I might be the only person on the planet that really enjoys taking down my Christmas decorations. I like living amongst all the glitter and garland and Christmas trees while the holiday music is playing but somehow on the 26th of December, it all just looks like untidy clutter to me. 🎄 The first free day that I get after Christmas, I throw myself into hyper-speed to get all of the fairy lights and nativity scenes tucked away into their containers where they'll spend the next 11 months.
I'm not going all Hobby Lobby and replacing my Christmas wreaths with pink hearts for Valentine's Day, but I do love to get the Christmas decorations packed up and the house de-cluttered. My house isn't the only thing that gets a clean out at the start of a new year though. I do a thorough yearly examination of my blog que as well. It's not unusual for me to have 40 and 50 recipes in my que at one time. Recipes that I intend to make in the near future. Near being the operative word. I found a recipe in my que from 2017! 😬
That sounds crazy but the recipe is actually for Prime Rib. Apparently, I've had no occasions to prepare a prime rib in the last three years. When I find recipes online or in my cooking magazines, I add them to the que and then wait for the perfect opportunity to try them out. Still waiting on that Prime Rib kind of day! 🥩
This tomato olive focaccia recipe hasn't been in my que very long but when my brother gave me a package of olives that he brought home from his travels to Greece - I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. FOCACCIA! The Greek olives are amazing and the best way that I could think of to highlight them is on top of some delicious homemade bread.
Tomato Olive Focaccia
3 2/3 cups bread flour
5 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups room temperature water
8 Tablespoons olive oil
3 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved and seeded
1 cup Castelvetrano olives, halved and pitted
1 teaspoon oregano
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
Bake 20-22 minutes in a 500 degree oven. Cool 5 minutes on wire rack.
Remove from pan with metal spatula. Cool 30 minutes before serving.
This bread rose for way longer than 5-6 hours. A quick trip to the mall turned into a puppy holding, ice cream eating, lunch out, shoe shopping, jean buying, trip to the grocery store excursion that lasted 7 hours. Soooo... my dough had risen and then fallen and I was a little worried about it. Lucky for me. It baked up just beautifully. I hope you'll give this one a try.
Engrossed. That is the word that I would use to describe my life in December. Engrossed in sprinkles, in icing, in cake batter, in buttercream and in chocolate. 🧁I did a whole lot of baking but only about a very small percentage of all the deliciousness that was created in my kitchen last month was actually consumed by my own family. (It must be torture to live in my house.) 😂
Since I didn't do any Christmas baking for myself during the holidays, I've decided to do my holiday baking now. So here we go - Christmas Rum Cake in January. (This is fair warning that I won't be posting Valentine's Day cookie recipes until March either. ♥️😂) Anyone want to join me in baking a delicious boozy cake during this less hectic month when we actually have the time to sit down and enjoy it? And we can all agree that the best place to spend a chilly January afternoon is in the kitchen - baking a cake.
I was a bit apprehensive about making this cake because when I hear Rum Cake, I picture a soggy boxed mix cake saturated with alcohol. I'm not averse to boozy cakes, I just don't want the flavor of the alcohol to overpower the taste of the cake.
A homemade almond cake baked with a hearty dose of rum and drizzled with a lemon glaze seemed like the perfect way to reinvent the traditional Rum Cake. I found this recipe in an issue of Cook's Illustrated. They are genius at revamping recipes to create new and better versions of the original.
French Almond Rum Cake
1 cup butter
6 eggs, beaten
2 Tablespoons lemon zest
2 1/2 cups almond flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons flour
6 Tablespoons dark rum
3 Tablespoons white sugar
1 Tablespoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 cup dark rum
Glaze and Garnish
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Pour glaze onto center of cake and spread to edges with an offset spatula. Sprinkle with toasted almonds. Let stand 1 hour for glaze to set.
The original recipe was baked in a 9" round cake pan. Individual mini bundt cakes seemed more appropriate for the event that I wanted to take these to though. So voila! Almond Rum Cakelets!! As an added bonus, our house was smelled AMAZING while there were baking. I can think of no better way to kick off 2020!
I am convinced that my brain is wired differently from most people. When someone tells me that I have to do something or can't do it, I immediately start to question "why" and then I start to device a way to do test their hypothesis. Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that this is a healthy way to deal with guidance - it's actually gotten me into more than one sticky situation in my life. I once decided that the "Do Not Touch" sign in a cactus greenhouse was merely a suggestion. 🌵 I walked out of that room with bleeding fingers and a husband who couldn't stop laughing at my in-compliance. 😂
I'm absolutely convinced that this is a personality trait that is passed on from generation to generation. I got it from one of my parents (not saying which one) and I, in turn, passed it onto one of my children. (again - not going to call them out.) 😂 It's taken me a long time to figure out how to deal with my resistance to authority so that I don't walk out of cactus rooms with bloody fingers anymore.
My husband says that I have control issues - I would have to agree but that's not the whole reason that I can't seem to follow the rules. It's not just people who I have trouble submitting to though. Even when I read through a recipe for the first time, I can't help but question whether it's really the best techniques and ingredients. How can I improve upon it? What can I change to make it simpler, tastier, better?
The only recipes that I don't ever try and modify are America's Test Kitchen recipes. That's because I know that every one of these recipes have been tested over and over again with every possible ingredient and method before it ever gets published. Accompanying each recipe is a detailed description of the success and failures in the test kitchen as the recipe was created. This Double Chocolate Scone is a recipe that came out of America's Test Kitchen that needs no adjustment. It's perfect - just the way it is.
Double Chocolate Scones
3 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
18 Tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 cup chocolate chips
1 egg, beaten
Place wedges on silpat lined baking sheets. Bake 27-30 minutes at 375.
I keep a batch of these Double Chocolate Scones in my freezer. I may not be much of a morning coffee drinker but I don't mind getting a little caffeine boost from chocolate in the morning. AND these scones are delicious with a cup of tea!
When I was a kid - I was weirded out by meatloaf. There was really no rational explanation for my aversion to meatloaf really. I loved balls of meat on top of my spaghetti. I loved round patties of beef cooked on a grill, put between a bun and smothered in ketchup. I even loved meat in my tacos and bowls of steaming hot chili but for some reason, eating meat sliced from a loaf just seemed strange. And just to be clear - I'm absolutely sure that my mom served us perfectly delicious, moist and flavorful meatloaf. Just proof that my childhood food preferences were illogical to say the least.
Luckily, I outgrew my dislike for meat in loaf form. I mean, I'm not jumping on the Spam bandwagon anytime soon but I do enjoy a slice of turkey meatloaf every now and then. And even though I prefer turkey to beef, my family still likes a traditional beef loaf smothered in a ketchup glaze. When my kids were small, they had some really strange food hang ups but one thing that they always agreed on was meatloaf. It was one of a very short list of meals that I could serve and be sure that it would get gobbled up without any complaints.
This meatloaf recipe with roasted sweet potatoes is cooked in one pan and you know what that means - less dishes to clean up. 👏🏻 Adding milk and an egg to the beef mixture really keeps the lean beef moist and so you end up with a super flavorful and delicious meatloaf. If you're a fan of meatloaf - this recipe is definitely worth a try. Oh, and the roasted sweet potatoes in lemon and parsley are to die for. Seriously delicious.
Meatloaf with Roasted Sweet Potatoes
35 saltine crackers
1 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pounds (85% lean) ground beef
1/2 cup ketchup
1 pound small sweet potatoes, cut into 1" pieces
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
Mix with hands. Transfer mixture to greased, foil lined baking sheet. Shape into 9x5" rectangle.
Serve meatloaf with potatoes.
This recipe was approved by my youngest child AND my husband. If you know then at all, you know that they are both die hard carnivores. I've made them a lot of different kinds of meat loaf and they both gave this one top points. Oh, and if you're feeling really inspired - make 2 and put one in the freezer for another day.
Happy New Year's Eve!!!
I've blogged thousands of recipes over the last 10 years. Ever wonder which ones are my favorites? The ones that I make over and over again for my family and friends? It's no secret really. You can use the categories column on the right side of the blog to search "My Favorites." You can also search Healthy Favorites, Slow Cooker Meals and Chocolate recipes!!! It's not a coincidence that a lot of the recipes in the chocolate category are also included in the "My Favorites" category. 😂🍫
Not very many of my recipes get the coveted title of a "favorite". It has to be something that's worthy of being enjoyed slowly and deliberately. Like a homemade English muffin drizzled with warm honey that begs to be savored on lazy Saturday mornings with a steaming cup of herbal tea.
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread - you had me at first bite. This extravagantly decadent, chocolate breakfast bread is exceptionally delicious. (Was that enough adjectives to get my point across?) There was never any question about whether to add this recipe to my favorites, really. And if I had a category that was favorites of the favorites - it would be there too.
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Bake 1 hour at 350. Let cool in pan 30 minutes.
Move to rack and let cool completely.
I can think of no better way to kick off a brand new decade than with a slice of this moist and delicious banana bread and a homemade cappuccino.
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