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Black Olive Tapenade Stuffed Mushrooms

July 3rd, 2020

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.

Black Olive Tapenade Stuffed Mushrooms

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)

Easy Banana Pudding Cheesecake

June 24th, 2020

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.

Makes for a beautiful cake.

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.




Craft Club Goodies

November 5th, 2018

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.

Fall Cheese Platter and Dinner for Book Club

September 27th, 2018

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?

Beans, Beans, Glorious Beans – Oh, and Avocados too!! (Chickpea Blondies, Black Bean Brownies, and Avocado Chocolate Mousse)

May 14th, 2015
 

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Hanging out with Courtenay DeHoff and Lisa Teachman!

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It’s always a fun segment when I get to hang out in the kitchen with the always stylish… Rob Finnerty!


My last show of 2015 was a blast at KCTV5’s Better Kansas City! I know, I know, I keep saying that after every show but it’s true! Every single person who works at Better Kansas City, both in front and behind the scenes, are approachable, super friendly, down-to-earth, and hysterical! And although I am a crazy ball of nerves before the show, everyone has always done everything possible to make me feel comfortable and welcomed. I just have so much love and respect for all of them!

But of course, I must get down to business so here are the delicious recipes from today's show!
 
FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CHIP CHICKPEA BLONDIES

No butter, no flour and absolutely delicious!!! (Vegan, gluten-free, dairy
free, flour-free)

1 can chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
1/2 cup of peanut butter (you can use almond butter if you prefer)
1/2 cup of agave nectar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips

PREPARATION

1. Preheat oven 350 and spray 8x8 pan with nonstick cooking spray or rub
with coconut oil.
2. In food processor, process all ingredients except for the chocolate
chips.  You will notice that the batter is super thick, which is the way it
is supposed to be.  Fold in the chocolate chips but leave some for
sprinkling on top.
3. Spread the batter evenly in the pan and sprinkle with the remainder of
the chocolate chips.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until the toothpick comes out
clean. Cool for an hour.

VEGAN AVOCADO CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

2 large ripe avocados
1/4 cup of raw cocoa powder
1/4 cup of coconut milk or almond milk
3 tsp agave nectar
1 tsp of natural vanilla extract

PREPARATION

1. Puree the avocado until smooth (super important... you don't want any
lumps)
2. In a mixing bowl, mix the cocoa powder and milk until combined.  
3. Add the avocado to the cocoa powder and milk mixture
4.  Add nectar, vanilla, and any other ingredients you wish to add (frozen
fruit, almonds, etc.)

Transfer the mouse to individual martini glasses and chill in the fridge.

The key to this recipe is to make sure that the mouse is WELL CHILLED and
FRESH.  Also, make sure that the avocado is well pureed. 

BLACK BEAN AVOCADO BROWNIES (VEGETARIAN, GLUTEN FREE) 
If you would like to make this recipe vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free, replace the egg with a Flax Egg.

1. 1 large egg
1- 15 oz can of low sodium and non flavored black beans, rinsed and drained
1 large avocado
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (you can use more if you like your brownies
sweeter)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup of vegan chocolate chips 

PREPARATION

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 8x8 baking pan.
2.  Process egg, black beans, avocado, vanilla, and brown sugar until
smooth.  Add cocoa powder, coconut oil, baking soda, and baking powder and
process again. Warning: Batter will be thick. If the batter is too thick,
you can add two tbsp of almond milk.  But thick batter is good, so don't
overdo it!  
3. Fold in the chocolate chips
4. Transfer the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with some
chocolate chips
5.  Bake 25-35 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.  Make sure
that the top of the batter is not jiggling and is well set. Cool completely,
cut and serve.

Carrot and Daisy Centerpiece – Perfect for Easter

May 18th, 2014

Whether you are celebrating Easter, or just the beauty of the arrival of spring, this centerpiece could not be any easier and makes an incredible impact on your table or buffet.  All you need is clear glass vases, various carrots, and some mums or daisies.  For a step-by-step instructional video, just VISIT MY VIDEOS PAGE and look for the EASTER CARROT CENTERPIECE segment on Better Kansas City!

carrotcenterpiece

Back To School Party Ideas – Super Easy!

May 13th, 2014

backtoschool

Looking for some fun back to school party ideas!  I’ve been busy this year with some fun projects.  I hope they inspire you to create something wonderful!

Pencil Star Bursts

Custom Crayon Wreath

Back To School Party – “Welcome Back” Sign

Back To School Party Fun Centerpieces – Tissue Ball Topiaries

Teacher’s Gift Pencil and Crayon Vases

Back To School Snack Attack – Great after school or party snacks

 

Five Things You Can Easily Cover In Chocolate To “WOW” Your Guests

May 3rd, 2014

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I’m going to admit something to you… I have a fail safe party secret which ALWAYS works… I mean ALWAYS!  Chocolate covered anything!  Some people resort to chips and dip, I resort to chocolate and it has never failed me yet.  So the next time you get the urge to entertain, try covering these foods in chocolate.  Trust me, you’ll thank me later!

Chocolate covered cherries

cherries

Super easy and absolutely delicious.  Cover these beauties in white or dark chocolate and you won’t be able to eat just one.  Serve them in a martini glass for a beautiful presentation.

Chocolate Covered Ice Cream Sandwiches

icecreamsandwiches

Hold on to your hats!  As if ice cream sandwiches weren’t enough, now you can dip them in delicious milk or dark chocolate for an added special touch and what’s a party if you don’t make your guests feel special.  Just make your sandwiches and freeze for four hours.  Melt chocolate and quickly dip the sandwiches in the chocolate and put back in the freezer.  I placed all my sandwiches on parchment paper in the freezer.  The sandwiches picture above were for a dinner party we had a few weeks back.  I also dipped them in bacon and peanuts…. yes, I’m crazy!

Chocolate Covered Potato Chips

chocolatecoveredpotatochips

I know, I know… pure sin!  However, chocolate covered potato chips seem to have a great combination of the “salty and sweet” that people enjoy.  Plus, it’s unique and who doesn’t want to do something “out of the box” at a party?!  Trust me, your guests may look at you funny initially, but they’ll be praising your efforts after they try it! Just brush a little chocolate on a thick potato chip.  I suggest using the kettle brand or the rippled versions.  I wouldn’t dip the chips, a light brushing seems to have a nice effect without overpowering the chip as dipping may do.

Chocolate Covered Bacon

chocolatecoveredbacon

Hold on to your hats!  What’s the hottest food trend? Chocolate covered bacon, of course!  I prefer to brush my bacon with chocolate instead of dipping it.  I find that brushing it gives it just the right balance.  Although some people fully dip the bacon and love it!  You’ll have to try it yourself and discover your preference!  Just make your bacon as you normally would.  I prefer to bake mine and for an added sweetness, I sprinkle a generous amount of brown sugar on the bacon before placing it in the oven.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

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This classic will never fail you.  You can ask my friends, no one has ever NOT had chocolate covered strawberries at least once while hanging out at my house.  Simply put, they are the magic dessert that always seems to look beautiful and taste sensational.  I prefer to dip my strawberries in dark chocolate, it’s the best combination of wonderfully sweet strawberries with a slightly bitter taste of the dark chocolate.  Pure perfection!!  And if you really want to go crazy, stuff the strawberries with cheesecake filling.  Your guests will never forget it!!  Here’s the recipes.

Better Kansas City Segment on “Mobile” Super Bowl Snacks!

January 27th, 2014

superbowlsnacks
I had a blast today hanging out with Alexis and Dave from Better Kansas City Morning Show on Channel 4, here in Kansas City! I demoed three great “mobile” snacks to take to a Super Bowl party.  Hot Wing Pretzels… Roasted Flavored Nuts… and Hot Wing Pretzels!  All were super easy and with just a few ingredients!

arina

beerbread
BEER BREAD

3 cups of Self Rising (very important!) flour
3 tabspoons of sugar
12oz container of beer (any brand)

Pour beer into bowl. Then add flour and sugar. Mix until you have a dough
that is not sticking to the sides (you can add a little extra flour if you
like). You can place the dough directly in a well greased loaf pan. Or,
you can put the dough on a floured surface and knead it until you like the
consistency. Either way, your bread will be perfect (kneading or no
kneading).

Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 55 minutes or until you see the top of
the bread get brown. Keep an eye on your bread because ovens can bake
differently. If you like, you can pour some melted button on the top of the
bread 10-15 minutes before it is done.

pretzels
HOT WING PRETZELS

1 bag of pretzel sticks or regular pretzels. Do not use large pretzel
sticks.
1/2 cup of Butter
1/2 cup of Hot Wing Sauce
2 Tbsp of Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp Garlic Salt

In a pot, heat up the sauces and garlic salt. Once everything is mixed and
well heated, place the pretzels in a bowl and coat with hot sauce mixture.
Make sure that you coat the pretzels little by little, you don’t want there
to be extra sauce on the bottom of the bowl or a puddle on your baking sheet. Mix the pretzel sticks so they are well coated. Then place on a baking pan and bake on 300 degrees for 30
minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

nuts
SEASONED NUTS

3 cups of any nuts or mixed nuts… make sure they are RAW!
1/4 – 1/2 cup of butter
Ranch, cheese, or any pop-corn seasoning. You can also use seasoning packs
made for salsas and dips.

Place your nuts in a bowl. Melt butter and pour it over nuts little by little. Mix well
until all nuts are coated. Then simply add your favorite seasoning… as
much as you like. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes. KEEP
YOUR EYE ON THE NUTS SO THAT THEY DO NOT BURN!! After nuts are taken out of
the oven, sprinkle some more seasoning on them and wait for them to dry
fully 3-5 hours. Great to make a day in advance.

Kids’ Holiday Tables

November 1st, 2013

Well, it’s that time again!!  Time to decorate the mantle, the front porch, the trees, and of course, the dining table!  This is THE prime time for creative tablescapes and I always have my cell phone charged and ready to snap that perfect tablescape idea!  These tables were photographed at Pottery Barn Kids.  I know that whatever they show off at their store, will likely make it into many homes in America.  So here are their favorite picks for kids’ tablescape ideas!

Love this kid’s Thanksgiving table!  Especially since you can re-use the Halloween pumpkins in the centerpiece.

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Who wouldn’t want to sit at this Hanukkah table?! 

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My kids wait with such anticipation for their Elf On A Shelf , this would be perfect for them.

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The santa chair covers are super sweet for this kids’ Christmas table!

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