4th of July Brunch Win – Fruit and Cream Cheese Tarts

I grew-up in a lake town “up North” and the 4th of July is kind of a thing for my family.  In case you aren’t sure where “up North” actually is, it is how Minnesotans essentially describe anywhere north of about Alexandria and general lake country.  Or maybe best described by the photo below:

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My dad once said that the 4th of July was his favorite holiday – food, drinking, and good company without the pressure of gifts or formal entertaining.  I have to say I agree with him (although Christmas will always have a special place in my heart).

We have a pretty decent crew getting together to celebrate freedom and I opted to take-on Sunday brunch.  I have no shame in over-doing the red/white/blue food theme and in general (as I’ve said over and over) love bite-sized food.  So when I found these cute fruit and cream cheese pastries from Just a Taste I had to give them a try!

Fruit and Cream Cheese Tarts

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 Tbl sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 sheets (one package) frozen pastry sheets (like these)
  • 1 1/2 cups fruit of choice
  • 1 large egg

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • With a mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla until creamy
  • Unfold the pastry sheet, and using a glass or cookie cutter (depending on what size pastries you want) cut-out circles **I used a glass that allowed 9 per sheet
  • Place the circles on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, around 2 inches apart
  • Lightly cut a border into each pastry near the edge and poke the center gently with a fork **The scored border is key to help the tart rise or “puff” properly along the edges
  • Spread the cream cheese mixture on each pastry and top with the fruit of your choice  **Be sure the fruit is properly dried so it doesn’t bleed
  • Mix together the egg and a spoonful of water (to create an egg wash), and brush the exposed edges of each pastry
  • Bake 15-18 minutes, until golden brown and puffy

Enjoy, and happy 4th!

Champagne Jello Shots

Happy (almost) New Year!

As mentioned a million times, I love cute, fun food (and let’s be honest, adult beverages).  I’ve seen these Champagne Jello Shots floating around online and decided to give them a go for New Years Eve!

They were super easy to make and based on the ingredients have a little kick to them.  Hopefully we make it until midnight after trying these suckers!

I chose this recipe from Delish.com:

Champagne Jello Shots

Credit: delish.com

Ingredients:

– 1 1/2 C. champagne (divided)
– 1 Tbl lemon juice
– 1 Tbl sugar
– 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin (I used Knox, note 4 envelopes come in one box)
– 1/4 C vodka
– sprinkles of choice

Combine 1 1/4 cups of the champagne, lemon juice, and sugar in a saucepan.  Sprinkle gelatin on top.  Let the gelatin soften / sit for two minutes then heat mixture over low heat.  Stir until gelatin has completely dissolved and remove from heat.  Stir in remaining champagne and vodka

Grease a loaf pan (I doubled the recipe so used an 8×8 pan) and pour mixture into mold.  Chill for 2 hours, or until firm.

Top with sprinkles and enjoy!

A complete and somewhat unrelated sidebar – I love puzzles.  So when I took these out of their pan to take the photo, naturally I had to put them back exactly how they were in the pan.  There is something so satisfying about placing that last piece in a puzzle am I right?  Anyone?  (OK I need a life…but that may have been my favorite part of the process).

Happy New Year!!

Megan

 

7 Make-Ahead Holiday Appetizers

This is how it started.  I had a whole weekend where I had nothing to do – A WHOLE WEEKEND.  Bored and “needing a project” I decided that my festively decorated home was a waste since only my husband and I would see it.  So I (after consulting with my husband) decided we should have a party!

Well then when I had a second WHOLE WEEKEND with no specific activities, I decided we should paint all of the trim in our home in preparation for said party….super aggressive and unnecessary move.

Three days before our party we were doorless, knee deep in white paint (even Stella got paint on her), and had a growing guest list of 25+ people.

It was at this moment that I was SUPER pumped I had pre-made over half of my planned menu.  As mentioned, I hate having to rush the week of a party.  You already have to worry about cleaning, decorating, buying ice, (and in this case finishing your home project).  Being able to pull appetizers out of the freezer is a huge time win!

So if you are looking to get ahead of the holidays, here are some great make-in-advance appetizers (in order of fan favorites)

1.) Buffalo Chicken Bites: I used mini muffin tins to make them more cute (aka bited-sized 😉 and to maximize the recipe).TIP: Spray your pan REALLY well!

2.) Spinach Dip & Fillo Cups: I love that this was the second favorite because it is all store bought. While you have to prep this the day-of (max 10 min.), you can buy the ingredients in advance and its super quick.  You literally buy your favorite spinach dip from the store (for me it’s the stuff from Costco) and put it into the Athens Mini Fillo Cups and pop in the oven on about 300 degrees for 10 minutes or so.  You can find the Fillo Cups in the frozen food section by pie crusts and desserts at most grocery stores.

3/4.) Southwest Turkey Meatballs with Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce and Asian Turkey Meatballs With Lime Sesame Dipping Sauce: Someone had made these for a bridal shower I attended and I liked that they were a somewhat healthy and hearty option! (they also worked slick in the new triple crockpot my HUSBAND bought on BLACK FRIDAY all on his own.  He knows the way to my heart…)

5/6.) Sweet & Salty Family Chex Recipes: I’m not sure where the salty chex recipe came from, but it is a staple in my family.  My dad has been making it for years, in the same giant yellow plastic bowl.  It is the right blend of spice and salt and I love that the recipe is written on a crusty, over-used post-it.  Luke’s mom, Roxie, also makes the most amazing sweet Chex at all holidays and it is a HUGE hit as well! I guess we have Chex connoisseurs in our families?! (recipes below)

7.) Sausage Stuffing Balls with Cranberry Dipping Sauce: I liked this appetizer because it seemed festive and was a bit heartier.  It was also still cute (again I like my food bite-sized) and a great use of leftover Thanksgiving stuffing!

Outside of the treats above, we also had:

  • Caprese Skewers
  • Veggies and Dip (Remember my mom’s dill dip recipe?)
  • Bacon-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese:  This is my party trick and Luke’s favorite
  • Shrimp Cocktail Dip (also a Tucker family holiday staple)
  • Bruschetta Bar (aka French bread, pesto, olive tapenade, and this bruschetta recipe)
  • Cranberry Pecan Mini Goat Cheese Balls (from this site)
  • Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecakes (from this site – I made these in advance and froze them along with the truffles below!)
  • Peppermint Oreo Truffles (from this site)
  • a Hot Cocoa Bar (using this super unhealthy-but-tasty recipe from Pinterest) with optional Rumchata or Peppermint Schnapps 🙂
  • Christmas Charades that I printed from this site
  • And a lot of beverage options!

Needless to say we all had plenty to eat/drink and were very merry – It was a successful party and 100% worth the chaos leading-up to it!

Happy Holidays!

Here are the rest of the recipes:

Salty Chex

Combine:
– 1 Cup mixed nuts
– 2 Cups pretzels
– 3 Cups each chex (rice, corn, wheat)
– 2 Cups cheese crackers (cheese-its, etc)

For the Sauce:
– 1 Tbl salt
– 3/4 tsp onion powder
– 8 Tbl butter, melted
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 1 Tbl lemon pepper
– 4 Tbl worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Combine dry ingredient and set aside.  Melt butter then combine with spices.  Pour over chex mixture and mix to combine.  Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Sweet Chex

In a large roaster pan lined with aluminum foil, combine:
– 3/4 box of Crispex cereal
– 2 cups pretzels
– 1 small can mixed nuts
– 3/4 cup M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a small sauce pan, bring to a boil:
– 2 sticks butter (not margarine)
– 2 cups brown sugar
– 1/2 cup light karo syrup

Pour sauce over layered mixture but do not stir.  Place in oven for 7 minutes – remove and stir well

Return to oven for another 7 minutes – remove and stir, then spread to cool.

Break it up and store in a tight container or bags – can be frozen for 2-3 weeks

Caprese Skewers

– Cherry Tomatoes
– Basil
– Mozzarella pearls
– Balsamic Glaze
– Toothpicks

Layer tomato, basil, mozzarella ball on a toothpick then drizzle with balsamic glaze!

Bacon Wrapped Dates

– Pitted Dates
– Package of Bacon
– Goat Cheese
– Brown Sugar
– Chili Powder
– toothpicks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil then place a cooling rack on-top, heavily sprayed with cooking oil. (this allows the bacon grease to drip to the aluminum vs. cooking the dates in a pool of grease)

Slice a slit in the dates and stuff with goat cheese.  Wrap in 1/3 slice of bacon and insert a toothpick through the whole date.

Place the dates on the sprayed cooling rack and sprinkle with brown sugar and chili powder.  Bake approximately 20 minutes, flipping once.

Shrimp Cocktail Dip

– 8 oz. cream cheese (I subbed dairy free)
– 1/2 to 3/4 cup chili sauce
– 1/2 green pepper, chopped
– 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped shrimp (I buy frozen salad shrimp)
– 1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
– 1 small can chopped black olives (optional)
– tortilla chips

On a serving tray, spread cream cheese then cover with chili sauce.  Spread green pepper, shrimp, cheese, and olives until evenly covered.

Serve chilled with tortilla chips

DIY Alcohol Ink Ornaments

I love a good DIY Christmas gift, but I want it to actually be cute, not cost a ton of money, and something I can accomplish in a Sunday afternoon.  This probably seems intuitive, but can be hard to find!

Last year my mom (who is super crafty by the way) came across these really unique, elegant ornaments as a craft to do with her sorority group.  She handed them out to our family at Christmas and they were a huge hit, so I decided to make them for my new team at work (with her help)!

The shopping list is pretty simple for these:

  • Alcohol Ink (found at craft stores – I got mine at Michaels, here is link as an example)
  • Air duster (Can be found at Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, etc)
  • Clear glass ornaments (also got mine at Michaels, here is a link as an example)
  • Old clothes / tablecloth – when you spray the ornament the ink can spray out!

Here are the Instructions:

1.) Remove the top from the glass ornament and put about 3 drops of the ink into the inside, rotating the ornament as you put the drops in

Tip: It is easiest to start with a lighter color first, as it has more coverage and the darker colors work best as an accent later / can take-over the ornament if added first

2.) Position the air duster “straw” inside the ornament and spray in short bursts, rotating the ornament until you get your desired pattern

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3.) Add another complimentary color – usually a darker color works best – then spray again in short bursts

Tip: start with one drop at a time, because the color sometimes can take over

4.) Repeat until you get the coloring you like.  It works best to finish with a metallic color – the metallic colors add some shine and also help cover-up areas where the air makes weird markings, etc.

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5.) Flip upside down and let dry for a couple hours, then viola you have your ornament!

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Shout out to my mom, helper and hand model!

I found a couple unique shaped ornaments that required some tweaking but also turned-out really cool!

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As you go you get the hang of what technique you like best – and sometimes the ones that you hate at first turn out the best!

Happy Crafting!

 

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!  This was the first year we were actually home for Halloween since we moved into our house so we were excited to celebrate with the neighborhood!

Last year was our first Halloween in our house, but the Gophers had a home game so we celebrated there (as Minnesota gnomes!)12187785_173610879652798_4790766136693572581_n

This weekend I went up to Detroit Lakes, MN to hang out with my parents and had a little fun with my mom forcing my pup Stella, our foster pup Chance, and my mom’s pup Gracie to dress up!

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(Gracie is a crab, Chance a bumble bee / ice cream sundae, and Stella is a bumble bee)

To make our Monday more festive, I made some mini dirt cakes (I found on Pinterest at this blog ) – they were a huge hit and super easy to make!  I also used carving pumpkins as an activity to multi-task during my favorite movie – HOCUS POCUS!

And finally we had some fun with the Trick-Or-Treaters!  We seem to accumulate a TON Of Fox things given our last name, so we kept with the theme and greeted the door as foxes (Thanks Aunt Jean for the ears / tails!!)

Hope you had a fun and festive Halloween!!