Oh, 2011, what a year it has been.  I won’t be sad to see it go.  With the loss of my father on Thanksgiving, it immediately qualified as the worst year of my life.  But there have been many wonderful things about this year as well.  It goes without saying that our sweet baby girl Caroline is the best thing I baked up this year and she is a constant joy in our lives.  Our amazing son Andrew delights us everyday with his spunky, fun-loving, and affectionate personality.  We’ve updated the blog to make it fresher and more user-friendly.  And looking back through my posts, I’ve also made a lot of really really good food.  Normally I have a harder time choosing highlights but this year, they all just popped right out at me.  I narrowed it down to 30 which probably seems like a lot but these are the ones you simply must not miss.  (These are in chronological order.)

I had to do a double take and make sure these spicy bean burritos were actually from 2011.  I’ve made them so many times this year that they feel more like an old family favorite that we’ve been making forever.  The fact that they are healthy, quick, and delicious makes it no wonder that they’ve become such a constant in our menu.

Just looking at this picture makes my tummy growl.  These peanut butter cheesecake swirl brownies are rich, fudgy, sweet, and salty.  Excuse me while I go make some.

I’d never been one to choose thin crust pizza over classic, but this recipe made me think otherwise.  The dough can be made in advance and the sauce is incredibly simple.  Thin Crust Pizza

I love so many things about these berry charlottes – the multi-step process (you know how I enjoy complex desserts), the smooth layers of berry mousse, and of course the gorgeous appearance when they are all assembled.  Looking at them just makes me happy.

I’ve made laminated doughs before, but somehow making homemade croissants seemed like an accomplishment.  The tender flaky layers were unlike any I’ve had from a store or bakery.  Totally worth making at home.

This classic mac and cheese became a fast favorite in our home.  Every time I serve it to family or friends it receives rave reviews.  As much as I love making different jazzed up versions, it’s important to have a solid base recipe as well.

A well composed salad is worthy of your attention, and that is certainly true of this mixed green salad with roasted portabellos and dijon vinaigrette.  Everyone should be able to make a great salad in a pinch and this has become my go-to recipe.

I take care to avoid being over effusive on a regular basis here on the blog, so you’ll know that when I say something is good, I really mean it.  If I called every single recipe phenomenal, how would you sort through it all?  Let me be perfectly clear – these caramel brownies are my favorite dessert I’ve made this year.  Maybe ever.  And this is definitely my favorite food photo that I’ve ever taken.  I like to stare at it sometimes.

This Parmesan-crusted goat cheese with basil oil is a dish that delivers big results with minimal effort.  It is quite addictive, so be sure you have plenty of baguette slices at the ready.

These creamy chicken taquitos may have started out as kind of a joke in our household, but we quickly realized these are anything but silly.  The filling is highly adaptable and it’s easy to make a large batch at once.  We try to keep them in the freezer at all times – you know, for taquito emergencies.

This summer I learned that using sparkling water in mixed drinks can take them from good to great, and such was the case with this sparkling strawberry lemonade.  Hurry up summer, I miss you!

Some recipes are worth revisiting.  This strawberry cream cheese tart is a great example of an old recipe that needed a makeover, and we are loving the new and improved version!

I just made this dish a few nights ago, and every time I do I’m reminded of why I love pasta alla vodka so much.  Simple meal, pasta, tomato cream sauce.  Is it on your menu yet?

After dreaming about this cake for over a year, I finally made those dreams a reality – chocolate raspberry truffle layer cake.  Enough said.

These oatmeal butterscotch cookies won’t win a beauty contest anytime soon, but they win my heart every time.  The oatmeal cookie base has what I consider to be the perfect chewy texture, and well, do I really even need to explain why butterscotch chips are amazing?  Okay, good.

This banana split ice cream torte is a fun and eye-catching layered dessert.  The combination of flavors really does mimic a banana split beautifully.

As we saw yesterday with the round up of reader favorites, these soft frosted sugar cookies were very popular, and for good reason.  They taste a whole lot like the store-bought counterpart, but way better and without unpronounceable ingredients.

Caramelized scallops sound fancy, look fancy, and even taste kind of fancy, but they are actually a breeze to make.  Definitely a nice recipe to have in your pocket when you want to impress.

This post now gives me mixed feelings of love and overwhelming nausea because it is the last birthday cake I got to bake for my dad.  As sad as that makes me, I’ll never forget just how much he loved this lemon layer cake with vanilla bean frosting and I’ll probably make one every year on his birthday to honor him.

Having lukewarm feelings toward avocados myself, I originally made these corn cakes with tomato-avocado relish because I thought Ben would enjoy it.  Turns out we were both pretty smitten with the final product and we’ll definitely be making them again when summer rolls around.

Just reading the title “Tomato Cobbler with Gruyere Biscuits“, I knew we had an instant winner on our hands.  I don’t think I’ve ever put something on the menu quicker.  It did not disappoint and it’s just one more reason I’m looking forward to next tomato season.

I made these raspberry lemonade bars on a whim and was blown away by how much I enjoyed them.  My mouth waters just thinking about them now.

Pumpkin spice latte lovers and cupcake lovers everywhere rejoiced when these two favorites were combined into one awesome dessert, myself included.  Pumpkin spice latte cupcakes – how can you resist something like this?  Don’t try to fight it.

I’m starting to feel like a broken record here, but this chicken with tomato-herb pan sauce is another great example of when simple is better.  Even though we discovered this at the tail-end of summer, we made sure to enjoy it several times before our tomato plants were barren.  Can’t wait till it’s back on the menu next summer!

As savory dishes go, this chicken and sausage gumbo probably takes this year’s prize as my favorite.  In fact I loved it so much that we made it again for Christmas Eve dinner with our families, and it was completely devoured (much to the dismay of this girl who was looking forward to leftovers.)

Though I do enjoy salads, they are rarely my first choice when it comes to an entree.  With that in mind, it means something special that this harvest apple spinach salad has been on our menu at least one out of every two weeks since first trying it.  Topped with a piece of grilled chicken seasoned with herbes de provence – it’s made a salad lover out of me.

Just as we all need a good classic mac and cheese recipe, we also need one that can be on the table in next to no time and still taste fantastic.  That’s where this stovetop mac and cheese comes in.  The only bad thing about it is that it is just a little too easy to make, and to love…someone stop me!

Oh, my darling chocolate peanut butter cup cookies.  Being able to recreate these cookies at home took helped take away a little bit of the emotional damage done by a hellish hike in Vermont.

These apple pie cookies are everything you love about homemade apple pie in a nice little individual version.  I also can’t get over their cuteness!

Quinoa cakes topped with poached eggs may not sound like an automatic winner, but that’s what they were for us.  Whenever I’m looking for healthy meals these days, this is one of the first recipes I turn to.

I hope you enjoyed seeing what, in my opinion, were the highlights of Annie’s Eats this year.  Thanks for motivating me to continue striving for greatness in the kitchen!