Yup. Le Culinary Creusette is a year old today. What started as a fun idea over a grill with my friends has turned into a much larger project that has had over 980 unique visitors and 116 posts in one year.

Thanks so much to all my friends and family who have continued to follow my ramblings over the course of a year, as well as all of you who have found me through an accidental misspelling on the web.

In honor of the past year, I've culled together a few of my most popular posts of the year:

The Long and the Short of Dinners: I made Honey Mustard Chicken (short prep) and my Short Rib recipe (3+ hours) in the same week. Both were amazing.
Honey Mustard Chicken

Winning a Le Creuset: The short ribs recipe was such a hit, I entered it into a contest at Metrocurean.com. Thanks to everyone's votes—I won a 7 qt. purple dutch oven that has been used to make everything from chicken stock to tamales since then.

The Spare Ribs recipe

Summer Sauce Weekend Part 1 and Part 2. My coworker Mary Lynn let me tag along during her summer weekend ritual of making tomato sauce, and the experience brought to mind why I got into cooking in the first place.

What to Make with a Whole Chicken. Nothing really summed up my month-long goal of budget cooking better than the week where I used an entire chicken to make three different meals, plus stock. I got a ton of feedback from this, and it has inspired my sister to replicate it on her blog just this past month with some equally delicious recipes of her own.

And of course there was the Mad Men Party, the Roasted Soups, Work Approved Cookies, and many others. Let me know if I missed any of your favorites!


Everything is Better with Bacon...

So, thanks to a lovely trip to Charlottesville, Chris and I discovered this fantastic place called La Cocina del Sol in Charlottesville. A lovely little Mexican restaurant near Star Hill Brewery, La Cocina del Sol introduced us to the amazing world of  
Bacon Guacamole.

If you haven't tried this yet--do. Two strips of bacon mixed in with one avocado, some garlic powder and salt, and you will have a fantastic flavor that is rich, smokey, and FANTASTIC on burgers. The crispier the bacon the better--you can totally taste the crunch. If you are a stickler for a recipe, here is my original guacamole recipe from last year.

Since then, we've been a little obsessed. It's now a requirement for any grilling outing—and while I like it as a regular dip, the bacon guac really shines when mixed into the meaty, beef taste of a burger.

And so started our Memorial Day experiment—to go above and beyond the bacon guac and see if there was anything better....

Bacon Wrapped Corn

Bacon, Jalapeno, and Onion Burgers
The bacon corn was a nice experiment—but didn't work on the grill. The bacon grease fired up the flames a little too much for both the burgers and the corn, and we ended up pulling the corn and broiling it in the oven to be safe. Below is how I'd proceed in the future--because the salty taste of the bacon did actually add to the corn flavor and it's worth trying when you're bored.

Bacon-Flavored Corn: Shuck two ears of corn, and flavor with Cayenne pepper and a pinch of salt. Place inside foil and add a tablespoon of butter and chopped up pieces of bacon. Grill or broil the corn for 15-20 minutes on a medium heat. (I usually add the corn at the start of any grill session, and leave it on away from the main heat until everything is done.

Bacon Burger: While tasty, this recipe might need to be tweaked a little bit. We chopped up two slices of bacon into burgers, and the grease really fired up the grill to the point where I was a little scared, and Chris was excited. In the future, I am going to try some leaner burger meat (we had 80/20) and a little less bacon. Cooking these in the stove or on a skillet would likely help the fire situation.

What I WOULD recommend is chopping up jalapenos and onions into the burger meat. The spicy flavor really made these burgers tastier than the frozen ones we've tried in the past.

So ends our bacon experiments. My heart might hate me, but my stomach is totally satisfied. Yum.


The Most Amazing Kebab You Could Ever Grill

The glamor pose
Amazing how much a good recipe can turn around your entire outlook on cooking. Step one to get me out of my malaise was get a good food magazine—and just like that, Everyday Food arrived the next evening with a feature on Kebabs. Perfect for Memorial Day.

The Prep Table (with magazine as a guide)
Firing up the Grill
Color is half the fun of a kebab
Charring Up on the Grill
Ginger-Hoisin Glaze
(Makes 6-8 kebabs with 4 meat chunks each)
1/4 c hoisin sauce
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. rice vinegar
1 T. finely grated, peeled fresh ginger  (really, REALLY key)

Everyday Food paired the glaze with pork loin, snap peas, and scallions---which we tried first and immediately devoured. That's when we pulled out the frozen chicken breast, and discovered the glaze was EVER BETTER with chicken. Snap peas and onions really added to the flavor, but adding in some red pepper for color was fantastic as well.

Pretty much, anything is great with this sauce. Make it immediately.

Shrimp Kebab with Sriracha-Lemon Glaze
Because we had no idea the sauce would be that amazing, we also made a second kebab with shrimp and pineapple. Not wanting to throw it on without its own sauce, I whipped up a quick sauce of lemon juice, sriracha, olive oil, and garlic powder. The spice was nice, but this in no way compared to the hoisin glaze.

Fun with shrimp heads.
Shrimp on the grill
And, of course, for dessert we threw some pineapple smothered in brown sugar on the grill. Enjoy the inspiration--let me know if you like it as much as we did.


When You've Reached a Cooking Malaise

I know it's been sporadic lately, but all I can say is that dieting is serious stuff. I was blogging so regularly that when the month was over, I had a mini breakup with both my computer and from home cooking.

It was like I lost all cooking creativity. I would come home from work, and even the idea of making a quesadilla (my old go-to lazy staple!) seemed like climbing a mountain of hard work. What did I want for dinner? -BLANK STARE- nothing comes to mind. I have succumbed to the world of Chipotle, Noodles & Company, Chinese and Thai Takeout, and even (this will shock you) Pizza delivery. I don't particularly like my diet either, it's just the most convenient.

BUT. I am determined to make a change. I've come up with the following three-step jump start to get cooking again.
  1. Food magazines. I've subscribed to Everyday Food and Bon Appetit. When they arrive, I'm going to go back to my old method where I carry at least one in my purse. That way, when I'm on my way home, there's a recipe already flagged and ready for me to buy ingredients for. 
  2. Go back to the Basics. There are a few recipes that I started with—pizza, pasta, cookies—that I can make blindfolded. I want to make at least one of these a week. Hopefully, going back to the beginning will remind why why I love food and started to experiment more with cooking to begin with!
  3. Plan an Event. Nothing will kick-start cooking like a party. Even if it's just dips and desserts, the planning will get me use to organizing food for the upcoming days again.
So have you guys ever felt like this before? Please feel free to add your own comments of encouragement or tips--because I love cooking, and blogging about cooking!