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Friday, December 30, 2011

2011's Top 11 Recipes

As 2011 comes to a close (how is that possible?? Didn't it just start?) I'm going to share this year's most popular recipes.  There are a few repeats from last year as some of the "greatest hits" continue to pop up. 

The number one recipe is this White Cheddar Chicken Pasta.  This recipe has become a staple around here and is a quick and easy dinner to throw together.  It's also super versatile.  No wonder it remains a hit.

In the number two spot is this recipe for Chicken Enchilada Soup.  Perfect on a chilly fall or winter day, this soup can be made on the stovetop or in a crockpot. 

In third place is another all-time favorite still sticking with the spicy trend... Spicy Chicken Tortilla Roll-ups.  These are a perfect appetizer for a New Year's or Superbowl party.  They come together quickly and you can make them in advance too.

For fourth place, you moved on to dessert and like these S'mores Cupcakes as the top cupcake recipe I've posted over the last three years.  And I can understand why, they are quite impressive especially when you break out the kitchen torch to give them the marshmallow frosting that toasted look and taste.  If you haven't made these yet, you really should try them.

Coming in fifth is another easy weeknight pasta dish.  These lasagna roll-ups are the perfect solution to a classic Italian dish without all the work and without three days of leftovers in the fridge if you're not cooking for a crowd.  Plus these can be made with so many variations.  Try using chicken, beef or Italian sausage in place of the turkey, an alfredo sauce or pesto cream sauce in place of the marinara.  There are all kinds of options to keep these fun.

New to the list of favorites this year is another appetizer that I originally made for the Superbowl this year.  These classic soft pretzels with jalapeno cheese sauce are easier than you might think and make a fantastic weekend snack or party appetizer.  The cheese sauce can be used with the pretzels or use at a queso dip for chips or pour it over enchiladas for even more cheesy goodness.  If you want to experiment with some pretzels, compare this classic method which uses bread flour and boils the pretzels in a baking soda bath to this latest version of Cheese-Stuffed Everything Pretzels that I just tried which uses all-purpose flour and skips the baking soda bath with fantastic results.

In seventh place, a cookie recipe that mimics those super soft grocery store sugar cookies.  Made with a cake mix, this isn't your standard sugar cookie recipe but it does yield delicious cookies and it takes about five minutes to mix up.  You don't have to roll and cut anything and decorations are as easy as a few colored sprinkles if you want them.  I know it's past "cookie season" but these Soft and Thick Sugar Cookies are worth it.

The list is rounded out with cupcake recipes. 

In eigth place, Snickers Cupcakes, a rich chocolate cupcake, filled with caramel and topped with caramel buttercream and chopped Snickers bar pieces.  I've since decided I prefer to add a little chopped candy bar to the caramel filling in the center as well as it helps hold the cupcake together a little better. 

Next up is another chocolate favorite, Chocolate Cherry Coke Cupcakes.  Again these start out with a chocolate cupcake base but this time they get filled with a cherry filling, topped with a Coke glaze and frosted with whipped cream frosting.  A cute little cherry on top make these an adorable and nostalgic favorite.

Next on the list, is a cupcake that could be breakfast or dessert.  Apple Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes are a delicious, portable (although still sticky) cinnamon roll baked up in cupcake form.  The method is the same as a classic cinnamon roll but the cupcake presentation adds a cute touch for a brunch or other gathering.

Finally, the last favorite of the year is a cupcake I baked up for my husband for his birthday this year.  These Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes would definitely make my short list of favorites as well.  The cake is super moist and has a light orange flavor.  The combination of orange buttercream and marshmallow cream filling give the cupcake that creamsicle flavor that takes these over the top.

That wraps up the list of 2011 reader favorites.  All in all, 2011 was a great, although extremely busy, year for my family. 

Of course, my favorite thing I "baked" in 2011 was our daughter, Aubrey, who arrived in February.  I can't believe it's time to start planning her first birthday party now.


From there the year was a blur of selling our house, weddings, vacations, and buying and remodeling our new house that still hasn't really ended but as the year comes to a close, I'm trying to appreciate what we have and live more in the moment rather than rushing to get to the next big thing.  Happy New Year to all my wonderful readers, thanks for putting up with a lot more sporadic posting than I would have liked this year.  Although I don't see 2012 calming down any, I'm hoping I can squeeze in some recipes with a bit more regularity.  I've got some great ones to share with you.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

White Chocolate Cinnamon Crunch Popcorn

Want some gourmet popcorn that you can make right at home?  It's easier than you might think.  But it probably involves more butter than you think so make this before your New Year's resolutions take effect.  This would actually be a perfect snack for a New Year's Eve party. 

However, if you make your popcorn in the microwave, I hope you'll reconsider.  It is so much better when you make it on the stove top.  You don't end up with all the chemicals and it's super easy.  All you need is a large sauce pan with a tight fitting lid, a little canola or vegetable oil, and some popcorn kernels.  Personally I've replaced my popcorn pan with a Whirleypop, a switch I made a few years ago when we upgraded our stove to a glass top instead of coil burners.  I didn't want to scratch the stove top shaking the pan so I bought the Whirleypop which has the same result but since it has a mechanism to stir the popcorn inside the pan, you don't have to shake it.  It was a worthwhile investment for us since I'm a popcorn lover and it was only about $30. 

Anyway, back to the recipe, you can make your popcorn on the stove or in an air popper, or if you must use the microwave, at least make sure you are using the natural popcorn without butter or other flavorings. 

White Chocolate Cinnamon Crunch Popcorn
Recipe adapted from Right at Home

2/3 cup popcorn kernels (about 16 cups popped)
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup light Karo syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp baking soda
3 squares almond bark

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Pop popcorn and set aside in large bowls, make sure to leave yourself room to mix in the bowls or it will get very messy.

Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, and corn syrup in a large microwave safe bowl.  (If your butter is straight out of the refrigerator, cut it into chunks before adding it to the bowl to help it melt faster.)  Microwave on high for about 30 seconds and then stir to combine everything.  Microwave an additional two minutes and stir and return to microwave for two more minutes.  Add vanilla and baking soda and stir to combine, the mixture will foam and rise when you add the baking soda.  Divide hot caramel mixture evenly among the popcorn bowls and quickly stir to coat the popcorn.  Continue to gently mix until topping is well distributed. 

Pour popcorn mixture onto prepared pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes.  Lay out another large sheet of parchment paper on your counter.  Remove the popcorn from the oven and spread out on parchment paper.  Melt almond bark (I like to use a double boiler method as it scorches very easily in the microwave but you can use whatever method you prefer) and drizzle over popcorn.  Let popcorn cool and then break into chunks and serve or store in an airtight container. 

(Whirleypop has not sponsored this post in anyway, these are my own opinions.)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from my family to yours...

Thanks for reading, I'll be back soon with some new recipes. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cheese Stuffed Everything Pretzels

It only takes one word to describe these pretzels... awesome! 

Of course, I will continue to type because I can't actually just stop at the one word.  Soft pretzels are delicious on their own, this recipe adds cheese to the middle and then adds poppy seeds, garlic, and minced onion to the normal sea salt topping.  Takes them to a whole new level.  Just look at the oozy cheese, the crunchy toppings... yummm...

This is also a super easy recipe for those of you who are afraid of yeast... there is no rising, punching, etc.  This recipe also skips the normal soft pretzel step of boiling the dough in a baking soda bath before cooking as well.  This makes for an incredibly quick pretzel recipe.  I think I had these mixed, rolled, shaped, and baked in under an hour. 

Cheese Stuffed Everything Pretzels
Adapted from Guy Fieri, via the Food Network

1 1/2 cups warm water (approx. 110 degrees)
2 packets active dry yeast
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 T sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
3 cups shredded colby jack cheese

1 egg
2 T milk
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp minced onion
1 tsp sea salt

In a large measuring cup, heat water and sprinkle yeast over the water.  Stir to combine and let sit for about 10 minutes until frothy.  Meanwhile, in a food processor fitted with a dough blade, combine all dry ingredients and pulse to combine.  Add egg and yeast mixture and pulse in short bursts until the dough comes together.  Do not over mix, you just want the dough to come together.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times with your hands.  If dough feels sticky, add a little more flour.  Form the dough into a ball and cut in half.

Roll out 1/2 of the dough into a large rectangle, approximately 12"x17", sprinkle about 3/4 cup of the colby jack cheese down the center 1/3 of the dough.  Fold one edge over the cheese, sprinkle with another 3/4 cup cheese, and fold over the remaining 1/3.  Pinch the edges of the dough to seal the cheese inside.  Roll out the dough again into a rectangle about 11"x15".  Cut the dough into six strips approximately 1 1/2" wide.  Roll each strip into a tube and form into a pretzel shape by looping and crossing the ends over each other, then tuck back onto the loop and pinch to seal.  Transfer to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Repeat with remaining half of dough. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a small bowl, combine remaining egg and milk.  Whisk to combine and set aside.  In another small bowl, combine poppy seeds, garlic, onion, and salt.  Brush the pretzels liberally with the egg wash, then sprinkle with spice mixture.  Bake 18-20 minutes until light golden brown.  Transfer pretzels to a wire rack to cool.

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