arroz con pollo

when jason and i went to florida back in february for our last trip before the baby came, i asked around for the best places to eat in tampa. multiple people recommended columbia restaurant in ybor city, both for the food and the flamenco show they put on during dinner. we made our reservation and arrived shortly before the show started. to those who recommended it, you were completely right. the show was entertaining and relaxing and the food was amazing!

we started with their famous 1905 salad and lobster croquettes and jason had pork tenderloin. while the croquettes were really delicious, as was the tenderloin, the star of the meal was my arroz con pollo. the waiter lifted the lid off the huge pot of rice and chicken table side and i couldn't believe how unbelievably simple and delicious it was. needless to say, i've had dreams about that meal ever since.


toffee chocolate chip cookies

any time i see another blog declare a chocolate chip cookie "the best", i add it to the list, hoping one day to try all of the best chocolate chip cookies and declare a winner myself. since i typically make chocolate chip cookies once a year - ok, twice - it's going to take a while for me to get through them all.

this recipe caught my eye not only because it's deemed "the best" but also because his kids make them all the time, they're both crispy and chewy, and it was deemed "the best" after trying dozens of chocolate chip cookie recipes. i was intrigued enough to give them a spin. with a hearty dose of toffee bits, they were mine in no time. 


parker house rolls [12in2012]

i typically eat dinner rolls on only one day each year, thanksgiving. ever since i can remember, we have had brown 'n serve dinner rolls at thanksgiving. found in the frozen foods section of the grocery story, they're small rolls that need a quick pop in the oven to bake them off. we go through a couple bags of them each thanksgiving and they're always completely devoured by the end of the meal. each year, someone tries to change it up with homemade rolls or bread, which results in groans and complaints from all of us grandkids. which was fine, 20 years ago when we were kids. but now, as adults, we can't quite break away from the brown 'n serves. some things never change.

think of these rolls as a homemade version of brown 'n serves. only these have flavor, are lighter and fluffier, and are about twice the size. 


hot pepper jelly

my mother turned my sister on to hot pepper jelly a couple years ago at one of the major holidays. she decided to change things up and introduced us to a new appetizer - hot pepper jelly mixed with cream cheese on crackers. personally, i don't care much for it - i don't particularly care for peppers - but the two of them and other friends and family go crazy for this stuff. so last summer, in the height of pepper season, i made two batches for them for christmas.


orzo with artichoke pesto and grilled corn

i spent my last childless saturday morning being as lazy as possible. i watched a couple hours of food network, caught up on a couple magazines, and did whatever else i felt like. that morning, i watched giada make this orzo pasta salad as part of a simple beach picnic and decided to invite some friends over for one last pre-baby dinner - and a reason to make the salad.

one of our good friends - who will remain nameless - hates artichokes. i mean, hates them with all his might. and of course, he just happened to be coming over for dinner. i was careful not to mention the artichokes and was pleasantly surprised to see him go back for seconds! while i haven't been able to totally convert him, it's a start.


slow cooker beer barbecue pulled chicken

i love a good barbecued chicken sandwich, but hardly ever order one when i am eating out. the few times i have, i've always been disappointed. the chicken breast is usually dry and over cooked and it's either slathered in way too much sauce or there's just enough there to say it's topped with sauce. this slow cooker version is the best of both worlds - super tender and juicy chicken swimming in beer barbecue sauce. 

my favorite part? it's made in the slow cooker. on these hot ninety-plus-degree days, the last thing i want to do is turn something on inside to offset my air conditioning or stand over a blazing hot grill. and this recipe makes a ton of chicken, plenty for a party, or freeze the leftovers in dinner size portions and enjoy the next time it's too hot to turn on the stove.


banana cupcakes with honey cinnamon buttercream

these are the best cupcakes jason has ever had. better than red velvet, butterfinger topped with ganache buttercream, brown sugar poundcakes with brown butter icing, dr. pepper cake, and the most shocking - better than classic chocolate with peanut butter icing. these banana cupcakes aren't just banana bread, dished out in individual portions topped with buttercream. they're soft and light, everything you would expect from a good cake, spiced up perfectly with cinnamon and nutmeg, and topped with one of my favorite buttercreams.


secret recipe club: minted lemon ice

for this month's secret recipe club, i chose something incredibly simple - in ingredients, time, and method - and refreshing, since our thermostat has been wavering between hot & humid and obnoxiously hot and humid, from no reason needed. it's no surprise that frozen lemonade and lemon italian ice are two of jason's favorite hot weather treats, since he loves the tartness of lemons. this time - as i did last summer with this minted pineapple lime agua fresca - i added some fresh mint to kick up the freshness. i loved it. with the tartness of the lemon, freshness of the mint, and sweetness from simple syrup, it's a perfect mid afternoon treat to beat the heat.


jason's pasta primavera

below is the third installment from jason, my taste tester, who - since his macaroni and cheese success and egg sandwich experiment - has decided cooking isn't really too hard. he has occasional food projects, just like me, that he wants to share. here's his method for pasta primavera.

With my friend visiting from out of town, I wanted to make a good meal that he would like. He told me that he likes pasta primavera, a dish I've never made before and have eaten only a couple of times -- rare enough I couldn't remember what the dish was. Basically, pasta primavera is a pasta focused on vegetables, and sometimes has meat.


strawberry vanilla scones

i've professed my love of scones many times before, so i'll keep this one short and sweet. these scones combine two of my favorites - strawberry and vanilla. and just like tuesday's strawberry cupcakes were a great way to use up super ripe berries, so are these scones. they bake up perfectly sweet, moist, and full of vanilla flavor.


fourth of july roundup

putting the finishing touches on your fourth of july spread? here are some of my favorites from the archives, perfect for any picnic.


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