In honor of my blog turning 7 years old, and also to celebrate the holidays, I’ve been doing weekly giveaways. We still have a few more to go, and I hope you’ve been enjoying them!

Today I’m giving away one of my two most used pieces of cookware (the other being my cast iron skillet): an All Clad 3 qt sauté pan with lid. I use this pan ALL the time. It’s a great size, is perfect for everything from searing to one-pot meals to pasta sauces, it goes in the oven and the dishwasher, and just performs amazingly well all around.  I’ll even throw in a bottle of Bar Keeper’s Friend to keep it looking shiny and new, because I know you are going to be using it a TON.

 

Enter below for your chance to win! The giveaway will end at 11:59 p.m. on January 9th. This giveaway is sponsored by yours truly, because I love you all so much. :)

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Today, bloggers everywhere will be posting roundups of 65235 healthy recipes, resolutions, low calorie dinners, and less-guilt snack options. But me? I’m posting these incredibly rich chocolate caramel bars. Because, you know, you don’t want to shock your system *too* much after all the holiday eating…

These bars start with a layer of shortbread and are then topped with chewy caramel, chocolate, and a sprinkling of salt. In other words, they are ridiculously delicious. And also ridiculously rich. You’ll probably want to cut them in small pieces, which will make for about a million pieces. But, they’re great for giving away or freezing, and they should last a while as-is, too. Unless you keep sneaking a piece from the fridge because they’re just so small that it’s okay to take a few in a day. (I wouldn’t know anything about that.)

This was my first time making caramel with condensed milk (well, let’s be real. This is my first time making caramel that actually worked and didn’t burn or do something else).  I’d actually taken the day off to do some baking and finish up my Christmas shopping, but then Ian woke up with a fever, which meant he had to stay home. Making these with a sick, mobile baby who is in the throes of separation anxiety was perhaps not my best idea. An empty box, a ladle, and whatever else I could toss to him while I was stirring helped for a little bit. Thankfully, making the caramel is the most time consuming part and everything else comes together pretty quickly and easily.

I might increase the shortbread layer by just a bit the next time around. I think it would also be good with a splash of vanilla but then, I add vanilla to everything, so that’s not surprising. :)

I wish you all an incredible new year, and I hope 2014 brings you much happiness and joy. And good food. Lots and lots of good food.

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2013 came and went in the blink of an eye. Of course the most exciting thing that happened to us was the addition (and completion) to our family, Ian, in March. His homecoming also caused my blogging to decrease quite a bit, but thankfully, he’s pretty cute and pretty worth it. :) With our move next week, I know that 2014 will also be a big year for us, full of change. Though I know it will remain difficult for me to keep up blogging since our weekdays will become exponentially busier and more stressful (something I did not think possible…), I really hope that I’m able to share new recipes with you as often as possible. And hopefully get around to redesigning the blog again.

Like I’ve done for the past 6 years, today I’m sharing with you some favorite recipes from the past year. I’ve included links to reader favorites (which are the most popular posts from 2013) as well as my own favorites. Even though I had fewer posts than usual this year, it was still a bit difficult to pare things down, which I guess is a good sign!

I wish you all an amazing new year, and I hope that I’m able to help you make it a tasty one, too. Thank you as always for your readership and for giving me a reason to keep going with this little ol’ blog of mine. I still have 4 “favorite things” giveaways for you, so be sure to check back and see if 2014 will bring some luck  your way!

Check out favorites from previous years, too! 2012 / 2011 / 2010 / 2009 /2008 /2007

Your Favorite Recipes of 2013:

1. Revolutionary Macaroni and Cheese

2. Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Salsa Verde

3. Lasagna Soup

4. Morning Glory Muffins

5. Skillet Rosemary Chicken

6. Cornmeal Crusted Pork Chops

7. Creamy Quinoa Primavera 

8. Karidopita (Greek Walnut Cake)

9. Sausage Cheese Biscuits

10. Slow Cooker Lamb & Stout Roast

 

My Favorite Recipes of 2013:

Sausage-Cheese Biscuits: These biscuits are similar to scones and they’re perfect for breakfast or brunch. Buttery, flaky, and packed with sausage and cheese, they’re sure to please.

Goat Cheese Potato Gratin: Goat cheese. Potatoes. Cream. Not much else to add!

Lasagna Soup: I waffled on including this. Not because it’s not great, but because it’s so popular and it’s “just” a soup. But I kept going back to it, so I knew it needed a spot. This soup will change the mind of anyone who doesn’t think soup can be a meal. It’s a little spicy, extremely hearty, and a lot cheesy. It’s lasagna in bowl form, and it’s tough not to like that.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls: Our new Christmas morning tradition, having these again last week made me remember how wonderful they are.

Mushroom Lasagna with Pancetta and Sage: This is one of the best lasagnas I’ve eaten. It’s incredibly rich and hearty, and the combination of mushrooms, pancetta, and sage is spot-on.

Chicken with Prosciutto, Fontina, and Arugula: This dinner was great on so many levels – easy to make, tastes great, excellent balance of ingredients. The chicken is crispy and the prosciutto is salty but the arugula salad on top keeps this dish fresh and light.

Morning Glory Muffins: These everything-but-the-kitchen-sink muffins are both delicious and good for you. And it’s hard to beat that.

Prosciutto Lamb Burgers: Oh, these burgers. So good. I didn’t think you could get much better than a regular ol’ lamburger, which is already so flavorful and moist. But Giada proved me wrong by adding prosciutto and sun-dried tomatoes.

Plum-Raspberry Sorbet: Creamy, sweet, tangy, and gorgeous.

Kafta Kabobs with Tahini Sauce: Not only did I make these a bunch of times at home, I also ate my weight in kafta from the Lebanese place near my work. I love it, of course, but what’s better was that it was a great dairy-free food for me to eat (hard, when most Lebanese food has yogurt).

Chorizo, Mushroom, and Potato Tacos:  I knew I’d like these tacos because of the ingredients. What I didn’t realize was just how much, and how ridiculously awesome these are even though they only have so few ingredients. A favorite weeknight dinner, for sure, and one of the very first posts that came to mind to include in this roundup.

 Mushroom-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin: A great way to dress up pork tenderloin that is both simple and company-worthy.

Farro with Sausage, Mushrooms and Goat Cheese: Hmm, I sense a theme with mushrooms. There’s nothing really “special” about this dish since it’s basically a combination of a lot of my favorite things. Or maybe that is what makes it special. Chewy farro and creamy goat cheese made this a late-in-the-year favorite.

 

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Today I’m giving a gift card away to one of my favorite stores, The Spice House. You have no doubt seen me talk about it, tweet about it, or just link to it over the years. When I first entered this place years ago, I was in awe. A bazillion spices, all of them more flavorful and more affordable than their grocery store counterparts? Yes, please.

I reached out to the good people of The Spice House to see if they would give one of my great readers a gift card, and they said yes! So, one lucky reader will get $50 to spend – and that goes a long way, trust me! You could get some of my favorite things – almond extract, cassia cinnamon, hot chili powder, porcini powder, sumac - and not even use half of it. So, what are you waiting for? Enter below! Giveaway ends December 26th at 11:59pm.

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Disclaimer: This giveaway is provided by The Spice House. All opinions are my own.

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I *think* Ian is getting better with this whole dairy thing. It’s always hard to tell – did he have a fussy night because he is going through a terrible Wonder Week? Because he’s sick? Or because that bowl of French onion soup really did him in? Although I can’t be sure, I’m pretty confident things are getting to the point where I can at least enjoy some cheese. And thank goodness,because, man, have I missed cheese.

This is one of those recipes I used to ease into cheese, if you will. There’s only 3 oz. of cream cheese (and some Parmesan) over about 6 servings. The nice thing about this recipe using cream cheese is that it’s in place of the cream of ___ soups that are so prevalent in tetrazzini recipes. So, you still get that creamy sauce without any random ingredients. Plus, this is a lightened up version of the classic, but still tastes great.

Although there are a few different components of this recipe, it still comes together pretty quickly and is easy to prep. The bake time is not high, so you can have a meal on the table in about an hour (it doesn’t really take that long to prep/bake but there is some inactive time with the chicken marinating). I was skeptical about a mere 5 oz. of pasta and 12 oz. of chicken being enough for 6 servings, but this is quite filling, so that’s pretty accurate. We had it for two meals, but one of us is a toddler with smaller portions (although, not by much these days).

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I’m so excited to be giving away some of my favorite things in the coming weeks, Oprah-style. At first, I wanted to give away the obvious – calypso music and sweater capes.

Nah. ;-) Really, a Wusthof knife immediately came to mind. A Classic cook’s knife is without a doubt my most used tool in the kitchen (so much, in fact, that I treated myself to another one, so I wouldn’t have to wash it between cutting raw meats and vegetables when prepping a meal). It is the knife I grab 99.9% of the time.

Today, Wusthof is giving you the chance to win one of their new Cook’s knife – a 6″ extra-wide. This knife is great. It has the heft of an 8″ blade without being unwieldy. This knife is a great combination of the agility  and ease of control you get from a smaller blade combined with the strength of a larger one. Personally, I’ve always preferred a 6″ blade, anyway, but having the extra width is a definite bonus.

 

Use the form below to enter for your chance to win. This giveaway will end Thursday, December 19th at 11:59pm EST. And, be sure to check out Wusthof on Facebook and Twitter, if you aren’t already following.

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Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by Wusthof. Any and all opinions are my own.

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I don’t really care when it “officially” starts. In my mind, it’s winter. I know this because as I was going to work this morning, I looked at my phone and it told me the “feels like” temperature was -12. It should have also told me, “Do not leave your house in this crap.” But it didn’t. Maybe I need a fancier phone.

Weather like this calls for extreme comfort food. For me that involves mashed potatoes (always), pastas, sauces, tender meats, and soups. This  meal includes several of those categories, making it a surefire winner, especially this time of year.

This recipe is  not originally intended for a slow cooker, but since slow cookers excel at taking large cuts of meat and making them fall-apart tender without you actually having to be there, it worked perfectly. I served this over mashed potatoes with a side of sauteed spinach, but you could just throw potatoes and vegetables in with the meat to make it more of one-pot meal. The mashed potatoes were mashed with goat cheese, though, and I have a hard time not finding time for those, you know?

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You guys know how much I love southwestern, Mexican and Tex-Mex food, right? So, cooking from The New Southwest by Meagan Micozzi, a fellow blogger who runs the fabulous site Scarletta Bakes, was a no brainer.

The book is packed full of awesome-sounding dishes, and the two we decided to try first were great. I’ve already picked out the third (sweet potato and bacon sopes, for the record).

Both the pork chops and rice were easy to make and packed with flavor. If you know me at all you know of my poblano obsession, so it’s no surprise that I especially loved the rice. Although it takes a bit of time to make, I see no reason why you couldn’t roast the vegetables and make the paste ahead of time, and then just cook the rice with the mixture later on.

The pork chops are intended to be grilled but the night I made this it was 13 degrees so we opted for the much-warmer-and-not frost-covered-indoor broiler. They still turned out great. My local spice store carries both mild and spicy New Mexico chili powder and I went with the spicy version.

You’ll have to excuse the pictures.  Seven years blogging and I still have no idea how to photograph in non-natural light, sooooo…. :)

Zachary deemed this a “favorite meal” and also said, “Thanks, mom, for making such a yummy meal.” So, there you go, a 3 year old’s seal of approval (which, by the way, are both the most important and most difficult to come by).

Want to win your own copy of Meagan’s The New Southwest? Here’s your chance! Enter to win below. Giveaway ends Thursday, December 12th, and 11:59PM.

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Disclaimer: A copy of The New Southwest was provided to me for review, and will also be provided for the winning reader. All ideas expressed in this post are my own (and my son’s :))

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My neighbor (soon to be former neighbor, *sniff sniff*) and fellow blogger challenged bloggers to do a post today – a different sort of Cyber Monday, if you will. These days, I can use all the push I can get, so here I am! And I come bearing farro.

I love farro. LOVE IT. It’s similar in taste and texture to barley (which I also love), but it takes less than half the time to cook.  Unfortunately, I sort of forgot about it for some time. But, after buying my first bag in a while, we went through it almost immediately. And then I bought another bag. And I’m still on a farro kick.

This is a one-pot dish with some of my very favorite things, like sausage, mushrooms, and goat cheese. There’s just a slight kick from the sausage and crushed red pepper, a little bite from the farro, and plenty of creaminess from the goat cheese. I used it as more of a sauce, stirring the cheese in until it was completely incorporated, but you could also just stud the final dish with crumbles of goat cheese. Or do both. I won’t judge you (in fact, I may just copy you).

By the way, did I mention that I just celebrated 7 years of blogging? Seven! And I’m going to do some giveaways to celebrate both blogging and the holidays. Stay tuned, starting later this week!

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I’m getting a little panicky about moving. Will my kids be okay at their new daycare and school? Will my 15-20 minute walk to work from the train station be absolutely terrible in the winter? Will it suck not being able to just take a quick walk down the street to get dinner, spices, a coffee, or the integral part of dinner I forgot to put on the grocery list?

What I’m the most panicky about is getting home even later than we do now, and still somehow managing to get dinner on the table, see my kids, and get them in bed at a reasonable hour. And then when we get up in the morning (probably even earlier) somehow find a way to get them both ready and out the door on time. This is not an easy task, because it’s a scientific fact that 3-4 year olds take at least 17 minutes per article of clothing they need to put on.

I see a lot of burgers in our future. Good thing they are well-loved by our family and endlessly adaptable.

What I loved about these burgers in particular is that there’s a bite of portobello in every bite, since you shape the patty inside the mushroom. No random sauteed mushrooms falling out of the burger and making a mess. No bites at the end that are basically bun with a tiny bit of meat and no other toppings. The rosemary in these was also great. My supremely weirdo kid was sitting there eating fresh rosemary as I was prepping these. Seriously, that’s weird, right? I sometimes wonder if he has a tapeworm or something.

At any rate, mine did take a little longer to cook than the recipe stated, at least on the second side. I ended up flipping them back over to cook an extra couple of minutes, so next time I’ll just increase the cooking time on the first side before flipping (since you are cooking through the portobello on the second side, it takes a little longer for the pork to cook through). I also was just a little short on ground pork, and I made the difference up with ground chicken.

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