Category Archives: Party Foods

Homemade Baked Beans

Baked Beans are a wonderful thing. They’re easy to make. They’re delicious. They travel well so you can bring them to parties, picnics, or events. Kids and adults alike will eat them as a side. And, my favorite part, the crock pot does almost all of the cooking work.


Homemade Baked Beans

2 cups Navy Beans
1/2 lb Bacon
3 TBSP Molasses
2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Dry Mustard
1/2 cup Ketchup
1 TBSP Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 cup Brown Sugar

1. Soak your beans overnight in water, covered.
2. Drain the beans and transfer into a pot and fill with enough fresh water to cover the beans. Simmer until tender – approximately an hour and a half to two hours. Drain the beans and **reserve the water**.
3. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees if you are planning to bake the beans in the oven. If you are using your crock pot instead, you can just pull out your crock.  😉
4. In a sauce pan, combine the molasses, salt, pepper, dry mustard, ketchup, Worcestershire, and brown sugar. Mix to combine and bring to a boil.
5. While that is heating, pour your beans into either a 1/2 sized casserole dish or into your crock pot – whichever you will be using. Chop up your raw bacon into small bites and mix into the beans.
6. Once your sauce pan mixture reaches its boil, pour over the beans and bacon mixture and add just enough of the reserved bean juices to cover the beans.
7. If you’re baking in the oven, cover the casserole dish with foil and bake 3-4 hours until tender and add a little more of the reserved bean liquid half way through cooking if needed. I
If you’re using your crock pot, put the lid on your crock and cook for 6-7 hours on high or 10-12 hours on low. You might need to add some of the reserved bean water mid-way through the cooking.


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Whisky Jerky

Old No. 7 – a little Jack can make anything taste better.  Jerky is no exception.  The flavor of charred Oak mixed with beef makes a jerky everyone loves.


1 lb Ground Beef – 90% lean or better
3 TBSP Whisky
2 TBSP A1 Sauce
1 tsp fresh ground Black Pepper
3/4 tsp Garlic Powder
3/4 tsp Onion Powder
3/4 tsp Table Salt
1/4 tsp Curing Salt

First thing you need to do is to pour the Whisky and A1 into a small saucepan and mix to combine. Heat the mixture to below a simmer and allow to reduce approximately 80%, around 20 minutes, stirring very frequently. (Make sure to reduce fully or your jerky will turn out brittle.) Do not allow the sauce to burn to the bottom of the pan.
Next you need to mix the reduced sauce will all the remaining spices into a large bowl and stir together well.  Then add the ground beef into the sauce/seasoning mix bowl. Get in there with your hands and mix the meat and the sauce together very well. Mix a few minutes past when you think you’re done mixing. The more mixing, the better, it will extrude easier.


Start piping some of the meat mixture into your extruder gun, you can see our gun in the picture above. Try not to allow any air bubbles to get in the works and mess up your jerky strips. Begin extruding approximately 6 inch strips onto the dehydrator grate trays. Allow a small amount of space in between the sticks. Do this until all the beef mixture is used up.

Extruding ground beef jerky

If the jerky strips are coming out in bits and spurts it means one of two things. Either your ground beef was too red and bloody (and extra moist), or that you did not reduce your sauce down far enough. The jerky should come out of the extruder gun easily. There’s not much you can do to fix the meat at this point so if it’s coming out poorly, just do the best you can with it.


We dehydrate for 7-8 hours, rotating the trays every 2 hours, and checking for done-ness along the way. The time will vary depending on the temperature of your dehydrator. Our JerkyExpress only has an on and off setting, no actual temperature setting, but it runs at around 150 degrees. The jerky will feel slightly stiff when done. We like to allow the jerky about a day in the fridge before eating so the texture can firm up properly. Then you can store in the fridge or in a closed container in the pantry for 3-4 weeks, although most likely you’ll have eaten it all long before then. If you plan to store the jerky in the fridge, allow some time for it to warm up before eating, as it tastes much better warm than it does cold.

That’s it, how hard was that? I hope you like it! Enjoy!

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Posted by on December 16, 2013 in Beef, Homemade, Jerky, Party Foods


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Veggie Tree

Last year, my then-two-year-old desperately wanted a christmas tree made out of broccoli. I have no idea why or where she comes up with this stuff….did I mention she was two? I remembered having seen something close on Pinterest a while before so I gave it my best attempt and this is what came of it.

Veggie Tree

First I want to mention that I just might be the least crafty type person ever to have walked this earth. This project intimidated the heck out of me, but actually ended up being pretty easy. The real fun was serving it to our extended family at our Christmas party as an appetizer and seeing their faces :)

1 Foam Craft Cone
1 Serving Tray you are comfortable hot gluing something to
Hot Glue Gun and Glue Sticks to refill as needed
1 box of toothpicks
Vegetables of your choosing – keep in mind both what you want to eat, AND what would decorate a tree. Broccoli is the obvious choice for the green branches, I used cauliflower for snowy pieces and just a color variance. Red cherry tomatoes and orange baby carrots work as ornaments. If your family likes bell peppers, you could cut ribbons off the different colored peppers and use it like a garland. Again, I made mine for a 2yr old, so our veggies were pretty standard fare.


1. In case you’re not sure what I mean by a foam cone, here’s a picture of a generic one:
01260P                                                               It’s just a small cone made of foam ;)
Anyways, using your hot glue gun, very generously glue the base of the cone down onto your serving tray. I used a dollar store throw-away tin one for mine so I didn’t have to worry about any damage.
2. While that’s cooling, chop up your veggies into pretty little pieces that you can attach to the cone.
3. Use the toothpicks to stab a piece of veggie – a broccoli floret, for example, in the base of the veggie and then stab it into the foam cone. Don’t go all crazy with your greens and expect to come back later and put in your colorful pieces – you’re going to have to plan ahead a bit and leave space for the other veggies. Perhaps if you’re really clever, you can decorate the naked tree with your “ornament” veggies and then go back and fill in the green veggies.
4. That’s it. Be creative with it. Use any veggies you like to eat. And when it’s time to serve up, remember to offer some sort of veggie dip to go with.
5. Enjoy!


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I think there are as many different versions of chili in the world as there are different types of people. Some like it hot, some like it chunky. Some like it with meat, others argue it can only have beans. I think that no matter what your tastes are, a good basic chili is a recipe you need to have on hand and you can adapt it to whatever tastes you expect to be eating that particular batch. This recipe is a two-day version. Chili always tastes better the second day – and this way you will have all the mess and hard work done the day before too.


2 lbs Ground Beef
1 large Onion
5 cloves chopped Garlic
1 TBSP Olive Oil
14 1/2oz can Diced Tomatoes
15oz can Tomato Sauce
1 can Beer (I like to use Budweiser for this)|
15-20oz can of Chili Beans (mild/spicy/your preference – I use Bush’s Mild)
1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce
1/3 cup Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/3 cup Chili Powder
Shredded Cheddar Cheese to top off each bowl as needed

1. Brown and drain your ground beef. While that is cooking, start dicing your onion and chopping your garlic.
2. Warm a large stock pot and add your olive oil. Pour in your chopped onions and garlic and let them sweat in the pot for one to two minutes, just to bring the flavors out a bit.
3. Start pouring in all of the other ingredients – except for the cheddar. Include the browned beef and mix to combine.
4. Bring the chili to a low boil and then cover. Reduce the heat and let simmer, covered, for two hours. Stir occasionally.
5. After the two hours, let the chili cool and then sit overnight in the fridge. I like to use the same pot it cooked in, keep the lid on it, and put an oven coozy in the fridge after the pots cooled a bit and leave it just as it is.
6. The next day, when it’s getting close to time to eat, all you have to do is pull the pot out of the fridge, put it back on the stovetop, and reheat it. Serve with shredded cheddar on top and you’re good to go!

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Posted by on December 8, 2013 in Beef, Casseroles, Dinner, Easy, Party Foods, Soup


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Apple Pie

Who doesn’t love apple pie? It’s simple, delicious, and great for the holidays. You can bake it to make your house smell amazing or you can bring one to a party as a hostess gift. It’s an all around crowd pleaser and is great served both warm and cold.


1 pkg refrigerated Pie Crust
6 medium Apples – pealed and sliced thin
3/4 cup Sugar
2 TBSP Flour
1 TBSP Lemon Juice
3/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg.
3. In a large bowl, put in sliced apples and lemon juice. Add the mixed seasonings from the small bowl to the apples and toss thoroughly to mix and coat the apple slices.
4.Grease a pie pan and roll one layer of the pie crust into the bottom. Gently spoon the apple mixture into the crust (this is a case where you do NOT want to over-stuff, if you have too much filling, don’t try to cram it all in there). Top the filling with the second pie crust – or cut into strips to make a pretty design. Seal the edges of the dough and flute it – take a butter knife and make a few small slits in the center and some towards the edges of the pie for the steam to escape from inside the pie.
5. Bake for 40-45 minutes.
6. Let set for 15 minutes.
7. Eat and enjoy!!!


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Puppy Chow

I still remember the person who first told me about Puppy Chow. She was an older girl in my high school. We were in an after school activity together and I was the naive freshman. I thought, “Puppy Chow? Dog food? What is this girl talking about!?”. Little did I realize that Puppy Chow would be the mainstay of my high school sleepovers and celebrations. I’ve heard some people call them ‘Muddy Buddies’ and I’m sure there’s other regional names for it too. Basically it’s a chocolate and powdered sugar covered snack that teenage girls go crazy over 🙂  .

I mean, who knew that four so simple, basic, ingredients could combine to become such and addictive, tasty, and coveted snack!?

This recipe is my version of Puppy Chow. To be honest, I don’t remember the exact recipe that was shared with me. I’ve made my own many, many times since though – and this is how I make it.

1 cereal box of chex cereal. Rice chex, corn chex, whatever is on sale will work fine.
2 bags of Chocolate Chips (6oz each)
2 large dollups of Creamy Peanut Butter (more about that later….)
2 cups Powdered Sugar. You eyeball it, but it comes to roughly half a 1lb bag.

This is very, very far from being an exact science. This recipe is cooking on a teenage level. Where things are dumped into a bowl and considered “good enough”. I tried to narrow down the exact needs as best as possible, but I have to admit I still revert back to teenage girlie-ness when trying to figure how exactly what was needed.

1. First up is the chocolate chips and peanut butter. Dump all of your chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and scoop your two large dollops of peanut butter on top. (If you want to know what a large dollop is, see the picture below.)  Microwave on 30 second increments – stirring at each break – until fully melted. You have to be careful here and not rush things, chocolate can do weird things if microwaved and not stirred properly. In another LARGE bowl, pour your entire box of cereal in and get ready for the melted chocolate mixture. The chocolate will turn hard again if you let it cool, so the idea is to melt it, mix it, and dump it over the cereal as soon as its ready. Now, I know that True Cooks and Chefs will immedietly chastise me for microwaving chocolate….but remember this is a simple, teenager recipe – feel free to pull out the double boiler if it makes you feel better!

DSCF0005(a large dollop of peanut butter)

2. You should have a LARGE bowl of cereal with a melted mixture of chocolate and peanut butter poured over it at this point. Make sure you get a spoon and mix and turn and mix the heck out of the cereal. You are aiming for a decently even coating of the chocolate over all of the cereal. Just keep spooning it up from the bottom of the bowl and over the cereal again and again. Eventually you will get it all over all of the cereal squares – hopefully before the chocolate has cooled and started to harden again and also before you managed to break up and crush too many of the squares 😉
3. After your cereal is well coated in chocolate, start pouring in some powdered sugar, about half a cup at a time, and keep mixing. This time you’re aiming to evenly coat the chocolate cereal with a layer of white powdery sugar. Some of it will be absorbed into the chocolate, that’s ok. And you’ll have some clusters of cereal where several squares want to stick together – break those up into single squares if possible. Just keep adding in sugar and mixing it all up until the batch looks as well coated as you can get.
4. At this point, the LARGE bowl you’ve been doing all the mixing in is probably pretty messy. Your spoon is probably sticky and your fingers are a mess. That is all normal. If you want a prettier presentation, poor the Puppy Chow into another bowl or container for storage (or serving) instead of using the initial mixing bowl. Just make sure it is stored air tight with a lid or foil crimped over the top of the bowl. It should hold for a few days, but don’t worry….you’ll eat it before then!


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Cinnamon Raisin Fruit Leathers

We purchased a dehydrator about a year ago so Hubby could try making beef jerky and I have since learned the luxury of using it for fruit leathers. We buy a ton of fruit on a regular basis, but every now and then some if it starts to go soft and age before we can get to it to eat it. If you puree it up and toss it in the dehydrator, you have a nice, easy, healthy snack AND a way to extend the shelf life of your produce.

This time around we decided to try a Cinnamon Raisin combination and I have to say, it turned out fantastically! These little fruit leathers got eaten up soo fast that I’m pretty sure it took longer to actually let them cook in the dehydrator than it did for them to disappear!

Cinnamon Raisin Fruit Leathers

2 cups Raisins
2 medium sized Pear, pealed and cut (you can use apples instead if you like)
3 tsp Cinnamon



Pour your chopped pears, raisins, and cinnamon into your blender. Puree up the fruit until the mixture is nice and smooth.


I use plastic tray liners I purchased off of designed to go into a food dehydrator. These are necessary when making a fruit leather out of a puree – otherwise your puree mix would just pour down between the grates of your dehydrator and make a goopy mess in the bottom. There’s really only one single important step in this entire recipe and here it is ~>Make sure you grease or Pam spray the liners before you spread the puree on them! You will really really wish you had when they’re done cooking…trust me on this one!


The amount of time the puree will need to dehydrate can vary widely depending on what kind of fruit you used in your mix. A wetter mix is actually easier than a ‘thicker’ mix. I would say 8-10 hours is about average, but this is definitely a case where you need to get in there and check it every hour or so to see how it’s progressing. My Cinnamon Raisin mix ended up taking around 12 hours yesterday. Just keep checking it. You don’t want it to be wet at all, or even tacky to the touch. At the same time, it shouldn’t be brittle and crack. It should feel like a store-bought fruit roll up.


When it’s done dehydrating and is now a solid (gummy) ring of deliciousness, simply peel it off of your (nicely Pam sprayed) liner and put it on a cutting board for slicing up. You can do it nice and simple like we do, and just take a pizza cutter to it, or you can place a sheet of parchment paper under it and get a sharp knife and slice it (along with the parchment paper) into pretty strips so you can roll it up and have it look just like the name brand stuff. We store ours in a sealed container in the pantry and it can last for a few weeks, though ours is always eaten within a few days.

**Now – for the oven method**

If you don’t have, or don’t want to use, a dehydrator, it’s just as easy.
Puree up the fruit, just like I mentioned above. Line some baking sheets with parchment paper – Note: parchment paper, NOT wax paper.
Pour your puree on the lined baking sheets and smooth it out so it’s evenly spread.
Then bake at 200 degrees for about 2 hours. Again, you’ll need to check this often to see how it’s coming along. Your fruit leather will over-dry much quicker in the oven than the dehydrator, so make sure to keep an eye on it.

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Posted by on November 1, 2013 in Easy, Healthy, Homemade, Kids, Party Foods


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