I love food. I love reading about food, thinking about food, shopping for food, and (most of the time) cooking food. And I really, really love eating. Preferably while reading a cookbook or watching a food show.
Except at holidays, when I cook for parents with assorted food allergies, I don’t have to take much pickiness or strong preference into account. My children gladly eat things that I know most other children do not. I’m quite certain I have the only children in the world who cheer–literally cheer–when I bring home Brussels sprouts from the grocery store. My husband and younger son will eat anything I cook and praise it to the skies. Everything tastes good to them. They also wouldn’t care if they ate the same exact meal seven nights a week. My older son is far more particular, but I wouldn’t exactly call him picky. He gets nervous around new food, even new recipes that combine familiar ingredients. At the same time, his palate, like mine, is easily bored. He cares what he eats and cares that it tastes good. I am always happy when I make something he wants to have a second time.
Our year in food:
2014 was the year I got back into the kitchen.
I’ve always cooked 3-4 meals a week, but I took a couple of years off from serious or thoughtful meal planning after adopting my kids. In 2014, our lives were enough back to normal–or rather, back to the new normal–to make real cooking and baking a possibility and a pleasure.
And this is what I discovered or rediscovered.
Every vegetable tastes better roasted. Prosciutto. That’s all. Just prosciutto. It doesn’t need a verb. Pumpkin everything: oatmeal, bars, pasta, soup. Grits are what’s for dinner. (They’re an amazing base for everything: corn, spinach, tomatoes, bacon, eggs, cheese.) There is no such thing as too many bananas. It’s actually worth it to invest in an expensive blender if you make a lot of smoothies. Nachos aren’t just for kids. Masterchef Junior and Chopped make for riveting tv. And now we know what to do with a duck tongue. Mail-order injera makes Ethiopian food a regular dinner even in South Dakota. Cornbread really does taste better in a cast-iron skillet. I conquered my fear of pie, even if rolling out the crust did make me cry. Baking bread is very satisfying–and a lot easier than you might think. (Pie crust, by contrast, is every bit as difficult as you think it is.) There is little that butter can’t cure. And honey butter? Even better. BLTs are every bit as good as you remember them being. Dark chocolate sea salt caramels should be a major food group, and in fact I’m going to go eat another one right now.
And cats. Cats are always helpful in the kitchen. (A note to my gentle readers: no cats were harmed or germs consumed in the making of this photo. The stove was not turned on when Frances jumped into the pot, and I swear I washed it before I started cooking.)
Cooking Resolutions for 2015
As with most areas in my life, cooking is one place I’d like to be more organized. I don’t like to repeat recipes very frequently, and I don’t have a system for keeping track of what I cook that actually works for me. Some weeks when I go to plan meals and make a grocery list, I can’t remember anything I’ve ever cooked and liked. Like in my whole life. Never mind that I cook 3-4 different meals a week.
Some effort usually accompanies my resolution to be more organized. One year, I got all my recipes into sheet protectors. Another year, I bought a binder to put them in. Below, you can see the stack of recipes sitting on top of the empty binder.
I’ve printed and collected recipes for about twenty years now and I have quite a large stack. I have hundreds of loose recipes that I’ve never cooked–aspirational cooking, I call it. The aspirational recipes need to be drastically culled, but it’s so hard to give up on any of them. You never know what might become a new favorite.
I have three shelves of cookbooks, most of which do get used. I also have a couple of recipe boards on Pinterest and at least 100 recipes saved on Diigo.
Since I can’t ever remember where I’ve found a recipe we liked once I go to make it again, meal planning is a hassle. I sort through my loose recipes. I flip through cookbooks. I usually resort to Googling the ingredients I can remember and hoping I can recognize the recipe.
I would like to say that 2015 is going to be the year of organized cooking, but it probably won’t be. I might manage to print out some current favorites, however, and get them into that pretty black-and-cream binder. I’d like to make more pie in 2015, and I’d like to tackle pizza dough and stop relying on Pizza Hut and frozen pizza to satisfy my kids’ weekly pizza craving. I’d like to figure out how to cook all that quinoa I’ve bought. I’d like to learn how to make some different Ethiopian dishes as well as an Ethiopian bread called himbasha. And I’d like to start baking biscuits regularly. With honey butter.
Here are the recipes I made most in 2014:
Pete’s Scratch Pancakes I use one cup of buttermilk and 3/4 cup of low-fat milk.
Overnight Slow Cooker Pumpkin Oatmeal I substitute 1/2 c maple syrup for the honey and add toasted pecans before serving.
Hamburger Soup My kids are obsessed with this soup.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Bacon Pasta Sadly this recipe uses every single pot and pan in the kitchen, but the mound of dirty dishes are so worth it.
One Pot Pasta Primavera It’s like magic! All the ingredients cook in one pot at the same time!
Applesauce. I keep it super chunky by mashing with a potato masher.
Pumpkin Bars. I substitute mango applesauce for half the oil.