my favs of 2013


peanutella [chocolate peanut butter]

i eat a lot of peanut butter atop ritz crackers and apples dipped in peanut butter. one of my all time favorite snacks is to melt equal parts peanut butter and chocolate - the darker the better - in the microwave until smooth. while it's nuking, core and slice a crisp, juicy apple. dip until your heart's content. that was one of my favorite snacks when i lived alone and something i still eat relatively frequently now. until i made this chocolate peanut butter. i think of it as a much better tasting version of my bachelorette snack.


peppermint yule log

last year was the first and only year that i have hosted christmas. granted there were only four of us, including a six month old, but it was still the first time jason and i cooked christmas eve and christmas dinner at our house. while we decided early on to have ham for dinner, i became slightly obsessed with finding the perfect christmas dessert. my mother has made what we affectionately call chocolate log - chocolate sponge cake filled and covered with chocolate buttercream - for years, i have never made a rolled cake before. luckily i had been around more than once to help prepare the chocolate log and learned her trick to prevent any rolled cake from cracking. and while this is a bit late for your christmas gathering, it would be perfect for a new years eve party as it can easily serve a lot of people or your new years eve dinner.


cheesy artichoke bread

this bread is a simpler and easier way to both make and eat one of my favorite party foods - artichoke dip. instead of baking the dip in a dish, it's spread on loaves of crusty italian bread. not only is it easy, it's delicious. since we aren't much of the partying type anymore - with all the duplos, little people, talking dinosaurs, and dump trucks hanging around - ours accompanied dinners of fish and salad. with a whopping five minutes of prep, this bread could be a side any night of the week.


fish in crazy water

one of our default every-other-week dinners is baked tilapia with lemon and rice. it's delicious, quick, and easy. and boring.


secret recipe club: almond butter cookies

it must be this time of year: i am craving cookies like crazy. not fancy, fussy kind, but more of the slice and bake or drop variety. last month, jason and i were out somewhere, eating some kind of almond flavored dessert - a cake, maybe? - when he casually mentioned that it had been a long time since i made anything almond flavored. he was right and i've been on the lookout for an easy almond cookie ever since. when i spied these iced lemon butter cookies at cooking mimi for this month's secret recipe club, i knew with some simple swaps, i could have exactly what i wanted.


coffee blondies

every once in a while, a girl  needs a non-chocolate sweet treat, know what i mean? while perusing my pinterest boards a couple weeks ago, i realize i don't make bars and brownies nearly enough - considering i still have 90+ pinned on my board. considering how easy and delicious they usually are, i need to add them to my holiday baking list.


my favorite 30-or-less minute meals

lately i've been on the lookout for easy weeknight dinners that can be made in 30 minutes or less. bonus if they are relatively light, nutritious, and toddler friendly. as i was going through my archives, i realized there are almost 100 posts in "dinners in 30 or less" - 96 to be exact - and many of them are worth repeating. here are a few of my favorites -


creamy chicken stew with bacon

ah, leftovers. i am going to skip right past thanksgiving, since i've never cooked a thanksgiving dinner and don't plan to anytime in the near future, and head straight to leftovers. i made this soup a couple weeks ago with chicken, but there's no reason not to sub it out for turkey. looking for other uses for leftover turkey? check out a few of my favs after the break.


poached pear & brie salad

while nothing has been able to knock my fall apple chicken salad with maple mustard vinaigrette out of the top spot as my absolute favorite salad, this one isn't far behind. sweet poached pears, brie, and candied walnuts are a delicious combination - try topping sliced baguette with them and toasting, just enough to melt the cheese. with so much flavor, a basic balsamic vinaigrette tops this salad off perfectly. don't let the time throw you off - you can poach the pears a day or two before and keep them in the refrigerator. assembling the salad itself takes all of 10 minutes.


chicken with mustard sauce

it seems like this time of year, everyone everywhere is eating heavy, holiday food. i like flipping through magazines of this year's must have pies to go with the perfect way to make turkey just as much as the next guy, but those recipes don't help at all when it's 6:00 on a monday and i have exactly 30 minutes before a toddler hunger meltdown starts. this chicken is perfect for those nights. virtually no prep, a tiny bit of babysitting to make the sauce, and thirty minutes later you've elevated boring chicken breasts enough to satisfy mom, dad, and toddler and been able to whip up a couple sides at the same time. sick of chicken? i bet this would be great with pork chops.


chocolate peanut butter sandwich cookies

if you've been a long time reader or know my husband jason, you know two things: he doesn't particularly care for sweets, especially cake, and for the rare times he chooses something sweet, it almost always involves chocolate and peanut butter. so in 2011 we celebrated his birthday with peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and in 2012 it was black bottom peanut butter pie. this year, these sandwich cookies were on the menu.


leek and mushroom frittata

i love love love frittatas. they're easy to make, you can use whatever combination of meat, cheese, and vegetables that you like, there are always leftovers that reheat beautifully, and they can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. this version uses two of my favorites - sauteed leeks and mushrooms - paired with fontina cheese. if you absolutely have to have meat, top the frittata with chopped crispy bacon before it goes into the oven. the salty bacon goes great with the creamy vegetables and cheese.


cacio e pepe with lemon

here's the thing: you can't have it all. all those women out there, working full time, raising kids, keeping a marriage afloat, cooking a real dinner for their family every night, finding time for hobbies and themselves, their plan will sooner or later crack. the problem is that as life goes on, we add more and more responsibilities all wedged into the same amount of time and with the same amount of effort and attention span we've always had. so what happens? something gives. in the last year, i've spent more time and focus on health and wellness, spending nights and weekends working out instead of blogging or keeping in touch with far away friends. i spend my evenings playing with my son, so time dedicated to dinner becomes shorter and shorter. not because i no longer enjoy cooking - follow me on pinterest and you'll see my kitchen is still a flurry of activity - but because i would rather spend my time building towers and crashing them with my son than stuffing ravioli. so now, more than ever, i am on the lookout for meals that start to finish are done in less than thirty minutes - bonus if they're toddler friendly. this pasta fits the bill perfectly. although the original recipe calls for a meyer lemon - rightfully so, since they are deliciously sweet and tart - a regular old lemon will do. toss in some cooked peas, like my favorite alfredo, to round this out as a meal.


secret recipe club: enfrijoladas

since i've gone sweet for the last three secret recipe club picks in a row (see cherry sorbet, bacon topped maple french toast cupcakes, and chocolate snack cake), i decided this month was time for something savory. and not just any savory, but my favorite kind: mexican. i spied these enfrijoladas on edesia's notebook, and while they aren't very photogenic, how can homemade refried beans, tortillas, and melty cheese not be a good combination?! they are delicious and toddler approved! thanks lesa, for teaching me how easy it is to make refried beans at home.


secret recipe club: chocolate snack cake

i totally agree with holly at phemomenon - sometimes all i want is a simple piece of chocolate cake and all the microwave cake recipes out there aren't cutting it. so for this month's secret recipe club, her simple chocolate snack cake is just what i was looking for. in less than 30 minutes, i was digging into an iced piece of cake. i had some cream cheese frosting in the freezer that i defrosted, whipped, and added cocoa to make it chocolate cream cheese frosting. it was delicious and i'm sure this cake would be just as good with your favorite chocolate frosting. or even some powdered sugar in a pinch.


secret recipe club: bacon topped maple french toast cupcakes

this month's secret recipe club pick was obnoxiously easy for me. as soon as i saw these maple french toast and bacon cupcakes on food ramblings, i knew they were mine! ever since i made these pig out cookies - a peanut butter cookie with bacon and chocolate chips - jason has been asking for more baked goods with bacon included. it seems to be a universal food - i've never met a person that doesn't love bacon!


secret recipe club: cherry sorbet

for this month's secret recipe club, i was on a mission for one thing: ice cream. luckily nichole at cookaholic wife has plenty to choose from. there's caramel smores ice cream, rocky road ice cream - which as nichole mentioned, is actually really hard to find here too, salty caramel ice cream (i have a version of this sitting in my freezer right now!), classic vanilla bean, trendy cake batter, sweet corn ice cream (i just can't quite get over the fact that it's corn to make it), coconut ice cream, apple pie ice cream (bookmarked for fall!), and cherry and brownie bite ice cream (this is on my short list, since i actually have homemade brownies sitting in my freezer). as you can see, nichole pretty much has ice cream tackled. i was this close to making her chocolate tacos, and while all of these choices sound delicious, they were all just a little too much. i wanted something not quite as heavy. something fruity. sorbet! after a quick search, this cherry sorbet was it! the only change i made: doubling the recipe to use up a pound of cherries i had sitting in my fridge. and am i glad i did.


secret recipe club: slow cooker beans & mushrooms

how's the weather where you live? our summer started hot and humid for about two weeks in may. then the rain came. and came. and came. and is still coming. sometimes it's obnoxiously hot and humid and other days, it's cool as a crisp fall day. it's really strange. so for this month's secret recipe club, instead of picking a fun and festive fourth of july recipe, i chose something more appropriate for fall apple picking or as a quick dinner before trick or treating.

and i'm really glad i chose this basic recipe from stephanie at sustainable cooking for one. when i came home from work, i wasn't expecting the beans to be so broken down and creamy. after a couple stirs i realized this is the perfect base for a soup. next time i'll add even more mushrooms, carrots, celery, spinach, and any other vegetables i have laying around. some cooked barley would be a great addition also. so even if the weather is hot and humid where you are, bookmark this one for fall, when soup is back on the brain and in heavy rotation.


brown sugar espresso chocolate chip cookies

sometimes, i just need a cookie. know what i mean? i went through oreos like they were nothing when i was pregnant, and although i'm not usually a chocolate chip cookie girl, lately i've been all over them. i don't know if i'll ever find the perfect recipe - each one i've made has been super delicious for it's own reason. alton brown's chewy stays nice and soft and chewy for a long time. thomas keller's version is perfectly salty. wegmans chocolate chips are a classic and bring back some college nostalgia every time i make them. the browned butter in cook's illustrated's version is nutty and delicious. and the brown sugar in these makes them nice and sweet, not to mention the kick from instant espresso. it doesn't hurt that the recipe makes a ton and they freeze well, so next time i need a cookie, i've got a freezer bag full of them.


greek baked tilapia

i've done a pretty good job at losing the baby weight - all 45 pounds of it was gone within six months. next on the list is getting rid of twelve pounds of what i affectionately call "wife weight." i tend to go through phases of eating really well, working out every day, and eating ok, working out once or twice a week. having meals that are quick, delicious and not so mad for me really help. and this fish is one of them. if you can cut tomatoes and boil pasta, you're set. we served ours with sauteed spinach for an extra dose of vegetables.


tomato, bean, and barley soup

i can't believe i'm sitting here in pants and a long sleeved shirt, listening to the pouring rain, and hoping the temperature will reach 60 degrees today. just two weeks ago, we were turning on the air conditioning as the temp hit above 90 for a couple days in a row. the change in weather messes with my meal planning - one week we're eating salads and grilling chicken, the next we're longing for big bowls of pasta and soup. and while i won't be making this bowl of soup tonight - this chicken marsala risotto won out in the end - if this weather holds out, it might end up on the menu sooner than i think.


secret recipe club: mojito chicken tacos

for all of my regular readers, you've probably noticed i haven't been around these parts much in the last couple months. yes, i've been cooking - and even photographing a lot of it - and no, i don't have any big life announcement to make that sucked up all my time and would provide a reason for my absence. it's really quite simple: i've been spending a lot more time with the kiddo (and in less than three weeks, he turns one. my god time flies.) and jason and a lot more time away from the computer. and as much as i've loved it, i have been looking forward to my secret recipe club eats, as they give me a great excuse to get back on here, reminding me how much i enjoy sharing here.


secret recipe club: maple glazed whole wheat spiced apple pizza

for this month's secret recipe club, i chose something totally out of season, sawsan's apple and cinnamon streusel pizza. sawson blogs over at chef in disguise and when i first saw that she lives in the middle east, i naively thought we couldn't have anything in common. i was so wrong! i have a pretty technical day job and spend a lot of my off hours cooking and being a mom. and so does sawsan. she is an orthodontist by day and self professed "food explorer" - a term which i love, by the way - by night and a mom of two.

this recipe was the perfect way to use up some apples i had hiding out in my refrigerator that had seen better days. spiced up with orange, lemon, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg and blanketed with streusel, these are my kind of apples. it didn't hurt that i added another layer of sweetness with a maple glaze.


secret recipe club: pig out cookies

for this month's secret recipe club, i didn't follow my normal process when choosing a recipe on lisa's blog, cook lisa cook. instead, i clicked around somewhat haphazardly, reading through her list of recipe tags and clicking on the ones that sounded good. i didn't make it very far down the list, as cookies sucked me in! as soon as i saw these "piggy out cookies" i knew i was going to make them as soon as i saw bacon. i didn't read the rest of the ingredients list until i was making my grocery list later in the week!


winter salad with clementine vinaigrette

i've mentioned before that i'm always on the lookout for new salads to try. i jumped on this one since a box of clementines always finds its way into my shopping cart and each week we always end up throwing a few away. i always have good intentions of eating them all. but just as soon as the weekend is over and monday comes, before i can blink it's already thursday. i breeze through the rest of the week and weekend and soon enough, i'm staring down the last three or four clementines that just didn't make it. while this salad isn't my favorite, it's still light and refreshing and a great way to use up those stragglers.


slow cooker creamy tomato artichoke parmesan soup with brie, ham, and apple panini

when i lived in downtown rochester, i ate a lot of lunches and dinners at magnolia's on park avenue. more often than not, my companion and i would share one of their thin crust pizzas and i would always order a bowl of their signature cream of tomato artichoke and cheese soup. i cannot tell you how many people i have turned onto this soup. it's killer.

so good in fact, when i am sick, it's what i crave. in the dead of winter, when it's freezing cold out and we're buried until feet of snow, it's what i crave. so much so there have been a few times since we moved into the burbs that jason has made the 13 mile drive for a bowl of this soup. it's that good.


pretzel chicken with mustard cheese sauce

it's been five and a half years since jason and i spent labor day weekend in chicago, and four and a half since we spent the same weekend in cleveland. while it feels like only yesterday we were in both cities it also feels like a lifetime ago. i can still remember - plain as yesterday - walking into the great lakes brewing company in cleveland and having a drink at the bar while we waited for a table. we sat outside and marveled at the fact that we could do whatever we wanted since no, we didn't have any kids in tow. i don't remember what i had for dinner, but jason still dreams of the pretzel chicken he had.


skillet glazed pork chops

monday is one of those days i've been dreading. one of those days that when you schedule it, it sounds crazy, but it's so far off in the future that by the time the day actually arrives, it can't possibly be as bad as you think it is. and the worst part: it's my own fault for scheduling it the way i did. so while everyone else is sitting at home, relaxing or sleeping off their monday in bed, i'll be giving a workshop and driving 4 hours home. and while i'm excited for the workshop - and am not completely dreading the four hour drive - i'm pretty bummed i'll miss tucking baby winn into bed. it's funny how much a baby changes every little thing.


lemon glazed blueberry scones

ugh. that's how i feel about the last month. first i was sick for a weekend. then, later that week, the baby got sick. which meant i soon got sick and so did jason. it was the sickest we've been in a very long time and spent the whole next week eating saltines for dinner. it was rough.


secret recipe club: pasta with blistered tomatoes & arugula and iced grapefruit cookies

last march, i made this whole wheat grapefruit cake for my secret recipe club selection and fell in love with grapefruit in baked goods. so this march, when i stumbled on these pink grapefruit cookies at life of a modern housewife for this month's secret recipe club, i knew they would be delicious. it just so happened i had absolutely nothing planned for dinner that same saturday night, so lucky for me while browsing her recipes, i also found this fettuccine with blistered tomatoes and arugula. it's one of my favorite kind of meals - meatless, pasta, and ready in less than 30 minutes. i will definitely be making it again.


almond crusted chicken fingers

ever since we left the bar almost three years ago to make our own chicken fingers at home, a version makes in into our dinner rotation every couple months. they're easy, delicious, quick, and don't make a big mess when they're baked. this version is breaded with both panko and ground almonds. if you aren't a fan of nuts or have a nut allergy, feel free to skip the almonds all together and just use panko. they're delicious either way.


chicken cordon bleu soup

it's funny how people react to snow. last weekend, we got hit, just like everyone else on the east coast. i had plans friday to take the baby out for the day, but after watching six inches fall in the morning, i ditched them and stayed inside. mostly because i didn't want to deal with the other idiots driving around that don't realize you actually do have to drive differently when there's this much snow falling. by late saturday morning the snow stopped falling and it was absolutely beautiful outside. all the tree branches were covered in snow. it was picture perfect. other than having to be plowed out of our driveway, we weren't really affected. our power didn't go off, we didn't go to the grocery store to stock up, i didn't even bother getting out the flashlights.


meyer lemon cupcakes with meyer lemon buttercream

it's been a while since i've made anything sweet. honestly, i think the back to back cakes in january had me sugared out. last week i picked up a bag of six meyer lemons in the store. two were already spoken for, leaving me with four. the perfect number to make these cupcakes. 

i love lemon desserts, almost as much as hubs, so it's no surprise these cupcakes are one of my favorites. ever. using meyer lemons makes the cakes not too sweet, not too tart. and the buttercream is the perfect finishing touch. so last week, while everyone else was watching beyonce sex it up, i was mixing up these cupcakes. definitely not a bad way to spend a sunday evening.


secret recipe club: mushroom barley soup

i had a hard time choosing my recipe for this month's secret recipe club. jane at the heritage cook has hundreds of sweet and savory recipes, most of which look like something i would make at home. and i can totally get behind her "chocolate monday" feature. (marry that with alison's sweet tooth friday and the start and end of the week is covered!)

i had it narrowed down to three recipes - mexican black bean soup with cilantro lime sauce, triple layer lemon cake with lemon buttercream icing (for hubs, of course), and one of her two mushroom barley soups. i ultimately chose the mushroom barley soup because i didn't have the patience for the black bean soup this month, i had already made two layer cakes in the last four weeks and couldn't justify another, and the first and only time i made mushroom barley soup it came out far too thick. i've had every intention to remake it and as soon as i saw jane's version, i stopped looking for anything else!


pomegranate, pear, and goat cheese salad

we try to have salad one night a week for dinner and i'm always on the look out for a new one. this pomegranate and pear version caught my eye because it's so similar to my new favorite apple chicken salad, only this version has pomegranate and pear instead of apple and dried cranberry. it's delicious, with a few tweaks.


pappardelle with mushrooms

as much as i adore mushrooms, i've always steered clear of any recipe that called for dried porcinis. i don't know why, but they've always intimidated me; something about having to reconstitute them made me afraid they would turn into chewy sponges in the end. boy was i wrong! i'm so glad i gave this recipe a try. it's really simple and full of mushroom flavor. don't let the time fool you - 30 minutes of it is spent waiting for the porcinis to reconstitute. no wonder this was one of cooking light's best recipes.


the latest: january

how have i not stumbled upon 365 days of slow cooking before?! i am loving it and could spend hours going through the archives!

i love to can in the summer and jams and jellies are my favorites. but there comes a point each winter where i realize i have way too much jam than can be consumed before the next season. luckily break or bake has the same problem and rounded up a few of her favorite ways to use them up.

i've had my pinterest account for the last year or so and used it mostly for planning the baby's nursery and other baby related purchases. in the last week i took the plunge and decided to transfer all of my tagged posts in google reader to pinterest. it's a big undertaking, but i'm hoping in the long run it will be easier for me to meal plan and find and share new recipes. once i've got it all - or am a lot closer to finishing - sorted out, i'll be sure to add a follow button if you want to follow me.

part of my day job is to educate the public on ways in which the things we do at home affect the health of the great lakes. one of the chemicals we often discuss is BPA. the environmental working group just released their guide to BPA. it's a quick read with info about the concern and tips to reduce your exposure, such as limiting canned food consumption. 

the ewg blog posted recipes for homemade pledge and oven cleaner. i have used white vinegar as fabric softener in my washing machine and as a jet-dry substitute in my dishwasher and we use baking soda and vinegar to clean our drains. i have seen the oven cleaner method on multiple websites and talked to others who have used it and say it works great. now that the holidays are over, i need to try it!

i stopped at dunkin donuts last week on the way into work and tried a new dark chocolate mocha coffee with cream and sugar. i liked it better than their regular mocha. it had a stronger chocolate flavor and was less sweet.

i'm curious: what would you like to see more of here? less of? what types of posts are your favorite? let me know in the comments or email me kitchentrialanderror [at] gmail [dot] com.

44 clove garlic soup with chicken

i really hate to start it this way, but i'm sorry. i'm sorry deb, this garlic soup was just plain too garlicky for me. too garlicky for my garlic loving husband. this is the first and only recipe i've made from deb at smitten kitchen that was a bust for me. that said, i think there are a few ways to totally redeem this soup & it's on my radar to try again.


pan roasted chicken with balsamic bell peppers

here's yet another way to jazz up a relatively boring chicken breast. we eat a heck of a lot of chicken breasts around here, so much so, that we buy them 10 at a time. and even though we eat chicken in many different ways, a simple one dish pan roasted chicken is something i've been gravitating to lately. there's something satisfying about making chicken, vegetables, and sauce in one pan. it's something i can do while simultaneously cleaning up from the day and getting ready for the next. these types of dishes are my favorite.

and if you aren't a fan of balsamic or bell peppers, i've got 49 other ways to enjoy chicken.

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