Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Year news & "mini" farewell!

Happy New Year to all of you!

Can you believe it's 2015?  I certainly cannot... and my coworkers could confirm that for the next few weeks, as I continue to write "2014."  You'd think the transition would be easier after nearly two weeks off from working, writing, or even being aware of what day of the week it was.  Has anyone looked into the idea of sweatpants with a timestamp?  Just saying.

Speaking of time, I want to get to the real meat of this post.  It's something that I've thought about for a while.  And, once I made peace with the idea, I was temporarily rendered speechless (a rarity, for sure).

I've lost track of how many times I started writing this particular blog.  I've lost track of how many edits I've made in an effort to be clear, grateful, and sincere.  But, as I've learned through my years of blogging, sometimes the best writing is honest, a bit scattered, and unedited.

So, here goes nothin'!

Over five years ago in late 2007, I did a Google search for "blog" and signed up for my very own corner of the Internet.  Becoming a food blogger was a happy accident, thanks to the urging of a few friends and family, who regularly asked for recipes and cooking advice.  "Why not start a blog?" they suggested.  At the time, I was fresh-ish out of college, living alone for the first time in a tiny apartment, and often bored in the evening hours.  A baking blog sounded like a great new project.

For five great years, I've been baking, cooking, experimenting, and eating.  There have been grand successes, disappointing (and, at times, epic) failures, and pleasant surprises.  I've learned so much about food, science, entertaining, and myself.  I've been published in a magazine and newspapers, which is still humbling.  My love of food and passion for cooking continue to grow every single day.

For five great years, I've been staging and photographing food, wiping various batters and crumbs batter off of my camera, and learning to become more ambidextrous.  My camera has been upgraded from a humble point and shoot to a fancier point and shoot.  (I've still got my eye on you, Canon EOS Rebel T3i.)  My former boyfriend/now husband has patiently waited, night after night, for me to capture the perfect shot and, when I have, quietly eats his no-longer-hot meal.

But, over the past year or so, I've noticed my priorities have shifted slightly.  Matt's work schedule changed, and I made a conscious decision to devote the few precious hours we're both home during the week to unplug and enjoy "us" time.  During training last spring, I took a two month hiatus to focus on running; I am running another race this spring and determined to set a PR (and overcome that blasted IT band problem I suffered last year).  And, if I'm being totally honest with myself and you, my desire to blog has waned.

From the start, I promised myself that if blogging ever started to feel more like work than fun, I'd stop and reevaluate.  And do it truthfully.  So many bloggers have made their online work, recipes, and photography their only (paying) gig; I blog as a hobby in addition to my real full-time job.  After 40 hours in front of a computer, I no longer want to spend my evenings, staring at a glowing screen, writing and editing pictures.  (FYI, cooking & photographing only accounts for 25% or so of the total time I spend blogging.)

Sidenote: If you know anyone with unlimited funds and without a home for them, please contact me ASAP :)

For five great years, I've used this space to grow, change, celebrate, vent, brag, and freely express myself.  In doing so, I've met some of the most wonderful people, online and in person.  Initially strangers, many of these folks have become dear friends.  And, not to be missed, family and old friends have read along with them.  Words cannot express how sincerely grateful I am for all of your love, support, taste-testing, suggestions, and act of typing an incredibly lengthy blog address over and over again; there's nothing "mini" about that.

Rather than let blogging fall to the wayside and come back every few months to post something, I feel it's time to "retire" and move on.  I've never liked irregular bloggers and have no wish to become one myself.  As one of my fictional heroes, Ron Swanson of Parks & Recreation, says, "Never half-ass two things; whole-ass one thing."

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you, wherever you are (and whatever you're eating), and wish you all the best in everything, be it baking, domesticity, or the most mini thing imaginable :)

Note: The blog and all posts and recipes will remain live/available as a cooking and baking resource for you.  Believe it or not, it's become my go-to recipe box!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 10 recipes of 2014 - My picks!

On Monday, I recapped the top 10 recipes of 2014 as determined by you, the readers.  Today, I'm sharing my top 10 favorite recipes of the calendar year.  From snacks and desserts (because, of course!) to classy dinners, burgers, and even pizza, there's something for every appetite.   You might be surprised by what tops the list, although, you might not at all if you've got a good memory.

As always, thank you for making this year so delicious and fun!  Wishing everyone a safe and Happy New Year! :)

10. Crispy peanut butter chip blondies - One glance at this plate, and I immediately think of Pitt football season.  Despite the, um, less than stellar overall performance by the Panthers, our group had a blast thanks to all of the delicious tailgating spreads, starting and ending with these blondies.  Salty, sweet, and guaranteed to only be around for a limited time because people can't keep their paws off of them.

9. Maple dijon roasted apples, potatoes, sprouts & sausage - This dish falls under the heading "I'm not quite sure how many people this will feed."  Why?  Because, although only two females sat down at the dinner table to enjoy this, the serving plate was clean as a whistle by meal's end.  Couldn't stop, so we didn't stop.  Spoiler alert: This isn't the last time you'll see chicken sausage on this list.

8. No-bake peanut butter chocolate chip oat bites - Speaking of my lack of willpower, ask me how many of these I devoured the first time I made them, and every time thereafter.  Chocolate and peanut butter with a mega crunch?  That's a winning snack combination.  Bonus points for not requiring any baking!

7. Smashed white bean & kale quesadillas - Though the food world's obsession with kale seemed to wane a little after the explosion of 2013, my fire for this particular green still burns.  You might even say it's grown and matured, and I've learned to use kale in the most unlikely and adventurous ways.  Take this quesadilla -- beans, greens, and cheese -- how can that be bad?  Hint: it's not; it's delicious!

6. Panko peanut salmon - Even more than kale, my love of salmon knows no bounds.  Not a week goes by without at least one salmon dinner served in our home.  This Thai-inspired preparation uses soy sauce and peanut butter to create a salty glaze that's topped with toasted panko.  One delicious crunchy bite after another, you'll want to take tiny bites to make this last as long as possible.

5. Chicken sausage & broccoli pizza - If last year was the year of kale, this year has been that of chicken sausage.  I've had it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, not to mention pre-meal samples.  Who knew a pizza without marinara sauce, or any sauce at all, would turn out to be my favorite homemade version?  Incredible!

4. Harvest apple chicken burgers with cranberry Stilton - They say that necessity is the mother of invention.  I say that a 22-pound "harvest" of apples is the initial reason I created these burgers.  However, the 3 (!) times I've made them since can only be attributed to the fact that they are out of this world.  Diced apples keep the burgers super juicy, and the cranberry Stilton totally ties everything together and makes it pop.  Make sure to buy a little more cheese than you need, you know, for a quality check ;)

3. Jalapeno cheddar corn muffins - If my culinary adventures of this year were a book title, it would read: "2014: Year of Chicken Sausage; Also, Katy's taste buds grew a set."  A pinch of red pepper flakes here, a dash of cayenne pepper there, and an entire (seeded) jalapeno sliced and roasted in sweet and cheesy cornbread.  These were the surprise success story of the year!

2. Banana chocolate chip cookies - Just when I thought there was no way to improve upon perfection, despite my many attempts and scores of chocolate chip cookie recipes posted on this site, I made these cookies.  Dare I say the unthinkable, the unimaginable, the previously-thought-to-be-impossible?  These have surpassed the traditional Toll House cookies as the go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe in our home and among many friends who've sampled them.  Chewy, sweet, and always chocolatey!

And, my #1 favorite new recipe of 2014 is...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Top 10 recipes of 2014 - Readers' picks!

As 2014 comes to a close, recaps and "best of" lists are popping up everywhere.  You know how I love a good list, and I couldn't resist getting in on the fun.

From burgers and bacon to cookies and chorizo (all the meats!), here are recipes you lovely folks deemed the most popular by clicking, emailing, posting, and Pinning.  Check back later this week for my top 10 recipes of the year!

10. Blueberry banana protein smoothies - Can't stop and won't stop these smoothies.  Call me a creature of habit or a boring breakfast-er (I prefer the former, in case you're wondering), but these are still a staple of my morning meal two or three days out of the week.  Fast, filling, and tastes like dessert, especially when I toss in a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder.  Yes, please!

9. Cheese-stuffed cocktail meatballs - Cheese + meat + dipping sauce = perfection.  Need I say more?  No... but I will.  The holidays may be coming to a close, but football gatherings and Super Bowl parties are just around the corner.  What are you waiting for?  Make these ASAP!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Wishing you and your family love, peace, delicious eats, and many blessings this holiday season.  Merry Christmas from our home to yours! :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Easy 5-ingredient chocolate graham cracker toffee

Christmas is in two days.  Christmasisintwodays!


I was all set to write a real, borderline-wordy (aka typical) blog about this toffee.  Toffee that I planned to make two weeks ago.  Had I done that and posted it shortly thereafter, you could've made it and included it in your tins of Christmas cookies to family and friends.

However, not surprisingly, I did not make said toffee two weeks ago.  Or even two days ago.  I made it last night.


But it was so easy and so delicious that I couldn't forgive myself if I didn't at least steer you in the right direction to get the (very easy) recipe for yourself so you could wait until the last minute to make toffee, too.

Last minute homemade toffee is better than no toffee at all, right?

Simple, sweet, and sinfully addictive!  Package it in pretty decorative bags, and it also makes a great gift.  Head over to Gimme Some Oven (one of my favorite new-to-me blog discoveries of 2014!) for Ali's recipe.