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Looking Back, Looking Forward

I always seem to get very introspective this time of year. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it has something to do with closing one chapter of my life and moving on to another – leaving behind the bad and bringing along the good. Maybe it’s the possibility of reinventing myself yet again, hoping for a better outcome this time.

The coming of a new year is such a hopeful time – so full of promise. Heaven knows that 2008 was not good on so many levels. Global levels! In all my 40+ years I have never witnessed such despair, such desperation, such fear and insecurity, while at the same time, such resourcefulness, determination, courage and faith. Who knows where and how we’ll be at this time next year. I’d like to think that whatever the future holds, I can embrace it with grace and a positive attitude. The glass is half-full, people. Let’s drink from it!

There were lots of highs and lows for me in 2008. Many, I have shared with you; some I have not. One of the highlights for me has been getting to know so many wonderful, generous and caring people through this blog. When I started SGCC, I never dreamed that I’d become part of such a close knit and wildly creative community! Your friendship and support have lifted me up when I was down, and helped me soar through the highs. For this, I offer my sincerest thanks.

I have some interesting plans for SGCC this year, in both form and function. I’m working on a redesign of the site, which I am really excited about. I’m also working on implementing some new regular features, such as Dinner and a Movie and Cooking the Books, which I will tell you more about later.

Since you, dear readers, are such an integral part of the success (or failure) of this blog, I’d love to know what you’d like to see here on SGCC. Leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments section of this post by midnight on Monday, January 5th, and I will choose the one I like best. Whoever comes up with the winning idea will get a little something from me: a copy of The Flavor Bible [1], by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. An alphabetical index of flavors and ingredients, this book allows readers to search complimentary combinations for a particular ingredient, emphasizing the classics. The book also features menu items from renowned chefs such as Grant Achatz of Alinea, Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar and Grill and Le Bernardin’s Eric Ripert. Trust me, you’ll love this one!

Now, what would a New Year’s post be without a “Best of” list? Obviously, I love most of the food I post about, or else I wouldn’t bother. That said, I do have my favorites. Here are my picks for the Best of 2008.

In January, I made this Soupe au Pistou [2]. This hearty and satisfying Provencal vegetable soup, full of robust flavors is perfect for a chilly winter day. The recipe was borrowed from noted cookbook author, Patricia Wells [3]. I came across it years ago while watching her on an episode of Martha Stewart’s [4]old cooking show.

In February, this fabulous Thank Heaven for Little Girl(Scout)s Samoa Cheese Tart [5] was born. Inspired by my overabundance of Samoa Girl Scout cookies, this super rich, caramelly, coconutty, chocolatey, cream cheesy flan-like tart is quite possibly the stickiest, gooiest, creamiest and chewiest dessert I’ve ever made!

My Baking with Mom series back in March was a lot of fun. My mother and I spent a few days together, making our versions of Italian Easter pies. Of course, we each had very definite ideas about how our pies should be done – and we didn’t always agree! My favorite of the bunch was my Pizza Rustica [6] – traditional Italian Easter pie with a ricotta base, which is then filled with a variety of dried meats and cheeses. My Pizza Rustica is big, cheesy, creamy and gooey hunk of a pie stuffed to the gills with six different kinds of dried and fresh MEAT! And boy, is it good!

I couldn’t not include one of my most popular recipes of all time on this list. So, my pick for April is none other than my Holycraptheseareamazing Cookies [7]. These cookies are mind-numbingly delicious, crispy, creamy little balls of peanut butter perfection! Lots of you thought so too. I won 1st place in The Great Peanut Butter Exhibition Cookie Contest [8] with them.

My favorite recipe in May was for the Spicy Crab Cakes with Key Lime Mustard Sauce [9] that I made for Mr. SGCC’s birthday. These crab cakes were sweet and spicy, crispy, tender and meaty. I served the crab cakes with a cool and creamy Key Lime Mustard Sauce and they were amazing!

Some of you may remember that incident I had at Whole Foods last summer regarding some $28.99/pound veal chops. Well, while the price tag on those veal chops left a bad taste in my mouth, the chops themselves were magnificent! My Pan Roasted Veal Chops with Chipotle-Lime Butter [10] were a smash hit and are my pick for June. I only wish I could afford to make them a lot more often!

In July, my Drunken Cherry-Vanilla Ice Cream [11] sure hit the spot! This ice cream is a perfect choice when fresh, sweet, juicy, ruby-hued Bing cherries abound. It starts with a Philadelphia-style vanilla ice cream, which contains no eggs yolks, instead, relying heavily on cream. The cherries are simmered a few minutes in a little Kirschwasser, or cherry brandy, and then mixed into the ice cream. Mmmm!

August brought forth one of my favorite seafood dishes of all time – Misoyaki Salmon [12]. Borrowing from several different sources, I tried to recreate the famous Misoyaki Butterfish that I’ve enjoyed many times at Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion. This dish was To. Die. For.! It was seriously the best salmon I’ve ever made. I have to say that my Misoyaki Salmon could definitely give Roy’s butterfish a run for its money!

In September, I shared a recipe for one of my favorite foods from my childhood. My mom used to make this Oven Baked Corn Flake Crumb Chicken [13] a lot when we were kids. This dish is one of my ultimate “feel good” foods. It represents love and family, comfort and security and the knowledge that home isn’t just a place where you live, but how you live and who you live with.

Some disappointing sugar cookies and leftover pumpkin puree led me to create my October pick – Serendipity Pumpkin Cheese Pie with Toffee and Caramel Swirl [14]. This rich, creamy and decadent confection is heaven on a plate! The filling has a cream cheese base, with gorgeous, thick caramel ribbons running through it. I also added some toffee bits for a little bit of crunch. The crust was made from those recycled sugar cookies. It was an accidental triumph to be sure!

November’s pick is The Rachel [15], a grilled sandwich closely resembling a Ruben. The difference between the two is that The Rachel is made with pastrami and coleslaw and a Ruben is made with corned beef and sauerkraut. Now, this is a sandwich you can really sink your teeth into!

Last, but not least, December’s pick is the dreaded Buche de Noel [16]. Yes, it was a pain to make. But, the finished product was nothing short of magnifique!

Here’s wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!