Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Favorites

Looking back through all my posts from this year, I was surprised how many there were, considering how sick I was with my pregnancy and how delusional I was (and still am) from lack of sleep now that she's here.

It was fun to look back and reminisce on all the yummy food that was made and reminded me of some dishes I NEED to make again. So, I've made a line up of my favorite savory dishes and my favorite sweet treats. Here they are, in no particular order.

Sweet Pepper, Tomato and Feta Pizza-I fell in love with this pizza too and made it many, many times over the summer.

Crispy Coconut Chicken Fingers-Well, you know I love coconut anything, but I wasn't the only one that loved these in our house; my kids gobbled them up as well.

Lemon and Oregano Roast Chicken-Love, love, loved this chicken! After grilling, roasting chicken is my next favorite way of preparing it. Plus, when you roast a whole chicken, you have it all cooked for several meals ahead of time.

Chicken Milano-We so totally fell in love with this dish. It is the perfect combination of flavors.

Asian Wonton Salad- I'm a firm believer that when it comes to eating salads, variety is the key. This was so fun and different, I loved eating it.

Asian Wraps with Creamy Peanut Sauce-Maybe it's my love of peanut butter that I loved this dish so much because man that dipping sauce is something else! This is SUPER delicious!

Chicken Parmesan-This was easily one of the two best meals I made this year (Chicken Milano being the other one). It was absolutely perfect.

Sesame Noodles-Made this many times, even the kids eat it!

Lemon Garlic Shrimp with Orzo-Incredibly simple dish but packed with flavor.

Berry Chicken Salad with Berry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette-Another tasty and colorful salad.

Coconut Brownies with Creamy Coconut Frosting-Rich, creamy and delicious and totally unique!

Bananas Foster Bread-I love banana bread in general; this is my boozy bread version.

Cake Batter Pancakes-We totally love pancakes around here. I think I made these for every birthday this year. So fun!

Tres Leches Cake
-I don't make a whole lot of cake, except for birthdays and such, but this is absolutely to die for. I'll have to make it again for our 5 de mayo party.

Raspberry Almond Cookie Bars-Sometimes you just want something sweet and delicious and NOT chocolate..cue these rich cookie bars-YUM.

Sugar Cookies with Cherry Buttercream-I've made and eaten a lot of sugar cookies in my day and I can honestly say that this cookie and frosting recipe are so perfect. The subtleness of the cherry in the frosting is absolutely amazing.

S'mores Ice Cream-Love s'mores; love ice cream. Great combo!

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies- I can't believe I ever waited so long to try these. One of my most favorite cookies ever.

Chocolate Coconut Fudge-Million dollar fudge right here folks...not joking!

Egg Nog Syrup-This is the perfect condiment for the holidays. You can use it on pancakes, ice cream, warm gingerbread or cake, the sky is the limit!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Egg Nog Gingerbread Trifle

I'm so glad I finally get to post this delicious trifle! I saw it last year and made my version of it, but it was gone before I could get a photo or hardly even a taste. I took it to a Christmas party this year and the same thing happened, so I was determined to make it again. I decided to make it a third time for our family dinner on Christmas day and I finally got a nice big helping, and leftovers to eat for breakfast the next day!!!

This is a beautiful and festive trifle with layers of yummy gingerbread, tart raspberries and delicious custard made with egg nog, topping it off with some whipping cream, fresh raspberries and ginger snap crumbs. This will definitely wow the socks off any guests you have over this holiday, or even your family

Egg Nog Gingerbreaed Trifle

For the gingerbread:
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark molasses
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the egg nog custard:
9 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
3 cups good egg nog

For the filling and garnish:
3 (12-ounce) packages frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed and drained
1 cup chilled heavy cream
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. confectioners' sugar
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
ginger snap cookies, crumbled (optional)

To make the gingerbread: Heat the oven to 350°. Generously grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the butter until it's soft and creamy, about 1 minute. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the sugar and molasses and beat again until the mixture is well blended and fluffy, about 2 minutes more. Add the eggs one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each addition. Slowly pour in the buttermilk and beat well. Reduce the mixer's speed to low and slowly add half the flour mixture to the bowl and beat until blended. Repeat with the other half.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack, then cover it tightly with plastic wrap until ready to use. It can be stored in the pan at room temperature for up to two days.

To make the custard: Divide the egg yolks and whites. Set the egg whites aside for another use (they may be frozen). In a large bowl with an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the yolks and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour.

In a medium saucepan, bring the egg nog to a boil. Temper the eggs by very slowly (I do about a cup at a time) pouring half the egg nog into the egg mixture and beat until blended then pour the mixture into the remaining egg nog in the pan. Over medium heat, bring the ingredients to a boil while whisking constantly. Allow the custard to boil for 1 minute as you continue to whisk. Remove the pan from the heat.

Let the custard cool slightly, then cover its surface with a piece of plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Let the custard cool completely, then refrigerate it until ready to use (up to three days).

To assemble the trifle: In a medium bowl, toss the thawed raspberries and sugar. Remove the gingerbread from the pan and use a serrated knife to slice it into four equal wedges.

Take one of the gingerbread wedges and crumble it over the bottom of a trifle bowl or a 2 1/2-quart bowl. Spoon and spread about 3/4 - 1 cup of the raspberry mixture over the cake, then top the fruit with 1 cup of custard. Repeat the layering two more times with the remaining ingredients. (You can actually do three more layers, you will have an extra wedge of cake to do that. However, you will have to do a little less custard and raspberries on each layer, and I found that three layers filled my trifle bowl pretty much to the top. I just saved the fourth wedge of gingerbread.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours to let the flavors meld (the dessert can be stored overnight).

Before serving, make the whipped cream. In a medium bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip the cream with the confectioners' sugar until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Use a spatula to spread the whipped cream on top of the trifle, and garnish it with the fresh raspberries and crumbled ginger snap cookies, if desired.

SOURCE: Adapted from Family Fun Magazine

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chocolate Coconut Fudge

Healthy fudge....what! I've mentioned before how much I love coconut and what great health benefits it has. It also has great flavor to boot and when paired with chocolate, it's like a match made in heaven.

I created this fudge using coconut oil instead of butter and coconut milk instead of any kind of dairy milk or cream. I also used dark chocolate and about a fourth of the sugar used in regular fudge recipes. Don't you worry though, it's still plenty rich and sweet and incredibly creamy and smooth! My husband and I both agreed that this was the best fudge either of us had ever eaten (and believe me, I've had my fair share)....a million dollar recipe.....hmm, maybe!

Chocolate Coconut Fudge
16 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (or dark chips)
1/2 cup flaked coconut
3/4 cup canned coconut milk, full-fat
3 1/3 cups mini marshmallows
5 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp. salt

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan with coconut oil, or lightly spray with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper, if desired, leaving about 2 inches of overhang on each side for easy removal.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine coconut milk, marshmallows, oil, sugar and salt. Stir until everything is melted and completely smooth. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. Stir again until completely melted and smooth. Add flaked coconut and stir to combine. Pour into prepared baking pan and spread evenly. Allow to cool.

Fudge will be soft at room temperature. To aid in cutting, place fudge in the fridge until slightly firm. Cut into 1-inch squares and store either at room temperature or in the fridge. You can also wrap it up in wax paper and put it into a freezer safe zip-top bag and store it in the freezer. Serve at room temperature.

Linked to...
These Chicks Cooked @ This Chick Cooked

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Egg Nog Syrup

I'll just get to the point here. If you like egg nog, this syrup is going to knock your socks off!!! I couldn't wait to try it when I stumbled upon it a while ago and, believe me, I was NOT dissappointed. Not only is this a delicious and seasonal pancake topping, but you can also use it on ice cream or even a slice of warm gingerbread (yum!).

If you really like egg nog, you can serve this syrup with the egg nog pancakes I posted yesterday, even more delicious! But, good old buttermilk pancakes are great too.

Egg Nog Syrup
1 stick butter
3/4 cup good eggnog
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp rum extract
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of fresh grated nutmeg

In a large saucepan, bring to a boil the butter, eggnog, and sugar, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and whisk in rum extract and baking soda (it will foam when you put in the baking soda, so make sure you are using a large saucepan).

Allow to cool and either serve warm right away or refrigerate in an airtight container.

SOURCE: Adapted from Dine & Dish

Linked to...
These Chicks Cooked @ This Chick Cooks

Egg Nog Pancakes

One thing I love about the holidays is that I get to indulge in yummy treats I don't usually get to, egg nog being one of them. Other than homemade fudge and caramel, a good egg nog hits right up there with one of my favorites and a must-have during the season. I love it so much, I've been known to drink it right out of the carton, forgetting about sharing it with anyone else or even using a proper cup. Thankfully I'm not the only egg nog-lover in my family; my dad and siblings are as well. In fact, last year my older brother went so far as to make his morning cream of wheat with egg nog-not sure about that one.

Well, another love of mine is anything breakfast, especially pancakes. So, when I bought an abundance of egg nog a couple of weeks ago, naturally my mind turned to egg nog pancakes, egg not syrup, egg nog breakfast get the picture. So, I created this recipe based on my basic pancakes recipe and it is absolutely delicious!

These pancakes are a little sweeter than your typical pancake because of the egg nog. I enjoyed eating them with just some melted butter and a dusting of powdered sugar. HOWEVER, I also made some crazy good egg nog syrup (which I will share tomorrow) and put it on top of the egg nog pancakes and it was complete bliss-to DIE for!!! So, you choose how you want to serve them; and the sooner the better.

Egg Nog Pancakes
3/4 cup good egg nog, room temperature
1/2 cup milk, room terperature
1 egg
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 tsp. rum extract (optional)
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg nog, milk, egg, sugar, butter and rum extract, until well-incorporated. Then, stir in the rest of the ingredients until combined, taking care not to over-mix.

Let batter sit while griddle heats up. Ladle batter by the 1/4 cup onto griddle and cook until edges start to dry and bubbles start forming on top; about 2-3 minutes. Flip pancakes and cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side. Serve warm.

Makes about 8-10 pancakes

Linked to...
These Chicks Cooked @ This Chick Cooks

Friday, December 16, 2011

Autumn Panzanella

I think now is a good time to stick a salad in here; mix it up with all those sweets and something healthy to stick under your belt before the onslaught of holiday goodies begins rolling in (if it hasn't already).

Panzanellas are one of my favorite kinds of salads, especially with the right kind of bread, toasted to perfection. I'm glad I stumbled upon this salad because sometimes it's easy to forget to eat your greens (and sometimes veggies too!) during the cold fall and winter months. Well, now there's no excuse. This fall-inspired panzanella gives you a mixture of delicious fall produce, good-for-you greens along with toasty bread and pumpkin seeds and a pop of both color and sweet-tart flavor from the dried cranberries.

Autumn Panzanella
olive oil
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 apples, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3-4 cups fresh greens
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4-1/2 cup green pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds would work too)
4-5 thick slices multi-grain bread, cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix salt, pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, and garlic powder in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, mix sweet potato and squash chunks, then generously drizzle olive oil on top and toss to coat. Add about 3/4 of the spice mixture, and toss again to coat. Lay on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring about half way through.

After 20 minutes, toss apple chunks with remaining spice mixture. Add apple to the baking sheet and bake for another 10-20 minutes, or until everything is tender, tossing once or twice. Remove from oven and cool.

Toss pieces of bread in some olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, then spread on a separate baking sheet . Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden and crispy.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add (green) pumpkin seeds and toast until lightly golden. Remove from heat and allow to cool in a separate dish.

In a large bowl, combine greens with roasted veggies and apple, toasted bread, seeds and cranberries. Toss with some of the vinaigrette and serve immediately. (You can serve the dressing separately if you don't plan on eating it all right away.)

1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

SOURCE: Adapted from How Sweet It Is

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gingerbread Play Dough

Here's another great holiday gift-giving idea; especially for the little ones. While looking for seasonal activities for my girls to do to keep them busy during the day, I remembered my friend gave me the recipe for this gingerbread play dough years ago. Playing with play dough is fun anyway, but it's even better when it makes everything smell like warm cinnamon and ginger.

Kids of all ages (and even the occasional adult) enjoy playing with play dough. Gift wrap some up and tie it with a small gingerbread cookie cutter for your kids to give as friend gifts, or just keep some on hand for those long quiet afternoon hours when the little ones get bored. This will keep them busy; and smelling great too!

Gingerbread Play Dough
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups salt
1 Tbsp. cream of tartar (or alum)
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. ground ginger
6 Tbsp. oil
3 cups water

Heat mixture on low heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and knead. Let cool and keep in an airtight container or zip-top bag.

Linked To...
These Chicks Cooked @ this Chick Cooks

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Hot Chocolate Mix

If giving neighbor gifts around the holidays is your thing, than you might not want to let go of this recipe. Your neighbors will love you! Make sure you keep some for yourself though because it will knock your socks off how delicious it is. It is so rich and chocolaty and you can use whatever kind of milk you want. That's a bonus in our house since we drink two different kinds of milk around here.

...and can I just put in a little plug for my canning jars? I love them, they are so versatile! I use them for home canning but I also store anything and everything in them. They are also great for gift-giving things like soup mix, cookie mix and, of course, this hot chocolate mix.

Hot Chocolate Mix
4 cups granulated sugar
1½ lbs. good quality semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
9 oz. good quality dark or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups cocoa powder

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the sugar, semisweet and bittersweet chocolate, and cocoa powder. Process in 4-second pulses until the chocolate is very finely ground and the mixture is well combined. Store the mix in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Serving Instructions:
Combine 2 tablespoons hot chocolate mix with 8 oz. of very warm milk and stir to combine until well blended.

SOURCE:Annie's Eats

Linked to...
Sweet Indulgences Sunday @ A Well-Seasoned Life

Friday, December 2, 2011

Coconut Spiced Sweet Potatoes

Ok, last Thanksgiving leftover-ish post because it is now December and we want to move onto December things right?

Remember this post where I said I hardly ever had leftover sweet potatoes after Thanksgiving? Well, I've been lucky this year because I had lots of sweet potatoes. I did end up making those Ginger Sweet Potato Muffins I mentioned in the other post, as well as some Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting which, by the way, were to die for, but that's another post for another time.

Even after all that I still had some sweet potatoes left so I looked for another way to use them up. I love sweet potatoes just about any way I can get them, but I also like to try new things and change it up a bit once in a while. I found this slightly non-traditional recipe for mashed sweet potatoes and marshmallows that I really enjoyed. Coconut milk and warm spices with just a hint of brown sugar really make this dish. Then to top it off toast some marshmallows on top! You can either serve this dish in a 2-quart baking dish or or 4 1-cup ramekins.

Coconut Spiced Sweet Potatoes
2-2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 large sweet potatoes)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup miniature marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350°F. Scrub the sweet potatoes and boil or steam until very tender. Remove from heat and let stand until cool enough to handle. Peel the sweet potatoes. Alternately, you can peel and dice the sweet potatoes then boil them until tender.

Put the sweet potatoes in a bowl and mash with salt, brown sugar, butter, ginger, cinnamon and coconut milk until very smooth. Spoon sweet potatoes into baking dish or ramekins. Top with coconut and marshmallows. Bake until marshmallows and coconut are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

SOURCE:Slightly adapted from Whole Foods Market
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