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Secret Recipe Club
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Out With the Old, In With the New

I have mixed feelings about 2011. It started off pretty bad, when my father passed away. As the year went on, though, it got better, and ultimately ended on a high note. My brother, cousin, and best friend each got married, Joel finally got his dream job, and we bought our first house (which we are eagerly awaiting our closing date….Friday the 13th can't come soon enough!). All in all, I'm ready for 2012 and excited to see what it will bring. At least I know that it will start on a high note!

So now, as the end of the year is here, just as many other bloggers have done, I'd like to reflect on my favorite recipes of 2011. What were your favorites?

January: Though the circumstances around this dinner were sad, this Chicken Pot Pie brought us such comfort in a time of sorrow.


February: I love Nutella, but it can be expensive, so making my own not only satisfied my taste buds, but also my wallet!


March: A tough month to choose. But my favorite may be the Guinness & Onion Soup. Like french onion, but better!


April: Another tough month, but the winner is Pierogi! I was happy to cross them off my list and also happy to eat them!


May: I enjoyed eating these Shrimp Tacos on my patio in the first few awesome days of spring.


June: This Avocado Sandwich quickly became a summer-time staple in our house. So simple, and so good!


July: A copy-cat Sesame Cashew Noodle Bowl was a very pleasant surprise, since we guessed at the ingredients!


August: I  couldn't choose between two for this month so I'll just pick both!

These San Francisco Garlic Fries were awesome (and they ended up on Bon Appetit's Blog!)


How could I not post my brother's Wedding Cake? I was very proud of this accomplishment!


September: These Drunken Noodles were spicy and delicious!


October: I finally found the perfect German Potato Salad recipe when I joined Secret Recipe Club!


November: These Chicken Parm Burgers were a great


December: Beer & Brown Sugar Kielbasa is sure to please any Octoberfest crowd!



Pizza Bites

Pizza Bites

This past year, for my high school friends' annual Christmas party, I was in charge of bringing an appetizer. I wanted to try something different, but also wanted to keep it "safe" with something that I knew everybody would enjoy. Who doesn't love pizza, right? I've seen a few similar recipes floating around, but I chose to adapt this one from Annie's Eats. It was quite a hit, too!

3 tubes Biscuits (the ones with about 10 biscuits per tube--this was my adaptation)
4 ounces Mozzarella Cheese, cut into 20-24 cubes
Sliced Pepperoni
Olive Oil
Italian Seasoning
Grated Parmesan Cheese.

Lightly grease a 9-inch pie plate or cake pan. Take each biscuit and slightly flatten it. Top each biscuit with a cube of cheese and a slice of pepperoni. Pull the edges of the dough around the fillings and pinch closed. Place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces. Lightly brush the tops of the dough balls with olive oil. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and grated parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Serve warm with pizza sauce for dipping. (*I did end up with a few extra pizza bites that didn't fit in the pie plate, so I baked those off extra in a separate dish)


Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrette


Butternut squash salad

We had some butternut squash leftover in the freezer, along with half of a container of arugula in the fridge. Rather than forgetting about them until it was too late (like I tend to do too often!), I was going to combine them and make up some dish, but I was at a loss. At the last moment, I searched for recipes with both arugula and butternut squash and the first thing that popped up was this recipe from Ina Garten. It sounded awesome so I changed course and began to make this dish. We thought about adding chicken, but unfortunately, Joel burned his hand on the pan and ended up tossing it down, leaving the chicken to fly across the kitchen floor…hence the meatless dish! For a last minute dish, this made quite a delicious dinner.

1 Butternut Squash, peeled and diced
Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Maple Syrup
Salt & Pepper
3 tablespoons Dried Cranberries
3/4 cup Apple Cider/Apple Juice
2 tablespoons Cider Vinegar
2 tablespoons Minced Shallot (I skipped)
2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
4 ounces Arugula
1/2 cup Walnut Halves, toasted
3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan and add 2 tablespoons oil, maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; toss. Roast the squash at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes. While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6-8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup of oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and grated parmesan cheese. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.


Peanut Butter Pretzel Sandwiches

Peanut butter pretzels

For Christmas, I like to try new things. This year, in addition to making coconut macaroons, I decided to make a non-cookie kind of snack. I wanted something that would make a lot, since I wanted to share with my friends at work. I really like pretzels, peanut butter, and chocolate, so I searched for a recipe that combines them all, which I had seen at this time last year.  However, I couldn't find the recipe I was looking for! Then, I went on Pinterest (where I waste too much time!) and lo and behold, I found the recipe I was looking for over at Two Tiny Kitchens. These pretzels were super simple and so delicious! I doubled the recipe and was able to make several dozen, which gave me enough to share with some of the girls at work as well as leaving some for me and my family!

1 cup Creamy Peanut Butter
2 tablespoons Butter, softened
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar (or a little more)
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 bag Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Combine peanut butter and softened butter in a large bowl with a fork or whisk (I used a stand mixer). Add the sugars and mix to combine. At this point, if the filling is easy to roll into balls without sticking, it is ready to go. If not, add a little more sugar until it reaches the right consistency. Use a teaspoon, measure the filling and roll each portion into a small ball. Sandwich the peanut butter ball in between two pretzels. After all of the balls are rolled and successfully sandwiched, place the pretzels on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer for about a half hour. Pour the chocolate into a microwave safe bowl and heat for 30-second intervals, stirring occasionally until completely melted. Remove the pretzels from the freezer and quickly dip each half-way into the melted chocolate. Return to the tray and repeat with remaining sandwiches. When all are dipped, return the tray to the freezer to set up completely. Store the sandwiches in the fridge until serving time.


Hummus Turkey Burgers

Hummus turkey burger

This month for Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned to Megan's blog, Cooking Whims.  When I first got the assignment, I read through each of her blog posts and saved a bunch of them as separate tabs in my browser window.  I showed Joel the recipes I thought I wanted to make and he pared them down to this one.  Since we have had an unusually mild winter so far, I agreed that firing up the grill would make for a perfect dinner.  These burgers were quite delicious! We paired them with some parmesan roasted potatoes, which was a great choice!  I can see these burgers becoming a staple come summer-time.  Thanks, Megan, for sharing such a great burger recipe!

For the Topping:
1 Cucumber, diced
1/2 cup Feta Cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons Red Wine Vinegar
1 teaspoon Dried Mint (I omitted, since I don't care for it)
1 tablespoon Olive Oil

In a small bowl, toss together the cucumber, feta, vinegar, mint, and olive oil with a sprinkle of salt.  Cover and refrigerate until serving.

For the Burgers:
1 pound Ground Turkey
1/2 cup Hummus, plus more for spreading
1/2 cup Fresh Parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons Ground Coriander
Toasted Burger Buns

In a bowl, mix together the turkey, hummus, parsley, and coriander. Season with your desired amount of salt and pepper. Shape the mixture into patties (I made 4).  Place the patties on the grill (lined with tinfoil and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray), and cook for 10-14 minutes, or until cooked through, flipping once.  (Alternatively, you can cook the burgers in a skillet over medium heat with 1-1/2 tablespoons of olive oil).  To serve, spread hummus on each half of the toasted burger buns.  Set the burgers on the bun and top with the cucumber-feta mixture, adding a tomato slice if you wish.