2013’s Best Recipes

Happy New Year! It’s been a great year over here on We Like Two Cook. Thank you all so much for stopping by and reading. Since our blog is fairly small, we truly appreciate everyone who checks out what we are posting. We’ve enjoyed a lot of really amazing food in our house this year, and wanted to share a list of our favorite recipes and the most popular recipes according to readers. Here are the lists:

Our Favorites:

Strawberry Cheesecake Macarons

If there was one favorite thing that we made in 2013, these macarons would win the prize. I know that there are people out there who dislike macarons, but I promise that if you give them these cookies with cream cheese frosting, a bite of strawberry, and graham cracker crumbs, they will love it.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

It sounds like something that’s not out of the ordinary, but this is our favorite pound cake out there. It is the best!

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Black Bean Burgers

This is something else that sounds less good than it really is, but let me tell you, it really is good. And by good, I mean that it’s one of the most flavorful burgers ever!

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Nectarine Galette

Next summer, instead of making something with peaches, try this nectarine galette. It is elegant and fantastic.

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Dark Chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Frosting and Toasted Marshmallow Filling

This one sort of speaks for itself. It’s probably the best cake we’ve made all year (except, perhaps, for a cake we made for our brother’s confirmation that must be shared sometime soon).

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Tomato and Basil Tart

This brings together all the best of summer into one tart that is a perfect symphony on a plate. It’s a nice variation of pizza.

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Baguette

It does take a lot of time, but it’s not hard. Anyone can make a baguette, and it is completely worth the effort!

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Buffalo Chicken Salad

This salad is a genius combination of spicy and refreshing flavors.

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Soft Pretzel Bites with Roasted Jalapeno Cheese Sauce

Our whole family loves homemade soft pretzels, and when you combine it with a spicy cheese sauce, you really cannot find something better.

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Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

I can’t believe we made this only twice in the past year. I think it’s time to make it again soon, because it is ridiculously good!

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Lemon Raspberry Ricotta Muffins

These were the best muffins we made all year- you must try them. We made an orange and chocolate variation that we should probably share here soon.

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Reader Favorites:

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries and White Chocolate

These pumpkin cookies are awesome. They are chewy and flavorful.

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Glazed Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

Pumpkin recipes were popular this year! I’m not surprised, since these muffins almost made our personal top picks (which was hard to narrow down, since nearly everything on this blog is worthy).

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Pizza with Queso Sauce, Avocado, Cumin-Lime Chicken, and Black Beans

This was the best thing we created this year, next to the strawberry cheesecake macarons.

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Bread Pudding with Vanilla Custard Sauce

Our little brother particularly loved these, and I don’t blame him! They are much better than the picture shows; we have to go back and re-photograph this recipe because it is truly fantastic!

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French Macarons with Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

This was our first foray into macarons, and they turned out beautifully- a sign of a great recipe!

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The Best Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Another Thomas Keller creation (see the macarons above) that was absolutely perfect. I wouldn’t change these in any way.

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Strawberry Pineapple Kiwi Smoothies

Refreshing and delicious, this smoothie hits the spot any time of the year! Use frozen berries in the winter.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Muffins

We’ve made these multiples times and they are always enjoyed.

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Gooey Cinnamon Squares

We made these on New Year’s day last year, and they were awesome! They are buttery and delicious.

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Strawberry Lime Cupcakes

The frosting on these cupcakes is spectacular.

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Buttermilk Biscuits

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When we were younger, whenever our mom would make biscuits (a rare treat), she would serve them with honey butter on the side. To this day, my favorite way to eat a biscuit is hot out of the oven with a little butter and a drizzle of honey over the top. There are few things that can beat it. We made biscuits for our Christmas morning breakfast, and we have determined that this is our favorite recipe.

Biscuits made from scratch are very easy, and the little bit of extra effort yields results far better than biscuits out of a tube from the grocery store. Over the holidays, make sure to try these- your family and friends will appreciate it!

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Buttermilk Biscuits

Recipe from Betty Crocker

Makes about 12 biscuits

Ingredients

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes

3/4-1 cup of buttermilk (add more as needed)

Directions

Preheat oven to 450. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter with 2 knives or a pastry cutter until butter lumps are pea-sized. Stir in buttermilk- don’t overmix! Use up to 1 3/4 cups of buttermilk if the dough is dry.

Pour the dough onto a floured surface and using a 2-inch circular cutter, cut the biscuits. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Serve hot and enjoy!

Note: if you want drop biscuits, use 2 cups of buttermilk.

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

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I meant to blog about these cupcakes this morning, but they were for a yearbook meeting this afternoon (I know, we had to go to school during break) and I ran out of time to write a post before leaving. I still wanted to blog about them today, because I have some muffins to blog about tomorrow, hopefully.

These cupcakes use my favorite chocolate base as of late. The recipe makes extremely fudgy and chocolatey cupcakes. The special secret is in the espresso powder in the cake- it deepens the chocolate flavor and makes it taste more complex. The only drawback is that this recipe makes very delicate cake and is intended for a larger cake, so the centers usually sink a bit in cupcake form. I am ok with that, since they taste so good, although you may want to keep that in mind if aesthetic appeal is important.

The frosting is heavenly; there is no other sufficient adjective! The peppermint flavor is not overpoweringly strong, but you can still taste it next to the chocolate. We topped ours with crushed candy canes, and a chocolate drizzle/ganache filling might be a nice addition as well.

All in all, I am pretty sure that if you bring these to any sort of holiday party, people will be thrilled.

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

Cake base from Annie’s Eats, frosting from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Makes 22-24 cupcakes

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour

1 cup (3 ounce) unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoon espresso powder

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 3/4 cups (12 1/4 ounces ) sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

For the frosting:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

3-4 cups powdered sugar (we used 3 1/2)

1/4 cup heavy cream or half-and-half

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Salt, to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon or so)

Crushed candy canes for topping (optional)

Directions

For the cupcakes:

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line two muffin pans with liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, espresso powder, and boiling water. When cooled slightly, whisk in the sour cream and vanilla. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed for 1 minute until smooth.  Gradually blend in the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy for 3 more minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the sour cream mixture, beating each addition just until combined.  Divide the batter evenly in the muffin pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

For the frosting:

Beat the butter on medium-high speed for 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar, then the cream, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract. Beat for several minutes more until fluffy and well combined. Spread or pipe onto the cupcakes. Top with crushed candy canes. Serve and enjoy!

The Best Gingersnaps

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I should probably be working on college applications instead of writing a blog post about gingersnaps, but sometimes my priorities are less mature than they should be. I won’t be too hard on myself about it, because these gingersnaps are seriously amazing! Plus, taking breaks participating in hobbies like baking/blogging helps give me the mental stamina I need to work on applications (or, you know, do other stuff like enjoying life!).

These gingersnaps easily made the “best-cookies-I’ve-made” honor roll, a great honor indeed.

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What makes these so special? Well, for one, they have the perfect cookie texture. The edges are crispy, the center is chewy, and the sparkling sugar adds a nice crunch. They also are perfect on flavor. They have both molasses and brown sugar in them, plus the right amount of spices (last year we made gingersnaps with cracked black pepper in them-yuck. They had a weird spicy aftertaste). They also could not be simpler-you don’t even have to soften butter! Yes, these are the ideal Christmas cookies, and we cannot wait to make them again.gingersnaps3

Gingersnaps

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Makes about 36 cookies

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup canola oil

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup molasses (not blackstrap, just regular)

1 large egg, plus 1 large egg white for rolling the dough balls in

1 cup coarse/turbinado/sparkling sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 325˚ F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt.   In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the oil, sugar, molasses and the whole egg until combined. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients until just incorporated.

Put the sparkling sugar into a small dish. Shape small portions of the dough into 1-inch balls.  Dip each dough ball in the egg white, remove and let the excess drip off. Roll the ball of dough in the sugar so that it is covered evenly. Repeat with the the rest of the dough balls.

Place the coated balls on the prepared baking sheets about 2 to 3 inches apart.  Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through baking, just until the tops of the cookies are set and beginning to crack, about 15-17 minutes (you can bake for slightly less time if you prefer a softer cookie).  Let cool on the baking sheets a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Lemon Madeleines

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We had been wanting to make madeleines for so long before we finally bought the pans and made a batch. They are one of those elegant treats that we admired from afar, but never attempted to make. They are cute, but don’t quite look worth the time to make. I mean, you might as well eat a slice of pound cake or something, right? Well, we were wrong!

They were worth the wait, and we regret not having made them sooner. This particular recipe is from David Lebovitz, who knows his French desserts since he has been living in France for a while. They are surprisingly simple to make- in my opinion, the hardest part is greasing and flouring the 24 shell-shaped wells in the pans. They are elegant cakes that almost seem like they couldn’t possibly have many calories, they are so airy.

The lemon flavor is just right, particularly when paired with the simple glaze (which we highly recommend, as it adds moisture to the madeleines and an extra bit of lemony punch). We added the optional baking powder to the recipe, and our madeleines turned out perfectly, so we suggest you do so as well.

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Lemon Madeleines

Recipe from David Lebovitz

Makes 24 madeleines

Ingredients

For the cakes:

3 large eggs, at room temperature

2/3 cup (130g) granulated sugar

rounded 1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup (175g) flour

1 teaspoon baking powder (optional, but we included it. Make sure it is labeled aluminum free!)

Zest of one lemon

9 tablespoons (120g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature (plus extra melted butter for greasing the molds)

For the glaze:

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons water

Directions

Brush the indentations of a madeleine mold with melted butter. Dust with flour, tap off excess, and place in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.

In the bowl of a electric mixer, whip together the eggs, granulated sugar, and salt for 5 minutes until frothy and thickened.

Spoon the flour and baking powder, if you are using it, into a sifter or mesh strainer and use a spatula to fold in the flour as you sift it over the batter (it is easiest to sift a bit, fold it in, and sift a bit more, and then fold that in).

Add the lemon zest to the cooled butter and stir together, then pour the butter into the batter, a few spoonfuls at a time, while at the same time folding to incorporate the butter. Fold just until all the butter is incorporated- don’t overmix!

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 1-12 hours. To bake the madeleines, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Divide the batter evenly between the 24 indentations. Do not spread it.

Bake for 8-9 minutes or until the cakes just feel set. While the cakes are baking, make a glaze in a small mixing bowl by whisking together the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and water until smooth.

Remove from the oven and place the madeleines onto a cooling rack. Let them cool for 5 minutes, then dip each one in the glaze, turning them over to make sure both sides are coated and shake off any extra glaze. After dipping, rest each one back on the cooking rack, scalloped side up, until the cakes are fully cooled and the glaze has set. Enjoy!

Note: Eat these the day they’re made- they will be freshest that way. Plus, they probably won’t last around for longer!

Brown Sugar Cookies

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We attend a small Catholic school run by nuns (although there are not too many of them! I’ve only had one teacher who is a nun). The retired nuns from the order that runs our school live in their own retirement home nearby, and our school has a service club that visits them every now and then, and sometimes they bring along cookies. We didn’t go for the visit, but we did make these cookies to send!

We love classic sugar cookies, but it’s enjoyable to try something new every now and then. These cookies are truly delicious. For a start, they have browned butter in them, which adds much more flavor than just plain butter. Also, they have a ton of brown sugar (no big surprise there, considering their name) which imparts a delicious caramel-like flavor into the cookie. They’re very sweet, so they are nice served with a cup of tea or coffee (or to leave out for Santa…he has a sweet tooth, you know!).

Brown Sugar Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Recipe from the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Ingredients:

14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 cups packed dark brown sugar

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon table salt

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:

In skillet over medium-high heat, heat 10 tablespoons butter until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from heat and stir the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter into the hot browned butter to melt. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

While the butter is cooling, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In shallow baking dish or pie plate, mix the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup packed brown sugar until combined; set aside.
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and baking powder; set aside.

Add remaining 1 3/4 cups brown sugar and salt to bowl with the cooled butter; attach paddle and mix on medium-low speed until no sugar lumps remain, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg, yolk, and vanilla and mix on medium-low speed until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined, about 1 minute.

Roll two heaping tablespoons of dough into ball between your palms, roll the ball in the sugar mixture, and then place it on the prepared baking sheet spacing the balls about 2 inches apart.

Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are browned and still puffy and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (the cookies will look underdone, but you don’t want them to get overcooked and crispy), about 12 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking.
Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes. Using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

French Onion Soup Sandwiches

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Everyone, I have to apologize for the lack of posting this past week and a half. We’ve been completely busy with various schoolwork/activities which has put a damper on the amount of time to post. Also, most of our cooking has been in the evenings or for guests so I haven’t had a chance to get pictures. Hopefully this weekend we’ll be able to try out some new recipes to share with you!

Anyway, I also need to apologize for not sharing this sandwich sooner. You see, taking pictures of it seems to be a bit…cursed. The first two times I made it, the sun went down just as the sandwiches were ready to serve (I only shoot with natural light). The next time, I was saving the last sandwich I made to photograph, and I burned it (such a juvenile cooking error, I know, but sometimes I get distracted). This time, the bread was supermarket sourdough without much character and it wouldn’t get crispy, no matter how long it was cooked and no matter how much color it got. So that explains the floppiness in the picture (which, typically, I did not notice while photographing). Feeling hungry yet?

However, this sandwich needs to be posted about, no matter how the mediocre the picture is. This sandwich is amazing, regardless of the road bumps it had to weather on its route to becoming a blog post. Onions are caramelized in butter and olive oil for maximum flavor, seasoned with thyme and beef stock (or white wine if you’re vegetarian, or if you just like wine!), and spread over bread. The whole thing is topped with Gruyère cheese and pan-fried. It is absolutely delicious, and ideal for cold winter days. Better yet, it is much quicker to prepare than real French onion soup, making it practical for any night of the week. We hope you try it!

Also, in case you were wondering what the words were on the plate in the picture, it’s part of a Christmas plate collection that has phrases from ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on it.

French Onion Soup Sandwich

Recipe adapted slightly from Joy the Baker

Makes 2 generous sandwiches

Ingredients

2 peeled medium yellow onions, sliced into 1/4-inch thick semi-circles

2 tablespoon unsalted butter,softened

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 scant teaspoon coarse sea salt (go scant so you can season to taste as you go along)

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly cracked

Pinch of granulated sugar

3 tablespoons beef broth or white wine

1/2 cup finely grated Gruyère cheese (we used a bit more, but this is just a suggestion)

4 slices bread (preferably good-quality sourdough)

Directions

Heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the butter and olive oil and cook until butter is melted.  Add the sliced onions.  Stir to coat the onions in the oil/butter and allow onions to cook without stirring for 4 minutes.  Add salt, thyme, and pepper and stir.  Place lid on the pan and let onions to cook for 4-minute intervals, stirring in between. The onions will begin to get brown and break down. (Should take 20-30 minutes)

When onions are entirely browned and completely soft, add beef brother or wine to the pan.  Scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan as the liquid evaporates for about 30 seconds.  Remove pan from heat.

Butter one side of each slice of bread.  Sprinkle the un-buttered side with Gruyère, top with caramelized onions, more cheese and the second piece of bread.  Repeat process in assembling the other sandwich.

Cook sandwiches over medium heat in a saute pan. Cook until both sides are golden on the outside and the cheese has melted.  Serve immediately while hot. Enjoy!

Honey-Lime Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

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Are you a Hunger Games fan? For me, Harry Potter will always be #1, but I have to admit, I really, really liked Catching Fire. It was cast very well (Josh Hutcherson, Jennifer Lawrence, and Liam Hemsworth…you can’t go wrong with them), the special effects were great, and I may or may not have been very excited when French macarons were served at a party in the Capitol. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend it! It was even better than the first; so good, in fact, that I saw it twice over Thanksgiving break (something that I never do).

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So, what did I do this break when I wasn’t seeing movies? I did a lot of cooking, but like I mentioned in the last post, some of it didn’t turn out very well. These tacos, though, are great! I know the thought of eating sweet potato in a taco may sound a little bit strange, but it actually really works. We added chorizo to our tacos, but I am sure that they would be delicious without the chorizo as a vegetarian option. They are very filling and make a great (somewhat) healthy meal!

Honey-Lime Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

Serves about 5-6

Recipe from Cooking Classy (one of our favorite blogs lately- check the blog out, she has some great recipes!)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes

4 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1/8 – 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you want your tacos to be)

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup diced yellow onion

1 clove garlic, minced

1- 14.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup frozen yellow corn, thawed and drained (if you ever make this in the summer, I’m sure that you could use fresh)

3 tbsp honey

3 tbsp fresh lime juice

2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Corn or flour tortillas

Sliced lettuce, cojita or Monterey Jack cheese, sliced avocados, salso, extra cilantro, sour cream, etc. for serving

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed, medium-sized baking sheet with foil. Place the sweet potatoes on the sheet and drizzle with 3 tbsp of olive oil; toss to coat. Sprinkle with cumin, paprika, coriander, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper and toss to coat Bake for 15-20 minutes or until tender, stirring once halfway through baking.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until golden brown and caramelized, at least 5 – 6 minutes, stirring in the garlic at the end. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the drained black beans, corn, honey and lime juice. Heat until warmed through. Toss in roasted sweet potatoes and cilantro. Serve on warmed tortillas with desired toppings. Enjoy!

Note: If you would like to add chorizo to this, pan-fry about 3 ounces of chopped chorizo until browned. Stir into the bean and corn mixture.