Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holiday Cheese Ball

Love the look of the different colors of peppers.
Our family has a tradition of gathering on New Year's Eve to play board games and socialize. We usually have a main dish, but then everyone brings their favorite finger foods. One of my favorites growing up was having a holiday cheese ball. It was not the holidays without this scrumptious snack.

Not all cheese balls are created equal and this one is sure to delight your taste buds. Once you have homemade, it's hard to go back to store-bought ones. It doesn't take much time to make your own and I love knowing exactly what's in it. It definitely tastes better, too. This is my go-to recipe and it's a family favorite.

This cheese ball is my favorite because it's easy to make, looks festive for the holidays, it tastes awesome and the ingredients are simple. It's savory with a hint of sweetness. And I typically always have the ingredients on-hand, so it comes together quickly if I need something when company comes over or I need to take something to a gathering. You can serve this with your favorite crackers or pretzels. I love using Wheat Thins. You can also choose what kind of nuts to use to encapsulate the cheese ball. I use whatever I have on-hand, but my favorite is chopped pecans. This makes 2 cheese balls and they keep well in the refrigerator for a week or more, so you can do this ahead of time.

Here's what you need:

-( 2)  8 oz pkgs. of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
-1 C crushed pineapple, drained well
-¼  C chopped green pepper (I love using a mixture of green, red and orange)
-1 TBS chopped onion (optional)
-1/2 tsp seasoned salt (can use up to a tsp if you prefer things more salty)
-1 C chopped  pecans (or you can use your favorite chopped nut)

1. Mix all ingredients together except for nuts.

2. Take a piece of plastic wrap and spread out 1/4 C of the chopped pecans. Place half of cream cheese mixture on top of pecans and sprinkle with another 1/4 C. of chopped pecans. Form into a ball and roll until the outside of the cheese ball is covered in pecans. Repeat this process for the other cheese ball.

3. Cover the cheese balls with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Holiday Cheese Ball
Serve with Wheat Thins, Ritz, Townhouse or Club crackers. Enjoy and Happy Baking!

Here is the printable recipe.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Clove-Studded Holiday Ham with a Spiced Orange Glaze

Holiday Ham
I have never attempted to bake a ham because I've never really been a fan of ham and it always felt a little bit intimidating. Why? I have no idea because all you basically have to do is heat it up and glaze it. That's it.

I have helped others cook a ham and I've always glazed it with the packet that comes with the ham. The ham would taste fine, but never lick-my-fingers good. Well, I'm here to tell you that if you aren't a ham fan, this recipe might convert you. The glaze is amazing and the ham turned out so moist and juicy. It even looks festive for the holidays.

Baking a ham is so easy, but it takes a little bit of time. The ham is already cooked and you are basically reheating it, but if you are working with a large ham or a frozen one, it'll take more time. I'd recommend thawing your ham the day or night before you want to cook it. You want to plan about 15 minutes per pound to heat it. Optimal serving temperature for ham is about 140 degrees, so you can use a meat thermometer to check the temperature. My ham cooked a little bit faster than the 15 min/lb and using the thermometer ensures that you won't overcook it and dry it out.

Now let's talk about the glaze. Some people glaze the last 5-10 minutes after the ham is 140 degrees, but I liked basting it with the glaze throughout the cooking process. I basted it about every 20-30 minutes and the flavor went throughout the ham. It was awesome! I did a big ham and we had plenty of leftovers for soup and sandwiches.

This ham is rockin'! It's moist, juicy and full of holiday flavor. I love the spices with the hint of orange. It's perfect for the holidays. The whole cloves used to stud the ham don't provide a lot of flavor, but they look festive. I added ground cloves to the glaze to enhance the flavor. You want to cover the ham to prevent it from drying out and the glaze created a delicious crust. I'm sure you will love this.

Here's what you need:
-10-12 lb spiral-cut ham (you can use a smaller ham and you can half the glaze recipe)
-2-3 TBS of whole cloves
-3/4 C honey
-3/4 C brown sugar
-1/2 TBS dark molasses
-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
-1/4 tsp. ground cloves
-juice of one orange (about 1/4- 1/2 C)
-zest of one orange

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place your ham in a large roasting pan. You may want to line it with foil because the glaze makes a bit of a mess. Take whole cloves and poke them into the large portion of the ham that is not sliced. This is called "studding." I placed them in between the diamond pattern. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil and place in oven.

Clove Studs

 2. In a medium sauce pan, combine honey, brown sugar, molasses, cinnamon, ground cloves, orange juice and orange zest. Stir mixture and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low just to keep mixture warm.

3. Open oven and uncover ham and baste with mixture every 20-30 minutes.

4. Once your ham has reached 140 degrees, remove ham from oven and uncover. Turn heat up to 425 degrees. While oven is heating, spoon glaze over ham and baste with a basting brush. Pull back the sliced pieces and ensure glaze goes in between ham pieces.

5. Once oven is at 425 degrees, return ham to oven uncovered and bake for another 5 minutes. Turn off oven and broil top of ham for 3-5 minutes to create a candied crust on ham.

Glazed Ham

6. Remove from oven and allow ham to rest for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

This would make a wonderful holiday meal with plenty of leftovers.

Enjoy and Happy Baking.

Here's the printable recipe.

Peppermint Bark Cereal Treats

Peppermint Bark Cereal Treats
I love this time of year because I can find so many yummy mint-with-chocolate treats. Seriously, mint and chocolate is such a yummy combination. And it always reminds me of the holidays. I am Dove Peppermint Bark chocolates. Peppermint Bark anything is so delicious.

This time of year is so busy and it seems like the holidays just creep up on me. We spent some time in Florida last week visiting some close friends and I was on the beach and realized that we hadn't done any neighbor or friend gifts! I wanted to do something quick, easy and festive. Here's a fun twist on traditional cereal treats. The very marshmallowy, minty, chocolately, and super festive. One batch does a cookie sheet sized pan, so you only need to do a batch or two and you'll have a bunch to go around.

Here's what you need:
-1 lb. of mini marshmallows (I love using the peppermint kind if you can find them)
-5 TBS of real butter (plus a little extra for buttering your pan)
-1/2 tsp. real vanilla extract
-1/8 teaspoon of peppermint oil (The oil is more potent, but I love the flavor.)
-9 C of rice cereal (Rice Krispies or any off-brand)
-a few drops of red food coloring (if not using peppermint marshmallows)

Peppermint Bark Drizzle

-1/2 C semi-sweet baking chips
-1/2 C white baking chips
-1/4 tsp. peppermint oil, divided
-3-4 crushed peppermint candy canes
-1-2 TBS of oil (can use vegetable, canola or coconut. I prefer coconut)

1. Butter a standard-sized cookie sheet and set it aside.

2. Place butter into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until completely melted.

3. Remove bowl from microwave and add vanilla, peppermint oil and food coloring. Stir to incorporate into butter. Stir in your marshmallows and coat with butter. Make sure you measure the peppermint oil. This is different than peppermint extract. The oil is STRONG and a little bit goes a long way. I like using the oil because it doesn't have any fillers and it has a true peppermint flavor. Unless you get a good brand of extract, sometimes it tastes more like mint toothpaste than true peppermint.

4. Microwave on high for about 1.5-2 minutes, stirring in 30 second intervals. Once marshmallows have melted, stir in rice cereal. Stir completely until cereal in completely covered in the marshmallow mixture.

5. Butter your hands and press cereal treats into an even layer on your buttered cookie sheet.

6. Use a chocolate melter if you have one (it's like a mini crock-pot that melts chocolate and keeps it at a constant temperature). I have 2 of them and they are my favorite to use. I love that it keeps the chocolate at a constant temperature and I don't have to worry about using a double boiler or running the risk of my chocolate seizing in the microwave. If you can invest in one, I highly recommend it. It also works great for dipping chocolates. If you don't have one, then you can melt the chocolate in the microwave in 15-30 second intervals. It takes about 3-4 minutes and you want to make sure that you stir often. Use 2 separate bowls and melt the white and dark chocolate. Once your chocolate is melted, add in 1/8 tsp. peppermint oil into each bowl and stir. Add in a tsp at a time of oil into each bowl until it reaches your desired consistency. I like the chocolate a little runny so that it drizzles easier.

7. Drizzle dark chocolate and then white chocolate over cereal treats. Sprinkle with crushed candy canes and then drizzle with remaining white and dark chocolate.

Chocolate Drizzles

8. Let the chocolate set and then cut into squares.
Plated with Pretzel Turtles

You can also arrange them in a bag and tie with ribbon for a quick gift.

Gift Idea

Enjoy and Happy Baking.

Here's the printable recipe.

Pretzel Turtles

Pretzel Turtles
Being domestic doesn't mean you have to spend all day in the kitchen! Here is a perfect idea for last minute gifts for neighbors, friends or co-workers. These whip together in a flash, they taste amazing and they look so cute too! I was introduced to these a couple years ago and I love making these when I need something quick and easy.

Here's what you need:
-1 bag of Rolo chocolate candies
-1 small bag of small pretzels
-1 C of pecan halves (one for each pretzel. Amount depends on how many you make)

-3 TBS white baking chips
-1/2 tsp of oil (can use vegetable, canola or coconut. I prefer coconut.)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. Lay out pretzels on parchment paper. Unwrap your Rolo chocolates and place on top of each pretzel. (I had 53 Rolos in my bag, so this made 53 chocolates.)

3. Place cookie sheet in your oven and bake for about 2-3 minutes. Watch these because you want to take them out before the melt and fall over. Mine baked just over 2 minutes.

4. Remove tray from oven, place a pecan half on top of each Rolo and then push it down.

I love melty caramel and chocolate.

 5. Melt chocolate in microwave in 15-30 second intervals. Once chocolate is melted, add oil and stir. This will help your chocolate be a little more runny so that it's easy to drizzle on top of each chocolate. You can also use a chocolate warmer if you have one.

6. While chocolates are still on parchment paper, take a spoon and lightly drizzle white chocolate over each turtle. Just do it randomly--just move the spoon back and forth quickly and the chocolate will fly all over the turtles.

White chocolate drizzle

7. Allow the turtles to sit on parchment paper until chocolate is completely set.


Remove and put on a decorative plate or in a decorative bag. Tie with some cute ribbon and you've got a super easy and cute gift.

Neighbor gifts.

Here's the printable recipe.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Biscoff Bars

I've mentioned before that I'm a total Biscoff Junkie! I am totally addicted to this stuff. I thought life was good when I discovered the cookies. Then I didn't know life could get any better when I found out there was a spread! Biscoff spread tastes just like the cookies, but it has a smooth, creamy texture like peanut butter. I seriously love this stuff--I love it so much that you will always find 3 jars in my pantry at all times. If you haven't tasted the cookies they are cinnamony, spicy, gingerbread-like pieces of heaven. The spread is all that rolled into a creamy spread. Biscoff spread tastes great on toast, graham crackers, made into frosting or just eaten by the spoon. You can find the spread at most local grocery stores located by the peanut butter.

Biscoff Bars
I was talking with my cousin and we got to talking how Biscoff would make great cookie bars--like peanut butter bars, but substituting peanut butter with Biscoff. My mom has a rockin' Peanut Butter Bar recipe that is my "go-to" recipe when I need something quick and delicious when company comes over or for potlucks. Her recipe was easily adapted to create these lovely Biscoff bars. They are sweet, nutty, buttery, slightly chewy and have a hint of cinnamon. The topping is the best part. You might have to make it in the presence of others because you will want to eat yourself. I love the complement that butterscotch gives to the Biscoff spread. It was a match made in baking heaven.

These would be a perfect addition to any holiday gathering, to potlucks, serving to company or just for dessert when you want to eat something sinful. These whip up pretty quickly so it's a great recipe to have on hand when you need something quick. No one has to know that these didn't take you all day to make, although they will taste like you spent the day slaving away. That's what I love about cooking and being domestic---you don't have to spend tons of time to make great-tasting things. I think this will be a great recipe to add to your baking repertoire.

Here's what you need:
-1/2 C unsalted butter (1 stick)
-1/2 C sugar
-1/2 C brown sugar
-1 egg
-1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
-1/2 C Biscoff Spread (plus about 1/2c-3/4 c more for topping)
-1/2 tsp. baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1 C all-purpose flour
-1 C quick-cooking oats

-1/2 C-3/4C Biscoff spread
-1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
-3oz butterscotch chips
-4 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
-2/3 C toasted pecans, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13 pan.

2. In a large mixing bowl cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add egg and mix. Add Biscoff spread and vanilla and mix. (Don't forget to lick the spoon with the extra Biscoff spread.) Add flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon to bowl together. Mix together just until incorporated. Add oats and mix. (You may need to try a taste of the dough. But once you do, I'm not gonna promise that the rest will get baked. It's better than cookie dough.)

Biscoff Dough

3. Spread dough evenly into your baking pan. Bake for 20-23 minutes--just until the top begins to brown. Don't overbake--it will look slightly "doughy", but it will be fine after it cools. I baked mine for 20 minutes, but each oven and baking times vary slightly.

4. Remove from oven. It will look puffy and will go down after it is removed from oven. Let it rest for 3-4 minutes and spread top with extra Biscoff spread.

Melty Biscoff Spread. Delicious.
5. Sprinkle with butterscotch and chocolate chips and put in oven for 1 minute just until you see the chips soften. Remove from oven, sprinkle with cinnamon and spread over Biscoff layer. Sprinkle with toasted pecans.

Let cool completely. Cut and thoroughly enjoy! And try to share them with others. But if you don't I won't judge you. Sometimes I feel tempted to take the pan and hide in my closet so that I don't have to share. :)
Biscoff Bars

Here's the printable recipe.