Most Popular Recipes of 2015

2015 has been a beautiful, challenging year. More than any other year I feel like I have grown up in 2015.  

While I did recently celebrate a birthday that is getting pretty close to 30, it was some difficult experiences that really made me feel my age this year: navigating through challenging family circumstances, watching a close friend experience a scary medical diagnosis, supporting another friend through a life-altering break-up, talking through BIG life decisions with Adam, and thinking hard about what really matters and the kind of life that I want to live. It's been, in a word, heavy. 

But there has been lightness and fun, too. There were weekend trips to Charleston and Asheville, and the grand adventure of living in D.C. for the summer.  I ran in two races, had dinner parties with friends, celebrated 10 years with my favorite person, and walked behind a waterfall in the North Carolina mountains. 

And, of course, I cooked and ate and shared lots of good food. Here are the 12 most popular recipes on the blog from 2015.

Thank you  for reading!


Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts, Pomegranates, Pistachios and Parmesan Cream Sauce

In need of something to cook for New Year's Eve?

I've got you covered with this festive, decadent yet still healthy dish: gnocchi with brussels sprouts, pomegranates, pistachios, and parmesan cream sauce.

Almost a year ago, I saw this instagram photo of this dish from one of our favorite restaurants in Charlotte, Good Food on Montford.  I've been dying to make it ever since, although it's taken me a while to make the attempt.

While the original version has duck and a lot of cream sauce, my version is vegetarian with a higher vegetable to gnocchi ratio. However, I still use real butter, cream, and some high quality parmesan cheese for flavor and richness.

The potato pillows of loveliness and brussels sprouts are coated in a layer of creamy cheese sauce,  with pistachios for crunch and pomegranate seeds for sweetness.  It's an elegant and colorful dish that is also quite easy to make.

Because food photography requires me to be constantly chasing the sunlight, (which this rainy weather has made even more difficult!) I chopped the brussels sprouts and de-seeded the pomegranate the night before, which made this recipe even faster to make.

The ideal time for sunlight in my house is between 11:00am and 1:00pm, so we ate this gnocchi at lunch time after I snapped a few quick photos. I always know a recipe is good if I'm rushing through photos so that I can eat it...

We just returned from a week-long trip with family, so our house is full of unpacked suitcases and miscellaneous gift boxes.  We haven't vacuumed or swept the kitchen floor in weeks.

BUT, for Sunday lunch I had gnocchi with brussels sprouts, pomegranates, pistachios and parmesan cream sauce, so I'm feeling pretty put together. :)

Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts, Pomegranates, Pistachios and Parmesan Cream Sauce

1 pound gnocchi
2 tablespoons butter
12 ounces brussel sprouts, halved
3/4 cup freshly shaved parmesan cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt & pepper
pomegranate seeds

Cook gnocchi according to package directions, being sure to add salt to the water. Drain and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons butter to a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once butter is melted, add brussels sprouts.  Add salt and pepper to taste. (I like to turn all the brussels sprouts cut side down to that the cut side browns nicely first) Cook for 2-3 minutes or until slightly browned. Add the gnocchi. Continue cooking on medium high for another 2-3 minutes, or until brussels sports are starting to soften and the gnocchi is lightly browned.

Reduce heat to medium low. Add the parmesan cheese and heavy cream. Stir until cheese is melted. (The cream may seem to "disappear" into the gnocchi. We were ok with this, but feel free to add more cream if you want more sauce!)

Serve plates of the gnocchi and brussels sprouts. Top each plate with a handful of pistachios and pomegranate seeds.

Inspired by Good Food on Montford, via Jen's Instagram.

Links on Kindness

5 days until Christmas.

12 days until 2016.

I have so many thoughts about 2015, but if one thing is certain, it's that our world could use a little more kindness, both for others and ourselves. Here are some kindness links for your week.

This poem, "In Praise of Small Kindness" makes me cry and inspires me to be kind to people who especially need it.

This graduation speech by writer George Saunders reminds me that our greatest regrets in life are often "failures of kindness."  An important reminder, especially today, not to stand by silent when people are treated with hatred or discrimination.

Finally, I've been trying to be more kind to myself lately, and have found great comfort and inspiration in this podcast and post by writer Elizabeth Gilbert.

Have a lovely Christmas! I hope you get to sleep in, wear warm socks, and eat lots of Christmas cookies. If you're wondering what to make Christmas morning, may I suggest orange blossom brioche french toast or orange cinnamon rolls with eggnog icing?


Holiday Weekend in D.C.

Hi friends.  Despite the fact that I'm done with law school for the semester (!!!) life has been complicated and busy, and I haven't had time to make anything for you in the kitchen. 

However, I just returned from a weekend trip to D.C., so I thought I'd share a few pictures of my foodie adventures with you. 

One highlight of the trip was getting to visit the Momofuku Milk Bar. I've been wanting to try this trendy New York City bakery for several years after learning about master chef Christina Tosi.  Her recipes are unique and inventive and I love supporting women in male-domainted careers. 

The D.C. Milk Bar opened late this summer a few weeks after I left the city, and I was bummed to have missed it.  

Therefore, I was super excited to get to experience Milk Bar on this trip. I bought one of each variety of cookie, some birthday cake truffles, and this cereal milk soft serve. So good!

I've also heard amazing things about Christina's crack pie recipe.

On Saturday night, my friend Tori and I went to a holiday gala at the French embassy, where I drank too much champagne and beamed when a cute french man with mustache called me "Mademoiselle."

We also sampled some elegant French pastries....(the macaroon was my favorite)

Over the course of the weekend, we saw ice sculptures, the national Christmas tree, and a random assortment of people in santa costumes for SantaCon.

Finally, we met the former Whitehouse pastry chef and saw the Whitehouse Gingerbread.

I was amazed to learn that the secret to holding all that gingerbread together is tempered chocolate that is applied like paint to the back of each piece. It works like glue and keeps the gingerbread from drying out or folding in the humidity!

I hope you have a festive, fun-filled week. 10 days until Christmas!


How to Host a Cookie Swap Party

Hi friends, today I'm bringing you some tips on how to host your own holiday cookie swap party!

I am no party planning expert, and these photos are by no means Pinterest worthy.  However, everyone at our cookie swap party had fun and went home with lots of delicious cookies to eat and share. So, here we go!

1.) Plan a fun decorating activity that guests can do at the party.  I had a smaller cookie swap party with 6 guests, so I wanted to plan a fun activity that we could do together. I thought about decorating gingerbread houses, but I quickly realized that was too much work. Instead, I baked Deb's Spicy Gingerbread Cookies  and prepared icing and sprinkles. I used the tips from this post and put the colored icing into into plastic squeeze bottles for easy decorating. My friend Steph's were the prettiest.

2.) Buy pretty packaging for the cookies. Some people took their cookies home in the tupperware they brought them in, but it was also nice to have these little gift bags ready. (I bought mine at Michael's for a couple dollars.)  Everyone made a few different bags. These can be great gifts for neighbors, teachers, the mailman.....anyone!

3.) Decide how you want to collect the recipes. Part of the idea behind a cookie swap party is that everyone can go home with some new cookie recipes. I had guests email me their recipes beforehand, and I printed them in this super simple booklet. To make it easier on yourself, you could also just ask guests to bring printed copies of their recipe for everyone.

4.) Invite awesome people. Yay friends!  Evite and Paperless Post are great options for online invitations. 

5.) Have some non-sweet snacks for people to munch on. Because too much sugar=the shakes. :)

I had our cookie swap party at lunch time, so I made a broccoli cheddar quiche and put out veggies & hummus and grapes.  Keep it simple.

6.) Keep the Christmas tunes flowing.  We even broke out the NSYNC Christmas album, which did not disappoint...

Other ideas: If you're inviting a lot of people, it might be helpful to make little name cards so that people can label their cookies. This is especially helpful if anyone has a food allergy.

That's pretty much it, friends. I hope you'll host your own holiday cookie swap party.  Enjoy a sample of the cookie recipes below!

Salted Chocolate Chunk Cookies 

Cake Batter Cookies

My Friend Nikki made up the recipe! First whisk together 2 boxes of white cake mix and 2 teaspoons baking powder.  In a separate bowl, whisk together 4 eggs, 3/4 cup vegetable oil, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add 1 cup sprinkles and 1 cup white chocolate chips. Bake tablespoon-sized dough balls at 350 for 9-10 minutes.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

And another variation on the peanut butter blossom with snowflake chocolates. One can never have too much peanut butter, in my opinion.

Snowball Cookies

Chocolate Almond Bark

White Chocolate Peppermint Pretzels 

I also made a few pretzels with dark chocolate for those who don't like peppermint.

Hot Cocoa Cookies with Marshmallows 

I want to know--have you ever been to a cookie swap party before? If so, what have I missed? Or, what holiday cookies would you bring?