My Top 10 Faves of 2013

Going hand-in-hand with yesterday’s Top 10 Reader Faves of 2013 are my top 10 favorite picks of from the 130 posts I shared with you this year.  Kyle helped me pick a few of these out and we hope you love these recipes as much as we did.  We both want to with you a healthy and happy New Year and hope that you love what we have in stock for you here at Smells Like Home in 2014.  Cheers!

3 Cheese Rosemary and Pepperoni Pizza

3 Cheese Rosemary and Pepperoni Pizza – Hands down, this was our favorite pizza for 2013.  We’ve made it at least half a dozen times, both oven-baked and grilled, and we still can’t get enough of it!

Yellow Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Yellow Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting – An easy and classic cake made without a box mix.  This is the yellow butter cake recipe of my dreams.

Cheddar Jalapeno Chicken Burgers with Guacamole

Cheddar Jalapeño Chicken Burgers with Guacamole – As you know, we’re total suckers for Tex Mex food and these burgers totally fit the bill.  I keep ground chicken in the freezer now just for when we crave these babies.

Hot Crab Dip

Hot Crab Dip – Loaded with lump crab and three kinds of cheese then baked to bubbly deliciousness, this hot crab dip will forever be one of my favorites.

Roasted Strawberry Milkshakes

Roasted Strawberry Milkshakes – Gah!  Give me anything with roasted strawberries and you’ll have my attention but blend them up with some vanilla ice cream and I’ll be your friend for life.  These milkshakes were perfection on a hot summer night.

Sweet and Salty Fall Harvest Salad

Sweet and Salty Fall Harvest Salad – I seriously did the happy dance around my kitchen with this salad.  Roasted butternut squash, brie, apples, candied pecans, and cranberries with a slightly salty vinaigrette over massaged kale?  The best salad I ate all year, no joke.

Peanut Butter and Banana Waffles

Peanut Butter and Banana Waffles – My favorite buttermilk waffles are topped here with a decadent peanut butter sauce and freshly sliced bananas.  It’s like one of my favorite kid sandwiches in waffle form!

Beer-Battered Fish

Beer-Battered Fish – No need for restaurant fish and chips anymore!  We’ve got new ideas for this beer-battered fish in the new year – watch out!

Bacon & Fontina Mac and Cheese

Bacon and Fontina Mac and Cheese – What best-of list of mine would be complete without some mac and cheese?  This bacon and fontina mac and cheese was stellar.  How can you possibly go wrong with bacon in your mac and cheese?

Smoky Chorizo Hash and Eggs

Smoky Chorizo Hash and Eggs – Sunday breakfast is something that never gets old with us and this southwestern version of hash and eggs definitely blew us away.

Top 10 Reader Faves of 2013

This may be one of my favorite posts to write all year long and in the few weeks leading up to New Year’s, I’m always excited to dig into my stats to see which 2013 posts you guys loved the most this year.  So no more waiting…here are your Top 10 Faves of 2013!

Soft Pretzels with Roasted Jalapeno Cheese Sauce

Soft Pretzels with Roasted Jalapeño Cheese Sauce – These pretzels are without a doubt one of my most favorite snacks ever!  The addition of spicy roasted peppers to a homemade cheese sauce is definitely one of the better ideas I’ve had in a while.  Much like these soft pretzel bites with cheese sauce (aka the overall most popular post on the blog this year) the full-size version of Alton Brown’s now-famous pretzel is completely addictive.  I dare you to try to eat just one!

Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls

Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls – I feel like it’s been the year of buffalo chicken for me and for a while there (months?), a buffalo chicken pizza made a weekly appearance in our house for dinner.  These baked buffalo chicken egg rolls, however, make a light and healthy snack, appetizer, or light meal and they went over really well with both of us.  Dipping them in some homemade ranch or blue cheese dressing negates a little of the health-factor but really finishes the egg rolls off nicely.

Creamy Baked Four-Cheese Pasta

Creamy Baked Four-Cheese Pasta – Put a bowl of pasta in front of my and I’m happy.  But put a bowl of this creamy baked four-cheese pasta down in front of me and I’m completely over the moon!  You guys seem to have loved this cheesy baked pasta just as much as I did and I’ve got it on the menu again this coming weekend – do you?

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting – Boy am I glad I found this photo in my Flickr archives earlier this year because I had totally forgotten to share this insane chocolate cream cheese frosting that I’ve been making for years now with all of you.  It’s a deeply chocolatey frosting without too much of the tanginess that cream cheese frosting usually has.  It’s my go-to chocolate cupcake frosting and I hope you guys are loving it too!

Bacon, Scallion and Caramelized Onion Dip

Bacon, Scallion, and Caramelized Onion Dip – Grab your favorite chips or vegetable sticks and make this dip pronto.  A homemade and kick-up version of the boring boxed dip mix with caramelized onions cooked in bacon fat, this was by far one of my top 5 favorite snacks of this year.  So happy to see you guys loved this one too!

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes – No Valentine’s Day would be complete without chocolate covered strawberries but I decided this year to take things a little further with these chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes.  I had been wanting to make dipped cupcakes for years and these just work so well with a strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream frosting dipped head-first into melted chocolate.  The frosting sits atop my favorite chocolate cupcake so to me, these cupcakes are pretty much perfect and with Valentine’s Day approaching soon, I hope some of you will have fun with them too.

Herb Grilled Chicken with Creamy Broccoli Orzo

Herb-Grilled Chicken with Creamy Broccoli Orzo – I first made and posted this herb-grilled chicken with creamy broccoli orzo in 2007 and it needed a re-introduction here this year.  Old posts get lost so easily but I’m so happy to see that so many of you loved this meal as much as we do.  It’s one of our go-to dinners and I know those of you who commented love it as much as we do.

Dill Pickle Dip

Dill Pickle Dip – I never in a million years thought that this dill pickle dip would go over so well with you guys but it made quite an impression this year.  Cool cream cheese is whipped up with some fresh dill pickles into a dip I wouldn’t have touched 3 years ago but fell in love with this summer.  I can see quite a bit more of this dip happening this coming year, especially since we’re still eating our way through this year’s crop of garlic dill pickles.

Sweet Chili Thai Dressing

Sweet Chili Thai Dressing – This is an innocuous dressing.  A seemingly boring name definitely doesn’t do the this dressing justice but everyone of you who came back to comment about this dressing adored it as much as I did.  The thai crunch salad I first poured this dressing all over didn’t make the list this year but it’s a healthy must-make for anyone who is looking to overcome boring salads.

Buffalo Chicken Salad with Creamy Avocado Ranch Dressing

Buffalo Chicken Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing – Once again, buffalo chicken has reared its head!  What is there to say about this buffalo chicken salad except that you need to make it.  Like rightthissecond.  The chicken is breaded and baked (like my favorite chicken fingers) and then it’s doused with spicy buffalo sauce.  The cool lettuce and creamy avocado dressing offsets the heat of the chicken making this one salad you’ll never complain about eating.

Looking for more Year-End Favorites Round-ups?
2012 Top Reader Favorites
2011 Top Reader Favorites

Giveaway: Cuisinart Elite Collection 12-cup Food Processor

Don’t forget that my King Arthur Flour baker’s holiday giveaway (which includes a gift card and specialty baking products) is still happening!  Entries close on Saturday, 12/21/13 at 11:59 pm Eastern.

12-Cup Cuisinart Food Processor Giveaway on Smells Like Home

For the last of my Favorite Things Holiday Giveaways this year, I wanted to end with a bang.  All year long, you guys are amazing…bursting with excitement about food and life…and I love you all for it!  Your support here and on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram is truly invaluable to me.  It keeps me reaching to improve my skills in the kitchen, to go outside my comfort zone and try new things, to share amazing food with you, and to open my life up to all of you.  Thank you for letting me into your lives and kitchens.

So to celebrate this great year, I’ve teamed up with one of my favorite kitchen electrics companies, Cuisinart, to give one of you one of my most well-used and well-loved kitchen tools: a Cuisinart Elite Collection 12-cup Food Processor!!  I get lots of questions asking, “How can I make that without a food processor?” and I figured this gorgeous and powerful tool could:

  • fill a gap in someone’s kitchen tool needs
  • replace an older model (like it did for my mom last year when she replaced her 25+ year old Cuisinart with a brandy-new one)
  • give you an excuse to rid of a different brand that has been giving you constant trouble
  • be given as a gift to someone who would really love it

Let me tell you, I’ve made some outstanding recipes with my food processor!  With a 4-cup processor bowl (for small jobs) that sits inside the 12-cup bowl, I KNOW one of you will love to have this in your kitchen.

One lucky winner will win: a Cuisinart Elite Collection 12-cup Food Processor

You can enter this giveaway up to FIVE times! Here’s how to enter:

  1. Entry #1 (mandatory): Answer this question in the comment section of this post (and only this post):  What is your favorite food to cook or bake during the holidays?
  2. Entry #2: Follow Cuisinart on Facebook.  Come back here and post a comment in this post to let me know you did this.
  3. Entry #3: Follow CuisinartPR on Twitter (@CuisinartPR).  Come back here and post a comment in this post to let me know you did this.
  4. Entry #4: Add the Smells Like Home feed to your feed reader (like Feedly or Bloglovin). Come back here and post a comment in this post to let me know you did this or if you already subscribe.
  5. Entry #5: Subscribe to Smells Like Home email updates (only my blog posts sent directly to your inbox – no spam!).  Either enter your email under Subscribe in the box up the page then leave a comment here to tell me you subscribed (or if you already subscribe) or leave a comment here to ask me to manually subscribe you with the email address you leave in the comment form.

Entry Notes:

  • Up to 5 entries per person will be accepted and you MUST include a valid email address in the comment form with each comment you leave.
  • If you don’t see your comment(s) post right away, please don’t post a duplicate/repeat comment. The delay happens because I moderate all comments and your comment(s) will show up when I moderate them.
  • Giveaway closes on Tuesday, December 24, 2013 at 12:01 pm Eastern and one winner will be randomly chosen.
  • The winner will notified by Friday, December 27th. If the winner does not respond to my email within 72 hours, another winner will be chosen (also at random).
  • Giveaway is open to entries U.S. mailing addresses only.
  • Good luck!!

Disclaimer: This prize is generously provided by Cuisinart.

Hot Chocolate Cookies + a baker’s holiday giveaway!!

Hot Chocolate Cookies

At this time of year, I need nothing more than a warmly lit Christmas tree, some long-sought after decorations, a snowy day, and some of these hot chocolate cookies.  Oh sure, hot chocolate loaded with marshmallows by itself is fine and dandy but it’s Christmastime!  Bring on the cookies!  Aside from my determination to conquer the homemade marshmallow this winter, I was equally as determined to make a killer hot chocolate cookie to nestle itself underneath one of those marshmallows.

I’ve been intrigued about these cookies for the past couple of years but I wasn’t really interested in using hot chocolate packets in a cookie recipe.  So I made my own hot chocolate mix.  It’s what I like to do.  What can I say?  I actually only made a half-recipe of the mix this time around and ended up with enough for 3 test rounds of these cookies (which included two major fails) and plenty leftover to serve out of the crock pot at our family holiday party this weekend.

Hot Chocolate Cookies

The cookies themselves are just how I want my cookies to be: chewy on the inside with a slight crisp on the outside.  They don’t blow you away with chocolate flavor but you definitely feel like you’re eating hot chocolate.  (Is that weird?)  Oh, and then they’re topped with a fresh and fluffy peppermint marshmallow, some rich ganache, and a sprinkle of crushed up peppermint crunch.  Winter heaven wrapped up in these cookies, my friends, winter heaven.  I could settle in front of the fire with a plate of these cookies and you may need to roll me out of the house when I go back to work after the New Year.  It’s going to be a rough holiday season on my hips but dang it, these hot chocolate cookies are worth every single calorie.

And now it’s giveaway time!!

As part of my favorite things holiday giveaway series this year, I’ve teamed up with my friends at King Arthur Flour to bring you this awesome baker’s giveaway!

Included in this giveaway are many of the specialty ingredients you’ll need to make these hot chocolate cookies – including ingredients to make your own hot chocolate mix and peppermint marshmallows!  Guys, I’m so so excited about this one!  KAF sent me a bunch of stuff to use as ingredients for my cookie creation here and they are giving one lucky winner everything they sent me plus a bonus gift card!

Here’s what 1 lucky winner will win:
A $25 King Arthur Flour gift card AND
King Arthur Flour Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (5lbs)
Bensdorp Dutch-process cocoa (16oz)
Guittard semisweet wafers (16oz)
Pure vanilla extract (16oz)
Peppermint oil (1oz)
Peppermint Crunch (6.5oz)

This is definitely one of my favorite giveaways yet!  A $25 gift card + special ingredients?!

Each person can enter up to 4 times! Here’s how to enter:

  1. Entry #1 (mandatory): Answer this question in the comment section of this post (and only this post):  What are you most looking forward to this Christmas?
  2. Entry #2: Follow King Arthur Flour on Facebook.  Come back here and post a comment in this post to let me know you did this.
  3. Entry #3: Add the Smells Like Home feed to your feed reader (like Feedly or Bloglovin). Come back here and post a comment in this post to let me know you did this.
  4. Entry #4: Subscribe to Smells Like Home email updates (only my blog posts sent directly to your inbox – no spam!). Either enter your email under Subscribe in the box up the page then leave a comment to tell me you subscribed or leave a comment here to ask me to manually subscribe you with the email address you leave in the comment form.

Entry Notes:

  • Up to 4 entries per person will be accepted and you MUST include a valid email address in the comment form with each comment you leave.
  • If you don’t see your comment(s) post right away, please don’t post a duplicate/repeat comment. The delay happens because I moderate all comments and your comment(s) will show up when I moderate them.
  • Giveaway closes on Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 11:59pm Eastern and one winner will be randomly chosen.
  • The winner will notified on Sunday, December 22nd. If the winner does not respond to my email within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen (also at random).
  • Giveaway is open to entries U.S. mailing addresses only.
  • Good luck!!

Hot Chocolate Cookies + a giveaway!

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 20-22 cookies

If you're not totally into going crazy and making everything from scratch, no worries. You could use 6 packets of store-bought hot chocolate mix and large marshmallows cut in half in place of the homemade mix and marshmallows I suggest below. I really do encourage you to at least try to make your own marshmallows if you have a few extra minutes (that's all the hands-on time they require) because they make an enormous difference and taste waaaay better than store-bought. Plus? Where can you buy peppermint marshmallows in a grocery store? To note, the prep time listed here includes just making the cookies and the assembly time - I had the mix and marshmallows made a couple days in advance in order to save time when I made/assembled the cookies.


    For the hot chocolate cookies:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups hot chocolate mix
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • For assembly:
  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (not chocolate chips)
  • 2 tsp heavy cream
  • 1 recipe peppermint marshmallows, cut into 22 pieces with a 2-inch round cutter (These can be made up to 1 week in advance)
  • Peppermint Crunch or a couple tbsp crushed up candy canes or peppermint candies


  1. To make the cookies: Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Whisk the flour, hot chocolate mix, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until combined, 30 seconds to 1 minute - no need to beat until light and fluffy here as that is too long for these cookies. Beat in the egg, yolk, and vanilla; scrape down the sides of the bowl. Pour in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until no flour remains. Stir the white chocolate chips into the batter on low speed or by hand.
  3. With a medium cookie scoop (about 2 tablespoons), scoop out the dough into rounds and space the rounds 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. You should get about 20-22 cookies from the recipe. Bake for 10-12 minutes; rotate the pans front to back and top to bottom halfway through the baking time. Cool the sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes then transfer the cookies to the racks to cool completely.
  4. To assemble the cookies: Heat the chocolate and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave for 30 second intervals at half power until the chocolate is melted and the cream is fully incorporated, stirring between each interval. The ganache should be thick but spreadable.
  5. Spread a quarter-size dollop of ganache on the top center of a cookie and lightly press a marshmallow round on top - it will stick when the ganache hardens. Spread a little more ganache on top of the marshmallow and sprinkle some peppermint crunch on top of the ganache. Repeat with remaining cookies. Store assembled cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.


Smells Like Home original

Peppermint Marshmallows

Homemade peppermint marshmallows: the perfect winter treat for hot chocolate!

Peppermint Marshmallows

“It’s a marshmallow world in the winter…when the snow comes to cover the ground…”

Oh!  Sorry!  I just got lost in the midst of Brenda Lee and the perfect snowy pre-Christmas days we’re having here in New England.  Today is the third snowy day in the past week and I just can’t get enough of the white stuff, especially before Christmas.  And let me tell you, these homemade peppermint marshmallows definitely kick the season into high gear.

Peppermint Marshmallows

A few drops of peppermint oil and some red food gel are all you need to take an easy homemade marshmallow from traditional to spectacular.  I had some trouble getting my last batch of marshmallows to turn out fluffy but there were no issues here – these guys were just perfect.  And floating in some hot chocolate or white hot chocolate?  Snow day perfection.  Hurry Christmas!!

Be sure to check back tomorrow to see how I used these marshmallows for a super fun holiday treat and for another giveaway!

Peppermint Marshmallows

Total Time: 6 hours, 20 minutes

Yield: about 8 dozen 1-inch marshmallows

Homemade peppermint marshmallows: the perfect winter treat for hot chocolate!


  • 3 packets (¼ ounce each) unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup cool water, divided
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon peppermint oil
  • 5 to 10 drops red food gel, optional; for pink color or swirling
  • Confectioners' sugar


  1. Lightly grease a 13x9-inch glass baking dish and a rubber spatula; set aside.
  2. Pour ½ cup of the cool water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water, mixing just slightly, and allow it to thicken.
  3. In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining ½ cup of water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt to a boil, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. One the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring and allow the mixture to boil to between 238° F and 240° F on a candy thermometer.
  4. With the mixer on low, pour the hot sugar mixture slowly and steadily down the side of the bowl into the softened gelatin. Once the pan is empty, gradually increase the speed of the mixture to high (stand back in case of any hot sugar splatters from the bowl!) and let the mixture whip into a thick and white fluffy mixture, about 5 to 8 minutes. Be careful not to allow the mixture to form a thick ball inside the whisk by whisking too long. With a couple of minutes left, pour in the peppermint oil. With just a few seconds left, drop the food gel into the spinning mixer to allow the color to swirl throughout the marshmallow mixture.
  5. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared dish and scrape out as much as you can from the bowl with the greased spatula. With wet fingers, gently even out the marshmallow in the dish. Dust the top with a light coating of confectioners' sugar and set the dish aside to allow the marshmallows to set up - at least 6 hours but overnight is fine too.
  6. When you're ready to cut the marshmallows, run a sharp knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the edges. Flip the marshmallow slab onto a large cutting board and dust the top (which was the bottom) with more confectioners' sugar. Using a pizza cutter or shaped cookie cutter, quickly cut the marshmallows, taking care to dust all of the cut edges with sugar to prevent them from sticking to each other.
  7. The marshmallows should keep well for up to 1 week stored in an airtight container at room temperature.


adapted from King Arthur Flour

Disclaimer: King Arthur Flour donated some of the ingredients used in this recipe and seen in these photos.  All opinions about this recipe are my own.

Rosemary Butter Cookies

Rosemary Butter Cookies

A few years ago, I pulled together a round-up of my favorite Christmas cookies and after a couple more years of Christmas cookie baking binges, I could probably put together an entirely new round-up.  These rosemary butter cookies would certainly be on that new list.  An unexpected addition of fresh rosemary in a traditional buttery sablé cookie yields a sweet and savory treat that will blow your mind.  The coarse sugar around the edges adds a little extra crunch and sweetness and with the rosemary, these are the perfect little winter slice-and-bake cookies that highlight a hearty herb in an unusual way.

Rosemary Butter Cookies

Rosemary Butter Cookies

Prep Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Yield: about 5 dozen cookies

These rosemary butter cookies are unsuspectingly highly addictive! The baking time for the original recipe was too long and each time I made them, I had the same over-browned result. I've adjusted the baking time below but depending on some ovens, you may need an extra minute or two - just keep an eye on the cookies.


  • 2 ½ cups sifted flour
  • 1 tbsp finely minced fresh rosemary
  • ¾ tsp Kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup (16 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup coarse sugar


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, rosemary, and salt together; set aside. Add the butter and granulated sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl) fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the whole egg and vanilla until just combined. Add the dry ingredients from the bowl to the wet ingredients and mix on low speed until combined.
  2. Divide the dough in half and place each half on a 16 x 12-inch piece of parchment paper. Shape each piece of dough into a log about 1 ½ inches in diameter, using the paper to roll and shape the dough. Seal up the ends with tape or tie with a rubber band and freeze for at least 1 hour. If you want to freeze the dough longer, transfer the frozen logs to a large zip-top bag; dough will keep up to 2 months.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour the coarse sugar into a long baking dish. Brush one dough log with some of the beaten egg white. Roll the log in the sugar to coat the outside fully with sugar. With a very sharp knife, slice into ¼-inch rounds and set the rounds on the baking sheets - 20 rounds should fit nicely on a large baking sheet. They won't spread too much so don't worry about putting this many on the sheet. Repeat with the second dough log. If too much of the sugar falls off while slicing, you can roll the edges of the slices in the sugar individually. I found this method worked better for me.
  4. Bake for 14-18 minutes, until the bottoms are golden brown and the sugar just starts to caramelized where it hits the baking sheet. Transfer the baking sheets to wire racks to cool for 5 minutes then transfer the cookies to the racks to cool completely before serving. Stored in an airtight container, the cookies will keep for up to 1 week.


adapted from Cookies by Martha Stewart

Smells Like Home 2013 Favorite Things Holiday Giveaway

Printstagram giveaway

It’s time for my first Favorite Things Holiday Giveaway of 2013!!  I had some trouble deciding on which giveaway to do first because…well, because they are all so much fun this year!

But I decided to go with one of my favorite and super fun web-based companies, Printstagram!  I have printed a bunch of my Instagram photos with these guys and gushed about how much I loved them over a year ago after I completed my first DIY Instagram project.  (Btw, have you ever looked for DIY Instagram projects on Pinterest?  Holy.freaking.moly.)

Printstagram can print your Instagram photos directly from an app on your phone and offers a newly expanded selection of print sizes, photo stickers, cards, photo books, framed prints, and poster-size collages…and so much more!  Photos are printed on archive-quality paper and they stand up to humidity like it’s their job – no curling edges!

Today’s giveaway is a $50 gift card to Printstagram!  However you want to print your beloved prints is up to you!

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Entry #1: Answer me this in the comment section of this post (and only this post):  What is your favorite Christmas movie?
  2. Entry #2: Follow Social Print Studio (aka Printstagram) on Facebook.  Come back here and post a comment in this post to let me know you did this.
  3. Entry #3: Follow Social Print Studio (aka Printstagram) on Twitter. Come back here and post a comment in this post to let me know you did this.
  4. Entry #4: Follow Social Print Studio (aka Printstagram) on Instagram. Come back here and post a comment in this post to let me know you did this.
  5. Up to 4 entries per person will be accepted and you MUST include a valid email address in the comment form with each comment you leave.
  6. If you don’t see your comment(s) post right away, please don’t post another comment. The delay happens because I moderate all comments.
  7. Giveaway closes on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 11:59pm Eastern.
  8. One winner will be chosen randomly.
  9. The winner will notified by Tuesday morning. If the winner does not respond to my email within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen (also at random).
  10. Giveaway is open to entries BOTH U.S. and international addresses!

Disclaimer: This giveaway is sponsored by Printstagram.  All opinions here are, as always, my own.


Slow Cooker Vegetarian Quinoa Chili

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Quinoa Chili

I mentioned last week that I’ve got a few more warm, cozy, and quick weeknight meals lined up for you during this busy holiday season, and this vegetarian quinoa chili that popped out of my slow cooker a few weeks ago is definitely one of them.  It’s the type of slow cooker recipe where there’s no prep – just toss everything in, set the time, and go about your day; my favorite kind of recipe!  I was a little leery about what Kyle would think about a vegetarian chili but he loved this as much as I did.  Filled with protein from quinoa and black beans, this is one healthy meal that will take us through the winter when my time is short and the craving for hearty chili is strong.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Quinoa Chili

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 8 hours

Total Time: 8 hours, 5 minutes

Yield: 8-10 servings

This is a hearty vegetarian chili made with quinoa, black beans, corn, and lots of pantry spices. If your meat eater insists on chili with meat, add two boneless chicken breasts to the slow cooker with the other ingredients in the beginning, shred it when the chili is finished, and stir it back into the chili before serving.


  • 28 oz can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 4 ½ oz can diced green chiles
  • 2 (14 ½ oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 ½ cups frozen corn
  • 2 ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp ancho chile powder
  • 1 ½ cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3-4 cups vegetable broth
  • Kosher salt


  1. Add all of the ingredients except for the salt, including only 3 cups of broth, to a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. If the chili is very thick, stir in up to one more cup of vegetable broth to loosen the chili. Heat for an extra 5-10 minutes on high. Season with salt to taste. Top with your favorite chili toppings.


Bacon Cheddar Ale Soup

Bacon Cheddar Ale Soup

It’s hard to describe how picky I am about certain things.  Soup is one of those things.  In my humble opinion, creamy soups should be, in fact, creamy and not even a little bit watery.  Broth-based soups should have enough substance to them to consider them a meal or at least a light meal…but of course not too much substance so that there’s no liquid left to slurp.  I don’t know…I can’t be the only one who feels like way, can I?

One of my favorite local restaurants, which has the best wings around, is also really well-known for their cheddar ale soup.  It’s a mighty fine soup, except that it lacks just a teensy bit in the ale flavor.  But the texture is spot-on and it’s so creamy that it almost takes two licks of the spoon to clean it.  I almost always order a cup when I’m there, even in the middle of summer.  And for years, I’ve considered trying to duplicate the soup at home.

Cheddar-Filled Soft Pretzel Rolls

So along with those pretzel rolls I attempted a few times last year/winter came a few attempts at making this soup as well.  And what I’ve learned from those experiences is that combining beer with a milk product in the wrong ratio can produce a truly horrifying result.  Like, downing a buttery nipple shot after a night of drinking only beer horrifying.  (Trust me.)

I should have known this already based on a failed beer mac and cheese recipe I made last winter (those were dark days), but after tweak here and a fiddle there, I finally found the right combo for this soup.  Start with bacon, add veggies, flour, beer, broth, and milk, end with sharp cheddar.  Any recipe starting with bacon and ending with cheese should already stop you in your tracks.  But dip some pretzel buns in this bacon cheddar ale soup and you’ve got yourself one heck of a perfect wintery night comfort meal.

Bacon Cheddar Ale Soup

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 2-4 servings

To make this a vegetarian cheddar ale soup, saute the vegetables in 3 tablespoons of canola oil or unsalted butter instead of the bacon fat and swap the chicken broth for veggie broth.

This recipe makes 2 good-sized dinner servings or 4 appetizer servings. The recipe can be easily doubled but depending on the strength of your beer, you may want to adjust the amount you add according to your tastes. A half bottle (6 oz) in the recipe below adds a good "punch" of beer flavor to the soup.


  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 leek, chopped (white and light green parts only - about 1 cup)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 1 rib of celery, chopped (about ½ cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 6 oz ale (I used an IPA - Harpoon - but most mild pale ales will work)
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Cook the bacon in a large saucepan or small Dutch oven set over medium-high heat until crisp. Scoop out the bacon with a slotted spoon and allow it to drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Drain off all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Turn the heat down to medium, add the leeks, carrots, celery, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon of pepper and saute for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the carrots and celery start to soften. Toss in the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  2. Whisk the flour into the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Whisk the chicken broth into the saucepan vegetable mixture to deglaze the pan and whisk until no lumps of flour remain. Blend the mixture in the saucepan until smooth with an immersion blender or transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth then pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
  3. Stir the beer into the pan, bring to a simmer, and stir as needed - watch carefully because the beer can cause the mixture can boil over. Allow the soup to cook down for 10 minutes then stir in the milk and allow it to warm through for 1-2 minutes. Stir the cheese into the soup by the handful, allowing each handful to melt into the soup before adding the next. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with the cooked bacon before serving.


heavily adapted from Epicurious/Gourmet March 2005


Cannoli Bites

Cannoli Bites

On no less than 3 occasions over the past 5 years, I have felt like a failure to my Italian heritage and New York upbringing.  When it comes to making cannoli, it’s been a rough go around here.  But I decided to give one of my favorite desserts another shot for Thanksgiving this year and this time I found my patience (to allow the ricotta cheese to thoroughly dry out) and skipped the whole mess that’s involved with frying cannoli shells.

Cannoli Bites

While these cannoli bites are not exact knock-offs of traditional, they are reeeeally reeeeally close.  In fact, the only difference that I found is in the shells and that was only because they weren’t super crispy from being fried.  But the cannoli cream is spot on and spectacularly delicious, thanks to the abundance of mascarpone cheese in the recipe.

Cannoli Bites

And after the shells are filled with cream, the flavors of the two begin to meld together into what we all know fabulous cannoli should be.  These mini desserts were a huge hit on my family’s Thanksgiving dessert table last week but there’s no reason why they should be relegated to just one holiday – spread the love with these cannoli bites all year long!

Cannoli Bites

Total Time: 8 hours

Yield: 4 dozen cannoli bites

I can't stress enough how important it is to allow the ricotta cheese enough time to strain. It needs to be super dry in order to keep the cannoli cream from being runny - allow it to strain for at least 8 hours but overnight in the fridge is best.

Traditional cannoli shells are made with sweet Marsala wine but the original recipe suggests that you can use 8 tablespoons of apple or grape juice and 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar in place of the Marsala if you choose to. The Marsala lends a subtle flavor to the shells and doesn't overwhelm them at all.


    For the cannoli filling:
  • 12 oz whole milk ricotta cheese, strained
  • 8 oz mascarpone cheese
  • ½ cup plus 2 tbsp powdered sugar, sifted
  • For the cannoli shells:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
  • 2 ½ tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 large egg white
  • ½ cup sweet Marsala wine (see note above)
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • For serving:
  • Mini chocolate chips (about 1 cup)
  • Powdered sugar


  1. To make the cannoli filling: Strain the ricotta cheese in a piece of cheesecloth tucked in a colander set over a bowl for at least 8 hours in the refrigerator - overnight is best. Once the cheese has dried out, mix it with the mascarpone cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl until well-combined and smooth. Chill in an air-tight container until ready to use (at least 30 minutes). The cannoli cream can be made 2-3 days in advance and kept in the refrigerator.
  2. To make the cannoli shells: Pulse the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade until combined. Pour in the melted butter and pulse a few more times until it incorporates into the dry ingredients. Use a rubber spatula to clear the sides of the bowl. With the food processor running, pour the Marsala through the feed tube into the bowl and keep the processor running only until the dough comes together in a ball. Divide the dough into two pieces, wrap them in plastic wrap, and chill the dough pieces for 30 minutes - 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Roll each piece of dough out on a well-floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Try not to stretch the dough while rolling and keep the surface under the dough floured to prevent sticking.
  4. With a 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter, cut out 48 rounds of dough, re-rolling the dough scraps as needed. Transfer the rounds to the cups of two 24-cup a mini muffin pans, pressing them lightly to mold them into the cups. Spray the tops evenly and lightly with vegetable spray. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the shells are lightly browned and starting to bubble in places. Transfer the pans to wire racks and allow the shells to cool for a couple minutes then take them out of the pans and allow them to cool completely on the racks. The cannoli shells can be make 1 day in advance and stored in a plastic zip-top bag or resealable container at room temperature.
  5. Fill a pastry bag (fitted with a star tip) with cannoli cream and pipe the cream generously into the shells. There might be some leftover cannoli cream (get a spoon!) so don't worry about running out of cream before you're finished filling the shells. Drop a few mini chocolate chips on top of each cannoli bite then dust all of the bites with powdered sugar. Keep the bites refrigerated until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.


adapted from Cooking Classy

Toasted Chicken Parmesan Meatball Sandwiches

Toasted Chicken Parmesan Meatball Sandwiches

Have you recovered from Thanksgiving yet?  I hope yours was lovely!  We spent the day last week with my family on Long Island and it’s that kind of whirlwind round-trip-in-one-day which reminds me that it’s the time of year now that flies by in spite of me trying to hold on and slow it down.  In December, I always seem to find myself craving not only hearty dishes, but fast ones as well.

Toasted Chicken Parmesan Meatball Sandwiches

Between work, my commute, decorating, shopping, wrapping, working out, household chores, visiting family and friends, baking, and making time to spend with Kyle in front of the tree with a glass of vanilla nog in hand, I truly rely on dinners like these toasted chicken parmesan meatball sandwiches to pull me through the week.  I’ve made the meatballs a number of times in the past couple of months and we completely adore them.

Toasted Chicken Parmesan Meatball Sandwiches

And stuffed between two slices of sourdough with some extra sauce and mozzarella before toasting?  I need no convincing.  These sandwiches are quick and easy enough to slap together on a weeknight (which Kyle did for us one night last week while I was at the gym) and the meatballs keep well for a few days in the fridge if weekend prep is more your thing.  I have a few more busy weeknight meals ready to share with you over the next couple of weeks but for now, I’m pretty positive these chicken paremsan meatballs will make you quite happy.  Oh and yep – that’s totally red wine in a jelly jar – a holiday season necessity.

Toasted Chicken Parmesan Meatball Sandwiches

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: about 6-8 sandwiches (from 9 large meatballs)

Chicken parmesan lightened up in a meatball form. If you can only find chicken in a 1 ¼ lb package, use the full amount and don't adjust the amounts of the other ingredients - the end result will still be excellent and you'll end up with closer to 12 meatballs instead of 9.


    For the chicken parmesan meatballs:
  • ¼ cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp grated onion
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 2 tbsp marinara sauce
  • For the sandwiches:
  • Sourdough bread, sliced thick
  • Shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese
  • Marinara sauce
  • Fresh basil, chopped


  1. To make the meatballs: Preheat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Add all of the meatball ingredients, minus the marinara sauce, to a large bowl and with a fork, stir lightly until well-combined. Using a large cookie or ice cream scoop, portion out the meatball mixture into 9 large meatballs, shaping each into a ball with your hands - lightly damp hands help to prevent sticking. Place them in rows of 3 on the prepared baking sheet. Spoon a little marinara sauce over the top of each meatball. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the inside reaches 160° F on an instant read thermometer.
  3. While the meatballs bake, lay the bread slices out, sprinkle each with some cheese. Once the meatballs are baked, let them cool for 5 minutes then slice them each into thirds. Lay the meatball slices out over half of the bread slices. Spoon a little extra sauce over the meatballs then sprinkle some basil on top. Flip the remaining bread slices on top of the meatballs.
  4. To toast the sandwiches, you have a few options: 1) A preheated panini maker, 2) Melted butter in a hot cast iron pan (grilled chicken parmesan meatballs sandwiches!), 3) Bake the sandwiches on a baking sheet for a few minutes at 425° F to melt the cheese then toast both sides of the sandwiches under the broiler. There's no need to butter or oil the bread if you're going to use the panini maker or the oven if you want to lighten things up - the sandwiches will toast perfectly without any extra fat.


Smells Like Home original | meatballs adapted from Dinner, A Love Story via Pink Parsley