Friday, December 30, 2011

Best of 2011: My Favorites

I can't believe we're at the end of the year already. I just can't believe it. This has been a tough year for my family in lots of different ways, so I'm ready for a fresh start in 2012.

2011 was definitely a delicious year food-wise, though, and it was really hard for me to narrow down the list of my favorite recipes of the year. So you're getting 20 of them, in no particular order (because it would be nearly impossible for me to rank them).

I want to thank each and every one of you for stopping by my blog this year. I love getting your comments and e-mails throughout the year! Maintaining this blog is so much fun for me, and I'm so glad so many of you seem to enjoy it as much as I do. Have a very safe, very Happy New Year!

Marsala burgers

Bacon pierogi bake

Lemon yogurt sugar muffins

Rosemary ranch chicken

Southwestern sloppy joes with honey-lime coleslaw

Cuban sandwiches

Honey-lime chicken enchiladas

Taco rice

Bacon and egg quesadillas

Shaved asparagus pizza

Butterbeer cake

Chicken bacon ranch chili

Oatmeal creme pies

Pumpkin crunch coffee cake

Bistro macaroni and cheese

Sweet pork tacos with cilantro ranch dressing

Maple brown sugar muffins

Southwestern ranch open-faced turkey sandwiches

Mozzarella-baked gnocchi

Swedish meatballs with homemade egg noodles

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best of 2011: Your Favorites

Today and tomorrow, I thought I’d highlight the favorite/most popular recipes I’ve shared during 2011. Today I’ll highlight your favorites (based on page views), and tomorrow I’ll share my favorites.

Here’s what you guys liked the most this year. And may I just say, you guys have amazing taste, because all of these things are delicious!

10. Pepperoni sauce

9. Green egg candies for Dr. Seuss’s birthday

8. Chicken bacon avocado quesadillas

7. Pecan pie cupcakes

6. Lasagna-stuffed garlic bread

5. Chicken enchilada casserole

4. Caramel-filled pumpkin snickerdoodles

3. Bacon ranch foil packet potatoes

2. Avocado eggs benedict with chipotle hollandaise

1. Crescent sausage egg and cheese bake

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

French Onion and Asparagus Pasta

This makes me sound like a total food geek (that’s okay; I own it), but I am always so fascinated by what happens to onions when you cook them for a long time at a low temperature. It just amazes me how something that burns your eyes when you cut into it and has such a sharp flavor when its raw becomes this sweet, soft, caramelly sort of thing when you cook it low and slow. Mmmm. My mouth is watering just thinking about a huge pot of caramelized onions. (Like I said, total food geek.)

I was pretty darn excited to try this pasta out, and it definitely did not disappoint. I’d originally intended to serve the asparagus on the side, but I was feeling a little crazy that day, so I decided to mix it up with the pasta itself. I’m really glad I did – I loved the flavor of the asparagus in combination with the sweet onions.

This pasta is a lot like eating a bowl of French onion soup, but with the added bonuses of asparagus and pasta. It has a wonderful beefy flavor (just like French onion soup), so you don’t even really realize that there’s no meat in it. My husband loved it, and my boys both asked for seconds. This is definitely a recipe I’ll make again and again!

French Onion and Asparagus Pasta
adapted from Stephanie Cooks

1 stick butter
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
12-16 ounces penne pasta
1 pound asparagus spears, ends trimmed and sliced into thirds
2 tablespoons flour
1 can beef stock
1 packet onion soup mix
1/4 cup cream or half-and-half
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven or large skillet. Add onions, garlic, thyme and bay leaf; season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until onions are softened and caramel in color, about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions on package in boiling salted water. During the last 4 minutes of cooking, stir in asparagus spears. Drain pasta and asparagus; set aside and keep warm.

3. When onions are caramelized, stir in flour until coated. Stir in beef stock, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and onion soup mix. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in heavy cream. Add onions and sauce to the reserved pasta and asparagus.

4. Spread the pasta in an oven-safe dish. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

5. Combine olive oil and breadcrumbs; sprinkle evenly over cheese.

6. Broil until the breadcrumbs being to brown and the cheese is melted.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Bake

In the days B.C. (Before Children), Joe and I used to eat out quite a lot. We had a lot more disposable income (and a lot more time!) in those days to enjoy a nice meal in a restaurant. One of our favorite places to eat was Cracker Barrel. I realize that makes us very uncool, but there it is.

They have this weekly chicken special on their menu that I used to love. They serve it every Wednesday, so Joe and I used to go there for dinner nearly every Wednesday. The dish contains chicken, broccoli, Ritz crackers, and tons of cheese, and it is so delicious. Even after the boys were born and eating out became nothing but a distant memory (at least temporarily), I never quite forgot about that dish. I always meant to recreate it, but life got in the way, as it does. That is, at least until the day I stumbled across this recipe on Pinterest.

I’m happy to report that, in this recipe, I’ve found a more-than-suitable replacement for that dish I used to love so much. In fact, with the tweaks I made, I think this may be even better than Cracker Barrel’s version! You simply can’t go wrong with broccoli, cheddar cheese, and buttery crackers. Everyone in my family absolutely loved this, and I will definitely be making it frequently from now on!

Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Bake
adapted from Get Off Your Butt and Bake!

For the chicken:

1 pound broccoli florets
4 medium-sized chicken breasts
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 tube buttery crackers (like Ritz), roughly crushed
1 stick melted butter

For the sauce:

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Steam broccoli for about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, season chicken breasts with salt and pepper.

3. Place the chicken in a greased 13 × 9-inch pan. Top with the broccoli in an even layer.

4. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the flour; cook and stir until bubbly. Add chicken broth, salt and pepper, and milk. Stir well, and continue stirring until sauce has thickened. Turn heat to low and add 1 1/2 cups of the cheese. Stir until melted.

5. Pour the sauce over the chicken and broccoli. Top with the remaining 1 1/2 cups cheese.

6. Melt the stick of butter and stir in the crushed crackers. Sprinkle over the top of the grated cheese.

7. Bake uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken, until hot, bubbly, and cooked through.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Taco French Bread Pizzas

Raise your hand if you’re resolving to eat healthier next year. Yeah, me too. I think it’s a goal that a lot (if not most) people make at the beginning of the year. And I think it’s a great resolution to have. We should all think about eating better, healthier, more whole and less preservative-laden foods. But guess what? It’s not 2012 yet! There’s still time to eat a few more sinful, not-so-healthy dinners. And so, I give you...TACO FRENCH BREAD PIZZA.

Man, you guys, is this ever delicious. You prepare it the same way you would a regular French bread pizza, but instead of topping it with your typical pizza ingredients, you top it with refried beans, taco meat, and tons of cheese. And then some lettuce and tomato, you know, so you get your vegetables. You’re basically eating a taco on bread instead of in a tortilla.

And that, my friends? Is pretty amazing.

Taco French Bread Pizzas
heavily adapted from Food and Whine

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
1 packet taco seasoning
1 can refried beans
1 loaf French bread, cut in half lengthwise, then each half cut into thirds (six slices total)
2 cups shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese
Diced tomato, lettuce and sour cream for serving, if desired

1. Cook ground beef in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When meat starts to get a little color but is still pink, add onion. Cook until beef is fully cooked and onion is softened. Drain meat and return to pan.

2. Stir in garlic; cook and stir 30 seconds. Stir in green chilies with their juice and taco seasoning.

3. Meanwhile, hollow out the center of each slice of French bread (this is so you can fit more toppings in!). Broil just until they begin to brown.

4. Fill each hollow of bread with some refried beans. Top with a generous helping of meat and a generous sprinkling of cheese. Broil until cheese is melted.

5. Sprinkle each serving with lettuce and tomato, and dollop with sour cream if desired.

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011 Christmas Cookies Recap

As you know, I recently got done sharing all of the Christmas treats I made for last year’s cookie trays. Last weekend, I spent an entire day baking cookies for our family, neighbors, and friends. It was exhausting and stressful, but it was also incredibly rewarding when Andrew, Will and I delivered overflowing trays of goodies to everyone earlier this week.

Rather than saving the cookie recipes to share with you next year, I thought I’d go ahead and write about them now. I’m doing this for a couple of reasons: 1. Because I’ve talked to some people who aren’t doing their holiday baking until tomorrow (Christmas Eve), and this may give those people a few yummy last minute ideas; and 2. Because I didn’t have the time to take a picture of each cookie individually. Frankly, while I was baking these cookies, I didn’t even have time to stop and eat. (Well, aside from the baked goods and cookie dough I was sampling all day long.)

Before I started baking last Sunday morning, I wrote out my agenda on my trusty chalkboard door:

By the end of the day, all of these items except for two were crossed off – and one additional item was added (but I’ll get to that in a minute). My failures were the peppermint fudge, which never sat up for me properly, and the soft sugar cookies. I tried baking three different batches of them, but they came out incredibly dry and sort of flavorless each time.

The rest, though, were absolutely delicious, and so far I’ve gotten tons of positive feedback on all of these things. I already told you about the hot cocoa mix and dipping spoons and the hot chocolate popcorn. Here’s the rest of what I made:

Buckeyes and pretzel turtles: These are yearly staples for me, and they always go over well with everyone. This year my sister dipped the Buckeyes for me, and she did a much better job than I ever do, so that’s totally her job from now on.

Mint chocolate chip cookie dough truffles: Everyone has loved these so far. More than one person has told me that it’s so fun to bite into a truffle and see something that looks like mint chocolate chip ice cream on the inside. They’re pretty tasty, but they don’t have quite enough mint flavor for me. Next time, I’d add an additional 1/4 teaspoon of mint extract.

Nutter Butter snowmen: Are these little guys cute or what?! I usually make Santas, but thought these snowmen would be a fun change. They’re basically candy, coated with candy, and decorated with more candy. Needless to say, they’ve been a huge hit, and well worth the time it took to make them (nearly two hours for one package of Nutter Butters)!

Rugelach: This was the first time I’ve ever made rugelach, so I picked a popular recipe that was pretty highly rated and sounded simple enough for me to make. Well, I must have good recipe-picking skills, because these were perfect. The dough is so lovely and flaky and not too sweet, and the filling of walnuts, chocolate chips, and cinnamon sugar is just absolutely scrumptious. Everyone loves these, and I’ve had multiple requests for the recipe.

Chocolate caramel cookies: These are similar to the Snickers cookies I’ve made before, except the cookie base is chocolate and they’re stuffed with a Rolo instead of a mini Snickers bar. These cookies are rich and sweet, with a nice caramel surprise in the middle.

Lofthouse sugar cookie bars with easy buttercream frosting: When the soft sugar cookies failed me thrice, I did a quick online search for something sugar cookie-ish that didn’t involve a dough that I could make quickly. Thankfully, I had everything on hand to make these. And although they were a last-minute addition to the cookie trays, they’re actually my favorite thing I made this year. They taste exactly like a Lofthouse cookie, with a sweet, silky frosting and the soft crunch of holiday sprinkles. LOVE.

Oatmeal butterscotch coconut cookies: Annie said these are the best oatmeal scotchies she’s ever tried, and I agree. They’re definitely the best ones I’ve ever had. The shredded coconut and toffee bits just take them to a completely new level. I only had quick-cooking oats on hand, so that’s what I used for the cookies, and they turned out just fine. This is one loaded, delicious cookie.

Red velvet crinkles: These cookies start with cake mix, so immediately I love them, because I love easy things like cake mixes when I’m baking cookies for AN ENTIRE DAY. I added 1 teaspoon of vanilla to the mix and left out the lemon zest, but otherwise made the cookies as indicated. They came together in minutes, and they’re so festive and pretty, with that familiar red velvet flavor everyone loves.

Hot chocolate triple chip cookies: Joe had his eye on these cookies before they’d even been baked, when they were still just raw balls of cookie dough sitting on baking trays. They were the first thing he tried when presented with all of my day’s efforts, and were definitely his favorite of all of this year’s offerings. These cookies are gigantic and rich. You can really taste the hot chocolate flavor in them. I loved them, too, but because I’m not a huge fan of white chocolate chips in cookies, I’ll probably replace those with another cup of milk chocolate chips when I make these again (and I will, because they’re almost gone, and Joe will soon be clamoring for another batch, I have no doubt).

Chocolate cherry blossoms: This is a change-up of the traditional peanut butter blossom. It’s a cherry cookie instead, with both cherry juice and chopped maraschino cherries in the base. I really liked these cookies. The texture is really soft, and the cherry flavor is definitely there, and strong enough that the Hershey’s Kiss doesn’t overpower it. I thought these were definitely the prettiest cookies of all the types I made.

Are you exhausted, just reading about all of this? I was definitely exhausted by the time I finished baking all of it on Sunday evening! It was so worth it, though, to be able to give plates of delicious baked goods to the people I care about. And even while I’m recovering from all that baking, I’m already thinking about what I’m going to make next year…

I want to wish all of you Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I hope your holiday is merry, bright, peaceful, and spent as every holiday should be: with the people you love the most in the world.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Eggnog Pancakes

I can’t think of a beverage that signifies the holidays more than eggnog. It’s definitely one of Joe’s favorite things about the holiday season. As soon as eggnog starts appearing in the refrigerated dairy case at the grocery store, you can bet that there are at least two different kinds in our fridge. (Side note: This year we’re enjoying the heck out of this sugar cookie eggnog. Eggnog is typically too rich for me to drink from a glass, but I can definitely pound this version. If you see it at your grocery store, get it!)

In an attempt to get on Joe’s “nice list” (there are a few things I really want for Christmas this year!), I decided to make him some eggnog pancakes. And let me tell you, these pancakes got me on my own nice list. I want to buy myself lots of pretty things to reward myself for making them. They’re that good.

They’re soft and pillowy in texture on the inside, but they’re just shy of crisp on the outside, which is exactly the way I like my pancakes. The recipe contains no sugar, but the eggnog provides plenty of that sweet, custardy flavor. These pancakes really are perfection, and would be amazing for breakfast on Christmas Day!

Eggnog Pancakes
adapted from Allrecipes

2 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of ground nutmeg
2 eggs
2 cups eggnog
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

1. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In another bowl, beat eggs, eggnog and butter; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

2. Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a lightly greased hot griddle. Turn when bubbles form on top; cook until second side is golden brown.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Last Minute Homemade Gift Ideas...Involving Hot Chocolate!

During the holidays, I like to make homemade gifts for people as often as I can – usually edible homemade gifts. And although I’m sure people would be just as happy with (or maybe even prefer!) a gift card, I definitely enjoy the entire process – the baking, the assembling, the packaging...all of it.

I thought I’d share a couple of the gifts I made this year for the boys’ daycare teachers and classmates. They both happen to involve hot chocolate, and they are both absolutely delicious. I delivered them this morning to some very happy recipients!

For the boys’ teachers, I decided to make homemade hot cocoa mix. I bagged it up and placed it in festive coffee cups (that I found at the Dollar Store marked down to $.75 each, wooo!). Rather than packaging it with marshmallows or candy canes, I made dipping spoons to go along with the mix. Each teacher got six servings of cocoa, so each teacher got six spoons.

Here’s what I used for the spoons:

Melted peanut butter chips sprinkled with miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
Melted semi-sweet chocolate chips with toffee bits
Melted semi-sweet chocolate chips with Christmas sprinkles
Melted milk chocolate chips with marshmallows
Melted milk chocolate chips with finely crushed candy canes
Melted milk chocolate chips with shredded sweetened coconut

The combinations are endless. You could use caramels, too, or even something like strawberry or cherry hard candies.

I of course had to have a cup of the hot cocoa myself (you know, just to make sure it was edible), and it was just as good, if not better, than the prepackaged mixes. It’s so dark and rich and creamy, and really coats your mouth with that yummy chocolate flavor. I didn’t try it with one of the dipping spoons, but I imagine they’ll take it to a completely different level!

As for the boys’ classmates, I wanted something that I could package pretty simply and that would, obviously, be kid-friendly. It didn’t take me long to decide on this hot chocolate popcorn. What took me much longer to do was actually convince myself to give it away once I tried it, because you guys, this stuff is amazing! Kettle corn is mixed with marshmallows, coated with melted white chocolate, sprinkled with hot chocolate mix, and drizzled with milk chocolate. I KNOW.

I bought these cute little bags at the supermarket, which were the perfect size for the popcorn.

The hot cocoa mix, dipping spoons, and popcorn are all very quick and simple to make, so if you’re still looking for a gift idea for someone in your life, these are both great options. I think there are going to be some very happy kids and teachers at the daycare today!

Hot Cocoa Mix with Dipping Spoons
mix from Brown-Eyed Baker

For the mix:
(I doubled this recipe)

3 cups nonfat dry milk powder
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the spoons:

Plastic spoons
Melted chocolate, peanut butter, and/or white chocolate chips
Marshmallows, coconut, crushed candy canes, sprinkles, mini chocolate chips, toffee bits, etc., for sprinkling

1. Whisk together all ingredients in a large bowl. Working in two batches, pulse the ingredients in a food processor until the chocolate is finely ground. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

2. Dip each spoon in melted chocolate. Make sure the well of the spoon is full of chocolate. Place on wax paper and sprinkle with toppings while chocolate is still wet. Let harden before packaging.

3. To make hot cocoa, put 1/3 cup of the cocoa mix in a mug and stir in 1 cup of hot milk. Use a spoon for stirring.

Hot Chocolate Popcorn
adapted from Cookies and Cups

3 packages un-popped kettle corn
1 12-ounce bag white chocolate chips
2 cups mini marshmallows
1/2 cup powdered hot chocolate mix (2 packages)
4 ounces milk chocolate

1. Pop the popcorn.

2. In a large bowl, combine the popcorn and marshmallows.

3. Melt the white chocolate chips and drizzle on top of popcorn/marshmallow mix. Stir to coat evenly.

4. Spread the popcorn on a wax paper lined counter. Immediately sprinkle the hot chocolate mix on top of the wet popcorn.

5. Melt the milk chocolate and drizzle on top of popcorn. Let chocolate set.

6. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Baked Sour Cream Chicken

This is one of my new favorite chicken recipes. Chicken is definitely my family’s preferred meat; we eat it often, and I’m always looking for new ways to prepare it. I initially saw this recipe on Pinterest, and to say that I was all over it would be an understatement. I could not wait to try it.

I’m happy to report that, not surprisingly, it definitely didn’t disappoint. Chicken breasts are slathered with sour cream, then topped with a layer of breadcrumbs and a lot of butter. The sour cream keeps the chicken incredibly tangy and moist, and the layer of bread crumbs has a nice crunch. Highly caloric? Yes. Worth it? YES.

Baked Sour Cream Chicken
adapted from Making Life Delicious

2 pounds chicken breasts
Black pepper
Garlic powder
1 cup (approximately) of full fat sour cream
1 1/2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay the chicken close together on a foil lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Coat with a thick layer of sour cream. Top with breadcrumbs and dot with butter.

2. Bake for 35 minutes to an hour, depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Swedish Meatballs

As promised, here’s my favorite thing (so far) to serve with those delicious egg noodles I wrote about last week. I love Swedish meatballs, and this version is the best one I’ve ever tried. I’ve never been to IKEA (the closest one is two hours away), so I don’t know how these compare to the version they’re supposed to emulate. But they are amazingly delicious, and that’s all I really cared about.

I loved the balance of flavor in these. The allspice added that wonderful spicy flavor and aroma, and the white pepper added the perfect amount of heat to balance it out. And the gravy – oh my word, the gravy. Next time, I’m doubling it.

Incidentally, I didn’t have allspice in my pantry, so I googled it to see if there was anything I could use in place of it, which led me here. The combination of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves really did provide a flavor very similar to allspice.

Swedish Meatballs
from Food Network Magazine via Carrie’s Sweet Life

For the meatballs:

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup minced white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Salt and white pepper
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 large egg plus 1 egg white, beaten

For the gravy:

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Put the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, allspice, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the milk and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Pour the milk mixture over the breadcrumbs and stir to make a thick paste; let cool. Add the beef, pork, egg and egg white to the bowl and mix until combined.

3. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Roll the meat into 1-inch balls and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake the meatballs until cooked through, about 20 minutes.

4. To make the gravy, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, whisking, until smooth. Whisk in the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the cream and meatballs. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the gravy thickens, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Weekly Meal Planning, Weeks of 12.19.11 and 12.26.11

I’m doing something a little bit different with the meal plan this week: I’m posting two weeks’ worth of meals. Yesterday I did all my shopping for two weeks’ worth of groceries (plus cookie baking supplies; today’s the day!), and now I don’t have to worry about shopping for anything but a few staples and fresh produce for the rest of the year. That, plus the fact that my Christmas shopping is done, makes me very, very happy.

You'll notice there is lots of chicken. Chicken was on sale.

December 19: Chicken scampi and breadsticks. This recipe is really nothing fancy – just chicken and bell peppers served over boxed pasta. I’ve been making it for a long time, without shame!

December 20: Eggnog pancakes, hash browns, sausage patties. I’m not a huge fan of eggnog just to drink (although all three of the guys I live with are!), but I enjoy it in things for sure. I’m excited to try these pancakes!

December 21: Chicken bacon ranch sandwiches and fries. You know I'm a fan of this flavor combo!

December 22: Rigatoni with chicken, bacon and mushrooms

December 23: Pizza from our favorite local place

December 24: Christmas Eve dinner

December 25: Christmas dinner

December 26: Crock pot cream cheese chicken chili topped with tortilla strips and avocado. As soon as I saw this in Amanda’s weekly wrap-up, I knew I’d be making it. I mean, duh.

December 27: Creamy baked chicken taquitos with lime-cilantro dressing. These are a family favorite!

December 28: Loaded sweet potato soup with candied bacon, rolls

December 29: Pretzel ranch chicken tenders, revolutionary macaroni and cheese, steamed broccoli. I’m kind of hoping I still have some dressing left from Tuesday for these chicken tenders, because it would make them even better.

December 30: Baked sour cream chicken (I’ll share the recipe this week), rice pilaf, and green beans

December 31: Roasted garlic mac and cheese. This will be the second time I’ve made this mac and cheese this month. It is so delicious, and a hit with my entire family! I can’t think of a better dish to close out the year with. And as Rachael Ray says, two garlics cancel each other out, so Joe and I won’t have to worry about that during our midnight kiss. :)

January 1: We’ll be having a big New Year’s Day dinner mid-afternoon, so I don’t know how hungry we’ll be for dinner.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Homemade Egg Noodles

My grandma made from-scratch egg noodles often when I was growing up. In fact, I can’t remember very many Sunday dinners when we didn’t have them. I never was quite sure what made them so delicious, but I remember eating lots and lots of them. They were one of my very favorite things about after-church dinners at her house.

Grandma always served her egg noodles in a light, buttery sauce with parsley and seasonings. When I asked her recently what kind of spices she used in her egg noodles, she told me it was just poultry seasoning. I was dubious that mere poultry seasoning could produce all that flavor, but the first time I tried making egg noodles myself I made them her way, and what do you know. She was telling the truth. They tasted just as amazing as I remembered.

Now that I’ve made egg noodles from scratch, I can say without a doubt that I will never purchase them from the store again. Making them at home is so simple, and the amazing homemade taste is worth every bit of time they take to make. The chewy texture is incredible. I’ve made these several times now, and coming up on Monday, I’ll share my favorite thing to serve them with so far!

If you’d like the step-by-step instructions for making these, check out the link to Jonna’s blog below. She has some great photos to walk you through the process.

Homemade Egg Noodles
from Get Off Your Butt and Bake

2 cups all purpose flour
3 egg yolks
1 egg
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup water

1. Make a well in center of flour. Add egg yolks, egg and salt; mix thoroughly. Mix in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough is stiff, but easy to roll. Knead for about 5 minutes adding additional flour if necessary to make a dough that is not sticky.

2. Divide dough in 3 or 4 equal parts. Roll dough, one part at a time, into thin rectangle on well floured board, to less than 1/8 inch thick. Make sure that your dough is well floured.

3. Using a pizza cutter, cut piece of floured dough into 1/4-inch strips. Then cut those long strips into shorter strips, to the length you desire your noodles. Place cut noodles onto a clean towel to dry, for about 1 to 2 hours.

4. Cook in boiling salted water for about 5 minutes.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Two Weeks of Christmas Treats, Day 12: Gingerbread Cookie Cheesecake Bites

Well, we’ve come to the end of the Two Weeks of Christmas Treats. I hope you’ve enjoyed the recipes I’ve shared, and maybe even got some inspiration for your holiday baking! Baking cookies and treats to share with my friends and family is absolutely one of my favorite things about the holidays. It’s been fun sharing some recipes with all of my virtual friends! :)

I’m ending the treat bonanza with a real winner: gingerbread cookie cheesecake bites. They start from refrigerated gingerbread cookie mix, so they couldn’t be easier to make. Andrew actually helped me make these, and he loved rolling the dough into balls and then making indentations in the cookies for the cheesecake filling. He also loved eating them, as did everyone else who tried them! The lemony cream cheese filling is such a perfect complement to the spicy gingerbread cookie. And the smell while these are baking – it’s out of this world.

I’m already imagining making these again with lots of different kinds of cookie dough. Mmmm. I’ll be sure to report on my experimentation in this area!

Gingerbread Cookie Cheesecake Bites
adapted from Created By Diane

1 30-ounce package refrigerated Pillsbury gingerbread cookie dough
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 to 1 teaspoon lemon zest

1. Roll two teaspoons of cookie dough into a ball for each cookie. Place balls of dough into paper lined mini cupcake/muffin pans. Make a well/indentation into each ball of dough with the back of a measurement teaspoon.

2. Beat room temperature cream cheese with powdered sugar. Stir in vanilla and lemon zest to taste. Place filling into a piping bag, cut off edge of bag. Place one teaspoon or so of filling into each area of cookie dough. Don’t over fill the cookies with filling as they will rise when baked.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes or until cookie tested with tooth pick comes out almost clean. Let cool before removing from cupcake pan. Makes 4 dozen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Two Weeks of Christmas Treats, Day 11: Oreo Truffles

I am certainly not the first person to post these Oreo truffles, right? They’ve definitely made their rounds throughout the food blogging community. They deserve all the attention, too; they’re incredibly delicious.

It took me awhile to get the hang of forming the balls. The mixture is incredibly wet and sticky, so after struggling for a few minutes, I chilled the mixture, then rolled the balls. That made a huge difference. They were easier to handle and easier to dip in the chocolate. Even after chilling them, the center still really had that rich chocolate flavor and texture you’d expect from a truffle. These are a bit time-consuming, but they’re such a crowd-pleaser that you’ll be a rock star if you make them.

Oreo Truffles
from Allrecipes

1 16-ounce package Oreo cookies
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
16 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
Red and green sugar for sprinkling, if desired

1. Crush cookies to fine crumbs in a food processor; place in medium bowl. Add cream cheese; mix until well blended. Chill for 15 minutes or so, just until the mixture firms up slightly. Roll cookie mixture into 42 balls, about 1 inch in diameter.

2. Dip balls in chocolate; place on wax paper-covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugars, if using.

3. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Store leftover truffles, covered, in refrigerator.