Archive for December, 2010

Top 20 Recipes of 2010

In the past year, I’ve posted 89 recipes here on ‘Cooking with Karen’.  I love each and every one of these recipes, but there are some that do stand out above the rest.  Here are my top 20 favorite recipes from 2010.  I have listed the desserts first, followed by everything else.  Enjoy!  And have a very Happy New Year!

Top 10 Desserts of 2010:

Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream – These are the perfect chocolate cupcakes – they are rich, moist, and sweet.  And the espresso buttercream is one of the best frostings I’ve ever had – it’s creamy and silky and has just the right amount of coffee flavor.

Gingerbread Cookies – I adore these cookies.  The chewy texture and flavor of molasses and spices is irresistible.

Oreo Cookie Cupcakes with Oreo Whipped Cream – These oreo cupcakes are so fluffy and light, and I love the oreo chunks throughout the batter.  Oreo cookie whipped cream is the perfect complement to these cupcakes – it’s cookies ‘n’ cream at its finest!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting – The frosting for these cupcakes is amazing.  It’s super rich, thick, creamy, and so chocolaty!  I could eat this by the spoonful.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars –These peanut butter bars are so enticing.  You can never go wrong when the main ingredients in a recipe are peanut butter, chocolate, and sugar!

Dark Chocolate Espresso cookies – These cookies are chewy, chocolaty, and have a nice espresso flavor.  If you are a coffee and chocolate lover like me, then these cookies are for you.

Mississippi Mud Pie – This mud pie is a very easy-to-make, yet impressive dessert.  The crunchy oreo cookie crumb crust plus ice cream and chocolate ganache is an incredible flavor combination.

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing – Decorating cookies with royal icing is one of my hobbies.  I make these cookies at least once a month.  In 2010 I made so many fun shapes: presents, peppermints, candy canes, trees & holly for Christmas; turkeys for Thanksgiving; ghosts, candy corn, bats & spider webs for Halloween; footballs; cupcakes; onesies and rattles for a baby shower; beach balls; watermelons; Mother’s Day cookies; butterflies; Easter cookies; fruit-shaped cookies for a ‘Very Hungry Caterpillar’ birthday party; and Valentine’s Day cookies.

Pumpkin Pecan Cupcakes – If you like pumpkin puree, then you will love these cupcakes.  They are very fluffy and have a nice pumpkin pie spice flavor.  The pecan chunks and cinnamon scented whipped cream make these cupcakes extra tasty.

Snickerdoodles – Snickerdoodles are such a classic variety of cookies and this is by far the best recipe for them that I’ve ever tried.  They are chewy, buttery, and irresistibly cinnamon and sugar flavored.

Top 10 Main Dishes, Breakfast Foods & Appetizers of 2010:

Italian Sausage Skewers – These cute and tasty little appetizers are perfect for a dinner party because they are super easy to make, can be prepared in advance, and they are healthy.

Monkey Bread – Monkey bread is something I dream about.  The cinnamon sugar dough balls that comprise this bread are so decadent, and the glaze takes this bread over the top.

Beef Bourguignon – Of all the recipes I made in 2010, this one definitely stands out among the rest.  It is full of flavor, and smells amazing as it is simmering away on the stove.  It’s hearty, healthy, and pure comfort food.  If you’ve never made beef bourguignon before, I highly recommend you try this recipe asap.

Shrimp Scampi with Linguine – This is one of the dishes that Eric and I first made together, way back in 2004, and it’s still one of our favorites.  I make this several times every year, and it’s always so satisfying.  I just love the garlic butter wine sauce, parsley, lemon, shrimp, and pasta together.

Italian Sausage Ragu – This is a delicious, easy, and fairly quick pasta recipe.  I make it all the time and it never disappoints.  I love the flavors of bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, & sausage in it.

Lemony Couscous with Peas and Chicken – This is the perfect weeknight meal because it’s really easy to make, and it’s also very healthy and flavorful.

Italian Sausage, Red Pepper, & Mushroom Risotto – This risotto has such a wonderful and complex flavor from the sausage, peppers, mushrooms, onions, and parmesan.  I make it all the time and always enjoy every last bite of it.

Meatballs – I’ve tried several meatball recipes over the years, and this is the one I keep coming back to.  These meatballs are perfect in every way.

Stuffed Peppers – These stuffed peppers are easy to make, can be prepared in advance, healthy, colorful, well balanced, and so delicious!

Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Tart – This tart is essentially just an elegant version of margherita pizza.  It’s comprised of a delicious garlic and basil flavored crust topped with lots of cheese, tomatoes, and more basil.  It makes for an excellent appetizer or main course.

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Gingerbread Cookies

I made these gingerbread cookies for my family’s Christmas dinner last weekend.  These cookies tasted fantastic- definitely the best gingerbread cookie recipe I’ve ever tried!  They are soft and chewy and have the perfect balance of spices in them (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, & cloves).  I decorated these cookies with the same batch of royal icing that I used to decorate my Christmas sugar cookies.  This was a very efficient way to decorate all 8 dozen cookies!  (In case you’re wondering, it took me about 3 hours to decorate all of the cookies).  This is a wonderful recipe that I plan to make every year from now on.  Happy Holidays!

Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp. ground cloves
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices to combine; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the molasses and egg until combined.  Add in the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated.  Cover the bowl and chill the dough for at least one hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface to about ¼-inch thickness.  Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters.  Place the cookie shapes onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely.  Decorate as desired.

Source: Annie’s Eats; Originally from Good Things Catered and All Recipes

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Here are a few photos of the sugar cookies I made for Christmas this year.  I used cookie cutters in the shape of presents, peppermints, Christmas trees, candy canes, and holly leaves.  I also used my crinkle-edge-square cookie cutter to make cookie place cards/favors for a family Christmas dinner.  These cookies were so much fun to decorate!  The recipes for the sugar cookies and royal icing are posted below.  Enjoy!

Presents. This is a new cookie cutter that I got from Target this year. It would be perfect for birthday present sugar cookies too.

Lots of Christmas trees!

 

Holly leaves

 

Peppermints. The cookie cutter is from http://www.coppergifts.com. And the design was inspired by the book “Cookie Craft Christmas” by Valerie Peterson and Janice Fryer.

Candy canes

 

Cookie favors and place cards

Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 ½ tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour

Directions

  1. Cream the butter and powdered sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Blend in the egg, almond extract, vanilla extract, salt and flour.
  3. Chill the dough until firm.
  4. Roll the dough out to ¼” thickness on a well-floured surface.
  5. Cut with cookie cutters.  Place on greased (or parchment lined) cookie sheets, and bake at 375° for 8-10 min. The cookies should not brown.
  6. Frost and decorate the cookies when cool.

Yield: 3-4 dozen cookies, depending on size

Source: Annie’s-Eats

Royal Icing

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons meringue powder
  • scant ½ cup water
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • few drops almond extract (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine the meringue powder and water in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the paddle attachment, beat until combined and foamy.
  2. Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. (Do NOT skip the sifting!)
  3. Add in the corn syrup and extract if desired. (The corn syrup helps keep the icing shiny.) Increase the speed to med-high/high and beat for about 5 minutes, just until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form.  (You should be able to remove the beater from the mixer and hold up and jiggle without the peak falling.) Do not overbeat.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap touching the icing or divide and color using gel paste food colorings.

This “stiff” icing is perfect for outlining cookies or piping details onto cookies. To fill in the cookies, add water to the icing a teaspoon at a time, stirring with a rubber spatula, until it is the consistency of syrup. (This technique of filling a cookie with thinned icing is called “flooding.”)

Yield: This will cover 2-3 dozen 3.5 inch cookies in 2 colors.  (I usually double this recipe.)

Source:  Bake at 350

And here is a photo of the Christmas cookies I made last year (in 2009).  This was the first time I had ever used royal icing to decorate cookies.  As you can see from this photo, practice really does make perfect!  This year, my royal icing colors were so much richer (ie- they are actually red and dark green instead of pink and pale green!)  To get the icing colors to look like this, I now use only Americolor gel food coloring.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies

I kicked off my Holiday baking this year by making these chocolate peppermint bark cookies.  These cookies are so yummy!  Originally I was just going to make chocolate peppermint bark, but when I saw this cookie version, I couldn’t pass it up.  Basically, it’s a shortbread-type cookie topped with a layer of dark chocolate with white chocolate swirled on top.  Crushed candy canes are then sprinkled on the chocolate for a festive touch.   These are the perfect cookies to serve at a Holiday party.  Or, just make them for yourself, like I did!  :)  I highly recommend adding these to your Christmas baking list this year!  (FYI – There are currently 12 different kinds of cookies on my list… I better get baking! :)  )

Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • ½ cup finely chopped red-and-white-striped hard peppermint candies or candy canes (about 3 ounces)
  • 2 ounces high-quality white chocolate, chopped

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.  Line the bottom of the pan with a long strip of 9-inch-wide parchment paper, leaving overhang on both short sides of the pan.
  2. Whisk the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter in a large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar.  Continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla, then the egg yolk.  Gradually add the flour mixture, beating on low speed just to blend.
  3. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls into the prepared baking pan, spacing evenly.  Using moistened fingertips, press dough to form an even layer over the bottom of the pan.  Pierce dough all over with a fork.
  4. Bake the cookie base until light golden brown and slightly puffed and the edges begin to come away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.  Place pan on a rack; immediately sprinkle the chopped bittersweet chocolate over.  Let stand until the chocolate softens, about 3 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, melt the chopped white chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave.  (This doesn’t take long – be careful not to burn it!  In my microwave, it took about a minute.  I started by microwaving the chocolate for 30 seconds, then I stopped the microwave, stirred the chocolate and continued microwaving it in 10 second intervals, stirring each time until it was fully melted.)
  6. Using a small offset spatula, spread the bittersweet chocolate over the top of the cookie in a thin even layer.  Immediately drizzle the melted white chocolate over the dark chocolate layer.  Using the tip of the offset spatula (or a butter knife) held vertically, carefully swirl the white and dark chocolate together to create a “swirly” pattern.  Then sprinkle the chopped candy canes on top.
  7. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.
  8. Using the paper overhang as an aid, lift the cookie from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, cut the cookie into irregular pieces.  Enjoy!

Note: These can be made 1 week ahead.  Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper or parchment paper.

Yield: About 36 cookies

Source: slightly adapted from Bon Appetit

Candy Cane Cookies

Candy Cane cookies have been one of my favorite Christmas cookies for as long as I can remember.  They are one of 3 kinds of cookies that I make every year, exclusively at Christmas time, which makes them extra special.  I look forward to these cookies all year long!  (In case you’re wondering, the other two of my “Christmas only” cookies are Chocolate Crinkles and Butter Snowballs, pictured below.)

Traditionally, these candy cane cookies are just red and white, but last year I decided to switch things up a bit and make some of them green and white too.  I think they turned out cute and I like how they represent both Christmas colors.  These delicate cookies have a nice almondy flavor and the crushed peppermint candy canes on top give them a hint of minty-ness which makes them extra yummy.  You should definitely consider adding these cookies to your Christmas baking list!

Candy Cane Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered (confectioners’) sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons almond extract (peppermint extract can be substituted)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Red and green (optional) food coloring

Candy cane topping:

  • ½ cup crushed candy canes
  • ½ cup granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Prepare the candy cane topping: In a small bowl, stir together the crushed candy canes and sugar.  Set aside.
  3. Whisk the flour and salt together in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter and powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.  Then add the egg, almond extract and vanilla extract.  Beat until smooth.  Gradually stir in the flour mixture, beating on low speed just until the flour is blended.
  5. Divide the cookie dough in half.
  6. To make all red & white cookies: Take one half of the dough and knead red food coloring into it until the dough is tinted red.  To make half of the cookies red/white and half of the cookies green/white: Take one half of the dough and separate into 2 equal parts.  Tint one part red and the other part green, using food coloring.
  7. To assemble each cookie: Take one rounded teaspoon of red (or green) dough & one rounded teaspoon of white dough and roll each into a ball.  On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a 4-inch long rope.   Place 1 red (or green) and 1 white rope side by side on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Press the 2 ropes together lightly, twist them together, and then curve the top of the cookie down to form the handle of a candy cane.
  8. Bake for 9 to 10 minutes.  Immediately after taking them out of the oven, sprinkle the cookies with the crushed candy cane and sugar mixture.  Cool slightly on the pan, and then remove them from the cookie sheet to cool completely.

Yield: 4 dozen cookies

Source: Betty Crocker

My other favorite Christmas Cookies:

Chocolate Crinkles

Butter Snowballs

One Year Ago: Pomegranate Fizz Cocktail

 

 

 

 


Golden Winter Soup

This is one of my all-time favorite soup recipes.  I have been making it ever since it was on the cover of Cooking Light Magazine, in January of 2008.  I look forward to making this soup every Fall & Winter when the weather gets colder and butternut squash is in season–in fact, I’ve already made this 3 times this Fall!  One of the great things about this recipe is that it has only a few ingredients and it’s super easy to make.  The addition of potato makes this soup extra smooth and creamy, and the leeks provide a lot of flavor.

Simply garnished with some freshly cracked black pepper and chives, this soup makes an excellent first course for dinner (I served it most recently for Thanksgiving).  Or, for a complete meal, you can serve it with a salad and crusty bread, dinner rolls, or homemade croutons.  It can also be made a day ahead – just store it overnight in the refrigerator and reheat it over low heat.

Golden Winter Soup

Ingredients

  • 2  tablespoons  butter
  • 5  cups  (½-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 ½ pounds)
  • 2  cups  (½-inch) cubed peeled russet potato (about 12 ounces)
  • 1  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 2  cups  sliced leek (about 2 medium)
  • 4  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1  cup  half-and-half (optional- half-and-half can be omitted — see note below**)
  • 3  tablespoons  chopped chives
  • Freshly ground black pepper (optional)

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the squash, potato, salt, and pepper to the pan; sauté 3 minutes.  Add the leeks; sauté 1 minute.  Stir in the chicken broth; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until the potato is tender, stirring occasionally.
  2. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.  Or you can use a blender: Place half of the potato mixture in a blender.  Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender.  Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters).  Blend until smooth.  Pour into a large bowl.  Repeat procedure with remaining potato mixture.
  3. Stir in half-and-half, if desired. Cover and keep warm.  Ladle 1 cup of soup into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with about 1 teaspoon chives.  Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, if desired.

Serves: 8 (serving size is 1 cup)

**Note: When I make this I omit the cream, as I prefer soups without cream.  I have tried it with the half & half though and it is delicious both ways!

Source: slightly adapted from Cooking Light


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