Melissa's Cuisine: December 2012

Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 12 Recipes of 2012

I know you've probably heard it a thousand times already, but I'm going to say it again: I can't believe today is the last day of 2012!  It really feels like just a couple weeks ago that we were ringing in the new year, and now here we are preparing again to ring in 2013.  This has been an amazing year, and I'd like to share with you my top 12 recipes from this year.  Here's to a blessed, flavorful, and delicious 2013!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

From my family to yours...Merry Christmas!  Enjoy celebrating today!

I am taking a short break from blogging this week.  I am off from work and looking forward to spending the rest of the week relaxing and celebrating (both Christmas and my birthday).  Enjoy your week and I'll see you back here next year with some goodies I plan to bake this week!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Caramel Apple Cider

Are you ready for Christmas?  Is it looking like Christmas outside your window?  I don't know about you, but when it's cold outside, there's nothing better than a hot drink to warm you inside and out!

This Caramel Apple Cider is the perfect cold weather drink.  The cider is heated in the slow cooker, so the hands-on time is quite minimal.  Plus, your house will smell amazing while you're making it!  I served this at Thanksgiving and I plan to make it for our Christmas Eve celebration tonight.

Caramel Apple Cider

Serves 8

1 (64 ounce) bottle of apple juice
6 cinnamon sticks
8 Tablespoons caramel ice-cream topping

1.  Pour the apple cider into the pot of a slow cooker.  Add the cinnamon sticks.

2.  Heat on low for 6-8 hours, until the cider is hot and the cinnamon sticks have uncurled and are soft.

3.  Carefully ladle the hot cider into mugs. 

4.  Stir 1 Tablespoon of caramel ice-cream topping into each mug of cider right before serving.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas Recipe Roundup (Bloggers for Sandy Hook)

Where were you last week Friday when you heard of the tragedy in Connecticut?  I was in Burger King, somewhere in Ohio.  I walked out of the restroom and noticed the news covering a horrific school shooting.  I wasn't able to find out more until we got to my aunt's house and watched the news.  As the story unfolded, my heart grew heavy.  Heavy for the children who had their lives taken far too soon.  Heavy for the parents who now have a hole in their heart and homes.  Heavy for the teachers who lost their lives protecting the children they love. 

I don't have children of my own but I have many children whom I love.  My cousins.  My friend's kids.  My youth group girls.  I can't imagine losing a single one of them.  My heart goes out to every single person who is hurting as a result of the Newtown shootings. 

I am honored to participate in Bloggers for Sandy Hook. It's our little way of showing our support for all those affected by this tragic event. 

I'd like to share a roundup of some Christmas recipes that I love.  In doing so, I ask one thing of you--spend some time with the people you love today.  Make one of these recipes with your children (and don't get upset if they make a mess--you're making memories).  Bring a plate of cookies to an elderly relative.  Cook a special dinner for your husband or wife.  Do something today to cherish those around you that you love.

Cider Wassail
Spritz Cookies with Royal Icing

Pretzel Bites

Peanut Butter Balls

Pecan Snowballs

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge

Hot Chocolate Mix

Strawberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies

Melting Snowman Cookie Balls

Hot Chocolate Snowballs

Snowman Cookies

White Chocolate Santa Mix

Peppermint Chocolate Biscotti

To see a list of other bloggers participating as well as to find out how you can help support the families in Sandy Hook, please visit Crazy for Crust.  Thanks!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Peanut Butter Fluff

Family game night.  It's a concept both Mike and I grew up with.  While the idea for both our families were similar--both our dads avoided playing games as much as possible, there were also some differences.  For instance, he doesn't have a younger brother who, when he was losing a game of Sorry!, flipped the board so the game could no longer continue.  Ahhh memories!

We often enjoyed game night at home around the kitchen table.  My mom would often have snacks ready for us--typically a bowl of popcorn or pretzels with chocolate to dip them in.  It was the one night of the week when we typically enjoyed a can of pop as well.

While game night has changed a bit since we've been married (there are surprisingly few games for just 2 players), Mike and I do enjoy playing games.  He bought me a version of Monopoly that features places we've been together and every so often we'll pull that out.  We also enjoy card games (Mike plays Poker with his bowling group and is teaching me how) and playing video games on our Wii.  One thing that's remained the same is snacks--they are a must for game time.  We enjoy a variety--popcorn, cheese cubes, apples with dip, crackers...We like our snacks!

Whether you choose to play card games, board games, or video games, this Peanut Butter Fluff is part of a healthy and easy snack for you to enjoy while playing.  It can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.  In fact, we almost always have a container of this waiting for when the craving strikes.  Just scoop out a dollop, slice up an apple, and snack time is ready!

Peanut Butter Fluff

Serves 8

1 (7 ounce) container of marshmallow fluff
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon milk

1.  In a medium bowl, combine the marshmallow fluff, peanut butter, and milk until completely mixed.

2.  Serve with sliced fruit--we love apples with this dip.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Note:  The first time I made this recipe, I used about 1 cup of peanut butter.  It resulted in a very clumpy spread, but that was solved by adding milk, a small amount at a time.  The dip was quite solid and we enjoyed it very much.  I decreased the amount of peanut butter so this dip is fluffier and easier to dip.  Feel free to experiment with the amount of peanut butter you use!

Monday, December 17, 2012

White Chocolate Popcorn

My weekend in numbers:

20 hours spent in the car

3 states travelled through

1 entire book read

5 meals at restaurants

hundreds of hugs, kisses, and laughs

95 family members all together to celebrate

Mike and I went to Kentucky for our family Christmas party this weekend.  It was quite a whirlwind trip, but we haven't gone for Christmas since before we got married, so this trip was long overdue.  It was so good to see so many of our family members (can you believe that 95 didn't include everyone?!).

Of course, driving for so many hours means that there were plenty of opportunities for snacking.  When I was growing up, my mom always packed a huge box full of "road trip treats".  My favorite was (and is) Twizzlers.  It's a good thing my parents rode with us this year, because my mom brought along a bag packed with goodies.  I, on the other hand, brought water and a small plate of cookies.  Silly me. 

If I had been thinking ahead, I would have made up a batch of this white chocolate popcorn.  It's insanely easy to make--you probably don't even need a recipe.  I added in some Christmas colored sprinkles to make this popcorn more festive.  You could omit them, or use any color you want to match a holiday or special occasion.

White Chocolate Popcorn

Serves 8

1 cup of popcorn kernels
1 cup of white chocolate candy melts

1.  Pop the popcorn according to the directions on the bag.  Remove any unpopped kernels.

2.  In a microwave safe bowl, melt the white chocolate candy melts.  I begin with 30 seconds, then stir. Then continue on 15 second intervals, stirring until the chocolate is smooth.

3.  Put the popped popcorn into a large bowl.  Drizzle the melted white chocolate over the popcorn, stirring gently until the popcorn is evenly coated.

4.  Spread the popcorn out on 2 cookie sheets.  Top with sprinkles.

5.  Allow the chocolate to harden before breaking the popcorn apart.

This is best eaten the day it is made.  If you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container or Ziploc bag.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saturday Sweetness

Happy Saturday!  What are you plans today?  I'll be spending a couple hours in the car, finishing up our whirlwind trip to Kentucky for our family Christmas party.  It's been 3 years since Mike and I have been able to attend and I'm so excited to see our family again!

In case you missed it, here's what happened on Melissa's Cuisine this week:

Pierogi Casserole: Don't you love it when recipes made on a whim turn out fabulously?  This casserole was a hit in our house!

Peppermint Chocolate Biscotti:  This was the recipe I made for this year's Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.  Not only is it yummy, it's festive too!
Caramel Apple Cider (Guest Post): I shared one of my favorite cold weather drinks over at Simply Sweet Home.  I hope you'll stop by to check it out!

Here's what I pinned this week:
Easy Peanut Butter and Chocolate Fudge: Leave it to Peabody to combine 2 of my favorite ingredient in one tempting fudge!  I can't wait to make this!

Harry's Roadhouse Cinnamon Rolls:  These cinnamon rolls are only served on weekends at Harry's Roadhouse, but they're so popular that people line up for them.  Look how thick they are!  Yum!

Soft Ginger Cookies: Mike and I are both big fans of gingerbread cookies.  And, I love soft cookies.  This looks like a win-win cookie to me!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Guest Post

Good morning!  I am excited to be posting at Simply Sweet Home today as part of Jerri's Six Weeks of Christmas Treats.  I hope you'll stop by to read my post about this delicious Caramel Apple Cider!


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Peppermint Chocolate Biscotti

It's beginning to feel like Christmas!  It has snowed a little bit for the past couple days.  Of course, the sun comes out and melts the snow after a couple hours, but it sure is pretty to wake up in the morning to a snow blanketed world. 

Another thing that makes it really feel like Christmas is Christmas Cookie Exchanges!  I'm going to a live one tomorrow night and I recently participated in The Great Food Bloggers Cookie Swap.  This was my second year participating and it's so fun to give and receive cookies.
The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012

I spent a lot of time searching for the perfect cookie recipe to send to my cookie recipients.  I knew that the cookies needed to hold up well in the mail, as well as taste just as good as the day I baked them as when they were received.  And, I knew that I wanted my cookies to be Christmas-y.

I finally settle on a biscotti recipe.  I coated the biscotti with a thin layer of milk chocolate and then sprinkled crushed peppermint candy canes over the chocolate.  These cookies are delicious by themselves or paired with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee.
Peppermint Chocolate Biscotti

Makes 20-24 cookies

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/4 cups flour
8 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
6 peppermint candy canes, crushed

1.  In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the butter and shortening.

2.  Add the brown sugar, granulated sugar and baking soda.  Beat until combined.

3.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined.

4.  Slowly blend in flour until combined.

5.  Form dough into a long log, about 20 inches long and 4 inches wide.  Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  (I found it to be easier to shape the dough while it was on the cookie sheet.)

6.  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.  The cookie will spread slightly.

7.  Remove the pan from the oven and cool for 1 hour.

8.  Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the baked biscotti into 1/2" wide slices.  (I used the width of my finger as a rough guide.)

9.  Place biscotti, sliced side down, back on the parchment lined cookie sheet.

10.  Bake at 325 for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and flip each biscotti piece to the opposite cut side.

11.  Return to the oven for 10 more minutes, until the cookies are crisp.

12.  Allow the cookies to cool completely.

13.  Melt the chocolate in a shallow microwave safe bowl.

14.  Dip the bottoms of each biscotti piece into the melted chocolate.  Set on a wire rack, chocolate side up, to harden.

15.  Sprinkle crushed peppermint candy canes over the chocolate while it is still soft.

Allow the chocolate to completely harden before storing in an airtight container.

Adapted from: Meal Planning Magic

I sent these Peppermint Chocolate Biscotti to Diane who sent me cookies last year!, Bonnibelle, and Aubrey

I received cookies from Brynn, Bailey, and Allison.  They were delicious!  Check out their sites for the recipes.

If you would like to participate next year, visit this link to receive notifications!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pierogi Casserole

I love when the meals I throw together on a whim turn into our favorite dishes!  I stocked up on pierogies a while back when they were on sale at an irresistible price.  They make a simple and delicious dinner or side dish.  One night after work I just threw together a few ingredients that I found in our fridge, and I ended up with this casserole.  Mike and I were both big fans of it!

I ended up having to make this pierogi casserole a second time because I didn't think to take a picture the first time.  Is anyone else frustrated by daylight savings time?  It's dark when I leave for work, and dark by time I get home.  There is absolutely no natural light for me to use for pictures during the week, and it frustrates me because I've really been working on improving my photography and the lack of daylight doesn't help me!

Okay, enough of that.  This casserole comes together quickly and is versatile enough that you could add any meat you want. I used turkey because we still have leftovers from Thanksgiving.  The first time I made this, I used bacon bits.  I think ham would also work well--let me know what you use!

Pierogi Casserole

Serves 6 

2 (12 count) boxes pierogies
1 (8 ounce) container Italian Herb cream cheese
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup diced chicken or turkey
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1.  Layer pierogies into a 9x13" casserole dish.

2.  In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese, chicken broth, and turkey.

3.  Pour the sauce evenly over the pierogies.

4.  Sprinkle with the cheese.

5.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, until the casserole is heated through.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Saturday Sweetness

Oops!  I missed my weekly Saturday Sweetness round up post last week--I was so busy I totally forgot about it!  I spent most of last week Saturday shopping.  First, I went to a craft fair with my mom, Mike's mom, and Mike's sister.  Then Mike and I went shopping to the mall.  We couldn't get what he wanted so we just walked around to kill some time before going to a friend's house for the evening.  This week of course was busy--nothing new there!  Today I'm spending the morning making Christmas goodies!

Let's do a big round-up this week of the last two week's posts!

White Chicken Chili:
Gift Ideas for The Foodie In Your Life:

Bacon Cheeseburger Meatloaf:
White Chocolate Santa Mix:

Apple Cider Caramels:

Here are a few of my favorite pins from the past two weeks:

Broccoli Cheddar Soup:  I love a hot bowl of soup when the weather is cold, and this broccoli cheddar soup looks delicious!

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza Rolls:  Chicken. Bacon. Ranch. Pizza. Rolls.  Five of my favorite things in one--amazing!

Bowtie Chicken Alfredo:  Leave it to the Pioneer Woman to make something so simple look and taste so fantastic!

Molasses Triple Chocolate Cookies:  These cookies are just oozing of chocolate.  I think they'll be served at at least one Christmas party this year!

What was your favorite recipe you made this week?
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