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SURPRISING DOLLAR STORE TRICKS (AND TREATS) FOR ENTERTAINING

So, you are invited to holiday parties for every holiday, and the worst thing is when you forget to label your dish with your name, or it gets washed off, and you either never get your dish back, or its months, and yes, maybe a year or two. And when the next occasion arises to use that perfect dish,  you  insanely look everywhere. After every cupboard, drawer, and storage bin has been ransacked (that’s an extreme word, but true) you realize that you took an appetizer to Sally’s house, and never got your dish back. SOLUTION: THE DOLLAR STORE.

I know, I know, your mother always told you to watch your pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves. However, can you put a price on your favorite pumpkin platter or your divine deviled egg dish? NO. The seasonal serving opportunities await your dollars at the dollar store. By the way, I am not making any money endorsing this retail establishment, although, not a bad idea!

Today, we are going to a fall clambake and my $2.00 purchase created this fun seasonal serving idea for a delicious desert that I call PUMPKIN PIE CHEESECAKE BITES. I have two favorite versions for this dip.

Normally now, I just leave the serving dish with the leftovers at the party, but this one came out so cute, I’m conflicted, so I may bring it home 🎃

PUMPKIN PIE CHEESECAKE BITES

RECIPE 1 (a little sweeter than recipe 2)

IMG_6502.jpg

Ingredients

ž cup International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice Creamer
1 3.4 oz package pumpkin spice instant pudding
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed
Graham cracker crumbs for garnish

DIRECTIONS

In a bowl, whisk together the International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice Creamer with pumpkin spice instant pudding. Set aside for about 5 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, beat together the softened cream cheese and sugar.
Add in pudding to cream cheese mixture and beat.
Once well combined, fold in the 2 cups of thawed whipped topping and refrigerate.
When ready to serve, fill bowl with Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Dip topped with graham cracker crumbs.

If you can’t find pumpkin spice instant pudding (it’s pretty  seasonal), you can use either vanilla or cheesecake instant pudding with a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.

PUMPKIN PIE CHEESECAKE BITES

RECIPE 2

INGREDIENTS

1 -15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 -8 oz. container Cool Whip, thawed
1 package 1.5 oz. Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 

Directions

Cream together all ingredients with an electric mixer until well combined and fluffy. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve. Serve with Vanilla Wafers, Cookies, or Graham Crackers.

img_6499Dear Friends,

Celebrating something every day helps to create the happiness we all deserve to have. For me, its difficult to overlook the inevitable snow, but I love enjoying the beauty of this season and everything that comes with it.

Cheers to you! Laura

 

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MAKE A MEMORABLE MEMORIAL DAY With these Delicious Dishes

happy memorial day

MEMORIAL DAY IS THE OFFICIAL KICK-OFF TO SUMMER, and if you are fortunate to live where you will have great weather,  all you need is plan A. But if you need to keep PLAN B in place, all it takes is a little planning ahead, so you won’t be caught in the rain without an umbrella!  For large and small crowds, self serve works best and makes for casual fun. Have a long table, (Plan B: clear your sink for serving!) Put paper plates & utensils on one end and leave room for platters & serving utensils. For drinks, I usually put out pitchers of lemonade and water with a bucket of ice on the side. I leave the harder stuff on the sink! My bar is always simple & self-serve! Beer and red & white wine. I love to serve vodka drinks, and if time allows, I may make a pitcher of vodka, cranberry & grapefruit juice.

MEMORIAL DAY IS MORE THAN PICNICS AND PARTIES

Memorial dayThrough all of the picnics and parades celebrating the beginning of summer, we need to remember that Memorial day is a holiday dedicated to honoring those who died while serving in the United States armed forces. I do think that particularly in today’s world, its important to give special thought to those  who have given their lives for us.

I vividly recall my last week of teaching before I retired. The high school choir invited the young students to an end of the year program. Teaching second and third grade for so many years enabled me to watch the children grow into young adults, having babies of their own. The very last performance on this day was a slide show of all of the former students who had graduated from our district and were in the armed forces as well as a remembrance those who had lost their lives. During this, the performing students sang the song, “I’m Coming Home” by Skylar Gray. I can tell you that every teacher in that auditorium worked hard to fight back tears quite unsuccessfully. I just remember thinking how unjust it is to find those who our lives had touched, were lost. 

On a happier note:

GETTING READY FOR THE KICK-OFF TO SUMMER CELEBRATION just takes a little planning. memorial day pic

Here is my list:

L. PLAN THE MENU

The menu should be simple summer food! Ribs, BBQ chicken, burgers, hot dogs, steak, fruit, and all kinds of salads, are popular this time of year. A great secret to entertaining is to make everything ahead, leaving only the grilling to do. That way, you can enjoy your guests and the fruits of your delicious cooking! Also, if someone offers to bring something, LET THEM! Many people wonder if its polite to assign a special dish, such as salad, desert, an appetizer. I do believe that if an offer is made to make your life simpler, they won’t mind. I’m also great with shortcuts! To save time, purchase the dip for the veggie tray, or frozen corn for the salad. My menus are all make ahead so you can enjoy your party and your guests!

FRESH VEGETABLE APPETIZER PLATTER WITH HUMMUS STUFFED CUCUMBER ROUNDS 
Cucumber Cup Veggie tray

This is a simple appetizer that you can make ahead and looks beautiful on your table. Below are recipes for the hummus and ranch dip, but feel free to use store-bought to save time!

 

FOR THE VEGGIE TRAY

  1. Unwrap the plastic covering on the english cucumber, rinse & cut into 1 1/2 in. slices.
  2. Using a melon scooper, carefully scoop out the center of each cucumber slice, being careful not to pierce the bottom. Cucumber cups
  3. Fill a pastry bag or a baggie with humus. If using a baggie, cut a small corner from the bottom of the bag to substitute for a pastry bag. (I love this shortcut because you can toss the bag for EASY cleanup:)
  4. Pipe the humus into each cucumber cup. Garnish with sliced red pepper.
  5. Slice a yellow pepper lengthwise, remove seeds & fill one side with ranch dip & the other with sliced red peppers.
  6. Cover & refrigerate.

FOR THE HUMUS (You can use store-bought if you prefer)

  • 1 C. dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained, or canned
  • 1 tsp baking soda 
  • 6 C. water
  • 1/3 C. tahini
  • 1/4 C. fresh lemon juice
  • 8 ice cubes
  • 1 chopped clove garlic
  • salt to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil
  1. Stir chickpeas & baking soda in a pot over high heat for 2 min. Add water & bring to a boil, skimming any foam or skins that float to the surface. Boil till tender, 20 min. Drain & cool.
  2. Pulse chickpeas in a food processor, adding tahini, lemon juice, ice & garlic.
  3. Process until smooth. Season with salt & drizzle with oil.

FOR THE RANCH DIP

Mix together & refrigerate:

  • 3/4 C. sour cream
  • 1/2 C. mayonnaise
  • 1/3 C. chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 C. chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 t. minced garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste

 

GRILLED ITALIAN SAUSAGE SANDWICHES WITH ,VIDALIA ONIONS, RED & YELLOW PEPPERS 

Roasting the peppers & onions saves huge time and mess in your kitchen. Grill the sausages ahead and combine to keep warm in the oven, or ‘man the grill’ before serving!
Italian Sausage and peppers

  • 3 large vidalia or sweet onions cut into large chunks
  • 6 red, yellow & orange peppers, sliced
  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 3-19 oz. packages of sweet, hot or a combination italian sausages.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine onions, peppers, olive oil & salt in a mixing bowl.
  3. Pour into a roasting pan making sure they are spread evenly into the pan.
  4. Place in the oven for 30-40 min. tossing constantly for even cooking.
  5. Grill the sausages, browning evenly on all sides.
  6. When ready to serve, place onion mixture in a long platter. Place the sausages on top & serve with a side basket of buns. 

CORN SALAD WITH CILANTRO, LIME & HONEY

Corn salad

This is a switch on serving corn on the cobb at your picnic. This time of year, seasonal corn may not be available, so this is a great do-ahead delicious side! You can make this with fresh corn kernels or frozen, thawed sweet corn.

  • 6 C. fresh corn kernels, or frozen, thawed
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2T. fresh lime juice
  • 2 t. honey
  • 1/8 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 C. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 T.each diced onion & red pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Blanch fresh corns in boiling water 2 min. & drain. Rinse in cold water & dry in a salad spinner & place in a bowl. If using frozen corn, thaw, drain & dry in a salad spinner.
  2. Whisk together olive oil, lime juice, honey & cayenne for the vinaigrette.
  3. Toss together corn, vinaigrette, cilantro, onion & red pepper, season with salt & black pepper. 

 

CAESAR POTATO SALAD 

This is a nice twist on the traditional side of potato salad & caesar salad, combined with all of the great flavors of both!

  • 1 1/2 lb. red potatoes unpeeled & cubed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 C. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 T.  extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 2 t. sugar
  • 1 t. minced garlic
  • 1/2 t. anchovy paste, optional
  • ground pepper
  • 1 C. romaine leaves cut into strips
  • 1 C. salad croutons, store-bought or homemade
  1. Boil potatoes & egg in salted water  12-15 min. Drain & set aside
  2. Combine lemon juice, oil, Parmesan, mustard, sugar, garlic, anchovy paste, & pepper in a bowl.
  3. Toss hot potatoes in dressing and let stand for 10 min. 
  4. Add romaine & croutons.
  5. Serve salad warm or at room temperature.

S’MORE COOKIES 

Delicious and festive! These cookies have all the taste and look of the real thing without the mess!

smores cookies

FOR THE COOKIES:

  • 1 C. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C. fine graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 t. each baking soda & kosher salt
  • 1 stick softened unsalted butter (8 T)
  • 1/2 C. peanut utter
  • 1/2 C. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 C. packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 24 large marshmallows, cut in half horizontally
  • 28 Hershey’s chocolate ba pieces (4bars)
  1. Preheat oven to 375*
  2. Whisk flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda & salt together in a bowl
  3. Cream together  butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar & brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed 5 min. until light & fluffy:
  4. Beat in egg & vanilla.:
  5. Blend in flour mixture on low-speed just until incorporated.
  6. Scoop dough with #60 scoop (about 1 T.) onto ungreased baking sheets.
  7. Bake cookies 4 min, top each with a marshmallow half & bake until golden 4-5 min. more.
  8. Transfer cookies to cooling racks & press chocolate pieces on top.
  9. Let stand until set, 5-10 min.

I hope you have a wonderful and memorable Memorial Day with these favorite and flavorful dishes of mine. I’d love to hear about your celebration and feel free to share your favorites as well! I can put them in my next post!

Cheers! Laura

happy memorial day