The sign-up sheet for the daycare potluck is mocking me. It seems to whisper my name every time I accidently glance at it. I’m the parent who sends her child to school with a Lunchable most days of the week because it’s the fastest, most convenient thing I can throw into a lunch box before running out the door. I just don’t have time to do anything extra, yet here I am suckered into not one, but THREE potlucks next week. Ah! Thankfully for the daycare potluck, I signed up for vegetables, so kiddos; get ready for pre-cut carrot sticks and celery straight from Costco. Merry Christmas! But for the other two, I have to dig into my bag of tricks and actually make something. I used to love being in the kitchen, churning out creative dishes. But now, cooking is more of a chore than anything, which is why I now have two easy go-to potluck dishes that are sure to wow a crowd.
Truth be told, I usually make this Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad during the summer, but it’s so good that I see no problem whipping it out during the winter. I usually make the dressing one day in advance and let it sit in the fridge overnight so the ingredients really meld together. It might just be in my head, but hey, whatever works!
By Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa, by way Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman
-1 7 oz. jar of sun-dried tomatoes, drained
-4 cloves garlic
-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
-1 cup extra virgin olive oil
-Salt and pepper to taste
-16 oz. corkscrew pasta
-1 jar Kalamata olives, chopped (optional)
-1 pint ripe cherry tomatoes (cut in halves)
-10-15 basil leaves, chopped
-1 ½ cups Parmesan cheese, grated
In a blender, combine sundried tomatoes, garlic, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper until the tomatoes are chopped. Continue blending while drizzling in olive oil until mixed together. Put mixture into a dish and store in the fridge overnight.
The next day, cook the pasta until just a smidge al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Pour the dressing over the pasta. Add olives, halved cherry tomatoes, and some of the Parmesan cheese and toss together. Pour out onto a serving platter and add more shredded Parmesan cheese.
I didn’t really get into truffles until a year or so ago. I thought that any recipe that required me to melt chocolate over a pot of simmering water was complicated. I’m so mad at myself that I waited so long to give these a shot! They are easy, delicious, and look really impressive, though note: they do require time to chill, so make them the day before you need them. I have two recipes to share with you, courtesy of Annie’s Eat (www.annies-eats.com)
(makes 2 dozen truffles)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
2 cups crushed pretzels
12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon milk
4-6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Combine peanut butter, confectioners’ sugar, butter and pretzels in a medium bowl. Mix well with a spoon until evenly combined and incorporated. Roll mixture into small balls, about 2-3 teaspoons each. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil, parchment or wax paper. Transfer to freezer to chill for 30 minutes.
Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a bowl of simmering water, and heat until melted and smooth.
Dip chilled peanut butter pretzel balls in the chocolate, gently shaking off the excess. Transfer back to the lined baking sheet. Chill to let chocolate fully set.
To make the peanut butter drizzle, combine the peanut butter and milk in a small bowl. Microwave briefly – 15 seconds. Add in the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Adjust consistency as needed. Drizzle over coated truffles.
(makes about 4 dozen)
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1 ½ lb. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Mini chocolate chips for garnish
Combine butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream until light and fluffy – about 2 minutes. Beat in flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes, or until mixture is hard enough to roll into balls.
Roll chilled cookie dough into 1 – 1 ½ inch balls. Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Loosely cover and transfer to freezer to chill for 1-2 hours.
To dip the truffles, melt the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Dip each truffle, coating in chocolate and shaking gently to remove excess. Transfer to a wax-paper lined surface. Quickly sprinkle the mini chocolate chips on top before the chocolate sets. Once all have been dipped, store in the fridge until time to serve.