Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Best of 2014: Top 10 on Pinterest

Pinterest changed the face of food blogging - for good and for bad! Thankfully, Pinterest has been a great source of inspiration and traffic for me. I thought it'd be fun to check out the top 10 ranked by Pinterest. Not all are 2014 recipes; some of my older recipes still get lots of traffic (even when the photo is awful!).

These were measured by number of repins, with #1 having the most repins this year on Pinterest.

{Be sure and follow me on Pinterest!}

10. Y'all love your crockpots! Pinterest crockpot meals are some of the most popular and this one is a tasty one!
Crockpot Teriyaki Chicken
9. This Arroz con Pollo is one pot, easy, and tastes as authentic as any version I've had! Thankfully, the Pinterest comments so far have proven to be a hit, too!
Arroz con Pollo
8. This rice continues to be a huge hit on Pinterest. It's one of my favorite recipes from The Homesick Texan and tastes JUST like the Tex Mex restaurants back home.
Mexican Rice
7. Oh, how I love a copycat recipe! This one, from PF Changs, continues to do well on Pinterest - and for good reason. It's AMAZING. Like, make it tonight.
Mongolian Beef
6. These muffins are some of the best I've made - total sleeper hit! I'm glad others are giving them a shot, too. It's like dessert at breakfast!
Snickerdoodle Muffins
5. This is, hand's down, my favorite pasta salad of all time. It should be at every summer picnic! I recently updated the photo to something less offensive, though the old photo is still getting the majority of the hits. It seems like people don't care what it looks like if it sounds delicious!
Deviled Egg Pasta Salad
4. Y'all, another copycat. You're fans too! After our neighborhood Chinese restaurant closed, we've struggled to find a good alternative. This chicken is hand's down, better than restaurant quality and an instant family favorite. Have you tried it yet?
Honey Sesame Chicken
3. This one surprised me because I think the photo is so bad but the sandwiches are SO good. Super simple and perfect for snacking or light meals.
Ham and Cheese Sliders on Hawaiian Rolls

2. One of our favorites! This chicken is super easy and delicious! I'm so glad that others are trying it and letting me know how great it is.
Blackened Chicken and Cilantro-Lime Quinoa
1. And the most pinned - by a landslide, I might add - is this Disney copycat. Of all the Disney recipes I've shared, this is by far the most popular. Everyone needs a little magic at home, right? {psst - it tastes like cookies and cream icing!}

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Best of 2014: My Top 10

This was a lighter year on the blog; my work has been a bit hectic which meant a lot less cooking and blogging. I shared 72 recipes (half of what I made in 2013!) but they were all so tasty, it was hard for me to narrow it down to 10!

These are my favorites, in no particular order. Just click the picture to be taken to the recipe! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bacon and Butternut Squash Risotto

Roasted butternut squash and crispy bacon are paired with creamy risotto to create one ridiculously delicious dish!

I used to be intimidated by risotto and I think many others are, too. People have often said that they only eat it in restaurants because they can't make it at home. That stops today! Risotto is very easy, it just takes some time and a little patience. And your family will be so impressed!

Winter squash is so tasty and butternut is probably my favorite. When roasted and pureed in a risotto, it's practically magical. And then add bacon? You'll be licking the bowl.

Easy enough for a weeknight, fancy enough for company.

Bacon & Butternut Squash Risotto
2.5 cups diced butternut squash (about 1 medium squash)
Extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Honey, for drizzling
8 slices thick cut bacon, diced
4 cups chicken stock + 2 cups water
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1.5 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400.

Place squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and honey. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer and roast until tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer half of the squash to a food processor and puree with a little water or stock. Set aside both the pureed squash and the remaining roasted squash.

While the squash roasts, heat stock and water in a pot over medium-low heat. 

In a deep pan, or a dutch oven, cook diced bacon until crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from pan with slotted spoon and set aside. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons bacon grease.

Add the onions and garlic to the grease and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the wine and deglaze the pan with a wooden spoon until the wine evaporates. Add the rice and toast, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. 

Add a few ladles of the warm stock/water to the rice and stir until all the liquid has been absorbed. When the rice looks almost dry, add another few ladles of stock. Repeat until the rice is creamy and al dente. It should take 18-20 minutes total and may not use all the reserved stock.

Stir in the squash puree, bacon, and Parmesan. Taste for seasoning. Serve in shallow bowls with reserved roasted squash and additional grated cheese over top. 

Source: adapted from Rachael Ray

Monday, December 15, 2014

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup

All the flavors of chicken enchiladas - in soup form! Stocked full of chicken, beans, corn, and loads of cheese makes this soup easily a meal on it's own.

Now that it's dark around lunchtime (kidding...), I find myself becoming more of a hermit in the evenings. I don't want to run errands, shop, or even head out to dinner when it's so dark and cold outside. I'd much rather come straight home, start a fire in the fireplace, and eat dinner in front of our latest Netflix series addiction.

Come to think of it, those bears sure are onto something with their hibernation lifestyle!

Meals that are ready when I come home on a chilly dark night are my FAVORITE. Sure, I love cooking but my winter sloth-ness wins out if an appliance will do it for me.

This soup is perfect for long, cold, winter days. It's a little spicy, very chunky, and substantive enough to call it a full meal on it's own. Even the husband agrees! It's loaded with flavor, which I think is often missing in chicken enchilada soups. Definitely one of our favorite soups!

The stovetop prep will take you just 10 minutes to whip together before transferring it to the crockpot. Worth the 10 minutes - promise!

Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 cups milk
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 bag (10 ounce) frozen corn
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 can (10 ounce) enchilada sauce
1 pound boneless/skinless chicken breasts (around 2 breasts)
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour and stir until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat and add the chicken broth and 1/2 cup milk, a little at a time, stirring to keep smooth. Return to heat and bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Cook, stirring occasionally until thickened.

In a large bowl, whisk together the enchilada sauce and chicken broth mixture. Gradually whisk in the remaining milk until smooth. Set aside.

In the crockpot, combine the drained beans, diced tomatoes and their juices, corn, and onion. Place the chicken on top of the mixture and then pour in the sauce.

Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. When ready to serve, remove the chicken and shred. Add it back to the soup and mix well.

Serve each bowl topped with cheese.

Source; slightly adapted from So Tasty So Yummy

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Fried Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Capers

Brussels sprouts are deep fried alongside parsley and capers and then tossed in dressing of honey, anchovies, red wine vinegar, garlic, pecans, and more! Salty, sweet, tangy, and ridiculously delicious. Perfect for Christmas dinner!

I find food trends so interesting! You can go back through old cookbooks - especially those with recipes submitted by home cooks - and easily spot what the food trend of that time period was. That's why old church cookbooks are so fascinating! I probably wouldn't cook a single dish shared but I read it with such interest... and occasionally amusement :)

Kale, macarons, quinoa, and sriracha, have seemed to all peak in recent years. I've recently noticed a surge in cronuts, juices and smoothies, and BRUSSELS SPROUTS! If you hop on Pinterest and search for them, a bajillion recipes come up. Since I think they're a deliciously tasty veggie, I'm totally okay with the trend.

This recipe is actually not new - matter of fact, I made it for my dad 4 or 5 years ago and it changed his mind on Brussels sprouts! The ingredient list seems very odd, I know, but Chef Symon knows what he's doing. It all ends up so perfect! Even the anchovies (which I know many of us respond with 'ewww' when asked about them) give a umami quality to the dressing that is a must. The anchovies completely dissolve into the dressing and do not give a fishy taste at all.

This is the perfect green veggie to add to your Christmas spread!

Fried Brussels Sprouts with Pecans & Capers
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 clove garlic, minced
4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
1/2 cup pecan pieces, toasted
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
2 cups loosely packed flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and patted dry
salt and pepper

In a heavy bottomed pot, pour enough oil to come around 3 inches up the side of the pot. Heat oil to 350.

In a large bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovies, serrano, vinegar, honey, scallions, pecans, and olive oil. Set aside,

Once the oil is hot, deep fry the sprouts in batches until the edges begin to curl and brown, about 3 minutes a batch. To the last batch, add the parsley and capers and let fry for about a minute. Remove each batch using a slotted spoon and place directly in the dressing bowl. Toss to coat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe: adapted from Michael Symon

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Overnight Ham and Cheese Strata

Cubed bread is tossed with eggs, milk, ham, and loads of cheese before refrigerating overnight. The next morning, just pop the pan in the oven and bake! Perfect for Christmas morning!

To say I'm not a morning person would be the understatement of the century. So, in my house, breakfast isn't commonplace. Even if I am up early, the last thing I want to do is cook - much less talk to another human! On holidays, though, things are relaxed and lazy and begging for brunch.

I don't know how it is in your circle but in ours, holiday meals are typically later than normal lunch times. Say, anytime between 1pm-3pm. Which means breakfast is a must!

An overnight strata is the perfect breakfast for me because you make it the night before. First one up (I'm looking at you, husband) gets the honor of throwing it in the oven and setting the timer.

This is super cheesy, just like we like it!

Amounts below are for a very large portion - easily serving 10 people. I halved it and we still had lots leftover!

Overnight Ham & Cheese Strata
10 eggs
3 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
14 cups cubed Italian bread
2 cups cubed, cooked ham
2.5 cups sharp cheddar cheese, divided
3 cloves garlic, minced

Lightly coat a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a (very) large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Stir in the cubed bread, ham, 1.5 cups cheddar, and garlic and gently stir until well combined. Transfer to the prepared pan and top with remaining 1 cup cheddar. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, remove the pan and let sit while you preheat the oven to 350. Bake until set, about 1 hour. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Baked Gnocchi with Bacon, Tomato, and Mozzarella

Simple comfort in one pot! Bacon, tomatoes, and gnocchi are topped with thick slices of mozzarella and baked until hot and gooey. This guest worthy meal is weeknight easy!

One of my biggest Pinterest pet peeves is the overuse of "best" - the "best" chocolate chip cookies, the "best" meatloaf, the "best" iced coffee. Claiming your recipe is the best of all is off-putting in so many ways (not to mention a completely arbitrary measurement!). I know why some bloggers resort to that - it greatly increases their pins and page-views resulting in more income. But I still don't have to like it :)

So bear with me while I claim this recipe to be one of the very best dinners we eat. Yup, I've made it several times and the entire pot was gone before a photo could be taken. I practically guarded this bowl with my life so I could finally snap a (really not impressive) photo. Y'all, hiding under that thick layer of mozzarella is pure joy.

It's creamy, and tomatoey, and gooey, and is peppered with thick cut bacon and pillows of gnocchi that just melt in your mouth. It's what you want to eat after a stressful day. Or when it's freezing outside and you had to shovel your driveway. Or when you have company coming and need something to impress. Or, you know, you just need some bacon in your life.

Will you think it's one of the best? I don't know. I hope so, though.

I know it doesn't look/sound like much but something magical happens in that pot and this tomato-hating-girl is drooling just rereading the recipe.

I think we'll have it again this weekend :)

Baked Gnocchi with Bacon, Tomato, and Mozzarella
8 slices thick cut bacon
1 pound store bought gnocchi
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes with their juices
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
12 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Spread the bacon out on a foil lined baking pan. Place in a cold oven, set temperature to 400, and let bake for 18-20 minutes or until crispy. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to cook slightly and then crumble. Keep oven on.

In a large oven safe pot, bring a pot of water to boil and cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Return pot to heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. Quickly fry the garlic and paprika for 30 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes, grape tomatoes, tomato paste, and sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cream, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir in the cooked gnocchi and crumbled bacon. Top with sliced mozzarella and bake for 10 minutes.

Source: adapted from Simply Delicious

Monday, December 1, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus

Roasted butternut squash is blended with traditional hummus ingredients to create a super creamy and slightly sweet twist on a classic. The perfect appetizer for your holiday party!

I can't believe it's already December! I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday. We had a great meal with some good friends (our family is 1100 miles away), watched lots of movies, did some online shopping, and started decorating the house for Christmas.

Just because the calendar turned December (and therefore "winter") I refuse to stop chowing down on fall bounty - especially squash! Look out - I have several more fall-ish recipes coming your way. Butternut squash is still readily available right through the Christmas holidays so this would be the perfect addition to your appetizer spread. Especially since you can make it ahead of time in just minutes!

Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus
1.5 cups cubed butternut squash (1 inch cubes) 
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (plus more if needed)
2 tablespoons tahini, stirred well
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon smoked hot paprika
2 tablespoons lemon juice
10 pitted green olives (with pimento is fine)
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Place the squash on a baking pan, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper to toss to coat. Spread in an even layer and roast for 25-30 minutes, turning once with a spatula, until squash is tender and cooked through. Allow to cool slightly.

In your food processor, combine the roasted squash, tahini, chickpeas, garlic, paprika, lemon juice, green olives, and black pepper. Process for 15 seconds. Stop, scrape sides, and process again for 15 seconds, drizzling in the olive oil as it runs. Taste and add salt and more pepper if needed. Process until desired smoothness, adding more olive oil if needed.

Serve drizzled with additional olive oil.

Source: inspired by Whole Foods

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pork Schnitzel

Tender pork cutlets are quickly dredged, pan fried, and served with a creamy dill sauce. Take a break from the endless chicken dinners and put some pork chops to use! This easy family friendly one pan meal is on the table in 30 minutes or less.

Judging by the crowds at Costco this weekend, many of us are making preparations already for Turkey Day. The week of Thanksgiving (or any food centered holiday) is a rough one for meal plans. The last thing you want to do is destroy your kitchen, or stand at the stove for long periods of time, but you also don't want to eat 3 nights of take-out!

Unlike most food bloggers this week, I'm not sharing a Thanksgiving-appropriate dish. Instead, I'm sharing the perfect Thanksgiving week dinner. It's fast, uses no oven, and dirties just one pan!

This is one of my favorite pork dishes. I'm not a huge pork chop fan but this recipe is the exception. It's thin, crispy, and cooks up fast and I LOVE dill so the creamy dill sauce is like the icing on top! When I had this dish at a German restaurant in Fredericksburg, TX, it was served alongside spaetzle so I usually follow suit when we make it at home.

I originally shared this recipe over 2 years ago and it deserved a revisit!

Pork Schnitzel
4 boneless pork chops
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 cup panko
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1.5 cups chicken stock
4 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

Place the pork chops between two sheets of wax paper and pound to a 1/8 inch thickness. Trim fat from around the edges and make a cup of small slits in the center of each piece to avoid curling during cooking.

In a shallow bowl, add the flour along with some salt and pepper. In another shallow bowl, whisk together the egg and milk until frothy. In a third shallow bowl, mix together the panko and paprika. 

Dredge each pork chop in the flour mixture first, followed by the egg, and then finally the panko, pressing to make sure the panko adheres. 

Once all pieces are coated, heat vegetable oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pork until golden brown and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side. Be sure to not overcrowd the pan. Place the chops in a warm oven to keep warm.

Pour the chicken stock in the hot skillet and reduce heat to low, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. As the stock simmers, stir together the dill and sour cream in a bowl. Using a ladle, remove about 1/2 cup of the simmering stock and whisk it into the sour cream mixture. Pour the contents of the bowl into the skillet. Heat until warm and thick, about 5 minutes. 

Serve the sauce over the pork. 

Source: adapted from All Recipes 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Butternut Squash Cod Chowder

A warm, flavorful, one-pot chowder stocked full of bacon, butternut squash, and cod. Perfect for chilly nights!

Lately, the weather in Charlotte has been warmer than my home in Texas! Though that will likely change in the next couple of days, we are still much better off (or worse off, depending upon how you feel!) than other parts of the country that are already covered in snow and freezing temps. There are few things better than a roaring fire and a big bowl of soup on a cold night - especially on a day that keeps you out in the elements. I'm always on the hunt for one pot (read: easy) soup/stew/chowder recipes to get us through the cold winter months so here is one to start the season off.

This is actually the first fish based chowder recipe I'm sharing and it's a great one. Fish cooks super fast, is healthy, and a nice change from the usual chicken-beef-pork rotation many of us stick with. You could use any very firm white fish but cod works especially well alongside butternut squash.

This chowder is so substantial that when served alongside a chunk of baguette, it's a meal!

Butternut Squash Cod Chowder
8 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1 onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
1.5 cups diced butternut squash (or 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced)
1.5 tablespoons flour
3.5 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup clam juice
12 ounces skinless cod fillets, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch of cayenne

In a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crispy, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside. 

Drain off all but 2 tablespoons bacon grease then add the celery and onion. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in the dill and cook for 1 minute. Add the squash and flour and cook, stirring, until the flour begins to brown, about 2 minutes. 

Stir in the vegetable stock and clam juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the squash is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the cod, cover, and simmer until the fish flakes easily with a fork, 4-5 minutes. Stir in the cream, cayenne, and 3/4 of the bacon, reserving 1/4 for topping. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.

Right before serving, top with a pinch of reserved bacon.

Source: adapted from Rachael Ray

Monday, November 10, 2014

Baked Broccoli & Ham Mac and Cheese

Hot pasta, diced ham, and broccoli florets are tossed in a creamy cheese sauce, topped with breadcrumbs and Parmesan, and baked to perfection. Comforting, warm, and a crowd pleaser.

Yeah, mac and cheese is where it's at. I've yet to meet someone who isn't a fan and if I did, I wouldn't want to know them long as there is something seriously wrong. Pasta. Cheese. The End.

Sometimes, you just want to eat mac and cheese for dinner. And while you think a big bowl of it is a perfectly acceptable meal, your husband does not... because there is no meat.

So you toss in ham for him. And because he insisted on meat, you throw in broccoli because you love it. And it makes it healthy.

Baked until bubbly and stuff your face worthy.

This is also perfect for those times when you need to deliver a home cooked meal to a friend!

Baked Broccoli & Ham Mac and Cheese
16 ounces pasta (your choice of shape)
1.5 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
12 ounce bag fresh broccoli florets, cut into bite sized pieces
8 ounces diced ham
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta and broccoli according to the package directions for al dente. Drain well and set aside.

Coat a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 375.

In a large skillet, melt butter. Add the onion and cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook another minute. Add the milk and chicken broth and whisk. Raise heat to 375 and bring to a boil; cook about 5 minutes or until the sauce is smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove sauce from heat and add the cheese, a handful at a time, stirring until completely melted. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Stir in the chopped ham, cooked pasta, and broccoli and mix well.

Pour into the prepared pan and top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Lightly spray the top with additional cooking spray.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, then broil for an additional 1-3 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown on top.

Source: adapted from Skinnytaste

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