Friday, December 30, 2011

My Top 10 Favorite Desserts of 2011

There was no way I could narrow this list down to five, because it was almost impossible to narrow it down to ten.  I have such a HUGE sweet tooth, especially for anything with frosting! I think this list took me longer than all of my other four lists combined.  I picked the top nine recipes pretty easy, then I had about five recipes I had to decide from for the 10th spot.  All of these recipes are delicious and I would pay money for each and every one!

I hope everyone has a fun and safe New Years!! See ya next year! 

This cake is one of those desserts where you take a bite . . . close your eyes . . . and think you have died and gone to heaven!  I'm pretty sure I told everyone I know about this cake.  I couldn't stop talking about it.  It is such a stunning cake too (I know I need to work on making it round)!  The dangerous best part is that I always have the ingredients on hand!      

#2 Double Decker Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
mmm . . . these could quite possibly be the BEST cookies I have EVER had?  My favorite cookies have always been sugar cookies with frosting, but I think if I had a sugar cookie side by side with these cookies - I would pick these peanut butter cookies! They are really THAT good! 

#3 Neapolitan Cake
This is another one of the best cakes I have ever eaten and it will probably be my Birthday Cake every year!    

#4 Honeybun Cake
This cake tastes like a cinnamon roll, but in cake form!  It is so easy and will most likely become one of your go-to recipes.     

#5 Best Ever White Chocolate Popcorn with M&M's
You just have to make this to know how amazing it is! It is extremely easy and it is extremely addictive.  It doesn't have to be Christmas to make this - Make it for your next movie night - Everyone will love it.   

Out of all the red velvet cupcakes I have eaten over the last few years, which is a ton! This recipe is in my top three red velvet cupcakes of all time!  I love the flavor and I love the texture! 

#7 Soft Cookies with Pink Icing
These cookies remind me of those giant pink sugar cookies with sprinkles that you can buy at the gas station.  They only get BETTER as the days go bye!  

#8 Paula Deen's Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream
This is the best "from scratch" pumpkin cake that I have ever had.  It is delicious as a cake and it is delicious as cupcakes!  It is my go-to recipe for pumpkin cake! 

These cookies are chewy and delicious! Orange and White Chocolate make an amazing combination.       

#10 Junior's Cheesecake
I rarely make cheesecake, because it takes so much time and I am not patient enough.  However, one day, I managed to make this one and it was smooth and creamy and absolutely delicious.  The best part is that it has a cake crust!!    

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Top 5 Favorite Main Dishes of 2011

Here are my top five main dishes of the year.  Of course my top four are Mexican dishes - my all time favorite and three out of five are from America's Test Kitchen. Enjoy. 

#1 America's Test Kitchen Carnitas
This is one of Jake's favorite recipes that I make.  I make it several times each and every month.  

#2 Taco Pasta
I LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe! This is one of those dishes that even though you are full, you don't want to stop eating it, because it is so yummy! 

#3 Crunchy Shredded Pork Tacos
These tacos taste just like the ones from a famous local restaurant that I grew up eating with my family! 

#4 America's Test Kitchen Tostadas
This recipe has quickly become a favorite.  It is very easy and it tastes amazing.  The last few times I have made it, I have eaten it in regular crunchy taco shells and I think I prefer it that way, because it is a little easier to eat. 

#5 America's Test Kitchen Easier Fried Chicken
This was one of the juiciest chicken dishes I have ever eaten.  

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Top 5 Soups, Salads and Sandwiches of 2011

I am so glad I found this recipe.  It became a favorite of both mine and Jake's the first time we tried it.  I have made this so many times that I lost count!  I would pay big bucks for this salad!

#2 Cheesy Ham and Corn Chowder
This is my absolute favorite way to use up leftover holiday ham!!  My mom bought be a ham that is currently in my refrigerator and I guarantee this is one of the dishes I will make with the leftovers!

#3 Pioneer Woman's Frito Chili Pie
Chili became one of my new favorite meals over this past year.  I love it the day it's made and I love it leftover.  This was a simple and delicious recipe!

#4 Turkey Picadillo Sloppy Joes
These sloppy joes were amazing! One of the best I have ever eaten, if not the best I have ever eaten! The best part is that they are healthy, because they are made with ground turkey and loaded with vegetables!

#5 Chicken Cordon Bleu Panini
I love, love, love this sandwich! It has so much flavor packed in every single bite!  As I am sitting here typing this, I seriously just ran through the list of ingredients, because this sounds so good for dinner?  I have everything, but french bread.  I guess I could always make homemade?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Top 5 Favorite Side Dishes of 2011

Here are my top Five side dishes for 2011!!  Most of them are recipes that I make all of the time, because I Love them so much!  Of course 3 out of 5 use potatoes!! 

I said it when I originally posted these and I'll say it again - I could eat these every single day for the rest of my life!!  They are my absolute favorite side dish!

Lucky for me, Jake likes these too, because when I make these I could eat the entire batch all by myself, so it's a good thing he helps me eat these or I would be in trouble!  They are soooo good! 

If Jake was typing this post, he would make these #1.  He loves this bread and requests it all of the time.    
I love it too, but it doesn't quite beat out my potatoes!  It kind of tastes like pizza and it is the ONLY time you will ever see me eat olives.    

These are similar to my favorite Twice Baked Potatoes, but these take a little more planning, because they call for roasted garlic.  I absolutely love these potatoes and I could eat them any day of the week - breakfast, lunch or dinner!   

Yep, another potato recipe!  If you are craving french fries at home, this is a great recipe to have on hand.  They are a lot healthier than deep fried fries and they are delicious.  The only negative part is that you must eat them right away or they loose their crispiness! 

Monday, December 26, 2011

My Top 5 Favorite Bread Recipes of 2011

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas?  I can't believe it is already over and that it will be 2012 soon?  Crazy, huh?  This week, I am going to be showing you my favorite recipes from 2011.   Then, I will start out 2012 will all new yummy recipes.  Here are my favorite bread recipes for the year of 2011.  They are all delicious and if you haven't already tried them, now is your time.  Let's start with my favorite!  

This was my FAVORITE bread recipe that I made this year! I could not get enough of these muffins and I made these so many times in such a short period of time, that they deserve to be my #1.  Too bad I didn't freeze any zucchini or I would probably get up and make these right now!  

This is my go-to recipe for rolls right now, because they are so easy to put together, the shaping part is super easy and they actually taste good for a few days after they are made! 

I almost made these rolls my #1, but since I make the 1st two recipes more than I make these, I had to put them first.  These cinnamon rolls are to-die-for!  If you haven't tried this recipe yet, then you have been missing out.  Please, Please try this recipe. 
This recipe really shouldn't be included in this list, because I made it for the first time in 2010, but I re-posted the recipe in 2011, so I decided that it is way too good to not be recognized in my favorites of the year category! I love this bread so much, that I would probably pick it over regular corn bread! 

I have always loved the flavor of blueberries, but I can't stand to eat an actual blueberry.  I have a problem with certain fruits.  It's a texture thing.  So, I was thrilled when I saw this recipe uses fresh blueberries, but makes a jam with them and swirls the jam into the muffins!! GENIUS!  These are the BEST blueberry muffins I have EVER eaten! 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Honeybun Cake

My mom gave me this recipe quite awhile ago and I put it aside and didn't think much about it.  After she had given it to me, I remember her talking about it several times and that she was making it AGAIN.  I didn't understand why they liked it so much, because it didn't sound that special to me.  Then, one afternoon, we were over at her house having lunch or a BBQ or something?  I honestly don't even remember what we were eating?  However, she had this Honeybun Cake for dessert.  I remember tasting it and I think my jaw might have dropped to the floor?  OMG - WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME THIS CAKE WAS SO GOOD????  

Now, I love anything with cinnamon.  I love cinnamon so much that I buy it in the bulk section!  This cake reminds me of a CINNAMON ROLL, but in cake form.  You have a super moist cake, swirled with cinnamon and sugar and a gooey glaze on top!  It is amazing warm, right out of the oven and it is amazing at room temperature. 

When I make this for myself, I cut the recipe in half.  That is when my kitchen scale comes in handy.  I just measure my cake mix, use half and save the other half for next time I am craving this cake.  Turns out perfect every time!   

Everyone that I have made this for has declared it one of their new favorites! You should make this for your family on Christmas or on Christmas Eve for a warm bedtime snack! 
Honeybun Cake
adapted from: Sharon H. 

1 yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1 c. sour cream
3/4 c. vegetable oil
1 c. light brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 c. powdered sugar
1-2 Tbl. milk
1-2 tsp. vanilla

Combine cake mix, eggs, sour cream and oil until well blended; set aside.  Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl.  Spread half of the cake batter into a 9x13 cake pan.  Sprinkle with half of the brown sugar and cinnamon, covering the entire cake.  Spread the rest of the cake batter over layer and top with remaining sugar and cinnamon.  Use a knife and swirl the batter.  Bake at 325 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Make the glaze: combine powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth and pour over the hot cake right when it comes out of the oven.  Let set.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  You could add 1/3 cup of chopped pecans to the brown sugar and cinnamon mixture if you would like.  

Jenn's Notes: This cake is one of my favorites.  I prefer it the day it is made, but it still tastes pretty good the next day too.  I am a huge vanilla person, so I add 2 tsp. to the glaze, but feel free to add only 1 tsp.   

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


This was the 2nd recipe I ever posted on this blog!  Since 99.99% of you probably missed it, I figured it deserved another debut!  It is one of my favorite recipes and it is so easy!  

I tried to re-post this recipe a few times, but each time, the rolls were eaten before I had a chance to snap a photo.  This time I threatened, you better save me at least one roll. . . or else!  Seriously, these rolls disappear in no time.  All you have to do is blink and they will be gone! Ha Ha, but seriously! 

I wanted to show you this recipe before Christmas, because I think it would be perfect to have for breakfast or for an afternoon snack or even to serve alongside dinner!  They only take a few minutes of hands-on time, so they won't take away from your Family time on Christmas.      

1.  Dip the tops of the frozen rolls into butter/sugar mixture.  Spray plastic wrap with cooking spray and place over rolls.  This will help keep the rolls from sticking to the plastic wrap when they rise.   Allow to rise for several hours.  
2.  This is what they should look like when they are ready to bake!  Don't worry - when they bake, the orange topping will run down the sides and flavor the entire roll.  Place in preheated oven and bake until done.  Glaze and enjoy!
from: Jenn@eatcakefordinner

2 Tbl. butter, melted
6 Tbl. sugar
zest of 1 or 2 oranges
12 Rhodes® frozen dinner rolls

Orange Glaze:
2 Tbl. butter, melted
1 c. powdered sugar
juice of 1 orange juice

Combine melted butter, sugar and orange zest in a small bowl.  Dip the tops of the frozen rolls into mixture and place in a greased 9X13 casserole dish, leaving plenty of room between.  Spray plastic wrap with cooking spray and cover the rolls.  Allow to rise for about four hours or until puffed and touching.  Bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes or until lightly golden brown.  Combine all glaze ingredients; whisk until smooth.  Drizzle over warm rolls.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Best eaten the day they are made. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cheesy Chicken, Bacon, Broccoli & Rice Casserole

Let's take a break from all of the Christmas candy for a minute, because we gotta eat dinner too.  I have had this recipe saved for over a year and I finally got around to making it.  I wish it wouldn't have taken me so long, because it is really really yummy.  How could you not love something with cheese and bacon?

How is this different from other chicken and rice casseroles?  Well, the bacon and the Parmesan are great additions and the cheese sauce has Dijon mustard in it?  What?  I was worried it would be too overpowering and I added a little less than it called for, but the flavor was amazing.  I think I will start adding a little Dijon to all of my cheese sauces.  It will be my new secret ingredient! 
Cheesy Chicken, Bacon, Broccoli & Rice Cass.

4 c. cooked rice
3-4 chicken tenders, cooked and shredded
2 c. broccoli florets, steamed
4 slices bacon
1-2 Tbl. bacon grease
1/4 onion, finely chopped
3-4 Tbl. flour
1 (14 oz.) can low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. half-and-half
2 Tbl. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 c. Cheddar cheese, grated, opt.

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon and discard all but 1 or 2 Tablespoons of the grease.  Add chopped onion and saute a few minutes.  Gradually add flour and whisk until a thick paste forms.  Whisk in chicken broth, half-and-half and Dijon and stir until thickened.  Stir in cheese until melted.  Layer rice, shredded chicken and broccoli in a 8x8 casserole dish.  Pour cheese sauce over the top.  Crumble bacon and sprinkle over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until heated through.  

Jenn's Notes:  I typed the recipe above with the measurements that I used.  This recipe is quick and easy, especially if you use leftover rice and leftover chicken.  I highly recommend NOT leaving the Dijon out, it really took this dish to another level!      

Sunday, December 18, 2011

BEST EVER White Chocolate Popcorn

If I would have seen this recipe on a blog, I probably would have just passed by it, but lucky for you my Boss makes it for us every year for Christmas, so I know how amazing it is!! 

I was making this a few days ago when Jake comes into the kitchen and says:

"Ewe, why did you use buttered popcorn?"

I said "Don't knock it until you try it."

So . . . he takes a bite . . . takes another bite . . . gets out a bowl and fills it up . . . finishes the bowl and says . . .  

"What is this stuff?  Why is it so good and why can't I stop eating it?"

So, there you have it! This stuff is seriously AMAZING AND ADDICTING!!  Neither of us have been able to stop eating it for the past three days.  I know it sounds strange, but it works.  

STOP whatever you are doing . . . Get up . . . Get dressed . . . go to the store and get some buttered popcorn, white chocolate candy melts and some M&M's and MAKE THIS RIGHT NOW!!  
Look at the M&M's in this picture! They look like a Holly Berry!! 

BEST EVER White Chocolate Popcorn
adapted from: Diana J.

1 bag (14 oz.) Wilton White Candy Melts
    or 1 Lb. White Chocolate Almond Bark
1 bag Holiday M&M's, regular or mini

Pop popcorn in the microwave, DO NOT BURN IT.  Transfer to a really large bowl, making sure to get out all of the un-popped kernels so no one breaks their teeth.  Melt white candy melts according to package directions.  Pour over popped popcorn and add M&M's.  Stir until all of the popcorn is coated with chocolate.  Let set until chocolate has hardened.  When chocolate has hardened, the popcorn will be stuck together in one large ball.  So, use a spoon to break it into chunks.  Store in an air-tight container.  Serve.  

Jenn's Notes: You can find the Wilton White Candy Melts in the craft section at Walmart or at Craft Stores (Hobby Lobby or Michael's).  This popcorn is a great neighbor gift! Add to cute cellophane bags and tie with a ribbon!  If you burn the popcorn, don't think the white chocolate will hide the burnt taste, because it won't.  If you burn it, throw it out and use a different bag.  Today is day three and it still tastes as good as it did the first day.   

Friday, December 16, 2011

English Toffee

English Toffee has been popping up all over blog land the past few weeks.  I'm not sure if I have ever eaten homemade English Toffee.  It looked really good, so I was kind of thinking of trying it, but I wasn't sure.  Then, I read somewhere that it pretty much tastes like a Skor candy bar and that was all I had to hear and I was convinced to make these.

When I was younger, during the Summer, my friends and I would ride our bikes to the local swimming pool.  We pretty much would have lived there if we could.  This pool was the coolest pool around. It had regular diving boards, it had high-dive diving boards and it had a HUGE water slide.  Every day on the way out, without fail, I would buy a stick of peppered beef jerky and a Skor candy bar from the front desk!!  I loved to eat all of the chocolate off the candy bar and then suck on the toffee part. I probably haven't actually eaten a Skor bar for the last 10 years. So, I was pretty excited to try out this recipe. 

I was really surprised with how EASY this toffee was to make.  I have heard horror stories of English Toffee, but I guess I got lucky, because mine turned out really good!  It really does remind me of a Skor bar and it is hard to stop eating it once you start!  
English Toffee
adapted from: here and here
(Printable Recipe)

1 c. butter
1 c. sugar
3 Tbl. water
1/8 tsp. salt (omit if you use salted butter)
1 1/2 Tbl. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract   
3/4 c. chocolate chips
chopped nuts, opt.

Melt butter in a heavy-bottom sauce pan, over medium-low heat.  Add the sugar, water and salt; stir well to incorporate. Bring to a boil and add the corn syrup.  While stirring, use a wet pastry brush to wash down the sides of the pan to dissolve any undissolved sugar crystals.  Continue boiling and stirring until mixture reaches 280-285 degrees (this is at high altitude, so if you are not at high altitude, then you will probably need to cook it longer - 290-295 degrees).  Remove from heat and add the vanilla extract.  Stir to combine and pour into a well-buttered cookie sheet or an 8x8 casserole dish.  Do not scrape the sides of the pan.  Use a rubber scraper and spread out to desired thickness.  You can either drop the chocolate chips onto the hot toffee and spread out when melted or you can melt the chocolate in the microwave and spread over the toffee.  Sprinkle with chopped nuts, if adding.  Allow to set up completely, then break into chunks.  Store in an air-tight container.        

**Simple test to know if candy has reached the correct temperature: dip a spoon into the candy.  Run cold tap water over the top of it.  If the candy turns hard and brittle, then it is done** 

Jenn's Notes:  No notes today, I just did what the recipe said and it turned out perfect! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Orange and Rum Flavored Microwave Fudge - No Fail

This recipe is from my friend Nicole.  She first introduced me to this fudge a few years ago when she was making a ton of it for a wedding.  She was making all kinds of different versions and brought a few for me to try.  I thought it was a genius idea adding different extracts to change things up rather than just adding vanilla all of the time.  So far, the orange flavored one is MY FAVORITE.  Do you like those chocolate oranges you can buy around Christmas time?  If yes, then you will LOVE this fudge.  The rum flavored one is delicious too! It tastes like those yummy butter rum candies.  Next time, I am going to try a mint batch and an almond batch.

I know you can't tell by my pictures, but this fudge is extremely smooth and creamy and melts in your mouth.  It will be a great addition to your Christmas treat plates and it only takes a few minutes to whip up.  A lot of times, when I am craving something chocolatey, I make this fudge.  

Easy Microwave Fudge (No Fail)
adapted from: Nicole W.

  • 2 1/4 c. chocolate chips 
  • 1 square (1 oz.) unsweetened chocolate 
  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 Tbl. butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • any other flavorings (orange, rum, peppermint, coconut, almond, raspberry, etc.)
  • chopped nuts, opt.
  • marshmallows, opt.

In a large microwave-safe dish add chocolate chips, unsweetened chocolate, sweetened condensed milk and butter.  Microwave for about 3-5 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted.  Stir with a wooden spoon until combined.  Add vanilla and any other flavorings.  Stir until very smooth and creamy.  Add chopped nuts and/or marshmallows, if adding.  Spread into a greased 8x8 casserole dish.  Let set, then cut into squares.  

Jenn's Notes: I use milk chocolate chips and I use semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of unsweetened chocolate.  I usually start with 1 tsp. of the extra flavoring, then I taste and add more as needed.  Sometimes I make the full batch, add the vanilla and then divide it between two bowls and add one flavoring to one and another flavoring to the other.  Next time, I want to try adding marshmallows, because Nicole said it is amazing with them.       

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chicken Pot Pies with a Puff Pastry Crust AND Chocolate Filled Puff Pastries with an Almond Glaze

I grew up eating those frozen store-bought pot pies and though I really liked them, I figured it was time for me to make a homemade, from scratch (almost), pot pie.  I have made this recipe several times and I really like it.  I love that it uses puff pastry.  I figure it is way easier than making homemade pie crust.  I used to have a hard time making pot pie for only two people, because a whole pie was way too much food.  Now that I have ramekins it is so much easier to make dinner for a small group, because one ramekin is the perfect serving size for one person.  I love it. 

While I made the filling, Jake cut the puff pastry into strips, so we could make a pretty looking lattice on top! I let the strips hang over the edge, because the more puff pastry the better, in my opinion.  I have also trimmed the edges so that it doesn't hang over and I think both ways look pretty, so do whatever you prefer.  You will have extra puff pastry, so I always cut the rest into triangles and make chocolate filled puff pastries for dessert!! So good. 
Chicken Pot Pies with a Puff Pastry Crust
slightly adapted from: here 
1 1/2 c. cooked chicken, shredded
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/3 c. frozen peas
1/2 med. onion, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped
2 Tbl. butter
2-4 Tbl. flour
1 1/2 c. milk 
1 c. half-and-half
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
pinch of dried rosemary
pinch of Italian seasoning
lemon pepper, opt.  
salt and pepper
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg
splash of milk

Place diced potatoes and carrots in a large saucepan with enough water to just cover the vegetables.  Boil until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the frozen peas a few minutes before vegetables are done.  Drain and set aside.  In the same saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; add red pepper and onion and saute until tender.  Gradually whisk in the flour until a thick paste forms.  Slowly whisk in milk and half-and-half.  Add the seasonings.  Adjust to taste.  Stir until thickened.  Add the shredded chicken and cooked vegetables.  Divide the filling between four greased ramekins.  Lightly flour work surface and slightly roll out thawed puff pastry.  Using a pizza cutter, cut out thin strips.  Cut each strip into pieces, the length of the ramekin and layer on top of ramekin.  Or you could cut out a circle the size of the ramekin and place that on top, rather than making a lattice.  If you do a solid circle, make sure to cut a few slits on top for ventilation.  Combine egg and milk and brush over the top of the puff pastry.  Bake at 400 degrees until filling is bubbly and top is puffed and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.  Yield: 4 ramekins.   

Jenn's Notes: Depending on how many vegetables you like, you might not want to add all of them to the mixture.  I like a super chunky pot pie, so I might add more vegetables than the average person.   

Chocolate Filled Puff Pastry
From: Jenn@eatcakefordinner

leftover puff pastry 
chocolate chips
1/3 c. powdered sugar
splash of milk
a few drops of almond extract or vanilla

Cut leftover puff pastry into triangles.  Place chocolate chips into the center and roll up.  Place on a greased cookie sheet.  Brush tops with egg wash.  Bake until lightly browned and crispy.  Meanwhile, whisk together powdered sugar, milk and almond extract until smooth.  Drizzle over the top of warm puff pastries.  Serve.  

Jenn's Notes:  You can really fill these with whatever you like.  Sometimes we do milk and white chocolate chips.  Sometimes we add a little caramel sauce.  Whatever the way, you will have a flaky pastry with a warm gooey center!! What about Nutella?  I am so trying that next.  So good.  

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