About two years ago, I decided to start actually writing down the recipes I used, take pictures of the food I cooked, and write down a few words about what worked and what didn’t in the dishes that I made. In doing so, I’ve improved a lot as a cook and tried a lot of things I might not have otherwise tried. The past year, I’ve been busier than I ever have been in my life and am pretty darn proud over the amount I’ve still been able to post on here. Overall, I’ve relied less on the recipes of others and learned to use them as inspiration while incorporating my own perspective.
Since a huge reason for me starting this blog was to try recipes that we liked and might want to try again in the future, I thought I would compile a list of the posts the readers have viewed most over the past year, a list of my favorite recipes from the last year, and a list of Zak’s favorite recipes over the last year. Since some of the reader favorites from last year have held over until this year, and I think it’s high time to update a few of them given my (slightly) increased skill and knowledge in the kitchen – especially, for example, the almond crusted chicken tenders and sweet potato tater tots.
The lessons I learned, at least about our likes and dislikes, is that Zak and I both really like fish. We both really like vegetables. Simpler is often better (but not always). The grill yields results we both tend to like. Pesto is always welcome. A lot of the things we each enjoyed came from ingredients we got through the CSA and might not have otherwise purchased – at least in tandem.
And even though my posting frequency has decreased slightly, I still really, really enjoy blogging and sharing with you all.
Kelseyincleveland’s Second Blog-o-versary
Most Popular Posts this Past Year:
10. Chipotle and Dr. Pepper Shredded Pork with Roasted Jalapeno Polenta
9. Stuffed Hungarian Hot Peppers with Tomato Sauce
8. Lemon Mashed Great Northern Bean Enchiladas with Homemade Tortillas
7. Savory Baked Oatmeal and Egg
6. Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt
5. Sauteed Baby Bok Choy with Romesco Sauce
4. Almond Crusted Chicken Tenders with Sweet Potato Tater Tots and Hot Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
3. Ricotta Dill Mac and Cheese
2. Lemon-Garlic Sardine Pasta with Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli
1. Vegetarian Stuffed Poblano Peppers
Whole Grilled Lemon-Parsley Barramundi
This whole grilled barramundi was my introduction to cooking with whole fish. It turned out so well that I’ve cooked with whole fish at least a dozen times since then. I still think this was my favorite, though – simply prepared with salty, crispy skin and succulent, moist flesh. I don’t know that we’ve ever absolutely inhaled a dish so quickly and thoroughly.
Breaded Pan-Fried Cod with Roasted Vegetable Israeli Couscous Salad
Crispy pan fried cod encased in tomato-infused bread crumbs, moist on the inside and deliciously crunchy on the outside? Check. Couscous with roasted vegetables, cooked in rich homemade chicken stock and tossed with a light balsamic dressing? Check. Complete and utter deliciousness that makes for tasty leftovers? Check. One of the top ten best dishes I cooked all year? Definitely check.
Pickle and Beer Brined Oven Braised Chicken Thighs with Crispy Roasted Green Beans
It’s hard to choose which element of this dish – the moist and succulent pickle and beer brined chicken thighs or the crispy roasted green beans – is better. So I won’t. They’re both great. These green beans are a staple on our dinner table after this dish, made with the same method and any variety of seasons. The chicken was moist and delicious, and it’s an excellent way to use up leftover pickle juice.
Gnocchi and Kale with Browned Butter and Butternut Squash Sauce
This dish hits every single flavor point that I could ever dream of in a pasta dish. The rich, nutty browned butter, sweet caramelized butternut squash, slightly bitter sautéed kale worked together so, so well. It’s rare that I use much butter or any cream or half and half in a dish due to the health factor, but this was definitely worth it.
Cheesy Scallion Scones
As we all know, I am not much of a baker. But these cheesy scallion scones are flakey, cheesy, oniony and beyond delicious. So much so that I’ve made several variations of them. I love them as a snack with a slight smear of butter, for breakfast to sop up a rich, creamy egg yolk, and served alongside a bowl of soup with a light smear of goat cheese. Every time I think about them, all I can think about for the next few hours is “Why the eff aren’t those on the kitchen counter right now?!” Until I make them.
Ginger-Soy Steamed Whole Black Bass with Red Cabbage Coleslaw
Once I got up the gumption to try cooking with whole fish, I could not get enough of it. The perfectly moist, silky smooth texture of this bass, infused with the slight flavors of ginger and soy showed me that steaming a whole fish went firmly into the column of yes’s when it comes to fish cooking methods. Contrasted with the brightly colored and flavored red cabbage coleslaw, this made for a light and flavorful meal that I still can’t get out of my mind.
Radish Top Pesto
One of the best things about belonging to a CSA is the fact that it provides both access to and motivation for using ingredients (or parts of ingredients) that you might otherwise a) not see in a grocery store or b) simply add to the compost heap. This radish top pesto is proof positive that sometimes the least appreciated part of an ingredient (the radish tops) make an inexpensive and delicious dish. Here, the gorgeous pesto produced from some radish tops keeps me looking forward to getting radishes in the CSA – and not for what most people would consider the “important” part.
Savory Salmon with Vanilla-Balsamic Marinade
What surprised and delighted me most about this dish was discovering how beautifully the combination of vanilla and balsamic worked in a savory application. The slightly sweet, slightly acidic marinade worked perfectly with the salmon and this dish is a great reminder to branch out and try something new from time to time, because you might be pleasantly surprised.
Wild Rice and Roasted Vegetables with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
This simple and hearty lacto-ovo- vegetarian dish was a really great way to clean out the vegetable drawer, and would work with any number of vegetables or types of rice. What really worked, though, was the combination of roasted red pepper and garam marsala.
Grilled Meatball Sandwich with Roasted Tomatillo Parsley Sauce
The real take away lesson with this dish is that grilling meatballs is a fabulous idea – it adds a complex and rich smokiness that would improve nearly any dish. Here, it worked particularly well, pairing nicely with the bright and fresh tomatillo and parsley salsa to create a satisfyingly simple meatball sandwich.
Mushroom and Barley Risotto
My only complaint for this dish was there needed to be 10 times more of it. I was actually sad when I finished, it was heartbreaking. The barley had an amazing umami flavor that actually made the mushrooms taste like authentic meat. Now that I’ve stopped eating meat, I’m always amazed when I eat something that reminds me of it. Although I have no intention of stopping my current pescartarian streak (7 months now) I do appreciate when something can mimic the flavor and texture of a delicate steak. This dish nailed it.
Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Pickled Red Onions
I wasn’t sure if I ever tried seafood in tacos before, with the obvious exception of fish tacos. Luckily, my introduction to shrimp tacos was a monumental first impression. The shrimp were cooked perfectly for me and retained an amazing amount of flavor against the red onions. Usually, I would be more inclined to eat shrimp in a simpler fashion over rice, without a lot of hoopla. I was surprised to find that the shrimp in this dish broke through the clutter, despite the strong flavors of the other ingredients.
Creamy Cannellini Beans and Tomatoes with Dill and Mustard
Another example of simplicity that transcends expectations creates an unusually delicious meal. The ingredients for this dish probably cost less than $5 but it creates a decadent meal that would fit in as a fancy side dish or appetizer in many fancy restaurants. I’m fine with this as a main course, however, because it does manage to bring many great things to the table and is very filling to boot.
Roasted Tomato Pasta
Simple and elegant. Filling and delicious. Healthy and addictive. I can probably come up with a few more adjective combos, but you get the point. Among all the starches, pasta is my favorite because of the way it can absorb complex flavors OR be enjoyed with just salt, pepper and oil. Case in point is this dish here. Nothing could be more simple (or cliche) than pasta and tomatoes, but that combo doesn’t always yield outstanding results. In this case, everything came together perfectly to prove the “less is more” axiom and turn an old staple into a unique delicacy.
Herb and Onion Roasted Whole Red Snapper with Lemon Risotto
The concept of a whole fish may turn people off because of the aesthetic. If you’re one of those people, you should try this. While I love a good fish filet as much as the next person, the whole fish lends more taste to the final dish. Not to mention, the process is much easier than you may think. It doesn’t take any special knife skills or knowledge of aquatic biology to properly cook a whole fish. If you’re new to the process, pick out a lesser expensive whole fish (of which there are plenty) and do an experiment to see for yourself. Use this recipe as a guide and you’ll be fine.
Oven-Roasted Golden Trout with Golden Beats in a Chive-Chevre Sauce over Simple Polenta
Where do I begin? There’s nothing about this dish that wasn’t 100% perfect. The fish is so light and delicate, it almost drowns out in the background among the tertiary elements. I’m not bothered by that because the beets complimented the fish in a way I’m unable to articulate. I’m not a big fan of sweetness in a dinner course, so I was skeptical of the beets’ sugary presence. Stupid me, it ended being the apex of cookery.
Parmesan and Olive Oil Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Garlic
Another example of “whodathunkit??!!” with this dish. Immediately after this meal, I knew it would make it onto my best top ten list no matter what. It has all the positive elements I strive for in my diet: flavor, nutrition, freshness, lack of meat, etc… I would have entered my obsessive mode of “let’s do this every week” but my memory failed me, and probably for the best, because I would have been annoying about asking for it. Never get sick of this one, it’s killer.
Polenta Stuffed Green Peppers
Stuffed peppers, admittedly, isn’t really my bag. I’m not much into green peppers (yellow and red are more acceptable) but this dish got everything right. The peppers provided the perfect vessel for the creamy polenta. The contrast between the soft polenta and crisp peppers gave an excellent balance and lent itself to making each bite special.
Basil and Parsley Pesto
I didn’t realize the amount of pesto combinations that could potentially be made. This particular combination could rival the most expensive (read overpriced) pesto in any fine Italian restaurant (do not read Olive Garden). Instead of being clumpy or dense like most store-bought versions, this pesto covered the gnocchi more like a traditional marinara sauce. It had an authentic taste that made me believe it could be canned and sold in stores…let’s just keep it un-clumpy.