We may be almost a week into 2012, but let’s not go so fast we forget the past (lest we be sure to repeat it!)  Speaking of repeating the past…  I had the brilliant (if I do say so myself) idea of coming up with a list of my favorite recipe “discoveries” of the past year for the blog.  Some are from magazines, some from cookbooks, and I may have made up one or two of them myself.  Here they are, in no particular order:

1.  Pumpkin-Red Bell Pepper Hummus – I came across this in a Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade magazine I was flipping through at my mother-in-law’s house.  I’m a huge pumpkin pie fan, but savory dishes always intrigue me because they’re harder to find.  I whipped some up and was glad I did.  In fact, I just caught myself going over the ingredient list to see if I could make another batch right now…

2.  Spicy Vegetarian Chili – I’m a huge fan of R.D. Kath Younger’s blog, www.katheats.com, and when she announced that she helped develop some recipes for the October issue of O Magazine, (not to mention October = PUMPKINS), I ran out to buy my own copy.  RAN.  I made the chili for my anti-pumpkin, anti-vegetarian husband and he (miraculously) loved it.  Note: the recipe calls for 2 serrano chile peppers–I’m pretty sensitive to heat so I went light and it wasn’t hot enough.  Be sure to use at least 2, if not more if you like it HOT.

3.  Sourdough Bread – I’ve been on a quest to master yeast breads for awhile now, and sourdough seemed easy enough.  Actually, it is.  Awhile back I got the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and that became my bread bible for a time.  Basically, you mix up a big batch, then proceed to refrigerate and bake throughout the week.  As time goes by, the yeast in the dough becomes more “sour,” so your last loaf has the most flavor.  I sprang for King Arthur Flour’s sourdough starter a couple months ago and have been doing my best to bake with it regularly and keep it “alive” in the fridge.  If you have any inclination to bake your own bread but don’t want the hassle of traditional bread-making, check out the Artisan book.  It really is the fastest way to get delicious, crisp-crusted, fresh bread on your table each night.

4.  Fun Salads – OK, this isn’t really a recipe; it’s more of a reflection of the green stuff’s starring role in my life.  Ever since I started trying to lose weight last spring, my salad intake has increased dramatically.  I buy organic spinach and throw whatever I have on hand on top.  Summer produce star when the weather is warm; in fall and winter I transition to more dried fruits and nuts.  Keep your dressing light and go to town!  One to try: My Fig, Pecan and Blue Cheese salad.

5.  Sloppy Joe Sliders – My husband is a HUGE fan of sloppy joes, except that he grew up on Mamwich, or Manwich, or whatever the heck that stuff in the can is called.  (Can you tell I harbor a grudge?)  Anyway, since we got married I’ve been making them from scratch from various recipes, and, according to him, missing the mark.  Until this one.  It’s absolutely fantastic and will definitely become a go-to recipe for ground beef.  It only calls for grated carrot and onion, but you could definitely throw in some diced green and red pepper for added fiber, vitamins and volume.

6.  Ginger Pumpkin Pie with Toasted Coconut – If there is anything I love more than pumpkin pie, it’s a pumpkin pie with extra ginger.  I made this for a family get-together over the holidays and it was a hit. Word of warning:  it’s not for the feint of heart; when I say it’s heavy on the ginger, it’s HEAVY on the ginger.  Feel free to tone it down a bit (even I will admit a full tablespoon of grated, fresh ginger root is intense), or keep it for a truly unique pie.  The toasted coconut is an absolute must–don’t skip it.

7.  Cranberry Ketchup – I made this on a whim since I had all the ingredients on-hand (I keep bags of cranberries in the freezer all year long) and was blown away.  It’s a bit sweet, a bit tart and not too tomato-ey.  I loved it on a baked sweet potato, as well as a cheddar sandwich.  It’s too easy not to try.

8.  Oatmeal – As much as I hate to give another shout-out to Kath in the same post, I can’t leave this awesome breakfast off the list, or her role in its reemergence in my life.  The extent of my oatmeal-eating growing up were those flavored packets (peach was always the best) from a box, so when I started reading Kath’s blog and saw what SHE did with oats, I was blown away.  Think oatmeal sundae, but healthy.  She starts with a base recipe and then adds “toppings,” like peanut butter, cottage cheese, flax, berries, coconut, nuts…the list goes on.  She even has variations like OIAJ and Overnight Oats.  Seriously, you are missing out until you try it yourself.

9.  Spicy Southwestern Tabbouleh – This is a recipe from a 2010 issue of Cooking Light, but I didn’t make it until this summer, so I’m counting it anyway.  I love bulgur, but traditional tabbouleh is the main recipe one finds for it, so I couldn’t wait to try this one.  It has a TON of ingredients, but they’re mostly spices you already have and veggies you buy during the summer, and there is, literally, one step.  Add grilled chicken or shrimp to make it a main dish.

10.  Granola – Another thing I’ve been eating massive amounts of is granola.  I like to make my own, but when we moved and were forced blessed to live in a hotel for four months, I resorted to buying it and tried all different kinds.  I found I prefer kinds that are only slightly sweet and crunchy with lots of dried fruit.  I usually mix it with plain yogurt, but sometimes use milk, too.  It’s a great topping for oatmeal (see above).  I make all different kinds, but my favorite is Pumpkin Granola.


Holly R. Layer received a B. A. in Journalism from Penn State and served four years in the U. S. Air Force before deciding to go back to school to become a Registered Dietician.  She loves running, reading, fine stationery, colorful kitchen gadgets and ALL things food-related.  An avid cook and baker, you can find her in the kitchen most days whipping up something yummy.  Too bad her husband, Andrew (an East Aurora native) is the pickiest man alive!  You can find her at www.thefrozenpineapple.com.