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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reader Favorites from 2014

One of the reasons I love writing this blog is seeing what the readers go for. Sometimes I'm surprised to see a recipe fall flat when I was so excited about trying it, but more often I'm blown away by the response to a recipe that I tried on a whim or one that I've been making for years and it never occurred to me that everyone else has not. Last year a couple of my favorites wound up on the reader favorites list which pleased me because I felt like I was on track.

I think last year I listed the top 6 posts. This year I'm going to do things a little differently. With almost two years of blogging under my belt I wanted to include the top 6 recipes from this year along with the top 6 over the past two years. So, what say we start with this year's reader favorites?

This is by far the number one viewed post overall. I'm positive that's because it's from the Pioneer Woman and, like myself, people simply trust anything she does. This mixture of meaty sauce, creamy, melty cheese, and perfectly cooked pasta is the ideal dish for feeding a large family. It makes a ton of food (I've fed 8 with leftovers with this recipe) and is absolutely delicious to boot! It's just as good as leftovers as it is fresh out of the oven and I could eat the sauce as a soup, it's so good.

So versatile, this chicken. It goes so well barbecue style with baked beans and french fries, makes amazing sandwiches, and (my personal favorite) makes a great salad topper. Just add it to a bowl of salad greens and sprinkle on some tart cranberries and a handful of sunflower seeds and it's absolutely perfect. Plus, it's so easy to make! Just coat the chicken in the spices and toss it in the oven. I made it just the other week and it was the most tender, flavorful chicken we've had in quite awhile. The rub can even be made ahead of time or in large batches, so you always have it on hand. 

I'm quite proud of this recipe as it's something I adapted myself. Tender chicken and fresh veggies in creamy sauce over egg noodles is just so comforting and this is definitely a family favorite, Aaron's family and mine. It's a great way to get picky kids to eat some vegetables too. I know it works for Aaron.

Wow, do I love this recipe! I keep forgetting how much I like beans and then I make this "soup" as Aaron calls it and I'm suddenly in the mood to cook some dry beans every day! These beans turn out so creamy and flavorful that I can't stop eating them. Seriously, I had to have Aaron pack up the leftovers the last time I made them because I was so stuffed but wanted to keep eating. This is the perfect meal to use up leftover ham from the holidays and it's super cheap to make, especially if you already have the ham.

This one was surprising to me and I'm not sure why. The pictures on this post were quite good and the finished product was delicious, but I didn't figure this one would be all that popular for some reason. Okay, so this recipe is pretty close to the boxed stuff but so much better for having fresh ingredients in it. I think the chopped bacon and fresh grated cheese melted into the sauce make it even better. Plus, I'm a sucker for anything with macaroni in it. I feel like a little kid when I eat those elbow shapes.

This is the original version of the recipe that I adapted to create the Chicken and Vegetable Stroganoff. Again, the sauce is superbly creamy and perfectly seasoned, but honestly I prefer the chicken. This is a recipe that I tried out for my brother. It's fantastic for a quick meal on a busy night and I know for a fact this is an easy recipe to make because my brother makes it for himself. He says it's great over rice but I prefer the egg noodles.

Now let's see the overall top 6 from the past two years.

No surprise there. This post has about 7000 views over every other post on here. I highly recommend that if you only try one of the recipes that this be the one.

Another quick and easy meal, this pasta is a satisfying alternative to fried chicken parmesan. I particularly love that this is a one-dish meal (if you have an oven-safe skillet, which is something I'm hoping to get as a late Christmas gift). This is the recipe that haunted me on Pinterest. I kept seeing it and wanting to try it out immediately but then would forget to put it on the menu. The small chunks of chicken cook quickly, keeping them juicy, and the pasta gets a flavor boost as it simmers in the lightly seasoned sauce. And my favorite part is all the gooey cheese, mmmm!

I think my favorite thing about this recipe is the incredible amount of flavor! Seriously, taco meat, green chilies, and enchilada sauce are such great flavors on their own, but combine them and the flavor is out of this world. The whole thing turns into a kind of hash as you serve it, the tater tots breaking apart and mixing with the taco meat mixture on top and turning the finished product into a mess on the plate, but no one will care what it looks like once they taste the first bite!

This Asian/Hawaiian chicken is a great meal for busy parents. The meat cooks in the sauce giving it tons of pineapple and teriyaki flavor and all you need to get it to the table is some rice and veggies to go with it. I have learned since I first posted this recipe that bone-in chicken breasts have a better texture in the crock pot than the small chunks of chicken, but otherwise I wouldn't change a thing!

Ooh! Homemade cheese sauce is a favorite of mine and this casserole is loaded with it! Plus, smoked sausage is so easy to work with. It's fully cooked, just needs to be chopped and warmed and it's ready to serve, and it has a wonderfully salty/spicy flavor that complements the potatoes. I like to use the turkey smoked sausage just to cut the fat content down and trust me when I say the swap does not sacrifice any flavor. Mine turned out a little soupy the first time, but I could eat it as a soup with no complaints.

The only dessert recipe to make it in the top 6, how did that happen? Apparently though I love to make (and eat) desserts, my recipes don't always make it to the blog. I'll have to get on that pronto! Anyway, this is currently my favorite chocolate cake. It's almost too easy to make, using boxed cake mix which I now keep stocked in the pantry just for this recipe. It needs no frosting, is super rich and moist, and the chocolate chips and pudding mix combine to create what I would describe as pockets of pudding coated chocolate chip in the cake. It's almost as if the chocolate chips never re-harden as the cake cools. They're not quite melted, but not quite solid either. I love the interesting texture it creates in the cake. And if you want to bump up the richness from 9 to 11 substitute cold coffee for the water in the recipe.

That's it guys! Thank you so much for reading this year. I can't wait to share tons more exciting new recipes with you in 2015!

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