Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top 12 Recipes Of 2009 (Updated with my Faves!)

It's the last day of the year and I thought I'd share with you the most viewed recipes of the year according to Google Analytics. There are 12 months in the year, so here are the top 12 recipes!

1. Dr. Pepper Cake

2. Jack's Rainbow Cupcakes

3. Pistachio Crusted Chicken

4. Blueberry White Chocolate Scones

5. My Favorite Pork Tenderloin

6. Devil's Food Cake

7. Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes

8. Snickerdoodle Blondies

9. Triple Chocolate Cake

9 1/2. Chicken & Dumplings- This one actually did make the list but it was a recipe I made in 2008 and I was doing the top 12 for for 2009 so I left it off. But it is so good and one of my favorite and still popular after over a year, so here it is again!

10. Strawberry Cake

11. Red Velvet Cake Balls

12. Lemon Marble Cake

My favorite for 2009 are (in no particular order):
  1. My Favorite Pork Tenderloin
  2. Oatmeal Cookies
  3. Lemon Blueberry Cake
  4. Bailey's Cappuccino Chip Cake
  5. Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake
  6. Easy Cinnamon Bread
  7. KitchenAid 60-Minute Dinner Rolls
  8. Pumpkin Cinnamon Streusel Rolls
  9. Easy Cheese Danish
  10. Crispy Flatbread Pizza
  11. Berry Cobbler Cake
  12. Sweet Potato Pancakes w/ Cinnamon Syrup
  13. Breakfast Potatoes
  14. Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits
  15. Strawberries Romanoff
  16. Chicken & Dumplings
  17. One Bowl Chocolate Cake with Instant Fudge Frosting
  18. Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting
  19. Lemon Rosemary No-Knead Bread
  20. Croque Madame

I'll see you all in the new year. Be safe and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cut It Out!

Christmas cookies are a must for the holidays. I make them every year but I usually make my Great Aunt Mary's Sugar Cookie recipe. This year I attempted a royal iced cookie from Cookie Craft that Lorelei from Mermaids Sweets shared with me. This is the second time I've made this recipe and it is really good. I don't think it will replace the other cookie recipe simply because they're so different but it's the perfect cookie for special occasions. Thanks Lorelei for sharing with me!

The first time I made these I made onesie cookies for a baby shower. They were decorated in pink and green and turned out so cute. I'll share those with you another time. It was my first time making them and while the cookies turned out perfectly, my icing job was a little rough. This time around things went a little smoother.

I like this recipe because you roll the cookies between sheets of waxed or parchment paper, which means you don't have to roll them on a counter with excess flour. Which means your cookies won't get tough or dry as you reroll them. Also as long as you work with the dough when it's been chilled properly, it's a breeze to work with. Keeping them cold also ensures that the cookies will keep their shape when you bake them.

These cookies are crisp and sturdy. They're buttery and fragrant. I use a combination of Mexican vanilla and lemon extract in the cookies but you could also use almond extract or even add a little nutmeg or cinnamon to the cookies as well. Lorelei was kind enough to send me the recipe in a word document so I could just print it out. If you'd like the printable recipe for the cookies and icing, just let me know and I'll send it your way.

Rolled Sugar Cookies from Cookie Craft

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla or 1 teaspoon vanilla plus zest of 1 lemon*

Whisk together the flour and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Using your mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. (use paddle attachment). Add the egg and the vanilla (and lemon zest if using) or your extract of choice and mix until well-blended.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture until the two are thoroughly blended.

Turn the dough onto the work surface and divide it into two or three equal portions. Form each one into a rough disk. Place a cookie sheet sized piece of wax paper or parchment paper on your rolling surface.

Place a sheet of wax paper over the cookie dough and use your hand or rolling pin to slightly flatten and evenly distribute the dough across the paper. Roll the pin over the paper covered dough. If the top paper wrinkles, lift and smooth it. You’re finished rolling when the dough surface is uniform and completely flat and it is easy to roll the pin over the dough. Roll dough to a 1/4-inch thickness.

Slide the rolled-out piece of dough (paper and all) onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate it until its firm – this should be 20-30 minutes. Repeat the rolling process with the remaining dough portions.

When the dough is firm, it will pretty much be stiff as a board, remove it from the refrigerator to your flat work surface. Working with one piece of dough at a time, leaving the others in the fridge to chill until you are ready to use them, cut the dough into the desired shape with cutters. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

After you’ve rolled and cut the dough and the cookie shapes are on the parchment-lined cookies sheets, bake them in the middle rack of your oven for 12-16 minutes or until the cookies start to turn slightly golden around the edges (smaller cookies will be done more quickly). If you decide to bake two sheets of cookies at a time, space your two oven racks evenly in the oven and rotate the cookie sheets halfway through baking (that is, switch the position of the top sheet and bottom sheet and turn both so that the front of each sheet is at the back to promote even baking).

Cool the cookies completely on a rack before icing or decorating.


  • 2 ½ inch cookies – about 30
  • 3 ½ inch cookies – about 16
  • 4 ½ inch cookies – about 12

NOTE: For the sugar cookies, I use 1 tsp. Mexican vanilla and 1 tsp. lemon extract

Royal Icing using Meringue Powder

For Piping:

Makes 2 cups

  • 2 cups Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 4 teaspoons Meringue Powder
  • 3 tablespoons Warm Water
  • 1 tablespoon (lemon juice) or 1 tsp extract

Makes 4 cups

  • 4 cups Confectioner's Sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Meringue Powder
  • 6 tablespoons Warm Water
  • 2 tablespoons (lemon juice) or 2 tsp extract

For Flooding:

Makes 2 cups

  • 2 cups Confectioner's Sugar
  • 4 teaspoons Meringue Powder
  • 6 tablespoons Warm Water
  • 1 tablespoon (lemon juice) or 1 tsp extract

Makes 4 cups

  • 4 cups Confectioner's Sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Meringue Powder
  • 12 tablespoons Warm Water
  • 2 tablespoons (lemon juice) or 1-2 tsp extract

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of your electric mixer. Beat on high for 5 minutes if you’re using an electric stand mixer or for 10 minutes if you’re using an electric hand mixer. If your mixer has multiple attachments, use the paddle.

When you reach the desired consistency, its important that you immediately cover the mixture or store in airtight containers.

Piping Consistency

When first mixed, piping icing will start out with the consistency of white glue. When you’ve finished beating the icing, it will be glossy with the consistency similar to that of toothpaste. The icing should squeeze easily out of a #2 tip but should stay in place and hold its shape on the cookie when it lands.

If the icing is too stiff, it’ll be hard to squeeze from the pastry bag and may lift up off the cookie when you finish the outline or detail, and will also tend to “flake off” the cookie readily when dry.

Flood Consistency

When first mixed, flood icing will appear very soupy. Never fear! In 5 minutes your icing will be shiny and an opaque white color with the consistency of heavy cream.

Flood icing is sometimes known as flow icing for a reason, when you squirt it onto a cookie, it immediately flows toward the piped borders.

The icing should be so thin that it puns like water or that its cookie coverage is transparent, and it shouldn’t be so thick that it stays in place when you squirt onto the cookie.

Allow to dry overnight or until no longer tacky.

NOTE: I tripled the cookie recipe and used the amounts for 4 cups of icing. That was way too much icing, so I suggest making the lesser amount of you're only making one batch of cookies.

I used non pareils, dragees, cinnamon imperials and coarse sanding sugar for decoration. Place decorations on while icing is still wet.

What kind of cookies did you make this year? Any favorites?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mr. H In The Kitchen!

Hi All! Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and weekend. I know I sure did. On Christmas Eve, my in-laws came over for a Santa Fe enchilada dinner. We drove through the neighborhood to see the twinkling lights, then we came hope for cookies and gift opening. It was a nice night.

On Christmas Day, we slept in a little bit, then I got up and made breakfast for Mr. H. I made breakfast potatoes, eggs, bacon and toast with jam. I had plans to make Christmas morning muffins and a frittata, but I didn't have the energy or desire to spend that much time in the kitchen, so I went simple. Then we opened gifts around the tree- just the two of us. Later int he day we went to dinner at my aunts house along with the rest of the family. My contribution to the meal was a rum cake and a Jell-o mold. Yummy!

Back to the Santa Fe enchiladas. This is something that Mr. H and his Dad (my FIL) make every Christmas Eve. It's the only time of the year we have them and it's the only time of the year that my MIL and I don't have to lift a finger--not even to clean the dishes. It also helps that we always serve them on holiday paper plates. They do it all! Except this year- ha ha! We invited my in-laws over for dinner. They were supposed to get there at 6, but didn't arrive til 7. By the time they got here, the enchiladas were done. That's okay though because Mr. H and I whipped them up in no time. I love when he helps me in the kitchen. We have matching aprons with our names embroidered on them that was a gift from my MIL a few Christmases ago. He's only worn his about 3 times, this time included so it still looks brand new :-)

If your'e not familiar with Santa Fe enchiladas, they're beef and bean enchiladas that have been stacked instead of rolled. My FIL used to live in Santa Fe as a child and he and his family used to make these then, so we're carrying on the tradition. Mr. H stacked the enchiladas so I was able to take pictures. He has a heavy hand and piles on the ingredients. We usually all have 2 stackers while Mr. H eats a 3-stacker. After they're done baking and the cheese is melted, we put chopped green leaf lettuce and diced tomatoes around the outside to make a wreath. Perfect for the holidays.

Santa Fe Stacked Enchiladas from Monica H

serves 8

  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • corn tortillas (2-3 per person)
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 small cans (10 oz.) enchilada sauce
  • 3 small cans (15 oz.) Ranch Style Beans, drain 2 of the cans
  • 2-3 cups Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • Green leaf lettuce, cut into wide shreds
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced

Over medium high heat, cook onion til soft and translucent. Add the minced garlic and whirl around the pan til fragrant. Then add the ground beef and cook til no longer pink; breaking up any large bits as you go. Season with kosher salt and stir it in. If you're using a fattier mix of ground beef, drain off any excess fat. Set aside.

In a medium pan, generously coat the bottom of the pan and heat til shimmery. Fry the tortillas, one at a time, on each side for about 30 seconds. You don't want them to be crispy, you just want them to be a little more pliable so they don't break apart. But you really can't skip this step because the tortillas will become soggy when you bake them. Repeat til done. Place on a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.

Heat sauce til warm in a small sauce pan. Heat beans in a pot til warm. You want them warm not hot.

Dip one tortilla in the warmed sauce and place on a sheet pan. Top with a bit of ground beef, then beans, then cheese. Repeat for a 2 stacker. If you're really hungry make 3 layers. Repeat as necessary until you have the amount of enchilada stacks as needed.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until cheese is melted. Allow the enchiladas to cool for a few minutes before transferring each stack to a plate. Place lettuce and tomatoes around each stack to resemble a wreath. Dig in!

Honey, thanks for helping me in the kitchen. I love you!


C-O-O-K-I-E-S! (from left to right- back to front)

  • Hay Stacks- crunchy chinese noodles and white chocolate (neigbor made these)
  • Rugelash- cinnamon sugar filling (neighbor made these)
  • Chocolate Coconut Hedgies- chocolate and coconut balls rolled inpowdered sugar
  • Peppermint Bark Cookies- chocolate wafers, white chocolate and crushed peppermints
  • Pecan Pie Bars- Pecan and a buttery filling over shortbread
  • Mocha Crinkles- Chocolate, coffee and cinnamon cookie balls rolled in sugar
  • Sugar Cookies- decorated with royal icing
  • Spritz Sandwiches- Buttery cookies with melted chocolate and M&M's

Oops, I almost for a picture of Mr. H and I in front of my aunts tree!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Inside And Out

Merry Christmas to you all! Thank you for following along with my blog. Thank you for the comments, the emails, the recipes, the inspiration, encouragement and mostly the friendships that we've built along the way. I wish you all the merriest of Christmases filled with laughter, love, family, friends and traditions new and old.

Peace and blessings,

Monica and Mr. H

Christmas Breakfast: Day 6

Today is the last day of the Christmas Breakfast series. I'm kinda sad and a little relieved. I actually have a couple more breakfasts to share with you, but I'll save them for 2010. If you missed any breakfasts here they are:

Today I offer you one of my most favorite and simplest breakfasts ever- Cinnamon Toast. I've blogged about it before when I first started blogging and it sits in my archives with 2 little lonely comments--one of them is from me. It's something that I love so here it is again.

Mr. H first introduced this specialty to me and we have it a few times a month. What's great about it is that you can make as many or as little as you need with not much effort. You butter your favorite bread, sprinkle liberally with cinnamon sugar and bake for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven. It's buttery, slightly salty and sweet (if you use salted butter), crunchy on the edges and softer in the middle. The best part is the cinnamon and sugar bubbles up and creates a flaky crust on top of the toast. Mmm, it's pure bliss in minutes!

Cinnamon Toast from Mr. H

  • Sliced Bread (2 per person) (we like Nature's Own Honey Wheat)
  • Salted Butter, softened
  • Cinnamon Sugar

Spread softened butter on sliced bread. Place on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar- about 1 tablespoon per slice.

Bake in a preheated oven at 250 degrees F for 15 minutes.

NOTE: These can be made in a toaster oven but it's best to only do one or two slices at a time because the underside doesn't toast up as well. The oven works best.


Here are the last of my holiday decorations. I promised Shelly from Cookies and Cups that I would post pictures of my Christmas Story villages. She made some awesome cookies of Ralphie in his bunny suit and a leg lamp my husband would love to have. So fun!

Here is another cutie! My wooden reindeer planter. My FIL made this one year when he was sponsoring a wood shop class as a local high school. He and all the kids in the class made one to take home to their families for Christmas. So cute. I look forward to pulling him out of the attic every year.

While we're speaking of cute, I wanted to send out a special thank you to my dear friend Janet who sent me these gorgeous and tasty cookies. I love them Janet!

And finally...I've finished my cookie boxes! Whew! In them were these yummy bacon and egg cups along with 6 other cookies.

Ta da! I've delivered 2 boxes to the neighbors and the rest I'll give to my family on Christmas Day. I wish I could give you all a box of cookies.

Thanks for following along with my Christmas breakfast posts. I hope you all make and eat some yummy things tomorrow morning. Merry Christmas Eve!

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