Bacon Cheddar Ranch Cheeseball

Salty bacon, zesty ranch and crunchy pecans make this Bacon Cheddar Ranch Cheeseball a hit.

Salty bacon, zesty ranch and crunchy pecans make this Bacon Cheddar Ranch Cheeseball a hit.

Where has November gone? I always feel like the last two months of the year pass more quickly than others, and of course, are always packed with fall and winter activities, shopping, entertaining and family… but this month has been way crazier than previous years.

We took a long weekend and went to visit some family. It was a quick trip, but between traveling with little kids and having that travel take more than half a day each way, it was a bit exhausting. The few days were a whirlwind of visits and activities. While it was a great weekend, I totally came home feeling like I needed a day to recover from my vacation.

Salty bacon, zesty ranch and crunchy pecans make this Bacon Cheddar Ranch Cheeseball a hit.

After that quick trip, I was finally starting to feel settled again when my husband took off for a work trip. With our new school/childcare schedule, that meant really short workdays for me – always fun when you’re doing two jobs at once and training someone new coming in. The kids were really good though, and I kept the cooking to a minimum. Sandwiches for lunch, leftovers for dinner. And maybe a little take out. I actually do get into a good routine when my hubby is gone, and amazingly, I’m usually able to keep the house cleaner when he’s away (think that is saying something? 😉 ).

And this week is a full house. My mom is here all week, helping with childcare while schools are on short days or closed. But we’ve had family trickling in throughout the week for Thanksgiving. By tomorrow, I’ll have 4 kids under the age of 6 and 14 adults in the house for the big day. What are your plans?

Salty bacon, zesty ranch and crunchy pecans make this Bacon Cheddar Ranch Cheeseball a hit.

This Bacon Ranch Cheddar Cheeseball isn’t on the menu for Turkey Day, but may be making another appearance during the holiday season (perhaps at our holiday party?). The cheddar and ranch flavors were light but enjoyable. I loved the crunch from the pecans and the saltiness from the bacon. I used the homemade ranch seasoning that I shared earlier this week in this recipe, but you can totally use a store bought packet if you prefer. My husband – the ranch lover of the family – LOVED this recipe, so I know that I’ll be making it again soon. (I do think it would be a great addition to a game day spread, don’t you?)

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Salty bacon, zesty ranch and crunchy pecans make this Bacon Cheddar Ranch Cheeseball a hit.

Bacon Ranch Cheddar Cheeseball

Salty bacon, zesty ranch and crunchy pecans make this Bacon Cheddar Ranch Cheeseball a hit.

Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Refrigerate 1 hour
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 20
Calories 162 kcal
Author Liz

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. cream cheese softened
  • 1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 c. cooked and chopped bacon (about half a 12-oz. package, cooked)
  • 2 Tbs. ranch seasoning mix
  • 1/4 c. chopped scallions
  • 3/4 c. finely chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. Combine cream cheese, cheddar, bacon, ranch seasoning and scallions in the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl, if you prefer to use a handheld mixer). Beat on medium speed until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  2. Turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Shape into a ball.
  3. Spread chopped pecans in a shallow bowl or on a plate. Remove cheeseball from plastic wrap and roll in pecans until covered. Transfer to a serving dish. Add extra pecans to the dish, if desired.
  4. Refrigerate, covered, for at least an hour before serving.

Recipe Notes

The original recipe called for 1 c. of chopped pecans, but I had quite a bit leftover, as you can see from the photos (and why it looks a bit more like a dome than a ball!). Therefore, I adjusted the portion called for slightly, so that there isn't as much leftover.

Salty bacon, zesty ranch and crunchy pecans make this Bacon Cheddar Ranch Cheeseball a hit.

This recipe was adapted from Chef-in-Training.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Fruit Dip #Choctoberfest

Lightly sweet Peanut Butter Chocolate Fruit Dip compliments fresh apple slices, bananas and strawberries for an indulgent and relatively healthy dessert.

This post is sponsored on behalf of #Choctoberfest. Our generous sponsors have provided products for a giveaway for our readers, and may have provided product to bloggers. As always, all opinions are my own.

Lightly sweet Peanut Butter Chocolate Fruit Dip compliments fresh apple slices, bananas and strawberries for an indulgent and relatively healthy dessert.

We’re over a month into the new school year now, and things are getting a bit crazy. I was so pleased with how the start of the school year went – everyone adjusting to new schedules well, me keeping on top of the chore list, cooking healthy dinners, etc. A month later? We’ve started to slip a little bit.

It hasn’t helped that work has been tough – I’ve been doing 80 hours worth of work in 30 hours a week. Someone finally showed up, so I’m hoping that I’ll have some relief soon, after he gets trained up. But the past few weeks? Ugh. They’ve been pretty stressful. I’ve craved junk food and an evening glass of wine. I’ve arrived home exhausted, both mentally and physically.

Lightly sweet Peanut Butter Chocolate Fruit Dip compliments fresh apple slices, bananas and strawberries for an indulgent and relatively healthy dessert.

But I really have no excuse to not have fresh fruit on hand for snacking, especially when I can whip up this dip to satisfy my sweet tooth in just a minute or two. While I want this dip in my fridge at all times, just for snacking, it’s also great for setting out when entertaining, to make a fruit tray a little more exciting. I chose to make my fruit platter with apple slices, bananas and strawberries, but use whatever you and your family would like!

Recipe Notes:

  • This recipe calls for powdered chocolate peanut butter. I have also made this with powdered peanut butter, and it was really good. Powdered peanut butter varieties are easily found at most grocery stores, at least in my area, but there’s also an Amazon (affiliate) link at the bottom of this post, in case you have trouble finding it.

Lightly sweet Peanut Butter Chocolate Fruit Dip compliments fresh apple slices, bananas and strawberries for an indulgent and relatively healthy dessert.

Don’t Forget:

    1. To scroll to the bottom of this post and check out the other #Choctoberfest recipes that went live today! Or, search the hashtag on social media and drool a bit over the deliciousness of the day.
    2. Enter to win one of the prizes donated by our sponsors in the Rafflecopter below. For information about the PRIZES, check out this post.
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Lightly sweet Peanut Butter Chocolate Fruit Dip compliments fresh apple slices, bananas and strawberries for an indulgent and relatively healthy dessert.

Lightly sweet Peanut Butter Chocolate Fruit Dip compliments fresh apple slices, bananas and strawberries for an indulgent and relatively healthy dessert. 

Course Snack
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Author Liz

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c. powdered chocolate peanut butter
  • 1 c. cold water
  • 1 8-oz. container whipped topping I used fat-free Cool Whip

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered chocolate peanut butter and cold water until combined. 

  2. Fold into whipped topping.

  3. Store in the refrigerator until serving. 

Lightly sweet Peanut Butter Chocolate Fruit Dip compliments fresh apple slices, bananas and strawberries for an indulgent and relatively healthy dessert.


This post is sponsored on behalf of #Choctoberfest. Our generous sponsors have provided products for a giveaway for our readers, and may have provided product to bloggers. As always, all opinions are my own.

1-Pot Apple Sausage Meatballs #AppleWeek

Italian sausage and shredded apple meatballs are delightful, sweet little appetizer bites, especially wonderful for fall and winter entertaining.

This post is sponsored on behalf of #AppleWeek. Our generous sponsors, Swiss Diamond, Envy Apples, Imperial Sugar, Nordic Ware, Rodelle Vanilla, Flahavan’s Irish Oatmeal, Nairn’s and The Spice House have provided us with products for recipe creation and a giveaway for our readers. As always, all opinions are my own.

Italian sausage and shredded apple meatballs are delightful, sweet little appetizer bites, especially wonderful for fall and winter entertaining.

When I was planning for #AppleWeek, I knew that I wanted to share some more savory recipes with you. Making a week’s worth of sweets – be it desserts or breakfast items – would have been easy but not quite so good for my waistline. So when Swiss Diamond Cookware announced their sponsorship, I was thrilled and immediately began plotting what to make. For those that haven’t heard of Swiss Diamond, the company was established in 2001 with a manufacturing facility in Switzerland. Swiss Diamond produces a variety of high-end cookware – from cast-iron pieces to non-stick skillets and pots to knives. I was lucky enough to receive this gorgeous 6.3 Quart Cast Iron Shallow Casserole from them and was instantly in love. Look at it:

Swiss Diamond Shallow Casserole

Can you blame me? This is the stuff I linger over at kitchen stores.

Today’s recipe was created specifically for this pan. 1-Pot Apple Sausage Meatballs. These little bites take only a few minutes to put together. First, they are sauteed in the shallow casserole pictured above and finished off in the oven for a sweet, fall appetizer. This recipe makes enough meatballs to serve 5-6 as an appetizer, depending on how large you make the meatballs. Personally? I didn’t want to wait to entertain, so I made a batch and served them with rice for lunch. And my husband didn’t complain about it. 😉

Italian sausage and shredded apple meatballs are delightful, sweet little appetizer bites, especially wonderful for fall and winter entertaining.

Before you leave me today, do me a favor and do a couple of things.

  1. Follow Swiss Diamond Cookware on your favorite social media platform. Not only can you drool over their amazing products but you’ll get some great recipe inspiration as well. You can find Swiss Diamond on Facebook Twitter Instagram and Pinterest.
  2. Be sure to scroll down and take a look under the recipe and check out the other #AppleWeek recipes that went live today. There’s a bit of everything – sweet and savory; something for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.
  3. Finally, be sure to enter the #AppleWeek giveaway at the Rafflecopter below. There are some amazing prizes, including a 10 piece pack from Swiss Diamond Cookware worth over $600!!! There are multiple ways to enter and multiple prizes (description of each prize is listed here) so be sure to throw your name in the ring!

Italian sausage and shredded apple meatballs are delightful, sweet little appetizer bites, especially wonderful for fall and winter entertaining.

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Italian sausage and shredded apple meatballs are delightful, sweet little appetizer bites, especially wonderful for fall and winter entertaining.

1-Pot Apple Sausage Meatballs

Italian sausage and shredded apple "meatballs" are delightful, sweet little appetizer bites, especially wonderful for fall and winter entertaining.

Course Appetizer
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 5 Servings
Author Liz

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage casings removed
  • 1/4 c. minced red onion
  • 1 Gala apple shredded (with skin on)
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 Tbs. plain bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh sage
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350.

  2. In a medium bowl, combine sausage, red onion, shredded apple, garlic, bread crumbs and sage. Using your hands, mix until all ingredients are evenly distributed and mixture comes together.

  3. Add olive oil to a cast-iron casserole dish, heating over medium heat. While olive oil heats, shape sausage-apple mixture into balls, about the size of golf balls or even a bit smaller.

  4. When oil is hot, saute meatballs for 2-3 minutes, until browned. (You may need to work in batches.) Flip and saute for another few minutes. Rotate again, if needed, until meatballs are browned all over. (If working in batches, transfer browned meatballs to a plate and set aside. Continue browning remaining meatballs.)

  5. When meatballs are all browned, return to pot, placing in a single layer if possible. Cover and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

  6. Serve hot.

Recipe Notes

This recipe yields 18-24 meatballs, depending on size.

If you don't have a heavy cast-iron casserole like the above (or another dish that can go from stove to oven) or if you're scaling this recipe to feed a crowd, meatballs can be baked on a baking sheet, covered with foil, for 20-25 minutes as well.

This recipe was adapted from Inside the Rustic Kitchen.

Tuesday Recipes:

1-Pot Apple Sausage Meatballs - Italian sausage and shredded apple meatballs are delightful, sweet little appetizer bites, especially wonderful for fall and winter entertaining.

Enter the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: Thank you AppleWeek Sponsors: Swiss Diamond, Nordic Ware, Envy Apples, Imperial Sugar, The Spice House, Rodelle Vanilla, Flahavan’s Irish Oats and Nairn’s  for providing the prizes free of charge. These companies also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for AppleWeek recipes. All opinions are my own. The AppleWeek giveaway is open to U.S. residents, age 18 & up. All entries for the winner will be checked and verified. By entering you give the right to use your name and likeness. The number of entries received determines the odds of winning. Seven (7) winners will be selected. The prize packages will be sent directly from the giveaway sponsors. The AppleWeek Bloggers are not responsible for the fulfillment or delivery of the prize packages. Bloggers hosting this giveaway and their immediate family members in their household cannot enter or win the giveaway. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter or any other social channel mentioned in the AppleWeek posts or entry.

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Roasted Tomato Salsa

Garden fresh tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos are charred before being pureed into a smokey, simple Restaurant-Style Roasted Tomato Salsa.

Garden fresh tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos are charred before being pureed into a smokey, simple Restaurant-Style Roasted Tomato Salsa.

Today begins our second annual #FarmersMarketWeek, a week full of recipes to take full advantage of the beautiful, fresh produce found at your local farmers market. Or perhaps, in you own garden. This week is hosted Ellen at Family Around the Table and Christie at A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures – big thanks for hosting Ellen and Christie!!

Garden fresh tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos are charred before being pureed into a smokey, simple Restaurant-Style Roasted Tomato Salsa.

Last year, when I planted my garden, one of my goals was to grow what I needed to make and can salsa. I had one attempt at that and it came out terrible. I felt like I dipping my chips in tomato and straight vinegar.

After that attempt, I switched to this recipe. I’m not sure it’s safe to can, but it’s damn good. Fresh flavors get a bit of smokey flavor from sticking them under the broiler to char. I probably shouldn’t admit how quickly the batch disappeared. And it’s the perfect recipe to make a sizable dent in the big bowl of tomatoes from my own garden.

Garden fresh tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos are charred before being pureed into a smokey, simple Restaurant-Style Roasted Tomato Salsa.

Be sure to come back on Wednesday to see what else I’ve prepared for #FarmersMarketWeek. Search for the hashtag on social media to get some other great inspiration for your local farmers market or garden! Enjoy!

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Garden fresh tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos are charred before being pureed into a smokey, simple Restaurant-Style Roasted Tomato Salsa.

Roasted Tomato Salsa

Garden fresh tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos are charred before being pureed into a smokey, simple Restaurant-Style Roasted Tomato Salsa.

Course Appetizer
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Calories 17 kcal
Author Liz

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. roma tomatoes (10-12) halved lengthwise
  • 6 unpeeled garlic cloves
  • 1 large onion (white or red) cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 jalapeno stemmed and halved (discard seeds to reduce heat)
  • 1/2 a bunch of cilantro
  • 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Instructions

  1. Arrange a rack in the upper third of your oven. Preheat broiler.

  2. Arrange tomatoes and jalapeno on baking sheet, cut side down. Add unpeeled garlic and onion. Broil for 5-10 minutes, until vegetables are starting to char. (May need to cook a little longer if the rack wasn't close enough to the broiler.)

  3. Remove baking sheet from oven. Allow to cool for a few minutes, until garlic is cool enough to handle. Remove skin from garlic.
  4. Toss garlic, roasted vegetables, cilantro, lime juice, salt and cumin into a food processor. Pulse until desired consistency. Taste and season with additional lime juice or salt if needed.
  5. Transfer to a mason jar or other airtight container to chill until serving.

Recipe Notes

This recipe yields approximately 4 cups, or 16 1/4-cup servings. 

 

Adapted from Gimme Some Oven.

Garden fresh tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos are charred before being pureed into a smokey, simple Restaurant-Style Roasted Tomato Salsa.

Monday #FarmersMarketWeek Recipes

Herbed Goat Cheese Crostini with Vanilla Pickled Strawberries #SundaySupper

 In season strawberries are preserved with a quick pickling and a little extra vanilla that highlights the berries natural sweetness. Then, Vanilla Pickled Strawberries are used to top herbed goat cheese crostini for an easy but flavorful springtime appetizer.

Herbed Goat Cheese Crostini w Vanilla Pickled Strawberries

This post is sponsored by Florida Strawberry in conjunction with a social media campaign through Sunday Supper LLC. All opinions are my own.

Winter is finally fading and I’m hoping that we’ve seen the last of the snow a couple of weeks ago. The weather is gradually warming and we’re starting to see glimpses of spring – buds on the trees, animals and neighbors coming out of winter hibernation. And with that, I’m moving away from winter comfort foods like soups and stews and instead craving lighter, fresher foods.

Since it’s still too cold to get local in season produce in Maryland, I’m thankful to be able to find quality, in season produce from U.S. growers in the south. Thank you Florida, for your warmer climate! In particular, we consume huge amounts of Florida Strawberries, a favorite snack for myself and my kids. Florida strawberries are in season during Maryland’s winter months, December through April, leaving me with only a month or two to get by until Maryland strawberry season starts.

fsga-logo

I really do wish we could pick fresh strawberries all year round. My kids wish that as well. Strawberry picking is one of our favorite things to do as a family. We get up early can check the weather. We put on our comfy clothes and baseball cap (don’t want to miss any of those gorgeous berries with sun in our eyes!). Each kid picks out their own container and we head off to the strawberry fields. It’s taken some time to teach the kiddos that they need to pick only the ripe strawberries – those vibrant red and firm to touch – and to keep the tops of the berries on when picking them and putting the berries into their container. We move methodically from plant to plant, picking all of the ripe berries before moving onto the next. The kids usually leave with smears of berry juice all over their face and up and down their arms. Those are by far, some of my favorite photos of the kids. And after picking? The strawberries are stashed in the car, out of the reach of little hands and of direct sunlight, and we hurry home. The kids usually eat a good bit more once we’re home, but I immediately start washing them and divvying them up for whatever purpose I have in mind for them.

Herbed Goat Cheese Crostini w Vanilla Pickled Strawberries

Picking strawberries is just half of the fun. Have you ever preserved them? It’s easier than you think and will make the strawberry season last even longer. And that’s exactly what the #SundaySupper tastemakers are celebrating today – preserving strawberries. Four techniques, 20 great recipes (below) for you to try. You’re welcome. 🙂

There are a couple of different preservation methods you could use. The least intimidating method is freezing clean, hulled strawberries (whole, quartered or sliced) in a ziplock bag. We do this all of the time. Those strawberries usually end up in smoothies, but there are 5 great recipes below that use frozen strawberries that I’m dying to try. The second method is canning. While this could be a bit scary, you won’t feel so after the first batch. My mom got me started canning a couple of years ago and now I look forward to it every summer. For strawberries, I use the recipe that my Grandma taught her that does not require a water bath – the part that scares most people. I have, however, done a water bath once and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared. Dehydrating strawberries – slowly removing the water from the berry – is the third preservation method. Strawberries can be dried in the sun or a dehydrator. Dried strawberries are wonderful for snacking on their own, or delicious in breakfast (oatmeal or granola) dishes or desserts. The final method of preservation is pickling. Say what? Yes, pickling. Pickling is a preservation process whereby the fruit is submerged in a liquid – usually vinegar – to extend it’s life.

Herbed Goat Cheese Crostini w Vanilla Pickled Strawberries

Of all the ways to preserve berries, I had never considered pickling, but I have to admit, I loved it. It was a very quick process and the end result was deliciously sweet. Vanilla Pickled Strawberries kept the strawberries natural sweetness and added vanilla notes and a tartness. The topping paired beautifully with herbed goat cheese spread – a taste of spring. Bonus? The extra pickling liquid can be used to make a quick, tart vinaigrette after the strawberries are gone.

Now is the time to stock up on Florida strawberries! Which preservation technique are you going to try?

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Herbed Goat Cheese Crostini w Vanilla Pickled Strawberries

Herbed Goat Cheese Crostini with Vanilla Pickled Strawberries

 In season strawberries are preserved with a quick pickling and a little extra vanilla that highlights the berries natural sweetness. Then, Vanilla Pickled Strawberries are used to top herbed goat cheese crostini for an easy but flavorful springtime appetizer.

Course Appetizer
Servings 1 Pint of Pickled Strawberries and a dozen crostini
Author Liz

Ingredients

For the Vanilla Pickled Strawberries:

  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 c. vanilla sugar
  • 1 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 3/4 lb. strawberries rinsed, hulled and quartered

For the Crostini:

  • 4 oz. goat cheese softened
  • 1 oz. cream cheese softened
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. minced fresh basil or other herb/mix of herbs
  • 1 batch of Vanilla Pickled Strawberries
  • 10-12 1/2- inch slices of sourdough bread toasted

Instructions

Make the Vanilla Pickled Strawberries:

  1. In a small sauce pan, combine water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil. Add vinegar. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  2. When vinegar mixture is cool, slice a vanilla bean in half. Scrape out seeds and place in a clean pint-sized canning jar. Add pods as well. Fill almost to the top with quartered strawberries. Top with vinegar mixture - vinegar mixture should cover strawberries completely.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 12 hours. Use or continue to store in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Assemble the Crostini:

  1. Using a mixer or a food processor, combine goat cheese, cream cheese, and herbs until mixture is smooth. 

  2. Spread each slice of bread with a generous slather of whipped herbed goat cheese. Top with strawberries. Drizzle with a tablespoon of pickling liquid.
  3. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

The recipe for vanilla sugar can be found here.  I'd consider it optional, but will give the strawberries a little extra vanilla flavor.

The vanilla pickled strawberries and the goat cheese spread can both be made ahead of time and kept, tightly covered in the fridge, until ready to assemble and serve.

A Books n’ Cooks original recipe.

Herbed Goat Cheese Crostini w Vanilla Pickled Strawberries

Interested in learning more about Florida Strawberries? Follow Florida Strawberry Growers Association on social media: Facebook Google + Instagram Pinterest Twitter YouTube

And don’t forget to check out these recipes for preserving and using preserved strawberries from the #SundaySupper crew.

How to Preserve Strawberries

Canning

Canning

Dehydrating

Freezing

Pickling

Sunday Supper MovementThe Sunday Supper Movement is committed to bringing our readers delicious recipes that encourage them to gather and eat together around the family table. Search for your favorite ingredients on our Sunday Supper website. Also check out the Sunday Supper Pinterest boards for plenty more ideas and inspiration.

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