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Top 13 Recipes from 2013

It is almost 2014, can you believe it?!  Like many of you, I am reflecting on the year and planning for the next (before tonight's celebrations, of course).  2013 was a pretty good year, but 2014 is already starting to look fabulous!  Starting a new job with new challenges next week, planning a European vacation (and crossing that off from my unofficial bucket list), and my little sister will be getting married!  Oh, and I turn the big 3-0, eep.

I have rounded up the top 13 recipes from this year.  Take a look at the list... have you made them too?


Happy New Year!

Buckeye Cookies - total time 1 hour

If you live in Ohio, you're probably getting excited about the Ohio State bowl game (well, as long as you're over the loss to Michigan State).  I'm sure there are other teams that get the same level of fan-demonium as the Buckeyes, but without a professional football home team to cheer for, everyone gets behind the Bucks.  

For us, game time is a great time to get things done in town... no traffic, no crowds, no worries!  But it is still fun for us to watch with a large group of friends and family with a spread of tasty appetizers and a few cutesy themed desserts!  

I'm no stranger to a peanut butter and chocolate dessert... they are definitely some of my favorites!  I love the sweet and salty mix, it just heightens the flavors.  I remember making buckeyes in my freshman dorm room with only a microwave and my desk (no fancy double boiler, or even a stove top available) for the Ohio State v Michigan game.  When you have to have buckeyes for the biggest rivalry in college football, you'll find a way.

So after years and years of making traditional buckeyes, I now try to twist that tradition into other desserts.  Buckeye BrowniesBuckeye BarkBuckeye Mix-Ins... to name a few.  Well, my favorite dessert category is definitely cookies... so this year it is Buckeye cookies for game day!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole - total time 1 hour

Hmm, chicken cordon blue... I actually cannot recall ever having it before.  Something so infamous in the cooking world that the largest culinary school is named after it!  So it is about darn time!

I blame the ham... never been a fan (not with green eggs, in a box, or with a fox).  I don't know what it is about it though.  I am picky about bacon too.  It has to be a certain thickness and have a crunch... otherwise I won't eat it (no, bacon doesn't need to go on everything, ick).  However I haven't had a dish with prosciutto that I didn't like... but if you're making something with prosciutto, odds are you're making something special.

So let's make something special!  Turning chicken cordon bleu into a casserole takes out all of the pounding the chicken flat, rolling it all together, and then somehow securing it without having the cheese melt out.  It also takes the pan frying/searing out of the equation... so the not-so-healthy dish gets a little lighter.

Oh, and get some good swiss cheese!  The swiss cheese I have had in the past didn't have much flavor (so I usually avoid it in favor of goudas and white cheddars).  But the swiss I picked up was delicious and so creamy.  I couldn't stop snacking on it while I waited for the chicken to cook!  :)

Weekly Menu

It's Christmas week already!  We just finished watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation... hopefully none of that happens over the next seven days we will be celebrating with friends and family!

Now to get cookies finished up, wrapped presents under the tree (and kept away from Snoop who will open them if given the opportunity), and then traveling around to see everyone!  With the week off of work, I'll have some time to check some things off the never ending to-do list so we can start the new year with a shorter list.

Here is this week's menu... which will mostly be lunches since we'll be having holiday meals all week long!

chicken with creamy dijon sauce and scalloped potatoes
honey garlic chicken and salad

Oreo Cookie Bars - total time 2 hours

Eep, I still have a good amount of Christmas shopping to do... what about you?  I should really write my ideas down as soon as I have them because even a few minutes later I have forgotten and wonder around aimlessly for inspiration.  Several hours were spent going from store to store today for those last few gifts.  Inspiration was lacking even with the big sale signs covering most retailers right now.  With so many sales, it is hard to keep from buying things for myself!

I'm finishing off my holiday baking today while the weather is a little dreary.  Of course that involves more cookies, yum!

These Oreo cookie bars are kind of like taking a few Oreos and making a giant one, but the cookie part is more like an Oreo Truffle.  So, if you like Oreos, this cookie is for you!  It is so rich, I haven't been able to finish one yet.  My husband, on the other hand, has had no trouble and sometimes gets a second!   

Cake Batter Cookies - total time 2 hours

It is the season of indulgence... where calories don't count because we are going to holiday parties, doing cookie exchanges, eating holiday meals, and spending time with our families (which usually means more food and drinks)!

Okay... so calories still count no matter when you eat them...  But you shouldn't feel bad about enjoying some holiday treats... just don't go overboard!

This cookie is one you just can't pass up.  It is soft and chewy with the buttery flavor you get from yellow cake.  There is something about yellow cake and chocolate icing that even a person who doesn't care for cake (i.e. me) can't refuse a piece.  Make that into a cookie and you have a perfect dessert!

Weekly Menu

Holy crap!  Can you believe it is already December 16!?  Where did the time go!?

Yesterday was spent Christmas shopping and cookie prep (the dough is in the fridge ready to go in the oven)!  Are you done with your Christmas shopping?  Because I feel like I am not even close.  Good thing I have Friday off to finish everything up.  But tonight is for baking... better get on it!

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Aren't these pictures of Snoop adorable?  We saw the little Woodstock plush toy at Kohls and had to get him for Snoopy!  We already had the Charlie Brown tree... so the Christmas picture only made sense.

Here is the menu for this week!  Cookie recipes will be coming soon!

baked ziti
chicken cordon bleu casserole
Alley Doughs
broccoli cheddar soup
shrimp po' boys

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins - total time 45 minutes

Banana bread muffins used to be something I baked pretty frequently.  I always bought bananas and never seemed to eat all of them before a few turned "extra ripe".  Every time I would tweak the recipe... add cinnamon, mix in some brown sugar, a little lemon zest... I would bring some over to my grandma and she would tell me if it was a good tweak or if something was missing.  Then we would talk for an hour or more about random things.  She always had a good story to tell, even if I had already heard it seven times it was still fascinating.

Over Thanksgiving my dad wondered aloud where I got the cooking and baking gene from.  Definitely not from my parents; they will fully admit to that.  It is completely from my grandma who taught me so much.  Who cooked and baked from scratch nearly every day.  Who showed me how to garden and how much fun it could be.  Who inspired a craft project one hour and timed me in my math tables the next.  Who taught me how to be thrifty and appreciating what I have.  Who had a kind heart, but knew when tough love was needed.

After she passed, I didn't bake banana bread muffins for a while...  I have only made them a few times since then and it brings back those happy memories every time.  It's just one of those things that will always be connected.  I brought out my recipe card, stained with butter grease and smashed banana... and made one tweak. 

As we celebrate the holidays, do you have a tradition that has passed down over generations that reminds you of specific friends or family members?  If you are looking for a banana bread recipe, this one is pretty basic.  Maybe it could become part of your family tradition.  All I know is this recipe is grandma-approved... :)

Weekly Menu

It looks like this winter is going to be a rough one!  The past few winters have been relatively mild in Ohio... but this year, the temperatures started dropping earlier than usual... and the snow came early too.  Now we have named winter storms and we haven't officially finished autumn yet!  (Cleon and Dion... where do they get these names?  Sounds like they should have a show in Vegas.)  We got some snow, a little ice, and some freezing temperatures... but not too bad... yet.  I see a lot of soups and comfort food planned to get through a long, cold winter (there has to be a bright spot somewhere!). 

I don't know if pizza is really a comfort food, but I made one this week and I think I have finally figured out the trick!  I usually bake everything at 350 degrees (that is not hot enough).  I also like thick crust (but the middle wouldn't cook all the way through because of the sauce).  So here is the trick... while the oven preheats to 425 degrees, keep your pizza stone in the oven to get hot.  Roll out you pizza dough pretty thin (1/4" or thinner) on parchment paper (easy to transfer to your stone)...  But to get that thick crust, put a little bit of cheese all the way around the edge and fold the dough over (but don't go too crazy with the cheese, we're going for a slightly stuffed crust, not Pizza Hut).  Use half pizza sauce and half tomato paste so it's not too saucy.  And then lastly, remember to spray the crust with olive oil and sprinkle a little salt to give it a nice texture.

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This week's menu is loaded with soups and comfort food since we're not supposed to get above freezing this week...

baked potato soup
shrimp tacos
stuffed shells and salad
chicken with creamy dijon sauce and brussel sprout gratin
fish and shrimp stew

Stuffing Muffins - total time 45 minutes

So one time in high school, I made a box of Stove Top stuffing and ate the whole thing for dinner!  Ick!  Just think of all the sodium and preservatives in that heaping plate.  I wasn't even a big fan of stuffing... I was just hungry and that was the easiest thing to make.  I avoided stuffing for years afterward...

Fast forward to today and I still can't eat Stove Top... but homemade stuffing, now that is a different story.  Using artisan crusty bread with fresh vegetables and veggie stock makes this side dish stand out.  I wanted to make a traditional Thanksgiving meal this year... turkey with sage and rosemary, buttermilk mashed potatoes, green bean casserole... and of course stuffing.  I also wanted to have a bread basket, whether it be rolls or croissants... but there are already so many carbs involved in Thanksgiving.  So bake the stuffing in a muffin pan and... voila... you get both!  Stuffing in perfect individual serving sizes that can be passed around in a bread basket, no serving utensils required.

Caramel Apple Struesel Pie - total time 1.5 hours

What's more American than apple pie?  Well, a lot of things.  What's more American than apple pie on Thanksgiving surrounded by family?  Hmm... okay, now that's pretty American.

I've made traditional apple pie before... and you know, it's as easy as... pie.  Even making the pie crust from scratch is pretty easy.  Then I had a Dutch apple pie made by Amish bakers.  Can I just say, yum!  I looove cinnamon sugar in any combination I can think of... so packing even more of that deliciousness on top for a crunchy, cinnamon-y crust... that has to be the perfect pie right there!

For Thanksgiving, I wanted to incorporate that Dutch apple pie idea and add a little something to it.  I have been on a caramel kick lately after including Ghirardelli's Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt Caramel in our trick-or-treat candy bowl (one for you, two for me).  So caramel apple filling it is!

Weekly Menu

It's officially the "holiday season" now that Thanksgiving has come and gone and the sound of cash registers ringing is at an annual high.  It's time for cookie exchanges, cute holiday-inspired treats, dinner parties, and more holiday meals!  But before we get into all of that... a Thanksgiving recap...


I made way more turkey than we could ever eat in one (or four) sitting!  It's hard to accommodate for smaller or larger family meals when it is centered around a main course that only comes in 15-20 pound increments.  

I tried brining the turkey for the first time this year... which turned into a real mess!  I froze the turkey stock I made from last year's Thanksgiving turkey... put the turkey, the stock, and some seasoning in a turkey bag... and when I went to pick it up to put it on the tray to go back in the fridge... splaaasssh!  The bag broke and my kitchen, Snoop, and myself were covered in turkey stock.  Ick!  At least the turkey landed safely in the tray.  I ended up having to brine with vegetable broth.  I think brining kept the white meat a little more moist.  But in hindsight, I would have spared myself the trouble if I knew it was going to cause such a mess, emergency laundry time, and an unplanned dog bath. 

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Two new items on the table this year were stuffing muffins and caramel apple stuessel pie (recipes to come soon).  I think using a muffin pan for stuffing is really a perfect way of serving the side dish.  It counts as your bread and a side at the same time without overwhelming the table with an extra plate.  Besides, there are enough carbs to go around... who needs dinner rolls when there are better things to stuff your face with!  :)

After a whole day of cooking and baking... this week's menu includes using up those turkey leftovers and some low key meals.  Next week start the cookie making!

turkey and broccoli casserole
turkey cheddar apple panini
stuffed crust pizza
taco night
asian meatballs


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