Saturday, December 31, 2011

Best Dessert Recipes of 2011

So far this week, we've revisited the best breads, soups and main dishes of 2011. Today is Best Dessert Recipes day of the Countdown to 2012. As you might imagine, I had no lack of dessert recipes to choose from in the past year! It was a bit difficult to narrow it down - specifically to pick just one ice cream - but I made some hard decisions and came up with these eight.

I hope these will provide you with some good dessert inspiration. Happy New Year!

Cherry Coconut Bars



Coconut Macadamia Chocolate Chip Ice Cream



Raspberry Custard Bars



Berrymisu



Frozen Mocha Cheesecake Loaf



Caramel Banana Crepes



Tiramisu



Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies



Check out all the great dessert round ups at Finding Joy in My Kitchen. This post is also linked to Mangia Monday's Best of 2011.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best Main Dish Recipes of 2011

It's Main Dish Day on the Countdown to 2012. I had a really hard time narrowing these down - there were several great ones I left out just because I had too many to choose from, unlike the soup and stew category! I guess I know where my cooking focus needs to be this winter! The recipes below represent a great variety between meat, fish, vegetarian options and both cold and warm weather main dishes. They're all incredibly good, and I hope you'll try them in 2012.

Pumpkin-Seed Crusted Tilapia



Sweet Corn Pizza



Curried Chicken Salad with Blackberries



Spinach, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Pizza



Jambalaya



Spinach, Mushroom and Ricotta Crepes



Bourbon Chicken



Spicy Pasta with Sweet Potatoes



Head on over to Finding Joy in My Kitchen for more main dish round ups! This post also linked to Mangia Mondays Best of 2011.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best Soup and Stew Recipes of 2011

This series counts down to 2012 by looking back on the "best of" in 2011. Hosted by SnoWhite over at Finding Joy in my Kitchen, it's a fun way to revisit what I've made over the last year. In this case, it was a wake up call. MAKE MORE SOUP!!!

Well, really, it's not that I haven't made a lot of soup. I just didn't make a lot of NEW soup recipes. I enjoyed a lot of soup, namely spicy sweet potato and sausage soup, potato soup, beef and barley soup with mushrooms, shrimp and corn chowder, and winter squash and apple soup, just to name a few.

But, they weren't from 2011.

However, what I did make in 2011 turned out to be two of my favorites OF ALL TIME.

Irish Stew



and Cauliflower Cheddar Soup



were my only new soup tries in 2011. But they were tremendously delicious. Maybe that's why I didn't try more new recipes? In any case, I hope you'll try them, and in 2012 I will endeavor to make more NEW soup. Sounds like a good resolution to me. (And, oh yeah, I still haven't made pie crust from scratch. These resolutions are starting to pile up.)

Head on over to Finding Joy in My Kitchen for more great soup and stew round ups!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best Bread Recipes of 2011

I'm joining the Countdown to 2012 over at Finding Joy in my Kitchen, counting down the "best of" recipes on Elena Cooking each day til the New Year. Today's feature is BREAD - which I take loosely to mean muffins, scones and quick breads in addition to yeast breads. I'm a carb lover (and am eating blueberry breakfast cake as I write this! - post on that coming soon!) so I had to do some serious narrowing down of all my bread posts in 2011.

Here are six of my favorites from 2011 - join me in getting your carb on!


Strawberry Scones




Beer Bread




Lemon Poppyseed Muffins





Strawberry Banana Muffins




Banana Scones




Lemon Ricotta Blackberry Muffins




Be sure to visit Finding Joy in my Kitchen to get more great bread inspiration!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Chicken and Vegetable Strudel



If you're stumped about what to make for New Year's, look no further than this delicious strudel. It's especially wonderful to make if you have leftover turkey or chicken, but it's so good that you don't need to wait for leftovers to make it! Chock full of veggies and chicken, this strudel makes a delicious brunch, lunch or party dish.

This is a recipe repeat. For full step by step instructions, visit the original post.

For more great ideas, visit Menu Mondays, My Recipe, Your Kitchen, Tasty Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, A Little Birdie Told Me, Tuesday at the Table, Ingredient Spotlight.


Chicken and Vegetable Strudel

2 cups cooked, diced chicken or turkey
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1 cup finely chopped broccoli
3/4 cup finely chopped red pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. dill weed
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 pound bread dough
1 egg white, beaten
2 Tbsp. slivered almonds

In a bowl, combine the chicken, vegetables, mayonnaise, garlic, dill, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.

Roll out bread dough on lightly floured surface. Transfer to a greased large baking sheet. Spoon filling lengthwise down middle of dough. Cut dough into strips from edge to filling, 1 1/2 inches apart, on both sides. Starting at one end, alternate strips, twisting and laying at an angle across filling. Seal ends.

Brush dough with egg white; sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into slices and serve warm. Serves 6-8 as main course; 12 as appetizer.

(May be frozen before baking or after.)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Caramel Corn with Peanuts



I love caramel corn. Namely because it has caramel. I love anything caramel. But the sweet and salty combination of caramel corn is totally irresistible to me. I love this recipe because it is easy, makes absolutely delicious caramel corn, and makes wonderful little gifties. If you need something to take to a party, or small little gifts for the weekend, look no further than your stove top and this recipe!

Start by popping the popcorn. Then transfer it to two large bowls.



Sift through the popcorn with your (*clean*) hands to pick out any unpopped kernels.

Now, on to the really good part (the caramel, in case you're wondering). In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the corn syrup,



brown sugar,



and salt. Bring to a boil while stirring.



Now that the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to medium low and cook and stir for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla



and baking soda.



Adding baking soda will make the mixture bubble up! Be careful, because it will be hot!



Now pour the caramel evenly over the two bowls of popcorn



and mix carefully. Add the peanuts



and mix gently to incorporate the peanuts and coat all the popcorn. Spray two large rimmed baking sheets with non stick cooking spray, then pour out the popcorn onto the two baking sheets.



Bake the caramel corn for an hour, stirring every twenty minutes. When you stir it, rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and vice versa. Now the caramel corn will be a deep caramel color - beautiful!



Don't try it too soon - it will be hot! But after it's cooled to room temperature, bag it up for gifts,



or transfer to an air tight container. The caramel corn will keep in an air tight container on the counter top for about 1 week. But I doubt it will last that long...

Merry Christmas!

One year ago: Cranberry Apple Coffee Cake
Two years ago: Cranberry Bread

Find more great stuff at Turning the Table Thursday, It's a Keeper, Full Plate Thursday, Sweet Treats Thursday, Bake with Bizzy, Crazy Sweet Tuesday.

Caramel Corn with Peanuts

3/4 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
1 cup butter
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
2-3 cups roasted, salted peanuts

Pop the popcorn kernels and place the popcorn in a large bowl, sifting through to remove the unpopped kernels.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When melted add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil while stirring. Once the mixture starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring often, for 3 minutes. The mixture will be slightly thickened. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. The mixture will bubble so be careful. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and mix slightly. Add the peanuts and mix well but gently (so you don’t break apart the popcorn) until the popcorn is evenly coated and the peanuts are distributed through the mixture.

Turn the popcorn out onto two large greased baking sheets, spreading into an even layer. Bake the popcorn at 250 for one hour, stirring and tossing every 20 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets every time you stir. The popcorn will deepen in color and harden a bit as the caramel bakes and sets. Cool the popcorn to room temperature. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Recipe Source: My Kitchen Cafe

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chocolate Peppermint Swirl Cookies



The minute I saw these cookies on Rachel's blog, I knew I wanted to make them. They are so festive looking, and I could tell that the chocolate peppermint combination would be addicting. And it is. They way the kisses melt into the cookie makes the cookies beautiful, and the contrast of the chocolate and the cool peppermint makes them delicious. If you're making one more trip to the grocery store before Christmas, pick up a bag of those candy cane kisses so you can make these cookies!

Start by placing the butter, brown sugar



and water in a large saucepan and stir over low heat until the butter is melted. Add the chocolate chips



and stir until most of the chocolate chips are melted. Then remove from the heat and continue to stir until all the chocolate is melted.

Stir in the vanilla.



Pour this mixture into a large mixing bowl and allow it to cool for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Once the chocolate is a bit cooler, add the eggs, one at a time



and beat each on high speed until completely blended. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture



until blended. Chill the dough for about an hour.

Now roll the dough into 1/2" to 1" balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.



Bake for 7-8 minutes. When the cookies come out of the oven, place a Candy Cane Kiss on top of each hot cookie in the middle and then let them sit about 5 minutes.



Using a toothpick, gently swirl the softened Candy Cane Kiss until you like the pattern.





Remove to a wire rack to cool, then transfer to another baking sheet and refrigerate to set the middle.

Incidentally, while making these I started to think of all kinds of other cookie/candy combinations. And I did run out of kisses at the end, so I decided to throw in some rolos!



These turned out great as well! Not as beautiful to look at, but equally tasty! With all the different flavors of kisses on the market now, I think there could be some really great combination experiments in my future!



One year ago: Macaroon Kisses
Two years ago: Layered Mint Fudge

There are more great ideas at Mangia Mondays, Menu Mondays, Your Recipe, My Kitchen,
Tasty Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday (#2), Tasty Tuesday (#3), Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tuesday at the Table, Made from Scratch Tuesday, Totally Tasty Tuesdays, Crazy Sweet Tuesdays, Let's Do Brunch, What's Cooking Wednesday, These Chicks Cooked, Ingredient Spotlight.

Chocolate Peppermint Swirl Cookies

3/4 cups butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 Tbsp. water
2 1/4 cups chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 bag Candy Cane Kiss candies

Combine butter, brown sugar and water in a large saucepan and stir over low heat until melted. Add chocolate chips and stir until most of the chocolate chips are melted; remove from heat and continue to stir until all the chocolate is melted.

Stir in the vanilla. Pour into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times to help cooling.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

When the chocolate is cooler, add one egg at a time beating each on high speed until completely blended. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add in dry ingredients until blended. Chill the dough for about an hour.

Roll dough into 1/2" to 1" balls and place on ungreased baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.

Bake at 350 for 7-8 minutes. When the cookies come out of the oven, place a Candy Cane Kiss on top of each hot cookie in the middle and let them sit about 5 minutes.
Using a toothpick, gently swirl the softened Candy Cane Kiss until you like the pattern.

Remove the swirl topped cookies from the baking sheet and place them on a cooling rack. After a few minutes on the cooling rack, transfer to a cold cookie sheet and place the sheet in the fridge to set the middles. Makes about 6 dozen cookies.
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