2023! What a year!

I thought it would be fun to put together a highlight of 2023 month-by-month. What was happening on Mel’s Kitchen Cafe…and what was happening in real life, too!

Thanks for being here every step of the way. Through all the recipes, life updates, weird jokes, interesting comment threads, and more.


I posted this comfort soup recipe, and it was instantly one of the most popular recipes of all time! So many of you made it, loved it, raved about it, and then made it again.

Spoon scooping up bite of soup with tomatoes, noodles, and ground beef.

Sick with Covid, I was flat in bed for an entire week and used the time to finally watch Crash Landing on You. I would end up watching this best-ever series three times in 2023, which is no small feat for someone that doesn’t watch a whole lot of TV. (Turns out, this was just the start of my K-drama obsession.)


I made an Instagram reel for this epic twisted croissant French bread and it hit one million views. Here is why everyone should make this bread: a) you get to pound the guts out of a butter packet and b) you also get to enjoy twisty, buttery croissant-like layers without having to spend three days of your life making actual croissants.

Loaf of twisted croissant French bread on cooling rack.

I had a birthday and turned the whopping 4-5. I also fell in love with these dill pickle pretzels. (Still in love with them almost a year later.) We were hit with unexpected news when Brian’s position at work was eliminated.


March would prove to be a huge month that would impact my entire year: I decided to write and publish a cookbook! I had been thinking about this for years, but finally took the plunge based on life circumstances that meant Brian could be around to help out a bit more while I took on writing a manuscript, testing and photographing hundreds of recipes, and navigating deadlines, bi-weekly design and editing calls and more.

See above. 🙂


I only posted two new recipes this month, which I think is the least amount of new recipes to hit the blog in a given month since the onset of my blog in 2007 (even when I had a new baby!). Lots of you reached out to ask if I was ok (thank you! the cookbook process was hitting full force and I was buried!). Also, Gladys the hen and her no nonsense side-eye made their debut on Instagram. (Gladys is no longer with us, so I’m glad she had a moment in the spotlight.)

Two family birthdays, middle school tennis meets, and beautiful spring weather rounded out this month. I started drinking Athletic Greens/AG1 after a bunch of influencers told me I should (hoping it would help with hair thinning and magically cure all my ailments). It was gross. I stopped. Upon further reflection, I realized all my ailments are likely due to age, life choices, and my consumption of dark chocolate. #worthit


I made up for April and posted six new posts this month, including these copycat Texas Roadhouse Rolls, which you went CRAZY for.

School got out for the summer, my parents came to visit from Montana (which doesn’t happen very often, so we loved every minute), and my second kiddo headed off to the Dominican Republic for a 2 1/2 week humanitarian trip with HXP (this program is amazing and has been incredibly impactful for my two sons who have gone on trips).


My son, Ty, convinced me to finally post the recipe that has become his signature bake. Mini banana chocolate chip muffins. That was a good decision because you guys have loved them, too! Fun fact: he made the muffins that are pictured in that recipe post (and even took a few of the photos!).

We got away for several days to one of my favorite places on the planet (Redfish Lake) and it was just the reset my mind and soul and body needed after one of the busiest spring seasons of my life. I also wore crocs almost every day this month with zero regrets. Apparently, based on this picture, so did my kids. 🙂


Ok, OKKKK, the second month this year I posted only two new recipes. 🤪🤪🤪 #sendhelp 😂 In my slacking, however, I DID give you these Hawaiian Chicken and Veggie Teriyaki Bowls and they were (and are) spectacular.

Celebrated my 21st wedding anniversary with huckleberry milkshakes on the back porch, gratefully got news that ruled out a major medical emergency with one of my kids, and helped out two good friends with food for their kids’ weddings. Also, Boise is HOTTTTT in July and August, and I hate it. I’m a high-60’s kind of girl.


Chocolate Oreo Crumbl Cookies. Need I say more?

I also made some changes with a few areas of focus for my blog (video, email, etc). That’s probably not terribly exciting to anyone else, but there are big changes looming on the horizon for bloggers and the way they are able to earn revenue (spoiler alert: it’s not great news), and I’m trying to transition and stay up with the changing tides in order to be able to continue doing what I love here on the blog.

Chocolate cookie with white frosting and Oreo cookie crumbs.

Took a totally spontaneous trip (18 hours round trip 😜) with Camryn, the only willing family participant, to go sleep in a tent and pick huckleberries with good friends who willingly shared their secret picking spot. Best three days of my life (except for the sleeping in a tent part).

Also, school started up again, which meant I could stop pulling all-nighters to get things done and rely on the quiet(er) school day to knock things off my to-do list in this awesome, weird world of being a stay-at-home-but-also-work-at-home-mom.


Strayed from real recipes for a hot second and posted an Instagram reel for my go-to “recipe” for window washing. It quickly hit one million views and landed me on the Yahoo news page, which subsequently had me regretting my innocent attempt to share something helpful and fun as I told my kids that going viral is highly overrated when it means people send you vicious hate comments about how you wash your windows. 😂

Started a major kitchen remodel (!!). Also felt overwhelmed by some personal/family challenges and took a lot of evening prayer-walks by myself to try to figure out life. Spoiler alert: never got any big answers, but I sure did see some beautiful sunsets and feel God’s acknowledgement and love.


Mini pumpkin donut muffins and homestyle chicken noodle soup came from this month (both were some of the most popular recipes I posted this year), however, the most exciting thing to happen this month was when I was finally able to reveal the secret I had been keeping since March and I announced my cookbook. Your response was OVERWHELMING. I still get teary-eyed remembering how your comments of support and excitement just kept pouring in.

Also, I started a Mel’s Kitchen Cafe Insiders group on Facebook (totally free, totally fun), and it has been amazing! So much community support and feedback to questions people ask. It’s honestly such a great little spot on the internet.

Got the stitches out from another skin cancer surgery and began the facial scar healing process. Had at least 6 1/2 post-it notes flying around with unproductive lists written under the heading: Things Stressing Me Out.

Avoided every instance of Bulgarian split squats on my workout app (no regrets). And somehow managed to make it through another month without a kitchen.

Also witnessed some sweet friends face unimaginable trials this month. 💗


I told you how to make the best gravy of your life, and wow, DID YOU EVER. The reports back on how this gravy saved Thanksgiving made the whole year of blogging worth it. This recipe post somehow made google very happy, and I had millions of extra visitors to my blog this month.

You also showed up big time and helped supply the items needed to put together over 1,600 winter kits for refugees (my goal was 100!). This was a huge project that consumed several weeks this month, and it was one of the highlights of the year for me and my family. It wouldn’t have been possible without your help!

The majority of the kitchen remodel finished up just in time to host almost 50 people for Thanksgiving! I got misty-eyed when I finally saw double ovens in my kitchen (waited 22 years for this) – I’ll post some before and after pictures soon.

My 16-year old son, Cade, traded social media for a new puppy. Hi, Walter. And my 19-year old son, Jackson, moved kind of far away to New Mexico, which elicited lots of tears from this mom.


Cookbook pre-orders went live this month, and again, you blew me away with your support. Seriously: THANK YOU.

Also, these chocolate crinkle cookies stole the show this month. I made them six times this month for different occasions (and twice just because), and they might be one of my favorite cookies ever.

But wait! There’s more! You came together AGAIN (over on Instagram) to raise over $50,000 for a family friend whose mom is battling pancreatic cancer. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such an outpouring of generosity and love in such a short amount of time. I was humbled (and brought to tears several times), and it made a huge impact on this sweet family.

Several chocolate crinkle cookies on parchment paper.

Brian started his long anticipated goal of small business ownership. With the craziness of personal and work life (for both me and Brian), some heartbreaking challenges near and far, and two of my high schoolers in the middle of their wrestling season, I just couldn’t accomplish everything I wanted to this month, but despite the angst of having to abandon some traditions, I’ve appreciated the time I’ve had to simplify and spend with family.

I also got Legos in my stocking for Christmas, which basically made my life complete.

Well, that’s a wrap on the highlights of this year! I appreciate you more than you know. And I love when you share your highlights (and even the “lowlights”) with me.

This little space has been a bright spot for me in 2023. Thank you for making recipes, commenting on recipes, and reaching out in all the ways you do. 💗