Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Year in Review

Well it's that time of year. Time to welcome the baby new year - Hello 2013! - and bid adieu to 2012. I don't know about you dear reader, but 2012 was a douzy for me! So much change, so much growth, so much love and great food! I'll raise a glass to more love, ease, light, and joy in 2013!

Instead of seeking out the top visited posts, I choose my favorites for the year, and here they are, in order of the day - breakfast to dessert. Enjoy with lots of hugs!

As with so many foods this past year of going vegan, I have been converted to eating foods that I was never a big fan of like pancakes. The first time I made these Pillowy Puffy Vegan Pancakes I was SOLD! Maybe it's the fun chemistry of making them without eggs or the fact that the secret ingredient is apple cider vinegar (and vinegar is one of the loves of my life), but I couldn't get enough of these!

Having spent most of my college years in the South, I learned to worship at the alter of good biscuits: flaky, spongey, airy, mouth-watering delicious. Add a breakfast patty in between and you could lead me by the nose into molten lava and I'd go willingly! Discovering these Vegan Buttermilk Sausage Biscuits and the referenced faux sausage recipe was nothing short of a culinary miracle. No fake meat from the store ever again!

Mushrooms are not an ingredient that inspire so-so responses; people either love them or hate them. Being a fairly recent convert to the lover side, I am a fanatic and have been known to pay obscene amounts of money at the farmers' market for gorgeous mushrooms. Luckily, this dish of Pan Roasted Mushrooms with Wild Rice can be made with cremini mushrooms, easily foraged from your local grocery store!

 Eggplant and barley are two of my favorite ingredients and ones that I love to write about since so many people seem stumped when it comes to using them creatively. Mediterranean Eggplant and Barley Salad is one of those dishes that people will be shocked at how much they like it. So don't take it personally when they react that way, it's the salad, not you!

When it comes to exploring a new cuisine, I follow the traditional route as close as possible to get a sense of the how the food developed - ingredients indigenous to a specific region, noting how seasons shape pairings, and understanding how abundance and ease of gathering ingredients informs the prevalence of particular food stuffs. This dish of Stovetop Corn and Roasted Poblanos couldn't be more traditional, marrying two of the key staples of Mexican cuisine, corn and chilies.  A match made in heaven!

Following along the Mexican theme, 2012 was the year I finally made Red Chile Tamales; that in itself made it a banner year! Intimidating, yes. Worth it, absolutely! This recipe is for both pork and vegan (tofu) tamales, so everyone can join in the fun. The key to making tamales is the advance prep, including making the pork or freezing the tofu for best texture in the tamales. Plan ahead, invite a friend or two over to help assemble these bundles of joy, and you will not regret one single moment of this delicious endeavor!

Tempeh is an ingredient that has taken a while to inch into my repertoire, until I discovered Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes. Inspired by Maryland crab cakes, these tasty morsels not only won rave reviews from the most omni of omnivores, but finally cracked the code on tempeh for me. Piping hot or cold leftovers, these nuggets of gold will have anyone eating out of your hand and begging for more!

"Lentil meat" was one of the revelations of 2012 for me. Who knew the modest legume could bring such joy! Until discovering its entree potential, it had almost always only been found in soup or Indian dal. Liberation! With these Spicy Lentil Lettuce Cups I sauced them up and served them Asian style in their own lettuce cups, reminiscent of my favorite Chinese dish of tofu lettuce wraps.

Here's another vegan makeover of a classic, Chickpea Parmesan, using my favorite legume to create a gorgeous cutlet for slathering on lots of red sauce and cashew cheese sauce. Be forewarned, this will create culinary rapture, so be sure to be seated while eating!

While preparing to make this gorgeous Vegan Grasshopper Pie, I learned that there are places that deep-fry grasshoppers and eat them like popcorn! So to be clear, no grasshoppers were harmed in the making of this pie! Another important note, said with pride, is there is no artificial food coloring used to green the pie - that's baby spinach leaves ground into the filling!

 Limoncello, the lemon zest infused sweet vodka of Italy, is one of those things that I like to make more than I like to drink. All that changed when I made Limoncello Macaroons! These blew my mind despite my severe lack of a sweet tooth! Boozy desserts are always a fun choice but imagine the tang of lemon, the creamy sweetness of sugar icing and the crunch of coconut macaroons!

The other dessert that swept me away this year was this Vegan Caramel Flan. Simple and elegant, easy and foolproof. This is the kind of dessert I adore for dinner parties! Impressive to look at, delicious to eat, and easy to make ahead of time! You need this in your repertoire now!

And that is my top 12 for 2012. I hope you enjoyed this virtual feast! Raise a glass to a glorious past year and all of the delicious, nourishing, and enlightening meals and food gatherings to come!

Happy New Year and Hugs to All!

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