It might be a little weird to wish someone a happy new year in late January, but we’ve decided it’s still a totally acceptable time to share our 2016 resolutions. Better late than never, right? In 2015, we both focused on adjusting to the many changes that 2014 brought us. It was a year of riding the waves of our new normals, settling in, and appreciating small joys. We had many great moments in 2015, but one thing we both wished we’d done more of is blogging. We miss the routine and rhythm that comes from regularly posting, so our first and most important cooking resolution is to post here at least once a week in 2016. And we’re already off to a great start.
As for 2015’s resolutions…we had so-so results. We totally blew off our joint resolution to make use of our fancy cookbooks. Neither of us got around to it during the year and by the end of 2015, we found that we not only lacked the time to carry out an over-the-top project, but we also lacked the interest. It’s fascinating to read in detail about how star chefs create spectacular restaurant dishes, but the far flung ingredients and endless steps didn’t exactly inspire us to rush to the kitchen and dust off the chinois and immersion circulator. We did achieve some of our 2015 goals, though, and we’ve each set some very realistic ones for 2016 below.
Jessica’s Resolutions: I basically set myself up for failure with my 2015 resolutions. I obviously did not use all of our wedding registry kitchen goodies. I used a lot, of course, especially my instantly beloved KitchenAid and all of our awesome baking pans, but didn’t come close to all (sorry, immersion circulator). But when I remind myself that these sweet gifts are meant to be used over a lifetime of marital kitchen fun, I don’t feel so badly.
I also failed with my pasta goal, sadly. I did try, once, but the dough was the stickiest stuff I’ve ever tried to work with, and it just refused to be anything else. I gave up on that particular attempt in a mess of gluey frustration, but am determined to keep trying. After all, Aziz makes it look so easy! Hopefully 2016 will be the year.
We did have people over to eat more often, and I enjoyed it so much that I’ve morphed last year’s goal into an updated resolution. I got much better at having folks over for a simple weeknight dinner, happily devoted days at at a time to fancier Saturday night plans, and closed the year out with a Christmas party. I love everything about having friends over–planning the menu, doing something nice for the people I love, the excuse to clean the house–and I’m looking forward to even more this year.
I did not do well with my goal of better weekday breakfasts and lunches. I had spoonfuls of peanut butter in the morning way more often than I’d care to admit and really overused the (often boring and even more often overpriced) lunch options near my office. But, that’s ok. I took leftovers for lunch whenever I had them, and just recently got on a kick of making greek yogurt parfaits in the morning. Always room for improvement…and for just giving myself a break.
For my 2016 resolutions, I’m going a bit more reasonable, and working on things I hope to keep going for much more than just this year:
- More “Sundays well spent.” “A Sunday well spent brings a week of content” is saying my sweet friend Laureen introduced me to, and dang if it isn’t (sometimes frustratingly) true. So this year I’ve resolved to try and use my Sundays to set myself up for success in the rest of the week more often. To do more meal planning and shopping ahead, to make big batches of things I can have for lunch all week, and to do all of the little things around the house that I know make me feel better prepared to tackle to rest of the week. And, most crucially, to also make space for the truth that once in a while the best way to spend a Sunday is in a serious flop. Balance, etc.
- Have people over for dinner once a month. I’m not 100% sure I can pull this off, but I’m excited to try. Having friends over and cooking for them makes me really happy, and this feels like a good way to keep it consistent. I’m aiming for a balance between chill weeknights and slightly more fancy weekend get togethers, and am looking forward to being an increasingly comfortable host for both. And I’m crossing January off just under the wire by having some of our favorite folks over for Sunday (well spent!) supper this weekend.
- Finally master Gramercy Tavern’s German chocolate cake. I’ve made this cake twice, and while it’s been delicious both times it’s also been a big mess. The thin layers stick to the cake pans, and I end up with less a three tiered show stopper and more a patched up pile that I tuck in a corner and hope my guests don’t notice it til I slice it up. I asked my aunt Carolyn, one of the best bakers I know, for her advice over Christmas, and she gave me a hint that I think is gonna do it. Display worthy cake, here I come.
Laura’s Resolutions: I actually did pretty well on 2015’s list. The best thing I did was keep up with my kitchen journal. It’s a spiral-bound notebook that I leave open on the counter so that it’s easy to jot entries and notes to myself while cooking. It’s helped me keep track of dinners we’ve loved, recipe tinkering, skills I need to work on, how hot the oven runs, and how frequently we eat certain things. I’m completely addicted to it and I highly recommend the practice.
I also had a slam dunk on cooking more vegetables. Two factors contributed to this success: first, as I’ve said before, I absolutely love Springfield’s farmers market. I started doing that thing that we’re all supposed to do and actually buy the produce that’s in season and then cook with it. The other factor that led to increased veggie cooking was Ed’s low carb diet. While he was busy grilling meats of all varieties, I had time to whip up new salads and sides.
As for baking homemade bread…I made it once last winter. It was decent, but the crust was a little burnt and a little too much. By the time spring rolled around, I started buying really good bread at the farmers market and I felt like I didn’t need anything homemade. Now that the market is over and I’m without an easy, good bread source, I’m thinking about giving it another try.
And now for the big skip: I am not the Mimi Thorisson of Springfield. Incroyable, mais vrai. I was mainly just having fun with that one, but at its core was a desire to be a voice that celebrates the food of my new region. I’m remaining stubbornly optimistic and open-minded, but so far the food here doesn’t inspire me. That’s been incredibly disappointing because dining out and having so many friends who loved food was a huge part of my life back east. But I’m keeping my chin up and I have a new resolution this year to help light the fire again.
Here are my resolutions for 2016:
- Do more cooking projects. I’m still surprised I never cooked from a fancy cookbook in 2015. I used to love to sink a weekend into a multi-step tart or soup or random cooking challenge. I’ve had countless colossal fails, but I always learned something new. My cooking in 2015 was very practical, simple, and easy. When I opened a cookbook or cooking magazine, I’d go for the recipes that looked foolproof. I made a lot of good food and had fewer mistakes, but I didn’t have a ton of fun and I didn’t grow very much as a cook. I think I was so focused on making sense of my new life that I didn’t have the mental space for elaborate, risky cooking. Even though I’m still a fish out of water here, I’m feeling increasingly comfortable and I’m ready for more challenges. Instead of always choosing what looks easiest, I’ll try choosing recipes that look tastiest, even if they’re intimidating.
- Try more restaurants in Springfield. As I mentioned above, I haven’t found many great places to eat here and that’s been a hard adjustment. Many of the little spots that have I’ve enjoyed were pleasant surprises, though, which makes me believe there are more hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately, I’ve had so many mediocre or downright disappointing experiences that it’s hard to maintain enthusiasm to keep trying. I remind myself that western Loudoun is not exactly a hotbed of culinary wonders, but after years of tasting around the area, I have a cherished list of favorites. There’s no reason I can’t find a set of beloved go-to’s here in central Illinois. Hopefully by the end of 2016…or maybe 2017, I’ll be able to write a post of my favorite Springfield eats.