Before looking forward and thinking about what I’d like to accomplish in 2013, I decided to spend a few moments looking back at 2012. I often check our recipes on Mixed Greens to remind myself of how to make a certain dish but this time I wanted to think more about what posts represent an actual change in the way I approach food — cooking, eating, shopping, entertaining. For me it’s become all about paying closer attention to what’s in season, what I feel like eating, what’s available locally, what will please my family and friends, how much time does a recipe take, how much do ingredients cost and how to waste less food. That’s a lot to consider just to get a simple meal on the table. These posts represent a few of the small changes I made last year that have actually stuck with me.
It may sound insignificant but the biggest change I’ve made has been preparing more vegetables in advance. And as with many changes, I’ve done it out of necessity. We’ve been spending more and more time working on our cabin on Orcas Island where we don’t have running water yet. I’ve gotten in the habit of washing all our greens ahead of time. Now, even when we aren’t traveling, I religiously wash my greens before I put them into the fridge. It takes a few minutes but saves loads of time later and makes it much more inviting to consume more vegetables. They also stay fresh WAY longer.
I’ve also gotten in the habit of roasting or sauteing a big batch of whatever vegetables I have on hand to use throughout the week. Make-Ahead Vegetables: 4 Ways is the post that will give you all the details about how to get started down this simple but important path to making it easier to eat more vegetables in every meal. I’ve enjoyed having all my prep done so much that I think once we get a real kitchen set up in the cabin, I’ll still continue with this trend.
Although I keep wishing I were a person that finds cooking relaxing, I find eating good food much more satisfying than preparing it so I try to cook as efficiently as possible. One pot or one pan, simple meals are the best way for me to eat well with little time spent in the kitchen. In Sheet Pan Palooza, I describe several meals that are easy to make using one pan and take very little time to prepare. Salmon fillets are often on our weekly menu but roasting them in the oven along with the vegetables makes a lot of sense. It may sound more like a Duh moment than a Aha moment but sometimes the simplest solutions can be the most profound.
It was while I was writing the sheet pan post that I discovered marinated tofu and have incorporated it into our weeknight meals. Making the marinade only takes a couple of minutes and then I either roast it with vegetables or cook it on my most favorite cooking tool of 2012, a used Le Creuset grill pan I found at Goodwill. Out of the Fire Into the Grill Pan will give you the basics of grilling without ever stepping outdoors in the rain. Marinated tofu is not only delicious, it’s one of the least expensive sources of protein you’ll find. I know there are plenty of tofu-haters out there and I may not be able to convert you but all I can say is, please try it, I think you’ll like it.
Every once in a while I get inspired to try a new do-it-yourself project and while I’ve made ricotta cheese in the past, I took it one step further last spring and made my own Goat Cheese. It was one of my more successful DIY projects last year so I can highly recommend giving it a try. I think every step I make toward eliminating processed food in my diet is a good one. I can buy excellent goat cheese without additives or chemicals but processing food myself that I may have previously bought pre-processed is a positive change.
The best plant purchase I made in 2012 was an Italian parsley start from the farmers market. It’s been an over-achiever from the beginning and I can still go out and pick a few sprigs whenever I need them. That will probably all change when we have a very heavy frost but it looks like I’ll have a few volunteers next spring since I’ve let it go to seed. I’m embarrassed to admit that it was while writing Parsley Steals the Show that I finally started chopping up the parsley stalks as well as the leaves. During 2012, I began to wonder each time I peeled a vegetable or cut out a core whether that was necessary for taste or am I just doing what I’ve always done.
My parsley also made an excellent addition to my Kale Smoothies, another 2012 first for me. I already had all the ingredients but just put them together in a different way.
These changes may all seem like baby steps rather than grand gestures and they are. I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m not going to wake up in the new year and be a different person than I was in the past, nor do I want to be. There’s always room for improvement and for me it happens gradually. One of my resolutions is to stay open to trying new things. What I find makes sense to me and my life will probably end up right here in a post or two. Some of the trends that are intriguing to me are making my own yogurt, learning more about the different types of Asian noodles and how to use them, more ways to eat nuts and grains, using meat as a condiment, nutritious cold weather beverages and indoor smoking (it’s not what you think)….