Recipe Collections

Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread and The Other Top 11 Recipes of 2012

by Shawnda on December 27, 2012

in Recipe Collections

It’s always fun to look back at the end of the year and see what recipes hit people with “I gotta make that now. Like RIGHT now.” Or at least “I’m going to Pin it and then forget about it. Like that DIY shower door miracle cleaner I never tried.”

The Top 12 Most Viewed recipes of 2012, as clicked on by you:

Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread

1. Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread – It’s 2 parts pizza, 1 part finger food, and 3 parts awesome. I modified a recipe I found over at the lovely Annie’s Eats and then within 7 days of being posted, it became the most popular recipe I’ve ever, ever, ever posted. Like, ever. And it has stayed that way. Kinda like my embarrassing love-hate relationship with Taylor Swift songs.

Brie & Brisket Quesadillas

2. Brie & Brisket Quesadillas with Mango Barbecue Sauce – Thanks to the Crockpot, it’s a really easy – and a pretty fancy – dinner or appetizer. One of my all-time favorites from The Pastry Queen.

Fresh Strawberry Cake

3. Fresh Strawberry Cake – Real, from-scratch strawberry cake recipes are nearly impossible to find if you’re trying to make one without Jello and strawberry extract but this one is a friend & family (and internet) favorite.

Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries

4. Crispy Baked Zucchini Fries – Last summer, zucchini invaded my backyard and threatened to take down the Monarchy. With some breadcrumbs and some Ranch Dressing, I quashed the rebellion.

Green Monster Smoothie

5. Green Monster Breakfast Smoothie – A fresh, easy, and healthy way to start the day. It’s green – but it doesn’t taste like it!

Restaurant Style White Queso Dip

6. Restaurant Style Queso Dip – Most restaurants won’t tell you that the secret to their awesome white queso is white American cheese. But it is. And you can make it at home for less than $7 for a small bowl.

Homemade Margarita Mix

7. Homemade Margarita Mix – #7? C’mon, guys, this is way better than the pizza monkey bread! And you’ll want to stock your freezer so you can make these 20 (woah) flavored margaritas.

Homemade Ranch Dressing Creamy Jalapeno Ranch

8. Homemade Ranch Dressing – Skip the squeeze bottle and pull out your blender. You’ll never go back, I promise. And the variations (especially the Chuy’s version) are just as awesome.

Hot Asiago Crab & Artichoke Dip

9. Hot Asiago Crab & Artichoke Dip – We recreated – and improved – a brewery favorite appetizer. It’s killer. And uses a reduced fat base so it’s better than the original in pretty much every single way.

CrockPot Korean Beef Tacos with Cucumber Slaw

10. CrockPot Korean Beef Tacos with Cucumber Slaw – The greatest thing to ever come out of my Crockpot, courtesy of the beautiful Tina from My Life as a Mrs.

Dr. Seuss Cupcakes

11. Dr. Seuss’ Thing 1 & Thing 2 Cupcakes – The attention-getter at my daughter’s Cat in The Hat Birthday Party this year.

Healthier Stove Top Mac & Cheese Healthier Stove Top Mac & Cheese Healthier Stove Top Mac & Cheese

12. Stove Top Macaroni & Cheese – 4-ingredients to stove top mac & cheese perfection. The secret to our better-for-you mac & cheese is fat-free Greek yogurt – it’s loaded with protein and makes a creamier sauce. And the variations are endless (challenge accepted).

That’s it! The Top 12 for 2012. Thanks for making 2012 such a happy blogging year!



Show of hands. Who else spent a couple of hours yesterday sorting through browser bookmarks, magazine recipe tear-outs from years past, Pinterest, and favorite blogs to plan their Thanksgiving menus?

You are not alone.

Roasted Chestnut and Sausage Dressing

My parents and I usually alternate hosting every other year but a glitch in the matrix means I get to host in my “off” year. Thanksgiving dinner in my family is always a late lunch followed by unbuttoned pants comatose football-watching followed by the dragging of the Christmas tree decorations out of the attic.

Me, I could make an entirely new menu every year and be happy. But tradition is important to my dad (and when we’re talking broccoli & rice casserole, my little brother) so I try to work in enough new dishes to satisfy the holiday adventurer in me while keeping enough of the family favorites to prevent disownment.

Roasted Carrots

This year’s menu features decades-long-tradition dishes, a family favorite cocktail, and a few new/madeover dishes (*). The new stuff is getting a test run over the next couple of weeks – if they keep their place on the menu, I’ll share them before Thanksgiving. If they don’t, I have plenty of time to whine about it on Twitter and find a suitable replacement.

Thanksgiving Menu

What’s going on your menu this year? And if you need some inspiration or suggestions, check out some of our favorite Thanksgiving Greatest Hits!

Cranberry Margaritas
Blood Orange Margaritas – I’ve already seen blood oranges in the market, hopefully they’ll stick around!
Wine – Riesling, Pinot Noir, and our housemade port
Beer – St. Arnold Pumpkinator and our Christmas Ale, if it’s ready in time

Baked Brie en Croute with Cranberry-Apricot Chutney, served with vegetables, crackers, and toasted baguette slices

*Sweet Tea & Citrus Brined Turkey – Go big or go home, right?
*Hasselback Sweet Potatoes with Maple Cinnamon Butter and Bacon
Roasted Chestnut & Sausage Dressing – This is my very favorite dressing in the whole wide world.
Dad’s Baked Beans – 5 ingredients. And one of them is bacon.
*Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole – We have 3 rules in my family regarding Thanksgiving dinner and this dish breaks all of them.
Roasted Green Beans – There is always a lack of things that grew in the ground, in close-to-natural form, at our Thanksgiving dinner table. And if the bin of green beans looks sad and picked over…
Thyme Roasted Carrots with Goat Cheese – More consolation prizes should come topped with goat cheese.
*Cranberry-Port SauceClassic homemade cranberry sauce… but with booze.
Black Pepper & Rosemary Dinner Rolls – And a plain batch thrown in for good measure.

Not it! I have baseboards to dust. We’re pie people so I expect my familiy to show up with an assortment of sweet potato, pecan, and chocolate pies large enough to feed 3 football teams.



Cherry tomatoes coming out of your ears? Me, too. Isn’t it awesome :) I’ve pulled together a few of our cherry tomato greatest hits and would love to hear about yours in the comments section!

Lemony Orzo with Chicken and Roasted Tomatoes

1. Quickly roast them. And then toss them with pasta, leftover chicken, and artichokes…

Penne with Roasted Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Or penne and mozzarella.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

2. Slow-roast them. Low heat, a couple of hours, and then try to stop yourself from eating the entire pan before tossing into pasta or on sandwiches and pizza.

Pico de Gallo

3. Quarter cherry tomatoes, toss with chopped red onion, the hottest jalapenos you can find, cilantro, salt, and a little lime juice. And then scoop that with chips, over tacos…

The Texican Burger

…Or on a fancy hamburger

4. Grilled. Toss with olive oil and throw them over open flame. And then throw them over a steak.

Cherry Tomatoes

5. Give them a quick rinse, a pat try, and then sit on the couch with a bowl in your lap. It’s more respectable than a bag of Funyons.



Classic Lime Margarita

A real thing.

February 22nd – today! – is National Margarita Day, declared by someone who knows someone who knows something about these things. So here’s wishing you & yours a wonderful, margarita filled day!

Of course, around here, it seems like every day is Margarita Day. It mostly seems that way because it is :)

I often get asked about brands of tequila and orange liqueur. Our favorite tequila is currently Sauza Hornitos Plata.

Orange Liqueur: As for orange liqueur, I no longer use it because I make all our margaritas “skinny” now to save on sugar & calories. Back in the day we used Grand Marnier. But then we discovered Paula’s Texas Orange. Paula’s is made locally here in Texas and has a much cleaner citrus taste than Grand Marnier. The bonus – it’s also much cheaper than Grand Marnier! If you can’t find Paula’s, simply use an orange liqueur that you like. Or do like I do now – just substitute an equal amount of fresh orange juice for the orange liqueur.

Which bottled margarita mix is the best: Trick question. Keep reading.

Homemade Margarita Mix: We gave up the neon green bottled stuff in favor of a homemade margarita mix years ago. It’s 2 parts lime, 2 parts water, and 1 part sugar (only now I simply omit the sugar and sweeten each margarita recipe by the glass with liquid stevia). It will keep a week or so in the fridge – if it lasts that long :) And you’ll never, ever go back to the premade stuff.

Sweeteners: As far as simple syrup goes, that’s simply equal parts water and sugar, heated until the sugar dissolves. It also keeps nicely in the fridge. Since someone has been watching her empty calorie intake, I now sweeten our cocktails with liquid Stevia. To use your favorite sweetener in place of sugar, simply add the equivalent of your sweetener to the mix in place of the sugar or omit and sweeten per-glass. For liquid stevia, I find that 3-5 drops per glass is perfect.

Flavored Margaritas: Here are a few of our favorite flavored margarita recipes, but for the full menu of flavors, click here!

Classic Lime Margarita – It starts out with a homemade margarita mix of lime juice, water, and simple syrup and then you add in the good stuff. Warning: You will forever be spoiled and know in an instant if your favorite Mexican restaurant uses bottled mix and not fresh lime juice. It’s a burden you’ll learn to bear.

Grapefruit Margaritas

Grapefruit Margarita – The juice of a Texas ruby red grapefruit, when mixed with tequila and orange, is completely magical. This drink has turned life-long grapefruit haters into fans. Pick up 1 large grapefruit and make it once. If you don’t like it…

Blood Orange Margaritas

Blood Orange Margarita – It’s wonderfully citrusy and absolutely gorgeous. Blood oranges aren’t available year-round so you should really get started on this one. Like yesterday.

Raspberry Margaritas

Raspberry Margarita – Inspired by my good friend Brooke, who always ordered her frozen margaritas with a Chambord floater. It’s full of raspberry flavor from both fresh berries and raspberry liqueur (I use Drillaud because it’s not as pricey as Chambord).

Blackberry Margarita

Blackberry Margarita – Inspired by my good friend Brooke’s raspberry margarita :) The winning formula is the same, the berries and liqueur are different. And don’t even think about wearing white while making it. Or drinking it!

Jalapeno-Cucumber Margarita

Jalapeno-Cucumber Margarita – Inspired by chef Tim Love’s appearance on Iron Chef. It’s cool, spicy, and tastes like spring. Plus, how could you not love something inspired by a cowboy hat-wearin’, tequila-shootin’ guy who knows his way around the kitchen?

Cranberry Margaritas

Cranberry Margarita – A huge hit at Thanksgiving and Christmas, especially for those of us who don’t care for the peppermint and non-hot-chocolate cocktails. I don’t know about you, but it just isn’t Christmas at home without a tequila spiked drink :P

And believe it or not, there are actually a couple of flavors I haven’t gotten around to posting yet. They’re hanging out in a draft folder somewhere, waiting on a “rainy blogging day” to see the light of day. Maybe soon… But probably later. Because guess who has given up alcohol until Easter.