Olive Nut Sandwich at Olympia Candy Kitchen

When I’m home to visit my parents, I always try to stop in at Olympia Candy Kitchen, a classic downtown dinner and homemade candy kitchen since 1912. Their hand-dipped chocolates, especially their chocolate turtles, are legendary! They have been using the same giant mercury Christmas ball and pine garland holiday decorations since I was a kid (and probably before that) and Olympia is one of two places in town where you can still get a green river phosphate. You can also get an olive nut sandwich. I know I’ve posted about this sandwich before, but I’ve got a much better photo this time. Chopped green olives and cashews on toast with a mayo and a leaf of iceberg lettuce for under $5. Still weird, still unique, still delicious.

Easy Entertaining: Spinach Dip and Pita Chips

Spinach dip is easy to make, and doesn’t have to be as unhealthy as the prepacked store version. The same can be said for pita chips! Just slice them in quarters or sixths, place on a pam-sprayed cookie sheet, spraying again with oil and toasting for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Spinach Dip

1/2 cup plain, low-fat greek yogurt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino
3 Tbs. low-fat or olive oil mayonnaise
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/4 finely minced white onion
2 cloves finely minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tsps. fresh lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper

Mix the greek yogurt, grated cheese, and mayonnaise together in a bowl. Add the herbs and mix well. Add the chopped spinach, and mix again. Serve at room temperature or heat in an oven-proof dish at 350 for 15-20 minutes, until the dip just starts to bubble. Serve alongside toasted pita chips.

Easy Entertaining: Vegetable Tray with Gorgonzola Dip

Vegetables are good for you, and gorgonzola is delicious, so why not add this colorful platter to your entertaining spread? This dip will work with any vegetables, but is especially good (I think) with endive leaves, steamed red baby potatoes and asparagus, and red pepper slices. My number one rule of crudite creation? NO two same colors touching – make a color wheel of sliced vegetables!

Gorgonzola Vegetable Dip

4 oz. crumbled gorgonzola (the bluer, the better)
1/2 cup greek yogurt (you can even use 0% fat!)
1 clove of garlic, pressed or very finely chopped
fresh ground black pepper
splash of lemon juice

Mix all of the ingredients together, and add pepper (and maybe just a smidge of salt, depending on your cheese) to taste. If the dip seems too thick, add milk or rice milk, 1 Tbs. at a time, until you reach the desired consistency. Scoop into a serving bowl and chill until serving.

Easy Entertaining: Marinated Goat Cheese Balls

One of the easiest hors d’oeuvres that I make is marinated goat cheese balls, served alongside toasted pita, baguette slices, or crackers. In just ten minutes you can make and garnish a delicious, satisfying dish.

Marinated Goat Cheese Ball

1 8 oz. log of goat cheese (for each ball)
4 oz. kalamata olives
1/4 good quality olive oil
6- 10 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried thyme)
zest of one lemon

Roll the log of goat cheese into a ball using your hands or saran wrap and place on a shallow serving dish. Arrange the olives around the cheese ball. Heat the olive oil in a small sauce pan on medium heat until hot, but not sizzling. If using fresh thyme, add the springs now. Add half of the lemon zest and stir. Turn off the heat under the pan. If using dried thyme, add after removing the pan from heat and stir. Pour the oil evenly over the goat cheese. Sprinkle the remaining lemon zest over the cheese and olives, garnish as you wish, and serve.

Easy Holiday Entertaining: Buckeyes

I know, I know, the holidays have already begun, but maybe you’re looking for a last minute treat for your neighbors, to bring to a holiday party, or for your New Years Eve celebration. Growing up in Indiana, someone always brought a plate of buckeyes to the house, or to my grandparent’s and now my friend Beth always makes Buckeyes and stores the extra in the freezer (they’re wonderful frozen!) These candies are called Buckeyes because they resemble the nut the falls from the Buckeye tree, so common in Ohio that the citizens from that state are called “Buckeyes.” Easy to make, easy to love. Enjoy!

Buckeyes

1/2 cup margarine or crisco
1 stick of butter
1 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
1/2 bag of powered sugar
dipping chocolate

Beat the margarine/Crisco and the butter until full-mixed and smooth. Add the peanut butter and beat well. Add enough powdered sugar (about 1/2 bag) to make a stiff dough. Refrigerate the dough until cold, 30 – 45 minutes. Rolling 1-2 Tbs. of dough between your palms, forming balls. Refrigerate again, until hard. Using your fingers or a toothpick, dip each ball into the melted chocolate, leaving a circle of peanut butter uncovered at the top (and the candy resembling a buckeye).