it is your birthday.

JIM: “What is that? ‘It is your birthday’, period.”
DWIGHT: “It’s a statement of fact.”
JIM: “Not even an exclamation point?”

– The Office, ‘Lecture Circuit, Pt. 1’

Today is oven + apron’s second birthday! I think that does warrant an exclamation point, don’t you? It’s been a fun, tasty 2 years so far, and in honor of my blog’s birthday, I’d like to share with you my all-time favorite posts so far. These recipes are ones that have exceeded my expectations, ones that have surprised me by just how much they kicked ass, and ones that brought back happy memories and nostalgia. Let’s do it!

Radish + Chive Tartine
1 – radish + chive tartine

This lovely little open-faced sandwich was born out of a Thanksgiving appetizer. I figured I’d turn it into a meal-sized sandwich and it was all I hoped it could be. You can’t get simpler than homemade savory onion-chive cream cheese topped with fresh peppery radish slices and bright green chives, all on top of pumpernickel toast. This one is perfect for light lunches or snacks.

panzanella salad with crispy rounds of parmesan cheese
2 – panzanella salad with crispy parmesan

Ohh, this little salad. I still dream about this panzanella salad from time to time, and I can’t wait to make it again soon. Not much can beat fresh tomatoes, and here they’re paired with red onion, fresh basil, black olives, big hunks of fresh mozzarella cheese, soft and crusty pieces of ciabatta bread, all covered in the most delicious red wine vinaigrette dressing you’ll ever taste. The kicker are those crispy rounds of parmesan cheese that provide great texture to this refreshing salad.

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3 – sparkling fruit sodas

If you’re not really a fan of commercial sodas full of artificial flavors and such, these interesting fruit-based sodas will make you love soda again. Fresh fruit is pureed with flavors like thyme, cinnamon, mint. and jalapeno, lightly sweetened and added to chilled club soda. You can make them in small quantities, or a big punch bowl for a party if you’d like. They’d even be great turned into cocktails if you spike them with a bit of rum or vodka! Consider them for summertime parties out in the warm sunshine.

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4 – golden grahams s’mores bars

How could I not include these s’mores bars in my list? They’re everything you want in a sweet treat, especially if you can’t get enough s’mores-type things, like me. Golden Grahams cereal is used to make a traditional rice crispy treat recipe, except this recipe is anything but traditional. Extra marshmallows and milk chocolate chips are thrown into the mix, and boom! A s’mores bar was born. Don’t you just want one right now?

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5 – perfect pumpkin lasagna

My favorite pumpkin lasagna. Number five, with a bullet. Welcome. (Name that movie!) I’d always wanted to create a perfectly Fall-appropriate lasagna, and this one succeeded and then some. Earthy mushrooms, creamy ricotta-pumpkin filling, fresh thyme and lots of cheese. It’s warm and comforting, it’s hearty, it’s basically all you could ever want from a Fall dish. Also delicious during any chilly weather!

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6 – white christmas cake

No recipe has exceeded my expectations quite as much as this cake. It took a few tries to find the perfect angel food cake recipe, but once I did, everything came together flawlessly. Fluffy and tender, this angel food cake with a meringue frosting is a great, surprisingly light cake to serve after a holiday meal, and it has the perfect wintertime decorations to jive with your Christmas table. How cute are those tiny deer and snow-covered trees?

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7 – mini taco salad cups

These were one of my Super Bowl recipes from last year, and they’re a perfect one-bite party snack. Lots of seasoned ground beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, sour cream, tomato, guacamole, and hot sauce just scream old-school taco night, and the little tortilla chip cups are the ideal vessel to hold all of that retro goodness. Make them for your Super Bowl parties this year, or for any get-together that could use an adorable appetizer.

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8 – cauliflower + roasted garlic soup

I first made this soup for a Thanksgiving starter, and was practically dreaming about it from that day on. I’ve made it about 5 times since then, and every time it seems to get better. Tender cauliflower is pureed into an otherworldly creamy soup with lots of roasted garlic, chicken stock, fresh thyme, cream, and grated parmesan cheese. It’s not as heavy as it sounds, and it makes a perfect starter to a meal, or just as a main course with some salad and good buttered bread on the side.

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9 – mexican pizza

This recipe is a riff on one my mom used to make when I was growing up. It hearkens back to Friday evenings of my youth, eating pizza and watching TGIF. My mom made this Mexican pizza just a handful of times, but it stuck with me. Pizza dough topped with seasoned ground beef, refried beans, cheddar cheese, fresh tomatoes and black olives, with a drizzle of sour cream and a sprinkling of green onions is a non-traditional spin on pizza, but it certainly is a delicious one.

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10 – s’mores ice cream sandwiches

I know what you’re thinking… “Another s’mores recipe?” Yes. I can’t get enough, so it seems. These ice cream sandwiches are my tribute to all that is great about summer. Ice cream sandwiches, s’mores, and the ubiquitous childhood movie that inspired this treat, The Sandlot. These couldn’t be easier to make. Good quality storebought chocolate chunk ice cream is sandwiched between graham cracker squares, and a simple toasted marshmallow meringue coats the ice cream. You’re killin’ me, smalls!

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11 – golden roasted cauliflower with tahini + fried onions

By far my most popular recipe on oven + apron, this is a riff on my favorite dish at Pita Jungle. Judging from how many hits this recipe gets, it’s a favorite if many of yours, as well! Cauliflower gets all tender and charred in the oven, and covered with a rich and creamy sauce made from tahini, garlic, lemon and paprika. Top that off with some savory fried onion strings, and you’re in business. Makes a great side dish, or a hearty main dish. Did I  mention it’s totally vegan? Score!

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12 – steak sandwiches with arugula, roasted garlic + horseradish cream

This was the inaugural post to my Sandwich Month Series last summer, and what a way to kick it off! This sandwich is loosely based on one that was served at a restaurant I used to work at back in the day, and it is a serious sandwich. Tender seared steak gets sliced and packed into toasty ciabatta rolls, smothered with a roasted garlic-cheese spread, bold horseradish cream, slices of red onion, and a handful of fresh arugula leaves. It’s creamy, spicy, savory and crunchy — all the things that make for a terrific sandwich.

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13 – classic soft dinner rolls

Oh, these dinner rolls. Nothing brings back childhood memories quite like these rolls. If you ate in your school cafeteria in the 80s and 90s, chances are you probably ate these rolls. Soft and sweet, they were one bright spot on the cafeteria menu (also of note were those little styrofoam cups of ice cream with the peel-off lid, and half pint cartons of chocolate milk). They go great with spaghetti, as many school-aged children can attest. If you want to stuff the spaghetti into the roll, that’s totally your call.

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14 – sweet potato, sasuage, + apple pot pies

To me, nothing says comforting cool weather food like pot pies. This one isn’t your standard chicken and veggie pot pie! Instead, tender turkey sausage gets mixed with chunks of sweet potato and Yukon gold potato, sweet Granny Smith apples, all bound with a savory, herby gravy and covered with a flaky pie crust. Did I mention the absolutely adorable jack-o-lantern faces? You can totally make them the traditional way if you don’t want to make faces in your pie crust, but they add a fun, festive Halloween vibe to the dish. These are totally perfect for the kids to help make before trick-or-treating!

And there you have it! My all-time favorite recipes to date on oven + apron. Maybe it’s let you discover an awesome recipe you missed, or some fun ideas to whip up something creative in your own kitchen! Here’s to another two years. Happy cooking, y’all!

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