Archive | December, 2012

Top 12 Recipes of 2012

31 Dec

2012 has been a wonderful, busy, crazy year and I’m so glad I have been able to share it with you all! My readership and views have skyrocketed this year and it’s all thanks to you. I truly appreciate all the views and comments and just for giving me a little of your time each day! So here are the top 12 most viewed recipes of 2012. I hope you take a look and {hopefully} enjoy them again! Happy New Year!

Chocolate Cake with Mint Chocolate Chip Frosting
Chocolate Cake with Mint Chocolate Chip Frosting
Extra Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken
Extra Crispy Spicy Fried Chicken
Sweet Cornbread
Sweet Cornbread
Cheesy Bread
Cheesy Bread
Whole Lemon Blueberry Walnut Muffins
Whole Lemon Blueberry Walnut Muffins
Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
Mexican Chicken Salad with Chili Lime Vinaigrette
Mexican Chicken Salad
Salted Pretzel Caramel Bark
Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark
Skinny Bang Bang Shrimp
Bang Bang Shrimp
Lasagna Cupcakes
Lasagna Cupcakes

Merry Merry Christmas

23 Dec

Untitled
I don’t know about you but life has been crazy around here. Between last minute Christmas shopping, birthday celebrations, trips back and forth to the new house and unpacking there hasn’t been much time to breathe. So, I am taking this week off to savor this time of year with our family and friends. Noah is totally into Christmas this year which is beyond exciting for me! He tells us that Jesus was born on Christmas day and is excited to make his birthday cake. He wakes up singing Jingle Bells and doesn’t stop until he is asleep. He screams with pure joy when he finds where Kid is hiding for the day (his elf on the shelf). He has said “Noah bake Christmas cookies then Noah eat em” for a week straight. He tells everyone Merry Christmas and loves putting money in the Salvation Army bucket and ringing the bell. He is pretty awesome. So although it’s been pretty chaotic lately it has also been one of the best Christmases ever. His pure joy, love and excitement for Christmas this year is something I will always cherish and I just want to soak it up.

I will be back to my regular postings next week. Maybe I will be able to cook in my new kitchen by then. Joel, Noah and I hope you all have a wonderful and warm Christmas with the ones you love!

Gingerbread Granola {Christmas Tray 2012}

21 Dec

Gingerbread Granola
As you can tell, I kind of have a thing for granola (and I have passed it on to Noah). We got addicted to all of Trader Joe’s granola but since we had never had a TJ’s in town (until now, mwhahaha) I always liked to make it homemade to snack on. We like it plain, vanilla flavored and especially this holiday gingerbread granola.

I made so many cookies and candies this year that I thought it would be nice to include something really different. Breakfast was the perfect solution and granola automatically popped into my head. And what says Christmas more than gingerbread?
Gingerbread Granola
The maple syrup, molasses and ginger all combine to create the perfect gingerbread taste. The crystallized ginger added a nice chewiness to the crunchy texture of the oats and nuts. A totally yummy treat for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

Gingerbread Granola
recipe from Disney Family

4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup blanched, slivered almonds
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup molasses
1/3 cup oil
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Mix oats and almonds together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, salt, maple syrup, molasses and oil.

3. Pour sugar and oil mixture over the oats and stir well, making sure everything is evenly coated.

4. Pour into a greased 13×9 pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

5. Let cool completely, stir in crystallized ginger and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

3 Cup Chicken

19 Dec

3 Cup Chicken
Asian food is one of my favorite types of food to cook and eat. Although Asian recipes often call for a lot of ingredients, once you have them stocked in your pantry/fridge, the possiblities are pretty much endless in what you can whip up. I have a whole section of my refrigerator door dedicated to Asian ingredients, yum!
3 Cup Chicken
This 3 Cup Chicken is one of my new favorite Asian dishes. Not only is it delicious but it’s easy to prepare and you can make it from start to finish in about 30 minutes. You all know those are big, important factors in my weeknight meals.

3 Cup Chicken
recipe from Simply Vicky

1/3 cup sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
20 cloves garlic
10 ginger slices
1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
2 large handfuls of fresh basil, loosely chopped
3 green onion stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces 2 cups rice, cooked
1. Marinate chicken thighs with 1 tablespoon cornstarch and 1 tablespoon sesame oil (to tenderize the meat). Set aside for 5-10 minutes.
2. Heat large wok or dutch oven to high heat and add 3 tablespoons sesame oil. Once hot, add in garlic and ginger and stir fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Add in chicken thighs and brown well, about 4 minutes.
4. Stir in soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar to cover chicken.
5. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to medium low. Let simmer, uncovered, until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, cook rice according to package instructions (I use a rice cooker, but stovetop works too).
7. After the sauce has thickened in consistency, turn heat up to medium heat and add in basil and scallions. Cook until basil and scallions wilt, about 2 minutes.
8. Serve over white rice and enjoy!

3 Cup Chicken

Creamy Cheesy Potatoes

17 Dec

Creamy Cheesy Potatoes
Life has been hectic around here but good. We painted rooms this past weekend. I should post before and after pictures….Noah’s room used to be camouflage sponge painted…NOT.GOOD. We are working on a navy blue and white chevron feature wall instead. Much better.

I’m going to keep this short so I can get back to business. These potatoes are simply the best, most delicious and easy side dish. They only require 4 ingredients (not counting the salt and pepper). You couldn’t really ask for more in a holiday side dish (or any time of the year).
Creamy Cheesy Potatoes
I was a little skeptical when I tried this recipe because it just didn’t seem like there was enough to it but I was totally wrong. The cream gets thick and bubbly while the cheese gets ooey gooey delicious. I could pretty much eat them every day if my pants would allow it.
Creamy Cheesy Potatoes
Creamy Cheesy Potatoes
recipe from Get Off Your Butt and Bake

About 5 – large potatoes (or enough to fill a 9×13 glass baking dish)
1 pint (2 cups) whipping cream
Salt and Pepper
2 tsp. parsley flakes
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1. Cut your potatoes into thin french fry strips and then lay them in a 9×13 glass pan.
2. Pour all of the cream over the top of the potatoes then salt and pepper them generously. Sprinkle at least 2 cups grated cheddar cheese over the top and sprinkle parsley flakes on top of the cheese.  Cover with foil, and poke a fork through the top of the foil 2 or 3 times to allow a little steam to escape.
3. Cook at 400 degrees for about 1 hour, 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies {Christmas Tray 2012}

14 Dec

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
We are closing on our new home today and I will officially be a Nebraska resident again! I don’t think you understand how much this excites me! Especially after the week we just had. Of course, Fargo had to send us off with one last bit of nasty weather. I was feeling all sad and everything about packing and leaving and getting mail for the new owners when it was still MY house but that weather put it into perspective and left me saying “adios suckers, I’m out.” Well, I try to talk big and bad but it was still incredibly hard to leave. Shutting the door for the last time, ugh. I was not a pretty sight.
Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
I have been having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year with all that we have had going on with the move but when I whipped up these cookies I felt a little bit more cheery. The smell of peppermint filled the house while these are baking which always reminds me of Christmas. And now that we are officially in Nebraska, we get to decorate a tree (my parents waited to put theirs up so that Noah and I could help) so that will totally fix me. I was majorly bummed that we didn’t get to put ours up this year.
Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
Although I loved these cookies (they taste like a white chocolate version of thin mints), they were a bit to crispy for me but I prefer a soft, chewy cookie. The flavors of peppermint, cocoa and white chocolate were pretty heavenly together making this recipe a huge keeper. I may roll out the dough a little less next time so that they have a bit of chew to them but that’s really the only change I would make. Not only are they delish but they are really festive and pretty! Try them….you will like them!

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
recipe from My Madison Bistro

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup fine sugar
1 large whole egg, plus 1 large yolk
3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
4 large candy canes, crushed (or Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips)
1 pound white chocolate or confectioners’ coating, coarsely chopped

1. In a medium bowl, whisk dry ingredients.

2. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar on medium until fluffy, about 4 minutes. On medium-low, add egg, then yolk, until blended. Beat in peppermint extract. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour mixture, beating until just mixed.

3. Divide dough into 2 and place dough on sheets of plastic wrap. Shape dough into disks, wrap, and refrigerate 1 hour (up to 2 days).

4. Lightly flour surface and roll out one disk to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a 2 inch circle (I used 3 inch because my other cutters were already packed), cut into rounds and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Reroll dough scraps and cut remaining rounds.

5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake for 9-12 minutes. Transfer parchment to cooling rack; cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

6. Place candy canes in a plastic bag and bang away with a kitchen mallet until the candy is crushed. Or if you are lazy like me, use Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips.

7. Melt white chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Dunk cookies half way into chocolate. Use a fork to brush excess from cookie bottom, then transfer to parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the cookies with the candy cane chunks.

8, Refrigerate baking sheets until set (3 hours). Serve immediately, or freeze.
Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Parmesan Crusted Filet Mignon

12 Dec

Parmesan Crusted Filet Mignon
If you are having a small holiday celebration, this is a perfect option over the big traditional ham. I actually made these quite awhile ago for our anniversary and they were a huge hit. The combination of the tenderness of the steak with the crunchy, cheesy texture of the crust was incredible and over the top. I went with a surf and turf vibe so I served these delicious steaks alongside Scallops with Dill Sauce, twice baked potatoes and a simple salad.

The fact that you make the crust ahead of time also makes this a quick, simple option for the holidays so that you can focus on family and all the important things during this time of year.
Parmesan Crusted Filet Mignon
I know it would be great for us during this transition in our lives. We are packing up and moving today which is such a bittersweet feeling. We are ready for this new adventure but sad about leaving our friends and our first home. But I know it will be great for our family! And I am so ready to cook for real again instead of just throwing random stuff together with all the frozen and pantry items I didn’t want to move!

Parmesan Crusted Filet Mignon
recipe from Live Love Pasta

4 filet mignons
salt
pepper

Crust:
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup panko
¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
sprinkle of salt
sprinkle of pepper

1. Prepare the crust at least 3 hours in advance. Combine all the crust ingredients and mash together to form a ball of “dough.”  Place the ball into the center of a sheet of plastic wrap. Wrap the ball and form it into a log. If you plan to use it that day refrigerate it, otherwise freeze it.

2. Begin heating your cast iron pan on high heat. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle the filet on both sides with a little salt and pepper just before cooking. Grill in cast iron pan 2 minutes per side. I usually use my cast iron grill pan for this but you can also use a regular cast iron pan. Once you get a nice sear on both sides put the steak in the oven for 6-8 minutes (if your steaks are 2-inches like mine were, 6 minutes will give you about medium-rare and 8 should be about medium). After 6 minutes remove from the oven and top with ½ inch slices of the crust. Place under broiler about 2 minutes or until browned.

Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

10 Dec

Let me begin by telling you I am not a big fan of tomato soup. But Joel on the other hand is and has been begging for grilled cheese and tomato soup since the cold weather hit. I finally gave in but just couldn’t go the traditional route….it grosses me out.
Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup
So I went on the hunt for a creamy version that would have more purpose than just a dunk for the grilled cheese (although that’s all Joel really wants it for anyway). I came across this creamy tomato tortellini soup on Taste of Home’s website and knew it would be a good balance of what he liked and what I was looking for in a soup to share with you all.

It starts with canned tomato soup and veggie broth which helps bring this soup together in about 15 minutes. It’s great for busy, chilly evenings when you don’t have a lot of time but want something warm and comforting. The tortellini bring some heft to the soup and make it a lot more filling than the average tomato soup. And the added spices jazz up the canned ingredients. It’s perfect served alongside the ultimate grilled cheese.
Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup
Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup
recipe from Taste of Home

1 package (9 ounces) refrigerated cheese tortellini (I used frozen)
2 cans (10-3/4 ounces each) reduced-sodium condensed tomato soup, undiluted
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups 2% milk
2 cups half-and-half cream
1/2 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (I left these out)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Additional shredded Parmesan cheese, optional

1. Cook tortellini according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, combine the soup, broth, milk, cream, tomatoes and seasonings. Heat through, stirring frequently. Drain tortellini; carefully add to soup. Stir in cheese. Sprinkle each serving with additional cheese if desired. Yield: 10 servings.

Cake Batter Sugar Cookies {Christmas Tray 2012}

7 Dec

Cake Batter Sugar Cookies
I love me some sugar cookies. Whether they are rolled, cut and frosted or simple dropped on a sheet and baked they are my absolute favorite type of cookie. So sugar cookies combined with a cake batter flavor are right up my alley of course.
Cake Batter Sugar Cookies
I also love sprinkles…they make everything happy and much cuter. Am I right? And the cookies are mini too so it’s double the adorableness.

These cookies were easy to whip up and as they came together, I totally got whiffs of cake batter heaven. The cake batter flavor comes from the butter extract rather than a cake mix which is nice for a change. Not that I have anything against store-bought cake mixes because I do love using them as a starting point in recipes.
Cake Batter Sugar Cookies
I had a big variety of Christmas sprinkles so I dumped in a little bit of everything (nonpareils, jimmies and colored sugars) and they turned out perfect and incredibly festive!

Cake Batter Sugar Cookies
recipe from Sally Baking Addiction

4 tbsp (1/4 cup) butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp butter extract
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup colorful sprinkles
1/4 cup sprinkles, for rolling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or silpat.  Set aside. Pour 1/4 cup sprinkles onto a plate to use for rolling.  Set aside.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment.  Beat in egg yolk, butter extract, baking powder, and salt.  Add flour, and mix until a dough forms.  Dough will be thick. Gently mix in sprinkles.

3. Roll dough in teaspoon size balls.  Make sure that the balls are tall, rather than wide.  The taller the cookie dough ball, the thicker the cookie will be.  Roll the dough balls into the reserved sprinkles and bake for 9-10 minutes. Watch them closely at the 9 minute mark to assure they do not brown.

4. Allow cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring to a cookie rack to cool completely.
Cake Batter Sugar Cookies

Cap’n Crunch Chicken

5 Dec

Cap'n Crunch Chicken
I love any kind of chicken that is breaded. It’s pretty much my favorite as evidenced here and here. So, when I saw this recipe I got really excited and thought it would be a big hit in my house. When I told Joel about it, he wasn’t so sure. He thought it sounded weird and was quite leery of the whole thing. I think the fact that it had cornflakes in the mix helped balance out the sweetness of the Cap’n Crunch, creating the perfect balance. It was moist and juicy with a crispy coating…perfect in my book! And once again, it’s an easy weeknight meal that will be ready in less than 30 minutes!

Cap'n Crunch Chicken
Noah loves noise and destruction so this was the perfect recipe to have his assistance. He was great at smashing up the cereal with the rolling pin.
Cap'n Crunch Chicken
And then he had to check out his handiwork.
Cap'n Crunch Chicken

And yes, his shirt says “Certified Hunk” because he totally is.

Cap’n Crunch Chicken
recipe from Forkful of Comfort

2 lbs. chicken breast, boneless & skinless, cut into strips
2 cups Cap’n Crunch cereal, crushed
1 1/2 cups cornflakes, crushed
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt & pepper, to taste
vegetable oil, for frying

1. Combine the cereals in a large bowl.  In another bowl beat egg with the milk and set aside.  Stir together the flour, onion and garlic powders and salt & pepper.  Set aside

2. Dip chicken strips into the flour, coat and shake off excess. Dip into the egg mixture, coating well, then dip into cereal mixture, coating well.

3. Heat about one inch of oil in a large, heavy skillet to 350 degrees F. Fry until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-5 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken pieces. Drain on a wire rack over paper towels and serve

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