I’ve learned a lot in the kitchen through the years, but 2016 takes the cake (no pun intended). I set out to try one new recipe every week, and even though I wasn’t exactly consistent, I sure did try my hand at quite a few new foods this year. Landing a Vitamix in 2015 helped, but the cast iron skillet hasn’t been used too much just yet. Either way, read ahead for some lessons learned and my 10 favorite and least favorite recipes of the year. I won’t go into specifics regarding the 20 recipes–you can read about the deets by clicking this link.

Five Lessons I Learned in the Kitchen This Year:

  1. Food cooks quicker on a gas stove.

When we first bought this house, I burned so many things back in March and April. First it took awhile to adjust to the higher elevation and baking in the oven. Then I had to learn how to cook with gas without burning my food. It’s not an issue anymore, but man did I suck at cooking eggs, chicken and rice. After the first few mishaps, I figured I ought to stand right by the stove and stare at my food as it cooked at such a quick rate. They say a watched pot never boils, but I beg to differ when it comes to gas stoves.

      2. I can live without red meat.

I succeeded in refraining from red meat for 6 months, and it was relatively easy to do so. Sometimes I craved burgers, but this resolution helped me avoid fast food restaurants and save money. You can substitute turkey meat for just about any ground beef or pork products, and now I actually prefer ground turkey for my chili and spaghetti recipes. I’ve seriously considered going veg, but now that I’ve finally found a local meat source I plan on only purchasing meat that was ethically raised before slaughter.

    3. Homemade dressings and dips are worth the hassle.

I tried a few dips this year that tasted SO fresh and flavorful. Apparently you can’t go wrong with avocados and greek yogurt. But the best salad dressing I found came from Pinterest. It was used with a chilled tortellini recipe. I rarely purchase tortellini, but I tossed that dressing with rotini, mozz pearls, cherry tomatoes and spinach for one of my winning recipes of the year. In a nut shell, put in the extra work and make the dressing yourself. I promise you won’t regret it!

    4. I’ll always be a pasta girl.

In case you can’t tell, pasta will always be the way to my heart. Not tacos, not donuts but pasta. And pizza. Some of my favorite recipes this year were pasta related, and I saved them to Pinterest and my desktop for good measure. I try not to get wrapped up in unneccary kitchen gadgets, but I would love to invest in a pasta maker one day.

    5. I’m actually pretty good at baking.

Come to find out, I don’t suck at baking. In fact, I seem to do better at a higher elevation. My first attempt at a cake in 2015 was awful, but now I know to cook at a lower temperature for longer. It’s not hard to cook meat, but I never thought I was great at cakes, cookies, cobblers, or breads. Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect. I truly enjoyed baking more this year than ever, espcially breads and cakes.

The Worst Recipes of 2016:

(In no particular order)

10. Shredded Potato Soup aka Potato Mush

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9. Steak Roll-Up Pinwheels

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8. Teriyaki Chicken with Stir Fry Veggies

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7. Carrot Apple Ginger Juice

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6. Savory Sweet Potato Soup: I know these aren’t in order, but this and the potato mush were the two worst recipes of the year.

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5. “Human Bean” Coffee Fail

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4. Omelette with Dry Brocoli

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3. S’more Dip

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2. Melted Burrata Mishap

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Homemade Potato Chips

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The Best Recipes in 2016:

(In no particular order)

10. Mixed Berry Cobbler

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9. Peppermint Oreo Truffles

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8. 4 Layer Pumpkin Zucchini Cake: My most impressive dessert feat of the year.

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7. Colorado Hatch Green Chili

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6. Juicy Lucy’s

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5. Pasta Salad: One of the absolute best recipes of the year based on how many times we returned to this dish. We easily made it 10 different time–I just couldn’t get enough!!

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4. Lasagna Soup

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3. “The Best” Turkey Chili, according to Pinterest

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2. Turkey Pesto Cranberry Melts

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  1. Clean Eating Peanut Butter Brownie Triffle

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Honorable Mentions:

Zucchini Pineapple Bread

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California Spicy Shrimp Stacks

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Tuna Salad in an Avocado Boat

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Camp Fire Pasta

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Shrimp Ceviche

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Vitamix Every Thing Smoothie

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If anyone’s interested in any of these recipes, leave a comment and I’ll post a link.