2013 favorites

I was wishy-washy on whether to do a favorites list this year, but seeing everyone else’s lists convinced me to look back over my posts, and I was reminded of some great recipes that deserved to be highlighted. I didn’t get as many posts up this year as I have in the past, even though I was cooking as much as ever. What that means is that only the recipes that really impressed me made it here. These ten are the best of the best:

Chipotle Shrimp
chipotle shrimp 3
This is a standout for its simplicity, which makes it a perfect weeknight meal. I also like that the shrimp gives it some variety from my usual rice and beans routine.

Mascarpone-Stuffed Strawberries
mascarpone strawberries 7
These are halfway between a healthy snack and a decadent dessert, which I’m finding is a nice niche to be able to fill.

Beef Barbacoa
barbacoa 8This is the single best thing I made this year.

Kentucky Butter Cake
kentucky butter cake 7
It seems blasé, just a basic dough in a bundt pan, but it’s tender, light, buttery, sweet cake perfection.

Shrimp and Avocado Ceviche
shrimp ceviche 7
My new favorite way to eat chips. (It’s weird that two shrimp recipes have made this list, because as much as I love the flavor, sometimes the texture of shrimp squicks me out. I usually chop it for this salsa, which helps.)

Panko-Crusted Salmon
panko salmon 5
To be honest, I have never cooked this. But it’s become one of Dave’s fallbacks when it’s his turn to cook and he doesn’t know what else to make. I’m not complaining one bit.

Goat Cheese Almond Strawberry Cheesecake
goat cheese cheesecake 5
The best dessert I baked this year (hurriedly photographed with my phone in a grassy area next to the office parking lot as I was running late to a meeting). The goat cheese really does add something special to the cheesecake, even though you wouldn’t know it was there unless someone told you.

Shiitake Mushroom and Lentil Asian Tacos
mushroom lentil tacos 4
Such an interesting combination of flavors. I love food that is this fun but is still perfectly healthy.

Pasta with Zucchini Cream Sauce
pasta with zucchini cream sauce 7
I made this several times over the summer.  I love looking at vegetables in new ways, and letting the zucchini melt down into the sauce was perfect.

Salad with Pancetta, Peperoncini, and Parmesan
peperoncini pancetta salad 3No one will ever complain about this salad.  It’s such a great course to serve before a rich pasta dish.

Really my only goal for 2014 is to keep at it. Happy New Year!

2012 favorites

I didn’t post as much in 2012 as I have in previous years (only 3 posts in the entire month of November!), but I did find some great new recipes.

rice noodle peanut butter salad 5

Rice noodle salad with peanut dressing has all of my favorite characteristics of a weeknight dinner – it’s healthy, easy, tastes great, and makes great leftovers.

ricotta 12

I haven’t bought ricotta since I started making my own. It’s so much smoother and tastier than the stuff in the plastic container from the grocery store, not to mention that it only takes ten minutes to make and provides me a way to use up almost-expired containers of milk.

grapefruit margarita 5

Grapefruit margaritas are back on the menu, now that it’s winter and grapefruit is back in season. So delicious! So dangerous!

tiny meatball sauce 12

I know this pasta with tiny meatball sauce looks like mushy Spaghettios, but it isn’t similar at all – it’s tomato sauce simmered for hours with three different types of meat, served over fresh pasta, topped with bite-sized meatballs. It’s amazing stuff.

marinated roasted tofu 10

It’s always a treat when I make marinated roasted tofu to snack on at work instead of my normal hard-boiled eggs.

black bean quinoa 6

Black bean quinoa salad with tomatillo salsa is the perfect complement to the rice noodle salad for weeknight meals. One busy week last year, I just made big batches of these two recipes so we could have tasty healthy meals all week with very little time required from me.

sushi burgers 7

California roll burgers have such a great balance of bright, light sushi ingredients and rich beef. They’re my new favorite hamburger for sure.

watermelon agua fresca 8

Watermelon agua fresca – a delicious refreshing drink with no alcohol?! It’s a miracle!

migas 9

Over the past six months, we’ve probably eaten more migas than any other dish. I make it, in some variation or another, just about every weekend.

mussels fra diavolo 5

Mussels fra diavolo might be outpacing salmon pesto pasta as Dave’s favorite meal. But my favorite part is that he’s always the one who cooks it.

My single New Year’s resolution is to get more use out of my cookbooks, but I’m not quantifying it or making myself accountable on the blog in any way. I just need to use the ones I have so I can justify buying more!

Happy New Year!

One year ago: 2011 favorites
Two years ago: 2010 favorites
Three years ago: 2009 favorites
Four years ago: 2008 favorites

simple post processing

handouttop – before; bottom – after

For as much as I like to look at pretty pictures of food – perfectly composed, artfully styled, brightly lit – I don’t like to spend much time taking them myself. I like to get in and get out, then get on with the eating. Sometimes this means my photos aren’t perfect; the white balance could be off, or there’s an ugly sauce drip in the shot, or my chosen background doesn’t quite fill the frame. I could spend another few minutes fussing with the styling, or I could eat my dinner and fix the photo later with software.

ravioli
top – before; bottom – after

Years ago, when I was poor and unemployed, I started out using the free post processing software GIMP. I started using Photoshop a couple years ago when I got it as a gift, but if I edit photos on my lunch hour at work, I’ll use web-based programs, either Pixlr or PicMonkey, which are also free. The free programs are more than adequate for the simple post processing that I do. Still, each has their strengths and weaknesses, which was the subject of the talk Brady and I gave at BlogHer Food in Seattle. Brady has the downlow on the various programs, and I’ll tell you what basic steps I use to edit a photo using any of those programs.  (Click on any of the photo sets to see a larger version.)

intro salad
top – before; bottom – after

1) The first thing I always do is save a copy of the photo. You don’t want to go making a bunch of changes to a photo only to realize later that it looks like crap, but you can’t go back and start over because you didn’t save the original.

2) Then, if the photo is a little crooked, I rotate it slightly until it’s straight. Every program has a different method for straightening, but the best ones (and all that Brady describes in her post on free photo editing software programs) let you base the rotation on what should be a straight line in the photo.

straighten
top – before; bottom – after

3) You’ll always need to crop a photo after it’s been rotated, to square off the edges. Some programs do this automatically, but I prefer to choose my own crop after straightening a photo. I also often need to crop photos that are taken from above, because sometimes I don’t bother to look through the viewfinder for those; I just hold the camera above the subject and snap away until I capture everything I want in the frame. I almost always keep my photos the same dimensions as the original, although this is just a personal preference.

crop
top – before; bottom – after

4) Once you have the photo framed how you want it, resize it for your blog. Photos that are being posted online don’t need resolution as high as those that are being printed, so there’s no advantage to uploading a large photo that your blog host will automatically resize. In fact, this will slow down your site. Even worse, your hosting site doesn’t have a sophisticated method of resizing and might make your photo look dull and out of focus.

resize
left – resized incorrectly; bottom – resized correctly (photos taken by Brady)

5) Cloning lets you stamp part of a photo over another part that you want to erase. You probably won’t use this often, but it’s a handy tool to have (especially if you realize later – much later, like after you post it on your blog and a commenter points it out – that your photo has a fly in it, not that I personally had this happen or anything…).

clone
top – before; middle – process; bottom – after

6) Smudge lets you smear a portion of the photo into another part of the photo, like fingerpainting. I use this occasionally to fill in corners when my background doesn’t entirely fill the frame.

smudge
top – before; middle – process; bottom – after

7) Curves and levels are two ways of doing the same thing, adjusting the exposure of your photo. In both, most programs will show you a histogram, which represents how dark or light your photo is; the left edge of the histogram represents black pixels, the right edge white pixels. If you grab the top right end of the diagonal line and drag it toward the center of the histogram, the photo becomes brighter; but if you go too far, you risk blowing out light parts of the photo. You can also drag the bottom left end of the line to make the darks darker, and you can add as many points as you’d like in between the two ends of the line to drag up or down to adjust the brightness and contrast however you like.

curves
top – unadjusted histogram; bottom – adjusted histogram

8 ) Levels is largely the same – same histogram, same method of adjusting the whites and the blacks. The difference is that, in levels, you can only adjust one mid-point instead of however many points as you want to add, like you can in curves.

curves 2
top – before; bottom – after

9) Color balance, or white balance, corrects slight tints in the color of the photo. Even when I set the white balance in my camera, it still tends to tint the photo just slightly blue, or cool. The final version of this poached egg with yogurt hollandaise is much closer to the true colors.

color balance
top – before; bottom – after

10) I don’t adjust saturation of food photos often, but if a photo has a lot of bright colors in it, a slight increase in the saturation can bring those out. You have to be careful though, because it’s easy to go overboard. I’m actually not sure what happened with the photo of the strawberry ice cream tarts to make them look so drab, but increasing the saturation was an easy solution to make them look natural again.

saturation
top – before; bottom – after

11) The last thing you should do with your photo is sharpen it up a bit. And the first thing you should know about sharpening is that it doesn’t fix unfocused photos. This photo of muffins, in which the fiber of the placemat is in focus and not the coconut garnish, cannot be fixed.

sharpen not

What sharpening can do is make focused photos a little more crisp. All digital photos are less sharp than film photos, because they’re based on a limited number of pixels. Sharpening corrects for this.

sharpen
top – before; bottom – after

Almost certainly, you won’t use all of these steps for every photo. You might find that some of these steps aren’t useful for you at all. But, surely, every photo will need to be opened in a post processing program and changed in some way, even if it’s just resizing it for your blog. If you’re looking for free photo editing software and don’t know which is the best program for you, check out Brady’s post to help you choose.

fresca
top – before; bottom – after

One year ago: Bourbon Ice Cream
Two years ago: Rice and Peas
Three years ago: Pork Tenderloin with Rhubarb Sauce
Four years ago: Cappuccino Cream Puff Rings

PS – If you download the GIMP and find yourself overwhelmed, email me and I’ll send you some detailed instructions I wrote out a few years ago.

blogher food 2012

market sign

When Brady approached me about collaborating on a proposal to speak at the BlogHer Food conference in Seattle, I didn’t think twice – because I didn’t think there was a chance in hell that two small-time bloggers like us would ever be chosen to speak. When I got the much-exclamation-pointed text message from her that we’d been accepted, it became a whole new ballgame, one requiring booking flights, splitting hotel rooms, and using precious vacation time, not to mention hours spent preparing for our session. I was interested to attend the conference, but not quite as excited as I felt I should be.

clams

What I felt instead was anxious. Even now, I can’t pinpoint why. Of course public speaking is nerve-wracking, but I’ve done it loads before and was confident in myself. Traveling alone is extra hassle but not entirely unpleasant. I think, if I had to choose one thing that was stressing me out, it would be three days of constant socializing. From rooms full of strangers to sharing a hotel room with someone I’d met in person only once before, it sounded exhausting.

crab

And it was. It was also the most fun I’ve had in ages. It was nonstop talk about food and photography and websites, nonstop exchanging of business cards, nonstop twitter updates, nonstop sightings of people you’d previously only seen on a computer screen. It was learning and teaching and eating, and yes, constant socializing.

storytelling session

I solidified some friendships and began others. “Internet friends” became “IRL friends”. I met representatives from some of my favorite companies. I discovered new blogs and found people I’d like to work with in the future. I kissed a fish.

fishthanks, Brady, for letting me use this picture!

I picked up some food styling tricks and was reminded that I need to get a backup set up for my blog (asap!). I realized that shooting a video will take a lot more equipment than I have now. I was encouraged to think more about what I write compared to what I like to read. I discovered that Brady and I make a great team well beyond planning and delivering a session on the post processing of food photos. And most importantly, I left feeling like a socializing superstar, confident and happy and eager to apply all of the lessons of the weekend. But exhausted nonetheless.

before closing party
brady on the left, me on the right being bossy – it’s what I do best

One year ago: Chicken Gyros
Two years ago: Raisin Swirl Bread
Three years ago: Strawberry Cake (comparison of two recipes)
Four years ago: Poached Eggs over Arugula with Polenta Fingers

2012 goals

2012 goals 5

I basked in the glory of not being required to bake anything on a schedule for about two weeks, and then I got bored. What can I say? I like to set goals.

The key is to find goals that push without demanding too much. I need enough structure to keep me accountable, but not so much that I feel resentful. I hope I’ve found that balance.

2012 goals 7

What I’ve decided to do is choose 24 dishes – 12 cooked and 12 baked – that have been marinating in the back of my brain for too long. These are recipes that I thought “YES!!! I want to make that, and as soon as possible”, when I first saw them, but then something has gotten in the way, time and again, sometimes for years. How many times am I going to think to myself that I should try making a dish at home before I just finally do it?

2012 goals 1

Not all of the recipes are difficult. Not all of them are even new to me; I’ve made versions of some of these dishes before, but haven’t found a recipe I think is The One. In some cases, I have specific recipes chosen; in others, only an ingredient or flavor.

I’ve assigned the dishes to months so I pace myself. (I’m not much of a procrastinator in projects like this; I would do the opposite and stress myself out by trying to finish them all by March.) And sometime, anytime, during that month, I’ll blog about those two recipes.

2012 goals 2

And that’s it. Two recipes per month, chosen by me, of dishes I’ve always wanted to make. How hard can this be?

Here’s the schedule:
January – asian lettuce wraps and black bean avocado brownies
February – ranch dressing and peanut butter butterscotch fudgy crisp rice sandwich bars
March – mozzarella and whole wheat chocolate chip cookies
April – dolmades and gougeres
May – mustard and focaccia
June – barbecued ribs and gelato
July – paella and honey ice cream
August – general tso’s chicken and creamsicle whoopie pies
September – tomato mozzarella tart with basil crust and pop-tarts
October – quinoa fritters and macarons
November – meatloaf and something chai-flavored
December – something with miso and gingerbread cookies

2012 goals 9

2011 favorites

There isn’t much objectivism about the way I choose my favorite entries of the year. I try to focus on how good the food tasted, but sometimes how good the day was when we ate the food sneaks in and influences my choices. Although who knows if it was the good food that made me happy or the happiness that made the food taste good?

alfredo 6

Fettuccine alfredo, nothing but cream, butter, cheese, and pasta, is a reminder that the occasional splurge is an absolute requirement.

tomato soup 4

Tomato soup has always been my favorite comfort food, and this recipe is so good that I can’t convince myself to try a different one.

brown rice 1

Brown rice was the last whole grain I incorporated into my diet, and it’s all because of this method of cooking the rice like pasta, in lots of boiling water.

tartine bread 9

Baking bread with nothing but wild yeast was a decade-long goal of mine, and Tartine’s country bread came out even better than I could have imagined.

dill dip 6

Greek yogurt dill dip makes the list not so much for the individual recipe, although I do love it, but because it was a turning point in my realization that substituting Greek yogurt for sour cream and mayonnaise was the answer to healthifying all sorts of creamy white dips and dressings.

summer berry pie 7

I had to include summer berry pie because it’s one of Dave’s favorite desserts.

chicken gyros 9

Chicken gyros have become a staple. Not only are they one of my favorite dinners to eat, it’s one of my favorite recipes to make.

banh mi 4

Banh mi compete with chicken gyros for my favorite Sunday night meal. I love sandwiches!

dulce de leche cupcakes 10

Dulce de leche cupcakes are great, but it’s the dulce de leche buttercream that steals the show here.

salt roast turkey 7

Salted herbed roast turkey beats brined turkey any day – not only does it taste better, it’s easier.

Happy New Year!

notes on planning a thanksgiving feast

salt roast turkey 1

I am a list maker. When I got it in my head to make a big turkey dinner just for me and Dave last year, I had just as much fun planning it as I did cooking it. Eating it was nice too, but that’s just the bonus.

menu

The first step, and possibly my favorite, was to look for recipes. Because I knew I’d get a traditional turkey dinner on the real holiday, I had fun choosing new recipes. I edited each one for precisely how I was going to make it, not just adapting them for my tastes, but writing the directions for the number of servings I’d be making. I knew I’d have a lot to do when it came time to cook, so I wanted to do all of my thinking in advance.

prep schedule

Once my recipes were set, I could write a schedule for myself. I noted everything that I could do in advance and figured out when I would do it. I was fortunate that I had the day off from work the day before my big dinner, so I spent that whole day doing all of my prep. I made myself a detailed schedule for that day – which I was perpetually behind on, but that was okay because there were no deadline for that day; it was just prep.

cooking schedule

Then I made a detailed schedule for the day of my dinner. I started with my dinner time and counted back from there. Basing my cooking schedule on the oven requirements helped me plan. Again, the idea here is to do all of the thinking beforehand, so that when you’re trying to greet guests, serve them drinks, and do inevitable troubleshooting, you know exactly what needs to be done. In your schedule, don’t forget to account for the time it takes transfer the food from the cooking part of the kitchen to the eating part of the kitchen. With as many courses as Thanksgiving feasts include, this is no small task.

grocery list

I find it convenient to make my grocery list for a big meal by recipe, and then put it all together (and arrange by the route I take through the store; I’m hardcore). Finally, I note which pans and serving dishes I’ll need for each recipe; again, the idea is to make all decisions before Go Time so I’m not scrambling to wash my favorite saucepan at the last minute.

dishes big

Of course, even the most careful planning can’t take into account your husband accidentally turning the oven off right as the turkey goes in. A positive attitude is an advantage too.

The attached Excel file has all of my plans in it. Feel free to use it as a template if you think it will help you plan. Over the next two weeks, I’ll blog each of the recipes I made.

salt roast turkey 2

Here’s the complete menu:
Breakfast: Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Maple Sautéed Apples
Snack: Glazed Pecans
Appetizer: Phyllo Cigars with Squash, Pancetta and Rosemary
Turkey: Salted Roast Turkey with Herbs
Gravy: White Wine Gravy
Stuffing: Cornbread Dressing with Roasted Root Vegetables
Potato: Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin
Vegetable: Cauliflower with Mustard Lemon Butter
Cranberries: Cranberry Sauce with Port and Dried Figs
Bread: Cheddar Puffs with Green Onions
Dessert: Maple Pumpkin Pots de Crème

Two years ago: Pork Chops Loco Moco
Three years ago: Pumpkin Pancakes

fall collage

2010 favorites

The food I prepare echoes the events in my life. Last winter, after moving from Philadelphia to New Mexico, we got our first house with a yard – and soon after, our first grill. In May, I started my first full time job and became limited to quicker meals on weekdays. During the fall, I taught in the evenings after working at my day job, and – well, we ate a lot of leftovers for a few months. Now that things are settling down and I should have some more free time, I’m itching to get started on 2011’s list of favorites. But first, I want to make each of last year’s favorites a few more times…

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese – This has all of the creaminess and richness that I love in traditional regular macaroni cheese, with the added sweetness, color, and wholesomeness of winter squash.

Jalapeno-Baked Fish with Roasted Tomatoes and Potatoes – There are very few meals I make more than once a month, and this has become one. I like to make extra sauce to store in the freezer to make this meal even easier.

Mediterranean Pepper Salad – I went through a gyro phase last summer, and this salad started out as the perfect side dish and morphed into the perfect topping. I’m impatient for the weather to warm up enough to grill so I can start another gyro phase.

Roll-Out Sugar Cookie comparison – It’s so rare when my comparisons have a clear result, and I love when it happens. But after spending the holidays at my mother-in-law’s and surviving almost entirely on her perfect sugar cookies, I think a rematch with her recipe is in order.

How to adapt any bread to be whole wheat – I use this trick – just a few minutes to mix up flour, salt, and yeast the night beforehand – nearly every time I make bread.


Vodka Gimlet – I drank a lot of these this summer. And then too many one night in October, and I haven’t had once since.

Chicken Fajitas – Chances were good that if it was a Sunday evening during the summer, if I wasn’t making some sort of gyro, Dave and I were grilling these.

Garlic Mustard Glazed Skewers – I make these when I need to be reminded that recipes don’t have to be complicated to be perfect.

Whole Wheat Bagels – Combined with a mug of strong black tea, these bagels make up the best part of my workday.

Bolognese Sauce – Despite this being one of those dreaded comparisons with no winner, it resulted in a freezer full of one of my favorite foods.

2009 favorites

It’s always so hard to choose favorites. I feel bad for all the great stuff I left out. Then I second guess myself, then I tell myself to stick with my gut. In the end, just like last year, I settled on 9 favorites and 6 honorable mentions.

9 favorites:

Chopped salad – I know it’s just salad with a bunch of stuff in it. But it’s exactly the way I like salad – evenly sized ingredients with a high ratio of other stuff compared to the lettuce. Plus it has avocado in it, and that makes everything better.

Red velvet cake comparison – That was a whole lot of red velvet cake. It’s been about 11 months, and I think I’m just about ready to make red velvet cake again. Soon. And now I know exactly which recipe to use.

Pot roast – Pot roast sounds so unassuming, not at all like something that would stand out as a favorite, but the addition of a bit of red wine gives it a richer, more complex flavor than traditional pot roast.

Orange oatmeal currant cookies – One of the first recipes I made from Tartine’s cookbook, and it knocked my socks off. I love how it’s familiar – an oatmeal cookie with dried fruit – but the orange zest and currants provide a more interesting flavor.

Strawberries and cream pie – Um, cream cheese, sugar and heavy cream topped with fresh strawberries and drizzled with chocolate. Duh.

100% whole wheat bread – I haven’t made this exact recipe again, but I have adapted the technique to all sorts of other breads. Soaking whole grains before kneading them into other bread ingredients makes the final dough much easier to work with, and the baked bread is more tender and flavorful than it would be without the soak.

Pizza – Years of making pizza almost every Friday night has helped me refine my recipe until it’s exactly how I like it.

Bourbon pound cake – Pound cake has been my baking nemesis for years, but not anymore.

Brussels sprouts braised in cream – Okay, so not the healthiest way the eat vegetables, but certainly the tastiest.

6 honorable mentions:

Brioche plum tart – Part of one of my favorite days this year.
Farmer’s market salad with goat cheese
– lettuce, potatoes, goat cheese, yum!
Lemon meringue cake
– What a fun birthday cake this was.
Brown rice with black beans
– Finally, I figured out how to cook brown rice!
Slice and bake brown sugar cookies
– They’re sorta like chocolate chip cookies, but a lot prettier (and without chocolate).
Herbed lamb chops
– This amazing meal has started Dave on a big lamb kick.

Last year my goals were 1) more easy, healthy dinner recipes, which I probably didn’t do a great job with; 2) more effort into taking photos, and I’m satisfied with my progress there; and 3) getting up a Basics of Food Photography page, which I managed to do (although I’ve been working on an update to it).

My goals this year are to publish more blog entries – around 4 per week instead of 3 – and redesign my site, hopefully by learning enough about web design to do it myself.

Here’s to another great year! Happy New Year!

2008 favorites

I scanned through my posts from 2008 and managed to narrow it down to about fifty favorites. Then Dave told me that I should choose just ten to recommend. Ten?! Ten?! I was barely able to get it to fifty! But I think he’s right – it’s the best way to make sure the true standouts really get noticed, with the added bonus that I get to add a blurb about each. Except I simply wasn’t able to choose ten – I ended up with nine, and then a list of six that I couldn’t decide between.

9 favorites (in chronological order based on posting date)

country-crust

Country Crust Bread – I make this all the time. I generally keep some in the freezer, either as a sliced loaf or as rolls. It’s such a perfect sandwich bread – tender, sturdy, and flavorful. And it’s a great recipe for beginner bread bakers because there’s nothing tricky about it and the instructions are so detailed.

salmon-pasta

Salmon Pesto Pasta – Still Dave’s favorite meal ever. I’ll be making this for his birthday next week. I’ve been making it fairly often lately with storebought pesto because it’s so easy that way. But Dave and I agree that it’s best with homemade pesto.

bagels

Bagels – I wish I could keep a supply of these in the freezer all the time, because I like them so much more than storebought. That doesn’t always happen, but I am planning to make a batch tomorrow!

cinnamon-rolls

Cinnamon Rolls – This recipe is pieced together from my favorite aspects of a few other recipes. It has just the right balance of tender, sweet, spicy, and rich for me, with the added bonus that almost all of the work can be done the night before the rolls are baked.

rice-and-beans

Red Beans and Rice – It’s so simple, but I look forward to eating it every time I make it.

pulled-pork-a

Crockpot Pulled Pork – This is by far the most popular recipe on my site. And for good reason – this pork is seriously amazing. I like to keep a supply in the freezer, especially since the recipe makes so much.

pigs-blanket

Pigs in a Blanket – Gourmet eating at its best. Or not. But they were really good, plus I like the photos quite a bit. My sister often keeps some of these in her freezer for easy lunches for her toddler.

soba-feta-peas

Soba Salad with Feta and Peas – I was surprised by how much I liked this, but it was so good that I’ve made it several times. It’s a weird combination of ingredients that somehow meld together perfectly.

sushi-bowls

Sushi Bowls – I’m still so proud that I came up with my own recipe. I just took a bunch of my favorite sushi ingredients and mixed them up in a bowl instead of dealing with making rolls. It’s far easier, but just as delicious.

honorable-mentions

6 honorable mentions
Macaroni and Cheese – last time I made this, I couldn’t stop eating it
Fish Tacos – easy, healthy, and so tasty
Scotch Eggs – definitely not healthy, but worth it
Blueberry Poppy Seed Brunch Cake – tender and lemony with lots of blueberries
Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic – best chicken I’ve ever eaten
Pumpkin Bourbon Cheesecake – I haven’t stopped thinking about this since I made it

I have a couple goals (the word “resolution” seems unpopular this year) for my blog for 2009.

More easy, healthy dinner recipes – Did you notice that of the 15 favorites I picked from the last year, only one is a dessert? But about half the entries in my blog are desserts. I want to focus more on dinner recipes because those are the ones that a lot of people need new ideas for.

More effort into taking photos – One reason that a lot of dinner recipes don’t get posted is that I’m too lazy or rushed to take pictures of dinner. I have this idea that the cooking is the first priority, but I need to keep in mind that photography is an important hobby to me as well.

Basics of Photography page – I’ve had this in the works since August, and it’s almost done now; I just need to make the final push on finishing it. It’ll be for photography beginners, but that’s where I was a year ago, and I think I’ve learned a lot since then.

I learned a lot about cooking, photography, and having a blog in 2008. Here’s to making as much progress in 2009! Happy New Year!