I Tried More New Recipes in 2020 Than My Entire Life—These 15 Southern Living Recipes Were Truly Spectacular
For someone whose early kitchen prowess was once limited to the easiest and breeziest of recipes, with cereal and the occasional box of macaroni and cheese always on the menu, I’ve finally reached a point when making new things actually excites me. Trust me, my college-aged self would be shook. Slowly and surely, I’ve reduced the number of calls and texts fired off to my mother inquiring on the correct way to cook rice or how to make her sour cream biscuits. Now I just call her to gossip, and she’s thrilled.
So, 2020 has been nothing less than a doozy. Faced with spending so much more time at home and on visits to my hometown in Georgia, I figured why not get cooking? I wanted to choose recipes that I’d always admired but never made the time for, from tons of scrumptious desserts I’d once found too intimidating to comfy weekday dishes that jazzed up my everyday routine working from home—snagging tips from SL’s “What’s Cooking” Facebook group along the way. I hopped on the banana bread trend, found a new breakfast favorite, and fell in love with a batch of coconut-cheesecake bars. This year was a doozy, alright, but at least it was a delicious one.
Here are 15 incredibly spectacular Southern Living recipes that brought joy and fun times to myself and my family this year.
Slow-Cooker Peas-and-Greens Soup with Turkey Sausage
If I could only keep one slow-cooker soup in my rotation for the next year to come, it would be this one. Hearty, cozy, and insanely savory, this was my go-to in the beginning of the year when it was way too cold outside for my liking. Peas, greens, and good 'ole sausage are an iconic trio.
Sour Cream Banana Bread With Pecan Streusel Topping
I'm not ashamed to say that I jumped on the banana bread craze back in the early spring, because banana bread is actually amazing and I'll take any excuse to whip up a loaf. I loved this recipe for its touch of tanginess from sour cream in the batter and spiced pecan streusel topping. On one particular day when I needed a shot of chocolate, I even amended the recipe by skipping the topping and apple pie spice and dropping heavy handfuls of chocolate chips and pecan pieces into the batter instead.
Mini Hash Brown Frittatas
Recipe: Mini Hash Brown Frittatas
I'm a big meal-prep girl when it comes to weekday breakfast, and I'll often find myself in a rut of overnight oats. In the spirit of stepping outside my usual routine while working from home, I started making these breakfast bites that are basically crispy cups of hash brown filled with fluffy eggs, tomatoes, spinach, and cheese. After baking on Sunday, I'm set for the week and just reheat them in the oven or microwave each morning. Oh also, I add bacon. Obviously. I'm not crazy.
Fudgy Flourless Chocolate-Pecan Cookies
I've made these not once, not twice, but four times so far this year—and the holidays aren't even in full swing yet. They taste like a gooey brownie coated in a crunchy, crackled exterior. My best advice for first-timers: It says to whisk the eggs until "frothy," but I use a hand-mixer and go a touch past frothy into fluffy territory. Otherwise they can sometimes fall flatter than I would prefer.
Ben Mims' Perfect Cornbread
Recipe: Ben Mims' Perfect Cornbread
After the first time I introduced my mother to this cornbread recipe, she stopped making the cornbread recipe she'd been using for over a decade. So, yep, it's actually the cornbread recipe to end all cornbread. The secret? Browning the butter in the cast-iron skillet before pouring in the batter. It tops off literally any meal like a crusty, golden, buttery, metaphorical cherry.
Fusilli Pasta with Spinach, Tomato, and Bacon
In my household, I refer to this genius dish by another name: sheet pan pasta. It's finished off in the oven on a sheet pan to get the cheese perfectly melty, to blister the tomatoes, and to create a divine outer layer of golden crunchiness that is usually reserved for the corner pieces of baked ziti or lasagna. For weeknights, I choose chickpea pasta (such as Banza) to make it slightly healthier.
Coconut Cheesecake Squares
Recipe: Coconut Cheesecake Squares
Easter came 'round and even though the festivities couldn't go on as usual, I decided to get my immediate family into the spirits with a batch of these sunny heaven-in-a-bite bars. Coconut, lemon, and creamy cheesecake filling come together for a tropical explosion of flavor that everyone could not stop raving about for weeks.
Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
Recipe: Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
I'm a sucker for a comforting soup, and I've been known to enjoy it well past fall and winter. I turned to this recipe in April when the temperatures were already rising, because well, I needed a hug. The lemon made it fresh enough to feel appropriate for spring.
Recipe: Melting Potatoes
To be honest, I was skeptical that these would live up to the hype I'd seen for months online. I do not know how this sorcery exists, but I will say one thing: It will make anyone in the room drool on contact. Sure, I was blown away by the satiny, creaminess inside each potato, as well as the browned, crispy outer coating; but the real star here is the pan sauce that comes along with it. Pour it over anything you can—the potatoes, the pork chops, your body, whatever.
Cakey Strawberry Cobbler
Recipe: Cakey Strawberry Cobbler
Strawberries? In a cobbler? A cakey strawberry cobbler? I didn't see that one coming until this show-stopper appeared on the pages of our May 2020 issue. Do me a favor and set the peaches aside for this absolutely spectacular cobbler recipe that, when paired with vanilla ice cream, tastes like a strawberries-and-cream dream. Personally, I'm making it beyond berry season, and no one can stop me.
Recipe: Best-Ever Succotash
Nothing graced my summer daydreams like a plate full of this perfect side dish of fresh veggies. You see all the familiar faces like corn, lima beans, tomatoes, and okra with standout extras like basil that gives freshness to each bite and crunchy bacon pieces for saltiness—and because we're Southern. (Succotash without pork sure is sad.) If there was ever any leftovers the next day, I'd eat a big bowl of it cold for lunch.
Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Odds are, you might have heard of this most perfect cookie recipe in all the land. Similar to when making cornbread, browning the butter adds something extra to classic chocolate chip cookies that can't be fully explained. It adds a hint of caramelized flavor and enhances the sweet, gooey center like nobody's business. I fully intend to make many more batches, and anyone who snagged one is counting on it.
Easy Buffalo Chicken Dip
Recipe: Easy Buffalo Chicken Dip
Spinach dip might get all the attention come football season, but I'd pick this heartier crowd-pleaser any day. It's got all the same cheesy, creamy, baked goodness of its artichoke-laden competitor, but with an extra spicy kick from Frank's Red Hot and shredded rotisserie chicken to fill up hungry bellies. (Looking at you, Dad.) I make it for a whole bevy of occasions beyond sports-watching, such as movie night with gal pals or Sunday snacks with the family.
Slow-Cooker Carnitas Tacos
Recipe: Slow-Cooker Carnitas Tacos
I've discovered that tacos are basically my love language, and when faced with the uncertainty of when I'd get my next "carnitas on corn" fix, I decided to take my fate into my own hands with the help of my slow cooker. Turns out, you can make melt-in-your-mouth pork tacos at home that taste just as good as a fancy Tex-Mex place—and sister, I did. Like five times. One tip: Do not skip the crisping phase in the oven at the end. It makes the whole thing.
Recipe: Orange Rolls
Before I had even begun, I knew I was in over my head with this recipe that requires letting the dough rise twice—on a very humid day, no less. (If you know, you know.) Luckily I had my mother in town to giggle with when rolling became more like smooshing together. The lesson? Delicious things don't have to be pretty. Because they were about the tastiest rolls I've ever had.