Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Top 11 of 2011 and Baby News! :)

Before we ring in the New Year I want to take the time to highlight and revisit my 11 favorite recipes of 2011. In 2011 I shared 129 recipes with you (down 26 from 2010). It was fun looking back at everything I created in 2011, a crazy year in which hubby and I moved with the military from Virginia to Okinawa, Japan. I am looking forward to 2012 when not only will we spend our first full year in Okinawa, but we will welcome our first child in June! I am thinking that among my cooking goals in 2012, one will be learning to make baby food! :)
Here are my favorite recipes from 2011 in no particular order:
Blueberry Pie
blueberry pie

Mozzarella, Tomato, and Avocado Salad
mozzerella avocado and tomato salad

Carolina Pulled Pork Barbecue 
carolina pulled pork bbq

Homemade Marshmallows
homemade marshmallows

BLT Pizza
blt pizza

Oreo Cupcakes
oreo cupcakes

Edamame Hummus

Southwestern Quinoa Salad
southwestern quinoa salad

Creamed Green Beans, Red Potatoes, and Sausage
green beans and sausage

Berry Puff Pancake
berry puff pancake

Southwest Turkey Burgers with Avocado Sauce
Did you notice that every other recipe includes avocado? What can I say, I have an avocado addiction!!
See you in the kitchen in 2012!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Week of Holiday Treats: No Bake Chocolate Cookies

These no bake cookies are the easiest cookies in the world! They don't require an oven and from start to finish only take half an hour. With a blend of chocolate, peanut butter, and oatmeal these cookies are delicious on top of being a cinch to make.

No Bake Chocolate Cookies
From my home church's cookbook
Printable Version
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
2 1/2 cups oats
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt (I omitted this since I used butter with salt)
In a large bowl mix together oatmeal, peanut butter, vanilla, and butter. In a small saucepan boil sugar, milk, cocoa, and salt. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together in the large mixing bowl. 
Drop into cookies on waxed paper and allow to cool for about 20 minutes before eating or storing in an airtight container. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Week of Holiday Treats: Peppermint Snickerdoodles

Last week I participated in my first holiday cookie swap.  It required that I make six dozen cookies. I've never made so many cookies in my life! I decided to modify my favorite cookie recipe, Snickerdoodles, by rolling them in crushed peppermint. 
The result was a festive and yummy cookie and one that I think I will add to my Holiday baking in the future.
Peppermint Snickerdoodles
Makes 2 dozen cookies
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Six candy canes or peppermint sticks, crushed
In a stand mixer or medium sized mixing bowl beat the butter with electric mixer on high speed for 30 seconds or until creamed. Add the 1 cup of sugar, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in the flour slowly until mixture is throughly combined. Cover and chill the dough for about 1 hour or until easy to handle. Preheat the oven to 375. Combine the 1 tablespoon of sugar, cinnamon, and crushed peppermint in a small bowl. 
Shape the dough into 1 inch balls. Roll each ball in the peppermint mixture to coat. 
Place 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. 
Bake for 10 - 11 minutes until the edges of the cookies are golden. Transfer to wire rack and let cool. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Week of Holiday Treats: Brownie Cookies

The next round of goodies for my Week of Holiday Treats are Brownie Cookies from Tasty Kitchen. I actually made these cookies way back in October to take to work for my hubby's birthday. Apparently one co-worker told him that these were the best cookies she's ever had. These cookies in brownie form are pretty yummy - soft in the middle and a little crispy on the outsides. They are a fun variation to the typical chocolate cookie.
Brownie Cookies 
From MelodySoul on Tasty Kitchen
Printable Version
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan or in the microwave gently melt butter and chocolate chips until the butter is melted and chocolate begins to melt. 
Remove from heat and stir until all the chocolate has melted completely. 
In a separate bowl beat together the sugar, eggs, and vanilla until throughly combined. Add the melted chocolate mixture and stir in the remaining ingredients. 
Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour or until manageable. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a tablespoon or mini ice cream scooper drop cookie dough onto baking sheets, leaving a couple of inches between each cookie. 
Bake for 12 minutes, remove from oven and allow to cool on the tray for about one hour before transferring to a plate or wire rack to cool. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Week of Holiday Treats: Almond Bars

I have so many goodies to share with you for the holidays that I decided for the next week I will only post yummy treats. Today I am starting with my Aunt Chris' Almond Bars. These bars are a family favorite and every time Aunt Chris makes them they're gone in a flash. Pure almond paste is the shining star in this recipe. I had never bought it before and still haven't! A friend who was moving gave me a can of it (Thanks Racheal!) and right then and there I knew I had to make Almond Bars. 
These bars are like a thick almond sugar cookie bars, sprinkled with toasted almonds. I brought these to a neighbor's going away party and everyone complimented me on them. Perfect for the Holidays when you are tired of chocolate and frosting (if you get tired of chocolate and frosting that is!).
Almond Bars
From my Auntie Chris
1 cup butter or margarine
8 ounces almond paste
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt (I omitted this since I used butter that had salt)
2 cups flour
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray a 9X13 pan with cooking spray. Cream together butter and almond paste, beat in sugar and eggs. Add in flour and salt. Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle with almonds. 
Bake for 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and and cut into bars. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mini Pumpkin Muffins

I realize that posting a pumpkin recipe in December isn't going with the flow of Christmas cookies or other Holiday goodies, but I made these the other day and they are so yummy and soft and moist I still want to share them with you. This recipe comes from Deanna House, a cook book author from my home state of Michigan. The ladies in my Mom's family all love Deanna House and make her recipes frequently, so I decided to dive into her cookbook and start trying some out myself. 
Mini Pumpkin Muffins 
From Even More House Specialties by Deanna House
Printable Version
1/4 cup shortening or butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon Allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup mashed pumpkin
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup raisins if desired (I omitted these)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. At medium speed, cream together shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, Allspice, and cloves; set aside. In a small bowl combine pumpkin and milk. 
Add dry ingredients alternately with pumpkin mixture to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Stir well after each addition. Add raisins if desired. Fill paper lined mini muffin cups 3/4 full of batter. 
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pea, Almond, and Blue Cheese Salad

This scrumptious pea salad recipe is from my wonderful sister-in-law (who is truly like a REAL sister to me). The flavors in this pea salad might sound interesting but they work together beautifully especially with the vinaigrette of mustard, olive oil, garlic, mint, green onions and lemon juice. It's savory, tangy, and has excellent textures from the pop of the peas to the crunch of the toasted almonds. I've made this salad twice since Marg gave me the recipe, once with goat cheese crumbles and once with blue cheese and I must say the blue cheese is much better. But if you aren't a blue cheese or goat cheese fan it would also be delicious with chunks of fresh mozzarella or even grated fresh Parmesan cheese. It only takes as long to make as it does to boil the peas and goes great with just about anything you're making for dinner! 

Pea, Almond, and Blue Cheese Salad
From my lovely sister Margaret
Printable Version
1 package of frozen peas
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh mint, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds, toasted in a pan for about 5 minutes over medium low

Boil peas in salted water according to directions on package. Drain and cool, the pat to remove excess water. In a large bowl whisk all of the remaining ingredients except for the blue cheese and almonds. Add the peas to the vinaigrette and combine. Top with blue cheese and sprinkle with almonds. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Short Ribs with Wine and Cream

Sometimes I see a recipe and know immediately that my hubby will love it. This was the case when I came across Pioneer Woman's Short Ribs with Wine and Cream. I took one look at the ribs simmered in wine and cream sauce, served over a bed of mushrooms and knew hubby would be a very happy man if I made them for him. Of course, I was right. He loved the tender short ribs with the earthy flavor from the mushrooms. This way to prepare short ribs is definitely a winner.
Short Ribs with Wine and Cream
From Pioneer Woman (Modified for 4 servings instead of 6)
**This recipe takes 3 hours so plan accordingly!!** 
Printable Version
8 whole Short Ribs
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup red wine 
24 ounces Beef Broth or Beef Stock
2 tablespoons minced fresh Rosemary
1 1/2 tablespoons grainy mustard
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons capers
14 ounces assorted mushrooms: Cremini, Oyster, Baby Bellas
2 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil for drizzling


Heat olive oil in a heavy pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Sprinkle short ribs on both sides with salt and pepper. Quickly sear the short ribs, about 1 1/2 minutes per side, and flip them halfway through. Remove to a plate. Pour wine and beef stock into the pot. Add rosemary and stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the pot to deglaze. Return the short ribs to the pot and reduce heat to low. 
Cover the pot and simmer for 2 1/2 - 3 hours. After they have cooked carefully remove the short ribs from the pot again. Stir in mustard, cream, and capers, then raise the heat and allow it gently boil or a couple a minutes or until sauce has thickened. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Return the short ribs to the sauce, put on the lid, and turn off the heat. 
To roast the mushrooms preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the mushrooms in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt an pepper, then add in garlic and toss with your hands to gently coat. Roast mushrooms until golden brown, about 15 - 20 minutes. Serve the short ribs on top of the mushrooms then an extra scoop of cream and wine sauce. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The World's Easiest Egg Casserole

My family has a go to egg casserole recipe that is exceptionally good. The only problem is that when you're invited in the morning to a potluck brunch in just a couple hours, an overnight egg casserole isn't even an option. This new egg casserole can be whipped up and baked in less than an hour! To top it off it's really fluffy and filling. I added bacon into mine but sausage or veggies would also be yummy. If you find yourself in a breakfast bind or just want a new easy egg casserole you must give this one a try! It'd be great for brinner (breakfast for dinner) too!

The World's Easiest Egg Casserole
Printable Version
8 whole eggs
1 can evaporated milk 
2 cups shredded cheese
1 teaspoon dry mustard 
1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
1 teaspoon pepper 
A few dashes of Herbs de Provence (optional) 
8 slices of bacon, chopped
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9X13 baking pan. Combine eggs, evaporated milk, and spices. 
Whisk until eggs are beaten. Stir in bacon and one cup of cheese. 
Pour into baking pan. Bake for 35 minutes, then take out of oven and top with remaining cheese. Return to oven and bake an additional five minutes. Cool for five minutes before cutting into squares and serving. (I also grated fresh Parmesan cheese on top at this point). 


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