Thursday, December 31, 2015

10 Most Popular Blogs of 2015

2015 is already over?!? It seems unbelievable to me. I accomplished many, many things in my personal life during 2015, but one ties into today's post.

At the end of 2014 I shared this:

Although I'm not usually one for making resolutions, Dave and I have created a three step plan to be healthier overall in 2015. Part of that plan involves creating healthier lunches to balance out the wonderful dinners we create and the new restaurants we try. In 2015 I will be posting some of those healthy lunch options, I have a lot of great recipes planned already, it should be a really good addition.

My recipes may not always seem like the "healthiest" but I have done a wonderful job sticking to my portion sizes this year and have lost about 25 pounds. I will be continuing to find more fun vegan and vegetarian recipes during 2016.

Here's what was most popular in 2015:

Chocolate Turtle Cake was used to celebrate my Three Year Blogiversarry in February and was the most popular recipe in 2015 by far. The photos are courtesy of my lovely photographer friend Kayla.

Next up was this Kale, Roasted Celery Root, Deviled Eggs, and Spiced Almonds recipe from March. There were a lot of steps needed to put this salad together, but the results ended up being so worth it.

The Polenta Napoleon  being my third most popular recipe of 2015 was something that I found a little surprising. It's not that this wasn't good, but the photos were taken in my sad, dark January-lit kitchen, so it doesn't look superb. This was also at the very beginning of my 2015 health spree, so my portion is a little puny. Add more stacks for additional flavor and wow-factor. 

Next up was the Roasted Eggplant, Spinach, Feta and Quinoa from May. This recipe is full of flavor and very easy to put together. We made it as a light lunch prior to going hiking.

These Poppyseed Lemon Crepes with Blueberry Cream Cheese Filling were made in January and were my fifth most popular recipe in 2015. These sweet and tart crepes are good for brunch or dessert. 

Only one grilled cheese from my 2015 April series cracked the top ten list and that was the Overnight Guest featuring pancakes, an over-easy egg, and cheddar cheese.

One of my personal favorites of 2015 was this Mock Tuna-Noodle Casserole from March. A flaky chickpea cake replaces the tuna for a vegetarian revamp of this classic comfort food

This Caprese Quinoa bake helped us enjoy tomatoes in the heart of August. It also gets bonus points for being incredibly easy to put together. 

The ninth most popular recipe of 2015 was this Pumpkin Hard Cider Cheese Dip, although in previous years I wasn't a fan of pumpkin recipes or hard cider, the flavors grew on me this year. The combination in this autumn fondue that I served in November is sublime. 

Rounding out the top 10 list is this Potato-Leek Soup with Mini Pierogis from October. I thought that this was such a good idea, one of those things that you wish you had thought of before someone else did. Adding pierogis to the soup was a genius idea and would be a fun twist for many soup recipes.

I'm looking forward to seeing where this blog goes in 2016 there are many more recipes and food ideas for me to conquer and I'll be spending most of 2016 in a new kitchen. I'm very excited for all of the possibilities. Enjoy a safe and happy New Year's Eve! 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Thai Peanut Soup

As we near the beginning of 2016 it's not feeling anymore like winter, but this Thai Peanut Soup is wonderful for all occasions, even if the weather can't decide if it is winter or spring.

Other Soup Wednesday Posts: Cauliflower + Hazelnut Soup with Fried SageUdon Soup with Poached Egg and Bok Choy;  Minestrone with Gnocchi; and Italian Wedding Soup with Veggie Balls.

Recipe from Soup Addict
-2 tablespoons peanut oil
-8 ounces mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
-1 cup diced sweet potatoes (peeled)
-1 small red bell pepper sliced 
-1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
-1 clove garlic
-1 tablespoon red curry paste
-1 teaspoon smoked paprika
-1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
-3 cups vegetable stock
-1 can (14 oz) coconut milk, well-shaken
-juice from one lime
-2 tablespoons soy sauce
-2 tablespoons brown sugar
-1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (optional)
-1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
-3 packs ramen noodles, discard the flavor packets.
-2 green onions, thinly sliced
-1/2 cup chopped peanuts

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium pot. Once hot add the mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and peppers and stir to mix. Cover, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms have given off their liquid, and the sweet potato dices are soft.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil then the ginger, garlic, curry paste, smoked paprika and turmeric to the oil and stir until it is fragrant.
Increase heat to medium-high, and pour in the stock and coconut milk and stir. Add the lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and sesame oil. When the soup is almost boiling, reduce heat to medium-low.
Place the peanut butter in a heat-proof bowl, and add two ladles of the hot soup to it. Whisk until completely mixed, and add to the soup. Add the ramen to the soup, and cook for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
Add half of the green onions to the soup and stir. To serve, ladle soup into bowls, and top with the remaining green onions and chopped peanuts.
This soup was really good. It might have been a little better with one less package of ramen noodles, I thought they kind of took over the soup. However, the flavors were wonderful, everything melded together nicely and it has a good amount of vegetables in it. The peanuts over the top help to add an additional texture, so don't skip them. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Spicy Tofu Roll

I made this Spicy Tofu Roll at the same time that I made the Golden Avocado Roll which I posted yesterday. I think my foray into rolling sushi turned out pretty well. This sushi roll contains several ingredients, but the spicy sauce is really what makes this dish.

Recipe by Hip Foodie Mom

-3 cups cooked white medium grain rice
-1/4 cup Miracle Whip
-½ tablespoon Sriracha sauce + more if desired
-4 sheets nori
-2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
-1 red bell pepper, sliced thin lengthwise
-1 zucchini, julienned (do not peel)
-half package tofu, pan fried and sliced thin into strips
-low sodium soy sauce

For the spicy mayo: Mix together the Miracle Whip and sriracha sauce in a small bowl. Taste and add more sriracha sauce if desired.
To make the sushi rolls: Take one sheet of nori and place onto your sushi rolling mat. Spread about a ½ cup of cooked rice onto ⅔ of the nori, spreading it evenly with your fingers. Make sure to leave one inch uncovered (with no rice at all) at the top.
Lay in all of the raw veggies and the pan fried tofu in the center of the rice. Top with some spicy mayo. Using the mat on the end closest to you, roll from the bottom up and over the ingredients, pressing down gently but firmly to make the fillings stay in and to help shape the roll. (I used this video from Kikoman to help me visually see the rolling process.)
Using your fingers, dab just a little bit of water along the top seam of the dried seaweed and roll to seal it closed. Roll and gently squeeze one last time with the sushi mat to make sure the shape is good, set aside and continue with the other seaweed sheets.
Slice each roll into about 8-10 pieces with a sharp knife. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. This is also good with a little bit of the spicy mayo on the side.


It's difficult for me to say if I liked this one better or the one from yesterday. Dave preferred the avocado roll, but I really enjoyed the spicy sauce that went along with the tofu in this roll. This one also had a really nice array of colors on the inside making for a pretty presentation. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Golden Avocado Sushi

My best friend got us a sushi rolling mat for Christmas (this silicon sushi mat from Bed, Bath and Beyond is the one I'm using) and I'm super excited to adventure into rolling my own sushi. Due to the fact that Dave and I don't eat fish or seafood, a lot of these would be considered vegan sushi rolls as opposed to vegetarian sushi rolls since many vegetarians consume fish/seafood.

Recipe from Healthy Happy Life.

-2 nori wraps
-1 cup cooked sushi rice
-1/2 teaspoons tumeric
-1/4 teaspoons tamari
-2 teaspoons maple syrup
-1/2 avocado thinly sliced
-8-10 strips bell pepper, thinly chopped
-2 teaspoons rice vinegar
-pinch ginger, grated

In a small bowl, combine the rice, turmeric, maple and tamari. Toss well until the rice is bright yellow
Lay a nori wrap flat on your sushi mat and spread 1/2 cup of rice  over about two-thirds of the surface, you'll want to spread the rice to the side edges and to the edges closest to you. Add about a few avocado slices and 4-5 bell pepper slices. Drizzle one teaspoon of rice vinegar over top and add the ginger.

Take the sushi mat and lift the nori and rice closest to you up and over the filing. Squeeze the mat to help distribute the ingredients evenly. Remove the mat and wet the end of the nori on which there is no rice, now finish rolling the sushi roll onto that piece of nori. I used this video from Kikoman to help me understand what I was doing since I'm more of a visual person, check it out to see a visual of what you're doing.
Repeat the above process with the remaining ingredients, then slice and serve. 

My sushi rolls weren't 100% perfect, but I thought they turned out pretty good overall. The tumeric rice was a fun addition and added a nice pop of color to the inside of the sushi. Avocado rolls are part of our go to sushi order, so having the ability to make it at home makes me pretty happy. We served this with a little low sodium soy sauce, but you can easily purchase wasabi and pickled ginger at your local grocery store to improve upon your homemade sushi experience.  

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Green Beans with Nuts and Cranberries

These green beans are a touch sweet, simple but with lots of flavor. The dish bring a much needed element of freshness to any meal.

Recipe from Real Simple.

-1 1/2 lb green beans
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1/2 cup chopped mixed nuts
-1/4 cup minced dried cranberries
-salt and pepper

Boil green beans 4-5 minutes, drain, then submerge in ice water. Drain again and let dry.

Add the oil, mixed nuts (we used walnuts, pecans and almonds), and cranberries to the cooked green beans and toss. Season with salt and pepper, toss again, taste and plate to serve.

For a dish that takes only minutes to prepare, these green beans are sure to impress. The colors are inviting and the fresh green beans really round out the meal.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Veggie Pizza Appetizer

Even though Christmas is over, the celebrations and get-togethers continue this weekend; with that in mind, it helps to have a go-to appetizer recipe that is simple to prepare and incorporates fresh raw vegetables, something we all may have been missing the last few days of eating.

A Vegetarian & Cooking! original.

-1 canister crescent rolls
-4 ounces neufchatel cream cheese, softened
-1 teaspoon ranch seasoning
-1/4 pound snap peas
-1 1/2 cup medley of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrot
-2-3 cherry tomatoes
-1 shallot
-1 teaspoon brown sugar
-1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
-2-3 ounces grated cheddar cheese
-salt and pepper

Spray a foil-lined 9x13 baking sheet with cooking spray and preheat the oven to the temperature on the crescent roll tube. Spread the sheet of crescent roll onto the baking sheet and press it out to fill the entire area. Bake the crescent rolls for about ten minutes, until lightly golden, then let cool.

Meanwhile, peel the shallot and slice thinly, then saute over medium heat for 7 minutes, adding the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar for the last couple minutes.

Mix the softened neufchatel cheese together with ranch seasoning to make a lightly flavored spread; apply it evenly to the crescent roll crust.

Cut the vegetables into small pieces, then distribute the shallot and veggies evenly over the cheese spread. Grate the cheddar cheese over the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, then cut into 16 pieces and serve.

This dish was a hit at the party we brought it to. Prepare it as simply as you desire, when I was in the store thinking about ingredients, I added the snap peas, tomatoes and shallots on my whim over the recipe that was given to me. Be creative with your veggie pizza appetizer and enjoy!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Mini Chocolate Chip Cheesecakes with Salted Caramel Sauce

I'm a huge fan of mini desserts for holidays, after a large meal I think the smaller looking dessert looks more appealing (and you can always go back for seconds and thirds). These can be made a day or two ahead of time, just top with the caramel sauce later!

Merry Christmas, enjoy spending the day with your friends and family.

2015 Christmas Recipes:
Oreo Cookie Crust
-18 whole Oreos
-1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling
-16 oz full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
-3/4 cup granulated sugar
-1/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
-2 large eggs
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
-Salted Caramel Sauce

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line two 12-count cupcake pans with 18 liners.

For the crust: In a food processor or blender, pulse the whole oreos into a fine crumb. Stir the cookie crumbs and melted butter together in a medium sized bowl. Press 1 heaping Tablespoon of mixture into the bottom of each liner. You should have enough for 16-18 cups. Bake in batches for 5 minutes and allow to cool slightly.

To make the filling, beat the cream cheese in a large bowl. Add the sugar and yogurt and beat until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, folding in after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract and mini chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into the crusts until nearly full. Bake each pan for 20-25 minutes. The centers will still be slightly jiggly, that's OK. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely at room temperature, at least 1 hour. Transfer to the refrigerator and allow to chill for at least two hours to allow the cheesecakes to set.

Right before serving, top each cheesecake with salted caramel and additional chocolate chips.

These turned out great! I even took the leftover mini cheesecakes to work after I prepared them and they were a hit with my coworkers. I used the holiday chocolate chips, because I thought it looked more festive, but you can use whatever kind you'd like, even mini. This was simple to prepare and turned out beautifully, a wonderful end to the holiday meal. Merry Christmas! 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Double Corn Bread with Chipotle Cheddar and Sundried Tomatoes

The main course was so packed with veggies I wanted to pick a side dish that would complement that dish rather than compete with it. I thought this corn bread recipe was a fun twist on plain corn bread and that it could stand on it's own rather than competing with the main dish.

2015 Christmas Recipes:
1.) Pomegranate Arancini with Goat Cheese Fonduta

Recipe from the Kitchn

-1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal 
-3/4 cup all-purpose flour 
-4 teaspoons baking powder
-1 tablespoon sugar
-1 teaspoon coarse salt
-1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
-2 large eggs
-1 cup buttermilk 
-1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flavorless vegetable oil 
-1 cup fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears)
-1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons coarsely shredded chipotle cheddar
-2 tablespoons finely chopped olive oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and drained 
-1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and black pepper, and stir to mix together thoroughly. In a second large bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, and ¼ cup of the oil until blended. Stir into this second bowl the corn, 1/2 cup of the cheese, the tomatoes, and the parsley.

Add the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and fold together until combined.

Grease a 9 inch pie pan and pour the batter into the pie pan. Sprinkle the remaining two tablespoons

Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the top is golden. Serve hot or at room temperature, cut into wedges.

Dave and I both enjoyed this corn bread a lot, especially with the Italian Wedding Soup from yesterday. I think it could have used a little bit more tomatoes and parsley in the batter to help round it out a little more, but the chipotle cheddar cheese (mine was a Sargento tasting) add a nice hint of heat and additional flavor. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Italian Wedding Soup with Veggie Balls

I always like the idea of having soup as the main course for big holiday meals. This makes a huge pot of soup and most of the cook time is down time, which gives you the chance to prepare other parts of meal rather than spending too much time perfecting the main dish. It just so happens that today is soup Wednesday also, so I thought this would be a nice addition to the holiday meal I was planning.

2015 Christmas Recipes:

Other Soup Wednesday Posts: Cauliflower + Hazelnut Soup with Fried Sage; Udon Soup with Poached Egg and Bok Choy; and Minestrone with Gnocchi.

For the soup
-1 medium onion, cut into chunks
-1 small carrot, cut into chunks
-4 clove garlic, peeled
-2 oz fresh basil
-⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
-3½ quarts cold water
-1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into ½-inch shreds
-4 ounces spinach, cut into ½-inch shreds
-1 lb zucchini, cut into ½-inch pieces
-2 tbsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
-1½ lb cheese tortellini

For the veggie balls
-1 large eggplant, unpeeled
-salt, to taste
-1 cup + ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs, divided
-¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
-2 tbsp minced parsley
-1 garlic clove, minced
-freshly ground black pepper
-1 large egg, lightly beaten
-extra virgin olive oil, for frying

First, start the soup. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the onion, carrot, garlic, and basil. Pulse until it forms a smooth paste, called a pestata.

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over high heat and scrape the pestata into the pot. Cook, stirring until the pestata has released liquid and started to dry out a bit, about 5 minutes. Pour the cold water into the pot, scraping up the pestata from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the broth, covered, for about 15 minutes. Stir in the greens, zucchini, and salt. Return to a simmer and cook, covered, for 25 minutes, and uncovered for 20 minutes. Add the tortellini in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
While the soup simmers, prepare the veggie balls. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Bring 2 quarts of water with 1 tbsp of salt mixed in to a boil over high heat. Add the eggplant and boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until eggplant is cooked, pressing them down into the water regularly. Drain in a colander and push out as much water from them as you can using the back of a spoon. Finely chop eggplant.
In a bowl, combine the eggplant, 1 cup of panko, cheese, parsley, and garlic. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Mix in the egg. Roll the eggplant mixture into small balls that are about 1-inch in diameter and set them on a platter. Put the remaining panko in a small bowl and roll each ball in the breadcrumbs to coat evenly. Set the coated balls on a clean tray.
Pour the olive oil into a 10-inch skillet to a depth of ½ inch. Turn the heat to medium and when the oil begins to shimmer, put a test ball in the skillet. If it sizzles immediately, then the oil is hot enough. When the oil is ready, carefully put the balls in the skillet in a single layer.
Fry, turning gently with a spoon, until browned all over, about 3 minutes total. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining balls until all of them have been cooked.

Serve the soup topped with veggie balls.

This soup easily made 8-10 servings which is great if you're serving a crowd. I thought the eggplant veggie balls were the best part of the soup, they really helped to add another layer of flavor. I think this was a wonderful vegetarian take on a classic dish that usually includes meat. Just make sure to check the seasoning, the soup can be bland if there's not enough salt to bring out the flavors. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Pomegranate Ginger Fizz Cocktail

I had another cocktail planned for this part of the meal, but it turned out that I didn't actually have any of the ingredients like I thought I did. I made this cocktail using ingredients that we already had in our kitchen and I think it turned out pretty well. I did free pour the ingredients, but I tried to properly estimate them for you so that you can replicate the drink.

2015 Christmas Recipes:
1.) Pomegranate Arancini with Goat Cheese Fonduta

A Vegetarian & Cooking! original.

-¾ cup sugar
-¾ cup water
-1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
-2 ounces pomegranate juice
-2 ounces Triple Sec
-1 cup chilled Ginger Beer
-4 mint springs

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Add a few tablespoons of simple syrup to each glass, one ounce pomegranate juice, one ounce Triple Sec and then top off with ginger beer. Garnish with pomegranate seeds and mint springs.  

I thought this turned out pretty well considering it's not what I intended on making. If you want to make this drink stronger you could sub our gin or vodka for the Triple Sec. I wanted to keep this drink pretty light, so the lower alcohol Triple Sec did the trick. The mix of pomegranate and orange is nice and the mint springs help make it a little more festive. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Pomegranate Arancini with Goat Cheese Fonduta

This is the first recipe in my Christmas dinner series for this year. When I found this appetizer I appreciated how beautiful it looked and how easy it would be to prepare, you can prep the arancini a day or so ahead of time and store them in the fridge then deep fry them before serving so they're hot.

2015 Christmas Recipes:
1.) Pomegranate Arancini with Goat Cheese Fonduta

Recipe from Cooking for Keeps.

-2 tablespoons butter
-1/2 small onion, finely diced
-1 garlic clove, minced
-1 cup arborio rice
-1/2 cup dry white wine
-3 cups hot low-sodium vegetable stock
-½ cup parmesan cheese
-1 egg
-1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
-3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, plus more for garnish
-3/4 cup bread crumbs, divided
-5 ounces goat cheese
-½ cup cream or half & half
-Canola oil for frying

In a medium saute pan melt butter over a medium heat and then add the onion and garlic. Cook until fragrant. Add rice, stir to combine, cook another two minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine, stir until liquid is just absorbed. Add 1/2 cup HOT vegetable stock, stir until almost absorbed. Repeat until all stock is gone. Season with a little bit of salt and pepper after every other addition.

The risotto is done when the mixture is creamy, and the rice is tender, but still has a bite. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Spread on to a baking sheet to cool the rice before the next steps..

Once mixture has completely cooled, transfer to a mixing bowl. Add cheese, egg, parsley, pomegranate seeds and ¼ cup breadcrumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Form into 1 ½ inch balls. Add remaining breadcrumbs in a small bowl, season with salt and pepper. and then coat the arancini in bread crumbs.

Heat about two inches of oil in a large heavy pot to 350 degrees. Then fry arancini in batches until each is golden brown. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle a little salt over them while they're still hot.

In a small saucepan, heat cream and goat cheese over a medium low heat, stirring occasionally until cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper.


I really enjoyed this as an appetizer. I love risotto and deep frying pretty much anything automatically makes it better. The pomegranate seeds add a nice touch to this, having the burst of color and freshness is unique and not present in other arancini recipes. The goat cheese fonduta added another layer of flavor, but you could skip it if you want to make this dish easier to prepare.