2011 Year in Review

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Here at home, 2011 was probably our most uneventful year since Alan and I met. This year was about settling into our new home, our new role as parents, and settling into life as we know it. I also feel that I’ve settled into this blog. At this years end, I’ve been posting more recipes, figuring out how to balance life and blogging, and have been rewarded by many more readers. I’ve added a Facebook page and updated the blog itself. I hope 2012 will really show some changes for The Way to His Heart. I’ve gained some momentum and there’s no stopping now! Thank you for all of your support and comments. I appreciate every one of them. I would still post for my own record keeping, but it’s nice to have readers out there that enjoy my recipes! Here is to a wonderful year that 2011 was and to a wonderful year 2012 can become!

Happy New Years Everyone! Here are the top 5 recipes from 2011. Some I chose and some I couldn’t ignore as being fan favorites!

My Lemon Raspberry Layer Cake was a hit in our home and online. This flavor combination is always a winner. I really loved how this cake tasted and it’s high up on my list of cakes to bake for others.

These Smore’s Cupcakes were so much fun to make. I only wish I had made these years ago when I first saw them! I don’t think I’ve met a person who didn’t like them or doesn’t want to try them!

It makes me feel like a true Northern cook to have a good Clam Chowder recipe under my belt. As we get into colder weather, a cup of this New England Clam Chowder sounds perfect right about now!

This Chocolate Peppermint Truffle Cake is everything I love in a desert. Rich chocolate, peppermint, easy to make, and even easier to eat! This was also a reader favorite, which makes me happy that you all love the same things I do. :)

I had no idea how much attention these Mexican Stuffed Shells would get. These blew up on Foodgawker, Tastespotting, and Pinterest. We love these at our house and now many more have added these to their family dinner lists!

Every Christmas I set out to make french toast and it just never turns out right. Too soggy, too dry, use stale bread, use Challah, oh it just doesn’t matter! I’m no good at it! Last year my mother was staying with us and I had her make it for me! So, this year I decided to try something new. Something where I wasn’t a slave to the griddle and could enjoy my morning, which is especially important since I host Christmas dinner and want my morning relaxing and I have a toddler who I’d rather spend time with. Plus, I was hoping this would satisfy my french toast craving and it could be successful. I’ve heard so many great things about this recipe I just had to try it. It was really easy and it tasted great. I found a few other tweaks on it so I’ll be trying those soon as well. I promise the next time I make this, I’ll take some better pictures. It was gobbled up before I could do some nice slice pictures. I didn’t want to hold back on this recipe though!

I made this dish with my Challah recipe, but you could use any kind of bread you prefer.

Crème Brûlée French Toast Casserole

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Ingredients

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • Loaf of bread
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

In a small heavy saucepan melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth and pour into a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking dish. Cut 1-inch thick slices of bread, reserving ends for another use. Arrange bread slices in one layer in baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit. In a bowl whisk together eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, and salt until combined well and pour evenly over bread. Chill bread mixture, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 350° F. and bring bread to room temperature.  Bake bread mixture, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden, 35 to 40 minutes.   Flip once half way through.

Source: As seen on Epicurious, originally from Gourmet

Honey Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon

I’ve made this twice now and it always comes out so tasty and everyone loves it. I’ve yet to get a good picture of it because it goes too quickly and when it comes to Christmas dinner, no one wants to wait while I take photos. I did want to wait any longer for a good picture. I had to share this with you. It’s so easy, so tasty, so pretty, you just can’t go wrong. This year, I did change things. The first year I layered the bacon the way the recipe suggests. I liked how it was different than most bacon wrapped pork roasts, but when it came out the bacon was so crispy that wherever the twine was placed it cracked and fell apart. So, this year I wrapped the bacon the roast. No twine was needed this way. I also skipped the salad this year, but last year I used spinach and arugula and it tasted great. I know out West you can get arugula pretty inexpensively, but here in Maine it’s hard to come by. The greens really make the roast pop though, so if you’re entertaining I suggest putting something underneath it to show off your work!

Honey Mustard Pork Roast with Bacon

Ingredients

Pork

  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp whole grain mustard (Maille recommended)
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (3 1/2) center-cut, boneless, pork loin roast
  • 12 slices bacon (about 1 pound)

Salad

  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 cups (5 ounces) baby arugula

For the pork: Put an oven rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, add the Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard, honey, garlic, and rosemary and mix together until smooth. Arrange the pork in a 9 by 13-inch baking pan and spread the mustard mixture evenly over the pork. Starting on 1 side, lay a piece of bacon, lengthwise, on the pork. Lay another slice of bacon on the pork making sure to slightly overlap the first piece. Continue with the remaining bacon, until the pork is fully covered in bacon. Using 3 pieces of kitchen twine, secure the bacon in place. Roast for 1 hour. Cover the pan, loosely, with foil and roast for another 10 to 20 minutes until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork registers 160 degrees F. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the roast to a cutting board. Cover the pan with foil and allow the pork to rest for 20 minutes. Remove the kitchen twine and slice the pork into 1/2-inch thick slices.

For the salad: In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and oil until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Put the arugula on a large platter and drizzle with the dressing. Arrange the pork slices on top and serve.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis

Challah

Challah, or egg bread, is a delicious bread that can stand alone or works wonderfully when used for french toast. Which is this breads fate on Christmas morning! I did a little research since it’s a bread that is steeped in history. It is always braided, but during the Jewish New Year it is braided in a circle to represent the circle of the year. I chose not to use poppy seeds or sesame because I love it without and want to use this in a french toast casserole and didn’t think the seeds would add much to that dish. You can also add raisins to the dough and brush with honey to make the bread sweeter. Challah looks like a difficult bread to make, but with this recipe it isn’t.

Someone was anxiously awaiting the end of this photo session so she could enjoy some, “Yum!” :)

Challah

Ingredients

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 envelope instant yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup warm water, plus 1 Tbsp (about 110 degrees)
  • 1 large egg white (for wash)
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds or sesame (optional)

Whisk together 3 cups of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Mix together 2 eggs, egg yolk, melted butter, and 1/2 cup of warm water in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Add flour mixture to wet mixture; knead at low-speed until dough ball forms, about 5 minutes, adding remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 Tbsp at a time, as needed to prevent dough from sticking. Whisk reserved egg with remaining 1 Tbsp water in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Transfer dough to a very lightly oiled large bowl, turning dough over to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Gently press dough to deflate, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until it has doubled in size again, 40 to 60 minutes.

Lightly grease large baking sheet and set aside. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Divide dough into 2 pieces, one roughly half the size of the other. Small piece will weigh about 9 ounces, larger piece will weigh about 18 ounces. Divide larger piece into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 16 inch long rope, about 1 inch in diameter. Line up ropes of dough side by side and pinch ends together. Take dough rope on bottom and lay it over center rope. Take dough rope on top and lay it over center rope. Repeat until ropes of dough are entirely braided, then pinch ends together. Place braid on baking sheet. Divide smaller piece of dough into 3 equal pieces. Repeat braiding process, but you’ll want these ropes to be 16 inches long and 1/2 inch in diameter. Brush some of the egg wash on top of the large loaf and place small braid on larger braid. Loosely drape loaf with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until loaf becomes puffy and increases in size by a third, 30 to 45 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and hear oven to 375 degrees. Brush loaf with remaining egg wash and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, if using. Bake until loaf is golden brown and instant read thermometer inserted into the side of the loaf reads 190 degrees, 30 to 40 minutes. Place backing sheet on wire rack. Cool loaf completely before slicing.

Source: Cooks Illustrated, December 2006