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Patriotic Torte – Great for Memorial Day or 4th of July!

February 27th, 2013

This Memorial Day I hosted a brunch for a lovely couple who came to visit us from St. Louis.  I made a Russian/American menu for the main course but my most favorite dishes were the desserts!  I scoured Pinterest and found some great inspiration.  Here is a “Patriotic Torte” which I whipped up after seeing a few on Pinterest.  I loved how all the ingredients worked well together.  If you would like to try something different and substitute any of the ingredients, I recommend using puff pastry instead of croissants and yogurt instead of cream cheese.  I’ll be trying both of these substitutions when I make this dessert again for the Fourth of July!  Here’s the recipe:



  • 2 cans of croissant dough (or you can use puff pastry)
  • 2 small tubs Strawberry or Blueberry cream cheese
  • 1 carton Strawberries
  • 1 carton Blueberries
  • 1 jar Prepared Lemon Curd (available at any grocery store with the jams and preserves)


Roll out the croissant dough but do not take apart. Instead, pinch the seams together so that you can create a solid bed of croissant dough as your “crust”. Add the dough from the second can to the crust but reserve 1/4 of the dough to cut out your stars. The other 3/4 of the dough can be added to create the crust. Your end result should be a rectangular croissant crust.With a small or large cookie cutter, cut out the stars and set aside.Bake the crust and the stars according to package directions.Once ready, remove the crust from the oven and let cool.

Once the crust is cool, spread all of the strawberry or blueberry cream cheese on the crust.

Cut strawberries in half and place on top of the cream cheese. Then add the blueberries.

Heat lemon curd in a sauce pan and add about 1/4 cup of water so it liquifies and becomes a thinner sauce. Once it turns into liquid, sprinkle all over the top of the strawberries and blueberries. For best results, brush all the fruit with the liquid lemon curd so they have a shiny appearance.


Once the torte cools, you can serve it. However, it is even more delicious 1-2 days after you make it! This is a perfect recipe for preparing “ahead”!

Healthy Super Bowl Party Ideas (And No One Will Ever Know!)

February 27th, 2013



Do you know that A Super Bowl Party is the second biggest eating day of the year, right behind Thanksgiving? But unlike Thanksgiving, Super  Bowl parties focus on a menu filled with heart-stopping junkfood and an endless supply of alcohol. It’s no wonder that most people consume their entire day’s caloric intake in just one Superbowl meal.

But as with all parties, your guests expect to be indulged, not put on a diet. And since for some guests, the food may be even more important than the game itself, it’s important not to bring out the tofu sliders and kale chips and instead, make some quick alterations to the indulgent treats your guests have come to love.

I had a chance to show off some healthy Super Bowl party ideas to the folks at Better Kansas City and the best part… these ideas can be incorporated into appetizer menus for ANY party!  Below is a photo of myself with one of the wonderful hosts of Better Kansas City, Kelly Jones.  Don’t let her glamorous looks fool you, Kelly is a SERIOUS football fan!  So, without further delay, here are my top healthy Super Bowl ideas you can easily “sneak” into your party menu!



As many of you know, pop corn is an amazing snack. It’s fat free, gluten free, and packed with fiber… which you’ll probably need after a night of junk food feasting.  Create a “station” where people can fill a cup of pop-corn and offer a variety of pop-corn seasoning.  The seasoning can be purchased at most super markets and come in a variety of flavors, such as ranch, pizza, and white cheddar.  Or, offer various flavored salts and herbs.  For an added treat, incorporate different nuts into the pop-corn bar/station which can be added to their pop-corn mixture.  Even a nutty trail-mix filled with dried cherries, cranberries, and roasted seeds will guarantee to score a touch-down with your guests!



These are russian meat filled pies. Now, you can fill them with anything… leans meats, broccoli and cheese, pizza and cheese, and even sweets. They are made with regular store-bought biscuit dough and filled with whatever you choose. And they also happen to look just like footballs. And if you think you need to make them even more authentic, add a seam to the top and the peroshki will look EXACTLY like a football!  A great alternative to sliders or even… dare I say… oily pizza. FOR THE FULL RECIPE, CLICK HERE.



The King of all high calorie dips, the seven layer dip is the ultimate power junk food!   It combines multiple layers of unhealthy ingredients into one artery clogging dip!  But my alternative not only shaves a number of calories but also looks great when sitting on your buffet.

The number one tip… start with fresh ingredients, such as home-made salsa and guacamole.  Then, instead of real sour cream, use greek plain yogurt.  It has a similar taste to sour cream, I promise no one will be able to tell.  Last but not least, serve the dip in individual cups.  The presentation is beautiful and you won’t see your guests doing the ultimate “no-no”… double dipping!  And, if you want to receive RAVES all evening,  calculate the calorie content of your seven-layer dip in each individual cup.  If your guests know that each cup contains 50 calories, they’ll be able to keep track of their calorie intake, which is a huge help for your health and calorie-conscious party goers.  Add baked chips (more info. below) and you’ve got a winning combination!



Chips and dip are staples of any good party, and super bowl parties are no exception.  But instead of surrendering to the fats and calories, make a healthier alternative that everyone will love!  Simply purchase flour tortillas at the store and cut them up, brush them with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and your favorite herbs.  You’ll have a “gourmet” looking baked chip that is a healthier and even better tasting alternative to the store-bougt ones.  Less sodium, less trans fat, and a TON of flavor!



Last, but certainly not least (in calories or fat) is the  ultimate “heart stopping” junk food… Pigs In A Blanket.   With enough sodium and trans fat to leave you in an ER, making this snack healthier is not only easy but a health necessity!!  When purchasing the sausages, choose the turkey sausages which are a reduced fat version and will cut close to 75% of the fat… yes, 75%!  Hillshire Farms makes delicious turkey mini-sausages.  The reduction in calories is also significant.  For an added benefit, use reduced fat croissants to help this snack be a true winner!  Just applying these two easy alterations can significantly reduce the impact on your guests’ waistline!

Retail Fall Tablescapes

February 26th, 2013

I love stores that have beautiful displays… such as Pottery Barn, William Sonoma, Mary Tuttle’s, and a few other local boutique.  It seems like very few stores offer inspirational displays anymore.  So, when I walk into a store and see stunning inspiration… my camera quickly pops out!  Here are some photos which I took last week at Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, and Mary Tuttle’s.

Adorable Children’s Table at Pottery Barn Kids


Gorgeous Halloween placesetting with Juliska plates and cute “boo” napkins – Mary Tuttle’s


I love this armoire display… would love to do this in the kitchen and create different displays based on season – Mary Tuttle’s


I love this color combination of gray (platinum), light tan, and plum… Mary Tuttle’s


What a dramatic plate cover!! Mary Tuttle’s


Love, love, love all these fall colors together! Mary Tuttle’s


Stunning Thanksgiving table at Pottery Barn – Lots of bling! I always think that Thanksgiving tables should be rustic, never would have thought to incorporate rhinestones and gilded pumpkins.



Another rustic and fun Halloween table from Pottery Barn.  I love the lanterns and the extra large Mason jars.



Rustic Thanksgiving table from Pottery Barn – This is more my style



PEEPS Halloween Centerpiece

February 24th, 2013

The boys and I had way too much fun this weekend!!  After going to the dollar store, I picked up some fun supplies to make PEEPS centerpieces.  I got the Dizzy Pop, candy corn, licorice and vases at the dollar store and picked up shredded paper, flowers, and PEEPS at various other stores.  It took the kids and I about 10 minutes to create this fun arrangement.  All we did was put a smaller cylinder bud vase inside the cylinder vases (just for the vases where we wanted to put the flowers) and then dropped candy corn, shredded paper, and PEEPS in between the empty layer between the narrow bud vase and the larger cylinder vase.  Then, we put the flowers inside the small bud vase.  You’ll notice that the bud vase doesn’t have much room for flowers, but if you use one or two large flowers (sunflowers or gerber daisies) they will look wonderful as well!  I used the purple flowers because I thought they would be a nice contrast with the orange and yellow.


Spooky Peeps Kabobs!

February 19th, 2013

It was my husband’s birthday today and the kids and I decided to make him a Halloween inspired sweet and yummy treat!  He loves Peeps and since the Halloween Peeps are officially in the stores, a Peep Kabob was definitely in order!  This was our result!  The kids dipped and embellished the strawberries, while I made the brownie. Once everything was ready, we skewered everything including the Peep… and viola!!!  You don’t even need a “real” recipe.  All you need are Peeps, chocolate covered strawberries (with Halloween sprinkles), a brownie piece and another Peep… DONE!!!


5 Simple Tips for the Perfect Fondue Party!

February 19th, 2013


Imagine being able to throw a party without spending all your time cooking! Sound impossible? Not with Fondue! This fabulous way of entertaining has been around for hundreds of years and is a boon for the novice or busy host — Here are five easy tips on helping you to create your very own Fondue party which I shared on Better Kansas City.  To see the video, please click here.


No doubt, people will ask you where Fondue came from and why it exists. As a gracious host, you should be able to give a quick run down of what is Fondue and how it came to be. The easiest way of explaining it is to say that it has been around for over 400 years and was generally viewed as a peasant dish since it was an easy way of eating stale bread and cheese. Fondue is derived from a french word meaning “to melt” and is traditionally served in a communal pot (caquelon) over a portable stove (chaud), and eaten by dipping long-stemmed forks with bread into the cheese. Although the Swiss are generally known as the originators of this dish, the Italians and French also love Fondue.


As with anything which has been around for hundreds of years, there are certain etiquette rules and general guidelines you need to follow when creating your Fondue Soiree! However, all the rules are easy and infused with a bit of European humor and flair!  As a host of the party, it’s always encouraged you give your guests a quick run-down of these rules since most people may not be familiar with them

  • 1.  If you are a woman at the table who drops her bread in the fondue pot, you must kiss the two party guests sitting to each side of you.
  • 2.  If you are a man who drops his bread in the fondue pot, you must buy a round of drinks or even a bottle of wine for every guest at the table.
  • 3.  If you drop two pieces of bread (gender not relevant), you must host the next fondue party.
  • 4. Double dipping is never allowed, so make sure you have as much cheese on your dipping fork as you need, the first time around.
  • 5.  Dip your food in a figure 8 pattern, it continues to mix the cheese, keeping it creamy for the other guests and gives you the most efficient “dip”!
  • 6.  Most important… fondue forks are only to transport your food from the fondue pot to your plate, not to eat off! 



If this is your first Fondue party or if it’s been a while since you’ve thrown a fondue party, make sure you use the easiest Fondue recipes and accompaniments. Don’t overwhelm yourself with complicated ingredients which will detract you from focusing on your guests. Start off with things and ingredients that you know… like cheese, bread, vegetables, chocolate, and fruit. Simplicity is the origin of Fondue, so you won’t be compromising anything by keeping it simple. Once you get more experienced with all the intricacies, you can expand on what you already know with more complex fondue recipes.

Keeping it simple can also help you keep it healthy.  If saving calories is important for you and your guests, you may consider altering from a traditional fondue to a more modern and healthy version.  Creating an authentic fondue requires a myriad of cheeses, which are not necessarily healthy.  Instead, consider creating fondue from two cans of heart healthy cheese soup, 1/2 cup of fat free shredded cheese, and 1/2 cup of regular shredded cheese.  You’ll save an enormous amount of calories and sodium while enjoying the delicious fondue on top of vegetables, lean turkey sausage, and turkey meatballs.  For dessert, a chocolate fondue comprised of 1 bag of dark chocolate morsels and 1/4 – 1/2 cup of fat free evaporated milk, will take your breath away!



The beauty of Fondue is that there is nothing to cook! However, don’t let this benefit keep you from doing what all good host and hostesses know… prepare ahead! Do as much of the preparation the day before and just focus on preparing the fondue on the “day of”. This means, cut up your vegetables and arrange your meats. For items which tend to “turn” quickly, such as fruit, prepare those an hour prior to your guests arriving and drizzle with lemon juice to prevent discoloration, then refrigerate. The goal is to have everything prepared so all you have to do is remove the platters from the refrigerator and serving when guests arrive.


The good news is that, like fondue, choosing the right drinks are super easy. Traditionally the wine that was used to prepare the fondue, is also served to accompany it… that’s probably the only major rule. White wine is typically the choice, but that has changed over the years to be practically anything. Now, people put beer in their fondue and also drink it to accompany the meal. Brandy or kirsch is a traditional accompaniment since it’s said to help the digestion process. However, don’t feel stifled, practically any drink can be accompanied with the fondue.

An Unusual Beautiful Color Combo

February 11th, 2013

Although I try to think out of the box (occasionally ), I’ve never been one to change successful color palates.  I mean, who could argue that  oranges and reds aren’t the perfect colors to decorate with for fall?!  So when I found this set-up for a table setting at my favorite retailer, I thought… YES!!!!  It is a pewter and plum with a touch of tan.  I just had to post it because it’s so “out of the box” but still representative of fall!!


Easy Pumpkin Cheese Ball

February 1st, 2013

Fall entertaining is upon us and delicious comfort food is the perfect addition to any gathering.  This cheese ball, made to look like a small pumpkin, will get everyone excited.  Plus, it’s truly one of the easiest things to make and you can even prepare it ahead of time and whip it out when guests arrive.  I also bought a variety of tortillas which I made into “leaf chips” by using a leaf cookie cutter to cut out the leaf shapes.  Then I sprayed the chips with cooking spray (or you can brush them with olive oil), salt them, and bake them  in 400 degree oven, about 5-7 minutes or until crisp.  Lastly, leave them out for a day… they’ll get even more crispy and be perfect for the day of the party!  So, without further delay… here’s the recipe!


2 (8 oz) Packages of Cream Cheese (you can use fat free cream cheese for a “guilt free” delight!)
1 packet of Onion Soup Mix or Ranch Dressing mix
2 tsp of Paprika (I usually do this just for color for the outside of the pumpkin)
2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese (this is optional… I add this for interest and to give the pumpkin that orange color)
For a pumpkin stalk, you can use a broccoli, green bell pepper or a celery stem.  I used the stem from a real pumpkin which I cut out and washed.  It was more authentic!
Chips, crackers, or toast


In a medium bowl, mash cream cheese.  Mix the dressing or soup mix and cheddar cheese into the cream cheese.  Spoon the mixture into a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a ball.  Refrigerate until firm… the longer the better.  I would make this a day or two ahead of time.  Carefully remove the seran wrap.

Place the stem on top and put on a serving platter.   Surround the pumpkin cheese ball with chips, crackers, veggies, or fruit.  For an extra touch, you can also roll the ball in crushed nuts.