my favorites of 2012


chipotle chicken skewers with creamy cilantro dipping sauce

rushing off to a new years eve party? or hosting one yourself? these chicken skewers would be the perfect party food! they're simple to throw together, can be cooked up quickly, and are delicious hot or at room temperature. and who doesn't love food on a stick?!


grandma's snowballs

this is it. this is grandma's cookie recipe that us kids remember. back at a time when we hated anything with nuts, and coconut but i've already mentioned that many times, we devoured these cookies, always asking what was in them. and grandma never told - at least not me - because she knew if i knew, i'd never eat them again.


cranberry bliss bars

the last few times i went to starbucks was blazing early in the morning, in jfk, after an hour flight from airport with a long day ahead of me, ending with a return flight home. about a year ago, when the salted caramel mocha first came out, i used one of these hellish days to try one. and was shocked at how much i did not like it. how much it didn't even remotely taste like coffee.


my grandma's friend gladys' molasses cookies

i have no doubt that my love of christmas comes from my grandmother. while i told you about her fudge last christmas, this year has been all about her cookies.


roasted artichoke dip

around noon on thanksgiving i stopped at the grocery store, halfway between my house and my parents', to get a loaf of bread to go with this dip. as i pulled into the parking lot, almost at a dead stop scanning for a spot, i hear jason yell "woah, woah, woah" at the same time i hear a crunch. i was t-boned in a parking lot by a woman who pulled out of her spot directly into my stopped car. note i said pulled out, not backed out. so if she looked up, she saw me. needless to say, we were all perfectly fine, since the car wasn't moving, but she managed to do $3,500+ in damage, including replacing both of my passenger side doors. thank goodness that's all it was.


gingerbread biscotti

it has been almost a year since i made biscotti last. and while last year's holiday version was definitely a keeper, this year i seem to be all about the spice, so a gingerbread version is in order. normally i would adapt my favorite basic biscotti recipe, but i was nervous how adding molasses would affect the dough and turned to google for inspiration. slightly different versions of the recipe i settled on were all over the internet and they all promised one thing: classic, crunchy biscotti with delicious gingerbread flavor. and they did not disappoint.


pumpkin whoopie pies

this fall, i've had a minor pumpkin obsession going on. first spiced pumpkin chocolate chip loaves, then pumpkin pie bars and pumpkin spice bundt cake. couple that with my adoration for the baked cookbooks (i've already started looking through the first two books to pick out this year's birthday cake) and i knew these whoopie pies would be killer. these are the first whoopie pies i've ever made. if others are as simple and delicious as these, i better jump on the whoopie pie train, asap.


pork cutlets with cider mustard sauce

lately, i've been trying even harder than usual not to fall into a dinner rut. for a couple weeks it felt like we were eating the same thing week after week, which got really old - really boring - fast. while flipping through recipes i had made in the last month, i remembered this cook's illustrated special i picked up last year when border's was closing. not only are the recipes scaled for two people, but the majority of them are quick to prepare, just what we need for weeknights when we have an hour and a half window from when we get home to when the baby goes to bed.


pumpkin spice bundt cake

i should make bundt cakes more often. they're easy to make, feed a lot of people, don't need any fancy styling to look good, and transport well. it doesn't hurt that i've never met one i didn't like. but i suppose that's true of all cakes, not just the bundt variety.


thick & rich coconut hot chocolate

the day after jessica posted this recipe for slow cooker coconut hot chocolate i went out and bought the ingredients. and then they sat on my counter for a week before i was able to make it. luckily, one thursday morning, the baby took a nice long nap, and instead of cleaning up the mess of toys on the floor, i made hot chocolate.


pumpkin pie bars

when i returned to work in october, there were a few new faces. new students that started working with us for the quarter, a soon to start new staff member, and a researcher from italy. in the first week or two i was back, a few of us went out to lunch with our italian researcher to talk about his research in water footprinting and our life cycle assessment work. the conversation quickly became a lesson for all of us in the differences between our cultures. while we were enchanted with the thought of living in italy - the food, the clothes, the wine, all of it - he was quick to remind us how expensive everything is there and how cheap it is here. while talking about food and food customs during the holidays, one thing stuck with me: his family and friends told him he had to try pumpkin pie while he was here. to them, pumpkin pie is the quintessential american food of the holiday season. and they're exactly right.


the latest

i had a great thanksgiving with my little turkey. we spent the long weekend with my parents, watching old james bond movies and entertaining the baby. or being entertained by the baby.

if you follow me on facebook, then you know i've started my holiday baking this week. here's my bucket list, in no particular order. what are you baking this year?


chicken paprikash

if i remember it correctly, i was in sixth grade when i finally got a cd player for christmas. it was the first year in our new house and one of the only times i can remember waking up christmas morning in my own house. usually we went to our grandparents'. that year, they came to us.


chicken (or leftover turkey) & tortellini soup

i hope everyone had a great thanksgiving. did you eat a lot of turk? if you're anything like my father, you have pounds and pounds and pounds of it left over. he cooks two turkeys. one the day before thanksgiving - specifically for sandwiches and leftovers - and one the day of to be served with dinner. earlier this week he told me he cut way back and only cooked 35 pounds of turkey instead of the 44 he cooked last year. 35 pounds of turkey for 12 adults. needless to say i never went hungry growing up.

so if you - like my dad - have pounds of turkey left over and are already getting sick of turkey sandwiches, i suggest this soup. it's painless to whip up, transforms turkey into something different, you probably have leftover carrots and celery from your thanksgiving feast anyway. and if you don't have spinach or mushrooms hanging out, then omit them. no big deal. don't have fresh tortellini? substitute egg noodles or broken spaghetti.


the latest

baby winn is five months old today. five. he's getting so big & loves taking walks in his stroller, telling us about his day, and playing with the other babies at daycare.


slow cooker tex-mex chicken stew

ah, martha, you almost got me again. for me, she's always been hit or miss. on one hand, my favorite basic yellow cake comes from martha stewart. her peach pie is out of this world. chicken & pearl couscous with tomato and lemon is one of the best meals i've had this year. and then there are the flops, which i also need to get better at documenting. these peanut butter swirled chocolate cupcakes sounded delicious but are far from it. and her one bowl chocolate cake? while not a disaster, i'd take ina's version over martha's any day.which brings me to this stew.


spiced pumpkin chocolate chip loaf

i wish i didn't procrastinate so much. the weekend before halloween we carved pumpkins with friends. that same satuday, we drove to my parents for my mom's halloween party & spent the night. both were planned weeks in advance. yet somehow, that saturday morning, i left myself way too many things to do: pack overnight bags for me & the baby, wash a load of diapers, buy pumpkins to carve, and make some kind of food to bring both to parties. this loaf cake fit the bill perfectly. i whipped it up in no time first thing in the morning, did laundry and packed bags while it baked, showered while it cooled, and since it makes two loaves, had the perfect amount for both parties. i plan to make christmas stockings this year. let's hope they're done in time.


shells with mushrooms and bacon

even before baby winn was born, jason and i have divided weekly dinner duty. usually we each choose two meals to make, assuming one night will either be leftovers or take out. usually jason chooses something without a real recipe, like paninis or pasta with meat sauce. this month, when browsing through my newest copy of everyday food with the baby, jason shouted we had to have this pasta dish for dinner. naturally, i suggested he cook it. and that he did.

The original recipe came from Everyday Food... I am a big fan of pastas with simple sauces, so when I saw this, I knew I had to make it.


martha's slow cooker beef stew

for the month of october, i eased going back to work, working one day a week. tuesday. so for the five tuesdays in october, i went to work and jason stayed home with baby winn. this beef stew was perfect for one of those tuesday nights, when i wanted to play with the baby as soon as i got home and jason wanted to relax or do one of the dozen or so things on his to do list that can't possibly get done when you have a baby around.


secret recipe club: chicken souvlaki with tzatziki

last thursday, my mother stayed home with the baby so jason and i could have an hour or so to ourselves for dinner. we went to a great local greek restaurant and had moussaka and a gyro, both delicious dinners. and now i am on a greek kick, since i chose this chicken souvlaki and tzatziki from katherine marinelli over her  shadow layer cake (i was thinking of making a small, six inch version to celebrate absolutely nothing, when jason talked me out of it) or linguine with sweet potato parmesan cream sauce (until jason reminded me he does not care for sweet potatoes) for this month's secret recipe club assignment.


cooking light's browned butter chocolate chip cookies

for the last couple months, i've been on a chocolate chip cookie kick. i don't know if it's the simplicity of a chocolate chip cookie, the minimal time commitment, the deliciousness, or a combination of the three, but something keeps drawing me to them. and while i declared cook's illustrated's browned butter and alton brown's the chewy versions to be my favorites, i'm always drawn to new recipes.


white cupcakes with blueberry almond buttercream

we haven't "entertained" much since baby winn was born in june. not only do we not have the time, but our living room typically contains no less than four space hogging baby gadgets at a time (in current use: pack & play, bouncer, floor mat, and swing), which leaves little room for actual, adult conversation. which is why in mid-september jason declared we needed to have a party.


slow cooker apple stuffed pork tenderloin with root vegetables

everybody knows pork chops and applesauce are a classic combination. do kids still watch the brady bunch? i am a child of the '80s and remember very vividly coming home from school and watching it on tbs, back when all shows on tbs started 5 minutes late, like at 1:05 instead of 1:00, what was up with that?? or do today's kids watch who's the boss?, full house, growing pains, and the other shows from tgif back in the '90s?


skillet chicken with apples & cranberries

a week and a half ago, the three of us picked more apples than we could ever eat. after turning about 20 pounds into unsweetened applesauce for the baby, whipping up a batch of my favorite apple chicken chili, i still had a few pounds left (and still have a few stragglers now in my crisper drawer). sure, i could have canned apple pie filling, made apple pie, made a crumble (which i actually did and forgot to post, so check it out here, just be sure not to cook it too long & burn your pecans), or eaten my new favorite salad a few more times, but i wanted something different. i remember ripping this out of a magazine at some point in the last couple years and was lucky enough to actually find it in my mess of "bookmarked" recipes. speaking of bookmarked recipes...does your google reader look like mine? it's chock full of way more recipes that i'll ever be able to make in a lifetime let alone the next year or two. one of these days i need to sort through it...right after my digital photo files are organized, my photo books are done, my clothes are sorted by season and color, and the dozens of other organizational projects are done. it never ends, does it?


pear quinoa salad

in my quest to drop the extra 25 or so pounds i am carrying since i got married and had a baby, i have been on a search for easy and healthy breakfasts and lunches. this quinoa salad is perfect, since it can be both of those or a mid-afternoon snack. i made a batch of this one sunday evening and ate it multiple ways through the next week. i played around with the temperature - some days eating it straight from the refrigerator and others taking the chill off with a quick spin in the microwave - and found i liked it best warm, with a little extra sweetness from a drizzle of real maple syrup. it's both delicious and filling.


fall apple chicken salad with maple mustard vinaigrette

i ate this salad six times in two weeks. six. it is that good. and it wasn't just me that loved it, jason said it's one of the best salads he's ever had. in my opinion, the goat cheese makes it, but if you aren't a fan - i'm talking to you, mom - then skip it. we had ours with fresh honey crisp apples we picked ourselves, but any firm, sweet apple will do. 


secret recipe club: asian pork chops

remember last month when i said i needed to put a bit more effort into my secret recipe club posts? with a new goal of choosing a recipe that's unpredictable, i had a hard time choosing between the keenan cookbook's asian pork chops and these rainbow cookies. ultimately, the pork chops won. although i have a feeling the rainbow cookies will be making an appearance around christmas time. both jason and i love almond, especially when paired with raspberry jam, so i can only imagine how perfect those cookies would be.


slab pie

as promised, here's what i did with all those cans of apple pie filling: slab pie. the idea is so obnoxiously simple, it's another why didn't i think of that recipes. if you can even call it a recipe.

here's the basic idea. take your favorite double crusted pie dough. instead of lining a round pie pan with it, line a 9x13" or 11x14" pan with it. fill with your favorite pie filling, top with the other crust, and bake for an hour. and then serve pie to a crowd. my version is an apple slab pie, made with homemade canned apple pie filling, but i bet a peach version would be just as tasty.


canned apple pie filling

last year, just like the last couple years before, we picked way more apples than i knew what to do with. after homemade apple sauce, apple crisp, a pancake or two, multiple pots of apple chicken chili, and eating apples straight up or dipped in caramel or peanut butter, i was still left with pounds of apples without a plan.


creamy chicken florentine soup

we spent the second to last weekend in september at barktoberfest, an annual fundraiser for lollypop farm, the humane society of greater rochester. we have gone the last four or five years, watching our team grow from four of us raising a couple hundred dollars to our friend susie raising thousands and gathering up a team of more than thirty! this year was especially fun since we brought baby winn with us.


eggless caesar salad dressing

soon after jason and i moved in together five and a half years ago, i started planning our meals for the week each sunday. it was a life saver. no more wondering what's for dinner, scrambling to make something out of nothing, or even worse, making multiple trips to the store in a week. ever since, sunday has become our meal planning day.


pork and tomato skillet saute

did you plant tomatoes this year? did something eat yours down to stumps, or was that just me? or are yours bursting with so many tomatoes you don't know what to do with, or was that just my parents? if you can't pick your own tomatoes, there are still farmers around here practically giving them away. pick some up, saute them with shallot, balsamic, garlic, and use it to top your protein of choice. i used pork, as the original recipe called for, but this tomato mixture would be amazing on top of a plain old chicken breast or baked fish.


sweet corn pasta

a couple noteworthy things have happened in the last couple days -
for updates and other tidbits you won't find here, like kitchen trial and error on facebook
the huffington post and spry living featured my creamy barley with tomatoes, chicken and spinach. click the links to get other recipes featuring whole grains and barley.

and now, the pasta. this pasta fits in perfectly during two times of the year: the end of summer when sweet corn is at it's peak and the dead of winter. i think we can all agree tossing pasta with lemon, fresh basil, and fresh sweet corn at the end of summer is perfect, but it would also be a great reminder of better weather to come in the dead of winter, once the holidays are over, and we're sick of digging out our cars every day. it took me a total of 20 minutes to whip this together, making it a perfect weeknight meal.


pearl couscous with roasted tomatoes & onions

remember this spring when i made this outrageously good chicken and pearl couscous with tomato and lemon? i haven't made a single thing with pearl couscous since then. not a single, solitary thing. so this week, as i was planning dinner, i was in the mood for something just a little bit different but also really quick and easy. i did what any other person would do: googled.

in my quest for a good pearl couscous recipe, i finally came to this one from running to the kitchen. i knew the flavors would be good - roasted tomatoes and onions, bright lemons, fresh mint and basil, and salty feta - as a side with baked fish. this was beyond delicious and deceptively simple. this couscous would be perfect for an end of summer picnic, since it can be served warm or at room temperature. leftovers reheat well and are equally delicious served with two poached eggs on top. 


wegmans chocolate chip cookies

you know how people love trader joes? and by love, i mean, blog their cart full of groceries and profess their undying love for trader joes products. it's funny, of all the people i've heard go on and on about grocery stores - there are others that admire whole foods - i've never once seen someone online talk about wegmans. what's up with that? it's the reason alec baldwin's mom won't move away from the syracuse area (and yes, alec & his mom did a few commercials for them too).

if you live along the east coast, and especially rochester, since wegmans was started and is still headquartered here, wegmans is probably your neighborhood grocery store. i've been to a few trader joes and a handful of whole foods, and let me tell you what: they don't even come close to wegmans. the stores are clean, they carry anything and everything you'd ever want, their prepared foods section is insane (sushi, burrito bar, & fish fry among others), their staff is super nice, and they've been in the top 5 "best companies to work for" for the last eight years. this place is no joke. (somewhere, my mom and dad are laughing, saying my wegmans radar is going crazy!) long story short, if you ever get the chance, go to wegmans. if you're in the rochester area, go to the pittsford wegmans. i believe they still offer guided tours.


cheesy potato soup with ham

i made this soup last month, when we had an abnormally rainy and cold day smack in the middle of the summer. now that fall has shown up with rain and cooler temperatures, it's a great time to bring soup back in the regular rotation. this soup is rich and creamy from the potatoes and cheese and perfectly salty with the ham. if you want a meatless meal, simply omit the ham. the only thing i will do differently next time: top with crispy bacon.


welcome baby winn

beyonce said the best part about being pregnant is "knowing that my favorite person in the world, I haven’t met them yet." now i know exactly what she means and how right she is. 

baby winn, as he was affectionately known throughout my pregnancy, was born june 21. he weighed 8 pounds, 11 ounces and was 22.5 inches long. if you know his dad, you know where the long legs came from!


banana cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting

this is the first thing i baked after baby winn was born back in june. it was the week of july fourth, the baby was about a week and a half old, and i needed something to get me back in the swing of baking and some semblance of normalcy. and since my sister and her husband were on their way to meet the baby for a few days, i figured it would be a good time to bake a cake. this cake was perfect. perfectly light and moist. and the frosting is to die for. so much so that my sister emailed me asking for the recipe a couple weeks later.

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