Dec 31, 2014

Countdown to 2015: Top 10 Reader Favorites of 2014


These are my ten most visited recipes for 2014. I've never compiled a list of my most "popular" posts. First, there's always the burning question, do I prorate the visits? As a wannabe statistician, do I need to age the data to account for more time having passed?

Then there's the issue of bots and spammers who account for about half of the traffic to blogs. My blog's platform doesn't really distinguish between real and fake visitors when giving me visitor statistics. Thank goodness for Google Analytics (are you falling asleep at this point?).

I am fascinated by which posts take off and which posts kind of languish without attention. It doesn't really change what I do here, because I like to make and post about food that we will actually eat. My favorite thing is to challenge myself to try new techniques.

And of course, bake bread.

Blogging about food has been an amazing creative avocation, and the best part has been "meeting" simply wonderful people who share my interest in food, cooking, and writing about food and cooking.

I added up the numbers and decided that prorating and aging the data was way too much trouble. Here's list of your top ten favorite recipes of 2014 (plus a bonus).
  1. Sourdough Polenta (Grits) Bread 
  2. Bouchon Bakery Shortbread Cookies
  3. Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Taleggio Cheese
  4. Caramelized Onion and Shallot Braided Bread with Gruyere
  5. Jalapeño Cheddar Coins
  6. Salted Peanut Caramel Sauce 
  7. Slow Cooker Asian Glazed Wings
  8. Individual Potatoes au Gratin
  9. Roasted Vegetable Focaccia
  10. Garlic Gruyere Pain de Campagne Boule
  11. Section Challah 
My New Year's blogging resolution? To finally get a logo and to learn Lightroom. Please hold me accountable. 

This year, Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes and Secret Recipe Club is hosting a round up some of the best recipes of 2014. Visit her blog to see what other bloggers have contributed to this Best of 2014 round up.



Countdown to 2015: My 10 Best Dessert Recipes of 2014

My top 10 desserts of 2014

These are my top 10 dessert posts from 2014. When I compiled this list, I realized I need to expand my dessert world. There are an awful lot of cookies on this list. It's probably because there are just two of us in this house.

With cookies, I can either pack the leftovers into my grandkid's lunches and take the rest to work. They also keep longer.

My 10 favorite dessert recipes of 2014 (that I made) are:
This year, Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes and Secret Recipe Club is hosting a round up some of the best recipes of 2014. Visit her blog to see what other bloggers have contributed to this dessert round up.



Dec 30, 2014

Brioche Flower with Cherry Preserves

Brioche Flower with Cherry Preserves

This Brioche Flower with cherry preserves can be made with any sweet or savory filling. I used cherry preserves, which went perfectly with the brioche dough.

Dec 29, 2014

Countdown to 2015: Best Appetizer Recipes of 2014

Best appetizers of 2014

These are my favorite appetizers from 2014. They are wonderful for any dinner party. Some are easy, others are a bit more complicated, but all of these are tasty.

My favorite appetizers for 2014 are....

This year, Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes and Secret Recipe Club is hosting a round up some of the best recipes of 2014. Visit her blog to see what other bloggers have contributed to this appetizer and snack round up.


Dec 28, 2014

Countdown to 2015: (My) Best Main Courses of 2014

My favorite main courses from 2014

These are my favorite main courses from 2014. I would make each of these again without reservation. I would (and have) serve them for guests, and I would (and have) make them just for me. They are that good (and foolproof).

My favorites main courses from 2014 include the following:
This year, Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes and Secret Recipe Club is hosting a round up some of the best recipes of 2014. Visit her blog to see what other bloggers have contributed to this main course round up.


Countdown to 2015: Best Crockpot Recipes of 2014

4 fantastic slow cooker recipes

Slow cooker meals are just about the best comfort food. They are perfect for the summer, when you don't want to turn on the oven, and perfect for the winter, when you want a meal that will take off the chill.

My favorites from 2014 are these Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Baby Back Ribs, these Slow Cooker Asian Glazed Wings, these Slow Cooker Asian Beef Short Ribs, and this Slow Cooker Beef and Potato Stew.

This year, Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes and Secret Recipe Club is hosting a round up some of the best recipes of 2014. Visit her blog to see what other bloggers have contributed to this crockpot round up.


Dec 27, 2014

Ginger Gold Rush Cocktail

Ginger Gold Rush Cocktail

The only reason I tried this Ginger Gold Rush Cocktail was because I had one of those mini bottles of Maker's Mark that Mr. Kitchen had given me as a Christmas stocking stuffer about four years ago. I think he got the idea because I had used bourbon as a marinade ingredient or possibly for making homemade vanilla.

Ginger Gold Rush Cocktail

That tiny single serving bottle sat in our liquor cabinet forever. I think I used some of it for a baking recipe.... until I saw this cocktail. I already had the ginger liqueur... I have a tree full of lemons... why not give this a try?

I've always been wary and resistant of whiskys. I'm not sure why, because my beloved grandmother's (mama) favorite cocktail was an old fashioned. I have memories of sitting in her kitchen while my dad prepared her favorite old fashioned. Once he handed her the cocktail, she would let me have the maraschino cherry.

This cocktail is reminiscent of the whisky sour, with the ginger liqueur subbing for the honey or simple syrup. The ginger liqueur adds an amazingly spicy flavor.

Ginger Gold Rush Cocktail

I'm so glad I decided to try this cocktail with the little bit of leftover bourbon. It's unexpectedly tasty. Here's cheers to you mama!

Ginger Gold Rush Cocktail

Ingredients


1 ounce bourbon
1 1/2 ounces ginger liqueur (such as Domaine de Canton)
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Cherry or orange wedge

Instructions

  1. Chill a martini glass. 
  2. Add the ingredients to an ice filled shaker or tall glass. Stir or shake.
  3. Strain the ingredients into the chilled glass. 
  4. Garnish with the cherry or orange wedge.
Enjoy!

Adapted from Saveur

Dec 26, 2014

Carrot and Cauliflower Puree with Browned Butter

Carrot and Cauliflower Puree with Browned Butter

This Carrot and Cauliflower Puree was the perfect side dish for Christmas dinner this year.

It was my turn to host the annual family Christmas Eve soiree. On the dinner menu? Ribeye roast beef, red wine dijon cream saucespinach gratin, goat cheese mashed potatoes (contributed by my cousin), and this carrot and cauliflower puree.

Everyone who came brought appetizers or desserts, so other than making this cranberry crackle tart, I was set. It's so nice when you don't have to do it all. My sister brought a ginger bundt cake, my cousin brought a beautiful vegetable platter, and my nephew made some amazing chocolate crackle cookies that tasted like the most moist brownies ever. Folks also brought dinner rolls, crab canapés, and lots of cheese and crackers.

Dinner for 23? Piece of cake. Especially when you have lots of help.

This vegetable is perfect for making a day in advance and reheating on the stove top when you are ready to serve dinner, freeing your oven for other dishes.

Carrot and Cauliflower Puree with Browned Butter

The secret to the deliciousness of this dish is browned butter, or beurre noisette. It adds a richness to the usually bland vegetables. This is an amazingly simple side dish that is also elegant and tasty.

This recipe can easily be doubled or halved. To puree the carrots and cauliflower, I used the medium grind disk from this food mill. It was super easy to use and even easier to clean.

Carrot and Cauliflower Puree Recipe

This recipe served 22 when accompanied by two other sides. 

Ingredients

2 medium heads (about 3 pounds) of cauliflower, cut into florets
3 pounds of carrots, unpeeled, and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 T salt (for boiling the vegetables)
8 ounces salted butter
1 T plus 1 tsp salt (to taste)
1 T freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Fill a 4 quart saucepan of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt.
  2. Add the cauliflower and boil for 20 minutes, until tender. 
  3. With a slotted spoon or spider strainer, remove the cauliflower to colander. 
  4. Add the carrots, and boil for 20 more minutes until tender.
  5. With a slotted spoon or spider strainer, remove the carrots to the colander. 
  6. Puree the vegetables with a food mill into a stove top safe serving dish (if you don't have one, puree the vegetables into a saucepan and move them into a serving dish when ready to serve). 
  7. In a 10 inch saute pan, heat the butter over medium low heat. The butter will begin to "boil."
  8. When the butter just begins to turn brown (be careful not to over brown the butter), remove it from the heat, and pour it into the vegetable puree. Stir, add the salt and pepper, and stir again. 
  9. Serve immediately or refrigerate. 
  10. When ready to serve, reheat on the stove top. 
Adapted from Make It Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, by Ina Garten.

Dec 19, 2014

Cranberry Horseradish Pan-Fried Steak

Cranberry Horseradish Pan-Fried Steak from Karen's Kitchen Stories

This cranberry horseradish pan-fried steak is a fabulous way to use the inevitable leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

The glaze for this steak combines the sweetness and tartness of cranberry sauce with the spiciness of the horseradish to make an outstanding glaze.

I make my own cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries, and hate to toss out the leftovers.  It's an attachment issue. You understand, right?

For this cranberry sauce, I used this recipe, but any whole cranberry sauce will do.

You don't even need a barbecue to make these steaks because they are pan-fried and then finished in the oven. I used this pan, but any cast iron or oven proof stainless steel pan will do. Totally easy!

Cranberry Horseradish Pan-Fried Steak from Karen's Kitchen Stories

For another recipe using leftover cranberry sauce, check out these cookies. They are delicious and so easy.

We loved these steaks. The sweet-savory cranberry sauce and horseradish flavor combination is pretty amazing. Next time, I'd probably reduce the cooking time in the oven by about a minute because I like a pretty rare steak.

Totally easy, totally tasty.

Cranberry Horseradish Pan-Fried Steak

Ingredients

1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/4 C cranberry sauce (not jelly). I used leftovers from this recipe
2 tsp prepared horseradish
2 New York Strip Steaks (1 inch thick) about 12 ounces each

Instructions

  1. Rub each steak all over with the olive oil and salt and pepper. 
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  3. Mix the cranberry sauce and horseradish in a small bowl.
  4. Heat a cast iron pan on medium high heat. 
  5. Sear the steaks in the hot pan and cook until seared, about 3 minutes. 
  6. Flip the steak over and spread it with the cranberry horseradish sauce. 
  7. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for about 4 to 5 minutes. 
  8. Move the steaks to a cutting board, cover with foil, and let rest for about 5 to 10 minutes. 
  9. Slice the steaks and serve. 
Adapted from Cook the Story

Dec 16, 2014

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies

Zimsterne | German Christmas Cookies from Karen's Kitchen Stories

I have seen several explanations of Zimsterne (German cinnamon star cookies), the most common being that almonds and cinnamon were very dear in seventeenth century Germany, so these cookies were served only at Christmas as a special treat.

Dec 14, 2014

Lime Meltaways


Lime Meltaways from Karen's Kitchen Stories

These Lime Meltaway cookies are super easy to make. I made the dough in advance, and baked the cookies the next day. You can also make the dough and freeze it, then slice and bake the cookies when "needed," making them the perfect cookie for gifting.

What is a meltaway cookie, you ask? It's a butter cookie made with powdered sugar and cornstarch (you could also use tapioca). The cookie is incredibly crumbly, so when you take a bite, it kind of "disappears" in your mouth, in a tasty "what was that wonderfulness?" sort of way.

Lime Meltaways from Karen's Kitchen Stories

I know there's a bite missing. Someone had to make the sacrifice so you could see the interior of the cookie. It's a tough job.

While these were made with lime, you could substitute lemon. orange, or grapefruit, or any combination of citrus. You could also just go with vanilla or chopped pecans if you prefer. We're flexible around here.

There are many ways to coat the cookies with the powdered sugar. You can place the cookies in a plastic bag with the powdered sugar and shake to coat them, dredge them in the sugar in a bowl, or sift the sugar over the cookies. I ended up dredging the cookies in a bowl, and then sifting more sugar over them.

Lime Meltaways from Karen's Kitchen Stories

If you're wondering about the little cups, I used these.

This post is part of the Secret Recipe Club Cookie Carnival. Sixty (yep, sixty!) of us have been randomly assigned another blog from which to make a cookie recipe (big thank you to Sarah of Fantastical Sharing of Recipes for putting this together). I was assigned Grandma Loy's Kitchen.  She has three children and three grandchildren, and has been married to the love of her life for over 50 years. Just like me, she enjoys reading cookbooks like novels. I'm with you, Loy!

After the recipe for this cookie, you will find links to dozens of wonderful cookie recipes.

Lime Meltaways from Karen's Kitchen Stories


Lime Meltaways Recipe

Adapted from Grandma Loy's Kitchen, adapted from Martha Stewart.
Makes 48 cookies

Ingredients

12 T unsalted butter
1 C powdered sugar, divided
Zest from 3 large limes
2 T fresh squeezed lime juice
1 T vanilla
2 Cups minus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer, cream the butter and 1/3 C powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add the zest, juice, and vanilla, and mix until smooth.
  2. Whisk the flour, cornstarch, and salt together, and add to the mixing bowl. 
  3. Mix on low until the flour is just incorporated. 
  4. Divide the dough in half, and shape into two 1 1/4 inch diameter logs. Wrap the logs in wax or parchment paper, and then wrap in plastic wrap (see note above about paper towel holders).
  5. Refrigerate for at least an hour, and up to 24 hours. The dough can also be frozen and used up to two months later.
  6. Preheat the oven and line two baking sheets with parchment.
  7. Slice the logs into 1/4 inch disks and place them on the parchment, about 1 inch apart. 
  8. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, for 15 minutes.
  9. Let the cookies cool slightly on a wire rack, and then dredge, shake, or dust with the remaining powdered sugar while they are still warm.
  10. Keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.


Dec 13, 2014

Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef | Wok Wednesdays

Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef | Wok Wednesdays

I almost missed making this Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef from Wok Wednesdays. The post was supposed to be up on December 3rd, which snuck up on me way too fast..... something about the recipe schedule not being posted until after the weekend.... that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Then I saw my friend Cathy's post about how much she loved this dish. I definitely needed to give this dish a try.

This recipe, from Grace Young's book, Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge, is the author's take on a dish her mother used to prepare for Grace and her brother to get them to eat more rice. The sauce is delicious poured over the rice. I served it in a bowl to drench the rice in the delicious liquid. It's kind of like a Chinese gumbo (forgive me Grace!).

The recipe calls for whole canned tomatoes in juice, a serendipitous discovery after Grace Young could not find decent tomatoes in the market to poach and peel. The addition of the juice and the consistency of the canned tomatoes made the dish even more flavorful.

Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef | Wok Wednesdays

This stir-fry was very easy to make. You cut flank steak into small strips and mix it with minced ginger, soy sauce, rice wine, cornstarch, sugar, salt, pepper, and sesame oil. Your mise en place should also include sliced green onions, the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and a small bowl containing dark soy, rice wine, and sesame oil.

Mise en place? Do not attempt stir fry without it. Unless you want your kitchen to look like a hurricane hit it. Cray cray!!

Have your table set and your rice ready, because the total cooking time is about six minutes. Dinner for two!

I was a little nervous about boiling tomatoes and tomato juice in my seasoned wok, so I did stop to rinse my wok before sitting down for dinner.... oh, and I snuck in a couple of photos too =)

Stir-Fried Ginger Tomato Beef | Wok Wednesdays

I think this might be my new favorite from the cookbook.  Get the book, join us on Wok Wednesdays. You won't regret it.

The food editors at the San Francisco Chronicle picked this recipe as one of their favorites from the book. The recipe can be found here.

Dec 9, 2014

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Taleggio Cheese

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Taleggio Cheese

This twice baked sweet potato dish is perfect as a side to any roast. For a beautiful presentation, you can make them in the scooped out peels. I chose to make these in a casserole dish for more flexibility. You can also bake the potatoes in individual ramekins, as pictured above.

This is the perfect make-ahead side dish for a holiday dinner. Once you have baked the potatoes and mixed in the ingredients, you can cover and refrigerate the assembled dish, and then bake it while your roast is resting.

This is a savory sweet potato dish, and the thyme, shallot, and cheese flavors simply shine.

If you can't find Taleggio cheese, Fontina would make a good substitute.


Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Taleggio Cheese

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Taleggio Cheese

Serves six to 12, depending on the number of sides you plan on serving

Ingredients

3 12 to 14 ounce sized sweet potatoes, washed
5 1/2 T unsalted room temperature butter, cut into pieces
1/2 C minced shallots
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
3/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces Taleggio cheese, cut into small pieces

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. 
  2. Line a sheet pan with foil and pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork. Place them on the foil lined pan. 
  3. Bake the potatoes for about an hour, until soft when you give them a squeeze.
  4. While the potatoes are baking, saute shallots in 1 1/2 T of the butter for about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the thyme, cook for one minute, and set aside.
  5. Scoop the potato from the skins into a bowl, add the butter, and mash them. 
  6. Add the egg, shallots, cheese, salt, and pepper, and stir until combined. 
  7. Let them cool for a few minutes. Scoop out the potatoes from the skins. 
  8. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

Dec 8, 2014

No Knead Quinoa Bread

No Knead Quinoa Bread

This Quinoa Bread really surprised me. I'm not at all experienced with this grain and was a bit skeptical because it has been kind of a fad. When the #BreadBakers group decided to use quinoa as a theme this month, I finally broke down and bought a bag of the stuff.

Maple Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Maple Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting from Karen's Kitchen Stories

These maple cupcakes must be pretty spectacular. I took them to work, and they disappeared pretty quickly. Before lunch.

Dec 2, 2014

Stollen


Stollen is the German Christmas bread. According to Peter Reinhart, in the book, Bread Baker's Apprentice, the shape of the stollen symbolizes the blanket of the baby Jesus, and the colored fruits represent the gifts of the Magi. Dresden is considered the home of stollen and even hosts an annual stollen festival where they unveil a giant (huge!) loaf.

Dec 1, 2014

Couronne | Mixed Starter Bread

Couronne | Mixed Starter Bread

I did the happy dance after making this Couronne bread. The mixed starter dough may take a weekend to make, but it is so totally worth it. The resulting bread is crusty, crusty, crusty, and the soft interior is filled with the uneven holes for which bakers of rustic loaves strive.

Couronne | Mixed Starter Bread

The recipe was contributed by Steve Sullivan, founder of Acme Bread Company, one of the pioneers in the artisan bread movement, to the PBS Series, Baking with Julia, and the resulting book, Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan in 1996.

Couronne | Mixed Starter Bread

This dough begins with a small piece of leftover bread or pizza dough. I used used a piece of firm starter that had been sitting in my refrigerator for a couple of weeks from this bread. This is called the "old dough starter." About 8 hours later, the starter is fed again, and allowed to rise.

Couronne | Mixed Starter Bread

The dough is "mixed method," in that it also includes a small amount of instant yeast in the final dough. There are a lot of steps to creating this dough, but the resulting dough is simply amazing and a dream to work with.

Once you've made the dough, you can make baguettes, wheat stalks, pain fendu, boules, walnut bread, or this couronne.

Couronne | Mixed Starter Bread

To create the hole in the middle of the dough, you plunge your elbow into the center of the shaped dough (Yes, I did it).

The top of the couronne is decorated with a string of "pearls" made from extra dough. My pearls got a bit off kilter as the dough was rising, but that's why they call this bread "rustic," right?

Couronne | Mixed Starter Bread

Mixed Starter Bread Couronne

Ingredients

Old-dough starter

1/2 ounce of risen dough from white bread or pizza (I used two week old firm starter)
1/4 C warm water
2/3 C unbleached all purpose flour

Second Starter

All of the old-dough starter
1/4 C warm water
3/4 C unbleached all purpose flour

Final Dough

1 1/4 C water
1/2 tsp instant yeast
All of the second starter, cut into pieces
3 1/3 C (14.15 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1 T Kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Break up the old dough into pieces and add them to a medium bowl. Add the water, and let sit for about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add the flour and mix with a dough whisk or spoon. When the dough gets too stiff, remove it from the bowl and knead by hand until the flour is incorporated. Place it back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for about 8 hours (after the 8 hours, I refrigerated this starter until the next morning). 
  3. Mix the second starter the same way you mixed the first starter. Let rise for four hours, and then refrigerate for 1 to 8 hours (I refrigerated mine for 1 hour). 
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the water, the yeast, and the second starter pieces. Let sit for 5 minutes. 
  5. Add all of the flour and mix with a spoon to just incorporate. 
  6. Mix with the dough hook on low to fully incorporate the flour. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle the salt over the dough. Mix on medium to medium high for about 8 minutes. 
  8. Place the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise for 90 minutes in a warm spot (about 85 degrees F). 
  9. Gently stretch and fold the dough over itself from all four "sides," and let it rise, covered, for another 45 minutes.
  10. Take a 10 inch cake pan or springform pan and place a small (3 to 4 inch) bowl upside down in the middle. Cover with a tea towel, and rub the towel with flour.
  11. Cut off a 5 ounce piece of dough. Pat it into a rectangle, fold it over itself several times to develop tension, and roll it into a small log. Cover and set aside. 
  12. Shape the rest of the dough into a rough ball. Plunge your elbow into the center of the dough to create a hole. Using a floured hand, continue to expand the hole. Cover the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes. 
  13. While the dough is resting, make the "pearls.' Roll the rope until it is about 24 inches long. Using the side of your hand, indent the rope by sliding your hand back and forth every inch or so. Place the "pearls" into the basket, circling the small bowl. 
  14. Place the rest of the dough, flipping it over (very carefully) on top of the "pearls." Cover and let rise for about 90 minutes. 
  15. Place a pizza stone in your oven, and preheat it to 450 degrees F. Set up the oven for steam or place a large metal bowl over the pizza stone (this is what I did). 
  16. When the dough is ready, place a piece of parchment over the cake pan, cover with a peel, and flip the whole thing over. Remove the cake pan and the tea towel. Transfer the dough to the stone and cover with the hot metal bowl. 
  17. Reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes, covered, and then 20 to 25 minutes more, uncovered. The bread should be very brown, with an interior temperature of 200 to 210 degrees F. 
  18. Cool completely on a wire rack. 
I am participating in Tuesdays with Dorie. To see how other bakers fared, check out this link