Liebster Award

I would like to thank A Vegan In Progress for nominating this blog for the Liebster Award! (I would also like to offer my sincere apologies for being so tardy in acknowledging the award! It is for lack of time, not lack of appreciation.)

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Rules:

  1. Answer the 10 questions that the tagger set for you
  2. Choose your 10 favorite new bloggers with less than 200 followers
  3. Create 10 questions for your favorite new bloggers to answer
  4. Go to their page and tell them
  5. No tag backs

While I love the idea of passing the award on, I honestly have not been following any blogs in the last few months (full-time work and the demise of Google Reader put a cramp in my style!), and the blogs I do manage to check in on occasionally, have more than 200 followers. So, I’m not able to participate in that part of the award, but I’ll answer the 10 questions that  A Vegan In Progress asked…

1.  In this golden age of television, what’s your favorite show currently airing?

Steph – I don’t watch a lot of TV, but the shows I like to see are ParenthoodParks and Rec, and Modern Family. I’m also a fan of So You Think You Can Dance, but only managed to catch about half of the shows this summer.  

Alaina – I enjoy Downton Abbey in addition to the shows Steph mentioned.

2.  Have you ever won anything (other than an Liebster nomination of course!)?

Steph – As a kid I won ribbons in 4-H and music festivals. But, I’ve never, personally won any big awards.

Alaina – We have gratefully received a few blog awards! Other than that, i won a couple of scholarships in college as well as 4-H awards.

3.  What is your go-to cookbook?

Steph – Currently my go-to cookbooks are Nourishing Meals and The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook both by Alissa Segersten.

Alaina – Hm, probably my Bon Appetit cookbooks.

4.  What is your first ever memory?

Steph – I was given a stuffed dog when I was born which I loved, but for some reason my little sister (two years younger) became obsessed with the dog and anytime she saw the dog I had to hide him. Eventually I caved and gave her the dog (which she adored, he even went to college with her!).
As for my first kitchen memory, it’s probably decorating a cake for my mom’s 32nd birthday.

Alaina – My first friends, Tammy & Jenny. They lived next door. My first ever kitchen memories is making eggs in the microwave and decorating a cake for our mom’s birthday.

5.  If you won the lottery, what would be your first expense?

Steph – My boring answer is pay off student loan. 🙂 But, I’d love to buy a little house with a place for a garden. I’d also love to travel!

Alaina – My boring answer is also to get out of debt. 🙂 Beyond that, I would buy a new van, build a house designed around the kitchen, take our kids to Asia, and start a non-profit grant organization.

6.  Where is your happy place?

Steph – I most like it when I become completely absorbed in something I enjoy doing, such as reading or cooking or quilting or yoga or writing.

Alaina – The kitchen.

7.  Where would you next like to travel?

Steph – I would love to travel internationally, but as I’m quite certain that the possibility of such travel is still a few years away, my closer to home travel dreams are the Grand Canyon and the Pacific Northwest.

Alaina – I LOVE to travel. My dream place (at the moment) would be an island with an umbrella drink. Realistically, I would like to travel to North Carolina to visit one of our sisters.

8.  Did you complete any college?  If so, what was your major or emphasis?

Steph – I have a Bachelors degree with a double major in English and Writing.

Alaina – Yes, I am a licensed dental hygienist.

9.  What do you feel is the most important issue facing society that is largely being ignored?

Both – Tough question! We try to stay out of politics on the blog. 🙂

10.  What is your favorite kitchen appliance?

Steph – Oh, it’s too hard to choose! My food processor and blender get the most use. But I also love my waffle maker, Kitchenaid, slow cooker, and immersion blender. I’m of the opinion that if I own an appliance, I should be using it with some regularity, otherwise it is not worth the cabinet space.

Alaina – So many! Slow cooker is probably use the very most or maybe my Bosch. They are both must-haves for me. I also love my immersion blender, rice cooker, and food processor.

Updates on Life!

Goodness, it’s been awhile since we’ve posted! So much has happened in the past 6 months! My family is expecting a daughter home from Ch*na next month and the past few months have been busy with paperwork and preparing for her arrival! We are so excited and so anxious to have her home! I, of course, am looking forward to visiting Ch*na for the first time and enjoying some new cuisine. Stephanie has changed address and moved to another state. We now live far from each other and miss seeing each other so much!

So, needless to say, it’s been an eventful several months. Cooking and baking has taken a back burner for me beyond keeping my family fed. I miss the excitement of new recipes, new ingredients, and playing with food photography. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that my camera has been rather unused of late.

We sincerely hope to remedy this sad state of the blog in the new year! We do love to cook and bake and blog and connect with you, readers. We have lamented the unplanned blog break to one another frequently over the past several months.

As for my latest kitchen adventures…this is hands down my favorite time of the year for the kitchen! I haven’t had my big candy making day yet but today, sugar cookies and peanut butter cookies have been baked. For our tree trimming party, we enjoyed lemon sugar cookies per the kids’ request as well as a blueberry pecan cheeseball. YUM!

I’m looking forward to spending more time in the kitchen and sharing the joy of creating food with my boys.

We sincerely hope you are having a wonderful year and happy holiday season!

Some Changes

We are working to make some changes here at The Cooks Next Door. Stephanie had requested a trial period and with that time coming to an end, I’m so thankful that she has agreed to stay on as an admin and full time contributor! I will be working to update the information under the tabs to reflect that exciting news. 

We have been discussing how best to make the blog work for both of us with the many other responsibilities we have. So, we wanted to keep you informed of how the blog will be structured this year.

We will have posting on Monday, Wednesday, & Friday. We plan to include our monthly magazine review on the 2nd Friday of the month. Heather will continue to be an occasional contributor.

We have also decided that while we will still use some of our topic titles, we will not have a set day for what type of post will appear. So you may have Market Fresh on Friday or Weekend Fare on Wednesday…you get the idea. 🙂 

We are thankful for your continued support. We are happy to share our recipes, photos, and kitchen lives with you. We appreciate your votes of confidence through comments, e-mails, fb, and most of all for you sharing our site with your family and friends.

We look forward to 2011!

Believe It or Not!

We have a great week with daily posts coming up! It will include soup, candy, brunch and more! We will have some great recipes for last minute gifts and goodies that are simple but delicious! We are looking forward to it after the past week – a necessary, lighter week. 🙂

An Introduction

It is with great pleasure that I introduce a new contributor here at The Cooks Next Door! There was one person that immediately came to mind when I knew we needed to find someone else to write for the site…my sister. I’m so glad she agreed to a trial run as a contributor!

Stephanie is a wonderful cook and she experiments regularly in the kitchen. She married her husband in 2008 and in 2009 he was diagnosed with Celiac’s disease. She inspires me as she has taken on gluten free cooking and works so hard to provide delicious meals for her family. Many (if not all) of her posts will include tasty gluten free recipes! While we do not live next door (that would be too perfect, right?! :)), she does also reside here in the Midwest.

Please join me in welcoming her as a Cook Next Door!

Favorite Fall Recipes

In my opinion, fall is one of the best seasons for cooking and eating. Harvest provides the bounty to cook with and hungry appetites, whetted by the cold weather, are eager to devour the fruits of the kitchen. Here are our favorites:

Rustic Apple Tart: I love to make these tarts because they are easier than a pie, and you can get two of them from one recipe of pie crust. Apple pie is a perennial favorite and a must for the autumn.

Spicy Butternut Curry: this was a random selection from a squash cookbook that turned out to be a winner. I served it to company as well as just to our family.

Spiced Cider Punch: We enjoyed this at a friend’s wedding and then used it for parties here at home. It is easy, seasonal, and very delicious.

Roman Apple Cake: This was most likely the first apple recipe I ever made growing up and it has stuck around as my go-to for a comfort cake.

Treacle Scones: these scones are filled with the scents of autumn and perfect for tea time on a windy wet day.

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SAUSAGE LENTIL SOUP: We love this soup – It’s filling and absolutely delicious!

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BEET, GOAT CHEESE, & AVOCADO SALAD: This was such an unexpected and fabulous combination of flavors.

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PUMPKIN DESSERTS: Pretty much anything pumpkin tends to be my favorite! The pumpkin cake, pumpkin bars, and pumpkin cheesecake are all wonderful.

cranberry pie
CRANBERRY CHESS PIE: I stumbled on this recipe a few years ago and it’s become a family favorite.

PUMPKIN PANCAKES & MAPLE BACON: While I didn’t love how the photo turned out, we have continued to return to this pancake recipe.  Very fallish!

Heather’s Favorite Posts

Today it’s time for me to share some of my favorite posts from the past year. To me, favorite post means beautiful and delicious. Here the ones I chose:

Giant Strawberry Shortcake: I love this fresh turn on an old favorite that makes for an easy, elegant dessert.

Farmer’s Market: Pictures from the farmer’s market always inspire me. This post was full of such pictures.

Good to the Grain Strawberry Jam Scones: I was surprise at how delicious these barley scones were. They instantly became a favorite.

Sweet and Spicy Citrus Tilapia: This was an easy but sensational way  to cook fish.

Potato Salad: I had so much fun reviewing the potato salad cookbook that I couldn’t stop making various kinds.

King’s Cake: I had never heard of King’s Cake until this year. It was surprisingly easy and so delicious. We enjoyed it several times.

By far, the recipe that I use the most from this past year is Alaina’s Green Beans and Walnuts with Lemon Vinaigrette. I use the sauce (minus the shallots and walnuts) almost every week. I put it on green beans most frequently, but it is also good on broccoli. Everyone who tastes it loves it!

New Feature

Tomorrow, we will have our first Foodie Friday! All you have to do is write a post sharing a recipe, a food memory, a cooking or eating experience, an ingredient, a photo, a restaurant or book review or anything food related. Occasionally we will have a specific theme  for Fridays but for this week, anything goes! We hope it will be a great opportunity for you to share your culinary adventures. And we hope many of you will join in – we can’t wait to read your posts!

On another note, due to a medical emergency in Heather’s family, our posting may be a bit different for an indefinite period of time. Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers.

We are so grateful for your continued support! And as always, we can be reached via e-mail.  

On and for this week, I will be participating and introducing Foodie Fridays with the Weekend Fare post tomorrow.

Cast Your Vote & Simple Supper

Here are our top favorite suggestions! Now it’s your turn…you vote for your favorite! The poll will be open for one week and the winner will win the awesome Salad Cookbook as well as the privilege of having their suggested name be the new feature name for at least the next 3 months! The random winner of the other cookbook will also be announced at the same time.

And I’m sharing the simple meal we enjoyed last night. Veggie Egg Scramble, Roasted Potatoes, and Toast w/Homemade Peach Jam.

I had vegetables left over from a veggie tray this weekend so I chopped up the red, orange, and yellow peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, and broccoli. I sauteed the vegetables in a little butter and then added beaten eggs (seasoned with salt and pepper with a little half & half), scrambled together, and topped with cheese.. The potatoes were diced and then tossed in a little olive oil, salt, & pepper and baked at 425 degrees for 15-18 minutes. The toast just had butter and peach freezer jam I made last summer – the perfect sweet, fruity compliment for the meal.

It was nutritious, delicious, and satisfying! Who says dinner can’t be simple and quick and a little break-fasty?!

Vacation & You Vote!

Hello everyone! We decided awhile back that we needed to occasionally take a week off from the blog…so, this is our summer vacation! We will back next Monday with many new recipes and photos. In the mean time, I will post a poll tomorrow so you can vote on your favorite of the finalists we’ve chosen for the Friday feature name!  So be sure and check back in for that and cast your vote.

As always, thanks so much for reading our blog, trying our recipes, and giving us great feedback! We are nine months into this project and it was about a year ago that this idea was born. It’s been a lot of work and even challenging at times but we are excited to continue bringing you inspiration (we hope!) and healthy, seasonal recipes. You are always more than welcome to contact us at thecooksnextdoor@gmail.com.