Hello from the other side of the holidays! How are you? Ben, our little elves, and I had a wonderful Christmas!
Sitting here a couple days after the fact, it’s still hard to believe the holidays are nearly over. They were even more of a blur this year since Cam came right before Halloween – each day since he joined our family has gone by in the blink of an eye. How this little chunker is nearly 10 weeks old is beyond me!
I tried to pause this Christmas, especially, since Lincoln’s at an age where he finally “gets” the holidays. We did the whole Elf on the Shelf thing (aka me frantically texting Ben every night at 10:30 from bed – “CAN YOU MOVE THE #$*%&! ELF???“) played Christmas music 24/7, talked about Jesus’ birthday, and of course sprinkled reindeer food on the front porch and laid out milk and cookies on the fireplace. In case this picture doesn’t give it away, this little guy was JACKED for the big guy’s visit! (Special shout out to my soon to be sis-in-law for the delicious dairy-free cookie delivery which Santa mightily enjoyed! ?)
Of course the reason for the season is not an enormous pile of presents under the tree, and we don’t go nuts with gifts, but man oh man to see Lincoln’s face light up when he opened the stuff he asked Santa for (at 6am – oy,) was just awesome. No better feeling than seeing your kids happy.
Big hits included this trampoline (hello saving grace during the season that shall not be named,) and this electric train set which I swear to you has not stopped running since December 25th. Cam’s even been getting in on the action!
Like I said, gifts under the tree is not what Christmas is all about, and my hope is that in the coming years we can focus more on that, as well as donate our gently used toys to children who could use it before Santa pays our boys a visit (should have started that tradition this year, dangit!) but seeing Christmas through a child’s eyes was really special this year, and it’s only going to get better as Cameron gets bigger. I remember running around in endless circles to Mannheim Steamroller with my little brother until we were too dizzy to stand, pretty much every afternoon in the month of December growing up. Good times!
Anyway, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. My parent’s house was practically bursting at the seams with our family plus both my brothers’. It was a Christmas to remember, for sure! ?
In other news, this week marks one of my favorites in my blog posting schedule – a look back at your favorite recipes posted throughout the year here on Iowa Girl Eats!
In all the years I’ve been blogging (almost EIGHT!) this was the most challenging for a number of reasons. In the beginning of the year I was extremely preoccupied with getting pregnant which took up a lot of my energy and attention. A few months into my pregnancy we said goodbye to our beloved part-time sitter, who was having a baby of her own, and I decided to take a whack at working with no childcare for over three quarters of the year. Needless to say, not a lot of blog growth happened when I only got naps, nights, and weekends to work, and there were many times when I looked at my peers who were trying new things with their businesses, releasing products, and have no children or have school-aged children (aka have big chunks of uninterrupted time during the week to work,) and felt anxiety about not doing more. Additionally I, and many other bloggers I know, fell victim to burnout this year. Blogging looks nothing like it did when a big chunk of us started in 2009 and 2010, and at times it’s been challenging remembering why we all started in the first place!
That said, I finally felt at peace with this year when Cameron was born. I may not have as much time to devote to work as I did when I was 25, but IGE was started with the intention of having a creative outlet, to set my own schedule and, when the time came, work from home with my kids by my side. Staying home with my beautiful baby boys, putting them down for naps, making their meals, witnessing their milestones, AND having something to satisfy my desire to work is what I’ve always wanted, and with a ton of hard work it’s exactly what I’ve got. Here at the tail end of 2016, I’m truly able to say that the grass is green enough right where I’m standing.
All that said, 2016 was still a banner year. A BABY, trips to Colorado and Kansas City, tons of exciting work projects and partnerships, magazine interviews and covers, 150+ posts, 100+ recipes, stories told, and connections made with all of you. YOU are the ones that make this blog possible, and I truly thank you for allowing me to do what I do. I get asked what it’s like to not have a boss but really, you’re my boss! And I’ve got the best boss in the world. THANK YOU.
Alrighty, let’s get into what this post is really all about – your top 10 favorite recipes from 2016 as decided by your visits, pins, likes, and shares! You sure picked some good ones, and if you overdid it during the holidays my advice is to skip directly to #6. Also #7 is the perfect NYE appetizer! Let me know which recipes you’ve tried, and I’ll be back on Friday with a list of MY top 10 favorite recipes from 2016!
Psst: In case you’re curious, here are the top reader recipes from the past four years!
- Top Reader Recipes from 2015 >
- Top Reader Recipes from 2014 >
- Top Reader Recipes from 2013 >
- Top Reader Recipes from 2012 >
#1 Crock Pot White Chicken Chili
“This is one of my go to recipes. I’ve made it at least 6 times in the past 7 months and since I usually just throw food together that’s saying something for me. It’s light, very flavorful, easy to customize (I add extra lime and a dash of good poultry seasoning & a touch of paprika), it pleases all the picky eaters in the house, and there’s never enough.”
#2 The BEST Chicken Fajitas
“I’ve tried numerous fajita recipes including another one that claims to be the “best chicken fajitas.” We’ll, let me assure you, THIS one truly is the best one you’ll find. Even better than the fajitas at our local “mom and pop” Mexican restaurant. Who would have thought you could get such incredible flavor without marinating??? So simple and quick. A new favorite I’ll be making again and again.”
#3 Potsticker Noodle Bowls
“OMG, this was amazing! I’m not a big fan of pot stickers, but something about this recipe called out to me. It was so good, I burned my mouth eating it out of the pan, then proceeded to wolf down two servings, and then eat the leftovers for my next few meals. I hadn’t even finished my first bowl, before I took a quick break to forward this recipe to my family. Hit it out of the park!”
#4 Easy Chicken and Rice Soup
“My family (including a baby and 3 year old) loved this! It was simple in the best of ways – definitely not boring, but just classic flavors that made for a great basic soup. As another reviewer said, I did double the carrots. I actually prefer this to chicken noodle soup, and this will now be my go-to recipe for cold days, sick days, or soup-just-sounds-good days. Thanks for the great recipe!”
#5 GF No-Bake Strawberry Shortcake Icebox Cake
“Made this today with fresh-picked strawberries and it was delicious! We don’t need (to eat) gluten free but I used the cookies anyway to get an idea of what it should taste like-thanks for another great recipe, as always.”
#6 Best Ever Green Smoothie
“I’ve made countless recipes from your blog, but this one made me feel like Super Mom! I think my three year old just had more greens from one smoothie than his whole life combined. Thank you so much!”
#7 Bacon and Goat Cheese Stuffed Sweet Pepper Poppers
“These were absolutely wonderful!!! I also am not a fan of goat cheese so I substituted farmer’s cheese which is a cow’s milk cheese and has a tang similar to goat cheese. These are so addicting!! Thanks Kristin for a keeper!”
Click here for the recipe >
#8 Italian Sub Salad
“Love. Love. Love this salad! I made it for dinner tonight and it definitely hit the spot! The banana peppers were the star of the show! :) I forgot about the roasted chickpeas when I went to make it and was too hungry to wait for them, so will have to add them in next time. Thank you for bringing this amazing salad into my life!!”
#9 Shrimp and Wild Rice Skillet
“This might be my new favorite meal. Recommending this recipe to all my friends right this second. And you were completely right about the lemon juice – glad I didn’t leave it out!”
#10 Gnocchi and Chicken Sausage Vegetable Skillet