Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Top 10 Recipes

This year is coming to a close, and I've tried to make an effort to cook more. Here's a round up of favorites from this year based on stats. These recipes are chosen by you! I'm only including recipes that have been posted this year.

See you next year for more yummy food!

  1. Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
    Pumpkin in a cupcake with cream cheese, enough said!

  2. Chicken Katsu (Japanese Fried Chicken)
    You can't lose with fried chicken!

  3. Whole Wheat Apple Cinnamon Pancakes
    These whole wheat pancakes have been requested quite often from hubby!

  4. Vegan Orange Cinnamon Rolls
    This is the first cinnamon roll recipe I've ever made and hubby compares it to Cinnabon!

  5. Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream
    I remember this well. I love coffee and it works so well in ice cream.

  6. Saltine Toffee Bark aka Christmas Crack
    This Christmas treat was so easy to make and it was a big hit with my coworkers! Aptly named as crack, this was even better the second time I made it when I added vanilla.

  7. Vegan Chocolate Mocha Cupcakes
    I made these for my birthday and nobody believed they were vegan!

  8. Whole Wheat Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
    hubby's favorite cookies were made with coconut oil and whole wheat to make it even healthier!

  9. Nutella Crescents
    I made these for World Nutella Day, but these should be eaten whenever you want.

  10. Coconut Chocolate Chip Pancakes
    Hubby's favorite foods in the world in a pancake.

  11. honorable mention: Baked Turkey Meatballs
    This recipe continues to have lots of hits even though I made this many years ago. It's so easy and it's #1 when you search on google! (or #2 depending on when you search!)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cranberry Almond Biscotti

I can't believe the year is almost over. It's been a crazy end of year, and I wish I had shared Christmas treats with you earlier, but better late than never.

I made these biscotti for part of my Christmas cookie tins to a few coworkers. My sisters took the bulk of the first batch, and Gary ate the rest in a matter of minutes, so I ended up making a second batch which turned out better anyway! He was glad he was able to enjoy something that was naturally dairy free instead of adapted to be dairy free.

The second time around, I decided to add more almond and add the almond extract, which made the difference. It was a great dessert, as well as a nice breakfast treat to pair with coffee. I may or may not have eaten cookies for breakfast the whole week before Christmas!

The original recipe didn't call for brushing the tops, but I had an extra egg white leftover from another recipe. One of the other biscotti recipes I was using called for brushing the top, so I did that as well. It adds a nice sheen instead of a dry top.

Cranberry Almond Biscotti
adapted from What's Cooking, Chicago?

3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sliced almonds
milk or egg for brushing

Preheat oven to 300°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl lightly beat 3 eggs and extracts together. Set aside.

In a bowl of your stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix well to combine. Gradually add the egg mixture and beat until a dough forms, adding the cranberries and almonds about halfway through.

With floured hands divide dough in half. On a lightly floured surface roll dough into a log and flatten to about 10 inches long and 3 inches wide. Transfer log to the prepared baking sheet, brush with extra egg or milk and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Note - logs will spread during baking. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

Transfer log to a cutting board and using a serrated knife, cut log into slices 1/2 inch thick. Arrange evenly on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, turn slices over, and bake another 10 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove from oven and let cool.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Saltine Toffee Bark aka Christmas Crack

It's that time of year when baking is underway, and I want to bake all sorts of goodies to share. This weekend, my sister and I are actually doing our annual bake-a-thon. I will be preparing goodies to share, as well as baking for another cookie exchange.

I signed up for another recipe swap, and the theme this time was holiday goodies. What a better way to start the baking season by making this! These past few weeks have been extremely crazy, so I was scared that I wasn't going to finish this in time, but luckily, it takes almost no time to make!

I received this recipe from Nicole from Prevention RD. I saw "Christmas Crack" and loved the very idea of this recipe! I've never heard of using saltines as a crust or a base, and this intrigued me. Nicole got this recipe from her hair dresser, who I'm not sure is the original source. But, of course, like all "crack" recipes that have been floating around the interwebs forever, and who knows who originated this.

After googling, I saw a few variations. I was originally planning on making a swirl with half white chocolate, half semi-sweet, but I glad I stuck with just the semi-sweet. I would have had a hell of a time spreading both! I topped this with holiday colored sprinkles, but I would definitely try nuts, crushed peppermints, or whatever comes to mind!

I ended up bringing these to the office to share, and it was definitely like crack for them. Some couldn't stop at just one piece! Many people couldn't figure out what the crust was. They thought they were pretzels or graham crackers. It's hard to explain the taste, but if I had to I think it would be like the Take 5 candy bar, where all these different salty and sweet flavors meld and come together as one.

Remember to check out Sarah's blog to see all the other delicious treats from the swap!

Saltine Toffee Bark aka Christmas Crack
adapted from Prevention RD

1 sleeve of saltine crackers (4 oz)
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
12 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
1 oz sprinkles
(optional toppings: crushed peppermint, nuts, toffee bits, caramels, whatever floats your boat!)

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Line a 15x10 jelly roll pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.

Line the saltines in a single layer in the pan,with sides touching.

Meanwhile, cut up the butter into pieces. In a saucepan on medium heat, bring the butter and sugar to a boil, without mixing. Once boiling, remove from heat. Add vanilla extract and whisk in the baking soda. The mixture will become frothy. Pour the mixture over the saltines, covering as evenly as possible. Bake in oven for 8 minutes.

Remove from oven, and wait until the pan has stopped bubbling. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top and bake in oven for another 2 minutes.

Remove pan from oven. Using a spatula, spread the melted chocolate chips evenly over the entire surface of the saltines. Add sprinkles or desired toppings.

Allow to cool and harden in fridge. Since it was a bit tough to cut directly from the fridge, I broke them into pieces by hand. I personally like the jagged look! :)

Makes a whole lot!

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Sweet Potato Chili

After the holidays, I had a few sweet potatoes left over. What a better way to use them up than in a chili! I saw this recipe on the Real Simple facebook page before Thanksgiving and I knew I wanted to try it with whatever sweet potato I had left. This is a great meatless chili and packed full of vitamins and fiber!

I thought Gary wasn't going to go for it at first, but he actually enjoyed it. He didn't miss the meat! Since he can't have dairy, he didn't add any of the toppings therefore making it vegan, and it was still delicious!

Although you can definitely taste a hint of sweet potato and cinnamon, I didn't really see it. I think it could use a bit more next time. I also used dried beans instead of canned, since I had them on hand anyway. I added more water since I was using the dried beans, and I'm glad I did. It soaked up very nicely, and the chili was still thick and hearty. I only added one jalapeno because we're not big spicy people, but it could probably have used more. I usually don't have peppers on hand, but you can definitely use whatever you have.

This made a lot, so you can store them in single serving portions and freeze for later.

Crockpot/Slow Cooker Vegan/Vegetarian Sweet Potato Chili
adapted from Real Simple

1 cup dried black beans
1 cup dried kidney beans
1 cup dried great northern beans
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (or more of desired)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 TBSP mild chili powder (or 1 TBSP medium-hot)
1 TBSP ground cumin
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups water
optional toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, sliced scallions, sliced radishes, and/or tortilla chips

The night before, pick out stones and discolored beans and soak in cold water (changing the water once) in the liner of a 4-6 qt slow cooker.

If you have time right before making this, I recommend sauteing the onions, garlic and peppers to bring out some flavor. If not, you can follow the directions below.

Right before cooking, drain the beans and rinse in a colander. Combine the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, black pepper. Add the tomatoes (and their liquid), beans, sweet potato, and water. Stir to combine.

Cover and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours

Serve the chili with the sour cream, scallions, radishes, and tortilla chips. [to keep it vegan, use Daiya (or your choice of vegan cheese), or omit the cheese and sour cream all together]

Makes 4 heaping servings, or 8-10 smaller bowls

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake

Two of my family's favorite things, pumpkin and ginger is all baked up into this wonderful dessert. They really do go for anything pumpkin and anything ginger, so I had to make this.

I've been meaning to make a pumpkin cheesecake for a while now, and I never get around to it because we always have pumpkin pie. This time around, I made an apple pie, so I finally got the chance to make this for Thanksgiving.

At the last minute I was almost hesitant to try this recipe. Although it has a 4 1/2 star review, there are quite a few people who mentioned this wasn't like cheesecake, or there wasn't enough pumpkin flavor, or it was bland altogether. After reading a few reviews, I decided to take matters in my own hands and adjust accordingly. In the end, I doubled the amount of total spices buy subbing with my homemade pumpkin pie mix, and I used a whole can of pumpkin, instead of the one cup it originally called for.

I think my changes made all the difference. There was definitely a more prominent pumpkin flavor and just enough spice. In the end this came out beautifully, and despite the cracks, it tasted great.

Marbled Pumpkin Cheesecake
adapted from allrecipes

1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies (about 8 from this recipe)
1/2 heaping cup pecans halves
1/3 cup butter, melted

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup white sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 15oz can of pure pumpkin (or 2 cups fresh)
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350° F (175° C). In a food processor using the chopping blade, mix together the gingersnap cookies and pecans. Pulse to form crumbs. Stream in the butter and pulse to combine. Alternatively, if you don't have a food processor, you can crush the cookies in a heavy duty zip top bag, add finely chopped pecans and butter to form a crust. Press crust into the bottom, and about 1 inch up the sides of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl of an electric mixer, mix together the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla just until smooth. Mix in eggs one at a time, blending well after each. Set aside 1 cup of the mixture. Blend 1/4 cup sugar, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice into the remaining mixture in the bowl.

Spread the pumpkin flavored batter into the crust, and drop the plain batter by spoonfuls onto the top. Tap the bowl lightly to combine the two batters. Swirl with a knife or toothpick to create a marbled effect.

Place pan on a cookie sheet and bake for 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Turn off oven and let cool in the oven for 30 minutes with the door propped open with a wooden spoon. Run a knife around the edge of the pan. Allow to fully cool before removing pan rim. Chill for at least 4 hours before serving.

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