Welcome 2010!

Happy New Year! I have been dreaming about 2010 for a LONG time. I started graduate school in Chicago in 2004 knowing that I would not be done until close to 2010, at which point I planned to move back to St. Louis where my entire family lives. Meanwhile, Bob decided to go back to school, knowing he would graduate in the spring of 2010. We both feel that our lives have sort of been on hold during this time – waiting to have more time (and space) for our hobbies and interests. So, 2010 is a big year for Bob and I:
His graduation and my hooding ceremony:

A big move to St. Louis:

New jobs: (Bob will be working as a PT and I’ll be working with fruit flies!)
House shopping:

And one of my favorite parts is that my cousin Chris, who joined the Navy just as I was starting graduate school, will have completed his service and is moving back to St. Louis too.

I am beyond excited to be near my parents and extended family again!
Since it’s the beginning of a brand new year, I’d like to reflect back on 2009. I feel like I have grown so much in my cooking since starting this blog last March – it has really pushed me beyond my comfort zone and forced me to try new things. I have now worked with mock marzipan, royal icing, and yeast breads, just to name a few. I am so thankful to each and every one of you who read my blog and who comment on the recipes I post!

To celebrate the occasion, I’ve decided to go through the things I made in 2009 and choose my favorites. I realized I couldn’t pick just one favorite of each category of food, so I decided to just pick my top recipes and list them here. This is hard because I typically only post something if I really like it, so I usually recommend it all. To be featured in this list, the recipe must meet my standards – most importantly, taste amazing – when I read the title of these recipes my mouth actually starts watering – that’s how good they are. As a cooking blogger, it’s difficult for me to repeat recipes because there are SO MANY fabulous ones out there to try (I have about a million starred in Google reader to prove it!) To be honest, it’s really only the super special recipes that I actually make a second time. These are recipes that I plan to make again and again. Sometimes it’s not even my choice – it’s that Bob requests them over and over. Funnily enough, a lot of my top recipes are from Giada De Laurentiis! Not on purpose, it’s just how it turned out.
In no particular order, this is my list of “must makes” from 2009:
Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes – This is a simple recipe from Giada because it uses store bought pancake mix, but it’s a semi-homemade approach that tastes incredible. The ricotta cheese really elevates the pancakes to a new level. I am a pancake snob and only like them super light and fluffy, and these pancakes deliver!
Panzanella – I absolutely LOVE this classic tomato and bread salad recipe of Giada’s. Perfect for summer when tomatoes are at their peak, but still great the rest of the year.
Chicken Tortilla Soup – I have made many chicken tortilla soups before and never quite found the right one . . . until this one. I love it’s simplicity – no corn, no beans, just a super tasty broth with a few veggies, and some chicken of course. The toppings are exceptional. I think each of them adds another flavor dimension. I recently made this for my family and they loved it!
Ribollita – I would have to say this was one of my most surprising recipes (it’s Giada’s). The whole time making it I was convinced I would hate it – it didn’t look appetizing and I really planned on having to eat crackers for dinner. Not only did I eat the soup, I had a second bowl. It was that good. And now here it is on my top recipes lists for 2009. Go figure!
Chicken Gyros – I have made these at least 5 times in the last 5 months! They are SOOO good. The most recent time I made an amazingly delicious flat bread, which I will post soon. It took these from awesome to indescribable 🙂
Garlic Chicken – Serve with rice, serve with rice noodles, just serve!
Triple T Deluxe Pizza – One of the only recipe on this list that is my own, and it’s not even a recipe! The crust is from Cook’s Illustrated and truly makes the pizza. The toppings are a great combination, I think. This was the first time I made pizza at home and thought, “hey, this is better than I can get delivered” – no joke.
Rigatoni with Sausage, Pepper, and Onions – Just thinking about this dish makes my mouth water (another Giada recipe). The sweet onions and peppers, the tangy tomato sauce, the comforting pasta, and one of my favorite flavors – marsala wine. This is one of my favorite dishes of all time!
Chicken with Dijon Mascarpone Sauce – Love this recipe! Yet another one from Giada – what can I say, she’s knows good Italian food! Get your mascarpone cheese at Trader Joe’s if you can – so much cheaper. This recipe is so indulgent. I save it for special occasions and company.
Fresh Salsa – The first time I made this, I was skeptical. How could I like it more than the great salsas you get in Mexican restaurants? I was mistaken – this salsa is right up there with the best of them. It’s fantastic served with quesadillas, enchiladas, or tacos, or by itself with tortilla chips. I served this as an appetizer when my cousin and her boyfriend were over one night. He kept saying how good it was, then kept apologizing for repeating himself – it was cute 🙂
Spinach and Chicken Quesadillas – My favorite quesadilla recipe so far! In my opinion it’s the fajita seasoning that makes it special (I credit Annie for that addition!) It was through this recipe that I realized my love of Monterey Jack cheese – it’s perfect for Mexican food!
Tres Leches Coconut Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Buttercream – Wow. Seriously that word sums it up. These were incredible. I still have people at work say to me “you know, you can make those anytime, you don’t have to dress them up as Easter Chicks.” I take a LOT of desserts into work, and for this one to stand out as much as it did really shows it’s a great recipe. I can’t wait to make these for my dad because I know he will LOVE them!
Pumpkin-Chocolate Tart – Not only is this one of my favorite desserts in terms of decoration, but this tart is fantastic. The combination of the sour cream and pumpkin makes a super tasty filling. The gingerbread-tasting crust is spicy and delicious, and it’s coated in solid chocolate! I plan to make this again next fall for sure.
Chocolate and Toasted Coconut Covered Homemade Marshmallows – Homemade marshmallows are fabulous on their own, but as soon as I dipped them in chocolate and rolled them in toasted coconut, I had a hit! These are just like candy. My only mistake was not making more of them! Next year, I will be prepared with plenty of chocolate and coconut on hand to make a bunch of these.
Triple Chocolate Biscotti – I’m certainly not a biscotti expert, since these were the first I’ve ever tasted, but what a great little cookie! I loved the combination of white and bittersweet chocolates. These are great on their own or dipped in your favorite coffee, tea, or even milk.
Chicken Marbella – This is such a famous recipe and probably needs no introduction, but if you’ve never tried it, you must. Great for a crowd or a small group with yummy leftovers, the flavors in this dish are truly wonderful.
Double Chocolate Layer Cake – Decadent and rich – this dessert is perfect for chocolate lovers like yours truly. I’m not surprised it’s the most accessed recipe on Epicurious.com!
Spicy Roasted ChickenPam has several great looking chicken recipes – all of which I’d love to try. This one is so delicious. I love the spices and the chicken turned out very juicy.
Chicken Pesto Pizza – I loved this pizza! It’s a blend of sweet peppers, zucchini, and chicken, flavored with Italian seasoning. The ingredients magically combine to make one fantastic dish.
Bailey’s Irish Cream Cheesecake – Of all the cheesecakes I’ve made, this is my favorite. Such a creamy filling covered in ganache – yum!
And just for fun, these are the top posts that have received the most hits according to Google Analytics:
1. Bacon Stuffed Cherry Tomato Appetizers (Thanks for the recipe Kat!!!)

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