Saturday, December 31, 2011

Countdown to 2012 - Desserts

It's been so fun this week taking a look back at my favorite recipes of 2011. A big thank you to Sno White of Finding Joy in My Kitchen for hosting this party!!!

Our final countdown is my favorite recipe category, Desserts! Although I don't know for sure but if I had to guess I would think I've posted more desserts than any other category in 2011. I do love dessert but I also belong to two baking groups.

What were my favorite dessert recipes of 2011?

Happy New Year everyone! Cheers to 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Countdown to 2012 - Crock Pot Recipes

We're nearing the end of Sno White's Countdown to 2012. It's a fun way to look back at all of the recipes you made this year! Today's countdown features crock pot recipes.

If you follow my blog, you know I love my crock pot / slow cooker!! Working full time, it's so wonderful to come home and dinner is ready! It's interesting how crock pots have made a comeback. You can even find recipes that are considered gourmet.

My absolute favorite crock pot recipe this year is Root Beer Pulled Pork. When the grocery store has pork loin on sale, I purchase one, cut it into 4 or 5 loins and freeze them. Some recipes are better suited for the crock pot than others, this is one those recipes. After cooking the pork all day, just shred it, add your favorite bbq sauce and you have the best pulled pork for sandwiches!

Until this year, I'd never made a dessert in the crock pot. On one of our first camping trips this summer, I really wanted a dessert but didn't want to heat the oven. I found this recipe for Crock Pot Chocolate Cake! It's like a pudding cake and is delicious.

Tomorrow's our last countdown and we're ending the year with my favorite category of recipes, desserts!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Countdown to 2012 - Soup Recipes

So far this week in Sno White's Countdown to 2012, we've counted down with our favorite bread and breakfast recipes. I didn't have many to choose from in those two categories. However, today's countdown is soup recipes. I've blogged about quite a few soup recipes this year, so choosing my favorites took a little time.

I love French Onion soup. When I saw this recipe for Crock Pot French Onion Soup, I questioned whether or not you could make good French Onion soup in the Crock Pot. I was pleasantly surprised to learn, you can.

My other favorite soup recipe, Sweet Potato and Black Bean, a meatless recipe that even my meatatarian husband enjoyed.

Stop by tomorrow for my favorite Main Dish recipes!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Countdown to 2012 - Bread Recipes

Today's countdown features our favorite Bread recipes of 2011. Although bread is one of my favorite things, I didn't blog about it much in 2011.

However, hands down my favorite bread recipe of 2011 was Nutella Banana Bread. I decided to substitute Nutella for peanut butter in banana bread. If you're like me and love Nutella, you'll love this bread.

You'll find lots of other great bread recipes over on Finding Joy in My Kitchen.

Check back for tomorrow's countdown, soup and stew!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Countdown to 2012 - Breakfast Recipes

In 2010, I participated in Countdown to 2011 hosted by Sno White of Finding Joy in My Kitchen. I was thrilled when I saw she was going to host the countdown again in 2011!

Today I am featuring my favorite 2011 breakfast recipes. Like 2010, I didn't post a lot of breakfast recipes. Also, like 2010, my favorite recipe is one of Sno White's. We bought a camper this year and prior to one of our first camping trip, I was thrilled to find Snow White's recipe for Crock Pot Breakfast!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

From Our House to Your House, Merry Christmas to All!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Meyer Lemons

We were fortunate to be able to spend Thanksgiving in Los Angeles with my son Justin, his girlfriend Lily, Lily's mom and sister. Not only did we celebrate Thanksgiving, we celebrated Lily's birthday. Justin surprised her with this cake. Isn't it amazing? That's their dog Ducky who was such a good dog while we snapped the photos!

Justin and Lily have a Meyer lemon tree in their backyard. It was covered with lemons. Fortunately, I had a little extra room in my suitcase and was able to bring 12 home with me. I've never seen Meyer lemons in the store here. Maybe Whole Foods has them this time of year.

I wanted to be able to savor the flavor of these lemons, so I decided to make Preserved Lemons.
These were so beautiful sitting on the counter for five days. I haven't tried them but plan to use them in a chicken recipe real soon.

Preserved Lemons
Recipe Courtesey of Epicurious
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds Meyer lemons (10 to 12)
  • 2/3 cup coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Special equipment: 6-cup jar with tight-fitting lid


Blanch 6 lemons in boiling water 5 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut lemons into 8 wedges each and discard seeds. Toss with salt in a bowl and pack into jar.

Squeeze enough juice from remaining lemons to measure 1 cup. Add enough juice to cover lemons and cover jar with lid. Let stand at room temperature, shaking gently once a day, 5 days. Add oil and chill.

Cooks' note: • Preserved lemons keep, chilled, up to 1 year.

Orange Marmalade was always in the fridge when I was a kid. Not really remembering whether or not I liked it, I decided to try making marmalade. I halved this recipe. After reading a few of the reviews, I added 1 tsp. vanilla. Also, I let it sit a week before tasting it. It has a nice tang but it's still sweet. Delicious on an English Muffin or Crumpet.

Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Recipe Courtesy of Epicurious
6 Meyer lemons (1 1/2 pounds)
4 cups water
4 cups sugar

Special equipment:

Kitchen string
6 (1/2-pint) Mason-type jars, sterilized


Halve lemons crosswise and remove seeds. Tie seeds in a cheesecloth bag. Quarter each lemon half and thinly slice. Combine with bag of seeds and water in a 5-quart nonreactive heavy pot and let mixture stand, covered, at room temperature 24 hours.

Bring lemon mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 4 cups, about 45 minutes. Stir in sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, until a teaspoon of mixture dropped on a cold plate gels, about 15 minutes.

Ladle hot marmalade into jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of top. Wipe rims with dampened cloth and seal jars with lids.

Put jars in a water-bath canner or on a rack set in a deep pot. Add enough hot water to cover jars by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Boil jars, covered, 5 minutes and transfer with tongs to a rack. Cool jars completely.

I am linking this to Miz Helen's Full Plate Thursday and Foodie Friday.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes - MS Cupcake Club

Last Friday, we had all new appliances installed in our kitchen. I am so excited about my stove. It's a GE Cafe, their restaurant inspired appliances. Our local furniture store had on of this model left and we were able to get a great deal on it! The oven is convection and there's also a second oven that can be used for baking!

Having read a few articles about convection baking, I decide to bake these cupcakes on the convection setting. I baked these at 325 instead of 350 the recipe called for. I also began checking them at 15 minutes. Some of them seemed to have a bit of a crunchy top but all in all I was pleased with my first attempt at convection baking.

I remember my mom making Red Velvet Cake when I was a little. I'd never made one until this one I baked with Sweet Melissa Sunday's. The MS recipe was very similar to the SMS one. I did use a gel food coloring in this recipe and not only were my cupcakes more red, so were my hands.

Thanks to Cindy at Everyday Insanity for choosing this month's recipe. These are a perfect cupcake for the holiday season! You can find the recipe on Martha's website here!

I am linking this to Foodie Friday, Miz Helen's Full Plate Thursday and Sweet Tooth Friday.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Baked French Toast - Club Baked

Many times when you read the list of ingredients for a French toast recipe, you'll find it calls for Challah bread. I never seem to be able to locate it and always use a thick toast of some sort. Last weekend while shopping at Trader Joe's, I was thrilled to find Challah.

Baked French toast recipes are perfect for this busy holiday season. You can make it the night before and bake it the next morning. We almost always have some sort of overnight dish on Christmas morning.

My favorite part of this recipe is the raspberry syrup. Yummy! It reminds me of eating at one of those pancake houses where you have all of these flavors of syrup to choose from but tastes so much better!!!

We liked but didn't love this recipe. The 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon wasn't nearly enough. I added more, maybe up to a teaspoon but still thought it lacked cinnamon flavor. I am going to make this recipe again for Christmas using a local bakeries French toast bread which is loaded in cinnamon.

Our host for this month seems to be MIA, so I'll be sharing the recipe with all of you.
You'll find the links to the other bakers French toast here!

Baked French Toast

Recipe Courtesy of Baked Explorations


For the Baked French Toast
1 loaf French, Italian or Challah bread, about 11 ounces
5 large eggs
1 cup half and half
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup whole skinned almonds, coarsely chopped

For the Raspberry Sauce
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or raspberry liqueur

Generously butter the sides and bottom of an 8 inch square baking pan. Cut the loaf into 1 or 1 1/2 inch slices and arrange in the pan.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until the just break up. Add the half and half, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon. Whisk until combined. Pour the mixture over the bread slices. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Use your fingers to flip each bread slice over, making sure to coat the entire surface with liquid. Arrange the bread in an overlapping pattern, sprinkle it with almonds, and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until French toast is golden brown and the mixture is puffy. Set the French toast aside to cool in the pan.

Make the Raspberry Sauce
In a small saucepan, toss the raspberries with the sugar. Cook the mixture over low heat until the berries start to break down, about 10 minutes. Strain the cooked raspberry sauce into a bowl to remove the seeds, then stir in the lemon juice.

Assemble the French Toast

Pour the raspberry sauce directly over the warm French toast (or serve it alongside in a gravy boat) and serve immediately. Top with whole fresh raspberries, if you have any left over.
Bakers Note: If you are interested in a creamier bread pudding type recipe, increase the half and half to 1 cup and the milk to 3/4 cup. And any hearty, crusty white bread makes a great substitute for the baguette.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pumpkin Alfredo - Secret Recipe Club

It's Secret Recipe Club time again! Last month, when I said it was my fourth month participating, I was wrong. It was my sixth month. WOW, I can't believe it was June when I started. I've met some great bloggers and cooked up some delicious recipes.

My first month, I was assigned the Hagis and the Herring and made their Crunchy Roasted Potatoes and Carrots. Month two was Creative Culinary and her beautiful Lavender Martini. August was month three and The Wednesday Baker's Wild Blueberry Muffins. September was fellow Omaha blogger Biking and Baking's, Rosemary Squash Soup. Just in time for football season, October brought me Sticky Chicken Wings from Lavender and Lime. November was a delicious holiday breakfast idea, Eggs en Cocette from Searching for Spice.

For December, our hostess Tina of Mom's Crazy Cooking suggested we find a holiday recipe to share. Having not tired of eating pumpkin, I was drawn to Pumpkin Alfredo from Veggie Converter. Kristi has amazing vegetarian and vegan recipes, most of which I found would be easy to change or convert if you aren't vegetarian. Although we aren't vegetarian, we try to eat at least one meatless meal a week. To lighten the recipe up a little, I decreased the butter and increased the milk. The pasta was still rich and creamy.

When Tim saw what I was making, he questioned the peas. I used the small canned peas. They added nice flavor and color to the dish. As I was putting the finishing touches on the dish, I was wishing I had some fresh sage to add. I think sage would add a nice finishing touch. We enjoyed this hearty pasta dish.

Pumpkin Alfredo

1 pound spaghetti noodles
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen

2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (I used 1/2 stick)
4 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup milk (I used 1 cup of skim milk)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil spaghetti noodles according to package directions, add peas into the boiling water with 5-7 minutes remaining.

Meanwhile, brown garlic in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add butter and cream cheese, allow to melt partially. Add pumpkin and stir. Mix cornstarch with a bit of the milk to create a slurry. Add slurry and remaining milk to pan. Cook a few more minutes, stirring regularly, until thickened. Add Italian seasoning and House seasoning, to taste.

If serving immediately, mix sauce with noodles and peas. If serving later, package noodles and peas separately from sauce. Top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Chocolate Nutella No Bakes - Cookie Exchange

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a virtual cookie exchange over at Di's Kitchen Notebook. Reveal day was December 4th. As it seems with most of my posts these days, I am running behind. What's my excuse this time? Not moving, not Thanksgiving but putting up the Christmas decorations! Di was kind of enough to say it was okay for me to go ahead and post late! Thanks Di and thanks for hosting!!!

When I was growing up, Christmas always meant lots of holiday goodies. One I remember helping my mom make was Chocolate No Bake Cookies. Hers were gooey and oh so full of chocolate. Unfortunately, I don't have her recipe. I did some searching and found several versions. Although I don't remember the ones we made having peanut butter in them, most of the recipes I found contained peanut butter. I settled on a recipe I found on Food Network and decided to use Nutella instead of peanut butter. The cookies I remember as a kid were very gooey, I wanted to make one that was a little firmer. After reading the reviews, I decided to cook the mixture for five minutes instead of one minute. I think five minutes was too long, these weren't gooey at all. What they are though, is delicious. The Nutella flavor pairs beautifully with the chocolate.

Chocolate Nutella No Bake Cookies
Adapted from Food Network
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 cups oatmeal
  • Waxed paper


In a heavy saucepan bring to a boil, the sugar, cocoa, butter and milk. Let boil for 1 minute then add Nutella, vanilla and oatmeal. On a sheet of waxed paper, drop mixture by the teaspoonfuls, until cooled and hardened.

I am also linking this to Miz Helen's Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday and Sweet Tooth Friday.