With the help of Our Best Bites, one of my new favorite food blogs, I made two special treats for our New Years Eve party: a cheese ball and cinnamon bun popcorn.
First, the cheeseball:
2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
2 c. (8 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 Tbsp. finely chopped green onions
2 tsp. seasoning salt
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained very well
1/2 c. chopped walnuts - the original recipe calls for pecans but I only had walnuts
*The recipe also calls for 1/4 cup chopped green pepper, but I didn't have any so I omitted it
Mix all ingredients except the nuts together. I started with a spoon but found that using my hands was most effective. It's very important to mix everything very well so you don't get a mouthful of pineapple or green onions :)
Form into a ball. Place nuts on a plate and roll the ball to coat. You may need to press the nuts into the cheese to help them stay put and ensure the cheese ball is fully coated. Refrigerate until serving.
Next, the cinnamon bun popcorn. Oh sooo good! I was originally going to bag this up for party favors but decided to leave it out in a big bowl.
12 C popped popcorn (about 1/2 C kernels or I used microwave popcorn)
1 C pecan halves, roughly chopped
1 C brown sugar
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 C karo syrup
1 stick real butter (1/2 C)
1 t vanilla
1/2 t baking soda
3 squares almond bark (about 4 oz) - I used the white chocolate wafers from the bulk bin but because there was hardly any left, I had to use some dark chocolate on some of the popcorn. See pictures below.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees
Place popcorn and chopped pecans in a large bowl and set aside.
Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a 2 liter capacity microwave safe bowl. Mix well. Chop butter into chunks and place on top of sugar mixture. Pour corn syrup over the top of everything. Microwave on high for 30 seconds and then stir to combine. Return to microwave and heat for 2 minutes. Remove and stir and then microwave for 2 minutes more.
Remove from microwave and add in vanilla and baking soda. Stir to combine. Mixture will foam and rise.
Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and pecans and stir very well so everything is well coated.
Spread popcorn mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Remove from oven and spread out on a large piece of parchment, waxed paper, or foil.
Melt almond bark according to package instructions. Drizzle over popcorn mixture. When almond bark is hardened and popcorn is cool, break into chunks.
And for the buffet table centerpiece, I made a chocolate covered strawberry tree. I didn't have enough strawberries to fill the tree so we had to lop off the top of the styrofoam cone so it looks more like a squat shrub. I got the inspiration from a blog called Everyday Celebrating. Check it out!
You make your chocolate covered strawberry with good dipping chocolate, put a styrofoam cone in a pot or urn and use toothpicks to secure the strawberries and kale. So easy and fun!
Most of the stawberries were flat where the stem was so they would lay point up while the chocolate hardened. Some did not and they have a flat side and don't look all that pretty but they still tasted delicious!