This should be my last post recapping things from 2015, and this one is the food post. I think the last time I posted about our cooking was in October. During the month of November, my husband and I spent 10 days in Hawaii, so the days leading up to that trip included eating whatever was left in our house, and the days after meant easy meals that could be put together with no thought...which means that we didn't have any new recipes, until one at the end of the month.
Our only new recipe in November was an asparagus and salmon soup from Midwest Living called Great Lakes Salmon Chowder. This was a new way for us to eat salmon, the fish that we tend to eat the most, and we really liked it. I wasn't sure how the kids would feel about the asparagus and they weren't crazy about it, but they managed to eat a little.
In December, we continued the soup theme even though our weather was warm and had Spicy Black Bean and Sausage Soup. We are also big fans of sausage and black beans in our house, so this was a great way to have some of our favorites in a different mix. This soup was god too, but we agreed it could use a little something more. It was pretty bland (despite being called spicy) and more watery than we liked. I am not sure if we'll try this again with a few adjustments or just go back to eating sausage and black beans the way we normally do (with rice).
Next up was a recipe I've pulled a dozen times since we started this recipe challenge, but it's never made it to the top of the list. This month it did and it was good! Mediterranean Pasta with Shrimp and Capers was tasty and had a nice blend of pasta, sauce, and savory flavors added by the capers and feta cheese. I think this will go into the rotation as a good alternative to plain old pasta.
Next up were some Christmas Cookie recipes. Once I was off work for the holidays, the kids and I picked a couple of new recipes to use for making Christmas cookies.
First, Pecan Butter Balls from Midwest Living. I think these cookies singlehandedly accounted for my holiday weight gain. Everyone else in the house thought they were good, I thought they were amazing! They are very similar to Mexican Wedding Cake cookies, but you start with melted butter instead of creaming soft butter into the flour. These were messy to make and to eat, but well worth the mess in my opinion!
The other cookie we made is Jelly Filled Thumbprints, which came from a tear-out in some other magazine as part of a Glad containers ad. Ours didn't turn out nearly as pretty as the ones in their picture, but we had a good time pushing our thumbs into them, putting just the right amount of jelly on top, and then drizzling the white chocolate once they were cooked. We made some with red raspberry jam and some with strawberry, and the conclusion is that the red raspberry ones were the best. The recipe I linked to is the one I'd use next time, making our own sugar cookie dough as the base - the one we used had us use Pillsbury sugar cookie dough...it was okay, but you could definitely improve the quality of these with homemade dough.
The last two recipes of the month were courtesy of one of my gifts - a rice cooker. I have been curious about them for a while and thought it would be fun to try one. We started with Taco Soup in the Rice Cooker, which was quite good. It was a little more like a stew than a soup, and I realized a few nights later that I was probably short in the broth that was supposed to go into it (cause I tried to just eyeball it instead of actually measuring it!). We had chicken in the freezer that we'd cooked on the grill and it really added a lot of flavor. We'll definitely make this one pot meal again, and we'll probably experiment with some different meats too!
Last up, on New Year's Eve, was Don't Brown the Meat Stew. It was made in the crock pot and then served over rice (used that new toy again!). The stew was good and very easy to prepare - it will be a good weeknight meal for a busy day. Next time, we'd probably serve it over mashed potatoes instead of rice, just our personal preference. There was no online recipe for this one (I think because it is so easy) - 3 lb. stew mean, 1 envelope onion soup mix, 16-20 oz. bag frozen mixed veggies, and 1 cup of water. Put them all in the slow cooker for 4-6 hours on high or 10-12 on low.
I should probably count up the number of new recipes we tried through the year - probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-40. I would say that 75% of them are a hit, meaning that we could make them again as is or with some slight alteration. We try to balance those we've had and enjoyed with the new ones and overall our variety is greatly improved compared to dinners just a few short years ago at our house. This recipe challenge is one that we will continue to make sure we keep trying new things!