Red velvet chocolate chip cheese ball

red velvet chocolate chip cheese ballSo it’s officially holiday entertaining season and you know what that means…scouring the internet for appetizer, entrée and dessert recipes. It’s always a personal challenge of mine to out-do myself when it comes to entertaining. No one expects it, but there’s a sense of satisfaction knowing that this year’s menu was better than last year’s AND that my guests loved it just as much as I loved Pinterest-ing for two weeks to find the perfect recipes. Call me Miss Type-A.

Entertaining this holiday season and in need of a dessert recipe? I’ve seen this one all over Pinterest and I had to try it based on my love for the never-fail cheese ball and red velvet…well, anything. Think of this as a sweet version of a cheese platter, a “dessert appetizer” to make up a completely new menu category. The red velvet chocolate chip cheese ball is creamy, sweet and decadent thanks to the layer of mini chocolate chips which add the perfect amount of crunch. Made with red velvet cake mix, cream cheese, butter and sugar, the sweet cheese ball is definitely a treat but it’s SO worth it (just like the 15 Christmas cookies I ate in one sitting at my work holiday party…oops!) I served this with vanilla wafer cookies, but animal crackers or graham crackers would also pair well. I (of course) lightened up the recipe a bit by using 1/3 less fat cream cheese and margarine instead of butter. The best part: it took 10 minutes to make PLUS the red color is super festive!
Happy holidays!

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Basil Walnut Pesto

basil walnut pesto“Pasta Night” began after my friends and I learned how to make pasta from scratch (ambitious, I know) at a cooking class and it has since become an annual tradition. The girls usually make a mess of the kitchen as we attempt to crank out fresh pasta while the guys eat all the appetizers and drink beer while watching whatever game happens to be on. Then we all sit down to a home-cooked meal (with lots of wine) and laugh the night away. I volunteered to make pesto and brought it to our very first pasta night. Since then, pesto has been a pasta night menu staple.

My mom always made pesto with fresh basil from our garden, and at some point over the years she started using walnuts instead of pine nuts. I love the taste and consistency with the walnuts, plus they’re a lot easier to find in the supermarket so I swapped out the pine nuts from Giada’s recipe in her ‘Everyday Italian’ cookbook.

As with everything in life, moderation is the key and in this case, a little pesto goes a long way. While this recipe was originally intended as a sauce over pasta (Giada says so), the freshness of the basil combined with the garlicky bite and salty creaminess from the Parmesan makes pesto delicious on just about everything. I love pesto as a topping for spaghetti squash, chicken or fish…just a tablespoon brightens up any main course while keeping the calories under control!
basil walnut pesto

Pesto freezes well, so I like to make a double batch and freeze it in an ice-cube tray to get perfect portions whenever you need them. From-scratch pesto is SO much better than store-bought and it’s super easy to make it yourself! I can’t wait for our next pasta night…

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