Best Tastes 2018: From Our Kitchen

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5-Ingredient, No-Bake Vegan French Silk Pie (January 1) // I made this so my gluten free, dairy free-inclined family members wouldn’t be left out of the celebratory dessert moment at the end of our family New Year’s Day dinner and I was shocked at how much my gluten and dairy-loving self enjoyed it!  Bonus points for being make-ahead friendly and lookin all festive with that whipped coconut cream and shaved chocolate on top.

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Butter-Basted Steak + Creamy Chive Potatoes, aka the best at-home date night meal (January 6) // What is life if not an ever-evolving lesson in how to cook the best steak?  Joey usually handles steak for us but he appointed me the steak chef for the night and I spent many a Google search looking up the “best cooking method,” which it turns out involves salting and butter-basting.  I’m in!  It turned out so good but it was only half of what made this dinner so epic because Joey’s half of the bargain was a pleasantly not-so-gentle reminder that this potato recipe is one of my favorite things in life.  

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Slow Cooker Beef Ragu w/ Homemade Pappardelle (January 13) // I don’t want to deceive you, so I’ll just be honest and say we didn’t love this beef ragu.  But, we did REALLY REALLY REALLY love making homemade pasta and hey, it even tasted good!  Dean Martin was singing “Mambo Italiano,” the pasta was rolling, the red wine was flowing, life was good.

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Halibut Foil Packs with Chile Butter (January 19) // I have been very open and honest about my love for this recipe every time we make it and for two years in a row now, it’s made this list.  It’s the butter that makes it.  It flavors the tender flaky fish, it creates a delicious juice to drizzle over the rice and it pairs perfectly with bok choy.  Oh, we used gai choy for this (because Whole Foods didn’t have bok choy) and Joey kept calling it “boi-boi choy,” which was both incredibly wrong and incredibly funny.  

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Beet Brioche Burger Buns (January 20) // If eating hot pink slider buns is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.  I thought these were stunningly beautiful but then they more than held their own in the taste/texture department as well!  They get perfectly crispy if you pop them in the toaster but somehow remain soft and pillow-y on the inside.  Between these and my go-to vegan slider buns, I’d have a VERY difficult time choosing a favorite.

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Ricotta Gnocchi with Pesto and Zucchini from The Savvy Cook (January 28) // I’ve made potato gnocchi, beet gnocchi and sweet potato gnocchi before but never ricotta gnocchi and WHY NOT?!  This was so easy to make, so pillow-y soft and so incredible paired with pesto and some seared-to-perfection zucchini coins.  I was sort of annoyingly happy while eating this bowl of pasta clouds but it was just THAT GOOD.  

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Butternut Squash Baked Pasta (February 9) // Can I first tell you the best thing about this pasta?  It’s not the luscious sauce or the way it GENEROUSLY coats the pasta, or the crunchy bites of toasted hazelnuts or even the fact that eating a big bowl of pasta on a winter night while watching the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics is the definition of a perfect night.  It’s that this recipe claims to serve 4.  You make it in a 9×13 casserole dish, for God’s sake!  We ate it in something like seven servings but I genuinely appreciate that we could have eaten it as four servings and just been following the directions 🙂

P.S. This makes for really excellent leftovers.

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Roasted Squash, Onion & Fig Salad with Maple Mustard Balsamic Dressing (February 11) // Okay, I know I put this salad on my “Best Of” list last year, but GUYS, IT’S GOOD.  The dressing is straight delicious and the combination of roasted veggies, goat cheese, figs and walnuts is just so so good.  I seriously ate this 5 days in a row and was not even close to sick of it.

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Red Beans and Rice (February 13) // How many times can I tell you how much I love red beans and rice?  It is legitimately thee best comfort food of all time.  The end.

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Chicken Chili (February 19) // Joey made this chili for me on a snowy Monday night and absolutely nothing is better than sitting on the couch, watching Olympic figure skating when someone hands you a perfectly garnished bowl of chili.  NOTHING.  It was just the right level of heat, just the right consistency and just the right balance between beans and chicken.  So what we have here is the perfect chili ♥

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Green Mexican Rice with Corn (+ Baked Coconut Plantains & Avocado) // I’m not putting a specific date for this one because I honestly make this meal ALL THE TIME.  It’s really easy, it’s really flavorful, it’s really really satisfying.  Every time I eat it (which is many many times), I am just DELIGHTED by it.  The recipe doesn’t call for it, but a squeeze of lime over the rice really takes it to another level.

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Fried Broccoli Tacos with “Chorizo” Dip & Avocado Cream from The Savvy Cook (March 3) // I’ll be the first to admit this meal takes a bit of work.  The whole blanching, breading and baking process for the broccoli is time-consuming and then there’s two dips (and if you’re really ambitious, homemade tortillas!) but the payoff is so great that I can’t stop making these over and over.  The broccoli tastes like tempura, the sauces pack a flavorful punch and tacos are just a perfect food.

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Buffalo Wing Popcorn from Bon Appétit (March 4) // I was already fully in my happy place, watching the Oscars but then I filled myself a bowl of this popcorn and almost keeled over.  That’s how good it was!  The perfect balance of sweet and spicy and all nice and crunchy.  It was addictively good!

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Fettuccine with Tomato-Cream Sauce (March 10) //  We’ve made this dish about a million times but it went from great to FREAKING INCREDIBLE when we made it with homemade fettuccine.  The sauce is bright and fresh and creamy and the pasta was perfectly al dente and soaked up the sauce so well.  We were in our happiest place while eating this meal.

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Ejjeh Quiche (March 21) // Never criticize quiche in front of me.  I will hear none of it.  To me, this is a perfect food.  It’s probably part nostalgia — I have such wonderful memories of my mom making quiche and helping her flute the crust — and part THIS IS DANG DELICIOUS.  This one was all sorts of fresh and flavorful with all those herbs but, as usual, the crust was my favorite part ♥

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Cast-Iron Skillet Pizza with Olives & Basil (March 30) // We made this pizza at the end of a week that already involved our favorite vegan mac n cheese and our favorite veggie curry so I guess this was just a top food week for me.  No matter how many times we use this pizza-making method, it never ceases to delight me!

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Orange-Almond Cake + Cashew Ice Cream (April 1) // I’m about to make some very bold statements about this dessert combo.  A) This cake was one of the best things I’ve ever baked.  Ever! B) If I couldn’t eat real ice cream, I’d be just fine living off this cashew ice cream for the rest of my life.  These recipes aren’t just good for a gluten/dairy-free dessert, they’re just plain GOOD.  I’ve never been so shocked but also impressed and elated.

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Wild Salmon and Horseradish-Mustard Sauce + All the Green Things Salad (April 15) // Did I love this meal so much because it felt nice and light and fresh for spring?  Or was it because the fish was perfectly seasoned and crispy on the top and bottom?  Or because I really really love horseradish?  Yes.  Definitely all of those things!

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BA’s Best Molten Chocolate Cake (April 15) // Joey would be so disappointed if I didn’t include the thing that made him happiest in life (besides baseball, bowling, Chipotle and gummy bears) on this list.  Also, here’s a secret: this is really easy to make!  It’s so delicious and decadent and impressive that it seems like it should take a lot of work, but nope.

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Spring Pea Veggie Burgers (April 27) // A very good, very flavorful, very sturdy veggie burger that had Sriracha mayo, creamy avocado, crunchy cucumber slices and the ability to make me happier with each bite.

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Mediterranean Eggplant and Halloumi Bowls with Lemon-Dill Sauce (May 19) // Joey was less sold on this but he has a thing about eggplant so his opinion is invalid.  I loved it!  Farro is my new favorite grain, plus the fresh veggies tasted so summery, the lemon-dill sauce was bright and tangy in the best way and I even used some chickpeas I’d cooked from dry, which means they were way more flavorful than their canned counterpart.  MAJOR SHOUT OUT TO HALLOUMI THOUGH.  Joey and I agreed that was far and away the best part.  

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Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Garlic Cilantro Lime Slaw (May 21) // It’s official, I’ve narrowed down all my shrimp taco recipes to just this one.  It’s our favorite!  Probably because the slaw is the perfect tangy crunch, the shrimp takes mere minutes to cook and a sprinkle of crumbed Cotija makes things feel complete.  We were mega-happy after we ate these.

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Tender and Easy Buttermilk Waffles (May 27) // Probably, if I hadn’t had this waffle made for me (complete with butter, maple syrup and strawberries all cut up and ready to go!), it wouldn’t have tasted as good.  Luckily, it was and I loved Joey extra that morning.  Sometimes the simple recipes are the best recipes and this one falls into that category.

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Spicy Black Bean Burrito Bowls with Cashew + Hemp Seed Chipotle Sauce (June 4) // I wanted to drink this cheesy-tasting sauce, but settled for generously drizzling it over my burrito bowl instead.  If you make cilantro-lime rice, cook your own beans, layer on salsa, corn, cabbage, avocado and yes, that sauce, it will rival any bowl you’ve ever ordered at Chipotle.  (I made this A LOT of times this year.)

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The Easiest Vegan Pancakes (June 9) // Okay, I make these pancakes ALL THE TIME, but I’ll admit they are extra good when you make coconut whipped cream to slather on top.  Do not (or do, you live your life!) make the mistake of putting it atop hot right-off-the-griddle pancakes though or it was slid right off.  I know from experience.  Either way, these taste INCREDIBLE decked out in coconut whip, a drizzle of maple, some crushed pecans and fresh fruit.  Breakfast nirvana!

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Peruvian-Style Spatchcock Chicken with Creamy Cilantro Sauce (June 11) // Maybe it’s because we successfully cooked this on the grill or because the skin was so crispy and perfectly spiced, or because the sauce was just a tad sweet and paired perfectly with the flavors in the spice rub or because we ate it all outside but this dinner was a dream!  

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No-Churn Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (July 4) // This recipe felt life-changing in the best possible way because not only did it not require an ice cream maker, but it meant homemade ice cream was a very delicious possibility from that point forward.  Never underestimate the power of a simple mint chip flavor and the pure ecstasy of a creamy dessert in the comfort of your own home.

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French Toast with Miso-Date Butter from The Savvy Cook (July 8) // I won’t claim to be a French Toast expert but we’ve made this no-egg version a few times and this time, when we left the Challah out overnight and let it dry out a bit, resulted in the best batch we’d ever made!  Topped with miso-date butter (homemade!), in-season peaches and maple syrup, I was in breakfast heaven!

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Egg-in-a-Nest BLT (July 17) // True Life: I’m 29 years old and just realizing the beauty of a good BLT.  This one was extra good because you mix the bacon into the mashed avocado AND crack an egg into one of the slices of bread, so you get the added bonus of that egg yolk (though, to be honest, I had to make sure mine was cooked long enough that it wasn’t too drippy because I just can’t) and even though it was just a sandwich that took all of 10 minutes to make, this was one of our favorite dinners!

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Sautéed Salmon with Chimichurri and Potatoes (July 22) // Not going to lie, I didn’t think this meal was going to blow me away as much as I thought it would be quick, easy and make Joey happy because it involved potatoes but then IT DID BLOW ME AWAY.  I have to give all credit to Joey for the perfect execution (that crispy sear on the salmon!) and expert seasoning that made this meal so downright delicious.  

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Summer Squash and Basil Pasta (August 2) // Ever cooked down some squash till it’s fall apart soft and oh-so-delectably caramelized?  We have!  Twice last year!  But this year, when we finally knew what we were doing (cut the squash super thin, cook it down for 30 minutes, season every component), and also that part where Joey and cooked it for my sister and I, was the very best it’s ever been! ♥♥♥

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Grilled Onion Blossom (August 9) // It’s been a real long time since I ate the real deal, but this non-fried, grill-cooked version of a Bloomin’ Onion was so good that I would choose it over the latter any day.  There was so much seasoning and even though it took a bit longer to get it perfectly soft, it was worth it.  Special shout-out to the dipping sauce which was mayo-based and obviously made the onion taste even better.

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BA’s Best-Ever Barbecued Ribs (August 12) // If I had to choose a single thing from this list as THE BEST OF THE BEST, it would be this meal.  These ribs were seriously one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in my life.  Salt, smoky, succulent.  I actually thought “if this is the last meal I ever eat, I’ll die happy” as I ate them.  What other dramatic things can I say to impress upon you how good they were? 😛

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Spaghetti with Tomato and Walnut Pesto (August 16) // In 2016, there I was, sitting on the couch, watching the Olympics when Joey presented me with this meal.  In 2017, I was tired after a long day at work, so Joey volunteered to cook dinner and presented me with this meal.  In 2018, I actually got to help cook this meal AND we got to use basil and tomatoes from our very own garden.  Gosh, I just love this meal ♥

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No-Churn S’mores Ice Cream (September 6) // Just when I thought our mint chocolate chip ice cream was the best, we made this s’mores version and I was blown ever further away!  We mixed in some chocolate chunks, mini marshmallows and Annie’s Honey Bunny Grahams and the grahams softened and tasted like cookie dough.  Truly nothing better than eating this together on the couch for our 4th wedding anniversary ♥

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Ultimate Summer PLT Burger (September 8) // This pictures probably needs no words, but I can’t help myself so I’ll just say OH MY GOD, THESE WERE INCREDIBLE.  

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Chipotle Corn Chowder (October 3) // Truthfully, I’m just not very into soup.  But sometimes I like to indulge Joey by putting it on our meal plan.  I came home after a post-work appointment to this bowl and was like “well I guess I love soup now!”  Okay, not really but this was very very good.  It also had a good kick of spice and if I remember correctly, Joey even cut us up some good French bread for dipping ♥

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Smoky Sheet Pan Chicken with Cauliflower (October 7) // Can we hear it for a sheet pan meal??  I was always sort of meh about them until we got an extra large sheet pan and now everything fits and it all cooks as directed!  We watched them make this one on The Kitchen and it looked too good not to try, but then turned out even better that I could have hoped!

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Autumn Vegetable Grain Salad with Cider Vinaigrette (November 4) // If soothing yourself with roasted veggies, crumbled cheese and a fall-flavored vinaigrette when the sun starts setting at 5 PM is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.  This veg-forward dish was somehow light and healthy but also comforting and filling?  I loved it!

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Pan-Seared Salmon + Parmesan Roasted Broccoli (November 12) // Okay, toward the end of the year, I became VERY into pan-seared salmon (using the technique from this recipe).  It’s so fast, crispy on both sides and so easy that you can focus more of your attention on a good side dish.  In this case, Parmesan roasted broccoli that seriously tasted like tempura broccoli minus any frying.  There’s a dip described earlier on in the recipe post that I LOVED LOVED LOVED and it went so well with both the salmon and the broccoli.  Can all healthy eating be this simple and this tasty??

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One Pan Greek Chicken (November 13) // When I asked Joey if he’d make this meal again, his response was “HECK YES!  It was a 25-minute meal that actually took 25 minutes and it tasted good!”  So there you have it 🙂  I swapped in bone-in skin-on chicken thighs and all the fresh herbs alongside the tomatoes, olives and salty feta was truly delicious.

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Creamy Butternut, Blue Cheese & Walnut Cavatappi (November 26) // We’ve been making this pasta dish for years now and it never fails to make me happy.  And look, I can see how some people don’t like blue cheese, but I am NOT one of those people.  Paired with the toasted walnuts, luscious sauce and roasted butternut, it just tastes extra good.

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No-Churn Salted Oreo Ice Cream (December 6) // Well, this is now a no-churn ice cream tribute post, just go with it.  Our favorite ice cream shop is known for their Salted Oreo flavor and one night we were struck with the idea of making our own.  How had we not thought of it before?!  We waited until the red frosting Oreos were out for the holidays to give our ice cream a festive look and not only did it look cool but it tasted AMAZING.  Went with 1 1/2 teaspoons Maldon and the salt was definitely present but in a pleasant way.  We maybe ate this in bed, don’t judge. 

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Garlic and White Wine Pasta with Brussels Sprouts (December 15) // Yes, we have made this pasta a lot of times, so adding it to this list isn’t the most exciting, but we made it with homemade pasta this year and that IS the most exciting!  It was extra, extra, extra good!  And even though pasta takes a little bit of time to make, the rest of this recipe is so quick and easy, so it really works out perfectly.  Not to brag, but I posted a video of me stirring this creamy pasta dish and got about five responses on Instagram from people who thought it looked delicious 😛

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Christmas Lunch! (December 25th) // Last, but not least, we cooked another killer Christmas lunch for our family and even though I thought it was all good, my two favorite dishes were the Corn Casserole and Sweet Potato Casserole, which are coincidentally the healthiest dishes (NOT!) 🙂  

As I went through our favorite restaurant meals and then our favorite home-cooked meals this year, I was surprised but maybe also proud and excited about how much better the latter list seemed to be.  Not that I don’t love going out (because I do, I really really do!), but this year, I felt more passionate and invested in the stuff we cooked at home.  There were fewer blow-away meals out than ones eaten in and something about that feels good and right.

I hope you all have a very Happy New Year!  See you in 2019!!!

Best Tastes 2017: From Our Kitchen

We are very quickly running out of days in 2017, which means it’s time to roll those end-of-the-year “best of” type posts.  Maybe next year, I’ll be organized enough to give you a list that’s more comprehensive of ALL THE THINGS that made 2017 good — i.e. books, podcasts, vacations, albums, TV shows, etc. — but for now, I’m sticking to what I know best… aka food!  First up, homemade meals that wowed me most.  From dinners that turned a regular weeknight into something special to more ambitious baking projects to favorites that we make over and over because they’re just that good, here’s the best things to come from our kitchen in 2017!

United States of Meatloaf // You ain’t never had a friend like me meatloaf like this.  It’s so tender and juicy and that glaze just takes the whole thing to another level.  Every time we make it, we’re astounded at how good it is.  In the vault! 

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Ginger Cashew Chicken Curry// I mean, if a recipe calls for five tablespoons of butter, you already know it’s going to be good, but this was even better than I ever could have imagined.  I remember it snowed the day we made/ate this and that winter weather plus this luxurious bowl of comfort food had me straight giddy.

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BA’s Best Guacamole // I spent 4 hours makes enchiladas from scratch but I think I liked this 5-minute guacamole better.  My sister makes this recipe all the time and she knows a thing or two about guacamole, so I trusted her on this one and she was so right… this is THE BEST guacamole.  No tomatoes, the way guac should be.  

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Garlic & White Wine Pasta with Brussels Sprouts// No joke, I waited all year to make it to Brussels sprout season just so I could make this pasta.  It is SO easy to make and you will not believe how creamy and saucy those noodles get.  This recipe is just incredible!

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Charred Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Oranges // When you see Jeff Mauro raving about this recipe, you know it’s gonna be a winner!  The chicken maybe smoked the hell out of our house, but it was worth it because this was an unexpected showstopper.  Joey was less enthused about the seemingly uncomplimentary flavors but I LOVE LOVE LOVED it. 

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Spicy Cauliflower Burgers // These take a bit of work.  Especially if you go the extra mile and make the slaw, chipotle mayo and Magic Green Sauce to go with.  And honestly, don’t half ass on those toppings because they might MAKE the burger.  Everything worth doing, is worth doing right.  Joey and I were smitten every time we heated up the leftovers.  Yeah, even as leftovers, these are dang incredible. 

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Mardi Gras King Cake// It took several hours, but I was SO DELIGHTED with myself when all was said and done.  The dough came together quickly and the whole rolling and braiding was easier than I thought.  It was my first try and I nailed it!  And as pretty as it looked, it tasted even better.  I was kind of worried it was a little hard on the outside but I ended up loving that crispy exterior over the moist cinnamon sugar-swirled inside.  Sure beat this one

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Shrimp Étouffée// To continue the Mardi Gras theme!  The Sunday before, I made my own shrimp stock, then I made this for dinner on actual Fat Tuesday and OH MY GOSH, is there anything better than the smell of butter and flour cooking together??  I didn’t think so, but then I took a bite of the finished product and was like “THIS TASTES EVEN BETTER THAN THE ROUX SMELLED!”  So good, so satisfying, so spicy, so perfect.  It immediately went “in the vault,” aka I hand wrote it in my spiral recipe notebook and that’s not something I take lightly. 

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Pan-Seared Pork Tenderloin MedallionswithLime, Soy and Maple Drizzle// It’s a two-parter and it ain’t fancy but it’s GOOD.  I made this one Saturday night when Joey was out of town and it felt like the best Treat Yo Self moment.  We both ate the leftovers and with an “OH MY GOD!” Joey confirmed that I had cooked something especially delicious.  That drizzle kind of knocks it out of the park.  

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Veggie Shepherd’s Pie // How I made it through 27 years on Earth before combining sweet potato and goat cheese, I’ll never know but I finally did it and I’m never looking back.  I seemed to be the only one so taken aback by this flavor combo but every time I ate it, all I could think was “HOW’S THIS SO GOOD?!” 

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Banh Mi Sliders // I probably don’t need to tell you (again) how much I love this meal. 

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Grilled Margherita Pizza// If you’ve made as many pizzas in your life as we have, you don’t need a recipe but we were inspired by this one right here.  And if you’ve never grilled a pizza, make this and get ready for a life-changing experience.  Adding pepperoni or mushrooms and olives to your standard margherita is also very very wise. 

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Cashew Ice Cream // If it’s gotta be vegan, it’s gotta be THIS cashew ice cream.  Creamy isn’t even strong enough a word for what this is. 

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And now we’re reached the salad portion of this post.

Rainbow Chicken Salad // I know, a salad probably shouldn’t be on any Best Of lists, but look, this one has chicken and feta and almonds and grapes and an almond butter dressing that I could actually probably drink.  Joey RAVES about this salad every time we make it and come to think of it, so do I. 

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Superfood Salad// I totally thought a dressing of lime juice and olive oil was going to be super boring but I ended loving this entire salad, simple dressing included.  Basically, anything that combines roasted sweet potato and avocado has my heart and this one tasted SO good. 

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Rainbow Veggie Bowl with Jalapeño Ranch // There’s our lives before jalapeño ranch and our lives after jalapeño ranch and the after is infinitely better.  That creamy dreamy dressing full of fresh herb flavor, combined with chewy grains, juicy summer vegetables and buttery avocado will have you feeling like you’re living your best life (even if 2017 feels like a tumultuous and terrifying time to be alive…).

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Kale Salad Bowl with Tahini // You may not know this, but tahini and feta are Best Friends Forever.  They just go together so perfectly.  And you know anything involving sweet potato is bound to be my favorite thing.  We’ve made this salad lots of times and I’m excited about how dang good it tastes EVERY SINGLE TIME.  

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Creamy Thai Sweet Potato Curry  // We love a good curry dinner and I’m head over heels for basically anything involving sweet potato, so this meal is an absolute winner in my book.  Bite after bite, I can’t get over how luscious this tastes.  Plus you can home-make the curry paste and feel like you’re really on your A game.

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Dijon-Herb Crusted Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce + Warm Buttered Radish and Edamame Salad //  I went through a real fish phase this year and this meal helped fuel it.  But just look at that crispy panko topping, creamy yogurt drizzle and herbaceous spring veggies on the side.  Too good to be true. 

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Creamy Carrot and Herb Linguine // How’s it made of zoodles but also really good?  I didn’t think those things belonged together until we made this then re-made it later.  Open your heart to zoodles in cream sauce and it will love you back.  Or something like that.  Also, fresh tarragon really makes this dish.

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Halibut Foil Packs with Chile Butter// I’ve really come to love a compound butter.  And a foil pack.  And a dinner that only take a few minutes to put together.  I put just a little bit more butter than it called for and I stand by this decision 100%.  

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Easy One-Bowl Upside-Down Cake// Bon Appétit really talked this one up as being foolproof but sometimes reality doesn’t live up to expectations.  Happy to report that is is NOT one of those times.  This cake really was dang easy and I was so in love with the look of the smooth pale yellow batter that I wanted to paint my room in it.  That was a weird thing to say, probably.  I made it once with cherries and once with blueberries and both turned out beautifully.  Also: DO NOT SKIP THE WHIPPED SOUR CREAM ON TOP.  

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Thai Sweet Potato Noodle Bowls// Probably goes against everything Cooking Light is about to sub full fat coconut milk, use the entire block of tofu and eat four servings in three servings but whatever because that’s probably what made this dish so good.  P.S. Here I am eating sweet potato noodles now?!  Who am I even? 

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Garlic Mac n Cheese// We made this A LOT this year and I was shocked at how creamy and “cheesy” it tasted EVERY SINGLE TIME.  I cannot tell you how many times this recipe is the solution to needing a quick dinner because if you roast the garlic earlier in the week, this takes something like 15 minutes to make.  An incredible bonus!

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The Easiest (vegan) Pancakes// Turns out the easiest vegan pancake recipe doubles as the easiest vegan waffle.  It’s crispy, it’s just barely sweet, it’s perfect. 

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Simple Flaky Crab Cakes // Joey made these (again) and I loved them (again)!  Mostly these are perfect because it’s big on crab flavor and if you get yourself some good crab from the same city your aunt lives in (Slidell, LA, what’s up?!) then you can forget for a second that you live in a landlocked state that has generally poor seafood options. 

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BBQ Chicken Burgers // I already had go-to turkey and beef burgers in my arsenal but this chicken burger completes the trifecta and now I think I’m set for life!  We also made them for our summer BBQ and I ate one and couldn’t get over how juicy (I think the secret is shredded cheddar INSIDE the patty!) and perfectly BBQ-flavored it was.

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Summer Bliss Bowls with Sweet Potato Falafel// Heirloom cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, roasted corn, fresh dill, falafel made of sweet potatoes (!!!) and a generous drizzle of jalapeño ranch?  INCREDIBLE.  I wrote about a lot of food in this post but none that made me hungrier than this one right here. 

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Grilled Chicken Wings with Shishito Peppers and Herbs // Except not with shishito peppers because after getting hooked on them last summer, we could not get our hands on them this summer.  Why?!  But it’s okay because these wings, with their lime vinaigrette and charred bits were the best 4th of July meal almost ever. (July 4)

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Charred Broccoli Tacos with “Chorizo” Dip & Avocado Cream // It’s a lot of work to make all the elements of a meal yourself, but sometimes, like when you make panko-crusted broccoli and a smoky dip and a creamy avocado sauce and flour tortillas even, it is so so worth the effort.  This meal was incredibly flavorful and I loved every single bite every time I made them this year.

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Summer Squash & Basil Pasta// Did you know you can caramelize zucchini?!  I didn’t until we made this super summery pasta and then life as we knew it had changed for the better.  The sauce is the star (obviously) but honorable mention goes to fresh basil, melty cheese and Aleppo pepper a quick blend of three parts paprika to one part cayenne.  Joey and I were both head over heels for this pasta dinner. 

P.S. We made this again towards the end of summer and cut the squash really thin, then cooked it down for something like 30 minutes and it was EVEN BETTER!

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Spaghetti with Tomato & Walnut Pesto //  One of the happiest moments of my life last summer was when I was sitting on the couch, totally engrossed in Summer Olympic coverage, and Joey presented me with this bowl of pasta.  Recreated that moment this summer (minus Olympic swimming, plus outdoor reading) and upon second taste, THIS PASTA IS STILL INCREDIBLE!  The sauce is so luscious and every one of the ingredients that goes into it shines through in the final product.  

Basic B. Burrito // Guys, I don’t know why, but this humble burrito makes me downright giddy every time I pack myself one for lunch and get to unwrap that foil and dive into that bean, mozzarella, goat cheese, avocado, hot sauce combo.  I dunno, maybe I just eat too many lunch salads so this change up feels life-changing?  Let’s not question it. 

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Grilled Chicken Tacos // Alright, I’m just going to be honest and tell you I bought jarred tomatillo salsa instead of making it.  Sometimes, shortcuts are where it’s at.  The beauty of this recipe is that you basically don’t even let it marinate and it’s still juicy and flavorful and holds up really well to the avocado, radish, cilantro and salsa that you MUST top your tacos with. 

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Grilled Lamb Rib Chops // Sometimes I LOVE lamb and other times, I’m really turned off by it.  Luckily, these chops were a LOVE moment.  We marinated it in some salt, pepper, olive oil, rosemary and garlic then Joey grilled it to perfection and it tasted so incredible, especially alongside those sauces and flatbread.  A lamb win for sure! 

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Creamy Kale and Mushroom Quesadillas // Will I ever grow tired of these quesadillas?  All signs point to no.  I think it’s the double cheese action, plus kale and mushroom sautéed in butter and perfectly griddled tortillas.  So I guess I love everything about them! 

P.S. Spicy Tahini Corn on the Cob is pretty great too.

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Roasted Veggie Mac & Cheese // My mom and I have a term for the way a particularly cheesy dish makes your mouth feel…”cheesy teeth.”  Pretty self-explanatory I’d say.  This mac and cheese definitely left me with “cheesy teeth” but it’s a small price to pay for such a deliciously comforting bowl of food.  I ate something like 5 bowls of this in a week and loved it every time!

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Chicken, Bacon, Date and Brussels Sprouts Quinoa Power Salad// Making salad for one on a Friday night sounds sad but I was ANYTHING BUT SAD when I dove into this decked out bowl of goodness.  Just know that this salad involves everything good in the world.  Aka bacon, dates, avocado and goat cheese.

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Simple Cinnamon Pumpkin Pancakes// Life felt so good and happy when the stars aligned and I had everything on hand to make these pumpkin pancakes (even shitty non-fat Greek yogurt that shouldn’t exist and why did I even have that in the fridge??) and then when I took my first bite and they were delightfully soft and cinnamon-y and perfect.

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Crispy Baked Chicken Wings+Jalapeño Popper Bean Dip// I am still very new to the homemade wing game but I made the ginger-soy glaze from this recipe and it blew me away!  I was in such a little happy place, sitting on the couch with this plate, not caring whatsoever that the Cowboys were A) playing and B) losing.  And don’t think these wings overshadowed the bean dip because it was EQUALLY GOOD.  Joey couldn’t stop telling me how much he loved it and that’s a win in my book.

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Turkey Pot Pie Hand Pies// I usually laugh when I see those “creative ways to use up your Thanksgiving leftovers” articles because um don’t you just eat them like normal for two days and feel really happy about it?  But then I saw this hand pie recipe and thought it looked so good that it changed my mind completely.  Half the credit goes to Dufour Puff Pastry for being so buttery, flaky and straight delectable.

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Miso Caramel-Apple Pie// You know when you make something for a crowd and have a feeling of self-consciousness about it and all you’re really hoping for is unanimous praise?  Okay, that did not happen when I brought this pie to Thanksgiving, BUT I happened to think it was incredible.  And I also know that three attempts at caramel sauce went into it, so I’ll just give myself the praise.

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Black and Blue Steak Salad + Mini Baked Sweet Potatoes // Joey made me this dinner and though my initial enthusiasm was for his beautiful plating, I had even more enthusiasm for how good this meal tasted!  It was a salad but it somehow still felt like comfort food and I’m starting to think a steak salad is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  

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Eggnog Banana Bread // I bought six mini bread loaves at Michael’s then had to go back and switch one out when I got home and realized it was cracked but you know what, it was worth it because these were adorable, unbelievably moist (especially for being whole wheat!) and I loved that little glaze on top.  

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Christmas Lunch // Okay, I’m sort of cheating but it’s my last item and I have food writing fatigue.  Plus, I honestly couldn’t single out one dish we made for Christmas that was “the best,” as much as I can say the entire spread together was the best.  We got lots of compliments on all we made and I can think of no better Christmas present than that!

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And on that note, I’m signing off.  I’ll be back with the best restaurant meals we ate in 2017 shortly!