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.
My friend, Jane, has incredible taste and she happens to be a fabulous hostess. When she invited a small group of friends for a Chanukah celebration, no one knew what to expect, since none of us celebrated Chanukah. Jane made sure to tell us prior to the evening, that we weren’t expected to do anything special, just to come and enjoy the beautiful dinner she prepared for us.
First, I noticed the elegance of the table. Jane didn’t dress the table with a lot of items, just a few beautiful elements that played off each other. Her centerpiece was a wire and bead art piece which traveled across the table. Her placemats mimicked the look with a silver wire design. Jane also mixed her metals to bring in the gold of the chocolate coins and the silver of the table decor. Of course, she brought in some blue with the small votives at each place setting.
The menu was full of home-made foods which looked beautiful but simple to prepare.
To end the evening, we toasted champagne and mentioned how grateful we were to have each other in our lives. I love experiencing my friends’ hospitality. As always, Jane did an outstanding job creating a warm and loving atmosphere which we all cannot wait to experience again.
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 have a wonderful friend named Rachel who is obsessed with Smitten Kitchen. Rachel invited us to a fabulous bagel brunch at her home. The bagels were from a famous local bakery where they make water bagels and we were excited to finally sample a few. Rachel not only supplied the delicious bagels, but she also made several outstanding recipes from Smitten Kitchen and Dash and Bella. First, she made Baked Eggs with Spinach and Mushrooms. They turned out delicious! Secondly, she prepared a Persimmon Salad which not only tasted fabulous but was also one of the most beautiful salads I have ever seen. Rachel outdid herself and I had to share some photos as well as links to both the recipes. So, if hosting a brunch is in your future, the recipes in this post will be outstanding.
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?
Robin’s beautiful Girls Game Night Buffet filled with a variety of food items to accommodate various dietary options.
I treat invitations to parties a lot like invitations to dance, I NEVER SAY NO! Unless we have a conflict that evening or we’re out of town, I try my best to attend, bring something delicious, and have a fabulous time. However, there are caveats. Brace yourselves, I’m about to share something crazy… I’m not a big fan of game nights… there… I said it! Most people love game nights, but I’m a bit more complicated than most people, especially if the host does not want to disclose what game we’re playing… I guess you can call me a bit of a control freak!
But recently, a friend of mine sent me an invitation to her Girls Game Night. As I always do, I asked “What can I bring?”. She asked me to bring a fruit platter and my mind was immediately at ease because at that moment I knew… FOOD WILL BE SERVED!!
Party food is my weakness, I will show up practically anywhere to partake in delicious party fare. I love seeing what hosts have put together in order to impress their guests or what menu they feel is relevant to their occasion. Yes folks, this is my passion. I especially love appetizers. You can even ask our friends. If you expect my family to come over for dinner, brace yourselves because we will clean off all your appetizer plates, my children included. I’m sure we are breaking some or even ALL the rules of being a good guest, but that’s just the way we are. We may take a few bites from your dinner buffet, but your appetizer set up will disappear! This goes the same when you come to our house for dinner. Most guests are shocked at how many appetizers we put out and truth be told, if we could JUST serve appetizers, we would! So, when I was invited to a party where I knew most of the food will be appetizers (like a game night), there was NO WAY I was going to miss out on that! Plus, Robin is one of those stealth hostesses. She never talks about entertaining, but come to one of her parties, you will be amazed at how she entertains like a pro!
Robin’s Girls Game Night was fabulous. First of all, I have to give her credit, she knew her guest list well. This all female group was sure to have some dietary restrictions. Carb free, gluten sensitivities, vegetarian, and we’re just talking about ME. But there were also guests who just wanted to eat healthy and avoid red meat. Yet again, Robin handled everything like a pro.
Here are the five tips I learned from her party.
DON’T OMIT THE CARBS! Unless you know that every person you are inviting is on a carb-free plan, don’t forget to set a few delicious carbohydrates on the buffet. They help fill people up, plus… they are delicious!
Robin’s beautiful Girls Game Night Buffet filled with a variety of food items to accommodate various dietary options.
2. CONSIDER AN INTERESTING SELECTION OF SALADS. Salad for a game night? Yes, especially when you want to keep it healthy. I’m not a big fan of just finger food on game night, simply because I hate having to clean my game board or game pieces of powdered cheese or red sauce. I’ve read on various blogs that if you can’t eat it with your fingers or a stick, the food item should not be served on game night. I disagree! Having food items which can be eaten with a fork is totally OK. In fact, it gives people the opportunity to take a break, step away from the game table and serve themselves. I loved Robin’s idea of serving pasta, cucumber, and Mediterranean style salads.
Girl’s Game Night Buffet… loved the fruit and vegetable platters. A must at any party!
3. VEGGIE + FRUIT PLATTER ARE ALWAYS WELCOMED. No matter the guest list, a fruit and vegetable platter is a must. These platters can accommodate any guest and bring beautiful color to the table.
4. CHEESE, CHEESE, CHEESE. This is another great platter to incorporate into any game night buffet. It appeals to the low-carb guest and it’s wonderful accompanied with a complementary wine, if you are planning on serving alcohol.
5. SURPRISE YOUR GUESTS WITH SOMETHING UNIQUE. There’s a significant difference between a girls game night and a super bowl party! You don’t have to think potato skins, chicken wings, pigs in a blanket, meatballs, or the many expected dishes during a sports game night. Women love to be surprised with a unique and healthy dish, something they may even try to prepare on their own in the future. Robin served salmon which paired wonderfully with the hand-crafted olive bread, salads, and vegetables. The presentation was so beautiful and the salmon disappeared! We all wanted the recipe!
As always, hanging out with the wonderful people at Better Kansas City is always a treat! On yesterday’s Valentine’s Day inspired show I showed Lisa Teachman a few fun recipes. May I quickly add that I feel proud that I was the reason she tried beets for the first time! You gotta love it when you can inspire people to try a fun recipe or experience a new foods!
My three recipes included a Beet Hummus (Brace yourself… this stuff is AH-MAZING!!!), No Bake Paleo Cookies, and home-made chocolates filled with fun and healthy ingredients. So, without further delay, here are the recipes. Enjoy!!
ROASTED BEET HUMMUS + BAKED HEART TORTILLA CHIPS
1 cup of roasteded beets (directions to roast below)
1 15 oz. can white kidney beans (mostly drained)
zest of one large lemon
juice of half a large lemon
healthy pinch salt and black pepper
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1. Slice beets into thick slices and toss in olive oil with a generous portion of salt, pepper, and your favorite dried and/or fresh herbs. I love to toss mine with dried rosemary and oregano. Roast at 400 for approximately 15-20 minutes.
2. Let beets cool and place them in a food processor. Add, olive oil, beans, lemon zest and juice, garlic, Process all ingredients until very smooth. Follow my three step rule… Process, scrape, taste. Adjust ingredients according to your taste. I love extra lemon in my hummus, so I may add a bit more as I process. Then, again… Process, scrape, taste. Do this a total of three times and you should have your perfect hummus!
3. Serve hummus with warm pita bread, chips, crackers, or vegetables. Store extra hummus in an airtight container for up to a week.
For the above photo I used large tortillas which I cut out as hearts (with a heart cookie cutter). Then, I brushed each heart with olive oil, sprinkled with dried dill, oregano, and garlic salt. Baked at 375 in the oven for about 10-15 minutes… keep an eye on the tortilla chips so they don’t burn. Let cool and serve alongside your beet hummus. These baked tortilla chips are so much healthier than the store-bought fried alternative!
PALEO NO BAKE THUMBPRINT COOKIES
1 cup coconut flour sifted
2 T almond flour
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1/4 cup almond butter
1/4- 1 cup Almond Milk
In a large mixing bowl, combine coconut flour,almond flower, and coconut palm sugar, and cinnamon. Make sure all the dry ingredients are mixed well.
Stir in the almond butter until the dough is crumbly. Using a tablespoon at a time, add the almond milk until a very thick batter is formed. Make golf sized balls with the dough and press down in the center of each to create a small ditch. Place the balls on a lined baking pan. Fill with dark chocolate and top off with god berries and hemp seeds. Refrigerate until time to serve.
QUINOA POWER CHOCOLATES
Any kind of chocolate Chocolate or candy melts
1/2 cup of toasted Quinoa (toasting instructions below)
Small heart molds or candy molds. I purchased mine at Michael’s in the baking section
Make chocolate with your favorite recipe or melt chocolate chips or candy melts.
Add toasted Quinoa to chocolate and mix well. Fill the heart molds with the chocolate and quinoa mixture. Cool in refrigerator until fully set. Pop out and enjoy.
HOW TO TOAST QUINOA : Toast quinoa in medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until quinoa is very fragrant and makes continuous popping sound, 10-15 minutes. Transfer quinoa to bowl and set aside. Store extra quinoa in an airtight container.
If you think that vegetable platters need to be an assortment of colors, I beg to differ. I served this all white crudités at last year’s holiday party and it was a hit! Most people are so impressed to see that vegetables come in all sorts of different colors, like white asparagus. It’s one of those “surprise” elements I like to incorporate into all my parties. Alternatively, creating a colorful veggie plate with purple cauliflower or heirloom tomatoes, also gets “oohs and aahhs” from guests!