December 30, 2009

My Favorite Recipes of 2009

Here are two of my favorite recipes from each month of 2009. It was really difficult to narrow it down to just two for each month, I posted 160 original recipes this year! Check out over five years' worth of recipes by browsing the archives located on the right column.

Hello, Hawaii How are You Pulled Chicken

Hello, Hawaii, How Are You? Pulled Chicken

lemon bars

Lemon Bars

nutella cheesecake squares

Nutella Cheesecake Squares

spicy peanut sauce

Spicy Peanut Sauce

Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes

Brooklyn Blackout Cupcakes

spicy peanut noodle salad

Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad

Homemade Corned Beef

Corned Beef with Deli-style Mustard


Strawberry Asparagus Salad
with Bee Pollen Dusted Hazelnuts

blueberry goat cheese muffins

Blueberry Goat Cheese Muffins

blueberry + mint cupcakes

Blueberry-Mint Cupcakes

indian taco

Indian Tacos

kiwi lemongrass icebox pie

Kiwi Lemongrass Pie

peaches & herb panini

Peaches & Herb Panini

homemade hostess sno-balls

Homemade Sno-Balls

frites with 2 sauces

Pommes Frites

Making homemade crab cakes

Baltimore-Style Crabcakes

pumpkin five spice sweet rolls

Pumpkin Five Spice Sweet Rolls

Smoked Gouda & Ham Jalapeño Poppers

Smoked Gouda and Ham Jalapeno Poppers

pomegranate wild rice salad

Pomegranate Wild Rice Salad

turkey & pea risotto
Turkey & Pea Risotto

an excellent eggplant pasta

An Excellent Eggplant Pasta

Smoked Salmon & Green Onion Latkes

December 28, 2009

Turkey with Escarole, Acorn Squash and Cannelloni Beans over Pasta

1 lb white acorn squash, peeled and cubed
1 lb escarole, chopped
15 oz canned cannelloni beans, drained
2 cups cubed cooked turkey (or chicken)
1/2 cup chicken or turkey stock
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

10 oz small shaped pasta (I used radiatori)

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Heat butter and oil in a large skillet. Saute the squash and shallot until softened. Add the escarole, turkey, garlic, salt, pepper and beans. Add the broth. Saute until cooked through. Toss with hot pasta.

My thoughts:
This is one of those recipes that really looks like nothing but is actually really, really good. I haven't cooked much with escarole before as I've rarely seen it at the store and when I looked up recipes that called for it I found a bunch of soup. Soup is well and good but frankly isn't something I generally get too excited about. I decided to just treat it as I would spinach or rapini and came up with this pasta dish using up some other ingredients I had on hand. Luckily, all of the disparate ingredients come together and create this perfect, homey, flavorful dish. The bitter greens are tempered by the sweet squash and mild turkey and the mixture forms its own sauce after a bit of broth is added. I love dinners that need little effort but yield great results!

December 25, 2009

Eggnog Waffles

2 1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 cup eggnog
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons rum or 1 teaspoon rum flavoring
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine. Follow the instructions included with your waffle iron to complete the waffles. For most large, Belgian-style waffle irons you would use 1 cup of batter for each waffle. I love my waffle maker.

Yield: 4 large Belgian-style waffles

My thoughts:
Eggnog seems to be a fairly polarizing beverage, you either love it or hate it. I guess I am in the love it camp if by loving it you mean "drink maybe one glass once a year". There is a local business that makes a nog that I enjoy (I have to draw the line at making it myself) that my mom would buy growing up. I bought some myself this year and while I enjoyed that cup, I was left with quite a bit leftover. Eggnog always strikes me as sort of breakfasty for some reason so I thought making something for breakfast might be fun. I am so happy I thought of making waffles, they were great! I used half milk and half eggnog and they had the perfect level of nogness. Rich but not sickeningly so and just really festive tasting.

December 23, 2009

Chocolate Chip Vanilla Bean Hazelnut Oatmeal Cookies

6 oz semisweet chips
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg, at room temperature
1 vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Split the vanilla bean in two down the seam. Scrape the seeds into a large bowl, then add the butter, vanilla and sugar. Cream together. Add the egg, beat until fluffy. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and oatmeal. Mix until well combined. Fold in the nuts and chips. Place tablespoon sized blobs of dough on the lined cookie sheet about 1/2 inch apart and bake for 12-14 minutes or until they look "set" and the bottoms are just golden. Carefully remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: about 2 dozen cookies

My thoughts:
The name is a bit of a mouthful but these are great cookies. Chewy, crunchy, chocolate-y. Not the most showy of cookies but I've never seen anyone turn one down. I love them because they are a bit of a change from a simple chocolate chip oatmeal cookie but are still quick to make with ingredients I have on hand. Homey, delicious and comforting. The best kind of cookie.

December 21, 2009

Tangerine Cranberry Poppy Seed Bread

2 eggs
2 1/3 cups flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup tangerine juice
2 tablespoons tangerine zest
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour or spray with baking spray 1 loaf pan or one mini loaf pan that makes 4 one cup loaves. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In separate bowl, whisk together the zest, egg, oil, juice, sour cream and buttermilk until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until a uniform batter forms. Fold in the cranberries. Pour into prepared pan. Bake about 30 minutes (in either sized pan) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in the pan on a wire rack, then remove to cool completely.

My thoughts:
I bought this mini loaf pan a while back and was excited to finally use it! I had the worst time finding the right pan. I wanted one pan with wells rather than separate small pans. I didn't want to make tiny individual sized loaves. I also didn't want to have to scale down my recipes in a complicated way or if I shared recipes for it, I didn't want to have to force people to buy a specific pan. You wouldn't believe how widely the mini loaf pans varied in size, shape and design. I decided on this one because it has four, one cup wells. A standard loaf pan holds 4 cups. That way I could make any recipe I've made in a standard pan in it and vice versa. I love that the loaves are big enough to share and get several good slices out of it. The loaves cooked very evenly and slide out of the pan easily.

I've been making a homemade gift for our neighbors for the last couple of years (different flavored nuts and then mustard) and this year I thought I'd bake a trio of quick breads to give, two sweet and one savory. The best part is that since I give three neighbors gifts and the pan makes 4 loaves of bread, we get to keep a loaf of each! I love tangerines and they are at their peak right now. They were very sweet so I paired them with tart cranberries to keep it from wandering too far into cake territory.

December 18, 2009

Chocolate Candy Cane Sandwich Cookies


for the cookies:
1 egg, at room temperature
1 cup flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

for the cream filling:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup cold butter
1/4 cup crushed candy canes
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the cookies:
Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the egg. Mix thoroughly. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until a thick dough forms. Sprinkle a clean, flat surface with flour*. Roll the dough out until 1/8 inch thick, taking care to roll only in one direction. Cut with cookie cutters. Place 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes. Carefully remove from the pan to cool on wire racks.

For the filling:
In a small pan, mix flour with milk and boil until thick. Cool. Beat until fluffy and add other ingredients (except for the candy cane bits) one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the candy cane bits. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Spread the filling on the underside of half of the cookies. Top with the remaining cookies.

*Or roll the dough out between 2 sheets of parchment paper.

Tip: Crush candy canes by placing them in a resealable bag and beat them with a rolling pin against a hard surface.

Yield: about 1 dozen cookies

My thoughts:
I know I am in the minority here but I really don't like Trader Joe's. I've just never had a positive experience there so I stopped going. That said, this time of year, I am almost tempted to go back to try the Peppermint JoJo's everyone is raving about. Almost tempted. Luckily I know how to bake and can make a cookie that is much better than any packaged cookie could hope to be. I made a simple chocolate wafer that wasn't too sweet and a sweet, creamy, no shortening allowed minty filling with crushed candy canes folded in. The perfect holiday treat!

Note: If you live in a very warm climate (indoor temperature over 85) and do not plan to eat the cookies the same day you make them, you may need refrigerate them overnight. Otherwise, store in an air tight container at room temperature.

December 16, 2009

Dill Sour Cream Rolls

3 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/4 oz active dry yeast
2 tablespoons minced dill
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs (divided use)

Place water in a a large mixing bowl, sprinkle with yeast, and let stand 5 minutes. Add the sour cream, dill, butter, sugar, salt, and one egg. Mix. Add the flour and mix (use a stand mixer with a dough hook for best results) until a slightly sticky dough forms. If the dough is too dry, add a bit of milk and remix. Grease a bowl with butter. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and allow the dough to double in size. Butter a 13x9 inch pan. Divide the dough into 12-15 pieces. Roll each into a ball. Place in the baking pan (I ended up with 3 rows of 5 rolls each). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Allow to sit on the counter until it doubles in bulk. Preheat oven to 375. Beat an egg and brush it over the rolls. Bake for 20 minutes or until fully cooked through.

Note: If you want to bake the rolls the same day you mix the dough together, just skip the refrigeration step and continue on to the second rise.
My thoughts:
Until I made these rolls I had never refrigerated dough overnight before baking before. I know it isn't that uncommon of a practice (a lot of people email me about my various yeast recipes asking if there is a step where they can refrigerate the dough) but since I work from home I've never had much reason to try it out. When I wanted to bring fresh rolls to an early event, I thought it was the perfect excuse. I am happy to say it worked perfectly, the dough rose perfectly the next day and the rolls were light, fluffy and tender. The dill and sour cream pair wonderfully together and bring new life to the classic dinner roll without being overwhelming or pickle-y. The creamy butter I used from Challenge Dairy give the rolls a rich taste with minimal effort and was great spread on the rolls themselves.

December 14, 2009

Smoked Salmon & Green Onion Latkes

2 1/2 lbs Russet potatoes, grated
1 medium onion, grated
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup minced smoked salmon (lox)
1/4 cup matzo meal
1/4 cup finely minced green onion (green parts only)

canola oil

In a large pan, heat about 1/4 inch oil. In a large bowl, toss all of the igredients together to combine.

Form into flat patties. Fry in hot oil, flipping half way through, until just golden.

Drain on paper towel lined plates.

Yield: about a dozen latkes, depending on size.

My thoughts:
I love latkes. What is there not to love about a crispy, fried potato? Making them the exact same way year after year can be a bit boring however. This year I decided to add one of my absolute favorite foods, smoked salmon, to my latkes. I wasn't quite sure how it would turn out but after a test latke was a rousing success, I made a whole batch. Crispy potato + freshness from the green onion + smoky flavor from the salmon = best latkes ever. They are exceptionally good when eaten with sour cream, which really brings out the flavor of the smoked salmon.

A quick note about methods:
For this year's latkes I once again used my mandoline which made great, long, thin strips that cooked quickly and gave off very little liquid. That said, you don't need a mandoline to make great latkes, a box grater works fine. I don't recommend (as some do) using a food processor to grate the potatoes, it breaks down the starches and gives the latkes a gluey consistency.

December 11, 2009

Bittersweet Cranberry Brownies

3/4 cup butter
12 oz bittersweet chocolate chunks
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour

Heat oven to 350. Grease or spray with baking spray a 8x8 baking pan* very thoroughly. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter. Add 3/4 cup chocolate chunks. Cook mixture over low heat, stirring constantly. Chocolate should be thoroughly melted. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla until well mixed. Stir in flour and remaining chocolate chunks and stir until the flour is incorporated. Fold in the cranberries. Bake about 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or with just one or two sticky crumbs. Cool on wire rack before slicing and serving.

My thoughts:
When local Baltimore skyline fixture Domino sugar offered me a tiny stipend to create new recipe for a holiday treat, I knew exactly what I had to make.

This is pretty much the richest baked good I've posted here. Three eggs? 3/4 cup of butter? 12 oz of bittersweet chocolate? In a 8x8 inch pan? Insanity. Well, maybe not totally insane but definitely squarely placed in the decadent dessert sphere. This is a very, very good brownie. It is of the chewy around the edges-gooey in the middle branch of the brownie tree. They are thick, super, super chocolate-y and each bite is immensely satisfying. The cranberries are wonderfully tart and chewy which contrasts well with the dark chocolate. No one would ever guess that you could whip up a batch (in a single pot!) in under 15 minutes*. I am not even a big fan of brownies and I could not get enough of them, the mix of deep dark chocolate and tart cranberries is just divine.

*Not including baking time, of course.

December 09, 2009

Slow Cooker Galbi Jjim

3 lbs boneless beef short ribs
4 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cubed
2 onions, halved and sliced
2 green onions, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 carrots, cut into 1 inch long chunks

for the sauce:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon gochujang* (optional)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients. Set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the ribs and boil 10 minutes to render off the fat. Use tongs to fish out the meat. Place in a 4 quart oval slow cooker (I used this one). Top with the remaining ingredients. Pour the sauce over top. Cover and cook on low 8 hours or until the beef is falling apart tender.

*Korean hot pepper paste

My thoughts:
Galbi jjim is a Korean sweet-soy braised short rib dish that is almost more of a stew than a straight up roast or braise. Traditionally, the ribs are bone-in but using boneless ribs makes for a less fatty finished product which is preferred when slow cooking. We used mirin for a touch of sweetness without having to use a lot of sugar (or as I've seen, I swear: soda) in the sauce. I also used butternut squash instead of the oft seen potato because it added natural sweetness and a bit of seasonal flair. It is one of my favorite, easy comfort food dishes.

The boiling step might seem unnecessary, but you would be amazed at how much fat gets removed in the process and how tender the meat is. Need proof of the fat rendering splendor? There will be a lot of fat in the leftover water and virtually none in the finished dish. Since there is little evaporation in slow cooker and meat is cooked for such a long time, it is important to use lean meats lest the meat becomes greasy and stringy. Believe me, I've done a ton of slow cooking. Lean meat is the way to go. I found that fattier cuts of meat can be successfully used in the slow cooker if they were sauteed (good for stews or chili) or boiled (ribs). Meat that has been slow cooked in a slow cooker becomes meltingly tender and just don't need loads of fat to be flavorful.

December 07, 2009

An Excellent Eggplant Pasta

1 3/4 to 2 lb cubed eggplant
28 oz canned crushed tomato
14 oz canned diced tomato
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large cubanelle pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
3 tablespoons minced oregano
3 tablespoons minced basil
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

1 lb pasta (I used cavatappi aka cellentani)
shredded fresh mozzarella (about 1/2 cup)
grated Parmesan (about 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350. Meanwhile, cook the pasta until almost al dente. Drain and set aside. Place the eggplant into colander. Sprinkle with salt. Allow to sit and drain for about 10 minutes then rinse it off thoroughly. In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, pepper and garlic. Saute over low heat until the onion is soft. Add the eggplant and saute for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and spices. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Stir into the pasta. Pour the mixture into a 13x9 baking dish. Sprinkle with a layer of mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Note: It is important to salt the eggplant and make sure the liquid in the sauce is mostly evaporated or the dish will be unappetizingly wet and soggy; eggplant gives off a lot of liquid. Resist the temptation to skip either of these steps.

My thoughts:
This one of those "more than the sum of its parts" recipes. I thought it would be good (frankly, I was just happy to use up this enormous eggplant I had) but it turned out to be so great I had to share it with you. The simmering and baking of the eggplant made it velvety smooth and silky creamy without even a hint of bitterness or stringy texture. It was like a whole new vegetable. The cubanelle pepper added a fresh tasting yet subtle spice that worked well with the red onion and tomatoes. I am honestly contemplating never making a red sauce without cubanelle peppers again. Reducing the sauce really concentrated the flavor and took it to a level of deliciousness not always found in baked pasta dishes where people often look for meat or cheese for flavor. I didn't want to leave cheese completely behind but it only needed a light sprinkling to bump it over the top and towards pasta bake perfection.

After eating this I realized one could sort of think of it as a healthier version of eggplant Parmesan, the eggplant isn't breaded and fried but there is that wonderful mix of eggplant, sauce and cheese that is so comforting. This time of year, who couldn't use a cozy new dish to add to their repertoire?

December 04, 2009

Greek Influenced Lamb Kabobs

1 lb cubed lamb
8 ounces crimini mushrooms
1 red onion, cut into wedges

for the marinade:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup diced red onion

Place the lamb in a quart sized resealable bag or marinating container. In a small bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Pour over the lamb. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 8.

Thread on skewers, alternating the meat and vegetables. Since it's chilly out, broil or if possible use an indoor grill. In warmer weather I'd probably grill these outside. Cook until the lamb is nearly cooked through; it took only 3 minutes at 400 in my indoor grill.

My thoughts:
My husband loves lamb. I didn't eat it growing up so it isn't something that immediately springs to mind when trying to decide what to have for dinner. Not to mention how difficult it is to find good lamb locally (for this recipe I used not local but amazing tender grass fed lamb from Lava Lake Lamb). Anyway, while kabobs struck me as slightly cliched, I was missing summer grilling so I went for it. I didn't want to use any ingredients that were egregiously out of season so I decided on a simple red onion and mushroom pairing and I am really glad I did, the lamb was flavorful and juicy and the whole thing took about 5 minutes to make. You just can't beat that. It is especially good served with lemon-oregano roasted eggplant and potatoes which has similar flavors.

December 02, 2009

Chicken & Mushrooms with Rice

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
12 oz evaporated milk
8 oz diced crimini mushrooms
2 cups cooked long grain rice
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 cup diced green onion
1/4 cup chicken stock
2 shallots, minced
2 eggs
1 stalk celery, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside. In a small skillet, heat the oil. Add the shallot, chicken and mushroom and saute until the chicken starts brown and the shallots, celery and mushrooms are soft. Pour into a bowl and add rice, cheese, green onion. In a small bowl, whisk together the spices, egg and evaporated milk. Pour over the rice mixture. Stir to evenly distribute all ingredients. Pour into the casserole dish. Cover and bake for about 45 minutes or until the the chicken is fully cooked and the dish looks "set".

Note: If the dish is still runny looking but looks otherwise fully cooked, remove the cover and cook until some of the excess liquid evaporates. This is mostly an issue if the lid of your dish is very tight fitting.

My thoughts:
Recently a reader emailed me asking if I had a chicken and rice casserole recipe that that didn't use condensed cream of mushroom soup. Now, I didn't grow up in a casserole eating family so I actually haven't eaten too many casseroles much less made them but I had a good idea what I was up against. My husband is just getting over a bout of illness so I thought it would be the perfect time to make this comforting dish. I used undiluted evaporated milk because it tastes much creamier than milk but isn't nearly as high in fat as cream or half and half or even whole milk. I sauteed the chicken, shallots and celery to add a depth of flavor that canned soup just can't deliver. Using cooked rice (you can even leave leftover rice from another meal) eliminates the "will this dry out before it is finished cooking" issue that baking raw rice often runs into and gives the dish a creamy, more risotto-like texture.