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Monday, December 31, 2012

Your Top Posts of 2012!

It's almost time to ring in the New Year - what are your fun and exciting plans?  We're looking forward to a mellow, relaxing night at home.  Years ago that would have seemed extremely lame and boring...now, not so much :)

I thought I'd showcase the most popular posts of the year, as determined by you, my awesome readers.  Thank you so much for all of your support!  Hope you all have a safe, happy and healthy 2013...I'm looking forward to sharing a lot more with you, including a new redesign and domain switch next month.  Stay tuned!

10.  BBQ Chicken Enchiladas - perfect for your leftover crockpot meat!

9.  Crockpot Pot Roast with Veggies - one of our favorite meals in the wintertime.

8. Salty Sweet Candied Peanuts - you should make these tonight!

7.  Crack Dip (aka Buffalo Chicken Dip) - an oldie but a goodie.

6.  Hidden Kisses - they really are the best Christmas cookie EVER!

5.  Cannoli Cheesecake - if you haven't made this yet, you have no idea what you're missing...

4.  Cuban Chicken Soup (Sopa de Pollo) - the perfect soup to take the chill off.

3.  Coffee Cake Muffins - wish I had one of these for breakfast right now!

2.  Cuban Pork Chops - I must have a lot of onion loving readers out there!  Yum.

1. Crockpot Sausage, Peppers & Onions - a winning crockpot dish all year round!

Bring on 2013!!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Peppermint Hot Cocoa

It's been anything but a relaxing holiday week around here...lots of festivities and other big events (I'm an aunt again!), along with some illness.  'Tis the season, right?  No matter how crazy things are, a nice warm cup of hot cocoa always seems to calm things down.

As part of the DailyBuzz Food Tastemaker Program, I was sent some Sweet'N Low samples so I could create a winter beverage that's low in sugar but still great in taste.  I immediately gravitated toward hot cocoa with a bit of a festive twist - peppermint.

Yes, I know there's sugar in the candy cane, but using the Sweet'N Low still cut back on the overall amount and made it just as delicious.  I only needed a single serving so I made this in the microwave - so easy!  This really hits the spot on a cold winter evening.

Peppermint Hot Cocoa
slightly adapted from Hershey's Kitchens

1 heaping teaspoon cocoa
1 packet Sweet'N Low sweetener
pinch of salt
milk (enough to fill your mug)
candy cane
mini marshmallows

Combine cocoa, Sweet'N Low and salt in a mug and.  Add 2 teaspoons milk and stir until smooth.  Add milk until mug is almost full.  Microwave on high for about 60-90 seconds, or until hot.  Stir.  Add marshmallows and candy cane and serve.

Linked to:  Sweets for a Saturday

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Thursday, December 27, 2012


Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays!  Eat, drink and be merry - there are no truer words.  And this should help that right along...

Cruise right into the new year with this deliciousness!

from Mom

1 bottle red wine
1 cup brandy
1 cup triple sec
1 cup orange juice
chopped apples
juice of one Meyer lemon

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and stir.  Serve cold and/or over ice.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Frozen Peppermint Cheesecake

Merry Christmas everyone!  As if this time of year isn't busy enough, things have been totally hectic around here.  Add a bad stomach virus to the mix, and you've got complete chaos!

Fortunately I'm feeling much better, which is great now that many of the festivities are in full swing.  We had this beauty for dessert yesterday - easy enough to make when you're not up to lots of kitchen time, but still very, very delicious.  Top it with some hot fudge and you've got a great holiday treat.

Need a last minute dessert for today or tomorrow?  Give this a shot - you won't be disappointed.

Merry Christmas to all! :)

Frozen Peppermint Cheesecake
from Friends Food Family

1 1/4 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup crushed candy canes (I used a food processor)
2 cups heavy cream, whipped
broken candy canes
hot fudge topping (optional, but highly recommended!)

Spray a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray.  Combine cookie crumbs with sugar and butter and press into pan.

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy.  Add condensed milk and beat until combined.  Stir in crushed candy canes, then fold in whipped cream.

Pour into prepared pan, cover and freeze for at least 6 hours.  Garnish with broken candy canes and top with hot fudge.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Eggnog Cookies

I'm starting to get excited for Christmas.

Oh, who am I kidding.  I'm excited for the COOKIES!  I mean, really, how could you NOT be excited about these?


Trust me when I say - you need to make these!  You can whip up a batch in no time.  Do it today...and TRY to save them until Christmas.  I dare you.

Eggnog Cookies
from Allrecipes

1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup eggnog
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 1/4 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine flour, baking powder and nutmeg.  Set aside.  Cream sugar and butter until light.  Add eggnog, vanilla and yolks and beat at medium speed until smooth.  Add flour mixture and beat on low until just combined - do not overmix.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets about an inch apart.  Sprinkle lightly with nutmeg.  Bake 20-22 minutes or until bottoms turn light brown.

Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Easy Beer Bread

I don't like keeping bread in the house...it's one of my biggest downfalls so if it's around, I'm in trouble. No willpower whatsoever...

I do, however, like baking bread...all different kinds.  And good quick bread recipes are invaluable.

This one is great to serve with dip, soup, on its own (with butter, of course...yum!)...I bet it would make great croutons, too!  Or with melted cheese on top...oh man, why didn't I think of that sooner?  It's super easy and a big crowd pleaser.

Easy Beer Bread
slightly adapted from Heart and Hearth

1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 (12 ounce) beer (I used a light beer)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a standard loaf pan.

Mix all dry ingredients together.  Add beer and mix until thoroughly combined.

Place dough in pan and drizzle butter on top.  Bake until golden brown, approximately 50-60 minutes.  Take bread out and let rest for 15 minutes before removing from pan.  Cool completely.


Monday, December 17, 2012

In Honor of the Victims in Newtown, CT

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Spaghetti Squash with Chicken Sausage in Light Tomato Cream Sauce

It's been a while since we've had spaghetti squash.  Too long!  I need to integrate it more into our regular meal plan.

To all the spaghetti squash virgins out there - please don't be intimidated by it!  It's super easy to make.  Yes, it can be tough to cut, but you can either boil it for a bit, or stick it in the microwave, before doing so.  Cut it lengthwise...scoop out the seeds...done.  It's that simple.

Pardon the iPhone pic...

This dish also includes one of my favorite Trader Joe's products - their chicken sausage!  But any type of sausage or meat (or not!) would work just fine.

Spaghetti Squash with Chicken Sausage in Light Tomato Cream Sauce

1 spaghetti squash (bake 30-35 minutes at 350)
1 package chicken sausage, cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon basil
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup heavy cream
grated pecorino romano cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut spaghetti squash in half and scoop out seeds.  Place inside up on a baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to let cool completely.

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Add onions and garlic and saute for a minute or two until semi-soft.  Add sausage, a bit of salt and pepper, and cook until browned.  Add tomatoes, cream and seasonings.  Reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 15 minutes.

While sauce is simmering, pull spaghetti squash out of skin with a fork.  Place in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Place in individual serving bowls and top with sausage and sauce.  Top with pecorino romano cheese.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Toffee Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap!

This is my second time participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, and just like last year, it was a blast!  I really enjoyed baking and mailing out my cookies, but for me, the part that's most fun is being surprised by the ones you receive.  It's like Christmas, times 3!

I sent my assigned bloggers these delicious cookies.  They were easy to make and pack, and super delicious.  Madeline, Kasha and Lauren - hope you enjoyed them as much as we did!

(and I guess it would have been nice if I remembered to take a picture of the cookies BEFORE they were packaged!  Ugh.)

Special thanks goes out to the following ladies who sent me some amazing treats!

Amy from amybites
Monique from I Are The Food Snob
Alexandra from Sweet Betweens

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012

Also, another thanks goes out to Lindsay and Julie for organizing, again!  Job well done :)  If you'd like to have notifications for next year's event sent directly to you, click here to sign up.  Trust me...you want to participate!

Toffee Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
from My Kitchen Addiction

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 package (about 1 1/3 cups) toffee bits

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment.  Beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and beat another minute.

Whisk together flour, oats, baking soda and salt.  Gradually add dry mixture to wet, beating until just incorporated.  Stir chips and bits in by hand.

Scoop dough (about 2 tablespoons each) and drop onto prepared sheets.  They will spread a bit so space them slightly.  Bake for about 12 minutes, until golden but still soft.  Cool for a few minutes on sheets, then transfer to wire rack.

Makes about 4 dozen.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Parsnip & Pear Soup with Almond-Vanilla Oil

Our family LOVES soup.  Especially this time of year!  And I love trying different recipes out.

This Thanksgiving we were introduced to another delicious one...I highly recommend it!  Plus, it's vegetarian, which may be of interest to some of you.  Enjoy!

Parsnip & Pear Soup with Almond-Vanilla Oil
from New York Magazine

for the almond-vanilla oil:
1/2 cup almond oil
1/4 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

for the soup:
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup shallots, diced
4 cups parsnips, diced
1 cup celery root, diced
6 sprigs rosemary
2 cups pears, diced
2 cups dry white wine
9 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
pear vinegar (or white balsamic)
kosher salt

to make the oil:
Place oil and vanilla bean in a small pot over medium heat.  Bring to soft boil.  Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  Cover and set aside for 24 hours.

to make the soup:
Melt butter over medium-low heat in a medium saucepan.  Add shallots and sweat for 2-3 minutes.  Add parsnip, celery root and 4 sprigs rosemary.  Continue to sweat for 5-6 minutes.  Add pear and cook another 5 minutes.

Add wine and increase heat to high.  Cook until there is about one cup of liquid.  Add stock and bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 45 minutes.  Remove soup from heat and stir in cream.

Remove rosemary and transfer soup to blender.  Blend on high until smooth.  Place remaining rosemary sprigs in a sieve and strain soup over it.

Season to taste with vinegar and salt and reheat gently.  Divide among 8 bowls, and drizzle with almond-vanilla oil.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Pumpkin Crunch Cake

It might be a bit late to post this, since pumpkin "season" is officially over.  But really, is there ever a bad time for pumpkin?

I made this for Thanksgiving and brought it to my inlaws' celebration, where we stay for apps and then head out.  So, no cake for us...but I heard such rave reviews about this cake that I may be making it again.  In January :)

You won't even believe how easy this is.  It literally takes 5 minutes to put together.  And I bet it would taste great with fresh whipped cream...yum.  Like the original source said, it's definitely more custardy than cakey.  Maybe it should be called Pumpkin Crunch Custard?  Who knows.  Who cares?  It's delicious and that's all that matters!

Pumpkin Crunch Cake
from The Picky Apple

1 box yellow cake mix
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 pan.  Mix pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon and salt together.  Pour into greased pan.

Sprinkle cake mix on top of mixture.  Top with pecans.  Drizzle butter over pecans.  Bake 50-55 minutes.  Let cool before cutting.

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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Candied Kielbasa

December is already flying by!  Even though I got my shopping done early, there's still so much to tackle.  We've got a few personal things going on as well that are making this month extra crazy.  Just a reminder that you can never have too many quick and easy recipes to default to.

This is also great to make as an appetizer!  I normally use turkey kielbasa, but you can use regular as well.  Mini hot dogs (or larger ones, cut up) would work, too.  And of course, big bonus that it's made in the crockpot!  It really doesn't get easier than this.

So bad, yet so good ;)

Candied Kielbasa
from Food. com

1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
2 pounds kielbasa, sliced

Combine sugar, ketchup and horseradish in crockpot.  Add kielbasa and stir.  Cook on high until sauce begins to boil.  Reduce to low and cook until sauce thickens, around 45-60 minutes.

Serves 4-8, depending on if served as a main dish or appetizer.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Arroz con Pollo

Lately I've been drawn to making one pot meals.  Aside from them usually being comforting, I think the biggest attraction is that there are less dishes to do :)  Love keeping it simple sometimes.

This dish is sure to satisfy your craving for Latin food.  I know there are a lot of different versions...this is one that I adapted a bit and we loved it!  I personally prefer chorizo over regular sausage, but you can certainly sub that.

This was just as good for lunch two days later, by the way :)

Arroz con Pollo
adapted from Fine Cooking

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on, seasoned well with salt and pepper
1 cup chopped Spanish chorizo
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (optional...I didn't use it)
1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup beer
1 bay leaf
2 cups rice (I used Carolina extra long grain)
2 1/4 cups water
1 cup Spanish green olives

Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat.  Saute chicken until golden on both sides, then transfer to a plate.  Saute chorizo until browned, then add to chicken platter.  Pour off some of the excess oil, leaving about a quarter of it in the pan.

Reduce heat to medium and saute onion and garlic.  Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken and chorizo back to pan.  Add cumin, paprika, chili powder and turmeric.  Stir to distribute spices.  Cook for one minute then add tomatoes, beer and bay leaf.  Raise heat to medium high, stir and cook for about 2 minutes.

Add rice and water, and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook until rice is done and liquid has absorbed, about 25 minutes.  Toss in olives, stir and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Cranberry Walnut Bread

Tis the season to bake.  And to bring it to work so I don't end up eating it all.  Because if I didn't unload this, it would have ended up being my breakfast for a week.  With butter slathered all over it.

Now you see why I had major temptation.  SO good!

Cranberry Walnut Bread
from Cook, Pray, Love

2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2/3 cup orange juice
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1 1/4 cups fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a standard loaf pan.  Combine orange juice, eggs and butter in a small bowl and stir until thoroughly combined.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Add orange zest and stir to combine.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined (do not overmix).  Fold in walnuts and cranberries and transfer to loaf pan.

Bake for about 50-55 minutes, until knife comes clean out of center.  Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then place on wire rack to cool completely.

Linked to:  Sweets for a Saturday

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