I can’t believe 2011 comes to a close today, it’s seemingly flown by in the blink of an eye.  As I was looking back through my posts putting together these round-ups, I realized just how well we’ve eaten this year 🙂  Yesterday’s round-up of the most popular recipes of 2011 was fun to put together, and while many of my personal favorites made the cut, several did not, and today I wanted to highlight those recipes.  I didn’t realize how hard it would be though!  It took me forever to narrow down this year’s nearly 300 posts to a few favorites.  I hope you discover something you may have missed this year that will become a new favorite in your house!  So, in no particular order, here are my top 15 – oh, and recipes marked with an * also made Shane’s list! 🙂

S'mores Cheesecake
S’mores Cheesecake – Any time I come across a s’mores-inspired treat, I bookmark it and over the years I’ve made quite a few of them.  This cheesecake reigns as my current favorite with its graham cracker crust, chocolate cheesecake interior and pillowy, lightly toasted marshmallow topping.  I wound never turn down a messy campfire s’more, but it’s also quite nice to have this more refined version of the dessert as an option too!

San Francisco Garlic Fries
San Francisco Garlic Fries – Inspired by a treat served at the San Francisco Giants’ ballpark, these garlic fries became an instant favorite at our house.  They’re baked, not fried, and with their crispy exteriors yielding to a fluffy interior, we found it all too easy to justify eating way too many of them.

Best Buttermilk Pancakes
Best Buttermilk Pancakes – I’m often too hungry (or lazy) to make anything more than cereal in the morning, but when I do, these pancakes are my go-to.  They’re as easy as combining wet in one bowl, dry in another and mixing them together, and the result is a wonderfully light and fluffy pancake.  Sitting here staring at the pic has me thinking a batch might be the perfect way to kick off New Year’s Day 🙂

Homemade Peppermint Patties
Homemade Peppermint Patties – One of my favorite snacks is a peppermint patty that’s been stashed in the freezer.  I love when I put one in there, forget about it and then find it weeks later – such a good surprise!  And now I can make homemade peppermint patties that taste just as good (ok, better) than the store-bought ones, which just blows my mind.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken Tikka Masala* – A few years ago a meal like this was SO far outside of our comfort zone.  It makes me really happy that we’ve slowly become more adventurous with our choices, and hopefully we’ll continue to do so.  I have no idea how authentic this version of the dish is, but it’s so delicious I don’t care all that much 🙂

Step-by-Step Chocolate Croissants
Chocolate Croissants – I tackled homemade croissants for the first time in 2010, and this year I tried a completely different recipe and added chocolate to the equation.  Both were equally successful and so gratifying.  I bake a lot (obviously) but very little compares to the deliciousness of a buttery, flaky croissant.  And truthfully, they aren’t that hard – I hope you’ll give them a try in 2012!

Caramel-Filled Brownies
Caramel-Filled Brownies – Rich fudgy chocolate brownies stuffed with an ooey-gooey layer of caramel – these are pure decadence.  They’re pretty stunning visually too, which only makes me love them more.

Homemade Naan
Homemade Naan – If you’ve always wanted to make homemade bread, but aren’t quite ready to tackle yeast, this naan is a great solution.  It’s pillowy and light, and is the perfect vehicle for soaking up any extra sauce on your plate.  We always make it with the chicken tikka masala above – dinner is extra special on those nights!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes* – I actually made these for New Year’s Eve last year so we’ve come full circle!  As a cookie dough addict, it doesn’t get much better than these cupcakes.  A brown sugar chocolate chip cupcake stuffed with eggless cookie dough then topped with a cookie dough buttercream – have I convinced you yet?

Oven-Braised Short Ribs
Oven Braised Short Ribs* – I don’t buy red meat very often, but these short ribs were an incredibly worthwhile splurge.  The recipe only calls for about 10 minutes of hands-on prep time, and then your oven does the rest of the work – can’t beat that!  The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender and unbelievably flavorful; I know it’s only a matter of time until I can no longer resist the temptation to make them again.

Lemon Bars
Lemon Bars – I absolutely adore lemon curd, so it’s probably not terribly surprising that a rich, creamy lemon curd sitting on top of a buttery shortbread base would be a stand-out dessert for me.  That said, I’ve made a lot of lemon bars and none compare to these.  Plus, the incredibly vibrant yellow color of the bars just makes me smile.

Cheesy Chili Mac
Cheesy Chili Mac* – Given how much I despise washing dishes, I’m always thrilled to find another one-pot dinner to add to my repertoire.  This one can be made in about 30 minutes too, which also makes it a winner in the “quick and easy” category.  Perfect for those long winter nights when you’re craving simple comfort food.

Homemade Flour Tortillas
Homemade Flour Tortillas –  Turns out you only need 4 ingredients to make flour tortillas that blow the store-bought variety out of the water.  Who knew?  I wound up eating most of my first batch plain I liked them so much, but these were also a fantastic base for homemade tacos.

Thin Crust Pizza
Thin Crust Pizza – I’m a thick crust girl, but this year I also fell in love with homemade thin crust pizza thanks to this recipe.  The thin crust is super flavorful and really lets the toppings shine.  Plus, the dough can be made in advance so this is totally feasible on a weeknight!  

Blueberry-Streusel Bars with Lemon Cream Filling
Blueberry-Streusel Bars with Lemon Cream Filling – Four layers of blueberry, lemon, and oat-streusel goodness – these are probably my favorite thing to have ever made with blueberries.  I only wish I didn’t have to wait 6 more months for blueberry season to arrive…

I hope you all enjoyed these round-ups as much as I enjoyed putting them together. It’s been a very delicious year and I look forward to more culinary adventures in 2012! Wishing you a fun and safe night tonight – I’ll see you all in the New Year 🙂

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