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Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Top 11 Favorite Recipes of 2011



Here are 11 of my very favorite recipes for the past year!  It was tough to narrow it down, but these are the ones that I find myself making over and over again!  In no particular order…

(click the picture to go to the recipe link!)












Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 10 of 2011

Wow!  Can you believe that it is almost 2012?  Today I thought I’d share the top reader favorites for 2011.  Stay tuned tomorrow for my personal favorites from the past year!













Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Italian Cheese Bread



Do you ever order those cheesy breads from pizza places?  I cannot get enough of it!  It is butter and fattening and delicious and I’ve never been able to replicate it.

Until now.

Here’s the key:  Bake a flatbread crust until just done then brush it generously with garlic butter.  Then add a ton of cheese and broil. Then more garlic butter.

Helloooo cheese bread!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Three Cheese Tortellini Bake



It’s kind of a bummer to be back to regular dishes after all of the excitement and sweetness of Christmas, but alas, we must eat food other than desserts.   Luckily, while I’ve been busy posting indulgent Christmas recipes, I have been off making some pretty fantastic main dishes behind the scenes.

I made this tortellini bake the day after I made my homemade pasta sauce.  When I made the pasta sauce, we ended up finishing off all of the spaghetti, but had a cup of sauce remaining.  Sure, I could have boiled up more spaghetti, but what’s the fun in that?

Since I had been wanting to make another version of my Tortellini Bake in Rose Sauce, I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to do so.  This is a cheesier version of the original bake, with a little spinach thrown in to make it feel a little healthier. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ornament Cookies



Tomorrow is already Christmas Eve, can you believe it?  It is so easy to get caught up with everything else at Christmastime.  Finding the perfect gift, picking out the perfect Christmas card, planning menus, and baking, baking, baking.

Things often don’t go as planned.  This year, I forgot to buy gifts for two people until the very last second, my sewing machine broke and I wasn’t able to finish several handmade gifts, time got away from me and I only made half of the holiday goodies I had planned to make.

But do you know what I did do?  I played with my children and read them stories.  They learned about Jesus and the Nativity.  We lit Advent candles and we learned new prayers.

Even though things didn’t go as planned this holiday season, I still feel fulfilled.  Because, looking back, things did go as planned.  My children learned about the true gift of Christmas and there is really no greater gift.


The ornament cookies are a gingerbread cookie frosted with royal icing.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Candy Cane Latte



It’s just a few days before Christmas, but I have the perfect cup of coffee for gift opening, or Christmas morning, or every morning for the past 2 weeks (but maybe that’s just me).  Here’s a picture of little Muffin telling us lattes aren’t for breakfast (you can’t tell but he’s offering us some of his Cheerios!)


I’ve long wanted to make a Candy Cane Latte, but disliked using peppermint extract since it so easily overpowers everything else.  Cue my favorite Hershey Kisses!  These kisses are already the perfect blend of peppermint, so they just enhance the latte, while the chocolate from the candy adds a thick creaminess to the drink.  Perfection! 

So go!  Run to the store and get horde of Candy Cane Kisses before they’re gone, and make up some delicious lattes for everyone on Christmas morning!


Recipe Notes:
*If you’re feeling lazy (like I do most days) and don’t want to chop the kisses, just make sure to stir very well, scrapping the bottom with a whisk.
*You can replace the instant coffee with a shot of two of espresso.
*You could also omit the instant coffee and decrease the milk to about 6 oz, filling the remainder of the cup with strongly brewed coffee.
*If you don’t have any chocolate protein powder, replace it with Ovaltine or hot cocoa mix.
*Use any whisk you'd like, but I've found that this one works best.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Red Wine Cranberry Sauce



I tell you a secret?  I’ve never eaten the cranberry sauce when it’s been served at Thanksgiving or Christmas meals.  But, I recently hosted my first Thanksgiving, and knew that cranberry sauce had to make an appearance.  So, I set out to find something with a little bit of pizzazz.  Something I would like to eat.  And this was certainly it!

I just loved the depth of flavor that the wine added to the sauce, as well as the warm spices.  This will definitely be a must for future Thanksgivings and Christmases!   And I’ll even eat some!


Red Wine Cranberry Sauce
Adapted from Spicy Foodie

¼ cup dry red wine
¾ cup water
1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
4 whole allspice
2 whole cloves
1 (12 oz) package fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained


Combine the wine, water, and brown sugar in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, then bring the mixture to a boil.

Add in the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and vanilla and stir to combine.  Add in the cranberries and return the mixture to a boil.  Simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes or until the cranberries burst and the sauce begins to thicken.

Remove the cranberry sauce from heat and cool to room temperature.  Move the sauce to the refrigerator until ready to serve.  Serve chilled.


Enjoy!
YAmy

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Candy Cane Cupcakes



Wow!  Where has the time gone?  Christmas is upon us and I have a bunch of Christmasy recipes that I have yet to share!  So Merry Christmas, everyone, I’m posting every day this week (fingers crossed).

First up is a fun cupcake!  This one first caught my eye on Pinterest (shocking, I know).  But with all of the other Christmas treats currently residing in my house, I was certain that I did not need 24 cupcakes pestering me to be eaten.  Cue my husband who came home last Friday with a “So are we busy Sunday?”

He was invited to a potluck and it provided the perfect excuse to make us some yummy, minty cupcakes!  These were perfect and I already had all the ingredients on hand.  Now I would be lying if I told you he went to the potluck with 24 cupcakes.  I had to be able to tell you how great they are didn’t, I?

The best bite of the whole cupcakes comes when you get to the center and get that extra little minty surprise inside that perfectly mimicked the creamy peppermint frosting.   Hmmm…maybe Santa needs cupcakes instead of cookies this year….


Recipe Notes:
*For a great photo tutorial on how to swirl two colors of frosting together, click here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Simple Homemade Tomato Sauce


It’s time again for the big Secret Recipe Club Reveal (check out the SRC website to learn all about it!)

This month, it was my pleasure to cook from Joanna’s blog, Cairns Manor.  Joanna shares so many great recipes; it was difficult to choose just one!  I loved the variety of recipes I found on her blog, and I know others will as well.

From her blog, I chose to make a stunning tomato sauce.  It reminded me of a sauce I had tried previously, but I loved the idea of the flavor infused olive oil in this recipe.  And let me tell you – it was wonderful!  This sauce makes me never want to buy jarred sauce again!  


Recipe Notes:
*The original recipe calls for fresh basil. While that would be nice, I opted to use dried herbs in my sauce since it is December and my garden is all shriveled up.
*Play around with any of your favorite fresh or dried herbs in this recipe.  It lends itself well to experimentation.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Nutter Butter Reindeer and Reindeer Poop




As I was growing up, I saw my mom make dozen of different Christmas cookies.  One of my (many) favorites is chocolate dipped Nutter Butters!  Through the power of Pinterest, I have seen the dipped Nutter Butter evolve into all manner of holiday character, so this year I decided to take my little Nutter Butters and make them into cute little reindeer!

This was also a very fun opportunity for my son to help in the kitchen!  He helped me by sorting through the M&M’s for the red ones.  He also put the M&M’s on the cookies and the eyes on the reindeer.  It is always fun to have my little mini foodie working by my side

Oh, and if you have some extra chocolate left over, dip some caramels (I bought mine - I just love the ones from Kraft!) and sprinkle with a little sea salt.  Or dip the little pretzel remnants that are too small to be antlers--you can make the little ones snicker by calling it Reindeer Poop!


Recipe Notes:
*It is fun to let kids help by sorting through the M&M’s for the red ones.  Kids also love to put the antlers, noses, and eyes on the reindeer!
*I broke up some holiday shaped pretzels for my antlers.  They were all different shapes that I thought added a bit of whimsy to the reindeer.  However, you can also use pretzels stick or cut mini pretzels for more uniform antlers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Quick Pizza Dough and Taco Pizza



Quick Pizza Dough.  Yep, you read that right, no kneading, no fuss - quick.  This is an excellent dough to begin with if you are just starting to make your own bread.  It is super forgiving and the stand mixer does all the work!  Do note that this is going to be a slightly denser flatbread type of pizza dough, since it is not allowed to rise.

As for the toppings, I was having one of those clean out the refrigerator type of meals.  I had made tacos earlier in the week and had just enough left over to make one taco.  Who’s going to eat one taco?  No one, that’s who, so Taco Pizza it became!  And there you have it!  A quick and easy pizza, that didn’t come out of a box!


Recipe Notes:
*Add any of your favorite taco ingredients to this pizza.  It is easy to customize!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bean Salsa



I am forever trying to come up with a good side dish when I serve Mexican style food.  What do you serve?  Chips?  A vegetable?  For some reason, I just struggle with this one.

A while back, I made a rice and bean dish that we really enjoyed.  I was planning to make it again when I made Chicken Tortilla Soup recently, but I forgot to start the rice in time, so I ended up making a bean salsa instead.  I loved the heat of the chili powder and cayenne combined with the sweetness of the corn – it was hard to stop eating this!  Even my little 1 year old loved this salsa!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Spicy Peanut Brittle



I bought myself a pre-Christmas present this year.  It’s my very own candy thermometer!

So break in my new thermometer, I thought it was only proper to make some peanut brittle…with a twist.

This brittle is still sweet but its got a little heat hidden under all that sweetness.  And then it’s dipped in chocolate, because, come on, if it’s not chocolate, it’s just not dessert!


Recipe Notes
*If you like your brittle less spicy, cut down the cayenne by half or even omit it completely.  I wouldn’t recommend using any more than 1 ½ tsp unless you want people screaming for a glass of milk.
*The warmed cookie sheets keep the brittle from setting up too quickly, giving you time to smooth and thin it.
*Since the bottom on the brittle was a little greasy from the pan, I moved it to paper towel lined baking sheets after it was broken up.
*The shortening thins the chocolate so it clings to the candy more evenly.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Baked Sweet Potato with Black Beans


We interrupt regular programming to bring you an extra Secret Recipe Club post today!  (New to Amy’s Cooking Adventures or SRC?  Click here and here).

Yesterday afternoon, I received an e-mail about an orphaned blog from last Monday’s reveal.  SRC participants try our hardest to make sure that everyone gets recognition on reveal days, and when they don’t, volunteers are called upon.  When I heard about this slip up, I was more than happy to help.

The blog in question was Groundcherry: Sustainable Cooking for One.  It is a blog dedicated to eating local, sustainable foods.  Most of the recipes are also gluten free and are meant to serve one person!  Where was this blog when I was single?

As I looked through the delicious recipes at Groundcherry, I was drawn to the Baked Sweet Potato with Black Beans.  See, there was a single sweet potato sitting on my counter since Thanksgiving, just asking to be used (and the cookies I was baking took an unbelievably long time and I didn’t have dinner ready.)  So, I made my kids sandwiches, my husband a frozen pizza, and I had this lovely sweet potato (my husband was totally jealous!)  This is a great recipe for lunch or dinner, especially if you’re in a hurry, since it is done in under 10 minutes!


Recipe notes:
*You can also bake the potatoes in the oven for a crispier skin (don’t forget to eat the skin – it’s full of nutrients!)
*If you’re serving two instead of one, just double everything, using the entire can of black beans.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies



Are you ready for this year’s first Christmas cookie?  I have a great one for you!

These little lovelies are chocolate chip cookies that taste like thin mints and mint chocolate chip ice cream all in one.  Hello?  Delicious. 

The key to these cookies is the combination of mint baking chips and peppermint extract in the dough, plus a little green food coloring to make them “look” minty.  While these cookies would be fantastic at any time of year, I can specifically see them, in all their festive green glory, at Christmas or St. Patrick’s Day.  So pull up a glass of milk and enjoy!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Cashew Chicken



I love making stir fry for my family for several reasons.  I like that I can separate out the pieces of the stir fry that my boys will eat (the chicken) and that it exposes them to different vegetables (though they usually turn up their noses).  Plus, if they refuse the stir fry, I know for certain that they’ll eat the rice!

I loved this stir fry right away because it had cashews (my favorite nut!)  I added in all of my favorite veggies and was able to recreate one of my favorite Chinese dishes.


Recipe Notes:
*You can serve this with brown or white rice, but I served it with a modified version of my favorite fried rice (minus the peas and cashews) to add a little protein for my picky eaters.
*I used some leftover rotisserie chicken in this recipe.  If using uncooked chicken, simply add in the chicken before the cashews and cook it thoroughly.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Peppermint Bark



Ever since Hershey’s came out with their Candy Cane Kisses, I have been in love.  I absolutely adore the smooth minty flavor with the little crunch of candy cane.  I am looking for fun new ways to use them.  Remember the Chocolate Candy Cane Blossoms and the Peppermint Brownies from last year?  Yum!

This year I’ve seen many recipes for candy cane bark and they all look deliciously mouthwatering.  However, I’m not too keen on crushing candy canes or peppermints.  I am forever getting holes in bags and peppermint dust everywhere; not fun.  Solution?  Not just one, but two types of peppermint candy instead of candy canes!  Problem solved!


Recipe Notes:
*While you wouldn’t *have* to use both kinds of peppermint candy, I highly recommend it – they each add a unique flavor that kicks this bark up a notch.

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