Most Popular Recipes of 2015

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Happy New Year's Eve!

What are your plans for tonight? I'm working until 4:30 today and then coming home. We're staying in for the night, letting everyone else deal with drunk people, traffic and expensive drinks. I offered to make an assortment of appetizers or a fancier meal like steak and scallops, but Tom decided that he wanted to have grilled cheese and tomato soup. It doesn't get much easier than that!

Looking back on this year and comparing it to others, I think it's turned out as one of the better ones. I'm hoping 2016 will be at least as good, if not better. Keeping with tradition, I wanted to use today to share the best recipes of 2015 with you.

But first, you can go back in time and see what the most popular recipes were for previous years:




January:

February:

March:

April:

May:

June:

July: 

August:

September:

October:

November:

December:

There were a few recipes this year that I absolutely loved and made more than a few times that didn't make the Most Popular Recipes cut, so I decided to include them as my 



5 Favorite Recipes of 2015:



Wishing you health, happiness and tons of good food for the 2016 year! 

Apple Cinnamon Rolls

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My coworkers are huge fans of cinnamon rolls. After bringing them in once, they've asked me to make as many varieties and versions as I can come up with and to please bring them in on Monday mornings.

Not one to disappoint, I looked through some saved recipes I had but didn't find anything that really appealed to me. Then I took note of the excess of apples sitting on the counter and wondered if I could saute them up and put them inside a cinnamon roll along with the typical cinnamon + sugar filling.


Apple Cinnamon Rolls
Adapted from: Crazy for Crust
Servings: 12 rolls
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Ingredients:
    for the rolls:
    • 1 cup warm water
    • 2 tbsp. sugar
    • 2 tbsp. active dry yeast
    • 1 tsp. salt 
    • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter, very soft
    • 3 cups all purpose flour 
    for the apples:
    • 2 medium apples, peeled, cored and small diced
    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 5 tbsp. brown sugar
    • 2 tbsp. cinnamon
    for the glaze:
    • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
    • 3 tbsp. cream cheese, very soft
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. maple syrup
    • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla 
    • 2 - 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar 
Directions:
1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine water, sugar and yeast and allow to stand for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cut 2 rounds of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of 2 8-inch round cake pans. Spray the parchment and sides of the pans with non-stick cooking spray.
3. In a medium bowl, toss together the apples with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add the butter. Cook over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes or until the apples have softened. Allow to cool slightly.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
5. Add the salt and butter to your stand mixer bowl and mix until combined. Switch to the dough hook and add in the flour, a little bit at a time until a soft dough forms. If needed, add more flour by the tablespoon until it pulls away from the bowl and is tacky but not sticky to the touch.
6. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into two evenly sized pieces. Roll each piece out into a rectangle, approximately 9x11. Leaving a 1/2 inch border, spread half of the apple mixture down each piece of dough lengthwise. Tightly roll up each rectangle lengthwise. Cut each roll into 6 evenly sized rounds with a serrated knife.
7. Arrange each set of 6 dough slices into the prepared cake pans. Let rest for 5 minutes.
8. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the tops are golden.
9. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze. Combine butter and cream cheese together in the bowl of a stand mixer, then add in the maple syrup and vanilla. Add in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until it reaches a thick glaze. If the mixture is too thick, thin it out with milk 1 tablespoon at a time.
10. Transfer the glaze to a pastry bag and drizzle over the hot cinnamon buns or spread over the buns with a spatula. Serve warm.


Diced apples in cinnamon rolls is something you need to experience in your life. I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner. I went light on the apple filling, worried that by putting too much in the rolls they would fall apart, but they didn't. You could probably add in another half of a medium sized apple if you were really wanting the apple to stand out even more. 

Amaretto Almond Loaf Cake

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Back in September I tried my hand at making my own Amaretto. It turned out great but then I needed to figure out what to do with it because I knew we wouldn't end up drinking it all.

I came across this recipe in a Taste of Home magazine and knew right away that I had to make it. As I've mentioned before, my coworkers don't bat an eye at alcohol-infused desserts so I brought this into work for breakfast one morning.


Amaretto Almond Loaf Cake
Source: Taste of Home
Servings: 4 mini loaves
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Ingredients:
for the cake:
    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 3 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 3/4 cup almonds, sliced
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1/2 cup Amaretto
    • 1/2 cup water 
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    • 1/4 cup butter, melted 
for the glaze:
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
    • 1/4 cup Amaretto
*Special Equipment: Four 5x3x2 mini loaf pans 

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray each of the mini loaf pans with floured baking spray or butter them then dust with flour.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, amaretto, water, applesauce and melted butter until well combined.
3. Gently stir the dry ingredients into the wet until combined, then add in the almonds.
4. Divide the batter into the prepared mini loaf pans, tapping each on the counter to allow the batter to settle. For easier removal from the oven, place the mini loaf pans on a baking sheet.
5. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by combining the water, sugar and butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes then remove from the heat and stir in the amaretto.
7. Remove the cakes from the oven and place on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer the glaze to a measuring cup or other dish with a pour spout and pour the glaze over the cakes.
8. Let stand for 30 minutes. At this time the cakes should be mostly cooled. Cover with foil and refrigerate until ready to serve.



These little slices of cake were devoured in less than an hour. The cakes are moist and the amaretto flavor comes through perfectly. These would be delicious for breakfast with a cup of coffee. 

Eggnog Cupcakes

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It's the last week of December! This year went by rather quickly, don't you think? On Thursday I'm sharing the Most Popular recipes of 2015 along with some of my favorites that didn't make the list. Make sure you come back and check it out!

I think eggnog is either one of those things you love or hate. I fall into the love camp, but it took me a little while to get there. First, it took years to get over the name. Egg + nog which for some reason my brain linked with an episode of Dougie Howser (am I showing my age?) where he drank a smoothie with raw eggs in it.

I clearly remember the first time I had eggnog. The company I was working for was having a Christmas party at their home and the owner's wife made eggnog and offered me a glass. I was hesitant but she told me it was worth trying just a sip, so I complied and found the rich, creamy drink was actually quite delicious.

It doesn't really matter to me if the eggnog is spiked or not. I'm completely content to drink the premade stuff you can buy at the stores during this time of the year without adding in any rum or other choice of alcohol. Now, this cupcake recipe didn't originally call for any rum but I couldn't pass up adding in a splash or two.


Eggnog Cupcakes
Slightly Adapted from: Le Creme de la Crumb
Servings: 14 cupcakes
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Ingredients:
for the cupcakes:
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup eggnog
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. rum (I used Barcardi Gold)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla 
for the frosting:
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. rum
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp. eggnog
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter for 2-3 minutes or until creamy. Add in the eggnog, rum, and vanilla until combined, then add in the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and beat on low speed until just combined.
5. Divide the batter between the cupcake pans, filling each about 3/4 of the way full. Tap the pans on the counter to settle the batter. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
7. Meanwhile, combine cream cheese and butter in the bowl of the stand mixer and beat together on medium speed until smooth. Add in the rum, cinnamon and nutmeg until combined.
8. Add in the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until fully combined, then add in the eggnog 1 tablespoon at a time until it reaches the desired consistency.
9. Transfer frosting to a piping bag and pipe onto cooled cupcakes or spread onto cupcakes with an offset spatula.



If you are a fan of eggnog or even just of rum and nutmeg I guarantee these cupcakes will be right up your alley. They're perfectly sweetened and have just enough eggnog flavor that comes through so nicely. 

Mashed Potatoes for a Crowd

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I host Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas and it's pretty much a given that we have mashed potatoes on all three of those holidays. I've tried different takes on potatoes, roasting them and twice baking them, but we always seem to come back to the good-old standard of mashed potatoes.

Making homemade mashed potatoes for a lot of people can be time consuming. You need to rinse and peel the potatoes, slice them and then boil them in salted water. Then they need to be drained and mashed together with copious amounts of butter and milk before you can serve them. Then there's that pesky little issue of keeping them warm while you're preparing everything else.



It's taken me five years, but I have finally, finally mastered the perfect mashed potatoes for a crowd that requires the least amount of work on your part. It does require a slow cooker and a stand mixer (or hand mixer) but I promise it's worth the extra gadgets.



Mashed Potatoes for a Crowd
Source: Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 15+
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Ingredients:
    • 8 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes
    • 2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 cup milk, divided
    • 6 tablespoons butter, divided  
    • 1 tsp. each salt and pepper, divided
Directions:
1. Rinse potatoes and slice into 1-inch pieces. Put potato pieces into a large stock pot and add water until the potatoes are fully covered.
2. Add salt and bring to a boil. Boil for 25-35 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender. Drain the boiling liquid.
3. Meanwhile, add 1/4 cup milk and 2 tablespoons of butter (sliced into thin pats), 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment affixed. Line a 6 quart or larger slow cooker with a liner or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
4. Transfer half of the potatoes into the bowl of your stand mixer and mix on low speed until no lumps remain. Then transfer to your prepared slow cooker. Slice 1 tablespoon of butter into 3 pats and place on top of the potatoes.
5. Put the second half of the potatoes into the stand mixer with the remaining 1/4 cup of milk. Add 2 more tablespoons of butter sliced into thin pats along with the remaining salt and pepper and mix on low speed until no lumps remain. Transfer the potatoes to the slow cooker.
6. Slice the last tablespoon of butter into 3 thin pats and place on top of the potatoes. Turn the slow cooker onto the Keep Warm setting. Stir before serving.

*Notes:
1. Yukon Gold potatoes have a thin, buttery skin. You can save time by not peeling them. But, if you're family only prefers peeled mashed potatoes, go right ahead. You don't need to make any other changes to the recipe.
2. Potatoes will not discolor if covered entirely with water. You can peel and salt them the night before and boil in the morning.
3. Any type of milk can be used (skim, 1%, 2%, whole) as well as cream or half-and-half.
3. To save even more time, potatoes can be boiled and mashed the night before. Let cool for an hour before refrigerating. To reheat, place in the slow cooker  on low for 2-4 hours or until warmed through.
4. Mashed potatoes will thicken and dry slightly overnight while refrigerated so they may look thick the next day. Remember that the condensation from the slow cooker will help to thin them out. If that is not enough, 30-60 minutes before serving, add your choice of liquid (milk, cream, chicken stock) by the tablespoon until you reach your desired consistency. You shouldn't need more than 1/4 cup total.




Vegetable Christmas Tree

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There are a ton of crafty recipes that come out around the holidays. Vegetables, fruits and cheeses are usually the dishes that get turned into something fun for the holidays; like a turkey made from a cheese ball or fruit arranged on a tray to make the shape of a rabbit.

A bit late, but I decided to get in on the tradition and transformed a bunch of vegetables and a styrofoam cone into a Christmas tree for the holiday party I had the other week. I enjoyed making this so much I decided to make a smaller version on Christmas (in hopes it will actually get eaten) and also a gumdrop one because I have a ton of leftover gumdrops from some recipe.



Don't think that you need to be extra crafty to pull something like this off. Aside from the vegetables, you'll need the following:

8x3 styrofoam cone
toothpicks
sharp scissors/kitchen shears
a tray
small star cookie cutter, optional 
about an hour of your time
moderate amount of patience 




Other recipes call for hot gluing the cone to a tray to make sure that it stays put while you're decorating it with veggies, but I don't own a hot glue gun and was not about to buy one for one craft. Mainly because it would lead me to believe that I'm crafty and I'm definitely not.



Vegetable Christmas Tree
Source: Various Pinterest images
Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients:
    • 2-3 packages of broccoli*
    • 1 yellow pepper
    • 1 red pepper
    • 12-15 baby carrots
    • 12-15 cherry tomatoes 
    • veggie dip 
Directions:
1. Cut the broccoli into florets making sure to leave enough of a stem to stick the toothpick in.
2. Spear each floret of broccoli with a toothpick and starting with the larger pieces being sticking them into the bottom of the cone, working your way around in a circle. Don't worry if there are gaps.
3. When you get 3/4 of the way up the cone you'll need to start cutting your toothpicks in half so they don't poke through the other side of the cone and the vegetable.
4. Slice the red bell pepper into thin strips. Free cut or use a cookie cutter to cut a star out of the yellow bell pepper.
5. Wrap the bell pepper slices in between the pieces of broccoli. Use the toothpicks to skewer the tomatoes in between the broccoli pieces. Wedge the carrots in any other gaps. You won't need a toothpick for those. Stick the star yellow pepper on the top of the tree.
6. Serve with dip and additional veggies.

Notes:
*Each package of broccoli I bought was a large head and a smaller one. I used 2 1/2 packages, but this will depend on how you cut the florets.
**If you aren't gluing the cone to the tray, spin the tray around instead of the cone as you are building the vegetable layers up.
***This can be made a few hours in advance if you loosely wrap the finished tree in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.



No one wanted to eat the tree. They kept saying it was too cute. So fair warning, you might make this tree and find that no one wants to eat it because they think it's too pretty to eat. Encourage your guests to do otherwise!

What's Baking: Snickerdoodle Biscotti

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The What's Baking theme for this month was biscotti. I first made biscotti a few years ago as part of a Secret Recipe Club reveal and found I really loved those hard little cookies perfect for dipping into coffee, hot chocolate or tea.

Honestly, I could probably make a different biscotti recipe once a month if I had enough people to share it with. (My coworkers aren't big fans. Their loss!)

Since the holidays are quickly approaching it only seemed fitting to make a holiday flavored biscotti for What's Baking. I have more than a few saved and the peppermint one almost won out until I realized I'd been flooding my guinea pigs coworkers with peppermint flavored goodies recently. And there's also the little issue that for some reason I'm unable to bake a snickerdoodle cookie so these biscotti would just have to curb that cinnamon sugar craving.



Snickerdoodle Biscotti
Source: Brown Eyed Baker
Servings: 24 cookies
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Ingredients:
    • for the biscotti:
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 tsp. vanilla
    • 2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • for the topping:
    • 1 egg white
    • 1 tsp. water
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Then add in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla.
3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt.
4. Slowly add the flour mixture into the stand mixer and mix until combine. The mixture will be thick.
5. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Shape each half into a log, approximately 4 inches wide and 10 inches long. Place each log onto the prepared baking sheet.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white and water. Brush over each log evenly. In another small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over each log.
7. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then slice each log diagonally into 1/2 inch slices.
8. Place each slice cut side up on the parchment paper and bake for 15 minutes. Flip each slice over and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until crisp.
9. Cool completely on a wire rack and then transfer to an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


Improv Challenge: Slow Cooker Wassail

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A local winery has tasting every Sunday afternoon and last year two friends and I went a few times to try out their different wines. During one of the visits, we tasted wassail which was explained to us as a spiced red wine. The second we tasted it, everyone said it tasted just like Christmas.

Last weekend I had a holiday party and both of those friends were in attendance. When I was creating the menu, I wanted to find a few drink recipes that I could have made up for everyone to enjoy. I was browsing around on the internet and found a few recipes for wassail. But finding one that used wine was not an easy task so I ended up just creating my own recipe after reading a bunch of others. 

While not the main ingredients, the cranberry and orange juice meant I could use this recipe for the Improv Challenge this month, seeing as orange and cranberry were the chosen ingredients. I actually found a ton of recipes I want to make using these ingredients, but this one ended up fitting in the time frame perfectly.



Slow Cooker Wassail
Cookaholic Wife Creation 
Servings: 8 cups 

Ingredients:
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 cinnamon sticks
    • 1 tsp. whole cloves
    • 1 lemon, sliced
    • 750 ml bottle dry red wine
    • 2 cups cranberry juice
    • 2 cups orange juice 
Directions:
1. Add the water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves and 4 slices of lemon to a saucepan over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has dissolved. Discard the cloves. 
2. Pour red wine, cranberry juice and orange juice into a 4 quart (or larger) slow cooker. Stir in the water mixture. 
3. Cook on high for 1 hour, then discard the cinnamon sticks and reduce to the Keep Warm setting. Serve in glasses with remaining lemon slices as garnish.



This is not as red as it should be. Mainly because the bottle of red wine that had been collecting dust on the shelf was actually a bottle of blush wine. And it was too late to make a run to the liquor store for anything else. I was worried it would make this too sweet, but it didn't. 


Vanilla Peppermint Fudge

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One of my favorite things about the holiday season is all things peppermint. I absolutely love the flavor and could very likely subsist on candy canes and other peppermint treats for the duration of the holidays.

How can you go wrong with peppermint + fudge + chocolate? You really can't. 



Vanilla Peppermint Fudge 
Slightly Adapted from: A Night Owl
Servings: 4 dozen + squares

Ingredients:
for the crust:
    • 1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs*
    • 3 tbsp. butter, melted 
for the fudge:
    • 3 cups white chocolate chips
    • 2 tbsp. butter
    • 14.5 oz. sweetened condensed milk
    • 3.5 oz. box vanilla instant pudding
    • 7 oz. marshmallow creme
    • 3/4 tsp. peppermint extract
for the topping:
    • 3 candy canes, crushed
    • holiday colored sprinkles

Directions:
1. Line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper. 
2. Scrape off the filling of approximately 14 Oreo cookies. Place the cookies into a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Measure the cookie crumbs to be 1 cup then transfer to a medium bowl. Pour the melted butter on top and stir until crumbs are moist. 
3. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Use a flat bottomed glass to press firmly. Freeze for 10 minutes. 
4. In a large saucepan, combine the white chocolate chips, butter and sweetened condensed milk. Heat over medium and stir constantly until melted and smooth. Stir in the pudding mix and then the marshmallow creme. When fully combined, stir in the peppermint extract. 
5. Remove from the heat and immediately pour on top of the cookie crumbles. Garnish with the crushed candy canes and sprinkles, pressing down gently to ensure they adhere to the fudge. 
6. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours but up to overnight. Lift the fudge from the pan using the edges of the parchment paper. Use a sharp knife to cut 7 rows, then rotate the fudge and repeat, making 49 squares.



Delicious! The original recipe calls for double the amount of cookie bottom but most of mine fell off. I don't think the cookie to butter ratio was correct so I reduced it to make a thinner bottom that should adhere better. Peppermint extract is really strong so if you aren't a fan, you may want to reduce down to 1/2 tsp. of extract. The original recipe called for a full teaspoon and I opted to just slightly reduce that. The peppermint flavor comes through really well in the fudge. If you're able to find it, you could also use white chocolate pudding mix. 

Stuffing in a Bundt Pan

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When I saw this recipe on Pinterest, I absolutely knew that I had to make it. I received a bundt pan for Christmas a few years back and the poor thing hasn't gotten very much use. I've made a point to do more with it lately, but I still feel like it's one of the most underused things in my kitchen.

In general, stuffing or dressing is kind of boring look. You basically mix together bread and some veggies along with chicken stock and seasoning and bake it in a regular 9x13 baking dish. Nothing fancy there. But stuffing in a bundt pan? Now that could be fancy.



Stuffing in a Bundt Pan
Source: Kim's Healthy Eats
Servings: 16-20
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Ingredients:
    • 1 loaf of french bread
    • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
    • 2 tbsp. butter
    • 1 large white onion, minced
    • 3 celery stalks, minced
    • 10 fresh sage leaves, chopped
    • 2/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
    • 4 eggs, beaten
    • 3 cups chicken broth
    • salt and pepper to taste 
    • optional: fresh rosemary, parsley and pomegranate seeds for garnish
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Tear apart the french bread or cut into cubes and place on a large baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until just lightly toasted.
2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until softened. Then add in the sage and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Transfer toasted bread to a large bowl. Add celery and onion mixture and stir to combine. Add eggs and chicken stock, mixing until bread is moistened. Add more stock if the bread appears too dry.
4. Spray a bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray. Transfer the stuffing mixture into the bundt pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before running a spatula around the edges and inverting the pan over a serving dish. Decorate if desired.

Note: To make in advance, allow the cooked stuffing to cool completely before wrapping tightly with plastic wrap, then foil. Place on a baking sheet and freeze for up to 1 week. To thaw: allow to thaw in the fridge. Warm in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes with plastic/foil removed.


Isn't it so pretty? This will definitely become my go-to for all future Thanksgiving stuffing making! Also, you can use any stuffing recipe that you want, but you'll need to add beaten eggs to it (at least 2) or it will get too dried out.



SRC: Monte Cristo Roll Ups

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I was assigned to Cheesecurd in Paradise for December's Secret Recipe Club reveal. Cheesecurd in Paradise is written by Ashley who lives in Wisconsin. I've actually "known" Ashley for a while now, we're on the same cooking board together.

I always love the recipes she shares there so I knew it wouldn't be a problem to find something to make for the reveal. The problem ended up being there were too many recipes I wanted to make! Seriously, check out her recipe index and tell me you're not hungry for at least half of those!

I finally decided I would make one of Ashley's appetizer recipes for a party I recently had because I had all of the ingredients in the fridge and was looking for one more filling recipe. I also made her Spinach and Radish dip but didn't end up getting that photographed before it was devoured. So I'll just make it again. I was running behind the day of the party and didn't end up pulling these Monte Cristo sandwiches out of the oven until everyone was already hovering around the food, so apologies for the less than stellar pic!

If you're not familiar, Monte Cristo sandwiches are basically a fried ham and cheese sandwich. I love that Ashley made less messy and a better finger food choice by switching out the bread for crescent rolls.



Monte Cristo Roll Ups 
Source: Cheesecurd in Paradise
Servings: 16
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Ingredients:
    • 2 tubes crescent rolls
    • 8 oz. spreadable brie cheese 
    • 1 lb. thinly sliced ham 
    • strawberry preserves
    • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
    • 2 tbsp. mayo 
    • 1 tsp. honey 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Unroll each triangle of crescent dough and spread a thin layer of the brie cheese. Add a teaspoon (or smaller) sized dollop of strawberry preserves on top of the cheese and spread. Roll up a slice of ham and cut in half, placing each pieces on the wider end of the triangle.
3. Roll up the crescent and place seam-side down. Repeat with remaining crescent dough pieces.
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
5. Meanwhile, in a small dish whisk together the Dijon mustard, mayo and honey until combined.
6. Allow the crescents to cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Optional: slice each crescent in half before serving



I only made two slight adjustments to this recipe. Ashley used two pieces of the dough (a rectangle) for each of hers and I used each triangle. Mainly this is because I didn't fully read the recipe before making it (how many of you are guilty of that?) and wanted 16 pieces so I improvised. The other slight change I made was not to dust the finished roll ups with powdered sugar.

I wasn't sure how my friends would take the combination of brie, ham and strawberry preserves but it went over really well! I was hoping to have one or two leftover to be able to photograph better, but these were gone in maybe 30 minutes.




Rosemary Roasted Nuts

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Starting on October 31st and sailing right on through to the last day of the year, we tend to change the way we eat and not necessarily for the better. It starts off with a piece or two of leftover Halloween candy from your kids or the trick or treaters that didn't show up. Or maybe your coworkers brought in a bowl and sat it next to the Keurig or the water cooler, just sitting there tempting you.

Then before you know it, Thanksgiving is here and your plate is overflowing with more side dishes than you typically consume in a week. And you're stuffed and the triptophan in the turkey is beginning to work its magic but then someone brings out pie. You're full, but it's the holidays and really, with all you just ate, is one slice of pie really going to make a difference?

Just when you're about to cry if you need to eat another re-purposed turkey dish to get rid of the leftovers, the holiday parties start. Deviled eggs, cheese balls, decadent dips. Beer, wine and mixed drinks. Mashed potatoes made with enough butter to make Paula Deen proud. You visit the vegetable tray, telling yourself that eating carrots and celery sticks between bites of bacon cheese dip or twiced baked loaded potato skins is evening it all out. And then there's the cookies. And fudge. And cakes. Candy canes and other sugar-spun confections.

We've all been there. It's no surprise that it's difficult to eat healthy around the holidays. So what's a hungry party-goer to do? You could eat something small before the party, but where is the fun in that?

You can also ask to bring a dish and chose something on the healthier side. Like these rosemary roasted nuts. Or any of the other recipes on the Healthy Snacks page of Nuts.com. (The Cranberry Almond Flour Cookies  and the Vegan Chocolate Truffles are catching my eye with the holiday season!) Nuts are such an easy appetizer to put out but because they require little to no prep work, I tend to forget about them.



Rosemary Roasted Nuts
Inspired by: Ina Garten
Servings: 12 ounces
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Ingredients:
    • 12 oz. can unsalted nuts of your choice (I went for a mix)
    • 3 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
    • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
    • 1 tsp. paprika (smoked if you can find it)
    • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
    • 1/4 tsp. worchestershire sauce
    • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt (do not include if you can't find unsalted nuts)
    • 1 egg, whisked
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the rosemary, brown sugar, paprika, cayenne, Worchestershire, pepper and salt. Add the nuts then pour the whisked egg on top. Toss to coat, ensuring that every nut is coated.
3. Spread out in an even layer on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, flipping over once. Allow to cool before breaking up any clusters and serving.



I put these out for Thanksgiving and I'm also planning to put another batch out for a party I'm having this weekend.


#handcraftededibles: Iced Gingerbread Biscotti

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Gingerbread and biscotti were two things I never really had growing up. The more common cookies, like chocolate chip, sugar and oatmeal raisin replaced the option for gingerbread and soft, round cookies took over for the hard, elongated ovals of biscotti. (Also, my parents didn't really drink coffee or tea, so the need for biscotti was slim)

Fortunately, I found that I like both gingerbread and biscotti and was thrilled when I found a recipe combining the two. Although it takes on the longer side, this recipe comes together easily and most of the time it takes is during the baking process.

I chose this recipe for this week's Hand Crafted Edibles because as a harder cookie, biscotti holds up well to packaging and shipping for a gift. It also freezes nicely if you wanted to make it in advance for someone.



Iced Gingerbread Biscotti
Slight Adapted from: Cooking Light
Servings: 24+ pieces
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • for the biscotti:
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour + 3 tbsp. 
    • 1 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 cup cake flour
    • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1 tsp. ground ginger
    • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
    • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp. salt 
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 2 tbsp. molasses 
    • 2 tsp. vanilla
    • 3 eggs, divided 
    • for the glaze:
    • 2/3 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 tbsp. milk (or cream, or half-and-half)
    • 1/4 tsp. vanilla 
Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, baking powder and salt.
3. In the bowl of a mixer, beat together the sugar, molasses, vanilla and 2 eggs together on medium-high speed for 6 minutes or until the mixture falls as ribbons from the beater.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix together on low speed until just combined. Flour your hands and divide dough in half. Shape each half of dough into a 8x4 loaf on the prepared baking sheet.
5. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg and then brush over the dough.
6. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the loaves from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
7. Lower the oven temperature to 275. Slice each biscotti loaf into 1/2 inch pieces and lay each piece flat on the parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes then flip each over and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
8.Transfer the biscotti to a wire rack to finish cooling.
9. Meanwhile prepare the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla in a medium bowl and whisking until a glaze is formed. If the glaze is too thick, add in additional milk, a drop or two at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. If the glaze is too thin, add more powdered sugar by the tablespoon full until it reaches your desired consistency.
10. Drizzle the glaze over the biscotti and allow to set, at least 1 hour before serving or packaging.

The original recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour which I've found is pretty hard to find even at stores like Wegman's. You can omit it entirely, which will result in a denser finished good, or you can substitute in cake flour. It should be in equal parts but I didn't realize I only had 1/2 cup of cake flour left.



In an effort to make all of my holiday gifts this year, we are sharing recipes for hand-crafted edibles. Over the course of twelve weeks, we'll be sharing recipes that you can make at home to give to friends and loved ones, or things to serve at holiday parties. It's hard to believe we're at week 11. We hope you'll follow along for inspiration. You can find out more information, including the schedule: here.

This week, we are bringing you inspiration for your holiday cookie trays. Have you started with you holiday baking yet?

Thanks to these gals and their creative cookie ideas...

Next week - week 12 and our final week - is all about wrapping. How to label those jarred mixes. How to mail cookies safely. How to....

Don't forget to check out our #handcraftededibles pinterest board.

White Chocolate and Peppermint Pretzel Crisp Bark AND A Giveaway

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Pretzel Crisps are one of my favorite snacks. I first found the brand in Target around the holidays a few years ago. I couldn't decide between the Peanut Butter Crunch or the Dark Chocolate Crunch, so I ended up buying both.

And then I realized there were non-sweet varieties as well. Personally, I love the spicy ones the best, like the Chipotle Cheddar and the Sriracha and Lime. But, the Buffalo Wing flavor is the perfect accompaniment to spinach dip and the Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper goes with any sandwich you can create.

Recently I was given the opportunity by Roundeyesupply.com to review the Holiday Indulgent flavor of White Chocolate and Peppermint. I love peppermint. I impatiently wait all year until the holiday season when I can indulge myself in all things peppermint. And the best part about it? Tom hates peppermint, so anything that I make is ALL MINE to enjoy!

You can never go wrong with the combination of chocolate and peppermint as far as I'm concerned. Make it white chocolate and you have your own little taste of a winter wonderland. I'm also a huge fan of combining sweet and salty ingredients, so these Pretzel Crisps were right up my alley.

While they are perfectly delicious to enjoy on their own, you could also increase the deliciousness by turning them into a bark recipe.



White Chocolate and Peppermint Pretzel Crisp Bark
Source: Cookaholic Wife Creation
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
6 squares chocolate bark (about 3/4 pound)
4 oz. White Chocolate and Peppermint Pretzel Crisps

Directions:
1. Melt the chocolate bark in a microwave safe bowl until smooth. Pour into an 8x8 baking dish lined with parchment paper. Spread into a thin layer.
2. Press the White Chocolate and Peppermint Pretzel Crisps into the melted chocolate. (Alternately, crush up and sprinkle over if you don't want to leave them whole) Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until set.

If you're interested in winning your own bag of White Chocolate and Peppermint Pretzel Crisps (sponsored by Round Eye Supply) to enjoy as is or try out in some recipes, enter the Rafflecopter below. Don't delay! The giveaway ends on Sunday December 6th!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

#handcraftededibles: Peanut Butter M&M Bark

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Can you believe this is the 10th week of #handcraftededibles? That means Christmas is almost here! I'm not ready! Well, in the sense of gifts, I actually am. I finished up all of my Christmas shopping over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and now I'm just waiting on everything to arrive before I shove it into bags to save people from witnessing my lacking wrapping skills. :)

But as for being ready for the actual holiday, no way! Every year I want time to slow down between Thanksgiving and Christmas, because after Christmas we still have 3+ months of winter and that's nothing to look forward to.

But along the lines of gifts, bark is an easy choice. Who doesn't love hunks of chocolate? White Chocolate. Milk Chocolate. Dark Chocolate. Peanut Butter. Butterscotch. And then the mix in options are limitless. Candy. Cookie pieces. Marshmallows. Nuts. Dried Fruit, even.



Peanut Butter M&M Bark
Source: In Katrina's Kitchen/Cookies and Cups
Servings: 2~ cups
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. vanilla almond bark
    • 12 oz. creamy peanut butter
    • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter M&M candies
Directions:
1. Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
2. Add the vanilla almond bark to a large microwave safe bowl and microwave according to package instructions. Immediately stir in the peanut butter.
3. In another microwave safe bowl, add the chocolate chips and microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until melted.
4. Spread the vanilla-peanut butter mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle the melted chocolate on top. Immediately sprinkle with the peanut butter M&M's.
5. Transfer the baking sheet to the fridge and allow to set, at least two hours. When completely hard, cut or break into pieces. Bark must be stored in the refrigerator.



In an effort to make all of my holiday gifts this year, we are sharing recipes for hand-crafted edibles. Over the course of twelve weeks, we'll be sharing recipes that you can make at home to give to friends and loved ones, or things to serve at holiday parties. We hope you'll follow along for inspiration. You can find out more information, including the schedule: here.

This week, we are letting out our inner chocolatiers shine, sharing all sorts of recipes with chocolate.


Here's what we're posting this week...




  • Amy's Cooking Adventures shared 10+ Homemade Candies


  • Fantastical Sharing of Recipes created Salted Chocolate Cookie Butter Bark


  • Cookaholic Wife cooked Peanut Butter M&M Bark


  • Making Miracles made White Chocolate Peppermint Fudge


  • Christmas Tree Lane posted Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Bark


  • A Day in the Life on the Farm wrote about Fruit and Nut Clusters


  • Culinary Adventures with Camilla rolled some Saffron Truffles



  • Next week - week 11 - check back for our recipes to inspire you as we let our mad cookie baking skillz show. Don't forget to check out our #handcraftededibles pinterest board.

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