Last week, I went on a tour of an almond orchard in Northern California. It’s the end of February, so the almond trees are bursting with white blooms, and beehives are placed in the orchard to help pollinate the crop. I suited up in a zip-up onesie with a protective veil, and tried my very best to control the urge to swat the swarm of bees that burst into the air when the beekeeper opened a beehive for our tour group. We were there to learn about how almonds are grown, and in the process watched thousands of busy bees collect pollen and nectar.
Our tour group was made up of fellow food lovers, and together we ate our combined weight in almonds. During one of the meals, someone admitted that when they cook they follow the recipe to a T. I’m the opposite—I pull up a recipe, scan it, and then I’m off to cook. I don’t think it’s because I’m a better cook (though I did cook professionally in restaurant kitchens). It's more that I'm impatient and think that improvisational cooking is a blast—if I have to make three meals a day to feed my family, I might as well have fun.
Do you follow our recipes exactly or do you alter them to match your taste or temperament? Sometimes I wish I could observe you in your home kitchen making our recipes (holding as still as possible, just as I did with the bees while they made their meal!).
Here are the 10 recipes you clicked on most during February and followed exactly—or not.
1. Sheet Pan Buttermilk Pancakes
Want to serve warm pancakes to multiple people at the same time? You either need to invest in a giant griddle or you could cook the pancakes one by one and keep them warm in the oven. But let's be honest, pancakes don't taste as good unless they're just cooked. Here's a better idea: make one giant sheet pan pancake (aka the stress-free pancake) and cut it up to feed up to 12!
2. Copycat Crunchwrap Supreme
Forget the drive-thru. These homemade copycat Crunchwrap Supreme are incomparable, and a reader agrees: "I made these especially for my daughter who loves them at Taco Bell. HUGE hit at our house and I made extra so she can take to work."
3. Homemade Pizza Bagel
Writer Nick Evans says, "my childhood diet was approximately 40 percent frozen mini pizza bagels." If you, like Nick, grew up eating Bagel Bites, these homemade ones are going to hit the spot. So comforting!
4. Pancit Bihon (Filipino Rice Noodles)
Pancit bihon (known as bihon guisado to Filipinos) are stir-fried noodles with pork, lots of vegetables, and a sauce made with soy sauce and calamansi. Doesn't it sound delicious? I haven't made it yet, but it's on the top of my list of must-try recipes next month.
5. Roasted Sweet Potato Salad
Our resident salad expert, Sheela Prakash, created this hearty winter salad for when you're not feeling soups and stews, but want to be comforted. She's got a few tricks to roast the sweet potatoes so that they turn out perfect every time.
6. Lok Lak (Shaking Beef)
10 out of 10! I used to order this from my local spot in New York City for years and years, never realizing I could make it at home in just about 30 minutes. It's called Shaking Beef because of the way you have to constantly move the beef around in the pan to sear it on all sides.
7. Smashed Potatoes
I think we should all do a taste test to determine the best way to cook smashed potatoes. Writer Sally Vargas boils the potatoes first and then roasts them as described in this recipe. (This is also how I make smashed potatoes.) Writer Sara Tane doesn't boil the potatoes. Instead, she roasts them twice—once whole and again after they are smashed. Report back when you find your favorite way!
8. Oatmeal Banana Cookies
Though we would never ever get tired of purposefully letting our bananas go brown for banana bread, it's nice to have other options for using them. These are bite-sized oatmeal cookies with bananas, nuts, chocolate chips, and warm spices. They're as delicious as they sound.
9. Dirty Rice with Shrimp
Writer Geo Banks-Weston doesn't call for chicken liver or gizzards in his dirty rice, as most traditional recipes do. Instead, he calls for two types of sausages—andouille and spicy bulk sausage—and shrimp, a nod to this Southern roots.
10. 3-Ingredient Banana Pancakes
When it comes to mornings, the easier the better. It doesn't get any easier than these 3-ingredient banana pancakes made with overripe bananas, eggs, and flour. That's it!