Top 10 Recipes in 2009

Here are the top 10 recipes on Closet Cooking based on page views in 2009:

My Top 10 Favorite Recipes in 2009

2009 went by so quickly! As has become tradition, I like to set aside some time at the end of the year to look back and from what I have seen, 2009 was certainly a tasty year! I wanted to come up with a list of my 10 favorite dishes of 2009 and in my first pass I still had well over 50 recipes and it had been really hard to get it down to that size. I was finally able to whittle it down to the following 10 recipes.

Medjool Date and Walnut Bread

Medjool Date and Walnut Bread


With all of the chaos that comes with the holidays I wanted to make sure that breakfasts were taken care of. Quick breads like this one keep well in the fridge for up to a week and in the freezer for even longer so you can easily make a loaf or two and have breakfasts ready to go for a while. I like to cut the loaf into slices and individually wrap them as soon as the loaf has cooled down so that they are even more convenient. You can pull out a slice in the morning and with just a few seconds in the microwave it is almost as good as when it was fresh from the oven.

When the medjool dates were in season and cheap I picked up a bunch of them and I thought that date bread would be really nice for breakfasts for the holidays. I decided to start with one of my favorite quick bread recipes that includes lots of good stuff including: maple syrup, yogurt and a banana that allow you to cut back on the oil. It also includes the goodness of rolled oats and some of the all purpose flour is replaced with whole wheat flour to make it a bit healthier. I could not resist adding a nut to the quick bread and this time I went for walnuts. This quick bread is nice and light and fluffy and moist and full of flavour! The fresh dates worked really well in the quick bread retaining their moisture and added a really nice texture and natural sweetness. I certainly have been enjoying breakfasts these last few days!

Pear Salad with and Bacon, Gorgonzola and Candied Walnuts

Pear Salad with and Bacon, Gorgonzola and Candied Walnuts


After a little over indulging on the holiday weekend I was looking for something on the lighter side and a salad fit the bill perfectly. When I made the candied walnuts last week and I immediatly thought about using some of them in a salad. One of my favorite winter salads is a pear salad and I was thinking that adding candied walnuts to a pear salad would work really well. Gorgonzola and pears are another great flavour combo and I could not resist adding some to the salad. With sweet and tangy taken care of I added bacon for some saltiness and I then finished the salad off with a simple maple dijon vinaigrette that used walnut oil for even more walnut flavour. This pear salad is pretty simple and yet so good! The pear, gorgonzola, bacon and candied walnut combination is really nice and it works well in a salad.

Happy Holidays!

The next few days are going to be pretty busy with family and food. Before all of the activities get started I wanted to make sure that I got the chance to say: Happy Holidays! And may they filled with lots of tasty food! :)

Cranberry and Pistachio White Chocolate Bark

Cranberry and Pistachio White Chocolate Bark


I have been seeing recipes for bark since I started food blogging and I have always wanted to try making some. Bark seems to be pretty simple in concept, being chocolate that is melted and then topped with goodies. After the chocolate has cooled it is broken into pieces that I guess resemble pieces of bark. With the cranberry, pistachio and white chocolate combo still fresh on my mind I figured that it was the perfect time to try making some holiday bark. I decided to mix the cranberries and pistachios into the melted chocolate rather than just sprinkling them on top as I figured the bark would hold together better. The cranberry, pistachio and white chocolate bark turned out great! I used some good quality white chocolate that was nice and creamy and it felt like it was just melting in your mouth and it went perfectly with the cranberries and pistachios.

Given the simple concept of bark, there are near endless possibilities. Peppermint or candy cane bark seems to be another popular bark recipe around the holidays. A while ago when I was having trouble finding the bacon chocolate bar that I had heard about I was seriously considering melting down some good dark chocolate and making some bacon bark! Bacon bark aside, I am looking forward to experimenting with bark some more.

Hot Caramelized Onion Dip

Hot Caramelized Onion Dip


When entertaining over the holidays it is a good idea to have some tasty appetizers on hand. Although the holiday cookies are always welcome it is also nice to have something savoury and it is hard to go wrong with a melted cheesy dip! A while ago I made a hot sweet onion dip that was so good! The sweet onion went surprisingly well with the melted cheese! While I was enjoying the hot sweet onion dip I thought, why not caramelize the onions first? I had to try the caramelized onion version of the dip so I filed the idea away for later and now was the time to finally try it. Properly caramelizing onions can take a bit of patience as it takes several hours to slowly cook them down until they have turned a nice golden brown colour but the final result is so worth the effort. After cooking for all of that time the onions that started out pretty pungent mellow out and in fact become quite sweet. These sweet caramelized onions worked amazingly well in the savoury, creamy dip covered in melted cheesy goodness! I enjoyed the hot caramelized onion dip on a sliced fresh whole grain baguette but chips or even vegetables would also make for some great dipping pleasure.

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti Dipped in White Chocolate

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti Dipped in White Chocolate


Cranberries and pistachios are a great combo that and it is the perfect combo for the holidays with the red and green colours. White chocolate is the third component of this amazing flavour combination and I often enjoy making it in chocolate chip cookie form. While I was making the chocolate and pistachio biscotti I was thinking about a cranberry and pistachio version. I figured that I already had some biscotti on my holiday cookie platter and that I did not need a second one but days later I was still thinking about it so I had to whip up a batch. Normally I would just add the white chocolate chips or chunks to the biscotti but this time I thought that I would change things up a bit and dip the biscotti into some melted white chocolate. I could barely wait for the white chocolate to cool before photographing and digging into the biscotti. The cranberries and pistachios work really well in biscotti form and I am certainly glad that I made them. I also really liked the white chocolate dip and I look forward to experimenting more with chocolate dipped biscotti. My holiday cookie tray is looking more complete every day now!

Apple Pie French Toast

Apple Pie French Toast

I often find myself looking forward to breakfasts on the weekend. During the week breakfasts are always rushed and I don't usually have the time to do anything special. On the weekend however I like to take the time to make a real breakfast and one of my favorites is french toast. Although plain french toast is always nice I often like to play around with french toast by adding different flavours and I am always on the lookout for new ideas. Recently I came across this apple pie french toast on Judy in here Natural Habitat: The Kitchen that sounded so amazingly good that I just had to try it! This apple pie french toast uses apples in a caramel sauce along with candied walnuts as a topping. You just can't go wrong with the apple and caramel combo and having it for breakfast sounded decadently good and it was! Caramel sauce can sometimes be a bit tricky to make but the one in this recipe was nice and easy and it tasted great! Of course, with all of the caramel sauce there is certainly no need for syrup and I even licked my plate clean to make sure that none of it went to waste. This is easily my favorite french toast so far and it is just like eating apple pie for breakfast!

Candied Walnuts

Candied Walnuts


A recipe that I wanted to make called for some candied walnuts which sounded really good. I have candied pecans in the past and I was looking forward to candying a new type of nut. A quick search brought me to this recipe for candied walnuts on Simply Recipes that candied the walnuts in nothing less than a simple caramel! You pretty much just melt some sugar, let it caramelize, mix in the nuts, pour them onto a baking sheet and let them cool. After that it is just a matter of breaking them apart and then its time to start enjoying them. Candied nuts have many uses from simply snacking on them to using them as ingredients in other recipes and they go well in sweets like ice cream and even in salads.

These candied walnuts are so good! They remind me of caramel popcorn and they are disappearing almost as quickly! Just like a pinch of salt in caramel sauce works well, it also works really well in these candied walnuts where the salt contrasts with and balances the their sweetness nicely. I have been snacking on them since they cooled enough to eat, though I will have to stop soon if I want any left for tomorrow to use in the recipe that I made them for.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Apple Chutney

Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Apple Chutney


I did not mean to brig you another grilled cheese sandwich so soon after the last one but as I was cleaning out the fridge, like I do every Friday night, I came across some of the apple chutney that I made a while ago. Since it had been busy day I had been looking for something simple for dinner anyways, a grilled cheese sandwich with apple chutney was a perfect fit. I really like the way that sweet, tangy, hot and spicy chutneys work with the melted cheese in grilled cheese sandwiches and I enjoy them fairly frequently. I also enjoy adding apple slices to grilled cheese sandwiches so adding some of the apple chutney sounded like a win win situation and it was! I think that this apple chutney grilled cheese sandwich is now my favorite chutney style grilled cheese sandwich so far. It is always fun to find things that you had forgotten about when cleaning out the fridge and this time it turned into a quick and easy meal on a busy Friday night.

Chocolate and Pistachio Biscotti

Chocolate and Pistachio Biscotti


Biscotti is a cookie that I tend to associate with the holidays. Perhaps that is because I generally only see it during the holidays but none the less I wanted to make some this year. Biscotti is a twice baked cookie where you form the simple dough into a long oval and bake it. Once it has baked long enough to cut it you pull it out and slice it into long fingers and bake them until they are nice and crisp and golden brown. One of the things that I like most about biscotti is that there are so many different thing that you can put in them form nuts, to chocolate, to dried fruit to spices, etc. This year I was thinking that a chocolate biscotti with pistachios would be nice. I often like to combine green pistachios with red dried cranberries but with the cookie being chocolate you would not be able to see the cranberries too well so I decided to double up the chocolate with some chocolate chips. With the chocolate biscotti, my holiday cookie platter is now starting to look more complete!

Biscotti, by its nature it a hard and dry cookie which makes it perfect for dipping into warm drinks like coffee, tea or a mug of hot chocolate which is perfect for getting into the holidays.

Mushroom and Prosciutto Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Mushroom and Prosciutto Grilled Cheese Sandwich


With the holidays quickly approaching my days have been busy and I have been looking for quick, easy and light meals. When I think about quick and easy meals one of the first things that always comes to mind are sandwiches and recently I have been enjoying playing around with grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with more than just the cheese. I have not have a mushroom fix in a while and I had been craving them! The two ideas collided to form something magical in my mind. I decided to cook the mushrooms in my favorite way, to saute them along with some onions, garlic and thyme until they are nice and golden brown and caramelized. From there of course came adding the to a sandwich with some cheese for which I went with a mild cheese, mozzarella, so as to not steal the show from the mushrooms. I also happened to have some leftover prosciutto on hand and you can never go wrong by adding salty cured ham products to a grilled cheese sandwich. The mushroom and prosciutto grilled cheese sandwich, or the mushroom melt, turned out really well! The crispy, buttery, lightly toasted bread wrapping the ooey, gooey, melted cheese and caramelized mushrooms was amazing! These mushroom melt sandwiches certainly satisfied my mushroom cravings.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies


Other than cooking bacon with a little maple syrup I never really thought about combining it with sweet things. Shortly after I started food blogging I heard about bacon chocolate bars and I immediatly had to hunt them down to try! Eventually I did find them and I really enjoyed the subtle salty and smokiness that the bacon added to the dark chocolate. Shortly after that I came across a post about bacon chocolate chip cookies! Since I was already sold on the bacon and chocolate combo I knew that I would have to try making chocolate chip cookies with bacon but I kept putting it off. Since then the bacon chocolate chip cookies seem to have taken the food blogging world by storm with new posts appearing every few days.

Candied Bacon

Candied Bacon


I have been wanting to try making candied bacon ever since I first came across the idea a long while ago. Candied bacon is essentially bacon that is coated in brown sugar and then baked until the brown sugar has melted, wrapping the salty bacon in its sweet embrace. Of course I immediatly thought of trying a maple version and I knew that both versions would be great. When I was in scouts when I was a kid, we always used to make pancakes with bacon at least once every time we went camping. When you've got a plate full of pancakes all covered in maple syrup it's kind of hard to keep the bacon from getting syrup on it and the combo is really good! That got us to thinking and the next time we made pancakes with bacon we sped things up a bit by adding the maple syrup to the pan while the bacon was frying and the results were so good! It's hard to go wrong with salty bacon covered in sweet, slightly caramelized maple syrup!

When the bacon is the star of the show like in this candied bacon, it's time to get the good stuff, a nice thick cut of bacon fresh from the butcher rather than the shrink wrapped grocery store variety. Since I could not decide whether to go with the brown sugar version or the maple syrup version I just decided to go with both and I made half with each. The candied bacon was super easy to make and the results were nothing short of amazing! The crispy and salty bacon went so well all covered in the caramelized sweetness! I am looking forward to making this again and again! I was thinking that you could also experiment with adding other flavours such mixing some mustard in with the maple syrup.

Granny Smith Apple and Gorgonzola Pizza

Granny Smith Apple and Gorgonzola Pizza


I have really been into the butternut squash and gorgonzola combo lately and it all started with the roasted butternut squash and caramelized onion pizza with gorgonzola and crispy fried sage that I made a while ago. While I was enjoying that pizza I thought that gorgonzola would also go really well with apples and I thought that an apple and gorgonzola pizza would also be really nice. The idea has been percolating in my head for a while and now that the apples are in season it was the perfect time to turn it into a reality. I figured that the soft gorgonzola dolce would melt really nicely and work as the 'sauce' of the pizza but it felt a little bare with just he cheese and the sliced apples. I borrowed the idea of adding the caramelized onions from the butternut squash pizza and I went with red onions to add a bit of colour. I also added a splash of balsamic vinegar to the onions for a kick of extra flavour. While researching apple pizzas on the web I came across one that used walnuts and the pizza was now complete. The apple and gorgonzola pizza with caramelized onions and walnuts turned out amazingly well! The gooey melted tangy gorgonzola worked really well with the tart apples and sweet caramelized onions and the walnuts added a great contrasting texture. Overall I was really pleased with the way the pizza turned out and I will definitely be making it again and again. Pear and gorgonzola is also a great combo and I think that a pear version of this pizza would also work really well.

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Omelette with Gorgonzola and Sage

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Omelette with Gorgonzola and Sage


With the hustle and bustle of the holidays it is always nice to be able to sit down and relax while having a nice warm home cooked breakfast. Lately I have been enjoying playing with omelettes which are always nice for a slow weekend breakfasts. I have also been thinking about the roasted butternut squash with caramelized onions, gorgonzola and crispy fried sage side dish ever since I made it and I thought that an omelet version would work out really well. Instead of roasting the butternut squash I was thinking that I could just add it to the pan after caramelizing the onions. Once the squash was tender I could add the sage and gorgonzola and let it start to melt before pouring in the eggs. A nice one pan omelette! The butternut squash and caramelized onion omelette with gorgonzola and sage turned out beautifully! The sweet caramelized onions and butternut squash went really well with the tangy gorgonzola and sage and the warm just set eggs wrapped everything up really quite nicely. Once again I was reminded of how amazing this flavour combination really is! While I was enjoying the omelette I was daydreaming about new flavour combinations that I would like to try in omelettes...

Presto Pasta Nights #143

Presto Pasta Nights #143


Has it really already been over a year since I hosted Presto Pasta Nights #67? The time is just flying by... but once again I am pleased and honoured to be hosting Presto Pasta Nights, the weekly food event that rounds up as many tasty pasta dishes that it can get its hands on to share with the world. Without further adieu, on to the pasta:

Chocolate Turtle Cookies

Chocolate Turtle Cookies


The holiday baking season is upon us and since you can never have too many holiday cookie recipes I have joined up with 12 other bloggers to bring you The Ultimate Baker's Dozen Christmas Cookie Exchange. In addition to bringing you great holiday cookie ideas, 7 of the participating bloggers will be giving away cookie of the month club memberships! To see all of the participating bloggers, and to learn more about the cookie giveaways, please visit the Baker's Dozen home site at www.13CookieChristmas.info .

Caramel Apple Pork Chops

Caramel Apple Pork Chops


I am always on the lookout for quick and tasty meals and when I came across this recipe for caramel apple pork chops I bookmarked it immediatly! Yep, you heard me right, this is pork chops covered in a simple caramel sauce and apples. It's always nice when you can combine a dessert ingredient like caramel into your main course. Pork and apples are a great combination and apples and caramel are a great combination so why not mix the two up? This dish is as simple as cooking the pork chops followed by simmering the apples in the caramel sauce and you have a really tasty meal in almost no time at all. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the pork, apple and caramel sauce combination worked for a main course and I will definitely be making this again and again! Don't be afraid to ask for another caramel cover pork chop for dessert! :)

Spinach and Feta Lasagna (aka Spanakopita Lasagna)

Spinach and Feta Lasagna (aka Spanakopita Lasagna)


While I was doing my meal planning for this week, two things were on my mind; one, I needed to do a pasta dish since I am hosting Presto Pasta Nights this week and two, I was craving spanakopita . Naturally, at some point I decided to combine the two and do a pasta version of a spanakopita. At first I was just going to go with a quick pasta dish with spinach, feta and herbs but this combination of two great meals deserved something more and I decided to go all out and make a spanakoptia lasagna. The recipe was pretty easy to come up with, being just the spanakopita filling all layered with lasagne noodles and melted mozzarella cheese. Although the lasagna was straight forward to put together it took a bit of effort but it was so worth it! The amazing spinach, herb and feta flavour combination worked just as well in lasagna form as it did in phyllo pie form. I now really don't know which I prefer, the lasagne noodles and melted mozzarella or the light and flaky phyllo version. I will have to make both versions many more times and find out. :) I was thinking that you could easily replace some or all of the spinach with chard or kale to change things up a bit.

Hosting Presto Pasta Nights #143

Presto Pasta Nights #143


It's been a while but once again I have the honour of hosting Presto Pasta Nights! Presto Pasta Nights is a pasta based food blogging event created by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast that has been serving up tasty pasta dishes for almost three years now. This food blogging event is nice and simple; you send the host, in this case me, a photo of your pasta dish and link to your post about the pasta dish and on Friday the host posts a roundup of all the wonderful pastas so that every one can enjoy them all. Pasta dishes definitely rank high among my favourite foods and I am looking forward to seeing all of your tasty pastas!

Please email your entries to me at lynch (dot) kevin (at) gmail (dot) com and cc ruth (at) 4everykitchen (dot) com by Thursday December the 10th for the Friday December the 11th roundup. Don't forget to link to Closet Cooking and Presto Pasta Nights in the post so that your readers can find the roundup. Take a look at the complete guidelines for submission and you can find out who is hosting Presto Pasta Nights in the future.

Pay It Forward

I have drawn the names (via random.org) and the results are:
comment #63 Eve of Young Wives' Tale
comment #2 Rachael of Spache The Spatula
comment #9 Velva of Tomatoes on the Vine
I look forward to hearing from each of them and sending out the packages of foodie goodies!

Roasted Eggplant, Red Pepper and Green Bean Pomegranate Salad

Roasted Eggplant, Red Pepper and Green Bean Pomegranate Salad


While I was researching the roasted butternut squash and pomegranate salad I came across the idea of a Mediterranean feta salad with pomegranate dressing . Not only did it include pomegranates, that I am currently really into, but it also starred two of my favorite ingredients, roasted eggplant and roasted red peppers. I like both the roasted eggplant and roasted red peppers so much that I could easily eat them plain but this salad sounded too good to do that!

I took the basic idea from the recipe made some modifications. I started by replacing the spices that seasoned the eggplant with the ones that I used in the roasted butternut squash and pomegranate salad as I had really liked them. I then replaced the pomegranate dressing with the pomegranate vinaigrette that I had been using recently. I also added some chopped toasted walnuts and I replaced the parsley with some mint which I though would go better in the salad.

Eggplant can sometimes be bitter and the trick to a good eggplant dish is to properly salt the eggplant before using it. You want to generously sprinkle the eggplant with salt and let it sit for a good 20-30 minutes and then rinse the salt and and pat it dry. If you do this you won't have to suffer through bitter eggplant again. The roasted eggplant, red pepper and green bean pomegranate salad turned out amazingly well! The eggplant was roasted perfectly, such that it practically melted in your mouth and the spices coating it were really nice. This salad was an amazing combination of spices, flavours, texture and even colours! I have been making a lot of pomegranate salads lately and this one is easily my favorite!

Chicken and Date Pastilla

Chicken and Date Pastilla

I have been wanting to try making a pastilla for a while now and when I saw a recipe for a chicken and date pastilla in this months Food & Drink magazine it was like fate as I still had a bunch of fresh medjool dates! A pastilla (aka bastilla, bisteeya, b'steeya, bstilla and b'stilla) is a sweet and savoury Moroccan meat pie that is wrapped in light and flaky phyllo dough. The pastilla contains a lot of my favorite things from a good tagine including a really nice combination of Moroccan spices, tender meat, sweet dates and raisins, slivered almonds and fresh parsley and cilantro. After the pie is baked until the phyllo is nice and golden brown, light and flaky it is dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon adding another nice layer of sweet to weave into the already complex dish. This pie takes a bit of effort to make but it is well worth the trouble! The pastilla is a perfect combination of sweet and savoury and the flavours, textures and the spicy aroma will just make you swoon. I am certainly looking forward to enjoying the leftovers!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Salad

Roasted Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Salad


The grocery stores are still full of pomegranates and I could not resist picking some more up. Pomegranates seem to be made perfectly for throwing into salads and I was thinking about salads again while deciding what to do with these ones. This time I wanted to try something more seasonal and a bit different from the last few pomegranate salads than I had made. I also happened to have some butternut squash and hand and it kept popping into my head so I thought, why not a warm roasted butternut squash and pomegranate salad? Pomegranates have a Mediterranean feel to them so I thought that it would be nice to season the butternut squash with some Mediterranean spices before roasting them for an extra kick of flavour. Other that the roasted butternut squash and the pomegranate seeds, I called upon the usual suspects for a salad including some romaine lettuce, walnuts and feta. Of course I had to go with the pomegranate vinaigrette that I have been enjoying so much lately for the dressing. The warm roasted spiced butternut squash went well in the salad and the contrasting temperatures, textures and flavours were really amazing. While I was enjoying the salad I thought that it would also work well with other types of squash or pumpkins, sweet potatoes or even beets. I am looking forward to playing around with this kind of salad some more.

Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche with a Brown Rice Crust

Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche with a Brown Rice Crust


With some of the heavier meals that I have been having recently I was looking for something lighter for breakfasts this week. When I am looking for lighter breakfasts, egg casseroles often some to mind and this time I was thinking of something more along the lines of a quiche. Broccoli is another one of my favorite green vegetables available during the winter and I had been wanting to use it in something so I decided that a broccoli quiche was the way to go. Of course the natural combo of broccoli and cheese came to mind and I was immediatly thinking about broccoli and cheddar soups and broccoli and cheddar gratins and why not a broccoli and cheddar quiche? Although I really enjoy nice and light and flaky all butter pastry crusts with my quiche, this time I decided to go with another really nice crust, a brown rice crust. The brown rice crust is essentially just some cooked brown rice along with some cheese and an egg for binders. The brown rice crust is bre-baked for a bit and then it gets a little crispy when it bakes with the filling in it and it holds together quite nicely. One of the things that I really like about breakfasts like quiches is that they keep well in the fridge and the leftovers just need a few minutes in the microwave and you have a warm and tasty breakfast suitable for a busy work day morning.

Note: I used a nice sharp and strong cheddar cheese in this recipe and if you are using a milder one you may want to double the amount that you use.

Tried And Tasted

Tried And Tasted: Closet Cooking


Tried And Tasted is a food blogging event where once every month a new food blogs recipes are tried and tested and for the month of December Closet Cooking has the honour of being tried and tested. The rules are pretty simple, you make one my recipes, blog about it and submit it to this months host, Hema of Salt 2 Taste and she will post a roundup at the end of the month. If you are interested in participating in this food blogging event please read the full rules for the Tried and Tested December Edition. You can find out more about the Tried and Tested event on Zlamushka's Spicy Kitchen.