December 30, 2018

Top Posts of 2018

2018 was full of great people, great adventures, and great food. Here are 30 great recipes to kick off 2019!

Top 10 Recipes of 2018:

10. Frozen Margarita Pie - A refreshing frozen lime filling in a salty pretzel crust with toasty meringue on top

9. Cheesy Garlic Pull Apart Bread - Fresh bread packed with roasted garlic and plenty of cheese

8. Sesame Chicken Thighs - Sweet, sticky, and sesame-y chicken thighs with veggies underneath

7. Mustard-Crusted Salmon - Tender salmon topped with a mustard glaze and crispy breadcrumbs

6. Creole Grilled Pork with Corn & Okra - Spiced pork cutlets with savory corn and okra

5. Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes - Fudgy individual chocolate cakes

4. Chicken Marsala Pasta Bake - Chicken Marsala transformed into a cozy baked pasta dish

3. Mushroom Ravioli w/ Parmesan White Wine Sauce - Delicate, cheesy mushroom ravioli smothered in a buttery white wine pan sauce

2. Frozen Lemonade Tart - Lemonade in creamy pie form with a sweet, buttery crust

1. Chicken Tortilla Soup - A cozy, spicy broth packed with chicken and veggies plus crispy tortilla strips on top

10 Recipes That Need More Love:

10. Mixed Berry Lemon Scones - All the berries you can find loaded in a lemony scone with a gorgeous glaze

9. Thai Squash Soup - The weirdest combination of ingredients in a soup you'll ever try but it works

8. Cheesy Baked Pasta - Pasta tossed in a decadent cheese sauce with bacon and crispy breadcrumbs

7. Buttermilk Pie - A creamy pie that tastes like a sugar cookie (roasted fruit optional)

6. Cranberry Balsamic Chicken - Roasted chicken with a tart sauce perfect for winter

5. Seared Salmon w/ Corn Relish - Succulent salmon with fresh corn, tomatoes, and caramelized onions on top

4. Pink Lemonade Bars - Classic lemon bars updated with raspberries for a pop of pink

3. Blackberry Almond Coffee Cake - Tender crumb cake with fresh blackberries and a hint of almond

2. Peanut Butter Chocolate Shortbread - Peanut buttery goodness with plenty of chocolate added in

1. Bourbon Peach Pecan Galette - Bourbon-spiked peaches and pecans in a buttery pecan crust

Top 10 Recipes of All Time:

10. Cranberry Apple Muffins - Quick and easy muffins studded with seasonal apples and fresh cranberries

9. Brownies - Rich, fudgy brownies with added chocolate chips for good measure

8. Croque Poulet - My favorite sandwich: chicken, bacon, and cheesy goodness

7. Cucumber Salad - Crisp cucumbers marinated in a salty, tangy sauce with crunchy sesame seeds

6. Meatballs - Juicy, savory meatballs with a secret ingredient to make them absolutely perfect

5. Christmas Light Cookies - Perfect rolled sugar cookies frosted with the most festive of decorations

4. Spicy Beer Chili - A classic made better with beer

3. Chili - Everything spicy and savory all in one bowl

2. Guacamole - The perfect balance of chunky and smooth with a hint of heat and acidity

1. White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies - Still the most popular recipe on my blog! Buttery shortbread studded with cranberries and white chocolate

December 29, 2018

Quiche Lorraine

New Year's Eve is not my favorite holiday if I'm being honest. Everybody says they want to go out and do something fun when in reality most people probably just want to be at home in their pajamas. The food is always a bit of a letdown too, since it's mostly just appetizers. I need a real dinner, people! Also, if I am going to stay up all night and socialize I at least need a good breakfast to look forward to. There's always a decadent French Toast or some fresh biscuits, but quiche is great because it's filling, can be eaten at any time of day (*cough* if you're sleeping late from the night before), and kicks off the new year with the illusion of nutrition. Eggs are healthy right? You're just adding some bacon and cheese for flavor, the onion counts as a vegetable, and the crust just makes it easier to eat.

Quiche Lorraine is delicious because it takes all my favorite parts of quiche--the cheese and the bacon--and complements it with some onions and that's it. No other fussy veggies to cook off or fancy ingredients to buy. You could dress it up with shallots instead of onions or maybe a handful of fresh herbs, but if you really want something more hefty just go with another quiche recipe, like this one with mushrooms and caramelized onions.

The quiche crust is my basic savory all-butter pie crust recipe. Just combine flour with a pinch of salt and sugar, add some cold butter, and stir in enough water to make the dough come together. Keep it cold and work it as little as possible and you'll end up with a buttery, flaky crust to cradle your quiche. The quiche base consists of eggs and half and half plus a bit of salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. To make it quiche Lorraine, I throw in some bacon, diced onions cooked in those tasty bacon drippings, and grated cheese, preferably Swiss or Gruyere. If you make the pie dough the night before, you can make the filling and get it in the oven within 15 minutes in the morning. That means you can have a piping hot, fresh quiche ready to go an hour into the first morning of 2019, or you could have an overachieving early bird do it for you and sleep in (the best way to start the new year).

1 Recipe Pie Crust Dough
8 oz Bacon
1 Small Onion, Chopped
2 Sprigs Thyme
5 Eggs
1 Cup Half and Half
1 Cup Shredded Cheese (Preferably Swiss or Gruyere)
Pinch Nutmeg

Heat oven to 400F.

Roll the pie dough out to fit a 9" pie plate. Crimp the edges and chill until cold.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Remove and chop coarsely.

Drain all but 2T bacon drippings from the skillet. Add the onion and thyme and cook for 4 minutes until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Whisk the eggs, half and half, cheese, onions, and bacon together. Season with salt and pepper and the nutmeg. Pour into the prepared crust and bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden and just set, covering the edges as necessary to prevent over-browning.

Pie Crust:
Pulse 1 1/4 cups flour, 1 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt in the bowl of a food processor to combine. Add 1 stick of chilled and cubed butter (and 1/2 cup shredded hard cheese, if desired) and pulse until small lumps remain, then drizzle in cold water until it clumps together.
Pie Crust Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Serves 6-8.

December 21, 2018

Maple Walnut Shortbread

It's been a crazy week. My bathroom was flooded because my upstairs neighbor literally smashed his toilet to smithereens (I'm still confused), I almost adopted at least two cats (they already found good homes but I'll keep you updated), and I stuck it out in my office until all but two other people on my floor left for the holidays. Fortunately, it was a week blessed with plenty of good food and edible gifts, and the cookies were the best part. I love how Christmas is a great excuse to get creative with your cookies and basically force people to take them off your hands, which means I've been testing out plenty of new recipes. These maple walnut cookies are one of my favorites since they're just so warm and festive, plus it's incredibly easy to crank out a big batch for all your friends, family, and coworkers.

The cookie dough starts by creaming the butter and sugar together. I use 2 sticks of softened butter to speed up the process, but instead of normal sugar I used powdered sugar and maple syrup. The maple syrup is because these are maple cookies and that flavor has to come from somewhere. The powdered sugar makes a more delicate cookie with that signature shortbread texture. I also add a splash of vanilla since vanilla makes everything better.

The dry ingredients include flour, cornstarch, finely chopped walnuts, and salt. The cornstarch also contributes to a more delicate cookie because it counts as a dry ingredient but doesn't have gluten (which gets tough the more you mix it) like flour does. The walnuts should be toasted to enhance their flavor and chopped finely so you still have delicate, crumbly cookies. Larger chunks of walnut would still taste fine but wouldn't be distributed evenly and add random pockets of crunch.

You may notice this recipe doesn't use two ingredients you would normally find in cookies: eggs and leavening. Shortbread typically doesn't have eggs in it since it's more crumbly than chewy, and there's no reason to change a good thing. I always get excited about eggless cookie dough since there's less of a chance I'll get sick when I inevitably eat it by the spoonful, but keep in mind that raw flour can also get you sick so don't go too crazy. Shortbread also doesn't have leavening because you don't want them to rise or spread too much; they should just have that short, crumbly texture.

The dough needs to chill for a few hours before baking to let it set up and keep its shape when baked. I find that slice and bake cookies are easiest since you can just roll the dough into a log or two, refrigerate it, and slice the cookies into rounds. This eliminates the need for rolling dough everywhere (which can make it tougher) and you can slice off just as much as you need, in case you only want to snack on a few.

To dress these cookies up a bit, you can whip up a quick maple glaze with some maple syrup and powdered sugar. That would also give you a way to stick some additional walnuts on top. I'm also a fan of just keeping them simple, the way shortbread is intended to be. Another option is to roll the dough into other shapes; just because slice and bake logs are easier doesn't mean it's not worth it to roll the dough out and cut it into dippable rectangles or even fun creative shapes. If you avoid the glaze, this makes the cookies even more portable, perfect for gift-giving or group snacking.

2 Sticks Butter, Softened
1/3 Cup Powdered Sugar
1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
1 tsp Vanilla
2 Cups Flour
1/4 Cup Cornstarch
1 Cup Finely Chopped Toasted Walnuts
1/2 tsp Salt

Beat the butter, powdered sugar, and maple syrup together until fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium speed. Add the vanilla. Whisk the flour, cornstarch, walnuts, and salt together, then stir into the dough until just combined.

Roll the dough into a 1.5" wide log and chill for at least two hours.

Heat the oven to 350F and line cookie trays with parchment.

Slice the dough into scant 1/4" thick rounds. Transfer to the prepared trays and bake for 12 minutes or until just golden on the edges.

Makes 24
Recipe Adapted from Food Network and The View from Great Island

November 30, 2018

Chicken and Dumplings with Mushrooms

You know how I know how winter snuck up on everyone? I got stranded in Atlanta and had to fly straight to Texas with all my sweaters instead of making a pit stop back in Chicago because of a blizzard. Sitting in 70-something-degree Texas makes me forget a bit, but as soon as I touch down in Chicago this weekend I know I'll be shivering all the way back to my apartment. But you know what makes cold days like that a little more bearable? Steaming hot comfort food. Nothing says comfort food like a hot chicken stew with fluffy carbs on top and a little bit of bacon secretly mixed in, which is why this recipe for chicken and dumplings will be at the top of my list for the months to come.

I love chicken and dumplings because I don't really know what it is. Is it a stew? Is it just a ton of gravy smothered on chicken? Probably both, which is why it tastes so good. Normally there's peas and carrots and celery and all sorts of vegetables, but what if you replaced them with bacon? I also throw in a ton of mushrooms so it's still somewhat healthy, though the key is to cook them in all the bacon and chicken drippings so none of that flavor goes to waste.

Like all good recipes, cooking the bacon is the first step. It makes it all crispy and yummy, you get something to snack on while you cook the rest of the dish, and it gives you a flavorful starting point for the other ingredients. I add chicken to the party next, which only adds to the bacon-y goodness. The mushrooms get cooked in all that liquid gold until they are tender, then I set them aside so they don't overcook. The onions go in whatever drippings are left plus some extra butter, which is used to start the roux. The garlic and flour go in and cook just for a minute before warm chicken broth is slowly stirred in. If you keep the broth warm and add it gradually, the gravy (hopefully) won't get lumpy on you. Once it comes to a boil, you can reduce it to a simmer then stir in your chicken and bacon and seasonings, though it helps to season with salt and pepper at every step along the way.

Once the stew/gravy simmers for an hour, you can shred that tender, juicy chicken and throw it back in the pot with the mushrooms and all their juices. That has to come back to a simmer so the dumplings can cook. Dumplings are basically just scoopable biscuits, so I combine flour, baking powder, and salt then stir in melted butter and milk. They puff up a lot, so only small dollops are necessary; I even found that my tiny cookie scoop gave me pretty hefty dumplings. They'll only cook through if you drop them into hot liquid and cover tightly to trap the heat and let them steam, but it only takes about 15 minutes more until you have soft, fluffy dumplings to smother in chicken stew/gravy. The only way I can think of to upgrade my standard roasted chicken with gravy is to add more gravy and maybe some bacon, so this dish is sure to please anyone who gets a little hangry on a chilly winter night.

8oz Bacon
1.5 lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
12 oz Mushrooms, Sliced
1 Yellow Onion, Diced
2 T Butter
2 T Butter, Melted
3 Cloves Garlic
1 1/4 Cups Flour
4 Cups Chicken Broth, Warm
1 Bay Leaf
3 Sprigs Thyme
Pinch Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Cup Milk

Heat some oil in a large pot. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove, then chop when cooled.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Sear in the bacon fat until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Set aside.

Cook the mushrooms in the chicken/bacon fat for 5-8 minutes or until tender, seasoning with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Melt 2T butter in the pot. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 4 minutes or until translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in 1/4 cup flour and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Add the chicken, bacon, bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Simmer for 1 hour, then shred the chicken and return to the pot along with the mushrooms and mushroom juices. Bring to a simmer.

Combine the remaining 1 cup flour, baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt. Stir in the melted butter and milk until just combined. Spoon into the simmering stew, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the dumplings are floating and fluffy.

Serves 6

November 11, 2018

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie

I don't care that Starbucks released their Pumpkin Spice Latte in August this year. First of all, it doesn't even have any pumpkin in it. Secondly, it is fall now. We should be enjoying pumpkin spice things now and not jumping right to Christmas things. I'm loving my scarves and sweaters and boots, not my giant parka and waterproof snow boots, so I think the same timing courtesies should extend to my diet as well. There's nothing that shouts November like a pumpkin pie, especially with Thanksgiving on the horizon, but I think people can get a little sick of the same old pumpkin pie year after year. That's why I took a classic recipe and 'spiced' it up with a few dollops of cheesecake filling, since cheesecake is just as much of a crowd-pleaser and makes things interesting without stealing the spotlight.

Most of the recipes I've seen for pumpkin cheesecake pie use a pumpkin-flavored cheesecake filling, sometimes no-bake which shouldn't even qualify as a cheesecake in my opinion. This recipe keeps your classic pumpkin pie base, with pumpkin puree sweetened with sweetened condensed milk plus eggs and warm fall spices. That infamous pumpkin spice comes from a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice, or you can go ahead and buy a jar of pumpkin pie spice and it will taste pretty similar.

The cheesecake swirl is also incredibly easy: just beat some cream cheese, sugar, a bit of flour, a bit of milk, and a splash of vanilla together until smooth. It helps to have the cream cheese at room temperature so it mixes in better and is more swirl-able in the liquidy pumpkin pie filling. If it's still too thick, you can add another splash of milk to thin it out. For more of a gingerbread flavor, you can also stir in more pumpkin pie spice and a spoonful of molasses. You'll sacrifice the contrast of the white cheesecake on orange pumpkin pie, but the darker color is also striking.

Another way to incorporate that gingerbread flavor is in the crust. I normally use my basic sweet pie crust recipe with plenty of butter, but you can switch it up and add the molasses and spices there so you get white cheesecake on orange pie on a dark crust. As always, keep your fat (or all the ingredients, if you can) cold and work the dough as little as possible for a tender, flaky crust.

Starting the oven at a high temperature sets the crust and makes the butter steam for extra flakiness, and then you have to lower it so the filling cooks through. You may need to cover the edges with some foil or one of those special crust shields (I highly recommend them, especially with all this holiday baking coming up!) to prevent burning, but you'll know it's done when the pie just barely jiggles in the center. If you're trying to fit this into your busy Thanksgiving to do list, you can make the crust a couple days in advance and bake the pie off the morning or afternoon you plan on serving it. It slices best if it has time to cool and set, so don't worry about moving the pie straight from the oven to the table. If you're looking for more pie inspiration to spice up your fall or brighten up your Thanksgiving table, you can also check out my chocolate fudge pecan piechocolate peanut butter piecinnamon crack pie, or tollhouse pie recipes.

1 Recipe Sweet Pie Crust Dough (see below)
1 14oz Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 Eggs
1 15oz Can Pumpkin
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Ginger
1/4 tsp Cloves
1/4 tsp Allspice
1/2 tsp + Pinch Salt
4 oz Cream Cheese, Softened
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 T Flour
1 T Milk
1 tsp Vanilla

Roll the pie dough out to fit a 9" pie plate and press gently to adhere. Chill until firm.

Heat oven to 425F.

Whisk the sweetened condensed milk and eggs together. Add the pumpkin, spices, and 1/2 tsp salt.

Beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour, milk, vanilla, and a pinch of salt together.

Pour the pumpkin mixture into the crust. Swirl in the cream cheese. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes, then lower oven to 350 and bake for 30 minutes more or until just set, covering the edges as necessary.

For the pie crust:
Pulse 1 1/4 C flour, 1/4 C sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt in a food processor until combined. Add 1 stick chilled and cubed butter and pulse until small pieces remain. Combine the an yolk with a tablespoon of cold water and add in. Pulse until it begins to form a ball, adding more water as necessary. Chill.

Makes 1 9" Pie
Recipe Adapted from

October 21, 2018

Candy Corn Cookies

Candy corn is one of the most polarizing candies out there, and I'm a candy scientist so I know exactly what I'm talking about. I have a few friends who love them and can't wait for Fall to roll around, but I find them overly sweet and waxy. I can still admit that they're a quintessential treat this time of year, so I found the perfect way to spread the candy corn love without subjecting my friends (and myself) to the originals. These candy corn cookies take my favorite rolled sugar cookie dough and transform them into a seasonal treat. I've already used the recipe for festive Christmas light cookies and jammy Linzer cookies, so the possibilities are endless.

One of the reasons why I love these sugar cookies is because they hold their shape so well no matter how you cut them. I've heard rumors that it's because I use baking powder instead of baking soda, and chilling the dough is key too. The recipe is pretty standard: beat the softened butter and sugar together, add the eggs and a good splash of vanilla, then stir in your dry ingredients.

Normally I'd chill the dough for an hour or two, roll it out thin, cut it into shapes, and bake it off. These cookies are slightly different, since it's much easier to layer the colors of dough than to painstakingly cut a million shapes. After the dough mixes, I split it into three sections and dye one orange, one yellow, and leave one plain. I had to use a lot of gel food coloring to get the bright colors just right, so don't be afraid to use more than you think.

The trick to getting those signature candy corn shapes is to press the dough into layers, stack them on top of each other, slice them up, and cut each slice into triangles. I've found that a loaf pan is the perfect size to hold all the dough and helps keep everything even. It's best to let each layer chill for a few minutes before stacking the next on top so that there are clean lines between each color, but that's the perfect amount of time to mix the colors in to the next section. Once all the layers are stacked, they need to chill for at least an hour or two or you can leave them overnight.

These cookies are the perfect portable Halloween treat. They even survived my commute to work on the wonderfully crowded Chicago bus system and were devoured by my candy science coworkers who were supposedly sick of Halloween candy and sugar in general. If you're looking to round out your Halloween party menu, try some brain cupcakes or mummy cupcakes too.

2 Sticks + 2T Butter, Softened
1 1/2 Cups Sugar
3 Eggs
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
3 3/4 Cups Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Salt
Orange & Yellow Food Coloring

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt, then gradually add it to the dough.

Split the dough into 3 equal sections. Dye one orange, one yellow, and leave one plain. Line a loaf pan with saran wrap. Press the plain dough into the bottom of the pan and chill for 5 minutes. Press the orange dough on top and chill for another 5 minutes. Press the yellow dough on top, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 1-2 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 375ºF and line cookie trays with parchment.

Remove the dough from the loaf pan and cut into 1/3" thick slices (1/2" is a bit too thick and 1/4" gives you crispy cookies). Cut each slice into triangles and transfer to the prepared trays. Bake for 8 minutes or until set and golden on the bottom.

Makes 80
Recipe Adapted from Back to Her Roots