Happy New Year, everyone! I feel as if this year has just passed in a whirlwind of activity yet at the same time I’m standing still, slogging through the minutia of everyday living. I don’t know if that makes any sense at all. Maybe it’s psychological. Maybe it’s getting old. Maybe there’s a non-English term for that. You know how other languages have the cool words for things that take a lot of words to say in English? Like Hygge. Or maybe I just need more Hygge in my life, and it is the season, especially up “nord” here in Minnesota. You betcha!
If you follow me, you might recall when I checked in with you last January, I was at a low. Coming back from two and a half years (why does it seem like decades) of taking care of my folks in South Dakota had taken a toll on my relationships, my house, my yard and also me, and things just weren’t getting better once I was home.
My yard has never been fenced, and it’s really impossible to do so, and my neighbors, being kindly, had taken to feeding wild animals. It caused so many issues and so much destruction but things really came to a head when I opened up the door to take Chance (my deplorable labradorable) out last December (2018) and there were four or five rabbits sitting there. I was pulled down my stone steps and seriously injured, and then injured several more times during the year.
Thankfully, my neighbors stopped the feeding (and if you’re reading this, bless you, it’s made such a difference) and let’s just say 2019 turned out to be the year of rehab, all around. My son Kraig and his girlfriend, Tweety (sadly they have broken up) came over multiple times, staying several days at a time, helping with the house, the yard, and the decimated gardens. If you follow me, I know you heard about it! I can’t wait to see what Spring brings & I hope my garden rehab wasn’t too boring because there is more to come…
But long story short, there are a LOT fewer animals and I had my shoulder surgery (although the coyote was prowling last night & I spotted two rabbits making glorious love yesterday in the front yard, I sight I will never unsee). I still have work to do on that shoulder but the relief was almost immediate. The biggest relief is no longer feeling so darned helpless!
I want to give a big shout out to my friend and neighbor, Karen, who brought dinner to me several times and my son who unexpectedly came to stay with me!
We did so much work on the gardens, cutting most of them to the ground. I lost close to 50 perennials over the fall/ winter/spring of 2108/19 to the rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks including roses, iris, lilies, and peonies and removed three 55 gallon bags of rabbit droppings, some in piles up to a foot high from the topsoil in one garden bed. The garden bed is not large, around 12 x 15 feet.
Chance is settling, finally at age three, thank goodness. Even Homer, the cat, who despised Chance from the first meeting, and hated him with a passion for the first years is acknowledging his newfound maturity.
She (at first we thought she was a boy) cuddles with him (maybe I just keep it too cool in my house?) at the foot of the bed when we settle in for the night. Here’s a throwback video of Chance and Homer when Chance was a pup. Homer is a tiny little thing, never over 12 pounds, and she’s not taking any nonsense!
The highlight of my year was going to Atlanta for my daughter’s wedding! Everything about it was just gorgeous and my wonderful new in-laws worked very hard, along with my daughter, to make that happen. And boy was I pampered. Manicures, hairdressers, shopping and lots of cheese and wine, which we kept forgetting to eat!
I had so much fun cooking with the grandbabies; Andrea and I made a sheet cake pancake, I think Caleb helped with (or I made them with him in mind) my Oven Sheet Cake Crepes, and one night, Ryley and I made my Salted Caramel Sauce over ice-cream. Who knew you weren’t supposed to give the baby a spoonful of ice-cream? Ooops.
I did pull out the Instant Pot and made this Easy, Cheesy Chili Mac which was a big hit, although for a food blogger, I goofed up a number of meals. Go figure! And we ate at some marvelous restaurants and Jess and I stopped by Longhorn Steakhouse, which inspired this Longhorn Grilled Chicken & Strawberry Salad.
This year, more than ever, I’ve noticed how the events of the year have shaped the food we’ve eaten (easier, less work) and in many ways, my site has become almost a diary of food wrapped by events. More than ever, I’ve tried to keep things simple and give strategies to pull off meals for the family although I always have a special twist or two and probably always will. If you’re going to save money and eat at home, it should be fab, amirite?
And of course every year it’s such a surprise to see what my most popular and most viewed recipes are on my site. When Thanksgiving and Christmas come around, so do a lot more visitors and ya never know what’s going to happen. Not that I ever do. I love every recipe on my site but it seems my absolute favorite ones never reach top 10 status. How about you? Do you have any favorite recipes you’ve made from my site? I’d love to hear which ones, if you do!
Ok, on to the countdown!
10) Claiming spot number 10 is my Favorite Asian Dipping Sauce. It’s been on my site since 2014 with little to no interest and this year took off. I love this intense sauce and use it for dipping but also use it in potstickers and eggrolls, to shortcut stir-fries and to make my Unstuffed Eggroll Skillet. Mix up a batch; it keeps in the fridge for weeks getting better and better.
9) In the number 9 spot is my Oven Baked Hotel Eggs. Always a popular post on my site since I first added them in 2015; they’re one of my “OG” posts. Absolutely delish, easy to make they can be made with a few eggs and up to two dozen. And making these frees your stovetop up for all the other goodies you might want with breakfast. They’re perfect for a holiday or when the fam is home.
8) A newcomer on the top 10 this year is my sister’s Classic Cornbread Salad. On my site for two years, when I made it for our Thanksgiving meal I took new pics (and they’re still not that great) and it took off. In a month it climbed from relative obscurity to number 8! If possible, make this Southern Skillet Cornbread (super easy) to use in the Cornbread Salad.
7) In October of 2017, I posted my Instant Pot Pork Chop One Pot Meal. I almost didn’t post it because I hated the photos, but I had just moved back from helping the folks out (they went crazy for this meal) and it was in my drafts. It shot to the top 10 and has been there ever since, this year in spot number 7. I think it’s the gravy. It’s always the gravy that gets ya – or is that just me?
6) My method for Poor Man’s Mock Prime Rib takes any old cheap grocery store roast and cooks it to perfection. It’s another relative newcomer to my site, posted in October 2017. That was a good month! It’s been steadily drawing in viewers ever since, even over the summer months. I love to spin multiple meals off this roast, but my fave is these Steak & Mushroom Pies.
5) This super easy Million Dollar Dip, aka ABC, Almond Bacon Cheddar or Neiman Marcus Dip was in my top 10 before, in 2017, the first year I posted it. It’s back! So easy and so delish, it’s a great dip for a party or game day.
4) This is the second year running these Steakhouse Mushrooms have made the top 10. They are scrumptious, and the recipe is worth a look. I went against everyone’s advice on how to cook mushrooms and came up with these gorgeous browned beauties. Yep, I crowd them all together and then add water and lid them and what a difference that makes. Someone on Pinterest said they didn’t think they were anything special…why not give them a try and let me know what you think?
3) That Old Lipton Onion Soup Pot Roast is coming in at number 3! Posted originally in September of 2018, it was popular from the start and remained steady, even over the summer, and it’s been such a surprise for me. Absolutely simple, it reminds me of Mom and reminds me of home. It’s pure nostalgia!
2) Isn’t it disappointing that canned refried beans just don’t taste as good as you’d hope? That’s probably because you want them to taste more like a restaurant version. Here’s how to doctor them up and make them creamy and delish, Canned Refried Beans, Restaurant Style. First posted in 2014, this is the third year in the top 10. They could use a better pic, no?
1) And a drumroll, please, for Ruth Chris’ Au Gratin Potatoes – I developed this recipe in November of 2018 after my daughter suggested it and it jumped to the 2nd highest viewed recipe on my site in less than a two month period, and stayed there all throughout 2019. Thank you to everyone who has shared these marvelous potatoes. Is there no end to the madness? I hope not because they are seriously good & everyone should get to try these!
Edged off of the top 10 list this year are some of my old “standbys’ some of which were the most viewed posts of the past for many years. I almost feel just a bit sorry for them. I know that sounds strange since I’m talking about a recipe, but my recipes are a little like pseudo children. Except they never talk back and they often show up for dinner on time, lol!
So bye, bye to my traditional Nebraska Runzas (Bierocks), Instant Pot Swiss Steak with Mushrooms, this glorious 15-minute Broccoli Cheese Soup, Sayonara to you, Da Bomb Oven Roasted Burgers, and Toodle-do to you, my Homemade Chorizo. You are gone, but not forgotten!
You’ll go to join the OG’s, the recipes that dropped off the top 10 last year. My Cheesy Chicken Noodle Casserole, Scottish Oatcakes Oatmeal Pancakes, Best Banana Sheetcake, Chipotle Pulled Pork Empanadas and my New Mexican Pozole. I still love you all!
Every year, I like to pick what I think of as an “underdog” recipe. One of my favorite recipes that’s never gotten quite the love I think it deserves. Think of this as a kind of Best Personality Award. This year I want to give a shout out to this one-pot meal, Braised Pork, Sausage, and Cabbage. Maybe it’s too Old School to be popular, but it’s so perfect to toss in the oven on a snowy weekend day and it’s absolutely glorious.
So here’s to 2020, and to hoping this year will be one of both joy and contentment for you. If nothing else, my injuries and endeavors this year have served as a reminder for me to slow down, to take pleasure in the small things and to embrace renewal, healing and change.
I especially want to thank you all for the outpouring of support and encouragement last year when I posted my 2018 Greatest Hits. You’ve touched me, each and every one! There were many times during the last year when things got tough, and I came back and looked at some of those comments.
I’m so glad you’re here and so glad you’re following and commenting and sharing. I hope you’ll continue to stop by, and we’ll keep cooking together. It means a lot to me. And tell your friends and family, too, if you think they might like my blog. Ask them to follow by email or on Facebook. As I say every year, like that old Girl Scout song:
“Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver, but the other gold…”
Happy New Years Everyone! And may you have many more new memories this year to cherish along with the old…