Happy New Year’s Eve everyone. It’s pretty wild that today is already the last day of 2014. Are you guys ready to ring in the New Year’s? We have been laying low and enjoying our vacation at home this week and it’s been pretty fun. We just don’t get to do this very much, so we’ve been hanging out at home, touring and enjoying all of the fun things to eat and do around town. I even spent four hours cleaning, sorting and organizing our kids’ playroom yesterday. My husband thought that it was a much needed task, and wished me well from a far as he tried to keep the kids away from undoing things that I was putting in place. I was never the type who goes out and parties for New Years even before the “married life”, so we don’t have a big plan for night. We’re going to try to do something with the kids at home, and maybe a catch a movie if they fall asleep within reasonable time. For the past several years, I have been compiling the “Top Recipes” for the year toward the end of the year. It’s so much fun to review all of the things that I have cooked, baked, and blogged throughout the year – and then it’s even more fun to see if your favorites match with ours. Without further introduction, here are the top 10 recipes that made it to the list for 2014.
#10: Slow Cooker Sloppy Joes - It’s really hard to not *like* Sloppy Joes. It’s hearty, a total comfort-food, and when it’s cooked in the slow cooker – it makes such a winning combo that’s hard not to like. It’s also one of those great dish to serve at parties (everyone can prep their own burgers) since you can easily double the amount. Yet without doubling the amount, it still makes enough for small family, because it is great as leftover, and can be frozen.
#9: Oven Baked Blueberry Pancakes – This is another new pancake recipe that I was really glad that I tried. I constantly feel like a short-order cook, working at a very busy diner (a.k.a: my own house). Making the pancake batter in a pan gives me a time to prepare the pancake all in one, and then I get to sit down with my family as soon as I finish cooking this. It’s great without blueberries and can be made with other fruits as well – so it’s hard not to love this recipe.
#8: Fresh Apricot Ice Cream – While we all really loved this ice-cream at our household, Apricot ice cream isn’t exactly a very common flavor that everyone tends to be drawn to, so I was glad that this recipe made it to the Top 10. It’s creamy, bursting out in apricot flavors, and just a perfect way to enjoy fresh sweet apricots when it’s in season. It basically tastes like you’re biting into a frozen apricot. Thinking about this ice-cream makes yearns for warm summer nights with flip-flops.
#7: Fresh Apple Cinnamon Scones – This is one of those scones that makes your house instantly feels like home, and smells like Fall. The apple bits along with the cinnamon chips are nestled between the soft tender layers of crumbs, covered in crusty skin full of sanding sugar. It tastes best immediately after it comes out of the oven, but it is yummy and tastes like apple cake once it’s reheated. Either version of this scone still makes my heart sing.
#6: Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting – Cupcakes! Oh, cupcakes! I dream about cupcakes all the time. Every single time I get stressed out, which is about all the time now, I dream of whipping up a batch of cupcakes. You probably ask, why not cakes, right? Well, one cupcake is all that I need to satisfy my emotional cravings and occasional sweet tooth. So I load them up in my cupcake carrier, and take them to work to share the love. This one is my new favorite yet. A beautiful spiced cupcakes with lots of pumpkin flavors and the fall spices that I love, but tender crumbs and just enough moistness to remind me that it’s a treat. And that Salted Caramel Buttercream basically just brings a new meaning to frosting.
#5: Egg Salad Sandwiches with Bacon and Sriracha – Everyone at my house loves bacons. Whenever I don’t know what to make for breakfast or even quick supper, I whip up eggs and bacons for my family, and then I eat mine with avocados. When my daughter didn’t really want to eat anything that I made for her, she would eat bacons. I have probably eaten enough bacons in my life that if I didn’t eat any more bacons for the rest of my life, I’d be okay with it. While I really prefer simple egg salads, I really loved the addition of both bacon bits and Sriracha sauce in my egg salads, it gives it enough bite and edginess that you wouldn’t get in your everyday egg salads.
#4: Flour Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies – I love homemade chocolate chip cookies. And since I love everything else that I made from Joanna’s book, I knew that I had to see what she would do to improve a classic cookie that everyone loves. The addition of bread flour was sort of a genius. It gives the cookie a slight add of stability without jeopardizing its classic core: soft in the middle, with all of the beautiful crispiness in the outside: my perfect cookie. I can’t go back to my old chocolate chip cookies.
#3: Chinese Orange Chicken – This orange chicken was everyone’s favorite as well. It’s hard to beat crispy chicken bites slathered with sweet orange sauce. Once you figure out how to make this easy chicken dish at home, you won’t be needing your carry out menu anymore.
#2: Slow Cooker Weeknight Beef Chili - Everyone has their own Chili recipe; and this has became mine. At the end of the day, Chili is one of those dishes that just tastes better when it has simple ingredients and slow-cooked all day. Everyone, I mean, everyone -can benefit from having several reliable slow-cooker recipes. It’s the best friend of any household with two working parents; and reliable delicious recipe like this is one the many reasons that I’m still able to prepare home cooked meals for my family for most nights.
#1: P.F Chang Mongolian’s Beef – This recipe, wasn’t only, our personal favorite – it was also the most pinned, shared, and clicked on in 2014. This is one of those recipes that turns people into cooking more at home: it’s the very example of how home-cooked meals can be delicious and easily rivals some of your upscale restaurants. If you still haven’t given this a try – do so in 2015, and you’ll know why!
I didn’t really start compiling the top recipes for each year that I had blogged until the last four three years, but here are some of the past years’ reviews for a little throw-back actions :)
2013 Top Recipes in Review
2012 Top Recipes in Review
2011 Top Recipes in Review
Last but not last, thank YOU for your readership in 2014, and I look forward to 2015! Happy New Year.
I hope you had a nice Christmas weekend with your family and loved ones. Christmas was a lot of fun at our house, and the kids were showered by ungodly amount of gifts from “Santa” and the grandparents. Mike and I stayed up until close to 2AM on Christmas Eve, getting everything finalized and put together. In addition to all of the gifts that they all got to open, my daughter had the best week of her life! She got to spend a lot of quality time with her grandparents, had a shopping spree the day after Christmas, went to see the “big” movies in the theater, stayed up late, and basically, got to live outside of her regular routine – and that’s pretty wild for a four-year old! I was pretty psyched about getting a new tablet for myself. The one that I had been using was my Christmas gift from two years ago, but it’s been running incredibly slow, so I was ready to get an upgrade on my surfing experience.
I also got to do some major cooking for our Christmas dinner, but haven’t gotten a chance to bake as much as I had wanted. I still have one week left of vacation this week, so I hope that I’d get to do some more fun baking and trying out new recipes from new cookbooks that I have received. Several weeks ago though, I made this Homemade Chex Mix in anticipation of having two weeks off from work. I thought it would be nice to have a nice homemade snack around. As much as I’m huge on having “munchies” around, I just never thought of making my own Chex Mix though, and after this experience, I don’t think that I’d ever go back to buying them from the store. I got to mix in all of the things that I love (all sorts of Chex cereals), and skip the pieces that I don’t normally care for (bagel chips!). I loved them so much that I gave them away as gifts, ate as much as we could, and took them to work that I had to make them again the following weekend.
I have to admit that I’m not very good in sending out Christmas cards. Then one of my friends mentioned that she sends them out every other year. She said that it’s a lot less pressure, but yet her friends and family still get to see their family’s pictures every other year. I thought, what a brilliant idea and decided to adapt that tradition. I didn’t get around to sending them out last year, so I was pretty determined to send them this year. Unfortunately, I booked our photographer late, so while I was glad that she squeezed us in right away, with my luck, the day and time we agreed on happened to be the coldest day in October. Or at least it felt that way. We did them outdoor since we wanted that gorgeous sun, but everyone froze their butts off. We didn’t want to wear our winter coats in our shots, so we just sucked it up and pretended that we were all warm and happy. We just weren’t planning for it to be so cold that early. My son was just not having it, he didn’t understand what was going on and I’m sure the freezing weather didn’t help. Since we took our pictures late, we got our pictures back much later than I had hoped, and then in hurry, I ordered a bunch of cards trying to get the order in. As soon as I ordered it, I remembered that I had a bunch of discount codes for the very same company that I had just ordered the cards from that I didn’t even think about using. Finally, the cards arrived, a day or two earlier than I had planned. But, as soon as I finished writing out cards, I realized that I didn’t order enough because obviously, there were a bunch of people that wouldn’t receive one this year, since I didn’t order enough.
Does that sound like your holiday too? Regardless of all of that, I sent out beautiful Christmas to a small group of our families and friends. I finally got all of the gifts bought, wrapped, and cards sent out before Christmas. We also have plenty blessings to be thankful for this year and we’re ending them in a high note: with everyone being healthy and in a good spirit ready to enjoy the holiday. We all have the tendency to want to do so many things for everyone around us. I hope you take the time to breath and enjoy the season with those around you.
I hope your Christmas is warm & cozy, surrounded by your friends, family and loved ones. I hope your kitchen smells like garlic, rosemary, and lemon, with some sweet cinnamon, cranberries, and oranges aroma in the air; and your table is full of delicious food and drinks that are good for both your bellies and souls.
Thank you so much for reading my blog.
Today was my LAST working day for the year; I won’t have to be back to work until January 5th. Phew. Can you see me doing my happy dance? I had been looking forward to this day basically as soon as Labor Day holiday was over back in September. I know it sounds terrible; but I think everyone can truly benefit from having a good chunk time away from work. With the way that Christmas and New Year’s days fall this year, I was lucky that I was able to have two full weeks off with only having to use two vacation days. I feel pretty grateful and look forward to recharge my energy, have some down-time, and enjoy quality family time. As I was thinking of what I wanted to do this weekend, I definitely wanted to bake some cookies. With that said, since I’m pretty sure that many families are probably doing the same thing this weekend, I’d do a round-up of all of the cookies that I have posted on this blog. Cookies aren’t necessarily my first dessert of choice, but I’m married to a man whose love for cookies definitely rivals with Cookie Monster, so I was bound to have some. Based on the list below, I definitely didn’t post that many, considering that I have been blogging for a while – and the pattern seems like I need to expand my horizon, since I tend to stick to the classic :) If you have a little time this week, give yourself a treat and bake several batches of cookies :)
Flour Bakery Chocolate Chip Cookies
Flour Chunky Lola Cookies
Triple Ginger Cookies
Death by Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars
Cream Cheese Walnut Cookies
Peanut Butter Crisscrosses
Salted Peanut Cookie Brittle
Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies
Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters
Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies
Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies
Mini Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
Cashew Caramel Cookies
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Chocolate Butterscotch Chip Cookies
The following treats may not be cookies, but I can assure you that they will be surely welcome on your holiday dessert trays:
Rolo Pretzel Turtles
Easy Peppermint Bark
Rocky Ledge Bars
Oreo Cheesecake Bars
Peanut Butter Rice Krispies Bar with Pretzel and Chocolate
Peanut Butter Fudge
Chocolate Nutella Fudge with Sea Salt
Gingerbread Cake Truffles
Red Velvet Cake Truffles
Cookie Dough Truffles
Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispies Treats
We’re officially halfway through December… which means: we’re only 10 days away from Christmas. Are you ready for Christmas? I’m especially excited that this is my last working week for the year. The Christmas’ spirit is in full swing at our house. Our daughter had her Christmas performance at her Montessori pre-school last Friday, and this year, we’re a little smarter: we took a camcorder to record the whole thing, so we can watch it again at home and share with the grandparents later. We also finally decided to take the kids to see the Santa at the Zoo; this is the first time that we tried to go. I figured that now that my daughter is four, she may like it and the weather was pleasantly warm for a December day. And she did, although my son hated it (and we have pictures to prove it!). We waited TWO excruciating hours to see the Santa. I’m pretty impressed that we all stood through it against my constant desire to just walk away from the line. To reward my daughter for waiting patiently without any tantrum, I sneaked in her Christmas pajama and slippers in her bedroom while she was in the tub, and I told her that Santa dropped them off early since she was so good. Parenthood continues to amaze me: I’m amazed at how it’s changed me (waiting for Santa for two hours? Seriously? Tell that to my single self ten years, yep- that would NEVER happen). I would also compare this to waiting in line for Black Friday deals, or any tickets to go to any concerts. I don’t think that I would wait in line for anyone or anything. But apparently, I just did – for Santa, since my daughter said that she was willing to wait. Yet at the same time, I’m incredibly humbled every day but how gracious my daughter is.
Talking about Christmas won’t be the same without talking about Christmas dinner. Green bean casserole is such an iconic holiday side dish that everyone loves. Whenever I hear people talk about their menu, or what they expect to have at holiday dinners (myself included!), green bean casserole is definitely one of the top three. I’m always looking forward to the last two months of the year, because if I cook or participate in some sort of the cooking, this casserole dish then will show up. While most people enjoy this more during Thanksgiving, Mike and I had agreed that we’ll include this again at Christmas, and maybe even Easter. Before I started my blog, preparing this specific dish from scratch was pretty daunting, I have to say. I couldn’t even fathom the idea of making the “cream of mushroom” soup from scratch, I mean, where would I even get a recipe like that? Thankfully, with the wonderful world of internet, recipe like this can now be found. As a matter of fact, you can find multiple versions, and then figure out which one that you want to try. I actually tried making another version of this back in 2010 and it was terrible. I remember hosting my sister and her new husband at our home. My daughter was just five months old at the time, and I had terrible colds, so I was miserable. I had never tried the recipe before until that day (I highly discourage this!), and I forgot to season them. It was bland, the texture was a little runny and very disappointing overall. I started looking for a new recipe after that and finally landed on this one – and I haven’t looked for another recipe since then.