Your Favorite Recipes of 2013


Favorite Recipes of 2013

I can’t believe 2013 has come and gone already. This has probably been the best year thus far for me – I planned a wedding, got married, decorated a house, traveled, cooked up a storm and took major leaps with this thing I call Cooking for Keeps. I’m so thankful to have a great family, wonderful husband and lots of loyal readers that keep this blog going each and every day. So without further ado here are YOUR favorite recipes of 2013.

Have a safe and fantastic New Year!

Quinoa Fried Rice

Quinoa Fried Rice

Kourabiedes Greek Butter Cookies


Blue Cheese Stuffed Turkey Meatballs with Raspberry Balsamic Glaze


Loaded Baked Potato Tater Tots

Tater Tots

Southwest Chicken Salad with Healthy Avocado Buttermik Dressing

Southwest Chicken Salad

Balsamic Strawberry Goat Cheese Crostini


Blackened Chicken Burgers with Warm Mango Salsa

Chicken Burgers

Coconut Cupcakes with Lemon Curd and Vanilla Whipped Cream


Classic Queso Fundido with Poblano Chorizo and Tequila


Spaghetti and Meatballs 

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Chicken Enchilada Empanadas

Chicken Enchilada Empanadas 5

Remember that time when I joked about there being a tropical storm when I went to Mexico? Well, it’s day three in beautiful Puerto Vallarta…and….it hasn’t stopped raining. I’ve seen about three hours of sun, and the forecast is telling me I’m only going to get two glorious days of sun before I leave. I’m still pale as a ghost. I’m still aching to point my face towards the big bright light in the sky and fry to a crisp. It makes me feel even worse when all of the locals say, “It never rains in December, ever ever ever.” Thanks I’m well aware of that. Now let me crawl into a ball in the corner and cry.

Chicken Enchilada Empanadas

If you can’t tell I’m a little bitter. You see, I’m kind of addicted to the sun; I could lie on a beach or by a pool for the rest of my life and be a blissful girl. I plan my vacations based on who has the littlest amount of average rainfall during that particular time of year. I live for the heat. I’m that crazy person that tries to get a tan in April when it’s still 58 degrees outside. I get up the crack of dawn just to get an extra hour or two of bronzing time. You get the point. I love sun.

I know it shouldn’t be that big of a deal, I mean, I am in a beautiful city, staying in a gorgeous condo, and eating and drinking like a queen. It’s just that I get really disappointed when I’m let down – especially by the weather. BUT I’m going to try and put a smile on my face and make the best of it. It’s going be hard, but I’m going to do it.

I’m going to go shopping, I’m going to go to the spa, get a nice long massage and facial. And I’m going to eat and drink my face off.

Chicken Enchilada Empanadas 3

We’ve been really lucky with the food situation so far, never a bad meal. We like to eat Mexican pretty much every night when we’re in Mexico (duh), so we’ve had tons of killer guacamole, fondita con chorizo, enchiladas, empanadas and some of the biggest shrimps I’ve ever seen in my life. The food life is a good life.

Chicken Enchilada Empanadas 13

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Easy Sparkling Cranberry Orange Cocktails

Easy Sparkling Cranberry Orange Cocktails 2

Christmas has come and gone and I’m terribly distraught about it. No longer is it acceptable for me to blast Christmas music so loud there’s a constant ringing of Jingle Bells in my ears. Or to sing Amy Grant’s Breathe of Heaven like I have the voice of an Angel. Or to be captivated by every single cheesy Lifetime Christmas movie that’s on.

Nope folks, all of that fun stuff is over.

BUT the one thing that lingers on well after Christmas?? The parties. Late December through January still has a steady stream of get-togethers and celebrations since New Year’s Eve is right around the corner and there wasn’t enough time to fit in all the holiday parties between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What are your plans for New Year’s? Going to a big fancy party at a hotel or bar? A house party? A nice quiet dinner with friends? Or are you just staying in with a bottle of bubbly and counting down the seconds until midnight right from your couch?

New Year’s Eve is one of those funny holidays where there’s so much anticipation, typically followed by a whole lot of disappointment. I used to be all about finding the best party and didn’t bat an eye when paying over $100 a head for an open bar of cheap well drinks you had to stand in line for an hour to get. It was crowded, some people were extremely over served, and by the end of the night it was impossible to find a cab and you were left standing outside a closed bar, just praying you could get ahold of someone, anyone that could take you home to your warm bed.

Those days are gone for me. Now that I’m an official grownup and all, I’ve found I enjoy myself much more by getting all dressed up, and going to a nice quiet dinner with friends, or just Kevin and I. We have a delicious meal, a few drinks and then ring in the New Year at home with a little bubbly for me and whiskey for him.

Easy Sparkling Cranberry Orange Cocktails
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Brown Butter Oatmeal Praline Cookies

Brown Butter Oatmeal Praline Cookies

I’m not gonna lie, I’m having a very hard time focusing on cookies right now. Each time I go to write this post, I’m left staring at my computer screen blankly for a good twenty minutes. I’ve got nothing. I feel like Carrie Bradshaw with writer’s block, except I’m sooo not Carrie Bradshaw, so really I guess I just have a major case of writer’s block and keep thinking about the scene in Sex and the City where she’s writing her column for Vogue and keeps erasing each ridiculous paragraph she comes up with. (Yes, I realize Carrie Bradshaw is a fictional character.) I’m in the midst of celebrating the holidays and I just can’t bring myself to sit down and crank out a bunch of posts this week. So, while I’m not going to forgo the posts all altogether during the holiday, I am going to take my usual three posts down to two…or one.

I feel like this is the one time of year I need to take a step back and disconnect from work, social media and technology in general. With that said, I’m going to try my best to make this post short and sweet, because I’m sure you have more important things to do right now than listen to me gab about cookies.

Brown Butter Oatmeal Praline Cookies6

BUT, I promise I’ll gab for just a second. The idea for these was derived from a praline cookie made by a friend of my Mom’s who makes the best cookies in the world – no lie. Her specialty is a melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookie, but I also happen to adore her delicate homemade praline cookies. While not the easiest thing to make in the world, they’re so worth the extra effort.

Brown Butter Oatmeal Praline Cookies 5

When I signed up for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and started brainstorming cookie ideas, this was the first one I put to the test. Now, there are a couple points I want to address first:

1. The dough MUST rest for at least two hours or overnight. The dough is quite moist so the extra step of chilling helps to ensure the cookies don’t become flat pancakes during baking
2. These are best served the next day – straight out of the oven the praline is still pretty crispy, I don’t mind it, but Kev preferred them much more the next day.
3. Praline seems intimidating to make, but it’s easy – I promise
4. These are slightly delicate, so they aren’t great for shipping, which is why I made the executive decision to make a different cookie for the blogger swap.

Brown Butter Oatmeal Praline Cookies 4

Other than that, I don’t have much to say, except I hope you enjoy the holidays, get some much needed sleep and get a chance to RELAX!

Happy holidays!

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Blogger Friday: Dark Chocolate and Peppermint Oreo Cookie Balls from Fork Knife Swoon

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Oreo Truffles 4

A few weeks ago, I talked about starting a new Friday tradition every other week by highlighting some drool-worthy recipes I spotted from bloggers I adore. I read these blogs, three, sometimes four and five times a week, cry over their pictures, and wish I was eating what they posted that very second, so I couldn’t think of anything that makes more sense than to try the recipes out for myself. I started with this version of Ashley’s Slow-Cooker French Onion Soup from Cookie Monster Cooking, completely fell in love and gave myself a big pat on the back for starting a posting tradition I knew I was going to love.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Oreo Truffles

Welp, the holiday craziness got the best of me, and I flaked on posting another blogger Friday…until now.

These Dark Chocolate and Peppermint Oreo Cookie Balls Laura made from Fork Knife Swoon immediately caught my eye when she posted them. Of course they were gorgeous as all her pictures are, but what really got me was the combination of dark chocolate and peppermint – a match made in heaven in my book.

I first discovered Laura’s blog when we both participated in the Seafood Sustainability Project to help spread the word on sustainable fishing methods. I was immediately taken with Laura’s photography, styling and her way with words – I’ve been an avid follower ever since.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Oreo Truffles 2

I thought these little guys would be just perfect for a holiday party Kev and I attended last weekend, and my predictions were confirmed after I saw countless people devouring one after the other. They’re decadent, chocolate-y as heck and seriously addictive – the perfect dessert characteristics.

Head over to Fork Knife Swoon to get the recipe!

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Oreo Truffles 3

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