2014 Year in Review

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At this point, I know everyone is cruising right along into the new year, but I’ve been enjoying a bit of a slow down period after the holidays. We had nothing to do and nowhere to go for another week and I enjoyed hanging out with my family. While I am getting back into things, I have realized that my resolution is to take things a bit slower. I’m going to try and not rush everything and let things happen a bit more organically. For you readers, that may mean that there is more of a delay in recipes or that may mean that my brain will have a bit of a chance to relax and I can actually have some more fun in the kitchen and churn out some more recipes!

This year has been a whirlwind as we figured out life as a family of four and dealt with other things that life has thrown our way. In the end, we made it and we are no worse for the wear. Everyone is still laughing and smiling and that’s what counts.

Having fun and showing you what goes on in my kitchen on a regular basis is what this year is going to be all about. I’ve missed some of the commentary that used to happen via each blog posts comment section, but it seems that Facebook is the way to communicate nowadays. Of course, Facebook has noticed and now wants to charge Page owners to reach out to their follows, SO the best way to keep up is to subscribe to my RSS feed. I know, the loss of blog readers has also made this idea less interesting, but you can choose to receive emails of new posts as well!

So, no surprise that the recipes that got the most traffic this year were mostly older ones. Ones that continue to be favorites no matter what else I put out there. I am honestly happy about that, it means they have staying power. I know they do in my kitchen! I also included five of my favorite recipes of this year and the reasons why I chose them. So, take a look and see if you see anything new and interesting or revisit a favorite of yours as well!

Thank you so much for following my blog, joining me on Facebook, and all of the emails that I receive. What went from a recipe index to a fun place to chat about food with others makes this stay-at-home mom smile.

I hope you all have a wonderful 2015!

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Ah, these Mexican Stuffed Shells. These really made my blog take off and introduce me to so many new readers. They also opened my eyes to the dark side of the internet and content theft! But alas, these are still the top favorite for you all and are still a winner in my house as well.

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The second highest post makes me smile because I love this Japanese Steakhouse Mayo Sauce and miss this restaurant SO much! Copycat recipes have always been a favorite and I hope to bring some more to you this year.

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This Super Easy Crusty Bread made life in my kitchen a lot easier and all of you as well! I love all of the pictures and comments you send me, whether you are making bread for the first time or simply enjoying a simpler way.

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This Lemon & Thyme Pan-Seared Cod has only been on the blog for a few weeks but it’s definitely getting a lot of attention. It’s definitely become a favorite of the fish eaters in my household. It looks to be a favorite so far among you all too, it was even highlighted on MyFitnessPal as a Must Try for 2015 for under 400 calories!

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You guys get me and are just like me. You love appetizers and you really love cheesy ones! This Baked Ricotta Dip with Garlic & Herbs was your favorite of the year.

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This Chocolate Souffle was on of my favorites for the year because, well, I masted the souffle! That’s been one of my goals in the kitchen and I finally did it.

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Another goal of mine was to prepare more tasty pies for my husband. While I have yet to perfect a pie crust, that is my number one goal this year, I did make his tummy very happy for many nights last summer feasting on this delicious Grilled Skillet Strawberry Pie.

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This Chipotle Quinoa Chilli was a nice addition to my dinner arsenal and made my life easier a lot of nights. Feeding my family quickly with warm, satisfying meals is important and making them healthier is a winning factor.

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I deemed this the year of cucumbers in my garden, letting tomatoes take the backseat. I really wanted to expand my canning and pickles were the easy choice. We go through a ton in my house! Between these Bread & Butter Pickles, the Refrigerator Dill Pickles, and the Pickle Dip this year I found out that many of you readers are fans of them as well! Stay tuned because this year I’m going to up the ante when it comes to cucumbers!

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And finally, these Pretzel Muffins with Chocolate Chips were just a lot of fun to make and eat. Fun creations like these are really why I started doing more in the kitchen and taking pictures of my food :)

Cheese Danish Braid

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I always want to have a wonderful breakfast on Christmas morning. Something special that we don’t usually have that warms and fills our bellies until dinner time. The problem with this is we start opening stockings and presents and then don’t realize we are hungry until we are really hungry. I can’t start beforehand because then I miss those precious moments when Caroline, and soon George, come down the stairs and see everything for the first time. So, besides telling everyone to eat a few cookies and keeping chugging the eggnog, I’ve got to prep breakfast in advance. Since I’ve start doing this our Christmas mornings have been a lot less stressful and we can enjoy the morning and ourselves before the dinner prep begins and our extended family arrives.

This danish is great because you can assemble it the day before, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning simply remove, pre-heat oven, and bake. You’ll have something special to offer your family and the braid just gives you bonus presentation points!

Cheese Danish Braid

Ingredients

For the sponge:

  • 6 Tbsp very warm 1% low-fat milk (120-130 F)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 pkg quick-rise yeast
  • 2 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour

Dough:

  • 7.9 oz unbleached all-purpose flour, divided (about 1 3/4 cups)
  • 2.25 oz whole-wheat pastry flour (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 3 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • Cooking spray

For the filling:

  • 4 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • Dash of salt

For brushing:

  • 1 tsp water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp 1% low-fat milk
  • 2 Tbsp sliced almonds, toasted

To prepare sponge, combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let stand 15 minutes.

To prepare dough, weigh or lightly spoon 6.75 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour and pastry flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 1/4 cup sugar, sour cream, butter, salt, vanilla, 1 egg, and sponge in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 1 minute or until well combined. Add flours; beat at low speed 3 minutes or until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 4 minutes), adding remaining 1.15 ounces all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour and 15 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indention remains, dough has risen enough.)

To prepare filling, combine cream cheese and the next 4 ingredients (through dash of salt) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

Punch dough down; roll dough into a 12 x 15-inch rectangle on lightly floured parchment paper. Spread cream cheese mixture down center of dough, leaving about a 5-inch border on each side and a 1-inch border at top and bottom of rectangle. Make 5-inch cuts about 1 inch apart on both sides of dough to meet filling using a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Remove 4 outer corner strips of dough from rectangle; discard. Fold top and bottom 1-inch portions of dough over filling. Fold strips over filling, alternating strips diagonally over filling. Press ends to seal. Transfer braid and parchment paper to a baking sheet. Cover and let rise 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°. Combine 1 teaspoon water and 1 egg; stir with a whisk. Brush braid with egg mixture. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes.

Combine powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons milk in a bowl, stirring until smooth. Drizzle glaze over braid; sprinkle with nuts.

Serves 12

Nutritional Information

Per serving: 224 Calories, 7.9g Fat, 6.3g Protein, 32.2g Carbohydrate, 1.5g Fiber, 50mg Cholesterol, 1.5mg Iron, 218mg Sodium, 63mg Calcium.

Source: Cooking Light November 2013

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Does the holiday frenzy have you wondering what’s for dinner? It’s not all about cakes and cookies and I’m writing for Minute® Rice to give you one of my favorite quick dinner recipes so you can get back out there and tackle your “to-do” list.

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This holiday season I vowed to do things a little differently, especially after such a busy November. I would enjoy this month, I would pick away at my lists and never feel overwhelmed. The minute I did, I would stop and hang out with my family.In the end, anything that I put aside for a few hours or days wasn’t really that important anyways. What I didn’t want was my family going in different directions every night shopping for present, goodies, decor items, etc. and eating out here and there. Besides the cost factor during an already costly holidays season, I wanted my family seated around the table eating a healthy meal.

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Seafood is my go-to when it comes to making dinner fast. It’s so easy to prepare and takes just minutes. Minute Rice is another great pantry staple, regular Minute® White Rice is ready in just 5 minutes and now they have their Minute® Multi-Grain Medley that includes Thai red rice, wild rice, long grain brown rice, and quinoa that is ready in just 10 minutes! I’m always trying to provide a healthy, yet filling side dish to my family but usually it takes a while to prepare. Not anymore! While I’ve got the rice simmering, I prepare my fish, and toss in a vegetable and we’re good to go!

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So, save on time and calories this holiday season with one of my favorite recipes and then you wont feel so guilty about a few extra holiday cookies! Looking for more ways to use Minute® Rice? Then check out www.minuterice.com for over 400 recipe ideas and more information about the Minute Rice family of products.

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Minute® Rice.

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Lemon & Thyme Pan-Seared Cod with Multi-Grain Rice

Ingredients

  • Minute® Rice Multi-Grain Medley
  • 1 lb Cod (about 3 small fillets)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • 3/4 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Prepare rice according to package directions.

Pat Cod fillets dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a medium nonstick saute pan. Cook fillets for about 3 minutes on each side, or until it has started to flake and they have turned a golden brown. Place fillets on a plate and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

In the same saute pan, warm butter, thyme, garlic, and lemon juice until melted. Drizzle over Cod fillets and serve with rice.

Serves 4

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 311; Total Fat: 15g; Saturated Fat: 6g; Monounsaturated Fat: 5g; Cholesterol: 65mg; Sodium: 270mg; Total Carbohydrate: 21g; Dietary Fiber: 3g; Sugars: 1g; Protein: 23g

The Way to His Heart

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

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While I’ve never been one to turn the other way when it comes to decadent desserts, the holidays and decadent desserts go hand in hand. It’s one delectable dessert after another. Which, of course, is why most promise to eat healthier and exercise more when the New Year comes. No matter how much moderation I practice, I’ll be in that crew too, but here’s a delicious dessert that wont be the cause!

While it’s definitely not good for you, this decadent and luscious chocolate cheese cake filled with three different chocolates, is a lighter option while definitely not light on taste. Frankly, no one can tell so for those that wont eat healthier options, just keep quiet and for those that seek them out, go ahead and tell them this is good for them. Granted, I really don’t think you’ll need to convince anyone to try a slice. Who is going to say no to this when placed in front of them?

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*As with any cheesecake, keep your eye on it. Your eye is the best judge versus the clock. Also, I chose to make this using an adaptation of the water bath method because that’s how I do all of my cheesecakes. Simply prepare as shown before, but while the oven is pre-heating place a baking dish with water in it to create some humidity. Then, leave in while you bake your cheesecake.

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake

Ingredients

For the crust:

  • 2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 8 chocolate graham cracker sheets
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 large egg white
  • Baking spray with flour
For the filling:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 10 ounce 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ounce milk chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups frozen light whipped topping, thawed and divided
  • 1 cup blackberries

Preheat oven to 350°

To prepare crust, spread oats on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring after 5 minutes. Cool. Combine oats, crackers, brown sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a food processor; process until finely ground. Add butter and egg white; process until moist. Press mixture into bottom and 1 1/2 inches up sides of a 9-inch springform pan coated with baking spray. Bake at 350° for 22 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

To prepare the filling, sift together granulated sugar, cocoa, flour, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Place cheeses in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and chocolate, beating at low speed just until combined. Sprinkle sugar mixture over top of cheese mixture; beat at low speed until combined. Fold 1 cup whipped topping into mixture. Pour mixture into prepared pan, smoothing top. Bake at 325° for 1 hour or until cheesecake center barely moves when pan is touched. Remove cheesecake from oven; run a knife around outside edge. Cool to room temperature. Cover and chill 8 hours or overnight. Slice cheesecake into 14 slices; top each serving with about 1 tablespoon whipped topping. Divide berries among servings.

Serves 14

Source: Cooking Light, November 2014