Monday, January 4, 2010

Best of 2009

I can't believe another year has flown by. I know it sounds cliche, but it really does amaze me that yet another year of my life has gone by so quickly. Oh, and what a year it was. I've had my ups and downs, both in the kitchen and with life in general. I'm happy to report, though, that things ended on a high note in both departments. My "Twelve Treats of Christmas" series was well received, both by you my readers, and by the people who gobbled up all the tasty treats. More importantly, I finished up 2009 with a trip to meet M's family over Christmas in Oregon--including snow (!), a trip to Oklahoma to visit family--including more snow (!!), and an amazing New Year's Eve meal and a fireside midnight kiss!!! I just don't think it could get much better. I am blessed.

To highlight my favorites cooking successes of 2009, I've decided to compile a "best of" list. They're in chronological order, with the exception of the final recipe, which I've decided was the very best of 2009. Enjoy!

This apple-cranberry-ginger pie is a winter favorite of mine. It fills the house with the most amazing, comforting apple smell while it's baking. Once you take a bite, though, the tart cranberries come forward and the gingery warmth rounds out each perfect bite.

I made these almond-scented cupcakes with raspberry filling for a "Bachelor Finale" party. They cupcake were a huge. In fact, I still crave them. What I don't crave, though, is Jason Mesnick. Ugh. I still can't believe he did that to Melissa.

I have to admit, I don't use my Crock Pot all that often. But last March I used it to make this slow cooker pulled pork and was blown away. Warning, though...your house will smell fantastic after only about two hours of cooking, which wouldn't be such an issue if the pork didn't still need another nine hours of cooking. Thanks to Bridget for this great recipe!

Katie's blog is another of my favorites and these juicy strawberry scones are a perfect example why. I made them with a beautiful flat of strawberries and was completely satisfied with the perfect balance of creamy scones and juicy, slightly tart strawberries. You'll want to be sure to make these come strawberry season.

Oh goodness. This mango-rum sorbet knocked my socks off. I made it on an unseasonably warm day during my spring break and was instantly transported to Jamaica. I promptly made another batch and can't wait for the first time I make it this year!

A common question on the cooking board I frequent is, "What non-carb sides can I make for a Mexican meal?" I always answer with these delicious calabacitas. They're almost completely free of carbs and they're packed with nutrients and flavor. That's a winning combination in my book!

Mmmmmmm. These super snickerdoodles are most definitely my favorite cookie of the year. They're light, fluffy, and buttery with just the perfect crispness from the cinnamon-sugar coating. Try making them with vanilla sugar for an extra treat.

I'm a huge fan of butternut squash and these quesadillas filled with butternut squash, black beans, and feta were just incredible. Not only are they 100% delicious, they're also a great weeknight option. I like to roast and puree the squash on Sunday, then put it in the fridge to be used during the week. If you're looking to lighten things up in the new year or you're hosting a dinner party with vegetarian guests, these quesadillas are a great option.

My mom loves black forest cake. So when my sister asked me to bring the dessert to her birthday bash, I immediately set to work making a grocery list for favored black forest cake. Then I realized neither M nor my sister like chocolate that much. I managed to satisfy my mom, my sister, M, and everyone else with this decadent black forest cheesecake. Part chocolate wafer crust, part rich white chocolate cheesecake, and part tart cherry topping, it was to die for. If you need a show-stopping, crowd-pleasing dessert, try this one. Go ahead...try it!

I made these acorn squash stuffed with autumn fruit compote when I made dinner for M and I one night. They were delicious. The acorn squash provides a great flavor base, and the compote brings the perfect mixture of sweet and savory.

Bridget came through again with her pumpkin cupcake comparison. These babies were moist, perfectly dense, not too sweet, and brimming with pumpkin flavor. Once topped with cinnamon-bourbon frosting, they were downright irresistible.

While planning recipes from my Christmas goodie tins, I knew I'd need sturdy treats that would be a good mixture of chocolate, sweet, and not-so-sweet. (I never did make it all the way to savory!) I was so enchanted with these hazelnut and dried cherry biscotti, I almost didn't want to give them away. The flavors-hazelnut, cherry, cinnamon, and orange-worked together perfectly, yeat held their own as standout components. I know I'll be making these again soon.

So this brings me to my favorite recipe of 2009 and, I have to say, it was a very easy choice. It honestly would've been enough that these little cuties provided me with that oh-so-rare "I'm good" moment in the kitchen. But what put these squarely into the top spot for 2009 was the fact that I first made these for M as a surprise when he was working a particularly grueling weekend and he LOVED them. He even requested a repeat. Actually, he just let me know "it'd be okay if I made them again sometime". I happily obliged and made them for dessert the night we decorated our first Christmas tree. M was so happy, he made the cutest expression of surprise, and even had seconds. That expression has made its way into our lexicon and is now known as "lemon bar face". I hope you'll try these and I hope you'll be able to feel the joy of seeing someone you love show you just how much they love your cooking with "lemon bar face."

Thanks for continuing to stop by for your "Apple a Day." I hope you'll stick around to see what I do in the new year. Here's to a happy, healthy, delicious, and prosperous 2010!

5 comments :

jenn said...

Congrats on a great year of blogging!! Loving your apple cranberry ginger pie....yum!!!!

Natalie said...

i LOVED that bnut squash recipe, made it in pitas (here: http://mclaurysweets.blogspot.com/2009/12/butternut-squash-black-bean-feta-pita.html)

i can't wait to try that pie sometime, as well as the mexican side dish!

Just Breathe said...

I put a big star and this and will be back to try these. They all look wonderful.

Bridget said...

Oh, your favorites are my favorites too! I need to try that lemon bar recipe - I haven't found one yet that completely knocks my socks off.

ashley said...

i've been craving sorbet/sherbet lately... can't wait for it to warm up a bit more... cause mango rum sorbet sounds fab! :-) happy new year!