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2012 - What were your cooking highpoints?

Did you complete any cooking goals for the year? Conquer an elusive technique? Finally perfect a no-fail dinner party menu? Started brown-bagging and saved enough for that cooking week in Italy?

Let's dish!

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  1. I finally managed to ferment wonderful sauerkraut.

    1. Great post! How 'bout YOU, meatn3? :)

      I learned quite a bit from the nice folks at Cook's Country this year. I adapted their cat head biscuits to make biscuits the perfect size for a sausage sandwich or biscuits and gravy. They're so excellent and so easy 'cause you don't need to roll them--you just use a cookie scoop to portion out the batter.

      Cook's Country also taught me a great recipe for herb crusted tenderloin. Merry Christmas!

      I learned--and documented in video--how to make my mom's apple pie. She makes it look so easy.

      I made Momofuku corn cookies. They're OUTSTANDING!

      I learned to make an ABC (almond, banana, coconut) kale smoothie at home instead of spending $7 for one at our local farmers' market.

      I made my own pork meatball banh mi for the first time--pickled vegetables, too, of course.

      I made a few new friends with my bourbon salted caramel frosting.

      I made bolognese for the first time. And my own homemade ginger hooch!

      I still need to learn to make scacciata--it's my goal for 2013, though I really hoped to learn from the nonna I know this year.

      I didn't learn to make a yellow cake from scratch I loved. My heart still belongs to Duncan Hines Butter Recipe Golden until I find a recipe I prefer. :)

      ETA: I learned the magic of bacon guacamole and the BLT salad (bacon guac with mayo over spring mix)!

      13 Replies
      1. re: kattyeyes

        Kattyeyes, would you be so kind and share your ABC kale smoothie? I am trying to have kale 2-3 times a week and the only dish I truly love is kale salad with tahini dressing. Smoothie would be awesome :)

        1. re: herby

          Certainly! Copied/pasted from my blog:

          adapted from The New York Times

          1 banana, sliced and frozen
          2/3 cup milk
          1 tablespoon sliced almonds
          1 tablespoon flaxseeds
          1 teaspoon honey
          1 teaspoon coconut
          1/4 teaspoon almond extract
          1 stalk kale, ripped up into smaller pieces

          Ready for how easy as ABC this is? Add all ingredients to your blender, put on the lid and blend!

          Hint: it's very convenient to slice the banana and remove from freezer as needed. :)

              1. re: cheesecake17

                Baker's Angel Flake brand coconut (sweetened). I find it to be more moist than the generic and refuse to buy anything else from here on out...unless there is something even more wonderful I should know about. I am really high on this product. Organic coconut was not as nice as this. :)

                1. re: kattyeyes

                  That's what I've got in the pantry. Actually, it's shoprite brand. In baking, it's comparable to angel flake

                  1. re: cheesecake17

                    Oh, cool. I had bought organic coconut of some sort that was nowhere near as moist. Never again.

          1. re: kattyeyes

            Another begger! Any way I could get your recipe for bourbon salted caramel frosting? And what kind of cake do you like it on? I"m thinking the plainer the better, but would be interested to know.

            1. re: LulusMom

              You've got it--I originally frosted brownies with it, but like it best on chocolate cake (Hershey's Deep, Dark Chocolate Cake is a longtime fave of mine). Recipe in link here:


              In the same thread, cheesymama mentioned trying it on a chocolate apple cake. I never got around to it, but I'm keeping it on mental file. :)

              1. re: kattyeyes

                Thank you so much! And I think apple cake (sans chocolate for me) would be the perfect thing to put this dressing on. Oh man ...

            2. re: kattyeyes

              Is there a thread somewhere regarding your experience making ginger hooch? I am currently obsessed with alcoholic ginger beer but the only brand I can find (Crabbies) is pretty expensive, and I'd love to try making my own.

              1. re: biondanonima

                There's this thread re homemade ginger hooch:
                But sounds like you're looking for ginger beer? That I do NOT know how to make.

                1. re: kattyeyes

                  I would like to make ginger beer but the hooch sounds great too! I got a bottle of Canton for Christmas, but I'll be trying your recipe when it's gone!

            3. Much of my energy has been focused out of the kitchen this past year. That said, I am pleased to have been able to achieve several of my kitchen goals for 2012!

              My current kitchen has enough room for fermenting! I was finally able to get a good start and move through a decent amount of experiments. I learned a lot and developed some troubleshooting skills for next year.

              The extra space also allowed me to finally make 7 day pickles, a recipe I had been intrigued with for many years. I'm so glad I did! The result is a very crisp, highly addictive sweet pickle. This is going to be a yearly tradition in my house in the future.

              My sister and I prepared Thanksgiving together in her home. She wanted to master our Mothers recipes and requested my help. Our cooking styles are at opposite ends of the spectrum - I lean toward OCD and she finds staying focused to be like herding cats. It came off smoothly and everything was delicious. This was our third time trying this menu and she now feels she can do it unassisted! We put together a folder with the recipes, time table, ratios for brining and she added her notes on the process.

              A goal for the year was to get some scented geraniums and start to play with them a bit. I used them in preserves and scented sugars. Had hoped to try them in baking - next year!

              On a more mundane level I put in some time inventorying my freezer and pantry. The lists really helped me steadily start using up those items.

              18 Replies
              1. re: meatn3

                "I lean toward OCD and she finds staying focused to be like herding cats." HA HA HA! Yet, you pulled it off together swimmingly. NICE! The folder and timetable are great ideas, too.

                Don't forget to plant nasturtiums next year. They're sooooo pretty in salads. And several of mine looked like Janice from the Muppet Show band as they bloomed. :) I'll look for scented geraniums.

                1. re: kattyeyes

                  Thank you for the nasturtium reminder! I never remember in time...

                  I found a decent assortment of scented geraniums at an otherwise uninspiring herb festival. They ran about $7 each. I bought rose and nutmeg scented varieties. The nutmeg was lovely - variegated cream and light green dainty leaves. I hope they over winter!

                  My gardening is limited to my deck now. The four legged devils known as squirrels have convinced me to give up on tomatoes so I'll have more room for other things!

                  Edit: Absolutely love the cdo poster!

                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    Wasting naturtium in salads. Make a cold broth out of them, then use in risotto or in place of saffron in paella.

                    1. re: law_doc89

                      What does the nasturtium broth taste like? Can you describe it?

                  2. re: meatn3

                    I'd love to make the pickles. Do they need canning? Or are they fridge pickles?

                    1. re: cheesecake17

                      Actually neither! There is so much sugar in them that they seem to do fine at room temperature. I've kept some in the pantry just to see how long they are shelf stable.

                      My bad, they are actually 9 day pickles!

                      I'll try to fish out my notes and type the recipe down within a few days. In the meantime Here is the link which first got me interested:

                      1. re: meatn3

                        Very interesting. Looking forward to trying this when cucumbers are in season!

                        1. re: cheesecake17

                          I based my recipe on the description for Eloise's pickles and filled in some of the vague aspects after looking at other 9 day recipes, especially helpful was Marion Brown's Pickles and Preserves**. I worked out the ratios and cut the recipe down to a third of the original since I didn't want to make a large amount the first time.

                          DAY 1

                          2 lbs. pickling cucumbers, cut to 1.5 - 2" pieces, ends discarded
                          4 cups water***
                          1/4 cup sea salt or pickling salt

                          Place cucumber slices in a non-reactive heatproof container*. Boil water, add salt, dissolve. Pour hot liquid over cucumbers.
                          Cover and keep at room temperature.

                          DAY 2

                          Drained Cucumbers
                          5.33 cups water
                          1/4 c. powdered alum

                          Drain the cucumbers, wash the container, replace cucumbers.
                          Bring water to a boil. Stir in alum until dissolved. Pour over cucumbers.

                          Use a small plate or jar to weigh cucumbers down to eliminate floaters. Cover and keep at room temperature.

                          DAY 3

                          Drained Cucumbers
                          5.33 cups water

                          Drain cucumbers as before. Bring water to a boil, pour over cucumbers. Weight, cover, set aside at room temperature.

                          DAY 4

                          Drained Cucumbers
                          32 oz. apple cider vinegar
                          4 Tb. Penzeys pickling mix
                          Cheese cloth

                          Drain as before. Bundle spices in cheese cloth. Place bundle in pot with vinegar. Bring to a boil. Cover cucumbers with boiling vinegar, including the spice bundle. Weight, cover and keep at room temperature.

                          DAY 9

                          Drained cucumbers
                          Sugar (by Eloise's ratios about 1.33 lbs.)
                          Sterilized wide mouth pint jars

                          Drain cucumbers. Cut them down to 1/4 - 1/2 inch slices.
                          Fill jars alternating a layer of cucumbers then a layer of sugar. Repeat until the jar is nearly full. Place sterilized lids on jars (I used the plastic screw style since I wasn't going to water bath process.) Eloise recommends laying a piece of waxed paper across the top first if you are using metal lids. This will prevent the lids rusting.

                          Several times a day turn the jars sideways and roll in your hand. This helps dissolve the sugar and produce the syrup. If the cucumbers are not covered in syrup after a day just gently tamp them down and add more sugar.

                          After 4 days (Day 12) all the sugar had dissolved leaving the pickle slices covered in syrup.

                          They are ready to eat!

                          Once opened I keep in the fridge. I used very small jars for some so I could keep them in the pantry and open monthly. I'm at 4 months and they have had no loss of quality.

                          These ratios produced about 3 pints of finished product.

                          *I use an old crock from a crock pot and have a ceramic saucer which is sized perfectly as a weight. Then I use the original glass lid to cover.


                          ***I use bottled spring water just to reduce the variables - ymmv!

                          If you want to can these I think the method used in the following recipe would work well:

                          1. re: meatn3

                            Thank you! Looking forward to making this in the spring, when we BBQ often.

                            What is powdered alum?

                            1. re: cheesecake17

                              This link explains alum better than I can:


                              You see call for alum in many older recipes to help create a crisp pickle. These days not so much since large amounts are harmful. It can be a little hard to find.

                              For myself, I'm fine with it. I'm not in a reproductive point of life, I'm not feeding youngsters and I consume a small amount of the finished product. Plus the alum is rinsed off - the residual amount is not worrisome for me.

                              I will say that the results were firmer with a amazing crispness I have not experienced in other pickles. I have had pickles made with foodgrade lime - the alum pickles were much better imo.

                              1. re: meatn3

                                I like the idea of alum, but I'm not comfortable using it. The main pickle eater in my house is a toddler.

                                Would you suggest trying the pickles without it?

                                1. re: cheesecake17

                                  I wonder if you would prefer a simple approach to pickles. It's a recipe from one of my teachers and doesn't get much easier than this. :) Thanks again, Mrs. B!

                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                    Looks like a very easy pickle recipe! Thanks

                                  2. re: cheesecake17

                                    I completely understand not wanting to use alum for a toddler. I'm sure it will be tasty if you just skip Day 2 entirely.

                                    The alum creates a very crispy pickle. Pickling lime has similar issues to alum, so you probably wouldn't want to use it in place.

                                    Some recipes call for soaking the cucumbers in ice water before starting a recipe. Another method is to use Pickle Crisp made by Ball. You'd have to read up on this product - I'm not sure at what point to add it.

                                    As Kattyeyes says, there are many pickle recipes which are quicker. The process and length of time had always made me hesitant in trying this one - so it became a goal for me! I'm really glad I finally made them and feel they are entirely worth it.

                              2. re: meatn3


                                Day 3 should include rinsing the cucumber very well to remove excess alum!

                        2. re: meatn3

                          Question about your scented geraniums. Do you leave the geranium leaves in the sugar or take it out? And how are you using it?

                          I made some anise hyssop raw sugar. Which smelled just wonderful after a few months. I gave some away as gifts.

                          But the blossoms and leaves were kind of moist and wilted in the sugar. The sugar itself got kind of moist. But - like I said - smelled wonderful. I wondered if it was safe. (That didn't stop me from giving it away though! Like I say, it smelled great.)

                          Your experience?

                          1. re: karykat

                            I've been looking for my notes, but they have proven to be elusive...

                            IIRC I kept the leaves in the sugar for a week or so and then removed them. I had partially filled lidded jars, leaving a little room so I could shake/roll the contents every so often.

                            I've used some of the sugars in jam and in short breads. I've also used some (the nutmeg) when baking squash and stewing fruit.

                            I also bruised the leaves and added them to fruit/sugar/lemon juice during the overnight maceration for jam. I think this worked better flavorwise than using the infused sugar.

                            I added the leaves during my shrub experiments. I didn't care for the results - created an herbal medicinal flavor. Next summer I'll try using the infused sugar and see if that works.

                            If I can locate my notes I'll update! I'm afraid this may be one of those times I was sure I'd remember...!

                            1. re: meatn3

                              Thanks for this advice! I can see why putting the leaves in the maceration might give the jam a better flavor.

                              The infused sugars smell fantastic but the flavor might be a bit lost, depending on what you do with it, I think.

                        3. Mine is probably a little silly but 2012 was the first year I had to cook for real. I moved in with my BFin May and we agreed that I would do all the cooking. So I went from making the occasional full meal every now and then to meal planning, grocery shopping, and putting good meals on the table every night. My meal prep time every evening has become my favorite part of my day. I learned a lot in 2012 and look forward to learning more and becoming more adventurous in 2013. Chowhound has been a very valuable tool for me.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: juliejulez

                            Not silly at all!

                            I think day to day cooking is more of a challenge than pulling off an occasional dinner party. There is so much to learn about timing, successfully using up ingredients and leftovers through out the week without becoming bored, taking advantage of seasonal bounty...it is never ending journey!

                            1. re: meatn3

                              HA HA, jinx--you owe me a Coke! Agree 100 percent about the journey! :)

                              1. re: kattyeyes

                                You're on! Especially if it is Mexican...

                                Meet in the middle?!

                            2. re: juliejulez

                              Not at all silly--that is definitely VERY MUCH a highpoint! Brava!

                              1. re: juliejulez

                                Good for you! It's a big deal to get dinner on the table every night!

                                1. re: juliejulez

                                  Egads, not stupid at all. I've been working at it for 15 years and still fail to get dinner on the table every night for the 4 of us. It is the goal that keeps on giving, I guess.

                                  1. re: juliejulez

                                    Silly? That is a MAJOR accomplishment. You have allowed cooking to become a major part of your life. That is a huge transformation. The fact that you enjoy it is even more so!

                                  2. Learning how to can. Canned tomatoes. Made pickled carrots and onions. Made pear vanilla jam, fig jam, orange and lemon marmalade, tomato jam, pear cinnamon jam and pear cranberry jam.

                                    Really got the timing right on Thanksgiving dinner. Everything came out hot and fresh.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: Dcfoodblog

                                      Sometime in the spring, I made creme fraiche for the first time (heavy cream and buttermilk); now it's a staple.

                                      In early July, during a massive heat wave, did my first unassisted canning (peach jam and butter).

                                      In the fall, made my first ferments (pickled carrots with ginger and spices, and dill-garlic pickled beans).

                                      At Christmas, pan-fried my first duck breast.

                                      This year was the first time I'd cooked short ribs. Why did I wait so long?

                                      Cooking keeps me looking forward...

                                        1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                                          Creme fraiche is the easiest thing ever. Add three tbs. buttermilk to one pint heavy cream. Cover loosely, sit in a warm place for 12 hours or so. Refrigerate. That's it.

                                          1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                                            What Jon says. I generally go close to 24 hours before refrigerating, unless it's unusually warm.

                                            I've seen recipes for creme fraiche among my cookbooks since the 1970s -- probably first in Perla Myers' Seasonal Kitchen that I shed in a cross-country move.

                                            But somehow I never got around to trying it until this year. What pushed me was the greater local availability of excellent heavy cream (pastured). Culturing keeps it usable for longer. I use it in gratins, soups, sauces, as a sandwich spread, with roasted poblanos... heaven to have on hand.

                                          2. re: ellabee

                                            Just remembered an eating high point that was also a cooking first (and turning point): grilled lamb kebabs with pita, fresh garden tomatoes and my first tzatziki sauce, using recipe from Veg. Cooking for Everyone.

                                            The technique of pounding the garlic with salt in the mortar before adding to the yogurt and cucumbers was crucial, and I've continued it with great results in many other dishes.

                                            1. re: ellabee

                                              FWIW, you could try pan-frying duck breasts skin side down 20 minutes over very low heat in a lightly greased skillet, after scoring them lightly with a very sharp knife, until the skin is crispy & the fat is rendered out, then baking for 8 minutes or so at 350F, skin side up, until they're medium rare, then letting them rest for 10 minutes and slicing them thinly. If you then take most of the grease out of the skillet, saute a minced shallot in the remainder & deglaze with something interesting like blackberries & port or quince jam & orange juice, you'll have a nice sauce to serve with them.

                                              1. re: dan.haggarty

                                                That pretty much describes exactly how I did our Christmas duck breasts, except that I just did the skin-side-up cooking in the pan, after removing a good bit of the fat. Port for deglazing, with port-soaked cherries added before saucing.

                                                I was very glad to have an instant thermometer, to be able to hit the pre-resting temperature for medium rare (which was in the most helpful description of the process,in the Herbfarm book by Jerry Traunfeld), because breast halves can vary so much in size. Ours were 10 ounces apiece.

                                                Your account is also clear and confidence-inducing; thanks.

                                                1. re: ellabee

                                                  Since you mentioned one of my very favorite books, I'll mention two highpoints from the past year from that book.

                                                  Delicata squash cooked in apple juice and apple vinegar with fresh thyme and rosemary.

                                                  And, carrots cooked in carrot juice. Not remembering the spicing.

                                                  (Actually, these were both made recently by my SO but I will claim credit for giving him encouragement and appreciation!)

                                          3. I perfected my "Chicken Fried Bologna"

                                            10 Replies
                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              I suspect you are being facetious, but you have probably predicted the next big deep fried sensation for the State Fair circuit!

                                              I once followed my nose in a small western Tennessee town and found a hole in the wall bbq place on the rough side of town. The line was long, snaking around the modest cider block building, giving me plenty of time to eavesdrop and contemplate my order.

                                              The chalk board listed bbq balogna. The thought was so strange to me I had to order it. (Plus it had reached Miss Popularity in status judging from the orders I heard while awaiting.) An inch and a half slab of smokey bbq'd bologna served in a Styrofoam box remains one of the most unexpectedly delicious things I've ever had the pleasure to have tried.

                                              1. re: meatn3

                                                There are many times when I try to sprinkle in humor to my posts, or garnish them with a bit of sarcasm.

                                                Alas, this is not one of those times.

                                                Oscar Mayer Bologna, dipped in egg, dredged in seasoned flour and Panko, fried up in bacon fat, served and plated with gravy made from the leftover pan drippings.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  I'm intrigued!

                                                  Sounds like it would pair nicely with red eye gravy and mashed potatoes.

                                                  How did you come up with this?

                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                    Ennui ... and a challenge from a 10-year old!

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      And was the 10 year old suitably impressed?

                                                      1. re: meatn3

                                                        Yes. That's why it was a high point.

                                                        There are few things as gratifying as making someone smile with your cooking. It's especially true when that person is a young girl recovering from surgery.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit


                                                          Nice. Hope she has recovered and is back to normal!

                                                          I have friends who have a son who has required multiple heart operations. I've been glad to live near the teaching hospital he goes to and have been able to host them several times over the years. Nothing feels better than to nurture and create a smile for a sick child! Providing a loving, comfy environment for the parents is great too.

                                                          1. re: meatn3

                                                            Fried bologna was a staple in my Newfoundland hometown growing up...it was kind of a joke in Mainland Canada where they called it Newfie Steak....trust me, no Panko crumbs were hurt in the production of that dish!!!!

                                                            But though it was simple, it was a dish much beloved by kids, sick and well, and I am pleased to see the humble fried bologna is still making children smile!

                                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                                        My kids would be very very impressed with that meal. Far more than they are about most things I put in front of them.

                                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                                      just think what i could do with spam!

                                                2. It's been a big cooking year for sure. I've discovered the joys of Sichuan food thanks to Fuchsia and have also been delving into sustainable seafood and recipes that make the most of less popular fish when the non fish eating partner is out of town.

                                                  My high point though was a week with the foodie father-in-law while he visited. He and I indulged in sneaky week day fish lunches while the fish hater was at work and he taught me many new recipes including a couple of different ways to cook sardines.

                                                  I don't think I will ever forget our panic when the fish hater called saying he was coming home early and was only minutes away. We had just finished eating a sardine lunch extravaganza and the house reeked of them. The father-in-law and I raced around opening windows, turning on extractors, spraying air freshener and disposing of the remnants like a couple of teenagers who had been smoking pot. The fish hater wasn't fooled for a second but had the good grace not to mention the fishy odours.

                                                  8 Replies
                                                    1. re: Frizzle

                                                      I'd love to hear about the sardine recipes!

                                                      1. re: cosmogrrl

                                                        Before his visit the only sardines I had eaten were from a tin and were a cheap staple during my student years. I really was clueless about what to do with fresh ones and didn't know if you cooked them with the head on, or tried to fillet them.

                                                        The first recipe he taught me was simply gutting them (he said many people don't bother but some people find the guts bitter), giving them a toss in some flour and frying them. Dead easy. A squeeze of lemon to finish.

                                                        The second recipe which we used the larger of the sardines for involved gutting them, chopping off their heads and tails and then folding them flat and pulling out their spines. These were placed in a dish with thin slices of lemon at the base and then had fennel seeds and chilli flakes sprinkled on top. Salt, pepper and olive oil were added. They went into a fairly hot oven (190-200 celcius) for maybe 10 -15 mins. We didn't time it, we just kept checking them. A nice crusty white bread mopped up the pan juices after cooking. Despite my love of fried fish, this is my favourite of the two recipes. Not very attractive photo of it in the cooking dish below.

                                                        1. re: Frizzle

                                                          It looks lovely! Thanks for the recipe!

                                                          1. re: Frizzle

                                                            I am glad so many people do not like sardines as it means they are quite cheap. They are among my favorite fish.

                                                            I like to charcoal grill them. I gut and marinade them with garlic, oil, lemon or lime, chile flakes, and either cilantro or oregano.

                                                            The pan roasted sardines look pretty good to me.

                                                            1. re: ChrisOfStumptown

                                                              That sounds delicious. I think a trip to the fish market is on the cards this week to try it out. Thank you!

                                                              1. re: Frizzle

                                                                I first had "fresh" sardines at a Spanish restaurant, and they were a revelation. Do try them.

                                                            2. re: Frizzle

                                                              I imagine that gutting them and making them is kind of like making smelt.

                                                              Wll look for these in our fish market to give them a try.

                                                        2. This year I finally made paneer, yogurt and ricotta (not made from whey). It was not terribly difficult, but I had not taken the time to do so yet. Delicious results.

                                                          Tofu. I had made tofu before with inconsistent results, but thanks to Asian Tofu (by Andrea Nguyen) I can consistently make fresh, delicious tofu.

                                                          I also made gyoza skins from scratch. This was worth the effort and will continue to do this.

                                                          Also through COTM, I was able to determine my favorite versions of certain Japanese and Spanish classics. Additionally, cooking from 660 Curries (another COTM) made Indian cuisine a lot less intimidating than it was. I still have a lot to learn, but I am beyond the analysis paralysis stage.

                                                          Next year, I hope to make xiao long bao, fresh mozzarella and ricotta (made from whey), and shio-koji .

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: BigSal

                                                            Snap on the ricotta not from whey. It's delicious and the bonus was making it with lactose free milk so the lactose sensitive toddler could enjoy it too.

                                                            I've got the same tofu book as you but have not been adventurous enough to try making tofu myself. It's nice to hear someone has tried it with success. It's inspiration for 2013.

                                                          2. I did a roast goose for Christmas. I used the Julia method of presteaming it on the stovetop. It came out perfect.

                                                            I then took the leftover goose meat, shredded it and added salt, pepper, cognac, tarragon and goose fat to make a wonderful rillettes.

                                                            I then did one last pick of the carcass, made some stock, and added veggies to make a goose soup that I'm freezing.

                                                            Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Give a man a goose and he'll putter around the kitchen for a week.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: JonParker

                                                              LOL! I did just the same thing two Christmases ago -- our first goose (and maybe our last for a while, given the price). So satisfying.

                                                              I did a five-spice rub and roasted the goose on thick rounds of onion, potato, and apples (have no rack, and use veg to elevate roast chicken, so this was just an extension of that idea). Worked a charm, both for fat drainage and for flavor of the de-fatted pan drippings.

                                                            2. Special occasion: Hosted family Thanksgiving for the first time, with a moist and very tasty turkey.

                                                              Everyday: got a couple of "you need to make this agains" from very finicky stepkids.

                                                              1. Sadly, I feel stumped by this question this year. Normally I can come up with at least one or two things, but I think so much of my energy this year was focused on other things that I stuck to tried and true or a few newish favorite cookbooks (Mighty Spice, Radically Simple, the Melissa Clark books). With my daughter having just started first grade and having a ballet class after it one day a week, I also (and maybe this was, sadly, a high point) realized that it is possible to rush rush rush and still manage to put a nice meal on the table with very little time. Not much fun, but possible!

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                                  I'm always stunned by how actively you are able to participate in COTM. You manage to try a great many new dishes. In my book that is a pretty respectable achievement!

                                                                  I find trying something new takes much more energy, planning and focus than cooking a tried and true standard.

                                                                  1. re: meatn3

                                                                    You're very kind. I think this is where my OCD issues come in handy ; )
                                                                    But there is no question that in this past year I haven't been able to participate as much as I'd have liked. That said, I've done more fun stuff away from the kitchen, so there *is* a worthwhile tradeoff. For instance I just played a very rousing game of Kindness Kingdom with Lulu, and am about to go enjoy a beer and some football.

                                                                2. Sounds silly, but I've conquered getting a (healthy) dinner on the table 6 nights each week. I plan a rough menu and grocery list on Sundays. I've also outlined the stores I'm planning to get to and what I need from each store for specific meals.

                                                                  I've figured out what can be done while toddler is at my feet, and what needs to be done during naptime.

                                                                  Another high point- cooking for company. I can easily cook a full meal for ten, as long as I shop on day 1 and cook on days 2 and 3.

                                                                  I've been getting my husband to bring his lunch to work more often. Creative uses for leftovers has been sort of conquered.

                                                                  My baking has slackened off. Not so happy about that, because it was always a stress release for me. I never really ate what I baked, just brought it to work. Now that I'm home, no where to bring the cookies, cakes, candy, brownies.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: cheesecake17

                                                                    Doesn't sound silly at all Cheesecake...that's quite an accomplishment. Healthy isn't normally the easiest option so to have mastered healthy eating during the week is fantastic..congratulations!

                                                                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                        I agree--not silly at all. I'm still working on it! See my 2013 goals!


                                                                    1. - I made my very first pie crust from scratch. It did not end up in the garbage can.

                                                                      - I became better with visual presentation- now my food looks as delicious as it tastes.

                                                                      Goals for 2013: knife skills, yeast bread, pizza crust, and perfect fluffy biscuits

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: CupcakeCoquette

                                                                        Please do try the Cook's Country cat head biscuits--so easy and SO GOOD!

                                                                        1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                          I bookmarked that recipe, they sound wonderful & I look forward to making them. Thank you!

                                                                      2. I did a lot of dough making this year. Pasta, pizza dough, and breads, all by hand, I don't have room for any machines (although i have FP). Didn't like the way the FP made dough, so I stuck to my by hand methods.

                                                                        I especially love making my own raviolis, and pizza dough. My SO loves my pizza and my sauce (both deep dish and thin crust) so much we don't even order out for it anymore. But oh my goodness, homemade ravioli is so incredibly good.

                                                                        My breads are good, but since I can pick up a very good Acme baguette for $1.50 two blocks from my house, i haven't made many.

                                                                        My small victory is that I can now make eggs over easy, partially because I picked up a small, two egg sized de Buyer pan for $2 at a restaurant closing sale. OE eggs are hard! ;)

                                                                        1. I made prime rib for the first time and it was pretty good!
                                                                          I became far more comfortable with caramel and made some really nice treats with it.

                                                                          1. 2012 was a great culinary adventure for me. I vowed I was going to learn to cook well. It didn't have to be fancy but it had to be done well.

                                                                            I've learned how to cook chicken breasts so they aren't dry. I've made bread. I've made my first mornay sauce. I made gravy from nothing but pan juices. I hosted my second Thanksgiving with little to no help from others. I learned to bake fairly well and became obsessed with bundt cakes. I've learned/learning to braise (the Staub DO's I got for Christmas help with that!). I've learned a lot about my pressure cooker and how to use it in a myriad of ways (interrupted cooking in particular). I've learned how to prep food ahead of time so it can be used in multiple meals. I'm learning to use my leftovers with intention (since I hate saying "preplanned leftovers"). I've learned a lot about meal planning and sticking to the plan. I've also learned to cook and eat dinner at 10pm *cry* because my schedule insists upon it. I've learned to cook with alcohol, I'm a noob at this but have used sherry, marsala, red wines .. even a little bit of bourbon and whiskey have made appearances.

                                                                            Wow. It's been a busy year!

                                                                            1. I worked on my roast chicken over the course of 2012, usually making a roast chicken every 2 weeks. I've been experimenting with different temps, brining, spatchcocking, etc. The chicken has been getting better and better with practice.

                                                                              I also started brining pork chops this year, thanks to some helpful Chowhounds' suggestions on this Board, which has really improved the pork chops I've prepared in the oven.

                                                                              I made my first tourtiere this year.

                                                                              I made mejadra for the first time this year.

                                                                              I hosted my first Mardi Gras potluck party with some Chowfriends. Something I've wanted to do for ages.

                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                              1. re: prima

                                                                                Have you found your dream roast chicken or are you still working on it? :)

                                                                                1. re: eperdu

                                                                                  I'm still working on it, eperdu. ;-)

                                                                                  1. re: prima

                                                                                    Constant and never ending improvement sounds like a good plan to me. ;)

                                                                                2. re: prima

                                                                                  Mejedra.... My favorite! Have you mastered the fried onions?

                                                                                3. Seems like my pet project / high point this year was trying to perfect slow-roasted pork shoulder.

                                                                                  The first attempt was based on the NYT bo ssam recipe, and was loved by all, but I found the crust to be ridiculously salty.

                                                                                  Other attempts followed, but I never achieved that fork tender texture until xmas eve -- it truly was the most delicious thing I put on a plate in 2012.

                                                                                  I also tried making my first bbq sauce ever, successfully, but it could use some tweaking.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: linguafood

                                                                                    Glad the Christmas Eve pork turned out fork tender and delicious.
                                                                                    Your post reminds me, I also made my first porchetta-style pork roast this year.

                                                                                  2. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to think this over, meatn3. I hosted my first brunch - for numerous families - and it went well.

                                                                                    Added various recipes to repertoire, such as a new salmon dish, riffs on bruschetta, improving my pie crust recipe, several appetizers, and a few new types of holiday cookies (whoville cookies, chocolate sables, and florentines).

                                                                                    The biggest triumph is I managed to relax and cook more simply, for example prep-ahead salmon and salads for Christmas Day dinner, in part thanks to my stepmom's recipes and relaxed attitude. Instead of getting stressed from taking on too much cooking, she has helped me stop and smell the flowers. (Put everything together beforehand; so on the day of a party, I have less to do and can remember to put on music and give everyone a drink and make them feel comfortable. Ina Garten gives some good advice on this too.)

                                                                                    1. I learned to debone a whole chicken and use the technique often.

                                                                                      Besides that no elusive techniques I can think of. I just have continued to dive into each dish new or old with enthusiasm and being my own worst critic have been pretty happy with the results. Some winners and losers but just move forward.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: scubadoo97

                                                                                        THIS is on my list for this year too. I saw the Jacque Pepin video and sat there in awe as he did it. Great job!!

                                                                                      2. 1. Perfected deep-dish pizza, and by "perfected" I mean it's better than my favorite DDP restaurant.
                                                                                        2. Learned some basic canning and made my first jam.
                                                                                        3. Cooked my first whole pork butt - might sound silly but I felt quite adventurous with a piece of meat that big.

                                                                                        (That's what she said.) (Sorry for that, but it was too easy.)

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                          Laughing heartily--ALL of that's terrific, but your parentheticals made me chuckle! :)

                                                                                          1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                            HA! Thanks for the laugh! And pork butt (and shoulder) are on my list of things to make for 2013.

                                                                                          2. Two highlights come to mind: Atlantic salmon cooked sous vide until it was incredibly melt-in-the-mouth buttery soft, and a succession of hand made flavoured petits pains made with various fruit and vegetable juices.

                                                                                            1. Finally learned how to make homemade pasta and made my first vongole, bolognese lasagne and ravioli.

                                                                                              1. Made a cheesecake with a passion fruit gelee to mimic one I once had in New Zealand. It tasted very good, but it was the first time I did something with gelatin (other than jello).

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: whinendine

                                                                                                  Trying to add a photo for the first time...

                                                                                                2. Sharpening my own knives, finding a source for veal bones, making veal stock, putting out an decent spread for my first Easter and Christmas dinners, and creamed corn. Yes, creamed corn was the single most delicious bite I had all year.

                                                                                                  Things to do better for next year include roasting meat with less of a "bullseye", putting half a pound of vanilla beans to use, and taking advantage of the produce of the seasons more.

                                                                                                  1. A highpoint for me occurred in the nick of time, on December 30th. After finding out that my friend was considering buying a $90 coconut cake for her dad's 70th birthday, I volunteered to make one. Thought I don't consider myself a baker, I used a recipe I found here and made a delicious cake. The birthday boy proclaimed it *better* that his restaurant favorite (http://majesticcafe.com/MajesticCafeW...) and I was beseiged with requests for the recipe. Exhilarating and far more motivating than the ho hum response I get from my family at mealtime.

                                                                                                    As the new year dawns, I'm eager to take on a few more projects.

                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                      What a kind gesture and what a stunning cake tcamp! Congratulations. Looking forward to hearing about your new projects in 2013.

                                                                                                      1. re: tcamp

                                                                                                        Beautiful cake, beautiful post. Better than the restaurant favorite is the ultimate compliment!

                                                                                                        1. I've never really been a fan of couscous, and wasn't really sure why. Until I signed up for a hands on cooking class in Marrakesh. We made couscous the "real" way by rolling the semolina by hand and it was fabulous!! The end result was so much better than anything I'd ever had. It's nice to know that good couscous is out there, and with patience and the right tools, I can do it :)

                                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: alliegator

                                                                                                            With a platter worthy of your good couscous! Inspiring; when our lamb share arrives, maybe I'll get out Paula Wolfert and do the full steaming-rolling for once...

                                                                                                              1. re: alliegator

                                                                                                                Thank you both! Wish I could take credit for the platter, but this is the dish my friend and I made at the cooking class. We couldn't smuggle it out in a purse :p
                                                                                                                Ellabee, if you choose to do this dish with some of your lamb, I'd highly recommend ordering some smen for use in the recipe. I had no idea something so foul smelling could add such flavor, but it really gave it something special when it was all put together.

                                                                                                                1. re: alliegator

                                                                                                                  Well, now you really have me thinking. My first encounter with couscous with lamb is one of my greatest food memories, and though I've made something close many times, it's never quite had the depth of the original. I wonder if smen was the key; I've read the description and how to make it in Wolfert's _Couscous and Other Good Foods of Morocco_, but never really considered cooking with it.

                                                                                                                  1. re: ellabee

                                                                                                                    I think the smen is really important. Not only in couscous, but harira as well. I've never done much Moroccan cooking until after my September trip, but have been using it since in some recipes. The friend I was with and I have done some cooking classes together in SE Asia, and we joked about smen being the fish sauce of Morocco. You don't want to dip your finger in for a taste, but it makes everything much deeper.
                                                                                                                    Btw, I recently got Wolfert's The Food of Morocco and LOVE that book.

                                                                                                              2. I cooked my first live lobster and made my first Buche de Noel over the holidays - those had been on my list for a while, and both were smashing successes! I also learned a TON about Indian cuisine during October with 660 Curries, and I hope to do the same with Thai and Sichuan cuisine during 2013.

                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                                                  That Buche de Noel was your first? Impressive! You should re-share the pic here. :)

                                                                                                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                                                    Yes, my very first attempt! I also had to improvise for the decorations, as the whole cranberries and rosemary I had planned to use got used up on other things, and we were out of powdered sugar. Luckily Mom had whole nutmegs, pink peppercorns, juniper berries and a fresh Christmas tree in the house!

                                                                                                                2. "Discovered" celeriac, kale, Australian blue cheese, Lillet Blanc, couscous, wild boar, kaffir lime leaves, Himalayan pink salt and haskberries. While they MAY have all been available in stores and gardens prior to 2012, this is when I first attempted use of these ingredients...all keepers!

                                                                                                                  1. I learned to can and had great success, Made jalapeno jelly (awesome over a block of cream cheese and crackers), made strawberry jalapeno jam (hands down, the winner) and chocolate mint jelly. You don't add chocolate, . the mint plant is called chocolate mint and has a very delicate flavor and aroma of chocolate. I also bought a cuisinart electric pressure cooker that I am stating to love! I also bought a small green house last spring. Unfortunatley, I didn't get as much use out of it as I thought I would. The knee finally gave out and I had a replacemet in Nov. Can't wait for spring/summer this year!

                                                                                                                    1. I learned how to spatchcock and grill a chicken and to make tamales with homemade masa at Christmas. It was a good year.

                                                                                                                      1. you all seem like such pro's, but then this is the Home Cooking board.

                                                                                                                        For Christmas Dinner I did a 12 pound roast beef. After reading numerous threads, websites, etc. I dug out an old manilla envelope with some recipes mom treasured. One was for foolproof roast beef. 7 minutes a pound at high temp, then turn the oven off and cook for 20 minutes a pound. Kind of the opposite of the cool oven then hot finish everyone has been talking about. The alleged advantage of this one is that you basically can't overcook it. The amount of doneness is determined by the amount of time at high heat, after that it's stored heat, and by the time the roast is finished the oven just keeps it warm from that point on. It was so tender, so juicy, barely medium rare all the way through. I think a few would have been happier if I had given the roast 8 minutes instead of 7, but for me it was perfect.

                                                                                                                        At the other end of the year, back in January I made the best batch of chili I've ever made. The problem is I have no idea what I did differently. Oh well, some things are not meant to be repeated, just enjoyed.

                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                                          "some things are not meant to be repeated, just enjoyed."

                                                                                                                          If I still bothered with e-mail, I'd make that my sig file.