Olive Cheddar Balls

It’s time to start making Christmas hors d’oeuvres around here… and I’m kicking it off with one of my Godmother’s recipes.  These are a great appetizer to have around for the holidays since they can easily be made ahead of time and frozen until you need them. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 lb. Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Approximately 30 Pimento olives

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine all of the dry ingredients and blend well
  • Mix together the softened butter and grated cheese and then pour in the dry ingredients
  • Mix the dough together with your hands; if it seems too dry and crumbly, put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds to soften the mixture up
  • Take a spoonful of dough into your hand and roll it into a ball and then flatten it out
  • Place the olive in the center of the dough and wrap the dough around it
  • Round the dough ball out by rolling it in between your palms until it’s a perfect sphere
  • Bake on a greased baking sheet at 350°F for approximately 20 minutes or until the dough looks crackled and cooked and the edges are slightly browned

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Twice Baked Potatoes

These twice baked potatoes take all of the tasty ingredients you’d see in a ‘loaded potato skin’ and put them inside the potato… not gonna lie, they’re hard to resist.

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 large Russet potatoes, scrubbed and pricked all over with a fork
  • Approximately 1/3 cup sour cream
  • Approximately 1/3 cup milk (add it in slowly, and stop when you’ve reached your desired consistency)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded (or more if you desire)
  • 5 strips of bacon, chopped
  • Handful of chopped fresh chives
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F
  • Rub with potatoes with olive oil and put them on a baking sheet, bake them in the oven for 1 hour
  • While the potatoes are baking, fry the chopped bacon in a skillet until it’s crispy and transfer onto a paper towel-lined plate
  • When the potatoes are done, let them cool off and then cut a large wedge out of the top of the potato and carefully scoop out the inside of the potato, leaving about 1/4 in. border of the potato inside the skin
  • Mash the scooped potato with a potato masher or ricer and add in the sour cream, milk, butter and and cheddar cheese
  • Season with salt and pepper and throw in the freshly chopped chives and bacon bits in the end
  • Fill the potato skins with the mashed potato mixture – you want the filling to be mounded up over the skins
  • Place the potatoes back on the baking sheet and put them back in the oven (still heated at 450°F)  for 15 minutes or until heated through

Chicken and Asparagus Wrap

I’m not gonna lie – I pretty much like anything wrapped in puff pastry.  This tasty wrap hits almost all of the food groups and isn’t too bad for you…  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. – 1  1/2 lb. chicken breast, cut it into 4 pieces and pound it until it’s at most 1/2″ thick – you’re going to be folding these over in 1/2 so they need to be thin enough to do that
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cloves of garlic, whole but smashed with the heel of your hand
  • 1 large pinch dried thyme
  • 1 large pinch dried sage
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 12 spears of asparagus
  • 4 slices of ham (I like to use proscuitto)
  • 4 slices of sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 sheet Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, defrosted and cut into 4 rectangles
  • 1 egg, beaten + 1 tbsp water (egg wash)
ALTERNATIVE METHOD FOR APPETIZER VERSION 
  • 1 lb. – 1 1/2 lb. chicken breast – cut into approximately 16 pieces, pounded thin
  • Approximately 8 slices of ham, cut in half (I use prosciutto or honey ham)
  • Approximately 8 slices of sharp cheddar cheese, cut in half
  • Approximately spears of 16 asparagus
  • 2 sheets Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, defrosted and cut into 16 pieces
  • Dried thyme and sage for sprinkling
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten + 1 tbsp water (egg wash)

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Season both sides of the chicken breast with salt and pepper
  • Dredge the chicken in flour and shake off any excess
  • Heat the butter, olive oil, garlic, thyme and sage over medium-low heat in a large frying pan – saute the garlic until it’s very fragrant and begging to brown, then remove
  • Add the chicken breasts and saute for 2 minutes on each side (they will not be cooked through)
  • Set the half-cooked chicken aside in a dish and let it cool
  • Place the asparagus in a bowl of water and put in the microwave for 2 minutes
  •  Lay out your chicken breast and wrap 3 spears of asparagus with ham – place the wrapped asparagus in the middle of the chicken breast and top with the cheese
  • Fold the chicken over so the asparagus, ham and cheese is sandwiched inside and stick a toothpick through it to keep it together
  • Repeat this with the remaining 3 chicken breasts
  • On a lightly floured surface, use your fingertips to spread the puff pastry into the shape you need to wrap it around the chicken breast, while leaving the ends exposed
  • Place the chicken breast on the puff pastry (remove the toothpick) and wrap it with the puff pastry – try to get the seam on the bottom
  • Repeat this with the remaining chicken breasts and then arrange them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray)
  • Brush the puff pastry with the egg wash
  • Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown
ALTERNATIVE METHOD FOR APPETIZER VERSION 
  • Lay out your pieces of pounded raw chicken and sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme and sage
  • Next, put down the ham, then the cheese and lastly the 2 pieces of asparagus
  • Roll each bundle of raw chicken up and stick a toothpick in it to hold it in place while you prepare the puff pastry
  • Remove the toothpick and place the chicken bundle in the center of the puff pastry; fold the dough over the sides and pinch the ends to seal (basically, wrap it up like a package)
  • Place your chicken “packages” on a parchment paper lined (or greased) baking sheet; brush with the egg wash and bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until golden brown

Bacon Mac ‘n Cheese

This “grown-up” mac ‘n cheese recipe takes this dish to the next level.  The seemingly odd combination of cheeses combines to create something unbelievably good with just the right amount of zing.   

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. pasta (elbows work well)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups milk
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 6 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup crumbled mild blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 cups sharp white cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 strips of bacon, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp white pepper, or more to taste
  • Ritz crackers, crumbled

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Melt the butter in a large sauce pan and sprinkle the flour over butter; cook 2-3 minutes over medium heat, whisking until a roux or paste forms
  • Add warm milk and whisk vigorously until dissolved in the roux
  • Cook sauce, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat until thick and bubbly
  • Add cream and all of the cheeses as well as the salt and pepper
  • Cook until cheese are fully melted
  • In a separate pot, cook the pasta
  • In a separate pan, cook the bacon until it’s crispy – transfer to a plate and blot with a paper towel
  • Add the cooked pasta and bacon to the cheese sauce and mix well
  • Pour the cheesy pasta into a large baking dish and top with the crumbled Ritz crackers
  • Bake in the oven at 325°F for 15 minutes or until golden brown


Cornbread Muffins

This recipe is great baked as muffins or in a square pan.  It’s super moist, unexpectedly savory and really easy to make.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 2 packages of Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3-4 tbsp finely chopped chives (optional)

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine the melted butter and softened cream cheese and whisk together until smooth
  • Add in both cans of corn and mix in the beaten eggs
  • Stir in the corn muffin mix, cheddar cheese and chives – mix well
  • Pour into greased muffin pans or a greased square pan
  • Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes for muffins and 40 minutes if you’re making it in a pan

The Ultimate Cheese Ball

Anyone who knows me knows that I only like cheese two ways: if it’s melted or spreadable.  This spreadable cheese is the perfect appetizer when entertaining a group – definitely beats cubed cheddar.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 18 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese (try not to use pre-grated cheese)
  • 2 tsp garlic, minced
  • Scallions (3-4 chutes) or chives, chopped
  • Chopped walnuts or pecans, for rolling
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley (optional)

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, garlic and scallions/chives in a food processor
  • Process the ingredients just until they’re well blended; be careful not to over process – this will make the mixture too loose
  • Scrape the cheese mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour
  • When the mixture has solidified, form it into one ball or two, depending on which size you desire (I usually make two smaller cheese balls out of this recipe)
  • If you want to roll the cheese ball in a nut and parsley mix, blend these ingredients and pour a layer of the mix onto a flat dish
  • Make sure the surface of the cheese ball is smooth and then roll it into the nuts
  • Once the ball is totally covered in the chopped nuts, wrap it in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil to preserve the shape of the ball and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve