Wednesday, January 27, 2010

White Chicken Chili

We don't get too many truly cold nights in Phoenix. When we do, though, I try to seize the opportunity and make some of my favorite cold weather comfort foods. Chili is always up at the top of the list. On this particular night, it was at the top of the list, since M and I had recently discussed the need to find the perfect cornbread recipe (we came pretty close).

I've already found my all-time favorite chili recipe. However, it comes with a four-hour simmering time and it can be pretty heavy. With the barrage of family birthday celebrations and our upcoming trip to Vegas (yay!), I figured a lighter white chili was in order.
This one, inspired by my friend Terry's favorite recipe, was darn good. I didn't make it nearly spicy enough for our tastes, so I've made my changes in the recipe I'm giving you. This was easy, tasty, and actually pretty healthy. If you're looking for a quick and flavorful cold weather meal, look no further!

White Chicken Chili
an "Apple a Day" original

printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:

2 TBSP olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste

1 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper, plus more to taste

1 TBSP ground cumin

2 tsp. dried oregano

6 c. low-sodium chicken broth, more if you like thinner soup
3 (14.5 oz. cans) Northern beans

2 (4 oz. cans) green chiles
3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

1 c. cilantro, chopped

light sour cream, for garnish
sliced avocado, for garnish
cilantro, for garnish


Directions:
1. Heat oil over medium heat in the bottom of a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven. Add onion and celery and saute until translucent, about seven minutes. Add garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano. Saute two minutes more.

2. Add broth, beans, and green chiles. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 15 minutes.


3. About five minutes before serving, add chicken to heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings. Just before serving, add cilantro.
4. Ladle chili into soup bowls and garnish, as desired.

one year ago:
whole-wheat pita bread
two years ago: Mediterranean pizza for one

Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Second Blogiversary! Pumpkin-Coconut Bread with Walnuts

I can't believe I've already been blogging for two years! When I look back at the recipes I've made, I am amazed at how much I've learned. My confidence in the kitchen has come so far. In fact, I've got a little project in store for the coming year as well as a resolution to learn how to use my sweet new dSLR. Stay tuned, readers. The big reveal will be in just over a week.

In the meantime, enjoy this moist, dense pumpkin bread. I'd have to say, I still like plain ol' pumpkin bread and my much loved autumn harvest bread better than this recipe, but this is another variation for you coconut lovers out there to try.


Pumpkin-Coconut Bread with Walnuts
adapted from allrecipes
Ingredients:
1 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. whole-wheat flour
3/4 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/2 c. light coconut milk
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 c. flaked coconut, plus 1/4 c. more for top
1/2 c. chopped walnuts, toasted
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour one 8 x 4 inch loaf pan or three mini loaf pans.
2. Combine flours, brown sugar, pumpkin, applesauce, coconut milk, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix until well blended.
3. Fold in coconut and nuts. Pour into prepared pans.
4. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes for standard loaf pan or 35-40 minutes for mini pans. Check by inserting a toothpick into the center. Bread is done when toothpick comes out clean. Add baking time as necessary. Remove from oven.
5. Allow bread to cool, in the pan, on a cooling rack. If desired, turn out of pans when completely cooled.

one year ago:
My first blogiversary, celebrated with a sweet memory and chocolate rum balls
two years ago (how fun is that to say?!?): The Lady and Sons' mac and cheese

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken

One of the things I love to do is cook for my family and friends. I especially love doing this when I have a day off and can really spend some time in the kitchen trying out new recipes and experimenting with new techniques. Every recipe on my menu was new, from this pulled chicken to the two potato salad to the green beans dressed with cider vinaigrette to the apple crisp. This one was definitely the easiest since it required little more than chopping an onion and throwing the ingredients in the slow cooker!

As most slow cooker recipes do, this smelled more and more enticing as the day continued. When the time came to pull the chicken, it was so tender I barely had to do any pulling at all! It was just falling apart all on its own. The great smells and perfect texture all led up to the fantastic flavor of this chicken. Served on a whole-wheat bun, it's a delicious and lighter alternative to pulled pork.






Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken
adapted from
www.EatingWell.com

printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:

1 (14 oz.) can tomato sauce
2-3 chipotle chiles in adobo, finely minced

1/4 c. cider vinegar

3 TBSP honey

1 TBSP plus 2 tsp. sweet or smoked paprika

2 TBSP tomato paste
2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
3 tsp. dry mustard

1 TBSP chili powder

1 tsp. salt

3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs and breasts, trimmed of fat (I used 1 1/2 lbs. of each)

1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced


Directions:

1. Stir tomato sauce, chiles, vinegar, honey, paprika, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, chili powder and salt in a 6-quart slow cooker until smooth. Add chicken, onion and garlic; stir to combine.

2. Put the lid on and cook on low until the chicken can be pulled apart, about 5-6 hours.

3. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred with a fork. Return the chicken to the sauce, stir well and serve. Serves 8-10.

Two Potato Salad

Wow, wow, WOW! This is my new potato salad. It was light and flavorful and beautiful on the table. I can't imagine ever going back to traditional potato salad!


Two Potato Salad
adapted from Pat and Gina Neely, on The Food Network
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
4 strips thick-sliced smoked bacon (omit for vegetarian salad)
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tsp. salt, plus more for seasoning
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 medium serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
2 TBSP low-fat mayonnaise
2 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 TBSP finely chopped fresh tarragon leaves or 1 tsp. dried
freshly-ground black pepper
6 oz. baby spinach, chopped roughly

Directions:
1. Fry the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp and browned. Alternately, cook until crispy in the microwave. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. When cool crumble and set aside.
2. Put the sweet potatoes and Yukon gold potatoes in 2 separate saucepans. Cover the potatoes with water (by 2-inches), add 1/2 teaspoon salt to each pot, and bring the pots to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, and simmer the potatoes until they are just cooked through and tender. The sweet potatoes will cook in about 15 minutes, and the Yukon gold potatoes should be finished in about 12 minutes. Drain the potatoes, and allow them to cool.
3. Meanwhile, combine sour cream, mayonnaise, mustard, tarragon, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in scallions, celery, and serrano chiles. Toss to combine. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt or pepper, if needed.
4. When potatoes are completely cooled, toss in the potatoes and spinach.
5. To serve, garnish with bacon.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cherry Vanilla Oatmeal

Whenever I get a day off from school, one of my favorite things to do is cook a real breakfast. A real, true, hot breakfast that doesn't involve a microwave or toaster. Knowing I had a day off coming my way, I flagged this recipe a couple of weeks ago. I've been looking forward to making it ever since.

Yesterday, was a perfect, wonderful day off. I turned off my alarm slept until I woke up. When I did wake up (at 8 a.m. because I'm a real adult...sigh.) it was rainy and chilly and fantastic. I started the coffee maker, put the water on the stove to boil, then grabbed a blanket and sat on my couch and enjoyed the soothing sound and sweet aroma of the coffee and rain.


The morning got even better when took my first bite of this oatmeal. Oh wow, was it yummy. It was also super easy and quick. It doesn't even require and chopping! Now that I know how easy and tasty it is, I won't wait until my next day off to make it again. You shouldn't wait either!


Cherry Vanilla Oatmeal
from Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave

printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
2 c. water
1 c. old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 c. dried tart cherries

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 c. cherry jam
1 c. 1 percent milk (I used some almond milk I had on hand and it was wonderful!)


Directions:

1. Put water, oats, salt and cherries into a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes for old-fashioned oats, or 1 minute for quick-cooking oats.

2. Remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla extract and cherry jam.


3. Put into serving bowls and pour 1/4 c. of milk over each bowl.

***This recipe was submitted to Spice Your Life's Kid-Friendly Wholesome Breakfast Challenge. Click on the link to see submission details.***

Thai-Style Halibut with Red Curry-Coconut Broth

For as long as I remember, I haven't liked curry. I've tried it plenty of times over the years and it always just tasted kind of muddy to me. M, on the other hand, loves curry. He ordered a curry dish at a Thai restaurant we went to once and I had a taste of it. Much to my surprise, I really liked it! It was warm and flavorful and delicious. After that, I decided I needed to try cooking with curry.

I found this recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, Elly Krieger's The Food You Crave. The recipe sounded amazing and looked plenty easy enough for someone who had never cooked with curry of any kind before. I doubt it is the height of authenticity, but I was looking for the least possible number of ways to mess up my first attempt at a curry dish. I did end up making a few modifications, the most significant of which was adding more curry paste to kick up the spice level a bit.

Just like the dish M had ordered at that restaurant, I found this to be quite tasty. As an added bonus, it was also a healthy meal all in one recipe. I'll definitely be making it again. Yay for finding new foods to like! I can't wait to try more curries!


Thai-Style Halibut with Red-Curry Coconut Broth
from Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
2 tsp. vegetable oil
4 shallots, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 1/2 tsp. red curry paste or 2 tsp. curry powder (I used 1 TBSP red curry paste)
2 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. light coconut milk
3/4 tsp. salt, plus more for seasoning
4 (6z.) pieces halibut fillet, skin removed
5 oz. baby spinach
1/2 c. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 scallions, green part only, thinly sliced
2 TBSP fresh lime juice
freshly-ground black pepper
2 c. cooked brown rice, for serving (I used brown basmati)

Directions:
1. Before beginning, check cooking directions for rice to make sure it will be ready at the appropriate time.
2. In a large saute pan, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer until reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes.
4. Season the halibut with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Arrange the fish in the pan and gently shake the pan so the fish is coated with the sauce. Cover and cook until the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 7 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, steam spinach either in a pan with a steamer insert or by placing in a microwave-proof bowl on high for two minutes in the microwave.
6. Just before plating, stir the lime juice into the broth.
7. Arrange 1/2 c. rice and a pile of steamed spinach in the bottom of four soup plates. Top with the fish fillets. Ladle the broth over the fish or around the bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then garnish with cilantro and scallions.
One year ago: "Hail to the Chief" inagural flag cake

Monday, January 18, 2010

Tuscan Vegetable Soup

If you're looking for a quick, delicious, healthy, and comforting dinner, this soup will most definitely fit the bill. It came together in just over 30 minutes, including chopping time, but it had the flavor of a simmered-all-day kind of soup.


Tuscan Vegetable Soup
adapted from Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:

1 (15 oz.) can low-sodium canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can low-sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced

3 carrots, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

1 large zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
32 oz. low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth

1 (14.5 oz.) can fire roasted diced tomatoes, with juices

5 oz. baby spinach leaves

1/2 low-fat sour cream (for garnish)


Directions:

1. In a small bowl mash half of the canellini beans with a masher or the back of a spoon, and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, garlic, thyme, rosemary, basil, sage, salt, and pepper, and cook stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the broth and tomatoes with the juice and bring to a boil.
4. Add the mashed and whole beans and the spinach leaves and cook until the spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes more.
5. Serve topped with sour cream, if desired.
One year ago: 1-2-3-4 lemon cupcakes

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Apple Cranberry Muffins

Oh. my. gosh. Can I just say I can't believe this recipe, written in 1990, is 20 years old. 20 YEARS OLD!!! How did that happen? When it first appeared in January 1990, I was in fourth grade. Now I TEACH fourth grade. Sheesh. I hate those moments. You know the ones. The moments that let you know you're actually an adult.

What I do love, though, is these muffins. I changed them up to make them a bit lighter and was so pleased with the results. In fact, they were so good they almost made me forget how old I am. Almost. Oh well...if I have to be old, at least I can be old with delicious muffins!



Apple Cranberry Muffins
adapted from "Gourmet", January 1990

printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:

1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. freshly-ground nutmeg

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 large egg

3/4 c. firmly-packed dark brown sugar

1/2 c. low-fat sour cream

1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp. vanilla
1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2 c. dried unsweetened cranberries

2/3 c. coarsely chopped walnuts


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a standard-sized muffin tin with baking spray or line with liners.

2. Into a bowl sift the flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.


3. In a large bowl with an electric mixer beat together the egg and the brown sugar until the mixture is thick and pale, add the sour cream, applesauce, and the vanilla, and beat the mixture until it is combined well.


4. Beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, and beat the batter until it just combined. Stir in the apples, cranberries, and walnuts and divide the batter among muffin tins. (I always use a standard-sized scoop to ensure even muffins.)


5. Bake the muffins in the middle of a 350°F. oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean, turn them onto a rack, and let them cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to four days.


One year ago:
oil-cured olives baked with white wine and garlic

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mushroom Tart

M and I love going out to breakfast on Sunday mornings and one of our favorite places is Scratch. Everything they make is wonderful, but their mushroom quiche is by far the best. It's just out of this world. The only problem with it is I bet there are about 1,000 calories in one slice. It's rich and creamy and buttery and well...that about says it. It's definitely worth it as a splurge, but neither of us would want to eat it all that frequently. Well, we would. But we won't.

For our seven month anniversary, we decided we wanted to cook breakfast together at home and then go for a hike. All the holiday extravagance and traveling had caught up with us and we were looking for something more simple and low key. While searching for recipes, M pulled out his new Canyon Ranch cookbook, Nourish. It's full of recipes that look and sound delicious but without making you feel too guilty. As we flipped through, we had a lot to choose from. Once we found this recipe, though, we knew it was the one.

The ingredient list looked right on track to give us a breakfast reminiscent of the delicious mushroom quiche we love. It was great! Of course, it wasn't as rich as the mushroom quiche, but it was so. darn. good. Served with a simple salad dressed with my lemon vinaigrette, it made a perfect anniversary breakfast.


Mushroom Tart
from Canyon Ranch Spa executive chef Scott Uehlein, Nourish
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
For the crust:
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 TBSP (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
4-6 TBSP water

For the filling:
olive oil cooking spray
2 large shallots, minced (about 1 c.)
1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and thickly sliced (I used button and cremini)
4 large eggs
2 egg whites
3/4 c. nonfat or 1% milk
1/2 c. half and half
1 c. aged gouda, shredded
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. freshly-grated nutmeg

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a food processor, pulse flour, salt, and butter pieces until it resembles coarse sand. A few pea-sized pieces may remain. Stream in water, one TBSP at a time, until the dough mostly comes together. Pour dough out onto a floured surface and allow to rest five minutes.

3. Roll dough out until it is about 14 inches across. Fit into a ten-inch tart pan. Fill with pie weights or dry beans.

4. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until crust just starts to brown. Remove weights or beans and allow to cool. Decrease oven temperature to 325 degrees.

5. Spray a large saute pan with cooking spray and place over medium heat. Saute shallots and mushrooms until shallots become transparent and mushrooms release their juices. Allow to cool slightly.

6. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, egg whites, milk, half and half, gouda, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

7. Once shallots and mushrooms have cooled a bit, pour into bottom of tart shell. Pour egg mixture over the top and shake slightly to distribute ingredients.

8. Place tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any spills and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. The center should be set, but still jiggly.

9. Allow tart to cool for about five minutes. Cut into eight wedges and enjoy!

One year ago: lemon chicken soup with orzo

Monday, January 11, 2010

Elly's Amazing Chicken Gyros

Wow! Elly sure knows what she's talking about! These gyros were flavorful and filling without being heavy. I lightened them up just a tad bit more that she already had, and both M and I thoroughly enjoyed them. They were incredible to next day, as well. Maybe even better!

If you're looking for a great recipe to add to your healthy and quick weeknight rotation, try these. While you're at it, tag on a side of this hummus served with fresh veggies. M and I thought it was a perfect meal.


Elly's Amazing Chicken Gyros
slightly adapted from Elly Says Opa!
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken breasts
4 cloves garlic, smashed
uice of 1 lemon
3 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 heaping TBSP plain yogurt
1 TBSP dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/2 batch of tzatziki (recipe below)
sliced tomatoes
sliced red onions
6 whole-wheat pitas (pocketless, if you can find them)

Ingredients for tzatziki:
1 (16 oz.) container nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 English cucumber, seeded
2 cloves garlic, shredded
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 TBSP fresh mint, finely chopped
salt and a little pepper

Directions:
1. Whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, yogurt, and oregano in a glass baking dish. Add the chicken and rub the marinade in. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour. (I did mine in the morning before work and it was great by that night!)
2. Preheat saute pan or grill pan over medium to medium-high heat. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides, and then cook until cooked through, about 6 minutes per side, depending what size/type chicken you are using. Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes before slicing into strips.
3. Meanwhile, heat your pitas, either on the stove burner or under a broiler.
4. To serve, top the pita with chicken, tzatziki, tomatoes, onions. Roll up and eat!
One year ago: apple-ginger-cranberry pie

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Katie's REAL Hummus

I got a bike for Christmas! Well, I actually got the bell. Bike are just so hard to transport from Arizona to Oregon, you know?!? Last weekend, M and I were out shopping for the bike (bikes, actually. We're both getting one.). See, we've been talking about this for a while. M lives in a part of town with so many great restaurants we could bike to and a 25-mile-long greenbelt with paths, tennis courts, and much more that we would really enjoy. After a couple hours of shopping, we were getting hungry. We didn't want to eat too much, though, because we had his brother's birthday dinner later that night. We ended up sharing some hummus and pita at a place called Pita Jungle. It was really, really good and I've been craving hummus ever since!

Tonight we're hanging out at my place to watch the national championship game--Go Horns! I'm making dinner for us and I wanted something a little lighter after the overoverover indulgence that was the 2009 holiday season. This hummus, served with fresh veggies, was a perfect side dish to Elly's delicious chicken gyros.

I got this recipe from Katie's blog, Good Things Catered, so I had no doubt it would be delicious. Boy was it! It was so easy and oh so yummy. As Katie says, this recipe is more of a guideline; it will adjust depending on the strength of the lemon, garlic, and tahini you're using. Just be sure to take a couple of tastes along the way and it will turn out perfectly to your liking!


Katie's REAL Hummus
from Good Things Catered
printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:
1 (12 oz.) can chickpeas
1-2 large cloves garlic
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp+ tahini (sesame paste)
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions:
1. Drain water from the can of chick peas into a small bowl and reserve.

2. In a food processor or blender, mix together the chickpeas with the remaining rest of the ingredients, being careful to add second half of lemon juice and tahini slowly, stopping to taste.

3. Slowly add some of the reserved liquid from beans and a bit of water for correct consistency,(about 1-2 minutes) until a smooth, slightly fluid paste is formed.

4. Refrigerate for at least 30 mins before serving. This changes the taste of the hummus by allowing the flavors to form.

***Note: to dress the hummus up for the table, the traditional way of serving is on a plate, with an extra drizzle of olive oil on top and a sprinkle of paprika and chopped parsley.

One year ago: chicken piccata

Monday, January 4, 2010

Best of 2009

I can't believe another year has flown by. I know it sounds cliche, but it really does amaze me that yet another year of my life has gone by so quickly. Oh, and what a year it was. I've had my ups and downs, both in the kitchen and with life in general. I'm happy to report, though, that things ended on a high note in both departments. My "Twelve Treats of Christmas" series was well received, both by you my readers, and by the people who gobbled up all the tasty treats. More importantly, I finished up 2009 with a trip to meet M's family over Christmas in Oregon--including snow (!), a trip to Oklahoma to visit family--including more snow (!!), and an amazing New Year's Eve meal and a fireside midnight kiss!!! I just don't think it could get much better. I am blessed.

To highlight my favorites cooking successes of 2009, I've decided to compile a "best of" list. They're in chronological order, with the exception of the final recipe, which I've decided was the very best of 2009. Enjoy!

This apple-cranberry-ginger pie is a winter favorite of mine. It fills the house with the most amazing, comforting apple smell while it's baking. Once you take a bite, though, the tart cranberries come forward and the gingery warmth rounds out each perfect bite.

I made these almond-scented cupcakes with raspberry filling for a "Bachelor Finale" party. They cupcake were a huge. In fact, I still crave them. What I don't crave, though, is Jason Mesnick. Ugh. I still can't believe he did that to Melissa.

I have to admit, I don't use my Crock Pot all that often. But last March I used it to make this slow cooker pulled pork and was blown away. Warning, though...your house will smell fantastic after only about two hours of cooking, which wouldn't be such an issue if the pork didn't still need another nine hours of cooking. Thanks to Bridget for this great recipe!

Katie's blog is another of my favorites and these juicy strawberry scones are a perfect example why. I made them with a beautiful flat of strawberries and was completely satisfied with the perfect balance of creamy scones and juicy, slightly tart strawberries. You'll want to be sure to make these come strawberry season.

Oh goodness. This mango-rum sorbet knocked my socks off. I made it on an unseasonably warm day during my spring break and was instantly transported to Jamaica. I promptly made another batch and can't wait for the first time I make it this year!

A common question on the cooking board I frequent is, "What non-carb sides can I make for a Mexican meal?" I always answer with these delicious calabacitas. They're almost completely free of carbs and they're packed with nutrients and flavor. That's a winning combination in my book!

Mmmmmmm. These super snickerdoodles are most definitely my favorite cookie of the year. They're light, fluffy, and buttery with just the perfect crispness from the cinnamon-sugar coating. Try making them with vanilla sugar for an extra treat.

I'm a huge fan of butternut squash and these quesadillas filled with butternut squash, black beans, and feta were just incredible. Not only are they 100% delicious, they're also a great weeknight option. I like to roast and puree the squash on Sunday, then put it in the fridge to be used during the week. If you're looking to lighten things up in the new year or you're hosting a dinner party with vegetarian guests, these quesadillas are a great option.

My mom loves black forest cake. So when my sister asked me to bring the dessert to her birthday bash, I immediately set to work making a grocery list for favored black forest cake. Then I realized neither M nor my sister like chocolate that much. I managed to satisfy my mom, my sister, M, and everyone else with this decadent black forest cheesecake. Part chocolate wafer crust, part rich white chocolate cheesecake, and part tart cherry topping, it was to die for. If you need a show-stopping, crowd-pleasing dessert, try this one. Go ahead...try it!

I made these acorn squash stuffed with autumn fruit compote when I made dinner for M and I one night. They were delicious. The acorn squash provides a great flavor base, and the compote brings the perfect mixture of sweet and savory.

Bridget came through again with her pumpkin cupcake comparison. These babies were moist, perfectly dense, not too sweet, and brimming with pumpkin flavor. Once topped with cinnamon-bourbon frosting, they were downright irresistible.

While planning recipes from my Christmas goodie tins, I knew I'd need sturdy treats that would be a good mixture of chocolate, sweet, and not-so-sweet. (I never did make it all the way to savory!) I was so enchanted with these hazelnut and dried cherry biscotti, I almost didn't want to give them away. The flavors-hazelnut, cherry, cinnamon, and orange-worked together perfectly, yeat held their own as standout components. I know I'll be making these again soon.

So this brings me to my favorite recipe of 2009 and, I have to say, it was a very easy choice. It honestly would've been enough that these little cuties provided me with that oh-so-rare "I'm good" moment in the kitchen. But what put these squarely into the top spot for 2009 was the fact that I first made these for M as a surprise when he was working a particularly grueling weekend and he LOVED them. He even requested a repeat. Actually, he just let me know "it'd be okay if I made them again sometime". I happily obliged and made them for dessert the night we decorated our first Christmas tree. M was so happy, he made the cutest expression of surprise, and even had seconds. That expression has made its way into our lexicon and is now known as "lemon bar face". I hope you'll try these and I hope you'll be able to feel the joy of seeing someone you love show you just how much they love your cooking with "lemon bar face."

Thanks for continuing to stop by for your "Apple a Day." I hope you'll stick around to see what I do in the new year. Here's to a happy, healthy, delicious, and prosperous 2010!