An Uncomplicated Life Blog

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Holiday Haystacks Party Appetizer

This easy to make appetizer is affordable for large parties, and festive for the holiday season

This post is sponsored by Barilla and Galbani, but all opinions are my own.

One of the best parts of the holidays are all the holiday parties to go to. "Friendsgiving", Secret Santa brunches, or the good old fashioned cocktail party, this time of year is so fun to get together and celebrate the season. However, I've been a host of such fun parties, and man, is it a ton of work! From cleaning the house to getting the decorations, preparing the menu and doing all the shopping - hosting a party is no small commitment! In the spirit of keeping things easy and simple this holiday party season, I've partnered with Barilla pasta and Galbani cheese to bring you a SIMPLE, easy and tasty party appetizer - what I'm calling Holiday Haystacks.

There's a few things that are so great about this recipe. First, there's a whopping 10 ingredients in it. Only 10! So it's super simple to throw together. Second, from start to finish you're looking at a half hour of time. So it's simple and quick to boot! Third, I've used mini-muffin tin cups to bake the pasta, so not only are we talking about a handheld app (no need for the extra dishes or utensils!) but it's also portion controlled, making it easier to keep consumption levels in check.

Shopping was also insanely easy forthis recipe. All the ingredients are available at Walmart, from the Galbani ricotta to the Barilla pasta and traditional sauce. Plus when you buy all three products, you can get $2 off from Ibotta!  A quick visit to the spice aisle (if you don't keep a well stocked one already) and you've got this appetizer made for under $10. The holidays are always so focused on large roasts of meat, we often forget that pasta is a great way to get together and enjoy the season too! 

Holiday Haystacks Party Appetizer
- 1 box Barilla Mostacciolli pasta
- 3/4 cup Barilla traditional pasta sauce
- 1 15oz container Galbani ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic poweder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried onion flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- halved grape tomatoes and julienned fresh basil to garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil water for pasta and cook the pasta to al dente instructions. Do not overcook the pasta because it will continue to bake in the oven - make sure to drain it while it still have a bite to it!

While the pasta cooks, mix together the ricotta, eggs, and seasonings. Salt and pepper the mixture. Add the mixture to the drained pasta and stir together. Spray a mini-muffin tin pan with a nonstick spray, or brush with olive oil. Fill the tin with pasta, arranging the pasta within the tins somewhat vertically (to look like little haystacks - and also, to ensure each pasta is touching some of the sauce, which will congeal in the oven and make it a hand-held appetizer).

Bake the pasta for about seven minutes. Cut the grape tomatoes in half, and julienne the fresh basil (cut it into long strips). Add one half tomato to each muffin cup and sprinkle with fresh basil. Bake for another three minutes or so, until the pasta is starting to get golden brown, but isn't crispy or crunchy.

This easy to make holiday appetizer is affordable and easy to serve to large or small parties

Let the pasta rest in the muffin tin pan until mostly cooled. Transfer to a party platter and enjoy! This holiday haystacks party appetizer is packed with flavor, easy to make, affordable, and festive for the holiday party season.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Tart Cherry Pistachio & Dark Chocolate Biscotti

No matter what time of year, this biscotti goes perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea, and is pretty enough to impress house guests

Every now and again, when I'm whipping up recipes in my kitchen like a mad hatter, I really impress myself. Something turns out better than I had anticipated. This, my friends, is one of those times! And I say that with the caveat of me not being a sweets person. Gimme all the chips and salsa and queso but put cookies, cake or ice cream in front of me and I won't even touch it. So for me to actually like a sweets recipe? Oh you know this tart cherry, pistachio and dark chocolate biscotti has to be good!

I think I only bake about two to three times a year, and that includes birthday cakes. I don't enjoy it. It's a science, so there's very little you can do to "play" with the recipe, as all the ingredients have to play together so that scientific responses happen, things rise, bind together, etc etc and you have a delicious final product. Bah humbug, playing by the rules of a recipe is bunk! I like to play and change things I don't like and add things I think will work better. Which is kinda funny, because I *accidentally* did that with this recipe. I kinda messed up how much baking powder went in, but I really like how it turned out!

I'm not big into making Christmas cookies (everyone gifts sweets and if you bake them too, your house is just FULL of sugar and that grosses me out over the holidays). But my husband and kids enjoy a good cookie, so I try to make one batch a year (last year was these super easy Spritz cookies, and the year before was my MIL's monster cookie recipe that I turned into a Christmas cookie). This year I'm hosting both Thanksgiving and Christmas with different sets of families, and I wanted the ability to put something out in the morning that was easy. I'm NOT a morning person, so I'm not getting up early to cook anyone breakfast! But lay out some biscotti and coffee? Ok, that I can manage.

Tart Cherry Pistachio & Dark Chocolate Biscotti
- 1 and 1/2 cups dried tart cherries
- 3/4 cup chopped pistachios
- 2 medium or 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup melted butter (from one stick of butter)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 and 1/2 cups flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3oz dark chocolate bar (NOT chocolate chips - they don't melt well and contain wax)
- 1/2 cup cranberry cocktail juice

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, pour the cranberry juice over the dried cherries to reconstitute them. Set aside, and let soak for about 20 minutes. If you're an idiot like me, or can't find de-shelled pistachios, spend the next thirty minutes of your life getting each nut out of the shell. You'll never get those thirty minutes back. Be prepared for anger. Lightly chop the pistachios so that the nuts aren't too big to bit into.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Melt the butter and let cool slightly, then add to the dry ingredients. Add the egg(s). Drain the cherries, but reserve about 4-5 tablespoons of the juice and add to the mixture. Fold in the cherries and the pistachios. 

The mixture will be on the dry side, but if you grab some, it will stick together. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and form the mixture into two loaves. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until they're just starting to turn a golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooing rack to let cool completely. Once cooled, cut into one to one and a half inch thick slices. Return to the baking sheet and bake for another 25 minutes, or until each piece is golden brown.

Once the biscotti pieces have cooled completely, melt dark chocolate in the microwave, stirring ever 15 seconds so that it doesn't burn. In my convection microwave, it took less than a minute to melt the whole bar, so be mindful! Use a fork to drizzle the chocolate over the cooled biscotti. I placed a piece of parchment paper under the cooling rack holding the biscotti for easy clean up! Wax paper would work, too.

This is a great holiday treat to have on hand, or any time of the year when you have house guests and want a homemade treat around

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Allow the chocolate to harden completely. Store in an air-tight container; freeze in a ziplock container; or place in a gift tin to give away. Best enjoyed dipped in a cup of hot coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Enjoy!