Melissa's Cuisine: December 2011

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 11 of 2011

As 2011 draws to a close, I thought it would be fun to look back on some of the top recipes I posted in the past year.  I put a lot of time, effort, and love into each recipe that I make, so it's difficult for me to choose my favorite recipes...I like them all! 

If you look at the right side of the page, you can see the top 10 recipes on my blog, ranked by the amount of page hits each recipe gets.  I decided to post my top 11 recipes (11 for 2011, of course!), chosen by the number of comments on each recipe.  I hope you'll enjoy this recap of this past year's top recipes!

And just for fun, 11 of my favorite recipes from this past year, some of which didn't get the attention they deserve!  I really want to encourage you to take a look back at the previous postings from your favorite I was working on this, I found some recipes I'd completely forgotten about!

Here's to a delicious 2011 and a fabulous 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Quick and Fluffy Dinner Rolls

Are you in charge of bringing bread to Christmas dinner this year?  If so, this is a great recipe for you to make!  It's really quick and delicious. 

I was intrigued by the steps of this recipe, I've never let rolls rise in the oven and then leave them in the oven to bake before.  To be honest, I really didn't know how it would turn out.  I thought I'd give it a try and see what happened, and to my amazement, it worked perfectly!  In less than an hour, I had fresh baked yeast rolls on the dinner table.  I served these with a piping hot bowl of Zuppa Toscana.  This is definitely a recipe that's fast enough for a weeknight dinner, and I think it will quickly become a favorite.
Quick and Fluffy Dinner Rolls

Makes 12 large rolls

You will need:
3/4 cup milk
4 Tablespoons butter
3/4 cup hot water, 110 degrees
4 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 to 4-1/2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon yeast
1 Tablespoon butter, melted

1.  In a microwave safe bowl, combine milk and butter.  Microwave on high for 1-1/2 minutes.

2.  Preheat oven to 170 degrees while you make the rest of the dough.

3.  Pour your warmed milk mixture and water into the bowl of your mixer.  Add the sugar, salt, and 2 cups of flour.  Mix for 1 minute.

4.  Add in the yeast and remaining flour 1 cup at a time, mixing as you add flour.  You have enough flour when the dough comes away from the edges of the bowl and forms a ball.

5.  Mix on medium speed for 5 minutes.

6.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for 5 minutes.

7.  Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and gently round them into balls.

8.  Place dough balls in a greased 9x13 pan.

9.  Put the pan in your preheated oven and let them rise for about 20 minutes, or until doubled.

10.  Leaving the pan in the oven, increase oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. 

11.  Brush the top of the rolls with melted butter right after removing them from the oven.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Zuppa Toscana

One of my favorite things to make during the cold winter months is soup.  I love to make a big pot of it, so that we have enough for our meal, plus leftovers for Mike to take to work during the week.  Plus, there's something so comforting about a bowl of hot soup on a cold wintery day!

I've mentioned before my love of Olive Garden.  Every once in a while, they'll run a special for unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks.  It makes for a delicious lunch and it's so filling.  A couple weeks ago, one of my friends posted this recipe on Facebook.  He had just made it for dinner and it sounded delicious.  After asking him a few questions about how to make it, I picked up some of the ingredients at the store and set to work.  The result was a delicious pot of soup!  It's quite filling, especially if served with my Olive Garden Breadsticks!  Mike and I both enjoyed this soup, and it tasted even better the next day.
Zuppa Toscana

Serves 4

You will need:

3 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced.
8 cups water
5 Tablespoons chicken bullion
1 pound Italian sausage, browned
handful of fresh kale, washed
1/2 pint heavy cream
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1.  In a large saucepan, bring 8 cups of water to a boil.

2.  Add in sliced potatoes and boil for 5 minutes.

3.  Add in chicken bullion, browned sausage, and kale and boil for another 5 minutes.

4.  Stir in heavy cream, garlic, and Italian seasoning and simmer for 5 minutes.

5.  Top individual servings with fresh Parmesan cheese before serving.

Recipe from Dave, inspired by Olive Garden

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours,
We wish you a very Merry Christmas as we celebrate
the birth of our Savior!
Merry Christmas and blessings for the New Year!

Melissa, Mike, and Champ ;)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cinnamon Roll French Toast Bake

One of my absolute favorite things to have for breakfast is cinnamon rolls.  Fresh from the oven, hot, and gooey.  In my book, it doesn't get much better than that!  When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it.  It combines 2 of my favorite things, cinnamon rolls and french toast, into one quick and easy breakfast casserole.  It reminds me of the French Monkey Bread I made last year. 

I think this would be the perfect breakfast for Christmas morning.  It comes together quickly and you can pop it in the oven while you're opening Christmas gifts.  I served it with Brown Sugar Baked Bacon

Cinnamon Roll French Toast Bake

Makes 1 9x13" pan, about 12 servings

You will need:
1/4 cup margarine, melted
2 cans of cinnamon rolls with icing
4 eggs
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1.  Pour melted margarine into the bottom of a 9x13" pan.

2.  Open both cans of cinnamon rolls and set the icing aside.  Cut each cinnamon roll into 4 pieces.

3.  Place cinnamon roll pieces on top of margarine in the pan.

4.  In a small bowl, beat the eggs.

5.  Mix in the whipping cream, vanilla, and cinnamon.

6.  Pour egg mixture over the cinnamon roll pieces.

7.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

8.  Spread icing on top of the cinnamon rolls.  Serve warm.

Adapted from:  Mom's Crazy Cooking

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Guest Post

I'm doing a guest post over at Mom's Crazy Cooking today!  Please hop on over to Tina's blog to see the recipe for one of my favorite Christmas cookies--pecan snowballs!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hot Chocolate Snowballs

Last week I shared a recipe for Hot Chocolate Mix, and today I thought I'd share a recipe for the perfect cookie to enjoy with a cup of Hot Chocolate!  As a bonus, it also uses some of the Hot Chocolate Mix!  If you made it already, you're ahead of the game.  If not, go ahead and click on over to check it out...I'll still be here :)

When I saw this recipe on Alli-n-son, I knew I would love it.  As you'll find out tomorrow (when I do a guest post at Mom's Crazy Cooking), one of my favorite cookies is Pecan Snowballs.  This is a fun twist on snowballs and for someone who loves chocolate (me!), it's the perfect combination.  This cookie was my choice for the baking day I had with my Mother-in-law and Sister-in-law earlier this month.  I'm glad I chose it!

Hot Chocolate Snowballs

Makes 36 cookies

You will need:
2/3 cup butter, softened
3 ounces Neufchatel cheese, softened (can also use cream cheese)
2/3 cup hot chocolate mix
1/3 cup powdered sugar, plus extra for rolling
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-3/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1.  In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, Neufchatel cheese, hot chocolate mix, powdered sugar, and vanilla.

2.  Add in flour and salt and mix until well blended.

3.  Cover and chill for 1 hour, or until dough can easily be handled.

4.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place 1 inch apart on a greased cookie sheet.

5.  Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes, or until firm.

6.  Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes before rolling in powdered sugar. 

7.  Let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Source:  Alli-n-Son

Monday, December 19, 2011

Brown Sugar Baked Bacon

I just can't believe that we have just 12 days left in 2011...where has this year gone?  And now, once again, it's the 3rd Monday of the month.  By now, I'm sure you know what that means!  It's reveal date for Group C of the Secret Recipe Club.  You also know how much fun I have browsing though my assigned blog each month to find a delicious looking recipe to try out.

Secret Recipe Club

This month was no different.  I was assigned to Kimberly's blog, Rhubarb and Honey. Kimberly loves to share healthy and delicous food, and prefers to buy food produced locally and in a sustainable manner.  I can totally relate to that!  After reading through her many recipes, I decide on her Brown Sugar Baked Bacon .  Simple, and delicous!

Growing up, I remember my brother always dipping his bacon into syrup when we had bacon with pancakes or waffles.  I figured this was a similar concept, sweet bacon.  I thought this was a fun way to make bacon a little differently, and I think it could also be used in baked goods, similar to how people use chocolate covered bacon.  One note though, as you can see, some of the edges of my bacon got rather dark (I think the sugar started to burn), while the middle stayed a bit wobbly.  (Probably because I used regular bacon, not thick cut.)  Just keep an eye on the bacon and you should be fine!    
Brown Sugar Baked Bacon

1 pound thick cut bacon (I used regular bacon)
1/2 cup brown sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 375 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Place the bacon on the cookie sheet side by side.

3.  Sprinkle brown sugar over the bacon and rub it in a bit. 

4.  Place the pan on the top rack of the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes, until browned and crispy. 

Serve hot.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Melting Snowmen Cookie Balls

Have you ever made something that's way to cute to eat?  I think these little melting snowmen certainly fit that description!  This was my mother-in-law's pick for our 2nd annual Christmas baking day last weekend.  These little snowman are really quite simple to put together, they just require a little time and patience, and the outcome is both cute and delicious!  I think this would be the perfect activity for kids to do over Christmas break.  I'm still a kid at heart, and I had so much fun making these!
Melting Snowmen Cookie Balls

Makes 48

You will need:
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
24 Nutter Butter cookies (just less than 1 package), crushed
4 blocks almond bark, melted
1/4 cup peanut butter*
48 mini Oreo cookies
food coloring

1.  In a medium mixing bowl, mix cream cheese and crushed Nutter Butter cookies until well combined. (We used our hands.)

2.  Roll into 48 1-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet.  Freeze for 10 minutes or until they are firm.

3.  Dip cookie balls into melted chocolate (with or without peanut butter, see note below). 

4.  Place dipped balls on a wax paper lined tray.  Allow the excess chocolate to pool below the snowmen. 

5.  Place a mini Oreo on top of the cookie ball while the chocolate is still wet.

6.  When all the balls have been dipped and topped with an Oreo, let them sit until the chocolate has hardened. 

7.  Divide remaining melted chocolate into 3 small bowls and color each bowl either blue, orange, or red with the food coloring. (I used 4 drops of blue, 4 drops of red, and 1 drop of red with 3 drops of yellow for the orange.)

8.  Scoop each color of chocolate into small ziploc bags and snip a tiny piece off the corner to make a piping bag.  Decorate each snowman with eyes, a nose, and a mouth.  (If you have decorating icing, you could use that to create the faces instead of coloring the chocolate.)

*The original recipe from Kraft Food & Family magazine called for 1/4 cup of peanut butter to be added to the melted chocolate.  We did that and ended up with tan snowmen instead of white.  Kraft has since edited the recipe to take out the peanut butter.  You can leave it in or omit it.

Slightly adapted from: Kraft

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hot Chocolate Mix

*I originally planned to share this recipe tomorrow, but since today is National Cocoa Day, I thought I better post today instead!

It's December in Michigan, so of course that means cold weather. Nothing warms me up on a cold winter day like a cup of hot chocolate!  The only thing better than a cup of hot chocolate is a cup of hot chocolate topped with homemade marshmallows...mmm!

This mix is so easy to put together and it would make a great gift for your friends!  I bought a bunch of adorable little Christmas containers (like the green one above) at Christmas-time last year, not knowing what I would do with them.  Then I recently bought some mini dehydrated marshmallows and these little containers are perfect for them.  Package the hot chocolate mix in a pretty jar, add a little container of marshmallows and you have a great gift.  Now if I could just remember to actually give them to my friends...

Hot Chocolate Mix

You will need:

3 cups powdered milk
1-1/2 cups sugar (if you have vanilla sugar, use that!)
2/3 cup cocoa
1 (3.9 ounce) package chocolate pudding mix

1.  In your food processor or blender (I used my bullet), grind the powdered milk to a fine powder.  (If you don't have a food processor or blender, you can skip this step.  I just do it to achieve a finer consistency.)

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together powdered milk, sugar, cocoa, and pudding mix.

3.  Store in an airtight container.

To serve, stir 1/3 cup hot chocolate mix into 8 ounces of hot water. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Strawberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies

I absolutely love Christmas time!  There's such a feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air.  It truly is the "most wonderful time of the year".

Of course, with Christmas comes Christmas cookies!  Every year my mom and I would bake dozens of Christmas cookies. We'd eat some and give some away to friends.  Nothing says Merry Christmas quite like a plate of fresh baked cookies!

I was talking with a friend one day and she told me about the "easiest, most delicious cookies ever"!  So simple that they only require 7 ingredients, and that's if you count the water!  Well, easy and delicious are two of my favorite words when it comes to describing foods, so of course I had to get the recipe from her.  Mike and I both love these cookies, so I make them frequently.  With a little bit of green icing, you can decorate these cookies to make fabulous Christmas goodies!

When I heard about the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, I immediately signed up to join in the fun.  The swap was so exciting--I made 3 dozen of these cookies and shipped them off to 3 other bloggers.  In return, I received 3 dozen different cookies from 3 other bloggers.  So fun! I knew exactly what cookie I would be making!  This is a dense enough cookie that it traveled well and from what I've heard from the recipients, this was a great choice.

Strawberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 2 dozen cookies

You will need:
1 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup strawberry jam (use what is needed)

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 Tablespoon water

1.  In a medium bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2.  Add in flour and almond extract and mix well.  The mixture will be very crumbly and just barely come together.

3.  Form 1 inch balls from the dough. 

4.  Place each dough ball on a greased cookie sheet and gently press your thumb into the center of each ball.

5.  Put as much jam as possible into the thumb indentation.

6.  Bake at 350 for 14-18 minutes.  I aim for 14 minutes as you don't want the cookies to brown.

7.  Remove cookies from the cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack.

8.  While cookies are cooling, mix together powdered sugar, almond extract, and water to form a thin icing.  You can also add in food coloring if you'd like.

9.  Drizzle icing over cookies.  Allow the icing to set before storing the cookies in an airtight container.

Adapted from: Tasty Kitchen

As part of the cookie swap, I received a dozen cookies from 3 other fabulous bloggers!  Be sure to check out their posts today for their delicious recipes.

White Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies from Becoming Bianca

Chocolate and Raisin Rugelach from OrlndoFoodie

Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies from Created by Diane
 Thank you ladies, and have a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Cheesy Bacon Ranch Potatoes

One of Mike's absolulte favorite potato dishes is cheesy potatoes.  Every time we have a family gathering, he asks who is bringing the cheesy potatoes!  He was thrilled on the day after Thanksgiving when someone unexpectedly brought cheesy potatoes to the family potluck. 

When I received an offer to try Simply Potatoes potato products through the Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program, I knew I would have to create a version of cheesy potatoes for my husband.  I added in some ranch flavor to kick it up and notch, along with one of his favorite foods--bacon. We both really enjoyed this recipe.  It was simple to put together and made enough for us to enjoy at two meals.
Cheesy Bacon Ranch Potatoes

Serves 4-6

You will need:
1 bag Simply Potatoes Hash Browns
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 (1 ounce) packet ranch dressing mix
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus some for topping
1/4 cup bacon pieces

1.  In a medium bowl combine hash browns, heavy cream, dressing mix, cheddar cheese, and bacon pieces.

2.  Place in a greased 8x8" pan.

3.  Sprinkle with shredded cheddar cheese.

4.  Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes, until bubbly.

I received coupons to try Simply Potatoes Products as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program.  All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge

It comes in all shapes, sizes, and flavors.  I'd bet nearly every person you know has their favorite kind.  It's fudge!  There's chocolate fudge, vanilla fudge, peanut butter fudge, chocolate caramel fudge, mudslide fudge, and we can't forget chocolate chip cookie dough fudge!  Yes, you heard right...chocolate chip cookie dough fudge.  Sounds pretty irresistible, doesn't it?

This month's Crazy Cooking Challenge, hosted by Tina at Mom's Crazy Cooking was to scour the web for the best fudge recipe.  I tell you, I think I struck gold!  I saw this recipe on Bridget's blog, Bake at 350, and I immediately knew this was my recipe.  It was everything you ask for in a fudge, creamy, sweet, melt-in-you-mouth, delicious!  It tasted just like a scoop of fresh cookie dough.

Fudge makes a perfect Christmas gift, so what are you waiting for?   Wipe the drool from your chin and get baking!
Don't forget that you can vote for your favorite recipe by clicking "like" under each picture.  My recipe is #9 and I'd love to have your vote :)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge

Makes 64 1" pieces

oil for the pan
1-3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/2 c. cream
1/4 c. milk
1 Tablespoon corn syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. flour
1/3 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Lightly oil a 8x8" pan.

2.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, brown sugar, cream, milk, corn syrup, and salt.  Stir occasionally with a heat proof spatula.

3.  Boil to 242 degrees, stirring frequently.

4.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter, vanilla, and flour.

5.  Pour the syrup into a 9x13" pan and let it sit for 20 minutes, or until it cools down to 110 degrees.

6.  Scrape the syrup into the bowl of your stand mixer.

7.  Using your paddle attachment, beat the syrup on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until fudge thickens and holds its shape.

8.  Scrape into prepared 8x8" pan and spread evenly.

9.  Sprinkle with chocolate chips and press them lightly into the fudge.

Let the fudge set and cool for at least 2 hours before cutting into.  Store in an airtight container.

Source: Bake at 350

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