my favs of 2014

coconut lover's cake. this year's birthday cake was a coconut dream. definitely one of my favorite layer cakes ever.
polenta with roasted mushrooms. this recreation of our meal at scarpetta more than three years ago was perfect. 
peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal scones. make these as soon as you can. is there really anything else to say?!
pot roast with mushroom gravy. eight basic ingredients + 3 hours in the oven make a heavenly winter dinner. and the leftovers are to die for!
mini peanut butter caramel & ganache tarts. yes, peanut butter caramel. it's as obnoxiously good and rich as it sounds. these were perfect for valentine's day this year & i'm looking forward to finding another excuse to make them.
pork tenderloin with mustard maple sauce. a simple, flavorful, and quick weeknight dinner. 
secret recipe club: mini cinnamon roll cakes. i turned a kitchen - more precisely, an oven - disaster into these delicious mini cakes.
sweet & sour pork stir fry. this one still makes it on to our table at least once a month. 
bacon cheddar waffles with apples. bacon & cheddar for jason, apples & maple syrup for me. and toddler approved!

my favorites, previously: 2013, 2012, and 2011.


bacon cheddar waffles with apples

for the last couple weeks, i've been in a dinner making rut. the time crunch between the time we get home from work & the time the kids need to be in bed seems to be getting smaller and smaller, meaning the time we have to actually cook dinner is also getting smaller. while some may disagree, one of our newest favorites has been waffles for dinner. they're easy to make, infinitely adaptable, and toddlers love them - ours now asks for them a couple nights a week. not to mention jason was head over heels with this combo - bacon + cheddar always wins in our house.


apple butter crumb muffins

last month we took the boys apple picking. an hour and a couple meltdowns later, we left with about 30 pounds of apples. while a few were destined for other things, the overwhelming majority were processed into one of a few perfect foods - unsweetened apple sauce. i canned somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 pints, hopefully enough to last until next year. it's hard to keep this house in applesauce, with a toddler gobbling it up and his almost seven month old brother finally onto solid foods. 

midway through my applesauce making foray, i decided to sacrifice a few cups and turn it into apple butter. in our house, we enjoy jams and fruit butters a couple ways: slathered onto homemade scones, a top crackers spread with peanut butter, and mixed into muffins.


secret recipe club: hard cider baked chicken & mushrooms

the only good part of this time of the year is the food. i am a seasonal eater and the weather here has made the switch from warm and summery, to distinctly fall - more cold than warm, drizzly, and dark - meaning it's finally time for soups, dinners cooked all day in the slow cooker, and meats slow roasted in the oven. my favorite.

this is the quintessential fall meal. chicken is slow roasted in hard apple cider with mushrooms and served over crusty bread, mashed potatoes, or something equally as delicious to sop up all the wonderful gravy.


fettucine with seared tomatoes, spinach and mozzarella

i love love love dinners like this one. not only is it really simple to throw together, all the flavors balance really well, and it's something that should a baby or toddler beckon for your attention, another person can jump right into and not need much explanation to know where you are in the recipe. bonus that it's easily ready in 30 minutes - the longest step for me is waiting for the pasta water to boil - and the classic flavors are loved by toddlers and adults alike. this one easily makes it into my weeknight rotation and will taste especially good in the dead of winter, when we're longing for some kind of taste of summer.



i've had my eyes on a couple recipes for carmelitas - an oatmeal bar cookie stuffed with creamy, salty caramel and chocolate chips - for years. one saturday afternoon, about six months ago when i was eight months pregnant, they soared to the top of my "must make now" list. i took advantage of nap time and was digging into these a couple hours later. making them is the easy part, it's waiting for them to cool completely before eating that takes restraint!


sweet & sour pork stir fry

we first made this stir fry in the spring, back before baby #2 was born. it quickly jumped to the top of jason's favorites list as well as mine - it's quick; combines a starch, veg, and protein in one bowl; and our toddler gobbled it up. most importantly, it's easy, so jason and i can hand off cooking - if the baby suddenly decides he's starving while i'm cooking dinner & we need to trade off so i can nurse him - without the other getting lost. leftovers reheat really well. this one makes it onto our table at least once a month.


secret recipe club: mini cinnamon roll cakes

we are spending the holiday weekend camping with both boys - a two year old and four month old - for the first time. the intent was to make this cinnamon bread from sweet as sugar cookies to snack on or appease a grumpy two year old. after a disastrous first try - scroll down for the result - i turned the bread into mini bundt cakes and topped them with a cream cheese frosting. they taste like cinnamon rolls with about a quarter of the work. needless to say, all six were long gone before we left for our camping trip.


secret recipe club: double chocolate zucchini muffins with chocolate butter

this year's garden is puny compared to years' past. a couple tomato plants, started from seed by my grandfather, a couple cucumber plants that aren't doing so well, and a big pot of basil. that's it. no peas, no green beans, no corn, no zucchinis. while i was digging through our deep freezer i noticed one last bag of shredded zucchini leftover from last year's bumper crop and quickly decided i'd try to healthify (is that a word?!) my next baked good with zucchini. once these were warm out of the oven, the only thing they need - besides a cup of hot coffee - is a slather of butter. and if we're going to have butter, why not make it chocolate flavored?!


secret recipe club: butterscotch M&M oatmeal cookies

by something short of a miracle, both boys slept a full three hours yesterday. the weather outside was absolutely perfect, so i grabbed a stack of these cookies i made with winn late last week, made myself a mocha iced coffee (coffee + whole milk + hershey's syrup), grabbed my latest copy of cooking light, and had a full two hours all to myself outside. it was pure bliss. no one yelling "mama", no babies crying, no housework begging to be done. i honestly can't remember the last time that happened.


secret recipe club: 30 minute baked tortellini

to say i've been busy the last six weeks is the understatement of the year. if you think toddlers are a time suck, try adding a newborn into the mix. it leaves an obnoxiously little amount of free time every day. and even less time for all of the usual things. we had gotten into a routine, the three of us, and since the baby made his arrival right before easter, dinners like this twenty minute easy tortellini bake by julie at this gal cooks, are perfect. and while it isn't exactly photogenic, this dinner is delicious with very little hands on time.


secret recipe club: snickerdoodle bars & slow cooker chicken fajitas

for this month's secret recipe club pick at anna's bcmom's kitchen, i followed the same format as last month: a delicious dessert and an easy dinner. and while both were delicious, i have to give it to the snickerdoodle bars. the fajitas were easy - chop, dump, and cook for 8 hours - but i forgot how much i love the still crunchy texture of vegetables in fajitas. anyone that's slow cooked vegetables knows they don't stay crisp. so while the flavor was good and the ease of making them spot on, the texture of the vegetables weren't the best for me.

and then there were the bars. when i was making them, i honestly didn't think they would be anything special and was pleasantly surprised when i had my first bite. they have the perfect balance of sugar cookie and cinnamon sugar goodness, in bar form. so good, i had to hide them from my toddler. otherwise, i heard "mama! bar!" a couple times a day when he saw them sitting on the counter.


secret recipe club: meyer lemon iced raspberry yogurt cake & slow cooker chicken cacciatore

a couple weeks ago, a friend of mine mentioned making a blueberry lemon cake on facebook. after reading that and seeing the post, i couldn't get the thought of a meyer lemon layer cake out of my mind. the very next day i scoured claire k creation's blog for cake recipes. i bypassed - and pinned for later - this best ever carrot cake, this lemon tea cake, and this coffee cake for this greek yogurt & raspberry cake. topped with meyer lemon buttercream, it made two pregnant women - she 38 weeks, me 32 - very happy.


grandpa's favorite double chocolate cookies

when i first started this blog four and a half years ago, i was pleasantly surprised to find my grandpa to be one of my biggest readers and fans. yes, this grandpa that still grows his own strawberries and then turns them into jam, and every year provides me with enough tomato plants he grew from seed to fill out my garden. a couple times a year, usually after i've posted a relatively mediocre recipe review, a letter comes in the mail with my grandpa's favorite version of said recipe. i'm slowly getting through them all. and just like his jam and tomato plants, these cookies did not disappoint. easy, quick - no chilling! - and the perfect chocolate fix.


skillet gnocchi with ham, peas & mushrooms

want a one skillet meal that pleases everyone, is infinitely adaptable, and can be on the table in 30 minutes? then this skillet gnocchi is for you! want more vegetables? add them. prefer a meatless option? skip the ham. change up leftover chicken breasts or grilled or roasted vegetables by tossing those in. not a fan of swiss? try cheddar or monterrey jack. endless options, all delicious.


pork tenderloin with mustard maple sauce

my favorite meals are those that can be thrown together from things i already have in my pantry. like  chicken with mustard sauce, cacio e pepe with lemon, skillet glazed pork chops, and almond crusted chicken fingers this pork is full of flavor, is ready in thirty minutes, and i already had all of the ingredients, including a pork tenderloin stashed in the freezer. this one went into my favs board asap!


mini peanut butter caramel & ganache tarts

remember back in january when i teased making chocolate truffles for valentine's day this year? i completely and totally forgot. and made these obnoxiously good tartlets instead.


salted chocolate chip peanut butter oatmeal cookies

my favorite cookie needs two things: chocolate + one bowl + no refrigeration time. that way i can go from no cookies to eating cookies in under 20 minutes. because let's be honest; when i want a cookie, i want it now. not tomorrow after waiting for dough to chill. this cookie meets all of those criteria plus a bonus: peanut butter, jason's favorite cookie. toss in some oats and top with sea salt just for kicks and in 20 minutes you'll be eating fresh cookies too.


slow cooker honey mustard drumsticks with tangy apple slaw

i've mentioned before how big of a fan i am of my slow cooker. now that we're in the thick of winter, there are few things better than coming home to a big pot of soup, stew, or chicken, with relatively little work. the problem is that i quickly get sick of those things - there's only so much chicken breast i can eat. so i was pleasantly surprised when flipping through my copy of slow cooker revolution to find a couple recipes for drumsticks. these are delicious - just enough sweetness for my taste and crispy from the blast in the oven at the end. coupled with the slaw and a loaf of italian bread, it is a nice reminder of food to come in the summer.


glazed donut muffins

we've been pretty lucky with winn. while the first couple months were rough - he was and still is most days, as a friend of ours has coined the term for her son, an 'ultimate sleep fighter' - once we got past them, he sleeps a solid 12 hours every night and very rarely wakes up. which is why it almost killed the two of us a couple weeks ago when he decided, for a reason we still don't know, to wake up and be generally miserable every two hours. all. night. long. and then be up for the day around 5:00. a full two and a half hours earlier than usual.


pot roast with mushroom gravy

it was about this time last year that i grew up just a tad bit more and enjoyed ina's pot roast. and while that roast was super flavorful, it had a long list of ingredients, none of them mushrooms. mushrooms are a big hit in our house and mushrooms + beef are one of our favorite combos. lucky for me, claire robinson had a five ingredient pot roast with mushrooms. with the addition of three flavor enhancers from my pantry - garlic, worchestershire, and cornstarch - i have a new favorite. we liked this so much i made it again the following week. not sure what to do with leftovers? freeze them, or blend the gravy completely smooth, chop up the leftover beef, and toss with egg noodles. jason likes that better than the roast!


gingerbread deep dish apple pancake

a couple saturday mornings ago i woke up wanting to bake something other than scones. while perusing the refrigerator i remembered a couple lonely apples sitting in the crisper and decided to spice up one of my standbys: deep dish apple pancake.


secret recipe club: almond strawberry jam thumbprints

this month's secret recipe club assignment couldn't have come at a better time. for the last few years, a good friend has hosted a bunch of us ladies in december for a cookie party. only this year, with the rush of the holidays - and i swear, the short time between thanksgiving and christmas made christmas come even quicker this year - the party was in january. and while i had plenty of cookie recipes bookmarked for holiday baking that i didn't even come close to making, the majority involved chocolate or peanut butter - two things i was surprisingly sick of.


celebrate national ice cream for breakfast day!

tomorrow is national ice cream for breakfast day! even though it's the dead of winter, i rarely need more than a suggestion to convince me to have a bowl. and while some of my favorites aren't exactly ice cream, i'm calling sorbet and gelato close enough to celebrate! here are a few of my favs -


chicken & broccoli stir-fry

when winn first started solids, i made most of his vegetable and fruit baby food by cooking up fresh or frozen produce, whizzing it up in the food processor, and freezing it in silicone ice cube trays. the one thing i couldn't get over was his love of broccoli. like most people, i've never been a huge fan - as a child i remember the only way i would eat it was hiding under a thick layer of homemade cheese sauce - so i was shocked when my 8 month old seemed to not have a broccoli limit. now that he's older and eating the same food as us, i've made it a point to include some of the foods he loves. not only does winn get his broccoli, but because it's clothed in a salty, sweet, asian sauce, i devoured mine too.


peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal scones

yes, scones, again. for the second time in just as many weeks, we're baking up a pan of scones. mostly because winn keeps asking for them. mostly because nothing goes better with a hot cup of coffee than a freshly baked scone. and mostly because homemade scones are the best kind.


polenta with roasted mushrooms

when we were in las vegas a year and a half ago, jason and i had a killer dinner at scarpetta in the cosmopolitan. we started with the famous spaghetti with tomato and basil, and while it was good, it was the creamy polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms that we both dreamed about after the meal was over. the polenta was so rich and creamy, the mushrooms perfectly garlicky, it's a delicious combination. ever since that trip i've been on the lookout for a reasonable substitute. and while this isn't as ethereal as our scarpetta version, it's delicious none the less.


egg & brie sandwich

my favorite kind of meals are those that are good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; can be made with about five ingredients, and can be on the table in less than 30 minutes. for me, it was a delicious sunday brunch, when i just happened to have leftover bread, lettuce and tomatoes from a salad earlier in the week, and a small hunk of brie. delicious.


coconut lover's cake

i've had coconut layer cake on the short list of birthday cakes for a couple years now. when i was pregnant with baby winn - whose really a toddler now, so we'll just call him winn - the coconut craving hit me hard, and it's really never left. so why have i waited so long to make this cake? jason hates coconut. loathes it.


carrot cake scones with honey pecan butter

for the four mornings after i made these scones, the first words out of my 18 month old son's mouth in the morning were "eat scone". not "morning" or "mama" or even "hi". eat scone. needless to say he was not happy on the fifth morning when i told them they were gone and he'd have to have eggs instead.


slow cooker chipotle chicken & rice

the first time i made this for dinner, i followed the recipe exactly and found out that cooking bone-in skin on chicken breasts on the stove takes literally forever - or at least much longer than i want to wait on a weeknight. when we finally sat down to eat, the three of us gobbled up our plates. between forkfuls, jason had the best idea: throw everything into the slow cooker and let it work it's magic.


peanut butter pretzel truffles

this year, like most, i made way too many sweet treats in the month of december. there were these classic sugar and gingerbread cutouts, my favorite hot chocolate cookies, new york times chocolate chip cookies, my dad's favorite shortbread, an almond joy biscotti (more on that later), and a new favorite chocolate pistachio cranberry thumbprints (more on those later, too). hopefully i didn't miss anything. with all those sweets, i should have been sugared out by new years. but no, here i was, december 30, mixing peanut butter, pretzels, and sugar, and giving them a good dunk in dark chocolate.


pasta with roasted tomatoes and fried eggs

last weekend i had a handful of roasted tomatoes, baby spinach, and a small piece of brie leftover from sandwiches i made for new years eve. i cooked up the remnants of a box of fusilli, tossed the hot pasta with the brie, spinach, and tomatoes, and topped the whole mess with two runny fried eggs. it was the best lunch i've had in a long time.

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