Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 5 Posts of 2012

Today marks the end of my first year as a food blogger. I'm still debating to what extent I'll be blogging in the new year, I'll likely keep it up but perhaps with a little less regularity. But as we look to 2013, just about everyone presents a "best of" list from 2012. So in keeping with this spirit, I present to you the Top 5 most clicked on blog entries from Small Girl, Big Appetite. Some of these come as little surprise, but I was surprised that considering i post a decent amount of meat dishes, not one of them made this list!

5) Baked Costa Rican-Style Tilapia

This is a very simple dish that has a nice sweet taste, brought about by the pineapple rice. The fish itself doesn't have a lot of flavor, BUT the rice is awesome and so when you mix it all together, it's a great dish.

4) Smoked Paprika Roasted Salmon with Chive Pesto Fingerling Potatoes

I make this salmon all the time. You can easily mix the ingredients together with one fillet and not end up with a ton of leftovers. I regularly have all the ingredients in my cupboard. And it just tastes so good. I haven't made the potatoes in a while, but as we enter wintertime and I tend to gravitate to my favorite starch, I'm sure I'll revisit that side dish.

3) Food Porn: Belga Cafe

Let me give you all a brief lesson about Search Engine Optimization. Certain words naturally garner higher search results due to their popularity. I should put the word "porn" in every post because then my site visits will go through the roof. But I only choose to use it sparingly, when visiting restaurants with porn-tastic food dishes. This entry highlighted a great brunch restaurant in Capitol Hill. The truly interesting anecdote about this is that the owner/head chef of the restaurant was eliminated last week on Top Chef: Seattle. He made it about halfway through the competition. One of his dishes, the green eggs and ham, he featured on that show and it's high on my list for the next time I grab brunch there.

2) Buffalo Cheesey Bread

I need to give credit to my friend Nick Evans from for this recipe which I made for a Super Bowl party this year, and subsequent other sporting event watches. You take cheese, mayo, hot sauce, a good french bread, and chives to create something that tastes much like a buffalo wing, without the wing. Amazing.

1) Food Porn: Sticky Rice

Remember what I said earlier about SEO? This is a perfect example of how this works. This post included the words "porn" AND "sticky" in the title and "balls" in the body. (that's what she said?) Yep, this is a no brainer and received twice as many clicks as anything else. Sadly the owner of Sticky Rice passed away a few weeks ago, but the restaurant perseveres on. And I'll be visiting again in the New Year.

Happy New Year's Eve all!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Scalloped New Potatoes

I spent a week in Pittsburgh for the holidays. My initial intent was to cook for the family several times during the course of the week, but I only ended up cooking a full meal twice. I did assist my mother in the kitchen on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, contributing to the making of this potato dish.

It should come as no surprise to my readers from the burgh that we like our potatoes in this state. I think I had potatoes 3 ways over the course of the week. This recipe, that my mother has had cut out from a magazine from December 1999 takes a different approach to regular scallop potatoes, making them lighter, and adding a bunch of vegetables.

Scalloped New Potatoes (serves 8)

  • 2 lbs. tiny new potatoes, sliced
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 TB margarine or butter
  • 3 TB all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 3/4 cups milk (we used 1%)
  • 6 cups torn spinach, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small red sweet pepper, cut into matchstick strips
  • 3/4 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 2 quart oval or rectangular baking dish with cooking spray; set aside. 

In a large saucepan cook potatoes, covered, in a moderate amount of boiling salted water for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain and transfer to an extra large mixing bowl. In the same saucepan cook onion and garlic in 2 TB of margarine over medium heat for 5 minutes or until just tender. Stir in flour, rosemary, parsley, salt and pepper. Stir in milk all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.

**Note that my mom has said that every time she makes this, she doesn't feel this is enough sauce. So we did 1 1/2 times as much of this milk sauce, but if you want to keep the calories/fat down slightly, you may want to follow the recipe.  Just know that the sauce won't cover as much as you expect.

Add spinach and red pepper to potatoes. Toss gently to combine. Pour sauce over potato mixture. Stir gently until evenly coated. Transfer potato mixture to prepared baking dish. The dish will be very full.

Sprinkle cheese evenly over top. Melt the remaining 1 TB margarine. Add bread crumbs, tossing to coat. Sprinkle over cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until edges are bubbly and crumbs are golden. Serve.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Sweet Popcorn Mix

I could say that my family comes from a long line of bakers and the pressure is just too high to present beautiful cookies, however, the long line is really just one--my Grandma Gorscak. She worked in catering for years and as her grandchild, I was treated to various cakes and unique cookies over the years. From ladylochs to Serbian cookies with jam, her desserts never disappointed. While many of her recipes have been shared and my aunt has made some of them at the holiday times, I have yet to attempt them myself. For fear of not doing them justice. 

We celebrated her 90th birthday earlier this month and several guests had mentioned her amazing baked goods, further solidifying that I wasn't the only one to benefit from her treats.

So in my continuing series that I like to call "Why I opt to make cookies at the holidays" I present another simple sweet snack. This is a great gift to bag up for friends, which is exactly what I did.

Sweet Popcorn Mix

First, in a large roaster, combine:
6-8 cups of popcorn (large microwave bag makes 5 cups)
1.5 cups of peanuts
2-3 cups of Cherrios
2-3 cups of Crispix
Set aside.

Second, in a small pot, combine the following & bring to a boil for 5 minutes (do not stir)
1 stick margarine
1/4 cup of white Karo syrup
1 cup of sugar

Remove from heat & quickly stir in
1/2 tsp of vanilla
1/4 tsp of baking soda

Drizzle the liquid mixture over popcorn/cereal mix.
Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stir every 15 minutes.
Let cool and then serve, or package in bags for friends.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

PB Pretzel Crack

I'm not the best holiday cookie baker. Often times I don't quite read the directions carefully, or am missing cookie molds, or some other pertinent ingredient to get things just right, and it often ends in disaster. Take the madeleines I tried to make this weekend. I had all the ingredients, but assumed cake/cookie molds were the same as cookie cutters. I was wrong. I couldn't use the cakey dough with a cookie cutter, so I ended up making them round. And they ended up flat. Nothing I care to share with the office as evidence of my culinary skills.

This recipe, on the other hand, never fails. I'm not sure where I got it originally (other than my mom, who I managed got it from someone else), but I can say that it is never meant to look pretty, it's super easy to make, and I never get complaints on it. Even from people who claim to not really care for peanut butter-based sweets. So consider making this for your holiday party or to just have around the house this December. It's so addictive, I call it my PB Pretzel Crack.

PB Pretzel Crack


  • 6-8 cups of thin pretzels
  • 1 10-ounce bag of vanilla morsels
  • 1 10-ounce bag of peanut butter chips
  • 2 TB peanut butter

Melt the morsels, chips and peanut butter in microwave. Do this in short increments and stir on occasion, to make sure that it doesn't burn or get clumpy.

Add the pretzels into the bowl and mix thoroughly. This will break the pretzels into smaller pieces.

Spread out thinly on a baking sheet covered with foil or wax paper. Refrigerate until candy hardens (1 hour will do it) and then break the candy into smaller pieces. Serve.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Food Porn: The Pig

I'm never shy about my appreciation of pork. I even have a kitchen towel that says "Bacon: The Gateway Meat."  Because if anything is going to turn a vegetarian, it'd have to be bacon.

Earlier this year, a restaurant opened in Logan Circle called "The Pig." As you would have guessed, probably 80 percent of the food on the menu contains some sort of pig. And it's fabulous.

I finally got around to checking it out last weekend. Ironically on the first day of Hanukkah, with a non-practicing Jewish person. But I digress.

He found "swine fine" so we went on to eat a ridiculous amount of the good stuff, including the "little pig platter" complete with three types of pork products like prosciutto, housemade pickles, and baked crostinis. We also sampled, as picture above, the Carolina-style pulled pork with mac and cheese. Some may see the oil in the picture and think "why on earth would I eat something so meaty and oily" and I say, "why the hell not?"

Check it out. The food is great, service is awesome, and even the bathrooms are covered in pictures of pigs.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bison Burgers with Gruyere Cheese and Caramelized Onions

As I've written in this blog before, I'm very fortunate to live within walking distance to several farmers' markets. The best of these markets is a bit of a hike from where I live, but when you're on a mission for meat, it's the place to go. The target meat for that trip? Buffalo.

I think I first had buffalo meat when I traveled to Montana for a friend's weekend shortly after graduating from college. But the experience stuck with me and when I've found a crafty bison burger on a menu in DC, I've opted to give it a try. One of my favorite burgers at one of the local restaurants here in DC offers a bison burger with goat cheese and carmelized onions.

I decided to try something similar with two of the bison patties I picked up at the Dupont Circle Farmers' Market. Except I used some leftover gruyere cheese that I had handy. I'd put the recipe down here, but it was truly as simple as carmelizing some onions, and melting some gruyere cheese on these burgers, which I cooked in a skillet. One thing to note about bison meat is that it is extremely lean, and can get overcooked very easily. I cooked it about 3 minutes a side. Served with a side of sweet potato fries.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

CFC Chili Cookoff

Last week, I participated in my first-ever chili cookoff. This was an event organized at our office to raise money for the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), a government-led initiative to raise money for non-profit organizations. I was one of 15 entries within our division at the Department of Health and Human Services.
We had a lot of different types of chili enter the competition, from super hot firewater chili to a savory turkey chili, carved right off the bone. I opted to make a Cincinnati-style chicken chili. You may remember me posting this recipe.

I decided to revisit this recipe, altering the ratio of spices a little bit and using a crock-pot to let it simmer overnight. I think this is the best version I've ever made of this chili. I believe a large part of it was the crockpot. I had to actually borrow one, as I typically use a dutch oven. But I may now be a convert.

While my chili didn't take home the big prize (but it did win second place for "People's Choice"), the big winner in this scenario are the charities that will benefit from our efforts. This competition raised nearly $400 for CFC. And I even managed to educate a few people who had never heard for a sweet and spicy chili. A win-win all around. Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Creamy Butternut, Blue Cheese and Walnut Pasta

When I try to cook vegetarian, it usually ends up being a dish with a pasta base. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I'm trying to limit my carbohydrate intake, so I opted to try a recipe that uses pasta sparingly, almost as a side ingredient to the main act-butternut squash.

This simple butternut squash pasta dish can be made with any tipe of rounded pasta, I opted to make it with gemili, though the recipe called for cavatappi.

Creamy Butternut, Blue Cheese, and Walnut Cavatappi (serves 4-6)


  • 4 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/3 pounds)
  • 2 1/2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 8 oz uncooked cavatappi/pasta
  • 1 cup prechopped onion
  • 1 TB minced garlic
  • 1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk, divided
  • 1 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 oz blue cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3 TB chopped walnuts, toasted

  • Directions:

    Preheat oven to 425°.

    Combine squash, 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 24 minutes or until tender, stirring once.

    Cook the pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta; keep warm.

    Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in 1/2 cup milk, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Combine remaining 1/2 cup milk, flour, and yolks in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Slowly add egg mixture to pan, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook 5 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently with a whisk.

    Combine squash, pasta, and milk mixture in a large bowl; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with cheese and nuts.

    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    Walnut Streusel Bread

    Last week, I bid farewell to a colleague I have worked with on our department's anti-bullying initiatives since June. She is going on to a fabulus opportunity, but she will be greatly missed by our groups. For our final editorial board meeting, I organized a farewell breakfast, contributing this walnut streusel bread. This is the second quickbread I've made in a month and I still find that my oven takes a bit longer than instructed for it to finish baking. But I've included the regular cooking instructions, just adjust accordingly per your oven.

    Walnut Streusel Bread (serves 16...very tiny people)


    • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
    • 1 TB all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
    • Dash of salt
    • 2 TB butter, melted
    • 2 TB chopped walnuts
    • 9 oz all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 5 TB butter, softened
    • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 cup fat-free buttermilk
    • Baking spray with flour (such as Baker's Joy)


    Preheat oven to 350°.

    To prepare streusel, combine first five streusel ingredients in a medium bowl. Add 2 tablespoons melted butter, stirring until well combined. Stir in nuts. Set aside.

    To prepare bread, weigh or lightly spoon 9 ounces flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine 5 tablespoons butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition; beat in vanilla.

    Beating at low speed, add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until combined. Scrape half of batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with baking spray; sprinkle with half of streusel mixture. Spread remaining batter over streusel; swirl. Sprinkle remaining streusel on top of batter.

    Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging.

    Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack.