Archive | December, 2011

Party Appetizer Ideas: Chocolate Popcorn and Mushroom Crab Melts

27 Dec

My girl friends and I have started the tradition of getting together every year for appetizers and drinks and a ‘Dirty Santa’ gift exchange before we all head home to visit family for the holidays. If you have never heard of ‘Dirty Santa’ or a ‘White Elephant’ gift exchange, it’s a fun and inexpensive way to give gifts. Everyone brings one gift and all the gifts are put in a pile, and then you draw numbers to see what order people will select gifts in. When it’s your turn, you can either get an un-opened gift from the pile, or steal a gift from someone who has already opened! It’s best to be last or at least near the end so you have your choice of what present you want. It’s always a good time, especially when you throw in some random or actual ‘dirty’ gifts ;).

Anyways, on to the recipes! There were some pretty delicious appetizers at the party, and I’ll have to add more recipes from my friends when I get them. I made chocolate drizzled popcorn and these mushroom crab melts that were a big hit. They are both great party appetizers, and would be great for New Year’s or maybe some of the upcoming bowl games. The chocolate drizzled popcorn was really easy. I popped the popcorn and laid it out on a cookie sheet. I melted semi-sweet chocolate chips, then used a spoon to drizzle the chocoloate back and forth over the popcorn, and I used a generous amount of chocolate. (Note: I was a in a bit of a rush and didn’t have time for pictures, so these are just images from the web. My popcorn had quite a bit more chocolate!) Then you let the chocolate harden in the fridge over night, and break it up into chunks. You can use any kind of chocolate you like, add marshmallows, nuts, etc… I saw a recipe with both white and dark chocolate drizzle that looked awesome. One thing I learned from my first-time attempt at melting chocolate- don’t add any liquid! I thought by adding a little milk it might make the melted chocolate creamier… NOPE. It sounds a little counter-intuitive, but adding any liquid makes the chocolate seize up and get all dry and lumpy. You need to just melt the chocolate slowly over low heat until it is nice and creamy.

The mushroom crab melts were a mixture of bacon, mushrooms, onions, crab, cheese, and a little mayo spread over whole-wheat english muffins with a little paprika sprinkled on top. They wold make a great lunch by themselves, but I cut each into four pieces with a pizza-cutter to make bite-size appetizers. Here is the recipe:

  • 3 bacon strips, diced
  • 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 can crabmeat, drained
  • 1 cup (4 oz) shredded swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 6 english muffins, split
  • Dash of cayenne pepper and paprika

Cook the bacon until crisp, then break into pieces when cooled, reserving the bacon drippings in the pan. Saute the chopped-up mushrooms and onions in the drippings for a few minutes until soft. Combine crab, cheeses, mayo, mushroom mixture, and bacon bits in a mixing bowl and stir until blended. Spread a little butter on each muffin half, then top with mixture. Sprinkle with paprika and cayenne pepper and bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Cut each muffin into four pieces with pizza-slicer.

Decorating My Apartment for Christmas!

4 Dec

It’s funny how as soon as I got back from Thanksgiving break, my fall decorations seemed out of place. The holidays are here and it’s time for Christmas decorations! Holiday decorating can be pricey if you go all-out, covering every surface in glittery, frosty, cinnamon-smelling decor. I focused on a few areas that pack the most punch- my dining table, mantle, and of-course some lights in the windows. I bought several of these decorations at extremely reduced prices after Christmas last year. I also got all my wrapping paper, bows, and holiday cards on sale after Christmas. My mom always does this and it’s definitely a good habit; you can save so much money! I purchased a few more items at Target recently for great prices. I still haven’t gotten my tree; I’ll add photos of that if I ever get one. Here are a few photos of this year’s decorations.

You can save money by assembling inexpensive items creatively instead of buying pre-made centerpieces. I started with a table runner, then I made a centerpiece out of pinecones and a cheap cinnamon candle. I actually bought these pinecones, but you can use berries, bits of evergreen, pinecones, and/or twigs right out of your backyard for a beautiful centerpiece. Last year I spray-painted twigs silver and arranged them in a tall jar and it cost about $10, versus the $25+ centerpiece I saw at Peir 1 that looked almost identical!  (I usually get ideas from stores such as Peir 1 and Target and then make cheaper versions myself :)) The silver plate holders were about $1 each at Target, and I’m sure I will use these for multiple occasions. The napkins and ornament add a pop of color. Super easy and cheap.

Here are a few more details that I have around the apartment that are also cheap and easy. I love holiday frames; they are great for adding color to end tables or your mantle. And I love having even more photos of my family around for the holidays. I also bought these glass jars from Target and filled them with ornaments. I have seen similar photos of different sizes and shapes of jars arranged as centerpieces and they were gorgeous. I bought a bunch of ornaments after Christmas last year for next-to-nothing. Just a couple of ideas from my apartment. Happy decorating and happy holidays!

Christmas Cookie Recipes – Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

2 Dec

My co-worker Jenna is a fantastic cook, and she always brings goodies to the office. I work for a cable advertising company.. so Jenna tries out recipes from cable food shows and blogs about them on our company blog! (Check out our blog at and Click on “What’s Cooking on Cable with Jenna” for all her recipes) She brought in the best cookies today.. they are literally melt-in-your-mouth amazing! And she is going to be making a different cookie recipe each week from now until New Years! Check out her post:

What’s Cooking on Cable With Jenna-Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

This recipe was not a difficult one for me to pick out–the name alone had my mouth watering. Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies!! This is a Paula Deen recipe, so you know 2 things right off the bat. They will contain at least one stick of butter and will be as unhealthy as possible. I figure that Christmas is the perfect time to indulge. I will be making a Holiday cookie recipe each week leading up until New Years! Get excited!!

This recipe literally has 5 ingredients. 1 Box of Chocolate cake mix (I used Devil’s Food), 1 Egg, 1 stick of butter, 1 package of Cream Cheese, and vanilla extract. Easy!!

After mixing the ingredients together the dough must chill. This is the only way to be able to roll the dough into balls. Trust me, I tried to roll them without the chilling and I just made a mess. After the dough chills in the fridge for 2-3 hours, it should be cold enough to roll into balls. Once the balls are formed roll them in powdered sugar. That’s it!

I put about 16 cookies on each cookie sheet but I probably should have put less. The cookies really spread out and some ran together. Next time I will only put 12 on each cookie sheet. Lesson learned!

My coworkers and husband agree that these cookies are fantastic! One coworker even commented that they taste almost brownie-like. I think this will become a holiday standard in my house!

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