Friday, December 27, 2013

Top 10 Most Popular Posts in 2013

It's been a good year...
I hit 100,000 visitors on my blog in June, plus almost to 160,000 by December.
It's amazing how it grows, even with fewer blog updates every year.
I also got my first check of $100.00 in Google AdSense payment for my three years as a blogger.
Obviously, I am in this for the fun of sharing, but please feel free to click on the ads that appear on my postings.  I think I might hit $10.00 this month.... LOL.

I always get kind of nostalgic when I look at what was popular. 
It's not my Top 10, but the 10 that got the most traffic. 
Some of them are kind of strange, really.

In summary:
2 Martinis (plus an honorable mention)
1 appetizer
1 soup
1 side dish
1 entree 
1 breakfast item
1 Vegetarian Entree
1 candy
1 Gift Item

The Works Baked Potato Casserole 
I had so few side dishes on my blog, I really had to try to think of things I would want to serve.
Yep, this is one of them.



Dirty Girl Scout Martini 
It bothers some people that this one is called a "dirty girl scout"...
I am sorry about that.
How about a "Thin Mint Martini"?
Nope, I know it...
...it just doesn't have the same ring to it does it?

 

Mullagatawny Soup
I never even expected people to recognize this soup name, let alone make it so popular for the year. 

Super, duper simple to make too.



Homemade Raspberry Vinegar 
I felt embarrassed for posting this one... who knew it would be so popular?
It's fun to make easy peasy gifts.



Mai Tai's for a crowd 
If you buy a large enough beverage server, you better learn to make this classic cocktail in BIG batches.  A guest at a friend's party even told me, "these are so great, I didn't even know you could make them without a mix!".
Hmmmm....
Maybe I made that first batch too strong. LOL



7 min Microwave Caramels 
Make friends the easy way...



Make Ahead Egg Muffins 
Such a simple thing that can make your life easier!
Make them on Saturday, or Sunday, eat some that day, and eat for quick weekday breakfast, or take the leftovers in your lunch



Buffalo Ground Turkey Meatballs 
The most popular posting of the year... go figure.  However, I would be happy to make, and eat these any day of the year.



Lazy Girl 40 Garlic Cloves Chicken 
I really didn't expect these to be so delicious.  Very yummy and flavorful, and not over powering with garlic either!



Quinoa, Spinach, Feta Stuffed Bell Peppers 
 Easy, and good for you.  I'm a fan of quinoa, feta and spinach too!



2013 Top 10 Martinis 
Who knew that my June Top 10 Martini posting would be so popular?
I really need to get started on my next Top 10 Martini post, don't you agree?
I better do some research... Guinea Pigs anyone?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Eggnog Cheesecake Bars


Eggnog cheesecake bars? 
Yes... please.
A little Martha recipe I found online, the texture is soft and fluffy and the taste is great.  
My only complaint with these bars is that they are a little hard to pick up and eat like a normal bar cookie.
My suggestion?  It would be a great dessert to do in a low tart, quiche or pie pan and just serve in wedges with a fork instead of trying to bars.  Just an idea... I believe that this recipe would fit very nicely in a standard pie dish.



(Disregard the butter in this picture, I only used 4 Tbsp, not the cup I show here)

Makes about 21 bars
Ingredients

Vegetable oil cooking spray, for pan
Crust
12 graham crackers, finely ground (1 1/2 cups)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

Filling
1 pound cream cheese, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup eggnog
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon brandy
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Line the pan with a piece of parchment paper that goes over the edges.  This will help you get it out of the pan easily.

Stir together graham crackers, 3 tablespoons sugar, and the melted butter. I used my food processor to make short work of this. Press into bottom of pan. Bake until crust is just brown around the edges, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool.


Meanwhile, beat cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, the eggs, yolk, eggnog, flour, brandy, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt; beat until smooth. Pour filling over crust. Set pan in a roasting pan, and add enough hot water to come halfway up sides of baking pan. 
Bake until just set, 40 to 45 minutes. 
Remove baking pan from water bath, and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool slightly, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.    Cut into 1 1/2-by-3-inch bars. Lightly dust tops of bars with freshly grated nutmeg just before serving. Bars can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Candy to Give as Gifts

I've been told what to bring to Christmas.

Microwave (salted) Caramels

Really?  
Seems like so many other things things that I could bring to the family gathering that would be more exciting than something I whomped up in my microwave in 7 minutes. 
However, this request came from my oldest sister, and the parties at her house, and it's her birthday on the actual 25th of December.  Which means, of course, that I will do her bidding.

At this time of the year, I really like easy. 
Most of these candies are perfect to give as a last minute gift, and make people happy.

Penuche!
This one is a favorite of my husband and my daughter. One of my other sister's has been making this for years.  I'm not sure that mine is as good, but they love it.  If you have never heard of penuche... maybe you should give it a try?



Easy Microwave Peanut Brittle
Takes less than 10 minutes and is so easy!

 

Yummy Nuts
I gave these to people this year but had to keep myself and my husband out of them.  To us, these just say Christmas.  Thanks to my sister in law for starting this tradition and sharing her recipe.



Peanut Butter Fudge
This must be my favorite of all time.  I like it better than chocolate fudge.



White Chocolate Candy Cane Fudge
So pretty and festive on any Christmas goodie plate.



Chocolate Smothered S'mores
Ok, so maybe not so Christmas-y, but these are FUN and delicious.



Salted Caramel Toffee
Harder in texture and shape than caramels, and more chewy.  I love this stuff. You can do it with, or without, the sea salt.

 

Fudge for Dummies
Need a treat and only have short amount of time to make something?  This is it.




Microwave Caramels
Wow, easy, yummy.... I need to get making my batch this year.  I have been instructed to add seasalt to the entire batch.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Clementine Cranberry Martini


Clementines; I always buy them at this time of the year.
When I get home, I remember that I prefer Satsumas as they are easier to peel and have no seeds.
So, I had all these Clementines wasting away in our fruit bowl...
They tasted really good, however, they were small and tricky to peel.
Which at my house means they just don't get eaten.

Tonight, I ran to the grocery store and "HEY" - - they finally had the Satsumas on sale!
Yippee!
So, I bought a box with my happy face on... and then I came home and saw my fruit bowl mostly filled with 10 sad little clementines, starting to look a little dry and even harder to peel.... dang it, now I feel bad.

I know!
How about a Clementine juice and cranberry juice martini?
Why yes, what a delightful idea.
Here it is.

A couple of things...  you could make this recipe with orange juice instead, it just might be easier if you are fresh out of old Clementines. Hahaha.
Also, I know that not everyone has a fridge of simple syrups in various flavors... however, if you like to make martinis, italian sodas or flavored coffees, you really ought to try it- my recipe is HERE.  IF you don't have simple syrup, you could substitute a bit more juice, a bit more vodka, Grand Mariner or even Triple Sec.



Makes 2-3 martini's
Ingredients

2 jiggers cranberry juice (each jigger is about 2 oz, or 1/4 cup)
2 jiggers clementine juice, fresh squeezed
2 jiggers vodka, or citrus vodka
1 jigger lemon simple syrup*
1 jigger Grand Marnier, or Triple Sec

Make the lemon simple syrup (if using) and cool.
Squeeze Clementines, or substitute orange juice.
Combine all ingredients in a martini shaker filled with ice.  
Shake, shake, shake
Pour into a martini glass and garnish with a bit of orange and a cranberry or two.  Even a twist of lemon would be good.

Simple Syrup Recipe Variations

Simple Syrup is so simple...
I have about 5-6 flavors in my fridge right now.
It's a simple concoction- equal parts white sugar and water.... add a little flavoring "agent". Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain if necessary and pour into a container and chill.
Here's some of the things I have made simple syrup out of:
  • Citrus (lemon, lime, orange or a combination), use the whole thing, cut up
  • Ginger
  • Berries, any kind
  • Lemongrass 
  • Apple, use the peels
  • Kiwi
  • Instant coffee
  • Jalapeno
Here's a sample recipe or two...

Blackberry Simple Syrup
Makes enough syrup for about 8-10 drinks.
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 cups blackberries
1 lemon, juice and zest

Wash the berries.



In a small sauce pan, heat the water, sugar, blackberries, lemon juice and lemon peel to a boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer until the berries break down and the mixture starts to thicken, about 15 minutes.  Strain the mixture through a sieve and discard the berry puree and the lemon peel.  Pour into a bottle and keep in the fridge.


 Apple simple syrup

This syrup would be great in either iced, or hot tea, or cider for kids.

1/2 cup brown, or white, sugar
1/2 cup water
Fresh apple peels from 1-2 apples (yep, just the peels)

Mix in a medium saucepan, bring to boil over medium high heat. Reduce to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Strain and chill. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Egg Nog Martini



Ho Ho Ho
Christmas is coming, it's closer than you may have realized...
One martini and we're in the holiday mood here.  
Might have been that empty stomach, and then a luscious martini to kick off the weekend.
Ho Ho Ho

Such a simple way to enjoy rum & egg nog in a more festive martini glass!


Makes one 
Ingredients

3 oz egg nog
1 oz spiced rum
1/2 oz Disaronno 
A sprinkle of nutmeg

In an iced filled martini shaker, add the egg nog, the spiced rum and the amaretto (Disaronno) liqueur.  Shake, shake, shake and strain into a large martini glass.  Add a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Serve at once and enjoy!


Monday, December 9, 2013

Lazy Girl Balsamic Pot Roast (Shredded Beef)


I don't like balsamic vinegar.
I just don't.
Stop trying to tell me why it's great and I need to "have it this way".
I do not like it Sam, I am.
I do not like it here, or there.
I've been saying this for a long time.

But now, I do have to take that back.
Because, you see, I DO like it in this recipe.

I happen to be a big pot roast fan, so when I saw this original recipe on Pinterest, I felt the need to try it regardless of my dislike of balsamic vinegar.  I could see where the salty, sweet, tangy darkness of the balsamic might actually work really well in this recipe.
Plus, the whole crock pot "easy" vibe had me hooked.


Serves 4-5
Ingredients
2-3 lb beef chuck roast
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, pressed

Whisk together all the ingredients and add to the bottom of a slow cooker. Add roast. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Remove roast, either slice or shred with a fork, return to juices.  Serve and enjoy. The gravy is delicious with mashed potatoes too!

I used a gravy separator to reduce the amount of fat in the gravy.  One other idea, after draining off the fat, if you'd like a thicker gravy try adding a tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with a tablespoon of water and bring to a boil over med high heat while whisking.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Trader Vic's Hot Buttered Rum Mix



Growing up, I remember my parent's loving the pre-mixed Trader Vic's hot buttered rum mix in the little low white and brown plastic container.  As a kid, I liked to drink this stuff, however, I didn't get the rum. Darn it.

For the last three of decades since I've been able to add my own rum, we've been drinking the ice cream hot buttered rum version, which happens to be pretty darn good too, just different.
I'd been thinking of the Trader Vic's version lately and Googled it... apparently the recipe was originally published in the now defunct Gourmet magazine in 1946!

This took me in the way back machine as the memories of sipping this sweet spicy mix on a cold day came flooding back.

This makes about the easiest Christmas gift ever.... friends, neighbors, house warming gifts, you name it! My recipe version is a double batch, which will make about 4 cups of mixture.  
I suggest you keep one for yourselves, and make three other people very happy.  
Tie a little card on the top and add a pint of spiced rum, and you will have happy and warm friends.  

Card/tag instructions should read:  1 Tbsp hot buttered rum mix, 1 shot spiced rum (1-2oz) and 6 oz of boiling water.  Mix thoroughly and enjoy!


Makes about 4 cups, enough to give as gifts, and keep some for yourself too!
Ingredients:
     
2 Pound Brown Sugar
1 cup (2 cubes, 1/2 lb) Pound Butter
Pinch of Salt
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 Teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 Teaspoon Cloves

Cream butter, sugar, salt and spices together until smooth and fluffy. 


Refrigerate until needed. 

Preheat 6 oz. mug with boiling water. Drop 1 tablespoon of batter in mug, add 1-1/2 oz.rum, stir and fill with hot water.

Need some regular ideas?  "Like" my Facebook page

10 Easy Christmas Cookie Recipes

I love cookies.
Who doesn't right?
I notice in looking through some of my favorites here that I obviously like EASY cookie recipes.

Here's 10 that fit the "easy" bill for this time of year.

Scottish Shortbread
I love that Walker's shortbread, and for years a recipe like that one had alluded me.  Until now...

 

Nordy Bars
These are better than than 7 layer magic bar cookies, and easier to eat too.

 

Chocolate Caramel No Bake Bar Cookies
Everyone needs an easy recipes you don't have to bake! This one takes "no bakes" to a whole other level.

 

Chocolate Pistachio Biscotti
These would be fun with green pistachios AND dried cherries.  How festive for the holidays.

 

Pecan Blondies
I think that blondies are better than brownies.  These are YUM.

 

Salted Cashew Toffee Cookies 
Not the most festive looking cookies, but great taste, texture and crunch.

 

Mom's Molasses Cookies
A favorite from years past, I keep thinking these would be awesome half dipped in white chocolate.

 

Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars
Called Millionaire's Shortbread in Scotland, you'll feel rich when you bite into one of these.

 

Brownies topped with Pretzels and Toffee
I could be very happy with these at any time of the year.  Not too Christmas-y perhaps, just taste good a departure from the "expected" holiday cookies.

 

Iced Oatmeal Cookies
These are so yummy, you could dip them in the icing (as shown) or do dribbles of icing in shapes... like snowflakes on top!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Smoky Shrimp, Corn Chowder with Bacon


I wish my picture was better.
I wish you could taste how wonderfully delicious this soup is.
So easy, you could easily have these ingredients in your fridge/freezer all the time.
My hubby suggested I add this one into my weekly repertoire of things to make.
I was already there at my first bite of the soup.
I can see how this one will become a regular at our house, and, as a food blogger, that is saying something.  I'm usually on the prowl for something new ideas to cook.
Nope, this one deserves to made all the time. 
I found this recipe at Bevcooks.com, which is a wonderful food blog, I like the way she writes and her photos are awesome.  
I wish my photo was better.... but I was rushing to get this gem on the table.


Serves 2-4
Ingredients


4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
1 pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
2 cups frozen corn, use pre-roasted, if available
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half (or cream)
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
Garnish- Chopped Parsley, cilantro or green onions


Pat the prawns dry and pre-season.


Heat a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Remove bacon from the pan and set aside on a paper towel to drain. Drain all but 1Tbs. bacon fat, if you have that much in the pot.

Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the shrimp to the pot and sear on one side for 2 minutes. Flip and sear 30 more seconds. Remove shrimp from pot and set aside.



If you need to add a little oil (or bacon fat) to the pot, do so. Add the onions to the pot and sauté 5 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté another minute.
Add the corn, stock and half & half to the pot. Stir to combine. Keep on a low simmer for 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
If you have an immersion blender, place it in the pot and pulse it a few times until about half of the soup becomes creamy, still leaving whole kernels as well. If you don’t have an immersion blender, ladle about a cup and a half of the soup into a blender and pulse until creamy. Pour back into the pot and stir to combine.
Serve chowder with the shrimp and reserved bacon crumbles. 
Garnish with chopped cilantro, parsley or basil, if desired.