My Favorite Recipes from 2011…

As 2011 comes to a close, I thought I’d go ahead and jump on the “my best recipes of the year post” bandwagon that everyone does this time of year. It’s a good way for you to take a peek at some of my favorites in case there were any you might have missed, and it’s fun for me to get to look back and reflect on a whole year of food! This was actually pretty easy for me- although we’ve loved everything I’ve posted, there were definitely some clear favorites. Let’s take a look!

First up, Fudgy Chocolate Fondue. I have made this fondue every year of my married life (and even before then!) without fail! Not only is it incredibly easy to make, it’s incredibly FUN to eat! It’s so good with all kinds of fruit, pound cake, cheesecake bites and even cream puffs (the ones you can buy in the freezer section are perfect for this!).

Black Bean Pie is next on the list. I’ve made it a number of times this year and we never seem to get tired of it. It’s a great vegetarian option and comes together in 30 minutes or less! You can’t beat that for an easy, delicious dinner!

You KNOW the Homemade Sushi Tutorial had to be on here. Not only did Joel and I have a blast making this (and eating it- yum!), we discovered making sushi at home is really easy and a heck of a lot cheaper than going out to a pricey sushi bar! Plus, you can watch us make idiots out of ourselves on video (the bloopers reel is my favorite!). :)

Next up- Homemade Pink Raspberry Marshmallows.  There’s really no contest between homemade and store bought marshmallows- the homemade ones are infinitely better! I loved these because they were pink (duh!), fun to make and made my hot cocoa taste like a dream! If you’re intimidated to try making homemade marshmallows at home, don’t be! They can seem a little daunting, but in reality, they’re very simple and FUN!

Man, oh man, do I love this BBQ Chicken and Pineapple Pizza! The combination of the tangy BBQ chicken, fresh pineapple and cilantro is just totally awesome. I haven’t made it as much as I would’ve liked since I have to take it easy on the cheese nowadays, but believe me when I tell you, this is GOOD!

These Peanut Butter-Chocolate Cookie Cups were awesome. Warm, gooey peanut butter cookie, topped with melty chocolate chips and cold, creamy vanilla ice cream. Need I say more??

Next up is my all-time favorite recipe for yellow cake – Old Fashioned Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting. Believe me when I tell you, this is the BEST, most moist, buttery, fluffy yellow cake I’ve ever eaten. I made this cake for just Joel and me and it was GONE in less than 2 days. I. Love. It.

Classic Mac and Cheese made with cheddar and Velveeta cheeses. Is there anything better? Really? If I knew today was my last day on earth, I’d probably request this mac and cheese and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies for my last meal.

This Lemon Chicken with Asparagus is a favorite in our house. It’s such a simple dinner, but it’s so satisfying and flavorful. In fact, sitting here typing this, I’m craving it again like crazy! This may have to be on the menu this week!

I made this Fresh Strawberry Pie for Easter last year and discovered an all-time favorite dessert in the process. If you’re a strawberry lover like me, this pie is perfect for you! Every bite is jam-packed with fresh, juicy strawberries. This is heaven with a little fresh whipped cream on top!

Next up are these Cookies and Cream Cookies- my two favorite cookies come together to form one awesome super-cookie! Oreo chunks are stirred into a simple chocolate chip cookie dough and baked to perfection! An ideal cookie, if I do say so myself!

When I was first pregnant, back in early June (before the crippling 24-hour sickness set in…), I made these Green Monster Smoothies like crazy! They’re a fantastic way to get your vitamins and minerals and seriously taste great! Mine included bananas, strawberries, blueberries (which made for a very unappetizing color, unfortunately!), peaches and fresh spinach along with a little Greek yogurt and honey. An excellent option for breakfast or lunch! Try it! You’ll love it!

Southern Caramel Cake. Yum, yum and YUM! Although some people were very vocal about what their idea of a caramel cake should be, this is MY idea of the perfect caramel cake and I was so proud of it. Not to mention it was one of the best tasting things I’ve ever put in my mouth. If you have trouble with the caramel filling (as I did the first two times), feel free to use a jarred caramel sauce instead- it’ll still be fantastic.

I can’t even tell you how much Joel and I both adore this Chicken Tortilla Soup. It’s SO quick and SO easy….and SO flavorful! I could go on and on! And did I mention it’s ready in 15 minutes? You just can’t beat that.

Up next are these Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies. These hold a special place in my heart because I made them to celebrate and announce the good news when we found out we were having a little girl (such a happy day for us!). Not to mention, these taste just like the soft, sugary Lofthouse cookies you can buy at the store that we’re all so fond of! Yum!

I just have to include this Cheesy Pepperoni Bread! It’s so easy, I almost feel guilty…almost. ;) With all kinds of big football games coming up on TV, this would be a perfect snack to serve at a watching party! Very guy-friendly! Although, I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t love bread filled with gooey cheese and spicy pepperoni!

Soft and Spicy Gingerbread Cookies. I’m not ashamed to say I ate my weight in these this Christmas season! I love a good soft, chewy cookie and these are SO satisfying! There’s something addictive about their chewiness, I think! Perfect with a cup of hot tea or cocoa, these are by far, my favorite gingerbread cookie!

And lastly (but definitely not least on my list!), my Thick and Rich Homemade Hot Cocoa. It’s velvety, smooth, insanely chocolaty and amazingly decadent! One sip and you’ll be in chocolate heaven! If you’re a hot cocoa fiend like I am, you absolutely MUST try this ASAP- I guarantee you’ll be in love!

Well, there you have it, friends! My favorite recipes of 2011! I can’t believe the year is coming to a close, but I must say, I’m VERY excited to see what 2012 holds in store for us (I see lots of baby food in my future…)! Happy New Year, everyone!!!

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Well, it looks like we all survived the Christmas hustle and bustle! I hope you all had as wonderful a Christmas as we did! Although there was lots of driving involved, we had so much fun with our families and ate SO much good food! Joel and I certainly enjoyed our last Christmas as a twosome, but we couldn’t help but dream of next year’s Christmas and how special it will be with Cassidy! :)

And now that Christmas is over, it’s time to start thinking about yummy New Year’s Eve snacks! Joel and I always have lots of different snack foods on New Year’s Eve instead of a big meal. We enjoy just staying home and enjoying a nice, quiet evening just the two of us (all that is sure about to change, huh?!). I’m thinking this year we’ll definitely be snacking on this appetizer for sure! I tried it just over a week ago when we had my parents and grandparents over for a nice meal (like we do every year before Christmas). I wanted a quick, easy, delicious appetizer that would require as little work as possible so I’d have more time for the rest of the cooking. I’ve had this recipe saved on Pinterest for weeks and weeks now and it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. SO good! We all crowded around it and couldn’t stop eating it! The combination of the toasted pistachios and sweet cranberries was just ideal. I’ll be using this recipe again and again! If you’re headed to a party this New Year’s Eve or even just staying in like we do, this appetizer is just perfect! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Goat Cheese Log with Pistachios and Cranberries

1 8-ounce log goat cheese
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled
1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

sliced baguette or crackers for serving

In a small pan over medium-high heat, toast the pistachios until fragrant; about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool.

Combine the pistachios and cranberries in a plate and roll the goat cheese log in the mixture until completely coated. Place on a serving dish and sprinkle the remaining pistachio/cranberry mixture around the log. Allow to sit out at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving so the cheese will soften nicely and become more spreadable. Serves approximately 6-8.

Recipe source: Real Simple

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Merry Christmas!

We hope you have a wonderful, merry Christmas and a happy New Year! We certainly have a lot to look forward to this January!!! Enjoy lots of yummy food and homemade goodies and being with family and friends!

Love,

Amy, Joel, Izzy and Cassidy (coming soon!)

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip…

Going to a party soon? Need something quick, easy and delicious to bring along? I highly recommend this chocolate chip cookie dough dip! I mean, who doesn’t love cookie dough? It’s a big-time crowd pleaser, it’s easy and it can be ready in no time! I took this to a friend’s party this past weekend and it was a huge hit! I’m telling ya…you need to make this!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip

1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips, plus extra for sprinkling

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the brown sugar until it dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble. Stir in vanilla and set aside to cool.
In a separate bowl, cream the cream cheese and powdered sugar together for 60 seconds. With the mixer on low speed, add in brown sugar and butter mixture, then the salt. Mix until combined. Stir in the mini chocolate chips.

Garnish with additional mini chocolate chips. Serve with animal crackers, nilla wafers or graham crackers.

Recipe source: barely adapted from What Megan’s Making; originally from How Sweet It Is

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Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Bars…

There’s officially less than a week until Christmas! Where has the time gone?! I feel like I didn’t get to take part in quite as much Christmas baking as I wanted to this year, but under the circumstances, I think I did pretty ok! I have about a month until Cassidy’s due date and have officially reached the “beached whale” point of my pregnancy. Joel is really enjoying making jokes at my expense (at least he makes up for them in foot rubs!). I think the month is going to absolutely FLY by and she’ll be here before we know it! We’re pretty darn anxious to meet her, too! :)

We had a party this weekend and I wanted to make something really delicious to munch on besides my usual M&M cookies for dessert. By now, you’re all well aware of my undying love for Pinterest, and naturally, that’s where I went for Christmas goodie inspiration! I’ve had my eye on these salted caramel pecan bars for weeks now and couldn’t wait to make them! I’ve made the famous Saltine Cracker Toffee, which we all loved and this is very similar. It’s sugary sweet with a nice toastiness from the pecans and a subtle saltiness that I just LOVE! All in all, a big hit at the party! Oh, and super easy to throw together, too!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Pecan Bars

1 cup chopped pecans
12 whole graham crackers
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease. Arrange graham crackers in a single layer in prepared pan, slightly overlapping edges.

Combine sugar, butter, and cream in a medium-size heavy saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and continue to cook until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla and pecans. Pour butter mixture over crackers, spreading to coat.

Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let sit for 5 minutes until chocolate is melted, then spread evenly over the caramel layer. Sprinkle with salt. Let cool. Chill for at least 30 minutes, then break or cut into pieces when ready to serve. Makes about 40 pieces.

Recipe source: Eat. Drink. Smile.

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Coconut Pecan Sandies…

I know my posts have been a little more sparse lately and I apologize! Joel and I volunteered to sing with our hometown church choir’s Christmas program over the weekend, so the past few weeks have been extremely hectic! It was pretty cool getting to hear my daddy sing a solo, though! :)

With all the craziness going on lately I haven’t gotten much of a chance to do as much Christmas baking as I would’ve liked. However, I recently had a free afternoon and jumped on the chance to bake up something yummy and festive! These cookies are a version of my mom’s favorite Christmas cookies, Santa’s Whiskers, which normally have candied red and green cherries in them (so pretty!), but I didn’t have any on hand, so those will have to wait for another time! We decided these were very reminiscent of pecan sandies – very crunchy and shortbread-like in texture – and I added a healthy dose of cinnamon to give them a little more flavor. The edges of the cookies are rolled in coconut before baking, so the coconut flavor isn’t overpowering, but still very prominent. I think these would be awesome with a cup of hot cocoa- the perfect Christmastime treat!

Coconut Pecan Sandies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy; about 2 minutes. Blend in milk and vanilla.

Slowly stir in flour, salt, cinnamon and pecans. Form dough into 2 8-inch rolls and roll in the flaked coconut. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours. Cut into 1/4 inch slices and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 11-12 minutes, until lightly browned. Makes approximately 40 cookies.

Recipe source: my mom (this is a very old family recipe, given to my mom just after she and my dad were married!)

P.S. Here’s a little tip- during all of your holiday baking this year, don’t forget to use real butter! Margarine or butter “spread” just won’t work as well as the real thing and you’ll most likely end up with flat cookies that spread too much. Real butter gives you a tender, flaky, more flavorful cookie that just can’t be equaled! Happy baking!

 

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Thick and Rich Homemade Hot Cocoa…

Can I just brag for a second? Because, um….I nailed it. I set out to make a rich, thick, chocolaty homemade hot cocoa and I. Freaking. Nailed. It. Ok, bragging done.

Joel and I are both huge fans of hot cocoa, but lately, I’ve found myself wanting more than just the powdery packet mixed with milk. Even though I normally add a candy cane and a giant marshmallow, I always end up wanting something more. I don’t know why in the world I haven’t made homemade hot cocoa before, but I can assure you, I will NOT be going back to the packets. Ever. This hot cocoa is velvety, thick, insanely rich and out-of-this-world chocolaty. I’m in love.

Thick and Rich Homemade Hot Cocoa

1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
4 ounces chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips work fine too)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 scant teaspoon instant coffee powder or espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk the milk, chocolate, sugar, salt and coffee powder in a small saucepan over medium heat until the chocolate is completely melted and everything is combined. Stir in the vanilla. Cover and cook on low heat for 7-8 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat off and let the hot cocoa sit (still covered) for 5 minutes before serving to allow it to thicken. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

**Some of you might want to thin it out with a little extra milk or water- it’s VERY rich! ;)

Recipe source: Sing For Your Supper original

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