5 Super Bowl Party Must-Haves

5 super bowl menu ideasHere’s the funny thing: I hate football, and I haven’t been to a Super Bowl party in years. But I have a whole bunch of Super Bowl idea posts on my blog… wonder what a psychologist would make of that, hmmm?!

Now if someone were to invite me to a Super Bowl party, I would be happy to attend because a party means food, and when food is involved… count me in! Especially if your Super Bowl party features any of the following menu items:

Homemade Potato Chips

1. Homemade Chips & Dip

Uh huh. I’m serious! I know, it’s way easier to buy a bag of chips and a jar of dip. But making your own chips and dip is way cooler, plus also way healthier. Double win!

Parmesan Crisps

2. Parmesan Crisps

OK, so I admit that making your own chips and dip can be a little bit labor-intensive and time-consuming, but Parmesan Crisps are a different story altogether: super easy and pretty fast! Oh, and amazingly delicious. You won’t be able to eat just one, and I’m not kidding.

Football Cake3. Football Cake

This simply decorated football cake won’t take you anymore time than any other homemade dessert, but there’s no dessert more appropriate. Touchdown!

bbq chicken dip4. BBQ Chicken Dip

Think of the famous Buffalo Chicken Dip, minus the hot sauce, plus some BBQ sauce, and you have BBQ Chicken Dip. It’s total yum; ya gotta try it!

Toasted Chickpeas 5. Toasted Chickpeas

Chances are, if you’re having a party, you’re going to have some guests with food sensitivities. If anybody in your party is gluten-free or allergic to nuts, dairy, eggs, or wheat, then this is the perfect snack for them! None of the afore-mentioned ingredients, and it’s delicious to boot. Plus – bonus for you, the hostess and chef – it’s super easy to make. I bring you Toasted Chickpeas.

May the best team win!

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Sweet Potato Pumpkins – a Vintage Recipe from a Blogger Before Her Time

I recently picked up another vintage cookbook at a thrift store, and it quite possibly has been my most favorite thrift store purchase of all time. Of all time, people. That’s saying something because, ahem, I’ve bought a lot of stuff at thrift stores.

A Blogger Born Before Her Time

It’s my most favorite thrift store purchase not because of the awesome recipes I found in it (although there are definitely more recipes and ideas I want to try) but because I felt a certain kinship with the author, an Ann Batchelder who was the food editor for Ladies’ Home Journal during the forties. Now, I am not and never will be a magazine food editor (although it sounds like fun!), so that’s not where the kinship comes in.

No, the kinship I felt came from the sensation as I read her cookbook (which truly is a cookbook you read, not just flip through or skip to the index) that I was reading a blog. I could not escape the feeling that Ann Batchelder was a blogger born before her time; her quirky dry humor combined with creative ideas and tips, not to mention the occasional poetic prose about topics having absolutely nothing to do with food or cooking, all combined to create the effect of a modern blogger. Seriously, if it weren’t for the occasional mention of outdated tools, ingredients, or methods, I would have thought I’d picked up a cookbook written by a blogger, not a food editor from the glamor era.

A 1940′s “Blogger’s” Thoughts on Thanksgiving

A few sample tidbits so you can see what I mean:

She begins her Thanksgiving Menu portion with thoughts on the traditions of Thanksgiving Day, as well as a few choice comments about the guest of honor: ” From some remote date, turkey has always been the Thanksgiving feast bird. If you can’t have turkey you may have ham or chicken or roast pig, but whatever it is that takes the turkey’s place on your table, have it in the spirit* of turkey. For that spirit is a very emanation of Thanksgiving Day itself!”

*I did not italicize. She did. Told ya she was a blogger.

She finishes up her Thanksgiving Menu with these thoughts: “Have a good Thanksgiving. Whether it be simple or “simply colossal” as they say, have a happy day. It’s always well to remember that things around this world might be worse, and that we’ve got as far as we have, so it’s perfectly possible that we shall make the next grade – if we keep going. And for one thing let us be extra thankful. Thankful for Thanksgiving Day. And so all together now, ‘Come ye thankful people come, raise the song of harvest home.’ Will someone please take the organ?”

When was the last time you read that in a dull ol’ cookbook?

One more thought on Thanksgiving from Ann: “Celebrated according to their means and light by the old New England families. Celebrated as a tradition handed down from the time the Pilgrim mothers did their stuff (ha!*) with the wild turkey and the woodland herbs, it became under Sarah [Hale]‘s lively interest and persistence, a national holiday. And President Lincoln yielded to the Hale persuasiveness and sent out the proclamation which secured to this Pilgrim tradition perpetuation and a place in the sun. So now we are nearing what to my mind is the best holiday of all – Thanksgiving.”

*I added the “ha!”. In case you couldn’t tell.

A Vintage Recipe from a Vintage Blogger: Sweet Potato Pumpkins

One of the things about Ann Batchelder that tells me she would be a mega blogger if she “did her stuff” in today’s world is that she has such creative ideas. (Not to mention that if the photographs were in color they’d be totally gorgeous and perfect for Pinterest. Yes, I know she had a whole team of food stylists and photographers, but still.) For each holiday, she created an entire menu filled with both traditional food items, new twists on old things, plus a few ideas just for fun. The kinds of things that people pin on Pinterest, kwim? 

One of those ideas leaped off the page at me and I determined that I had to make them for Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Pumpkins. As you can see in the photo above, her instructions were rather vague, which is normal for vintage cookbooks (which assume that the average reader already knows how to cook). I was OK up until the point where she said “Shape the sweet potatoes into small pumpkins”. That’s where the blogger comparison totally falls apart. I mean, hello, where were the tutorials with step by step pictures?! And the links to where I can buy the tools on Amazon?!

Well, I’m not a perfect blogger, so sadly, I myself have no step-by-step pictorial tutorial for you today. However, I did my best at creating sweet potato pumpkins according to her recipe, and they turned out pretty cute if I do say so myself! So I can share with you in slightly more detail than Ms. Batchelder and you can try it for yourself this week.


Note: Next time I might experiment with adding some type of flour (maybe coconut flour?) to the mixture to see if it firms up a little more so as to make slightly smoother, firmer pumpkins. I’ll let you know how it goes!

So there you go – a cute little vintage (but not) recipe for this Thanksgiving!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Honey Fondant: The Healthiest Easy Fondant Recipe You’ll Find Anywhere

I love making fun birthday cakes for The Boys – I actually really look forward to it from one birthday to the next! The problem is trying to balance cost, nutrition, and simplicity – those three things don’t always meet together and play nicely when it comes to cakes and decorative frostings! Fondant, in particular, seems to be a matter of expense, difficulty, and chemical-laden ingredients, yet it can turn out some of the cutest and most gorgeously decorated cakes.

However, for my Certain Little Someone’s fifth – yes, fifth! – birthday cake, I happened upon an amazing recipe for fondant that contained absolutely no chemical or processed ingredients. What’s more, all the ingredients were something I had in my cupboard already, and it was just as easy – or seemed to be – as any other fondant recipe out there.

A Healthy Fondant Recipe that’s Easy?

Here’s how I stumbled across this gem of a recipe:

  • My Certain Little Someone wanted Mario cupcakes for his birthday (which he later switched to Angry Birds). When I was browsing Pinterest for ideas, most of the ones he liked involved fondant, which I had never used before.
  • I took a gander at the ingredient list on the label of store-bought fondant. My eyebrows rose so high they practically rocketed off my forehead, and I hastily put the container back on the shelf and said, “No way!”. 
  • I found a healthy-ish recipe for marshmallow fondant, but when I priced the ingredients…. well, once again my eyebrows got a little too high and I reluctantly admitted that was not do-able. Those “healthy” marshmallows cost $4 a bag, and you need two for the recipe! Not to mention the cost of the healthier sugar/powdered sugar.
  • I started researching alternative fondant recipes – my goodness, there are a lot of different ways to make fondant! Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure. There was the original true recipe for fondant, which involved candy thermometers and boiling sugar water, which I decided against (way too complicated, plus I don’t have a candy thermometer). There were also a lot of recipes that called for strange ingredients I don’t keep on hand and didn’t really want to invest in anyway.
  • Then there were a whole variety of powdered-sugar based recipes, most of which involved corn syrup. I wondered if honey could replace the corn syrup (because that’s what I usually sub when corn syrup is called for in a recipe and it usually works well), but I didn’t want to risk it because I didn’t have the time to deal with it. I searched specifically for “honey fondant” wondering if someone else had tried it and if it worked.
  • Well, whaddya know?! I found a whole bunch of recipes for something that beekeepers feed their bees during the winter (no, thank you, I don’t have any bees) instead of more fondant frosting recipes… but there was ONE little precious gem of a recipe buried in all of that honey-bee stuff: Honey Fondant

I made it pretty much as written, except that I had to add significantly more powdered sugar than I was expecting. Like, I mean, significantly, she says with significance. I honestly don’t know how much powdered sugar ended up in this batch of fondant, but let me tell you it is way more than I have ever put in any one recipe any other time in my life.

So I decided that when it comes to fondant, your choice pretty much boils down to this: 

chemicals

or

sugar. 

Lots and lots  of sugar.

I’m glad I want with the sugar option because at least it’s something your body recognizes and knows what to do with. The chemicals are just scary, frankly – at least sugar is a known danger!

I haven’t made any other kind of fondant so I have nothing with which to compare it, but this seemed to be just as simple as any of the other recipes out there, and definitely simpler than the boiling sugar version. As long as you understand you might have to use a metric ton of powdered sugar, you’ll be OK.


A few ingredient notes:

  • The original recipe called for margarine – I would have used butter except that my Certain Little Someone is allergic to it. I considered using palm shortening but I wasn’t sure if that was a good sub or not (probably would be fine), so I opted to stick with the original recipe and use my Certain Little Someone’s “butter”, which is actually a coconut-based all-natural butter-like spread. I think either butter or palm shortening or some other similar margarine would work. Just don’t use the nasty chemical margarine.
  • The next time I make this, I’ll probably try starting with less liquid, maybe even half as much as is indicated here.
  • I made my own powdered sugar by processing raw sugar in my Vitamix. I wanted it to be pretty fine, or I would have gone with powdered sucanat or even coconut sugar. Either of those would probably work, but with the quantity used, it would get expensive fast.
  • The original recipe called for 800g of powdered sugar, which is just under 2 lbs. I’d definitely consider that a starting point! You’ll probably use more like 4 pounds, maybe even more, unless you adjust the liquid (if you do adjust the liquid, let me know how that goes!).

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Allergen-Free S’Mores Stars

This post originally appeared on my food allergy blog in 2011.  S'Mores Stars

These babies are a lot of work, but totally worth it for a spectacular Fourth of July celebration! Everything is made from scratch, except the chocolate, which is just melted chocolate chips. If you want to make these, plan on making the marshmallows first (giving them adequate time to set), then the graham cracker stars, and then assembling them.

I found the marshmallow recipe on Food.com, and made it pretty much as it described. I like that it’s also corn-free, which I think is healthier, and also great for those with corn allergies/sensitivities.

Corn-Free Marshmallows

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP gelatin
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 2 cups sugar (I used raw)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • powdered sugar or colored blue sugar
  1. Pour 1/2 cup water in a small bowl, and sprinkle with gelatin. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, stir together sugar and remaining 1/2 cup water. Cook over medium heat until dissolved, stirring constantly. When sugar is dissolved, add gelatin and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom. Remove from the heat, and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer; allow to cool to room temperature.
  3. Stir in salt and vanilla, then beat on high speed with the whisk attachment until fluffy and doubled in volume, about 10 minutes or so.
  4. Sprinkle sifted powdered sugar over the bottom of a 9×13 pan and pour marshmallow mixer into it, smoothing the top. Allow to set until you can touch the surface with your finger and it doesn’t stick.
  5. Using a greased spatula to help release it from the pan, turn marshmallow onto a surface sprinkled with either more sifted powdered sugar or colored blue (or red) sugar. Cut out stars with a metal star-shaped cookie cutter, dipping it into a bowl of hot water in between each cut. Roll each star in your sugar of choice until all surfaces are covered.

 

Blue S'Mores Stars For the graham cracker stars, I simply used my allergen-free graham cracker recipe and rolled and cut it into star shapes instead of squares. If you don’t need an allergen-free recipe, try this graham cracker recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

 

Allergen-Free Graham Crackers

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups sorghum flour mix
  • 1/2 cup turbinado (raw) sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 7 TBSP coconut oil
  • 3 TBSP cold water
  • 3 TBSP honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add coconut oil and blend with pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and stir until dough can be manipulated into a soft ball, adding cold water 1 TBSP at a time if necessary.
  3. Cover dough and refrigerate one hour.
  4. Roll out half of the dough into a large rectangle between two plastic zippered bags (Rip the bags down the sides to form long sheets of plastic. This is sturdier than wax paper or plastic wrap). Leave it pretty thick, around 1/4″ or so. Peel off the top bag, and use a star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out stars. Continue until dough is gone.
  5. Place the stars on lightly greased cooking sheets and bake in a 325F oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the pan to cool on a wire rack.

 

S'Mores Stars Chocolate

1/2 cup safe chocolate chips

Melt the chocolate chips at in the microwave at 50% or 60% power, stirring every 15 or 20 seconds. Use immediately.

To Assemble:

Use a knife to spread a small amount (about 1 tsp or less) onto the surface of a graham cracker star. Immediately top with a marshmallow. Leave as is, or spread chocolate on another graham cracker star and place it on top of the marshmallow to form a complete sandwich. Allow to cool until the chocolate is set.

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Simple Hospitality: Host a Kaffeeklatsch

Some times I think we have the idea that hosting guests in our home has to be a big ordeal complete with written invitations (or at least an evite), a set of fine china, a sparkling clean home, and the perfect balance of dinner guests. And sometimes I think that our hours spent browsing on Pinterest have convinced us that no event is complete without handmade decor, cute-si-fied mason jars, and/or an assortment of creative, delicious, and – of course – uber-healthy treats for every dietary need possible.

Simple Hospitality

Forget all that stuff. That is not what hospitality is all about!

Hospitality is about people getting together, plain and simple. The setting doesn’t really matter – you don’t need to spend hours of time impressing your friends with either your millions… or your ability to create what looks like a million bucks out of  nothing.

Sure, we all love good food, and I love a themed party as well as anybody! Cute decorations and creative touches make me smile and say “awww”. But really, when I host (or attend) a get-together of any kind, what I’m really looking for is good conversation and fun with other people. All that other stuff is auxiliary and completely unnecessary.

So if you’re not feeling up to scrubbing the house top-to-bottom, or if you don’t have a crafty bone in your body, or if the thought of cooking up a full-course meal for other folks makes you sick to your stomach… well, then, don’t. Don’t do all that stuff. 

But do have other people over. One of the easiest ways to get some friends over to your house for a good time of conversation and fellowship is to have them over for coffee. The Germans even have a name for it – Kaffeeklatsch – so if you want to make it sound a little more exciting, then that’s what you can call it!

A Kaffeeklatsch is super simple, inexpensive, and enjoyed by just about everybody (even the non-coffee drinkers; I’ll get to that in a minute).

How to Host a Kaffeeklatsch

Here’s how I recently hosted a Kaffeeklatsch myself:

  • I invited my guests by text, Facebook message, and cell phone. No fancy-schmancy invitations needed!
  • I ran to Safeway (literally at the last minute) and picked up some coffee (Did you know, by the way, that Gevalia coffee is now available in grocery stores? It used to be mail-order only back in the day, but now it’s available to pick up any time! And it’s yummy stuff, so that’s what I got. Decaf for the sleepy folks who wanted to stay that way, and regular for the rest of us.)
  • While at Safeway, I also picked up some healthy-ish treats. Since this was a total impromptu gathering, I didn’t bother taking the time to make some truly healthy treats at home; I chose instead to compromise health for the sake of hospitality! So we had all-natural ice cream, Newman-O’s ginger creme cookies, dark chocolate with fruit and nuts, and some bake-at-home cookies from the Immaculate Baking Company (also all natural).
  • Once home, I set out the cookies and treats on trays, and got my French press ready to go.
  • I also set out different kinds of sweetener (chocolate-flavored stevia, for one –  yum!), some chocolate syrup (all natural again), real whipped cream, and cinnamon for my guests to dress up their coffee.
  • I also had some organic hot chocolate mix ready for friends who preferred not to drink coffee. And if I had any tea-drinking friends present, I would have set out some options for hot tea as well.
  • And we all sipped our coffee, nibbled our treats, and chit-chatted until it got dark!

That’s it, friend! All there is to it. If you prefer to fix healthy treats for your friends, here are a few ideas:

What’s your favorite easy hospitality?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Super Fast and Simple Football Cake

I think it’s kinda funny that I am writing a Super Bowl post, because I have absolutely no interest in the Super Bowl. Not even this year, when the local team actually has a shot at the big game. The honest to goodness truth is that I could care less about football. 

In fact, this cake has nothing to do with the Super Bowl. I actually made it for Tiger Cub’s second birthday a couple weeks ago, and am just now getting around to posting it, but I figured that was pretty good timing with the Super Bowl only a few weeks away. Around here, football fever is reaching an all-time high as the local fans get their hopes up, so it seems very fitting all around.

If, like me, the Super Bowl is not your thing, then perhaps you could find another use for this fun and simple cake. Maybe a child’s birthday? Father’s day? Little boy baby shower? Whatever the case, football is a fun theme and a super easy cake to make. 

Trust me. I don’t do hard cakes. This is pretty much as easy as they come.

The Cake

My standard birthday cake recipe hitherto has been one variation or another of the Wacky Cake because it doesn’t require eggs or butter. Up until recently, The Boys were allergic to those things, so I avoided them. My favorite version is the Mocha Wacky Cake - just double the baking time for this cake. If you prefer not to have a mocha flavor, just use water instead of the coffee.

But really, you can use whatever chocolate cake recipe you want. The more important thing is how you bake it.

To make the football shape:

  • Bake your cake recipe in 2 round pans.
  • When the cakes are removed from the pans and completely cooled, cut a 1″ wide strip out of the middle of each layer so that you have 4 half circles.
  • Slide two half circles together until they meet to form the bottom layer.
  • Frost the bottom layer liberally, then top with the remaining two half circles.
  • Voila! You have just made a football-shaped cake!

Told ya it was easy.

The Frosting

The frosting is also easy because you do not have to fool with food coloring. Because, as Matthew McConaughey said so eloquently in The Wedding Planner, “Chocolate’s already brown.”  Simply add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to the frosting recipe found here (or use your own favorite chocolate frosting) after you reserve about 1/4 cup of frosting for the laces. 

Cover the cake in a thin layer of frosting to seal in the crumbs. Allow it to set until it’s firm to the touch. Then fill a decorator’s bag with your frosting, fitted with a star tip. If you’ve never piped stars before, here’s a video I found that illustrates the process:

Pipe stars to cover the top of the cake. If you’re not into stars (although I think they give a nice professional finished look to the cake), just swirl the frosting on with a knife. You can frost the sides, too, if you want. I only didn’t because I was running out of time, but next time I probably would.

Once the football is covered with chocolate frosting, take the reserved plain frosting and place it in a decorator’s bag with the round tip. Pipe the lacing onto the top of the football. 

The Cake Balls

Now you know I can’t bear for any food to go to waste. Remember those strips of cake cut out of the middle of the circles?  There was no way I was going to throw away that deliciousness. Nope! I turned it into cake balls.

You can do the same: all you need is a little bit extra frosting and some chocolate chips to melt. Here’s the process.

  • Simply crumble the strips of cake into a bowl, then stir in frosting until you have a mixture that can be formed into balls. (You should get about a dozen.)
  • Place the balls on a cookie sheet and freeze until firm.
  • Melt 1 cup of chocolate chips with 1 TBSP of palm shortening (or other oil) over low heat until smooth.
  • Dip the frozen balls into the melted chocolate and then place on a sheet of wax paper to set.

If I’d had time, I would have experimented with piping helmet details onto the balls with white chocolate or frosting to turn them into little mini football helmets, but I ran out of time. If you give that a try, let me know! And take a picture so I can see. I think it would be super cute!

So there you have it… a super simple football cake for the Super Bowl, or your next birthday party. Fun and easy – I love it!

How do you feel about the Super Bowl?

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A Simple Christmas Tip #23 – Make No-Bake Cookies

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Come back tomorrow for another quick tip to help you simplify your Christmas by focusing less on spending and more on celebrating.

Buy Healthy Snacks to Go eBook Recipes Online

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A Simple Christmas Tip #15 – Don’t Make Too Many Cookies

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A Simple Christmas Tip #14 – Keep Your Holiday Menu Simple


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A Simple Christmas Tip #13 – Keep Cookie Dough in the Freezer


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Smart Sweets

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