Sunday, January 3, 2021

Favorite Recipes of 2020

Happy New Year! Before we start in with new recipes this year, I wanted to share my very favorite recipes from 2020.  

To some extent, every recipe I post is a favorite. I would never advocate for a recipe if I didn't love it myself. (And usually, if the majority of my family didn't love it, it wouldn't make the cut...) 

So these nine recipes are the VERY BEST. The ones that have, or will, make it into a regular rotation at my house. (Candy cane kiss bars probably will only be a once-a-year treat, though, ha!) 

Here are my ultimate favorites from 2020. I hope you will try a few and get them into your rotation, too! 

Clockwise from Upper Left:

Candy Cane Kiss Sugar Cookie Bars

Coconut Curry Shrimp

Butternut and Brussels Hash with Chicken and Keilbasa

Roasted Cherry and Goat Cheese Ice Cream


Muffin Tin Potatoes Gratin Dauphinois

Creamy Chicken Stuffed Peppers

Chicken Pot Pie Baked Potatoes

Ricotta Berry Tart

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Candy Cane Kiss Sugar Cookie Bars

Candy Cane kisses are my favorite version of the classic Hershey's candy. Admittedly, chocolate isn't my go-to, but these white pepperminty pieces of wonder are right up my Christmas alley. 

I have baked with these before, mostly in different versions of "blossom" cookies, like Candy Cane Kiss Cheesecake Cookies, Chocolate Peppermint Swirl Cookies, and Triple Peppermint Cookies

I wanted to try something different this year, and this recipe was just the ticket. First, they are BARS. I prefer bars to cookies any day, but especially when they are studded with candy cane kisses, frosted with an irresistible sweet frosting, and then topped with more candy cane kisses!  Bars are quicker to make, and just as fun to eat. Plus, you can cut them into small pieces or bigger ones, depending on your whim. 

   Second, did I mention they have kisses IN the bar and ON top? Double the kisses, double the fun. 
   Third, they are very fun and festive. They'll make a great addition to any Christmas plate. Or they'll stand alone on that plate just fine, thank you very much.

   So if you're still baking, add these amazing bars to your list. Everyone who tries one will rejoice!

  1. Candy Cane Kiss Sugar Cookie Bars
  2. Bars:
  3. 1 cup butter, softened
  4. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  5. 2 eggs
  6. 1 tsp. vanilla
  7. 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  8. 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  9. 1/2 tsp. salt
  10. 1 bag Hershey's Candy Cane mint KISSES, finely chopped, divided
  11. Frosting:
  12. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  13. 4 cups powdered sugar
  14. 1/4 cup milk
  15. 1 tsp. vanilla
  16. 1/4 tsp. salt

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until combined. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until well mixed.

In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture until just combined. Stir in one cup of the chopped kisses.

Line a 9x13 pan with foil, then spray the foil with nonstick spray. Press dough evenly into the pan. 

Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until edges are light golden-brown. Cool completely before frosting.

For frosting, in a medium bowl, beat together butter, 2 cups of powdered sugar and milk until combined. Slowly add in the remaining two cups of powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla and salt. Beat until creamy and no lumps remain.

Frost cookie bars. Sprinkle the remaining kisses evenly over frosting. 

Recipe Source: Life in the Lofthouse

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Almond Horns

Whenever I'm in New York City, I make it a priority to stop at a bakery and get an Almond Horn. They are the MOST amazing cookie: chewy texture with crunch from almonds, delicious and intense almond flavor, and a little bit of chocolate to sweeten the ends. The ones at the NYC bakeries are HUGE, and perfect for sharing. 

So, when I saw that Smitten Kitchen (the ultimate New York City food blogger!) had a recipe for almond horns, I was ECSTATIC. Now I could make these (and eat these, let's be honest about what is the most important part!) myself, without going to New York. I'm always up for an excuse to go to New York, but it's not convenient to just fly across the country for a cookie. I wish it were, alas. 

Almond Horns use almond paste to get their intense flavor: I found this in the baking aisle at a large grocery store. It is not inexpensive. But it's worth it to make a batch of these cookies, especially at Christmastime. And since I wanted to get as many cookies as possible out of that precious log of almond paste, I did not make them NYC sized. These are cookies that are just fine to eat by yourself.

This cookie dough is not super easy to work with: you'll think you've forgotten a lot of flour, or something, cause it's soft and slippery. But just go with it. Have water and a towel nearby cause you'll need to wet and dry your hands in between each cookie. Don't get discouraged: the end result will be worth it! And after they're baked, the fun part is dipping in chocolate and decorating with sprinkles. And the REALLY fun part is eating them... 

Almond Horns

7 ounces almond paste

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg white

Two pinches sea salt

1 1/4 cup sliced almonds, blanched 

6 ounces semi- or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or in chips (about 1 cup)

Colored sprinkles

Cut almond paste into small pieces and put it in the bowl of your electric mixer. Add sugar and beat, until almond paste cannot be broken up any further, approximately 3 to 5 minutes at a medium-high speed. Add egg white and salt and beat until uniform and creamy. Place sliced almonds in a wide-shallow bowl or plate. Have another bowl with water to get your hands wet.

Wet hands and scoop 1 tablespoon of dough (can use a measuring spoon, a little overfilled is fine) into your palms. It’s going to be very soft and you’re going to think something has gone very wrong; it it has not. Just keep your hands wet and roll it into a 4-ish inch log and drop it into the bowl of almonds. Wipe your hands dry on a towel (or the almonds stick to your hands, pulling them off the cookie) and roll log through it. Again, it’s quite soft and will seem weird at first but do you best and transfer the soft almond-covered log to cookie sheet lined with parchment, and arc it into a horn shape. Press any loose almonds back on. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake cookies at 350 for 15 minutes, or until almonds on cookies are gently toasted and horns are puffed. Let cool completely.

Melt chocolate in a small bowl and dip ends of cookies into it, then return to parchment-lined tray to set. Add sprinkles.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Cappuccino Swirl Cookies

Each year, I try to make a new thumbprint or "kisses" cookie.  Some of my favorites have been Candy Cane Kiss Cheesecake Cookies, Triple Peppermint Cookies, Chocolate Peppermint Swirl Cookies, Macaroon Kisses, Cherry Kisses, Chocolate-Kissed Gingerbread, and Jelly Thumbprints

These Cappuccino Swirl Cookies use hugs instead of kisses, and are called "swirls" instead of blossoms or whatever, since you melt the candy down into the center of the cookie.

But what makes these cookies really unique is the coffee flavor of the cookie itself. That, combined with the hug in the middle, makes for an irresistible Christmas cookie, and a beautiful one, too. 

So, if you need a new thumbprint/blossom/swirl cookie this December, look no further! 

Cappuccino Swirl Cookies

1 cup butter-flavored shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 Tbsp. coffee-flavored liqueur (like Bailey's), or coffee flavored creamer
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
2 Tbsp. instant coffee crystals
48 Hershey's Hugs (striped kisses)

Beat shortening in a large bowl on medium speed for 30 seconds. Mix in one cup of sugar, the baking powder, and salt, until light and fluffy. 

Beat in the egg, liqueur, and vanilla and mix until well combined.

Beat in the flour a cup at a time, stirring in the final 1/4 cup by hand. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.  

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and instant coffee granules in a small bowl. Once the dough is firm, shape into 1-inch balls.  Roll each ball in the sugar mixture. 

Place dough balls 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes or until the tops start to crack and the sides are almost set. 

Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately press a hug into the center of each cookie. Let them sit for about 5 minutes to allow the candy to melt. Using the tip of  a knife, or a toothpick, slowly swirl the candy. 

Remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Makes 4 dozen.

Recipe Source: Happy Life

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Samoa Truffles

Samoas are my favorite girl scout cookie. That combination of shortbread, caramel, chocolate and coconut is simply irresistible.  I especially love them straight out of the freezer... (and if you didn't know, ALDI has a copycat Somoa cookie that is available YEAR you don't even have to wait for girl scout season.) 

When I saw this recipe for Samoa Truffles, I knew I would want to try them. While these aren't specifically a Christmas cookie/candy, they are so sweet and decadent that I thought they would be best reserved for Christmas time. But really, you could make them anytime!

Be sure when you make these that you really use dulce de leche, and not just sweetened condensed milk - dulce de leche is a Mexican caramel sauce... if you don't use it, the candies will spread and won't set up properly.

So get your self these easy ingredients and make these delicious truffles. Dipped in chocolate, and chewy with the coconut and caramel, they will be a great addition to any Christmas plate.

Samoa Truffles

7 oz sweetened, shredded coconut
1 - 14 oz. can dulce de leche 
1 - 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk 
1 box (11oz) Nilla Wafer cookies, crushed (about 2 cups crushed)
16 oz dark chocolate wafers

On a large baking sheet, spread coconut into a single layer. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Be sure to turn and flip the coconut every 5 minutes. Remove from oven.

In a large bowl, combine coconut, dulce de leche, sweetened condensed milk and cookie crumbs. Stir until well combined.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop one tablespoon of mixture onto the parchment paper. Repeat until all mixture is used. Place baking sheet in freezer and freeze for about 30 minutes.

Melt chocolate wafers in microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds). Dip bottom of each truffle in melted chocolate and return to parchment paper. 
Store in refrigerator (or freezer) in airtight container.

Recipe Source: Shugary Sweets

Monday, November 23, 2020

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apples

If you are in need of a new recipe to liven up your Thanksgiving, look no further. Of course, I would also recommend the pumpkin pie ice cream, but a thoughtful host does throw in a vegetable or two.

We eat a lot of brussels sprouts so I'm always looking for new ways to prepare them. I combined a few of my favorite preparations in this dish: sautéed with bacon, and roasted with apples!  Bacon adds just the right amount of saltiness and the apples bring a little sweetness. It's a winning combo.

You can shave the brussels sprouts in a food processor, using the slicing blade, or on a mandolin, or you can carefully cut them by hand into very thin slices. 

This recipe comes together very quickly, especially if you cook the bacon ahead of time and save out a little of the grease. Then just saute as you put the other finishing touches together for your meal.  Or even easier, put someone else in charge of making this while you do something else!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Get more great ideas at Hearth and Soul, Inspire Me, Inspire Me 2, Fabulous.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Apples

1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced thinly
4-5 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
1 crisp, sweet apple, chopped (like Honeycrisp, sweet tango, or your favorite)

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to a plate, and drain off all but 1 Tbsp. of the grease.  Heat the skillet to medium high heat and add the brussels sprouts. Cook and stir so that they are all coated. Continue to cook and stir for about 2 minutes, then add the apple pieces. Saute for another 2 minutes, then add in the bacon, stir to combine all ingredients, and serve immediately.  Serves 6.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Gingery Pork Ramen

I love making soups, especially ones that can be made in a flash for a weeknight. Recipes that dirty only one pot and are gobbled up by the whole family earn extra bonus points.

This is one such recipe. I haven't been cooking with ground pork for too long, but Egg Roll in a Bowl and the Green Bean Stir Fry have made me a convert. 

Ground pork combined with bok choy (one of the most underrated vegetables of all time, in my opinion) and ramen noodes in a gingery broth, makes a delicious, easy soup that can be on the table in 30 minutes or less. So when you drive home in a snowstorm, or the temps dip below zero, or you just feel like soup, I hope you'll try this. It's a fantastic way to get warm from the inside out.

Gingery Pork Ramen

1 pound ground pork
8 cups chicken broth
1 pound bok choy, white parts thinly sliced, green leaves coarsely chopped
6 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. ginger paste
2 Tbsp. garlic paste or fresh chopped garlic
5 green onions (green parts only), sliced 
2 tsp. Sriracha or chili garlic sauce
2 (3 oz) packages ramen noodles, broken up (do not use flavor packet)

In a Dutch oven or soup pot, brown the pork over medium high heat until cooked through. Drain fat, if there is any. Remove to a bowl.

Add the broth, white parts of the bok choy, soy sauce, ginger, green onions and sriracha to the soup pot. Bring to a boil and lower the heat; simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the ramen noodles and pork and simmer for another minute. 

Turn off heat and stir in the bok choy leaves. Let sit for 2-3 minutes until noodles are tender.

Recipe Source: Noble Pig
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