Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Food Tasting Field Trip!!!

For our Christmas party we decided to take a field trip to the Market District for wine tasting and food exploration. Upon her arrival, Teri presented each of us with these most fabulous Christmas tree glasses, which we wore throughout the store and brought Christmas cheer to all that were near.

If I were to estimate, I would say that we probably pasted at least 32 smiles on everyday faces that night. Had it been a busier night at the Market, I believe the numbers would have been much higher. Of course, there are always a few faces that belong to grumpy souls and cracking a smile on one of those usually requires alcohol or ice cream, not funky, festive glasses, but you do what you can, right?

After some wine, eating, and discussion over future Food Tasting ideas, we decided to venture out and about.

Carrie and Anne entertained themselves with this teeny tiny

Meanwhile, Jen was getting giddy over finding her favorite Pinot Noir that up until now, she had to have shipped to Ohio. NOW, she's got herself a local dealer for her prized wine.....King Estate.

Oh yeah, and THIS was the entrance Teri made when she entered the wine section. I had my camera ready, because I knew there would be a show when she arrived...and I was right!

And, as Teri would say, "THIS is what Joy looks like!" Teri's joy comes from giving and all of our joy comes from receiving what Teri gives!

Jen and I would like to take this time to thank "Miss Joy" for her fabulous glasses b/c we have gotten mucho fun from them. We have worn them to family Christmas parties, kid's Christmas parties, friend's Christmas parties. I have greeted many patients over the week with the glasses and they were a HUGE hit! Just three more days to spread the joy and fun with dorky eye-ware..ho ho ho!

Who knew a dollar item from Target could bring such joy to so many people?!

May your Christmases be Merry and Bright and may the New Year be filled with lots of great food and fabulous fun!

Meeeeeeerry Christmas Everyone!!!

Jen and Sheri

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes


I have to tell you that Sheri and I kind of made an agreement that we wouldn't make any more sweets for Party in the Pantry for awhile.  I mean, we like to eat healthy foods...REALLY!!!!  I SWEAR!!

The problem is, we also really like to make tasty treats.  So while I'm in total agreement that I should be cooking lots of scrumptious vegetable dishes, I couldn't help but make these when I saw the recipe in an old Redbook my mom had laying around, and they did not disappoint!!   Besides, we all need a treat now and then, right?  RIGHT?!?!

So although I am breaking the pact, I implore you to try these.  They are moist.  They are chocolately.  They are peanut buttery.  They are easy to make, and use everyday items. But most importantly, they are just plain yuuuuummy!!

**Note:  The recipe doesn't call for it, but I added a few chocolate chips to the batter because, well...just because, ok?  And I highly recommend doing it!

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

1 1/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c. light brown sugar
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla 
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
2 large eggs
1/2 c. whole milk
peanut butter chips or diced peanut butter cups for garnishing

Preheat your oven to 350 and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.  In another bowl, beat the brown sugar, butter, and vanilla until creamy.  Add the peanut butter and beat until completely blended.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Lastly, add the milk.  Now slowly add the flour mixture and beat until well combined, but be careful not to overmix!

Fill each muffin cup with 1/4 c. of the batter and bake 20-25 minutes, or until the cupcakes spring back when touched lightly.  Let cool for at least 10 minutes before icing.  

Chocolate Frosting
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 c. heavy cream

In a saucepan over low heat, stir the chocolate chips and cream until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and refrigerate 1 hour, or until chilled throughout, but not too firm.  Beat the mixture until creamy, about 3 minutes.  Spread over cupcakes and garnish with peanut butter chips or broken peanut butter cups.  YUMMY!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pesto, Pears, and Cinnamon Tasting!

Pestos, Pears, and Cinnamon.....Oh my!

The fabulous Teri offered to host this month's tasting party and she chose Pesto, but she also really wanted to do pears with cheese and wine. Could she do both? That was her question to me. My answer? "Absosmurfley!"

Then she was in Colorado and while visiting a spice shop, noticed there were several different types of cinnamon - who knew? "Can we dip some of the pears in different flavors of cinnamon?" was her question to me. "Ummmm.....YES!"

So on a beautiful fall day we all showed up at Teri's house for a Pesto, Pear, and Cinnamon Tasting Party.

Good News...Bad News

Good News: These Pestos were amazing! The flavors were spectacular, vibrant, and fresh.
Bad News: At this time, the Marvini brand of pestos are only available in Canada. How sad is that?! Why should the Canadians have all the fun? Marvini's been around since 1850 and they still haven't made their way south....What's the hold-up?!!!

Anyway....Teri had the brilliant idea of carefully layering some phyllo dough, "icing" it with the pesto and topping it with freshly sliced yellow tomatoes. She baked it in the oven until the phyllo was nice and crispy and then served them to us one delicious bite at a time. Of course, we also had permission to eat the pesto right out of the container too!

The pesto we crowned king was the Pesto Rosso, which placed first and second in most everyone's hearts. We were dying to know what was in this fabulous garden delight, so Teri read the ingredients right from the container.

Pesto Rosso
Sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, cashews, parmesan cheese, romano cheese, fresh purple basil, fresh garlic, flaxseed oil, canola oil, spices, sea salt, lemon juice.

Pesto Bombay
Fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley), cashew, feta cheese, fresh garlic, jalapeno spices, flaxseed oil, canola oil, sea salt, lemon juice concentrate

Jen had a thing for the Bombay pesto....

Pesto Mediterranea
Red bell peppers, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, cashews, feta cheese, fresh garlic, fresh herbs, flaxseed oil, canola oil, lemon juice concentrate

Patty and Teri were ga-ga over the Mediterranea....

Pesto Traditionale
Fresh herbs (basil, parsley), cashews, parmesan cheese, romano cheese, fresh garlic, pine nuts, flaxseed oil, canola oil, sea salt, lemon juice concentrate

Carrie had a crush on Mr. Traditional with an E.....

Pesto Thai
Fresh herbs (basil, parsley), cashews, fresh ginger, fresh garlic, peanuts, spices, flaxseed oil, canola oil, sea salt, coconut, lemon juice concentrate

Anne liked the spicy did I! ( I really loved the Rosso though...)

We also tasted a Pesto Provenzale and a Pesto Azteca.

All of the pestos tasted amazing really. The flavors completely came alive once the pesto touched your tongue. We ooed and ahhed and moaned and groaned like happy, hungry taste-testers.

We liked all the Pestos, but some simply stole our hearts more than others, with everyone choosing different favorites - it's what keeps it interesting! Even though we can't know the exact recipe of these gems, we now have the ingredient list that inspired each concoction, so we are free to experiment at home....and so are you! And until Canada decides to share with us Americans, experimenting is all we can do!

SEE?! Jen gets giddy just thinking about all the experimenting!

As fabulous as the pestos were, it's time to move on to the pears and cheese.
I'm sorry there are no pictures of pears and cheese.....I was too busy eating them to take photos. You know how it is - when you're taking the picture, you're missing the moment. I was caught up in the moment - SUE ME!

Okay, picture THIS:

A perfect slice of Bosc pear, a generous chunk of aged white cheddar cheese, and a gulp of red wine ALL in your mouth at one time having the ultimate flavor-frenzy party! It was even better than it sounds!

We then indulged in another slice of the Bosc, but this time we paired him with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and that too was a party worth attending. More wine please! The aged white cheddar was our favorite partner for the Bosc and lucky can be found at our local Giant Eagle - Black Diamond brand - check it out for yourself.

Then we switched to the Bartlett pear and partnered him with a Fontina cheese and a swanky Merlot....purrrrr...fection!

When Teri appeared from the kitchen with St. Andre - the next cheese to stand with the Bartlett - we were all very excited to see him again. He was one of our favorites from our first cheese tasting and here he was, the Bartlett's newest friend. Teri decided to pop the cork on some champagne and we toasted our old friend.

Turns out, we liked the Fontina with the Bartlett better than we did St. Andre. They simply complimented each other better. We were more than happy to spread the St. Andre on some bread though...ahhhhh.

But wait.....this party's not over! There is cinnamon to taste yet! Pictured below is the Vietnamese Saigon Cinnamon that Teri so generously gave each of us to take home as ONE of our parting gifts. Turns out, it was nearly everyone's favorite....except Carrie...she can be sooo difficult. ;)

Speaking of Carrie, see how happy she is to be tasting four separate varieties of cinnamon?

After we all made little piles of each cinnamon on our plates, we started dragging our slices of pear through the separated spices. Right away everyone was calling out their favorites. Vietnamese Saigon seemed to be Anne and Teri's favorite, while Carrie fell hard for the Ceylon "True". Jen gave props to the Indonesian Cassia, while the Chinese Cassia walked away with the bronze.

So, I have a confession. Remember the "Friends" episode where Rachel gets a baby ultrasound done and Ross is so excited when he sees the baby on the monitor and Rachel acts excited too? Then she finally fesses up that she can't make out the baby, so Ross outlines the baby with his finger and says, "See?!" Rachel looks again and then proclaims, "Oh, I see, I see!" Ross looks at her and questions, "Really?" Rachel breaks down and cries, "Nooooooo!'

THAT is how I felt while everyone was drooling and gushing over the different flavors of cinnamon. I LOVE CINNAMON. It is easily one of my favorite flavors - right up there with lemon and vanilla - and ever since Teri mentioned the idea of adding cinnamon to the tasting, I was stoked!!!

So, here I am with four different cinnamons at a Food Tasting and I can't tell one from the other. Seriously! I kept tasting and I kept quiet until I had to fess up and admit I could barely distinguish one from the other, if at all! BUT, that is why I love these tastings! You never know what's going to happen and there are never any right or wrong reactions to anything!

Did I mention there was wine at the party?

Did I mention there was lots of wine at the party?

If you hang with us long enough you will see a pattern develop. Even though there is wine at every party, Teri's house is seriously stocked with wine and it's only one of the reasons we love her! At this party, not only did we have many bottles of wine to compliment each "course", we had red wine glasses and white wine glasses and champagne was divine!

Oh, and then there were the gifts. Teri not only gave us Cinnamon and leftover pesto to take home, but she also gave us this Sugared Pear Soap. Get it? "Pear?"

And Patty took it upon herself to pick apples from a woman's orchard ( with her permission, of course ) because the woman was not collecting them and they were going to waste. She thoughtfully picked a bag for each of us!

And Jen showed up with a laundry basket of gourds! Her and Barry thought they were planting wonderful zucchinis, but look what popped up! Everyone was excited to pick and choose from all the many fun shapes and sizes.

This party went on for hours because we had so much fun. As always, we ate just enough to tease our palates and satisfy our hunger...nothing less and nothing more. Gluttony is not our friend and he is never invited to our parties.

Next month we will be tasting many, many different types of Chocolate AND it is Patty's birthday, so the partying continues.........

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sugar Snap Pea & Mushroom Salad

Let me just say I LOVE THIS SALAD!!!!
This recipe makes a lot (it serves 12!), which is a good thing, because you're going to need it! Light and refreshing, especially on a hot day, this salad is always a hit at any get-together. Crisp sugar snap peas, tasty mushrooms, and fresh herbs marinated in olive oil and vinegar?

Yes, please!

It goes together in a snap, and then just marinates until you're ready to go. How easy is that?

And let's face it, folks...everyone can always use another veggie dish! How many cookouts, potlucks, and family get-togethers have you been to where the food table is overwhelmed by sweets? I know I've seen more than my share. Give this a try, I know you'll like it!

Sugar Snap Pea & Mushroom Salad

3/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
6 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
9 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
8 c. sugar snap peas (1 lb.)
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

Begin by marinating the mushrooms: whisk the olive oil, vinegar, and salt & pepper together in a medium sized bowl. Add the mushrooms, toss to coat, and marinate for at least 45 minutes or up to overnight, stirring occasionally.

Cook the snap peas: fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside. Bring a large saucepan of water and 1 tbsp salt to a boil. Add snap peas and cook for 2 minutes. Drain peas and immediately submerge in the ice water. Let sit until chilled, approximately 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Drain the mushrooms and discard all but 1 tbsp. of the marinade. Toss the mushrooms, snap peas, reserved marinade and thyme and serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Caramelized Onion Dip

For all you onion lovers out there, make sure your shoelaces are tied up tight because I'm about to knock your socks off!

This dip isn't exactly Monet in a bowl, but onions weren't born to be pretty - they're planted and grown, chopped and sauteed, for the sole purpose of making the whole world smile!

Do onions make YOU smile?

Caramelized onions are so wonderfully piquant that they alone contribute to the rich flavor of this dip. The Greek yogurt, sour cream, that pinch of cayenne and splash of lemon do play wonderful supporting roles with this spread, but they couldn't pull this off without the onions!

Dip Dip...Hooray!!

Side note:
I would be more than happy to testify that this dip smeared on a hamburger fresh off the grill is a truly stellar idea!

Caramelized Onion Dip

One Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Large Onions
(any kind you want; yellow, white, or red)

Coarse Salt
3 Tablespoons Water
1-1/2 Cups Greek Yogurt
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook onions with 2 teaspoons salt, stirring often, until caramelized, 35 to 40 minutes.

Add water; cook, scraping any brown bits from bottom to deglaze skillet. Transfer onions with brown bits to a medium bowl; let cool for 30 minutes.

Stir in yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice, and cayenne into onions. Sprinkle with cayenne. Refrigerate.

Serve with pita chips, pretzels, rice chips, vegetables............hambuuuuuurgers(?)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Apple Tasting

Here's a re-post of last year's Apple Tasting for those of you joining the party a little late! There's not much time left for apple picking this year, so check out what apples WE loved best and then taste-test your own!


If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, what would twelve apples do?

We were about to find out at our seventh Food Tasting Party because we found ourselves 12 different kinds of apples and we bought them all to taste test! BUT, before we started tasting individual apples, we decided we should most definitely have dessert first. Can you think of a better way to start a party than sitting down to a beautiful, luscious, mouth-watering dessert? No? Well then, we're sorry you missed this party!

Check out the fabulously warm cinnamon bread topped with apple ice cream, buttery caramel sauce, and Honeycrisp Apple bites that was served as an introduction AND tribute to the all-time favorite fruit - the Apple.

In case you're was DEE. VINE!

And the recipe will come in time - after we do a little creative tweaking.....

So! As the ladies licked their plates clean and poured themselves a fresh glass of white wine, we started cutting into Apple number one - the Golden Delicious. As the Big D. was passed around, many were surprised by the great flavor of this yellow delight, because many of us had childhood memories of it being a little on the mushy side with a much milder flavor. We were pleasantly surprised by the first apple of the day, so we were off to a great start!

But then there was the Ginger Gold apple and he didn't really impress anyone, so we won't even waste time talking about him - too many apples, too little time, so we're moving on....

What's the phrase, "Beauty that's only skin deep."? Sadly, that would apply to our most widely grown apple in the world, the Red Delicious - no genetic relation to the Golden Delicious by the way. Miss Red Delicious was hands down, the prettiest of all the apples at the party, with her shiny, crimson exterior, but it only took one bite of this beauty queen to realize that she's just another pretty apple - not sweet, not juicy, not tart, not refreshing - just blah. Sadly, just as we all remembered her to be.

But then, there was the McIntosh Apple. I can personally say that the moment this apple touched my lips, memories of growing up amidst a small apple orchard and our family making gallons and gallons and gallons of apple cider came rushing back. It tasted just like cider. It had a refreshingly tart tint to it, which we all enjoyed as it brought a nostalgic smile to our faces, but in the end, it's tartness was too much punch to make the coveted top three.

The Red Cortland, a relative of the McIntosh, was a pleasant apple also, but once again, it's flavor was not enticing enough to sneak into the top three.

A relative of the Red Delicious, but oh so more pleasing to the palate was the Fuji, which was discovered in Japan in the 1930's. Fuji is always a good idea for your one-apple-a-day and we all enjoyed the flavor from Japan, but only Carrie actually gave it top three honors.

And then there's the most seemingly popular apple, the Gala, which when quizzed, nearly everyone admitted that Gala was the one apple they purchased most on a week to week basis. This hybrid of the Golden D. developed in New Zealand in the 1930's is simply a great apple. Unfortunately, the one we were serving at this party was a little soft and mealy, which is completely uncharacteristic of the Gala, so even though this single apple failed to shine at this particular moment, we all agreed that in our hearts, we knew that as a 'breed' of apple, the Gala was still one of the best.

But then, for the surprise sleeper of the party, an American apple developed in the 1940's - a cross between the Golden D. and Jonathan apple - came the Jonagold. This apple surprised everyone and the consensus was, "Now, that tastes like an apple." and Patty said she could actually taste the Waldorf Salad with each bite she took. This might be the apple you've been overlooking for all these years that's just begging for a taste test. Being that it made the top three of the majority of our apple eaters, we think it's worth a taste.

The baby of the group, the Honeycrisp apple took top three honors for nearly all of us. It was only just introduced in the 90's, but has become wildly popular in that short time simply because it is a fabulous apple. It's crisp, firm, sweet, clean, little tart, and it's most widely known for it's pear-drop flavor. This is a real winner of an apple!

The Braeburn out of New Zealand had a nice solid flavor, but I do believe it struggled to follow in Mr. Honeycrisp's footsteps. Karen, however, found the mild nature of the Braeburn to be more appealing than the ever-popular Honeycrisp. In fact, she awarded the Braeburn top three honors and snubbed the Honeycrisp altogether. Karen also found a new favorite apple of the day for herself in the Golden Delicious. It really impressed her - so much so that she placed it in her top three beside the Braeburn and Pink Lady, which we'll introduce shortly.

And who can forget the apple discovered by chance in the middle of Australia in the mid 19th century by a Grandma named Marie Smith? That's right, we're talking about the tart and sassy Granny Smith Apple. Only Jen and I chose this apple to be part of our top three, but in our hearts, it's a winner all the way. I think when it comes to the Granny, you either love her or you don't.

Speaking of Granny Smith, there is no apple better suited to be draped in caramel for the beloved sweet delight of a Caramel Apple than the Granny. We proved this theory by taste testing it. We melted some caramel with a sprinkle of cinnamon and covered two different apples with it. We then dipped the caramel apple in melted Callebaut white chocolate and sprinkled it with toasted chopped pecans. One apple used was the Granny, seen below, and the other was the hugely popular Honeycrisp apple.

Hands down, without a doubt, and no question about it, the Granny Smith apple stole the show. The tartness of Miss Smith paired with the melt-in-your-mouth caramel and the creamy rich high quality white chocolate was a home-run. The mildness of the Honeycrisp got lost in the caramel, but more tragic than that, the rich caramel flavor was muted by the lack of contrast.

Lesson learned? Granny Smith apples are the only apple that should be wearing caramel. It is what they were born to do!

And let's not forget the Pink Lady apple that's tangy and sweet, very refreshing, and a little crunchy too. She is the proud daughter of the Golden D. and Lady Williams and she took top honors amongst half of the apple eaters.

Since we are a cheese loving group, we also served three new cheeses to munch on between our apple bites. We found these three new cheesy finds at Whole Foods and they were as follows: Manchego, a very popular sheep's cheese in Spain, that mimicked a perfect Parmesan, but left a most desirable aftertaste of creamed butter....yum! Amadeus, an Austrian cheese, whose texture is similar to Havarti and it's taste is similar to Gouda. And "Yes" this cheese was named after the one and only Wolgang Amadeus Mozart. And last but not least, we chose a New Zealand Cheddar for it's piquant flavors and hint of cream. Yes, they were loved by all of us, and No, there wasn't a single crumb left on the plate....

Wine has been making an appearance at our last few parties, and this one was no different. The wonderful cheese lady at Whole Foods helped choose the perfect white wines to compliment our apples and cheese. They were Yard Dog, a wonderful wine out of Australia and

Gazela, a simple, delicate, but crisp white sipping porch wine. Check them out.

What's next?


That's right! Teri is very excited to introduce us to the wonderful and diverse world of squash, and as Carrie so eloquently put it, "We're going to go with Open Mouths and Open Minds!"

So, until then...taste-test some apples of your own and discover some new favorites, because after all, variety IS the spice of life!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Orange Chicken on the Fly

You have in your kitchen:

2 chicken breasts
a cup of orzo
a handful of toasted pecans
a beautiful zucchini from the garden
fresh cilantro
a tangy lemon
freshly shredded asiago
orange juice
chili powder


You create a fabulous chicken recipe on the fly, that's what you do!

Orange Chicken on the Fly

In a wok or skillet, heat coconut oil, roughly 2 tablespoons of orange juice concentrate, and a healthy tablespoon of chili powder, and then add cut-up chicken breasts.

Meanwhile, on the other burner boil enough water for a cup of orzo, then drop the orzo in to cook.

When the chicken has had a chance to start cooking, add the zucchini. You don't want the zucchini to get mushy - you want it to hold it's shape. Salt and pepper to taste.

When the orzo is al dente, transfer it to a medium-sized bowl, add a little more coconut oil, a splash or four of lemon juice, and a generous amount of chopped cilantro.

Pile the orzo onto a serving plate, followed by the chicken/zucchini combo. Decorate with toasted pecans and shredded asiago.

I think this is the prettiest way to display this fabulousness on the fly, but you could toss it all together if you like.

Serve immediately!
( Seriously! Immediately. :)

IF you do not eat this in one sitting, the next day you can add a touch of greek yogurt or sour cream and eat it cold or heated through.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Spicy Yogurt and Cucumber Dip

What's better than showing up to a party with a dish that no one's had before and everyone's raving about? I don't know.....I can't think of anything. I DO know we all love to experience something fresh and new from the kitchen every once and awhile - a flavor combination we've never tasted before - and if you show up to your next party with this hot little number YOU and your savory little dip could be what everyone's buzzing about at the buffet table.

Of course, as it is with funky dips of this nature, not everyone will like this dip, and that's okay. They can eat the cheese whiz............

Spicy Yogurt And Cucumber Dip

(An Indian-inspired curry dip)

1/2 English Cucumber, peeled and grated
One Tablespoon Safflower Oil
2 Teaspoons Curry Powder
2 Cups Greek Yogurt
1/4 Cup Mango Chutney
One Teaspoon Finely Grated Ginger
1/2 Cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
Coarse Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

Grate cucumber ( I like to use the the microplane ) and then squeeze between paper towels to remove excess moisture.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook curry powder until just beginning to bubble, about 45 seconds. Transfer to a bowl; let cool slightly.

Stir in cucumber, yogurt, chutney, ginger, cilantro, one teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. refrigerate for at least one hour.

Serve with Pappadams or Rice Chips.

Dip can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Buckeye Candy - The Good Stuff!

It's Buckeye Time again so we're reposting this little number........

Go Bucks!!!


For those of you living under a rock, or outside the state of Ohio or Michigan, tomorrow is the BIG game between the OSU Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines. Of course, OSU will crush Michigan and as they do that, we'll all be cheering them on while wearing our Buckeye shirts, hats, and of course, our buckeye necklaces.

We wear the buckeyes around our neck because we can't eat them, due to the fact that they're mildly toxic. Instead, we take peanut butter and chocolate and create a candy that we can eat that looks just like a buckeye - smart, eh?

This is the thing, though....these Buckeye candies are super sweet and super horrible for you! It's never stopped us from making them or eating them, but we thought to ourselves, "There has to be a better way...."

And there is!

We posted a recipe not long ago of a family favorite called Peanut Butter Balls - remember them? They're a huge hit among kids and adults alike. As I ate one the other day, I thought to myself, "Wow, these are so good!" And then it happened....the light bulb moment...dipped in chocolate, these could pass as Buckeyes, easy!

Check out the difference in ingredients - but beware - the difference will shock you. This may be our greatest discovery yet!

ORIGINAL Buckeyes: 10 tablespoons butter, 3-1/4 cups powdered sugar, one cup peanut butter, and one tablespoon vanilla.

OUR Buckeyes: 4 tablespoons butter, one cup honey, one cup peanut butter, two cups dry milk powder, and one tablespoon vanilla.

The difference in butter and sugar alone is astounding!

Okay, here it is, the New recipe.....

Buckeye Candy - The Good Stuff!

4 Tablespoons Butter
One Cup Honey (no substitutes, please)
One Cup Peanut Butter
Two Cups Dry Milk Powder
One Tablespoon Vanilla
1-1/2 Cups Cherrios, mildly crushed
(in this recipe we crush the cereal a little because we don't want the O's sticking out and destroying the illusion of the Buckeye, but we don't want to leave them out either, because they add texture and fiber - and we could all use a little more fiber, wouldn't you agree?)

Melt butter and honey over low heat until hot and thinned. Remove from heat. Add powdered milk, peanut butter, and vanilla - mix well. This works the best with a big ol' Kitchen Aid Mixer. Add cereal and mix well.

Roll into any size ball you want - think of a Buckeye, here......

Place in fridge to let them harden a bit. Melt chocolate in double boiler. Take 5-6 peanut butter balls from the fridge at a time so they don't get soft, and puncture them with a toothpick one at a time, dipping them into the chocolate, leaving a bare spot on top - like a Buckeye - and place on a piece of parchment paper to allow the chocolate to set.

Once set, EAT!

Note: The recipe given above is a doubled recipe of the original Peanut Butter Ball recipe. This recipe will make approximately 60 small-medium Buckeyes.

Go Buckeyes!

Beat Michigan!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Blueberry Banana Bread

Now I know we have posted lots of bread and muffin recipes here on Party in the Pantry. Especially muffins. And we wanted to let you know we apologize.

No, not really. Sorry.

Because here's the thing...muffins and bread are GOOD, people! And you can never have enough good recipes for them in your cooking arsenal. What's not to like? They are a breeze to whip up, they freeze well, and people like them! I like to make a few different kinds to keep in the freezer in case we get impromptu guests, or if I need to shake up the weekday breakfasts for the kiddos. And muffins or breads always do the trick...especially if this is one of them!

This recipe is fantastic, just sooooo good!!! The citrus glaze is not necessary, as the bread itself is quite tasty all on it's own, but if you add it you will definitely NOT be disappointed in the least! So go stock up on blueberries and get to baking!

Blueberry Banana Bread

2 1/2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. mashed ripe bananas
1/4 c. buttermilk (I used plain yogurt)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. canola oil
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
1 tsp lemon zest
1 c. blueberries, fresh OR frozen

Heat your oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the first 5 ingredients. In another bowl, combine all other ingredients except the blueberries. Now, stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture slowly. Gently stir in the blueberries and mix just until combined. Pour the batter into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray and bake for 1 hour. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then invert loaf out of the pan. Cool 10 minutes more.

Now, this bread is great if you stop right here, I promise you. But...if you want to kick it up another notch, you can whip up this little glaze to go on top:

1/2 c. confectioners sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest

Mix these 3 ingredients up and spread over the top of the warm loaf. Let cool completely before slicing. Oh my, my, my....I don't think you'll want to share this one!

Guess what?!? I made this over the weekend and the batter is enough for one smaller sized loaf AND a pan of 12 regular sized muffins! I just love having options, don't you?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Marinated Green Beans & Roasted Red Peppers

Have you been reaping the benefits of having a garden? Whether you have a garden, or have been frequenting your local farmer's market, there is no doubt about the variety of wonderful fruits and veggies that are available this time of year. It seems silly not to take advantage, doesn't it? This recipe is one of my favorite summertime recipes, especially when the green beans are in full swing. The combination of garlic, olive oil, and red wine vinegar is so addictive and refreshing on a hot day! I really hope you'll give it a might be just the thing to liven up a Labor Day cookout!

Marinated Green Beans & Roasted Red Peppers

3 large red bell peppers
2 lbs. slender green beans
3/4 c. olive oil
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves
lettuce leaves, for garnishing

Char peppers over a gas flame or broiler until blackened on all sides. Don't be afraid to let those peppers get black! That's what makes the skin come off, peeps! Enclose the peppers in a paper bag and let stand for 10 minutes. Peel and seed the peppers and cut into 1/2" wide strips. Don't be intimidated by this step...the skins practically fall off! Transfer to a large bowl.

Cook beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp tender, no more than 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well, and add to the bowl of peppers.

Whisk oil, vinegar, and garlic in a small bowl. Pour over vegetables and toss. Season to your taste with salt & pepper. Cover and chill up to 6 hours. Line a large bowl or platter with lettuce leaves if desired, and place the beans and peppers in the center.

Mmmmm Mmmmm Gooooood!!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Creamy Frozen Fruit Cups or Popsicles

How do YOU spell summer?

I spell it P-O-P-S-I-C-L-E!!!

Nothing cools you down and pumps you up like a refreshing popsicle on a hot summer day, and since we are still in the midst of summer - ignore the fact that the children are heading back to school soon - there is no time like the present to have a little fun with some frozen delights.

These dreamy creamy desserts were originally made for muffin tins, but the popsicle is clearly the more divine way to eat them. Pick whichever way sounds like the most fun to you and indulge! ( I believe there is more flavor and less calories in the popsicles......don't ask me how that's possible......I just know it to be true in my heart.)

Creamy Frozen Fruit Cups or Popsicles

8 Ounces Cream Cheese
1/2 Cup Sugar
One Can Mandarin Oranges, drained
One Can Crushed Pineapple, drained
1/2 Cup Fresh Cherries, sliced, optional (or Maraschino)
8 Ounces Whipped Cream
1/2 Cups Chopped Pecans, absolutely optional

Beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add pineapple and oranges and beat slowly until combined. Fold in whipped cream and cherries....and pecans if adding them. Line muffin cups with liners. Spoon mixture into cups.
Spoon mixture into Popsicle containers.


Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving. I know it will be hard to wait the 10 minutes, because it's like torture for me, but it is worth the wait!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Swimming Cucumbers

Who loves cucumbers from the garden.....raise your hand?

All of YOU?!?! That's what I thought!

This recipe is the perfect way to add some"tang"to the ever-refreshing veggie. It is important however, that one likes the zippy sting of apple cider vinegar because it's what these cucumbers swim in.

This has been a family favorite among kids and adults for many years now, so....


If I haven't sold you on this recipe, check out Jen's favorite way to eat them here.


Swimming Cucumbers

One Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
One Cup Water
Two Cups Sugar
One Teaspoon Salt
One Teaspoon Whole Cloves
1-1/2 Teaspoons Celery Seeds
7 Cucumbers, sliced and cut
Two Sweet Onions, thinly sliced

In a saucepan over low heat, warm water, apple cider vinegar, and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Add cloves, salt, and celery seeds. Place cucumbers and onions in container and pour liquid over them. Store in fridge for a few hours to allow the flavors to mingle and for the cucumbers to soak up the 'tang'.

As with most marination, the second day is best. Also, once all the cucumbers have been eaten, simply cut up more cucumbers and soak them in the same "juice".....the deliciousness will live on! I think they call that...........recycling......

Let's Get Pickled!
Let's Get Pickled!
Let's Get Pickled!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Betty G's Loaded Chocolate Chip Cookies with Oatmeal

click on photo to enlarge, then begin the drooling process

When my childhood friend, Jen came to play for the weekend, she showed up with a perky plate of chocolate chip cookies. I had just gotten home from work and had not eaten dinner, so my resistance to the cookie was super, super low - I ate three. When I got up on Saturday morning and started my day with two more cookies I knew something had to be done, and soon. I hid them. I figured out of sight....out of mind and it worked!

Jen left around noon on Sunday and a few hours later I rediscovered the cookies hidden in the cupboard.


It was like Christmas morning in July! As excited as I was to be reunited with them, I was now alone in my house with a plate full of cookies loaded with mucho chocolate chips. I didn't stand a chance. After I indulged in yet another sinful cookie, I knew I had to share them with the world, so I immediately emailed Jen to get the recipe while I crunched on one last cookie (had to be absolutely certain they were blog-worthy). I thought she told me the recipe came from our other childhood friend, Jen, who now lives in Vermont.

When I finally received the much anticipated email, I noticed the recipe was actually Vermont Jen's mother's cookie recipe, which made perfect sense. Betty was always a great cook and baker when we were growing up and everything she made tasted like it just fell from heaven's kitchen. I felt honored to have Betty's recipe in my possession, as I hope now you feel honored to have it in yours!!!

Happy Cookie Making!!!

Oh....and this little number does NOT get filed away under Healthy.... it falls somewhere between Yum Mee! and Oh My!

Betty G's Loaded Chocolate Chip Cookies with Oatmeal

1-1/2 Cups Flour
One Teaspoon Baking Soda
One Teaspoon Salt
One Egg
1 1/2 Tablespoons Vanilla
1-1/4 Cups Butter
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Sugar
3 Cups Quaker Rolled Oats
2 Cups Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
3/4 Cup Chopped Pecans

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, and baking soda. Gradually add to butter mixture, mixing well until blended.
Add the oats, chocolate, and pecans.

Bake 9-10 minutes for a chewy cookie. Bake 11-12 minutes for crispy.

Below is what crispy looks like.....

Makes 72 cookies EXACTLY!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It's a Funky Fruit Tasting Party!!!

So, it was time for another Food Tasting Party and half our food tasters were partying elsewhere. Getting all of us together this summer has proven to be a challenge so we expanded our list of party-tasters to men and managed to gather four of them to join Carrie, Shelly, Patty, and I for a Funky Fruit Food Tasting.

Welcome Bob, Chris, Brian, and Brad!!!

There were all sorts of odd, beautiful, flashy, deformed, speckled, horned, and spiky fruit for our eyes to behold, which was fun, but we were there to taste some fruitage, so let's get started!
Let's begin with the star of the show, shall we? But WHO was the star of this Funky Fruit Show?

No one would argue that the Cherimoya was the runaway hit of the party - the only fruit to make it into everyone's top three.

It's velvety flesh is a delicious custardy blend of banana, pineapple, and strawberry. Mark Twain was once quoted as characterizing it as "deliciousness itself". It's said to be considered a romantic fruit that the Incas used as an aphrodisiac and fertility enhancer. I know everyone at our little soiree was feeling the love for the Cherimoya!

As you can see from the dissected photo, there is a plethora of black seeds in this fruit. Much like a seeded watermelon, you have to work for this delicacy. Everybody at the table seemed to agree it was worth the trouble.

Sounds like a "star of the show," right? Well, maybe.

But what if a tropical fruit named Durian showed up at the party by way of our special guest, Shelley? What if the moment it was removed from it's cooler, it's foul odor completely enveloped the room? An odor so repelling that it's banned in most hotels and airports in Asia. And yet, some people find the fruit to be quite fragrant. Some describe this fruit as a rich custard highly flavored with almonds and claim it to be an aphrodisiac as well. Interesting.......

This little porcupine of a fruit received lots of attention at the party. Try as we did to ignore him, his odor demanded our attention. We let him stink up the whole house - saving him for last - before we cut into him. We were all very excited to try this fruit because despite the smell, we had come to the party open-minded and ready to try some funky fruit. Shelley LOVED the Durian and liked it raw as much as she liked it in coconut milk over sticky rice. If she loved it, certainly there was a chance we would like it, right?

Believe it or not, the foul smell tripled in intensity once the first cut was made and the Durian had everyone's attention again.

Cherimoya who?

Ok, let's cut to the chase. Yuk! We all hated it. H.a.t.ed. i.t. BUT, most of us agreed to take more than one bite, because Carried noticed that with each bite, the taste got a little better, but not good enough. Chris posed the question, "The first people to eat hungry were they that they thought to eat this stinky fruit?" Many more questions followed along with much laughter and discussion.

The "leftovers" were sealed in an airtight bag and given to Shelley to take home. Despite the disrespectful things said about him, her love remained true for the Durian. ♥

So! Who was the star of the Funky Fruit Show? Well, I guess that depends on your perspective. We all gushed over the Cherimoya but we'll never be the same after meeting the Durian, so.....

Those weren't the only two fruits showcased at this party, so we'll just transition from the "stinky" fruit to the Ugli Fruit. The Ugli fruit is just that....ugly. It's appearance is a cross between an orange and a grapefruit that's lopsided, blemished, and discolored. The Ugli fruit is a perfect example of why we shouldn't judged a book by it's cover. Once his peel is easily removed, the Ugli fruit reveals his very sweet and citrus taste inside.

Bonus Feature: NO seeds.
Highly recommend this fruit - kids love it!!

And then there's the Kiwano "Horned" Melon that looks cool, sharp, and horny on the outside. We couldn't wait to cut this guy open, and as you can see, we were not disappointed - sooooo pretty! But guess what? He was all flash and not much flavor. It was like eating the most boring, drab, dull cucumber ever! He was a bit of a disappointment.

But the beautiful Asian Pear did NOT disappoint! As pretty as an apple and as sweet as a pear, this darling fruit was simply refreshing and smile-inducing. Like the apple, once you bring it home from the store it's ready to waiting around for it to ripen.

What do you think about the plums below?


They're not plums....they're called Red Velvet Apricots. Yea....Whatever!!! They look like plums, they feel like plums, they taste like plums, but they're called Red Velvet Apricots. Okay.

My favorite of the day was the Atualfo Mango which boasts a spectacular flavor that melts in your mouth. I've never been a crazed fan of the mango, but this mango could have me running for president of the Maniacs for Mangoes Club. More than half of the party goers gave this "Alfonso" mango (as Chris calls it) top three honors.

Then there was Papaya, Plantains, Coconut, Apricots, Mini-Bananas........all very good.

We did not actually taste-test the Quince, but Patty made a delightful Quince Cherry Crumble that we topped with freshly whipped cream. The quince is similar to the pear and the apple and has an acidic and bitter taste in its uncooked form, so you don't just pick and eat them. You cook them in water until they soften and become much sweeter. They are commonly used in crumbles and cobblers due to their likeness to the apple.

And then there was the canned fruit. You know it's not going to be as good as fresh chilled fruit, but you've got to try it.

The Lychee was a big hit - a pear/grape montage that's refreshing and fun - perfect for a Martini, right Bob?!?! Bob could take any fruit of the day and create a drink by adding rum, name it, to make himself a tasty drink.

Rambutan tasted like it would fit right in with fruit cocktail and many found it's flavor favorable.
The Jackfruit tasted like baby food and Chris did NOT like it. Bob thought it was grrrrreeat!!! Chris's first experience with the jackfruit was in a dish with chicken and curry and he found the lightness and sweetness of the jackfruit a perfect compliment to both chicken and curry. Turns out, he wasn't so crazy about it straight up.

If you want to know more about some of these tropical fruits click here.

Of course there was wine and lots and lots of fun conversation! We look forward to the next party....what will we taste?!?!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Zucchini Patty Pancakes

Okay! I just found my new favorite zucchini recipe and I owe it all to a lovely lady named Phyllis! She was nice enough to share this gem with me a few weeks ago and then my friend Patty gave me zucchini from her garden last week, we are!

Had I known the flavor would make my heart smile the way it does, I would have been ON IT the very day she placed the sacred instructions in my hands. But, now I know how delicious they are and how little effort it takes to get them from zucchini to zucchini pancake.

You will love the flavor and lightness of this savory pancake as it comes off the griddle, and that love will double in intensity when you re-heat it the next day, because it is one of those special treats that tastes just as good, if not better, the next day.......


Eat 'em with your hands, stack 'em up and cut 'em up with a knife, slather 'em with spaghetti sauce and call it dinner....whatever you want.....the sky is the limit with these perfect little patties!

Zucchini Patty Pancakes

1-1/2 Cups Grated Zucchini (Dry on paper towel)
2-3 Tablespoons Minced Onion
1/4 Cup Parmesan or Asiago, or Romano, or all of them!
1/4 Cup Flour
2 Eggs, beaten
2 Tablespoons Mayo
Salt & Pepper

Mix together and drop into hot skillet with olive oil. Cook until set and brown.

Take one more good look at your new favorite zucchini recipe.....

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pasta with Basil Cream Sauce

Click on picture to enlarge....then lick screen to taste... ;0)

We're halfway through summer and fresh fruits and vegetables are sprouting up everywhere!!! It's a fresh food frenzy out there and it's fantastic, but sometimes you need a little pasta....a little caloric intake, so we mix the fresh basil of summer with the ever-pleasing pasta and we end up with this tasty little number on our plate.

It's light, fresh, and spectacular and the best part is YOU decide how basily it will be. BONUS: The next day it tastes great cold or heats up like a dream.

Call me loco, but I think it's a Basily kind of day!

Pasta with Basil Cream Sauce

8-12 Ounces Pasta of your choice
Olive oil as needed
Pinch of hot pepper flakes
One Medium Onion, very finely chopped
Salt and Pepper to taste
3-4 Cloves Garlic, chopped

One Cup Cream
One Cup Chicken Broth

One Medium to Large Batch of Basil, cut in strips (How much do you love the Basil?)

While the pasta is cooking heat the oil in a pan with the hot pepper. Add the onion, salt and pepper and cook until the onion softens. Add the garlic and cook one more minute. IF you like your sauce a little thickened, you could add a tablespoon of flour right now.....

Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the cream and barely return it to a gentle simmer. Since it is light cream, over cooking can cause it to break. Of course you could use heavy cream and dismiss that anxiety.

Add the basil and additional salt and pepper if needed. Add the pasta, stir to incorporate it into the sauce and serve...topping it with freshly cut tomatoes and Parmesan cheese if you desire.

*** I love tossing chopped cherry tomatoes in with pastas such as these right before serving to punch up that fresh garden flavor!