review of a 2018 resolution-win or lose?

A year ago, in the early ambitious hours of January 2018, I challenged myself with a commitment to cook every recipe in Fine Cooking magazine. Twelve months later, let me update you on how that resolution turned out….well, it wasn’t a Super Bowl season but I definitely batted a better than .500 average. (mixed sports metaphors ‘cause that’s just me)

By the numbers, I feel like a failure. I completed only 124 new recipes out of 215. Remember that I was trying to complete EVERY recipe, which mean I was 91 short. The individual issue stats were as follows:

  • Dec 2017/Jan 2018: 81%

  • Feb/Mar 2018: 68%

  • Apr/May 2018: 65%

  • June/July 2018: 56%

  • Aug/Sept 2018: 51%

  • Oct/Nov 2018: 21% - ouch!

As with many resolutions, one’s adherence to a goal drops off over time. I grew tired of trying to incorporate new recipes with difficult-to-find ingredients into my weekly menus. Publishing and executing a new menu almost every week of the year is challenging enough without including recipes that I’ve never attempted. In summary, I DID NOT COMPLETE THIS GOAL.

But on the flip side, I

  • learned a fool-proof technique for making frites (french fries) on the stove without a deep-fryer, thermometer, or any other fancy double-fry method

  • incorporated Indian-inspired dishes onto the BG menu, having never dared before

  • tried (and failed miserably) making three different “inside-out” roasts where the stuffing was rolled on the outside of the beef, pork and lamb cuts—a costly experiment to be sure but fun, nonetheless

  • made Chashu Ramen from scratch and discovered the multiple days required with many different steps really wasn’t worth the end result (we’ll be eating ramen at a noodle house for the foreseeable future, thank you)

  • fell in love with homemade gnocchi

  • experimented with four new takes on pot pie, one of which has been permanently added to the BG rotation

  • ordered lobster from Maine to bring authentic lobster rolls to my menu

  • tested several cream pie recipes, much to the delight of my DH, whom I love to please with culinary treats

So was the resolution a bust? I don’t think so. The positives I gleaned from the process far outweigh the actual numbers. And who’s to say I cannot continue the endeavor? Why can’t I keep cooking my way through the magazines until I’ve made each and every recipe? I won’t put it at the top of my goals list for 2019 but it can still be a goal, right?

I’m including my favorite recipe from the year, Cold-fry Frites, in case you want to give it a whirl. Always be trying something new—it’s an opportunity for growth, change and fun!

Yield: 6-8

cold-fry frites

prep time: 20 minscook time: 30 minstotal time: 50 mins

Fries with a moist, creamy interior, an intense potato flavor, and a perfectly crisp, golden non oily exterior.

ingredients:

  • 3 lb. russet potatoes
  • 3 quarts sunflower, vegetable or canola oil
  • kosher salt
  • 3 quarts sunflower, vegetable or canola oil
  • kosher salt

instructions:

Rinse the potatoes, peel, and rinse again. Cut each potato lengthwise into disks about 3/8-inch-thick, then cut these disks lengthwise into sticks about 3/8-inch-thick. (Precision is not essential here: I love the tiny, crunchy, almost-burned bits that emerge from the fryer.)

Soak the potatoes in a bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes, changing the water when it becomes cloudy, until the water remains clear (at least three times). Drain the potatoes and put them in a single layer on a paper towel-lined baking sheet and pat dry with additional paper towels.

Transfer the potatoes to a 7 qt. Dutch oven and set it on the stove. Pour the oil over the potatoes. Do not cover the pot. Set the heat to high, and stirring the potatoes gently with a metal spoon to distribute and prevent sticking, bring the oil to a boil. (The oil should move from a peppy simmer to a boil in 7 to 9 minutes.) When the oil starts to boil, set a timer for 17 minutes. Stir the potatoes very gently every 3 to 4 minutes and lower the heat to medium, if necessary to keep the oil from boiling over the pot.

After 17 minutes, the potatoes should be slightly golden. Continue to cook for 4 minutes, stirring gently. Resist the urge to remove them from the oil too soon. When the fries are a deep golden brown, taste one to make sure they are crisp and firm on the outside with a creamy interior. Transfer the fries with the wire skimmer or slotted spoon to a paper towel–lined tray to drain. Season with salt and serve immediately.
Created using The Recipes Generator

Do you #partnerscard?

I first became aware of the Partners Card 20 years ago when my children were young. At the time, I understood it to be a great shopping perk, using the 20% discount at many popular retailers as an excuse to kick off the holiday gift-buying season. My friend that introduced me to the Partners Card also invited me to the first Chi Omega Christmas market that I ever attended. Shopping with girlfriends became a new, fun pastime, one I hadn’t really ever enjoyed.

It wasn’t until a couple years later that I really read the literature and learned that Partners Card is the signature fundraiser for The Family Place, the largest family violence agency in Texas. And that 100% of each Partners Card purchase goes directly to supporting survivors of family violence. Over 100 women are killed by their domestic partners each year in North Texas.

The Family Place provides tremendous support for women who cannot escape the violence brought on by those they trust, and that’s why I buy a card every year. It seems like a small contribution but $70 pays for 1 night in a shelter for a woman to hide from her attacker. My hope is that the number of domestic violence deaths can reduce to zero thanks to the work that this organization is doing in the community.

This week, to coincide with Partners Card sales, Butterfield Gourmet will donate 10% of all sales to The Family Place. If you are interested in purchasing a Partners Card to help end domestic violence, visit their website for the available retail locations.

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Read any good books lately?

I am a self-proclaimed bookworm. No, correction: I WAS a self-proclaimed bookworm. Although I enjoy reading as much as I ever did, I don't commit the hours to the pastime as I did in childhood. My annual book average has begun to climb again, thanks to time on the elliptical machine, but truthfully, some years I am lucky to ready 6-7 books with the bulk of the reading done on a beach. I am guilty of devoting too many minutes to the internet, social media sites, and cooking magazines to claim loyalty to the written words of authors. So the rest of the year, outside of vacation, can be barren of my former favorite hobby.

This past August, I was able to get through just one book while on vacation and it was a doozy. Weighing in at 842 pages, this paperback was a commitment--to travel with and haul down to the beach every day. But I experienced immense satisfaction when I finished the tome--a hefty book will do that--and I am happy to recommend it to you. Stephen King's 11/22/63 is not exactly a thriller but it is a fascinating, easy read that makes the reader wonder at the possibility of time travel. 

Currently I have my nose tucked into two books: the first is a charming, sweet little fiction by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows titled The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, recommended to me by my daughter. It's composed of a series of letters and I read a little each day and the sweet little notes contained therein take me back to a time when I loved writing to pen pals. A good book will always inspire you to try something new, take up an old hobby, or reflect on a strong belief. 

I am also currently reading my favorite book ever. I've downloaded Little Women to my Kindle app to read while I'm exercising. And even though I am not turning the pages as I did on the first occasion that I devoured this book (I was probably 8 years old), I'm still tearing up and feeling the varied emotions I experienced as a child reading the novel under my covers after my parents told me to go to bed. 

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is the first novel that I read multiple times. But thoughts of my favorite book have been drifting in my subconscious, untouched for quite some time. While on vacation in August, I spied a review for a new book titled Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why it Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Alcott's original publication and reading some of the English professor's thoughts on the classic stirred my desire to read it again. 

Why is Little Women preserved on my mind's shelf of all time best reads? I cannot point exactly to the reason...I remember that I strongly identified with Jo, the primary protagonist and her love, no, need to write. And as Rioux points out, apparently I am not not alone in this character identification.

The timeless novel about four sisters who are the best of friends has been named by numerous female authors as their literary inspiration and Rioux credits Alcott's cultural influence to include many pop-culture characters of whom our daughters and sons have read and watched voraciously. (Hermione Grainger, Katniss Everdeen, the Gilmore Girls, etc.) And although the influence is there, I worry that today's generation will not experience Little Women anymore--as it seldom appears on their required reading. 

Can you do me this favor? Will you buy a copy of Little Women and give it as a gift to a young person in your life? Encourage them to read it? If you've never read the novel, will you give it a try on my recommendation? I hope this lovely novel, that has inspired my personal writing journey will live on and be loved by many in the future. It would be such a shame if Little Women drifted into obscurity. It is a precious American work that deserves a place on every bookshelf in every home.

“I like good strong words that mean something.” — Jo March
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