6 oz. cold cream cheese, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ¾ tsp. kosher salt

Ingredients for the Assembly:

  • 4 oz. fresh goat cheese, softened
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Make the Filling: Ensure rack is in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large bowl, toss all ingredients to combine. Spread in a single layer on a heavy baking sheet or roasting pan. Cover with foil and bake until tender, 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven, uncover, and allow to cool slightly.

While vegetables are cooling, make the crust. Increase oven temperature to 400°F.

While oven is coming to temperature, place flour, butter, cream cheese, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until the dough starts to come together.

Sprinkle flour over a clean counter. Transfer dough to counter and gently knead with clean hands, once or twice, to bring dough together.

Assemble the Tart: Sprinkle a little more flour onto a large piece of parchment paper. Place dough on parchment paper and roll out, to a rough 16-inch round.Dough should be about 1/8-inch thick.  Gently brush excess flour from parchment paper. Carefully lift parchment paper, with the dough still on it, onto a clean baking sheet.

Spread the goat cheese on top of dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Top the goat cheese with vegetables. Pile a little extra in the center.

Fold edges of the dough over the filling to create pleats, about 1½-inches wide. Brush pleated dough with beaten egg.

Bake until golden brown, 35-40 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool, at least 10 minutes before serving.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Store leftovers in the fridge.

Check out A Guide to Apples plus Best Fall Recipes Ideas for #SundaySupper and this week’s recipe collection:

Breakfast

Appetizers and Sides

Main Dishes

Desserts and Cocktails

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

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Restaurant Style Salsa

In honor of Cinco de Mayo next week, I’m sharing a recipe that’s been on my to-make list for years. I’ve been bookmarking recipes for Restaurant Style Salsa for what seems like ever. After all, the best part of going to a Mexican restaurant is the chips and salsa. Well, that and the margaritas, but I can’t indulge in those quite yet. I’ve got to tell you, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to make this myself. It was super easy and just as additive as the stuff they serve at the restaurants.

Restaurant Style Salsa

Restaurant-Style Salsa

Adapted from Mountain Mama Cooks

In a large food processor, pulse the following ingredients for 30 seconds, or until desired consistency:

  • 1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 1-10 oz. can diced tomatoes and chilies mix (i.e. Rotel), with juices
  • 1/2 a small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed/chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded (or not, if you prefer your salsa spicier)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • juice of 1 lime
  • small handful of cilantro

Taste. Adjust seasonings if needed.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

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I was really bummed to have to cancel our annual party last month due to heating issues and sickness. More than half of the food was prepped or prepared. We’ve gradually been eating through the cookies and appetizers that I stashed in the freezer, but these almonds got forgotten about in the pantry. It’s a good thing they have a long shelf life.

I love to have some sort of roasted nut as a munchie for the holiday party, and these would have really stood out from other recipes I’ve tried. Sweet, savory, and slightly spicy, I have a hard time staying away from them… which is why the container got put in a corner of the pantry and forgotten about. They’re a little messy to eat, but try them. You won’t regret it.

Espresso Dark Chocolate Almonds

Spicy Espresso Dark Chocolate Almonds

Adapted from Bell’alimento

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs. ground espresso (I like Starbucks Via)
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 lb. whole raw almonds
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 250F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk together egg white and sugar until combined. Whisk in espresso and cayenne. Stir in almonds until evenly coated. Arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 1 hour. Flip almonds and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Toss in cocoa powder.

Store in an airtight container. (Mine kept for a month.)

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Welcome to another week of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, a weekly blogging event hosted by Meal Planning Magic. If you haven’t been by in the past, you probably don’t know that I love dressing up nuts for a quick, easy, and super tasty snack at parties. It’s become a staple at my annual holiday party. I’ve done Crock-Pot Sugared Nuts and Mixed Spiced Nuts in the past, but I think this recipe is my favorite. I love the sweet vanilla flavor. And it’s done in 30 minutes – a nice little recipe to keep in your back pocket for last minute guests this holiday season.

Vanilla Almonds.

Vanilla Almonds

Adapted from Taste of Home via That Skinny Chick Can Bake

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c. light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla
  • 1/2 Tbs. vanilla paste (optional)
  • 4 c. unsalted almonds

Preheat oven to 300º. Line two baking sheets with Vanilla Almondsparchment paper and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together both sugars, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg whites until frothy, about a minute. Whisk in vanilla and vanilla paste (if using).

Stir in almonds until they’re completely coated. Pour half of sugar mixture over almonds and stir. Pour remaining sugar mixture over almonds and stir until almonds are evenly coated.

Spread almonds in an even layer on the prepared baking sheets. Bake 20-25 minutes, stirring the almonds and rotating the pans midway through baking.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on baking sheets before moving to an airtight container.

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Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I don’t remember pumpkin picking with my family as a kid- I’m sure I did because I have memories of my dad carving pumpkins. At least one year, some grew in the compost ditch in our backyard from the previous year’s discarded pumpkins.

Anyway, last year, I decided that I wanted to make pumpkin picking with our children a family tradition. While my hubby initially rolled his eyes and went just to humor me, he enjoyed carving the pumpkin as much as I enjoyed the process of choosing a pumpkin (or more accurately, photographing the baby in the pumpkin field).

Roasting the pumpkin seeds was super easy and provided a great snack. I couldn’t walk by the counter without grabbing a few. My only regret is that the giant pumpkin had so few seeds in it!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Adapted from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. pumpkin seeds
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne powder

Preheat oven to 350.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, toss all ingredients until pumpkin seeds are evenly coated.

Bake 30-45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until pumpkin seeds are golden brown.

Remove from oven.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Pumpkin seeds will keep stored in an airtight container for 3 days.

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Shrimp with Spicy Peanut Sauce.

 

One of the things I enjoy most about summer is that most of the weeknight cooking is relegated to my hubby. I prep the meal – usually some sort of protein and veggie – and he grills it. This gives me an extra few minutes each day to relax or play with the little one (at this point, it’s usually less playing together and more, me chasing after her as she climbs up the stairs or pulls things off pantry shelves).

This recipe is quick and easy for your summer entertaining. Prep the peanut sauce earlier in the day, grill up some shrimp, and serve. There’s only about 15 minutes total prep and cook time, and that’s if you’re cooking the shrimp instead of talking your hubby into it. I’d recommend serving the shrimp hot, but room temperature is fine too.

Shrimp with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Adapted from Fine Cooking No. 96

Serves 6-8 as an appetizer, Yields 1 c. Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium limes
  • 1/2 c. creamy natural peanut butter
  • 2 tsp. Aisan garlic chili paste or sauce, more to taste
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh mint, more for garnish
  • 1 1/2-2 lbs. cooked shrimp (I grilled them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper)

In a food processor, combine zest from 1 lime, juice from two limes, peanut butter, garlic chili sauce, 3 Tbs. mint, and 1/4 c. cold water. Process until smooth. Taste – add additional chili paste if you’d like a spicier sauce. Add an additional tablespoon or two of water and/or lime juice for a looser consistency.

Serve with cooked shrimp, either hot or at room temperature.

Shrimp with Spicy Peanut Sauce

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Mediterranean Baked Feta

This appetizer has been on my list to try for quite some time (almost 2 years!). I don’t know why I always passed over it – perhaps because my husband wouldn’t touch most of what is in this dish. After making this a couple of week ago, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. I whipped this together one Sunday in about 20 minutes (including baking time) for an afternoon of knitting and crocheting with my Mommy friends. I loved the brightness of this dish – fresh tomatoes and herbs (I loaded it up!), salty feta…. And the smell was amazing! Longest 20 minute car ride ever.

Mediterranean Baked Feta

Adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook via Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint (or more) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 c. diced red onion, small diced
  • 1/3 c. diced olives, small dice
  • 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. freshly chopped parsley, divided
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 10 oz. feta
  • fresh pita or pita chips, for serving

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium bowl, toss tomatoes, onion, olives, olive oil, 1 Tbs. parsley, and freshly ground pepper until combined.

Place feta in the center of an oven-safe dish. Top with tomato mixture.

Baked 15 minutes, until feta is warmed throughout and slightly softened. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining 1 Tbs. parsley.

Serve hot or at room temperature with sliced pita or pita chips. (May reheat  to soften cheese, as desired).

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Books n’ Cooks is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. Some links on Books n’ Cooks may be affiliate links – links books and kitchen supplies that I love and would recommend. If you click on the link and purchase, I make a very small percentage (at no additional cost to you!) which goes towards maintenance of this blog. Thanks for your support!

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