December 31, 2014

Top Ten Most Popular Recipes of 2014

Another year is gone and I can't believe it! It's been another busy and eventful one, but somehow I've managed to keep this blog going.

Here are the top ten most viewed recipes on my blog. There are some definite winners!
10. Banana Bread Waffles: These are such a fun twist on your standard waffle! The flavor is perfect and the waffles are crisp on the outside yet soft on the inside. Such a good recipe!

9. Double Chocolate Brownie Mix Cookies: I'm all about cheater dessert recipes and these brownie cookies are amazing! All the wonderful goodness of a brownie in cookie form! What can be bad about that??

8. Stuffed Honey Ham and Cheese Biscuits: This is one of those quick dinner recipes to keep on file. These biscuits are super easy to put together and full of flavor!

7. Ham and Cheese Puff Pancake: After trying this recipe I have a hard time wanting regular old German Pancakes anymore. These are honestly mouthwatering!

6. Baked Creamy Chicken Taquitos: This was probably one my most made recipes in our home this year. I made these several times in just a few weeks. They are that good!

5. Easy Apricot Chicken: This recipe is a classic, but a good one to keep in your recipe box. I love the flavor of the apricot sauce with the chicken and rice. Total comfort food!

4. Banana Bread Granola: This was another recipe I made over and over again. I could not get enough! Especially when berries were in season. You've got to try this!

3. Cinnamon Roll Bread: Now who doesn't love cinnamon rolls? And cinnamon rolls made into bread form?? Beautiful.

2. Soft and Thin Snickerdoodles: I made these snickerdoodles for a baby shower and they were an instant hit! No one could stop eating them. But seriously. They are that good!

And the Most Popular Recipe of 2014 is...
1. Roasted Country-Style Potatoes: These were the most popular by a landslide! And for good reason. They are reminiscent of any skillet potatoes you would order at a restaurant, but baked not fried. So addicting!

December 22, 2014

Creamy Potato-Tomato Soup with Homemade Garlic Croutons

I must really love my tomato based soups because I already have a few on this blog. But this one? This one is different.
This soup not only calls for tomatoes, but a potato AND a sweet potato. And because of that, there is no other soup like it.
And while l liked this soup by itself, I really wanted to add some savory toppings. So I added my favorite homemade croutons and some feta. Because feta can seriously go in anything. And I mean anything.
So if you need a hearty soup to warm you up, be sure to try this out. And don't forget the toppings! Because the toppings are a must.

Creamy Tomato-Potato Soup with Homemade Garlic Croutons
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup cream or half and half
Toppings: feta and croutons

1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened a bit, 4-5 minutes.
2. Add the broth, water, tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper and sweet potatoes. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
3. Add the russet potatoes and cook 15 minutes more or until all the potatoes are tender.
Mash the potatoes into the soup or blend for a smoother consistency (with a handheld immersion blender or in batches, transfer the soup to a blender, filling it only halfway full with the hot soup).
4. Stir in the cream and season with additional salt and pepper to taste before ladling into bowls. Garnish with homemade croutons and feta.

For the croutons: 
4 slices sandwich bread
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil OR 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter, melted 
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried parsley    
kosher salt

1. To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 300˚ F.
2. Cut the bread into 3/4-inch cubes and place in a medium-large bowl. (A pizza cutter makes this really easy.)
3. Combine the olive oil or butter, garlic powder and dried parsley in a small bowl. Stir together to blend well. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes and toss gently until evenly coated.

4. Transfer the bread cubes to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spreading them out into an even layer. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 15 minutes. Check to see if the croutons are golden and crisp. If not, toss lightly and bake up to 15 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool. Transfer to an airtight container until ready to use.

December 19, 2014

Trader Joe's Product Review No. 6

This is a quick review of a few products I picked up when we went to Trader Joe's a couple of weeks ago. Definitely found some winners!

1. Pumpkin Pie Spice and Tumeric: *****
I haven't actually used these yet, but I have a feeling they are perfectly fine because well, they're spices. The reason I give them 5 stars is because they are cheap ($2) and the packaging is adorable. A win/win in my book!

2. Masala Simmer Sauce: ****
You know I'm a fan of other Trader Joe's simmer sauces and I can't believe I hadn't tried this one before. I recently made some Chicken Tikka Masala from scratch so I knew I liked the flavor. Turns out, this sauce is great and makes for an easy throw it together meal!

3. Balsamic Glaze: *****
This was recommended by another blogger and I'm so glad I bought it. Not too expensive and it has the perfect consistency. I've tried to make a balsamic reduction myself and all it really did was stink up my house! This was PERFECT on our favorite Roasted Tomato and Garlic Pizza. I can't wait to try it on our Caprese Garlic Bread!

4. Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe Joe's: *******
I could honestly give these an infinite amount of stars! They are ridiculous and I guess their only downfall is that they are $4 a box. But are they worth it? I'd say yes! They are rich, sweet and have the perfect mint/chocolate ratio. Oh man these would make a great stocking stuffer or gift! Be sure to get them while they're in season!

December 17, 2014

Artichoke Dip Hummus

I've teamed up with ALOHA to share a healthy and tasty dish you'll want to bring to your next holiday party! ALOHA's mission is to help you feel healthier and happier by providing simple, high-quality products and inspiring content. They have an amazing recipe page with loads of healthy and delicious food. Be sure to check it out!
Now on to the dish...I think we all have the same thought process whenever we're asked to bring an appetizer to a party. Should I bring the same dish l always do or switch it up this time? In my opinion, there are so many amazing dishes to try so why not try as many as you possibly can?
This hummus is a healthy take on the oh so delicious creamy artichoke dip you usually see at every holiday party. And while I love the usual dip, I love this healthier take that still incorporates artichokes because we all know how hard it can be to not overeat during the holidays.

This hummus has such an addicting flavor and I couldn't help but go back for more after each bite!
And the best part is, you can bring a variety of "dippers" for your friends or family to try. From carrots to pita chips to crackers to broccoli. They would all taste amazing with this hummus!

Artichoke Dip Hummus
Adapted from AllRecipes
Serves: 6
1 1/2 tsp. garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and peeled (reserve juice)
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. water
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 (7.5 oz.) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

1. Place garlic, basil and lemon juice in a food processor and pulse several times to mince basil leaves.
2. Add chickpeas, olive oil, water, salt, and cumin in the food processor and process until the hummus is smooth. If hummus is too thick, process 1 Tbsp. reserved liquid from chickpeas at a time into the mixture. Add artichoke hearts to the hummus and process until smooth.
3. Serve with carrots, tortilla chips, pita chips, crackers, etc.

*This recipe can easily be doubled to serve a larger crowd.

December 9, 2014

Hot Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies

These Hot Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies are part of an online cookie exchange Patience Brewster is hosting! Patience Brewster is an artist who designs a unique line of handmade Christmas ornaments, holiday gifts and everyday decor. Be sure to check out her site!

Now who doesn't love a big old mug of hot chocolate?? Especially during the holidays. I know I do and have already had my fair share this holiday season.
There's just something about a warm, creamy, chocolately drink, with a handful of floating marshmallows, that gives me pure comfort.
And what's better than a hot chocolate drink? Hot chocolate in cookie form. And while these cookies don't actually have any hot chocolate mix, (I'm still dying to try ones that do), they sure taste like it.
Better yet, they're easy as pie with only 5 ingredients and are perfectly moist, dense and delicious.
Be careful not to eat four like I did right out of the oven. Or do, because then they technically are HOT Chocolate Cookies. ;) ;) And one of the most decadent cookies you will ever try.

Hot Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies
Yields: 24 Cookies
1 (18.9 oz.) Devil's Food cake mix (I prefer Pilsbury)
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup Mallow Bits
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips (Ghirardelli or Guitard are amazing)

1. Heat oven to 375°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, oil and eggs; stir with spoon until thoroughly moistened. (Use hands if needed; dough will be very thick.) Stir in Mallow Bits and chocolate chips until combined.
3. Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls or use a cookie scoop; place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. With bottom of glass dipped in flour, flatten to 1/4-inch thickness.
4. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are firm. Be careful not to burn. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets.

November 28, 2014

Food Link Friday: Soup For You

Soup season is in full swing and there are so many fun new recipes to try!
Be sure to check these out!
Broccoli Cheese Soup
I've always been a sucker for broccoli cheese soup and this recipe looks like another good one to try!
Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup
This is one of the best ideas I've ever seen! The flavors of chicken cordon bleu in a soup?? Genius!
Copycat Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana
Who doesn't love Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana?? This copycat looks amazing!
Philly Cheesesteak Stew
I love me a good Philly Cheesesteak so this stew is right up my alley.
Check out all that gooey cheese and that perfect bread bowl!
Slow Cooker Creamy Tomato Basil Tortellini Soup
This flavorful soup has been on my to-make list for weeks now! Hopefully I'll get around to making it soon!

For the Love of Food Link: Creamy White Bean Chili

November 25, 2014

Ham and Cheese Waffles

You all know by now that waffles are my go-to dinner and this is my all-time favorite recipe. But after a while, it's good to change up the pace. When I saw a recipe for these SAVORY waffles that involve my favorite dynamic duo, ham and cheese, I had to make them immediately.

And they did not disappoint.

They are crisp, chewy and have such a rich flavor. Ham and cheese in every bite? Now what's bad about that?
To make them into a meal, simply serve a fried egg over top. You can also serve these as a side of bread, which is genius! (Excuse the slightly massacred fried egg...perfect eggs are not my forte.)

Anyhow, these are a great addition to my waffle recipe collection and I will be making them frequently!

Ham and Cheddar Waffles
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. table salt
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped deli ham
1 heaping Tbsp. thinly sliced green onions
1 cup buttermilk**
1/2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg

**If you don’t have buttermilk, place 1 tablespoon white vinegar in a measuring cup and fill with milk until it reaches 1 cup. Let sit for a few minutes before using.

1. Whisk together flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add cheese, ham, and onions and lightly toss.
2. In a separate bowl whisk buttermilk, mustard, oil and egg. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until everything is incorporated. Don’t over-mix. If you have time, allow to sit for 20-30 minutes before cooking, the waffles will be a bit fluffier. If you’re in a time crunch, go ahead and cook them.
3. Heat a waffle iron. Ladle batter into machine and cook according to your waffle iron’s instructions until just golden. All waffle irons will vary. 

4. Serve hot and fresh. To reheat, pop in toaster until heated through.

November 17, 2014

Soft and Chewy S'mores Cookies

Now we all know that everyone is obsessed with making s'mores desserts right now. S'mores cakes, s'mores pies, s'mores muddy buddies, s'mores ice cream, etc. You get the picture. While these are all very enticing to me, the one s'mores dessert that always sounds amazing are s'mores cookies.
I have seen recipe after recipe floating around the internet, but none of them ever enticed me as much as these bad boys did. And for good reason.
Not only did Averie from Averie Cooks find a way to incorporate actual graham crackers and chocolate into these s'mores cookies, she also found a way to make it so the cookies didn't turn into one globby marshmallow mess by using Mallow Bits. Genius!
I do have to warn you that these are as amazing as they look and you will not be able to control yourself from not only eating the raw dough (which I try not to do), but also eating 10 cookies in one sitting. They are THAT good! Totally reminiscent of an actual s'more with the gooey chocolate, marshmallow and added graham cracker crunch. These are dangerous people. DANGER-OUS! My husband came home, ate 4 without thinking about it, and then "hid" them on the top of of our cabinets. Ha!
So don't say I didn't warn you or recommend that you plan on sharing these with someone or you will quite possibly make yourself sick...and incredibly happy. ;)

*The dough does need to be chilled for at least 2 hours so be sure to plan ahead. I chilled mine overnight and they worked out great.

Soft and Chewy S’mores Cookies
Slightly Adapted from Averie Cooks
Yields: 25-35 cookies
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1 cup coarsely chopped graham crackers, about 4 full-size cracker sheets
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups Mallow Bits (Found next to the hot chocolate)

1. In a stand mixer, combine butter, sugars, egg, vanilla, and beat on medium-high speed until well-creamed, light and fluffy, about 5 minutes (or use a hand mixer and beat for at least 7 minutes).
2. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, optional salt, and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.
3. Add the graham crackers, chocolate chips, marshmallows and beat momentarily to incorporate, less than 1 minute, or fold in by hand.
4. Using a medium 2-inch cookie scoop, form heaping two tablespoon mounds. Place mounds on a large plate, flatten mounds slightly with your palm, cover with plasticwrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 5 days, before baking. Warm dough will make cookies flat and thin.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, line a baking sheet with a Silpat or spray with cooking spray. Allow mounds to sit at room temperature for 10 minutes and then place 12 mounds at a time on prepared baking sheet.
6. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just beginning to set, even if slightly undercooked, pale and glossy in the center. Allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a rack to finish cooling.

*Store cookies airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

November 14, 2014

Food Link Friday: Thanksgiving Menu

I thought it would be a fun idea to link up a some tasty recipes for a quick Thanksgiving Menu.
Hope it helps with your meal planning!
Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Mushrooms
Need a fun appetizer? These look and sound incredible! A definite must-try!
Green Bean Casserole Cups
I am loving this twist on such a classic Thanksgiving side. Who's with me?!
Loaded Sweet Potato Casserole
This may not be the healthiest way to eat sweet potatoes but it might be the best way!
Slow Cooker Turkey with No-Fuss Gravy
I love the idea of this no-fuss bird and gravy. Doesn't that turkey look mouth-watering?
The Great Pumpkin Pie Recipe
And let's end with some classic pumpkin pie. Isn't it beautiful?? Sally is a baking guru so I would love to try this recipe out!

For the Love of Food Link: Sweet and Spicy Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip

November 12, 2014

Crunchy Taco Hamburger Rice

I made this months ago and am barely getting around to posting the recipe, but it's a good one. This is one of those easy to throw together, tastes great and crowd-pleasing type of recipes. With only a few ingredients and short directions, you're sure to love it!
This dish is not only total comfort food, but you can switch up the flavor with all sorts of toppings. And you know how much I love toppings!

Crunchy Taco Hamburger Rice
1 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 small onion chopped
1 recipe *homemade taco seasoning or 1 taco seasoning packet
1/2 cup salsa
1-3/4 cup chicken broth
1 cup long grain white rice
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Toppings: crushed tortilla chips, salsa, sliced avocado, sour cream

*Homemade Taco Seasoning
2-1/2 tsp. chili powder
3/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. oregano

1. Brown ground beef with onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain, then return to the skillet. Add taco seasoning, salsa, and chicken broth, then bring to a boil.

2. Add rice, then place a lid on top and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until rice is tender then remove from heat and stir in cheddar cheese until melted. Place lid back on the skillet then let sit for 5 minutes before serving with toppings.

November 10, 2014

Everything Hummus and Homemade Toasted Pita Chips

I don't have them very often, but I do love "Everything" bagels. You know, the bagels loaded with onion flakes, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic, etc. So much flavor going on with one bagel. I will always remember grabbing an everything bagel smeared with cream cheese at the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, D.C. with my friends. What an incredible view of the city from the top of the tower!
This hummus has all the flavor of an everything bagel spread throughout a yummy white bean base. I was a little skeptical with the first bite, but then I was addicted.
And how easy is it to make your own pita chips! I love the texture of baked pita chips and the possibility of seasoning them however you would like.
This really does make the perfect afternoon snack! 

Everything Hummus
Adapted from How Sweet It Is
3 cups cooked cannellini/great northern beans (or 2 cans, drained and rinsed)
6 Tbsp. olive oil + more for drizzling
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt

Everything Seasoning
1 Tbsp. dried minced onion
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/2 Tbsp. dried minced garlic
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper

1. In a small bowl, combine dried onion, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic, sea salt and black pepper. Toss to mix and set aside. 
2. Add beans and roasted garlic to a food processor and pulse and blend until combined the beans begin to puree, about 2-3 minutes. With the processor still going, stream in olive oil and sesame oil, blending continuously for a few minutes (and scraping down the sides if needed) until as smooth as desired. Add salt and taste, adding more if desired but remember - all of the seasoning will go on top.

3. Add hummus to a bowl and mix in half of the everything seasoning. Drizzle with extra olive oil. Pour the rest of the seasoning overtop and serve immediately.

Homemade Toasted Pita Chips
Source: Ina Garten
1 package pita bread
olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Cut each pita bread in quarters and each quarter in half to make 8 triangles. Place them in a single layer on a sheet pan and sprinkle lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper.
3. Bake for about 10 minutes, until crisp, turning once.