Best of 2008 – Top Ten–no, TWENTY– Recipes from My Sister’s Kitchen

We’ve been thinking about all the fabulous, amazing food that we’ve shared with delightful guests over the last year. And that led to another idea of each sharing our top ten recipes that we’ve enjoyed preparing for those we love. Then we’re inviting YOU to share with us which recipes on this blog were Top Ten sort of recipes for you and your family.

Barb’s 10 Ten Picks for 2008

Disclaimer: Not all these posts are from 2008, but they’re recipes that have dominated my kitchen in one way or another in the past year.

  • Hermana Rosita’s Pozole – Pozole has become a favorite staple food in our house. A big pot of pozole can cover our family for about five days worth of dinners.
  • Jean’s Cheesy Potato Casserole – any time I need a potato dish that people will love, this casserole is it.
  • Lisa’s Chocolate Mousse – this chocolate mousse is fast, easy, and deeply, darkly, richly chocolate. Makes a perfect dessert for occasions requiring something really special.
  • Simple Grilled Salmon – if we could live on grilled salmon, we’d all be happy.
  • Peanut Noodles – this dish is so flexible and adaptable and so FULL of flavors that we never have quite enough of it when the day is over.
  • Pizza–all kinds – we’ve made homemade pizza a common staple in our house. There’s nothing in my fridge that can’t land on a pizza in one form or another. Research is ongoing.
  • Beef Tenderloin with Bleu Cheese Sauce – This is one of the really special occasion recipes that we love. We don’t do this one often, but even once a year is worth it.
  • Perfect Pumpkin Bread – this recipe remains one of our favorites. If I have an extra loaf in the freezer, I’m ready for unexpected guests as well as always armed with a perfect hostess gift.
  • Pear Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette – this is another “side” dish that I could live on. It often ends up being the favorite of our guests too.
  • Clair’s Sourdough – I’ve left this recipe for the #10 spot on my list. We don’t actually ever consult the recipe anymore, but we make approximately 8 loaves of sourdough a week in our home. This recipe dominates my kitchen more than any other recipe I’ve ever made. All four of my boys know how to make this one and don’t need to consult the recipe anymore either!

One thing that strikes me about my Top Ten list of recipes is how many of them come with someone’s name attached. That really reflects how we, at My Sister’s Kitchen, feel about the blessing of sharing good food with the people we love. Our best ideas come from the people around us; our best results come from collaboration in a kitchen full of people we love.

I want to give one Honorable Mention nod to Amish Friendship Bread. It certainly isn’t my favorite recipe in the world, but it has generated more reader comments than anything else we’ve ever posted. We have been blessed with numerous ideas, variations, and creative additions to the AFB recipe. The second AFB post is well on its way to matching the first in the number of comments and questions.

Laura’s 10 Picks for 2008:

  • Risotto – This particular recipe has ham and artichoke hearts–sometimes it has asparagus and prosciutto, sometimes it’s mushrooms and parmesan.  It varies from time to time, and no risotto is ever the same as the last one.  But it’s a winner every time I make it.
  • Pizza Alexander – It was part of our homeschool Fun Study on pizza (we pick a fun topic to research for our last week of school; some years it’s Legos, and some years it’s pizza.)  We had both kids in the kitchen, musing about what food ingredients would’ve been available to an ancient Greek soldier, and trying snips of this and nibbles of that.  It’s on my top 10 list sheerly for the delight of seeing my children discover the fun of food (and because the pizza was incredible!)
  • Olympus Honey Bread – Another invention from the night we were making ancient Greek pizzas–all the sweet ingredients ended up on this pizza, including honey and almonds and raisins.  It made for a wonderful and unusual dessert.
  • Raspberry Jam – This was one of my first posts ever on MSK. Every year, no matter how busy we are, and no matter what other things I DON’T can, I MUST make a couple of batches of raspberry jam.  I cheated this year and bought the berries at the Farmer’s Market, rather than going out and picking them myself.  But raspberry jam is the easiest of all jams to make, and seems to disappear much faster than the other flavors.
  • Roasted/Grilled Vegetables and Bruschetta – I make this so often that it didn’t occur to me to post it until this August.  There is nothing like marinated, carmelized mushrooms and onions and bell peppers for setting off whatever else you’re serving.  It’s a frequent offering for guests as well as a constant staple for “just us.”
  • Sneaky Vegetable Pasta Salad – I include this recipe, not because I made it very often, but because the technique that my husband employed of blending a lot of vegetables to make a sauce for the pasta is one that we’ve used again in a variety of ways, for the sake of sneaking those dreaded vegetables past the honed vegetable-detection systems of my children.  Plus, we really like the resulting sauce.
  • Individual Apple Tarts – I  served them at a large family gathering in August, where they were received with wild enthusiasm (and greed, I might even say.) The idea of putting apple pie into an individual crust takes it to a level of special-ness that is hard to describe.  I plan to play with this recipe more in this year, changing the filling to pears, or ….I don’t know what yet–I’ll keep you posted.
  • Banket – This was posted before 2008, but it remains a critical Christmas component for our family, and was one of my primary Christmas gifts for friends and co-workers this year. The almond filling and the flakey, buttery pastry make this my favorite Christmas recipe of all times.
  • Heirloom Apple Dumplings – One of the gifts of marrying into my husband’s family was inheriting this family recipe from my in-laws.  It’s another can’t-have-Christmas-without thing.
  • Cardamom Cream Cheese Peach Braid – This inspiration came to me one night last spring, and it has remained my grand-slam treat for pot-lucks and morning meetings.

And one of the things that I noticed as I was making my list is how many of them are things that came about when I was in the kitchen with family or friends, and we were improvising and experimenting with the ingredients available.  Which I think is one of the major reasons Barb and I started MSK–to talk about cooking in a way that is much more than “exactly two teaspoons of this and 4 cups of that”.

Don’t get me wrong–we both use recipes all the time, and sometimes even follow them exactly.   🙂 But if cooking was only about following the directions with exacting obedience, I think I might not enjoy food as much as I do.  I might buy all of our food out of the freezer section, for all the joy I’d get from preparing food.

It’s the moments of standing in front of a counter stacked with all the things I need to use up, and coming up with something that is not only edible, but wildly fabulous, that keep me coming back to the kitchen with anticipation again and again. Barb calls it “cooking by ear”–which evokes a powerfully loving memory/image of our grandfather, sitting at his beloved piano, feeling out an old hymn, melody and chords, until he had it, and it came together singingly.  That’s what I love best, year in and year out, about cooking in my own kitchen and in my sister’s–the feeling out, first tentative, then with intent and sureness, of a new thing from familiar parts, and ending with a singingly wonderful meal that feeds and nourishes those around our table.

Now. What about you? Will you share some of your Top Ten recipes from this blog? We’d love to hear which ones have become particular favorites.

Happy New Year and here’s hoping that many new cooking adventures lie ahead for all of us.

Barb and Laura