Happy New Year! 2013 in review

Wow. It’s been quite a year in my kitchen. I really didn’t know where I was headed when I started this blog 14 months ago but the ride has been amazing so far. One of the things I love best about blogging is that it continually pushes me to be more creative and I am always finding new sources of inspiration. I can’t wait to see what culinary paths I am tempted to follow in 2014. In the meantime, here’s a look back at the most popular Constantly Cooking recipes of 2013. Thanks to everyone who stopped by, followed, liked, commented and most importantly, cooked along with me. Wishing you a delicious year ahead!

1. Home-cured and smoked pork belly (aka BACON!)

Once you've tasted 'real' bacon, you might have a hard time going back to that packaged stuff. I know I did.

Once you’ve tasted ‘real’ bacon, you might have a hard time going back to that packaged stuff. I know I did.

Making home-cured bacon taught me several valuable lessons:

  1. It’s ridiculously easy to make bacon.
  2. Home-cured tastes so much better than mass-produced.
  3. It is one of the most satisfying culinary experiments I’ve ever conducted.
  4. You can use a gas barbeque very effectively to smoke cured pork belly.

2. Pickled Apple Slices

I adore pickles of all kinds and evidently a lot of other people do as well.

I adore pickles of all kinds and evidently a lot of other people do as well.

It’s no wonder so many good restaurants are making and serving pickles, preserves and chutneys these days – they brighten up the flavour of just about any dish and often add a nice pop of colour and texture on the plate. These pickled apple slices are lovely as a condiment for grilled cheese sandwiches, tossed in a salad, or delicious as a snack with cheese. They make a great gift as well!

3. Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Baked rather than deep-fried, these beauties are actually a nutritious, guilt-free treat!

Baked rather than deep-fried, these beauties are actually a nutritious, guilt-free treat!

I’m a sucker for sweet potato fries. I love the taste of them and it feels kind of virtuous to eat something that is crammed with vitamin C, calcium, folate, potassium and beta-carotene. Most restaurant versions are deep fried (and wickedly delicious) but  I knew there had to be a way to make an oven-baked version that would be just as addictive. The best part about this method is that you can add the amount of seasoning  you prefer, making them as plain or spicy as you wish.

4. Pecan Pie Squares

A great alternative to classic pecan pie, these squares feature a nutty shortbread crust topped with a deliciously gooey layer that has a hint of bourbon for a unique flavour

A great alternative to classic pecan pie, these squares feature a nutty shortbread crust topped with a deliciously gooey layer that has a hint of bourbon for a unique flavour.

I adore pie, but sometimes I find a whole slice, even a sliver, can just be too much after a rich meal. That’s one of the reasons I love to experiment with squares; they offer a great alternative to larger portions of dessert while providing the same sweet finish. Squares are also a great option for those who feel intimidated by the thought of making pastry.

5. Pan fried chicken and sauce

This unique method produces tender, flavourful, juicy chicken every time.

This unique method produces tender, flavourful, juicy chicken every time.

While it might seem backwards to start the chicken in the oven and finish it in the frying pan, trust me – it works beautifully, producing chicken that is tender and juicy on the inside, with a nicely crisped exterior. I like to add sauteed mushrooms to the sauce for an extra burst of flavour. This is one of those dishes that will have everyone at the table begging for seconds, so I recommend doubling the recipe!

6. Shredded Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries, Walnuts and Parmesan

This easy-to-eat salad is quick to make and so tasty you just might forget how healthy it is!

This easy-to-eat salad is quick to make and so tasty you just might forget how healthy it is!

Three words I never thought I’d hear my husband say? “I love kale!” This salad must have magical properties – or at least a magical taste – because I’ve never seen him dive into a bowlful of greens with such gusto. I have to admit that I find this salad so yummy that I almost forget how healthy it is as we gobble it up. A nice thing about kale is that it softens up quite nicely once you’ve massaged the dressing into it, but it doesn’t get all soggy and yucky the way some greens do. In fact, it is just as good the next day, though I’d be surprised if you have any leftovers.

7. Luscious Lentil Soup

This lentil soup has a subtle yet complex flavour, thanks to the blend of seasonings. It's a great way to introduce people to vegan cuisine!

This lentil soup has a subtle yet complex flavour, thanks to the blend of seasonings. It’s a great way to introduce people to vegan cuisine!

If I were told I could only make (and eat) one soup for the rest of my life, I’m pretty sure I’d choose this one. It’s an intoxicating blend of the exotic and the comforting and I defy anyone to have just one bowlful. Don’t be intimidated by the ingredient list – just get yourself to a nearby spice shop or health food store and pick up small amounts of the seasonings. Chop and measure everything before you begin; the soup comes together in a jiffy that way.

8. Green Bean Salad with Walnuts and Chèvre

This salad is a nice way to dress up green beans. It's a great side dish for fish, chicken or roasted/grilled meat. It would even make a nice lunch on its own.

This salad is a nice way to dress up green beans. It’s a great side dish for fish, chicken or roasted/grilled meat. It would even make a nice lunch on its own.

Green beans and walnuts are a classic pairing. The earthy nuttiness of the walnuts contrasts beautifully with sweet, barely-cooked beans, bathed in a tangy vinaigrette. I love including green beans in many of my menus to provide a nice pop of colour on the plate. This dish is great because you can make it an hour or so ahead of time, so you don’t have to worry about overcooking the beans while you are working on any last minute kitchen preparations.

9. Creamy Mushroom Soup with Naked Oats

This creamy mushroom soup is more delicious and satisfying thanks to the inclusion of nutty-flavoured Naked Rice.

This creamy mushroom soup is more delicious and satisfying thanks to the inclusion of nutty-flavoured Naked Rice.

Naked Oats is marketing-speak for Cavena Nuda, an amazing variety of hull-less (naked, get it?) oats that researchers at Agriculture Canada developed a few years ago. Also called Rice of the Prairies, this grain looks and cooks like rice, but has an incredible nutrition profile. These oats are high in fiber and protein, are a good source of iron and they’re gluten-free too. Many natural food stores carry Cavena Nuda or can order it in for you. Extremely versatile, Naked Oats’ chewy texture and nutty flavour make them a great addition to soups and stews like this very tasty mushroom bisque.

10. Blueberry Crumble Tart

The shortbread crust and crumble topping work so well with the not-too-sweet blueberry filling. This tart keeps fresh for days without getting soggy!

The shortbread crust and crumble topping work so well with the not-too-sweet blueberry filling. This tart keeps fresh for days without getting soggy!

With its shortbread base, gooey blueberry filling and crisp crumble topping, this tart is a trifecta of perfect flavours and textures. I like that it’s not overly sweet and is just as good a day or two after it’s been made. You can use either fresh or frozen blueberries to make this tart and still get the same results – just be sure to include the full amount of cornstarch if using frozen berries. This tart is delicious on its own, but also very nice with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s a great way to enjoy all the best things about blueberry pie without having to make any pastry!

Advertisements

About Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I play with words and with food. I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. I'm also an enthusiastic explorer of faraway lands and cuisines.
This entry was posted in Recipes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Happy New Year! 2013 in review

  1. Ann-Marie Langille says:

    Thank you Paula! I love seeing what you’ve been up to…. when do you take a break?

    • Paula Roy says:

      I take lots of breaks, Ann-Marie. I just don’t take breaks from cooking. Too many yummy things out there to explore! Happy New Year to you and your family. xo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s