Category Archives: Entertaining

Layered Black Bean Dip

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I have a big weakness for dips, so I try to just make them when I need to bring something to a party or get-together–that way, I have plenty of people to help me eat it! 🙂 This Layered Black Bean Dip is really easy to make, and I like to think that the black beans make it a little healthier! 🙂 I added a little plain Greek yogurt to the original recipe to make the base of the dip a little creamier and also topped it with some green onion slices. If you don’t have any parties coming up soon, this also makes a great snack when you’re watching football or other sports games on TV! This recipe probably serves about 6-8 people; if you’re making it for a larger crowd, you can double the recipe and make it in a 9 x 13″ baking or serving dish.

LAYERED BLACK BEAN DIP by NancyC, adapted from Kraft Foods

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese (regular or light), softened
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (10-ounce) can ROTEL Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies, well drained
  • 1 cup finely shredded Fiesta-Style Four-Cheese blend
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced (both the white part and stem)

In a medium mixing bowl, blend the softened cream cheese with the yogurt, blending with a hand mixer or by hand until creamy. Spread this mixture onto the bottom of a shallow dish or pie plate. Layer the black beans over the cream cheese mixture; then layer the ROTEL diced tomatoes over the black beans. Top with the shredded cheese and then add the sliced green onion on the very top (you can also add some chopped fresh cilantro on top if you like). Serve with tortilla chips.

Note: If you’d like to add more flavor to your cream cheese/yogurt base, stir in some dry Taco seasoning mix or Ranch Dressing mix to taste.

Dips are great because they’re so easy to make. Do you have a favorite dip recipe?

Linked to Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener,  Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy, and Thursday Favorite Things at Katherine’s Corner.

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Spring Fever

I had to make a quick trip to the mall and ended up staying longer than I intended because I was admiring some pretty Spring and Easter tableware and decor at two of my favorite stores, Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma! Teal, light and bright greens, and nature-inspired neutrals seem to be big color themes for the spring season. These happen to be some of my favorite colors–no wonder I was so drawn to the store displays! 🙂 (Photos shown in this post are from Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma)

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At Pottery Barn, I loved all the teal in the table settings displayed right by the front entrance. The tableware looked great with the natural color and texture of woven place mats, along with some burlap and twine accents–so springy and outdoorsy! The inside store display I saw looked very much like the set-up in the photo above, featured on the Pottery Barn website.

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And I thought these bunny cupcake stands were sweet–they also work great for mini pies and tarts or cookies!

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I also liked these nature-inspired basket fillers

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…perfect for creating your own woodland baskets!

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The teal-green-neutral combination also looked great in other home accessories…

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…like this brightly-patterned pillow.

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I thought this embroidered butterfly pillow had a great spring feel, too.

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And I loved all the glassware in spring colors, especially the teal!

img45cWilliams-Sonoma also had nature-inspired designs in some of their spring tableware

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…and they have a new Botanical Citrus Collection which looks very springy.

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You can always find fun baking accessories there, like this Buttercup Cakelet Pan. How cute is that?

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And I saw these cookies later on their website–some great Easter cookie decorating inspiration!

Do you have Spring Fever like I do? Have you found any inspiring Easter and Spring decorating, entertaining, or gift ideas out there?

I’m linking this to Fiesta Friday at The Novice Gardener.

10 Recipes for Valentine’s Day

Here’s a roundup of 10 recipes that your Valentine–or Valentines–will love…some are healthy and some are not-so-healthy (but very yummy)!

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If you’re wanting something sweet for your Valentine breakfast, try these Strawberry Yogurt Muffins–the strawberries on top look like hearts, so they’re perfect for Valentine’s Day!

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Or if you’re wanting something healthy, try this Cranberry-Pecan Oatmeal, made with dried cranberries and chopped pecans. You can substitute dried cherries for the cranberries if you want.

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Or make this Cranberry Almond Oatmeal Bake if you’re feeding a larger group.

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You can also use your dried cranberries (or cherries) in these Cranberry Almond Breakfast Scones for a mid-morning or afternoon Valentine snack!

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Since you may be eating lots of sweets on Valentine’s Day, you’ll want to include a healthy salad in your lunch or dinner menu–this Apple Pear Pecan Salad has dried cranberries in it too, but dried cherries would be yummy as well!

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Savory Strawberry Salsa makes a great appetizer with tortilla chips, and it’s also really good served over grilled chicken!

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Now you need some dessert ideas…Strawberry Cupcakes are just the thing!

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But lots of people prefer something chocolate, and you can’t go wrong with these Chocolate Cupcakes with Fudgy Frosting!

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If you want a healthier dessert, you could always make this Healthy Chocolate Shake

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But, hey, it’s Valentine’s Day–if you want to splurge, make these Dark Chocolate-Covered Cherry Swirl Brownies!

Hope you get a chance to try out some of these treats! Do you have a favorite Valentine recipe?

33 Different Uses for Mason Jars

I’ve become a mason jar-saver, and I have a small but growing collection of different shapes and sizes that have held jams, jellies, pickles, sauces, and other homemade foods that friends have given me. So I was glad to find a helpful guide at MidwestLiving.com on 15 Ways to Use Mason Jars. Then I found more ideas at a few other sites. These are all great ideas because they’re so simple!

Here are a few from Midwest Living that I plan on using…

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Silverware holders–use each jar to hold a napkin and “silverware setting for one”–the jar can also be used by your guest as a drinking glass. Or organize spoons, forks, and knives in three different jars for a buffet-style arrangement.

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Or you may just want to use the jars for serving your beverages in–they’re great for outdoor parties or picnics because they’re so sturdy!

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Use as containers for forcing bulbs. I love this idea!

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Make an easy centerpiece–just float a pretty blossom in a jar filled with water.

Other Midwest Living ideas include:

Using jars to store dry foods like oatmeal and other grains, rice, lentils, dried fruit, sugar, flour, salt, dried beans, pasta, etc. They come in handy if you buy bulk foods. Add your own homemade labels.

Keep your desk organized–use jars for holding pens, pencils, markers, paint brushes, and scissors.

I found more uses at a site called Care2. They list 50 uses for mason jars! These are the ideas from their list that I use or will use most:

  1. Storing cookies
  2. Storing homemade mixes
  3. Use for “recipe in a jar” gifts
  4. Storing saved seeds
  5. Use as containers for homemade soy candles
  6. Holding sour dough starters
  7. Storing homemade cleaners for the home (make sure they’re clearly labeled!)
  8. Storing cotton balls on the bathroom counter
  9. Storing bulk or homemade shampoo
  10. Storing bath salts
  11. Storing small office supplies
  12. Making sun tea
  13. Use as vases for fresh flowers
  14. Use as containers for homemade candy gifts
  15. Storing sewing notions-buttons and other small items
  16. Use as containers for loose change

These uses are from a site called Keeper of the Home. Here are some ideas I like from her list of 31 uses:

  1. Storing leftovers in the refrigerator–soups, stews, cooked rice, veggies–pretty much any kind of food that will fit in the jar (if you need extra lids, you can purchase some like these).
  2. Store leftover smoothies so you can drink later in the day or take to work.
  3. Keep track of how much water you’re drinking–if you drink from a quart-size jar, you can easily keep track of how much water you’re drinking each day.
  4. Sprouting seeds or grains (you can buy these special lids if you want).
  5. Storing homemade juice or iced tea in the refrigerator.
  6. Keeping herbs fresh in the refrigerator (like green onions, cilantro, etc.) by filling a jar 3/4 full of water, then placing your bunch of fresh herbs in it-the herbs stay fresh longer than if put in the produce drawer.
  7. Storing homemade spice mixes–use the 1/2 pint or smaller jars for this.
  8. Mixing and storing homemade salad dressings, marinades, and other sauces.
  9. Mixing and storing homemade syrups.

And then I found a few more ideas at Yahoo Voices:

  1. Start plant cuttings in jars filled with water (I do this a lot!)
  2. To be more eco-friendly, use mason jars instead of plastic containers for your lunch–they’re a great container for soups and salads.

So all together, that’s 33 different ways to use mason jars–plus all the other ideas at those sites that I didn’t mention!

Do you have a collection of mason jars? What different ways do you like to use them?

OREO Holiday Chocolate Chip Cookie Balls

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OREOs are always a treat, and these cookie ball truffles are a great way to enjoy them over the holidays! So now that the Christmas season is in full swing, I thought this would be the perfect time to make them. They’re easy to make and all you need are a few ingredients–OREO cookies, cream cheese, and chocolate–plus an extra ingredient I added! I decided I’d make these cookie balls a little extra chocolatey by adding in some mini chocolate chips (you need to use the mini chips–the regular size would be much too big)! And I used both semi-sweet and white baking chocolate to coat them for a little variety. I topped these yummy treats with different kinds of Christmas sprinkles, coconut, and crushed candy canes. Chopped nuts would also be a great topping.

You can make these cookie ball truffles without the mini chocolate chips if you prefer; you’ll get about 48 if you make them that way. If you make them with the mini chocolate chips like I did, you’ll get at least 70 truffles, maybe a little more, so you may want to have an extra 4-ounce package of baking chocolate on hand in case you need more chocolate coating. I had just enough chocolate to coat all of mine with the 4 packages, but it never hurts to have a little extra on hand. I also added 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil per bar of baking chocolate–I mixed the coconut oil into the chocolate after it was all melted–it made the chocolate a little thinner and easier to dip the cookie balls in.

I also found it was easiest to dip these cookie ball truffles into the chocolate by using a regular spoon, turning each one over in the melted chocolate with the spoon until it was all coated. Then I immediately put it on a parchment-lined pan, using the spoon to drop it on. After dipping about 5 cookie balls, I adding toppings before the chocolate started setting–the toppings adhere much better when the chocolate coating is still very melty.

So that’s all there is to it! And I thought it would be fun to arrange these cookie balls in a tree shape–a great way to serve them at a holiday party or get-together!

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OREO HOLIDAY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE BALLS by NancyCreative, slightly adapted from the original OREO Cookie Ball recipe

Makes about 70 cookie ball truffles

  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 36 OREO Cookies, finely crushed (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (this is an addition to the original recipe)
  • 4 to 5 (4-ounce) packages semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted (I used 2 packages of semi-sweet and 2 packages of white chocolate, melting the different chocolates separately; I also mixed in 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil per 4-ounce melted chocolate baking bar after the chocolate was all melted, for easier dipping–if you don’t do this, your melted chocolate will be thicker, and you may need a 5th 4-ounce bar to have enough chocolate coating)
  • Assorted toppings to sprinkle on the chocolate-coated truffles: Christmas sprinkles, crushed candy canes, coconut, nuts

Mix cream cheese and cookie crumbs until blended. Shape into 70 (1-inch) balls. Place in a shallow 10 x 15″ pan lined with parchment paper and freeze for 10 minutes.

For cookie balls, dip each ball into melted chocolate. Place in single layer in your lined 10 x 15″ pan (I dipped about 5 at a time, then sprinkled them, so the toppings would stick well before the chocolate started setting). You may need to use an extra lined pan, since you’ll need to leave more space between the chocolate coated cookie balls while they’re setting.

After dipping and topping all the cookie balls with your choice of sprinkles or toppings, refrigerate them on your lined pan or pans for 1 hour or until firm.

I partnered with Yummly and OREO on this post, but the opinions expressed here are entirely my own–I’m a longtime Oreo fan! 🙂

Do you like Oreos too? Have you made these cookie balls and do you have a special way of making them?

Sharing at Candy Plan MondayChristmas Cookie Swap at Katherine’s Corner.