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Home Cooking Goals for the New Year

Here are some of my goals for the New Year:

speed up my prepping/chopping

improve my frying skills

improve my pizza

improve my brioche/Challah/Easter bread breadmaking skills

continue working on my roast chicken

make a Malakov Torte

make a Russian Charlotte

make a lasagna with a Bechamel

bake a decent King Cake. My attempt at King Cake last Mardi Gras was my biggest baking fail last year.

make more cookies and crackers from scratch in the New Year, to cut down on the amount of processed cookies and crackers in the house.

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  1. My main goal is to reduce/do away with as much processed foods as I can. Guess I'll be making lots of my own chicken broth. And, like you, crackers from scratch. Gotta give up my cola habit! Already learned a lot this morning just from making black-eyed peas and cornbread. There will be a huge learning curve...

    2 Replies
    1. re: mommystar

      If you have a slow cooker/ crockpot you'll do great making stock- it's why I have a slow cooker, I just couldn't do without homemade stock. It has so many health benefits.

      Don't doubt yourself, you'll do great!

      1. re: weezieduzzit

        "If you have a slow cooker/ crockpot you'll do great making stock"

        Or you can go the other route and start making it in a pressure cooker. Better stocks in half the time! Stockmaking in a pressure cooker is something I picked up last year and will never stop doing, it seems to do a much better job at flavor extraction.

        Im not sure its ideal for southeast asian cooking where you need want weakish broths a good portion of the time, but if you want big bold stocks, load up the pressure cooker and get ready for some REALLY rich and layered stocks.

      1. re: foodieX2

        Sorry that I started another thread when you already had started a similar one, foodieX2. I scanned the Board for similar themed posts from today and yesterday, but didn't see your post from the 28th. Thanks for adding your link. ;-)

        1. re: prima

          No problem! Just thought I shared in case some of the other didn't post.

      2. I too would like to rely less on processed foods. For example, I use way too much jarred pasta sauce when there's no real reason to (other than laziness), it's so easy to make in bulk and freeze.

        I would also like to learn sausage making. I have the grinder and just need the filler attachment.

        Lastly, I would like to be better about making vegetables. Right now I keep it simple, either use those frozen steamer bags, or just roast them. It gets a bit boring.

        4 Replies
        1. re: juliejulez

          I came up with another one. I'd like to utilize my cookbooks more. So my goal is to make at least one recipe from a cookbook I have every week. I usually just use recipes I find online and meal plan while I'm at work so this will require a bit more effort on my part. But, it's a shame I have some really nice books that just sit there.

          1. re: juliejulez

            Eat Your Books would let you still do meal planning from work or away from home, since it makes your own cookbooks available to you via the net.

            It's transformed my use of existing cookbooks (as well as inspiring the purchase of a few new ones).

            1. re: ellabee

              Yeah I've been thinking about that. I'll have to look more into it because I'm not sure how it works.

              1. re: ellabee

                Actually I just joined, I didn't realize how cheap and easy it was :)

          2. Hey, making a béchamel lasagna is easy peasy (if a bit of a PITA, what with all the pots it uses). Try this recipe my man made yesterday:


            It was absolutely delicious.

            Having perfected the consistency of my pork shoulder, I will now experiment with bbq sauces, or different rubs/flavors.

            Maybe this year I will do what I had resolved for last -- to try at least one new recipe a week. Did not work out too well in 2012, I like our reg'lars.... but really should probably expand my repertory.

            I'd also like to try my hand at loempia/spring rolls/homemade wontons.

            My man will (hopefully) continue his quest for perfect Neapolitan-style pizza, his tarte flambée is pretty awesome already.

            5 Replies
            1. re: linguafood

              Tarte flambee is on my to-do list for 2013! Could your man share some tips?

              1. re: nofunlatte

                Yo. This is what he found on the interwebs (sorry, the measurements are metric). We've upped the creme fraiche from the original 200 to 300g which I believe I changed in the ingredients list. You really want it to be creamy and not too dry. We also added shredded Swiss cheese on top, because.... well, because melted cheese makes everything better :-)

                Ingredients (yields 2 Flammkuchen):
                *250 g bread flour (type 550) plus more for handling
                *50 g rye flour (type 1150)
                *1/2 tsp fine sea salt
                *175 ml lukewarm water
                *~15g fresh yeast
                *1 tbsp olive oil
                *300 g Crème fraîche or Schmand
                *50 g heavy cream
                *fine sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and
                nutmeg to taste
                *50-75 g Pancetta (or other bacon)
                *3 red onions, finely sliced

                1 Start with the dough: Add both flours and salt to
                a large bowl, mix briefly and make a well in the
                center. Dissolve the fresh yeast in lukewarm
                water, pour into the well and add the olive oil.

                2 Knead well, either by hand or with a machine. I
                only use my Kitchen Aid for this job and it takes
                roughly 3 to 5 minutes (medium speed). The dough
                should come together nicely and clean the sides of
                the bowl all by itself. If it is too sticky, you can
                add more bread flour by the tablespoon. Shape into
                a ball, cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for
                about 45 minutes at a warm and sheltered place.
                After the dough has risen, punch it down, divide it
                into 2 equally sized portions, shape them into
                neat balls and let them rise again under a kitchen
                towel for 20 to 30 minutes.

                3 Preheat the oven to 250°C (~480°F) or as hot as
                your oven permits and place a baking tray on the
                bottom level, so it gets preheated, too.

                4 Prepare the topping by mixing the Crème fraîche
                and heavy cream with spices (salt, pepper and
                nutmeg) to taste, cutting the red onions into thin
                semi- rings and finely chopping the chives.
                5 Line an extra baking tray with parchment paper.
                Flatten one dough ball with your hands and either
                roll it out thinly (similar to pizza dough) with a
                rolling pin or by stretching and pulling the dough
                with the back of your hands (be careful, since this
                dough contains rye flour, it is not as easy to
                handle as regular pizza dough!). Apply a nice deal
                of the Crème fraîche mix on top and decorate with
                some Pancetta and a generous amount of sliced
                onions on top. Transfer to or slide onto the
                preheated tray and bake for about 12 to 15 minutes
                or until it has gained a nice golden- brown color.
                I usually discard the parchment paper after 5
                minutes of baking (just pull it out very fast), to
                ensure the bottom develops a nice crust.

                6 Take out and sprinkle with fresh chives and
                enjoy hot, lukewarm or even cold, the next day.

                1. re: linguafood

                  Thank you so much! And I appreciate that the measurements are metric! I actually know the metric system :)

                  1. re: linguafood

                    Yum! I think we would like that!

                2. re: linguafood

                  Thanks linguafood. Glad that mushroom lasagna turned out well. Thanks for including the link in this thread.

                  I'd also like to work on my wontons, as well as my dumplings and perogies.

                  I tend to cook new recipes several times a week, which has been eating into my time for the gym and other often neglected chores, so I'm trying to work on streamlining my weeknight recipes, rather than experimenting with new ones so frequently. I've also been doing more improv cooking, which saves time since I measure more freely, and which saves paper, since I'm not printing out as many recipes.

                  I don't like cooking in batches, and don't have much fridge/freezer space, so cooking a whack of food on Sundays to last the whole week won't work for me.

                  While I'm drawn to relatively complex recipes, I'm realizing I don't get other things done if I'm spending 60-90 minutes preparing dinner each night.

                3. I'd like to continue my goal of being organized in my pantry/fridge/freezer & reduce my food waste....

                  Keep the trend of not going out & cooking at home instead....

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: jenscats5

                      Me, too. I've been good about cooking lots on weekends and portioning/freezing meals, but I still toss too many items I freeze. And I still eat out for lunch too often. I've been afraid to get a freeze-vac thingie based on CH input, but I need a better way to prevent freezer burn!

                    2. Thanks for posting this thread prima…what a great idea. I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions but I do like to set goals. I think there’s something to be said about “putting commitments out there” for others to see. For me, this really helps in turning intentions into reality.


                      • Make better use of my cookbook collection

                      • Make a concerted effort to weed out the cookbooks that don’t inspire me and donate them to others

                      • Be more selective about purchasing/adding new books to my collection


                      • Introduce more vegetables into our meals

                      • Consistently create weekly menus and do more weekend prep to mitigate against opting for take-out on those nights we don’t have a plan

                      • Get back to baking. I think of cooking as a necessity and baking as a luxury but I do enjoy baking and hope to make more time for it in the year ahead.


                      • Continue my kitchen clean out. Donate items I don’t need. Move items that get minimal use to the basement and create clutter-free drawers and cabinets

                      • Use my speed oven (as something other than a broiler and microwave!)


                      • Invest in formal culinary education for my future career (retirement goal) in the food industry. Though retirement is years away, there’s no time like the present to get started I figure!

                      • Start a blog to document my progress and kitchen adventures (as a permanent record for myself)

                      26 Replies
                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                        I forgot one! I MUST do a better job of using items I've placed in my freezer. I think I'll start out by taking a full inventory...

                        I sure wish I could outsource that job!! ; - )

                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                          Not sure if this would work for you but we keep a white board on the inside if our basement door. As we put things in the downstairs freezer we write on the board with a date. That way I can easily see what we have.

                          If you don't mind the look put one on your fridge door or if you do you could put one the inside of cabinet door.

                          1. re: foodieX2

                            Thanks for the suggestion foodieX2. Unfortunately I'd need a whiteboard as big as a wall at this point!! We purchased an upright freezer last year and the idea was to transfer items from the depths of the chest freezer then donate the chest freezer. Well, as it turns out, we now have 2 freezers chock full of who knows what!! mr bc has set out 2 large folding tables for me and I'm going to head down there (basement) w my laptop with a plan not to emerge until I've inventoried, organized or discarded depending on what I find. The good news is that I've been keeping the upright freezer quite organized but, it still needs to be inventoried.

                            I did remember that I had some porcini mushrooms from Italy in that chest freezer. A very expensive item too good to let linger so I managed to unearth them this morning and they'll be the star of our pasta dinner this evening.

                            Once I have my inventory complete, I will definitely print it and put it inside a cabinet door as you suggest. I do this w my inventory of pantry items stored in the basement and it works well. Especially when I'm meal planning and creating grocery lists. Thanks for your suggestions.

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                Thanks TDQ, that looks like a great tool. My issue (in not using items in the freezer) stems from not remembering what I have on hand when I'm meal planning so I need something upstairs vs down in the freezer areas. I think if I create lists on my laptop and print them we can make manual changes and I'll update my electronic version when the printed one gets messy. I've been doing this w pantry items and it seems to work well. I used to have a large pantry drawer filled with spices and ethnic ingredients. It was a big, messy hodge podge of items I'd toss in and soon forget about. It was also so messy that it made finding things ridiculously difficult. I ended up doing a mass clean out last fall. Took inventory of all "keepable" items and stored them in plastic bin-type drawers I purchased at a home organization shop. These drawers are stacked and stored on commercial steel shelves in the basement. Now I just check the list on my cabinet door upstairs when I'm meal planning. I've organized the list by country or region and if need be, I can just bring up my related drawer of ingredients when I want to do some focussed cooking. I also keep a basket in the basement that I can use to transport ad hoc items from these drawers (or the fridge that contains the condiments/sauces I use less frequently). The basket is my visual trigger that I need to return items back to the basement afterwards. It's amazing how much easier this makes my life even if it may sound like a complicated system...it really works for us.

                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                  Hmmm...interestingMy basement is my back-up pantry, too. Perhaps I should consider your drawer-by-cuisine storage method. At first it sounded like a nuisance to keep everything in drawers, but if you can bring the drawer up with you, that's pretty sweet!


                          2. re: Breadcrumbs

                            Making (and updating) a freezer inventory was a huge step forward for me a couple of years ago. Tip: enlist a friend or household member to help -- it goes SO much faster if one person is shifting stuff around and calling out items while the other one writes it down. You can switch tasks after a while if most of the items are labeled.

                            That was the experience that got me to label and date relentlessly, not only in the freezer but in the fridge (where I also record stuff on a white board on the side for meal planning, and shopping).

                            Using the freezer inventory in each week's meal planning really keeps a rotation going, so that fewer items get overlooked. I won't pretend that first inventory was fun, but it was essential to making the freezer part of the pantry.

                            1. re: ellabee

                              How do you track what's in your freezer inventory? Do you have a white board there, too?


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                Sorry for not replying earlier, TDQ, missed the updates.

                                My freezer's pretty small, just the bottom section of a regular fridge (that itself is probably on the small side as today's appliances go). But I think the inventory system might be workable for those of you lucky enough to have bigger freezers or even {sigh of longing} a standalone one.

                                Like with like is a good principle not only for storing things inside the freezer, but also for recording in the inventory. Once I got the original inventory scribbled down, I entered it in the computer in categories: meat, prepared foods (e.g., lasagna, bread, soup), nuts, grains, vegetables, ingredients (chicken stock, tablespoon-sized dabs of tomato paste, lemon juice frozen into ice cubes, etc.), and commercial items (e.g., puff pastry). Spices are in the freezer (in a shallow plastic box that holds tons of the little bags), but they have a separate inventory.

                                I printed out the freezer list and keep it in a binder that's at my kitchen 'desk' -- a chair by the worktable with the binder and a little jar containing a sharpie and a pen; the jar sits in the hole of a roll of masking tape. When I take something out of the freezer (usually to put in in the fridge to thaw), I cross it off the inventory. When I'm labeling something that I'm putting in the freezer, that and the presence of the binder remind me to also write it onto the inventory -- *with* the date, for both label and inventory entries. If I take something out of the freezer while cooking, I don't usually take time to record it then, but I do so when I enter the meal in the cooking log / meal planning notes that's part of the binder.

                                When most of the printed items get crossed off the freezer inventory, or there's not much room to add new items readably, I update the computer version and print out a fresh copy for the binder. I usually re-do it when we get our half lamb, because of the number of new items that adds.

                                That spot with the jar and binder is where I sit to do meal planning and make shopping lists, and take notes on what I've cooked. It's close to the whiteboard on the side of the fridge that tracks fridge contents and things we need, and it's right beside the pantry cabinets.

                                Crucial to making this work is NEVER moving the pen, sharpie, or masking tape from their spots. There are only two of us here to train, but even so it took a while... However and wherever you do it, it's vital to make it easy to record the info right when it's happening.

                              2. re: ellabee

                                Ellabee--you just inspired me to head to the freezer, grab 3 packages I threw in yesterday, and label/date them. One was for some extra (maybe 1/2 c) fresh-squeezed lime juice...don't know how I expected myself to recall what it was weeks from now when I find it again! Appreciate the inspiration.

                                1. re: pine time

                                  Boy, I wished a whiteboard would work for me. I think I would need one as large as the freezer itself. And I am not a hoarder or anything.

                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      Did you read reviews, TDQ? Not very good... Great concept, though.

                                      I did my freezer inventory not too long ago and love to keep it up-to-date. Right now it is in a notebook.

                                      1. re: herby

                                        I didn't read the reviews, no. We have the blackboard version and love it. Maybe a blackboard version with a white dry erase pen then? http://www.amazon.com/Wallies-Peel-St...


                                  1. re: pine time

                                    Happy to help, pine time! The more others relentlessly label (and *date*), the less I feel like an obsessive-compulsive... <g>

                                    The s.o. was amused and needled me plenty back when the masking tape started appearing on everything in the fridge, but lately I've noticed he's actually marked leftovers he's put away.

                                  2. re: ellabee

                                    Thanks for your tips ellabee. While I do try to label most items, mr bc inevitably forgets so we'll definitely be having some "mystery item" meals in the not so distant future!!

                                    Your suggestion has inspired me to invest in a label maker that I saw at Costco the last time I was there (hopefully they still have it) I think that would be quite useful for the non-ziplock storage containers that aren't as easy to label.

                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                      For non-zip loc backs, I use masking tape. It's easy to stick on and peel off. It's easier to write on the tape pre-rip.

                                      1. re: beetlebug

                                        That's a great idea beetlebug, thanks!

                                  3. re: Breadcrumbs

                                    I've always been diligent about marking/dating anything that went into the freezer, but it didn't do much good when the freezer was so stuffed that something fell out almost every time I opened it; that discouraged much arctic exploration!

                                    Then a year or so ago, I did my first freezer inventory--and what a difference it has made, not only for using what's already there, but also for making shopping lists and planning meals and not re-buying ingredients.

                                    Any method will work. I just keep a file in my computer and simply record what I add and cross off what I use. It was a relatively small investment of time (though not fun, as others have noted), but it has paid off.

                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                      I agree! My goal for 2012 was to start and keep a freezer inventory. It has made a huge difference to me. I now know what is old, what is new and what I need to buy. Its the one goal from last year that I am happy about my follow-through!

                                      I have recently started a stockpile that needs FIFO. You can't just throw stuff in the freezer in a sandwich bag and expect good food. (ummm...my Mom does this.)

                                      I think the right packaging, dating each and every package, and knowing what you have is a frugal way to live.

                                      1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                        The problem is that my husband and I share cooking and freezer stocking responsibilities. I don't think the computer file would work for us...


                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          What about setting up a shared google doc? That way you both could access it from your computers/devices.

                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            I carry my laptop into the kitchen to create the inventory.
                                            I find a few categories help. Some I use are:
                                            Prepared (chili, casseroles, etc. I've made and frozen)
                                            Misc. (pesto, juice cubes, etc.)

                                            Once done I print it and post the printout on the fridge. As something is used I cross it off. Something goes in I try to jot it down. When the list becomes a mess I update the original and print it out again!

                                            1. re: meatn3

                                              This sounds like a system that would work for me. Somehow having something typed & printed, even with scribbles, keeps it from turning into a total mess. Dumb question, but how do you make sure there's a pen nearby?


                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                I found some miniature pens in bright colors. They are light weight so I can clip them to the papers and it doesn't topple over. Bright color makes them easy to find when they wander off. I've also used magnetic clips to hold a pen on the fridge in the past. If you wanted, office supply stores sell the pens on a chain like banks have. They have a sticky base which can be attached anywhere.

                                                Having the list printed rather than hand written makes me take it more seriously for some reason! Plus it is so much easier to read.

                                                I also keep masking tape and a sharpie with my food wraps and containers for leftovers.

                                                I finally got tired of looking for things which make life easier. Now every room in the house has scissors, a small flashlight, most rooms have a pair of reading glasses, etc. I suspect I have added several years of leisure time to my life by eliminating the need to search for that type of stuff!

                                    2. My #1 goal is to speed of prep and chopping. I want to take a knife skills class soon. My cooking is slowed down by not being able to prep fast enough. I'm better than I used to be but at the rate I'm going it'll be several years before I am really good and that's not acceptable!

                                      I also want to continue my momentum of making menu plans, shopping, and preparing food for us. We have stopped eating out as much and eat at home more which is excellent. We do still eat a bit of prepared food and junk food but that's not as big a goal for me right now.

                                      I want to learn to make eggs benedict for my SO. He loves them and I'd like to get all the components nailed down so we can enjoy them at home. It's a recipe that has several techniques I don't know so it should be fun.

                                      I also want to improve my basic pan cooking skills. I've now acquired some nice pans and am looking forward to getting better and better at making a moist chicken breast.

                                      Bread! I just started to make bread and I love it. I want to do more--even though we probably shouldn't be eating it. ;)

                                      Braising. I was gifted an amazing collection of Staub for Christmas and I have 4 DO's to play with. I've got a lot of learning to do with Braising and using them well. I'm excited.

                                      I want to try a few modernist techniques and maybe even hack together a homemade sous vide ... :o

                                      Phew .. it all boils down to this: I don't want to stop learning!

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: eperdu

                                        "My #1 goal is to speed of prep and chopping. I want to take a knife skills class soon"

                                        I think you would be much better served watching a few basic knife skills videos on youtube and then taking the money you would have spent on a knife skills class and just buy a bunch of carrots and potatoes to practice your knife skills on.

                                        Going to a knife skills class wont do anything for your skills a few good youtube videos cant do, the only way to learn good knife skills is through a tremendous amount of repetition.

                                        1. re: twyst

                                          Thanks. I am the type of person that does well in classes simply because it's the discipline of going to the class instead of "oh I'm going to sit down with a bag of onions and youtube today." :)

                                          But I agree, repetition is the key to success and whether I take a class or on my own I need to chop a lot of onions. ;)

                                          1. re: eperdu

                                            regarding the Onion chopping - I bought myself Onion-goggles a few weeks and I was happy/ they really work! No tears.
                                            I liked them so much I bought a couple more as Christmas presents.
                                            Gee, I sound like a commercial....:-)

                                            1. re: RUK

                                              I'm glad they work for you! I've never cried when cutting onions. I guess I have "special" eyes. :)

                                              1. re: eperdu

                                                Do you wear contacts? They are just as good as onion goggles. Sometimes the crying is so bad Inhave to go put contacts ON just to chop the onions.

                                                1. re: melpy

                                                  I wear contacts and it does nothing for me to prevent crying when chopping onions.

                                        2. I would like to

                                          - cook more at home/eat out less
                                          - try new vegetable/vegetarian options in my cooking,
                                          - trend to more pescatarian home menus
                                          - less processed foods
                                          - make a babka

                                          1. My 2 goals are to cut down on food waste and keep kitchen clean and organized.

                                            I tend to overbuy fresh produce and they spoil before I get a chance to cook them. My family is very picky and reluctant to try even new variations of familiar foods, so to avoid waste,I am better off sticking to the tried and true.

                                            We prefer to eat most of our meals at home, so the resulting chaos can be stressful.

                                            1. I'm with many of you as far as eating at home more and making more homemade snacks. The one goal I had last year that I never got around to was A) making homemade pizza and B) grilling it on our gas grill. I know it seems like an extremely simple thing to do, but for some reason I'm afraid to try.

                                              But after having my favorite "California Club" pizza at CPK yesterday, I'm determined to try making my own this year.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Thanks4Food

                                                Thanks4Food, it is *exceptionally easy* . Mr. Vuitton (my husband) makes his own dough and pizza all the time, We have stopped purchasing commercial pizza for the most part. He rolls the dough out onto the pizza stone, tops it and then grills it on the BBQ - nice thin, crispy crust

                                                1. re: Thanks4Food

                                                  Try the pizza! It's amazing. Our gas grill gets considerably hotter than our kitchen oven, so in a few minutes, we can have a nicely charred pizza with oozing cheese.

                                                2. I want to dedicate one day a week at home to creating new dishes/plates.

                                                  I put ibooks on my iphone and put "the flavor bible" on it, so today Im going to go to the market, find a fantastic seasonal ingredient, and Im going to build a dish around it and document it in my notes.

                                                  Going to try to do this every wednesday!

                                                  1. My goals are:

                                                    do a better job estimating portions so I don't have so many leftovers.

                                                    buy only what fresh produce we can use up before it spoils

                                                    can my own pasta sauce from tomatoes I grow myself

                                                    1. I want to break away from the top ten (or twenty) favorite dishes that we make over and over. My husband is a hard sell on anything new and "loves" my cooking as it is. Also most of the top faves are from the days of old- when teenage boys roamed the house so all of these feed 3-4 hungry people easily. We also have gained another 5 pounds each. Gets worse every year.

                                                      7 Replies
                                                      1. re: Berheenia

                                                        Funnily enough, my goal is almost the exact opposite. For the past several years, my (broken, for various different reasons each year) home cooking resolution was to develop a solid repertoire of healthful, simple/fast "go to" weeknight dishes. Unfortunately, other than very basic roasted chicken or broiled meats, I seldom make a dish more than once. As a result, I don't have a lot of "go to" favorite dishes to draw from when life gets hectic.

                                                        This year, no excuses: I need to make it happen. I've already got a binder of recipes started that I think should be my "go to" recipes. I plan to refine this collection of recipes and get my menu planning down to a science this year, adding and culling recipes from my binder until I get a system and a routine down.

                                                        I also have a weight loss goal this year, and that's intertwined with the above goal.

                                                        I want to continue to introduce my toddler to new foods, as well as doing more "cooking" with him.

                                                        I need to develop some more discipline re: cookbooks. I think I'm going to try a lot harder to try to get books out of my library and try online recipes before actually acquiring a cookbook. In the past, participating in COTM has been the primary driver of my adding to my cookbook collection. Though I have loved my time in participating in COTM and have learned so much and developed so many friendships, I think I'm going to deliberately reduce my participation in those threads for the first few months of 2012. Instead, I'm planning to focus on cooking from the books I already have. (HA! Famous last words, right?)

                                                        Honestly, I haven't been that active in COTM for a couple of years anyway and I'm starting to feel kind of bad about it. It kind of reminds me of what one writer said: the sure fire way to overcome writers block is to forbid yourself to write. Maybe my cure for my COTM-slacking will be to forbid myself from participating in COTM.

                                                        Finally, I think I'm going to institute a new rule. For every cookbook I acquire (from which I will hopefully have already cooked a few recipes I found online), I have to choose another seldom-used book in my collection and cook 3 recipes from it. Based on that, I can decide whether that book should stay or go. I probably won't get rid of that many books, but at least I will feel confident that I am aquiring them thoughtfully and using the books I already own.


                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                          Your first goal is fairly similar to mine - I want to build a better "cooking arsenal" - I want to have a better collection of foods that can be eaten alone or as the basis for something else. Currently on my list are roast chicken (just have never done it) and a layer cake (I make awesome cookies but cakes/cupcakes have not been my strong suit). What recipies/categories of recipies are on your list?

                                                          1. re: DCLindsey

                                                            Here's an awesome, basic roast chicken recipe. I don't bother trussing the bird or with the butter, mustard or thyme or even the pepper. Just the bird and lots of salt: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                                            As far as my "categories" I don't know if this will make any sense, but my binder is currently broken into the following sections:





                                                            Starches & legumes


                                                            Does that help at all?


                                                            1. re: DCLindsey

                                                              Roasting chicken on a regular basis turned my cooking around in so many ways: making good stock often, meal planning (because of the multi-day use for our household of two), finding locally raised, pastured chickens...

                                                              It gets easy after only a couple of times; the work is all in the prep of the chicken. Here's to delicious meals in 2013!

                                                            2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                              TDQ I have recently discovered Fuchsia Dunlop and have spent a lot of time on those COTM threads. I had been wondering why you don't post very often now as you were very active - question answered.
                                                              I love your goals too. I do three (at least) new recipes a week and it does become a blur after a while so I really do understand what you are saying. Snap on the toddler too. I think they love repetition so I think that will help me find a few more 'favourites' that we prepare together often.

                                                              1. re: Frizzle

                                                                Three recipes is fantastic. Do you keep a journal of some kind?

                                                                Dunlop was my first, and perhaps favorite (though I have many "favorites") COTM. Such a wonderful pair of books! I would have never had the courage to dip into those books without COTM! In recent years, life has just gotten in the way of COTM for me. Not to worry--I'm sure life will settle down eventually and I can jump back in then!


                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                  I use an iPhone app called mealboard. It's much like pepperplate. You input recipes mainly with a computer and add them to your meal plan. You can then generate a shopping list.
                                                                  The inputting is tedious however with popular books like Dunlop's you can generally find a version of the recipe on a blog you can copy and paste.
                                                                  They have a star rating system and I'm hoping in the future I'll be able to filter recipes by that. I've currently got more than 250 recipes sitting in mine so a filtering mechanism to select winners would be good.

                                                                  I'm doing my first COTM as I had the book already and I didn't need to purchase specialty foods for it. It's great fun already but I can see how much time it takes. It's not something I could manage every month!

                                                          2. Like so many others, I want to reduce our food waste. I have the best of intentions in the market, but lose focus later in the week, only to find wilted ingredients later.

                                                            And: try new-to-us fruits and veggies. Introducing Mr. Pine to new stuff is a struggle, but its time to try again.

                                                            1. Finally cook something in my mini cocottes, I have plenty of ideas but just never get around to making them

                                                              Cook more at home. Between my husbands hospitalizations and me recovering from a bad fall I have not been able to cook as much as I wanted to last year. My goal is to change that this year.

                                                              Expand my side dish repertoire, I'm good at main courses but limited on side dishes. I rely too much on potato and carrot dishes. I also prepare a lot of one pot meals and would like to cut back some on those.

                                                              Master the perfect sandwich loaf. One with enough structure to stand up and hold a good sandwich filling while having great flavor and texture.

                                                              Dig deeper into my international cookbooks and expand past our core favorite dishes.

                                                              1. My goal is to pick something from this awesome thread each week and make it happen!

                                                                I want to get better at baking breads. I also want to cook with more whole grains. My wife has an unfortunate sensitivity to most whole grain foods but I don't. I just get lazy and make white starches for both of us. I had a cold farro dish with nuts and lemon and parsley at a great Italian place here in NYC and immediately wanted to have it around at home. No reason I can't make it and eat it throughout the week.

                                                                I'd also like to make more pizza from scratch.

                                                                Happy New Year everyone!


                                                                1. My goal is to teach my husband to cook - and to let go enough to let him do it on his own! I also want to get better organized so that we only go to the grocery store once a week - but don't end up throwing things out at the end of the week.

                                                                  1. My goals:

                                                                    1. To report back on COTM threads in a significantly more timely manner. Even now, I can think of about half a dozen that I need to post. And, to start taking pictures again and to get better at plating the food. Right now, everything looks like I dumped it on a plate.

                                                                    2. To re-do my kitchen. I have a small space ( to go with my small apt) but the last time the kitchen was re-done was 1991. That was 5 years before I moved in. The fridge is making funny noises, the dishwasher door hinge is rusting, the main burner that I use only has a flame 3/4 around the circle and the ceiling is falling down. It's time but I'm a bit paralyzed by it all.

                                                                    3. To get rid of kitchen stuff that I don't use. It will have to happen if I get started on goal #2.

                                                                    4. To take action on the above v. just thinking about it. I have to just stop thinking so many thoughts on the above and just do it.

                                                                    1. So many of us have mentioned cookbooks that go unused. I wonder between us how many cookbooks we have that rarely get opened. I try to buy only what I'm certain I'll use yet I have at least 20 that I haven't opened in a year and there are only about 6 that I use regularly. If Hounds, who are almost certainly more interested in food than many others, don't use most of their cookbooks, then there must be millions of great cookbooks sitting around. Maybe we need to start a book swap? That could be fun.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: JeremyEG

                                                                        What a great observation Jeremy. You are so right. If those of us who love cookbooks have neglected tomes, how many more are out there?!!

                                                                        FYI, someone here recently suggested we re-visit the idea of a swap (evidently CH objected to hosting years ago). Here's a link to that thread:


                                                                        btw, here's our mackerel-eating cat-hound. Look familiar?

                                                                      2. To learn some good fish dishes.

                                                                        I've marked some recipes in my cookbooks to try next year.

                                                                        Get my kitchen fully up to snuff. It's functional, but not totally organized the way I would Ike.

                                                                        1. This time last year I resolved to get back to bread-making... only to find that my wife's New Year's resolution was to go low-carb, gluten-free. So much for that one!

                                                                          For this year, here are a few of my goals that I picked up from this thread:
                                                                          * Thin out my rarely-used kitchen equipment and collection of cookbooks (some of which I haven't used or cooked from in over 2 decades).
                                                                          * Scale down recipes to reduce leftovers (that otherwise often go into freezer for months and then get discarded).

                                                                          Some other goals for this year:
                                                                          * Recreate 10 "comfort foods" from my youth (hopefully "perfecting" them beyond what I experienced all those years ago!).
                                                                          * Cook at least one dish from each of the following 14 regions (list taken from Cook's Illustrated, though recipes won't necessarily be taken from there): Mexico, Latin America & Carribean, Britain & Ireland, Central Europe & Scandinavia, France, Spain & Portugal, Italy, Greece & Turkey, Russia & Eastern Europe, Africa & Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, China, Japan & Korea.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: drongo

                                                                            I want to wish you luck in recreating and perfecting comfort foods you remember. It would be great fun if you started a thread along those lines. Please do embark on this, and share your experience.

                                                                          2. I'm looking forward to following along with the COTM this year.

                                                                            I want to start doing more baking. I made parker house rolls for Thanksgiving and they actually turned out! It inspired me to bake. I've never been a confident baker AND I prefer savory eating. I'm baking a ginger persimmons quick bread tomorrow. I've never cooked with persimmons before.

                                                                            I'd like to prepare a meal out of a cookbook I already own once per week. This is in addition to COTM.

                                                                            1. I'm planning on returning to my home country this year after a few years traveling. Top of my list is capturing some of my favourite recipes from my father and my father-in-law. I'm fortunate enough to be surrounded by outstanding cooks on both sides of the family and I want to be able to pass those recipes on to our daughter. The mother-in-law has conveniently already written hers down in a word doc so I've got a head start on the project.

                                                                              As far as cooking goes, I'm not really sure. I love delving into new cuisines I'm thinking late 2013 after we've shifted and settled in it might be food from the Philippines.

                                                                              Using up pantry items is another goal as we are facing giving up a pantry full of staples for the fourth time in four years when we move. This time I would like to be more efficient and not gift as much as miserly as that sounds.

                                                                              1. My goal is make hummus without store bought tahini using toasted sesame seeds and olive oil in place of the goo. There is a recipe on page 45 of Peter Reinhart's book entitled 'Sacramental Magic in a Small-Town Cafe published in paperback 1994.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: ChiliDude

                                                                                  I've made hummus that way. The olive oil I use is 'light' to keep away from the olive oil taste. Try adding roasted red peppers and roasted garlics and fine chopped cilantro.

                                                                                2. My #1 goal is to make some flatbreads and crackers.

                                                                                  - Can pints of tomatoes to cut down on the bought cans.
                                                                                  (On my list for the last few years, but I'm newly motivated after learning that General Foods owns Muir Glen.)

                                                                                  - Cook more Indian food.
                                                                                  (A tiny start this year; think the key might be to have an 'Indian night' twice a month.)

                                                                                  - Regularly bake something healthier and cheaper to go with the S.O.'s morning coffee than Sara Lee pound cake. (A particular challenge because I'm not much of a baker.)

                                                                                  A note of encouragement to those of you intending to thin out and re-organize your cooking equipment: Nothing made a bigger difference to my cooking than getting unused and duplicate items out of the kitchen. It creates so much more space to store the actually used pieces right where you need them.

                                                                                  Stow the surplus-to-requirements items in boxes for six months or so, in case your revved-up cooking does call for some of them. By fall, you'll be in a strong position to donate or sell the excess, just when other cooks are most likely to want it.

                                                                                  1. I want to improve my bread making skills including pizza dough.

                                                                                    I want to figure out what kind of meal planning system will work for me.

                                                                                    Pressure cook something. (i already pressure can)

                                                                                    22 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: pksmart

                                                                                      I always am relieved when I see that someone else needs to work on their meal planning system. For some reason, I just can't perfect it.

                                                                                      Have you tried pepperplate for meal planning?


                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        I have not used pepperplate.

                                                                                        I have used Mastercook for years. Its great for keeping my recipes and making shopping lists. I also stockpile basic food stuff and do mainly scratch cooking with a combo freezer/canning cooking. This is my own 'fast food' (if that make sense).

                                                                                        Mastercook does have a pantry inventory list, but I find that I needed more of a worksheet where I can add quantities and dates (FIFO). So now I just use excel for my Pantry/freezer inventory. Doing this list and keeping up with it was something I goaled for and completed in 2012.

                                                                                        So back to the meal planning. I have tried Mastercook - that just didn't work and seemed to be too much work.

                                                                                        I tried printing out a blank monthly calendar. I just never really could take the time to fill it out for more than a day or two, maybe three or four. Same thing happens with just a weekly calendar.

                                                                                        Right now, usually in the am, I look at my spreadsheet and pick out a protein and go from there. I don't always balance my meals that way.

                                                                                        I really need help in this area!

                                                                                        1. re: pksmart

                                                                                          The pantry inventory list sounds pretty neat. Pepperplate doesn't do that, but it does sound like it might be more flexible on the menu planning front. But, the cool thing about pepperplate is you can do your menu planning using the same software that is your recipe database. I don't know if I'd use PP solely for the menu planning and, because you already have a significant investment in a recipe database, I'm guessing PP wouldn't be super useful for you.

                                                                                          You could go super low-tech with your meal planning tool: http://www.realsimple.com/static/pdfs...


                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                            I will definitely check out Pepperplate. Although I have been using MC for many years, I am growing and MC is not growing with what I need. The company is different now.

                                                                                            There are so many cooking/recipe/menu planning/ stockpiling / frugal websites out there. It seems a bit daunting.

                                                                                            Its kinda funny that google gives me prepper websites - but thats a whole different story!

                                                                                            Thanks so much but quite frankly, the realsimple spreadsheet is not what I am looking for.

                                                                                            1. re: pksmart

                                                                                              Well, the good news is pepperplate is free. (For now anyway. I do wonder what their revenue model is and if they will eventually charge a membership fee as they don't display any advertising...) http://www.pepperplate.com/

                                                                                              If you often take recipes from participating sites, including Epicurious, Food Network, allrecipes, food52, and chow, it's a fantastic tool because you can import recipes from those sites simply by cutting and pasting a link. You can manually cut and paste the content of recipes from other sites, too, but that takes a little more effort (not much). (You have to cut and paste ingredients directions and notes into separate sections--and manually type in number of servings, etc.).

                                                                                              From there, you can easily edit the recipes. Also, with one click, double or halve the recipes, etc.

                                                                                              You create your own recipe categories and can sort by those. So, main, poultry, easy, etc. What you can't do is refine by multiple categories. So, if want only mains that are poultry, pepperplate can't figure that out. It will return all mains and all poultry... You can mark a recipe as a favorite, but I don't think there are any other ranking features that I recall.

                                                                                              The planner shows a week at a time on your screen (but you can easily open up a calendar and move forward or backwards). You can add recipes from your recipe database planner or, if you don't have a particular recipe in your database, you can just type in the name of that recipe. I also type other stuff in, such as "defrost chicken for tomorrow" or "make quinoa salad for tuesday" or "leftovers from Monday" etc. You can create "menus" that include several recipes and easily add those to your planner, too.

                                                                                              You can add recipes to a shopping list (and manually add or delete any other ingredients). You can "customize" your shopping list to order it by aisle. If multiple recipes call for an ingredient, it will add the quantities (although, you can sort your recipe by recipe if you prefer).

                                                                                              I think there are some tablet-friendly features, too, though I'm not familiar with them.

                                                                                              I hope that helps. Good luck!


                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                Importing recipes to Pepperplate from supported sites is even less effort than a copy/paste of the URL if you install their bookmarklet. You get an Add to Pepperplate gadget on your browser's menu bar, and when you're on the recipe's page you just click it and the recipe automatically uploads. You can use it to manually import, too, and thus avoid having to switch between tabs or windows. It's led me to use PP more than I otherwise would.

                                                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                    Caitlin, one thing I seem to be really lazy about in pepperplate is tagging the recipes I import. But, I also realize that tagging is essential to using pepperplate to its fullest.

                                                                                                    If you use the bookmarklet, does it prompt you to tag the recipes while you're importing them?

                                                                                                    Also, Food52 is supposed to be a participating site, but I haven't had any luck importing recipes from Food52. Is it just me?


                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                      Ugh. I've not been able to import recipes from food52 to pepperplate for a while now. Seems like a bug.

                                                                                                      1. re: linguafood

                                                                                                        OK, thanks. I thought I was doing something wrong. I've noticed that you can't import "member" recipes from Epicurious, for instance, and thought it might be something like that.


                                                                                                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                        I do not tag either. How would you use this, TDQ?

                                                                                                        1. re: herby

                                                                                                          By "tag" I mean complete the "categories" section of the recipe, which can then be used to "filter" (i.e., sort) the recipes.

                                                                                                          I have several "groups" of categories:

                                                                                                          cooking method (crock pot, oven, grill, stove top, no cook)
                                                                                                          course (eg., soup, main, side, etc.)
                                                                                                          major ingredient (eg., chicken, quinoa, etc.)
                                                                                                          And then a bunch of grab bag ones: marinate (if something needs to marinate before cooking), make-ahead, entertaining, pantry, recommended (I haven't tried it yet but someone else has), cotm (and if it's a COTM I also list the name of the book), holida, travels well.


                                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                            Oh, you are good! Not sure I can be that organized; just getting my freezer and fridge inventory done used a lot of my ogarnizing energy and there is still pantry to do :) I should do some tagging though. I was looking atthe listgetting longer and wonder how long it will be useful before becoming overwhelming and unmanageable. Thank you for the suggestion!

                                                                                                            1. re: herby

                                                                                                              I'd start at least tagging new ones as you add them. You can always gradually whittle away at your backlog...

                                                                                                              Every couple of days I get in a frenzy of adding new recipes to pepperplate (I'm over 300 recipes now--I've simply replaced collecting cookbooks with collecting recipes) and I tell myself I don't have time to tag. It's really tedious to go back and tag them... Really, it's best to do it as you go.

                                                                                                              This is literally what I'm doing right now (in between checking chowhound posts).


                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                I've always collected recipes and books - they are different enough for me. I am very ruthless with recipes - if I am not crazy about a recipe, out it goes. Not so with the books...

                                                                                                                I'll start tagging, slowly, and maybe just the new ones- it does make sense.

                                                                                                                1. re: herby

                                                                                                                  I'm ruthless with the recipes I try, but I hoard tons of them I never try... Maybe I'll use them more now that I have pepperplate...


                                                                                                      3. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                        So, I've been using the bookmarklet for a couple of days now and it is a great improvement! Thank you very much!


                                                                                                    2. re: pksmart

                                                                                                      Here's another discussion of pepperplate with some input from DiningDiva who also has used mastercook http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8847...


                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                        And I'll add that I was never a huge fan of MC. It was not intuitive and I was always having to add things to their master items data base because it was missing. It took me a long time to get used to using MC and I got pretty good with it.

                                                                                                        I lost it in a major computer crash, but I have to say, other than losing a bunch of recipes, I am NOT sorry it's gone. Pepperplate has been so much more user friendly, intuitive and effective for me than MC ever was. Plus, I find myself turning to Pepperplate more frequently than I did MC.

                                                                                                        YMMV, but I think you might be surprised at how much faster, easier and useful Pepperplate is than MC

                                                                                                  2. re: pksmart

                                                                                                    Once a week I look at what I want to use up that I already have and what is on sale from the circular. If I have a craving for something this is also taken into account. I shop once a week. I use cookbooks, Eat your books, and online sites if need be to find recipes with the ingredients I must use up. Then I plan my meals around my schedule and make a grocery and menu. I also take leftovers and lunches for work into account. This can take just 5 minutes or more if you have more time. Average time 20 minutes. Once things are bought you have to stick to te schedule. Once in a while time runs away from me or I just can't stand to eat something and we usually revert to takeout pizza from local joint. Generally pizza night is not planned.

                                                                                                  3. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                    Thank you for mentioning pepperplate. I hadn't heard of it, but I'm trying it out now. I don't need the meal planning bit so much, but it would be handy to have recipes with me when I'm grocery shopping - I'm hoping pepperplate allows for that.

                                                                                                    1. re: LMAshton

                                                                                                      If you have a smart phone download the app to it and it will make it really handy when grocery shopping

                                                                                                1. My main goal for the new year is to try to lighten up (just a little bit) some of my favorite recipes without losing any flavor. My last full physical had me in great health and a good weight, but my lipids were a little high. I'd like to nip that in the bud. I suppose that means less bread and cheese :/
                                                                                                  I'd also like to be better about not buying more than I need of anything perishable, as what's unused goes in the freezer, and I never think of it again until it's time to chuck it. Not good.
                                                                                                  And mostly, just continue to learn and enjoy!

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: alliegator

                                                                                                    From my 2013 quest (trying to weasel out of calling 'em resolutions) to waste less food, did a fridge/freezer inventory, and lo and behold: I'm going to skip grocery shopping altogether this week! Woo hoo--good luck on not buying more than you need of perishables!

                                                                                                    1. re: pine time

                                                                                                      I like that: quest instead of resolution! Good for you for finding a week's worth of food already in your house. And continued good luck with wasting less in '13.

                                                                                                  2. I have recently become a convert to SV cooking. This is the direction for me this year but with a bit of a twist.
                                                                                                    If you want to try out SV without spendin a lot of money it's dead easy to do with what you've already got in your kitchen. Just use a large pot. Fill 3/4 with water. Cover. Use your small back burner. It will take a while for you to experiment with getting a consistent temp of say 145F. In my case I position the pot only a few inches on the back burner.I set the dial to '2' but every stove will be different of course. One advantage of doing this is it sets up a 'convection' and the water gets gently moving up on the burner side than over to the 'off burner' side then down and round and round vertically. This trick is used in commercial restaurants which make a lot of stock. The 'convection' keeps the stock moving and what needs to be skimmed off is always collecting at one side of the pot. Use Zip locks that seal completely and remove all the air. I don't trust these bags to keep the water out so I use a big enough bag (reusable) to fold the top of the bag over the rim of the pot. When I put the glass lid on it holds the bag along the side, but so what and I position the bag so it doesn't touch the bottom of the pot. When the water temp has reached say 145 F I put in the Zip lock. Immediately the water temp. falls right? I check the temp periodically. When the temp has gone back up to 145 F I let the food continue to stay in the water bath for another length of time. By now I've got a pretty good idea how long the method takes to SV a small roast or thick cut pork chops for instance. I always keep accurate notes on SV times to make life easier next time. Right now I'm doing some experiments using different vegetables. I added a bit of clarified butter and fresh lemon juice and a sprig of time to fresh beets in the bag. I believe this is the direction SV cooking is heading. At least around here. The beets were cooked to perfection and the added ingredients had time to 'meld' with the beets.

                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                      You Know, I have been wanting to try SV. I have a food saver and have read where this is a starting point.

                                                                                                      I currently have a gas stove and there is no way you can keep the temp steady. I pressure can and am always fussing with it.

                                                                                                      I was thinking of getting one of those PICs since you can regulate the temp within, like 10 degrees. I thought it MIGHT work for SV. What do you think?

                                                                                                      I checked and this won't work with my pressure canner - not magnetized. Too bad, but There are work-arounds.

                                                                                                      1. re: pksmart

                                                                                                        Personally, Id go the rice cooker/crock pot route before using an induction burner.

                                                                                                        I believe it can be done for under $50 now if you search around for a cheap PID and already have a rice cooker or crockpot with an on off switch,

                                                                                                        1. re: twyst

                                                                                                          Yea, I have seen this on several internet sites. That's only because I saw it on cooking shows - on TV.

                                                                                                          I have a fuzzy logic rice cooker that I love dearly. I also have a slow cooker with one or two bells and whistles.

                                                                                                          I guess the thing is that I am a girl and putting a 'cheap PID' to my equipment kinda scares me.

                                                                                                          Maybe that's more for the non-faint-at-heart?

                                                                                                          1. re: pksmart

                                                                                                            "Maybe that's more for the non-faint-at-heart?"

                                                                                                            Haha yes, I skipped that step when I started with SV as well, seemed like too much work.

                                                                                                            They do sell a PID for $99 that is completely ready to go, you just plug your rice cooker into it, but $99 is a bit much to spend for something you arent even sure you will use more than once.

                                                                                                            1. re: twyst

                                                                                                              So I am making this a goal for 2013.

                                                                                                              Sous vide cooking trials.

                                                                                                              I will try chicken first. seems the easiest.

                                                                                                              Faint of heart is referenced to my equipment, not me.

                                                                                                          2. re: twyst

                                                                                                            My sous vide set-up is based on a controller from Auber Instruments -- http://www.auberins.com/index.php?mai...

                                                                                                            Not under $50, but it works well and I'm happy with it. Also flexible enough for converting a chest freezer into a controlled-temperature chamber to use for lagering, cheesemaking, etc.

                                                                                                        2. I have a few main goals for the year. First and most important - I recently went back to work after a 6 month maternity leave, and we recently switched to eating family meals all together, as opposed to feeding the kids separately - all of which means I have to adjust my meal planning system to enable me to get home from work, nurse the baby, and have dinner on the table by 7. I have a goal of eating something homemade for three weeknights - we'll order in for the other two days. TDQ, I'm planning on reviving your meal planning thread this week!

                                                                                                          I've really enjoyed participating in COTM and I have a goal of making at least one COTM recipe each week.

                                                                                                          Similarly, I have found breadcrumbs CAWC threads to be worthwhile and I would like to continue reviewing and hopefully cooking at least three recipes from one underused cookbook per month. If I can't find three recipes, or they don't turn out, the book will be culled.

                                                                                                          Last year I did well at limiting new cookbook purchases, and I'd like to keep it up for 2014. I think I could do even better.

                                                                                                          That said, I'd like to cook more Asian (especially Chinese) food at home. Right now my default cuisine is Italian, which means that most of our emergency fallback meals are pasta-based (though rice and dal make a frequent appearance as well). I'd like to expand my comfort zone so that I can vary my repertoire of quick meals. I think a couple of new books - Hakka and Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice - will really help with this.

                                                                                                          32 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                            Sounds good to me, reviving the meal planning thread and CWAC threads.

                                                                                                            I would really like to cook from EGOR more this year, too. That is to say, I'd like to cook from it, period! As Alice would say, "How can you have [cook] more if you haven't had [cooked] any?"

                                                                                                            Also, Jamie's 15 Minute Meals.

                                                                                                            Also, some of my exciting new slow cooker books: I bought French Slow Cooker and Mexican Slow Cooker recently.

                                                                                                            Finally, I want to try to cook more soups. Good thing soup is HCDOTM for January. That should be just the nudge I need. I hope.

                                                                                                            Also, I want to cook more fish in 2013, so I'll be dusting off Fish Without a Doubt. Also, I want to experiment with cooking frozen fish http://cookitfrozen.com/ as well as frozen vegetables http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3618..., which I think will help with my meal planning.

                                                                                                            Your kids can wait until 7pm to eat? That's bedtime at our house. Dinner is at 5:30 or 6pm for us...


                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                              They are late nappers with a snack after nap to tide them over. We can't get home before 6 so this is the only way we can eat together.

                                                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                The home cooking dish of the month is actually pot pies, but...

                                                                                                                1. re: ellabee

                                                                                                                  Oh! You're right! HAHAHA! I think one of the regional boards has soup as its January dish, which I latched onto immediately, and then was disappointed when I realized it wasn't the HC dish. No chance of any pot pie in my immediate future, but I can still do soup! Hopefully!


                                                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                    TDQ--it may be that you don't want/like pot pies, but if it's the prep time that's putting you off, I just wanted to say that individual pot pies may be well-suited to your goals: you make a big batch of filling on a weekend and top individual tins of it with your favorite pastry/whatever topping (I often use storebought pie dough or puff pastry to save time) and freeze several dinners' worth. They can be popped into the oven when you get home from work--and dinner is done. And they can be very nutritious--and a good way to get toddlers to eat vegetables.

                                                                                                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                      Pot pies are lovely indeed, but I'm working on some weight loss goals this year, too. Thankfully, everyone at my house likes vegetables so no need to hide them under a fattening pie crust! Most of the time.


                                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                        TDQ, I've been on the hunt for "lighter" pot pie recipes as I'd like to participate in the DOTM. Some I've seen involve using biscuit dough instead of pastry, but I haven't worked out the nutritional values of those yet. I'll keep you posted on my findings :)

                                                                                                                        1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                          I'm not really sure biscuits are any lighter than pastry! I'm more on a whole (not ground into flour) grain kick, meaning whole quinoa, whole millet, whole amaranth, whole barley, that sort of thing. I wonder if there are any pot pies that use that sort of crust?


                                                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                            Well, if one could figure how to make a crust from any of these grains, I'm sure that would work really well on pot pie. I'd certainly be interested if anyone has this type of recipe.

                                                                                                                            My cousin plops those dry Scandinavian rye plank-like crackers (I can't remember what they're called) atop bubbly pot pie filling and loves it. It never sounded appealing to me, but maybe I should be more open-minded (esp. as I also have weight-loss goals to accomplish in the first few months of 2013)!

                                                                                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                              Depends on the biscuits I think... But now you've got me really intrigued :) Since I have one of the most boring jobs on the planet, I will research. Maybe even a cauliflower based crust type thing, sort of like pizza?

                                                                                                                              Also, since you mentioned soup, I've made this soup from skinnytaste and it's delicious :) http://www.skinnytaste.com/2011/01/ch...

                                                                                                                              1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                Very kind of you, thank you! (Oh, I can import skinnytaste recipes into pepperplate super easily!)


                                                                                                                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                            Look for skillet pot pies, then you only have one layer of crust on the top instead of the double crust of traditional pies. Cook's Illustrated as several ...

                                                                                                                            1. re: eperdu

                                                                                                                              I always do top crust only; I like to think I'm eating a higher ratio of veggies/protein to crust.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                    I'm going to add one more goal for 2013 - learn to clean as i go. I think my quality of life will really improve if my kitchen doesn't look like a disaster zone at the end of every meal.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                      Phew, glad I'm not the only one this happens to!

                                                                                                                      1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                        This is a great goal! I learned to clean as I go a long time ago and find it to be such a pleasure not to have a dissaster in the kitchen. Everything moves along smoothly and there is always space to put things down. I cooked with people who are opposite from me and find it very stressful.

                                                                                                                        1. re: herby

                                                                                                                          Do you mind me asking ... how exactly do you do it? I never seem to have any "down time" during cooking that I can use for cleaning.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                            Good question! I do it automatically and don't think about it, just happens. Next time I am in the kitchen making a serious meal I will pay attention and get back to you on it, OK? I am cooking a roast beef dinner for six on Saturday - that will be a good one to keep track of.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                Westminstress, I was making a chicken salad from Jerusalem tonight and it had several steps and a number of dirty dishes and gadgets. With your question in mind I was making notes about my clean-as-you-go approach. I put the oranges on to boil for an hour and set the timer. Made the dressing next and once done cleaned the measuring spoons and garlic press. Sliced veggies on mandoline and chopped herbs; whiped the cutting board and cleaned the mandoline. Deboned and shredded leftover roasted chicken. Washed the cutting board and knife and proceeded to peel, core and slice pineapple (not part of the recipe but needed to be prepped for breakfast)and take all the garbage out. And washed the board and knife again. By now the orange is ready to go into the food processor and once processed to be mixed into the dressing. Finished mixing the salad, packed some for tomorrow's linch and the rest into a storage container. Now I am left with dry dishes in the dish drainer and dirty bowls, spoons and food processor. But because everything is tidy, it only took a few minutes to finish, wipe the counter and voila! - clean kitchen :)

                                                                                                                                Hope this is helpful.

                                                                                                                                ETA: My kitchen is very small; I only have one sink and can't fill it with soapy water to get dirty dishes into. I also do not have a dishwasher which is not making my life simpler :) I live alone but love to entertain and do it often. I also cook a lot for my grown children and their families when I visit them.

                                                                                                                                1. re: herby

                                                                                                                                  Thanks, this is helpful. I'm going to try to incorporate some of this next time I cook.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                    Do share your experience and post questions if any; many of us will gladly help you along :)

                                                                                                                            1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                              I tuck a towel into my pants pocket or a paper towel and then swipe at spills as they happen. I find this helps the kitchen FEEL cleaner, even if it isn't. I also start a sinkful of hot water before I start and drop items into it as I go along or I rinse in hot water and put straight in the washer. The rinsing helps because again, the dishes LOOK cleaner so it feels better. I still have to do the actual work of cleaning but find that stacking things up is a recipe for unhappy-me. Most things don't require constant attention so it's easy to zip something to the sink or washer and just deal with it.

                                                                                                                              If I measure out water, I don't wash the container again (don't tell my boyfriend) but I just dump out the water, dry the container and put it away.

                                                                                                                              But, I'm no expert at anything. I just find what works for me and sometimes visual is enough.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                I don't do complete cleaning but I do a few things to make it easier. I make sure the dishwasher is totally unloaded (we run it overnight every night) and the sink is totally empty before I get started, so I can do a quick rinse and put things in there as I go. I also keep a towel and those lysol wipes handy to wipe up any spills as I go. Also lately I've been putting paper towels on the counter right next to the range so if something drips as I'm moving it to or from the counter/range, it absorbs some of the drips. However, I have a smoothtop electric stove (blech) so this isn't as good of an idea if you have an open burner gas stove :)

                                                                                                                                Also I hate to say it but, Rachael Ray's Garbage Bowl is a great idea. I'm sure she didn't invent the idea but I learned it from her.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                  westminstress, i think you just need to incorporate more time into the prep of each dish. i just go slower and wash everything as i use it, put it away, wipe down, put things back in the fridge, etc. mind you, i don't do this every time, and there are definitely still times when the kitchen looks like a tornado hit. but it's always worth it, even if you end up eating a bit later. and as julie said, a garbage bowl or even the garbage can just pulled out to where you are chopping/peeling/etc.(even in a small space it helps) makes a big difference.

                                                                                                                                  i have a small kitchen as well, and as herby said, it helps prepping everything and having it ready as you need to incorporate it into a dish.

                                                                                                                                  i have a girlfriend who washes, dries and puts away each and every dish, knife and spoon as she goes - it's amazing, but i don't think i could ever be that anal. it's great tho - she ends up with almost nothing to do at the end. but again, she leaves herself enough time. although, to be perfectly honest, i've been at some of her dinner parties where we are just starting dessert at midnight! but those are big elaborate dinners with many courses and 15 guests.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                    I think you raise some good points. I tried to clean as I went tonight but as I was in a mad rush to get dinner on the table as fast as possible there was no time....

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                      yep, i can't do it if i want to get dinner on in a hurry, i'm not that organized!

                                                                                                                                2. re: herby

                                                                                                                                  Totally agree, esp. re: the cooking with people. This is one of the few areas of disagreement btw me and my husband and I find it easiest to simply cook separately or in different zones.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: herby

                                                                                                                                    My husband trained me to clean as I go. It's in his interests as he's on clean up if I cook.
                                                                                                                                    I do lots of similar things to the other posters. I have a dishwasher always empty of clean dishes before I cook. I read recipes and get the steps into my head so I know when natural clean up points are. I wash, dry and put away things too big for the dishwasher as I go. I use the Arab/Asian style of washing dishes. A soapy sponge and running water rather than filling a sink. I find cleaning as I go that way is easier.
                                                                                                                                    I also have a small bag for rubbish sitting on the bench (a toddler in the house means no bin) and throw all peelings etc straight into it. I'm guessing this is the 'garbage bowl'.
                                                                                                                                    I'm glad I am finally better at this as it does make a difference to my head space while cooking having a clean kitchen and bench space.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Frizzle

                                                                                                                                      Rachael Ray sells her own branded version of a garbage bowl http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12...

                                                                                                                                      Wow, I admire your ability to get the recipe steps in your head to the point where you know where the natural clean up points are. I really have a hard time visualizing recipe steps...


                                                                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                        Visualising the steps is a skill brought about by the toddler. I often break up prep based on her nap or just by figuring if I give her something to do I will get ten minutes to cook (and clean). I read a recipe through two or three times and then think about how I can fit it into my day. Now I'm used to cooking like that I've kept the habit even when I cook at night and she's asleep.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                          I often rephrase a recipe so I can anticipate the steps better. I group ingredients as I need them if there are many aspects to the dish. I also make it very obvious if there are steps which can be done ahead of time.

                                                                                                                                          Some recipes work well doing mise-en-place prep. Other recipes, such as making a stew, lend themselves to prep, preform a step, prep, next step, etc.

                                                                                                                                          I do try to chop dryish items (celery, onion) before wet items (tomatoes, beets) and chop meats last if possible. Saves on rinsing the cutting board multiple times!

                                                                                                                                3. Food goals for this year...

                                                                                                                                  1. Get better at doing plated desserts (presentation)

                                                                                                                                  2. Learn to make laminated dough (technique, baking)

                                                                                                                                  3. Get better at preparing fish (technique, cooking)

                                                                                                                                  4. Go meatless at least once a week (lifestyle)

                                                                                                                                  5. Cook large on the weekend to take the pressure off week nights (planning/organization)

                                                                                                                                  6. Cook from the cookbooks I already own before I buy more new ones :-D (restraint)

                                                                                                                                  7. Eat out more frequently at some of the new places in my town rather than the same old/same old. (exploration)

                                                                                                                                  8. Figure out how to use the flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars I got for Christmas and not let them sit on the shelf (experimentation)

                                                                                                                                  9. Organize and conduct at least 3 tours of Mercado Hidalgo in Tijuana (culinary tourism, post retirement career)

                                                                                                                                  10. Teach at least 3 Mexican cooking classes this year (education)

                                                                                                                                  11. Be less critical of my own cooking and of meals eaten out. Enjoy the food more and worry less about what worked and what didn't (enjoyment)

                                                                                                                                  12. Take a week long cooking class in Oaxaca this year (professional development)

                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                                                                    I love how you categorize your goal, eg., professional development, etc. Do you have a list of categories for which you try to make goals every year?


                                                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                      No, not always. But a goal is only a stepping stone to the bigger objective :-). So in order to actually end up with some goals that were actually doable, I needed to tie them to some bigger over-arching themes.

                                                                                                                                  2. I've been following this thread, a little reluctant to set cooking goals since I met very few of mine for 2012 (2011 was much better), but also realizing through all of yours many of mine, so I'll take a deep breath and resolve to TRY in 2013:

                                                                                                                                    --to curb my cookbook habit, which has gone amok (and has gotten off to a bad start as I ordered six in the latest TGC bundle sale--but that's it, I swear), and cook new things from the many books on my shelves
                                                                                                                                    --to prepare and eat more fish, especially those high in Omega-3s, simply grilled
                                                                                                                                    --to find more delicious ways to eat kale and chard
                                                                                                                                    --to introduce more meatless meals
                                                                                                                                    --to get dinner on the table by at least 9 pm every night, preferably between 8 and 8:30
                                                                                                                                    --to do more planning and prep ahead of time in order to achieve previous goal
                                                                                                                                    --to make a mole
                                                                                                                                    --to waste less food
                                                                                                                                    --to get my husband involved in food preparation (and cede some control so he can enjoy it)

                                                                                                                                    14 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                      << ..and cede some control so he can enjoy it >>

                                                                                                                                      Huge grin from me on this one ncw!! How true! With an Amen from mr bc!! ; - )

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                        I'm guilty of this too. I think I emasculated him one evening by banning him from the BBQ because he was 'harassing' the ribs. Nice resolution.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Frizzle

                                                                                                                                          LOL. It was an exercise in self-control for me the other night when my husband was browning some pork shoulder. He would not stop messing with it! I tried to tell him about watched pots, etc., but to no avail.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: aching

                                                                                                                                            You should see the tug-of-war here whenever I'm trying to "rest" meat. IF DH had his druthers, no meat would rest for even 5 seconds.

                                                                                                                                            On second thought, it may be a lot harder to let my husband to his own devices than I thought!

                                                                                                                                      2. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                        --to curb my cookbook habit, which has gone amok

                                                                                                                                        Isn't that the truth :-). Jerusalem arrived on Wednesday and looks great. I've got one on pre-order with Amazon due out in March. I swear that's it too.

                                                                                                                                        If you want a very good mole recipe, and one that's fairly easy to follow and complete - tho' - time consuming, let me know and I can point you to one.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                                                                          Id be interested in a very good, time consuming, mole!

                                                                                                                                          1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                                                                            Point away, DD! I have several Mexican cookbooks, and I had come up with one by joining a few recipes (mole was one of my 2012 goals too), but I'd much rather have one you can recommend. I know it will take a while to make (like a good cassoulet), but a girlfriend and I have vowed to do one this winter. (I'm still dreaming about a fabulous one I had at a party a couple of years ago. I did not know the person who made it well enough to ask him to translate the recipe for me.)

                                                                                                                                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                              Okay, here it is. Mole Poblano -http://www.ciaprochef.com/CFA/mexico/...

                                                                                                                                              I got this recipe from illeana de la Vega when I did a week long class in Mexican Regional cooking at the CIA in San Antonio. illeana used to own El Naranjo in Oaxaca, but now lives in Austin and has reopened her restaurant there. I am not entirely sure if this recipe is hers, the CIA's, or a collaboration of both. In any event, it is quite good.

                                                                                                                                              * You can sub chicken legs and thighs for the turkey if you don't want turkey

                                                                                                                                              * You can sub vegetable oil for the lard if using lard makes you queasy, though I would really, really encouarge you to use some freshly rendered pork lard (not the white brick stuff) because it really does add a level of nuance to the overall flavor profile of the dish.

                                                                                                                                              * When you reach the seasoning step, salt generously. Chiles LOVE salt and the flavor will bloom with it. We've been taught to use salt sparingly; put aside any qualms you might have and be generous with the salt. It may also need a little bit more sugar than the recipe calls for, let you taste preference guide you on the sugar.

                                                                                                                                              * A well made mole should not have a predominant taste of one single ingredient. It is a remarkably well balanced sauce with all the ingredients playing well with the others to create the unique flavor of the mole (which simply means mixture


                                                                                                                                              * If you don't have access to all the dried chiles required, they can be ordered from Amazon.

                                                                                                                                              The best advice I can give you is to read the recipe 2 or 3 times to make sure you understand what it's asking you to do at each step, then read the recipe again just to be sure :-).

                                                                                                                                              Mole is not, inherently, difficult, just time consuming. Most of our cooking methods are rooted in European technique. Mexican techniques are not, that's one of the reasons it may seem a harder than it is. Unless one cooks a lot of Mexican food, the techniques used are not second nature.

                                                                                                                                              The mole recipes in Susana Trillings book Season's of My Heart are all solid, as are the mole recipes in Roberto Santibañez's book Truly Mexican. I particularly like Roberto's Encacahuatado recipe (peanut mole) with pork as well as his Pistachio Pipian, which is the rustic cousin of mole. If you're really ambitious, you can try the Mole de Xico recipe in Zarela Martinez's book Veracruz. It is outstanding. Xico is a small town in Veracruz and the mole there is sweeter due to the great quantity of dried fruit in it than other moles. It's not overly sweet though, just really good, plus you cook it down to a paste which you can freeze for future use.

                                                                                                                                              But back to Mole Poblano, it is one of the iconic dishes of Mexico, developed in Puebla. The recipe I linked above is fairly forgiving and yields excellent results.

                                                                                                                                              Good luck, let me know if I can be of further assistance if and when you finally decide to make it. You *can* do it :-)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                                                                                DD, thinking about your goals...have you thought about putting a cooking lesson video online? I'd love to watch you make this. You're such an inspiration with your expertise with respect to Mexican cuisine.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                                                                                  BC...thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement. I hadn't really thought about doing a video of Mexican cooking lessons, but now that you mention it, it does seem like a good idea.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                                                                                    Please let us know here if you do one DD, I'll be right over!!

                                                                                                                                                2. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                                                                                  Thank you so much, DD--this sounds wonderful; and, yes, I'll be a student should you decide to do a video lesson.

                                                                                                                                                  BTW, I made a peanut "mole," a cheater's version (a Bayless recipe, IIRC), years ago that was very good, but definitely lacking in that complex balance that you descibe.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                                    Encacahuatado and mole verde are two moles I recommend to people wanting to make mole because they're both pretty easy, straightforward and forgiving.

                                                                                                                                                    Encacahuatado definitely does not have the same complexity in flavor that a mole poblano or mole negro would have, but if you like peanuts, it's a fun sauce and it seems to make people happy.

                                                                                                                                                    I'm really going to have to see about doing a video lesson, now that you all have put that idea in my head :-)

                                                                                                                                            2. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                              I'd like to get hubby less involved in the meal choices as he is very traditional and not open to new food. No fish, scallops only in restaurants, meat is almost always featured, chard yes, kale no way Jose, forget about edamame.

                                                                                                                                            3. My goal for the new year is more hedonism in my kitchen! I just bought some Ethiopian yirgacheffe beans to roast and grind myself for some deep, rich Turkish coffee. I have some kobe beef on order and puff pastry in the freezer for individual beef Wellingtons. My latest passion is butter nut squash soup with lots of butter in it. It's party time around here, and the food is going to be delicious all year long! Otherwise, why eat, right? '-)

                                                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                                                  Do keep us posted on your indulgences Caroline1. It will be a delight to live vicariously!

                                                                                                                                                  1. I am hoping to do the Cookbook a Week Challenge in a particular way...

                                                                                                                                                    I have resolved to cook at least three weeknight meals a week for myself and husband and son from a non-family-oriented cookbook each week and post those reports in the CAW threads.

                                                                                                                                                    I am also hoping to eat through the pantry and freezer before Spring Break to make room for deliciousness at the farmer's market this spring and summer!

                                                                                                                                                    Happy New Year!

                                                                                                                                                    1. Lost track of this thread and it has taken me 20 minutes of searching to finally find it. I want to start by saying thanks to Prima for creating this thread, it has already started my creative juices flowing.

                                                                                                                                                      My primary cooking goal for the year is to memorialize the memorable meals I make so our family can refer back and know exactly where to find the recipes we liked, how well they worked and any changes we made.

                                                                                                                                                      I have so many cookbooks I often lose track of what I liked and why. Try as I may to post on CH, make notes in the books themselves, and make notes on EYB, I still have a hard time remembering and then repeating these recipes. I had hoped my blog would be up and running by now and that that would help keep me organized, but so far, not happening. So this is what I am going to try:

                                                                                                                                                      I am going to buy a leather bound writing book to keep on the shelf with my most used cookbooks. Every time a recipe is of "wow" quality, I am going to make a dated entry including the source of the recipe, any notes about changes I made, what I served with it, and a note about my family's reactions.

                                                                                                                                                      Next goal is to buy less pantry, wine and freezable items and use down what I already have. This one is going to be a tufty because COTM and DOTM often require me to buy a lot of items to keep on hand, but I am going to try.

                                                                                                                                                      Final goal is to involve my kids more in the kitchen. Right now I cook with them on special weekends, but rarely get them to help for weeknight/end dinners.

                                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: dkennedy

                                                                                                                                                        I do something similar with my kitchen notebook. I also keep a list of books in it that I own or have looked at which lists out all the recipes that sounded good to me and their page numbers.

                                                                                                                                                        Any new things I make, I write down an abbreviated version and modifications that I made.

                                                                                                                                                        I'm now using the same book for my bread journal as I make new loaves I track everything that I did with it so that I can (ideally) repeat it.

                                                                                                                                                        Kitchen notebooks are awesome. :)

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: eperdu

                                                                                                                                                          Hopefully I will be as dedicated at this as you are!

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: eperdu

                                                                                                                                                            Ep, what type of information do you write down in your bread journal? I want to start baking more but am not sure what types of things to keep track of. Thanks


                                                                                                                                                            1. re: JulesLP

                                                                                                                                                              Well, I'm following the no-knead bread by JimLahey so that's my starting point but I'm varying other things like how long I let it rise, where I let it rise in my house, how long I let it sit after I do the kneading, how long it bakes, what size pan I'm using, how long I let it preheat before placing the bread in the oven, etc. I'm also experimenting with actual kneading, stirring it around with a spoon, or doing the folding technique as listed in the recipe. Texture wise, the kneaded (just about 30 seconds) was my favorite. My boyfriend preferred the folded bread. :)

                                                                                                                                                        2. Some of my goals are a little too far fetched and romantic, but that won't stop me from trying!

                                                                                                                                                          I'd love to try making cheese. I've done paneer, ricotta and yogurt, but I'd really like to try my hand at some more difficult versions involving rennet and possibly some aging.

                                                                                                                                                          Along those same lines, I'd love to find a source for unpasteurized milk-cow, goat, and/or sheep-, illegal tho it may be in my province. Hoping to find some connections despite the fact.

                                                                                                                                                          Attempt to tap some maple trees and yield a small batch of maple syrup. Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds and how much work it would be for such a small reward, but it could be a lot of fun, too!

                                                                                                                                                          Gain adequacy in making fresh rice sheets.

                                                                                                                                                          Get more comfortable with canning. Last autumn I finally tackled my fears and made a few batches of jam which we've been enjoying all winter, and to date we're still kicking. Hoping to gain more confidence and try some other items like pickles, salsas, maybe whole tomatoes.

                                                                                                                                                          Finally, I'd like to be more diligent with my cookbook of the month reviews, with particular attention to the bad ones. I've participated nearly every month since I've started but sometimes have a hard time writing a poor review so I opt out. Even if it's a book I don't care for I would at least like to try a few recipes just for the sake of trying something new.

                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                                                                                                            Keep us posted on your cheese making and syrup-getting. I'm also interested in the cheese-making. A friend of mine and I took a basic class and tried to make our own before Chrsitmas and the ricotta turned out great but the mozzarella, not so much. Apparently the instructor of the class skipped a few steps in her printed directions (like the curd-cutting!), which we found out later after reading other instructions online. Definitely a learning process, and it's pretty fun I think. We purchased the rennet and the citric acid at a home brewing shop instead of online, it was much cheaper. I still haven't found raw milk though.

                                                                                                                                                            I don't think wanting to tap trees for your own syrup is silly at all, I also think it sounds fun. I have no trees worthy of syrup (or hardly any trees at all) in my area NE of Denver, so if you do it, I'd love to live vicariously :)

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                                                                                                              I see nothing far-fetched or romantic about any of these goals! If they are...then I guess I'm also far-fetched and romantic.

                                                                                                                                                              I call these practical and usable skills. We can all benefit from these skills.

                                                                                                                                                              I remember an episode of some PBS frontier show where they had people duplicating frontier life (this was years ago, not the current show) and one of the ladies had goats so she was making chèvre. It made me giggle to think of frontier people eating chèvre. But, she figured it out and they ate it. It was fancier than they needed and honestly, their time would not have known of chèvre anyway but the thought was sound. :)

                                                                                                                                                              If you can spend some time and money making something that'll feed you and yours for months--there is nothing far-fetched about it. We're very fortunate that we can do things like this and enjoy it. It's a good skill to have.

                                                                                                                                                              Far-fetched and romantic is finding ways to sculpt honeycomb in the shape of flowers or something ... ;)

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: eperdu

                                                                                                                                                                Hah, you are both right, of course! I forget which forum I am posting in. Most non-food nerds may see this as a ridiculous goal. Thanks for making me feel less silly!

                                                                                                                                                            2. If I get through the year without poisoning anyone, I'll be a happy bunny.

                                                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                A modest goal, indeed! How many years running have you achieved it? ;>

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                                                                                                  i'd be a guinea pig at your table, Harters!

                                                                                                                                                                2. not too terribly ambitious....

                                                                                                                                                                  perfect my paella. i want the perfect socarrat on both the top and the bottom of the pan...

                                                                                                                                                                  eat more fish - find fish and fish preps the BF likes so i can eat more fish!

                                                                                                                                                                  cook out of my cookbooks more (as opposed to going online) but lighten the recipes by using a bit less oil, or less carbs than called for when possible, or simply by making smaller servings - i'm not going to start using light cheese or low-fat anything! *gag*...

                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                                                    Question - is the soccarat like the crust you aim for in certain Persian rice dishes?

                                                                                                                                                                    If that makes sense. . . .

                                                                                                                                                                    Always the best part of the Persian rice!

                                                                                                                                                                  2. OK, new goal.

                                                                                                                                                                    I went to my basement (back-up) pantry this morning to get something and I couldn't find a darn thing I was looking for because I have too much stuff. I have to admit my deep freeze and cupboards are similarly jammed.

                                                                                                                                                                    So, for the next several weeks (months? years? Lord only knows) I'm going to have to follow Jon Carroll's "Eat Yourself Out of House and Home diet". Seriously, I need to make an inventory and start using what I already have.Good grief.



                                                                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                      I loved this article DQ, thanks for the laugh.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: dkennedy

                                                                                                                                                                        Yes. A great article. I need to go on this diet too!

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: karykat

                                                                                                                                                                          Apparently, according Harry Balzer, a senior analyst with NPD market researchers, food hoarding is so 2012! It's on the 2013 "what's out" list:

                                                                                                                                                                          Packing the pantry: When the economic downturn hit, did you really need five boxes of pasta and 10 cans of tuna?

                                                                                                                                                                          "The biggest collector of food in this country is the American home," says Balzer, who watched as we readjusted pantry inventory levels in 2012. "People still ate, but their volumes were not being seen in supermarket sales because people were using (items on hand). Perhaps we will restock our inventories as the economy picks up."


                                                                                                                                                                          I didn't know I was just part of a national trend.


                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                                                                                            I am in Canada and my freezer and pantry are seriously overstuffed. I am eitheralone in this or we have the same national trend :) Back in December I resolved to start reducing my stores. I did fridge (all the condiments that I didn't even remember I have!) and freezer inventory, printed out lists and keep them in the kitchen. My freezer is starting to look better. Next to do is pantry inventory. I have a lot of specialty items there (Indian spices and condiments, Japanese ingredients, etc.) that need to be together and separate from other things. I bought clear shoe boxes and plan to have a special box - labelled - for these items. Then, if I decide to make Japanese food, I will bring my Japanese box to the kitchen with everything I need already there. A dream :)

                                                                                                                                                                    2. I would like to start making homemade ravioli and sorbet, expanding my weeknight recipe repertoire, and finding indulgence and satisfaction in healthier dishes!

                                                                                                                                                                      I wish our paper anniversary coming up was actually the cooking tools anniversary!

                                                                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: eviemichael

                                                                                                                                                                        Cooking tools can come in paper boxes .... ;)

                                                                                                                                                                      2. Wondering how many Chowhounds have tackled their goals this year?

                                                                                                                                                                        10 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                                          I listed 12 goals. I made substantial progress on 5 of them. Not even 50% :-O

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                                                                                                            I've sped up my prep time, improved my frying skills, and roasted at least a dozen more chickens.

                                                                                                                                                                            Stopped baking cookies frequently in mid-Jan because someone kept overeating them (over a dozen one afternoon!), so now I only bake them for cookie exchanges or special occasions.

                                                                                                                                                                            I haven't made any pizza, lasagna, Charlottes or Malakovs, but I'm hoping to make at least a couple of the dishes I listed this month!

                                                                                                                                                                            So, I ended up completing less than half my list, but there's still time until the end of the month!

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: DiningDiva

                                                                                                                                                                              I think accomplishing 5, whatever they were, is fantastic! Especially because I think I accomplished nearly none. I made progress on lots, though.


                                                                                                                                                                            2. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                                              Well, I did pressure-can a half dozen pints of tomatoes, so there's that.

                                                                                                                                                                              But no flatbreads, much less crackers, or morning bread.

                                                                                                                                                                              And almost no Indian food at all.

                                                                                                                                                                              But I just got a baking steel and a container for Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes fridge rising, so surely some flatbreads aren't too far off.

                                                                                                                                                                              If I bear down, I could dramtically improve my percentages between now and new year's eve with a couple of little cranberry-orange breads for breakfast and gifts, and one batch of the ABin5 dough.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                                                Since mine was to keep my fridge/freezer/pantry organized and cooking friendly, I have accomplished it.

                                                                                                                                                                                A few dry erase boards, a vacuum sealer, and a menu created most weeks, I toss out a Lot less and cook more at home.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                                                  About 1/2 of my freezer mystery packages are labeled. Maybe I'll accomplish the other 1/2 next year?

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                                                    My goal was to teach my husband to cook, and we've definitely made progress, but I wouldn't say that the goal has been accomplished until he can plan and execute a whole meal by himself - and we're not there yet. Here's to 2014!

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: aching

                                                                                                                                                                                      I'm impressed! Mr P and I have been together nearly 40 years. He can pour himself a bowl of cereal.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                                                      I never did get up the courage to grill a pizza on our gas grill. :-(

                                                                                                                                                                                      It's such a silly thing to be afraid to try...

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: prima

                                                                                                                                                                                        I gained another 5 pounds so I guess that doesn't count.

                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Not sure if it was a goal of mine, but I finally purchased a smoker and am very happy with it. It's a bit of a learning curve, but so worth it.

                                                                                                                                                                                        The "one new recipe per week" thing......... not so much. Not even close, actually. Might have to be a resolution for 2014 :-)

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. It's fun to look back at what I hoped to achieve in the kitchen a year ago.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Goals achieved:
                                                                                                                                                                                          -- We do eat family meals now, including on weeknights. We tend to have homecooked meals at least three (usually four) weeknights and at least once on weekends. So I did achieve my most important goal!
                                                                                                                                                                                          -- I cooked more Asian food at home (especially Chinese).
                                                                                                                                                                                          -- I participated in COTM. I didn't necessarily cook once per week from the selected book, and some months I didn't participate at all, but some weeks I made more than one recipe. I probably averaged once per week overall.
                                                                                                                                                                                          -- Limiting purchases. I did pretty well at this. I had a couple of spur of the moment used book purchases that I regret, but overall it wasn't too bad.

                                                                                                                                                                                          Not achieved:
                                                                                                                                                                                          -- I didn't keep up with my goal of cooking from one underused book per month. When it came down to it, each month I had other cooking goals that were more important.
                                                                                                                                                                                          -- I immediately abandoned my goal to learn to clean as I go. It's just not in my nature.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Rather ashamed in that of the nine goals I've accomplished only one, maybe 1 1/2--if you count small headway (1/4) on two others. I *have* curbed my cookbook habit. I probably bought about 10-15% the number of books in 1013 than I did in 2012. That was a big one: it was getting out of control, and I had no more space.

                                                                                                                                                                                            Because of my now-neurotic freezer inventorying, I've wasted less--there. (I still overbuy fresh produce and end up throwing a lot away.)

                                                                                                                                                                                            We've always eaten a lot of shellfish, this year made a little headway toward eating more (fin)fish. Just a little.

                                                                                                                                                                                            2014: More fish. Less meat. Fewer carbs. A mole. Yes we can!

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. My primary cooking goal for the year was to memorialize the memorable meals I made so our family could refer back and know exactly where to find the recipes we liked, how well they worked, and any changes we made. Progress: I started a book but haven’t been very good about making entries in it. I do keep up on EYB. Not sure if I should renew this goal or not.
                                                                                                                                                                                              Next goal was to buy less pantry, wine and freezable items and use down what I already had. Progress: Excellent. I have probably cooked down ½ of what I hoard in the freezer. We just came back form a trip to Florida, and upon our return I realized I was out of almost everything in our pantry. No snack foods, so salsa, etc. Wine....that one has been iffy. We just ordered a case of white because we needed them for holiday get togethers and to give as gifts and this weekend we are heading out to pick up a case of red.
                                                                                                                                                                                              Final goal is to involve my kids more in the kitchen. No movement, this one goes back on the list for next year.