Most Popular Recipes of 2013

Jeez can you really believe that it's New Years Eve and 2013 will shortly be coming to an end? This year has went by pretty quickly for me and honestly, I'm not sad to see it go at all. It was not the most pleasant of years and I have high hopes that 2014 will be a much better year.

As I've done in recent years, I decided to compile this little list of the most popular recipes, as determined by page views for this year. I opted to narrow them by down by month instead of just viewing highest page views for the entire year.



~{January}~
I was really surprised that this simple recipe was so popular. Then again, it's typically always a surprise to me when I see which recipes are more popular than others.


~{February}~
Tied: Crock Pot Pork and Sauerkraut and Ham and Cheese Sliders
I'm not even a little bit surprised about the Ham and Cheese sliders since I needed to make them multiple times to actually take a picture before they were all devoured. I really do love those little sandwiches. As for the pork and sauerkraut, I didn't realize having it on New Years day was quite a popular tradition.


~{March}~
This simple little cake that I shared for the Secret Recipe Club was by far the most popular recipe for the month. Actually, it's my most popular recipe of all time, currently with over 7,000 page views. I remember looking at the referring links a few weeks after it was shared on the Secret Recipe Club site and seeing that it was being shared and talked about as far away as Russia!


~{April}~
I'm not sure if the Angel Food Cake was so popular because I shared it on my birthday and included that in the header, or if you all are just super fans of Angel Food Cake. Either way, I'm not complaining. As for the martinis, does this mean you want me to start sharing more drink recipes?


~{May}~
Ohhhhh I really need to make these again. I just barely remember how delicious they were, which means I should add them to the dessert rotation again just so I don't forget.


~{June}~
You can never go wrong with chocolate and marshmallows, can you? 


~{July}~
Obviously not, considering you chose two recipes back to back with the main ingredients consisting of chocolate and marshmallows. I realized I'm not a big pie maker but I'm planning to remedy that in 2014. Let's think of it as a resolution: to make more pie.


~{August}~
Talk about a cupcake that conjures up some tropical memories. Pineapple, coconut, sun, sand. the beach. What could be better?


~{September}~
Here's a month where I was right there with you. I love everything there is about this recipe and I've made it a ton of times since sharing it with you for this recipe swap. I still think I could eat this weekly for months on end without it getting old.


~{October}~
It was a bit of a shock that you all chose a Christmas-y recipe in October, but hey with the short amount of time we had between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I should have been thinking of Christmas recipes way before this! And yet, further proof that you're into marshmallows. Should I do a round up of recipes including marshmallows? :)


~{November}~
Aww, now it just warms my heart that you love these cookies (and possibly the Grinch) just as much as I do. I'm only sad that I didn't get to share more Grinch and holiday recipes with you this year.


~{December}~
Another recipe that makes me incredibly happy you liked it as much as I did. You can never go wrong with a fruit dessert, especially around the holidays when your typical choices are of the cookie/cake/pie variety.

Big thanks to all of my readers and followers who make lists like this possible. I love to see which recipes you enjoy the most. I have quite a stock pile of recipes to share with you already, so I'm already curious to see which recipes you'll love the most for the 2014 recap! 

Have a wonderful and safe New Years Eve celebration and a delightful 2014! 

Mini Tomato-Parmesan Tarts

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Are you hosting or attending a New Years eve party tomorrow? If so, or actually even if you just want a delicious snack, I highly recommend this recipe.


I first made these tarts earlier in the month when Tom's family came for Christmas dinner. They were SO easy to make and SO delicious that I decided to add them in to the Christmas dinner for my family. I might just make them again tomorrow night. These could easily be a meal for just me.



Mini Tomato-Parmesan Tarts
Source: Cooking Light, December 2012
Servings: 40 tarts
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Ingredients:
    • 3 roma/plum tomatoes, finely diced
    • 1/4 cup shallots, minced
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
    • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
    • 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
    • 2/3 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
    • pinch each of salt and pepper
    • fresh basil leaves, optional 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
2. Combine the tomatoes, shallots, olive oil, white wine vinegar, and thyme together in a small bowl.
3. Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut rounds out of the puff pastry. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Prick the dough rounds liberally with a fork.
4. Place a heaping teaspoon of the tomato mixture on each tart then top with a pinch of the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the tarts.
5. Bake for 15 minutes then rotate the pan and bake for another 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Add fresh basil leaves to the tarts, then serve.



The really bad thing about this recipe is that they are just so tasty and small that you end up popping 5 of these into your mouth before you've realized that you've ate that many. If you're not a big fan of bruschetta because of the hard bread rounds that it sits upon, this would be the perfect alternative for you. 

Weekly Menu 12/29/13 - 1/2/14

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So, uh it's Sunday.

And on Sunday's I'm supposed to share the meal plan with you for the week. Preferably in the morning. Except I completely forgot today was Sunday. These holidays in the middle of the week are really messing with my brain. I haven't known what day it is for like the past week.

I probably should also talk about New Years Eve and those dreaded resolutions. We can start with NYE. We're staying in (as usual) but not having a party. I honestly was too preoccupied with other things to remember to invite people in an adequate amount of time. If it turns out any of my friends end up without plans, then I'll definitely ask them to stop by, but otherwise I think it's just going to be a quiet night in. I am making a variety of appetizers for dinner though, which should be fun.

As for the resolutions, as cliche as it is, I absolutely have to lose weight this year. It's been over a year since I started that horrible birth control pill that made me gain weight and more than 6 months since I've stopped it. I have absolutely no excuse for not losing weight. Well, there is the small issue that my metabolism and I don't get along. As in, it fell over and died. But I'm determined to revive it somehow and actually fit into my old clothes. Mainly because I am too damn cheap to buy any more in my current size. And because I am completely uncomfortable with how I look in the mirror and pictures.

Actually making recipes from my recipe binder is another resolution I'd like to stick to. Along with keeping my file drawer and closet better organized, since I've reorganized and cleaned both out way too many times in the past few months.

One of the cookbooks I received was for make-ahead and freezer meals and I'd like to get back into that as well since there are a decent amount of healthy recipes in there.

And onto the menu

Sunday - shrimp scampi

Monday - chicken fried rice 

Tuesday - appetizers (see below)

Wednesday - crock pot pork and sauerkraut, mashed potatoes

Thursday - jalapeno popper pizza

Friday - leftovers 

The appetizers I have planned for New Years Eve are steak and blue cheese bites, blue cheese bread, bell pepper bites, buffalo chicken cups, brown sugar meatballs and veggies and dip.

Limoncello Gelee

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Back in April, I made limoncello as part of my 28 Recipes before my 28th Birthday. Of course, after making the limoncello I realized I had absolutely no idea what in the world I could do with it.

Then right before the holidays I was looking around on Pinterest and I found a few recipes that used limoncello and I immediately knew I had to add something to the Christmas menu so I could finally use up some of the limoncello!

While I printed out about 5 recipes and I have one planned to make this weekend, I opted for these gelees for Christmas because they're something I've never made before. Plus saying that you're serving alcoholic jello for Christmas is kinda cool.



Limoncello Gelee
Source: Slim Paley via Martha Stewart Living, May 2008
Servings: 10-12
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Ingredients:
    • 1 tbsp. + 1/4 tsp. unflavored gelatin
    • 3 tbsp. cold water
    • 3/4 cup limoncello
    • 3/4 cup Prosecco
    • 1/2 cup sparkling water
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    Garnish:
    • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
    • 3 tbsp. sugar
    • fresh mint sprigs
Directions:
1. Add water to a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over the water and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
2. In a small saucepan, combine limoncello, Prosecco, sparkling water and sugar over medium heat. Stir with a whisk until the sugar dissolves, then add the gelatin into the saucepan and whisk until the gelatin dissolves.
3. Pour the mixture into a 8x8 baking dish, cover and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes but preferably overnight.
4. Cut into 10-12 squares. Add sugar to a small dish. Place a lemon slice in the sugar and toss to coat. Place the lemon slice on top of the gelee and then add a small mint leaf for garnish.



Knowing my family is not a fan of the tart instead of sweet desserts, I opted to increase the amount of sugar from 1/4 to 1/2 of a cup. The gelees were still just mildly sweet and sucking on the sugar coated lemon after each bite of the gelee helped to even out the tartness. 

Christmas Recap

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What did Santa bring you? 

My main gift from Tom was our new living room furniture. We actually went and picked it out on Black Friday and it was delivered a week later. 


We opted for a sleeper sofa since we don't have a guest room. The print is herringbone which unfortunately I can't get to show up in any pictures. You can't really tell from any of the pictures I've taken, but the color is a medium gray. 

My other gifts included waffle plates for my Cuisinart Griddler, Pyrex baking dishes, razor cartridges, Glamglow Mask, Not Your Mother's Freezer Meals Cookbook, Prevention RD's Everyday Healthy Cooking, Twinnings Peppermint Tea K-cups, Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, a few other DVDs, a gift card, some jewelry from Kohls, and one of those nifty cell phone chargers that doesn't need to be plugged in. (I linked everything to Amazon since just about everything I wanted came from my Amazon wish list)

We had 5 people over for Christmas and dinner went exactly as planned (minus the carrots). Of course, as usual we ended up eating a ton of the appetizers and barely picked at our dinner options. My mom, aunt, cousin and I discussed possibly just doing appetizers and desserts for the holidays going forward since those are the only things we seem to want to eat anyway. I'm thinking this might be a really good idea, at least until we move somewhere that has a larger dining room and actually purchase a dining room table large enough to allow everyone to sit down. 

I hope Santa brought you everything you wanted and you had a wonderful holiday! 

Honey Peanut Butter Cookies

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Honey-Peanut Butter Cookies
Source: Brown Eyed Baker
Servings: ~ 24 cookies
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Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • 1/4 cup shortening
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 1 tsp. vanilla 
    • 1/4 cup sugar, for rolling the cookies 
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, or with an electric mixer, cream together the butter, honey and shortening on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. Then add the in the egg and vanilla and mix until combined.
5. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add in the flour mixture until a dough forms.
6. Use a 2-tablespoon sized scoop to scoop out dough and roll into a ball. Drop in the sugar and toss to coat. Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet and press down with a fork to create a criss-cross pattern.
7. Bake for 9-11 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.


Weekly Menu 12/22 and Christmas Menu

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I can't believe I forgot to share my Christmas menu with you. It's been kind of crazy around here lately with house guests, plans and just life. I also can't believe that Christmas is only three days away. I haven't even watched the Grinch yet! 

And to make the Christmas spirit even less sparse, it's a balmy 64 degrees with high humidity today. So weird. 

Anyway, I decided to keep it kind of simple this week. I'm doing some of the Christmas food preparations tonight and the rest will be done on Christmas eve. 

Sunday - oven-fried chicken over buttermilk waffles, corn 

Monday - spinach-stuffed flank steal, roasted baby potatoes, sauteed green beans 

Tuesday - shrimp scampi 

Wednesday - Christmas dinner - *see below*

Thursday - leftovers

And on Wednesday, our Christmas dinner consists of:

~{Appetizers}~
veggies & dip 
parmesan thyme crackers
cheese ball 
deviled eggs
tomato parmesan tarts
steak bites

~{Main and Sides}~
Honeybaked ham 
Alton's baked macaroni and cheese
gouda bacon mashed potatoes
thyme roasted carrots
butternut squash lasagna roll ups

~{Bread}~
Texas roadhouse rolls with honey cinnamon butter

~{Desserts}~
pear and cardamom crumbles
salted caramel apple pie
mini cheesecakes 

I know I said that I was going to try to keep Christmas much simpler this year, but this is actually quite easier than what I pull off most years. Here's my timeline for how I plan to pull this off:
Sunday - make and freeze butternut squash and spinach lasagna roll ups; make and freeze parmesan thyme crackers 
Tuesday - make dip and cut up veggies; assemble macaroni and cheese; make rolls; make pie; boil potatoes for mashed potatoes; thaw crackers and lasagna rolls 
Wednesday - make tomato tarts and steak bites; bake macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, lasagna roll ups; roast carrots; bake pear crumbles 

The deviled eggs and cheese ball are courtesy of my aunt. My mom always brings a Honeybaked ham that we just heat up in the oven. She's also bringing the mini cheesecakes. 

At this rate, in a few years I might actually only make enough food for the number of people coming! Wouldn't that be a Christmas miracle :) 

Christmas Recipe Round Up: Sweets

Ugh, I am so sorry! I didn't realize that this post never went live on Friday. I hope I didn't leave anyone waiting for recipes! 

Cookies. Bread. Bark. Breakfast for visiting guests. Cake. Pie. If you are in need of recipes for any of the previously mentioned items, or you're just interested in looking at a bunch of sweets recipes, you'v come to the right place.

I've created a round-up of my favorite sweets recipes to make around the holidays. I know there are only a few days before Christmas but some people like to wait until the last minute to do their baking, and honestly, I wanted to share as many recipes with you as possible before creating this roundup.



~{Cookies!}~
nutella cookies
browned butter chocolate chip cookies
cardamom-blackberry linzer cookies
peanut butter banana chocolate chip cookies
caramel chocolate pecan cookies
grinch heart cookies
hot chocolate cookies 
chocolate chip & walnut cookies
caramel cookies
andes peppermint chocolate chip cookies
iced oatmeal cookies
crinkled grinch cookies
spiced apple cookies
peanut butter snickerdoodles 
white chocolate and lime cookies 
meringues 
peanut butter and jelly heart cookies
s'mores cookies
cake batter cookies
cinnamon roll cookies
biscoff chocolate chip cookies
oatmeal cookies
shortbread cookies
thumbprint cookies

~{Chocolate}~
chocolate dipped pretzels
cookie dough truffles
candy cane s'mores
white chocolate mousse
chocolate biscotti
magic mint bark
cinnamon s'mores bark
chocolate souffles
chocolate drizzled baklava
chocolate peanut butter fudge 

~{Bread}~
cinnamon sugar pull apart bread
cranberry apple bread
eggnog bread
cinnamon crunch braided brioche bread
brioche buns with chocolate centres

~{Misc.}~
mocha oreo balls
pretzel turtles
grinch fruit
caramel grapes 

~{Breakfast Options}~
baked oatmeal 
buttermilk blueberry breakfast cake 
cinnamon rolls
cinnamon sugar french toast bakes
cranberry eggnog scones
honeycrisp apple breakfast pastry
overnight oven-baked french toast
prosciutto egg cups

~{Cake & Pie}~
apple pie
apple galette
apple butter pumpkin pie
spiced pear cake
orange cardamom cake 
croquembouche
Minny's chocolate pie
deep dish cookie pies
vanilla bean cheesecake

~{Cupcakes}~
pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes
raspberry swirl cheesecake cupcakes
sugar & spice white chocolate cupcakes




Mocha Oreo Balls

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I don't know why when I think of dessert I think of cookies, cakes and pies more than I think of bite sized treats like these. I really need to stop limiting myself to only making these around the holidays because they are absolutely delicious. I bet you can't eat just one.

Actually, I'm fairly certain you can't eat just one. They're too delicious!



Mocha Oreo Balls
Source: Bake at 350
Servings: 48
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Ingredients:
    • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened 
    • 1 1/2 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder
    • 2 tbsp. Kahlua, optional 
    • 15.75 package Oreo cookies, finely crushed 
    • chocolate bark
    • sprinkles, edible glitter, etc. 
Directions:
1. With an electric mixer or in the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the cream cheese, instant coffee and Kahlua together until smooth.
2. Add in the cookie crumbs and mix until blended.
3. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls and place on a wax-lined baking sheet. Freeze for 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate bark and assemble any decorations you plan to use.
5. Drop each ball into the melted chocolate bark and use two forks to coat and toss before returning back to the wax-lined baking sheet. Add decorations and repeat with remaining balls.


Pretzel Turtles

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I've mentioned my extreme love of caramel before right? Well, I'm always looking for ways to include it during my holiday baking extravaganzas.

For some reason turtles were never my go-to choice for a bite-sized dessert. They're not very popular around here and I'm not quite sure why. I think I was at least over 18 before I ever had one before and couldn't believe people weren't gobbling these up by the handfuls.

If you're looking for a quick and easy treat to whip up for the holidays, I definitely think you should go this route. It took maybe 20 minutes from start to finish and that even allowed for the chocolate to set up in the fridge.


Pretzel Turtles
Source: The Pioneer Woman
Servings: 24
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Ingredients:
    • 24 whole pretzel twists
    • 24 Kraft caramels, unwrapped
    • 24 whole pecan halves
    • 8 oz. milk chocolate
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325.
2. Place the pecan halves in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 5-6 minutes in the oven. Allow to cool on a plate.
3. Line the baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. Arrange the pretzels in an even layer on the pan and the place a caramel on top of each pretzel. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until the caramels are just softened, but not melty.
4. Quickly place a pecan half on top of each caramel, pressing it down into the pretzel.
5. Melt the chocolate and drop tablespoon sized dollops onto the silicone baking mat. Spread evenly into a circle and press the pecan/caramel/pretzel combination directly into the center. Repeat with remaining pretzels. Allow to cool completely before serving.


12 Weeks of Christmas Treats: Recipe Round Up

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I can not believe that Christmas is just next week. I had one last gift that I was waiting to arrive and I just got the shipping notification for it today. Actually, I do need to go take out some cash as a gift, but since that's like the easiest of all, I'm probably going to put that off until the last minute.

I also can't believe that a little more than four months ago, there was a post on the cooking board talking about Christmas cookies and then a link to the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, where I promptly signed up.



I'm not happy about missing two weeks of treats, but my goal is if Brenda hosts another 12 Weeks next year that I'll participate in all 12 weeks.

So, here is a round-up of the 10 weeks in which I participated. If you're still looking for some holiday goodies to make, you've definitely come to the right place and I hope you can find something you'll enjoy.



Week One - Biscoff Chocolate Chip Cookies 




Week Two - Andes Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies 



Week Three - Caramel Chocolate Pecan Cookies



Week Four - Candy Cane S'Mores



Week Five - Christmas Sangria 



Week Six - Chocolate Drizzled Baklava



Week Seven - Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge



Week Eight - Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies




Week Nine - Grinch Heart Cookies



Week Twelve - Grinch Fruit


Don't forget, you can always check out the Pinterest page as well to see what treats others have made.

Big huge thanks to Brenda of Meal Planning Magic for hosting this and I really hope I can do it again next year!

Cinnamon Crunch Braided Brioche Bread

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After weeks of muffins and oatmeal, I was getting tired of my usual breakfast routine. I wanted something different and started searching through the Pinterest recipes I had saved. I realized that I hadn't made bread in forever and that could be a perfect breakfast solution.

After making the brioche buns with chocolate centers for the Secret Recipe Club a few weeks back, I really wanted to make brioche bread again, just to make sure it was equally as delicious without a chocolate center. I found this recipe and knew it'd be perfect.

*Make sure you have enough time to make this recipe. The dough needs to be placed in the refrigerator overnight or up to 5 days after the first rise.*



Cinnamon Crunch Braided Brioche Bread
Source: Half Baked Harvest
Servings: 1 loaf
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup warm water
    • 3 tbsp. sugar
    • 3 tsp. yeast
    • 1 1/2 tsp. salt 
    • 3 cups all purpose flour
    • 3 eggs
    • 12 tbsp. butter, melted 
    Cinnamon Sugar Coating:
    • 4 tbsp. butter, melted 
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon 
    Streusel Topping:
    • 1/4 cup brown sugar
    • 1 tbsp. cold butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:
1. Combine the warm water, sugar, yeast and salt together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the eggs and melted butter and mix until combined.
2. Gradually add in the flour in small amounts until the dough forms. Grease a large bowl and transfer the dough into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for 1-2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in sized.
3. Place the dough in the refrigerator overnight or up to 5 hours. When you are ready to move onto the next step, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
4. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter and vanilla. In another small bowl, stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Grease a loaf pan and sprinkle the inside of the pan with the cinnamon sugar mixture.
5. Sprinkle the dough with flour and divide it into three equally sized pieces. Roll each piece into a 12" rope. Brush each piece of dough liberally with the melted butter then sprinkle generously with the cinnamon sugar. Roll the pieces of dough through the excess cinnamon sugar on your work surface to ensure that the pieces are completely coated.
6. Line up the three rolls of dough next to each other and pinch the dough together at the tops to form one piece. Fold over the pieces, alternating sides to form a bread of the dough rolls. Pinch the end of the dough together to seal.
7. Carefully lift the braid and transfer it to the prepared loaf pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for another 1-2 hours or until the loaf has doubled in size.
8. Preheat the oven to 350.
9. In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon, then use your fingers or a pastry cutter to cut in the small pieces of butter to form a the streusel. Sprinkle the streusel on top of the bread and then bake for 50 minutes, tenting with foil after 20 minutes so the bread doesn't get too dark.
10. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer to a plate to slice.



My streusel didn't want to stay on the bread and ended up somewhere in the middle of it during the baking process, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. I don't think you can ever have too much cinnamon sugar on a slice of bread and this was just absolutely wonderful. Tom really liked to toast a thick slice of it then spread some butter on top. I could eat this every day for probably a month before I got tired of it. 

Cardamom-Blackberry Linzer Cookies

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I was thrilled when I saw this recipe in the November edition of Taste of Home magazine. After last month's Improv Challenge and using cardamom for the first time, I was so excited to find another recipe where I could use it again.

The original recipe says to use from 2 to 3 teaspoons of cardamom and I went almost for the full amount, using 2 1/2 teaspoons to make sure that these cookies definitely had the cardamom flavor. Even before I baked these into cookies, the smell of the dough was just absolutely wonderful with the strong cardamom flavor coming through.



Cardamom-Blackberry Linzer Cookies
Servings: Taste of Home Magazine, November 2013
Servings: 24 cookies
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup salted, roasted almonds
    • 2 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 cup seedless blackberry spreadable fruit
    • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
    • 3 tbsp. powdered sugar
Directions:
1. Combine 1/2 cup flour and the almonds in a food processor and pulse until almonds are finely ground.
2. Add remaining flour, cardamom and salt and pulse until fully combined.
3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, or with an electric mixer, cream butter and 1/2 cup of sugar until light and fluffy, then add the egg.
4. Slowly add in the flour mixture until fully combined. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until firm enough to roll out.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Roll out each piece of dough onto a lightly floured surface to 1/8" thickness. Use a 2-inch round cookie cutter to cut out cookies. Then use a 1-inch round cookie cutter and cut out the centers of half the cookies. Discard the centers, or roll out and make additional cookies.
7. Place the cut out cookies 1-inch apart on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden. Allow to cool slightly.
8. Meanwhile, combine blackberry spread and lemon juice in a small bowl.
9. Spread the blackberry mixture on the solid cookies. Sprinkle the window cookies with powdered sugar, then press each on top of a solid cookie.




Christmas Recipe Round Up: Savory

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Are you still deciding what to make or bring to a Christmas party? I've rounded up some of my favorite savory recipes to share with you today. Hopefully you'll be able to find something that you like.

Come back on Wednesday to see my round up of recipes from the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats, and on Friday I'll share my round up of Sweet recipes with you.



~{Appetizers}~
warm bacon cheese spread
cheesy-bacon mushroom bread
5 layer hummus dip
shrimp bruschetta
prosciutto pear cups
caramelized onion dip
mac and cheese bites
soft pretzel bites
Nichole's famous crab dip 

~{Main Dishes}~
sangria ham
bacon wrapped pork tenderloin with cherry sauce
pork tenderloin with cranberry sauce
gingered cranberry pork
pumpkin bisque with smoked gouda
bacon lover's mac and cheese
beef bourguinon
individual beef wellingtons
herbed roast beef
green gobbler lasagna
spinach lasagna roll ups 
spinach and cheese stuffed shells
cranberry ricotta gnocchi 

~{Side Dishes}~
parmesan roasted fingerling potatoes
blue cheese and roasted apple mashed potatoes
oven roasted red potatoes
roasted jalapeno mashed potatoes
mushroom risotto
roasted vegetables
green bean bundles
creamed spinach 
glazed carrots
roasted brussels sprouts
confetti corn 
prosciutto wrapped asparagus 

~{Bread}~
icebox butterhorns
buttery soft dinner rolls
honey yeast rolls 
pretzel rolls 

~{Drinks}~
cranberry sangria
creamsicle martinis
limoncello
Nichole's party punch
white wine sangria

I really need to work on more side dishes and main dishes that you can serve on the holidays. Drinks, too! Maybe that will be my blogging-related new years resolution. What do you think? Any particular type of recipe you're looking for in the new year? 

Weekly Menu 12/15 - 12/19 and Christmas 1 Menu

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10 days until Christmas. Holy crap. I'm ready for the holidays in the sense that I have all of the presents wrapped, the apartment is decorated and I've done a ton of baking (as you can tell from the fact that there are Saturday food posts) but I still don't feel like I'm actually ready for it. My Christmas spirit is kind of low and I find myself opting not to listen to holiday music. Movies are okay, but music, I'm just "meh" on.

If I never said (typed?) anything here, I'm sure no one would have any idea. I have so many holiday goodies planned that there are going to be double posts this week. Two posts in one day just so I can get as many recipes and ideas out to you as possible. That's only incredibly crazy, right?

If you're curious about the title, I figure it's about a good time to explain that today I am hosting Christmas dinner for Tom's family. Since not everyone can attend, we opted to go a bit fancier on the menu than we could typically afford for my usual 10+ crowd. I'll share that menu you with you first, followed by what we're going to have this week and an amusing story about good deeds.

Christmas 1 Menu 
appetizers - parmesan tomato tarts, cheese tray, prosciutto wrapped melon 
main & sides - beef tenderloin, mushroom risotto, roasted asparagus and green beans, butternut squash and poblano gratin 
dessert - creme brulee or Christmas vanilla roll cake 
 Tom's dad is also making pineapple fluff which if I could describe it to you, I would, but I've only had it once. The dessert is still up in the air (as I'm typing this the day before) because I'm not sure if my cake rolling skills are up to par and I don't know whether we can actually get the butane into the torch for the creme brulee. If all else fails, we're having fluff and cookies.

The menu for this week is nothing but comfort food. I'm not really sure why, it just all kind of came together that way.

Sunday - Christmas 1 Dinner

Monday - Chicken Noodle Soup 

Tuesday - Chili 

Wednesday - Chicken Pot Pie

Thursday - leftovers 

And now for the story about good deeds...so last weekend I logged into my Bank of America account to transfer some money and I instantly panicked. It looked like someone had stolen my credit card and racked up a ton of debt, before I realized this strange amount was actually in the savings account.

Further exploration showed that Bank of America had deposited almost $21,000 into my account. Of course, my initial hope was that there was a millionaire out there who picked random accounts to give money to for Christmas. Hey, they have that tips for Jesus thing where servers are getting thousand+ dollar tips. It wasn't that far-fetched of a thought.

Unfortunately I was able to view the deposit ticket and found an out-of-state deposit was made to a contracting company and they just made a mistake on the deposit ticket. It was my account number, but since I'm not that contracting company, I wasn't almost $21,000 richer.

Monday morning I called the bank and got it all straightened out and the operator said she really appreciated my honesty since it was such a large sum of money and near the holidays. I looked up the company and left them a voicemail saying "Your Saturday deposit was accidentally put into my account. I've called the bank and straightened it out and you should have your money by Wednesday. Happy holidays!"

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were spent receiving notifications from BoA that my savings account was overdrawn. See, the full amount hadn't cleared but they took it all out anyway, leaving me a huge negative balance. Friday this all resolved itself and luckily they didn't charge me any overdraft fees. Then Friday I got a letter in the mail from BoA saying THEY found the error and would remove the money right away.

To be honest, I am a little miffed that BoA is trying to take the credit for this. Anyway, I just hope Karma was out there paying attention. ;-)

Caramel Grapes

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I am a big fan of caramel apples, but I can't bite directly into them and can only eat them with the assistance of a sharp knife. I think that takes away a bit of the fun of eating a caramel apple, so when I saw these grapes I figured there are probably tons of other people out there like me who would like to enjoy something caramel coated that didn't require biting directly into it.

And what's better than a bite-sized treat like a grape? I opted to not go the sweet and salty route of the original recipe, coating the grapes with caramel and crushed cashews and instead I kept the entire bite sized treat sweet by dipping it in crushed graham crackers.



Caramel Grapes
Source: Very Culinary
Servings: 20
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Ingredients:
    • 20 round green, seedless grapes
    • 1/2 cup caramel bits
    • 1 tbsp. heavy cream
    • 3 graham crackers, crushed
    • 20 toothpicks 
Directions:
1. Poke toothpicks into each grape.
2. In a small bowl, combine caramel bits and heavy cream and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring each time until melted and smooth.
3. Quickly dip each grape into the caramel, swirling to coat the bottom, then dip into the crushed graham crackers, making sure to coat the caramel area.
4. Repeat with remaining grapes.



Bite sized treats are some of my favorite things to serve to guests who drop in during the holidays. With just a few minutes needed to make these, you could easily whip them together if you had any unexpected guests, or even as quick make-ahead appetizer for a holiday party or even your Christmas day or holiday celebration. 

Recipe Swap: Sriracha Beef Tacos

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It's time for another Blogger's Choice recipe swap! As much as I like being assigned ingredients or a specific dish, I think I like the Blogger's choice version just as much because then I have free reign to choose what I'd like to make based off what I have in the fridge, what Tom tells me he wants me to make, etc.

I immediately knew I wanted to do something with beef since we had a bunch of it in the freezer. I had a hard time narrowing it down between a few recipes but then I saw this recipe for the Sriracha Beef Tacos and I knew I absolutely had to make them.

We are a Sriracha loving household and I am sad to say it has been quite some time since I've actually made a recipe using it. If I ever ask Tom what he wants for dinner, his standard response is tacos so I figured this was probably the best thing I could ever make.



Sriracha Beef Tacos
Source: Cheesecurd in Paradise
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1/2 cup ranch dressing
    • 4 tbsp. Sriracha sauce, divided 
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil 
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef or sirloin
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 2 tbsp. chili powder
    • 1 tbsp. cumin
    • 8-10 hard or soft taco shells
    • Toppings: shredded lettuce, diced tomato, shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, cilantro, etc. 
Directions:
1. Combine the ranch dressing and 2 tablespoons of Sriracha sauce together in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes or until softened. Add the ground beef/sirloin to the skillet and cook until browned. Drain any grease.
3. Add the water, chili powder, cumin and remaining 2 tablespoons of Sriracha. Stir to coat the meat, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Warm the taco shells (if necessary) and assemble with your desired toppings. Divide the taco meat between the shells.


A Sriracha ranch mixture will definitely make an appearance on my tacos in the future. Tom wasn't interest in trying it because he prefers taco sauce and only taco sauce, but all I can say to that is more of it for me!



Hot Chocolate Cookies

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Hot chocolate with marshmallows is one of my favorite things to drink on a cold and blustery winter day. I especially like drinking it when the snow is falling and I got two chances to do so this week. On Sunday we received almost 4 inches of snow and then right as all of that got cleared another 2 inches came down on Tuesday morning.

This does not bode well for me and my hatred of winter and all things white that fall from the sky. However, I'm pretending that it is the only snowfall we're going to get for this winter to get through it. And along with a steaming mug of hot chocolate dotted with marshmallows and some of these cookies sure helps me not think about it.


Hot Chocolate Cookies
Source: Macaroni and Cheesecake 
Servings: 4 dozen
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Ingredients:
    • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3 (1 oz.) hot chocolate mix packets
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • 1 tsp. salt 
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
    • 1/2 cup shortening
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 3/4 cup brown sugar
    • 2 eggs 
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 10 oz. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 2/3 cup mini marshmallows, halved
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, hot chocolate mix, baking soda and salt together.
3. With an electric mixer or in the bowl of your stand mixer, beat butter, shortening, sugar and brown sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy.
4. Reduce the speed and add in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Then slowly add in the flour mixture until fully combined.
5. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the chocolate chips and marshmallows.
6. Drop tablespoon-sized balls of dough on the prepared baking sheets, approximately 2 hours apart. Bake for 10 minutes, then allow to cool slightly on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to continue cooling completely.



I did have an issue with some of these cookies not turning out very pretty because of the marshmallows melting. In the original recipe, she uses marshmallow bits, which appear to be crunchier than your typically marshmallow and probably doesn't melt as easy. I didn't realize this until I had already started the recipe and since Amazon has started shipping via drone yet, I had to make do with that I had available.


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