Reader Favorites from the First 5 Years

By Ann Fulton

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One of the fifth grade teachers at my elementary school was as popular for his likeable personality and teaching style as he was for his birthday–he was born on Leap Day. We all thought it was so funny that he was only 7 or 8 years old, but I remember feeling a little sad for him. When you’re young, birthdays are really special days, and I figured he got cheated.

Similarly, the end of February marked the fifth anniversary of The Fountain Avenue Kitchen—sort of. Because the official launch date for my blog was February 29, it won’t technically turn five until 2032!

Since the inaugural day in 2012, I’ve posted approximately 700 recipes. I’m mildly perplexed that there’s still a long list of recipes I haven’t found time to share. Of course, there’s a whole other list that’s in the works and plenty of things I still want to try.

When 2016 came to a close, I assembled a collection of my favorite recipes from the year. It’s easy to lose track of the many soups, salads, and slow cooker recipes we see in the course of a year, and I figured that a quick recap might be helpful. Twenty recipes made the cut, and many readers told me that the list inspired them to try a new recipe or two. Many also inquired about reader favorites.

So to celebrate the latest milestone, I thought a collection of reader favorites from the last five years might be fun. One of the all-time standouts is first on the list: Jen’s Incredible Baked Meatballs. It’s a slight adaptation of one of the many foolproof recipes shared with me years ago by my good friend Jen. The easy recipe is one of the first from my blog that went viral, being Pinned, shared, and Tweeted countless times. To date, there are nearly 200 positive reviews on the recipe post, which doesn’t include the many social media comments, emails, and face-to-face mentions I’ve received.

Early on, I kept thinking that I needed to retake the photo. On a busy night in 2012, I had hastily snapped a picture of the raw meatballs with my phone just before I popped them in the oven. Carpools or a very hungry family likely kept me from photographing them once cooked, so the photo that has traveled wildly through cyberspace all these years is simply raw meat. But nobody ever complained, so I eventually decided to leave well enough alone!


Jen’s Incredible Baked Meatballs —  When I posted this tried-and-true recipe during my blog’s first year, I never imagined what a hit it would become with readers far and wide.  Early on, I kept meaning to replace the hastily taken prep shot with a more polished (and cooked) version, but after it went crazy on Pinterest, I figured raw meat wasn’t necessarily a bad thing!  
Overnight Crunchy Top Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal  —  Who would have thought that an easy, make-ahead recipe I made regularly for my boys’ breakfast would win a national contest and earn me a trip to Miami?  This wholesome meal managed to spark a bit of a baked oatmeal craze and was the starting point for a slew of variations, quite a few of which can be found by searching “baked oatmeal” on this blog.
Baked Cheddar Broccoli Rice Cups —  This recipe demonstrated that I’m not the only one who likes to take an occasional shortcut, especially when it produces a tasty meal with built-in portion control.  Many readers mention they’ve added chicken for a filling, an all-in-one meal.  
Slow Roasted Whole Chicken —  I think I baked chicken at just about every temperature from 200 to 500 degrees F before settling on this low and slow preparation which readers have found to be as easy and foolproof as I have.  It’s also really easy to cook two chickens at one time, making this a perfect option when wanting to take a meal to a friend in need. 
Kathleen’s Cottage Pancakes —  Who would’ve thought that a recipe featuring cottage cheese would garner hundreds of comments and be so well liked?  Low-carb, high-protein recipes definitely hold wide appeal these days, and this recipe illustrates that healthy and delicious truly can go hand in hand.
Classic Crispy Top Macaroni and Cheese —  Comfort food at its best, this recipe relies on pantry and fridge staples and is elevated by a 3-ingredient crispy topping.  Don’t miss the link to the spot-on gluten-free version or a newer quickie option that has its own growing fan club! 
Corn and Cucumber Salad with Basil and Chives —  Stunningly easy and a perennial crowdpleaser, this cool, crisp salad is a good reason to always cook a few extra ears of corn.
Tuscan Lentil Soup  —  I created this recipe for Isaac’s, a regional restaurant chain, and I was delighted when it quickly became a favorite there (where they made a donation for every cup sold) and on my blog.
Crispy Baked Eggplant —  When I posted this recipe in the summer of 2013, I never imagined how popular these crispy coated bites would become.  Be sure to check out the related recipes for Speedy Cherry Tomato Sauce and Deconstructed Eggplant Parmesan.
A-Third A-Third A-Third Marinade —  This perennial crowd-pleaser is must for summertime grilling and shows that three basic ingredients are all you need for a super flavorful and incredibly versatile marinade.  The quick and easy recipe appears several times on my blog, but this post offers a convenient list of the many ways to enjoy it.  
Chunky Homemade Granola — Before settling on this combination of ingredients many years ago, I did official research and countless side-by-side comparisons and taste tests.  Though there are many other worthy granola recipes on this blog and elsewhere, this one remains a personal favorite, and many readers agree.  You’ll likely be glad it makes a big batch!
3-Ingredient Chuck Roast in Foil —  Easy is the name of the game for this quick prep, slow bake meal.  Added bonuses include the amazing aroma that wafts from your kitchen and cleanup that’s a breeze. 
Orange Vinegar — This “green” cleaner earns points for going completely viral (who would have guessed?) AND being “stolen” the most times.  Over the years, I’ve received countless emails from readers and fellow bloggers informing me that such-and-such site posted my photo and recipe for this economical yet boutique-like cleaner as if it were their own, even watermarking my old iPhone photo with their own blog name.  Who knew everyone wanted to be so environmentally conscious and clean?!
Overnight No-Cook Oatmeal Yogurt Cups —  One reader recently reported that she has eaten one of these every single day since the recipe posted–in May of 2013!  Like many other readers, she prepares this protein-rich meal assembly line-style for grab-and-go meals throughout the week.  
Parmesan Crusted Salmon —  With its short ingredient list and a hint of decadence, this heart-healthy recipe was an early reader favorite.  It’s easy enough for weeknight meals and special enough for company — can be prepped ahead, too!
Slow Cooker Turkey Tenderloin with Wild Rice and Butternut Squash —  Despite the bad photo, readers continue to find this wholesome, hands-off recipe.  The stew-like meal is loaded with colorful veggies, lean protein, and high-quality carbs.  Scoop it into a bowl and add a sprinkling of crunchy pecans or walnuts if inclined.  
Spiced Pecans —  My Aunt Peggy first gave these addicting nuts as a holiday gift when I was a little girl, and family and friends have been enjoying them on salads, in snack mixes, and by the handful ever since.  And if you like these, I’m pretty sure you’ll fall in love with this variation.
Honey Flax 1-Minute Mug Muffins —  I hear about this tasty, wholesome meal whether at the eye doctor or pushing my cart down the grocery store aisle.  Readers have come to rely on its ease of preparation and repeatedly comment that it keeps them full all morning.  I make this frequently (see the recipe notes for my favorite add-ins) and like to prep it at night and zap in the morning.  
Parmesan Crusted Potatoes —  Who would have guessed that five really basic ingredients–including salt and pepper–could taste so very good?  The creamy insides are surpassed only by that golden, crusty top layer.  Need I say more?

Chicken Tortilla Soup —  I like the two step preparation for this soup–and the fact that it makes a big batch and freezes well.  Readers have emailed me countless times about this old standby, and some have claimed it surpasses restaurant favorites.  (All that and it’s healthy, too!)

No-Bake Energy Bites —   These taste like a cross between a chewy granola bar and cookie batter while managing to include a whopping half cup of heart-healthy flax meal and only five additional ingredients.  This recipe tops my list for most emails received after appearing in the newspaper a few years ago and comes with helpful tips from a certified nutritionist.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Eggs — Because this site is rooted in my grandmother’s old Fountain Avenue galley kitchen, it’s especially meaningful to end with one of her recipes.  I love that a longtime family favorite has become a top reader pick, too.  But it only seems fair to mention the coconut cream version, since it has its own dedicated following.  And for those who are trying to cut back on sugary treats, this healthy buckeye recipe is incredibly satisfying.

Happy cooking and cheers to the next five!

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  1. Rila

    Wow — Happy 5 Year Anniversary, Ann! So many of us have benefitted greatly from your culinary gifts and your great discipline in refining your cooking art and sharing it with us. Thanks, too, for being such an encouraging presence to reluctant and unmotivated cooks like me . You have a wonderful way of inviting people into the adventure and joy of creating lovely, healthy meals. As I looked through your past 5 years of favorite recipes, I realize that I’ve made many of them. (In fact, I have a binder that is strictly printouts of Fountain Avenue Kitchen recipes.) See the effect you’ve had on me? Thank You! God Bless you as you continue your important work.

    1. Ann Post author

      Your comment would bring warmth and sunshine to even the dreariest day — thank you for your kind words, Rila! The years sure have passed quickly, in no small part to people like you who take the time to express the kind of thoughtful feedback that fuels me to keep doing what I’m doing. Sending a big hug your way!

  2. Beverley Press

    Happy 5th Anniversary my talented friend, Ann. Your recipes are perfect for the every day cook like myself. You make them so easy to follow and tasty too! Cheers to the next 5 years and all that it may bring. Thank you and have a great week xoxo

    1. Ann Post author

      Thank you for your lovely message and so nice to “see” you, Beverley! I can’t quite believe it’s been five years…and what a pleasure to have known you since the beginning!