What. A. Year. Seriously. Perhaps the best year yet.
This year I published my first cookbook. Wrote a second cookbook. Went to Florida, Atlanta (twice), Birmingham, Colorado, New York, and Pennsylvania. Appeared on local TV. Appeared on national TV. Successfully made caramel. Threw a birthday party for a blog. Smuggled cherries home from Colorado. Made homemade cat food. Ate chocolate in Hershey. Ate ramen in NYC. Embraced strawberry season. Went to Disneyworld. Didn’t go on Splash Mountain. Dressed my cats up in miniature Santa hats. Lived to tell about it. Bought a few spoons (just a few). Designed over two dozen new food blogs. Baked some cookies. Raised over $1,500 for hurricane Sandy relief, and over $4,400 for Cookies for Kids’ cancer because of those cookies. Phew.
Indeed, 2012 was a great year. But I have a feeling 2013 is going to be even better. We are both incredibly grateful for the role this blog and you (our readers!) play in our lives. Cheers!
As I have in the past, I’d like to quickly highlight some of my favorite treats and recipes posted in the past year. As I’ve seen myself grow as a cook, photographer, and writer, this task gets increasingly more difficult each year. So much so that I’m including 9 more posts in my year-end wrap up than I did last year. I had no choice… otherwise this round-up would be sugar filled and chocolate coated through and through. It just so happens that *MY* memory lane is paved with sugar cubes and chocolate bars. Can you blame me?
The 3 most visited posts this year were the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles (for the 3rd year running), Grasshopper Brownie Bars, and Cream Egg Brownies. Yup, you guys like your chocolate just as much as I do (maybe that’s why we get along so well).
Enjoy this look back at some of my favorites from the past year, full of chocolate and creme de menthe, ripe summer fruit and rainbow sprinkles.
(1) Bourbon Cream Root Beer Floats / (2) Chocolate Mint Truffle Cookies / (3) Marzipan Brownies / (4) Cream Egg Brownies / (5) Meyer Lemon and Olive Oil Chiffon Cake with Lemon Poppyseed Curd / (6) Andes Mint Chip Ice Cream / (7) Chocolate Strawberry Oasis Pie / (8) Peanut Butter & Honey Ice Cream / (9) Blackberry Red Wine Chocolate Cake
(1) Chocolate Dipped Brownie Cookies with Rainbow Sprinkles / (2) Rainier Cherry and Chocolate Chip Ice Cream / (3) Mini S’Mores Tarts / (4) Creme de Menthe Ice Cream Sandwiches / (5) Mexican Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles / (6) Chocolate Velvet / (7) Sweet Potato Layer Cake with Molasses Buttercream / (8) Peppermint Bark Brownies / (9) No-Bake Blueberry Truffle Tartlets
And because one cannot live by chocolate alone (although I’d darn well like to try), these were my favorite non-dessert recipes of 2012:
(1) Savory Winter Greens Beignets / (2) Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Goat Cheese / (3) Homemade Gravlax / (4) Open-Faced Heirloom Tomato Sandwiches / (5) Fruit and Herb Lemonade / (6) Arugula Pistachio Pesto / (7) Peach Lavender Jam / (8) Watermelon Blueberry Salsa / (9) Fresh Tomato Soup with Mascarpone
Here’s to a happy and prosperous new year!
It’s been a flavorful few months ’round these parts, and Taylor and I are proud to call ourselves official Flavor Explorers. We developed the 12 recipes pictured above using Spice Islands’ fabulous products, and they’ve been posting to the Flavor Explorer blog all quarter, along with some other enticing recipes from Gaby Dalkin of What’s Gaby Cooking.
Pictured: (1) Spiced Cranberry Spritzers / (2) Mini Chicken-Ricotta Phyllo Pies / (3) Panna Cotta with Meyer Lemon Black-Pepper Marmalade / (4) Homemade Taco Seasoning / (5) Gingerbread Ice Cream Floats / (6) Sicilian Pan Pizza with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto / (7) Double Chocolate Chipotle Cookies / (8) Asian Niçoise Salad with Seared Black Sesame Tuna / (9) Creamy Eggnog Pudding / (10) Spaghetti Squash Bruschetta / (11) Coconut Beef Stir-Fry Rice Bowls / (12) Chorizo Frittata
And for our fellow spice-fiends, we’ve got a special giveaway just for you, courtesy of Spice Islands®!
One lucky winner will receive a set of 15 of our favorite Spice Islands® products, including Vanilla Extract, Cinnamon, Whole Nutmeg, Ground Chipotle, Ground Ginger, Fine Sea Salt, Fennel Seed, Thyme, Sweet Basil, Italian Herb Seasoning Blend, Thai Seasoning Blend, Bay Leaves, Beau Monde Seasoning, Dill, and Poppy Seed. Some of these, such as the Ground Chipotle (featured in the Double Chocolate Chipotle Cookies, above) can be hard to find but so worth it. Others, like the Fine Sea Salt, are pretty much used every day in our kitchen (we use this interchangeably with kosher salt in both cooking and baking). While we love creating our own spice combinations, we find ourselves drawn to the perfect seasoning blends (such as the Italian and Thai blends) for quick weeknight meals. Along with kitchen staples like Cinnamon, Bay Leaves, and Vanilla Extract, this would be a great starter set for someone new to cooking, or quality replacements for those old and dried-out spices you’ve got in your cupboard.
So, what are you waiting for?
Giveaway is now closed. Thanks for entering!
The fine print: No purchase necessary. Giveaway open to US residents only. Void where prohibited. Giveaway sponsored by Spice Islands®. We are proud to have partnered with Spice Islands for this project. All opinions expressed are our own.
The cats wanted to wish you all a very merry Christmas. All three of them: Sgt. Pepper, Desmond, and even Kalypso.
Here’s to a day full of friends, family, love, laughter, and delicious things. And being a good sport no matter what: even if someone plops you on a sheepskin blanket and forces you to wear a wee Santa hat.
Because that’s what the holidays are all about, right?
It’s crunch time people. The final days where stuffing your face with christmas cookies is still socially acceptable.
Milk it for all it’s worth.
I’ll admit I’ve made some pretty darn delicious cookies this year, but these may just be the best of the lot.
I first came across the elusive Mint Truffle Kiss during our excursion to Hershey’s kitchens. Where better to find these magical bites than where they were born? Anyway, a bag came home with me, although at the time I didn’t quite realize what I had discovered. I was, I think, expecting more of a minty flavored chocolate rather than a creme-de-menthe filled confection. They’re like Andes mints in the shape of Kisses. Once I realized this, well, let’s just say that bag didn’t last long.
Two Krogers, a Walgreens, and a Publix later… I had four more bags. And don’t be surprised if I make another run before they disappear for good.
I knew that I had to turn some of these Kisses into the ultimate Christmas cookie.
The cookie base I used is basically a soft chocolate sugar cookie. I’m not one to add cream cheese willy nilly to things (in fact, you could call me somewhat cream cheese averse,) but there isn’t a hint of it in the final cookie other than a delicate, pillowy texture that stays soft for days (not that they’ll last that long, but still).
I first set out to make a chocolate mint version of the classic Peanut Butter Blossom, but soon discovered that stuffing the cookies was where it’s at. They look all innocent on the outside, and then BAM! Mint truffle EXPLOSION.
Sorry for the outburst. I think all the sugar has gone to my head.
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