As 2012 winds down, I am very much looking forward to 2013 and hoping for many better days. However, it’s always fun to look back through the blog and be reminded of the many wonderful new recipes we tried over the course of the year. In the next few days I’ll recap my own personal favorites from this year, but first I thought I’d figure out what posts have been the most popular with my readers. As usual, mac and cheese and cupcakes, cupcakes, cupcakes are the highlight for you all! Here are the top 10 most popular posts from the past year on Annie’s Eats.
My hope is to inspire you to be fearless in the kitchen, to try new things, to take the time to make things the homemade way and most importantly, to have fun doing it!
Happy holidays to all of my wonderful readers. Thanks for being awesome and following along with this little space I’ve created. May your days be full of friends and family, love and laughter, and of course, lots of good food!
Cookies are one of my favorite things about the holiday season, and the sheer variety of cookies available at this time of year is mind boggling. Some are intricately decorated or filled with delicious things. As much as I enjoy all of those kinds, I adore the simple elegance of sables. A buttery, crisp cookie dotted with flecks of vanilla bean and crunchy sugar adorning the edges. Lovely for gifting to others, or for a personal indulgence. The other great thing about them is that you freeze the dough and then slice and bake, so you can store the dough and then bake them any time you like. The ingredient list is short and sweet, so it’s a good idea to whip up a batch or two now and then have the dough ready for any last minute people you may have forgotten on your gifting list.
Last year I tried a few different recipes but none turned out quite the way I was hoping so this year I started from scratch and experimented a little more. Thankfully this time around I was able to achieve the sable bliss I was looking for. Now my only problem is keeping away from them so there are some left over for sharing. I guess they need to go up on the top top shelf with the caramel corn.
Note: This recipe was developed as part of my ongoing contribution to the Go Bold with Butter blog. Head over to see my posts as well as more great recipes from the other awesome bloggers involved with the project!
Thanks for all of your enthusiasm about the charity donation “giveaway” – it means so much to know that my readers appreciate the true spirit of the season. I’ll be contacting those winners today and can’t wait to hear which charities they select. Don’t forget, today is the last day of holiday giveaways here on the blog. Today’s giveaway is a fantastic prize courtesy of Nespresso. Head on over to the giveaway page to learn more and enter!
For the cookie dough:
1 cup (16 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise*
2/3 cup vanilla sugar**
2 large egg yolks
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
Turbinado sugar for coating (about ¾ cup)
1 large egg white mixed with 1 tbsp. water
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, seeds scraped from the vanilla bean pods, and vanilla sugar. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Blend in the egg yolks one at a time, and vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, blend in the flour and salt until incorporated and a thick dough forms.
Gather the dough together and transfer to a piece of parchment paper. Form into a log about 1¾-inches in diameter. Roll the dough tightly up in the parchment paper, and twist the ends to seal. Transfer the dough to the freezer and chill until very firm, at least 2-3 hours.
When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. On a piece of wax or parchment paper, pour a line of turbinado sugar for coating the dough log. Remove the dough from the freezer, brush lightly with the egg wash, and roll in the turbinado sugar pressing gently to adhere. Transfer the dough to a cutting board and slice with a sharp knife into rounds just less than ½-inch thick. Place the dough rounds on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the edges are light golden and the cookies are just set, 14-15 minutes total. Let cool on the baking sheets briefly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
*Buying a vanilla bean or two in the grocery store is ridiculously expensive! I buy mine in bulk online, a much cheaper option. Plus then you always have vanilla beans on hand - a very good thing indeed!
** To make vanilla sugar, split a couple of vanilla beans and store in an airtight container with sugar for a while - at least a few days. That's it! If you don't have time to wait for vanilla sugar, no worries. These are just as delicious made with regular sugar.
Here is a peek at a bit of what I’ve been loving this lately. A few fashion finds, kitchen fabulousness, artsy fun, favorite music, a good movie, and a hilarious video. But, before I forget, today’s holiday giveaway is brought to you by King Arthur Flour, one of my favorite companies! Head on over to the giveaway page to learn more and enter.
I’ve had these gorgeous navy heels on my Zappos wishlist for at least a couple of years now. Finally I have a fancy navy dress to wear to a very fancy date we have coming up, so I decided it was time. Bonus – they were on sale!
Another thing that has been on my wishlist for ages are these vintage jewel bracelets with ribbon from Dreamy Vintage on Etsy. Seriously, I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gazed at these bracelets. I decided this would be the perfect finishing touch for my fancy date outfit and now that it’s here, I love it just as much in person!
It really took me a while to come around to the leggings + boots trend, but now I’m totally on board. I finally think it looks cute, not to mention it’s incredibly comfortable. These leggings have become a staple in my wardrobe of late!
Okay, so it’s almost embarrassing to admit, but I have been using the world’s worst, most frustrating garlic press for the past five or six years. It only cost around $20 so I have no idea why I insisted on sticking with it so darn long, but recently I was purchasing some gifts online and added this OXO garlic press for myself on a whim. All I can say is amazing. Should have bought it six years ago. Kicking myself, for sure.
I’ve become quite enamored with canvas prints for decorating our walls, and had heard great recommendations from trusted photographer friends that CG Pro Prints had great quality canvases at a fraction of the price of other vendors. I decided to go for it and ended up ordering 11 canvases, some very large, for a pretty fantastic price. I am thrilled with the quality and just can’t get over the great value! I’m sold. Totally ordering more soon. (And I’ll be sharing some photos of what I did with mine soon!) Just can’t say enough good things about them.
Are you ready for this? Ready to see maybe the coolest cookie blog I’ve EVER seen?! Please, feast your eyes on Arty McGoo. I think I sat with my mouth agape for about 30 minutes while I first perused this site. Her talent and creativity are incredible! Every cookie is a true work of art. I could stare at these for hours, I think. You go, girl.
I think I mentioned before that my friend and I have been taking a knitting class and we have been really been enjoying it. Anyway, our ritual after knitting is dinner at Bru Burger Bar on Mass Ave. Hence, we have named this night of the week…Knit and a Burger. Indy locals, if you haven’t tried this place, you must. The burgers are all amazing. I’ve tried so many of them, and I have loved every one. My current reigning favorite is the provencal. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
It may seem weird since last month I revealed that Britney Spears is one of my all time favorites, but my other all time favorite female artist is undoubtedly Sarah McLachlan. I love her music so much, and it’s the soundtrack I can always count on to calm me down when I need it. When I first discovered her Wintersong album a few years ago, it was like finding the perfect Christmas music for me. This is my absolute ideal holiday soundtrack. Ben can confirm that this is on near constant repeat in our house (with occasional Feliz Navidad, Jingle Bell Rock, and All I Want for Christmas is You for dancing with the kids). I just adore this album (except the Noel track…we’ll just pretend that one didn’t happen.) If you are looking for more holiday music to love, please check this out. I *may* have been listening to it since early September this year. Maybe.
It’s been about a year since Ben and I saw a movie in the theatre. It’s not something we do often, mainly because not many movies are worth getting a babysitter for. However, Ben has always been a Bond fan and I have been one since Daniel Craig took over the role. We have been anticipating Skyfall for quite some time and finally got around to seeing it last week. We really enjoyed it, though to me it was quite different from what I might expect in a Bond film. The villain is infinitely creepier than what I am used to – some kind of cross between the Heath Ledger Joker and Hannibal Lecter. I had bad dreams the whole night after I saw it. But, it was a good movie overall and I’m already kind of wanting to see it again. Judi Dench was fabulous, per usual.
And finally, a bit of humor passed on to me by a reader. I’m sure many of you have seen this already but it was new to me and I think it is hysterically funny as someone who love(d) Instagram. Look at This Instagram (Nickelback Parody) from College Humor. (This is NSFW). Speaking of which, in light of the recent uproar over Instagram, I’ll be deleting my accounts in a snap if these terms aren’t appropriately revised soon. I have no doubt another company can fill this void in a snap, in a way that makes users feel comfortable using the service.
Whenever I entertain, especially when I host large parties, I try to keep things simple. That may not be how it appears to many of you, since so often I receive questions about how I pull these parties off. The truth is, it’s all in the planning. To me, every minute spent planning in advance makes the event that much smoother when party time comes.
I’ve talked about my planning strategies a couple of times before, and this particular appetizer is a perfect example of the kind of recipes I like to have in my repertoire for entertaining. It is elegant enough to deserve a spot on the table, but so incredibly simple that it comes together in mere minutes. Brie pairs so well with fruit, and this particular match with the sweet-tart sugared cranberries is stellar. In fact, of all the items included in our recent holiday party spread, these were by far the crowd favorite (after the sugar cookie tree, of course). This is a perfect option for a snack to enjoy on Christmas or perhaps New Year’s Eve, or could be a great contribution to any other holiday gatherings you might attend. I know we’ll be making these time and time again.
(Side Note: Today’s holiday giveaway is a pair of adorable iPhone cases. Head on over to the giveaway page to learn more and enter!)
24 wheat crackers
About 3 oz. brie, sliced thin
About 1¼ cups sugared cranberries
Place crackers on a serving platter. Top each cracker with a thin slice of brie, and garnish with 3-4 sugared cranberries. Serve.