Cheddar and Ranch Cheese Ball

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Happy Halloween! As I promised yesterday, here is the recipe for the BRAINS!! If you’re still looking for an appetizer to take to a Halloween party tonight why not give this a try? It’s super simple, tasty, and will impress/gross out all of your friends! This would also be good for non-Halloween events, just skip the brain shaping and roll into a ball and then in sliced almonds instead!

Cheddar and Ranch Cheese Ball

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups shredder cheddar cheese (I used a mix of sharp, mild, and Vermont white)
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (optional, I skipped)
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 (1 ounce) package Ranch-style dressing mix (Hidden Valley brand)
1 cup sliced almonds (Obviously omit if you’re making the brain)
2-3 drops of black food coloring, if you want a grayish hue
3-4 drops red gel food coloring, for “blood”

Directions
Add the cheese to the bowl of food processor*. Pulse a few times for 3 seconds each. Add the cream cheese and Ranch seasoning packet and process until smooth.

To make the brain, remove half of the mixture and form an egg shaped ball, place on a plate. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, or a ziploc bag with the corner cut, with the remainder of the mixture. Starting in the middle of the formed ball pipe a straight line length wise to the edge of the egg shape. When you reach the edge start zigzagging your way back to the middle. Repeat on the 3 parts of the egg shape. I used the picture below as a model when I piped. If you have a lot left, try piping a second layer directly over top.

Place the brain in the refrigerator for about an hour. Before serving spread red food coloring on a knife and stick it cheese ball. Serve with crackers. (The left overs were also really good spread on a bagel!)

*If you don’t have a food processor this can also be done in a bowl with just a spoon (or a hand held mixer), but the food processor does make it extra smooth for piping.

Adapted from What’s Cookin, Chicago?


Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes




How about another sweet Friday? Sounds good to me. Get the weekend started off right with these customizable Funfetti Cupcakes!

It’s football season and regardless of whether or not you enjoy watching football games, I think that most people can get down with festive and spirited tailgate/party food. We are Bengals fans (Who Dey!) so for our Sunday radio broadcast streaming (no NFL cable package for us, we have to stream to hear the game) I went with black and orange sprinkles. But the beauty of homemade Funfetti is that you can use any color sprinkles you like! If you’re a Chargers fan all you need are blue and yellow (gold) sprinkles. If you’re not a football fan, you can go for traditional rainbow sprinkles or celebrate the season and stick with my black and orange and call it Halloween. It’s totally up to you!

As for the cake part of the cupcake, it was nice and sturdy and not overly sweet. The tops domed nicely and the middle was moist and light. I did use jumbo liners so mine took forever and I think the outsides might have been a little overcooked, but they still tasted great. I tried something new with my frosting and I didn’t love it so I won’t be sharing that today, but I think the Fluffy Vanilla Frosting I have already posted would be perfect.


Now onto cupcake size. The cupcakes I made were giant. You see, a few weeks ago I needed cupcake liners and sent the boys to the grocery to pick up white liners. They followed my instructions to a T and brought back the stores only white liners – jumbo size. I don’t have a jumbo muffin tin but the box of liners said they would fit in a regular pan, so that’s what I did. They had a heck of a time baking so I highly recommend sticking with regular size cupcakes or even minis, just not jumbos. They still tasted great but like I said, the outside was just a little overcooked.

Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes
(Adapted from Simply Scratch)

Ingredients
4 whole egg whites
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp plus 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted Butter, softened
1/3 cup Sprinkles, plus more for garnish

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.

In a large measuring cup or small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites, milk, and vanilla. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and kosher salt, into the bowl of standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment*. Add the butter and half of the milk mixture and mix until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then, with the mixer on slow speed, add the last half of the milk mixture. Mix on slow-medium speed just until combined. Scrape down sides one more time to make sure it is thoroughly mixed. Now add the sprinkles and gently fold into the batter.

Divide the batter evenly into the cupcake liners, filling each one just a tiny bit more than halfway. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool all the way before frosting. Finish each cupcake with a few more sprinkles.

Sit back, enjoy, and cheer on your favorite team!

* Most cakes can be made without a standing mixer by using a large mixing bowl and a hand held mixer, just be careful not to over mix.

Soft Pretzel Bites

I don’t think anyone will be more excited about this post than my dad. You see, last year, while I was living with my parents waiting to move to California, I made these pretzels to take to a friends house for some serious football watching. My dad had been telling me he wanted to learn how to bake bread and when he saw (and tasted) these he immediately said, “When can you teach me how to make these?!” I think he managed to wait 2 days before demanding to give them a try. Since that day he mentions “making pretzels” anytime we talk about food or cooking (which if you know me, you know happens often). And I know he was jealous when my sister and I told him we made them for Bayday during her visit.

When I taught my dad, I twisted the pretzels into sticks, but for Bayday Emilie and I cut them into bite size pieces that are perfect for snacking. I don’t know if that was a good idea or bad idea. These pretzels are already addicting, but when you can just pop one in your mouth any time you think about/see/smell them, you’re in trouble. They’re just that good. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!! (And as a bonus I’m including my recipe for Super Easy Beer Cheese, a-maz-ing with the preztels)

Soft Pretzel Bites

(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp white sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
2 egg whites
2 Tbsp butter, melted that has been cooled
Kosher salt, for topping
Parchment paper and cooking spray

Directions

In a measuring cup dissolve the yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Set aside. (Mixture should become foamy, if it doesn’t your yeast may be bad or your water too hot)

In the bowl of a standing mixture fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, sugars, and salt on low speed. Turn off the mixer and pour the water/yeast mixture and melted butter into the bowl. Turn the mixer on and knead for 6-8 minutes until the dough is smooth. If the dough is too dry you can add extra water, a tablespoon at a time.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Remove the dough from the mixer and shape into a ball. Place the dough ball in the bowl, cover with a clean towel, and allow to rise for one hour (*or until double in size).

Towards the end of rising, preheat oven to 450 degrees and prepare baking sheets with parchment paper and cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the hot water and baking soda. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites and melted butter.

After the dough has risen, punch down the dough and then knead with hands for one minute. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide dough into 12 even portions. Now you can pick your shape. For pretzel bites roll each portion into a snake then cut the snake into bite size pieces, about 1 1/2 inches in width.

Dip the pieces in the baking soda water and place on the baking sheet (sometimes I dab the pretzels with a paper towel if they seem too wet). Brush each pretzel bite with egg whites/melted butter then sprinkle with kosher salt.

Bake for 7-8 minutes, until browned.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

*I always let my dough rise in the (off) oven with the light on.

Beer Cheese Dip

(Sunny Side Up original)

Ingredients

6 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup good quality beer
1 Tbsp horseradish
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2-3/4 cups cheddar cheese, grated

Directions

Microwave cream cheese for 30-45 seconds until very soft. Stir in the beer, horseradish, and garlic powder. Microwave again for 30-45 seconds. Add the grated cheese and stir until smooth, microwaving again if necessary.

 

Cold Veggie Pizza Appetizer

Saturday, Bayday, Bayday!!

My sister has been visiting for the past week and we’ve been having an absolute blast. One of our jokes is that no one can make us laugh more than ourselves, except maybe each other. Don’t worry, I know you’re probably giving me the side eye right now because reading that doesn’t make much sense. Like most families, and especially sisters, we have a lot of inside jokes and from the outside looking in we are just weirdos. Actually from the inside looking out we’re pretty strange too — but we have FUN which is the most important part.

One of the fun things we did during her visit was have Saturday Bayday Bayday (best said like the motorsports commercials “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday”). Around lunch time we headed out to the bay with a few friends for a day of frisbee, sunbathing, eating, and good fun. Unfortunately we wound up cutting the day a little short when the sun disappeared and the clouds showed up, but the rest of the day was still a blast. And of course there was no shortage of food.

I’ll be sharing a few of those recipes in the next few weeks and I thought I would start with this super easy appetizer. I think this is one of things that everyone has had and everyone has their own way of making. This just happens to be the way I made it. I didn’t use a recipe as I have had it a million times and felt pretty confident about making it without one (but I did take notes so I could share it with you). It must have been a big success because it was a crowd favorite. Good news is it was also easy!

Cold Veggie Pizza Appetizer

(Sunny Side Up recipe)

Ingredients

2 cans of refrigerated croissant dough (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
1 cup cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 packet Ranch dressing mix*
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp paprika
2 cups chopped veggies of your choice**

*1/2 packet was plenty for my tastes, but taste the dressing as you’re mixing and add more if needed ** I took the easy way out and bought a mixed bag with broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, and chopped it up. Bell peppers, onions, even cucumber would also be great.

Directions

Unroll the cans of croissant rolls and place on a baking sheet. Press together so it forms one big rectangle without seams. Bake according to package and allow to cool.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, Greek yogurt, Ranch, and seasonings until smooth.

Spread the dressing over the crust in an even layer. Top with chopped veggies and cut into even squares. Serve cold.