It's been nearly two weeks since we've cooked anything.
Between holiday parties, travel for Christmas and New Year's, and then catching up with friends after we've returned, we've been away from our kitchen for far too long.
While away over the holidays, we played sous chefs/kitchen sidekicks for others, and while in Tennessee for Christmas we did make Nigella's Chocolate Fruit Cake (it's a tradition, after all). We're glad to be back in our own kitchen, making our own food. And we're about to start cooking with a vengeance.
Those of you who have been reading The Bitten Word for a long time likely remember previous years of culinary resolutions. We try to avoid the "lose weight," "get more exercise" types of proclamations and instead focus on specific things we want to learn, eat or improve for the coming year. Before we share our resolutions for 2012, here's a reckoning of how we did with our resolutions for 2011.
- Less meat on the plate. We're proud to call this one an unqualified success! We've done a really good job of elevating veggies to a main course and de-emphasizing meat. And we've had more and more meals without any meat at all -- at least one or two dinners a week. We're positive that we ate less meat in 2011 than ever before. This is a good example of a realistic, workable resolution. If we had resolved to "give up meat" or "become vegans," we would have failed miserably (and we would have been two very unhappy guys). But by resolving to simply make meat less of the star of a meal, we've really been able to make a difference in how we eat.
- Flex our canning muscles again. We canned tomatoes this year, made some jam and experimented with pickling okra. We have a pressure cooker now, so look out, 2012!
- Familiarize ourselves with our cookbook collection (or purge them!). Done and done. We've done a pretty good job of getting to know the cookbooks on our shelves, and an even better job of getting rid of the ones we don't use. Plus, we've been getting our cookbook fix by test driving new books from the library before we buy them.
The Failures (so far!)
- Visit a food magazine test kitchen. Not yet, but that's more because of timing than anything else. We've got some irons in the fire on this one. Stay tuned!
- Give gardening another go. We did, with moderate success, and wrote all about our gardening adventures. Will we do it again this year? Probably so. Though last year's harvest wasn't great, it was our best yet, and we already have some ideas about what we'd do differently in 2012. We learned a lot and (for the most part) had a really good time doing it.
- Strive to buy higher-quality meat. Eh, not so much on this one. We've given it a game try, and we're confident we bought better meat in 2011 than any year before. Some months we did better than others, purchasing more of our meat from the farmers market, but just as often we got our meat from the supermarket, mostly due to cost.
So what about our culinary resolutions for this year?
The Bitten Word's 2012 Food Resolutions:
- Make a crown roast. -- This might just be the most beautiful, most impressive-looking cut of meat there is. But we find it (and its usually sky-high price tag) intimidating. We're going to find an excuse to make one this year.
- Get organized in the kitchen. -- Our pots and pans are a mess, our food cupboards are literally overflowing, and we have a junk drawer that we are convinced leads to an alternate dimension of space and time. We're going to clean, organize and eat down the foods in our pantry. Perhaps we'll all do it together?
- Use smaller plates. -- Often when we're plating dinner, we reach for our largest dinner plates, which we've come to realize are very large. That causes us to put more food on the plate, which then causes us to eat more. So as a simple solution, we're going to start using smaller plates more often, as a way to control portion sizes and cut calories. We'll see.
- Make restaurant meals count. -- Since we cook so much at home, we actually already do a decent job of not eating out too often. But we still too easily fall into a rut of going to the same restaurants time after time, for no good reason. It's expensive and unhealthy. This year, when we dine out, it's going to be at places we really, actively want to eat, for food that's not the sort of thing we can easily eat at home.
- Push our boundaries on ethnic cuisines. -- We're definitely not shy about trying new cuisines. In the past year alone, we've eaten at Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Burmese, Northern Thai, and Polish restaurants, among a host of others like Chinese, Thai and Indian. But there are still plenty of places we have yet to explore near our house, including a Caribbean place we've always wanted to try and an Eritrean restaurant we walk past twice a day.
- Buy a nice olive oil. -- This one should be easy, right? We love the huge jugs of olive oil we can get at Trader Joe's for $7.99. That olive oil is fine for cooking, and it seems that nearly every recipe we make starts with a hefty pour. But for salad dressings and other finishing touches, we'd like to explore using better olive oils with more flavor. Do you have one you like?
So what about you? What are your food resolutions for the new year? Any tips to help us with ours? Let us know in the comments!