Thursday, December 28, 2023

Best Recipes of 2023


The New Year is upon us, but before we turn the calendar, and before sharing new recipes, I want to remind us of the best recipes this past year from this blog.

For the "best recipes" feature I always choose the recipes that have made it into regular rotation in our house -- that is a sure sign that they are the "best" and not just "very good," - which is the standard by which they make the blog in the first place!

The recipes below are ones I have now made over and over again. If you haven't tried them yet, make a New Year's resolution to try a few new recipes this year! I hope they'll be as popular at your house as they are at mine.

I was on cloud 9 when I realized I didn't have to use my sourdough starter (and its discard) for bread baking every weekend. I love sourdough bread, but it is a COMMITMENT. And I don't always have the time/energy/dedication for making traditional sourdough. But there are a lot of other things you can do with discard, including this amazing banana bread. I will never go back to making regular banana bread again. The 1/2 cup of sourdough starter (you can use freshly fed or discard!) really makes a difference. This is the best banana bread you'll ever eat. If you don't have a sourdough starter, figure out how to get one - just so you can make this banana bread!

This is, hands down, my favorite recipe of the year. It comes to us from Pinch of Yum, and from the first time I tried it, was an instant and huge success at our house. I now make it about every three weeks! So it is definitely a standard. I make it for family dinners, when we have company, to take as a meal to someone with a new baby, you name it, this dish works! It's not saucy like other stir fries, but you won't miss the sauce - the flavors are so fresh and light and just so darn delicious. If you don't make any other recipe this year, make this one!

Now that I've named Ginger Peanut Chicken as my favorite recipe of the year, I don't suppose I can name another one? This one is also very good - a flavorful rub is added to the salmon, and it gets a quick bake in the oven while you make a delightful sauce from red curry and coconut milk. Heaps of spinach finish off the dish. I usually find this makes enough sauce that I can get a second meal by adding shrimp to the sauce. Two in one! Score!

I initially made this for a birthday meal at our house (that's gutsy - trying a new recipe for a birthday!) and it turned out to be a family favorite that was requested for subsequent birthdays! Phew! Italian sausage and peppers swim in a creamy sauce with bucatini to swirl it all up. This is the kind of pasta that dreams are made of.

This made an appearance at several picnics this year and would be just as good in the winter as a side dish to beef or pork. Roasted potatoes with chives, cheese, bacon, and a yummy mustard-y dressing makes any dinner (or picnic) better!

This salad is not photogenic at all, but it is life-altering delicious. It got rave reviews from my teenage nephews, who said it tasted just like Chipotle. If you know anything about teenage boys, you know that's a high compliment! Pasta, corn, bacon, avocados, queso fresco, and more -- the sum is definitely greater than the parts on this one. 

These little beauties are the perfect dessert - a little cookie, a little custard, a little fruit - and perfectly sized to enjoy after dinner. (I don't know about you but I can't fathom eating those giant restaurant-sized chocolate cake pieces after dinner!) This is just the right amount of dessert, and so fresh and light. You make the custard from scratch, but it is easy peasy. These would be especially perfect for Easter or Mother's Day. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Ricciarelli (Italian Almond Cookies)

I rarely make the same cookies two years in a row, but for these little delights, I made an exception. We enjoyed these so much last year that they made the list this year again. And these cookies are gluten AND dairy free, and can be made vegan by using aquafaba instead of an egg. (Aquafaba is the liquid in the chickpea can, and it "acts" like an egg!) So they're perfect if you have relatives or friends with special dietary needs. 

I know some of you read gluten and dairy free and think - oh taste free, too! NOT AT ALL. These are really good, especially if you love almonds. They have a triple whammy - almond flour, almond extract, and sliced almonds. 

I also love that these are two-bite cookies. I like smaller cookies because that means you can try more varieties at your party or gathering! HA!

Try these - I know you won't be disappointed!

Ricciarelli (Italian Almond Cookies) 

2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. orange zest
pinch salt
1 egg or 1/4 cup aquafaba
2 Tbsp. apricot jam (or peach jam or orange marmalade)
1 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds

In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour, sugar, salt, and orange zest. In a separate bowl,  whisk the egg until frothy (just by hand is fine) and then add the jam and extract and stir until combined and the jam is incorporated. 

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir well until all the ingredients are incorporated. Place in the refrigerator for about half an hour to chill.

Once the dough is chilled, scoop out tablespoonfuls and roll each into a ball.  
Place the sliced almonds into a small bowl then roll each dough ball in them until covered. Use your hands to help press them into the dough. (The shape might become more football-ish which is totally fine.) 

Place the cookies on a silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 12-14 minutes or until golden. Let cool for a few minutes on the sheet then cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Muddy Buddy Cookies


Do you know what muddy buddies are? I guess it's another name for puppy chow, that addicting  party snack made with Chex cereal coated in chocolate, peanut butter and powdered sugar. I'm glad no one is delivering that to my office in a big popcorn tin. Uff da.

So then, it's obvious why these cookies are called Muddy Buddy cookies - it's a peanut butter cookie filled with a milk chocolate center, then dusted with powdered sugar. These are SO GOOD!!!! 

What I especially like about these are that you get all the good peanut butter and chocolate flavor, but they're a little different than your standard peanut blossom. (Standard peanut blossoms are delicious - I am not throwing any shade here, I'm just saying I like unique cookies.) Also, look at me, using all the slang.

What's really fun about these cookies is that you make dough balls, bake them, and then when they come out of the oven, you make that fun indent. I used the bottom of a 1/4 cup measuring cup to make the indentation. When you do that, it makes the crinkly edges too. (Why don't I have a picture of this? Sorry! Make them yourself and you will see what I mean.)

Then you fill the cookies with the chocolate, let it harden (room temp or fridge - or garage!) and then dust with powdered sugar.

These are rich, delicious, festive and beautiful - and go great with a cup of coffee or large glass of milk. So leave some for Santa (hee hee) but enjoy plenty yourself! 

Muddy Buddies Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. vegetable or avocado oil
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, peanut butter, sugar, and brown sugar until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add in the egg and beat to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir, then add to the wet ingredients in the mixing bowl, beating on low speed until combined.

Scoop about a tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball. Repeat to place 12 balls on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 8 minutes. Cookies will not flatten.

Immediately after removing the baking sheet from the oven, use a small measuring cup to gently press down on each cookie to make an indent. Then let the cookies cool completely on the sheet, for about an hour.

When cookies are almost cool, place the chocolate chips and oil in a glass measuring cup and cook in the microwave until melted. I usually use 50% power and stir after every minute. This usually takes 2-3 minutes. 

Place a small amount of chocolate into the center of each cookie and spread it gently. Let the chocolate set completely then dust with powdered sugar. (The chocolate will harden in about 2 hours at room temperature, or 15 minutes in the fridge - or the cold garage!)

You can store the cookies at room temperature. 

  • 1/2 cu1/2 cup (1 stick) butter softened

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Lace Cookies {gluten free!}

I have long admired lace cookies and how delicate and beautiful they look. What I didn't realize is how easy they are to make!

I also didn't realize how amazingly delicious they are, and that they use 6 simple ingredients that you probably have on hand right now!  (I guess I had a lot to learn about lace cookies.) 

Another great thing to love about these cookies? They are gluten free! I'm not gluten free, and you may not be either, but I always think it's great to have a few recipes up your sleeve for your friends and relatives that may need to stay away from gluten. 

The most "difficult" part of this recipe is realizing how little batter you need to put on the pan. Just a TEASPOON per cookie! You want to space them out nicely, too, because they spread a lot. I just love how they turn out in such perfect circles!

If you're an overachiever, you can also use these cookies to make sandwich cookies, by filling them with nutella or melted chocolate. I did that with a few, but to be honest, I really loved the lace cookies best on their own. 

Lace Cookies

1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. corn syrup or milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Then add the brown sugar, almond flour, salt, and corn syrup (or milk). Whisk, while continuing to cook on low, until the sugar has dissolved and the ingredients are completely combined. (If the butter separates, just take the pan off the heat, and whisk vigorously until it comes back together.)

Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. The mixture should look grainy and shiny. Let the cookie dough sit for 10-15 minutes to thicken.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 and line three baking sheets with parchment or silpat.

Drop teaspoonfuls of batter 3 inches apart on the lined baking sheets. (Be sure you're using a teaspoon, not a tablespoon!) Bake 6-8 minutes until golden brown around the edges.

Allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then carefully transfer to a wire rack. Cookies will dry and crisp as they cool.

If you like you can make sandwich cookies with nutella or melted chocolate. Store cookies in the fridge or freezer.

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