My Top 10 Favorite Recipes in 2011

Now that we have seen some of the most popular recipes of 2011 on Closet Cooking I would like to share with you some of my favourites. 2011 was filled with a lot of really tasty food and narrowing my favourites down to just the top 10 was no easy task but I managed to do it and here they are, in no particular order:

Jalapeno Cornbread Grilled Cheese with Chipotle Caramelized Onions, Refried Black Beans and Guacamole

Top 10 Recipes in 2011

I hope that everyone is enjoying the holidays! I probably say this every year but; Where did the year go? 2011 was full of tasty food and with the end of the year here I would like to take the opportunity to look back at some of it starting with a roundup of the 10 most popular recipes of 2011.

Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Dark Chocolate Shortbread with Fleur de Sel

Dark Chocolate Shortbread with Fleur de Sel

After making two savoury shortbreads on my weekend of shortbread baking madness it was time for some sweet ones starting with the classic plain shortbread which is always a favourite. Next however it was time for something more interesting and I was thinking that a chocolate shortbread would be nice. I figured that there were two main ways that chocolate shortbread could be done, either by making them all chocolate of by making them more chocolate chip cookie like and I was immediately taken with the idea of a light coloured shortbread filled with chunks of solid dark chocolate. Of course I opted to use a solid block of dark chocolate rather than chips and I just shaved off small pieces for use in the shortbread. The dark chocolate shortbread would be amazing just like that but I have been into the idea of combining sweet and savoury and the addition of a touch of salt to an otherwise sweet dish can be really amazing so I added some fleur de sel to the shortbread.

Gorgonzola and Pistachio Shortbread

Gorgonzola and Pistachio Shortbread

With gourmet shortbread on my mind, I went on a shortbread making marathon this past weekend that will more than fulfill my holiday needs! After the success of the stilton and rosemary shortbread I wanted to try another savoury one and since I am such a big fan of blue cheeses, the gorgonzola and pistachio shortbread that I saw on The Coach House Shortbread Company was calling to me. I figured that a younger gorgonzola dolce would be perfect for the shortbread as it is softer and creamier than fully aged gorgonzola and thus it would cream into the butter more easily. Its mellower flavour would also help ensure that those that are not big fans of blue cheese would be able to enjoy the shortbread as well. The blue cheese and gorgonzola flavour combo is one that I always enjoy and it worked particularly well in this savoury shortbread! The touch of lemon zest helps keep things a little brighter and a hint of heat from cayenne round things out in these cookies. This shortbread would find a perfect home on a party platter filled with things like meats, cheeses, fruits, dips and spreads for your holiday entertaining.

Stilton and Rosemary Shortbread

Stilton and Rosemary Shortbread

Shortbread has to be one of my favourite holiday cookies! It is so easy to make and with its crispy outside and melt in your mouth buttery good inside, they are almost impossible to resist. I recently read an article in the newspaper about a local company making shortbread, The Coach House Shortbread Company , where they mentioned that they make savoury shortbreads in addition to sweet ones! I had never even thought about the possibility of a savoury shortbread and I knew that I would have to try some as soon as I heard the idea!

Fig and Prosciutto Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Fig and Prosciutto Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The idea for this sandwich has been floating around in my head for a few weeks now as I worked on the recipe and this weekend I finally nailed the it and got the chance to make it. The basic idea behind this sandwich was to combine sweet fig preserves with salty prosciutto in a grilled cheese sandwich that is cooked panini style in a grill press. Sweet things like jams and preserves work surprisingly well in grilled cheese sandwiches and when combined with something like prosciutto you definitely have a winning combination. For the cheese I wanted to go with something that does not have a strong flavour so that it does not drown out the flavours of the fig preserves and prosciutto and mozzarella was the perfect choice. At this point the sandwich was already sounding really good but I was sure that some peppery arugula, lightly tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette would make the sandwich even better! For the bread I went with a ciabatta bun that worked particularly well when pressed panini style.

Deconstructed Green Bean Casserole

Deconstructed Green Bean Casserole

The green bean casserole is one of my favourite holiday side dishes but oven space and time is at a premium so I decided to come up with a stove top version. For the big Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner you are going to be roasting the turkey or other meat and the side dishes like the green bean casserole or the sweet potato casserole also need to be baked, not to mention dessert, and getting them all into the oven so that they are all ready in time for dinner can be a challenge. For this version of the green bean casserole I tried to keep all of the flavours of the classic green bean casserole without any of the oven time. Steamed green beans are nice and easy on the big day and smothering them in a tasty stove top mushroom sauce is always a win. Of course, we cannot forget the signature french fried onion topping that adds a nice crispy texture.

Almond Crescent Cookies

Almond Crescent Cookies

It is time to get back to some holiday baking and no Christmas with my family would be complete without a couple of batches of almond crescent cookies. These crescent cookies are basically a short bread cookie, which is nice and easy to make, with chunks of almonds mixed in and they are coated with a dusting of snow like icing sugar. As with most shortbread cookies, these ones are nice a crispy on the outside and all buttery and good on the inside, seemingly melting in your mouth. The almond flavour really comes through and the chunks of almonds that appear as the cookie melts away are like finding little crunchy gems as you go. You could easily replace the almonds with any other nut and pecans are really good but I find that I keep coming back to these almond crescent moons that my mother always makes.

Jalapeno Cornbread Grilled Cheese with Chipotle Caramelized Onions, Refried Black Beans and Guacamole

Jalapeno Cornbread Grilled Cheese with Refried Black Beans and Guacamole

Making the jalapeno cornbread to go with the chili was just an excuse because what I really wanted it for was to make some really special jalapeno cornbread grilled cheese sandwiches. I first came across the idea for this cornbread grilled cheese at a recent Toronto Underground Market where Comida Del Pueblo was serving them and boy did they ever look good! Unfortunately the long line kept me away and before I knew it I was out of time and it was too late. Rather than become depressed I simply saw this as a challenge to make them at home based solely on the description of the jalapeno cornbread grilled cheese with chipotle caramelized onions, refried black beans and guacamole.

Jalapeno Cornbread

Jalapeno Cornbread

I always enjoy having cornbread with chili and I wanted to try something a little different with the cornbread that I made to go with my beef and black bean chili . Cornbread is another one of those foods where the basic recipe is really just the starting point as there are so many different ingredients that you can add to it. I certainly do like to experiment and in the past I have tried adding different kinds of cheeses, bacon, kernels of corn and even cranberries. One of the nice things about about cornbread is that it can be just a touch on the sweet side and I was thinking that some spicy hot jalapenos would go particularly well with that sweetness in addition to adding some pretty flecky of green. Of course one trick to making a really tasty cornbread is to use bacon grease for the fat, though butter or oil also work and buttermilk adds a hint of tanginess and helps keep things nice and moist. This cornbread would make the perfect side for any bowl of chili but for me, things were just getting started because I had even bigger plans for the leftovers!

Beef and Black Bean Chili

Beef and Black Bean Chili

With the colder weather here I am finding myself going for more hearty soups and stews more often and one of my go to dishes are chilies. Chilies come in all different shapes and forms and I never tire of playing around with different ingredients but I always come back to the basics with a recipe like this one. When I have the time I like the grab some cubed stewing beef and do a slow braised chili con carne but if I do not have the time then ground beef makes a for a nice quick substitute the gives up little in flavour. This beef and black bean chili is easy to pull off on a week night and if you make a double batch you will have leftovers for more meals and the leftovers taste even the next day!

Monte Cristo

Monte Cristo

The breakfast grilled cheese sandwich with maple syrup reminded me of the monte cristo and that was the perfect excuse to make some monte cristo sandwiches and update the photos on this recipe! A monte cristo sandwich is essentially a ham and cheese sandwich that is cooked french toast style where it is dipped in an egg based batter and then fried until golden brown. This sandwich is commonly served with maple syrup or with powdered sugar and jam for dipping and it truely is a great example of sweet and savoury working well together. Breakfast is the perfect time to enjoy a monte cristo but they also go well for lunch or even dinner. You can easily keep things interesting by changing up the cheese, meat and jam so you will never get tired of monte cristo's.

Breakfast Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Maple Syrup

Breakfast Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Maple Syrup

As many of you know, I am a little bit obsessed with grilled cheese sandwiches! While I was in Montreal, a friend at Van Houtte coffee suggested something new, a grilled cheese sandwich served with maple syrup and as soon as I heard the idea, I knew that I would have to try it! The sweet and savoury combination often works out well and when you combine two of my favourite things, grilled cheese sandwiches and maple syrup, you are bound to get a winner. Like I needed an excuse to try a grilled cheese sandwich in a new way!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

These caramel apple cheesecake bars made their way around the food blogging sphere not to long ago and they certainly caught my attention! Even just by reading the title, they sound amazing but that is just the start! If you dig a little deeper you will see that they start with a base of butter shortbread which is topped with the cheesecake followed by the apples and then a layer of rolled oat crumbs only finally be topped with the caramel sauce. These bars are like combining shortbread , cheesecake , apple crisp and caramel sauce all into one truly spectacular treat!

Butternut Squash and Chorizo Tostadas

Butternut Squash and Chorizo Tostadas

It some times seems like the struggle to find more space in the freezer is never ending! The next item to be used was a half finished package of corn tortillas and the first thought that came to mind was to use them in some kind of tostada. A tostada is basically a tortilla that is toasted until crispy and then topped with various things and since the tortillas are toasted it is a great way to use them when they are passed their prime. While I was thinking about what kind of tostadas to make I noticed the butternut squash that was sitting on my counter and all of a sudden butternut squash and chorizo tostadas were on the menu and looking perfectly seasonal!

Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwich (aka The Mushroom Melt)

Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwich (aka The Mushroom Melt)
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Mushrooms are one of my absolute favourite foods and it was long past time that I gave them the grilled cheese treatment! My mild obsession with grilled cheese sandwiches has had me dreaming about a mushroom grilled cheese for a long time and it was finally time to realize it. I wanted to keep things relatively simple without compromising in flavour so I stared out by sauteing some onions and mushrooms slowly until they turned golden brown and caramelized bringing out all of their tastiness. Next I deglazed the pan with a splash of white wine to make sure that none of the flavour that had built up in those brown bits that stick to the bottom of the pan went to waste. If you are a fan of truffles then this is where you can indulge a bit and add some truffle oil to the mushrooms to make this sandwich even more decadent! I mixed the cheese right into the still warm mushrooms to give it a head start on melting, thus ensuring that all of the cheese in the sandwich would be melted by the time that the sandwich was grilled to perfection!

Apple French Onion Soup

Apple French Onion Soup

French onion soup has to be one of my favourite soups but I do not make it nearly often enough. I recently came across the idea of an apple french onion soup that sounded really good and gave me the perfect excuse to make french onion soup again! The star of a good french onion soup is of course the onions which are slowly caramelized until they are golden brown and amazingly sweet. I normally build up the broth of the french onion soup using beef broth and red wine and for this version I added some apple cider and grated apples. Perhaps the best part of the french onion soup is that it is topped with toast and cheese and thrown under the broiler until the cheese is all bubbling and golden brown. The combination of the sweet caramelized onions and the savoury melted cheese is absolutely divine and the apple flavours of this version adds a perfect hint of fall to the soup.

Roast Beef Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Caramelized Onions, Peppers and Horseradish

Roast Beef Grilled Cheese Sandwich

While I still had some of the leftover roast beef the other week, I made sure to make a few roast beef grilled cheese sandwiches! This has to be one of my favourite ways to enjoy roast beef leftovers and it gave me the perfect opportunity to update this recipe and to add a new photo (see above). Although simply throwing the roast beef into a sandwich with some cheese and grilling it would be great, I like to add sauteed onions and peppers to bring in some new flavours and textures. There are a lot of cheeses that go really well in this sandwich such as swiss, provolone, mozzarella and this time I went with a sharp cheddar. Of course a touch of horse radish is always welcome and if you have any gravy left over from the roast beef dinner, adding a bit inside the sandwich is good and then serving the rest for dipping is even better! Leftover roast beef is such a magical thing!

Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles

December is here and that means that the holiday baking season is now upon us! I wanted to ease into the baking and since I was craving something with cinnamon, snickerdoodles seemed like the perfect thing to start with. Snickerdoodles are a cookie that is rolled in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon before baking and they are so addictively good! One of the things that is so amazing about snickerdooles is how easier they are to make; I mean really, all that needs to be done is mix the wet ingredients, mix the dry ingredients, mix them together, roll, coat and bake. All said and done you will be passing those tasty little treats back an forth between your hands, blowing on them to cool, in less than 20 minutes!