This year’s cooking had quite a crescendo. I started out far too lazy about my writing, letting interesting meals languish in the Drafts folder for months, and finally re-committed myself to my blog in June with the resurgence of the farmer’s market. After months of learning about traditional foods, baking all my own sourdough bread, and making friends with some of the vegetables from the bottom of my list—sweet potato, I’m looking at you—the year comes to a close with some family struggles that have taken precedence over the blog.
January: This year started out super-slow on the food front. Nolan started cutting his 2-year molars around New Year’s, which meant a miserable child who needed his mama’s undivided attention.
February: There were a few gold star recipes on the books this month. Jeremy now requests potato-crusted salmon practically every time we get fillets, and my pork carnitas are a great use for boneless pork ribs when we get tired of Hawaiian-style. I also made tiramisu using tea in place of coffee and wine, and it was a big hit at a family get-together.
March: This month I got my hands on some green garbanzo beans, which I had never seen before. I also learned an unusual new way of cooking ground beef, and made a decadent chocolate-peanut butter cake for my son’s second birthday.
April: I wrote up an in-depth guide to dealing with whole chickens, which had taken the place of boneless skinless breasts in our shopping cart. Everything from roasting and preparing gravy to rich crockpot chicken stock, to soup with handmade tortellini.
May: This month was kicked off with two stellar Mexican dishes for Cinco de Mayo—chile colorado and sopapillas. I momentarily conquered my husband’s distaste for polenta. I also made my first successful cream puffs, no thanks to my oven, which spazzed out in a major way and tried to burn them to a crisp. A few days later, we got a new oven, complete with convection.
June: With a two-year old who could handle long walks and a little down-time, I re-committed myself to posting more frequently on the blog and hitting the farmer’s market every other week; the website got a snazzy redesigned look for the occasion, thanks to my computer god husband. As far as food this month, I confronted fennel, turnips, massaged kale salads, empanadas, and strawberry brown betty.
July: This month saw my introduction to the traditional foods movement. I cultivated a sourdough starter named Oscar and started baking all of our bread, learned to make yogurt in my crockpot, and reacquainted myself with cooking dried beans instead of canned ones. I also harvested grape leaves from our backyard to make dolmades, played with garlic scapes, baked focaccia in my cast iron skillet, and tackled zucchini, apricots, golden beets, and breakfast radishes.
August: The highlight of this incredibly busy month was the Nourished Kitchen preservation challenge, during which I learned to make traditionally lacto-fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and pickles and squirreled away all sorts of wonderful fruits and vegetables. I took a peach-picking expedition with my aunt and made buckets of peach butter, tried my hand at home-curing salmon into gravlax, made mayonnaise and ketchup from scratch, hand-pulled Chinese noodles, and grew basil from a cutting. I also took on eggplant, sweet potatoes, and most amazingly, okra.
September: In which I explored seed-saving, blackberry foraging, and community gardening. Purple veggies such as bell peppers, hull peas, and even potatoes featured large this month, but traditional fall items such as dragon beans, pears, collard greens and golden cherry tomatoes also found their way onto our table, and some fall highlights included crispy fish tacos, chicken with dumplings, moussaka, a crostata of beet greens, and fancy sugar cookies in honor of my son’s first day of preschool. I joined the board of our neighborhood garden, entered (and later won!) a Kitchen Play contest, and even made the Foodbuzz Top 9.
October: My birthday is this month, and I had a mini-shopping spree to buy spices from SpicesInc and dried beans from Rancho Gordo. Locally grown hazelnuts and a gently used dehydrator from my aunt concluded the festivities, just in time for the end of the farmer’s market; I mourned by loading up on various winter squashes, wild mushrooms, and purple cauliflower. I also helped out with an elementary school field trip to the community garden pumpkin patch and came home with several sugar pie pumpkins and a dozen squash blossoms for my troubles. Recipe highlights this month included gyros with homemade pita, lamb chili with masa dumplings, and an unusual slaw of Asian pear, daikon, and massaged Brussels sprouts.
November: With the exception of a few items from the community garden—radishes and their greens, baby lettuce, Chinese cabbage, and the aforementioned sugar pie pumpkins—our supply of local produce dwindled miserably this month. I clung to storage vegetables like celeriac, came to terms with sweet potatoes at last, baked brioche and mushroom-potato pizza, and made peanut butter popcorn from heritage cobs. I even gave in to the whoopie pie craze. We actually had company for Thanksgiving, so I went all out with a huge turkey that we hardly made a dent in after a week of eating.
December: This month our priorities shifted. Our son is struggling with developmental delays and we have been distracted with visits to occupational therapy, scheduling neurological testing, and seeking financial assistance, so exploring new foods—and even more, writing about food—has been shifted to the back burner. This sort of situation sends me straight into comfort-food mode and I did next to no Christmas baking this year, but I did have a few tricks up my sleeve.
What a year of ups and downs! My triumphant return to the farmer’s market, discovery of the traditional foods movement, and involvement in our neighborhood’s community garden already seem so long ago, and I have a strong impression that Nolan’s third year of life is going to be a pivotal one for him and for us. May God nourish my family physically, mentally, and spiritually in the coming year, and remind me to lean on Him completely whenever I feel the pressure of family crisis, financial difficulties, or my own personal sensory struggles.