Archive for the ‘Appetizers & Dips’ Category

What are you doing for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day? If you are hosting or attending a party or nursing a hangover while watching football, impress the pants off your guests with the perfect I’m-mingling-holding-a-craft-beer-appetizer—savory cheesecake in tiny Mason jars.

I concocted this recipe to honor farming in South Dakota. Unlike traditional dessert cheesecake, this smoky cheesecake is full of bacon and Gouda and Gruyere cheese and is served with salty crackers.

smoky bacon cheesecake

For the recipe, read Perfect Appetizer for your Pigskin Party: Smoky Bacon Cheesecake with Gouda and Gruyere on Hungry for Truth’s website.

smoky bacon cheesecake

About Hungry for Truth: “Hungry for Truth” is a new initiative from South Dakota Soybean designed to open discussions about food between South Dakotans and the farmers who grow it. We’re putting it all on the table to have open, honest conversations about how our food is raised and its safety.

The opinion written is my own and I was not compensated for this post. I just happen to like farmers. And bacon. And cheese.

Savory swine wishes,



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It’s tradition for me to make deviled eggs for the Fourth of July but it’s not about picnics, campgrounds, or family reunions. In our family, it’s about fireworks.

deviled eggs

I pack up smoky deviled eggs flecked with bacon and trek across the border—the Minnesota and South Dakota border on U.S. Highway 14—where for a week and a half, my sister Kalli runs her in-law family fireworks store on the edge of the state line rest area.

fireworks semi sign

She is a South Dakota resident and I live a few miles into the Land of 10,000 Lakes & 1 Trillion Mosquitoes so we are practically neighbors for nine days! (South Dakota residents can buy fireworks in the state between June 27 and July 5, visitors can buy any time.)

SD sign and fireworks flags

She runs the store during the days and her friend Barry works at night and he stays overnight in a camper to guard the place. He usually texts me on June 27  to remind me that he is looking forward to my deviled eggs. And within a few days, I show up with the smoky little devils.

fireworks store

And because of it, there are two fireworks named after me. (OK, not really.)

sweets firework

Sweet and stressed out. I guess those could be named after a lot people I know.

stressed out firework

(As you can see, she runs an orderly ship around there.)

fireworks store inside

What is a Fourth of July food tradition in your family?

Deviled Eggs

hard-boiled eggs



Worcestershire sauce

dash of liquid smoke

onion salt

garlic powder

dried bacon and onion seasoning (I use Tastefully Simple Bacon Bacon; you could use bacon bits and dried onion flakes.)


  1. Peel the eggs. Discard the shells or use them in your garden.
  2. Slice eggs in half lengthwise with a sharp knife.
  3. Pop the yolks into a bowl and set the whites in a container.
  4. Mash up the yolks with a fork. Add the remaining ingredients to taste and desired consistency.
  5. Scoop the yolk mixture into the egg whites with a spoon or use a bag to pipe it in. I use my Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator with the large star tip so the bacon bits don’t get stuck.
  6. Sprinkle with a few bits of Bacon Bacon.
  7. Cover and store in refrigerator for a few days.

Sweet and smoky wishes,


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Another year leaves us with a trail of flour dust and kitchen memories. We’ve read enough “Top 10 recipes of 2014” articles to set our Pinterest boards on fire. Maybe you want to know my most popular recipes for the past 12 months but for now, let’s have fun with the 24 most curious and amusing search terms that brought people to Random Sweetness Baking in 2014.

The searches that made me laugh. 

I’m guessing the following searches brought people to my second most popular recipe in 2014, I was a better than sex cake virgin:

  1. “How long does better than sex cake last in fridge?” In my house, a day if we’re all home. At the office, within minutes of an instant message announcing its arrival. But I suppose it could last a couple of days in the fridge before it would get soggy.
  2. “Better than whatever cake” Clearly, this person already knew there are multiple names for better than sex cake.
  3. “Is there a recipe for virgin cake or is there a virgin cake recipe like the better than sex cake?” I’m so confused.
  4. “Virgin first time sex” I hope this guy’s wife doesn’t look at his Internet search history. Maybe he should spend more time in the kitchen baking cake.

Better than sex cake

The next one made me laugh AND tell my sisters:

5. “Why do old people like bran muffins?”

6. “Bran muffins for elderly”

Bran muffins aren’t just for old people and raisins ruin everything probably didn’t answer their questions because I didn’t talk about the benefits of fiber.

bran muffins | Random Sweetness Baking

My third most popular recipe in 2014 drew in a lot of people from searches for buffalo chicken dip with ranch, chilled buffalo chicken ranch dip, chicken wing dip with ranch, buffalo chicken dip for 16 people, buffalo chicken dip without blue cheese, and many others like:

7. “Can you make buffalo chicken dip with dark meat?” Yes, of course you can!

8. “Blue cheese dressing without blue cheese in it” Since I don’t eat blue cheese dressing, my suggestion is to just make the dressing but don’t add the crumbled cheese. Or seriously, don’t eat it at all.

9. “I want to make buffalo chicken dip but I don’t have any ranch dressing” Oh bummer! Then you can’t make my version but here’s a recipe from Food Network for buffalo chicken dip with blue cheese and no ranch.

Buffalo ranch chicken dip | Random Sweetness Baking

10. “Make celery sweeter” I’m not a dietician but celery is a vegetable. Maybe add peanut butter and chocolate chips if you want it sweeter? But here’s how I use celery in my simple tuna salad sandwich, my kids’ favorite homemade chicken noodle soup with healing powers, and crunchy ex-in-law broccoli ranch salad.

Broccoli Cauliflower Salad

11. “Random shit you can bake” Ha ha! I’m picturing a sprightly redhead sitting at the nail salon waiting for the paint to dry on her toes, passing time on her phone and suddenly deciding to bake something when she gets home.

12. “I want to bake something sweet” Me too, me too! I’m glad you found me and I’m hoping you found some random sweets you can bake! How about making the #1 recipe on Random Sweetness Baking, Marshmallow Creme Crunch Brownies?

Marshmallow Creme Crunch Brownies

13. “Can kids have tequila lime chicken?” I won’t laugh because I’m sure there’s a concerned parent out there who didn’t know that alcohol burns off in the cooking process.

14.  “How do Mexicans make chicken street tacos?” I don’t know but this is how Minnesotans make chicken street tacos with cilantro and red onion.

cilantro lime chicken tacos

The searches that hopefully led to answers.

15. “Hershey’s Kisses won’t melt turned hard” It sounds like you passed that crucial melting point where the Kiss got hard and then there’s no turning back. Read about it in my recipe for mint pretzel Kisses.

mint pretzel Kisses

16. “If you bake a Hershey’s Kiss in a cupcake does it turn hard after cooling?” I’ve never baked a Kiss in a cupcake but I’m certain it would turn hard when it cools.

17. “Can you make cream cheese deli meat wrap a day in advance?” You certainly can. And in my recipe for crunchy deli wraps, I suggest that you can store the wraps in the refrigerator or a cooler for up to 12 hours. That’s why they are terrific for camping or picnics.

veggie and deli meat wraps

18. “Can I put baking dish from fridge into oven?” It depends on the pan. Never put a glass dish from the refrigerator directly to the oven or you risk the potential for the glass to shatter. But I think metal or stone would be ok. For example, if you prepare smoky ham and cheddar hash brown casserole ahead of time, you could put it in the oven from the refrigerator if it’s in a metal or stone pan.

19. “Only like the Chex cereal in the mix how to just use the cereal” Then by all means, substitute Chex cereal for all the mixed nuts and pretzels in Chex mix.

Staci's version of Chex mix

20. “Cookies chocolate island” If you found a chocolate island that serves cookies, I want to GO! All I can do is give you chocolate island mint bars.

Chocolate Island Mint Bars

21. “Hershey’s skillet cookie for 1” How about something even better – bake this giant chocolate chip skillet cookie, slice into triangles, eat a few, and freeze the rest.

skillet chocolate chip cookie

22. “Chocolate stringy brownie cookie” What exactly is a stringy brownie cookie?

23. “Casserole for boys” The most requested casserole from the boys in my family is hot dog casserole.

24. “Cook slice hot dogs with chips on the side” See #23.

And that’s a wrap on 2014! It’s been a fun and fast year of sharing what’s going on in my kitchen. Thank you for reading and sharing with me. There’s nothing better than getting an email from you asking about a recipe or seeing you in the grocery store and you telling me you have ingredients on your list to make something from my blog. Or when you stop me at a hockey game and tell me that what I wrote made you laugh. It’s just you and me kid.

Hoping to see you around Random Sweetness Baking on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Cheers to a new year!

Sweet & bubbly wishes,


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It’s a question we ask before almost every family get-together. Between my sisters, my mom, and me, one of us makes an abundant batch (with the hopes of leftovers) of our family’s thick and velvety taco dip.

Remember to grab a couple of bags of your favorite tortilla chips.

Taco dip | Random Sweetness Baking

Taco Dip

2 pounds (32-ounce box) Velveeta

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

2 (10-ounces each) cans chili with no beans

1-1/2 to 2 lbs. ground beef, browned with diced onion or onion flakes

Into a large saucepan over low heat, cut the Velveeta and cream cheese into cubes and melt together. Stir in the chili until thoroughly mixed and melty. Briskly fold in the browned hamburger. Serve hot with tortilla chips. Place in a crockpot if not serving immediately.

Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

You can melt this dip in the microwave but I’ve found it’s creamier, without white chunks of cream cheese, if I melt it low and slow on the stove top.

For a smaller batch of taco dip:

1 pound Velveeta

4 ounces cream cheese

1 10-ounce can chili with no beans

1 pound ground beef, browned with diced onion or onion flakes

Follow directions above.

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Blocks of cheese are a staple in our refrigerator but I’ve always stored them in plastic packaging. Even once we opened cheese, we would store it in a plastic bag. But recently I learned that the way you store cheese has an effect on the taste, texture, and appearance.


I happened upon Formaticum cheese bags at the General Store of Minnetonka (one of the coolest stores in Minnesota!) on our annual sister’s trip last year. I bought them on a whim, suspecting it was a waste of money but it turns out, there are good reasons to store cheese properly.


Now we can all cut into fresh cheese!

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If you are dragging yourself out of bed early this morning, I hope it’s to make a pot of coffee, turn on your oven, and park yourself at the kitchen table. The last Black Friday I ventured to a store was the year a lady stole my cart full of ghetto blasters from the electronics aisle. So let’s just order the crap we need online and get back in the kitchen where all the fun happens.

If you have overnight guests, these first two recipes will make your house smell like your favorite aunt’s B&B. Don’t make them unless you want your guests to return.

To-Live-For Pumpkin Butterscotch Coffee Cake

pumpkin butterscotch cake

Ham and Cheese Stuff’n Puff

ham cheese stuff and puff_3991

If you have leftover turkey, use it in place of the chicken to make Lime Street Chicken Tacos.

cilantro lime chicken tacos

Or use the turkey to make Crunchy Deli Wraps. It’s a convenient way to use up the random vegetables in the refrigerator drawer that you will otherwise throw out at Christmas time.

veggie and deli meat wraps

You don’t even need a bowl to make Cherry Crunchobblerumble. Just leave a stack of spoons next to it when you take it out of the oven.

Cherry Crunchobblerumble | Random Sweetness Baking

If you want something salty, sweet, and addictive to munch on all day, Tiger Butter made with Boston Baked Beans candy is what you need.

Boston baked bean tiger butter

When you’re ready to drink beer and watch T.V., grab an overflowing bowl of Chex Mix made like you mean it.

Staci's version of Chex mix

Going somewhere for another Thanksgiving celebration? Bring your host a batch of Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Brownies.

cream cheese peanut butter brownies

Back home with another beer in hand? You should be eating Buffalo Ranch Chicken Dip.

Buffalo ranch chicken dip | Random Sweetness Baking

You have to plan ahead for Taco Cheesecake, but it’s worth it. You will crave this savory appetizer.

Taco cheesecake | Random Sweetness Baking

If you haven’t had your Thanksgiving meal yet, or maybe you are hosting Christmas, my Sausage Stuffing is the dish I’m not allowed to burn.

Sausage Stuffing | Random Sweetness Baking

And, if you are brave enough to pull into a store parking lot this weekend, push your way to the Christmas candy aisle and pick up a couple of bags of mint M&M’s to make Mint Pretzel Kisses.

Mint M&M's Pretzel Kisses | Random Sweetness Baking

Here’s the best for last. Marshmallow Chocolate Cream Cheese Bars

Marshmallow chocolate cream cheese bars | Random Sweetness Baking

May your holiday weekend be filled with loving family and friends, lots of laughter, and plenty of good food.

Sweet wishes,

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Anyone can mash together shredded and cream cheese and roll it around in dried beef and parsley flakes. But to be the rock star guest at a party, walk through your host’s door carrying a bucket of iced Coronas and a platter full of taco cheesecake.

Don’t crinkle your nose on this one. Taco cheesecake seems odd, I know. We think of cheesecake as being sweet and creamy and on our dessert plate, not as a savory appetizer on our party menu or in our tailgating cooler in the back of a truck.

Taco cheesecake appetizer | Random Sweetness Baking

Think of it this way — you stir together taco seasoning, cream cheese, chili peppers, pepper jack cheese, and roll it in into a cheeseball. So why not add a few more ingredients to make it even creamier, bake it, and then chill before serving with tortilla chips and crackers?

It’s the kind of food you can’t stop thinking about once you start craving it. And you won’t want to tell anyone this, but it is not difficult to make. You don’t even need a special pan.

Taco cheesecake on crackers | Random Sweetness Baking

Taco cheesecake is one of my sister’s favorite cheesecakes. She likes to add chopped black olives. You should also serve it with homemade pico de gallo.

You may want to buy a few more party dresses because your social calendar is about to fill up like a teenager in the cool kid crowd. Especially if you make Key Lime Cheesecake with Patrón Sauce. You will simply be walking the red carpet at that point.

Taco Cheesecake

4 teaspoons yellow cornmeal

24 ounces (3, 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature

1/2 cup taco sauce or salsa

1 (1.25 ounce) package taco seasoning

2 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

1 cup (4 ounce chunk) shredded pepper jack cheese

4.5 ounce can chopped green chilies OR 1/4 cup finely diced jalapeno pepper and 1/4 cup finely diced bell pepper

Toppings (optional)

Pico de gallo

Sour cream

Chopped black olives

Green onions

Cherry tomatoes

Lightly spray a 9-inch springform or 9-inch round or square cake pan. (Or, two mini cheesecake pans.) Sprinkle the cornmeal onto the bottom of the pan. Preheat oven to 350˚.

In a large mixing bowl, beat softened cream cheese on medium high until smooth with no lumps. Add the sour cream, taco sauce or salsa, and the taco seasoning. Beat on medium until creamy. Slowly beat in the eggs, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl. 

Fold in the pepper jack cheese and green chilies and/or peppers until it is all mixed in with the batter.

Pour the cheesecake filling into the prepared pan. Bake at 350˚ for 30-35 minutes or until the edges are lightly brown and the center looks just set. Cool on a wire rack for one hour. Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours before serving. (If using mini cheesecake pans, bake approximately 15 minutes.)

Cut into small slices. Serve with toppings, crackers, crispbreads, tortilla chips, or spread on bagel or bread pieces. Serve cold or at room temperature. The cheesecake is fine to sit out on your party platter for a couple of hours.

Taco cheesecake can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight.

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