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My hope is to inspire you to be fearless in the kitchen, to try new things, to take the time to make things the homemade way and most importantly, to have fun doing it!

Best of 2011 – My Favorites

Oh, 2011, what a year it has been.  I won’t be sad to see it go.  With the loss of my father on Thanksgiving, it immediately qualified as the worst year of my life.  But there have been many wonderful things about this year as well.  It goes without saying that our sweet baby girl Caroline is the best thing I baked up this year and she is a constant joy in our lives.  Our amazing son Andrew delights us everyday with his spunky, fun-loving, and affectionate personality.  We’ve updated the blog to make it fresher and more user-friendly.  And looking back through my posts, I’ve also made a lot of really really good food.  Normally I have a harder time choosing highlights but this year, they all just popped right out at me.  I narrowed it down to 30 which probably seems like a lot but these are the ones you simply must not miss.  (These are in chronological order.)

I had to do a double take and make sure these spicy bean burritos were actually from 2011.  I’ve made them so many times this year that they feel more like an old family favorite that we’ve been making forever.  The fact that they are healthy, quick, and delicious makes it no wonder that they’ve become such a constant in our menu.

Just looking at this picture makes my tummy growl.  These peanut butter cheesecake swirl brownies are rich, fudgy, sweet, and salty.  Excuse me while I go make some.

I’d never been one to choose thin crust pizza over classic, but this recipe made me think otherwise.  The dough can be made in advance and the sauce is incredibly simple.  Thin Crust Pizza

I love so many things about these berry charlottes – the multi-step process (you know how I enjoy complex desserts), the smooth layers of berry mousse, and of course the gorgeous appearance when they are all assembled.  Looking at them just makes me happy.

I’ve made laminated doughs before, but somehow making homemade croissants seemed like an accomplishment.  The tender flaky layers were unlike any I’ve had from a store or bakery.  Totally worth making at home.

This classic mac and cheese became a fast favorite in our home.  Every time I serve it to family or friends it receives rave reviews.  As much as I love making different jazzed up versions, it’s important to have a solid base recipe as well.

A well composed salad is worthy of your attention, and that is certainly true of this mixed green salad with roasted portabellos and dijon vinaigrette.  Everyone should be able to make a great salad in a pinch and this has become my go-to recipe.

I take care to avoid being over effusive on a regular basis here on the blog, so you’ll know that when I say something is good, I really mean it.  If I called every single recipe phenomenal, how would you sort through it all?  Let me be perfectly clear – these caramel brownies are my favorite dessert I’ve made this year.  Maybe ever.  And this is definitely my favorite food photo that I’ve ever taken.  I like to stare at it sometimes.

This Parmesan-crusted goat cheese with basil oil is a dish that delivers big results with minimal effort.  It is quite addictive, so be sure you have plenty of baguette slices at the ready.

These creamy chicken taquitos may have started out as kind of a joke in our household, but we quickly realized these are anything but silly.  The filling is highly adaptable and it’s easy to make a large batch at once.  We try to keep them in the freezer at all times – you know, for taquito emergencies.

This summer I learned that using sparkling water in mixed drinks can take them from good to great, and such was the case with this sparkling strawberry lemonade.  Hurry up summer, I miss you!

Some recipes are worth revisiting.  This strawberry cream cheese tart is a great example of an old recipe that needed a makeover, and we are loving the new and improved version!

I just made this dish a few nights ago, and every time I do I’m reminded of why I love pasta alla vodka so much.  Simple meal, pasta, tomato cream sauce.  Is it on your menu yet?

After dreaming about this cake for over a year, I finally made those dreams a reality – chocolate raspberry truffle layer cake.  Enough said.

These oatmeal butterscotch cookies won’t win a beauty contest anytime soon, but they win my heart every time.  The oatmeal cookie base has what I consider to be the perfect chewy texture, and well, do I really even need to explain why butterscotch chips are amazing?  Okay, good.

This banana split ice cream torte is a fun and eye-catching layered dessert.  The combination of flavors really does mimic a banana split beautifully.

As we saw yesterday with the round up of reader favorites, these soft frosted sugar cookies were very popular, and for good reason.  They taste a whole lot like the store-bought counterpart, but way better and without unpronounceable ingredients.

Caramelized scallops sound fancy, look fancy, and even taste kind of fancy, but they are actually a breeze to make.  Definitely a nice recipe to have in your pocket when you want to impress.

This post now gives me mixed feelings of love and overwhelming nausea because it is the last birthday cake I got to bake for my dad.  As sad as that makes me, I’ll never forget just how much he loved this lemon layer cake with vanilla bean frosting and I’ll probably make one every year on his birthday to honor him.

Having lukewarm feelings toward avocados myself, I originally made these corn cakes with tomato-avocado relish because I thought Ben would enjoy it.  Turns out we were both pretty smitten with the final product and we’ll definitely be making them again when summer rolls around.

Just reading the title “Tomato Cobbler with Gruyere Biscuits“, I knew we had an instant winner on our hands.  I don’t think I’ve ever put something on the menu quicker.  It did not disappoint and it’s just one more reason I’m looking forward to next tomato season.

I made these raspberry lemonade bars on a whim and was blown away by how much I enjoyed them.  My mouth waters just thinking about them now.

Pumpkin spice latte lovers and cupcake lovers everywhere rejoiced when these two favorites were combined into one awesome dessert, myself included.  Pumpkin spice latte cupcakes – how can you resist something like this?  Don’t try to fight it.

I’m starting to feel like a broken record here, but this chicken with tomato-herb pan sauce is another great example of when simple is better.  Even though we discovered this at the tail-end of summer, we made sure to enjoy it several times before our tomato plants were barren.  Can’t wait till it’s back on the menu next summer!

As savory dishes go, this chicken and sausage gumbo probably takes this year’s prize as my favorite.  In fact I loved it so much that we made it again for Christmas Eve dinner with our families, and it was completely devoured (much to the dismay of this girl who was looking forward to leftovers.)

Though I do enjoy salads, they are rarely my first choice when it comes to an entree.  With that in mind, it means something special that this harvest apple spinach salad has been on our menu at least one out of every two weeks since first trying it.  Topped with a piece of grilled chicken seasoned with herbes de provence – it’s made a salad lover out of me.

Just as we all need a good classic mac and cheese recipe, we also need one that can be on the table in next to no time and still taste fantastic.  That’s where this stovetop mac and cheese comes in.  The only bad thing about it is that it is just a little too easy to make, and to love…someone stop me!

Oh, my darling chocolate peanut butter cup cookies.  Being able to recreate these cookies at home took helped take away a little bit of the emotional damage done by a hellish hike in Vermont.

These apple pie cookies are everything you love about homemade apple pie in a nice little individual version.  I also can’t get over their cuteness!

Quinoa cakes topped with poached eggs may not sound like an automatic winner, but that’s what they were for us.  Whenever I’m looking for healthy meals these days, this is one of the first recipes I turn to.

I hope you enjoyed seeing what, in my opinion, were the highlights of Annie’s Eats this year.  Thanks for motivating me to continue striving for greatness in the kitchen!

  • Anonymous

    Those all look so great! I can’t wait to make them. I’m goign to do more homemade foods this year so I’ll be coming back often! :-) Thanks for continuing to give us great recipes! Here’s an amazing new year!

  • One Preppy Cookie

    Annie I have made more recipes of yours this year than I care to admit and they have all been great! I have made at least over half of the things on this list and will say that the tomato cobbler is one of my family’s favorites now and was even requested on Christmas Eve. THANK YOU for your dedication to your wonderful blog. You’re an amazing chef and person in general. I can only imagine how proud your parents must be of you. Here’s to a very HAPPY 2012!

  • http://tideandthyme.com/ Laura

    Funny you mentioned the burritos, I was just thinking the other night it seems like I’ve been making them forevs. Family favorite for sure! So, here’s to 2011 – we had some trials and tribulations. But, we also had plenty of good eats. Here’s to plenty more in 2012. Love ya, girlie!

  • Megan

    Annie, I leaned about your blog through a friend and have tried a handful of your recipes in 2011. You have inspired my 2012 new years resolution to make at least one new recipe a week. You have quickly become my “Julia” if only my name was “Julie” :) thank you for continuing to open up your kitchen and share your talents! I hope 2012 is filled with adventures, fun and laughter for you and your family.

  • carrie

    Your blog was my favorite new food blog to put on my reader this year, so thank you for all the wonderful recipes and photos! I’m so sorry for your loss. Positive thoughts are with you, and here’s to a wonderful 2012.

  • Emily G

    Annie I just wanted to say that I really do wish you all the best in 2012! I can’t imagine what you and your family are going through with the loss of your father, but I truly admire your strength. I am so happy to read your blog, make your recipes and share in this little piece of your life. Thank you.

  • Kathleen

    What a great round up! I’m making the carmel brownies this weekend for New Year’s Eve. Thanks for a great year in the kitchen – it’s been fun! Here’s to an even better 2012! And, BTW, just ordered your calendar on Amazon…can’t wait for it to arrive :-) Happy New Year!

  • Aimee

    I discovered this blog earlier this year and looking at your list of favs, I have made almost every recipe and the rest are on my “recipes to try” list. You are an amazing cook and have inspired me in the kitchen all year. Thank you.

  • Emma

    Thanks for a year of delicious, beautiful food. I read many food blogs, but this one is my very favorite. I find myself bookmarking recipes and cooking from it constantly. I hope next year is happier for you :-)

  • http://www.thelifeofawife.com/ sherri lynn

    What a wonderful round-up! Several of these also were some of our favorite recipes that I tried this year. I made and blogged your recipe for classic mac & Cheese on my blog, and it made it into the top 10 for the most popular posts of the year!

  • April

    I just drooled all over my screen, LOL. All of these look amazing! Tons bookmarked! Looks like you had a good cooking year ;D

  • sunia ibanez

    yeah i love the applepie cookies!!
    :-)

    i baked them a few weeks ago… so yummy

  • Erica

    I just want to say, Annie, you are my baking idol. Your desserts always look amazingly perfect! I made those apple pie cookies twice since you posted them and they are amazing, though mine never come out looking as perfect as the ones in your photo!

    I’m sorry that you had a rough time this year, but I’m sure that 2012 will bring you joy and love.

  • CambriaW

    I swear, I downloaded just about every single recipe to try out with my family this year. This blog is single-handedly responsible for the 10lbs I’ve gained this year ;)

  • Kristin

    Mmmmm…I’m out of town right now, but you’ve certainly simplified my menu planning when I get home. You’re the first blog I read everyday, so why haven’t I already made some of these?! Thanks!

  • http://theregoesthecupcake.wordpress.com/ Kelly

    Great list! I have already made 6 of these this year! Without your site meals at our house wouldnt be the same. Thank you!

  • http://joyinmykitchen.blogspot.com/ Joyinmykitchen

    Delicious recipes, Annie! Your raspberry lemonade bars are certainly going to make an appearance at our house this summer during BBQ season! Would you consider sharing these at our “Best of 2011″ recipes party this week? We’d love to have you!

  • Kelsey

    Another wonderful year in your kitchen, Annie. I know this year ended in the most awful way, but I hope you’ll take comfort in knowing your food, photography, and commentary bring so many people joy. Your idea to make the lemon cake on your dad’s birthday every year is touching and so appropriate. I love your choices and agree on the deliciousness of the chicken with tomato herb sauce and the perfectly beautiful dripping caramel in your brownies. Cheers to 2012!

  • http://onceuponarecipe.wordpress.com/ Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe

    What a delicious round-up of favorites! Reading through this post has reminded me of some of your recipes that I’ve been meaning to make! Happy new year Annie!

  • http://www.thespiffycookie.com/ Erin

    Wow I want everything!! Cannot wait for even more delicious things on here in 2012~

  • http://www.asymmetricaljoy.com/ Kristin @ asymmetrical joy

    I discovered your blog via the corn cakes with tomato-avacoado relish, and it is so. darn. good! I can’t even count the number of times my husband and I have made it, and we even use the relish everytime we have tacos..it’s kind of like having salsa and guac in one easy to make side dish! :-)

  • http://smellslikebrownies.com/ Melissa H

    Oh my gosh, Annie…I had already earmarked about half of these as must-trys, but now I am so excited all over again to try the foods I haven’t made myself yet! Everything you make is always so delicious!

  • Lauren Ochoa

    The bean burritos are a winner in my house with both my husband,myself and our two picky kids (2 and 3). Let’s just say its kind of a sanity preserver for me. As long as it has lots of black olives, my kids gobble them up; which has lent itself nicely to many different variations (all with black olives of course). I’m proud to say that I have made at least half of these recipes in the past year and many are on my meenu plan for the coming weeks. I visit many different food blogs on a regular basis but there’s just something that keeps me coming back to your blog again and again when planning my menu and grocery list for the week. The portion sizes are usually dead on (possibly because our families are the same size), there’s a great mix of easy to prepare weeknight meals and more complex and fun recipes for weekend enjoyment and you never fail to excite my sweet tooth. THanks for a wonderful 2011 and here’s to a fabulous new year.

  • lisa

    i want to make everything on this list!

  • Heidi

    Love reading your blog! You have me drooling over here too! I’ve made loads of recipes from your blog this year and they have all been A-MAZ-ING! Congratulations on yet another year of beautiful food. Can’t wait to see what 2012 will bring.

  • Wendi

    The spicy bean burritos are a huge hit in our household!! I am going to make the chocolate peanut butter cup cookies today as my mother-in-law gave me a tub of dark chocolate peanut butter cups as part of my Christmas gift. Can’t wait to try one! Happy New Year Annie. Thank you for all of these yummy recipes.

  • Genny

    Annie, I couldn’t agree with you more about moving on from 2011! I’m so sorry for your loss!

    And, your “favorite recipes” are perfect! Those caramel brownies are on my list of “to do” for NYE! (before the diet starts)! lol

    Wishing you all the best in 2012!

  • http://fourandtwentyblackberries.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth

    I want to try those caramel brownies and that strawberry tart!

  • Maggie D

    How could I have missed those Caramel Brownies first time round? Oh. My. Goodness. I simply have to make these and the Raspberry Lemonade Bars that I seemed to have missed on the first trot around the track too. Thank you for continuing to inspire and delight, Annie. I know 2011 was a bitter-sweet year, so hoping 2012 brings only joy for you and your family. Keep cookin’!

  • Nicole T

    I still haven’t gotten around to trying a few of these recipes. Your blog is full of so many wonderful recipes that I just want to try them all!

  • Mollie

    so i read your blog daily and you’re one of my top go-to sites and I still missed out or forgot I starred some of these. Thanks for the round up, and for sharing all your inspiration with us.

  • http://atthepatisserie.wordpress.com/ Ann P.

    SUCH great recipes! They should all be favorites because they’re so great! However, especially tantalizing this morning are the poached eggs over the quinoa cakes, the taquitos, and of course the lemon cake. When you first posted it, I was blown away at how beautiful it was, and the care and love you put into combining all the right ingredients and flavors to make a perfect birthday gift. Your great love for your dad has always been so evident. You were so strong this year– I know he would be so proud of you. And all of us readers are proud of you as well! Thank you for a full year of amazing recipes 5x a week, and for being a wonderful source of inspiration <3

  • http://chasingdelicious.com/winter-days-and-cinnamon-pecan-butter-cookies/ Russell at Chasing Delicious

    Look at all these scrumptious dishes! I want them all! Yum!

  • Abbie

    These look delicious Annie! Every recipe I try of yours always turns out amazing! Please please put together a cookbook with all of your recipes!! It will be a best seller for sure!!

  • Kristie Wilson

    Great recipe roundup! I found several to bookmark!

  • http://www.pink-parsley.com/ Josie

    So funny that our favorites list have so much overlap :-) I need to revisit those burritos soon too – it’s been way to long since I’ve made them. And I’m planning to make the gumbo on New Year’s Day I think. I love the idea to make the lemon cake for your dad every year. Such a fitting tribute. Lots of love, sweet friend!

  • Sarah

    The caramel brownie picture is my favorite picture of yours too! Actually, I’ve been a loyal follower of your blog for a while now and I have to say I think your photography in general has just been stunning this year!

  • Anonymous

    I think I am going to HAVE to try your Parmesan-crusted goat cheese with basil oil ! It looks SO good. In fact, I just made your jalapeno popper dip last week and yet another WONDERFUL recipe!!

  • Tiffany | Peanut Blossom

    What a wonderful tribute to a roller coaster year. Amazing how emotions can shine through food. Your caramel brownies photo is gorgeous and many of your faves would be on our list too. Seeing your recap reminded me of many of our year’s memories too. Thanks for being a part of our family meals! Wishing you a peaceful new year.

  • http://penniesonaplatter.com/ Nikki

    Pretty much just bookmarked every recipe on here now. (Except, of course, for the ones I’ve already made and loved.) :) Happy new year, Annie! So glad to be on this food blogging journey with you. You’re an inspiration, my dear!

  • http://twitter.com/christinesfood Christine’s Cuisine

    I completely agree about 2011 – I’m so ready to move into 2012.

    And I agree with you – that caramel brownie photo is the best you’ve ever taken.

  • Anonymous

    Sarah, thank you so much for that compliment! I have worked very hard on my photography this year, and have started to reshoot recipes multiple times if I am not satisfied with my first attempts. I am happy to hear that you are noticing. It means a lot!

  • Cluttercafe

    You are amazing Annie! You have been an inspiration to me. I can’t wait to try every single recipe in your favorites. They all look AMAZING! I am sorry for the loss of your Dad. I hope that even in his absence, you were able to enjoy your holidays by looking back on fond memories of him. Have a blessed New Year for you, your family and your readers.

  • Kristin

    I have already made 12 of the recipes above with most of the others bookmarked to try in the near future. I have to say, those caramel brownies are one of the most amazing desserts on the planet. Seriously, so good. And the peanut butter cheesecake brownies have to be a close second. My husband thought I was the best wife in the world when I brought him out a glass of the strawberry lemonade this summer while he was working on the yard. My cooking and baking has improved and expanded tremendously since I stumbled on your blog via The Nest’s “what’s cooking” board in early 2010. Nice work, I can’t wait to see what you do with the blog in 2012!

  • http://www.debbiesmochame.blogspot.com/ Mochame8

    All your dishes look delicious but the desserts are just over the top beautiful. I am a huge dessert lover and there are definitely more than a few that I want to try!

  • http://www.fortyninefiftyone.blogspot.com/ Amibeth

    Wow, I’m proud to say that I’ve made nearly a third of the best of 2011 this year, and several more I have on my list to incorporate into my upcoming menus. You have inspired me to do more homecooking than ever this year, and as a single mom to one, its sometimes hard to get inspired at the end of a long work day. But as I get so much enjoyment out of my time in the kitchen, and I see how my 4 year old son appreciates it and happily eats it up, it has become so worth it and so rewarding. I am also a baker at heart and have gotten so much pleasure from baking for loved ones and friends at work using many of your delicious recipes with beautiful and tasty results. I do visit a few other food blogs on a regular basis, but yours has been the one I have become most comfortable with. Thanks for inviting us all in your kitchen, for sharing these joys, and for your honest approach in your posts. I hope the best for you and your family in 2o12.

  • Riki-Tiki-Tembo

    Just had to tell you this Annie :) I went grocery store shopping this morning and as I come out of the shop I spot a small calendar store set up in the middle of the shopping centre. As I walk past I unmistakably recognize your Butterfly Cupcakes pic and I go running over draggin my kiddies behind me too grab it off the shelf and sure enough there was your calendar – in a small shopping centre in Perth, Western Australia! I had to let you know – your really getting around!
    So neat :)

  • Mikaela Muntean

    I’m SO glad to have discovered your blog. I love your photographs and the recipes sound amazing. I made the Classic Mac and Cheese recipe last night. Wow, that was good! Thanks for your inspiring posts.

  • Brenna J

    I love this list!! I’ve made the spicy bean burrittos, chicken taquitos, and super soft sugar cookies many times as they have been requested by my family over and over again. Most of the others you posted here are on my “to make” list and I can’t wait to cook them up! Thanks for being such an inspiration in the kitchen. In a world where processed food and fast food seem to be taking over, it’s wonderful to see that you can make delicious food at home, from scratch, without a ton of processed ingredients. You have inspired me to cook from scratch as often as possible… not only is it fun, but it tastes better, and it is healthier for my family!!

  • Amber

    Your food is so beautiful! Thanks so much for the great recipes. Every time I’m in a rut I know I can come here and find something wonderful. Next on my list, the classic mac and cheese. :)

  • Ruth B

    I have been following your blog for a few months now and it has become one of my favorites – as well as the place I turn to when I need a great recipe! You have a real talent for photography, of all the food blogs I have seen that have posted top recipes from 2011, yours is the only one whose stunning pictures have made me want to try EVERY. SINGLE. RECIPE. Enough said :)

  • Vanessa

    Wow, looking through this list reminds me of why I am so glad I came across your blog this year! Thank you so much for sharing all of these amazing recipes with us! Every recipe I’ve tried from you has been oh, so delicious. Also, looking at so many pictures right in a row makes me realize how awesome of a photographer you are. Looking forward to seeing what you cook up in 2012. Thanks again!

  • http://www.dishingthedivine.com/ Paula @ Dishing the Divine

    I am probably your biggest fan. I’ve made most of the dishes you listed above and I loved all the ones I’ve made. I’ve gone through and printed the ones I somehow missed. I consider you like cook’s illustrated – a blogger I can trust to deliver more than just pretty pictures. :) Thanks for all your hard work! :)

  • Anonymous

    Paula, I really appreciate that. You are so sweet.

  • Anonymous

    That is very kind of you to say Ruth, thank you!

  • Chelsea Francis

    I’ve already tried four of those and LOVED them! Haha I also love that you have two macaroni and cheese recipes on there ;)

  • http://ryanisbaking.blogspot.com/ Ryan

    I absolutely love your blog and I pretty much want to try every single one of these recipes. Your photos are incredible! :)

  • Anonymous

    That is so awesome! I’ve heard of it quite far away in the US, but nowhere as far as Australia. Thanks for letting me know!

  • http://kitchensimplicity.com/ Cheri | Kitchen Simplicity

    I’m so happy you posted this. So many yummy recipes that I forgot about. First on my list to make are those Spicy Bean Burritos. Yum!

    Happy New Year Annie! Can’t wait to see what you have in store for us in the coming year. :)

  • http://culinarycollage.blogspot.com/ Culinary Collage

    Happy New Year Annie! All of these recipes look amazing!!!

  • http://www.rockingrascals.co.uk/ Emma

    Thank you so much for putting this post together. I have just pinned a bunch of them to my Pinterest food board and I am dying to try them all out. All the best for 2012.

  • Sfitzg

    I’m new to your blog – I was referred here from Danielle at A day in the life. Love the year in review recipes. Now I’ve got quite a few new ones to try. Thanks so much!

  • Lisa

    Just came across your blog and it is pretty rare that I want to make almost all of the recipes that are listed..but I just read this list and you’ve given lots of inspiration! looking forward to following your culinary journeys.

  • Katy

    Wow! I was looking for some soft gooey biscuits and clicked on your page to find this heart stopping blog of yours. One word. Sensational. I have now added it to my favourites. I am hooked. I honestly don’t know were to start. How can you be this… Incredible? I am 12 years old and one day I would like to be able to cook like you! I see you measure in cups. I tend to measure in grams when I am cooking. What would be the equivalent?

  • annieseats

    Hi Katy, so glad you like the site! In the US we do not use the metric system. You can find good online conversion charts to help you, but just be sure to look up each ingredient individually for the appropriate conversion. I hope that helps. Happy baking!

  • Katy

    Yes, thank you very much. It did help, I didnt have my head screwed on! You should be really proud of yourself. What a brilliant blog. You have obviously put in a lot of effort. I just have no idea where to start, all the recipes make my mouth water. Agrrh!