2013 in the rearview

2013 was a good year for my little fledgling blog. I got better at posting, moved to my own domain, redesigned the site, and best of all, started to get visitors who didn't already know me.

2013, for me, though, well.

I was finishing up my first year of medical school, about to sign a lease with my best friend, when the rug was pulled out from under me. I only referenced things obliquely here, because to be perfectly honest, I'd much rather talk about food. I had to face some very serious health problems, and spent a few months in the summer feeling pretty miserable. My future is still incredibly uncertain as I move into 2014, and my fear and doubts overshadow any celebrations of the year past and the year to come.

The second half of my year was much more difficult than the first, but it was not all grim. I finished school and passed my final classes. My beloved Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, and I strained my very recent stiches cheering them on. I went on an amazing road trip on the West Coast. Through it all, I had my friends and my family (and really, especially my friends) to keep me sane and help me remember what "normal" life feels like.

Through it all, my blog has helped me stay connected to my most necessary outlets, baking and cooking. Food can't fix everything, but a good meal can improve a crappy day. Although for me, it's a bit more than that. When I'm miserable and I feel like my life is out of control, getting in the kitchen helps me find calm and mindfulness. The dish I make for dinner is some days the only thing about my life that doesn't suck.

So of course, as it always does on this blog, it comes back to food. After a great deal of deliberation and indecision, I present my five favorite things I made and then blogged about this year:

2013 roundup

1. Old-fashioned blueberry coffee cake: Best coffee cake I've ever made. So rich, with an intense jammy layer of blueberries. Just great.

2. Roasted pistachio ice cream: I could have eaten the entire quart in a sitting. Better than pistachio gelato I've had in restaurants.

3. Chicken with apples and fennel: Possibly one of the easiest recipes I've ever posted, this is one of the best dinners I've made all year. Perfectly crispy-skinned chicken and a great sweet-tangy apple and fennel mixture made this five-ingredient meal memorable.

4. Butternut squash mac and cheese: Delicious mac and cheese that shines because, not despite of, the squash.

5. Cream cheese pound cake: I think I need to make this again as soon as possible. A perfect demonstration of the maxim that sometimes simple is best.

I look forward to the recipes and kitchen experiments 2014 will bring: the cookbooks I received for Christmas are already calling to me. I hope everyone enjoys their New Year's Eve and Day, and most of all that the new year may bring us all joy and good things. Happy New Year, and I'll see you in 2014!

vegan gingerbread cookies with lemon icing

iced gingerbread cookies

Oh look, more cookies! I have multiple kinds of cookie dough in the freezer, and I'm starting to wonder if perhaps I went a little overboard. And I originally wrote "overbread," so yeah, baking is clearly on my brain. Better that than this travesty of a Bears game I'm watching. I'm hoping blogging will somehow turn this game around. Hey Jay, if you pull this off, I'll totally make you some gingerbread!

Yeah, I just offered a type I diabetic sugary cookies. I'm going to be a great doctor.

So wow, back to the cookies. For once, I used no butter! Crazy, I know. But I have some dairy-intolerant folks in my life, and who doesn't need a change of pace sometimes?

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salted chocolate pistachio sables

salted chocolate pistachio sables

Sometimes, I see cookie recipes in a magazine and cookbook and I think, "Oh, you should make these one day." Others, I see and think, "OMG I need to make these as soon as I possibly can!" These cookies are, of course, among the latter. I mean, come on. The recipe name is a list of four of my favorite things.

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butternut squash mac and cheese

squash mac and cheese

You know, before we get into full-on Christmas madness, let's take a break. Let's pause to enjoy a nice light bowl of–oh wait, I'm talking about mac and cheese today.

To be fair, there's an entire butternut squash in here, cleverly blended into the sauce to make it creamy without a ton of butter and heavy cream, which I guess technically makes this mac "lighter." Not that I care, honestly. I wanted mac and cheese and I happened to have several butternut squash for my CSA that needed to be used much sooner than later.

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banana-nut oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies

banana-nut oatmeal chocolate chip

'Tis the season, bitches, and I'm back, with cookies. I hope you are ready for some cookies, because this month…that's pretty much going to be the deal. I bake cookies until I collapse on the floor in a heap of flour, then I drink wine and watch something embarrassing on Netflix. (See: last year's reference to River Monsters.) (Also, those cookies are great for Christmas, look into it.)

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