Sunflower Cheese Ball with Olives

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Sometimes I find a recipe, make it,  and my family loves it.  It becomes an instant hit.  Then I make it just about every week, or at least every month, until another recipe comes along and replaces it.  Sometimes, there is no replacement, but the recipe just doesn't fit as well in with the season.  As it is made less frequently, I might forget about using it.  Then one day, something reminds me of that favorite recipe.  I ask myself, "Why haven't I made that in forever?"  This is one of those recipes.

Cheese balls may seem so out dated, but this is really a good combination of flavors.  The olives are a great accompanying taste to the mild cheese.  The thing I really like about this cheese ball is the coating of roasted sunflower seeds.  Most cheese balls are covered with pecans or walnuts that are coarsely chopped.  The sunflowers are tender, both in texture and taste.  This is a terrific treat to make and have on hand for a spring time snack or for nibbles with some friends.  It is a great make ahead recipe for a shower, too!

Sunflower Cheese Ball
original recipe from
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 c shredded Monterey~Jack cheese
1/2 c sliced green olives with pimentos
2 tbsp chopped green onions
1/2 c salted, roasted sunflower seeds
crackers {recommend pretzel thins}

Beat cream cheese and mustard until smooth.  Stir in the cheese, olives and green onions.  Shape into a ball.  Roll in sunflower seeds.  Refrigerate until time to serve.  Great with crackers, pretzel things and crisp veggies.

1.  Place the combined ingredients for the cheese ball on plastic wrap {makes it easy and neater}.

2.  Using your hands, gently shape into a ball.  Quick transformation from blob to ball.

3.  Sprinkle toasted sunflower seeds around ball.  Gently roll around to cover cheese ball with seeds.

4.  Refrigerate cheese ball til time to serve.  Transfer to serving plate.

5.  Surround with crackers or pretzel thins.

Tips and Tricks~
*Work with the cheese on plastic wrap.  Sprinkle seeds around and roll to easily cover cheese ball.
*Serve with carrot and celery sticks for a gluten-free or low-carb treat.
*Substitute other herbs in place of the green onions.  Try parsley or chives.
*Instead of a cheese ball, mix up the ingredients without the sunflowers.  Top pieces of toasted bread that have been cut into spring shapes with cookie cutters for a spring tea sandwich.

TJ's has my favorite pretzel thins, Everything Pretzel Thins!  Great with a cheese ball.

An eXtra Blessing~ Shameless Self Promotion

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When Dianna Lee was born four years ago with an extra chromosome with her 21st set, I was a bit overwhelmed by one thought in particular.  That thought was that we would be spending everyday in some type of therapy or at some doctor's office or having someone in our home teaching me how to best help Dianna.

I was so wrong.  Really, caring for Dianna and helping her has been much like helping my other children.  Although she has needed some extra help with motor skills and now especially speech.  BUT, most of our days are spent at home together.  We read books, do flashcards to help with vocabulary and enunciation, and we play outside.  Right now she is working on her leg muscles by learning to pedal her new-to-her trike (Found on craigslist, Love!).

She refuses to get off her bike each time we are outside.

That being said, I do spend some extra time with her and she has had more doctor appointments than her siblings, but not a lot more.  This past October she went through her second open heart surgery for a COMPLETE repair for AVSD.  She recovered like a champ!  She was climbing out of the hospital bed a couple hours after surgery, and sitting up looking at her favorite books the next day.

Less than 24 hours after her 2nd open heart surgery to repair a leaking valve from original AVSD.

On to the point of this post, my shameless self promotion.  I'm a bit of a paradox.  I prefer to stay in my own corner, quietly observing.  But, invited into some other space, I may take over.  When it comes to my Etsy shop, an eXtra blessing, I'm still stuck in my corner.

I began selling handmade crocheted and sewn items on Etsy shortly after Dianna was born hoping to make enough to purchase materials and (if enough) some extra therapies or classes for her.  I'm starting anew and hoping to gain lots and lots of exposure (some orders, too).

Dianna modeling a bow beret, which has been a best seller since starting an eXtra blessing.

So I am asking for help.  How can you help?  In any of the following ways:

1.  Become a Fan of an eXtra blessing.
On Etsy (shop updates, new items)
On Facebook (exclusive coupons, adorable updates on Dianna, helpful links)
On Instagram (exclusive coupons, new items, most adorable pictures of Dianna)

2.  Be a Customer
It may not always be easy to make something for a friend or family member with a little one.  Here is your chance to get a beautiful handmade gift for babies, toddlers and children.  Have a look and encourage your friends, too!

3.  Professional Photo Help
If you are a professional photographer who works with newborns and babies, please get in touch with me!  I would love to swap hats as photo props for quality pictures I can use in advertising items in the shop.  Dianna has grown, so I no longer have an adorable baby model to use whenever I need.  Just shoot me an email (

Dianna models toddler and child sized items for me now, but my shop features baby items, too.

If you are spreading the word about an eXtra blessing, you may want to know the story behind the name.  My daughter was born with an extra chromosome, Trisomy 21, or more commonly called Down syndrome.  Since her birth, we have seen this extra chromosome as an extra blessing.  It is not a cause of problems for her or for us.  It has helped us to see life in a different way.  It has helped us to see that what some call disabilities are not.  She is our extra blessing.

Thank you in advance for your support!  And to get you started, please use this code to save 20% on your first order: APRILSHOWERS.  Coupon good through June 30, 2016.

Make Ahead Brunch~ Simply Elegant Crab Strata

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I used to have more time to plan somewhat lavish meals for guests.  Like having 70+ people over without catering, making all the food and decorations myself with the help of one or two of my daughters.  Those times seem to be fading quickly into the abyss of my blog and memory.

Sometimes the simplest gatherings are the most gratifying for me and most pleasing for my guests.  But even the simplest gatherings should have something special.  And special doesn't have to be labor intensive.  Not even for an Easter brunch or a spring bridal shower.  Really!

Two things to keep in mind are:
1.  Use dependable recipes.
2.  Use quality ingredients.

I have your covered on the first.  The second is up to your local grocery, and you.

This recipe comes from a small recipe book from my favorite B&B.  The collection of recipes is very much like one you would get from the ladies group at a church.  They are pretty simple, with just one short paragraph of instructions.  It is so simple, that many may overlook it when selecting an elegant dish for their spring entertaining menus.  But it really deserves more than your consideration.  It is delicious.

Remember, use quality ingredients.  Using fresh and quality ingredients can almost always change any recipe into a star, even if you aren't a top chef.  Trust me, I know from experience.  So, before your begin, shop for your ingredients.

Fresh Produce
Use fresh lemon juice instead of bottled.  Mince your own onion, don't use onion powder.  Chop up some CRISP celery.  Keeping your celery in water in the refrigerator keeps it crisp.

Flavorful Cheese
You may be tempted to skimp here, but use some nice Irish cheddar or something that is an aged, good cheese.

Good Crabmeat
Use lump crab meat that you find refrigerated.  Not imitation.  Not frozen.  Not next to the canned tuna.  I use Philips. It's good.

Now you are ready! Assemble the strata the night before.  Put the dish, uncovered, a cold oven.  Heat the oven then begin timing from there.

And be ready to give out the recipe.  Everyone will want to make it once they find out how easy it is.

Simply Elegant Crab Strata
1 small loaf fresh sourdough bread, cubed {about 8 cups}
1 lb lump crab meat
1 c chopped celery
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 c real mayonnaise
juice from 1/2 lemo
1 tsp hot sauce
2 c grated sharp cheddar cheese
8 eggs, beaten
2 c milk

Grease a 9x13 or a 3 quart casserole dish.  Spread the bread cubes in the prepared dish.  In a large bowl combine crab, celery, onion, mustard, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and hot sauce; stir well.  Using a blender or food processor (even a hand mixer), combine eggs and milk well.  Add the egg mixture to the crab mixture and stir well.  Pour over top of the bread cubes.  Top with shredded cheese.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.  In the morning, place dish in cold oven.  Heat oven to 350F.  Cook for an hour from the time oven reaches 350 or until lightly browned.  Serve with additional hot sauce and lemon wedges.

Note- I made this recipe and divided it into two dishes.  But, I recommend using just one 9x13 dish.