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December 2012

Top 12 of 2012

I’m looking forward to another year of culinary experiments, new ingredients and photography adventures in the kitchen. This blog has become one of the most rewarding learning experiences in my life. Both food and photography have become staple areas of interest and growth for me, largely from the start of this site. And for that, I am thankful.

I am thankful to have passions that have led me to a year full of firsts. My first time roasting coffee, my first time landing a column in a magazine, my first time transforming chickpeas into cookies, and soon to come, my first time successfully brewing my own kombucha. (Cross your fingers for me. I did brew once two years ago, and it was a flop…). All of these adventures have undoubtedly enriched my life. Combined with all of the people who’ve shared this joy with me (both among the blog-o-sphere and those sitting at my own dining room table), I can say 2012 has been a great year.

My goals for 2013: To continue to further my photography, to never stop trying new things, and to remind myself I’m only 22. AKA, I have so many years ahead of me to do all of these things, to put my dreams into action, to meet the world around me. Time is never running out, even if it is almost 2013.

And since the year isn’t even yet over, let’s look back at some of the F-F-F moments in the kitchen. Below, the top 12 of 2012.

Chocolate Caramel Cookies

Top post of the year: Salted Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

Of course my least healthy post of the year also takes the crown for going the most viral. However, I am a firm believer that true health means everything in moderation, and these cookies are definitely worth the occasional splurge.

brusselsprouts_holiday (1 of 2)

Best vegetable side kick: Holiday Brussel Sprouts with Pecans and Cranberries

Sweet, salty and green. That’s a combination I want on the side of every meal.


Best soup: Roasted Apple Butternut Squash Soup with Sage

This was a late night creation that left a huge smile on my face as I headed off to bed. I love when recipes effortlessly work out on the first attempt.


Most worth going the extra step: Kofta Balls with Indian Tomato Sauce

My mom can whip up an incredible Indian feast. This is one of the must-make components on her table full of food.


Best “I can’t believe there’s no heavy cream” recipe: Creamy Vegan Corn Chowder

Not a drop of milk needed for this creamy, incredible chowder.


Best dessert you can feel good about: Strawberry Banana Summer Rolls with Honey Lime Sauce

The grown-up version of PB&J. Perfect for kids, too, and of course for those of us who still want to be a kid every now and then.


Best way to break out of the jar: Tomato Olive Spaghetti

A flavorful sauce that doesn’t need hours to simmer, and will likely make you think twice about buying another jarred version of sauce.


Best healthy vegan comfort food: Pesto Infused Rice with Seitan

You can’t go wrong with pesto. This is rich and satisfying and a great introduction to seitan.


Best anytime dish: Vegan Bean and Sausage Chili

Beans and rice are a go-to in my diet. Hence why I’m not churning out new recipes on this blog everyday. Some meals are meant to repeat. This is one of those meals, spiced up with vegetarian sausage to make it feel like a wintertime special.


Best anytime pasta dish: Pasta with Cauliflower and Capers

Simple and light, the delicate flavors in this dish come together for a meal worth making over and over again.


Best garden summertime dish on the cheap: Curried White Fish Creole

Sometimes dishes like this deliver me a wake up call that salmon is not the only seafood worth cooking.


Best use of tahini outside of hummus: Tahini Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Not sure what to do with that half-used jar of tahini left standing in the back of your fridge? Problem solved.


Brie and Butternut Quesadillas with Sage and Shiitakes

Butternut and Brie Quesadillas

New Year’s Eve is always a gamble.

When I was little, the bet was always whether or not I could keep my droopy eyes open till midnight. Middle school brought the toss up of whose parents would give them the freedom to leave the family for the night. And high school was a roll of the dice over what kind beverages would be obtainable (crappy beer vs. sparkling cider, which these days, I’d likely choose the latter).

As I entered college, the gamble became whether or not you’d have a date for the night. Which I did last year. We conveniently got into a fight just before midnight. Even with a boyfriend and confetti all around, last year’s countdown was a strike out.

This time, however, I don’t care what the night brings; it’s going to be a winner. There will be no droopy eyes, no friends stuck at home, and while I can’t promise a lack of crappy beer on site, there definitely won’t be any fighting taking place. This, and letting any other expectations walk out the door, is all I need to know that this year won’t be a gamble.

Although…just in case something does go wrong… I’ll be whipping up these Brie and Butternut Quesadillas. Because seriously, you just can’t go wrong with these. If you’ve never tried brie melted on sliced butternut squash, just removed from the oven, I recommend you do so just before assembling these. With a sprinkle of cinnamon, too. It will be a nutty, creamy, pre-New Years celebration in your mouth. For the more finger-friendly option, stick with the quesadillas. These are a crowd-pleaser that will likely set you apart at the party.

Click here for recipe…

Sage and Stuffing Seasoned Quinoa

Sage and Quinoa Stuffing

Feeling too stuffed is a sensation I prefer to keep to a minimum. (Though, I feel very fortunate and blessed to live a life that extends these opportunities.)

Eating stuffing, however, is an experience I could welcome all times of the year, multiple days per month. The taste bud lingering flavors of sage, rosemary and thyme create a combination from which I rarely tire. Although, I must say all that bread that embodies the traditional recipe could eventually make my body say “no more”. No part of me is an anti-bread, low-carb advocate, especially when we’re discussing whole grains. But too many meals of it probably isn’t the optimal choice.

Instead, I’ve created a variation of which no one could debate its healthiness, utilizing quinoa – a protein and fiber filled superstar of the grain world. It just so happens it’s gluten-free, too.

Granted, I wouldn’t go so far as to call this stuffing, particularly if you consider yourself a stuffing junkie. It’s a tad more on the chewy side in comparison to its fluffy, conventional counterpart. However, it’s certainly a wonderful, healthier alternative with all the same flavors, and will make your body feel good, too.

Click here for recipe…

Salted Caramel Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

Chocolate Caramel Cookies

Chocolate cookies stuffed with caramel—that’s a sight and sound that will inevitably lead to a taste. Or at least a longing for a taste. You can’t tell me that looking at these cookies doesn’t make you want to try one. And if you can, I’d rather not be friends. (Just kidding.)

But seriously, chocolate and caramel is a match made in candy heaven. This recipe from The Comfort of Cooking doubles the pleasure of this pairing by stuffing an already delicious classic into even more chocolate. Behold, a cookie that looks and sounds every bit as decadent as it tastes.

Given all of that, these are surprisingly simple to make. It was probably more difficult trying to convey how awesome these are through the viewfinder of my camera than it was to actually bake them. The dough comes together quickly and after just a short rest period in the refrigerator, they bake up even quicker. Make sure to include the salt, which makes these cookies the addictive delights that they are. I actually amended the original recipe to add a 1/2 tsp. to the dough. I would suggest sticking with this, as outlined in the recipe below, because salt really does wonders to enhance the richness of both caramel and chocolate. Besides, we all know these were never meant to be healthy. Delicious and crowd-pleasing, on the other hand, are these cookies’ destiny. In my kitchen, sometimes that’s all a good dessert recipe needs.

Chocolate Caramel Cookies
Click here for recipe…

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