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!)
Making home-cured bacon taught me several valuable lessons:
- It’s ridiculously easy to make bacon.
- Home-cured tastes so much better than mass-produced.
- It is one of the most satisfying culinary experiments I’ve ever conducted.
- You can use a gas barbeque very effectively to smoke cured pork belly.
2. Pickled Apple Slices
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
Thank you Paula! I love seeing what you’ve been up to…. when do you take a break?
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