December 30, 2016

A look back at 2016

This time of year, I usually do a post where both my husband and I look through my past year of blogging and we each choose our favorite recipe from each month. However, 2016 was not a typical year for me, or the blog. Between a high-risk pregnancy, extreme meat and onion aversions, all day "morning" sickness, and then newborn twins, cooking and eating weren't always high on my list. Well, after the morning sickness passed, eating was *really* high on my list. I was never so famished in my life as I was while pregnant with twins! Thanks to all of you for sticking with me through my sparse posts this year. It's been a wonderfully exciting year. The babies are now about 5 months old and tons of fun. I am hopeful that I'll be able to ramp up my posts again in 2017.

So this year we are both picking our "Top 6 of 2016" instead. These are our top picks, in no particular order, starting with me.

I have to kick off my picks with these cookies because not only were they super tasty, they were how we told our family that we were expecting a boy and a girl!

December 21, 2016

Chocolate-dipped orange shortbread cookies

Did anyone else get one of those chocolate oranges every year in their stocking for Christmas? There was always one in their for me to dig out on Christmas morning when I was a kid. So, I always associate the flavor of orange + chocolate with the holidays. Sarah over at Fantastical Sharing of Recipes announced that this month's Fantastical Food Fight would be shortbread cookies. In the past I've made a couple shortbread cookies, including one of my all-time favorites - Rosemary Christmas Tree Shortbread Cookies. After thinking for a bit, I thought incorporating the chocolate and orange flavor I remember from my childhood stockings would be perfect! I was right. The buttery shortbread is brightened by the addition of fresh orange juice and zest and then given a boost of extra yumminess by being dipped in chocolate. They look pretty and taste great!

I used these lemon shortbread cookies as a guide for this recipe. It will make approximately 2-1/2 dozen cookies. These cookies are a terrific addition to your holiday cookie platter! Don't forget to check out the bottom of this post for other shortbread cookie recipes.

December 16, 2016

Pork and cabbage stir fry

Sticky and sweet with a touch of heat, this stir fry is a flavorful and easy weeknight dinner. We get a half of a pig from a local farmer each year, so pork is somewhat of a staple in our meals. Oddly though, I don't feel like I really post all that many pork recipes. This stir fry is something I whipped up on a whim one night to use up some cabbage. We enjoyed it, so I made it a couple more times, tweaking the sauce and measurements. The sauce takes a few minutes to make, but then it all comes together relatively fast. This time of year I think we can all use some quick recipes to get dinner on the table (anyone else super behind on holiday preparations?!). Serve the stir fry with a side of white rice and this will serve about 3 people.

December 12, 2016

Gram's classic thumbprint cookies

Thumbprints are a classic holiday cookie. I make them pretty much every year, but somehow they've escaped being posted on my blog. Probably because most people have a version of this recipe already. I mean, they are a popular cookie for Christmas for good reason. But, I think it's high time to share these on here! This recipe comes originally from my great-grandmother, handed down to us through my mother. I remember making and eating these cookies throughout my childhood. They definitely have a sentimental feel about them when I make them, when I place them out on a platter, and when I eat them. 

Her recipe is sparse - no mention of how much nuts to use - they aren't even listed in the ingredients. In the instructions, it just says "roll in nuts" and there's no mention of separating the eggs - I guess when you make them every year for your adult life, it's pretty intuitive! I have modified her recipe just a bit and made it a little clearer over the years. This recipe will make about two and a half dozen cookies. If you don't already make thumbprints for your holiday cookie tray, please add them. You wont be disappointed.

December 2, 2016

Ham and cheese spaghetti squash boats

We eat winter squash all fall and winter long in our home. We often get a bunch from my father-in-law's garden and we always get a big assorted basket the last day of our farmers' market. This makes winter squash a staple around here and I'm always coming up with new ways to enjoy it. This recipe is a modified version of my Cheesy Spaghetti Squash side dish. I upgraded to larger spaghetti squash, added some ham, and made a couple other changes to turn it into a main dish. This was so creamy and cheesy, but also full of vegetable goodness at the same time by using the spaghetti squash instead of something like pasta or rice. It may be a good way to get some pickier eaters to give spaghetti squash a try! 

This recipe will serve 2 adults as a main dish. It's easy to double though. It's also a terrific way to use up leftover ham, especially if you are making a ham for the upcoming holidays. I love recipes that re-purpose leftovers into something completely new. 

November 21, 2016

Sour cream cranberry bars {Secret Recipe Club}

Sadly, today is my last post for the Secret Recipe Club because it is ending this month. I've enjoyed participating in it so much! I love making something from someone's blog and I really love seeing the recipe someone picked from mine. It also helped keep me motivated to post after having the babies. I will miss it a lot. For my last post, I was assigned to make a recipe from Our Eating Habits. This blog is written by Jamie who loves her family, Christmas, Disney, and, of course, food. While looking through her blog, I was looking for a Thanksgiving appropriate recipe and was tempted to make her Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie (still am a little!), Cranberry Cornbread, and Rosemary Au Gratin Potatoes. I ended up choosing her Sour Cream Cranberry Bars. I chose these because I think cranberries are so underutilized outside of juice and cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner. I love to use them in recipes. I also thought these bars would make a nice non-pie Thanksgiving dessert and also a nice Christmas dessert to add to your cookie tray. Plus since I made Sour Cream Apple Pie, I'm really loving desserts with sour cream in them. The recipe below I modified just slightly.

November 4, 2016

Turkey and apple cheddar-biscuit pie

This meal is full-on autumn comfort food at its best! Turkey, apples, and vegetables in a cider gravy all topped with light and buttery cheddar biscuits and baked until golden and bubbly. It has easily become a new favorite of ours. This recipe is a modified version of a similar dish in one of my favorites books: Apples of Uncommon Character: Heirlooms, Modern Classics, & Little-known Wonders. It's not a cookbook, but a beautiful book all about apples that also has 20 apple recipes in the back. I sometimes dream of living on an apple orchard one day and have a bit of an obsession with all the different varieties and with apple recipes

This dish is delicious as is, but I think different vegetables would also work very well such as replacing the celery with celery root, replacing the potato with turnip or rutabaga, or even adding a bit of cubed winter squash like butternut. This recipe will serve about four to five people.

October 31, 2016

Vinegar-braised cabbage with caraway {Secret Recipe Club}

This month the Secret Recipe Club is having a special Fall Dishes reveal! While pumpkin and apple are generally thought of as the ultimate fall stars (and of course I love them both as you can tell from a quick browse through my blog), I also love to highlight autumn vegetables like other winter squashes, root vegetables, and Brassicas like cabbage. I really enjoy harvest time and all of the terrific vegetables that come out of gardens in September-October in our region. I happen to really love red cabbage in particular. I think it's so pretty and it adds such a colorful punch to any meal. When I saw this recipe on Dessert Before Dinner's blog, I knew this was one I wanted to try. I have another sweet and sour red cabbage recipe that is my go-to, but I really liked the use of caraway as well as onions and garlic in Stephanie's recipe. We had this dish when my mom was over for dinner and we all enjoyed it a lot. We served it along with some German brats, pierogi, and applesauce. It was a perfect fall meal! Below is my slightly modified recipe.

I have previously had Stephanie's blog for Secret Recipe Club and said if I ever had her blog again I was going to make some of her sourdough recipes. However, during the move and my difficult pregnancy, my sourdough started died.... So I have to start a new one soon to try out these doughnuts! They also would be a great fall recipe with a glass of apple cider. 

October 24, 2016

Sour cream apple pie

Apple pie is taken to the next level with this recipe! I saw this recipe on Taste of Home's website and have had it pinned to make for a while now. I finally had some time to make it and am glad I finally did. The use of sour cream in this pie adds a nice touch of tang with the sour apples, but the sugar and brown sugar topping help to still make it sweet - a perfect contrast in flavors. Another thing I love about this pie is that it is free of spices. As much as like cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg with apples, it's nice to have a dessert where the flavor of the apple itself really shines through and is the star. Of course we went on our annual apple picking trip this year so we have a bushel of apples waiting to be used. I try to make at least one new apple recipe each fall because apples are a big deal in western New York and for me they are one of the best flavors of autumn. Plus we always have a bunch to use up!

The babies are beginning to sleep better. They are almost 3 months old now! I'm starting to not be as much of a sleep-deprived zombie most days now and am having a little more ambition and time to cook and bake again. It's still hard, but I try because we like to have good food haha. Some days though it ends up being frozen chicken strips and waffle fries, and that's okay (I cut up some celery to make me feel a little better haha). 

October 17, 2016

Chocolate beetroot cake {Secret Recipe Club}

It's time for October's Secret Recipe Club reveal! This month I was assigned to make a recipe from My Wholefood Family. This blog is written by Susan who lives all the way over in Australia. She is a mom of three and focuses on creating recipes from real, whole foods. I found a lot of interesting and tasty recipes on her blog like these Sweet Potato Brownies and Sesame Chicken with Ginger Rice (the rice sounds fantastic). I ended up choosing her Chocolate Beetroot Cake because it sounded so intriguing and also because I thought the mixture of the dark chocolate color with flecks of red would be a fun treat for Halloween time. I adjusted the recipe slightly for my more American way of measuring (though I did measure out my chocolate in grams!) and cooking and I also used regular flour and sugar in my version. You can see Susan's original recipe at the link. I used Susan's suggestion of also replacing a bit of the flour with cocoa powder and was really happy with the results. This cake is very chocolaty but also has the very earthy taste from the beets. It's a unique cake that I'd make again in the future. 

October 4, 2016

White chocolate pumpkin oatmeal cookies

It's October! October and November are my favorite months of the year. I love fall and the food and holidays of fall the most. Every fall (usually the first weekend of October), we go on a family apple picking outing to Lynoaken Farms. We love this farm because they have all sorts of heritage apple varieties growing in their orchard so you can try all kinds of apples you'd never find in a grocery store. They also have all the popular favorites, too. This year my husband and I each wore a baby in a carrier while we picked. We were a little nervous as this was the first long outing we've done with the twins, but it went well! Each year when we go apple picking, I make up a large batch of cookies to have for our after apple picking snack. I've made these and these a few times, but this year I wanted to take something new. I like to make a fall themed cookie, and one that isn't apple since I don't want to have to buy apples right before going to pick a bushel. This year, we had these pumpkin oatmeal cookies with white chocolate chips in them. 

This recipe will make about 6 dozen small cookies. I like them on the smaller side since we have many people eating them. Give these cookies a try when you go out on your next autumn excursion.

September 19, 2016

(Un)Stuffed banana pepper soup

Creamy, cheesy, hot, and spicy - this (un)stuffed banana pepper soup is a hearty and delicious way to enjoy the flavors of stuffed banana peppers.

August 31, 2016

Mixed berry pie

I wasn't sure if I'd be able to make my husband's birthday pie this year, but I found the time and energy to do it (when the babies were sleeping, of course)! He always picks pie over cake for his birthday, and that's quite okay by me. We are definitely pie people around here. Don't get me wrong, I love a good piece of cake (especially carrot or chocolate), but pie is where it's at. In the past we've had honey-walnut pie, old-fashioned vinegar pie, blueberry pie, and more to celebrate his birthday. This year, I went with a berry pie - a mix of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries to be exact (blackberries would also be nice). I wanted to make a fruit pie with a summer fruit and berries are a highlight of summer to me. Every bite bursts with fresh summer flavors!

This recipe makes one standard 9-inch pie and will make about 8 servings depending on how large or small you cut your slices. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream, if desired. But, it's excellent on its own. 

August 11, 2016

Zucchini (mock apple) crisp

Finished dish of zucchini crisp with a large serving spoon.

This mock apple crisp is made with zucchini and your family and friends will probably never guess that they are eating summer squash in their dessert.

July 18, 2016

Pink grapefruit pie {Secret Recipe Club}

It's time for July's Secret Recipe Club reveal. This month I was assigned the blog Sew You Think You Can Cook written by Lauren. Lauren lives way over near LA on the other side of the country from me! I was glad to be able to peruse her blog as it was another new one for me and I love to check out new food blogs. She has tons of terrific recipes. I was looking for a quick and easy dessert to make for a small picnic we had on the July 4th holiday weekend. I was originally going to make her Pink Lemonade Cupcakes because they sounded perfect for a summer treat. However, once I saw her Grandpa Ray's Grapefruit Pie, I changed my mind. I think regular readers know my deep love of pie (I mean, I made 15 of them just last year). Plus this recipe looked so simple and would allow me to not be on my feet for too long (after this month, I'll be taking a maternity leave from Secret Recipe Club, but I hope to be back in October). 

This pie was completely unique and different from any pie I've ever tasted before. I happen to love grapefruit, but my husband is not a big fan. However, he still enjoyed this pie. Everyone commented on how they couldn't quite put their finger on the main ingredient, but knew it was something citrus. Plus, while I usually make homemade crusts and homemade whipped creams, this pie I used the store-bought shortcuts like in the recipe, which was terrific for me since my ankles have been the size of grapefruits lately! 

July 5, 2016

Turkey, spinach, and cheese flautas

Easy meals are what I'm all about right now. Flautas are a favorite of mine since I started making them a couple years ago. The filling choices are endless. We've done beef filling similar to tacos, pinto beans and peppers, etc. But, these creamy turkey and spinach ones seem to be the winner. The filling is simple to make. Then all you have to do is roll them up and give them a quick bake. Perfect for a weeknight dinner and they are sure to be popular in your house, too. Serve these falutas with a side of rice or beans or even some chips and salsa. We like to dip these flautas in salsa verde. Pickled jalapnenos on the side are also a nice touch. This recipe will make 8-10 falutas

Baby update: I am in the 34th week now (and measuring 43 weeks!) and the babies are looking great. It's so amazing to me that we've made it this far. I haven't shared all the struggles we've gone through, but suffice it to say that these babies have been a long-time coming. We are so excited to meet them. Twins are considered "full-term" at 37 weeks and we are at the point now where they could really come anytime. We're hoping to keep them growing until at least 36 weeks though. Stay tuned!  

June 27, 2016

Lemon-glazed strawberry poppy seed bread

Strawberries are easily one of my favorite fruits. One of my biggest cravings during pregnancy has been fruit. Just the smell of it makes me drool lately haha. Now that we are getting into full-on summer fruit season, I can't get enough fresh fruits - strawberries, melons, cherries, peaches, etc. They are all coming into season locally and that makes me happy! We found ourselves with a lot of strawberries recently. While I love to eat them with cottage cheese, yogurt, on their own, or in a shortcake, I also love to try out different recipes with them. I know my posts have been lacking during pregnancy. So I was inspired to make something with all these fresh berries that was easy, quick and delicious - which is how this quick bread came to be. This bread is very moist and flavorful. It's perfect for breakfast, dessert, or a snack and is a great way to use up some super ripe strawberries. 

June 20, 2016

Rocky road brownies {Secret Recipe Club}

It's that time again - time for this month's Secret Recipe Club! This month I was assigned Dessert Before Dinner which I was excited about because this was a new blog for me. This blog is written by Stephanie who sounds like someone I would get a long with well.... we both like a lot of the same things aside from food blogging like craft beers, kittens, sci-fi shows, and more. After looking through her recipes, I decided on making these Rocky Road Brownies. Call it the chocolate cravings of a pregnant lady, but I kept coming back to them. If I had felt more ambitious and hadn't been neglectful to my sourdough starter recently, I would have loved to have tried some of her sourdough creations (especially the doughnuts and the bread pudding). I will remember these for the future!

I'm glad with my choice of these brownies. They were chewy, fudgy, and just sweet enough. Plus the melted, sticky, golden marshmallows on top added something special. Below is my slightly modified recipe. 

May 24, 2016

Pineapple chicken and snow peas

This dish is a nice spring time meal. It's quick, easy, and full of flavor. I've been craving fruit, especially tropical fruits, so this pineapple dish hit the spot for me. I've been trying to cook as much as possible lately, though it's difficult. I've entered the third trimester with twins and it's getting increasingly difficult to do even the most basic things like stand for more than 10 minutes, breathe, bend, sit, and so on. Mostly I just want someone else to cook for me, but that's not always an option! I'm going to try to get a few things in the freezer over the next couple of weeks to have on hand for quick meals once the babies arrive. They will be coming right in the heat of summer, so I'm not sure what to make -- any suggestions? It's not really prime casserole or soup season then, which are the easiest things to put in the freezer sometimes. 

This dish will make about 4 servings when served with a side of rice or couscous. It's a nice weeknight dish that comes together pretty quickly and makes some lunch leftovers for the next day (my favorite).

May 16, 2016

Sweet potato pork quesadillas {Secret Recipe Club}

I was super excited to have my food blogger friend Sarah's blog this month for the Secret Recipe Club. And it just so happens that she had mine last month! I've been following her blog The Pajama Chef for a few years now and always enjoy reading it. Sarah lives in Nashville with her husband, kitties, and a new adorable baby I just saw on Instagram. While browsing through Sarah's recipes I saw many that I wanted to try (mango coconut granola, rhubarb muffins, and crock pot honey sesame chicken, just to name a few) some that I've tried in the past like these amazing Apple Fritters. I ended up choosing these Sweet Potato Pork Quesadillas for a Cinco de Mayo meal.

I loved the combination of sweet and spicy and my husband gave these a big thumbs up! Pregnancy has made me want spicy food more often lately - and has given me the ability to tolerate and enjoy higher levels of heat than normally. So, I piled on the pickled jalapenos on mine. Below is my slightly modified version of the recipe. This recipe made 4 quesadillas, and will serve about two people for a main dish.

April 25, 2016

Cheesy spaghetti squash

Say what? I'm making and posting a winter squash recipe in April?! Well, yes, yes I am.... We still have a few lingering in basement storage that we are finishing up before it becomes summer squash season. So while it may be a little out-of-season right now, just save this spaghetti squash recipe for this coming fall/winter. It's one you will definitely want to give a try! It's cheesy, with hints of onion and garlic flavor. It's like a mac n' cheese, but with spaghetti squash instead of noodles.

We ate this as a side dish to a grilled ham steak with a honey-mustard sauce. Speaking of grilling, I am super excited that the warmer weather is coming and also that when we moved into our new house that the previous owners left us their grill! We've already been using it and loving it. I made this recipe with a smaller spaghetti squash and it would make a side dish for about 3-4 people. 

April 18, 2016

Buffalo chicken burgers {Secret Recipe Club}

It's time for April's Secret Recipe Club Reveal. This month I was assigned to make a recipe from The Avid Appetite. This blog is written by Rachel from New Jersey. Her blog started out as mostly a food and recipe blog but now has expanded to include all aspects of her life. There were a lot of recipes that caught my eye like her Gingerbread Coffee Syrup and Pineapple Chicken with Couscous. But, being a Buffalo girl, I decided that I wanted to give her Buffalo Chicken Burgers a try. At first I wasn't sure I'd be able to make them because I couldn't find any blue cheese made with pasteurized milk (raw cheese is currently on my can't eat list). But I finally found some at Aldi! What I especially liked about her burgers was that she used the correct hot sauce (gotta be Frank's) and blue cheese (I love ranch as much as the next person, but it doesn't belong on anything called "Buffalo") - so I knew these burgers would be winners! I was right. They were delicious and full of that Buffalo chicken wing flavor. 

I slightly modified April's recipe and my version is below. This recipe will make four burgers. I served them with celery sticks and oven fries. 

March 21, 2016

Chicken fried chicken with milk gravy {Secret Recipe Club}

It's time for another edition of Secret Recipe Club. This month I was assigned Angels Home Sweet Homestead written by April who writes about homesteading, cooking, and gardening on a budget. All topics that I love (especially the budget part)! Normally when I'm looking through someone's blog to pick a recipe it takes me a while, but this time as soon as I saw Chicken Fried Chicken and her gravy recipe, I knew I wasn't going to find anything that I wanted to make more than that!! I have only ever had this dish in a restaurant and was super excited to try making it at home (and my husband was super excited to eat it). We loved it! It turned out light, crispy, and perfectly golden. Served with mashed potatoes and green beans, it was the perfect chilly night meal - total comfort food. Next time though, I'm giving her Fluffy Southern Buttermilk Biscuits a try!

I made only half the chicken recipe for us, but I'm posting April's recipe below. If you make the full recipe you will feed a crowd! I slightly modified her gravy recipe. This is a dish you should definitely try. 

March 14, 2016

Stuffed sugar cookies

My posts have been sparse the past few months. Moving was a big part of that, but this post will provide a bigger explanation for my absence. Life has been crazy lately and it's only going to get crazier, but in a really amazing way! After many years of struggles and loss and heartache, my husband and I are expecting twins this summer and we couldn't be more thrilled and excited! The past few months I struggled with all-day "morning" sickness and couldn't even stand the smell of most food cooking, so blogging was tough! Now that phase is behind me and all I want to do is eat (and sleep)!

I made these cookies for a surprise treat recently at an open house we had for our family to come see our new home. The pregnancy is considered high-risk, but we are almost halfway there and very hopeful and looking forward to their safe arrival.

 Cookies for "Baby A" and cookies for "Baby B."

I modified this recipe to make these cookies to share for a surprise "gender reveal." They turned out just as I was imagining so I was very happy. We gave everyone an "A" cookie and had everyone bite on the count of three and then did the same with the "B" cookies. The below recipe made just over 2 dozen cookies.

February 15, 2016

Apple cornmeal muffins {Secret Recipe Club}

I was super excited to see that I was assigned Living the Gourmet for this month's Secret Recipe Club! I have followed this blog for quite a while now and I knew I'd have a hard time picking just one recipe I wanted to try. Catherine and Tammy always post such lovely and tasty recipes. When it came down to a final selection, I chose these Apple Cornmeal Muffins because we've been having negative wind chills here recently -- I wanted a warm and cozy baking recipe that was perfect for breakfast and snacking with coffee and tea. 

I liked that these muffins were low in sugar which also made them nice for breakfast. They turned out lovely and were a definite hit (plus we can never resist anything with a streusel on top)! This recipe will make a dozen muffins. Check out the links below to see more recipes from The Secret Recipe Club.

January 18, 2016

Banana chocolate chip cake {Secret Recipe Club}

I'm super excited because this is my first time participating in the Secret Recipe Club! It's something I've seen other blogger friends doing for a while and always thought would be fun, so I finally joined! I was assigned to Join Us, Pull Up a Chair for this month. This blog was new to me so I was excited to check it out! I was originally planning to make a savory main dish recipe, but kept finding myself going back to her desserts... Since I didn't get a chance to make holiday treats this year with our move, I think I've been missing having homemade sweets around lately. I was going back and forth between this Banana Chocolate Chip Cake and this Cranberry Upside Down Cake (next time!) among others. I decided on the banana cake and I'm glad I did - it turned out delicious! The cake is so moist and the sugar topping gives it a nice crunch. We definitely enjoyed this cake and I enjoyed browsing around a new blog!