Share your "Best Of 2014"!

I love this time of year when everyone is publishing their "Top 10 Posts of 2014" or "Favorite Recipes of 2014". It's like watching the playoffs- you get to see the
best of everyone's efforts for the entire year!

Treasure Box Tuesday 52

Welcome to Treasure Box Tuesday!Let's Party the Year Away

Appetizers! From Treasure Box Tuesday

Appetizers from Treasure Box Tuesday

Do you LOVE Appetizers as much as we do? For New Year's Eve, do you go out, or have a party at home, or stay in and be cozy? 

Readers' Favorite Recipes of 2014

Part of the fun of any year is looking back on where you've been and what you've done. As this year comes to a close, I have looked back on what the most popular recipes were here at Yesterfood- readers' favorites. 

12. The twelfth most popular recipe was Winter Energy Cookies, published back in January 2014. They're a healthy treat that will keep you going through all your winter adventures:

11. Spinach Alfredo Crockpot Lasagna came in at number eleven of readers' favorites. This is one of my favorites, too; I love being able to prepare lasagna in the crock pot:

10. Number ten involves chocolate, thank goodness. A favorite from last June, Chocolate Pecan Zucchini Cake is chock-full of zucchini, then sprinkled with luscious brown sugar-pecan-chocolate crumbles:

9. Tied for ninth place, Pumpkin Bread and its best friend, Praline Sauce
were hits for fall:

8. Another fall favorite, Sweet Potato Visitor Breadmade an appearance 
at church one Sunday:

7. Grow Your Own Sprouts was very popular last summer on the blog, on Pinterest, and even on Hometalk. I love sprouts year-round, and they're so easy to grow: 
That was a gooood sandwich, y'all

6. The sixth favorite recipe almost didn't get published. I had made it and photographed it, then got busy with other posts. I almost forgot about it until I ran across the photos again later. Old-Fashioned Banana Cream Pie is a rich, delicious, creamy classic, and I'm glad it didn't get forgotten:

5. Peeps Houses were so much fun to make and photograph. Published last April, they were the fifth most popular post on the blog, and the second most popular on Pinterest!

4. An all-time favorite, Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting was the fourth most popular with readers in 2014:

3. The third favorite recipe with readers was one of my and my family's favorites, too. The dough for Almost Sourdough Bread is easy to work with, and produces tender, hearty, pleasantly chewy loaves with just a hint of a sourdough flavor:

2. Pistachio Kiss Pudding Cookies came in second, but there's nothing second best about these pretty cookies that start with a mix. Originally published for St. Patricks' Day, they were also very popular for Christmas:

1. The most popular post with readers for 2014 was Starbucks Lemon Loaf. The photos weren't my favorites, but it was also the most popular post I had on Pinterest, so you never know.

What I do know is it really is one of the very best things I have ever eaten!

I occasionally publish a sewing or crafty post. Readers' favorite non-recipe post for 2014 was Mason Jar Gift Bags- a tutorial for making drawstring gift bags to fit almost all size mason jars:

Thank you for joining me this year, and I look forward to seeing you in 2015. 

I wish you the very, very best in the New Year! ♥

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I go to these fun parties~

Treasure Box Tuesday 51

Welcome to Treasure Box Tuesday!

Oreo Cookie Balls

Rich with chocolate and cream cheese, these little cookie balls are pretty, delicious, and festive. I make them small enough to serve in mini muffin liners- they're just the right size for about two luscious bites!

Oreo Cookie Balls  Print
Makes about 2.5 dozen, 1" cookie balls

1 (14.3 oz.) package oreos, any flavor (about 39 cookies)
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 (12 oz.) package chocolate chips (milk chocolate or semi sweet)
2 to 4 teaspoons vegetable shortening (optional)
toppings of choice, such as cookie crumbs or crushed candy canes

parchment paper or waxed paper

1. Process the cookies in a food processor until finely and evenly ground. Remove a tablespoon or two of crumbs for topping, if desired.
2. Pour crumbs into a large bowl. Stir cream cheese into crumbs until completely combined. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, or up to overnight (cover if leaving overnight).
3. While dough chills, set toppings out. Melt chocolate according to package directions. Stir 1 to 2 teaspoons of shortening into melted chocolate and stir until completely melted and smoothly combined. Optional, but keeps the chocolate from getting thick and gloppy.
4. Form chilled dough into scant 1" balls or preferred size. Working in batches (keep the rest in the fridge or freezer while you work), dip each ball into melted chocolate. Let some of the excess chocolate drip off back into bowl, then set ball onto parchment paper. Sprinkle lightly with desired toppings before chocolate sets. If you are planning to drizzle with a contrasting chocolate, do allow dipped cookie to set first. Keep finished cookie balls refrigerated.

On melting the chocolate: I melt about half a package of chips (about 6 oz.) at a time in the microwave (f
ollowing package directions), using the crock insert of a small crock pot. After the chocolate melts, I set the crock liner back into the crock pot and set it on low. This keeps the chocolate warm while I dip the dough balls. I use 1 to 2 teaspoons of shortening per 6 oz. of chocolate. If you want to use shortening, add a teaspoon at a time until you get the consistency you want.

On dipping the balls: Everyone seems to have their preferred method- toothpicks, forks, etc. What works for me is to use a large slotted spoon. Dip the ball briefly, cover completely in chocolate, then let drip through the slotted spoon while tapping lightly on side of crock/bowl. Roll gently onto parchment paper.

Going to these fun parties! 

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Christmas Cookies!

One of the best things about the holidays is Christmas cookies. There are so many different kinds, and we've seen some of the very best at Treasure Box Tuesday!

Smoky Pecan Pimento Cheese

A Southern staple, you'll see Pimento Cheese prepared in almost every variation possible. It goes with ease from the simplest lunch table to the most elegant party.

I made this smoky version for a recent family get-together, and it was a big hit. Those people know pimento cheese, y'all, so I know it was good.

Smoky Pecan Pimento Cheese  Print

16 oz. block (ungrated) cheddar cheese (I used 8 oz. mild, 8 oz. medium)

Generous 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup real mayonnaise
1 small (2 oz.) jar chopped pimentos, drained
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder 
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/8 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste (I didn't need any salt; the cheese and mayo are pretty salty)

1. Grate cheese into a large bowl, then add pecans. Set aside.

2. In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise and all the rest of the ingredients until very well combined.
3. Stir mayonnaise mixture into cheese and pecans and mix well.
4. Cover tightly and refrigerate several hours or (preferably) overnight. Setting it out of the refrigerator for a few minutes before serving will make it more spreadable. Refrigerate leftovers.

Cook's Notes:
  • You can use packaged pre-grated cheese, but the texture of the finished product won't be as smooth. Pre-grated cheese is coated with stuff to keep it from clumping up and sticking to itself, so it won't blend quite as nicely. 
  • If you let the block cheese sit out of the fridge for a few minutes before grating, it grates faster and more easily. 
  • The 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder called for doesn't give any heat, just adds another layer of smoky flavor. Increase amount for more heat. 
  • Pimento cheese makes delicious sandwiches of all kinds: grilled cheese, sliders, excellent on homemade biscuits.
  • To make basic pimento cheese, just mix the cheese, pimentos, and mayonnaise (a little less, about 3/4 cup), then salt and pepper to taste. Some people add in a little onion or other things. My grandmother always added a chopped hard boiled egg.

Going to these fun parties, including Metamorphosis Monday! 

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Rich Holiday Fruit Bread

Many thanks to Red Star Yeast for bringing you this delicious Holiday Fruit Bread~

Every Christmas Eve, my mom would make Christmas Bread. It was so good right out of the oven, and it might have been even better the next day for Christmas breakfast. When I saw this recipe on the Red Star Yeast website, I hoped it might taste a little like my mom's. It tasted exactly like my mom's.

Rich Holiday Fruit Bread is slightly sweet, with just the right amount of candied fruit bits, currants, and raisins. As it bakes, it fills your home with the cinnamon-rich aroma of the holidays. It's wonderful plain, and even more festive with a snowy glaze drizzled on top.

The recipe makes two loaves, and you'll be glad it does. I chose to braid one loaf, and baked the other one in a regular loaf pan.

I'll be making this again on Christmas Eve. What are some of your holiday baking traditions?

Please visit Red Star Yeast for the complete recipe for Rich Fruit Bread, detailed instructions, and handy baking tips.

Browse their huge collection of of tried, tested and true recipes for the best homemade breads, including a whole section of holiday recipes!

Find Red Star Yeast on your favorite social media:

Cooks Notes: It's not difficult to braid bread. After the first rise, just divide the dough for one loaf into three equal portions. Form the portions into long thin rolls or ropes, each about 15 inches long. Lay the three ropes on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet, all in a row, side by side, touching. Pinch the three ropes together at one end and tuck the pinched edge under to secure. Braid the ropes, then pinch the ends together and tuck under the loaf. Cover and let rise a second time, then pop it in the oven to bake. I brushed mine with an egg wash before baking to give it a warm sheen: whisk one egg with 2 teaspoons of water until completely combined. Brush loaf lightly with egg mixture right before baking.

Rich Holiday Fruit Bread may have been taken to some of these fun parties, including Metamorphosis Monday!

You may also enjoy another Red Star Yeast recipe, 

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Wine Bottle Gift Bags

During the holidays, I like to give bottles of wine or non-alcoholic sparkling cider. A fun way to make these gifts even more special is by bringing them in a lovely drawstring fabric gift bag. Fully lined, with no unfinished edges inside, they make a high quality, reusable gift.

You'll need some hostess gifts this season- have a few of these handy, and you'll always have something nice ready to go!

These are simple to make- sew a few straight seams, thread some ribbon, and you're done. Bag fits a regular 750ml bottle.

You'll need:

  • Two different fabrics of choice, one for outer bag, one for lining; fat quarters work great for this project
  • Two 21" lengths of coordinating 3/8" ribbon; grosgrain ribbon works well for not raveling
  • Coordinating thread and basic sewing supplies, including sewing machine

Directions:   Print directions
All seam allowances are 1/4", unless otherwise noted

1. Cut two 6.5" X 16" rectangles from outer fabric and two of the same size from lining fabric:

2. Right sides together, stitch around sides and bottom of outer bag. Right sides together, stitch around both sides of lining. Stitch across bottom of lining, leaving a 2" section open for turning the bags right side out later:

3. Press side seams open (makes threading the ribbon through later much easier), trim corners. Turn outer bag right side out.

4. Tuck outer bag inside lining, right sides together:

5. Match the top upper edges and side seams. Pin. Stitch tops together, then turn both bags right side out through opening in lining. Slip stitch opening in lining closed. Tuck lining into outer bag. Press top edge of bag (very important in order to get accurate measurements in step 6). 

Turning the bag right side out through the opening in the lining

6. Mark two stitching lines, one 2" down from top of bag, and one 2 and 5/8" down from top of bag. Mark with chalk or air-soluble marker. Stitch all around bag on both sets of lines, backstitching a few stitches across each seam:

7. Using a seam ripper, open stitches at seam between rows of stitching on outer bag side only (do not open stitches on lining). Do this on both sides of bag. This is why you did the backstitching in step 6. It keeps that one little opening from unraveling any further:

8. Using a large safety pin or bodkin, thread a length of ribbon through one side of casing, bring it back out through the same side and knot the ends. Cut the ends at a 45 degree angle to prevent fraying. Repeat with second length of ribbon on other side:

You're done!

Pop in a bottle of your favorite beverage and off to the party you go! 

On the blue and silver bag, I pulled a longer ribbon (about a yard) through one side only- it gives a little different effect of having a bow at the top, and longer ends of ribbon hanging down. I found some silver ribbon that holds its shape for pretty curls down the side.

I liked the red and gold for Christmas, and the blue and silver for New Year's. 

Wine Bottle Gift Bags may have been taken to some of these fun parties, including Metamorphosis Monday. Based on Small Lined Drawstring Bag by Threading My Way.

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