Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 10 recipes of 2013 - my picks!

Yesterday, I listed the top 10 recipes of 2013 as determined by you.  Today, I'm sharing my top 10 favorite recipes of 2013.  There's a little bit of everything, starting with breakfast and all the way through to dessert... twice!  You might be surprised by what tops the list, too.

Thanks for making 2013 a milestone year here!  Big (delicious) changes are coming in 2014 and I can't wait to share them with you.  Wishing everyone an early Happy New Year! :)

10. Pumpkin pancakes - Breakfast foods are my go-to foods when I don't know what to make or don't have the energy for something more involved.  Traditional pancakes (actually typed "pumpcakes") get a spiced upgrade in these delicious seasonal flapjacks.

9. Crock Pot black bean soup - Hearty, inexpensive, healthy, and ridiculously easy.  This soup has been a lifesaver/dinnersaver on so many busy nights.

8. Garlic roasted cabbage - Roast it, and it will be delicious!  So simple and so life-changing.  Who knew cabbage could be so delicious?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Top 10 recipes of 2013 - your picks!

As 2013 comes to a close, "best of" lists and recaps are popping up everywhere.  You know how I love a good list, so I had to get in on the action.

From casseroles and cakes to creamy soups and all the cheeses, here are recipes you lovely folks deemed the most popular by clicking, emailing, posting, and Pinning.  Check back tomorrow for my top 10 recipes!

10. Taco turkey casserole - "I want to live inside that," said Laura, Matt, and anyone who's ever taken even one bite of this hearty dish.  Serve as an entree or with sturdy chips for an epic party dip!

9. Chocolate Ho-ho cake - The Hostess Company may have been saved from extinction, but their Ho-Hos have nothing on this decadent chocolate and cream cake.

8. Copycat Mad Mex chick pea chili - Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.  And being able to make one of your favorite restaurant dishes at home (a smidge better than they do!) is just plain priceless.  This is, without a doubt, the most unique and delicious chili I've ever had!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

From our home to yours, Merry Christmas!   Hope it's happy, healthy, and oh-so-sweet :)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

3-ingredient Oreo truffles

Eee!  Christmas is tomorrow!  I see the calendar and yet I still can't believe it.

So you may wonder why I'm giving you one more new recipe.  Especially one that I'm going to insist, nay, implore you to make right this minute or, at the very least, sometime over the next week.

Don't you know that Christmas is tomorrow?

Yes, yes, I do.  See the first line of this post.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas morning eats

Two days and counting!  Better saddle up for one last trip to the store to pick up the necessary ingredients to make a special breakfast or two, be it on Christmas morning or another day over the holiday break.

Do you have any special Christmas morning breakfast traditions?  For as long as I can remember, we've always had cinnamon rolls, oranges, and coffee/hot chocolate.  We wake up slowly, nibbling and drinking and chatting, as my dad builds a fire in the family room.

It's funny to think how we rushed through this tradition when we were younger and now that we're older, we take our time -- so much so that my mom sometimes has to remind us to start opening gifts!  My 10-year old self would be shocked.

Wherever you find yourself on the 25th, I hope you have a festive and delicious start to the day.  Sweet and savory, here are some of my favorite breakfast recipes suitable for kids from 1 to 92 :)

Eggs & meats

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fast Friday: 5-ingredient Chicken Tortilla Soup

Happy Friday to you!

These past few weeks have been gloriously busy.  Days and evenings -- even weeknights, gasp! -- have been filled with parties, travel, reunions, shopping, and the most phenomenal concert ever.

To make time for fun things, I'm finding myself borrowing time from certain activities, like sleep.  The bags under my eyes make me look terribly ragged, but I promise I'm awake, alert, and ready to party.  I can sleep in January!

I can also clean and do laundry in January.  I thought about buying more underwear but realized that, too, requires washing and drying before wearing.  If you're interested, I'm looking to hire a laundry associate.  Please inquire for further details.  I will pay you handsomely in cookies.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Chocolate peanut butter pie

I fancy myself a relatively creative person with a very active imagination.  Throw in a major passion for food and you can guess what occupies my thoughts 90% of the time.

So, when a friend says something like, "Katy, I need an idea for something to make to take to a party," my mind goes from 0 to 60 in no time at all.  Pedal to the metal, baby.  With no direction whatsoever, I can quickly come up with no less than 10 ideas ranging from appetizers to entrees and (obviously) desserts.

And if he/she provides a few parameters for said dish?  You might think that'd tap the breaks and narrow my focus, but you'd be mistaken.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Banana whoopie pies with Nutella buttercream

Smack in the middle of my holiday cookie baking, I got a craving and a wild idea.  My husband can vouch from past experience that this means two things: First, a phone call from me begging him to stop at the grocery store.  Second, dessert.

Spontaneity always means sugar in my world.  For some, this might be a sign of a bigger problem.  For me, it's as welcome and reliable as the sunrise :)

The craving was for something sweet and soft.  I love snappy and chewy cookies, but even I needed a break from 'em.  And as much as eating more of the cookie dough would've satisfied me, there was no reason I couldn't take a break from baking... to do a little more baking.

Monday, December 16, 2013

55 Christmas cookie recipes

My mom and I are both elbow-deep into our Christmas baking... and I'm loving every moment of it.  Have you started playing in the kitchen yet?

Food is love, and what better way to spread love than to gift cookies and treats to those near and dear to you!  Whether you're planning to bake cookies for everyone on your nice list or simply make enough to take to a holiday party, there's something for variety of sweet tooth here. 

Happy baking!

Drop cookies
Cutout, iced, filled, rolled, or stuffed cookies

Bar cookies

Candy & other sweets

Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday Five: Cookbooks to gift

(Obligatory reminder of how many days are left before Christmas and onset of self-induced panic after looking at one's ever-growing to-do list.)

Ha-appy Friday, everyone!  Hope you're having a great week and taking time to enjoy the special moments of the holiday season, however big or small they may be.  The brief 5 minute bursts of hanging ornaments (does your tree take days to decorate like ours?) or Christmas episodes of your favorite TV shows are just as important as the lavish parties and gift exchanges.  Any time together with people you love is time well spent, right?

All of that being said, I take special pride in being a really good gift giver and want to spoil those on my list with things they'll really enjoy.  There are few better things than seeing someone's face light up when they receive a surprise they love, right?

I won't pretend to have all the answers to your shopping and gifting conundrums, but I will offer up a few more suggestions for the food-minded person on your list.  Whether he/she is a rookie or an expert, these cookbooks are some of my favorites, new and old, and are for real people who cook real food.

This Friday Five is all about good resources for good recipes and great food.  Bon appetit! 

1. Martha Stewart Baking Handbook - The owner and head baker of a local bakery recommended this book to me years ago.  When I asked him about going to culinary/pastry school, he told me to save my money and bake my way through this book because it would teach me "everything a baker needs to know."  Best advice to date!  If I could only recommend one book to an aspiring baker, this would be it.

2. Barefoot Contessa Foolproof - My love for Ina knows no bounds, and her latest offering only confirms my adoration.  Reliable recipes, satisfying meals, and easy entertaining are the hallmarks of Ina's food philosophy.  I especially love her tips for planning a party, down to a table layout and timeline leading up to the meal.  Lists are a host's best friend!

3. The America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook - Like Martha's book, if I could only recommend one book to an aspiring cook, this would be it.  America's Test Kitchen doesn't assume that the reader knows everything and provides hundreds (maybe thousands?) of helpful photos.  Recipes for all skill levels and appetites.

4. Michael Symon's 5 in 5 - I once thought Chef Symon was only capable of making fancy and complex dishes from watching him on Iron Chef, but learned his cooking can also be incredibly approachable and downright easy.  He's one of my newest food crushes, thanks to his new show The Chew.  This book has been a savior for weeknight dinners in our home!

5. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays - If Martha is the queen mother and Ina the queen, Ree is absolutely the princess in cowboy boots, new to the royal food court.  I'm a regular reader of her blog and can't get enough of her show on Food Network.  I think the reason she's become so successful is because she cooks what we really want to eat!  Hearty dishes that can feed a small family or a big crowd come together with helpful shortcuts and her signature wit.  Summary: I love this book so!

Bonus: Cookbook holder - Matt got this for me a few years ago, and I can't tell you how useful it is.  Keeps cookbooks open and protects them from flying batter and sizzling oil!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Cinnamon nut diamonds

I'm so excited to share this recipe with you because it means I get to gush about two of my most favorite things in the universe: my mom and cookies.

I've told you how my mom goes overboard with holidays in the best possible way.  She makes her own cards, wears the cutest seasonal pins, records every holiday special on TV, and decorates nearly every inch of the house.  We tease her and say that "Christmas threw up" (or Halloween or Easter) but honestly love it and wouldn't have the holidays any other way.

However, at Christmas, there's one tradition that reigns supreme and it's what my mom looks forward to the most after all the trimming is finished -- the cookie baking.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holiday Gift Guide: My 20 must-have kitchen tools & toys!

Christmas is exactly 15 days away!  How's your holiday to-do list looking at this moment?  Mine is in decent shape since I've mailed the cards and completed roughly half of my gift shopping.  I'm hoping to finish most of the shopping this weekend, so I can focus entirely on my favorite activity -- baking.

If you're coming up empty-handed trying to think of gift ideas for the kitchen enthusiast in your life -- or need to add a few items to your own wish list, ahem -- here are 20 of my must-have tools and toys for bakers and cooks of all skill levels.  I own every single one and couldn't imagine my life in the kitchen without them.  Happy shopping :)

1. Mini spatulas

2. Silicone baking mat

3. Crock Pot

4. Griddler

5. Goldtouch nonstick baking sheet

6. Non-slip cutting boards, small and large

7. All-Clad frying pan

8. Cake/cupcake carrier

9. Pizza stone

10. (Pretty) stock pot

11. Classic chef's knife

12. & 13.  Stainless steel measuring cups & spoons

14. Mesh sugar shaker

15. Cake stand/punch bowl

16. Small (1.5 quart) nonstick saucepan with lid

17. Mini food chopper

18. Glass pie dish

19. Individual ramekin dishes

20. Cookie scoop - my very favorite!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sausage & gnocchi soup

Remember that time I was totally spontaneous and made the most amazing soup on the fly?

Yeah, me neither.  Not the second part, but certainly the first.  The part about being spontaneous.  The part that involved no forethought or planning.

Yes, it's really me.  And, no, I haven't been brainwashed by aliens.

Have you ever been craving something but weren't sure exactly what that something was?  Psychologists, doctors, and those crazy coaches on The Biggest Loser might insist that feeling is merely boredom and you're not really hungry.

I wholeheartedly disagree.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fast Friday: Bistecca alla Pizzaiola (steaks pizza style)

It's Friday!  And, on this fabulous Friday, I approach you sheepishly and ask for your forgiveness.

For what?

For keeping this recipe from you for much too long.

I could say it was an accident.  That I didn't plan on hoarding this recipe.  That I did everything in my power to share this deliciousness with you, come Hell or high water.  But my silence was very much intentional.

When I first made this, it seemed too simple to warrant an official recipe and proper blog post.  Sure was delicious and knocked our socks off, though.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pumpkin gingersnaps

I shared this recipe in 2010 when I made these cookies for the first time.  Since then, I've looked forward to making them each holiday season, and this year is no different.  I baked the first batch last night and, after one two three helpings, was reminded why these ginger snaps are some of my favorite seasonal cookies.  The pumpkin and molasses are such a unique combination and create a cookie that's chewy and full of spice!

Just in time for the season of baking and sharing, I thought this recipe deserved a little love and attention.  Here's (most of) the original post and how to make it:

I've got a question for you.  Just one question.  So, dig deep within your souls and be prepared to answer honestly.  Ready?

Ready, Freddie.

Are you sick of pumpkin yet?

I ask this because I've got a mind-blowing recipe for pumpkin gingersnaps that will, um, blow your mind!  I mean, these cookies will cure whatever ails you.  Be it the first round of the flu, it's-only-Tuesday-itis, or a why-won't-the-weather-cooperate-for-my-friends'-wedding-on-Saturday worry.  I'm still working on a term for don't-want-to-work-just-want-to-exercise-and-bake-all-day-itis.  Any suggestions?

Oh!  The cookies.  Yes, the cookies.  They'll fix all of those problems.  I did promise that.  Aren't they pretty?  So, are you sick of pumpkin yet?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Baked Tuscan mac & cheese

Hey there and happy December!  It feels good to be back after the Thanksgiving holiday.  I put a few vacation days to good use and treated myself to an extra long weekend.  It's incredible what you can find time to do with 6 days away from the office.  (Think I'll remember what to do when I return tomorrow?)

There was so much time with family cooking, relaxing by the fire, and eating.  On Friday, we froze our tails off at the Pitt game, but it was worth it to enjoy time with our friends.  Matt and I even caught the new Hunger Games movie (so good!) and decked our halls with Christmas decorations.

So much fun and most of it was fueled by Thanksgiving leftovers.  Turkey soup, turkey sandwiches, spoonfuls of stuffing right out of the refrigerator... ahem.