My Favorite Recipes of 2011

My recipe repertoire has definitely expanded since starting my blog in 2010, but there are still recipes I turn to again and again. One of my goals in 2011 was to become a more intuitive cook, confident in producing dishes without consulting a recipe. This handful of easy, everyday fulfilled my goal (not to mention my stomach):

1. Bacon & Sausage Soup: I’ve made this soup so many times, my friend Carla calls it my signature soup. Equally hearty and elegant, it’s a one-pot meal that satisfies every time.

2. Turkey Chili: What I love about this chili is it’s healthy yet filling. That is to say, it doesn’t feel like diet food. It also freezes well, making it the ultimate last-minute meal.

3. Lentil Bruschetta Dip: Not a recipe so much as an assembly, this dip is a nice light lunch served with crackers and a salad. Plus it’s perfect for meatless Mondays thanks to protein-packed lentils.

4. Chicken & Barley Soup: It’s obvious by now I love soups, and why not? They’re easy to assemble, keep well, and make good use of whatever leftovers you have on hand. This soup is reason enough to buy that gorgeous Staub Dutch oven you’ve had your eye on.

5. Peanut Butter M&M Blondies: No favorites list would be complete without something sweet, and this blondie was my favorite sweet of 2011. I made it for cookie exchanges, teacher gifts, blogger brunches and bake sales.

There are plenty of recipes I’m excited to test in 2012, as you can see from my Pinterest board. What recipe are you dying to try in the coming year?

The Gonzo Gourmet Turns One!

The Gonzo Gourmet turns one today and to celebrate, I wanted to share with you my 10 favorite recipes; essential recipes, you might say. Again and again I hear people say they can’t cook, or they hate to cook, or they don’t have time to cook. My blog is dedicated to those people: the everyday cook.

My 10 essential recipes range from savory to sweet, salad to steak, fast to mildly time consuming, but they all share one thing in common: they’re easy. Yes, even the chicken pot pie, which has multiple steps, is easy in the sense that anyone can make it. And that’s what’s important to me, knowing that I’m sharing recipes and techniques that empower my friends, family and readers to feel confident in the kitchen. This is just a peek into my recipe collection, there’s more to come in the year ahead. Please join me!

Veggie Frittata. This recipe is quintessential Mark Bittman: fast, easy, healthy. The point of this recipe is to use whatever vegetables you have on hand, and use lots of them; eggs play second fiddle in this dish. Endlessly, easily adaptable, and perfect for the vegetarian on your guest list.

Spinach Salad. This is a beautifully light, refreshing salad. You could add some salmon or grilled chicken to create a main course. Play around with different cheeses and even some nuts to add a little extra crunch.

Perfect Roast Chicken. If you think roast chicken is a challenge, you’re not alone. I did, too, until I tried Ina Garten’s take on Glamor magazine’s engagement chicken. This is so easy it’s almost ridiculous. And while the chicken roasts, you can do something unheard of at a dinner party: converse with your guests.

Chicken Pot Pie. I wanted to recreate the sheer joy, if not the actual taste, of that childhood meal, with a crust that could be drenched in gravy and still retain a crunch, vegetables that stood on their own but melded well together, and chicken that added a savory layer of its own. I also wanted it to be easy.

Turkey Chili. If you think you can’t cook, start with this recipe. Yes, it relies heavily on canned beans but the point of this chili is to get dinner on the table, fast. Oh, and did I mention it’s a crowd pleaser, freezes well and requires virtually no skill?

Steakhouse Steaks. Using filet mignon or New York strip steaks, this method is so simple yet results in steakhouse perfection every time. The secret is a cast iron skillet, which can be had for less than the price of the meat if you’re extravagant. Considering what it costs to eat out these days, why not give this one a go?

Gonzo Girl Pasta (Pasta with Parsley & Garlic). On any given night at our house, my daughter will request this, a spicy, garlicy pasta. To say her adoration of this dish defies all odds is putting it mildly; this is a girl for whom mac and cheese on a day in, day out basis poses no problems. It’s perfect for days when she hasn’t really eaten much, primarily because I can feel she’s getting her fill, what with the omega-3 fortified pasta, the antioxidants found in the parsley and the garlic, and the healthy fat provided by the olive oil.

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup. This version of split pea soup skips the pork and adds texture with barley, making this a hearty treat for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. It also freezes well, making it an ideal light lunch or after-school snack.

Chocolate Congo Bars. This is a family recipe, passed down from my grandmother to my mother to me. In my grandmother’s time she used shortening; I use unsalted butter. But the end result is the same: a kitchen that smells of chocolate and a family dessert that’s as classic as they come.

Spiced Bar Nuts with Rosemary. My all-time favorite cocktail snack, this last recipe honors my love of all things salt or snack related. I could easily skip dinner and nosh on these all night long.

Here’s to another great year – cheers! – and thank you to everyone who reads this blog, tries the recipes and provides comments and feedback. I love cooking with you!