Archive for December, 2009

Best of…2009

December 31, 2009

Most of my favorite dishes this year were actually dinners — rather than sweets and treats!!

Enjoy the ones I loved the most this past year…

Favorite Side:

Baked Pineapple – This side dish really made a show this year. I served it with kahlua pork, as well as our Christmas ham, and got rave reviews.It’s sweet, but pairs perfectly with pork dishes!

Favorite Treats:

Cookie Dough Truffles – These little morsels are single-handedly responsible for every extra pound I put on during the holidays. LOL They’re delicious, and the cookie dough is safe to eat raw. It doesn’t get much more awesome than that!

Best Fruit Dip Ever – My family’s been making this delicious fruit dip for years…I just kept forgetting to blog it! Great way to get kids and husband who don’t normally like fruit to eat it. Delish!

Favorite Dinners:

*This category is LONG — the year was full of successful new dinner recipes that we’ve repeated over and over again since the first time! Incidentally, all of them are weeknight-friendly dinners (meaning not a lot of time to make!)

Garlic Lemon Shrimp with Orzo and Broccoli – This dish was wonderful, AND it’s quick. And nearly-one-pot (I use a separate pot to cook the orzo, otherwise it’s one dish!!). LOVE IT.

Spicy Honey Chicken – we adore this dish as well, and have served it to company several times. The spiciness of the rub and the sweetness of the honey pair perfectly with that grilled, smokey flavor. We also learned that sometimes, its imperative to use chicken thighs. This meal is a thousand times better with thighs vs. breasts.

Crockpot Kahlua Pork – always in search of new crockpot recipes, this one was a winner instantly. We love to serve it over rice with a side of baked pineapple, but it’s also good as sandwiches, with bbq sauce, etc.

Best Beef Stew – EVER – I don’t much care if you turn your nose up at it because it contains canned soup. It is still — hands down — the best darn beef stew I’ve ever tasted! I’m actually considering making my own canned soup substitutions and see if it still tastes as delicious.

Roasted Garlic and Mozzarella Meatballs – I am still in my quest for the perfect spaghetti SAUCE — but I’ve discovered the perfect meatball. DH says these taste like they came from an authentic mom-and-pop italian restaurant, and I’d have to agree!

Weeknight Paella – a quick, easy, one-pot stovetop version of delicious paella. It’s not authentic, but I love it too much to care.

Cafe Rio Pork – this is probably the number one best recipe I discovered this year…maybe behind the beef stew. But still. Apparently, there’s a restaurant in Utah that serves this amazing deliciousness. But since I live in PA, I just make it at home. It’s the most versatile mexican meat I’ve ever used in my home — tacos, burritos, enchiladas, salads, nachos…whatever you want!

Skillet Noodle Lasagna – another quick, weeknight dinner winner. Tastes like lasagna, but gets your family to eat spinach, and is ready in about 30 minutes. Perfect!

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Chicken Breasts – this recipe is still our “company is coming, make something that looks fancy” go-to recipe. We adore it and have passed it onto several others!


Menu Mondays

December 28, 2009

Monday: steak, broccoli, pasta

Tuesday: last-minute lasagna, salad, bread

Wednesday: the last of the Christmas ham, baked pineapple, mashed potatoes

Thursday: salmon, Parmesan orzo, green beans

Friday: leftover easy lasagna

Homemade Christmas Roundup!

December 24, 2009

Here’s a roundup of all the homemade items I (or my mom, in the case of some of the cookies…she did pizelles, rice krispies and chocolate chip :)) made for Christmas 2009!



Cookie Dough Truffles

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pittsburgh-Style Rice Krispie Treats

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Peanut Butter Hershey Kiss Blossoms

Italian Lemon Cookies

Pizelles (not pictured) in Lemon, Orange, Anise, and Vanilla

Homemade Gifts

This year for our holiday gift exchange with family/extended family/friends, my mom set the theme as “Homemade” — the gifts had to be homemade by you, or someone else.

I did a package containing the following items…and then discovered I had enough left of everything to do the same packages for my neighbors! So they got the same goodies. 🙂

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

Homemade Barbeque Spice Rub

Homemade Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

Homemade BBQ Spice Rub

December 24, 2009

This spice rub is delicious — it’s from Steven Raichlen (also known as the guru behind BBQ University!)

This rub works on all types of meat as well, and it keeps for several months in a cool, dry spot!

I packaged this in small Ball jars — but The Container Store has super-cute little jars you could use if you had the time to order them (which I did not. LOL)

Fuzzy picture? Weird.

Basic Barbeque Rub

(Steven Raichlen)

Yield: 1 cup

1/4 cup coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/4 cup paprika
3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and stir or whisk to mix. Transfer to a jar, cover, and store away from heat and light. The rub will keep for several months.

If giving as a gift, add a tag: “Rub 1-2 tablespoons of mix over your chicken, pork, or beef, and cook as desired!)”

Homemade Hot Chocolate

December 24, 2009

I used Annie’s hot chocolate recipe — it’s quite tasty!!

I packaged it up in Ball jars — but The Container Store has super-cute jars you can purchase for a prettier look!

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

(Annie’s Eats)
Yield: about 4 cups cocoa mix

2 cups nonfat dry milk powder
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup powdered nondairy creamer
1/8 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Whisk together until evenly blended.  Portion into gift packages as desired, and top each with a handful of mini-marshmallows.

Attach tags with the following instructions: “Mix 4-5 heaping tablespoons of cocoa mix with very warm water or milk to achieve desired flavor.  Top with mini marshmallows.  Enjoy!”

Cookie Dough Truffles

December 24, 2009

If I pack on any weight over the holidays, it will be a direct result of these pesky little buggers.

They are SO good!

Cookie Dough Truffles

(How Sweet It Is)

1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

14 oz sweetened, condensed milk

3/4 cup milk chocolate chips

To coat:

1 1/2 lbs chocolate disks or chocolate chips


– In a large bowl cream butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed, until creamy

– Add vanilla, then gradually beat in flour and add the milk

– Add chocolate morsels, mixing well

– Shape into 1″ balls and place on waxed paper (to make it easier to shape them into balls, dip your fingers in flour)

– Chill for 2 hours (I put mine in the freezer)

– Melt chocolate disks or chips in a double boiler

– Using 2 forks, dip cookie balls into candy coating to cover

– Place on waxed paper and chill to set (Store in refrigerator for at least one hour)

– I kept mine in the freezer for awhile, and now they’re sitting on my cold, enclosed porch. Make sure you keep them chilled — they’re better that way!

Menu Mondays

December 21, 2009

Whirlwind weekend of Christmas activities with my family!

I’m exhausted!

Monday: out with DH to a work social/dinner

Tuesday: garlic lemon shrimp with orzo and broccoli

Wednesday: spicy honey chicken, roasted potatoes, green beans

Thursday: orzo leftovers from Tuesday

Friday: “mini” Christmas with my inlaws….

  • Ham
  • Mashed potatoes with sour cream/cream cheese
  • Corn
  • Baked pineapple
  • Christmas cookies (dessert)


December 15, 2009

I was so busy trying to get cookies done this weekend I forgot to post my menu!

This week is boring, meal-wise….DH and I each have an evening meeting (on different nights) and first thing Friday a.m. we trek across the state to celebrate Christmas early with my family!

Saturday: Baked cookies: hershey kiss blossoms, italian lemon cookies, sugar cookies, cookie dough truffles

Sunday: glazed italian lemon cookies, iced sugar cookies, prepped veggies…the usual.

Monday: venison steak (DH got another deer on Saturday), broccoli, pasta

Tuesday: pork ribs, baked beans, rice

Wednesday: salmon, rice pilaf, green beans

Thursday: spaghetti with meat sauce, salad

Friday: on the road again….

Menu Mondays

December 7, 2009

We’re trying to not do our customary eat-out-on-weekends for December, so there’s a bit more meal planning involved….

Saturday: skillet noodle lasagna, cheesy garlic bread

Sunday: venison steaks, roasted potatoes, salad

Monday: beef steaks (i know…red meat, two days.), broccoli, pasta

Tuesday: apricot/french chicken(crockpot), rice, green beans

Wednesday: leftover skillet noodle lasagna for DH; I’m headed to a work banquet

Thursday: leftover apricot/french chicken

Friday: zuppa toscana, breadsticks

Won Ton Appetizers

December 6, 2009

This comes from my DH’s mom…but everybody seems to love them! They’re fried, and I’m tempted to try them baked…but haven’t yet!

They’re not really very Asian, but that just means more people will eat them. LOL


(My MIL)

1 roll Jimmy Dean Sage Sausage

1 bag baby spinach, finely chopped

1 package won ton wrappers

Sm bowl of lukewarm water (to help seal won tons)

Vegetable oil for frying


Fill a stockpot 1/2 full with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat to about 360 degrees

–  In a medium bowl, mix together the sausage and spinach; remove won tons from wrapper

– Take one won ton wrapper and place approx 1 tsp of filling in the center of it. Dip your finger in the water and run your finger along two sides of the won ton so you can seal it (you’ll be folding the won ton into a triangle)

– Fold the won ton wrapper over the filling and seal it into a triangle, using the wetted edges to keep it shut. Gently wet the two ‘longer’ edges, then fold them in onto the won ton to seal (helps keep filling in while frying)

– Place the won tons in the hot oil 5-6 at a time, and let them cook until golden brown and floating.

– Remove won tons from oil, and lay them on a paper towel to drain/cool

Makes approx 50 won tons (will depend on the amount of filling you put in)