Easy Party Foods and Appetizers!

Here are just a few of my favorite appetizers and easy foods for parties!  For many of them, you might have the ingredients on hand most of the time!  For the recipe for each, click on the title under each picture!

Bacon Ranch Cheese Ball!

A good cheese ball is always a great party appetizer and it's something you can keep on hand in the fridge during the holidays for drop in guests or even for a last minute gift.   One of my aunts loves cheese balls of any variety.  So every year, I make her cheese balls for her Christmas present. She looks forward to her annual cheese ball!  
This cheese ball recipe is a good one, because you probably have all of the ingredients on hand and there aren't that many ingredients.  Here is what you will need:
2 (8 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 (1 oz.) pkg. dry ranch dressing mix, unprepared
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
dash of hot sauce (I used Tabasco)
1/4 cup green onion, chopped (use some of the green blade)
1 cup real bacon bits, divided
2 Tbs. dried parsley
In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with the dry ranch dressing mix until the cream cheese is fluffy and the dressing mix is well blended.  Mix in the cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, hot sauce, green onion, and 1/2 cup of the bacon bits.  Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours. 
Mix the other 1/2 cup of bacon bits and the parsley and spread it on a sheet of wax paper or nonstick aluminum foil.   Remove the cheese ball mixture from the bowl and form into a ball.  Roll in the bacon bits and parsley mixture making sure to cover all sides of it. 
 Place on a plate and serve with assorted crackers and maybe some fruit!

Old Fashioned Orange Slice Cookies!

Theses "Orange Slice Cookies" are a delicious, chewy, slightly orange flavored cookie.  Orange slice candy is an old fashioned orange flavored jellied candy for those of you not familiar with them.  I guess they were sort of the original gummy bear.  I will be honest with you, I was never a fan of the orange slice.  I have found that most older folks love anything having to do with orange slices.  It's the candy of their youth and most just love them. The use of orange slices at Christmastime is especially appropriate also, because that was something a lot of our older family members had only at holidays.
 I am sometimes skeptical of recipes that use orange slices, but this cookie recipe was a big surprise.   The cookies are delicious and the orange slices give them a really chewy texture that I love.  So if you love orange slices or you are not a fan, you will still love these cookies!  Here is what you will need:
1 cup butter flavored shortening (Crisco)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1  1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1  1/2 Tbs. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1  1/2 cups quick cooking oats (not instant)
1/2 cup coconut
10 orange slice candies, each cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cups pecans, chopped
 In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening, sugars and eggs together.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Mix into the creamed ingredients. 
Add water, vanilla, oats, coconut, pecans, and orange slices and mix just until all is combined.  Chill for 1 hour.
With a cookie scoop or spoon, scoop out and roll in about 1 inch balls.  Place on a greased cookie sheet.  Bake in a 325 degree oven for approximately 12 minutes or until just brown. 

Chocolate Thumbprints!

These "Chocolate Thumbprints" are a delicious cookie that are great for the holidays, because they are part cookie, part candy...chocolate candy to be exact!  To me, they almost look like they are topped with little chocolate Santa hats!  They are also not that difficult to make!  Here is what you will need:
1/2 cup butter, softened (do not use margarine)
1 cup sugar
1 egg, separated
2 Tbs. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1  1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 cup confectioner's  sugar
1 Tbs. butter, softened
2 tsp. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
26 milk chocolate Kisses candies
In a mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, egg yolk, milk and vanilla until it's light and fluffy. 
In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa and salt.  Gradually add to the creamed mixture.
Cover and chill for 1-2 hours.
In a small bowl, beat the egg white.
Shape the chilled dough in 1 inch balls.  Roll in the egg white. Dip in the chopped walnuts.  Place on greased baking sheets. Make an indention in the center of each cookie with your thumb.   Bake at 350 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes. 
Combine the first 4 filling ingredients and mix until smooth.  Spoon 1/4 tsp. into the center of each cookie. 
 Press a chocolate kisses candy in the center of each cookie.  Carefully remove to a wire rack to cool.


Pecan Tassies!

These "Pecan Tassies" are like little bite size pecan pies.  They are perfect for your holiday dessert trays or for gift giving!  They are also really easy to make!  Here is what you will need:
 1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
3/4 cups brown sugar
1 Tbs. butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
3/4 cups pecans, chopped
Maraschino cherries, halved for garnish (optional)
In a mixing bowl, beat butter and cream cheese together.  Blend in flour and salt.  Chill for 1-2 hours. 
Roll into 1 inch balls and press into the bottom and up the sides of greased miniature muffins tins to form a shell.
In another bowl beat the egg, then add the sugar, butter, vanilla and pinch of salt, mixing well.  Stir in the pecans.   Fill the shell with the filling.   Bake at 325 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.   Cool in the pan.  Garnish with the cherries if you are using them. 

Ten Easy Candy Recipes...Perfect for Gift Giving!

This is a collection of ten of our easiest candies that are great for candy trays or for gift giving!  Sometimes a homemade gift of candy or other homemade treats means so much more than something you buy, because not everyone makes their own treats at Christmas or maybe they are not able to bake or cook anymore and homemade candies or cakes bring wonderful memories back for them! 

To view each recipe, click on the title below each picture and it will take you to that post! 


Old Fashioned Black Walnut Fudge!

There are so many various fudge recipes now it seems.  I have several different ones on my site, some so easy a child could make them and then some of the ones that are little more involved.   This is the old fashioned fudge that is the type my mother says they made back in the day.  Actually, it's the kind I remember Mama making when I was a little girl. 
This uses black walnuts, which is what folks used back then, because they grew abundantly on their farms or in their neighborhoods.   If you can't find black walnuts or don't care for them, you can use English walnuts or even pecans.   Here is what you will need for this:
3 cups white sugar
3 Tbs. cocoa powder
3  Tbs. butter
1 1/2 cups milk (whole milk, not 2%)
dash of salt
1 Tbs. vanilla
1 cup black walnuts
In a heavy saucepan combine the sugar, cocoa, butter, milk and salt and cook until it reaches soft ball stage.  That is 240 degrees Fahrenheit or 116 degrees Celsius.   You can also drop some in cold water and if it forms a ball, it's to that stage.  Take my advice, if you are making candy much, invest in a candy thermometer, because guessing does not work when it has to reach a certain temperature to work.  
Remove from heat and add the vanilla.  Beat until creamy.  Stir in the nuts.  Pour into a buttered 8"x8" dish and allow to cool.  Cut into squares. 
Two Candy Making Tips
1. Use pure cane sugar when making candy.  It will take the high temperatures needed to make candy better and won't burn.  Some cheaper sugar is actually made from beets.  Pure cane sugar says it's pure cane on the bag.
2.  You need to stir this and most candy while it cooks and gets to the soft ball stage or whatever stage it calls for, but do not scrape the side of the pan when you stir.  It causes the fudge to crystalize and it won't be good. Stir carefully. When you pour it up into the pan, don't scrape down the sides of the pan either. That's where crystals form and you don't want them in your finished product. 

Aunt Tootsie's Mississippi Jam Cake!

This jam cake is a bit different from the Kentucky Jam Cake, that I have posted before and we make here in Kentucky usually.  However, it is equally as good!  When I post the Kentucky Jam Cake, someone usually asks about this type of jam cake also, because that is the one they remember.  The main difference is in the icing.  The Kentucky Jam Cake always has caramel icing.  This one also has a few less ingredients.
The is  my Aunt Tootsie's recipe.  She lives in the deep south, in southern Mississippi to be exact.  For those who didn't read the post for her Mississippi Fruit Cake,  Aunt Tootsie is my father's sister.  I have posted many recipes from my mother's sisters and there are so many of them, they have a lot of recipes to use.  I am blessed in the auntie department and I have always been so grateful for them.  You can learn so much from spending time with family and the older you get, the more you value their insight and knowledge.  As soon, as I posted the Fruit Cake, Aunt Tootsie had this recipe in the mail, which was so sweet of her!  That is just the kind of family I have been blessed with on both sides!
This is a wonderful, moist fruit cake and even though I am partial to caramel icing on anything, which is on the Kentucky Jam Cake, this icing is absolutely delicious also.  It would be good on anything also.  Another good thing about this jam cake is that it just uses blackberry jam, so you don't have to buy so many different jams.
Here is what you will need for this cake:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 Tbs. allspice
1/2 Tbs.. cinnamon
1/2 Tbs. cocoa
1 cup blackberry jam (seedless works best)
1/2 cup raisins
Cooked Icing
1  1/2 cups Sugar
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup butter
1 Tbs. white corn syrup
1 cup flaked coconut
1/2 (8 oz.) can of crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Cream sugar and butter together in a large mixing bowl.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition.   
In another bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa and spices together.   Gradually add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk and mix until all is incorporated.  Mix in jam and raisins.
Line two 9 inch cake pans with parchment or was paper.  Spray the pans and the paper liberally with nonstick baking spray.  I prefer Baker's Joy for this.   Divide the batter equally between the two pans.  Place in oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.  To test, place a pick in the center and if it comes out clean, they are done.  
Remove and allow to cool while you prepare the icing.
To prepare the icing, combine the sugar, milk, butter and syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.   Cook until it reaches the soft ball stage  (240 degrees Fahrenheit or 116 Celsius).   You need to stir this while it gets to this temperature.   Once it reaches the right temperature, remove from heat and stir in coconut, pineapple, raisins, and nuts. 
Turn the cakes out onto a cake plate and spread icing between the layers and on top, allowing it to just run down the sides.  
Aunt Tootsie's Mississippi Jam Cake!

Old Fashioned Raisin Pie!

If you like raisins, you will love this "Old Fashioned Raisin Pie"!  It's a pie that not many make anymore, but those who remember it, ask me for a good recipe quite often.  It's actually very hard to find a good recipe for this pie!  
Raisins are one of those things you really like or you hate.  When I was growing up, I actually thought raisins were a special snack.  Contrary to what most people think of southern people and their bad eating habits, my mother was always very strict about our eating habits when we were young.  As we got older, we had a little more freedom of choice. We were not allowed many snacks between meals and when we were, it was usually something fairly healthy, like fruit, raw vegetables like carrots and celery, or sometimes raisins.  I loved the raisins, because, of course, they were sweet!  Sometimes, we got cookies, but not everyday and not between meals very often.  We had this annoying cookie jar and let me tell you, you could not lift the lid on that jar without Mama hearing it!  I don't care if she was outside, that woman could hear that lid rattle.  Now, Daddy was another story, because Daddy napped and when he napped he heard nothing and even Daddy might have been known to sneak a cookie every now and then himself!  My point is, we taught much better eating habits then.  

Here is what you need for this "Raisin Pie":

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice
4 eggs
3 Tbsp. vinegar
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1  9 inch deep dish pie shell

Cream sugar, butter, cinnamon and allspice together.  Add eggs, vinegar, raisins and walnuts (if using).  Place the pie shell on a cookie sheet and then pour the mixture into the shell.  

Bake at 350 degree for 30 minutes uncovered.   Place a sheet of foil loosely over the top to keep from over browning and bake for 30 more minutes.  You will bake for a total of 1 hour.  Remove and allow to cool before slicing.


Old Fashioned Potato Candy!

If you have never had this "Old Fashioned Potato Candy", you have really missed out.  It's called potato candy, because it's made with mashed potatoes.  Makes sense doesn't it?  It might sound weird if you have never tried it, but believe me, it works.   We make another version of this with cream cheese also, but you can hardly tell the difference.  I am sure when this was originally made, they didn't have the availability of cream cheese like we do today. The starch in the potatoes is what makes this work.  It doesn't taste at all like potatoes though.  Here is what you will need for this:
1/4 cup mashed potatoes
2 Tbs. butter, room temperature (no substitutions)
2 Tbs. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
1lb. confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup peanut butter
Combine mashed potatoes, butter, milk, vanilla and salt.
Gradually mix in the powdered sugar until a dough forms.  Chill the dough for 1 hour.
Sprinkle about 1 Tbs. confectioners sugar onto wax paper or a large cutting board and roll the dough out into a large rectangle.
Spread the peanut butter out in a thin layer to cover all of the dough.  This might take just a bit more than 1/3 cup depending on how large your rolled your rectangle.
Roll it up like you would a jelly roll.  Wrap it up tight in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours before slicing into pieces to serve.   Keep in an airtight container and in the refrigerator when not serving to keep it from drying out.
This is really pretty on candy or dessert trays!

Traditional Southern Ambrosia!

Last year during the holidays, I kept getting requests for Ambrosia.  As most of us who grew up in the South and have been cooking for a few years now know,  there are about a gazillion recipes for Ambrosia.  My husband is an ambrosia expert, even though he probably doesn't even know it's technically called ambrosia or that it's a southern classic.  He does know which ones he likes best.  Therefore, I posted Aunt Vel's Southern Ambrosia!   We have always loved that recipe and it's the type of ambrosia you will find the most in this part of Kentucky.  The kind that has more than just oranges and coconut in it and is a bit sweeter.  You know how we like to do things up a bit in Kentucky when it comes to holiday food and such.   There is nothing simple or plain about our holiday specialties in most cases.
Well, there were a few folks who just got crazy about the whole thing and let me know that was not 'true ambrosia'!   They just lost it!   I had heard of these 'ambrosia purists', but I didn't know they really existed.  This recipe, if you can call it a recipe, is for the ambrosia purists out there.  It's what so many grew up with and called ambrosia.  It's simple and only has a few ingredients.   I can see that this would be excellent served for a Christmas brunch or breakfast!  
Here is what you will need:
7-8 Navel oranges, peeled and cut in sections
2 Tbs. powdered sugar
2 cups fresh grated coconut or canned coconut
Peel the oranges, making sure to remove all of the pith. See the white stuff in the picture, that is the pith and it's bitter and it will make your ambrosia bitter.   I just cut a slice off the top and bottom of the orange with a sharp knife and then go down each side, just removing the skin.  Go back and trim the pith off.
See, no pith.  Now, hold the orange over a bowl and slice into sections follow the natural line of the membrane on the orange.  By holding it over the bowl, you will catch the juices.   Layer half of the oranges in a pretty glass bowl or trifle dish.  Sprinkle with 1 Tbs. of powdered sugar.  Sprinkle half of the coconut over the oranges.  Repeat with the rest of the oranges, 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar, ending with the coconut.  I garnish the top with a few orange segments and a cherry.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving! 

White Chocolate Oreo Truffles!

I love the Oreos dipped in white chocolate, which is precisely why I don't buy them very often!  These Oreo Truffles are even better than those, because you add cream cheese to the mix and you all know I love cream cheese.
 One of our Sweet Tea and Cornbread friends wrote to me and said she had been trying to get her daughter in the kitchen with her more so that she could learn to cook.  She said she never thought about it before she starting reading my posts and I seemed to think it was so important.  I was thrilled somebody read it and actually took my advice...lol!   I got a good laugh from her message also.   She said her daughter reads the recipes and gets all of the ingredients out for them to cook and one day her daughter suddenly said, "I don't know who this Sweet Tea and Cornbread woman is, Mama, but she sure does love her some cream cheese"!    Truer words were never spoken, concerning me and cream cheese...lol.  I thought it was so cute! 
These are easy as can be to make and the results are scrumptious!  Perfect for gift giving also!  Here is what you will need:
1 (14.3 oz.) bag of Oreo cookies
1 (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 (12 oz.) bag of white chocolate chips
1 Tbs. shortening
Place Oreos in a food processor and pulse until fine crumbs.  Cut the cream cheese in chunks and add to the processor bowl and process until mixed in.   You will probably need to mix it a bit more with a spoon to get it all incorporated. 
Scoop with a small ice cream scoop or cookie scoop onto a tray lined with parchment paper.  Freeze for about an hour. 
Place the white chocolate chips in a clean dry glass bowl along with the shortening and microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute or until melted.  Stir together to mix in the shortening.  
Dip the frozen Oreo balls in the melted white chocolate and place on parchment paper.  Allow to harden. 
 Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. 


Pecan Cream Cheese Bars!

These pecan bars are sort of like a pecan pie, a cheese cake and a cookie all rolled into one and they are very addicting.  This is my mother's recipe and they never last too long when she makes them.  They are also really easy.  These are perfect for a dessert tray or for gift giving.   This is what you will need:

1 box butter pecan cake mix (Betty Crocker makes one)
1 stick of butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. of vanilla

Mix together and press in a 9"x13" pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray

1 stick butter, melted
1 8oz. cream cheese, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1 box powdered sugar  (16 oz.)
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream butter and cream cheese together, beat in eggs, vanilla and powdered sugar.  Pour over crust. 

Top with 2 cups chopped pecans.  Place in a preheated 300 degree oven for 1 hour. 

Cool before cutting into squares.