Monday, January 31, 2011

Sausage, Pepper and Onion Hoagies

The inspiration for this recipe came from me scoping out the bakery clearance section at my local Kroger as I often do.  I got a 4-pack of hoagie rolls for $0.99 versus the $2.99 that they were at regular price.

You can save quite a bit of money by checking out the Manager Specials in each section of the store (like bakery, meat, frozen, produce, etc.).  And, if you plan on making the meal that same day or within a day (maybe more depending on what it is and the sell-by date on the package), you won't be compromising freshness.  Another money-saving tip?  My brother-in-law Justin says that if you go to the deli section near closing time, all the meat that is open is offered at half price.  He used to go to Meijer on his way home from work to load up on lunch meat and then make subs for the week. How's that for a deal?!

I had to buy other ingredients like the sausage (whoa that was expensive!...$2.99 for a package.) and bell peppers which increased the overall cost of this meal but if you shop right, this can be an inexpensive meal.  Better yet, it's pretty delicious.

I changed Rachel's recipe a little bit.  The original recipe called for 3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage AND 3/4 pound spicy Italian sausage.  Not wanting to be out $6 just for the meat and seeing that a single package was already about 1 1/4 pounds I decided to just go with a single package of sweet Italian sausage.  She also called for two cubanelle peppers (light green mild Italian peppers) but I couldn't find those so I decided to substitute a single green bell pepper instead.  It gave it a nice color contrast and the flavor was right for me.  Last but not least, instead of investing even more money on a jar of the types of peppers Rachel suggestions, I decided to just use some of my giant jar of sliced jalapenos.  Since I knew this would carry a bit more heat than the more mild peppers she suggests, I figured if I went with the sweet sausage I wouldn't miss the mix of sweet + spicy sausage.

Overall I'd say the filling is very flavorful with the sweet and spicy sausage and the addition of the pepper juice gave it a unique tang.  I loved the crispy bread in this recipe and was reminded how good hoagies can be for a quick dinner.

One Year Ago: Mexican Chicken Spaghetti 

Sausage, Pepper, and Onion Hoagies
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Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yields: 4 Servings

  • 1 package (~19 oz) Italian or hot Italian sausage links  
  • 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan  
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed   
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced  
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced  
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced  
  • Salt and pepper  
  • 2 or 3 jarred hot cherry peppers, banana peppers, pepperoncini or jalapenos, finely chopped  
  • 2 tablespoons hot pepper juice, from the jar

For Assembling Hoagies:
  • 4 crusty, semolina submarine sandwich rolls, 8 inches, sesame seeded or plain
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning (or 1/2 teaspoons each oregano, thyme, parsley)
  1. Place the sausages in a large nonstick skillet. Pierce the casings with a fork. Add 1-inch water to the pan. Bring liquid to a boil. Cover sausages, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
  2. Heat a second skillet over medium high heat. Add oil, 2 turns of the pan. Add garlic, onion, cubanelle and red peppers. Season vegetables with salt and pepper.
  3. Drain sausages and return pan to stove, raising heat back to medium high. Add a drizzle of oil to the skillet, brown and crisp the casings. Remove sausages, slice into 2 inch pieces on an angle and set pieces back into the pan to sear.
  4. Split and toast the bread under broiler. Melt oil, butter together in small pan over medium heat. Add garlic and let it sizzle 1 or 2 minutes. Brush rolls with garlic butter and sprinkle with a little dried Italian seasoning blend.
  5. Combine the cooked peppers and onions to the sausages. Add hot peppers and hot pepper juice to the skillet. Toss and turn the sausage, peppers and onions, picking up all the drippings from the pan. Pile the meat and peppers into the garlic sub rolls and serve.
Source: Slightly modified from Rachel Ray

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

I used to think that Kraft Mac and Cheese from a box was the shizz.  The processed powdered cheese didn't freak me out one bit and it tasted deliciously creamy to me.  The baked homemade mac and cheese recipes that I had tasted just never really did it for me.  The cheese was either dry and crumbly or quite greasy.  And let's not forget that hard crusty layer of melted cheese on top.  Blech.  Truth be told, I was happy as a clam eating my soft, creamy boxed mac and cheese.  That is, until I discovered this mac and cheese...

Oh Mr. Alton Brown you've outdone yourself this time.  A homemade mac and cheese that is MORE delicious and nutritious than the blue boxed stuff?  AND it's practically as easy?!?  Sold.  For now, this recipe, my friends, is now my go-to simple mac and cheese.  I can't say it'll be my favorite forever because I have more mac and cheese recipes bookmarked than I can count on both hands but for now, this is it.

I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as I did!

PS: Here's another general cheese tip.  Did you know that if you buy blocks of cheese it melts more smoothly and creamily (is that a word??).  The reason is that the pre-shredded cheese has an anti-caking agent on it.  This basically means it helps the shredded cheese from sticking on itself but then when you melt it the texture is a little different than if it weren't there.  So go ahead, buy a block of cheese (bonus: often times it's actually cheaper, too!) and either give it a whirl in your food processor for fast shredding action or pull out the old fashioned box grater and give that arm some exercise.  If you work for it you get to eat more :).

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Yields: 6-8 servings
Cook Time: 25 minutes

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni (or your favorite small shape pasta)
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.
  2. Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. With pot off the heat, stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy. 
Source: Alton Brown

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cookies and Cream Oreo Look-Alike Cake

January is a month filled with Birthdays in my family.  My mom, Grandma, brother-in-law Justin, cousin Jim, and brother's girlfriend Diana all have their birthday within a single week of each other.  Thankfully this year my sister took the lead on making my mom a pull-apart cupcake cake (and paid tribute to all other January birthdays in the decoration).  But, I still wanted to do something special for Justin.

You see, this year on Justin's birthday it dumped a ton of snow on the city and therefore nobody felt like going out to celebrate.  Cincinnati is a strange city.  Even though we get a considerable amount of snow every year the city just doesn't seem to know how to effectively handle it and Cincinnati drivers freak out at the mere mention of snow.  God help you if you are on the road and there are *gasp*...snow flurries!  Traffic will crawl along the highway going 20mph (if you're lucky!), cars will be doing 360s and spinning off the roads, and it will ultimately take a minimum of 2x (if not 8x) as long to get where you're going.  No joke - one time it took me FOUR HOURS to get home for what is normally a 30 minute commute.  For some reason it seems like the road crews find it appropriate to wait until it STOPS snowing before they get out and plow and oh, in the mean time they'll dump salt on the road to make it a nice slushy mess.  Cincinnatians will rush the grocery stores for bread and milk the night to "stock up" before predicted snow and schools will cancel the evening before.   It gets so bad that for those whose companies allow for it, people will just plain stay at home to avoid the headaches.  Seriously.  All hell breaks loose in this city when the "white death" is upon us.

As for me?  I was abducted by Asians and sequestered away in a 4-day long residential training program for work during all of this snow nonsense.  Thank goodness.  But like I said, when the weekend came and we were ready to celebrate Justin's belayed birthday, I thought he certainly deserved a cake.

Justin, like his brother, likes peanut butter.  But honestly I was all peanut buttered out and short on time.  Thank goodness I found this recipe for a Cookies and Cream Cake which is doctored-up cake mix!  Let's be serious for second, who DOESN'T love cookies and cream?  And, I have to say that this is one of the easiest cakes I have made and yet it looks impressive and homemade.  What would have looked nicer is if my cake hadn't split across the top layer during transport but no matter...I'm happy to report that the birthday boy loved his cake.  He just says the cake is so delicious that it looks like it's eating itself :). 

By the way, this is uber rich so either share with a friend or make your slices small!

Oh and for good measure, he's a picture of my mom and Diana with their Pull-apart Cupcake Cake that Kelly made and I helped to decorate. a side note, I'm kind of anal and didn't post this as my first picture because then it'd forever show up in the thumbnail previews as the photo associated with this recipe and I didn't want that because then it wouldn't match lol!

One Year Ago: Ham and Potato Soup

Cookies and Cream Oreo Look-Alike Cake
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For the Cake:
  • 1 Box of Chocolate of Devil's Food Cake Mix (or substitute your favorite homemade chocolate cake)
For the Filling:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) heavy whipping cream
  • 12 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped
 For the Ganache:
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) unsalted butter, cubed
  1. Prepare cake batter and bake in 2 (9-inch) round pans as directed on package. Cool cakes in pans 10 min. Invert cakes onto wire racks; gently remove pans. Cool cakes completely. 
  2. To make the filling, with a stand or hand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the heavy whipping cream on low until it starts to become frothy and thick. Gradually increase the speed and whisk until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl beat together the cream cheese and sugar until well-blended and smooth. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in ¼ of the whipped cream to lighten the cream cheese mixture. Fold in the remaining whipped cream, and then the chopped Oreos.
  4. Place one layer of the cake on a serving plate, spread the filling mixture on top, and top with the second cake layer.
  5. To make the ganache, microwave the chocolate and butter in a small microwavable bowl in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until the butter is melted. Cool for 5 minutes.
  6. Spread the ganache over the top of the cake and let stand until firm. Keep refrigerated.
Source: Brown Eyed Baker who was inspired by Kraft

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    Parmesan Chicken Meatloaf

    Did you like that mash-up between two American classics that I posted earlier this week?  Buffalo wings and mac and cheese.  Two very comforting favorites that you wouldn't think to put together but when you do they sing in perfect harmony.  Together they make the wonder that is Buffalo Chicken Casserole.  This is another recipe kind of like that.

    If an Italian classic were to make a love child with another American classic, what you'd end up with is this Parmesan Chicken Meatloaf.  It has the flavor of Parmesan Chicken (minus the crispiness) but is shaped and served like a meatloaf.  Given that Chris LOVES Parmesan Chicken (it is his absolute go-to menu item at ANY Italian restaurant) yet hates meatloaf I was skeptical on how he'd react to this.  Thankfully he found this dish to be more akin to Parmesan Chicken so he gave it his stamp of approval and asked me to add it to the rotation.  I breathed a big sigh of relief because now I can give him the flavor he loves without the complicated mess of breading and frying chicken.  Win!

    You know what's a bigger win?  The fact that Joelen, the mastermind behind this recipe, provides make-ahead/freezer directions.  Yup, stock your freezer with these babies for a quick and delicious man-pleasing meal :).  By the way, I didn't personally test this recipe on children since I don't have any of those but I'm willing to bet they'd love this, too!

    One Year Ago: Italian Stuffed Chicken Breast

    Parmesan Chicken Meatloaf
    Printer-Friendly Version

    • 1 lb ground chicken (ground turkey can be substituted...but then it'd be Parmesan Turkey Meatloaf which doesn't quite have the same ring, now does it?  Just don't use ground beef.)
    • 1 egg
    • 1/4 breadcrumbs
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
    • 1 small onion, grated
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 cup pasta sauce (homemade or store bought)
    • 1/2 cup shredded Italian cheese blend
    • Minced parsley for garnish
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a loaf pan with cooking spray, set aside.
    2. In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, thyme, oregano, basil, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese. To not over handle the mixture otherwise it will get tough. Place the mixture in the greased loaf pan and form into a loaf. Top the meatloaf with pasta sauce.
    3. Place filled loaf pan on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and sprinkle the top with the remaining shredded cheese. Place the meatloaf back in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted.
    4. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving/slicing. Garnish with parsley if desired.
    * To make ahead/freezer meal - Prepare the meatloaf mixture as directed and place in a disposable loaf pan. Cover and freeze. When ready to prepare and serve, defrost the meatloaf completely and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Top with pasta sauce and place filled loaf pan on a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and sprinkle the top with the remaining shredded cheese. Place the meatloaf back in the oven and bake until the cheese is melted. Remove the meatloaf from the oven and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving/slicing. Garnish with parsley if desired.

    Source: Joelen's Culinary Adventures

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Buffalo Chicken Casserole

    As I look at this picture I can't really get over how unappetizing it looks to me.  I just looks gloppy and...gross.  They say that people eat with their eyes (and that often times, your eyes are bigger than your stomach!) so I'm just going to put this out there and hope that you've got some beer goggles on and can see beyond the ugly photo to the tasty beauty that I know is inside.  Because it would truly be a sad thing for you to miss out on this new twist on a classic chicken noodle casserole recipe.

    I personally would have LOVED to put the blue cheese crumbles in and on top of this casserole but Chris simply would not allow for that.  Hence, I substituted shredded cheddar.   If you can, I'd definitely do the blue as I can only imagine it'd make this taste heavenly.  Yum.  Blue cheese.

    One Year Ago: Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies

    Buffalo Chicken Casserole

    Buffalo Chicken Casserole

    Yields: 8 servings
    Active Time:

    Total Time:


    • 8 ounces whole-wheat elbow noodles (or whatever type of small shaped noodles you have on hand)
    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    • 3 medium carrots, sliced
    • 3 medium stalks celery, sliced
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
    • 1/3 cup cornstarch
    • 4 cups low-fat milk
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/3 cup hot sauce, preferably Frank’s Red Hot
    • 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 4 ounces)
    1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
    2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles until barely tender, about 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain, rinse and set aside.
    3. Heat oil in the pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink on the outside, 5 to 7 minutes.
    4. Whisk cornstarch and milk in a medium bowl; add to the pot along with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often, until bubbling and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in hot sauce.
    5. Spread the noodles in a 9-by-13-inch (or similar 3-quart) baking dish. Top with the chicken mixture; sprinkle with blue cheese.
    6. Bake the casserole until it is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
    Source: Eating Well September/October 2010 as seen on Cook, Pray, Love

    Nutritional Information
    Per serving: 441 calories; 12 g fat (5 g sat, 5 g mono); 79 mg cholesterol; 47 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 37 g protein; 5 g fiber; 671 mg sodium; 619 mg potassium.

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    Football Snackadium

    Soooo...I hear that NFL Playoffs are winding down and the Super Bowl is coming up in a couple weeks thus I felt it appropriate to share this "recipe" for the Football Snackadium.  After all, I did promise that I would earlier this week when I shared the Blooming Onion recipe.

    Honestly, since the Bengals sucked this year I didn't follow football AT ALL this season (not that I ever really follow it any season...).  But, in the spirit of tailgating I hosted our Dinner Club in September by having a Tailgating theme.  I served this and Who Loves Ya Baby Back? ribs.

    Normally when someone makes a Snackadium it comes in EPIC proportions and is designed to feed a huge crowd.  It gained popularity when it was posted to This is Why You're Fat because they're so big and full of unhealthy snack foods.  Since there were only 10 of us and I knew there would be plenty of delicious food I scaled mine down so the whole thing (including chips) fit inside of a 2 1/2 quart oval casserole dish.  A mini-snackadium.  Tres cute!  If you want to scale yours up, suggest you use Sara's Piggly-Wiggly Blog for guidance.

    You can make your Snackadium easy by buying pre-made dips and just setting up the stadium or you can go all out and make your dips from scratch.  I went healthier with mine and used hummus instead of the traditional queso dip and served with baby carrots and celery in addition to chips.  Oh and if you're *really* trying to impress (and give your guests a cardiac arrest) you'd create a barricade out of food too but like I said, I went easy and small scale so a casserole dish served as my arena.  The recipe which I'll list below is pretty loose.  Go ahead and just have fun with this one.

    Who are you rooting for and who do you think is going to be this year's Super Bowl champ?

    One Year Ago: Basic Pizza Dough 

    Football Snackadium

    Football Snackadium

    • 3 Types of dip - salsa, gaucamole, queso, ranch, hummus, spinach dip, etc.
    • Sour cream (optional - for field lines)
    • 2 Slim Jims
    • Assortment of chips and/or veggies - tortilla chips, fritos, pita chips, cheetos, doritos, pretzels, baby carrots, celery slices, etc.
    • To go all out: Rice crispy treats, pigs in a blanket, cocktail weiners
    Additional Supplies
    • Toothpicks
    • Rectangular container (9 x 13 baking pan for large scale; Small tupperware container that nests within casserole dish for mini) 
    • Oval casserole dish (optional)
    • Foil (if you're picky and don't like your dips to mix...personally my dips were thick enough in texture and small enough in quantity that I thought this was unnecessary)
    1. If creating a mini-snackadium, put rectangular pan into the center of your casserole dish.  In your rectangular pan, if desired, create foil dividers to create 2 end-zones and a center field area.  Fill each of the three zones with a different type of dip (suggest something green like guacamole or spinach dip for center field).   
    2. Cut Slim Jim into 4 pieces.  Use toothpicks to secure them in the shape of a field goal.  Stick it into the end-zone (if you have trouble getting it to stand, use a toothpick to connect the supporting post to a block of cheese).  Repeat this process for the other field goal.  If desired, pipe sour cream lines onto the field.  Place mini-cocktail weiners on the field to represent the "players".
    3. Fill casserole dish with "fans" (ie: your assortment of chips and veggies).  
    4. Serve and watch the fans go wild!
    Source: Inspiration from The Piggly-Wiggly

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    French Dip Sandwiches

    This is one of those recipes that is really easy but seems more complex.  Perhaps in my mind its because the sandwiches are served with a side of au jus.  Oooh, that's French and sounds fancy!

    I assure you that anybody can make this dish and leftovers taste even better the next day or freeze beautifully for a quick freezer meal.  It's so easy even my college-aged brother can do it.  Plop meat, liquids, and seasonings into crockpot in the morning.  Turn on low to cook all day.  Drive your cutie pie dog nuts with the delicious beefy aroma as it slowly cooks in the juices.  Split a hoagie roll and slather some mayo and spices on one side.  Add shredded beef from crockpot and top with cheese.  If desired, make it all toasty by using your broiler.  Dip in delicious au jus and let the deliciousness melt in your mouth.

    I'm adding this recipe into my rotation and you should, too.  It got the stamp of approval from my husband AND father-in-law who now attempts to stop by on the weekends to help around the house in exchange for a nice home cooked lunch.

    One Year Ago: Copycat Chipotle Burrito Bols and Corn and Avocado Salsa

    French Dip Sandwiches
    Printer-Friendly Version 


    Yields: 4 Sandwiches

    • 2 pounds beef chuck roast
    • 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
    • 1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
    • 1/2 tablespoon chopped bay leaves
    • 1/2 cup soy sauce (I use low sodium to cut the saltiness)
    • 3 cups water 
    For the Sandwiches
    • 4 hoagie rolls or french bread, cut in half horizontally
    • 4 slices provolone cheese (or cheese of your choice)
    • light mayonnaise
    • dried parsley*
    • dried thyme*
    • dried basil* 
    *Note: You may desire to substitute a pre-mixed Italian seasoning in lieu of using separate spices

    1. Place meat in crock pot. Sprinkle with garlic, rosemary and bay leaves. Add in soy sauce and water. Cover and cook on low for 6-10 hours until the meat is tender and is easily pulled away with a fork.
    2. To assemble the sandwiches: Take bottom piece of your bread roll & add the meat. Top with cheese. On top half of the roll spread a thin layer of mayonnaise and sprinkle with dried herbs.  If desired place open faced sandwich in oven and broil until bun is lightly toasted and cheese is melted and bubbly.  Place top half on top of sandwich. 
    3. If desired, skim the fat off the top of the au jus remaining in crockpot.  Then, place some of the au jus  into a small bowl and serve with sandwiches for dipping. 
    Source: Slightly modified from All Recipes as seen on Macaroni and Cheesecake

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Cheddar Cauliflower Soup

    Chris. Hates. Cauliflower.

    But this soup made him a believer.  In fact, he went back for seconds and said he couldn't even tell there was any cauliflower in it.  Wahaha, hidden veggies!  Did you ever notice how cheese is a great mask for healthy foods?  This soup is a great twist on its more famous cousin, broccoli cheddar soup, and packs a complex flavor punch from the leeks.
    Leeks.  Prior to this recipe I had not worked with leeks before and had no idea how to wash them (boy they're dirty!) nor how much of it to use (just the whites, just the greens, all of it??).  I just went about my business and used the whole thing in this recipe.  Now looking back and reading more carefully and looking at the recipe picture it looks like they only used the whites and light green.  I say it turned out well so hey, more green is more fiber and more flavor!  Oh and hey, if a little dirt got in the final dish it's just adding an ummm...earthy flavor :).  Since then I've gotten The New Best Recipe from the Authors of Cook's Illustrated for Christmas and found they had a blurb on how to wash and cut leeks.  This version on eHow is pretty much the same.

    Don't let the leeks scare you.  They're just like green onions on steroids :).  In fact, I'm really starting to enjoy leeks.  They starred in a carmelized form for my New Year's Brunch quiche, helping me to check off one of my 23 Things I Want to Make in 2011 List.  (Now to blog about that recipe...)

    This soup will warm you up on a cold night and oooh, only 186 calories per serving!

    One Year Ago: It was the dinner that I cooked up to celebrate my Mom's birthday!  On the eclectic menu was Zuppa Toscana, Sun Dried Tomato, Basil and Parmesan Muffins, Shrimp Scampi Bake, and the infamous Chinese Bolo Bao with Nai Wong Filling.

    Cheddar Cauliflower Soup
    Printer-Friendly Version

    Yields: 8 servings (1 cup each)
    Cook Time: 35 Minutes

    • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced and rinsed
    • 4 cups chopped cauliflower florets (from 1 medium head)
    • 2 1/2 cups low-fat milk, divided
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon white or black pepper
    • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring, until very soft, about 5 minutes. Add cauliflower, 2 cups milk, water, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is soft, about 8 minutes.
    2. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup milk and flour in a small bowl. When the cauliflower is soft, remove the bay leaf and stir in the milk mixture. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the soup has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat. Stir in cheese and lemon juice.  If desired, create a smoother soup by using a potato masher or blender.
    Source: Eating Well, January/February 2010

    Nutritional Information: 186 calories; 11 g fat (5 g sat, 3 g mono); 27 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 10 g protein; 2 g fiber; 488 mg sodium; 198 mg potassium; Vitamin C (45% daily value), Calcium (27% dv); Vitamin A (15% dv).

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Blooming Onion with Dipping Sauce

    This post is for Nicole.  A self-proclaimed massochist who desired that I post this as my next blog update because seeing the Peanut Butter Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts in my Nest signature was too much to bare.  Honestly I don't know if this is that much healthier but it's fried and who can argue with fried?

    Bloomin' onions are a signature appetizer from Outback Steakhouse and I thought the flavor of the crispy batter and spicy dipping sauce from this recipe is dead on.  Paying outrageous prices for fried onions will become a thing of the past because now you can just do it at home!  The directions look compliated but I was surprised by how easy it was to do.  Truly the only thing you're doing is doing lots of cutting like spokes in a bike wheel.  My only complaint (other than the greasy fried smell that it leaves in your house...yuck!) is that the petals were a bit hard to pull off.  This is completely my own fault as I was too lazy to remove the core of the onion.  There's apparently an actual blooming onion tool that you can buy online but it's just as easy to do with a regular old knife (and my knife skills suck...).  If you're feeling extra lazy and don't care about the blooming presentation feel free to just cut them into onion petals or rings.

    For best results, gently pull apart the petals and put the onion bloom side down in a ice water bath for at least 30 minutes.  This helps the onion to bloom.  I also found it easiest to use a deep fryer but a deep pot filled with oil will work just as well.  Just make sure you heat your oil to the correct temperature - too hot and it'll burn before the onions is cooked; too cold and you'll end up with a soggy exterior.

    I made a double batch of this and a pan of Clone of a Cinnabons for our Restaurant Copy Cats Themed Dinner Club (a fantastic theme, by the way.  Perhaps my favorite!).  Photo credit goes to Emily, again.  I'd suggest making this one for your football parties or game night.  It's sure to impress!

    Need more Game Food inspiration?  Try Pizza Bites, Pretzel Bites, Classic Chili or one of my dips.   Also stay tuend for a post on my Snackadium.  Not sure what that is?  Check out this page to learn more!

    One Year Ago: Baked Sausage Ziti and Sushi

    Blooming Onion with Dipping Sauce

    Blooming Onion with Dipping Sauce
    Photo Credit: Emily H.

    Yields: 4 Servings


    For the Blooming Onion:
    • 1 egg
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/3 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 large sweet onion
    • 3/4 cup vegetable oil for frying
    For the Dipping Sauce:
    • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
    • 1 tablespoon ketchup
    • 2 tablespoons cream-style horseradish sauce
    • 1/3 teaspoon paprika
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1 pinch ground black pepper
    • 1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1. To make sauce: In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, ketchup, horseradish, 1/3 teaspoon paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon oregano, a dash ground black pepper and cayenne pepper; mix well. Keep sauce covered in refrigerator until needed.
    2. To make the batter: In a medium bowl, beat egg and add milk. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, ground black pepper, oregano, thyme and cumin; mix.
    3. To slice onion: slice 1 inch off of the top and bottom of the onion and remove the papery skin. Use a thin knife to cut a 1 inch diameter core out of the middle of the onion. Now slice the onion several times down the center to create 'petals': First slice through the center of the onion to about three-fourths of the way down. Turn the onion 90 degrees and slice it again in an X across the first slice. Keep slicing the sections in half, very carefully until the onion has been cut 16 times. Do not cut down to the bottom of the onion.
    4. Spread the 'petals' of the onion apart. To help keep them separate you could plunge the onion into boiling water for 1 minute and then into ice water.  Keep the onions bloom side down in the ice bath for at least 30 minutes to allow onion to bloom. 
    5. Dip the onion into the milk mixture and then coat it liberally with the flour mixture. Again separate the petals and sprinkle the dry coating between them. Repeat with a second layer of milk mixture and follow again with flour coating.
    6. Heat oil in a deep fryer or deep pot to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Make sure you use enough oil to completely cover the onion when it fries.
    7. Fry the onion right side up in the oil for 10 minutes or until it turns brown. When the onion has browned, remove it from the oil and let it drain on a rack or paper towels. If desired, open the onion wider from the center so that you can put a small dish of the dipping sauce in the center.
    Source: All Recipes

    Sunday, January 9, 2011

    DIET BUSTER ALERT: Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts

    DIET BUSTER ALERT: If you're on a diet or have resolved to not eat sweets after stuffing one too many Christmas treats down your pipe last month I advise that you exit this page.  Now.

    Still here?  Alright fellow non-dieters and sweet lovers, you're in for something  very very delicious in this post.  If you're actually on a diet and you're still here, you must be a masochist or each their own :).

    You know what's funny is that the healthy White Bean Roasted Red Pepper Dip that I posted last was like one of my least visited posts ever.  Clearly you all are like me and aren't down with the healthy mumbo jumbo.  This is probably why the majority of the blogs that I follow are so dessert heavy.  Not only are they beautiful to look at on the computer screen ( can almost lick your screen and taste it!) but overall, you're just meeting what your audience desires. 

    My blog has some dessert but I actually focus more on entrees.  The main reason is that a girl's gotta eat and unless I want to be 500 pounds I just can't sustain myself on cakes and cookies alone :).

    So this recipe is what Chris chose  for me to make for our Dinner Club Ugly Sweater Christmas Cookie and Secret Santa Exchange.  I was uninspired by what to make and so presented Chris with a few options on what I could make.  I knew full well that this would be his selection when pitted against fruity and chocolate sans PB cookies.  But you know what?  It turns out it was a good pick because everyone at Dinner Club, with ugly sweaters and all, agreed. 

    Me pinning ugly Christmas pins to Chris' shirt a la Prom Style
    Look at me!  I *jingle* our dog Toby lol.  (That's a bell around my neck in case you can't tell.)

    Dinner Club 2010 Ugly Sweater Christmas Cookie and Secret Santa Exchange
     We went in expecting to just have a good time in our Ugly Sweaters but leave it to Jeff and Jackie to make everything a (secret!) competition.  This recipe won "Best Tasting" which is a complete honor given the talent of each and every person in our club.  To round out the competition, Emily's macarons won "Best Looking" and Kemani's Fat Boy Cookies as we dubbed them (ie: a bar cookie concoction that he created which included a random assortment of all known candy bars!) won "Most Interesting".
    The spread: Egg nog and peppermint macarons (Emily and Scott), Jeff's Chocolate Surprise (Jeff), Kemani's Fat Boy Cookies (Kemani), Snickerdoodles? (Toni), Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts (Christine and Chris), Cream Cheese Cherry Cookies (Sigmund and Kristen).  I feel like I might be missing some so friends please feel free to correct me!
    Our plates runneth over...

    This brownie is just as the description says.  A perfect harmony of rich fudgey brownie studded with salty peanuts, topped with wholesome peanut butter as if you just licked it off a spoon, and then finished with a layer of bittersweet ganache.  Holy diet buster!  Sadly, my ganache cracked a bit when I went to cut it.  This did not impact the flavor at all so for me, I said who cares.  Perfectionists may desired to let the bars come up in temperature a bit before trying to cut into bite size squares.  (Yes, BITE SIZED.  They're too rich to eat anything bigger!)

    Special shout out to our talented unofficial photographer Emily for these gorgeous photos above to remember the day by.  These are some of the best friends I have ever known and I hope we'll continue this tradition for many years to come :).

    One Year Ago: Herb Breaded Tilapia and Light Oat Bread

    Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts
    Printer-Friendly Version 
    (note: printer-friendly does nothing to reduce the caloric content of these brownies haha!)


    For the Brownies
    • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
    • 7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
    • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 cup roasted salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
    For the PB Frosting and Ganache

    • 1 cup chunky peanut butter (do not use natural or old-fashioned)
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided, room temperature
    • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I used a dash of cinnamon instead)
    • 1 tablespoon whole milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped


    For brownies:
    1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Line 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, leaving long overhang; butter foil.
    2. Place 3/4 cup butter in heavy large saucepan. Add both chocolates; stir over low heat until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in sugar, vanilla, and salt, then eggs, 1 at a time. Fold in flour, then nuts. Spread in prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Place pan on rack; cool.
    For frosting and ganache:

    1. Using electric mixer, beat peanut butter and 1/4 cup butter in medium bowl to blend. Beat in powdered sugar, salt, and nutmeg, then milk and vanilla. Spread frosting over brownies.
    2. Stir chocolate and 1/4 cup butter in heavy small saucepan over low heat until smooth. Drop ganache all over frosting; spread to cover. Chill until set, about 1 1/2 hours. Do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep chilled.
    3. Using foil as aid, transfer brownie cake to work surface; cut into squares. Bring to room temperature; serve.
    Source: Originally from Bon Appetite (January 2007) by Dorie Greenspan as seen on Rose's Recipes

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    White Bean Roasted Red Pepper Dip

    Welcome to the first new food post of 2011. 

    Since I'm sure many of you have made New Years Resolutions that probably include something like "eating healthier" I decided to make today's post a very simple, healthy dip.  And, I apologize in advance for the sinful peanut butter fudge brownies that is in my queue to post soon.  This healthy(er) recipe will offset that one.  I also say healthier because I'm not really known to cook like a health nut anyway.  I love food too much to sacrifice flavor and comforting creaminess for health food.  Sorry.  But, if I happen to cook food that tastes delicious AND is healthy, that's a bonus! :)

    I really must have a thing for this type of dip because I realized that I have no fewer than THREE distinct recipes bookmarked in my Google Reader.  That is a true sign that the recipe is to be made and will not dissapoint!

    Also, this recipe has a single step in it.  Unless you count opening the cans and cleaning the dishes...then I guess you're up to two or three :).  Really can it get any easier than that?  The result tasted much like a hummus to me.  I served it with Stacy's naked pita chips (yum!), baby carrots, and celery sticks.  It's great for parties or whip up a batch to eat for your daily afternoon snack.  Snacking and several small meals throughout the day (about every 3-4 hours) is said to be one of the keys to energy management and weight loss, by the way.

    So give this dip a whirl....literally!

    Love Roasted Red Peppers?  This copy cat of Pasta Bravo will knock your socks off!
    One Year Ago: Vanilla-Peppermint Cupcakes and Clone of a Cinnabon

    White Bean Roasted Red Pepper Dip
    Printer-Friendly Version

    Yields: About 8 servings

    • 1 (15 oz.) can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1 small jar (about 1 cup) roasted red peppers, drained
    • 3 ounces lowfat (neufchatel) cream cheese, softened
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary (I used about 1/3 tsp dried rosemary)
    • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
    • salt and pepper to taste
    1. Puree everything in a food processor until smooth.
    Nutritional Information Per Serving: Calories: 77 / Fat: 2g / Saturated Fat: 1.3g / Carbs: 10.4g / Fiber: 2g / Protein: 4.1g

    Source: As seen on and adapted by Elly Says Opa from Smitten Kitchen

    Sunday, January 2, 2011

    2010 Recap Part 2: Personal Favorites

    Day 2 of the New Year and here I am with another post!  2 posts yesterday and another today, I'm on a roll :).  Woo hoo!  And, since yesterday's posts I realized that I have 1 new blogger and 1 new Google Reader subscriber (or could be the same person for all I know).  Either way, welcome new readers!  And, welcome back to my loyal readers, too!

    You know what else has happened since yesterday?  I made a quiche! (and it was so very delicious - recipe and pictures to come.)  Check that one off of the 23 things to make in 2011.  Man, I'm on fire!

    Okay so yesterday in Part 1 of my 2010 Recap we reviewed your favorites.  While I agree that those were great picks there are some other gems on this blog that I love and also feel deserve their time in the spotlight, too.  Now, a lot of blogs that I follow break it down by favorite posted each month but as I look at the history I realized some months I literally posted ONE TIME (d'oh!) and I don't know that they're necessarily worthy of a "best of" tag.  What's also sad is the fact that some of the favorite things I made this year I realized I didn't even blog about yet...a true tragedy and disservice to my readers!  (No worries, this just means they'll go in the 2011 Recap!).  So instead, I'll compromise and just go with Top 12 over the whole year.  It's a tough job to narrow them down but someone's got to do it.

    January: Baked Sausage Ziti

    Photo credit: The Piggly Wiggly
    It's a bit labor intensive with its two sauces but for the flavor it is totally worth it and your guests will thank you.  I think my sister and her friends who ate this for their Junior Prom dinner would definitely agree.  Those boys were eating Tums afterward like they were candy...I might be a little heavy handed on my red pepper.  My bad.  By the way, the fresh mozzerella melts so much better than that pre-shredded stuff so definitely don't scrimp there.

    February: Grandma B's Chicken a la King

    This is Chris' favorite meal of all time so I can't let this blog entry pass without putting it in the best of recap.  His grandma used to make it for him and then his mom and now me (with my slightly tweaked version to help thicken the gravy more).

    February Part Deux:  Ham, Cheese, and Green Pepper Pretzel Bites

    There's something about bite-sized treats that make them extra irresistable.  I served these with a homemade honey mustard dipping sauce and my family gobbled them right up.  This post is also special because it marked my 100th one!

    February Part Trois: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

    Everytime I make these things it makes people go gaga over them.  Perhaps it is the bite-sized nature of them that we talked about above?  Chris practically begs me to make them and many ladies at the Cincinnati Nest/Bump Cookie Exchange this year felt they were the best of the bunch which was quite flattering.  The best part?  They're eggless.  Cookie dough lovers rejoice and have no fear of samonella!

    March: Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Do I really need to explain this one because the title really says it all.  Three classically delicious cookies rolled into one and it has stolen my heart.

    April: Berry Buttermilk Cake

    I know it doesn't look like much in this picture but this one was so good that I made it two weeks in a row.  And, my co-worker Beth told me she made it about five times.  Bonus: Great way to use up the ubiquitous leftover buttermilk!  (Psst, need more leftover buttermilk recipe ideas?  Checkout my buttermilk tag.)

    June: Firecracker Shrimp

    Why I only made this once I am not sure.  This was so easy and so delicious!  Can't wait for grilling season to begin again.  Either that or I'm about to invest in a cast iron grill pan...

    July: Fajitas

    If you need to add a good fajita recipe to your arsenal look no further than this one.  Hasta la vista Don Pablo's (or [insert the name of your favorite local Mexican restaurant here]).

    July Part Deux: Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake

    A contender for my favorite coffee cake of all time.  (The other one would be one that my Mom used to make called Walnut Wonder Cake...mmm).

    October: Who Loves Ya Babyback?

    First - whoa did you see that jump from July to October?  I call that the lost quarter of blogging.  Sorry about that...

    Back to this recipe.  Not your standard ribs slathered in BBQ sauce nor a dry rub.  It's something even more impressive and delicious.  Better yet, it's easier than I imagined ribs could be.

    December: Island Spice Pork (Tender)loin

    Add this to your "good enough for compnay" list.  Bursting with flavor like you've been slaving in the kitchen all day but only you'll know how simple it truly is to prepare.

    December Part Deux: Linguine with Clam Sauce

    Maybe it's just because this is one of the last things of 2010 that I made or it could be the fact that this was so simple to make.  I will for sure be making this lots in the future and sorry Maggiano's but this is yet one more thing that I can now make at home.

    Alright so technically we're done reviewing 12 Personal Favorites from 2010.  But, because I love my readers so much I'm throwing in a couple bonuses.  One to represent each of the men in my life.

    Chris' Pick - Peanut Butter-Fudge Cheesecake

    No big surprise that this is his favorite dish from 2010.  And this is exactly why I chose this recipe for his birthday.  Chris has requested that this be his birthday cake each and every year from here on out.

    Toby's Pick - Chicken and Cheddar Dog Treats

    OK so Toby didn't *really* pick this recipe but it is the only one that I posted in 2010 that was especially for him and I think this picture is just precious.  Say it with me now...awwww!  This year maybe I'll make him more treats.  Anyone have any good dog-friendly recipes to share?

    And that's a wrap.  Over and out!

    Saturday, January 1, 2011

    23 Things I Want to Make in 2011

    Why 23, you ask?  If you're nerdy like me, you'd know that the New Year (010111) is 23 in binary.

    So, here are 23 things (in no particular order) that I'd like to make this year.  That's almost 2 things each month from this list.  Whether or not I'll be able to achieve them all this year we shall see.  But, I figure by blogging about it right here, right now, I'd be held a little more accountable. 

    Some of these items I've had bookmarked on my Google Reader for years but have just been too initimidated by the method or just plain short on time.  Others I want to make for personal reasons and don't even have a recipe in mind yet. 

    Please feel free to share your favorite recipe of the items listed below and then come along with me as we work our way through 2011...hopefully with these delicious foods making their appearance in my blog!

    1. Crab Cakes - This is one treat that I enjoy ordering at restaurants. Time to tackel this one at home despite my fear of cooking seafood and frying things...especially when I have more recipes bookmarked than can be counted in one hand. One of these is sure to be a winner, right?
    2. French Onion Soup (made on 3/29/11) - Inspired by my trip to Paris last year and a love for carmelized onions, soup, and gruyere cheese. I'll most likely make this for my brother as he's a major fan, too.
    3. Butternut Squash Soup (made on 9/21/11) - I hate cutting squash...the skin is SO HARD even after I do the soften it in the microwave trick. Combine that with the fact that this particular squash is so very curvily shaped and I plain fear for my fingers. (Yeah, I don't have the best knife skills...). But, my friend Rebecca recently told me I can buy butternut squash frozen and precut from Trader Joe's so perhaps I'll finally make it this year because I do love me some butternut squash.
    4. Clam Chowder (in a Bread Bowl) - Hm this just might be two recipe ambitions rolled into one but hey, who's counting?  I've always wanted to make a hot cup of New England Style chowda served in a breadbowl like at the infamous Boudin. [[insert perfect transition into next category...oh yeah!]]
    1. French Baguette - I could have lived on this stuff when we visited France.  And, it'd be a wonderful complement to all the soups that I make.  
    2. Donuts - Because donuts make the world go round and they don't actually contain calories.  Or, if they do, you might as well savor every FRESH donuty bite.  I eat donuts maybe once or twice a year so might as well make it count.  And yes, I spell them "donuts" and not "doughnuts".  Laziness and love for Dunkin', I suppose!
    3. Bagels (made on 2/6/11) - I've made yeasted breads before so this should be no biggie, right?  Just boil before baking...and I've done that with homemade soft pretzel bites before :).  There's nothing more delicious at breakfast than a Bruegger's Everything Bagel or Panera's Asiago Cheese Bagel with Sundried Tomato Cream Cheese.  Oh and Panera's Cinnamon Crunch Bagels are also devilishly good, too.
    1. Quiche (made on 1/3/11) - Why? Because I love quiche. It's delicious and I have way too many quiche recipes bookmarked to have not made one yet. I'm out of excuses.
    2. Homemade Pasta (made on 12/18/11) - This is the one thing on this list that I'm probably most scared of making. Maybe Santa or the Birthday Fairy will buy me a pasta attachment for my Kitchen Aid to help ease my fears and push this dream along?  Otherwise, any tips for a homemade pasta making novice?!
    3. Pesto - Seems easy enough but just have never tried it since Chris is not a fan.
    4. Wonton Mein - My family makes *the* most delicious wontons that float in a soupy broth with delicate egg noodles. I must learn from them (documenting their every move since surely no recipe exists!) then share the deliciousness with you.
    5. Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings) - Have you ever gone to Joe's Shanghai in New York? Or, better yet, REAL Shanghai? They are *famous* for these things. One bite and you'll go gaga over them, too.  Watch out for the juicy explosion of juice as you bite into them...literally! My siblings like to call them "Juicy Buns".
    6. Singapore Mei Fun (Curry Noodles) (made on 2/12/11) - One of my favorite dishes that my mom makes. I polished off a good serving of this at Christmas this year. If I don't learn how to make this I'll regret it for the rest of my life.
    7. Ratatouille - Ever since I saw the Disney movie Ratatouille I have wanted to make this.  Why?  Because I'm a sucker for all things Disney. 
    8. Jambalaya (made on 3/17/11) - I love spicy food so why not?
    9. Chicken Marsala (Stuffed version made on 2/21/11) - My favorite thing to order at Bravo! Cucina Italian I'd *love* to replicate this classic dish at home. Now to invest in some good Marsala Wine...
    10. Prime Rib (Roast beef made on 10/21/11...pretty much the safe difference!) - Each major holiday or family gathering that passes I dream of making a perfectly crusted, medium roasted prime rib with a side of well seasoned aus jus. Yes, please.

    Desserts and Sweets
    1. Peanut Butter Crisscross Cookies (made on 1/23/11) - With peanut butter being Chris' favorite ingredient and this being one of my favorite childhood cookies, I wonder why I have never made these.
    2. Samoas (made on 6/26/11) - My favorite Girl Scout cookie. I hate the texture of coconut but the fact that it's enrobed in caramel and chocolate makes it a-ok to me in this instance.
    3. Lemon Bars - I love lemon lately but I think the fact that this recipe usually has a bazillion egg yolks in it has deterred me from making it in the past. I mean, what the heck am I supposed to do with all the whites afterward?!
    4. Pie from Scratch - Fresh Strawberry Pie (made on 5/29/11 and 11/1/11)- Really it's more about the crust here than anything but hey, if I'm going to make a pie crust, might as well fill it with something too, right? :)
    5. Fudge - I'll admit that after 2009's epic fudge fail I've been too intimidated to try making any fudge recipes since. But, since then I've also invested in a handy-dandy candy thermometer so with this tool in hand I'm hoping for success when I'm ready to try again!
    6. Funnel Cake - So fanciful, so delicious. And...every kitchen *should* own a funnel, right? (Note to self: go buy a funnel...)
    Okay, add them up since blogger wouldn't let me continue numbering in the different sections: 4 + 3 + 6 + 10 = 23.  Check!  There we have it, 23 (ambitious) recipes to make in 2011!

    2010 Recap Part 1: Reader Favorites

    Happy 2011!

    I thought I'd kick off this (nerd alert: binary!) New Year with a recap of your favorite recipes from 2010.  Because let's face it, I don't just cook and blog for myself.  I do it for you, too!  That's right.  This post is dedicated to all 55 of you that subscribe to me on Google Reader.  All 8 that subscribe via blogger, too.  And, the countless others that follow my blog sans subscription through Google search, my facebook posts, and the like.  Together you checked out my website a whopping 16,635 times!  Whoa!  I'm so honored to have people that *want* to read about my kitchen chronicles and try new recipes with me. 

    What I'd love even more is if you began to come out of your shell and start leaving comments on my blog, too.  Let's face it, we all know that my blogging dwindled in the second half of the year and I just couldn't find the motivation to get back on track.  For 2011, I resolve to get back on the blogging band wagon and I need *you* to help hold me accountable.  Cheer me on when you see something you like!  Let me know if you tried something from my blog - successful or not, too!  Together, we can cook great things :).

    So now back to Reader Favorite Recipes from 2010.  These recipes are the most popular ones from my website based on number of hits.  Yup, I have this nifty thing called Google Analytics.  It tells me how many people visit my site, what they look at, how long they spend there, and what part of the world they are visiting from.  Neat, huh?  Don't worry my privacy protection fans, it's all aggregated data and so I can't like...internet stalk you or anything :P.

    Without further adieu, here are your favorites from 2010.  (And you can see 2009 favorites, here!)

    #10: Copy-Cat Chipotle Burrito Bols
    (201 pageviews in 2010)

    Do you love Chipotle?  Then you'll love these bols. (Yes, not a typo, there's no w.  It's Spanish!)

    #9: Spaghetti Meatballs
    (213 page views in 2010)
    Photo Credit: Amadeo

    You really can't go wrong with this classic Italian dish.  This one comes from Chris' Grandmother who was from Sicily and is one of the few dishes that I will make over and over again.  It freezes well so one batch will provide a good 6 meals for the 2 of us!

    #8: Spinach, Sausage, and Cheese Manicotti
    (291 page views in 2010)
    Photo Credit: Eater's Digest

    I have smart readers that know a good recipe when they see one.  This is another one of those recipes that actually gets repeated in this household.  The method of stuffing the shells *uncooked* is ingenious.  I like to use sausage, spinach, and cheese (as the title of this recipe suggests) but it is adaptable to the filling of your choice.  Bonus: this one freezes well, too!

    #7: Grandpa N's Char Siu Bao (Chinese BBQ Pork Bun)
    (337 page views in 2010)

    A never-before-seen on the web recipe from my family to yours.  This authentic bun recipe was made countless times by my Grandpa for me.  Since Chinese people tend to not write down recipes, it didn't quite taste exactly as I remembered but is a good starting point.  As I tweak (and document!) this recipe over time I hope to someday get it just as Grandpa used to make.  Stay tuned for future iterations and improvements to this recipe!

    #6: Red Lobster's Parmesan Crusted Tilapia
    (439 page views in 2010)

    This one came straight off of Red Lobster's own website so it's not even a copy-cat - it's the real deal!  Tilapia is one of my favorite types of fish and this preparation is yummy.

    #5: Mock Bravo Della Casa Salad
    (485 page views in 2010)

    Me thinks my readers have a thing for copy-cat restaurants based on Top Reader Picks #10, 6, and 5!  This copy-cat salad is based on my husband's favorite from Bravo! Cucina Italian.  It is the only creamy dressing that he'll eat and he ate this recipe too so I'll take it as a stamp of approval.

    By the way, what other copy-cat recipes would you like to see on here?  Now's your chance to leave a comment!

    #4: Red Velvet Whoopie Pies (626 page views in 2010)

    Each time I see this pictures it practically brings tears to my eyes.  This is by far the most beautiful food photograph that I have ever taken in my life...let alone 2010.  It holds a special place in my heart because it was the first (and only) time that I was accepted to the "food porn" website Food Gawker.  I have no doubt that this recipe made the Top 10 because of the traffic it brought to my site.  That and this recipe is actually quite divine!  Here's to hoping my photography skills continue to improve in 2011.

    #3: Lasagna
    (662 page views in 2010)

    [No food photo.  Sad face.]

    This recipe was shared by my Aunt Wah to my mom and I practically grew up on this stuff.  No kitchen should go without a tried and true lasagna recipe.  This one uses cottage cheese instead of ricotta and I find I like the texture better...perhaps because it's what I grew up knowing.  Now to just remember to take a picture of this when I make! 
    Garfield would approve.

     #2: Chinese Bakery-Style Cake
    (1,278 page views in 2010)

    Did you all see the page view count on this one?!  It completely blows all others above out of the water and for good reason, too!  I just wish I had better photography skills to truly capture the magnificence of this cake.  As I said previously, authetic Chinese recipes are hard to come by because the cooks just don't write them down.  I got really lucky and found this one online.  I made some minor modifications and shared it with you.  This is the most commented upon recipe in my blog and I can tell you all love it, too.  What's not to love about the sponge cake layers sandwiching fresh fruit and custard before the entire thing is enveloped in fresh whipped cream.  It looks complicated but it's really not so bad.  And, I gaurentee that it's totally worth it.  If you haven't tried this yet, go.  Now.

    Drumroll please....

    #1: Chinese Bolo Bao with Nai Wong Filling ("Pineapple" Custard Bun)
    (1,590 page views in 2010)

    No big surprise here!  The King of 2010 Recipes (mostly due to Google search where it indexes #1!) is the Chinese Bolo Bao with Nai Wong Filling.  This is sort of kind of a Christine's Kitchen Chronicles original because I took 2 existing web recipes to recreate a bun Chris knows and loves.  I have to say that nobody that saw or ate this little beauty was disappointed.  It tasted and looked like it came from a real Chinese bakery.  From its sweet crisp topping to its tender bun leading to a silky custard surprise inside, it is 100% goodness.
    There you have it, folks.  Your favorite recipes from 2010.  Be sure to stay tuned to Part 2 of this series - MY favorite recipes from the year!  So far so good on getting back on the blogging wagon, huh? :)

    Wishing you a fantastic 2011!