By Steven Ziegler
My wife jokes that I do not finish one meal without getting ideas on what the next one should be. When we plan trips (not that you could call what we do "planning"), I often book a hotel two days before we leave. But I typically look for places to eat for a month beforehand. So it was no surprised when I was thinking about New Year's resolutions that pretty much everything I thought of had to do with food. And I've always found that if I tell other people my goals that I am more likely to accomplish them. So here goes my list:
- Explode more food. After the deep fried gnocchi video, I feel this is expected of me now. And that works for me: I love both cooking and explosions. Still not sure where I am going to go with this, but I feel it will involve a turkey fryer and fire extinguishers.
- Master the Art of Meat on a Stick. Yes, I do understand how weird this sounds. But I cannot help it—I love meat on a stick. I love any street food, really. But there is something primal, not to mention highly convenient about meat on a stick. Lamb, chicken, beef, pork, seafood, doesn't matter as long as it is skewered. I made the switch from gas to charcoal to facilitate this obsession, and I even created my own grilling device for the purpose, the chafer-hibachi. I did some Middle Eastern style grub last year, and while it turned out well, I want to do better. This year, I want to add some Asian style meats (like Korean BBQ) to my repertoire. I also want to stick meats that aren't normally stuck. Can duck be stuck?
- Make more bread. I have a friend with good sourdough starter, and I really want to give that a shot. But my biggest desire is to find an easy and excellent flatbread recipe that goes well with my meat on a stick. Flatbread is the perfect napkin.
- Make my second year of gardening better than the first. Last year I started gardening for the first time and I was pretty successful. And the veggies and herbs that came out of my square food gardens not only very tasty and organic, but they were of a greater monetary value than what I put into the garden. I messed up a few things last year, and this year is the year to learn from those errors. This year I will plant more even more herbs, and I will really try to do better with tomatoes.
- Make and grow lots of pickles. Pickles are one of my favorite foods. I started making refrigerator pickles last year, with great success. It is really easy to make fridge pickles—just some water, vinegar, pickle seasoning, dill, and a little time in the icebox. The problem was that I discovered how to do that after planting giant yellow cukes that were in no way suitable for pickling. This year pickle cukes will be planted.
- Snack on veggies. Yes, chips are made from potatoes, but that is not what I am talking about. When people set out a veggie tray, I always enjoy it. My wife broke out But do I ever break out the veggies in the evening for snacks: no. But I must. So I will. Really. Maybe. I hope. Well, maybe I can figure out a veggie spread for hard pretzels.
- Write down the recipes I create. When I first started cooking I was absolutely stuck without a recipe. Now, if I follow any recipe completely, it feels strange. I often just do what feels right to me, which is great, because that is always how I wanted it to be when I started. There is a problem though: every once in a while, I make something really great, but I can never duplicate it. I really need to take the next step and start writing down my experiments.
- Get my two younger kids to enjoy fish. My kids are not picky eaters. They've never really been allowed to be picky eaters, because they either eat or they don't. They know that our house isn't like the school cafeteria, where there is a second choice. But my two younger kids really do not enjoy fish. I have come up with exactly one recipe that allows them to enjoy fish: my fish tacos. But even though I am tough at the dinner table, I do really hate to see them struggle with a meal. I need to come up with some other preparations or types of fish that they will actually like.
- Watch my portions. I refuse to restrict my diet. If I deny myself a certain type of food, it will be all that I think about. I did the Atkin's thing once, and it was right up there with quitting smoking as far as self inflicted misery. I won't do that again, but slimming down the portions is something that I can do, and I have done with some success in the past.
- Work it off. Food is fuel. Fuel not used becomes fat. Unlike my car, I have not used enough fuel this year. Last year I had a relatively minor surgery that had a tough time coming back from it. I didn't heal very well after that one and it caused me to get out of my workout routine. This year, I will get back into it. Because if I don't work out, I will not be able to eat as much, and that would be tragic.
So, do you have any food-related resolutions that don't involve abstaining from food. I'd love to hear yours!
- Sharon Cousins
Good resolutions. (Glad you gave up on Atkins, as I believe it is almost a sure-fire ticket to kidney cancer for people who stay on it too long.) I'm going to throw you a challenge, which is to cook at least one dish with sunshine this year. Now is the time to check out what you can easily rig for a solar cooker, so you can be ready when the better weather comes (though it will work in winter when it is clear enough, but clear skies are rarer and the sun is slower in winter). For one range of easy possibilities, go to the Windshield Shade Solar Cooker page, and make SURE you scroll all the way down to see the variations based on stainless steel bowls (which can be lined with foil if they are not mirror-finish). I know you can lay hands on large stainless bowls! http://solarcooking.wikia.com/wiki/Windshield_Shade_Solar_Cooker (That page also has my solar-converted kettle grill cooker, which is one of mine that reaches just shy of 400F on a good day and will gently sizzle sausage or burgers or crank out nachos or a quesadilla in ten minutes or less.) For even more information on getting started, go to: http://valeriecomer.com/?p=1113 You can do it! Solar cooking is easy and fun for the whole family, and in summer it can keep your house WAY cooler!