Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Countdown to 2015: Most Popular Recipes of 2014

Here are some of the most popular recipes from Cook with Sara this past year. Many recipes that have appeared earlier this week in the countdown were also very popular - again, hard to narrow it down!

Blackberry Scones

Sweet Potato Cornbread

Tomato Tortellini Soup

Prosciutto and Roasted Asparagus Flatbread

Salted Caramel Mocha Bundt Cake

Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

This year the countdown is being hosted by Sarah at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. Head over there to find even more food bloggers counting down!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Countdown to 2015: Best Desserts of 2014

It shouldn't be any surprise that this is my favorite countdown day, and that this is also the day that is hardest to choose the recipes and dishes to be selected - so many great desserts. So many. The following were tremendous stand outs in the pack, even though I have never met a dessert I didn't like...

Decadent Chocolate Mint Dessert

Butterscotch Cashew Bars

Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge Cake

Autumn Pear Torte

S'mores Brownies

This year the countdown is being hosted by Sarah at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. Head over there to find even more food bloggers counting down!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Countdown to 2015: Best Snacks and Apps of 2014

I really love appetizers. I could, in fact, make a career out of visiting restaurant's happy hours to sample their savory snacks. However, I have learned through this Countdown exercise that perhaps I do not make enough appetizers at home! I better start that resolutions list...

So there are only three here, but they are super delicious.

Peach and Brie Quesadillas

Creamy Brussels Sprouts Dip

Mini Pepper Chicken Nachos

This year the countdown is being hosted by Sarah at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. Head over there to find even more food bloggers counting down!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Countdown to 2015: Best Main Dishes of 2014

Moving right along in our countdown, today we are featuring the best main dishes of 2014. I also threw in a salad, because every great main dish (especially the two pastas featured here!) need a great accompaniment. I really loved all the main dishes I made this year, and a couple will also make an appearance on Wednesday in the "Most Popular" category, so be sure to check back!

Peach Glazed Salmon

Creamy Chicken and Asparagus Pasta

Beef with Asparagus

Creamy Sausage and Mushroom Pasta with Peas

Strawberry Avocado Spinach Salad

This year the countdown is being hosted by Sarah at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. Head over there to find even more food bloggers counting down!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Countdown to 2015: Best Crockpot Recipes of 2014

Today we're reviewing the best crockpot recipes in 2014. True confession: I do not use my crockpot enough, or should I clarify, I don't try enough NEW things in the crockpot. I tend to make the same old stuff: ribs, roast, pulled pork, soups (that were posted years ago!). This year, I made three new things in the crockpot and they were all AMAZING. Here they are.

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Pot Roast Sliders

Tomorrow we'll remember the best main dishes! See you then.

This year the countdown is being hosted by Sarah at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. Head over there to find even more food bloggers counting down!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Countdown to 2015: Best Breakfasts of 2014

It's Countdown time - I love doing this each year, looking back and picking out my favorite recipes in different categories. Most times, it is very hard to choose favorites - everything is SO good! This year the countdown is being hosted by Sarah at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes. Head over there to find even more food bloggers counting down!

Today's feature is best breakfast foods. I have a hard time narrowing down this category, especially. I love making quickbreads and muffins and coffeecakes and donuts... notice the emphasis on carb-heavy breakfasts! Here are four of my favorite from this past year:

Apple Cider Donuts

Strawberry Almond Scones

Almond Poppyseed Bread

Raspberry Pancakes

Check back each day over the next week for more of my favorites from 2014 as we countdown to 2015! Tomorrow: favorite crockpot recipes!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Chocolate-Dipped Spumoni Cookies

I always like to try a few new cookie recipes each Christmas season, and as soon as I saw these, I knew they would make the list. Some of my favorite things - pistachios and cherries - are embedded in a CHEWY chocolate cookie! And then to make them even better (possible?), you dip them in chocolate and add more pistachios and cherries...

I should have asked for elastic-waisted pants for Christmas...

Find more great stuff at Inspiration Monday, Mix it up.

Chocolate-Dipped Spumoni Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups finely chopped pistachios, divided
1 1/3 cups finely chopped dried cherries, divided
1 3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. shortening

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Stir in 1 cup each pistachios and cherries.

Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until set. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

In a microwave, melt chocolate chips and shortening; stir until smooth. Dip each cookie halfway into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off; sprinkle with remaining pistachios and cherries. Place on waxed paper; let stand until set.

Makes about 6 dozen.

Recipe Source: Taste of Home

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Fudge

It is so fun to try different kinds of fudge - breaking out from the traditional "plain" chocolate is a risk worth taking! I've tried a few varieties over the years: mint chocolate, caramel chocolate, and gumdrop, but this cherry version will be one of my all time favorites, I suspect.

Dried cherries (one of the best inventions ever!) are suspended in a cherry flavored white chocolate base, and then the whole thing is covered with dark chocolate. These make a beautiful addition to any cookie tray, and would be just as appropriate for Valentine's day with the beautiful colors. (and chocolate!)

Find more great stuff at What's Cooking, Full Plate, Showcase Your Talent.

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Fudge

3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
pinch salt
1 Tbsp. cherry flavored gelatin2 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
7oz jar marshmallow creme
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
10oz dark chocolate, melted

In large saucepan, melt butter with sugar, cream and pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, add in cherry gelatin and let simmer for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes remove from heat. In mixing bowl, combine white chocolate chips and marshmallow cream. Pour hot mixture over this and beat with a whisk until smooth and creamy (and all chocolate is melted.) Fold in dried cherries.

Pour in a parchment paper lined 9-inch square pan. Pour melted dark chocolate over cherry fudge and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Recipe Source: Shugary Sweets

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ginger Nut Cookies

It's the cookie exchange for Secret Recipe Club! I was assigned to Claire K Creations, and found these delightful cookies, just in time for pre-Christmas cheer. Claire lives in Australia, and she's lucky enough to live in walking distance of a farmer's market. Here in snow covered Minnesota, I'd be happy to walk anywhere at this time of year! Anyway, I adapted her recipe slightly for American ingredients. These cookies have a really nice, light, ginger flavor. I have a molasses ginger cookie recipe that I love, and these ginger nut cookies are much more subdued, so it's nice to have a couple options when craving ginger!

Find even more great cookies below, and check out these fun link parties: Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Melt in Your Mouth.

Ginger Nut Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until smooth, creamy and fluffy. Add the molasses and egg and continue to beat until everything is just combined. Stir in the flour, baking soda, ginger and pumpkin pie spice by hand with a wooden spoon.

Use a tablespoon of dough at a time and roll it into a ball. Place the dough balls on parchment or silpat-lined baking sheets at least 1 inch apart. Flatten each dough ball slightly.

Bake the cookies at 350 for 15 minutes or until they start to turn golden. Leave them on the trays to firm for about 5 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mocha Chip Meringues

I like to try a few new cookie recipes each December, and these stand out as a favorite. I love meringue cookies, and these are made extra special by coffee flavoring and chocolate chips. Everyone will love these, but they are especially great if you have anyone in your family, or at your party, with gluten issues. No flour here! And no dairy either! Just all deliciousness. And they can be whipped up quite quickly, leaving you plenty of time to wrap presents, address Christmas cards, read Christmas stories or bake additional cookies!

Mocha Chip Meringues

3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant coffee, finely ground
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch; set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt on medium speed until frothy. Beating constantly, add sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time; beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, 6 to 8 minutes total (scrape down the bowl halfway through). Add instant coffee and cocoa; beat until well blended. With a rubber spatula, fold in chocolate chips.

Drop batter by level tablespoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake at 300 until crisp, about 40 minutes. Cool completely on sheets, about 20 minutes.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart

Monday, December 8, 2014

Decadent Chocolate Mint Dessert

When I saw this recipe last year, I knew it would be the perfect dessert for Christmas. And I was right. It is SO good. Brownies studded with mint are topped with a creamy minty filling and it's all covered in VERY thick ganache. You can cut the pieces small, because this rich dessert packs a punch! It's so perfect for the Christmas season and would make a lovely ending to any dinner party.

It won rave reviews in my family and I'm sure will make a repeat appearance soon, if not this year.

Find more inspiration at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Totally Talented, Create Link Inspire, Clever Chicks, Try a New Recipe, Tasty Tuesday, Tickle my Tastebuds.

Decadent Chocolate Mint Dessert

Brownie base:
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup butter, cubed
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
12 mint Andes candies, chopped

12 ounces cream cheese, softened (low fat is ok)
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 package (10 to 12 ounces) white baking chips
1 Tbsp. shortening
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
3 to 4 drops green food coloring
12 mint Andes candies, chopped

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream

For the brownie base: In a medium microwave-safe bowl, combine unsweetened chocolate and butter; cook on medium power in the microwave until nearly melted; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. In a large bowl, beat eggs, sugar and salt. Stir in chocolate mixture. Gradually add flour, mixing well. Fold in mint candies. Spread into a greased 9-in. springform pan. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.

For filling: in a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until blended. In a microwave, melt baking chips and shortening; stir until smooth. Cool slightly. Beat into cream cheese mixture. Add extract and food coloring. Fold in mint candies. Spread over brownie layer. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

For ganache: place chocolate in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream just to a boil. Pour over chocolate; stir with a whisk until smooth. Cool slightly. Spread ganache over filling. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until set. Remove rim from pan. Makes 12 servings.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Taste of Home

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Andes Mint Cookies

How do you Christmasfy a plain old chocolate chip cookie? Substitute Andes mints! Don't you love those? And now there are Andes baking chips, little nuggets of mint and chocolately goodness already chopped up for you. These cookies, although not fancy by any means, taste just like Christmas. And they are a good option if you have folks in your family who can't abide (why? I don't know...) some of the fancier Christmas cookies on the plate.

Find more great stuff at Full Plate Thursday, Showcase Your Talent, Foodie Friday, Weekend Bites, Friday Flash, Friday Frenzy.

Andes Mint Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 package (10 oz) Andes Creme de Menthe Baking Chips or 1 1/2 cups Andes After Dinner Mints, coarsely chopped
2 2/3 cups flour

Blend butter, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and eggs until mixed. Stir in baking chips or chopped candy and then flour. Chill at least one hour in refrigerator.

Drop spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets and then bake at 350 for approximately 8-10 minutes. Cool on pans for two minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Recipe Source: Check it out Avesta

Monday, December 1, 2014

Chicken Wild Rice Soup {Crockpot}

Isn't it rewarding to use the crockpot? On your drive home from work, you're thinking, "oh my, what am I going to do to feed this hungry crew," and then you remember, "I have dinner in the crockpot!"

That's what will happen when you make this soup. Here in Minnesota, wild rice soup is akin to apple pie, and I'm absolutely thrilled to find a version that works so well in the crockpot. This is a little different than other crockpot soups in that there are a few steps after the crocking, but the result is a wonderfully creamy, delicious and hearty soup that does most of the work while you're at work. (Or out shopping, or what have you.)

It's nearly zero degrees fahrenheit here today, so soups like these are a great way to say "welcome home."

Find more great recipes at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Melt in Your Mouth, Totally Talented, Create Link Inspire, Clever Chicks, Tasty Tuesday.

Chicken Wild Rice Soup {Crockpot!}

1 cup uncooked wild rice
2-3 chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
6 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups whole milk (or sub 3/4 cup half and half and 1 1/4 cup skim milk)

Rinse the wild rice. Place the uncooked wild rice, raw chicken, carrots, celery, onion, chicken broth, and poultry seasoning in a crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours. The chicken should be cooked through and the rice should be soft. Do not drain any remaining liquid.

Remove the chicken breasts from the crockpot and allow to cool slightly. Shred the chicken then return it to the crockpot.

When rice and chicken are done cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and let the mixture bubble for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk until a thick, creamy mixture forms.

Add this to the rice and chicken in the crockpot and stir to combine. Add extra water or milk to adjust the consistency as you like it. Season with additional salt and pepper.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Pinch of Yum

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Spiced Apple Cider Donuts

Donuts. Apple cider. It's like the chocolate/peanut butter combo - so much better together. These little gems would be a perfect breakfast on Thanksgiving morning - or any morning for that matter. They were devoured at our brunch table, and the poor scrambled eggs took a very back seat to these delicious donuts.

Reducing the apple cider on the stove top intensifies the flavor - so don't skimp on that step. After baking the donuts are dipped in melted butter and then cinnamon and sugar (another amazing combination!). The result will be melt in your mouth morsels that will disappear quickly upon serving!

Find more great ideas at Inspiration Monday, Mix it Up, Melt in Your Mouth, Totally Talented, Create Link Inspire, Clever Chicks, Tasty Tuesday, Wake Up, Hearth and Soul, What's Cooking, What's Cooking #2.

Spiced Apple Cider Donuts

1 cup apple cider
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla

2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

In a small saucepan over medium heat, simmer apple cider and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon for 15-20 minutes. Cool slightly in the refrigerator. (You can place in the freezer to accelerate the cooling, or you can reduce the cider the night before and refrigerate until you're ready to bake the donuts!)

Toss the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. In a large batter bowl, whisk the egg, melted butter, brown sugar and sugar together until smooth. Whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, and 1/2 cup of concentrated apple cider.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and very gently mix together with a wooden spoon or rubber scraper until all ingredients are just combined.

Grease a donut pan with nonstick spray, and fill each donut well 3/4 full. Bake the donuts at 350 for 9-10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Make the topping by mixing the granulated sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Dip the top of the donuts lightly into the melted butter, then dip them into the cinnamon sugar. Makes 12 donuts.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Apple Fritter Bread

The theme for this month's Improv Challenge is apples and cinnamon, one of the best combinations on the planet. There are countless options for those two ingredients, but in the end, I settled in this recipe for apple fritter bread. I love apple fritters, and I love that apple cinnamon bread they have in my local grocery, always tempting me as soon as I walk in the door...

I adapted this recipe slightly to use applesauce in place of some of the butter - since we're baking with apples we might as well increase the apple goodness, and make it easier to indulge in more than one slice!

Apple Fritter Bread

2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup applesauce
4 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup milk
4 apples, cored and chopped, and mixed with 3 Tbsp. sugar and 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar
2-4 Tbsp. milk or cream

In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and applesauce until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then mix in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Add this alternately to the creamed butter mixture with the milk, mixing just until combined.

Spread 1/4 of the batter into a greased loaf pan, and then repeat for a second pan. (You will have used half the batter now.) Layer each pan with 1/4 of the apple mixture and 1/4 of the brown sugar mixture. Carefully add 1/2 the remaining batter to each pan, then top with remaining apples and brown sugar mixture. Use a table knife to gently swirl the topping into the batter.

Bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the pans from the oven and place on a wire rack. Let cool 15 minutes, then carefully remove from pans.

For the glaze, whisk together the sugar and milk until it is your desired consistency; drizzle over loaves. Let cool completely before slicing.

These loaves freeze well, too.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Balsamic and Brown Sugar Glazed Pork Tenderloin (crock pot)

This month for Secret Recipe Club I was assigned to Veronica's Cornucopia. She has a lot of great recipes and I knew it would be hard to choose one - but as soon as I saw the recipe for balsamic and brown sugar glazed pork tenderloin, I was sold. Not only did this look super delicious and easy to put together, but it used the crock pot, one of the best inventions ever, in my humble opinion.

And I was not disappointed. I love pork tenderloin - it's one of my favorite cuts of meat, and this preparation is absolutely scrumptious. The pork is cooked on low for several hours after being rubbed with the great combination of sage and garlic, and then glazed in the last hour of cooking with the most amazing sauce - your whole house will smell fantastic, and you may be surprised when the neighbors start popping in unexpectedly! I served this with roasted sweet potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts (my favorite fall side dishes!) but I predict that no matter the season, this pork will be making many appearances on my dinner table. I hope you'll try it, too!

Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin

1 (2 pound) boneless pork tenderloin
1 tsp. rubbed sage
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 cup water

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Combine sage, salt, pepper and garlic. Rub over roast. Place in slow cooker with 1/2 cup water. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. About 1 hour before roast is done, combine ingredients for glaze in small sauce pan. Whisk well to dissolve the cornstarch, then heat and stir until mixture boils and slightly thickens. Brush roast with glaze several times during the last hour of cooking. Remove the pork to a serving plate and gently shred with two forks. Re-warm glaze and serve with pork.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Chicken Fajita Dip

I'm a huge fan of queso. HUGE. There are nights when I eat it for dinner. With chips of course. After I've had a salad for lunch. (ha!) So when I saw this doctored up version of queso, I knew I had to try it. I made it for a party and it was a big hit - the little crock pot was dipped clean by the end of the night. This is hardly any more complicated than making "regular" queso and while I still have a place in my heart for that, the chicken and peppers really take it up a notch catapulting this dip into the taste stratosphere. Get some tortilla chips and let's get dippin'!

Find more great stuff at Full Plate Thursday, Showcase Your Talent, Foodie Friday, Weekend Bites, Friday Flash, Friday Frenzy.

Chicken Fajita Dip

3 Tbsp. butter
16 oz. processed American cheese (such as Velveeta)
1 - 10 oz. can diced tomatoes and chiles (such as Rotel)
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red, orange or green pepper
1 cup chopped cooked chicken

In a small skillet over medium high heat, saute the onion and pepper in olive oil until soft. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, over medium low heat, melt the butter. Cube up the cheese and add it to the saucepan. Cook and stir until cheese is melted. Add tomatoes, peppers, onions and chicken and stir well until combined. Serve with tortilla chips.
Powered by Blogger.