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I’m pretty proud of the job I did cooking this year! I pushed myself and my tastebuds (and my husband’s!). I had some wins and some losses, but overall it was definitely a success!
Here are my favorites meals from the year:

Comforting and Warm:

best of 2013 comforting and warm
The Best Ever Turkey Chili / Sweet Onions with Lentil Stew

Quick and Chicken-y:

best of 2013 quick and chicken
Roasted Chicken & Beets with Couscous and Yogurt SauceOne Pot Lemon Chicken & Zucchini

Summer Magic:

best 2013 summer magic
Grilled Poblano & Corn Quinoa with LimeGrilled Chicken & Asparagus Salad with Parsley Pesto

Meatless: 

best of 2013 meatless
One Pan Farro with TomatoesAsparagus Carbonara

For the slow cooker:

best of 2013 slow cooker
Sunday Night Italian Meatballs / Slow Cook Corned Beef & Cabbage

Yum! What were your favorite things you made this year? I’d love to hear your best recipes.
Here’s to new flavors and challenges in the new year!

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There are two things I crave for breakfast, salt and eggs. While most days I’m terrible about making time for it, the weekends are made for brunching. Here are a few of my favorites and some I’m dying to try: salty and cheesy, herb-y and peppery, creamy, egg-filled savory goodness. Yum!

savory breakfast 01
Sharp Cheddar & Mustardy Greens Breakfast Sandwich / Oatmeal With Fried Egg and Avocado

savory breakfast 02
Breakfast Salad / Savory French Toast

savory breakfast 03
Veggie Quinoa Breakfast Bowl / Crustless Quiche

When we got home from Chicago, we were overflowing with tomatoes. Our plants had exploded in the best kind of way! I’d had this recipe on our tomato to-do list for a few weeks now, and was incredibly pleased at how easily (and deliciously) it came together! Side note on the farro cooking: ours wasn’t semi-pearled, so it took about an hour to cook, but still came out perfect.

One Pan Farro with Tomatoes

One Pan Farro with Tomatoes
via smitten kitchen

2 cups water
1 cup semi-pearled farro
1/2 large onion
2 cloves garlic
9 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt
Up to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Few basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
Grated parmesan cheese, for serving

Place water and farro in a medium saucepan to presoak (I find just 5 to 10 minutes sufficient) while you prepare the other ingredients. Adding each ingredient to the pot as you finish preparing it, cut onion in half again, and very thinly slice it into quarter-moons. Thinly slice garlic cloves as well. Halve or quarter tomatoes. Add salt, pepper flakes (to taste) and 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan, and set a timer for 30 minutes (or as long as is directed on your farro). Bring uncovered pan (no lid necessary) up to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally. When the timer rings, the farro should be perfectly cooked (tender but with a meaty chew), seasoned and the cooking water should be almost completely absorbed. If needed, though I’ve never found it necessary, cook it for 5 additional minutes, until farro is more tender.
Transfer to a wide serving bowl. If there’s enough leftover cooking liquid to be bothersome, simply use a slotted spoon to leave the amount you wish to behind. Drizzle farro lightly with additional olive oil, scatter with basil and parmesan.

I love a one pot meal! This is the first thing I made after we got home from vacation, and it was so good! It was rich and hearty and hit the spot. I’d never made a purloo before, but I’m sure I’ll be making one again. The hint of southern flavor with the corn and ham (and okra, of course!) was an amazing combo. It was so good I forgot to take a photo before we scarfed it all down, but here’s the lovely one from food52:

foodquarterly

Okra and Sweet Corn Purloo
via food52

3/4 cups yellow onion, small dice
1/3 cup green pepper, small dice
1/3 cup celery, small dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 cups okra, cut crosswise into stars
2 cups smoked turkey thigh or smoked ham
1 cup sweet corn, removed from the cob
1 cup short grain rice (we used brown)
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

Heat the oven to 400˚ F. Place a heavy bottomed 3-quart pot over medium heat. Add enough oil to the pot to barely coat the bottom. Once the oil is hot add the onion, pepper, and celery. Season with a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft but not brown. Add the thyme, basil, marjoram, and garlic. Saute, being careful not to brown the garlic, until they become fragrant. Add the okra, turkey, and corn. Season the purloo again with salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust any seasoning necessary. If the pan seems dry add a little more oil. Then add the rice and stir it around to coat the grains with the oil. Add the broth. Grab the pot by the handle and give it a sharp shake so everything evens out and is distributed evenly. Bring the broth to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pot with a lid and slide the whole thing into the oven. Immediately turn the heat to 325˚ F. Set a timer for 35 minutes. At the end of thirty five minutes remove the pot from the oven, remove the lid and using a tasting spoon check the rice to see if it is done. If it is not done, cover the pot and return it to the oven for 10 more minutes. If the rice is tender, serve.


This one was a serious wow. The fresh veggies, the bright flavors, the balance of spice, the heartiness of the quinoa and beans. This recipe is pure summer perfection. And we plucked the first full size Carolina Gold tomato from our garden to use in place of the cherry tomatoes. It was delicious! I doubled the avocado, because I love avocado so very much, but other than that and a very extra shakes of hot sauce, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Grilled Poblanos Corn Black Beans and Quinoa with Cilantro Lime Dressing

Grilled Poblano & Corn Quinoa with Cilantro Lime Dressing
via flourishing foodie

1 cup dry black beans
2 corn cobs, grilled
1-2 tablespoons butter
2 poblano peppers, grilled
1 cup dry quinoa
2 avocado, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Dressing
1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lime, squeezed
1 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
2 tsp Tabasco Green Pepper Sauce

Garnishes
queso fresco or cotija cheese
chopped cilantro
hot sauce
lime juice
salt and pepper

Soak the beans overnight in cold water, or in very hot water for 2 hours. Rinse the beans, and then bring them to a boil in a medium saucepan. Once the beans have begun to boil, reduce the heat to medium and boil for 1 hour. Drain and set to the side. Or you could use canned black beans for convenience.
Shuck the corn, rub with butter, and then wrap in tin foil. Wash the poblano peppers. Turn the barbecue/grill to high. Place the corn on the grill and close the lid. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove a piece of corn and lift back the tin foil to check for black grill marks. If the corn looks sufficiently cooked, flip, and cook on the opposite side for 10 minutes.
A few minutes before you are ready to remove the corn, place the peppers directly on the grill. Grill until black, rotating after a few minutes. Remove the corn and the peppers from the grill. Place the peppers into a plastic bag to loosen the skins. Once cooled, removed the skins, break open, and then remove the center stem and seeds. Chop the pepper and set to the side. Let the corn cool in the tin foil.
Wash and rinse the quinoa thoroughly to remove any bitter flavor. Place the quinoa and 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until all of the water has evaporated. Fluff with a fork.
While the quinoa is cooking, wash and pat dry the cilantro. Remove the leaves from the stems and chop. Place the leaves into a food processor or blender and puree. Add the yogurt, olive oil, lime juice, honey, salt, and Tabasco. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Remove the corn from the tin foil, and slice off the kernels.
In a large bowl, combine the black beans, corn, poblano peppers, quinoa, avocado and tomatoes and toss. Either add the dressing to the bowl, or plate and then drizzle the dressing on top. Add queso fresco, chopped cilantro, hot sauce, and lime juice as a garnish.

image via my iphone

I forgot to take a picture of this beauty the other night, because I had just come home from work and it was already ready to go (thank you my dearest husband!) and I gobbled it right up. The flavor here is amazing. I’m a huge fan of fennel and this tomato sauce does it right. We served it over brown rice to give it a little more heft (and to provide some lunch leftovers for the next day).

braised fennel with saffron and tomato

Braised Fennel with Saffron & Tomato
via Vegetable Literacy

2 large fennel bulbs
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
good pinch of saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups fennel stock, chicken stock, or water
sea salt
1 tablespoon butter
freshly ground pepper
minced fennel greens or fresh flat-leaf parsley

Trim off the stalks and greens from the fennel bulbs. (Mince the greens for a garnish. If there are none, you can use parsley.) If the outer thick leaves of the bulbs look tough and scarred, as they often do, take a slice off the base to loosen them and set them aside for another use. Halve each bulb lengthwise and cut the halves into wedges about 1 1/2 inches at the widest part.
Heat the olive oil in a wide saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and fennel seeds, crumble in the saffron and thyme and then cook until the steam releases the color from the saffron, after several minutes. Add the fennel wedges and cook them until golden, turning them and the onions occasionally. Once they are well colored, add the garlic, stir in the tomato paste and then add the stock and 1 teaspoon salt. Scrape the pan to release the juices, then cover and simmer until the fennel is tender, another 15 minutes.

Photo: Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton

This recipe was so delightfully different that what we usually make. And a team effort tonight! Husband made the balsamic reduction and did most of the chopping, I whisked together the dressing and dressed the salad. Husband grilled the lovely endives and I put it all together, voila!
Perfection. And while sometimes endives can be a bit too bitter for me, grilled they are quite nice, particularly with the balsamic reduction drizzled across. The perfect balance of flavor.
The original recipe called for radicchio to be grilled also, which we did, but I found it still too bitter for my own personal liking, and decided to forgo them for just the delicious endives instead.

farro with grilled endives

Farro & White Bean Salad with Grilled Endives
via the first mess

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup farro (whole grain spelt or spelt berries), rinsed
1 cup cooked white beans
1/3 cup raw almonds, toasted and chopped
1/3 cup dried currants
3 ounces arugula, chopped
3-4 belgian endives, trimmed of rough outer leaves and cut in half lengthwise
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
salt and pepper

Dressing
juice of 1 orange (about 1/2 cup-worth)
1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
1 tablespoon maple syrup
salt and pepper
1/2 cup grapeseed oil (or olive, sunflower etc)

Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until vinegar is reduced by half and it coats the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Once adequately reduced, remove from the heat, scrape into a separate container and place in the fridge to set up.

Place farro in a medium saucepan with 2.5 cups of water over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until slightly tender but still chewy. Drain, rinse with cold water and dump into a large bowl. Set aside.

To the cooked farro, add the white beans, chopped almonds, currants, chopped arugula, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Make the dressing: whisk together the orange juice, apple cider vinegar, shallots, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the oil while quickly whisking the mixture. Taste for seasoning. Pour over farro and bean mixture and toss to combine.

Heat a grill to medium high. Brush the endive with the grapeseed oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place the endives on the grill on their cut sides. Grill for 2-5 minutes or until you see some charring/browning of the leaves. Flip them over and repeat cooking process. Remove from the grill when charred a bit on all sides and slightly tender to the touch.

Place dressed farro and bean mixture in a serving plate. Arrange grilled endive pieces on top. Drizzle balsamic reduction over the whole thing and serve.

image via my iphone