If you’ve never heard of tapenade, it’s a Provençal name for a dish consisting of puréed or finely chopped olives, capers, and anchovies. Its name comes from the Provençal word for capers, tapenas.
What I love most about this dish is that it is easy to make, healthy, and can be used as a filling or a dip. You can also easily make it vegan (simply omit the anchovies) and still maintain the integrity of the recipe.
I was inspired to create this dish while visiting St. George, Utah and enjoying lunch at a local restaurant named Xetava. Their tapenade was served with Lavash crackers and I fell in love with it. So, when I got back home to St. Louis, my first thought was to try re-creating the recipe but adding my own twists. The beautify of tapenade is that it is very customizable and you don’t even have to have the exact measurements to make it. Just know that black olives (you can use green as well or mix the two) are going to be your main foundation. I typically start out by using a full cup of olives which I rough chop, and add ingredients little by little tasting and chopping the mixture as I go. If I’m throwing a party, I’ll add just one clove of garlic for flavor. If I’m making the tapenade for myself, to have for lunch, I can add up to three cloves of garlic… I LOVE GARLIC! I do the same with lemon juice. I can add the juice of a half a lemon if I’m making the appetizer to take to a party or add the entire lemon if I’m making it for myself. Just depends on how I’m feeling that day or who I will be serving it to.
The key to this recipe is to taste as you go. Once you hit your perfect flavor, you can finish it and serve. And don’t forget to put your own twists on this recipe. Some people add roasted peppers, sun dried tomatoes, and so much more. Don’t be afraid to try new ingredients, herbs, and seasonings. This dish allows you to customize as much as you like.
Most people use a food processor to make this. However, I just chop by hand as I go. Each time I add an ingredient, I mix it into the mixture and continue chopping. By the time I add the last ingredient, my tapenade is chopped to the consistency I want. To see all my techniques for this recipe, here’s a link to a full video.
Last but not least, I decided to omit the bread and instead, serve the tapenade in mushrooms (these mushrooms are fresh, not cooked). It makes for a filling dish that not only tastes fabulous but also good for you. If you omit the anchovies, this dish becomes vegan. If you’ve never worked with mushrooms, watch the video, which I linked above. It will show you tips on working with mushrooms.
Below is the recipe as I like to make it, but feel free to add more or less of each ingredient… if you hate anchovies, don’t use them. If you love capers, use more. Same goes for any of the ingredients listed below. As long as you are using olives as your foundation… you are good!
1 cup of black or green olives 2-3 anchovies 1/4 cup of capers Juice of 1/2 lemon 2 cloves of garlic 1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil 1/4 cup of olive oil 10-12 fresh mushrooms (peeled and cored)
There are few things that get me excited more than cheesecake. It’s one of my favorite guilty pleasures and to be honest, one of the easiest desserts I have ever made. Sure, it takes a bit of time to bake, cool, and set but since I love to prepare most of my party food a day or two prior to the actual party, cheesecakes are the ideal make ahead dessert. And once you’ve figured out the basic techniques, you can go crazy with the flavors with just a few tweaks here and there.
Best of all, this particular cheesecake is a bit “out of the box” since it incorporates bananas. Plus, it’s so easy to decorate. With a bit of whipped cream (home made or store bought), lemon soaked bananas, and vanilla wafers, you will be able to create a gorgeous dessert without having to be a professional cake decorator.
If you are visual, you will enjoy watching my YouTube tutorial where I show you all the preparation techniques. The link is below. Enjoy!
1 1/2 Cups Finely Crushed Vanilla Wafers 1/2 Cups of crushed cashews 1/4 Cup of melted butter 19 Vanilla Wafers (or enough to fit entirely around your springform pan) 3-4 Ripe bananas (diced) Juice of one lemon 2 Tbsp of brown sugar 3 (8-oz) packages of cream cheese, softened 1 Cup of granulated sugar 3 Large eggs 2 tsp of vanilla extract 1/2 cup of crushed/broken vanilla wafers
Garnishes: Sweetened whipped cream, vanilla wafers, sliced bananas tossed in lemon juice
Preheat oven 350 degrees. In a food processor, process vanilla wafers, cashews, and melted butter. Once it is well blended, press mixture onto the bottom of a greased and floured springform pan. Stand 17-19 vanilla wafers around the springform pan, pressing gently into crust to secure. Put the springform pan on a baking sheet (to prevent butter from leaking on to the bottom of your oven) and bake 8-10 minutes. Cool completely for approximately 30 minutes.
Combine bananas and lemon juice in a small sauce-pan. Add brown sugar and cook over medium heat stirring constantly until the sugar has melted into the mixture, approximately 1-2 minutes.
Beat cream cheese at low to medium speed. Make sure your cream cheese is softened since it will help prevent cracks in the cream cheese during the baking process. Once the cream cheese is ready, gradually add eggs, beating until blended. Make sure to add eggs one at a time and wait until each egg has fully blended into the mixture. Add vanilla. Add the cooked banana mixture. Pour batter into the prepared crust.
Bake at 350 (on a baking sheet) for 55-65 minutes or until center is almost set. Remove cheesecake from oven; gently run a knife around the edge of cheesecake to loosen. Let cool for 20-30 minutes then sprinkle the top of cheesecake with crushed wafers. Remove cheesecake from springform pan. Cool completely for an hour. Place in refrigerator, cover, and chill for 8 hours.
Each year, my sister Anna, volunteers to host Thanksgiving and our family gathers at her home to celebrate the holiday. Anna is a wonderful hostess, I’ve said this many times. She and I are always stealing each other’s ideas and recipes. Unlike me, Anna does things very simply with a relaxed feel but always seems to WOW her guests. She never seems to stress over the details. Even the few times she’s asked me for help, Anna always seems relaxed and at ease while I’m running around stressing over pretty much everything. Nevertheless, we always seem to pull off a great party and when working together, we make a good team.
During this particular celebration, her table was simple with red placemats and a bouquet of fresh flowers. However, she added candlelight as her main decor element, creating a soft, warm, and quiet atmosphere. She used different style and height crystal candleholders which were set on mirror tiles to reflect the light. She also placed some candles in her silver candleholders on the back buffet. Last but not least, she added some votives to bring various levels of height. It looked so beautiful.
This look was very minimal but definitely brought the WOW factor.
Smoked Salmon Appetizers
It’s no secret, our family is ALL ABOUT THE APPETIZERS… Anna always prepares a wonderful appetizer spread that is easy and festive. Above are the smoked salmon appetizers which she serves at practically every function. They are served on small pieces of bread, smothered in plain cream cheese and topped off with a generous slice of smoked salmon. She finishes by sprinkling green onion on top and watches them disappear off the plate in a matter of minutes.
Veggie Plate and Hummus Dip
I’m always in charge of the veggie plates and dip.
Veggie Plate and Basil Hummus
This veggie plate featured my favorite basil hummus which I make for practically EVERY occasion.
I also love bringing my beet hummus which adds a vibrant color to an otherwise boring cracker bowl.
The dinner is typically traditional with turkey, cranberry source, her famous mixed roasted vegetables, and of course, mashed potatoes. Here’s my son and my parents enjoying her delicious buffet.
Last but not least, the dessert always comes from The Smoke House Market, which is a wonderful store in Chesterfield, Missouri. It is affiliated with Annie Gunns, which is a famous steak house in St. Louis, and sells many of their freshly prepared food creations. Their pies are in HIGH DEMAND during the holidays and since my niece worked there, we always had fresh pies for Thanksgiving… with a bit of vanilla ice cream on top.
All in all, my sister does a fantastic job with Thanksgiving. And I’m alway impressed with how beautifully and seamlessly she executes this annual celebration.
I’m shining the spotlight on my friend Rachel again. Rachel is no stranger to fabulous parties, she organizes fun events which look effortless and always filled with delicious goodies. For anyone who feels like it takes too much work or preparation to host a book night or craft night, you will love this post. Hosting these types of mini-parties are very easy and don’t require as much work and planning as a typical party. When Rachel decided to throw a craft night, she asked all the guests to bring their favorite snacks. One guest brought a delicious white bean dip with pretzels. Another brought home-made chocolate covered pop-corn… SOOO GOOD… and another brought yummy gourmet chocolates. Rachel did an outstanding job of organizing a night out and creating a fun craft. And since all the guests were more than happy to bring something fun, Rachel also made her life a little easier.
Recently, I attended a SPOOKY book club which was beautifully organized by a mom from our school. “How did you do all this, Mini”, everyone asked. Mini wasn’t secretive about how she was able to create such a fabulous buffet while being a working mom…. she outsourced everything!
As a hostess who loves to outsource myself, I always keep an eye out for great places to contact when I am throwing my own shindig. Mini contacted Straub’s, which is a local supermarket that specializes in gourmet food. The book we discussed was Educated by Tara Westover, which is a wonderful book… I highly recommend it! But I have to admit, the highlight to my evening was the beautiful way Mini entertained her room full of guests and the delicious accompaniments to the wonderful book discussion.
I loved the stuffed mushrooms and the melted cheese with chutney. The chicken skewers were also easy to eat and delicious. However, my favorite part of the appetizer buffet was the Bloody Eye Punch. It was a mixture of juices topped of with a little champagne.
My friend Maureen, is a party genius! She throws many beautiful parties for all sorts of occasions, but her Halloween parties are simply SPOOCTACULAR!!! Unfortunately, I arrived a bit late to photograph the buffet before other guests arrived, so you are seeing things which have already been enjoyed. But I think you can get some fun ideas and inspirations if you are planning your own Halloween party. One of the things that I loved is she set-up this entire spread on her pool table. This gave her plenty of room to have a large buffet without having to put two tables together or take up extra room with more set-up.
I think Maureen included almost every Halloween recipe. The puking pumpkin, hot dog wrapped mummies, witchs’ fingers, pumpkins, skeletons, green dips, white dips, cakes, chips, pizza… I can go on and on!
Kudos to Maureen for all her fun ideas. It was a real treat for everyone who attended!
As I was going through my photos, I stumbled upon this beautiful fall wedding which I think is wonderful to showcase during my October post. My husband’s cousin, Elliot, married the love of his life, Dawn, in St. Louis. Their reception was at the St. Louis Botanical Gardens and it was spectacular. I loved all the beautiful fall details as well as the personal touches Dawn incorporated into their wedding design. Beautifully done, Dawn and Elliot!
My husband and I enjoying the setting at the St. Louis Botanical Gardens wedding reception.
Wedding dinner buffet filled with a large assortment of delicious cheeses, fruit, and appetizers.
Dawn and Elliot’s dinner buffet was overflowing with delicious menu items which included fruit, nuts, crackers, breads, and lots and lots of different kinds of artisanal cheeses as well as a huge selection of hot appetizers.
Hot d’oeuvres were also served and they were absolute perfection!
Bite sized sandwiches as well as shrimp cocktail shots were also on the buffet. They were displayed with such clever creativity.
More hot d’oeuvres! Bacon wrapped scallops… YES! I love how the serving platters are all different.
The reception was outside, the weather was perfect, and what a beautiful view!
Love this simple yet creative centerpiece. You don’t have to spend a ton of money for perfection! LOVE IT!!
Obsessed with this pumpkin cart filled with white pumpkins for guests to take home. Who doesn’t want an adorable pumpkin to take home and enjoy in October?
Had book club at my house again and wanted to create a beautiful “fall” appetizer table… but nothing too complicated. I had some hummus left over from the weekend… beet hummus and basil hummus. Additionally, I prepared some quinoa Mexican inspired salad with corn and beans. It was DELICIOUS!!! I also prepared a beet salad because I LOVE to add red to my menu.
For a healthier alternative, I served greens so that people can build a salad foundation with lettuce and spinach and then top it off with the quinoa or beet salad.
The appetizer platter was very simple. It included bread and crackers, for the hummus, as well as various kinds of cheese. Last but not least, I purchased a flatbread at my local supermarket’s frozen food section, right next to the pizzas. It was easy to bake and my friends thought it was a wonderful addition to the table. I mean, who doesn’t love some freshly baked flatbread with their salad?
I am obsessed with appetizer platters. I love making them a bit unique and always try to incorporate my own personal twist. We had friends stop by and I wanted to create something that would remind us all of fall. So, I made my three favorite hummus dips … Avocado Hummus, Beet Hummus, and Basil Hummus.
My cheese party platter.
Then, I brought in the different cheeses. I included Cheddar, Parmigiano, Brie, and a super neutral mild cheese. I also added some baked cheese, just for fun.
I also added some fruit, such as pears and grapes, because they seem to be a favorite among this group of friends. Of course, crackers and chips are also a favorite, not only with the cheese but with the hummus dips. The crackers were all store-bought name brand. Nothing fancy or expensive, since this group of friends had no preference for fancy crackers and to be honest, I think they are a total waste of money.
Last but not least, I added some fun elements which my friends may have not expected. A little bit of honey (which is DELICIOUS with the baked cheese) as well as almonds, preserves (for the Brie) and dark chocolate which goes wonderfully with the parmigiana cheese.