It’s the end of the month and time to recap the noteworthy recipes and events from the month with some reflections from the month and year overall: Quintuple Chocolate Fudgy Brownie Cookies – Five different types of chocolate is used: Cocoa powder, melted bittersweet baking chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate chips, diced chocolate truffles, and chopped chocolate-filled Oreos. The cookies are rich, smooth, intense, very decadent and for the serious chocaholic. They are hands down the best chocolate cookie I’ve ever had or made and my search for the perfect chocolate cookie ends with this recipe. They’re like eating brownies, truffles, cookies, and Oreos all in one Cranberry and White Chocolate Chip Cookies - Inspired by my love of Cranberry Bliss Bars (Starbucks Copycat Recipe) and the Sugar-Doodle Vanilla Cookies , I combined the two. The Sugar-Doodle dough is stuffed with ample amounts of both white chocolate chip and dried cranberries. The cranberries lend a pop of tartness and texture against the buttery soft dough and sweet white chocolate. Super soft, moist, and are perfect not only around Christmas, but anytime Peanut Chewy Payday Bars – A three-layered bar full of that resembles a Payday candy bar, but better – thanks to the gooey marshmallows that are sandwiched in the middle layer. The melted marshmallows are flanked by a buttery shortbread-style crust and topped with a mixture of peanut butter, peanuts, and crispy rice cereal. Sweet and gooey meets salty and crunchy with an abundance of peanut butter, peanuts, and plenty of chewy texture. Although there are three layers, the bars can be made from start to finish in a half hour, and can be kept both vegan and gluten-free Peppermint White Hot Chocolate – Atwist on traditional hot chocolate. It’s sweet and creamy and this version includes peppermint, which balances the sweetness. The peppermint adds a refreshing element, without being over-powering. The flavor of the hot chocolate reminds me of a favorite peppermint specialty coffee creamer, minus the artificial ingredients. It’s comforting, soothing, easy, and ready in under than 5 minutes Marshmallow Caramel Oreo Cookie S’Mores Bars – An Oreo cookie-crumb and buttery crust is topped with marshmallows, caramels, and chocolate chips for an easy and fast dessert reminiscent of s’mores. As the bars bake, the marshmallows puff and become gooey and the rich and buttery caramels melt, providing plenty of texture and diverse flavors in each bite. The chocolate chips sprinkled on top boost the chocolate intensity Browned Butter Caramel and Butterscotch Bars – Nutty and aromatic browned butter is paired with dark brown sugar, sweet butterscotch chips, and creamy caramel to create a dense, comforting, and rich treat. The bars are moist and packed with an incredible depth of flavor. Between the butterscotch chips and the caramels, there’s plenty of texture in these easy-to-make, buttery bars Peach Jelly-Filled Banana Bread Bars with Vanilla Glaze – The bars are part jelly danish crossed with ultra moist banana bread. Peach yogurt is used in the batter and the bars are fall-apart soft and moist. Peach jelly is swirled throughout before baking, boosting the peach flavor, moisture, and sweetness. These bars are dense and rich like a fudgy brownie. There’s nothing airy, cakey, or light about them. They’re melt-in-your-mouth, jelly-filled, drippy-glazed comfort-food at it’s finest Parmesan Ranch Snack Mix – An extremely easy and fast snack mix recipe, and ready to be munched on in under five minutes. Feel free to mix and match ingredients, tossing in favorite nuts, crackers, or various odds and ends taking up space in your cupboards. A packet of ranch dip mix and a little Parmesan cheese go a long way in making this a crunchy, satisfying, and addictive snack Funfetti Cake Batter Blondies – The flavors of Funfetti and yellow cake batter are paired in these sweet and easy blondies, complete with semi-sweet and white chocolate chips, and plenty of sprinkles. They don’t rely on boxed cake mix, and the from-scratch batter can be mixed by hand in less than 5 minutes. The blondies are dense, soft, ultra-moist, and Fun Nutella Cinnamon Rolls with Vanilla Glaze – All the flavor of homemade cinnamon rolls, with none of the work or waiting period. The rolls use a handy shortcut by way of refrigerated crescent rolls, and are ready from start to finish in about 15 minutes. They’re filled with Nutella spread, and are gooey, oozing, moist, succulent, and tender. After their short stint in the oven, the rolls are finished with an easy vanilla glaze. They’re decadent and a ridiculously easy way to enjoy homemade cinnamon rolls in a hurry Biscoff Marshmallow Chocolate Bars (no-bake) – Virtually work-free and they come together in less than 5 minutes. Sweet, fluffy marshmallows and chopped Biscoff Cookies (or graham crackers) are drenched in a bath of melted chocolate and Biscoff Spread (or Cookie Butter Spread). The bars are rich, dense, and taste far more decadent and indulgent than you’d imagine something that’s so easy to make Creamy Tomato Soup (vegan, gluten-free, microwave-friendly) – Based on Panera Bread’s popular Vegetarian Creamy Tomato Soup, this healthy-in-a-hurry version has a short ingredients list and it comes together in 5 minutes. Although it’s ridiculously easy and fast to make, flavor isn’t sacrificed. The soup has a mild kick and plenty of creaminess. Garnish with cheese, the herbs of your choice, and serve with favorite crackers or croutons for an easy, warm and comforting meal Nutella Brownie Truffle Bites – All the flavor and decadence of truffles, minus the work. The tedious step of rolling dozens of balls is notably absent. These sliceable, no-bake, dense, rich bites come together in 5 minutes and are pressed into a pan and sliced, rather than rolled, a huge time-saver. They’re part fudgy brownie, part chocolate cookie dough, part truffle – all in one. Creamy, very chocolaty, with a touch of hazelnut flavor and every bit as indulgent as their much more labor-intensive counterparts Favorite Cookies – I love cookies and over the years I’ve made and sampled hundreds. People ask me which cookies are my favorite, and it’s very hard to choose. But I narrowed down the list to include 15 current favorites Raisin Bread for Raisin Lovers – Raisin Lovers, this bread is for you. There’s nothing worse than raisin bread that is skimpy on the raisins and this version is anything but and is chock full of raisins in every bite. The bread is chewy and has a hearty outer crust with a dense, soft, and moist interior. It’s excellent toasted with butter and sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar Browned Butter Rice Krispies Treats (no-bake) These are the best Rice Krispies Treats I’ve ever had, thanks in large part to the butter. It’s both browned and the quantity compared to most other recipes is doubled. Between the nutty and aromatic browned butter, the melted sweet marshmallows, and using less cereal most recipes, these Treats are the most gooey, buttery, flavorful, and richest I’ve ever had. They’re hits with both kids and adults, and If the classic favorite cereal bar could be improved upon, this is how. Vegan and gluten-free options included Events: We spent the month of December in Aruba We went on a Sunset Sail I had the best Christmas Day ever – Watching Skylar’s joy as she saw the gifts Santa brought was one of those motherly moments I just won’t forget. Then laying around the pool and reading before going on a family power walk was the perfect way to spend the day. They’re the simple things, but the best kind of things. We got back to San Diego very late Saturday night and I spent Sunday unpacking, doing laundry, going through a month’s worth of mail, going to four grocery stores, cooking, and could use a vacation after my vacation after all that. We did have an excellent month and get re-adjusted to real life after traveling is par for the course. Reflections: When I started doing these monthly recaps in January 2012, it was my goal to have my recipes and noteworthy events from that month organized and in one place. And although that goal has definitely been achieved, the posts have helped me in other ways. Writing each month’s recap and looking back at what I made that month, didn’t make, wished I’d made, can’t believe I made in both good ways and appalling ways, helped me gather clarity and direction for what I’d like to do more of, less of, or never again. In August I made the decision to start posting more classic-style recipes and feature food and recipes that can be made time and time again. Although brownies with four layers of marshmallows, caramel sauce, and cookie dough stuffed into them do capture more views on Pinterest and Foodgawker, I wanted to pull back from some of those over-the-top recipes. Of course I’d like the views, but I also want readers; not just people who come here to view the recipe because the picture is so over-the-top they just had to see what the fuss was all about and then never come back. Readers are real people who want real recipes they can make over and over and I want to provide that. Recipes that will stand the test of time, that are straightforward enough for the average or novice cook, that don’t use specialty ingredients they have to chase all over town for, and that most of all that taste great and are rewarding and satisfying on all levels. Those are the recipes I want to showcase. And just because something is classic or timeless, doesn’t mean it has to be boring. A good old-fashioned recipe for say perfect brownies that are easier than using a mix and that stands the test of time is a great backbone and jumping off place, and from there it can be twisted, tweaked, enhanced, or even stuffed full of candy and cookie dough. Recipes that are classics but with modern twists infused keep life, and food blogs, interesting. I don’t want to beat the classics thing to death because I think being totally innovative, fresh, wildly creative, a bit off the wall, and coming up with things that no one else has done or that haven’t been blogged about ad nauseum is important. Challenging myself to come up with new things, fresh content, and recipes that are novel and creative, but to do it in a way that doesn’t involve combining Cheetos with say cake batter. And although Cheetos and cake batter may be innovative in that no one has done it before, I’ll leave that kind of pioneering for someone else on Pinterest. I want to give you the recipes that you want to make, and will re-make; and also give you the recipes you didn’t even know you wanted, but now you can’t live without them. It’s an interesting phenomenon as a food blogger because although people write and say they want healthy recipes, dinner recipes and ideas, or recipes they can feed their family with, those recipes never do very well statistically, either on my site or on the food sites. I think people unfortunately do view healthy food, and to some degree savory food, as less interesting. The Ten Most Viewed Recipes of 2012 only included one savory option, and I discussed my thoughts there about it. I post a bare minimum of savory fare or healthier options because they’re requested and because we can’t live on cake alone, but I’d be more than happy to just post sweeter treats. Not to mention, savory foods generally mean cooking dinner at 11am, photographing it in the middle of the day when the light is best, and then serving a re-heated dinner. That’s passable once a week or so, but between the reheating issue and my innate preference cooking for sweeter food, I will always gravitate toward creating desserts and sweets, sweeter breads, cakes, muffins, cookies and the like. One of the most rewarding things about blogging is when someone writes to me to tell me they made something of mine and that it made their day, their family loved it, or it just came in handy on a random Monday. Most of the times the reports are good; every once in awhile someone will have a cookie crisis or something won’t work out for them, but by and large, the overwhelming majority of comments are good and even if they’re not, I want to hear those, too. Knowing that people are out there in their kitchens making my recipes is so cool. It really is. As a blogger, one of the nicest days I’ve had in recent memory ironically came on Christmas Day. I had about twenty different people including readers who aren’t bloggers and the majority who had prior to that day never even stepped out of the shadows to say hello or to comment on a post, write to me with glowing praise. They wrote saying they made a certain cookie for their holiday cookie exchange, or made a breakfast bake or cinnamon rolls, or dinner mints or a casserole and their picky spouse ate it and wanted seconds, or that something was a smashing success with their family and friends. It was a great Christmas present. In 2013, I have a few recipes I want to cross off my bucket list, and I’ll let you know when I’ve made something on my mental to-make list. For instance in 2012 I wanted to tackle things like bread , rolls , nail the perfect banana bread , make Nanaimo bars , have a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I’ll have and be able to make forever; stop making recipes like these , make more cookies , make horchata , learn to can , create the perfect chocolate cake and give up cake mix in the process, tackle the NYT Chocolate Chip Cookies and just so many others that were personal culinary goals. If you’d like to see anything special, feel free to make a suggestion. If you’ve made it through my ramblings in this long post, thank you. If you’ve ever stopped by my space here, thank you for visiting and reading. If you’ve ever made anything of mine, double thank you. If you’ve come back to tell me you made it, I want to squeeze you and give you a big hug because I love the feedback and triple thank you. Best wishes for health, happiness, and lots of chocolate for everyone in 2013! Previous Month Recaps: January 2012
November 2012 Tell me about your month and your year!
What did you do or make in December or this year that was memorable?
What are your goals for 2013?