12.31.16 Wisconsin from Scratch Best of 2016
Every year around this time, I find myself unable to believe where the last 12 months have gone. It feels like just a short time ago, I was reflecting on last year, and now here we are, this year all but behind us. Has time sped up? Every year I think these things, but I have to say that no year seems to have flown by quite as quickly as 2016.
2016 was the year I learned how wonderful/exhausting/difficult/absolutely amazing it is to be a mom. I’ve spent this past year watching our tiny human grow from a helpless little bundle, to a small person who can walk, run, climb, give hugs, and dance like crazy. One year ago, this kid could eat only milk; these days he’s eating things like kimchi and braunschweiger and steel cut oatmeal with dates. I can’t even describe how much fun it’s been.
It’s also hard to describe how much our lives have changed in the past year. How working cooking and recipe development and blogging in around naptimes and toddler tantrums and playtimes has added a new level of challenge to my normal blogging routine. I use the term “routine” loosely here, since it seems every other week or so, something completely changes and I have to figure out a new schedule, method, or workaround. I don’t think I’ve ever been busier.
Despite all this busyness, we managed to have a total blast this year. We traveled to places like Tucson AZ, Madeline Island, Portland OR, and Door County. We grew an awesome vegetable garden, took Leo to his first Major League Baseball game, and like every other year, we did a lot of cooking. I tried something new this year and started documenting our weekly CSA shares and farmer’s market hauls on a weekly basis in my Wisconsin Grown series. I had several recipes named as Community Picks on Food52 (and one contest finalist!), and another recipe was picked up by the Huffington Post. I was interviewed on a podcast and won third in a national cookie contest. No doubt about it, it’s been quite a year. No wonder it flew by.
Despite all of the craziness, the travel, and the toddler chasing, I still cooked up a whole bunch of insanely good, brand new recipes, and as is tradition, Forrest and I have shouldered the difficult task of once again selecting our favorite recipes of 2016 to share with you. This may have been the hardest year yet. Here are the best of the best:
If, like me, you find yourself plagued with colds during the winter months, you can do no better than to make this soup. It’s full of soothing ginger and turmeric, some chile for heat, coconut milk, shredded chicken and rice for sustenance, and some spinach because, well, green things are good for you. It’s exactly what your overly-tired self needs on a wintry day. I can also attest that it’s also incredibly delicious even if you don’t have a cold.
One of my favorite things to do on wintry days is to roast a chicken. It’s so simple, yet when you pull a golden brown, roasted chicken out of the oven and carve it up, it feels like a special occasion. A roasted chicken is, simply put, pure comfort food. Be it straight-up and simple, or something a little more interesting, like this extra savory version that’s coated in miso butter before being roasted to golden perfection.
This year, I learned how to like coffee (more out of sleep deprived necessity than anything else). After some experimentation, I found that this particular beverage made with cold brew (aka the best version of coffee), iced chai, maple syrup, and a splash of half and half is probably one of the best ways to drink coffee. Oh, and most importantly, armed with a shot of bourbon, it’s incredibly easy to turn said beverage into a cocktail should the need arise (trust me, it will).
You can very easily cook this dinner up on your stovetop, but opting to cook this trout in a cast iron skillet on the grill means extra smokiness imparted to the fish, which I’m all about. You can also simultaneously grill up any veggies you want to eat as a side dish (I highly recommend new potatoes with dill butter). Serve it all with a crisp green salad, a chilled bottle of white wine and some fresh berries for dessert.
I’m notorious for putting an egg on anything and calling it a meal. Case in point, this salad: lettuce, crunchy carrots and snap peas, plenty of fresh herbs, a spicy, flavor-packed dressing, and most importantly, fried eggs. Super crispy fried eggs - the best kind.
And by tart, I mean giant oatmeal cookie topped with mascarpone and fresh strawberries. But we’ll call it a tart, because we’re fancy like that. It’s simple to make and almost too pretty to eat. The key word here being almost.
Miso and gochujang combine to create a spicy, savory, umami bomb of a sauce; perfect for slathering on bok choy before tossing it on a screaming hot grill. This is the simplest of recipes, yes, but the results taste far from simple. With some sort of grilled meat, rice, and a side of kimchi, it’s a feast.
This mashup between tapas and tacos works beautifully. But really, how could something involving sweet corn, cured meats, and a fried egg not be incredibly delicious?
This was the summer I realized that more backyard grill-outs should involve copious amounts of cheesy polenta, topped with things like simply grilled summer veggies and italian sausages. The onions caramelize, the tomatoes and garlic, grilled in a foil-lined grill basket, burst into the simplest of summer sauces, and the salty spiciness of a few italian sausages rounds everything out. Simple and absolutely wonderful, just the way all summer dinners should be.
Nobody needs to come up with new things to do with pesto, but I went ahead and did it anyway. I ended up with a ridiculous mishmash of all things tasty; it’s Japanese milk bread meets babka meets Italian pesto. This is the best kind of mashup there is.
There’s this thing called Welsh Rarebit that is mostly cheese, and as I’ve found, is a particularly good way to enjoy toast. It’s essentially a thick, cheesy sauce, usually bolstered with ale. I added some tender sauteed leeks, a healthy dose of whole grain mustard, and some apple cider vinegar for a nice tang. Slathered on a nice piece of toast and broiled until bubbling, the result is like an extra gooey, extra flavorful open-faced grilled cheese.
A rippling, golden brown, eggnog spiked pancake, covered in spiced sweet cherries and cranberries, cooked down slightly to create their own spicy, crimson syrup. And let’s not forget that this beauty of a breakfast comes together so quickly, you could probably even get away with making on a weekday. This is the stuff holiday breakfast dreams are made of.