Favorite Apps! (The Kind You Eat.)

I hear there's a football game on this Sunday!

I'm sure there will be a lot of Marketing Monday morning quarterbacking (heh) when it comes to the commercials, but in the meantime, let's do our homework and prepare for the big game. 

Appetizers and snacks! I'm sharing my favorites. Get excited. 

1. For the last several years I have been spreading the gospel of Buffalo Chicken Dip. Make this now and thank me later. If you need a testimonial, ask my friend Miriel. Her oldest child is actually made of 40% buffalo chicken dip thanks to my important work. Serve this with tortilla chips, carrot sticks, and celery sticks. 

Don't judge a recipe by its picture. Just know that if you enjoy wings, you will fall madly in love with this dip. Not to oversell it.

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Photo from

2. Pigs in Blankets. One time, many moons ago, my husband and I hosted our first party. He went all out with super fancy cheese plates, duck prosciutto he cured himself, home-brewed beer, etc. etc. I, on the other hand, really wanted to make pigs in blankets for the first time because I had never had them. What's not to like about meat wrapped in pastry? Plus, I'd heard people love them. My husband was less enthused. He didn't think they'd go over that well. 

Guess which was the first party food to disappear, and quick? That's right. It's been nearly a decade and I still enjoy holding this story over his head.

Listen, now is not the time to get fancy. Do the Pillsbury crescent rolls and the Lil' Smokies. Though you can top them with sesame seeds or poppy seed if you wish. Serve with ketchup and mustard for dipping.

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3. Homemade hummus. It takes minutes to whip up, and tastes miles better than the store-bought stuff. This is my go-to recipe. Serve with pita chips and all manner of vegetables. My favorites are baby carrots, mini bell peppers, and thick slices of English cucumber.

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4. Rosemary roasted nuts. The recipe calls for cashews only, but for years my husband and I made a version of this with a mix of cashews and pecans and gave them out at the holidays. When I left my last job, my boss told me that he wouldn't write my recommendation until I gave him the recipe. 

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5. Since childhood, chips and dip has been one of my favorite indulgences. It was the stuff of sleepover and birthday party legend. I will forever be partial to a packet of dry onion soup mixed dumped into some sour cream, but I can attest that this grown up version, Caramelized Onion Dip, is to die for. Get yourself some good ridged chips and go to town.

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6. And finally, you can't go wrong with baked brie in puff pastry. Put raspberry or fig jam in the pastry with the brie, or serve it on the side with soft slices of baguette. This is a perennial favorite at Thanksgiving.

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What's your go-to app recipe?

Marketing Monday: Merry Kissmas

In the most recent Friday Find I shared one of my favorite holiday treats. (The non-edible kind. For the edible kind I might need to start a whole new year-round blog. Have you heard of these things called pigs-in-a-blanket?) (Pigs-in-blankets?) Today I'm talking about another favorite holiday treat that also happens to be a marketing spot. And it's food!

Surely most of us are familiar with it: The simplicity that is the genius of turning a classic thing into something it's not, and setting it to music. 

I remember when this ad first came out in 1989, and how fun and different I thought it was, even as a kid. I was captivated. I've enjoyed seeing it every year since, but I otherwise knew nothing about it until I stumbled across this case study that gives a bit of the background and nails what the ad means for me:

"With each passing year, the ad triggers feelings of nostalgia—you can remember when you first saw it, and associate memories of holidays past, making it a tradition in itself.

What may be most impressive, though, is how in just 16 seconds' time, Hershey's somehow gets you into the holiday spirit—and makes you think about grabbing a bag of chocolate Kisses—without saying a single word out loud."

I'm clearly not alone in my nostalgia: 

That's some truly timeless marketing. What's more impressive, possibly, is that the ad only came to be because a marketing exec took a risk and did something he wasn't supposed to do. Check out the Hershey's Archives' story on how the ad came to be. That gamble paid off, and it's now Hershey's longest running commercial to date. It's even inspired tributes (some might say knock-offs).

Bonus #1: It also led me down a rabbit hole of 80s TV commercial nostalgia. Do you remember any of these? I do!

Bonus #2: It also reminded me of these 'give a kiss' ornaments that were all the rage in the 80s. Squeeze their cheeks and Hershey's kiss was waiting for you inside. We had one on our tree growing up, and I want to say it was green. Maybe it was a frog? I don't remember. But man, nostalgia sure will do it every time.

Picture from Pinterest.

Picture from Pinterest.

Cheater Pasta e Fagioli

Listen, when I say "pasta e fagioli", I'm picturing Italian soup with beans and pasta and parm and lots of freshly ground black pepper, some kind of tomatoes, and maybe some meat. I'm not sure what the traditional version is, though I remember as a kid my beloved aunt with Italian roots serving us a broth-based soup piled high with white beans, ditalini pasta, parmesan cheese, and fresh pepper, with breaded chicken cutlets on the side. This is sort of inspired by that, and sort of inspired by what I had on hand.

I was thinking about what meals to bring to some friends who are recovering from a medical situation, and threw this together based on what I had lying around, plus a few things I snagged at the grocery store. It was super easy, relatively quick, and quite tasty. Definitely putting this in our winter rotation!

I also brought a version of  my favorite quinoa salad , to which I added a lot of my  favorite easy veggies .

I also brought a version of my favorite quinoa salad, to which I added a lot of my favorite easy veggies.

Cheater Pasta e Fagioli

(Recommend reading through the whole recipe first.)

1 large onion, diced

1 x 10 ounce container cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size

1 x 15 ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

8 cups chicken stock (Not broth. But broth will do if it's what you have.)

2-4 cups water

8 ounces orzo pasta, uncooked

8 meatballs (Frozen is fine. I used Trader Joe's turkey meatballs from the freezer section.)

parmesan rind

olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Pull your meatballs out of the freezer, and let sit on a plate covered with a paper towel. By the time you finish chopping your other vegetables, they should be thawed enough to cut easily. You want to cut them into eights: cut them in half, cut them in quarters, cut the quarters in half. This isn't rocket surgery.

Saute chopped onion and a pinch of salt in olive oil over low-medium heat until translucent, about 8-10 minutes.

Add chopped tomatoes and beans to the pot with the onions, and stir around for a minute or two. Add parmesan rind, stock, and 1 cup water, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and let simmer 30-60 minutes to thicken a bit. Bring to a boil once more. Add orzo and meatballs. Set your timer for about 7 minutes to allow the orzo to cook. Once the orzo is cooked, you can eat or keep cooking. Read on for more.

A couple of notes:

- Once the orzo is cooked, taste the soup for seasoning. You might need a bit of salt, but keep in mind the meatballs will let some salt out as the soup sits and the flavors meld. Best to have a light hand with the salt here and add more at the table if needed.

In short: if you have time, don't salt it yet. Give it all another 30 minutes or so and see how salty it is. If you don't have time, don't salt it.

- The soup will thicken as it sits because of the orzo. A purist (my husband) would cook the orzo seaparately and add it to each bowl when serving so it never gets waterlogged. I don't mind a waterlogged orzo in this application, and I don't want to dirty more dishes. Add more water as needed to thin it out and/or balance the salt.

You can store it with the parmesan rind still in, but be careful not to scoop it into anyone's bowl.

Serve with salad, crusty bread, and a big ole glass of wine.