What's Cookin, Chicago's Highlights of 2010

Here we are at the end of another year. It's pretty crazy how quickly time flies but having delicious dishes to enjoy each day certainly makes it more fun. With over 425 recipes shared this past year alone on my blog, it's just so hard to choose favorites. Besides, I've enjoyed sharing daily recipe 'collections' the past month that it's just like sharing my favorite recipes within a specific theme or category. So instead of highlighting recipes of the past year, here are some special culinary adventures I've had each month in 2010 that truly stand out...

January 2010
Thanks to many wonderful friends, I had a great time at my first 'surprise' baby shower.
Everyone contributed to a great spread and enjoyed the fun baby games we played.
A dear friend and fellow food blogger, Courtney of Coco Cooks, hosted this benefit for Chicago bloggers and foodies. Other bloggers in Los Angeles, NYC and Atlanta also hosted similar events in their cities. To help Courtney out, my friends of What's Cookin, Chicago volunteered and made dishes for the potluck benefit, raising a substantial amount for Haiti relief.
 My parents gave us a special baby shower as well in the suburbs.We got to see many long time family and friends which made the event even more special.It was a fun jungle animal theme that was complete with a cake I insisted on making (which probably was a faux pas, but well received nonetheless.)
At the end of the month, my brother hosted a baby shower for our friends of What's Cookin, Chicago. Since we were moving from downtown Chicago to the far north suburbs, we got a chance to spend some time with our city dwelling friends before our big move.

April 2010
A Blessed Baby Shower with the Tans
Not really posted on my food blog but I thought I'd share anyway since our other baby showers were posted. My mother in law and husband's side of the family gave us a wonderful surprise baby shower. It was very special in that our challenging journey of conceiving was shared, allowing us to reflect on how much this pregnancy truly meant. Our little one is definitely a miracle to us...
I had no idea how important it would be for our freezer to be stocked with meals before our baby was born. I started this project about a month or so before I was due so that I could take advantage of the meals during the last month when I knew I'd have little energy to cook. It also was great to have meals on hand for the first couple of weeks after the baby was home as we adjusted to life with a newborn. I probably worked on meals for a solid 3 days straight to fill it up as you see here. These freezer meals & make ahead meals have served as a great resource to many friends, family and readers so I'm glad that it's helped others. You can find my whole collection of these meals HERE.
Our beautiful son, Joel Raymond was anxious to come out and play... exactly a month before he was due! He arrived as the most perfect Mother's Day present anyone could ever wish for. This year, Mother's Day was on Sunday, May 9th and Joel was born on Saturday, May 8th. After a total of 10 1/2 hours from the time my water broke to the time I heard his first cries, life has never been the same. Joel was a preemie born at 35 weeks and 4 days, weighing in at 4lbs & 15 oz. It was hard leaving him at the hospital in the NICU for observation, but he was finally able to join us at home after a week.

June 2010
This year my husband and I celebrated our 4 year anniversary at home with a dinner inspired by one of our favorite restaurants. The best part was enjoying this great meal in the comforts of home...
After settling in the suburbs with a newborn, we threw a party for family and friends to celebrate. It was great time with plenty of good food and drinks!

August 2010
As of March, I left the corporate world after 10+ years in the human resource industry. It was bittersweet but was the perfect time since my pregnancy was pretty challenging. I used the time to care for myself, enjoy the remaining months of my pregnancy as best as I could and when Joel arrived, I loved the joy in motherhood. Now that Joel reached 3 months old, I decided to move forward and do what I've wanted to do for so long. Having my son was just what I needed to give me that extra push. So I enrolled in culinary school and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

September 2010
After a little maternity hiatus from hosting culinary events for What's Cookin, Chicago for several months before, during and after my son was born, I was ready to jump back in and pick up where I left off. This year I participated in Chicago's Filipino Adobofest and friends of What's Cookin, Chicago came to support and help me at the event. Although we didn't place or win anything, it was fun to be back enjoying culinary activities with foodie friends.
Being a mom has introduced me to other moms... and childrens' birthday parties! Ayden, the son of close family friends, turned 2 years old this past October and I made his special birthday cake and cupcake tower. He had a Halloween Costume Birthday party which was a lot of fun for kids and adults!

When I was pregnant last year, I had to skip out on drinking the fun stuff during the holidays. But this year, I certainly made up for it! One special night I enjoyed several Sauza Tequila cocktails prepared by Food Network's Chef Marcela Valladolid. Chef Marcela was so personable and a lot of fun to hang out with in person. It was definitely a great night in with girlfriends!

December 2010
With the year drawing to a close, I have so much to be thankful for. The 2010 year presented our share of ups and downs as well as blessings and challenges. It was a great year overall for us and we look forward to the new things that 2011 brings.

Here's wishing you a very prosperous & blessed new year in 2011!