December 28, 2012

Pin It Best New Recipes of 2012

No food blog would be complete without a "Best of" list for the year. I've put together a few categories of some favorite recipes that I tried during 2012.

To follow one of my Dad's favorite sayings, "Life is uncertain, eat dessert first," we'll start with the sugary stuff. These first two were actually from 2011, but they are too good to leave out.


Here are some of my favorite Meals from the year:

Photo Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

Snacks and Breads 

Creative/Adventurous Sweets

So many great new recipes added to my collection, thanks to my resolution and hungry friends and family. It's been a great year of baking, cooking and exploring my potential in the kitchen. 

Happy New Year!  

December 23, 2012

Pin It Peppermint Bark Brownies

Taken From Love and Olive Oil

Week 52
My last new recipe of 2012?! Most likely, unless I'm feeling particularly motivated in the next couple days. But I did it! I made (at least) one new recipe every week in 2012.  In total I actually tried 109 new recipes. That's an average of more than 2 new recipes a week!  Yay me and yay New Year's resolutions!

I've been asked several times if I'll keep the blog going in 2013.  The answer is, yes!  I will still post new delicious recipes, but I will not hold myself to the one-a-week requirement, so I'll likely end up posting less frequently. I still want to be able to easily share delicious new recipes that I think others will enjoy as well. 

My other resolution for 2012 was to run a full marathon.  I checked that one off October 14th at the Nike Women's Marathon in SF. 
It's been an eventful year with lots of travel to Vancouver/Whistler B.C., Hawaii, Napa, and Seattle (3 times)! There was also a family wedding and two new nieces born in 2012, Sadie (left) and Lilah (right).

3 of my 5 nieces at Thanksgiving.
I also managed to fit in running 3 10K's and 3 half marathons this year, blowing through three pairs of running shoes in the process.  It's been a very active year with lots of cooking, running and baking (especially baking).

There were so many wintery themed sweets I wanted to try but did not have an army to feed, so I had to narrow it down to just a few.  I wanted to bring some sweets to Tom's parent's house and I managed to narrow it down to three recipes.  I made the English toffee, chocolate crinkles with candy cane hugs and these peppermint bark brownies. 
They were pretty simple and straightforward.  The only thing I thought was odd was that my batter was pretty thick, not really pour-able like the recipe indicated.  It didn't matter in the end because they just get covered with white chocolate anyway, but they don't really smooth out in the oven like I would have thought. Just make sure you try and smooth them out in the pan before baking.
These are a very fudgy brownie, not in the slightest bit cakey, which makes them very decadent.  The suggested size is a little absurd.  The directions say to cut the pan into 9 squares and then cut each square in half, making 18 triangles. This makes a huge brownie!  I'd suggest cutting each triangle in half again to make it a more manageable dessert, especially if you are loading up your plate with multiple desserts (as you should be).
Hooray for vacation, relaxing and indulging! 

December 21, 2012

Pin It English Toffee Bites

Taken From Sugary Sweets

Week 51
Now that I have a candy thermometer the possibilities are endless!  These seemed like a fairly simple place to start, plus it involved purchasing a new baking pan I really liked how they turned out on Sugary Sweets, so I decided I needed a silicone brownie bite pan too.  I found it on Amazon for cheap so it seemed like a good idea. It's genius! 1. They end up more uniform and all professional looking and 2. They pop out so easily. No struggling with sticky candy or messing with hard toffee and sharp knives.

I've only ever made caramel before so toffee was a new endeavor. The ingredients seemed simple enough so I figured I could manage.

I used slightly adapted ingredients for this recipe:
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
12 oz. milk chocolate, melted (via microwave or double boiler)
~1/3 cup sliced almonds
~1/3 cup chopped walnuts

I started out by sprinkling a few almond slivers into the wells of my pan. I wanted a variety of toffee so I only put almonds in half the wells.

I heated the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt over medium/high heat, stirring constantly. Once it got to 300 degrees (about the same time it turned a "toffee color"...about 7 minutes of frothy boiling), I took it off the heat and started spooning it into the wells. I was worried about it burning, so I kept stirring it in between spoonfuls.  As I continued to stir it I noticed the toffee started getting more viscous.  I think it was actually cooling faster with the stirring than if I had just left it alone. Oops. 
I quickly filled all the wells, leaving room on top for chocolate.
Once I was done filling the wells, I threw it in the oven for a few minutes to reheat it and make sure all the toffee looked consistent (since some of it had gotten a little thicker and wasn't melted together as nicely as the first few wells). This actually seemed to do the trick, so that was exciting.
I let them cool for a couple hours before distributing the melted chocolate on their tops. I had a little extra toffee but the amount of chocolate was perfect.
I sprinkled half the wells with chopped walnuts so I had 4 types of toffee:
Almonds and Walnuts
No Nuts
I can't tell you which have almonds in them anymore but I'm hoping looking at the bottom of the toffee pieces will give some clues away.
I chilled them overnight in the fridge and then popped them out of their wells.
Some of the chocolate tops popped off their toffee bottoms when I was taking them out of the pan. User error? Maybe, but I was trying to gently coerce them out of their little pockets.  I got worried at first but lined the tops back onto the bottoms and noticed that as they started to warm a bit, the chocolate adhered back onto the toffee. That was a close one.

I was pretty pleased about how these turned out.  They look really cute and presentable. I haven't tried one yet (am bringing them over to Tom's parents' house for the holidays) but I sampled the parts separately and I'm confident they'll be delicious.