This year has been a whirlwind. As this year, unlike any other, winds down, I’m reminded of all that’s happened here in this very little blog space. I took some time this week to look back on all the recipes, especially those that were popular among you, my readers and friends. Presented in ascending order or popularity, I present your favorite posts/recipes of 2012!
10. Pesto Pasta with Spinach, Broccoli, and Walnuts
9. Dosa & Coconut Chutney
8. Oven Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans
7. Summer Squash Gratin
6. Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
5. Banana Cupcakes with Butterscotch Buttercream
4. Spinach Pesto Omelette
3. Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies
2. Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream and Chocolate Glaze
1. Oreo Cake with Oreo & Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Call this a staple. Everyone should have a banana bread recipe in their collection. And I’m ready to hear what your favorites are because after many years of searching, I’m pretty sure I’ve found the one. The one that can make mothers forget why you picked a fight with them last week – er, and yesterday. The one that can win over mother in-laws. The one that you don’t just make because you have ripe bananas, but the one that you wait for bananas to ripen so that you can make. The one that has been tried and tested everyday for a week and still tastes great.
Have I lost you? Let’s back up. Banana bread is easy … and it’s hard. First, it’s easy because it is an easy way to use up a lot of ripe bananas. I tend to stock up. My fault because once I see a speckle, I will not eat it. Second, it’s easy because I haven’t tasted a banana bread that didn’t have banana flavor. That leads to the hard part of banana bread. Who knew it was so complicated? Almost all banana breads I’ve made and tried tend to be gummy, too dense and greasy. All except for this. After some considerable searching, I found a recipe that is packed with banana flavor without the weight, and a sugary crust that make each bite as wonderful as the first. Let’s say that bread should be bready and this remained bready for four days after – the longest I could the bread around in my house.
A slice of this and my mom forgot all about my bad attitude. For a solid day. There’s magic in this bread.
adapted from Annie’s Eats via Cooks Illustrated
- 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- 5 large, very ripe bananas, peeled
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large eggs
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Lightly spray a loaf pan (about 9 x 5 inches) with cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt; whisk together, and set aside.
- Place 5 bananas in a microwave safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and make several slits in the wrap to allow steam to escape.
- Microwave on high until the bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bananas to a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl and let drain, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes (you should have ½-¾ cup liquid).
- Transfer the reserved banana liquid to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until reduced to about ¼ cup, approximately 5-10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
- In a large bowl, combine the bananas and the reduced banana liquid. Mash with a fork or whisk until fairly smooth. Whisk in the melted butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.
- Add the flour mixture to the bowl with the banana mixture.
- Fold together, just until all of the dry ingredients are incorporated. Do not over-mix the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula.
- Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the assembled loaf.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55-75 minutes.
- Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool at least 15 minutes in the pan before removing.
I love a one-pot main meal. Even if it is a side dish. A healthy side dish at that. Earthy quinoa mixed with hearty chickpeas and tomatoes with a crisp refreshing lime dressing is really comfort food for the summer. I have made this dish often and have failed to obtain a picture of it as it disappears from my kitchen quickly.
I initially bought quinoa to eat for breakfast, in place of oatmeal. However, I find myself finding savory uses for quinoa instead. Well, what I mean is that I made this recipe and I make it at least once a week. It’s simple, delicious and healthy.
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
Adapted from Gourmet and cooking the quinoa from Edible Perspective
Yields approximately 4 servings
- zest from 1 lemon
- juice from the 1 zested lemon
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 2 cups water
- 1 (15 oz) can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 medium sized tomatoes, diced
- 1 medium sized red onion, finely diced
- 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, butter, olive oil, and salt.
- Cook the quinoa. In a pot, over medium heat, add the cup of quinoa and roast for approximately 2 minutes. Add two cups water, increase to medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Stir once and reduce the heat to obtain a simmer and cover the pot with a lid. Cook for 15 minutes (don’t dare open the lid). Once 15 minutes is up, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the heat. Leave covered for 5 minutes. After five minutes, uncover and fluff with a fork.
- Add the cooked quinoa to the dressing and stir to coat evenly. Let it sit for 5 minutes so the dressing will have a chance to absorb.
- Mix in remaining ingredients and adjust salt as you see fit. Go easy on the pepper.
I remember my early baking days. They consisted of making a cake mix in a 9×13 pan (the only one my non-baking-interested mom had). Once the cake was done, my family would eat it – without frosting. That’s how we ate cake. It wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed it. My parents would enjoy their piece of cake with tea, while my sister and I ate it with milk.
Nowadays, with my discovery of frosting for those who love the sugar and those who want something more subtle, my cakes are rarely frost-less. Recently, when I had extra Swiss meringue buttercream, I wanted to pair it with a vanilla cake to see how the flavors would work out. Beautifully. Just beautifully.
I found the recipe on My Baking Addiction, which if you have not perused, you should and be warned that you will find yourself wanting to make everything you see. I made this.
A light yet flavorful vanilla bean cake, which held up and complemented the subtle sweetness of the strawberry buttercream. Using both the vanilla bean seeds and extract allow the flavor to really shine in this cake without being overwhelming. The seeds in the batter bake up beautifully and stand out against the pale yellow cake.
In preparation for company, I made half of the batch into cupcakes and the other half as one layer of cake. I served the cupcakes to the guests. I saved the cake for myself to remember the same experience I had as a child…to eat a really good piece of cake.
Vanilla Bean Cake
recipe from My Baking Addiction
yields 2-layers of an 8-inch round cake or about 20 cupcakes
- 2 and 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 and 1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
- seeds scraped from one vanilla bean or 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350F. If you make cupcakes, line with cupcake liners. If you are baking cake layers, grease two eight-inch round cake pans.
- In a large and separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In another bowl, whisk the milk and eggs. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the paddle attachment, on medium heat, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla bean seeds, until the mixture is very light/pale.
- Add the vanilla extract until fully incorporated.
- Carefully add and mix in half of the milk mixture until all is combined.
- Then, mix in half of the flour mixture until fully combined.
- Add the remaining milk mixture until combined. Finally, add the flour mixture until incorporated.
- Once everything is incorporated, beat the mixture for a good 2 minutes to ensure that everything is smoothly combined.
- If making cupcakes, spoon evenly into the cupcake liners, filling 2/3s full. Bake between 18-24 minutes until it passes the toothpick test.
- If making cake layers, divide between the two layers. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until it passes the toothpick test.
- Cool completely before frosting.
Good God. That’s pretty much what I said after a bite of this cake. First and foremost, say hello to strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream. I am a fool for not trying this earlier. Perfect in every way. Sweet, but not overly sweet. Rich, but not so that you can’t eat it straight from the bowl. That isn’t a joke, unfortunately. While regular buttercream will always have a special place in my heart and cakes, I will be using this version more and more. If you’ve tried it, you’ll know why. If you haven’t, try it and I highly recommend Sweetapolita’s version that I used here. When this cake was posted on Sweetapolita, I bookmarked it immediately. With dark chocolate cake layers contrasted with the light pink strawberry-speckled buttercream, this is a stunning cake perfect for a special occasion. What better one than my first Mother’s Day with the two grandmothers. I initially wanted to make the towering six-layer cake, but with a shortage on time, I decided to do a simple two layer cake, using my favorite quick go-to chocolate cake recipe. I love using this cake recipe because it uses one bowl. Less cleanup after means that I can enjoy the cake faster.
Adapted from Allrecipes
- 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups white granulated sugar
- 1 and 1/2 baking soda
- 1 and 1/2 baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk (I have used almond milk and it has turned out just fine)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup strong hot brewed coffee
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Grease and flour 2 8-inch round pans.
- In a large bowl sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- Add the eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.
- Mix on medium speed for about 2 minutes until everything is incorporated.
- Stir in the hot coffee. This will make the batter very runny.
- Pour evenly into the greased pans.
- Bake 35 minutes (make sure it passes the toothpick test) and remove from the oven.
- Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Then, invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Do not frost a cake that has not been completely cooled.
Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Sweetapolita
- 1/2 cup fresh ripe strawberries
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 5 large egg whites, day old and room temperature
- 1 and 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
- 3/4 lb butter, unsalted (3 sticks of butter)
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- Take your butter from the fridge and cut it into cubes and set aside on a plate on your counter – just not in your fridge.
- In a food processor, add the strawberries and process until smooth.
- Add the strawberry puree to a saucepan with the 3 tbsp sugar.
- Over a medium-low heat, cook down the strawberries into a thick sauce (cooking for about 15-20 minutes), stirring occasionally. Once thickened, set aside to cool.
- Wipe down a large (preferably steel) bowl with lemon juice to ensure that no trace amounts of oil remain. Oil is danger to meringue.
- Add the egg whites and sugar to the mixing bowl and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), stirring constantly with a whisk. Be gentle but consistent with the stirring. Keep whisking until you get a temperature of 150F for the mixture using your candy thermometer. Another way to check is to dip your hands in the mixture and rub it between your fingers. It should be completely smooth, with no grainy-ness. If there is any grains of sugar, keep stirring/whisking. you want the sugar to be completely dissolved and the egg whites to be hot (and cooked).
- Once it gets to be 150F, attach the bowl to your electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high heat until the meringue is thick and glossy. You know you are done when the bowl is also room temperature to the touch, and not at all warm. It cannot be warm at all.
- Once you get stiff thick peaks with your meringue, switch from the whisk attachment to the paddle attachment.
- You are going to start adding the butter, one cube at a time. Your butter should be cool, not cold, at this point.
- With the mixer on low speed, mix until you get a smooth rich texture. The mixture will look curdly at some point, just keep mixing. I promise you it will come together.
- Add vanilla and salt, and continue to mix on low speed until everything is combined.
- Add the strawberry puree until well blended into the buttercream.
recipe from Sweetapolita
- 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
- 1/3 cup butter, room temperature and cut into cubes
- Place the chocolate and butter into a bowl and melt over a pot of simmering water. Stir the mixture until completely melted.
Assembling the Cake
- Place the first layer of cake and add buttercream frosting. Place the other layer on top.
- Crumb coat.
- Refrigerate for one hour.
- Remove from fridge and frost the cake. Try to be as even and straight as possible. Don’t worry too much about the top as you will be pouring chocolate all over it.
- Chill the cake.
- Remove the cake from the fridge and pour the chocolate glaze over the cake.
- Chill the cake again to set.
- Remove from the fridge at least 2 hours before you serve the cake. You want this cake to be completely at room temperature when you serve. Otherwise, the buttercream will be too hard and will taste just like butter. For those that complain of the Swiss meringue buttercream, this is the number one problem and can be easily remedied if you just let you cake sit out.
When I first started dating Binks, around the holiday season six years ago, I made him a care package filled with goodies. As I had just met him there was no meaning for the packaged goods, other than being delicious and wanting to impress him with deliciousness. It worked. Six years and a baby later, I can tell you that he still remembers that package.
The one treat that impressed me the most was toffee. Considering that working with melting and browning sugar perfectly can be temperamental, this recipe was really forgiving and workable.
Toffee is a staple during the holidays, but considering the history of this simple candy, it means that much more. Without question, Binks always brings up his first bite of the toffee after opening the package.
Now, to save myself from eating the whole batch, I package it away as edible gifts for friends.
Chocolate Almond Toffee
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chips)
- 1 cup sliced almonds
- Before beginning, line a cookie sheet with foil. Cover everything. I’m ultra-paranoid about candy sticking to the pan so I double wrapped the pan.
- Over medium-high heat, in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter, sugar and salt. Mix constantly. (Keep the vanilla extract handy.)
- Once melted, reduce the heat to medium and stir the mixture continuously until you get it to a boil. It should be a smooth boil – not a rolling boil. If it’s a rolling boil, then reduce the heat more.
- If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you want to stir until you get the mixture to look like the color of a raw almond, a deep amber. It’s completely normal in this process for the mixture to become gelatinous and mesh together. Just remember to keep stirring. It will get to the amber/almond stage. Be patient. Another way to test if the mixture is done is to take a bit of the sugar mixture and drop into ice-cold water. It should be brittle when it hits the water.
- If you have a candy thermometer, the temperature should be 290-300 degrees.
- Once the mixture reaches the temperature, remove from heat, add the vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.
- Pour the mixture into the pan and it should naturally spread to a good thickness. I like for it to be 1/4 inch thick. If not, use a spatula to spread more. Don’t worry about it being perfect.
- Once you are done with the sugar mixture, sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. The chocolate will melt so take a spatula and spread the chocolate across the toffee mixture.
- Sprinkle the almonds over the chocolate, and press the looser almonds slightly into the chocolate to make sure it sticks.
- Cool the toffee in the fridge until completely cooled.
- Once cooled, break apart into shards. Store in an airtight container.