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