Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Top 10 Recipes

Today marks the last day of the year, and what a year it has been. It also marks the last day of a full year of food blogging. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I started, but it has given me the opportunities to expand my skills in the kitchen.

2009 was a great year to overcome fears and learn new things. It’s funny to see how my tastes have changed. It’s also interesting to see how my food photography has changed over the year.

Here is a list of the top recipes that were viewed (according to Google analytics).


white chocolate orange cranberry cookies 10.
White Chocolate Orange Cranberry Cookies
These cookies were amazing. They had a crisp refreshing taste to them from the orange zest. Even if I didn’t add quite enough zest, this still had a strong orange flavor throughout the cookie.
gingercookies 9.
Chewy Ginger Cookies (revisited)
This post hasn’t been on the blog long, but it still made it to the top 10. There were many searches for these, as well as many printouts of the recipe. You can’t go wrong with ginger cookies for the holidays.
vegan chocolate ice cream 8.
Dairy Free (Vegan) Chocolate Ice Cream
I was surprised this made the list, but I guess there are lots of people with allergies who just miss their ice cream. Since making this, I have used a different recipe for that Gary loves that will be on the blog sometime in 2010.
sesame chicken wings 7.
Sesame Chicken Wings
I made these as one of the chicken wing variations our July 4th BBQ and they were awesome. It’s a nice change from plain BBQ flavor. It’s a must try and would most likely work with different chicken parts as well.
pumpkin pie pecan candy 6.
Pumpkin Pie Pecan Candy
These candies tasted as good as they are cute to look at. They’re a little out of the ordinary, but they were another hit at the office (where I experiment a lot with my guinea…*ahem* coworkers).
dried apple chips 5.
Dried Apple Chips
Although these didn’t come out as planned, they still tasted great and had a different use. These are perfect to add in a batch of granola, energy bar or even added in your morning yogurt parfait.
healthy blueberry orange muffins 4.
Healthy Blueberry Orange Muffins
These came about when I messed up trying to attempt another recipe. This accident allowed me to create this healthy muffin with practically no fat involved! That’s a nice accident if I don’t say so myself.
red velvet twilight cake 3.
Red Velvet Twilight Cake
This is one of the first decorated cakes I’ve made. I usually don’t have the patience for things like this, but when I have a reason and the motivation to do something, things like this get accomplished…and it tastes good too.
white chocolate fudge cups 2.
Mini White Chocolate Cranberry Oat Cups
I’m telling you, these were a pain to make, but totally worth it. These has a nice balance between sweet and salty, and they’re pretty darn cute. Although I probably won’t be making it anytime soon, you should try it once.
baked turkey meatballs 1.
Baked Turkey Meatballs
Lots of searches and hits for this one! My top recipe of all time. I’ve made it a few times already, and I usually throw the ingredients together without measuring. This has turned out great each time.

That’s it for this year!

From my family to yours, have a safe and happy new year! I can’t wait to see what 2010 has in store for me!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sweet Potato Rolls

I have a problem. Well, I don’t really have a problem. I have a problem with warehouse stores. You know…Costco, BJ’s, those sorts of stores. I had a cream cheese dilemma, and now I had a sweet potato dilemma. Although I didn’t do any of the bulk purchasing, I was given a great amount of sweet potatoes, although I only need a few for sweet potato casserole.

Other than eating them as is, I wanted to make something with them. I ended up making pie, and these rolls. These were pretty simple to make. The only time consuming part was waiting for the rising time. Although some came out great, a few didn’t double in size during the second rise. Not sure why, but I think it’s more of an error on my part since I don’t have much experience making yeast bread.

A few changes I made: instead of using canned sweet potatoes, I used a fresh sweet potato. I also used instant yeast instead of active dry yeast. Before baking, I brushed the top with an egg wash to get a nice and sheen golden color.

These are best served warm. I didn’t try them when they were cooled down, but my sister mentioned they were better warm.

sweet potato rolls
Sweet Potato Rolls
adapted from:
printable recipe

1 TBSP instant yeast
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 sweet potato, cooked and mashed
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3 tablespoons margarine, softened
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 egg (for egg wash), optional

In a large bowl, add yeast, sugar, water, sweet potato, margarine, salt, and eggs. Stir to mix well. Stir in 3 cups of flour.

Turn out on a lightly floured surface. Knead 2 to 3 minutes, adding just enough of remaining flour to prevent sticking. Do not knead too heavily; when smooth, shape into a ball. Place in an oiled bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover, and let raise about 1 hour or longer.

Punch down, and allow dough to rest for 2 minutes. Divide into 16 to 20 balls, and place on a greased cookie sheet or in a 9x13 inch pan. Allow to rise until doubled. Brush tops with egg wash.

Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 12 to 20 minutes. Serve warm.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Chocolate Coconut Cookies

We sort of had a theme this year with our Christmas cookies. Most of them had a common ingredient. No, not sugar or flour or something like that. Most of the cookies we made this year involved cream cheese in some way. All except for the ginger cookies of course. That would have been weird.

I saw this recipe for chocolate coconut cookies the night before making the cookies and knew it was something I would make. Although coconut isn’t one of my favorite foods, I still like it in cookies and candies. What could go wrong with coconut and chocolate? As I was making this It totally smelled like a mounds bar. At first I didn’t think following the directions about the middle rack and rotating the cookie sheet halfway were necessary, but it should be done as written. Otherwise, you might have burnt coconut and unevenly spread cookies.

I really enjoy the “Ultimate” series cookbooks, but find their writing to be a little difficult to understand. It doesn’t help that their books don’t have images as well. Therefore, I have rewritten the recipe to be more reader friendly.

chocolate coconut cookies

Chocolate Coconut Cookies
adapted from: The Ultimate Chocolate Cookie Book
printable recipe

6 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cup (about 5 oz) unsweetened coconut flakes

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, at room temperature

Position oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 375°F.

To make coconut filling:
Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until smooth and light, about 1 minute. Beat in egg yolk, then vanilla, until smooth. Beat in coconut at low speed until evenly distributed. Set aside.

coconut filling

To make cookies:
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Beat butter to soften. Add sugar and continue to beat until light and airy but still a little grainy. Beat in egg until smooth.

Add flour mixture, beat at low speed until just combined. Dough should be stiff but still pliable.

Using a small cookie scoop (about 1 TBSP), scoop dough into hand or a dry work surface. Flatten into a circle about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. Mound a heaping teaspoon of coconut filling onto the center of the dough. Fold the sides of the dough up, but do not seal the top.

chocolate coconut cookies 1

Place cookies on a greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart.

Bake for 9 minutes, rotate the sheet 180°, then bake for another 9 minutes or until the cookies are just starting to brown along the edges.

Cool on cookie sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Store at room temperature up to 3 days.

Makes about  2 1/2 dozen (although I think I may have gotten more than that)

chocolate coconut cookies 3

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lemon Pepper Salmon

One of our favorite fish to eat is salmon. However, if we bought it all the time, it can get costly. Most of the time, we make with ginger to get the fishy smell and taste out, but I was out of ginger. I’ve also made it with honey and soy sauce and it’s also tasty.

I recently got the Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook in the mail and quickly glanced through it. I quickly glanced through this recipe for a lemon pepper marinated salmon and noticed that I had all the ingredients needed to make it. It also sound super simple and tasty, so I decided to try it.

Gary seemed enjoy it a lot since the marinade  eliminated the fishiness that’s always lurking around. This recipe had options to use other types of fish as well such as swordfish or halibut. It also had the options to use either lemon or lime, or oregano or thyme. The ingredients below show what I used in this recipe. I also didn’t nearly use as much fresh thyme as the recipe called for, but it was enough for me. I also did not serve with the lime wedges as indicated in the original recipe.

lemon pepper salmon

Lemon Pepper Salmon
adapted from: Better Homes and Garden New Cookbook 14th Edition
printable recipe

1 lb fish steak (salmon, swordfish, or halibut) thawed if frozen
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 TBSP fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp dried
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
lime wedges (optional)

Rinse fish and pat dry. In a small bowl, combine ingredients (juice through garlic). Place fish in a zip top bag and add marinade. Turn to coat evenly. Marinate in fridge for 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.

Drain fish, reserving marinade. In a broiler pan 4 inches from the flame broil fish for 6-8 minutes on each side, brushing with the reserved marinade halfway through. Discard any remaining marinade. Fish is done when it begins to flake when tested with a fork.

Before serving, squeeze lime juice over the fish.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Chewy Ginger Cookies - Revisited

One of my all time favorite cookies are ginger cookies. Last year I made these chewy ginger cookies and I loved the way they tasted, but didn’t like the way they came out super thin and flat without any pretty crackles on the top.

I thought it was because I used all butter instead of the shortening  the original recipe called for. This year, while looking for cookie recipes, I went back to this tried and true recipe for the taste I loved. I made the first batch with shortening like the original recipe stated. It definitely didn’t flatten out like when I subbed all butter:

ginger cookies

Although this was good, and a great alternative for a dairy free cookie, to me, it was missing a little something extra.

Now I had to make more than one batch since I work with many people, so I made another double batch with part butter and part shortening.

For this final recipe, I used 2 parts (1/2 cup) butter to 1 part (1/4 cup) shortening. This was definitely THE recipe! This had the perfect crisp outside with a great chewy center. The crackles looked much better than the all shortening cookie, and of course  better than the all butter one where the crackles were nonexistent.

These were brought to work and it was a big hit.


Chewy Ginger Cookies
adapted from: an existing recipe, originally from Taste of Home Best Loved Cookies & Bars 2008
printable recipe

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 375° F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, molasses and vanilla; mix well. Combine dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture and mix well.

Roll into 1-in. balls; roll in remaining sugar. Place 1-1/2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. For even cookies use a tablespoon size cookies scoop.

Bake at for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Allow to cool on cookie sheets until it can be easily transferred to wire racks to fully cool. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Oreo Cheesecake Ice Cream

I had cream cheese…a lot of cream cheese! My sister bought a whole 48 oz package of cream cheese from Costco. She opened it, then used a tiny bit. The problem with that is the way this cream cheese was packaged. It was a whole giant brick…a 48 oz brick that had to be used up once it was opened. GREAT! So I had to come up with ideas to use it up.

I was reminded that the Oreo truffles (that everybody and their mom has made) used up some. However, I didn’t have a whole package of Oreos. You see, whenever we get a bag, some of them never make it home. I knew we were going to use some for our cookie baking adventure, but I didn’t think it would be enough. I ended up starting a batch of cheesecake ice cream since I liked it so much last time. Then, while looking at The Ultimate Ice Cream Book, there was a recipe for Oreo cheesecake ice cream. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that earlier?

Basically, the Oreo version was an adaptation of the regular cheesecake ice cream. The only difference was the omission of the lemon zest and replacing the graham crackers with Oreos. Geez, if it was just that easy, I could do that with the other recipe!

So that’s exactly what I did! For this version, I omitted the lemon zest and lemon juice from the original and replace the graham crackers with 8  crumbled Oreo cookies.


Oreo Cheesecake Ice Cream
adapted from: America’s Most Wanted Recipes
printable recipe

2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
12 oz cream cheese (1 1/2 packages), softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 Oreo cookies, coarsely crumbled

In a large bowl, beat softened cream cheese until smooth.

In a saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of cream, sugar and eggs. Cook and stir on medium heat until it comes to a boil.

Slowly beat in the hot cream mixture into the cream cheese until combined. Use a whisk to fully mix everything together if needed.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate until mixture is cool. I left it in the fridge for about 24 hours.

After chilling, add in remaining cream and vanilla extract. Freeze in ice cream maker per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Fold in Oreo cookie crumbs. Pour into a freezer safe container and let set for 4 hours before serving.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pecan Crusted Sweet Potato Casserole

So I made this for Thanksgiving, but my family didn’t really go for it. They’re not from the States, so Thanksgiving is foreign to them. Did I also mention my family is a little unconventional? We had sushi and Japanese food for part of our menu and they were the first to fly off the table, but I digress.

When I told my sister I was thinking about making a sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving, she was a little unsure. She remembered making one with a marshmallow topping a few years ago and it wasn’t such a hit. I looked around and saw this recipe that called for a pecan crusted topping, so I decided to make this.

Keeping my family’s tastes in mind, I decided to reduce the amount of sugar in this recipe. My family was never  fond of sweets, and sweet potatoes are best in it’s natural state too. I made a whole 9x13 pan of this, but only half was eaten. I guess the crust was a bit sweet for them. I thought the crust was a bit sweet even for my tastes as well, but it tasted fine the next day (even while it was still cold).

I prepared the sweet potatoes the night before, covered and added the pecan mixture the next day before baking. To make this dairy free, I used margarine, coconut milk and smart balance; whereas the original used milk and butter.


Pecan Crusted Sweet Potato Casserole
adapted from:
printable recipe

4 1/2 cups cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (about 7 sweet potatoes)
1/2 cup margarine, melted
1/3 cup coconut milk 
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten 
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup smart balance buttery spread
1 cup chopped pecans

To cook sweet potatoes:
Wash and rinse sweet potatoes. In a large saucepan, arrange sweet potatoes in a single layer. Add enough water to cover. Boil potatoes until fork tender. Allow to cool, then peel. Mash with the paddle attachment of your mixer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, mix together mashed sweet potatoes, margarine, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and eggs. Spread sweet potato mixture into the prepared baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and flour. Cut in smart balance until mixture is crumbly (I used my mixer with the paddle attachment for this), then stir in pecans . Sprinkle pecan mixture over the sweet potatoes.

Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie

While I was contemplating desserts for Thanksgiving, I was thinking of something Gary would be able to eat too. A few weeks earlier, I had seen Alisa from One Frugal Foodie make a dairy free pumpkin pie that looked awesome. I thought it would be a great addition to the menu, since I love pumpkin pie and the ingredients looked pretty good as well. The hint of ginger flavor was a nice addition to this recipe.

I did bake it about 20 minutes longer than the original recipe called for, but it got done eventually.

I did use a different crust recipe than her though. I used to use an all butter crust, but now I’ve started using an all shortening crust. Yes, it’s not that great for you, but what can I do. I’ve never really had a reason to use shortening before, but if it’s a good substitute for butter in some recipes I’m ok with it. To me, everything is ok with moderation anyway.

dfpumpkin pie

Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie
adapted from: One Frugal Foodie
printable recipe

1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg or allspice 
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup regular coconut milk
1 recipe for a single  pie crust, unbaked (recipe below)

For pie crust (from Crisco)
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening OR 1/2 stick shortening sticks (butter or all vegetable), chilled in freezer
4 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water or milk


At least 30 minutes prior (or overnight) prepare pie crust:
In your food processor using the steel blade attachment or mixer bowl using the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Sprinkle one tablespoon ice-cold water or milk over part of mixture. Toss gently with a fork; push to side of bowl. Repeat just until mixture is moistened and can be formed into a ball. (The dough should hold together when picked up and pressed, and should not crack).

Flatten ball of dough into a disk. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight.

Remove disk from fridge. On a lightly floured surface roll out dough to 12 inches in diameter for a 9” pie crust, adding more flour if dough sticks.

Transfer dough to 9-inch, 4 cup capacity pie plate, being careful to avoid stretching pastry. Trim edge of pastry 1/2 to 3/4 inch beyond edge of the pie plate. Fold excess under to build a thick crust and flute with your thumb and forefinger. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to overnight before baking.


To prepare pie:
Preheat your oven to 425ºF.

Combine the sugars, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg or allspice, cloves and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Beat in the sugar mixture, pumpkin, and vanilla until smooth. Fold in the coconut milk.

Pour the filling into the unbaked pie crust and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350ºF and continue to bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes out clean (I baked for almost  20 minutes more before the knife came out clean).  It may be a bit wobbly still, but it will firm-up as it cools.

Allow the pie to cool on a wire rack for 2 hours. Serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tiramisu Cheesecake

I’m a bit late, but hope everybody had a great Thanksgiving holiday! I’ve been crazed lately and my time in the kitchen has been limited. You can tell with the lack of posts in my blog, but I’m back (sort of). I’m off on staycation this week, so I will have some time to update. My sister is also coming over sometime next weekend or the following to bake cookies. I’m already looking up recipes.

There hasn’t been many blog worthy recipes made in my kitchen lately, so the next few posts will be all about Thanksgiving.

My sister and I were thinking up desserts to make for Thanksgiving. I knew pumpkin pie would be one of them, but I was still pondering the other. The thought of cheesecake always comes up, but I didn’t want to make a pumpkin cheesecake when there was another pumpkin dessert already. Last year, my sister made tiramisu and I made a New York Cheesecake. Then I thought of combining them together. Hey, why not. I wasn’t sure if it had been done before, but I ended up finding a good one.

My company was also looking for volunteers to bring dishes for our company potluck, so it was a great way to try this out first. Of course also to use up ingredients as well, since my tub of mascarpone cheese was double the amount I needed for 1 cheesecake.


I made this bite sized version for work and it was a big hit. The whole recipe made 72 little bite sized servings.

Right before serving these, I added some unsweetened cocoa powder on top.

For Thanksgiving day, I made it in my 10” springform pan. The recipe called for an 8 or 9” springform, but I only have a 10”. The baking time called for 40-45 minutes, and I checked at 35 minutes, but it still seemed runny. I left it in for the 45 minutes and a giant crack formed on the top of my cake.


I think 40 minutes would have been sufficient. To cover it up, I whipped up a cup of heavy whipping cream for a few seconds in my KA mixer, spread it on top and shaved some chocolate on top.

Tiramisu cheesecake

As for the ingredient alterations, I couldn’t find a 12 oz package of ladyfingers, but the 7 oz package I had was more than enough for the crust. I also used brewed espresso instead of coffee liqueur. I adjusted the amount of coffee needed based on the alterations as well.

Tiramisu Cheesecake
adapted from:
printable recipe

1 (7 ounce) package ladyfingers 
3 tablespoons butter, melted 
7 tablespoons brewed espresso, divided (more or less according to your taste)
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1 (8 ounce) container mascarpone cheese
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (1 ounce) square semisweet chocolate or unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Place a pan of water on the bottom of oven.

Crush the package of ladyfingers to fine crumbs (I used my food processor for this). Mix the melted butter into the crumbs. Moisten with 3 tablespoons of the coffee. Press into an 8 or 9 inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, mascarpone, and sugar until very smooth. Add 4 tablespoons coffee, and mix. Add the eggs and the flour; mix SLOWLY until just smooth. The consistency of the mascarpone can vary. If the cheesecake batter is too thick, add a little cream. Do not overmix at this point. Pour batter into crust.

Place pan on middle rack of oven. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until just set. Open oven door, and turn off the heat. Leave cake to cool in oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and let it finish cooling. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight. Right before serving, grate the semi-sweet chocolate overtop.


To make bite sized versions:

Preheat oven to 325° F. No water bath is needed for this. Line a mini muffin tin with paper liners.

Prepare crust as directed. Measure 1 tsp of the crust into each cup.

Prepare batter as directed. Using a cookie scoop, measure about 1 TBSP batter into each cup. Lightly tap  the pan on the counter to even out the batter in each cup. I will be filled to the top, but it’s ok.

Bake in preheated oven for 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven, and allow to cool on wire racks for 10 minutes before removing. Use the back of a spoon to pop them out of the cups.

Makes 72 mini bite sized cheesecakes.