Most Popular Recipes {2014}

Happy New Year! This has been such a full year and one of so many changes for me.  From moving into our first home, adopting two dogs, and having a baby, 2014 has been truly life changing.  Today I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who visits Sally Cooks.  Thanks for your encouragement and support, your likes, tweets, pins, comments and shares.  I get a thrill when you tell me you’ve made and enjoyed one of my recipes and I wouldn’t be here without you.

Here are the ten most popular recipes from this year based on the number of views they had.  Thanks again for being here and happy cooking in 2015!2014

1. Layered Sweet Corn Guacamole and Black Bean Dip

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2. Irresistible Baked Smores Barsdsc_0776

3. Frozen Biscoff Pie with a Graham Cracker-Biscoff Crust

dsc_01884. Spicy Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos with Mango Guacamole

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5.  Spicy Buffalo Potato Salad and Mustard Vinaigrette Potato Saladpicture-0141

6. Simple Strawberry Angel Food Cake Trifle

dsc_06457. Super Easy Red, White and Blue Cookiesdsc_0120

8.  Spicy Sesame Glazed Grilled Corndsc_0575

9. Cinnamon Sugar Pecansdsc_0615

10. Kale Pesto Stuffed Baked Potatoes {in your Crockpot}dsc_0427

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Rosemary Roasted Almonds

This is a simple, five ingredient recipe that’s perfect for a hostess gift or to set out for your guests when entertaining.  Fresh rosemary gives the almonds a delicious flavor and fragrance. I make a large batch and keep them in the freezer.

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 What to buy:

  • 3 cups raw almonds
  • one bunch of fresh rosemary
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 pinched of sea salt or more to taste

What to do:

  • preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • place the almonds on a baking sheet with a few sprigs of rosemary and roast for 10-15 minutes or until the nuts are browned (you don’t want to burn them)
  • remove rosemary sprigs and toss nuts in a bowl with olive oil and salt

Baked Risotto with Roasted Butternut Squash and Dried Cranberries

DSC_0118This is a delicious recipe for creamy risotto studded with delicious roasted butternut squash and sweet dried cranberries. Roasting squash is simple; just cube, toss with olive oil, spread evenly on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and cook until it’s reached your desired consistency.  Roasting sweetens the squash’s flavor, making it perfect to eat on its own or to pair with risotto.  Baking the risotto in the oven is a nice shortcut so you don’t have to stir and stir the risotto on the stove top to get the perfect consistency.  This a dinner that will make your house smell wonderful and will satisfy your family on a wintry night.

What to buy:

  • 1 butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 tablespoon e olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries

What to do:

  • preheat the oven to 400 degrees and roast squash on a single baking sheet on top rack of the oven (risotto cooks on the bottom rack)
  • heat olive oil in an oven safe saucepan or pot oven over medium heat
  • add onion and cook, stirring, until it is soft, about 5 minutes
  • add rice and stir to coat with the oil
  • stir in the wine and cook until the wine has evaporated, about a 1 minute
  • stir in 2 cups of chicken broth, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil
  • cover and transfer to the oven, bake on the bottom rack during the last 20 minutes of roasting time for the vegetables
  • after 20 minutes, check the risotto, remove from oven if most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice just cooked
  • after you take it out from the oven, stir in 1/2 cup chicken broth, butter and cheese
  • once the squash has reached desired done-ness in the oven stir them into the cooked risotto
  • stir in cranberries and top with extra cheese if desired

DSC_0075 DSC_0087 DSC_0099 DSC_0108This post was sponsored by Health Perch but all opinions are my own.  Try these simple flavor combinations to make the most of my favorite winter squash, the delicious butternut.

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A Lamborghini Gallardo for Christmas & $100 LivingSocial Deal Bucks for You!

Can you believe it’s December 11 already? That means there’s only 13 days ’til Christmas! If that sends you into a panic, rushing to the mall to fight over parking spaces, please don’t fret and definitely don’t go to the mall.  Thanks to LivingSocial, I have hundreds of unique (and discounted!) gift ideas for you!

DSC_0411To say the last year has been busy for my husband and me would be a vast understatement.  We moved to another state and became homeowners,  adopted two crazy Labradors, I started a new job and last, but certainly not least, we had a baby. Quality time together has become a lot harder to come by so the best gifts we gave each other were experience-based like a weekend in Asheville to celebrate our first anniversary (with William in tow!) DSC_0118

Similarly, for my birthday, Joe gave me two experience gifts.  We shared a  great afternoon over canvases “painting our pets” with HappyMess, an experience I blogged about here.  We now have two Joe and Sally originals hanging in our living room.  Joe also gave me tickets for a Food Tour of Durham with Taste Carolina.  Husbands take note, a food tour is always a good idea when you’re wife is super pregnant.  One of the restaurants on the tour, Pompieri Pizza, is now our favorite pizza place.  You can read more about our food tour experience here.

When LivingSocial reached out to me I jumped at the chance to find a unique experience gift to give Joe this Christmas.  Under the most popular local deals tab I found it!  The Supercar Agility Autocross Experience includes education-based instruction on driving an exotic supercar, 3 laps around the autocross course in a Ferrari 360 Modena or Lamborghini Gallardo and the opportunity to meet fellow supercar enthusiasts.  I’m sure it will be a memorable afternoon and what says “you’re a true North Carolinian now Joe” more than a few laps around a race track? I’ll be tagging along with William so he can take some pictures in the driver’s seat of a Lamborghini.fef95353-235a-44df-90c9-4f5a0e05c857_700_q90

And now for the best part! LivingSocial is giving one lucky reader $100 in LivingSocial Deal Bucks that he or she can use to gift a new experience to someone they care about this year.   The choices are endless and there’s something for everyone on your list, from a limo ride tour of the best holiday lights to cooking lessons to a snowy winter retreat. Most LivingSocial deals can be gifted – just look for the gift icon. Whether you want to give the gift immediately or schedule it for a future date, the printable gift vouchers and digital delivery options make wrapping a cinch. DSC_0435

  If you’re a local reader in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill some great gifts available now on LivingSocial include tickets to a Duke Women’s basketball game, a Trail Ride, Kids’ Pony Ride, or Horseback Riding Lessons at Black Creek Hill Farms or a Brewery Tour of Fortnight Brewing Company.  You can find all these and more here.

Use the Rafflecopter link below to enter or if you don’t want to use Rafflecopter, you can also leave a comment below with which LivingSocial experience you’d pick.  The winner will be chosen randomly on December 17 at 12am EST and will be notified via email.  The winner’s first name will be listed in this post on December 18th. This contest is open to everyone in the U.S. and if you win you must sign up for a LivingSocial account to receive the Deal Bucks (all this requires is an email account.)  The Deal Bucks aren’t transferable to cash and are only good for use at LivingSocial.  Thank you for entering and good luck!

Click here to enter!

The giveaway is now closed and I’m happy to announce that the winner is Seema!

 This post is sponsored by LivingSocial but as usual, all opinions are my own.  Happy Holidays! image-2

Jalapeño Artichoke Toasts & a Giveaway with La Terra Fina! {Giveaway Closed}

Today I’m excited to bring you a giveaway that’s perfect for your holiday entertaining! One lucky reader will win a prize pack of two classic dips and one signature egg white quiche from La Terra Fina, a San Francisco based company that offers a full line of all natural (free of artificial flavors and preservatives,) handcrafted dips, quiches and special holiday baked treats.   You may have seen their dips at Costco and many of the new Greek yogurt dips are also available in specialty grocery stores.  You can search for a store near you here.

Entertaining, especially during the holidays, can be overwhelming and I appreciate a quality shortcut like a pre-made dip that tastes homemade.  I like to have a good spread of appetizers ready when my guests arrive and gather in the kitchen so I can focus on getting dinner on the table.  Enter La Terra Fina and a delicious hot artichoke dip!

DSC_0444  The last time we had dinner guests I served La Terra Fina’s Spinach, Artichoke & Parmesan dip with a vegetable platter and salty multigrain crackers.  It was delicious and easy to heat in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees without any oil separation. DSC_0550  In addition to the dips, La Terra Fina will send the winner one of their signature quiches.  I’ve tried the Florentine Quiche that’s packed with spinach and artichoke.  The crust is rich and buttery and the egg white custard heats beautifully in the enclosed pie dish.  Like the artichoke dip, this too, tastes homemade.  DSC_0435

I like it with a little Sriracha on top!

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This weekend we’re having my family and my sister’s new fiancé’s parents (follow that?) for dinner.  I’m excited to kick things off with La Terra Fina’s Artichoke & Jalapeño dip using this recipe for Jalapeño Artichoke Bread.

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What to buy:

  • chunky Artichoke & Jalapeño Dip
  • 1 baguette, cut in small slices
  • shredded Parmesan cheese

What to do:

  • preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • place the baguette slices on a cookie sheet and spread evenly with desired amount of dip (about 1 tablespoon every slice)
  • sprinkle top with shredded Parmesan cheese
  • bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until cheese is golden brown
  • serve warm with freshly ground pepper

And now for the giveaway!

La Terra Fina wants to simplify your holiday entertaining by sending two dips and a quiche to your door.  To enter: simply leave me a comment with your favorite recipe for entertaining, or let me know which La Terra Fina’s product you’d like to try (find a list here.) You can also enter below using the following Rafflecopter link and prompts. The giveaway is only open to U.S residents and one winner will be randomly selected on December 17th.  Thanks for entering and happy entertaining!

 Click here to enter!

The giveaway is now closed and the winner is Lauren! Thanks to everyone who entered1

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This post and giveaway was sponsored by La Terra Fina but all opinions are my own.

Vanilla Bean Whipped Sweet Potatoes

When I saw this recipe from Food & Wine I knew I had to try it and I was not disappointed! This is my new favorite way to eat sweet potatoes and is as simple as can be.  My picture doesn’t do it justice because you can’t quite see the specks of vanilla bean (just like in real vanilla ice cream.) They’re sweet but not too sweet with a wonderful vanilla flavor, perfect for a holiday meal or in our case, a Thursday night with friends. I made a few changes to the original recipe by adding cinnamon and using half and half in place of cream.

What to buy (serves 5-6)

  • 5 medium size sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup half and half (or cream or 2% milk )
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, slit down the middle with the seeds scraped out
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

What to do:

  • bake sweet potatoes at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until soft
  • allow them to cool a bit, then peel off the skins and transfer the inside to a food processor or blender, pureeing until smooth
  • in a saucepan, combine milk, butter, vanilla bean pod and seeds, salt and cinnamon over medium heat until simmering
  • remove the vanilla bean and add vanilla mixture to pureed sweet potatoes, process again until well mixed
  • transfer to a bowl and serve warm (reheat in oven for a bit if potatoes have cooled too much)

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Three Cheese Baked Spaghetti

I’ve been in a bit of a cooking rut as a new mom,  relying heavily on my crockpot and simple casseroles to get dinner on the table so I was excited when Tuttorosso invited me to “Celebrate the Sauce!”  The 85-year-old, family-owned and family-run tomato brand (all tomatoes are carefully grown in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio) recently launched a new website (www.tuttorossotomatoes.com) with recipes, an inspirational ideas blog and stories from home cooks. The recipe tab is great with beautiful pictures and simple recipes.  DSC_0424

As part of the project I created a recipe of my own for Baked Spaghetti using Tuttorosso products.

You can get in on the fun too; Tuttorosso is also hosting a promotion in December during which they will be giving away 1,000 aprons per week, one heirloom wooden spoon per day and the grand prize, a Martha Stewart Cookware set. You can go here to enter!original

The spaghetti sauce made the kitchen smell wonderful and the baked pasta hit the spot on a chilly December night.  I didn’t add meat as I was making double to take to a vegetarian friend who just had a baby but if you’d like, crumble 1-2 pounds ground beef  in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat until fully cooked, with no pink color remaining. Drain the fat from the meat, and then add the ground beef to the stockpot as the sauce simmers.

What to buy (serves 8-10):

  • 28 ounces crushed Tuttorosso tomatoes with basil
  • 28 ounces Tuttorosso tomato sauce
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 ounces uncooked spaghetti or angel hair pasta
  • 1 cup grated cheddar
  • 1 cup grated Monterey Jack
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

What to do:

  • preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • in a stockpot, combine the tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, onion, pepper, garlic, basil, spices, sugar, and bay leaves
  • bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for thirty minutes
  • cook the pasta according to the package directions
  • cover the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2 inch pan with sauce
  • add a layer of pasta and then a layer of each cheese; repeat the layers, ending with the sauce
  • bake in the oven for 30 minutes
  • top the casserole with cheese and pop it back in the oven, and continue to cook until the cheese is melted, about 5 more minutes

DSC_0454 DSC_0458 DSC_0465 DSC_0478 DSC_0483Here are some of my favorites recipe ideas (click the picture for recipe) from the new Tuttorosso website:

 Chicken Basil Risottot_chknbasilrisottoFontina Macaroni and Cheese

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Manicotti Florentine

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Grilled Chicken Skewerst_grilledchknskwrs

Peach Chicken Chipotle Salad

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Chunky Tomato Soup

t_chnkytomatosoupThanks to Tuttorosso for sponsoring this post and for the crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce used in my recipe.  Happy cooking!