Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Favorite Recipes of 2021

It's almost the New Year (seriously, how did this happen?) but before we get into more new recipes, I wanted to look back on some favorites from this past year.

As usual, every recipe I post is a favorite - I wouldn't take the time to post it if I didn't love it - but these are the recipes that have made their way into repeat rotation at our house. 

I hope you'll try a few now, or in the New Year, and I hope they become your favorites, too.

Here they are, in completely random order:

Chocolate Mint Cake

Monday, December 20, 2021

Peppermint Oreo Bon Bons

I try to include one candy recipe each Christmas baking season. I like the variety it brings to a cookie tray, and it can help fill in little gaps on said tray as well! But let's face it, the real reason, is that candy is delicious. 

These bon bons are a cross between a candy and a cookie since they are made WITH cookies. Oreos get special treatment, combined with cream cheese, dipped in white chocolate, and then covered wiht peppermint. These are beautiful and delicious. They are also rich, so one goes a long way.

I had trouble finding red and white peppermint candies or candy canes, so these bon bons have a sprinkle of green from the striped candy canes I did find. Lesson learned - buy ingredients early in the season! So yours might be more pink and white if you use starlight candies or the traditional canes.

Merry Christmas!

Peppermint Oreo Bon Bons

36 Oreos
8 oz. cream cheese (reduced fat is fine), softened
16 oz. white chocolate melting wafers
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
48 crushed peppermint candies or about 12 crushed candy canes

Place the cream cheese and Oreos in a food processor and process til combined. Scoop out about tablespoons of the mixture and roll into 48 balls, about 1 inch. Place them on a parchment or waxed paper lined cookie sheet. 

Freeze for 20 minutes, or until hardened.

In a microwave safe bowl, combine the wafers and the peppermint extract. Microwave for 30 seconds; stir, and then melt again for 30 seconds, until you can easily stir the mixture.

Dip each bon bon in the white chocolate mixture with a fork, roll in peppermint candies, then return to the lined cookie sheet. 

Bon Bons can be frozen. 

Monday, December 13, 2021

Eggnog Blossoms

Almost every year, I include a "blossom" cookie in my cookie baking. We are so lucky to have so many varieties of BOTH dough and kisses to choose from - it seems like there is never an end to the supply of blossom options!  In past years, we've had Cappuccino Swirls, Candy Cane Kiss Cheesecake Cookies, Triple Peppermint Cookies, Chocolate Peppermint Swirls, Macaroon Kisses, Cherry Kisses, and Chocolate Kissed Gingerbread.

All of those varieties are so good and each one has a different twist - this year's recipe is no different. This time a traditional chocolate kiss sits in an eggnog infused cookie. SO GOOD! 

The dough for these cookies needs to chill before you roll it into balls, and then in more glorious sugar. So be sure to plan for that. While it chills, you can unwrap all the kisses, wrap presents, start baking another variety of cookie, or watch your favorite show. You could even read a book!

Whatever you do, plan to make these cookies. They are a fun addition to any cookie plate, and make great gifts as well.

Eggnog Blossoms

6 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 cup eggnog
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
2 cups flour
dash nutmeg
32 Hershey's kisses, unwrapped
1/3 cup sugar (additional, for rolling)

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, eggnog and sugar. Add the egg and mix well. Add in the baking soda and baking powder and mix until combined. Add the flour and nutmeg, mixing until incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Roll the dough into 32 balls and roll each ball in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes. They will not brown but do not overbake.

Place a kiss in the center of each cookie. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Makes 32 cookies. 

Monday, December 6, 2021

Italian Ricotta Cookies


Although I am hard pressed to NOT like any Christmas cookie that I make, I think these were my favorite from last year. I had a hard time keeping my hands out of the proverbial cookie jar (or tins as it were). I especially liked these chilled - we tend to keep our cookie tins in the very cold garage.

They're great at room temp, too. They're just so delicious. The butter and ricotta combine for a texture that melts in your mouth! And the simple glaze is the icing on the cake (or the cookie). For more fun, you can top with a variety of festive sprinkles.

(You can see I put paper towels under the cooling racks to catch all the icing drips. Easy clean up!)

Since they're relatively small, you don't have to feel any guilt about eating several at a time. Not that I would know about that. This recipe also makes a lot of cookies so there are plenty to give away or to take to multiple holiday gatherings. 

I hope you enjoy these as much as I did! 

Italian Ricotta Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 - 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
2 Tbsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
4-5 Tbsp. milk

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, ricotta cheese, and vanilla; mix until well combined. In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the flour mixture to the ricotta mixture; mix well. Roll or scoop the dough into teaspoon-sized balls. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2-inches apart.

Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

In a medium bowl, whisk the milk, powdered sugar, and almond extract until smooth. Dip the tops of the cookies into the glaze and set upright back on the wire rack.

Immediately top with sprinkles. Repeat for remaining cookies.  

Makes about 5 dozen.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Winter Fruit Macaroons

Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent so that means it's time to start Christmas baking! We haven't yet decorated at our house, or purchased a Christmas tree (we still get a live one every year!), but you can bet I have already made the list of what I'll be baking this year. 

I loved making (and let's be real -- eating!) these cookies. They are easy, but so so delicious. And they are really different from anything I've made before or what I typically see on a Christmas cookie tray. I adapted the recipe using some different winter fruits and nuts, based on personal preference. I include all the options in the recipe below, so you can pick what you like! (I used figs and pecans instead of dates and walnuts.)

Plus, as noted in the title, these cookies have FRUIT!  So even if you eat too many, you can console yourself with that. 

These cookies are also gluten free, which is helpful if you have friends or family members that can't/don't eat flour. I always like to include a cookie or two that can be enjoyed by everyone. 

Finally, these cookies freeze really well, which means you can bake them this week and then save them for Christmas week. I love it when I can make some varieties ahead and they stay fresh and nice in the freezer.

So, whip up some of these beauties, and let's get the baking season started!

Winter Fruit Macaroons

1 - 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 1/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
2 1/4 cups coarsely chopped dates OR dried figs
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts OR pecans
3/4 cups dried cherries 
3/4 cups dried cranberries
3/4 tsp. vanilla

In a large bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, coconut, dates or figs, nuts, cherries, cranberries and vanilla.
Mix well until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets.
Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, or until light brown. Cool on pans for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Store in an airtight container. 

Cookies can be frozen. Layer in a container with parchment or wax paper in between each layer of cookies. Thaw completely before serving. 

Makes about 6 dozen. 

Monday, November 22, 2021

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Blue Cheese

Do you need a last minute Thanksgiving side dish? Look no further. 

This one is SO delicious and so easy, and can be finished while someone else is carving the turkey. Or even after the potatoes are mashed. It's a super last minute green vegetable creation. And it only has three ingredients! THREE!

It's the perfect mixture of salty and tangy, and cabbage-y. And it's quite beautiful, too with those specks of blue cheese. 

This is no green bean casserole. (There's a place for that, too - I'm just saying some people might enjoy a fresh take on a green vegetable, ahem.)

And if your Thanksgiving menu is already full, just try this another time! It's great with pork tenderloin (my fave!), steak, baked chicken, or just by itself. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Blue Cheese
1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed
4 slices bacon, center cut preferred
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles

Fit a food processor with the slicing blade, and run all the brussels through it to create super thin slices. If you don't have a food processor, slice the brussels as thinly as you can. You can do this step ahead of time, and refrigerate until you're ready to cook.

Cut the bacon into thin strips with a kitchen shears, then saute in a large skillet over medium heat until nearly crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate.

Drain off all the bacon fat, except about 1 Tbsp. Heat the bacon grease until it's hot, then add the sliced brussels, and saute, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes, or until slightly wilted. Remove from the heat and stir in the bacon. 

Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the blue cheese.  
Serves 6.


Monday, November 8, 2021

Lentil, Chicken Sausage and Spinach Soup {Crock Pot or Instant Pot}


Am I the only one who thinks Sunday lunch can be tricky? Everyone is STARVING by the time you get home from church (me especially!), so lengthy preparations will not be tolerated (again, especially by me, ha!) 

Cue this lentil soup. You can throw this in the crock pot before you leave, and when you get home, a delicious lunch awaits.  And if the crock pot timing doesn't work out for you, you can do this in the Instant Pot instead, and have dinner ready in 30 minutes or so. 

Lentils make this soup especially hearty - great for these days that are starting to turn colder. Lentils are rich in fiber, folate and potassium making them a great choice for the heart and for managing blood pressure and cholesterol.  And they're delicious. 

Combined with Italian chicken sausage, and spinach, this soup will make your body, mind and heart happy! And your tastebuds. And your growly stomach.

Lentil, Chicken Sausage and Spinach Soup

1 pound dried lentils, picked over

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped bell pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups chicken broth

5 cups water

2 - 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, pureed

1 - 6 oz. can tomato paste

4 links Italian chicken sausage, sliced thinly

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/2 tsp. oregano

5 cups fresh spinach

Crock pot instructions:

Place all ingredients in the crock pot, except spinach. Cook on high for 4-6 hours or until lentils are tender. Stir in spinach until it wilts. Serve immediately. 

Instant Pot instructions:

Place all ingredients in the Instant Pot, except spinach. Set to manual, pressure cook for 20 minutes. Release steam. Stir in spinach until it wilts. Serve immediately. 

Serves 6-8.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Salmon with Horseradish Dijon

We really love salmon at our house (ahem, well the ADULTS love salmon...) so I love to find new ways to prepare it. This variety is SUPER easy, and super tasty, AND super fast. That's my weekday dinner trifecta! 

I love the strong flavor of the horseradish and mustard against the salmon, and the green onions give it a nice little crunch. 

We loved this with a baked potato and stir fried cabbage, but rice and any green vegetable would also be a good accompaniment. 

If you need a break from chicken or beef in your dinner rotation, give this tasty fish a try.

Salmon with Horseradish Dijon

4 - 6 oz. salmon filets
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. finely sliced green onions
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. prepared horseradish
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese

Place salmon filets on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. Salt and pepper the filets to your taste. 

In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, green onions, mustard, and horseradish. Use 1/4th of the mixture on each filet, covering each top. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes or until salmon is flaky.  Serves 4.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Greek Meatballs

I recently found myself with too much feta cheese, so decided to use some of it to try a new meatball recipe. These meatballs have amazing Greek flavors, and we really enjoyed them with a cucumber tzatziki salad and sauteed green beans.

These Greek meatballs are so easy to make, and so quick! You can have dinner on the table in 30 minutes, perfect for a busy night. 

The feta with the herbs and spices really makes these unique.

If you want to up your meatball game, try these beauties!

Greek Meatballs

1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 cup panko
1/4 cup finely diced onion
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 egg
1 tsp.  parsley
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. coriander
2 oz. feta crumbles

Line a large baking sheet with foil. 

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the beef, and mix well. Add in the ground beef and use your hands to incorporate all the ingredients.

Roll the mixture into 1" meatballs and place on the tray. Bake at 450 for 12-15 minutes, depending on if your meatballs are on the smaller or larger size...

Serve with cucumber salad and roasted or sauteed vegetables.  Serves 4.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Cinnamon Roll Scones


Oh, scones. How I wish I could eat thee every day. Every. single. day. I love the texture, the different flavors, everything about them, WHEN they are made well. Not all dry and gross, making you long for anything to drink...  These scones are not like that. These are delicious, and SO easy! 

So easy, in fact, that I made them one morning BEFORE work, to take in for a colleague's birthday. BEFORE work!! 

They come together really quickly, especially if you have a food processor. The food processor is my favorite way to make things that need the butter cut in - it's no-mess, and makes quick work of that job.

With lots of yummy cinnamon, and crunchy pecans, and healthy oats, these scones are a faster, easier, and dare I say, even more delicious version of the cinnamon roll.  I hope your family (or friends or colleagues) loved them as much as everyone in my office did!  (And I ate several all by myself, so I can vouch for how fantastic they are...)

Cinnamon Roll Scones

1/2 cup toasted, chopped pecans
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup sugar
1Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup powdered sugar
3-4 tsp. milk

In a small bowl, combine the pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Pulse once or twice to combine. Add the cold butter cubes and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  (If you don't have a food processor, combine the ingredients in a large bowl, and then cut in the butter with a pastry blender, a fork, or your fingers.) 

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and add the milk, egg, and vanilla.  Stir just until the dough is moistened.  Sprinkle the cinnamon/pecan mixture over the dough, and fold gently so that the cinnamon gets swirled into the dough. 

Drop the dough in about 1/4 cup portions (my large scoop was perfect for this) onto greased or parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake at 425 for 11-13 minutes, or until golden.

Cool on a wire rack. Meantime, make the glaze by whisking the powdered sugar with the milk, adding more sugar or milk to get your desired consistency.

Drizzle the icing over the warm scones. 

Recipe Source: Bake or Break

Monday, August 30, 2021

Summer Salad with Peaches and Blue Cheese


It is pretty rare that I make a green salad that doesn't include some sort of fruit. In the fall, I love including apples and dried cranberries, or pears and figs. In the summer, the choices seem to be endless: strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches! 

I especially like the combination of peaches and blue cheese and decided to make a salad featuring those ingredients. I threw in some red onion and cucumber for both crunch and flavor contrast. But how to make a truly winning salad? Add the amazing sweet and spicy almonds.

I brought this to a family dinner and a certain young male teen even took seconds!  It's really good.  

Take advantage of the beautiful summer produce still available, and make yourself a green salad with lots of fruit.

Summer Salad with Peaches and Blue Cheese

6-8 cups mixed greens
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette, or more or less to taste
2 thin slices red onion, halved into half moon rings
1/3 large cucumber, sliced into half moons
1 large peach, or 2 small peaches, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or less)

In a small skillet over medium heat, toss the almonds in the sugar and cayenne. Stir frequently, or constantly, until the almonds are toasted and coated but not burnt. Watch carefully and stir!  Remove the almonds to a plate to cool.

In a large bowl, toss the salad greens and onions with the dressing until completely coated. Layer the greens on a large plate, and top with the cucumbers. Arrange the peach slices around the perimeter of the platter. Sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles. Break up the almonds into bite sized pieces and sprinkle on top of the salad.  Serves 6-8.

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