Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 11 Recipes of 2011

I thought it'd be fun to go back through this year's posts and pull out our very favorites. In case you missed one of these meals from earlier in the year, I hope it'll make it on your menu soon! Thanks for reading my blog this year!

North African Meatballs Over Cousous

The complex sweet and salty combination of these meatballs is ridiculously delicious - and addictive. We couldn't get enough of this great African inspired dish!

Thai Basil Chicken

Though we actually made this with ground turkey, it was a winner of a dinner. The basil flavor, combined with traditional Thai seasonings, made it a top 11 worthy meal.

Herbed Risotto with Chicken and Caramelized Onions

My love for all things rice comes in to play in the first of two favorite risotto dishes. This risotto wasn't difficult at all and incorporated a great combination of flavors - including that of caramelized onions. Yum!

Chile-Honey Glazed Salmon with Black Bean Sauce & Jalepeno Crema

This recipe is truly worthy of being on a restaurant menu. In true Bobby Flay style, it has various layers of flavors and steps that, surprisingly, didn't take that long to throw together. Absolutely delicious!

Honey Lime Enchiladas

You can tell we're Texans - we have not one but two enchilada recipes on this list and I could have included several more as well! This was a nice twist on the enchilada. It was sticky, sweet, and tangy with just a hint of spice. And best of all? A piece of cake to throw together!

Honey-Ginger Pork Tenderloin

I know this pork recipe doesn't sound (or look!) like much but after making it for company - and it being raved about yet again - I realized others really need to know how amazing it is. It really is. And you should make it soon.

One-Pan Skillet Cookie

I said it before and I'll say it again - this recipe is life changing. You throw a bunch of stuff you always have in your pantry into your cast iron skillet and in less than 30 minutes, you're scooping out hot gooey chocolate chip cookie into your bowl and topping it with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. Or maybe that's just us?

Bacon and Butternut Squash Risotto

I made this dish fairly recently and it was so darn good, I keep craving it. My mom finished off the leftovers while dogsitting for us and declared it to be one of the best meals she's had in a long, long time. If my momma likes it, you know it's good. This is company worthy and gloriously delicious on a cold day.

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

I really could have included every dish I've made from The Homesick Texan on this list but I tried to restrain myself. Instead, I reminded Jason what I've made of hers and asked which was his favorite. Without hesitation, these enchiladas made the cut. They were just like the ones at our favorite restaurant!

White Chocolate Lemon Truffles

These may or may not have made the list because I'm sitting here snacking on them... but nevertheless, they are fresh, bright, so darn easy to make, and cute. A cinch to throw together and a great addition to your New Years dessert spread!

Orange Chicken - Tastes Just Like Takeout!

Last but not least, a favorite recipe from early this year. This recipe - while not easy or quick - was more delicious than any restaurant Orange Chicken I've tasted and quite satisfying. We will probably only have it once a year but it'll be drool worthy when we do. Treat your family and blow them away with this delicious dish.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Butternut Squash Pasta Casserole

I don't know about you, but each Thanksgiving-Christmas (they run together!) I end up searching for side dishes to bring to various pot luck style gatherings. I think we attended 8 this year? This was a baked dish I made for one of them and it turned out wonderfully!

This is very quick to throw together and you can serve it straight from the oven. It's nutty, warm, and slightly sweet - delicious! This would be a great meatless meal on it's own or a nice accompaniment for a hearty meat dish.

Butternut Squash Pasta Casserole
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced (I skipped)
1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 (15-ounce) can light coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped sage
¾ pound dried whole wheat penne (I didn't use whole wheat)
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts
½ cup bread crumbs (I used Panko)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9- x 13-inch casserole dish; set aside.

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add squash, coconut milk, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in sage and simmer 1 minute more. (This part can be made ahead, up to 1 day in advance.)

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender but still firm, about 8 minutes. Rinse in cold water, drain well and transfer to a large bowl. Transfer squash mixture to bowl with penne. Add walnuts, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Transfer to prepared dish and top with bread crumbs. Bake until just golden brown and hot throughout, about 30 minutes.

Recipe from Erin's Food Files

Monday, December 26, 2011

White Chocolate Lemon Truffles

I knew immediately that I had to try these truffles when I came across them on Kitchen Simplicity (via Pinterest). Jason is a huge lemon fan and I had all the ingredients already on hand. They were so easy to make! Took a few minutes to whip it all together, let is rest in the fridge a couple of hours, then scoop out and roll in sugar. These would also be great packaged together for an edible gift for someone you love.

They are creamy in texture and melt in your mouth with a burst of lemon flavor. Delish!

White Chocolate Lemon Truffles
1 cup white chocolate (I used Ghiradelli chips)
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter (if you use salted, omit the salt)
3 Tbsp. heavy cream
Pinch salt
1 tsp. lemon extract
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Melt chocolate, butter and cream over a double boiler or in a microwave. Stir until smooth.

Stir in salt and extract. Allow to cool slightly before covering with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm enough to handle.

With a melon baller or small spoon scoop out mixture and form into 1 inch balls. Toss with powdered sugar to coat.

Store covered in the fridge for up to one week. Freeze for longer storage.

Makes: 24

* If you want to amp up the yellow color, stir in some yellow food coloring along with the extract and salt.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Spinach and Artichoke Mac and Cheese

Just about everyone I know loves the party staple, spinach and artichoke dip. It's warm, cheesy, gooey, with just enough green stuff in it to make you feel like it's healthy. Now imagine that dip incorporated into noodles and called dinner. Yep, it's that good.

We both really loved this dish. While I'm sure many would be happy eating just this for a meal, Jason is a man and therefore doesn't think anything without meat is a meal so I served this alongside a smoked whole chicken. Delish!

We liked it so much, and it was so easy to throw together, that I whipped up a batch right before we headed out the door for Christmas with his parents.

If you're still looking for a side to bring to a Christmas gathering, consider this one!

Spinach and Artichoke Macaroni and Cheese
*12-16 ounces macaroni shaped pasta
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup onion, diced (I left out)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup frozen spinach, excess moisture removed and chopped
1/2 cup frozen artichokes, thawed and chopped
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup cream cheese
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

*I used ditalini pasta but macaroni, penne, or even rigatoni would work. I eyeballed it and used a little less than a full 1 pound box. 

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente, according to directions on box. Drain and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil and butter, in a stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat, until the butter is melted. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Next, stir in the spinach and artichoke and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1 minute, then sprinkle in the flour and cook, while stirring, for another minute. Add the cream cheese and stir until mostly melted. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly. Bring to a simmer and cook until the milk starts to thicken, about 2-3 minutes, keep on stirring. Remove the pot from the heat and add the cheese in several increments, waiting until each increment is melted before adding the next. Finally, add the pasta.

If you wanted it to be more reminiscent of the dip, you could top the pasta with extra cheese and bake until the top is bubbly.

Recipe slightly adapted from Sunny Side Up in San Diego

Monday, December 12, 2011

Itty Bitty Cinnamon Rolls

You may not be able to tell based on the picture, but these rolls are made in a mini muffin tin (you'll also notice the pic is pre-icing!). I found them on Pinterest, originally shared on the blog Iowa Girl Eats, and they were so darn cute I had to make them. Especially since everything it called for were sitting in my kitchen waiting for me!

These took maybe 10 minutes at most to make - including the icing. Then they bake about 8 minutes and cool quickly so this is a true instant gratification recipe - perfect for people like me!

They are delicious and much easier to eat than a giant roll. Plus, you might - just might - be content with only one or two which has to be loads better calorie wise than a regular roll! I shared one with one of my favorite two year olds and the size was perfect for his little hands; this would be a great treat for kids!

I actually used a can of the one sheet crescent roll dough, which made this recipe even easier!

Itty Bitty Cinnamon Rolls
1-8oz tube crescent roll dough
2 Tablespoons butter
Brown sugar

For the maple icing:
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 Tablespoon milk
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven according to crescent roll dough package directions. Layout half the dough (4 triangles) and pinch all the seams together. Flip over and pinch the seams on the back side together too. Using a rolling pin, smooth the seams and roll the dough into a square about 1/4″ thick.

Brush with half the butter, and sprinkle with as much cinnamon and brown sugar as you want. Roll into a log and cut into 8 pieces.

Place mini cinnamon rolls into a non-stick sprayed mini muffin tin. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the other half of the crescent roll dough. Bake according to package directions.

While it bakes, whisk together maple syrup and milk in a bowl. Add in powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. Drizzle over warm cinnamon rolls.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Crockpot Tequila Lime Turkey Chili

Chili is the perfect cold weather meal - it's hearty, warm, and typically easy to make. I've made variations of it over the years and this is probably one of our favorites. And it might possibly be the addition of the tequila...

It's actually a fairly basic crockpot chili recipe with the added bit of brightness from the lime and depth from the tequila. I actually ended up not doing it in the crockpot but instead threw it on the stove and let it simmer a couple of hours there instead. Of course, a crockpot is best if you're leaving the house.

Just a note: we tasted it near the end and ended up tossing in more spices and lime juice so like any recipe, you should taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking before serving.

I found this on  Pink Parsley.

Crockpot Tequila Lime Turkey Chili
1 slice sandwich bread, torn into pieces
2 Tbs milk
1 lb ground turkey
salt and pepper
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion, minced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds remove, minced
2 Tbs chili powder
2 Tbs tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp minced fresh oregano, or 1/2 tsp dried
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 14.5-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 (15-oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup tequila, plus more as needed
2 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbs honey
1 tsp minced chipotle en adobo
1 tsp grated lime zest
1 Tbs fresh lime juice, plus more for serving
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

For serving (optional):
fresh cilantro
Pepperjack cheese
diced avocado
tortilla chips

Mash the bread and milk into a paste in a large bowl using a fork. Mix in the ground turkey, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. (this keeps the turkey moist during the long cooking time)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. add the onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno, and cook until they are softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the chili powder, tomato paste, garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook an additional 3-5 minutes.

Stir in the turkey and cook, breaking up any large pieces with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, scraping up any browned bits. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker.

To the slow cooker, add the diced tomatoes with their juices, beans, 3 tablespoons of the tequila, soy sauce, honey, and chipotles. Cover and cook on low until the turkey is tender, 4 to 6 hours.

Turn off the slow cooker and allow the chili to settle about 5 minutes. Use a large spoon to skim the fat off the surface. Break up any remaining large pieces of turkey with a spoon. Stir in the remaining tequila, lime zest, lime juice, and cilantro. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper, tequila, and lime juice as desired.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Almond Joy Brownie Bites

Please, if you will, imagine a gooey, fudgy brownie and a creamy, coconuty Almond Joy. Imagine they had a baby.

This is what would happen. And it's delicious.

I saw this idea on Pinterest and it comes from the blog, Confessions of a Cookbook Queen.

Please don't repeat my mistake, however. I evidently don't own mini muffin tins so I made mine in regular muffin tins. This is a bad idea. I'm a big chocoholic but that was way.too.much. to eat. Sometimes, bigger isn't always better. Who knew?

Almond Joy Brownie Bites
Brownie batter (homemade, from a boxed mix, whatever is your favorite.)
4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
About 4 dozen almonds
Chocolate candy melts or almond bark

Preheat your oven according to brownie recipe directions and generously spray two mini muffin pans with nonstick spray. Fill cups about 1/2 full with brownie batter and bake according to directions. When brownies are done, place pans on a cooling rack and remove brownies once cooled completely.

In a medium bowl, combine coconut and sweetened condensed milk. With clean hands, roll coconut mixture into balls and press onto tops of brownie bites. Press an almond into the top of each. Place brownies in the freezer to harden for about 15 minutes.

Melt almond bark or candy melts according to directions. Remove brownies from freezer and dip the tops in the chocolate. Place dipped brownies on a wax paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate until chocolate is set.

Depending on what brownie recipe you use, you should get about 36-48 brownie bites.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup

Jason doesn't usually consider soup to be substantial enough for a meal. It's okay if he has a salad or sandwich with it but on it's own, it's rarely "enough." However, I have found that if a soup is chunky enough, with enough meat in it, he'll happily enjoy it on its own. Thankfully, this recipe was the perfect "meal in a bowl" for us.

I've found that a lot of soups call for cream of X soup, which we don't eat, but this one did not! I came across the recipe on The Dainty Chef.

This recipe is very good, easy, and perfect as a warm meal at the end of a cold day. We both loved it! You do have to do a few steps prior to throwing it into the crockpot but it takes all of 10 minutes and then you're done for the day. Due to the Rotel and enchilada sauce, it does have some kick so keep that in mind.

I hope this dish finds it's place on your menu soon!

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 ounce) Rotel diced tomatoes and jalapenos
1 package (10 ounce) frozen corn
½ cup onion, chopped
½ cup bell pepper, diced
1 can (10 ounce) Enchilada sauce
2 whole chicken breasts
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese (for topping)

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in flour; keep stirring until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat and add the chicken broth and ½ cup milk, a little at a time, stirring to keep smooth. Return to heat. Bring sauce to a gentle boil; cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens. In a large bowl, whisk together the enchilada sauce and chicken broth mixture . Gradually whisk in remaining milk until smooth. Set aside.

In a crockpot, combine drained beans, tomatoes, corn, onion, and bell pepper. Place the chicken breasts on top of the mixture. Pour sauce mixture over ingredients in cooker. Cover; cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. When you are ready to serve, remove chicken and cut or shred into bite-sized pieces. Add chicken back into the soup, mix together.

Top with cheese and serve.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bang Bang Shrimp

Bonefish has a dish that everyone raves about called Bang Bang Shrimp. Looking online at their menu, it seems they serve it both as an appetizer and as filling for tacos. I've never eaten at Bonefish but figure anything with a cult following has to be delicious.

This knock off recipe was found through one of my new favorite blogs, Fake Ginger.

This dish is, indeed, delicious. It's a fairly basic battered and fried shrimp but the sauce is what is so addictive. My mayo hating husband had no idea it contained any form of mayonaise so don't let that turn you off! I made flour tortillas and we had these as soft tacos - delicious!

Just as a warning: I used 3 teaspoons of garlic chile sauce and my face almost melted off. I would go small, taste, and add it a little at a time. Also, I didn't deep fry mine but instead just lightly fried them.

Bang Bang Shrimp
1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

For the sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4-5 teaspoons chili garlic sauce, such as Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar

For the egg mixture:
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk

For the breading mixture:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried basil

For frying:
8 to 12 cups vegetable oil

Combine all ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl; cover and set aside.

Combine beaten egg with milk in shallow bowl; set aside.

Combine flour, panko, salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and basil in another shallow bowl; set aside.

Bread the shrimp by first coating each with the breading mixture. Dip breaded shrimp into the egg and milk mixture, and then back into the breading. Arrange the coated shrimp on a plate and pop them into the fridge for at least 20 minutes. This step will help the breading to stick on the shrimp when they are frying.

Heat oil in deep fryer to 350 degrees F. Use amount of oil required by your fryer. (or, heat oil in a deep pan on the stove)

When oil is hot, fry shrimp 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on rack or paper towels.

When all shrimp has been fried, drop the shrimp into a large bowl. Spoon about 1/4 cup of sauce over shrimp and stir gently to coat.

See Aimee Cook

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